A/N: My first attempt, so be gentle. Also notice, English is not my mother tongue.
Disclaimer: I do not own the characters, they belong to J. K. Rowling - what a marvelous woman she is. I'm keeping this story pretty clean, because - well - this is my first one. So things (pairings) are pretty much like the author wanted them to be.
Feedback is great and much appreciated. Enjoy!
Harry licked his burned finger and tried to control the fire he had just made. His mind had wondered off for a split second and he'd almost burned his rug too.
It was a freezing night, so he finally had some use for the fireplace in his new apartment.
Well, it wasn't exactly a new apartment, he had moved in three months ago and he still kept finding unopened boxes. Nice, open place, pretty close to Diagon Alley. Of course he had been avoiding his neighbors as well as possible ever since he had moved in, trying to avert all unnecessary attention. Easier said than done indeed, there had been quite a lot of welcoming gifts, from wizards and witches, as well as from oblivious Muggles. Most of them were giving the gifts (consisting of different kinds of pastries and cookies, giving Harry the freedom to not to have to go shopping for food for a while) from the cheer pleasure of welcoming a new neighbor to the hood, but as the word spread around, more people (from the neighborhood or not) kept showing up behind his door. The rush was luckily not the most permanent one, it had died quite soon after Harry had fretfully stated to the press that he was looking forward to the opportunity to live his life undisturbed, and to keep his personal prospect of life, in fact, personal.
The apartment itself had given him pretty much headache too, since he had, unaware of the danger, promised Hermione, Ginny and Mrs Weasley to re-decorate it. It really is unnecessary to say that there had been no understanding between those three at all. So for couple of weeks, he and Ron had been killing time wondering through the shops at Diagon Alley, meeting some of their friends from Hogwarts, and pretty much just hanging around while trying to stay out of the way.
After a great amount tears and blood had been shed, and quite a lot of money and time spent, Harry was able to actually start his life in his new apartment. He was happy how it turned out, and extremely relieved that the result wasn't girly at all, like Ron and Seamus had been frightening him about. Actually, the place was very tasteful and cosy, but nonetheless Harry knew it would take a lot of time to make the place feel like...home. It would be really hard to accomplish, Harry hadn't actually ever had a real home, the kind of he could remember. Hogwarts had been a home him, of course, but now he had a place of his own. He could actually start his life, decide how it would turn out, and - for once - really enjoy it.
After Harry had made sure the fire wouldn't cause any damage to his living room, he sat on the brown couch, opened the Daily Prophet and eyed it for the thousand time that day - he had been given the mission of trying to find this ex-Death Eater who had had a messy escape during an attempted arrest, and who was now completely lost. It was part of his education of becoming an Auror. Usually they used fictional examples for the training, but this time they exploited the case in question. Harry didn't really think there would be anything that could be considered as useful in the paper, not a clear sign of the criminal, but sometimes reading the paper and its irrelevant cases gave him new ideas which helped him to think.
After the war, Ministry had been forced to change it's ways, as was the Daily Prophet. Honestly, it was a huge relieve.
Soon Harry had to admit that there were no clues of the criminal's whereabouts, and he was clearly too tired to think, so he threw the paper towards the wastebasket - and missing it poorly. Harry knew he had promised to go out with his friends again in the evening, but he was way too exhausted. All he could do, or even think of doing, was to lie on the couch (it was very soft, probably Hermione's choice) and to close his eyes for a moment. He decided to at least take a nap, hoping he'd feel better after it. Which he doubted.
Hours later, something woke Harry up. He found himself in a very uncomfortable position and groaned in frustration. He rolled over, found a perfect spot on the couch, and was dying to fall asleep again. The room was darker, the comfortable fire had died already, and one couldn't really see nothing but darkness through the windows. It seemed like Harry's nap had been longer than suspected, and the thought made him sigh. Then there was a knock on the door. Harry tried to ignore it, burying himself deeper into the couch. Seconds later, another knock. He threw his pillow towards the door and even without looking he knew it had badly missed its target, and found that it wasn't that brilliant idea anyway - now there was no support to his head.
And there was yet another knock on the door. Louder this time.
Harry groaned again as he crankily stood up and tried to find his way to the door, as well as trying to make up an excuse for Ron so he wouldn't have to go out with him. Well, he probably looked ill anyway, with his hair up and all. He yanked the door open and made an angry face to the fading feeling of the warm couch. After the shivers caused by the cold winter air had faded, he took in the weird sight in front of him. He had to blink couple of times.
Draco Malfoy was standing on Harry's doorstep.
Well, for starters, the man didn't look like Malfoy at all. But Harry supposed it had to be - with his short blond hair, pointy face, dark clothes and that familiar suspicious look in those gray eyes. But there was something wrong about the man standing in front of Harry. Dark circles under his eyes, his face even paler than naturally, hair (which looked almost gray now) very messy - looking nothing as it used to, those expensive clothes wrinkled and dusty. Well, when Harry looked back, he realized that Malfoy had had this look during their sixth year in Hogwarts, too. But Malfoy also looked like this time he had done nothing to hide his wrecked look.
After this short analyzing (which had gotten him nowhere) Harry noticed the modest luggage Malfoy had behind him. Did he try to hide it? Malfoy had a small frown on his face, looking a bit scared, not meeting Harry's eyes. The man looked like he'd wanted to be anywhere else. Harry wasn't really jumping up and down in excitement either.
