Harry Potter led a charmed life. From birth, his parents showered affection onto him. He survived a curse that nobody else in the history of the wizarding world had ever survived. He managed to live safely, in seclusion, for ten years, until his re-introduction into the world of magic. He survived seven years of Voldemort trying to kill him. He even managed to destroy Voldemort when he was only seventeen using a spell devised by his two best friends. And only a few years later, Harry Potter married one of those two best friends, a woman named Hermione Granger.
Oh yes, Harry Potter does lead a charmed life.
Harry Potter led a cursed life. From birth Voldemort had him marked for death. His parents were killed when he was only a year old. He was sent to live with neglectful relatives who starved and overworked him. Upon re-entering the wizarding world, he had many near brushes with death until he finally managed – by the skin of his teeth – to kill the wizard who was causing him so much anguish. The wizarding world never left him alone, even after he specifically told them to. He couldn't even find a job for his fame was too great for any normal witch or wizard to hire him.
Oh yes, Harry Potter does lead a cursed life.
So, with these diametric opposites that form the life of Harry Potter, should he have been surprised that his life didn't simply settle down and fall into shape once Voldemort was destroyed and he was happily married?
He shouldn't. That is the consensus.
But strangely enough, Harry Potter is surprised. Despite all evidence to the contrary, Harry had expected the wizarding world to just leave him alone after he had done everything that was expected of him.
Unfortunately, this does not happen.
So Harry Potter decides to leave.
This is not an easy decision to be made.
"Let me get this straight," Hermione says when Harry tells her the news, throwing her hands up. "You want to leave the wizarding world? As in… what? Become Muggles?" She walks over and places her hands on Harry's shoulders. "I'm as sick of the Daily Prophet as you are, Harry, but we wouldn't be able to survive in the Muggle world. Surely they would find us." The unspoken is: Don't I have a choice in this?
"Not if I have anything to do about it," Harry says grimly. The unspoken is unheard.
And that is that.
Hermione eventually seems to come around to the idea and manages to devise most of the cloaking spells to cover them in their new home. Their other best friend, Ron, who is currently working for the Ministry, is going to help direct the Ministry in the opposite direction when it is finally discovered that they had left.
They choose a quiet little Muggle village in the Scottish highlands. Harry is sure that the Muggles know that they were hiding from somebody or something, but so long as they are good little citizens who always say hello and good morning and contribute to the economy of the town, the long-term residents simply shrug and go about their daily business.
The adjustment isn't easy.
Hermione is used to be recognised, whether as the wife and friend of Harry Potter or the Mudblood who got further than she should have. She misses her parents, friends and work. She simply can't find anything to do as a housewife. There is only so much dusting one could occupy oneself with especially since she had the help of her wand.
Sometimes she dusts by hand, simply for the sake of passing time. Sure the dampeners – the ones she devised and couldn't even patent because Harry wanted them to be secret – block all magics from entering or exiting their house, but it is possible that a stray spell could slip through the net. Or so she tells herself as she flicks the feather duster over the television for the tenth time in the day.
Hermione wonders how she would have lived in the Muggle world if she had grown up there. She knows logically that she would have been perfectly happy, but after so many years of spells and magics, the wizarding world is home for her.
She slumps down on the ratty old couch in the den. Despite the fact they could have gotten a new one, Harry had insisted that the neighbours not know that they were living beyond their means. He had used the same reasoning when he got a job in the local hardware store as a clerk.
Not that the neighbours care, Hermione thinks bitterly.
Sometimes she wonders what the wizarding world would think if they knew what their hero was doing right now. Picking up deliberately dropped nails and smiling at rude customers.
She wonders if they would care.
Yet, despite this, Hermione still finds it easier to adjust to the Muggle world than Harry does.
As Harry works, he spends most of the time thinking. The minimum wage job he is given – the only one he qualified for – is not one that was particularly taxing on the mind.
Did we make the right decision, he thinks as he stacks the shelves full of bottles and cans. Perhaps we should have stayed.
But Harry knows deep down that they made the right decision. If he had stayed… if he had stayed he would have ended up resenting the entire wizarding world. He would have ended up wallowing in hatred and bitterness for lost opportunities, for a lost childhood.
Yet, Harry wonders whether this is any better. He knows Hermione is not happy and can't think of a way to apologise to her for dragging her into this situation.
He did try one day:
"Hermione," Harry says as he lays a hand on her shoulder. He can see the glitter of the wizarding wedding band – one of the only relics they took from their previous life, charmed when in the presence of Muggles – on his left ring finger. "I'm sorry for dragging you into this."
