Beta-read by wonderful Jen aka Wellyuthink
Disclaimer: I do not own anything HP related. It all belongs to JK Rowling, Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Inc., Warner Bros., and any other entities involved.
Salad on the beach
Harry would have never noticed him, if it hadn't been for the beach fruit-seller.
Harry had left Ron and Hermione in the cottage, carefully not thinking what they were going to do – hell, what they were already doing, more likely. Ron's 'not-so-subtle' lusty gazes at Hermione throughout the breakfast were more than obvious; and when Hermione had peeled a banana, Harry really thought that Ron would have to run from the table to get a cold shower.
Harry grinned to himself. What a wonderful, new world it was without Voldemort!
Harry was walking on the verge of the sea, the clear water washing his ankles every time a gentle wave came; the soles of his feet leaving imprints in the fine-grained, wet sand every time the wave receded back. The beach was several kilometres long, and Harry simply loved to walk along it. The distance was liberating, the sound of the sea was soothing, the salty smell relaxed him, and the carefree children playing and building sand castles brought smile onto his face. Maybe in a couple of years, he would take Teddy to seashore too.
It was getting hot and Harry bathed in the brilliant water, swimming a bit, but mostly he just floated. He had never learned how to swim properly, even though now he was getting better under Hermione's tutelage. When he emerged from the water, he realised how hungry he was again – he had cut his breakfast quite short, after all.
As if he had summoned him, Harry could see a beach fruit-seller a bit further along the beach. Happily he headed towards the boy, fishing money from his shirt pocket. The boy – well, the man, actually, Harry now could see the seller was couple of years older than himself – was just selling one bowl of mixed fruit salad to someone behind a sun screen; and Harry stayed in the polite distance.
"Two kinds of melon with kiwi and strawberries like usual, sir?" the fruit-seller asked.
The answer nearly made Harry faint. "With a memory like this you shouldn't waste your time selling salads, boy," an all-too-well-known silky voice berated. What was Snape's voice doing on a Caribbean beach? Harry had seen the man die three weeks ago, for Merlin's sake! It must be a mistake. A similar voice and attitude, nothing more, Harry decided.
"It's hard to forget, sir," the fruit-man laughed, obviously unperturbed by the criticism. "You've been buying my fruit every summer since I started working here, day after day, always the very same kind of salad. And you have that cool snake tattoo, too!" There was a little pause. "Where's the tattoo?" the man exclaimed, crestfallen. "It was the coolest picture I've ever seen."
"I got rid of it," Snape's voice answered, contentedly, "I had it long enough."
"Well, tomorrow, then," the seller said, still sounding deflated about the lack of the 'coolest tattoo ever'.
He emerged from behind the sunscreen and spotted Harry. "A fruit salad, sir?" he offered with practiced ease. "Fresh and wonderfully chilled, very refreshing."
Harry nodded quickly. He didn't want Snape – if it was Snape – to hear him. Certainly, if the wizard heard Harry's voice, he would Disapparate and the chance to meet him by accident again bordered on zero. Harry pointed his finger on a wonderful-looking salad in a plastic bowl and handed the seller a banknote mutely.
"Thank you, sir, enjoy your fruit." The seller handed him a few coins back. Harry smiled at him gratefully, and he and the man parted amicably. Harry supposed he must have appeared like a complete moron to the seller, but it wasn't as important as finding out if Snape was really alive.
Fruit bowl in his hand, Harry carefully walked around the sunscreen. There he was. Snape. Pale, but not as pale as he used to be, more rested, and with clean hair, but unmistakeably still the good, old Snape. Ravishing melon pieces with abandon. Harry grinned.
Snape realised almost immediately that someone was watching him. He dropped his salad and, in a flash, he reached behind him – for his wand, undoubtedly.
"It's just me," Harry informed him hastily. Then he blushed and waited for a scathing remark for stating the obvious.
"Potter." Snape's expression changed from wariness to weariness in a second. "Can I never have a peaceful life?" he groaned, and Harry decided to consider that a rhetorical question.
He sat into the sand and took off the plastic lid from the salad. He tried to think of what to say. "I'm glad you're alive," he started clumsily. "If you don't want it to be known, I swear I won't tell anyone."
Snape gave him a measuring look and after a pause, he nodded.
"I guess you want to start a new life someplace else, with a clean sheet," Harry continued a bit more boldly, "I can understand that. Well, I'm glad you are alive," he repeated, "and if you don't want to hear from me again, I will respect it."
The look Harry got this time was longer and more mistrustful. Finally, Snape nodded again.
Harry started eating his fruit, as delicious and refreshing as the fruit-seller promised, and the other wizard did the same. It felt surreal to Harry to enjoy refreshment with a man who was believed dead by the whole Wizarding world.
After a while, Harry continued hesitantly. "I want you to know that I appreciate the help you were secretly giving me, giving to our cause. Without your memories- " Harry stopped. It wasn't where he wanted to go. "Well, just - thank you."
Snape said nothing and Harry nearly sighed. The man wouldn't budge. Not the smallest bit. For some unknown reason, Harry felt some kind of connection to Snape. Connection of shared history, maybe. He didn't understand why the idea of not hearing from Snape ever again should be so frustrating. Yet, it was.
He finished his fruit and got up. He decided to give it one more try. "It would be great to know how you're doing in you new life. In case you were willing to share, send me a letter, please." God, it sounded lame. Harry blushed. "Well, good luck, sir."
"Good luck, Potter," Snape responded, without any indication of what he thought about Harry's words.
"I don't think Hermione and Ron ever walk this far from our cottage, but one never knows with lovebirds," Harry warned Snape, grinning. The warning was probably completely useless, as Harry would bet Snape would pack up his things immediately and leave the country just to be sure Harry wouldn't come to pester him again.
He didn't wait for an answer and headed back.
Harry walked back along the sea. He doubted he would ever hear from the sour wizard. But, hey! Miracles happened sometimes. He shrugged; it wasn't something that he could influence. Harry let himself be soothed by the sea once again.
"Harry! There you are," Ron called at him when he got back to the cottage. "Hermione's in her bookworm mood again, let's go play polo!" He jumped up and ran to retrieve a ball.
Hermione, who was lying under a sunshade, holding a thick tome, glanced at her boyfriend reprovingly, but she didn't bother to pause reading for long enough to answer.
Harry grinned at their antics. He loved his friends. He sighed contentedly. Snape was alive. Harry's two best friends were alive. He was alive. It was time to be happy.
Merry Christmas, Potter,
I work as an independent Potions researcher and brewer, which is an incomparably more satisfying occupation than my previous job.
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