For my beautiful darling, ReillyJade, for the 2014 GGE. Love, I'm not really sure what this is, but I hope you like it. It's rather more Hermione-centric than HermioneBill, as originally intended.
So I may have… um, forgotten about Fleur? So she just kind of doesn't exist. Ooops. My bad.
The first time she feels the itch, she is 18 and Wizarding Britain is still in shambles. They are reconstructing, both physically (as with Hogwarts) and structurally (as with the ministry). She cannot leave, but there is an itch to go buried deep under her skin, and she cannot quite shake it. Instead, she buries it deeper and pushes the thought aside.
The next time the itch surfaces, she is 19 and Britain can function without her. Harry knows what needs to happen, and he finally understands that wielding his influence is smart, not cruel. The Ministry has a working system of power balance and Hogwarts is fully functional, if not yet perfectly the way it was before.
The itch to go, to see the world, to live bigger than this, it consumes her. She wants to know what possibilities are out there.
So she goes, and she doesn't look back.
She tells the people that matter, and she goes.
She goes to Australia first, to break her parents of the curse they've been under. She tells them that she's not going back to Britain and they decide not to, either. They have built a life in Australia, and if she is not there, then there is nothing drawing them back to Britain. She stays with them for two months, learning about their friends and their lives and their practice, but the itch resurfaces. She is looking for something, and this is not it.
Her parents hug her and let her go.
She decides that some sort of linearity would make sense, she she starts in Asia after a week in New Zealand. She winds her way around the continent, picking up odd jobs and bits of a dozen different languages. She meets a thousand people and learns hundreds of names. She stays for a few weeks, maybe a month or two before the itch builds up under her skin and she's off again. She turns 20, then 21 as she picks her way across Asia and into Eastern Europe. She's still not sure what she's looking for, but she's hoping she'll know when she finds it.
She makes enough to pay the hostels and feed herself. She tans and freckles. Her brown hair lightens in the sun. Her arms, her stomach, they grow taut with use as she jumps from physical job to physical job. She stays in Bulgaria long enough that she speaks Bulgarian by the time she leaves, but she leaves all the same.
She turns 22. She celebrates in Italy, staring at the Mediterranean and wondering what she's looking for.
The next morning, she catches a boat crossing to Africa.
Six months later, she wakes up on the floor of a hostel in Egypt and, not for the first time, wonders why. Why she's doing this, why this itch beneath her skin won't let her settle. But wondering has never led her closer to the answer, so she slings her pack over her shoulder and makes her way to the pyramids. As always, she takes the time to appreciate what she is seeing. She talks to a guard in broken Arabic about the history of this place. She wanders through the tourist areas, feeling like she is missing something. This is not where the real beauty is. This has been tainted by tourism, for even as some mean to respect it, others do not. She turns, leaves, and finds a nearby café for something to eat. She plucks her Egypt guidebook out of her pack and is scanning it intently when a man sits down across from her.
She looks up, intending to tell him in no uncertain terms to go away, but instead she breaks out into an unintentional grin.
Bill Weasley grins back at her. "'lo, Hermione. Didn't exactly expect to see you here." Hermione notes by the length of his hair that he hasn't been home in a while.
Hermione shrugs. "Haven't been here long. Probably won't be, either."
"Want to see the real thing before you go? The inside?"
Hermione's not sure that's allowed, but she's too curious to say no even if it isn't, so she merely nods gratefully. Bill grins again and tosses a few Egyptian pounds on the table, standing and offering her his hand.
The pyramids alone are awe-inspiring, but seeing them with Bill is infinitely better. He talks almost nonstop, telling her about the history of the pharaoh whose tomb they are invading, about the curse-breaking required to get inside, about how the pharaohs that mattered had wizards on hand, about how wizards were believed to be in deeper touch with the gods. He is fervid and informed and kind of beautiful like this. He flushes up to his ears when he realises he's been monopolizing the conversation, but Hermione just smiles and tells him to go on.
Eight months later, when Hermione finally moves out of the tiny hostel and in with Bill, she realises that the itch under her skin has finally settled. She doesn't need to flee this time. And maybe, just maybe, she's found what she's looking for.