Summary: Harry Potter leaves the Wizarding World a year after the war and is living anonymously amongst Muggles. A delayed wedding between his best friends and a newly reformed Death Eater coax him into returning.
Much has changed since Harry's been away. And while he seeks to resolve his own demons, Draco is searching for an identity and new beginning.
How do these answers overlap and are there really such things as second chances?
Rated: M for loads of adult content
Proceed with caution; it's a bumpy ride. Thanks for dropping in.
A very special thanks and rounds of applause to Sympel for beta(ing) this monster. It's a project and a half and this reader/writer/magician is simply wonderful.
User 3970720 (because Fanfiction's funny about links.)
"Dammit," Harry muttered after unsuccessfully jiggling a locked door, waiting impatiently for whoever was currently occupying the restroom and performing a dance done since his first attempts of 'potty training'.
Old habits die hard.
A gurgled flush seemed to intensify his need to urinate and he could almost swear that he was beginning to sweat with the near reality of wetting himself. Sure, he could apparate to another area. But, that always seemed to do strange things to his stomach and he could hardly contain himself as it was, so he waited and bit the inside of his cheek to keep from crying out in frustrated joy as the door opened to reveal a shirtless man with a towel wrapped snugly about his waist.
Harry hadn't a moment to analyse the sight before barging past the man and locking the door behind him. The Man Who Lived relieved himself with an exaggerated sigh and washed his hands, looking to the foggy glass of the mirror in front of him for answers.
Where am I?
Harry was somewhere in Muggle London. He remembered a pub, a bit of one-sided flirting, an awkward and sloppy kiss at the door of the dingy apartment he found himself in and quite the uncomfortable crick in his neck to begin the new day. Luckily, that was the only part of him that seemed sore. Harry was beginning to grow rather tired of waking with a damaged arse and pathetic limp. Something about alcohol allowed Harry to be a more than willing bottom.
Sober Harry always resented Drunken Harry for that.
The Hero's emerald eyes dimmed to a far less than exceptional forest green in the mirror's reflection. This was no news to Harry. His eyes seemed to be losing their lustre for quite some time now. He had a right to be tired after everything he'd been through. However, he wasn't allowed to show it in his opinion. He was worshipped for his losses while others weren't as fortunate.
After splashing some cold water onto his face and towel drying with what felt to be a previously used rag, Harry exited the bathroom and turned to close the door behind him—hoping that this gesture would buy him a second longer of silence.
"Good morning," voiced a lounging male body, contorted in an unnatural pose meant to allure instead of repel. Harry all but strangled the nausea rising in his throat.
"G'morning," the brunet managed to mumble. He quickly located his discarded trousers and threw them on without want of a response from the body nearest him.
Harry couldn't be so lucky.
"So, you're leaving?"
Harry huffed in annoyance and nodded. "Yeah, I have some prior engagements. Can't be late. You understand." The last was never meant to be a question, but each partner seemed to misconstrue its nature and courteous cover to the actual proposition of fucking off and minding one's own business.
"Oh," the man finally reasoned and settled uncomfortably on the bed, covering himself with unmade bed sheets. "Well, yeah. Of course. I-I mean, I h-have some other things as well. Just didn't want to be rude is all. Uh, right. Better you left then."
The former Gryffindor finally looked to the man atop the bed and rewarded his stutters with a smile that could rival Gilderoy Lockhart's. The name of his host hadn't engrained itself in Harry's immediate memory, but he reckoned it must have been either a John or a Steve. Something with an 'S.' Possibly a 'T.' Either way, the name was unnecessary information and would have been forgotten within the week.
A pity, thought Harry as he stifled a chuckle. This one is entertaining in the morning.
Harry hadn't too many to compare though. He hardly stayed until morning if he could help it. The morning after, always depended on the drinks before. Whiskey seemed to have a knack for coaxing him into a later escape while rum provided a level enough head to call a taxi or Ron in a pinch.
The bumbling man was attractive enough, Harry observed quickly—almost exactly his type—pointed features and long limbs that served as a mere decoration to a toned middle and handsome face. His hair was mussed in a similar fashion to Harry's, which was something he disagreed with on anyone other than himself. He preferred a distinct difference of before and after.
Normally shagged-looking hair never provided much of a contrast.
"Couldn't agree more," Harry answered simply. Not bothering to button the shirt he'd draped over his chilled shoulders, "Good luck with your endeavours."
Of course he knew that these plans were part pretence and all bullocks, but Harry understood the importance of dignity. Even in a man who would be walking funny for at least the afternoon, pride over-ruled most rational thought.
