Harry found himself in Gringotts after he left The Burrow. Having learned a little glamour magic during the six months he had stayed with the Weasley’s, Harry disguised himself as he walked through the bank. He knew he needed some start-up money, but he didn’t want to take too much. He would be going to Muggle London and living his life as a Muggle. He wanted to put magic aside, at least for a while. Scaling back to simplicity was his goal. Walking up to one of the counters, Harry looked up at the Goblin diligently working away and waited till he was acknowledged.
“Welcome to Gringotts, how can we be of service?”
“I would like to see Ragnok, if possible.”
The Goblin looked down at Harry and narrowed his eyes. Harry knew Goblins could see past glamours, but they also prided themselves on keeping their customer’s privacy. Nodding the clerk left his post and made Harry wait.
Harry didn’t have to wait long when Ragnok came out from a side door and walked right up to Harry, looked him up and down, nodded and gestured for Harry to follow. The two were silent as Harry followed Ragnok back to an office. When the door shut behind him, Harry ended the glamour.
“Mr. Potter, it is my honor to be of service. Now, how can I help you.”
Harry sat down and looked around and felt all of eleven years old again when Hagrid had brought him here and he had first met the Goblin sitting in front of him. Even with everything he had gone through at the hands of the Dursley’s, he had felt so wide-eyed and innocent. That innocence had been thoroughly burned out of him much earlier than it should have.
“I remember that day meeting you like it was yesterday. I look around and nothing has changed.” Harry frowned, twisting his hands together. Goblins were not known for their patience or compassion, but when Ragnock came around from behind his desk and laid a hand on Harry’s, there was compassion and understanding in those Goblin eyes.
“You have endured more than anyone should have to, or what anyone should have asked of you. Take your time, Harry.”
“I need some of my money converted into British pounds, not a lot just enough to give me a cushion for about a year. And, I know I’ve put it off, but I want Sirius’ will read officially. I know I am his sole heir, but I want it on record. I know there are Potter and Black holdings, what can we do to combine the vaults, trusts, and businesses?” Harry wasn’t asking out of a blind sense of duty to those that worked under the businesses that were held by both the Potter and Black trusts, but he had obtained the financial records of both families. While there had been some siphoning off of money from the Black vaults to give to Voldemort, the trust had been locked down by Sirius before his untimely death.
“That will take but a moment, Harry. An accounting was already made upon your request some months ago. All currency has been merged.” Ragnok opened a file cabinet that was behind his desk, but it wasn’t like any file cabinet Harry had ever seen. He suspected that it was some kind of dimensional store that was utilized to keep customer records secure. Harry watched Ragnok rummage around a moment, then turn back around and handed Harry two ledgers. Opening the first, Harry saw that it was an accounting of all the artifacts and items in both vaults. The furniture, books, and true family heirlooms were the only things Harry wanted to keep. The second ledger was an accounting of monies. Harry frowned a moment because there was a third column, but he would wait a moment to ask about it.
“I see that there are a lot of Goblin artifacts in the Black Vault. What if I gave them back to your people, Ragnok?”
“We would offer you a reward. Half the value of each piece to have it returned.” Harry knew the Goblins could afford more, and he knew this was where he was supposed to negotiate for a better price, but he just wanted the whole ugly business done with.
“Alright, I agree.”
“Ragnok, I don’t have the energy to protest or haggle. I just want the whole lot taken care of.”
Ragnok signed and shook his head.
“Alright, I will have someone take care of that today. Since we have a proper accounting, we can move everything out as of today and transfer the money to your account.”
“I appreciate it. Now, tell me who I need to speak with to talk about these businesses.”
Ragnok looked thoughtful for several long moments then pulled out a quill and parchment with which he wrote down two names for Harry.
“They are both very good at their jobs. Either of these Wizards will treat you fairly.”
