Harry Potter is tired of being the chosen one. He’s tired of people watching and analyzing his every move. Tired of having everything just given to him when he’d rather work for it. Tired of reaching for his wand every time someone shouts his name in a crowded street. Tired of the nightmares. Any one of these things is enough to drive a person mad, but when you’re 18 and just trying to get by, the weight of it all is crushing. This is what led to Harry Potter, the chosen one, saying “fuck it” and moving out of Grimmauld place and into a shitty little flat in Muggle London.
There, no one knows him. No one looks at him funny when he doesn’t use magic to cook or clean or for any other simple tasks. No one calls his name in the streets asking for autographs, or for the secret of how he did it all. He is able to leave the house without getting ambushed by reporters asking him what’s next for The Boy Who Lived?
He can make mistakes, and run to the grocery store in his pajamas at 3am for a bag of crisps and milk with no one questioning his sanity. He’s able to get a laptop and a cell phone and actually use them because the only magic he’s surrounded by is his own.
Harry Potter can finally breathe.
* * *
Harry wakes up to the sound of an alarm going off on his phone. Though it was him that had set the alarm, he still groans and swears as if it was someone else's phone.
He rolls over and smushes his face into his pillow, letting the alarm go off for about a minute or so before finally getting up and out of bed, shutting off the alarm as he goes.
He eats a quick breakfast alone at his small kitchen bar, nothing like the hustle and bustle of the great hall, then speedily throws on clothes before heading out the front door. There he pauses and murmurs a few security spells that ensure that no one can get into his flat, or even find it’s location, without his say so. Content that they’ll hold until that night, he apparates into the Ministry of Magic.
As soon as he appears in the building his feet are moving quickly, keeping up with the flow of the other ministry workers alongside him.
He keeps his head down and lets his slightly longer hair hang in his face, hoping that he remains unbothered by those around him. Fortunately, just as he began hearing people shout his name and a quickening of steps, a familiar arm jostles his own.
Harry looks up quickly, relieved. “Hey Ron.”
Ron smiles slightly and rubs the sleep out of his eyes. He looks like he’d gotten off to a slow start this morning too. They walk in comfortable silence, and head to the ministry Auror training center together.
Now, it’s completely pointless for Harry to attend these training sessions. The instructor had said it himself on the first day of class, chuckling like it was some great joke, that he was Harry Potter. And that meant that he certainly didn’t need to be here.
Harry had felt this was incorrect, stuttering out a list of the many reasons why he must take the course. But, the professor had insisted, no one who had defeated the Dark Lord belonged in a class with a bunch of beginners and had promptly filed the paperwork that would put Harry on record as a certified Auror.
Now that Harry is a registered Auror, he could begin work immediately if he chose, but being the contrary little shit that he is, he refuses to go into the field without Ron by his side. This leads to Harry stubbornly sitting in on the uncomfortably long lectures, taking notes (no matter how messy), participating in lessons, and doing all the work. All done just so he can prove that he actually deserves his certification.
Ron had rolled his eyes in the beginning but seems happy enough now to have Harry sit through the boring lectures with him.
However, on this particular day, Harry is having trouble focusing due to the increasing wave of panic and anxiety that has taken up residence in his chest. He isn’t quite sure what had caused it, just that being in this class right now is too much, too overwhelming.
He glances at Ron before leaning over and whispering, “I’ve got to go.”
Ron’s eyes are glazed over as he listens to the monotone voice of the guest speaker, but they quickly focused on Harry when Ron catches sight of his intense gaze and processes what Harry had just said.
“Is that such a good idea mate?” Ron shakes his head and rephrases the question, “Do you need me to come with you?”
Harry felt his heart squeeze a little at Ron asking if he needed him, but shakes his head.
“Nah I’ll be alright, I just need some air, I’ll text you and Hermione later.”
Ron nods and claps Harry on the shoulder before turning back to the front with a disinterested look at the guest speaker.
As Harry gets up, all eyes turn to him, but he ignores them. He’s getting quite good at ignoring the stares.
Apparating directly into his flat is impossible with the spells and wards that he had set up, so Harry lands right outside his front door and hopes that he hasn’t caught the attention of any muggles.
With shaky hands he takes out his key and unlocks the flat door. He collapses on the other side, sliding down the door until he sits on the floor with his knees drawn up to his chest. He can hear his racing heartbeat, as well as a voice that sounds suspiciously like Voldemort’s in his ear.
Harsh whispers about how he will never be enough, after all he didn’t even use magic to open his front door, he can’t survive on his fame forever. What will he do when the awe at the Boy Who Lived finally wears off?
Harry presses the base of his hands to his eyes and black dots swam into his vision. He attempts to focus on his breathing, and most importantly slowing it down. It could have been minutes or hours or days, but gradually Harry feels his heart beat slow and his breathing even out.