"Should I leave you my number or s-something?" the man asked with minimal slippage.
Harry cleared his throat and removed his glasses from his pants pocket, whispering a quick repairing charm after nicking himself on the broken lens. Seeing clearly always helped his rejection. He could see every flaw he was snubbing and justify his actions without that nagging 'what if?'
"Oh, that's quite alright. No phone." The answer was true. As a wizard, what did he need a phone for? An owl was enough to keep contact with those who knew him well. A phone would only be necessary if Harry decidedly found a Muggle worth keeping in touch with. "It was fun. Thanks."
"See you around, Harry," the man conceded. Guilt built a pretty heavy mound for a moment within the Saviour's chest before self-preservation squashed the feeble pile.
This man would be disappointed for a month at the absolute longest. He didn't know Harry. He hadn't the slightest idea as to who Harry was in a world that he couldn't fathom existing. This was the precise reason the Gryffindor continued to dwell in the Muggle world. Here, he was nobody, as anonymous as the next bloke that entered the bar. He'd even taken to simply walking about the different towns just to feel invisible without the cloak. An 'Average Joe.' A face in an endless sea of same. Nothing special. Nothing to gawk over.
Somehow, the word seemed to mean more than a title to Harry. He not only exuded nothingness among the Muggles, he felt nothing in both worlds. He was empty, hollow— a mere shell of the excited and determined youth he once was.
It had taken seventeen years to build the Hero that the press wanted to mould. However, it had taken less than a year to lose the false confidence and only another two years to completely implode. Harry wasn't a man. He carried no identity or trace of a being.
Exiting the apartment and ignoring the tiny sobs behind him, Harry closed the heavy metal door and turned to read the number: 312, chipping to an almost illegible state.
Taking the steps to the lobby of the apartment complex, the fleeing man chanced a look at the mailboxes that lined the entrance.
"Three-twelve," he mumbled; finding the number atop the box and noticing the name at the very bottom. "Wade Warsh."
Harry laughed harshly and opened himself to the brisk morning air. Crossing his arms against a sudden chilling breeze, Harry settled his chuckling to muse about the forgotten name, "I wasn't even close."
The brunet returned to his own flat—later than he would have liked—losing himself again to the luxury of loneliness in one of his favourite parks. It seemed that years of being watched led him to watching others. This entertainment became a routine training in stealth and cunning. Never being found out and never being seen seemed to motivate the wizard until he realized that no one was looking for him. Then, the reassuring thought amounted in a peaceful sensation that tickled Harry's core. He was giddy while watching another's moment so intently without worry. Today's discovery happened to be an older gentleman with a significantly younger girl in tow. She wore her bright blonde hair in pigtails and skipped over abnormally large puddles. Her smile was of a purity that Harry could hardly remember and the genuine look of contentment in the man's face set off a fit of envy in the former Gryffindor.
Still, he watched the pair curiously. Harry wondered if life could be so simple and waited beside himself for something to change. For the man to burst into rage or the girl to throw a tantrum. He waited for anger. He waited for rage.
He waited for life to happen.
Because that's what life inevitably led to: chaos.
Sinking into a chair he hadn't remembered purchasing, Harry breathed slowly through his nose, detecting a possible cold. That was a minor setback in living with Muggles. He'd need to heal slowly. There weren't many Healers to fix him in a timely manner in this world and he would rather not contact that world anyhow.
Harry hadn't spoken to a wizard other than Ron or a witch other than Hermione, in the past three years. He may have died in the war, but he certainly hadn't died in the papers. Harry was in hiding. Alive to those privy to the knowledge and possibly alive to those only able to guess his whereabouts.
Ron and Hermione did a fine job of leading pesky journalists astray. Always making sure to tell as little as possible and keep the hustling noses out of business that wasn't theirs. Of course, they'd always allude to the idea of Harry returning and refused to marry without him at their wedding. But, Harry stood firm and couldn't be budged on the matter. He understood the selfishness of such a stance and sympathized with the couple, owing them his life and then some.
Harry couldn't break though.
Not now, when he'd gained something so precious: the chance to live and begin again.
The pair disagreed with how Harry handled his newfound prize. They hadn't seen Harry's entrance and exit into and out of stranger's lives as a positive. However, the Hero revelled in the opportunity to come and go as he pleased.
Being forced into shoes that never quite fit and being forbidden to remove them almost completely disturbed Harry's freedom of choice. He always opted to leave now that he could. It was a luxury he hadn't been blessed with during the war.