Harry thanked Ragnok and stuffed the parchment into his jeans pocket. He would deal with that later. Harry told Ragnok the amount of money he wanted to be converted which took no time at all to process. The amount of cash sitting before him, Harry was uncomfortable taking out of the bank, he used a transfiguration spell to make them look like credit cards, which he slipped into his wallet.
“Before I go, what is this third column in my accounting ledger?” Harry turned the book around and pointed to what Harry was talking about.
“Ahh, that is what was left in the Gaunt vault that Voldemort was using. The spoils of war, so to speak. Those that participated in trying to harm you have been put under a Goblin weregild. Once monies have been paid, they will go to you, Harry.”
“But…” Harry started to protest, which made Ragnok glare at him.
“It is our duty to you, Harry.” Harry didn’t know what to say to the Goblin, but he knew any protest would fall on deaf ears. Sighing Harry just nodded his acceptance.
“Why do I have a feeling that you are not coming back for a long while, Mr. Potter?”
Harry smiled sadly and looked Ragnok in the face.
“Because I’m not. I need time away and I don’t know what that will look like or what I’m going to do, but I have to do something different. I have to be someone different to figure out where my life is going.”
“Then, Mr. Potter, I wish you the best of luck. When you are ready, you have a couple of titles to claim.”
“Oh Merlin, I am not anywhere near ready for that kind of responsibility, Ragnok.”
“I figured as much, you have some time before you can no longer claim them. Give me that ring you have on your right hand.” Harry had forgotten the simple band that he had found in a second-hand shop in one of his trips to London. He took it off and handed it over to Ragnok. “I will spell this ring that will glow red warning you about your titles, and when they expire. You can make your decisions then.”
Harry took the ring back, and slipped it on his finger, not feeling any difference, but knew that the spell was there. Standing, Harry felt like he was leaving his life behind in the same place that it had truly started. Looking around a moment that sense of melancholy that had been with him for months now fell on him once again. He shook Ragnok’s hand, reset the glamour and walked out of the bank, and the Wizarding World altogether.
London. Harry wasn’t a stranger to the city, he rather enjoyed it. Someone could get lost in the crowds, no one wanted anything from him here. In fact, those passing him on the street didn’t know him at all. After the last seven years, it was refreshing. He could truly make a new start. The heavy weight of responsibility was lifting as Harry walked around the bustling city center.
The first thing he knew he needed to do was to open up a bank account. He had done his research before coming to London, and Ragnok even gave him recommendations for the best muggle institutions. After taking care of that, Harry needed a place to live. He knew he couldn’t afford anything in the main center of London, well technically he could afford anything he wanted, but that wasn’t the point. He wanted to do this for himself, not rely on the gold galleons in his vaults.
Harry saw a cafe that had a few newspapers out in front of its doors. He made his way there, picked up one of each then ventured inside. He ordered a pot of Earl Grey and a few biscuits then found a comfortable table to sit at for a couple of hours. Laying the papers out, he almost laughed to himself at the static nature of the muggle publications. But, being able to open a paper and not see his face or another bloody article chronicling the aftermath of the war was a relief he couldn’t even properly express.
Opening the first one he looked through the apartment listings and wanted to circle the ones that were in the price range he had set for himself. Realising he didn’t have anything to write with, Harry set the paper aside and was going to go ask at the counter if he could borrow a pen. It was at that moment that a server brought over his tea and plate of biscuits.
“Thank you. Um, do you have a pen I could borrow?”
The server smiled at him and pulled one out of her apron.
“I have a few others, here you go.”
“Thank you.” Harry smiled and sat back down. For the next couple of hours, he circled what looked like promising flats to let, hopefully, one really did suit his needs.
At first, navigating London was a bit of a confusing mess to Harry, but once he studied the maps of the public transportation system, he was confident he could figure things out. He spent most of the day looking at flats, getting lost twice, navigating the tube, and above-ground transportation, but a part of him was actually having a bit of fun. He stopped for a simple lunch of soup, sandwiches, and tea. Then setting out again he was determined to find something he liked before the hour turned to late because he would have to bunk down at a motel.
