Author's Note: The characters and previous actions of said characters are the sole property of J.K. Rowling. The plot is mine.
Anywhere but in Between
After the war, Harry leaves everything he knows to heal. Ginny begins to understand her place in the world, and Hermione searches for the balance that has been missing from her life. Ron realizes it's not too late to become the man he wants to be.
Chapter 1 – Walking Away
The war was over. Percy Weasley and Albus Dumbledore were gone, along with many others. There really wasn't anything left to do.
Except get on the train. And he couldn't quite get up the courage to do it just yet.
"'Scuse me son," said a kind voice from behind him suddenly. "Are you boarding?"
Harry Potter turned around and took in the man's warm, lined face. He nodded slowly and picked up his bag.
"You're packed awful light. Is this a short trip?" the man inquired lightly.
"No," said Harry, spinning around to step onto the train.
"Where you headed, son?" the man asked, this time his voice low and soft, as if he could sense Harry needed it to be so.
Harry's mind, without his permission, began to flash over all of the things that had been lost to him and all that he was leaving behind.
He didn't turn around as he answered.
"I don't know."
A Year Later
"Hermione, you said you'd be off this weekend. Ginny will be crushed if you can't make it to her graduation," argued Ron as he squared off against his best friend in the living room of her flat in London.
Hermione glared at him. "I told you, I just can't switch my rounds. That's not the way it works at the hospital. I can't change things because I have somewhere to be. This is the way it's always been done, and I'm so sorry that I can't be there."
"Don't apologize to me, Hermione," Ron fumed. "Ginny is the one that - "
"I already apologized to her," Hermione cut him off. "She's okay with it and she understands."
"You might want to reconsider your career choice seeing as how you've missed out on several things you swore you'd make it to. I mean, I knew you were smart, but I never thought of you as the kind of person who would sacrifice her friends for her career." Ron began pacing, trying to work off his anger.
He didn't quite understand why this was bothering him so much, but it was something greater than him. He was mad, and he didn't know what to do about it.
Hermione appeared to be having the same problem. She stood across from him, her hands on her hips and her eyes narrowed.
"I can't believe you would say something like that to me," she spat, taking a slight step toward him. "You know how hard I have to work this first year. They only take five students in the program, and the first time you mess up you are gone. This is something I want, and I didn't think I'd have to explain that to you."
Ron glared back at her. All of the frustrations of the past two years came boiling up to the surface. Harry had fled his friends and only wrote letters once every other month or so, and they were brief and unrevealing.
They usually only reported that he was fine and that he missed everyone, but needed a bit more time. Ron didn't even know where he was, and it was beginning to infuriate him because there was nothing he could do.
His house had become a lifeless place where people moved about not speaking about the one thing that they all wanted to talk about. Percy's death had changed them all, and Fred and George had moved out very soon after.
Ron had stayed at home after he graduated Hogwarts to try and be of some help to his parents, but he found himself sinking into a dull routine whose only purpose was to distract him long enough to not have to think about anything.
Ginny's last year at school had been hard on her, especially without Dumbledore there. She had been in the room with Harry when Dumbledore had burst in to even the numbers against the Death Eaters that had remained at their master's side.
Lucious Malfoy had struck down Dumbledore just as Harry cursed Voldemort, and Ginny hadn't been the same ever since. She had written home sporadically, but her letters, like Harry's, had been short and distant.
That was why the graduation party was so important, Ron realized. He, and the rest of the family, wanted to give Ginny something to smile about for a change. It was, after all, supposed to be a joyous occasion.
Ron mentally shook himself and his shoulders sagged. He didn't have the energy to argue with Hermione any longer. She was off trying to move up in the ranks of St. Mungo's healers program as quickly as she could, and she rarely had time for him.
It might have been slightly acceptable if Ron still had Harry around to be his best mate, but Harry had abandoned him as well.
Suddenly, Ron felt extremely tired. He sighed and ran a hand through his hair.
"I understand, Hermione. I really do. I just thought it would be nice to all be together again, this time for a happy occasion," he said.
Hermione's body literally twitched at his words. She was feeling guilty, and even though that wasn't his intention, he couldn't help feeling the slightest bit of satisfaction.
He knew she was thinking of the last time they'd all been together. His parents had hosted a small gathering after Percy's funeral, and although people didn't stay much later than an hour or two, there had been something comforting about just being in the same room with each other.
Hermione hadn't left his side that night, alternately holding his hand or linking her arm through his. He hadn't admitted it to himself until a few months after, but the contact she'd maintained with him all night had kept him from coming apart.
Hermione held his gaze for a long moment, and he could see the wheels in her mind begin to spin.
"I'll ask if there is another resident who can switch weekends with me, but I'm not sure there will be anyone who can. Can you accept that?" she asked quietly.
Ron gave her a small smile. "Yeah, I can. Thanks, Hermione. You don't know how happy that makes...Ginny," he said. His eyes faltered from hers, and he ran his hand through his hair again. "When will you know by?" he asked, more for something to say than anything.
Hermione smiled back at him. "Tomorrow after work. I'll owl you at the office."
Ron thought of his day of pushing papers around his desk at the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. He hadn't graduated with the grades to pursue becoming an Auror, but he was happy where he was for now. He didn't have too much responsibility yet, and that suited him just fine.
He'd had his fill of dark, evil things for a while, and he was fine with securing the home base while others went into the field. He got paid well enough, and he got to see his father from time to time. Unlike Hermione, he wasn't in any rush to climb the ranks.
"Okay." He turned to leave her flat, but she stopped him with her next words.
"Did you get a letter from Harry this week?" she inquired.
He faced her, a curious look in his eyes. "No, why, did you?"
She shook her head sadly, her eyes now downcast. "No. I just thought I'd ask, I mean, you never know -" she trailed off.
He sighed and for the second time that day, anger pulsed through his veins. This time, it was focused on his other best friend, who was completely absent from their lives and didn't think much of that.
"You know I'd let you know if I got a letter from him," he said gently.
"Yes, I suppose I do," she replied quietly. "I just don't know why he can't let us at least know where he is and what he's doing. It's driving me crazy."
At his admission, her eyes came up to meet his, and they remained focused on each other for a long moment. Suddenly, Hermione walked forward and put her arms lightly around his waist.
He breathed in quickly, silently, and allowed the warmth of her to travel over him. No one had hugged him in a very long time, and the contact made him feel calmer and safer than he had since the war had begun.
She released him shortly after, and smiled up at him. "I'll talk to you tomorrow, okay. I'm really going to try and get out of my rounds."
"I know you will, but it's okay if you can't. I was just venting before, and I didn't mean to take it out on you," he admitted.
She laughed then, and he stared at her in confusion.
"What's so funny?"
"You. Apologizing. It still catches me off guard whenever you do it," she said, trying to hide her smile behind her hand.
He didn't care, though. It had also been so long since he'd heard her laughing that he was starting to think he'd forgotten what it sounded like.
Now it all came back to him.
He felt the familiar tug in his gut and willed himself to brush it away. All of that had been dealt with long ago as far as he was concerned, and he couldn't let it come back. Things were much better as they were.
"Talk to you tomorrow, then," he said lightly, reaching for his coat.
"Goodnight," he said, letting himself out. Once the door closed behind him, he shrugged on his coat and made his way down the stairs and out into the cold night air.