Leaving would have doomed everything he'd loved. What he hadn't known was that a body needn't die in order to be a casualty of the war. Other things could be lost as well.
Like Harry's heart.
This was lost the second after the realisation occurred to him that he'd been the reason for death. If he weren't born, lives may have been saved. His parents, Sirius, Moody, Fred…
Harry shook his head to clear his mind, scraping his scalp with the effort to forget what he'd lost.
Before he was once again consumed by his repression, a tapping interrupted his mourning and he immediately rose to allow the owl entrance into his living room.
With a grateful peck to the spot just below the joint in his thumb, Harry removed a letter from the bird's beak—noting the handwriting to be Hermione Granger's.
He opened the envelope without care, discarding the remnants of the now shredded paper to reveal a short piece of parchment.
I'm writing to invite you to an opening. Now, before you decide to throw this note away, please hear me out. It's an opening to an orphanage for Wizards. They're calling it: Second Chances. It was inspired by the number of families that suffered the war throughout the years. Please consider attending. It's because of you that this is happening. It's a wonderful cause and the host would be delighted if you could make it. I won't tell you who's making the effort because I believe that it will possibly dissuade you from making an appearance. However, I will promise that I see no reason to decline the invite. I've already had my share of suspicion and Ron is even moderately excited to attend. Contact me as soon as possible. If you'd like, I'll be home tomorrow to talk about it. The event is next week and I'd like the three of us to be there together.
The wizard lifted his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose in contemplation. Hermione knew that he was adamant in living this life. This must have struck quite a nerve in the witch to even hope for Harry to return in its wake.
He could, at the very least, hear her out. It would be lovely to see her and Ron after a few months without them as well.
The brunet decided to visit, but the question of his return would have to be answered after his meeting with the ever-incorrigible Hermione Granger—soon to be—Weasley.
Harry arrived at the Weasley's Burrow on a Thursday afternoon. He was welcomed like a son by—a terribly concerned with his absence—Molly and—an objective yet understanding—Arthur. The engaged couple were already seated as if prepared for an inquisition that Harry was quite aware he deserved. Of course, those matters did not reach the top of Molly's priorities as she bombarded Harry with enough food for an army, deciding that the man was far too thin for her liking.
"If you'd been around for the last few years, I surely could have put some weight on you. I mean, look at Ronald, dear. He's filling out so quickly. He'll be as big as his father in no time." Harry couldn't help but notice the choking provided by Hermione who didn't seem to accept the weight or Mrs Weasley's total care of her fiancé. Sure, the youngest son was the last to leave the nest, but he was certainly no longer a child. He could and would care for himself. Also, if his mother had any say, he'd be caring for little Weasley's as well.
The Hero smiled and muttered apologies with slightly less bite than usual and was eventually able to excuse himself after his fourth helping of apple crisp to the room he had once shared with Ron during their summers.
"Okay, so why the big secret as to the event holder?" Harry asked instantly after a click was heard, signifying the now locked door.
"You must promise me that if you've decided to attend, you'll still appear even after I've told you."
Harry sifted through his hair with his right hand to ponder the statement.
Could he simply return? Of course not. The amount of press would sky rocket.
But, hadn't this been the only place he'd truly felt at home? Wouldn't he need to return out of sheer necessity? Perhaps he could return for a moment. Enough time to attend this gathering and see his best friends wed. He would be the Best Man after all. He could finish his Wizard's life without leaving strings unattached.
"How long would it take for you to pull your wedding together?" Harry asked suddenly.
Ron was first to answer after exchanging confused glances with Hermione. "Five or six months should cover it, right, Herm? What with planning around people and all that organizing bit. Seems doable in that time."
"Start planning soon," the brunet advised, hiding the small layer of smugness in his voice but not his grin. "I'll stay for half a year. Half a year to decide if I want to stay. I'll go to the opening and I'll stay until your wedding. Help you plan. Whatever you need."
Hermione leapt at the man making such a promise and would have kissed him senseless if her future husband weren't present. Harry fought to control the swelling in his chest at how happy this made the dearest people he'd ever known.
"You'll have to tell me the secret," Harry recalled after gaining air in his lungs. Hermione was much stronger than she let on and by the smirk on Ronald's face, he knew as well.
Avoiding eye contact, the witch looked to the red-haired man for assistance. He offered a shrug towards Hermione's requested aid that caused her eyes to roll and she sighed heavily before clearing her throat and gaining enough courage to carry on.
"The centre is created, managed, and funded by Draco Malfoy."