When he found it, the place felt right. It was small, but everything he had been looking at was small. Just a little under five hundred square feet, it was an open flat. The bathroom was what some would call charming, but since it was just him, Harry would make do.
The kitchen ran along one wall and had a long counter to break up the space between the kitchen and the living area. There were some built-in bookshelves, an alcove for a bed, and he thought maybe a couch or large reading chair would do him.
“How much?” Harry always asked because he had already been fooled a couple of times. Some of the ads were there to pull you in and suddenly the prices were more than he was willing to pay. Harry watched the manager and knew just from the way he was acting that he was a bit squirrely, but the place was the nicest of the ones he had been looking at.
“675, and utilities included.”
Looking around the place once more, Harry liked the feel of it. It was big enough for his needs. Quickly calculating, Harry knew he could pay a year’s rent upfront. That would give him some freedom to really consider what he wanted to do.
“I’ll take it.”
The manager didn’t protest, even though Harry knew his application was a bit thin, but the guy didn’t seem to care. He handed Harry the lease, which he signed, handed over first months rent with a security deposit. Harry, suspecting that the manager might not give the money back in the future had put a spell that would see the money returned when he was ready to leave.
“Here’s your copy. No loud noises after eleven p.m., no unapproved animals, you can have a small pet, no more than five pounds. No loud parties. Any damages you will be responsible for.”
They had already gone over that, but Harry knew the man just wanted to reiterate.
Harry was given a copy of the lease agreement, then the manager left without saying goodbye after handing Harry the key. By this time night had long since fallen and Harry was exhausted. He had been on the run all day. His stomach was growling painfully. There were still things he needed to do, but they would each come in time.
Pulling the miniaturized trunk out of his pocket, Harry sized it back to normal. Rummaging inside he grabbed a book, made sure he had his new key and wallet and went in search of the nearest fish and chips shop. He didn’t look forward to sleeping on the floor, but at the moment he had no bed, which he hoped to rectify soon.
Leaving his newly acquired flat, Harry felt a sense of accomplishment. Breathing in the cold night air he walked the neighborhood making note of shops, restaurants, cafes, and more. When he saw a chip shop with curry he was tempted to change his mind, but he had not had truly good fish and chips in a long while, so he kept walking. Finally finding what he was looking for Harry felt the smile on his face as he walked inside. Ordering, he took a small booth in the corner, pulled out a book and felt like he could actually do this on his own.
His food came and Harry smothered the chips in malt vinegar but kept the fish alone. The first bite had Harry moaning in pleasure. Feeling buoyed by the good food, he took a few moments to himself to relax and read while he ate. When he was ready to go to his new home, Harry felt like a little more of that weight on his shoulders was lifted, but only time would tell if it was just the euphoria of a new place and a new life, or if this feeling would last.
A week after moving in, Harry was looking around his flat and liked the space even more. He had taken some of his money and trolled the second-hand and charity shops to get a bed frame, small loveseat, and a comfortable chair. He also picked up dishes, glasses, and silverware. He didn’t want to get the first things he saw and took his time. The only thing he got brand new was the mattress.
A trip to a second-hand kitchen store he was able to acquire a set of pots and pans that weren’t terribly beat up, as well as other kitchen utensils. Harry was again feeling rather pleased with himself as he sat down on his new bed and sighed in relief. Sleeping on the floor had brought back too many bad memories, and though he knew he could use magic to make everything easier on himself, the point to this whole thing was to leave magic behind for a while.
“Well, Potter, you’ve done well so far. It may not be fancy, but at least it’s all yours.” Harry said aloud. He had even popped into a few specialty food shops and splurged a little. He had a plate of cheeses, olives, assorted salami, and good English crackers. It was a simple meal, but he was enjoying it. The past week had kept him so busy that he had not had time to think about what brought him to London in the first place. Now, in the quiet of the evening, a cold breeze blowing through the barely open window, the depression and dark thoughts he had tried to chase away came crashing back.
