"This is exhausting," Ron whines as he dives face first on Harry's new couch, reeking of sweat. "I can't believe we had to lift the furniture without magic."
"Can't risk the Muggles seeing, mate," Harry grins jovially as he sits down on the single sofa seat, admiring the way his living room looked. Plush burgundy sofas similar to the ones they had in the Gryffindor Common Room, fluffy cream-colored carpet, walls covered in Victorian era wallpaper, a tall bookshelf on one corner filled to the brim with several Muggle and Wizarding books alike, the fireplace burning with pictures of people Harry considered as family situated on top of the mantel, more photographs nailed on the wall and placed on top of the furniture with pots of roses Charmed to stay fresh for a long period of time and some quaint figurines Hermione gave him, floating fairy lights instead of Muggle bulbs (you can Transfigure them to Muggle bulbs in case of Muggle visitors though)... It was loads better than gloomy ol' Grimmauld Place, that's for sure.
Without Ron and Hermione's help (Hermione's, mostly), this place would've looked like a shit hole since Harry can't decorate things for shit.
Ron just groans in response. Hermione sat down on the cushioned sofa chair in front of the fireplace, wiping her forehead with a face towel.
"Thank you so much for your help, 'Mione," Harry says earnestly. "This place would've been a mess without you."
"No problem, Harry," she replies with a small smile, her dark brown eyes gleaming orange in the firelight. "I figured this was bound to happen sooner or later."
"You did?" Harry asks, surprised but at the same time, not. This is Hermione after all. She knows everything.
"Yeah." She nods in affirmation, looking away from Harry to watch the dancing flames. "Nobody would want to live in Grimmauld Place. I'm sure Sirius would understand."
Harry's throat clogs up at the mention of his godfather. The pain still hasn't lessened, but over time he'd learned how to deal with it better. That's usually how it goes with losing someone. The pain never goes away, you just learn how to live with it. "Yeah, I'm sure he would," he answers, voice raspy. Hermione looked at him sympathetically.
"I miss him too, you know," she says quietly after a moment of silence. "All of them."
Harry isn't able to reply with something more than a weak, "Yeah."
They sit in silence for a few minutes, both lost in their own worlds when they heard Ron's loud snoring. Harry cracks up. Hermione was chuckling fondly to herself as she sat up to go over to her husband.
"I better take him home," Hermione says, smiling at Harry as she struggled to hoist her husband up. Ron slept like a log. "If it gets too lonely, know that you're always welcome at our place. We'll see you tomorrow, Harry."
Harry nods in reply and sends her a small smile in response.
Hermione was cursing and muttering under her breath about heavy husbands before they Disapparated with Ron leaning against the struggling Hermione comfortably as he snored in his deep sleep.
Harry chuckles to himself before he turned towards the fire again, memories flashing in his head like slideshow. He recalled the Fiendfyre Crabbe started in the Room of Requirement and how Harry had made the decision to save Malfoy's life, grabbing that pale, slim-fingered hand and taking him to safety while the blond clutched onto Harry's waist, shaken by his friend's death.
It's been a long time since he last met Malfoy - four years, to be exact. He hasn't crossed paths with the blond ever since the Ministry hearing when the Wizengamot agreed to free Malfoy and his mother Narcissa from all charges upon hearing Harry's testimony.
Lucius, however, wasn't so fortunate. He was condemned to spend the rest of his life in Azkaban. The former head of the Malfoy Manor was only able to last for four months before he committed suicide. Narcissa Malfoy followed her husband shortly after being brutally murdered by two wizards who were now imprisoned in Azkaban.
Draco Malfoy was now an orphan and while that would've filled Harry with some sort of sick delight back when they were in Hogwarts, Harry only felt hollow, not even a shred of hatred he felt for Malfoy present in his system. Malfoy was just another blameless kid in the war, one who was pressured to make all the wrong choices, a kid who was forced to fight for the dark side. Harry wanted nothing more than to forget about the events of that wretched war. Holding grudges would do him no good. Continuing their petty rivalry would just be plain childish considering everything they've been through.
Harry had already decided long ago that he would let go of his unfair judgment towards Slytherins, determined to leave the past to where it belongs. It wasn't an easy process, befriending people you used to dislike. However, Harry soon found out that despite their nasty exterior, Slytherins were not the evil bastards he had always imagined the entire House to be comprised of. During their Eighth Year (compensation for the Seventh Year they were not able to complete), he'd managed to be on good terms with the Slytherins including Blaise Zabini and Pansy Parkinson.
