He wished he hadn’t seen it.
But wishes were as useless in the magical world as in the muggle one he had reimmersed himself in. His new muggle village was in the outskirts of London, but it could have been in an entirely different country; it felt so removed from his home at Hogwarts. The stick he kept in his back pocket hadn’t cast a spell in well over a year, but it remained, tucked, just in case.
Just in case the inevitable happened.
And just as he had thought that the cobblestone streets surrounding his new home felt as familiar as the ones in Hogsmeade miles and miles away, he saw it.
The fangs of the snake always caught his eye first when he saw the Mark. Gasping open, Harry could practically hear the final scream from the slithering beast. Then the skull’s sunken eyes, staring without seeing, smiling through the hollowed horrors of its owner’s dark deeds. No matter how long it had been since he’d seen it, a glimpse of black ink took him right back to that day, to the crumbling castle, to the destruction and death and triumph and light.
The Mark looked just as sharp, as dark, as fierce, as the last time he had seen it carved in pale skin. Frozen right above his wrist as Malfoy pulled away, telling Harry that the World would never accept it.
With an agonizing twist, Malfoy Apparated away, out of Harry’s life, and half a decade later, his body arched against the hard brick wall of the local pub, silhouetted by the glow of the moonlight.
He wished he hadn’t seen him. He wished he could close his eyes and walk past the pub and back to his flat, pack up and find another new flat that was miles and miles further away from Hogsmeade, from the pub and the wall and the Mark and Malfoy.
He wished he didn’t want him, his enemy, his ex-lover, his forgotten friend. As if he could forget the way his soft blonde hair twisted between his fingers, the peak of his nipples as Harry tongued his way across his chest, his laughs over morning coffees and afternoon teas. The way he’d cry out when he climaxed in pleasure and melted into his arms as he drifted off to sleep.
He wished that he could say it. Love had protected him, led him, saved him, but he couldn’t say it. It wouldn’t have stopped Malfoy from leaving.
Because the World wouldn’t understand. Just like they hadn’t understood when Harry didn’t marry Ginny, didn’t join the Aurors, didn’t become Minister of Magic. Didn’t fly, didn’t teach, didn’t lead.
He wanted a house, with a garden, on the river or by the ocean. A field, a fireplace. A family. A home.
But he didn’t want to live in a world without him. So he left.
He didn’t expect to find Malfoy in the outskirts of muggle London, in the tiny village he had picked out with barely a second thought. He figured he was holed up in the Manor, or in a villa tucked into the French countryside. But he wasn’t. He was there, two blocks from Harry’s randomly chosen flat at the pub that he frequented on Tuesdays but not usually Thursdays and that had to mean something.
It needed to mean something.
He stopped, and he stared, and he couldn’t use his words, just like he couldn’t use those words when Malfoy fled. But then Malfoy spoke out of the dim light.
“Fancy seeing you here, Potter.”
As if Harry was expected. A welcomed guest in a dirty alleyway.
And instantly they became them again, right there against that brick wall, with its rough facade scraping their backs as fiercely as their teeth were biting into each other, their tongues tangling desperately in each other’s mouths and it was as if no time had been lost, been wasted by things as trivial as magic and expectations.
"I wished for this," Malfoy sighed as Harry mouthed kisses against his jawline, down his throat, across his chest. "I wished and I was here."
“I love you,” Harry said, in between gasps, finally saying it, not wanting it to stop, not wanting it to end. Knowing that he was all that mattered. Knowing that their love was worth sacrificing anything for. That in that dark alley, in that sleepy town where they could live out the rest of their lives together, they were finally whole.