Dully he notes that his cell phone is ringing. It’s set to some new single from the Weird Sisters that Harry usually finds quite enjoyable, but right now just leaves him feeling annoyed. With movements that seemed slightly separated from his body, he stumbles to his night table where he had left his cell that morning.
“Hello?” he says closing his eyes tiredly while waiting for a response.
“Harry, how are you? Ron says you left the Ministry early today?”
Hermione’s voice is a normal occurrence in his ear, so it helps Harry orient himself with the here and now.
“Ya, it was just a bit much today.”
Hermione hums slightly in his ear, and he can tell she desperately wanted to pry but is holding back for his sake. They sit in silence for a few moments, Harry gathering comfort from Hermione’s steady breathing on the other end of the phone. Abruptly, Hermione started talking again.
“Have you thought anymore about going to see Luna?”
Harry slowly opens his eyes and picks at a loose thread on his jeans, searching for a way to answer the question without sounding like he most decidedly has not thought about it. Hermione has asked him about this before, and he knows it’s her way of making sure he’s all right.
His close friends had understood when he had abruptly moved to Muggle London, but that doesn’t mean that they never worry.
“I’ve had other things on my mind Hermione, Auror business and all that.”
Hermione scoffs in his ear and Harry winces slightly, but waits to hear what she has to say anyways.
“Oh piss off Harry, you don’t even need to be there if you don’t want to be. Talking to someone who has training to help you after a particularly scarring event is perfectly normal in the muggle world, I’m not sure why you’re kicking up such a fuss.”
Harry knows this and decides that pointing out that they aren’t in the muggle world will not be to his advantage.
“Hermione,” he starts, “it’s just that it’s Luna. She’s my friend and she's friends with everyone I'm close to, I just don’t feel comfortable baring my soul for her alright?”
There’s silence on the other end of the line for a moment before Hermione says, “Harry, you know full well Luna would never tell anyone what you tell her, and she did receive training on counselling and dealing with PTSD, magical or otherwise.”
Harry lets those words float around in his head for a bit before shaking them off and saying, “Tell me about Hogwarts.”
Hermione sighs at the change in subject but indulges him anyways.
After the war, Hermione was one of the few people in Harry’s circle of friends that decided to go back to school. As far as he knew, she is the only one in his year to have gone back. Most of the students are either too messed up psychologically to consider it, or had had good enough grades that their partially completed 7th and 6th years were good enough. The wizarding world embraced them all and created special training or new jobs for the students that couldn’t or wouldn’t go back.
Harry misses Hogwarts with an all encompassing sort of pain, but he also knows that he can’t go back. Not yet anyways. He isn’t ready to see the place where so many people died. He follows this train of thought for a while before realizing that Hermione had asked him something.
Hermione sighs like talking to him is the biggest chore in the world, rather than chatting with a good friend.
“I said, do you want to come over to Ron and mine’s place tonight, Mrs. Weasley sent us leftovers from whatever big meal she had last.”
Harry considers for a moment before saying,
“Maybe another night Hermione. I’m gonna spend some time alone and work on some things.”
“Alright, if you change your mind you know where to find us.”
With that Harry agrees, hangs up the phone, and closes his eyes. He loves and appreciates Ron and Hermione, and he knows they’re only hovering because they’re worried about him, but he wishes that people would stop treating him like he is either going to break, or suddenly become the next Minister of Magic.
He needs time to be just Harry, without all the fame and glory, whoever that is. Sighing, Harry gets up and grabs his laptop, phone, and wand and heads out of his apartment. He needs coffee and free wifi. Luckily enough he is within walking distance of both of those in the form of a Starbucks downtown.
Harry walks quickly, head down and jacket pulled tight around him to combat the cold wind that is cutting its way through the London streets. It is that time of year where a winter jacket is too hot, but only a jumper leaves you too cold.
People bustle around him, but Harry makes good time and pushes the Starbucks door open. It is warm inside, and the air smells like pumpkin spice, which has Harry thinking longingly about Hogwarts pumpkin juice for a moment.
He gets in line and orders his regular tea before walking towards the back of the building for a quieter place to sit and work undisturbed.
As he is walking, a familiar glint of white blonde hair catches his eye. Harry stops short. Surely it couldn’t be who he thought it was. It was only wistful thinking, his mind had been full of Hogwarts and pumpkin juice, and was grasping for something familiar. Surely he would never deign to set foot in a muggle restaurant, let alone something as common as a Starbucks.
Yet, Harry squints and is greeted with the same pale skin and face made for sneering. About the same height from what he can tell of the person sitting down. Just slightly taller than him. The hair is uncharacteristically rumpled though, as if the owner had spent a lot of time running his hands through it in frustration. And he looks less put together than he normally does, wearing an old knit jumper with the sleeves pushed up to the elbows as he stares at his laptop in focus.
Harry shakes his head, not believing what he is about to do. Harry takes a couple more steps, and with a smirk that rivals that of the Weasley twins, flings himself into a seat across from the boy.
“What’s up Malfoy?”