Harry ate his meal, washing it down with some sparkling water, he didn’t even feel like having some of the treacle tarts that were waiting in the fridge for him. Instead, he made a pot of tea and set it down with his mug next to it on the small table he had moved to sit under the window. Harry also pulled the large reading chair over, grabbed the new duvet and curled up in the chair wrapped in the warmth of the duvet. The lights in his flat were already low to fit the melancholy mood. After watching the ever-darkening sky for a bit, he poured a cup and sipped.
Harry had known answers weren’t going to magically appear to him in just a few days, but time stretched out before him and he felt the loneliness that had been creeping up on him since before he could remember. Even when surrounded by friends and loved ones, he always felt like the outsider looking in, but Harry had no idea how to fix these feelings inside him.
After the tea was gone, Harry didn’t move from his chair, he fell asleep curled up under the duvet and for once didn’t fight the nightmares. He was just too tired to keep them at bay.
The one person Harry didn’t want to cut himself off from was Teddy. He and the baby had grown close in the months after the war, Teddy was truly Harry’s one solace. He knew what it was like to lose your parents before you ever really knew them. Harry was grateful that Andromeda was letting Harry spend as much time as he could with Teddy.
Andromeda had grieved for the losses of her family and one day Harry had made a crazy suggestion. He noticed that Neville and Luna had become close and when he confronted his friend, Neville admitted he wanted to eventually ask Luna to be his wife. Harry could see it, they just fit somehow, and Harry was privy to the day Neville told his Gran. The way Neville had stood up to his Gran would have made anyone proud to know the young man. The war had hardened Neville in very interesting ways. He wasn’t taking anyone’s crap anymore and standing on his own two feet. Even getting a new wand. His father’s wand was never the right fit for Neville, and that was the second row that he and his Gran had. Harry was so proud of his friend that they went out for a night of drinking just after Harry’s eighteenth birthday.
Neville and Luna were bucking another tradition. They had moved in together before there was any talk of betrothals. Neville had claimed his father’s titles, and now had access to his trusts. The house he bought was, well Harry knew it suited the couple perfectly.
Harry often found himself at Nev’s house with Teddy. The young men grew closer over the months and Harry regretted not spending more time with him when they were younger. Harry was regretting a lot of things during his years at Hogwarts, but he knew he couldn’t change his past, but he could do something about his future. And, part of his future was his newfound deeper friendship with the soft-spoken, but surprisingly witty Neville Longbottom.
Harry also saw how lonely Andromeda was. With most of her family gone, or in Azkaban, she had no one to really fuss over except for Teddy. That was where the crazy suggestion had come to him. One day before fall started to descend on Britain, Harry had a meeting with his friends and suggested that they all live together.
“I think that is a rather lovely idea,” Luna’s smile was genuine as she sat next to Andromeda. “We would love for you and Teddy to live here.”
“I couldn’t intrude on you two.”
“Oh, no it wouldn’t be intruding. I agree with Luna, Andromeda. We’ve all lost someone, and I think we could all help each other. Plus, we can bully Harry into seeing us more if you and Teddy live here”
Andromeda’s eyes filled with tears as she cleared her throat. The normally strong, formidable woman was overcome with emotion.
“Alright. If you don’t think I will be in your way.”
“We’ve plenty of room. And having Teddy around would be good practice.” Neville smiled wickedly at Luna who smacked his arm playfully.
“Not for a long while, Neville Longbottom.” But Harry could see the want in Luna’s eyes.
Harry thought of that day fondly as he made his way to an out of the way alley where he could use to apparate to Neville and Luna’s place. It was the only magic he was allowing himself for the time being. He hoped seeing his friends would help lift his spirits.
After Harry landed he saw Luna out in the garden that she had started in the front of the house. He knew Neville was building a large greenhouse on the back of their property. He was taking his time because he wanted everything to be just right.
Teddy was on the wraparound porch playing with some of the toys Harry had given him over the last months.
When he approached the gate, Luna looked up sensing that someone was there.
