'Round the bend of Diagon there is a place called Harrowyck Alley, which opens out onto a rare patch of green, a small and embattled forest that has somehow survived in London after all these years. Harrowyck is where now stands the statue of Albus Dumbledore, and where they say Potter and his friends have begun flat-hunting. Harrowyck is suited to tired heroes. It is not like cozy Habbitew Alley, where the Hufflepuff gentry keep their townhouses. It is not like strange, oft-disappearing Unarckic Alley, which swallows up the Ravenclaws and spits them back out, years later, cleverer and stranger than before. It is a mass of proud and lonely-seeming buildings of uncertain origin, which permit one to live side by side with one's fellows, hearing from the open windows streams of music, of chatter, of passionate fighting, while still, somehow, keeping hidden the source of all this life and noise. This is the nature of a truly effective city dwelling: by some magic, one is ever surrounded by people, and yet one never has to see them. The buildings are criss-crossed with private elevators, winding back stairs, and hidden entries, and so perfect, perfect privacy is achieved.
Harrowyck is also very near to the MLE’s portal to the Ministry, and very far from the offices of the Prophet. It is highly desirable real estate for Aurors, criminal masterminds, and persons on Ministry probation. Many a moneyed pureblood keeps a flat there; Harrowyck is the ideal place to hole up and await trial, or to conceal a secret. The Aurors would not disrupt their hallowed home privacy simply to break a case. To maintain their cityfied isolation, to keep up the solitary magic of Harrowyck Alley, they permit a kind of armistice, though if one should pass them in the halls of a building one should be very careful to hide any contraband, as Aurors, being Aurors, might note it and file it away to be pursued in another time and place.
Now, in 27 Harrowyck 19J there lived Auror Tonks and Auror Shacklebolt, splitting between them the costs of the rent. In 27 19Y there lived Auror Dawlish, their most sworn workplace enemy. This presented a dilemma, a test of the Alley’s endless calm, for 19J and 19Y faced each other across the courtyard, and Mr. Dawlish could see, behind the hastily-thrown up curtains of 19J, the shadows of his rivals accomplishing very mundane un-Auror-like tasks: preparing breakfast, answering Owls, laughing with friends, dissecting Prophet articles, and the like.
And indeed they could see him as he sat at the kitchen table and tried to solve a case. He became very paranoid that they might steal his breakthroughs, but this never happened. The armistice held. They kept to their cases and he to his. Mind, Auror Tonks was a kind person by nature, but her kindness was so tested by Auror Dawlish that if she saw him in the halls she would only say a very stiff hello, for at work he was a true burden to the Department. He was forever siding with Mr. Fudge, insisting that she and Shacklebolt receive black marks for their maverick methods; and he always eyed them suspiciously over his viscous and disgusting mug of coffee, as though they harbored pro-Dumbledore, anti-Ministry sentiments (which, indeed, they did).
Shacklebolt, for his part, never said anything at all. He was always strictly professional with Dawlish at work; they had a kind of politeness stalemate going, which infuriated Dawlish to no end. Shacklebolt really was a good Auror, he felt, not a bleeding heart like Tonks. And there was in Dawlish a secret voyeur, solitary and sad and blessed by the magic of Harrowyck Alley, which was comforted only by the sight of Shacklebolt buttering toast across the way, or humming along to the Wireless, and, as much as they fought over Mr. Fudge’s methods, when they caught each other in the elevator Shacklebolt always nodded very handsomely, and it was like there was no conflict between them at all. The armistice held. Even as Shacklebolt was demoted time and time again for his suspect alliances; and Dawlish leapt ahead, was promoted ever-upwards, was taken into the confidences of slick Mr. Yaxley, and very wisely never put a toe out of line with Fudge lest it should cost him his workplace advances — the armistice held.
Perfect calm, no cruel words, no suspicious glances, always passing each other, silently and calmly, as though they belonged to completely different worlds. Though in truth they saw each other every day, and lived perhaps twenty feet apart. For years.
Until the night the Ministry should fall. Dawlish stumbled home in a daze, saw the light go on in thw window of 19J, heard a pop of Apparition, and saw a sworn enemy of the new regime, the half-giant manservant of Albus Dumbledore, conspiring with Shacklebolt in the kitchen across the way. And so here was incontrovertible proof. Shacklebolt was no Auror, no friend to the government. He was a rebel, an agitator, an Undesirable. And yet, as John Dawlish gazed across at this criminal, the criminal caught sight of him.
Now, it would have been very easy for Shacklebolt to confund him. Dawlish was not good Auror, and quite susceptible in that regard. But Shacklebolt did not confund him. Would not, perhaps. He respected the armistice. He put a finger to his lips. Shhh. Don’t tell. And Dawlish never did. Oh, to be sure, Dawlish was a coward and a bit of a beast when outside Harrowyck Alley. He was ambitious to the core; he longed to get ahead in any regime. He bullied children, he sought to torment even old Augusta Longbottom. A touch of Imperius, courtesy of Mr. Yaxley, was at play; but that really excused nothing.
And yet he had a strange kind of bond with his neighbor, a city bond, born out of brief sightings and quiet moments, that would not let him tear down the Armistice, declare, “Here are the rebels! Let us raid their den!” And every night he would glance out of the window to see if Shacklebolt and Tonks were home (they never were), not because he wished to betray them, but simply because he wished to see them. He was connected to them. This is how lonely city magic works.
After the war, Shacklebolt knocked on the door of 19Y for the first time in his life. He said, “They’re going to arrest you, John.”
John Dawlish said, “I know.”
He asked after Auror Tonks.
"Dead," said Shacklebolt, and managed to convey in that one word the opinion that she had been worth four hundred of John Dawlish.
But he also left his Owl address, for some reason. A very deliberate action, for naturally Dawlish already knew it (27 Harrowyck 19J) and meant to convey some kind of permission. For what? They did not know each other; they were only neighbors.
Dawlish wrote him, while in prison. Shacklebolt wrote back. Nothing important. Only mundane things, the Owl post equivalent of catching sight of someone across the way through a window, someone captivating, with a bright smile, who butters their toast and laughs with a friend, and has a secret world you long to reach, but never can, really.
After Dawlish’s imprisonment, after Shacklebolt had served two successful terms, they moved to Habbitew Alley. Shacklebolt’s father had left him a townhouse; Shacklebolt had always known he would end up there, somewhere warm and cozy. Dawlish did not go back to work; his husband would not re-hire him. Instead he puttered around the house, somewhat surprised at his good fortune.
Auror Tonks’s son took 19J. He shared the costs of the rent with one of the Potter boys. Across the way lived a cousin he had never met, a Mr. Malfoy. They passed each other in the halls sometimes. They were very polite. They could each see the light in the window opposite. They marveled at it. It was mundane and joyous, very human.