Malfoy kept silent.
Harry was really getting creeped out.
He couldn't help eying around the corner.
No, not an ambush.
At least he hoped so.
"Umh," Harry broke the silence. Was he still asleep? "Malfoy?"
Malfoy suddenly looked like running away.
What a nightmare.
"Potter," Malfoy said roughly with a nod.
"Umh," Harry had no clue what to say.
"Oh, yeah, umh, can I come in?"
"I'm...not sure. Why, exactly?" Harry rubbed his head a bit, trying to figure out if it all should somehow make sense to him.
Malfoy didn't look happy with Harry's answer. "Well, actually, I came to ask you a favour."
All Harry could do was to lift his eyebrows. What was going on? Another glance around the yard.
"Umh, yeah, I really need a place to stay, so..."
"And I was the first one that popped in to your head?" Harry couldn't help himself. His eyebrows were meeting his hairline.
"NO, nothing like that," Malfoy rushed, "first I thought about Blaise - you know, being my...best friend and all - but he has all these other things on his mind, so I didn't actually want to...bother him...any more than necessary. And it wouldn't have been the greatest decision in my situation anyway. I really couldn't deal with Pansy either so I started to think about people who aren't so...close to me. Weasel - of course - would hex me to China or something...or if he wouldn't be so bad at Transfiguration, he'd probably turn me into a ferret." the blond gave an awkward laugh.
"Shut it, Potter, I'm trying to explain myself."
"I wish you would," Harry muttered. What a start.
"Anyway, Granger would be all too nosy about my business, and would try to help me tie my shoes and all, so that didn't sound so great either. And then I thought about you, being the good samaritan that you are. I knew you wouldn't ask me any unnecessary questions or anything, and...well, I thought I'd give it a try...so here I am." Malfoy looked hopeful. And desperate.
Silence. Harry didn't actually know what to say, nothing made sense, "So here you are."
Another cold breeze was blowing in the air and both of them shivered.
"Hex me if you like, but at least let me in for a second, I'm really freezing my ass out here. And it was pretty hard to find the house anyway" Draco muttered. He was shivering and getting angry with himself.
Harry kept silent, but decided to just move aside and let the blond in. Malfoy seemed genuinely surprised by this. No hexing. Definitely a good sign.
Malfoy entered the house awkwardly. Harry couldn't help taking a last look around the neighborhood before closing the door. Nothing suspicious. Well, at least nothing more suspicious than Draco Malfoy appearing to his doorstep. A nightmare indeed.
Harry noticed that the blond wasn't really feeling comfortable; he was standing awkwardly in the living room, hands in his pockets, still shivering. Harry couldn't really blame him.
"Make yourself at home," Harry said quietly, nodding towards the coat rack, "Umh, I suppose you're a coffee drinker?"
"Yeah, sure," Malfoy nodded without thinking too much and took off his coat, revealing a typical black shirt.
Harry took the chance to go to the kitchen to make the coffee. This is just great. Everything was kind of a blur, nothing actually made sense. He even tried to find something to eat - biscuits maybe - Malfoy looked pretty hungry. Why do I even care?
Draco followed Potter to the kitchen slowly, thinking how stupid idea it had been. On the other hand, Potter hadn't chased him away. When have I become such a coward anyway? Better if I'd just get this over with. He slowly sat on a chair, feeling a bit dizzy since he hadn't eaten properly in days. He was barely breathing, looking anywhere else but to those green eyes, seriously hoping the chair he was sitting on would swallow him whole. Draco wasn't really in the mood for coffee, but he was afraid he would fall asleep in the middle of the conversation. He'd better take the coffee.
Harry also was facing away, trying to find something to do besides looking at the person sitting in his goddamn kitchen. He wasn't actually regretting letting the man in, but he kept hoping he'd find some sense out of the blonde.
Soon Harry gave up and turned to Malfoy, leaning against the counter. Deep breath now, keep the wand near.
"So," he started. "would you dare to explain?"
Malfoy took a deep breath.
"Look, I just need a place to stay," Malfoy muttered tiredly, rubbing his temple with his long fingers.
"What, the mansion not good enough for you?" Harry muttered before he could stop himself. He knew he shouldn't be so foul, of course he shouldn't, but he really had every reason to be suspicious.
Malfoy sighed in his chair and unwillingly met Harry's eyes, looking a bit hurt.
"Problems with the family," the blond eventually admitted.
Harry blinked in confusion. "Really?"
"Yes Potter, I'm a bloody human being, even I have personal issues," Malfoy snapped, getting cross.
Harry felt awkward so he didn't say anything. For a moment, Malfoy looked like he'd storm out, but he obviously forced himself to stay still.
"Anyway, I didn't come here for sympathy, I just need a shelter for a while," Draco felt like he had done a great mistake going there. "and if you're not going to let me stay, I'd be better off."
Harry nodded slowly and stared at the blond for a long time, trying to read him. Malfoy might have lost his clever, even ominous appearance, but there still was the familiar sharp glint in his grey eyes. And he clearly was trying to keep Harry out of his head. Wondering what had eventually chased the man there, Harry turned back to the coffee. He took his time filling two mugs with the liquid, and then put them on the table. He sat down across from Malfoy, keeping silent for some time.
"So, how long do you need to stay?"