“Harry,” She popped up on her feet and ran to him throwing her arms around him and hugging him.
“Hello, Loony.” The nickname had stuck and Harry was one of the very few people she let call her that.
“I heard something terrible, you know.”
“That you left magic.” Luna cupped his face in her hands and looked at him with that same intensity she had in school. “So, it’s true. You’ve left magic, but why, Harry?”
Harry took a deep breath as he wrapped her up in his arms and held her for a moment.
“It’s hard to explain, Loony. I just…” Harry closed his eyes and placed a kiss against her soft wispy hair. “I need to find out who I am.” Letting her go, Harry tucked her close to him and the two started towards the house. Scooping up Teddy, who squealed in delight that Harry was there, pressed a sloppy, open-mouthed kiss against Harry’s cheek. It was the first genuine laugh that Harry had allowed himself in weeks.
“Sit down, Neville is finishing his NEWTS. With a proper wand and some practice, he was able to finish his last year here at home. The ministry is allowing anyone who can find an adequate teacher to take their last year as a homeschool. No one knows when Hogwarts will be opened again.”
Luna puttered and chatted. Harry had always liked listening to Luna, even her stranger theories charmed him. Teddy was happily playing on his lap. When a tea service floated towards them and was gently laid on the table, Harry put Teddy on the couch.
“Oh, she called a session of the Wizengamot. I almost wish I was there. She said she was going to be giving those old stuffy, ridiculous codgers a piece of her mind, her words exactly.”
Harry laughed because he could picture it. He didn’t feel one bit sorry for them either.
“Kingsley is officially been made Minister. Dromeda and Neville’s Gran are both going to say their piece about the war and how the Ministry failed to protect and do their job.”
Harry was happy that someone was backing his views up. He looked down at the cup of tea that he didn’t even remember taking and sighed.
“Oh, Harry. I’m sorry I don’t mean to bring all this up.”
“No, it’s all right, Luna. You said I left magic and it’s part of the truth. I’ve left Wizarding Britain. I’ve got a flat in London and I need some distance from Magic and Wixens in general. But, you lot, you’re more my anchors than the Weasley’s ever could be. You don’t expect anything from me except not to neglect my godson. I want to thank you for that Luna.”
Luna set her tea down and reached across from the other end of the couch and took Harry’s hand.
“Nev, Dromeda and myself, we don’t expect you to be anyone other than who you are, Harry. Sometimes to find ourselves we have to get a little lost. And, if you need to get a little lost, you know we are here for you.”
“Thank you. You have no idea what that means to me.”
Harry spent a pleasant afternoon and early evening with the family that had been made. Andromeda regaled them with tales of the Wizengamot meeting that had Harry, Neville, and Luna roaring with laughter. The house-elves had made a wonderful meal which came with more laughter, and no talk of the war, thank Merlin, Harry thought.
After dinner, Harry found himself outside with a glass of firewhisky looking at the progress Neville had made of the greenhouse.
“It’s coming along swimmingly, Nev.”
“Hmm,” Neville hummed as the two stood there in companionable silence. After his glass was empty, he turned to Harry, laid a hand on his shoulder giving Harry some quiet support. “You will always have a place with us, Harry.”
“Thank you, Nev. So, what are your plans?”
“I want to go to University. I found a private one that I can learn both Magical and Muggle herbology. It’s what I think I was born to do.”
Harry smiled softly and clasped his friend on the shoulder.
“Then I wish you all the luck with that, Nev. Well, it’s late and I should get home.”
“You know you could always stay with us, Harry. There’s more than enough room.”
“No, Nev. I appreciate the offer, but I need to do this on my own.”
Neville nodded his head in understanding, and Harry was grateful that he had friends like Neville and Luna. They would never ask more from him than he was willing to give. They understood that he needed space and Harry made a vow on his magic to never abuse the gifts of pure friendship and love that they were giving him. When he went home and crawled into bed, the nightmares for once were held at bay.