He sat there idly, legs hanging over the edge of the dock, eyes watching the tide roll away, then back in, the repetitive motion somehow soothing in its constancy, lapping at the poles that held the dock steady in the water. Closing his eyes, Harry tipped his head up toward the sun, feeling the last of its warmth as it sank beneath the horizon, leaving him colder and lonelier. This hadn't been his best idea, but left adrift, he had wandered wherever his feet took him. And now he was here, in this small coastal town of about two hundred people.
He had been told that during tourist season, that numbered quadrupled, but for now, it was quiet. No fisherman out to haul in a catch, no children running and playing in the empty streets, no dogs barking or cats yowling. Not even birds or insects, and Harry found himself wondering if perhaps he hadn't accidentally walked into a ghost town. Then he shrugged; it didn't really matter if he had, he'd fit in here just as well as anywhere else. Maybe even better.
Standing as he started to shiver in the evening breeze, Harry stretched and slipped back into his shoes before heading back up the pier, the tapping of his sandals the only sound other than the waves. He wasn't running away, exactly. It's just that, now that the war was over, everybody seemed to want something from him. He'd been proposed to, propositioned, groped, hassled, and just generally tormented every time he'd walked anywhere in the wizarding world. There had been a stampede in Diagon Alley, and Harry hadn't been the only one with injuries after that incident.
And so he had decided to retreat to the Muggle world, at least until the hype calmed a bit. Hermione seemed to think that things would ease up within a month or so, but Harry wasn't quite so optimistic. No doubt the Daily Prophet would be running daily stories, speculating about the final moments between Voldemort and Harry Potter. They'd never get it right. Nobody would, but that suited Harry just fine. He wasn't exactly proud of having killed the other wizard, but he'd rather take on the burden himself than have him continue to kill and torture innocent Muggles and wizards alike.
He wasn't sure how far he'd gone by now, either walking or taking a bus or train. He just wandered aimlessly. He had plenty of money, even outside of what his parents had left him. After all, he was the hero of the wizarding world. Lots of people had contributed monetarily to him. No doubt they'd been hoping to buy favors from him. Harry didn't really care; he'd turn all of his finances over to Gringott's. They had given him something similar to a credit card, so he always had funds available to him. The only difference was that the spells cast upon it wouldn't let anybody track his current whereabouts, which was all Harry had cared about. And carrying the card was much easier than carrying cash on him, since he never knew where he'd end up.
Turning a corner to walk down the street where the cottage he had rented was, Harry stopped dead, staring at the apparition before him. Black eyes stared steadily back at him from a pale face. "Harry Potter," Severus Snape said, his voice a dark rumble. Harry blinked, then frowned.
"Either someone sent you after me, or you're really good at finding me, Professor," he said, not in the mood to start a fight with the other man. All he wanted to be left alone, and screaming at the older wizard would no doubt only make him more determined to stay. Harry thought mutinously that he never should have saved the other man, if he was going to turn around and be a pain in the arse in exchange.
Snape tilted his head slightly and stared down at Harry, who was right in front of him at this point. "Nobody sent me," he said at last. Harry just nodded, waiting for the other shoe to drop. But the Potions Master had said all he was going to say. "Perhaps we could go inside and talk? Unless you'd rather talk out here, of course. There doesn't seem to be anybody around, or interested, but it is a bit chilly."
Harry nodded, then shrugged. "All right." Snape blinked at him, obviously surprised that he was giving in without a fight. Harry grinned up at him lopsidedly, moving past him to unlock the door and open it, walking in with Snape right behind him. "If you're here to tell me off, I'd rather it be done inside. If you're here to give me orders to return to the wizarding world, I can tell you right now that it's not going to happen," he stated determinedly, closing the door behind them.
"Mr. Potter, whatever gives you the impression that I want you back in the wizarding world?" Snape asked, and the sarcasm loosened something in Harry that he hadn't even realized had been there. "You are not the only one who is being overwhelmed with demands, though you are the most visible," he admitted, and Harry snorted. So, Severus Snape was finding out what it was like to be a hero, too, huh? After all, before leaving, Harry had made damn sure that the older wizard was seen as a good guy, working behind the scenes to protect the students from the Death Eaters after Hogwarts had been overrun. He had even helped Harry from the shadows. Gryffindor's sword hadn't shown up in that lake in the Forest of Dean all by itself, after all.
Harry gestured for Snape to sit, and the older man did so, allowing silence to fill the small cabin as Harry put on water for tea. He really didn't know what else to offer his guest, having just arrived today and not gone shopping yet. He wasn't sure that he'd be staying for very long, now that he'd been found, regardless of who it was that had tracked him down. After all, if one person could follow him, then surely others could, as well.
"I must admit, Mr. Potter," Snape drawled, giving a small nod of thanks as Harry handed him a hot cup of tea, "I would have thought you'd stick to more populated areas, trying to hide yourself among the crowd, as it were. To find you out here is rather surprising." Harry silently noted that Snape didn't really look surprised in the least, but just shrugged.
"I haven't changed, I don't think. But everybody seems to think they can tell me what to do," he sighed. "So I figured I'd go away for a while, try to find someplace where I could rest." He didn't know if Snape was really listening, but it didn't matter if he wasn't. It's not like Harry wanted the company, and certainly not his.
The Potions Master watched him through half-lidded eyes, and Harry finally tipped his head against the back of his own chair, closing his eyes. "You staying until morning? I'm pretty sure there's only one bed," he yawned.
Snape stilled, and Harry kept his eyes shut. "Did you want me to?" he asked, carefully. The words themselves were cautious, but Harry read into them. He thought for a moment. Did he? Did he want the other man to stay? And did he mind sharing the bed? He wasn't sure if it would work, but in all honesty, he was tired of being alone. He couldn't get in contact with his friends to tell them where he was, because the messages would likely get intercepted. He couldn't risk another mobbing if he were to reappear anywhere in the wizarding world. Harry had no interest in making friends with Muggles in towns he was just passing through. Snape, though, was from his world. And he certainly understood the need to be alone, to avoid people. And perhaps, more importantly, he understood the conflicting need for companionship.
Opening his eyes, green met black, neither one blinking. "Yes," he said simply. Snape – Severus, now, nodded, and it was agreed. Harry smiled contentedly. Perhaps coming here hadn't been such a bad idea, after all.