The competitiveness between Houses remained, but things were better than ever with all the four Houses including Slytherin uniting for peace and helping each other get over the grief the war's casualties brought them. After all, continuing the animosity between Houses would be insensitive after what they had to go through under the hands of Voldemort. Only a handful of people remained bitter towards the Slytherins, but majority of the students just wanted to forget what happened.
Harry had been adamant on ending the enmity between him and Malfoy but was disappointed when he found on the first day of Eighth Year that the blond had ultimately decided not to return. He had tried asking some of Draco's friends about the whereabouts of the blond, but even they were clueless.
It seemed like the blond had mysteriously disappeared. Harry was strangely compelled to find him, but fortunately Ron and Hermione were able to stop another repeat of the Malfoy Obsession Harry had when they were in Sixth Year.
Even after graduation, the blond was still nowhere to be found. Eventually, he forgot all about Malfoy as he was too busy dealing with his decision of not getting back with Ginny and of course, the Auror training.
That was another issue altogether: he and Ginny's breakup. He fretted over it for months, talking to Hermione about it several times and hiding everything from Ron since he feared the latter's reaction. When he dropped the bomb, the entire Weasley family was disappointed, but they didn't act any different towards Harry and still treated him like family. Ron seemed to be fine with it as well. Ginny also accepted his decision to breakup without holding any grudges, moving on with her life and being the strong lady she was. She and Harry had remained very close friends and Harry will always be endlessly grateful for her friendship.
All in all, he was doing well, but he still hasn't managed to get what he actually wanted: a normal life.
He's an Auror now, having passed the tests with endless compliments from his seniors and a teary "Good job, Potter" from Professor McGonagall. He honestly, foolishly thought that he would finally be having the normal life he had so wanted to achieve, but he was wrong.
The media is still following him around, every minor happening in his life making a headline in The Daily Prophet. People are still giving him the celebrity treatment, endless owls from admirers storming his office. There was never a moment of peace, cameras flashing here and there whenever he decided to go on Diagon Alley or Hogsmeade or any Wizarding establishment.
It was why he had decided to live in Muggle London. Of course, the fan craze wouldn't be extinguished completely, but it would significantly lessen.
He kept his job as an Auror, though. He didn't have proper Muggle education, so he wasn't going to be able to ditch his Auror job to become a policeman or something. He refused to take over the Blacks' Gringotts vault and live off his godfather's family's money, so he had to fend for himself. Besides, he wasn't exactly keen on quitting being an Auror and letting those three years of rigorous Auror training go to waste.
His thoughts were interrupted when the doorbell rang. He turned to look at the door, confused. Did Hermione forget something?
No, she could've just Apparated inside.
Standing up and heading towards the door, he wondered who it was. Hopefully not a reporter. If they found out where he lived, he's gonna have to move out again. It seems highly improbable, though. He purposely picked a location at a countryside village unknown by most wizards, so they can't possibly have found him, especially not this early.
He muttered the spell to change the floating fairy lights into Muggle light bulbs just in case and opened the door.
Nobody could've prepared him for what he saw.
It was Draco Malfoy, holding a bottle of wine in his hands.
And fuck, Harry thought. He was absolutely stunning.
Unlike before, his white blond hair wasn't slicked back. Instead it fell nicely over his forehead, bringing out the color of his stormy grey eyes. His face has all but lost all the rough edges from back at school, replaced by smooth patrician features. His high cheekbones were tinged with pink because of the cold. Harry has grown a lot since the war so he and Malfoy were about the same height. He was wearing Muggle clothes, the too-large black knit sweater and fitted Muggle jeans hugging his lean and slender frame. Heck, he was even wearing Muggle trainers! The only thing that made Harry believe this was Malfoy instead of a similar-looking Muggle was the Slytherin scarf that he wore.
He was pale, pointy, and - fucking hell - pretty.
Even now, Harry felt like he could cut his hand if he slapped that pretty face.
The shock of this sudden but not wholly unwelcome visit from his former arch-nemesis rendered him momentarily speechless and completely uncaring about the fact that he just thought of Malfoy as pretty before he realized that Malfoy wasn't looking at him. The blond was gazing somewhere above his head, eyes looking slightly out of focus.
Despite Harry's stupefaction, his eyebrows narrow in concern. What's wrong with him? Is he sick?
Before he can say anything, Malfoy smiles warmly.
He actually smiled. Not a smirk, not a sneer, but a smile.
Draco Malfoy was smiling at Harry Potter. Warmly. Harry briefly wonders if someone cast an Imperio on Malfoy.
"Hello," Malfoy greets, voice soft. "I heard someone was moving in next door and I thought I should let them finish settling their things before I head over and greet them. I hope you like Champagne. I wasn't able to prepare anything since I wasn't expecting you to move in today, so I hope this would be enough. I'm Draco Malfoy, by the way. I'm going to be your neighbor until... well, until one of us move out, I guess."
Malfoy then holds out a hand to him. Flashbacks of his first time at Hogwarts and the same pale hand offering him friendship he refused to take passed Harry's mind for a fleeting moment before he realized that something was very, very wrong.
Malfoy still isn't looking directly at him. Malfoy has just introduced himself to him, as if he doesn't know who Harry was.
His voice shaking slightly and his heart beating thunderously for some reason, he hesitantly asks, "Malfoy?"
Harry watches as Malfoy's eyes widened. Malfoy took a step back, visibly trembling. Despite himself, Harry reached out, "Malfoy, what-?"
"Potter." Malfoy gasps out. For some reason, the blond still isn't looking at him directly. He frowns confusedly at that. He tried to make a grab for Malfoy's arm, but instead the wine Malfoy was holding got shoved in his aiming hand. He stared dumbly at it for a few seconds before snapping his gaze back to Malfoy, who looked utterly horrified.
"I-I'll see you around," the ever-so articulate Malfoy stumbles in his words, Disapparating immediately, not giving Harry a chance to say something. Harry was left alone on his doorstep clutching at the door frame, utterly gobsmacked at what had just transpired.
It was Draco Malfoy.
The gears in Harry's brain were turning, processing what happened earlier. Once the realization hit him, he almost stumbled back. His eyes widened the size of saucers, gaze lingering on the spot where Malfoy stood.
He can't believe he didn't realize it earlier when he saw Malfoy's unfocused eyes and his lack of reaction until Harry spoke. This was why he wasn't sorted into Ravenclaw. Rowena would turn in her grave if the Sorting Hat put him there.
Harry slams the door shut, breathing heavily, unsure of what to do with this new information.
And, as if his feet had a mind of their own, he headed towards the fireplace and grabbed some Floo powder, threw it into the flames, stepped inside, and shouted Ron and Hermione's address.
He stumbles out of their fireplace and landed on his face, scaring the ever living fuck out of Ron - who had apparently woken up - while Hermione ran from the kitchen into the living room with her wand out and a knife in the other after hearing her husband's scream.
Harry barely even heard Ron's disgruntled shouts and Hermione's laughter before he said, more to himself than to his best friends, "Draco Malfoy can't see."
Draco was shaking when he landed in his living room. His unseeing eyes were wide open, his entire system shook by the events that just unfolded.
He shouldn't have tried to act as the friendly, welcoming neighbor. He acts nice one time and look at what happened! He should've stuck to world domination. Only, that was a little hard to do when you're blind.
He took three steps back until the back of his legs hit the sofa. He sat down, wishing more than anything that what happened earlier was just a dream. Some sick, stupid dream.
He can't believe one person could be so unlucky.
He was sure no one in the Wizarding World knew about the little village he had moved into with the help of Goyle, who was now residing in America and hiding from wizards just like him. He had spent four years undetected by wizards in this village, only having his Muggle neighbors who were actually pretty nice and his house elf Funky as company. He didn't dare step a foot outside the village's boundaries, fearing that someone would somehow see him and laugh at what he's become.
He had been restless throughout these past four years, unable to fully convince himself that it was all over, that he would spend the rest of his life away from the Wizarding World and live in peace at last, free from the wrath of the people whose lives he helped destroy, free to mope around and wallow in his own misery.
But he's wrong, because now Harry Potter - Harry fucking Potter out of all people - knew where he is. What's worse is that he's got the Savior of the world he's escaping from as his goddamn neighbor.
He wanted to cry and jump off a building when he heard that voice. Even though it sounded deeper now, he'd know that voice anywhere.
The only thing that crossed his mind at that moment was, Why him?
Because he could accept anyone, even Granger and her pet Weasley. Heck, he'd be able to handle it better if it was the Minister for Magic. Just not Harry Potter.
Anyone but the man he's so desperately, pathetically, irrevocably in love with.