"What's there to be sorry about?" she replies sharply, too sharply. It is obvious she has been thinking about the same topic.
"You could leave," Harry suggests, not wanting to hear the answer. What if she wants to leave?
He isn't sure whether he is relieved or upset when she snaps: "Do you want me to leave? I made the decision, don't you forget that Harry Potter. I chose to come here as your wife. I helped you with the plans. We made the damned decision together. It isn't your fault so stop blaming yourself!" She wonders whether she contradicted herself, but doesn't care.
He tries. He really does.
But it still eats at him, slowly and inexorably.
The months slip by, both slowly and like quicksilver. Hermione tries to count them, but decides after three that it is a useless venture.
Harry seems to be adjusting well after the initial hiccup. He has few friends, but the one he has are good ones. There has even been a promotion at the hardware store and he's now assistant manager. Hermione manages to muster up a smile at this and others at the village wonder why she isn't happier.
He could have been so much more, she wants to scream. I could have been so much more. But she doesn't scream. The tight smile on her face gets tighter.
The years trickle by like droplets of water, each crystalline, each so memorable, yet as they slid down the drain, each one so easily forgotten.
Every few months, they get a letter from Ron – several letters actually as Ron obviously still doesn't trust the reliability of the Muggle post – informing them of the current state of the wizarding world.
It seems that it is consensus that Harry Potter and his wife Hermione are now dead. There is a pretty memorial just outside Hogwarts for them.
Hermione finds this incredibly funny when she hears it and cannot stop laughing. Harry has to fetch her a glass of water.
"I wonder what they'd say if we went back," she says, between fits of giggles.
Harry is silent.
Apparently Ron is now married, happily married with several small Weasleys toddling after him to continue the Weasley line. Which is a good thing too as all the other Weasleys were war casualties. The wizarding world is slowly healing. The wound of the wars are closing and Harry is glad he's not there to see it.
But with Hermione, it's a different story. Though she has adjusted to her new life, she still misses her old one.
One unusually balmy summer evening, Hermione gets back from a card game with some of her village friends. After seeing that they were obviously going to stay, she decided to integrate herself into the village. Hermione is proud of herself. She has managed to get a woman – not herself, of course – elected on the village council.
She sits down by Harry and puts her hand on his knee. He is startled. "What's the matter?" he asks.
"Perhaps…" she begins and then stops. "Perhaps," she starts again, obviously having difficulty getting the words out, "we should start to think of having children."
At the beginning, when they had just arrived and everything was new and fresh, they had found the village life somewhat exciting. It was invigorating being back in the fresh countryside, to see the rolling green hills again, to be away from the smoke, smog and pollution that even managed to seep in the London Ministry Office.
Hermione had pounced on Harry while he was taking his morning shower and they had made love under the steaming water and steam. It was hot, slippery and so utterly perfect. The feeling as she arched backwards, a moan deep in her throat, and her back against the icy tiles. The feeling as Harry slid into her, easily, perfectly. The feeling as they moved together under the gushing water.
They were usually so careful with Pregnancy Charms. But that time, Hermione had thought – for a horrible and wonderful half-month – that she might be pregnant. But it had proved to be a false alarm.
"You want to have children?" Harry asks. Incredulously, because they have never had this conversation before. Incredulously, because the last time they had done anything was well over a month ago.
"Well," Hermione says slowly, "the women…"
"The women," Harry cannot keep the mocking tone out of his voice, though he wants to. "So that's the reason. Gossip."
"I do want children, Harry," she says quietly.
Harry doesn't say anything more, but he comes to her bed that night. The old magic between them still simmers, and she hopes that they can kindle the flame into the old roaring fire.
She curls up beside him and he kisses the top of her head.
"If you want," he says into her ear, "then we will have children."
Having children, Hermione finds, isn't as easy as people think. She wonders whether she is getting too old, but according to the few books she manages to find in the village bookshop and library, she should still be fairly fertile. She remembers certain fertility potions that could be used in these situations, but doesn't want to broach the subject with Harry. Ron hasn't contacted them for several months. The wizarding world seems like an old, sweet dream and even Hermione sometimes wonders whether she imagined all of it.
But she only has to look at the dancing sparkles on her ring to know that there is another world out there. One that they should go back to one day.
Especially if we have children, she thinks suddenly.
When she finally gets pregnant, Hermione notices immediately. Her breasts are more tender and she feels faintly nauseous all the time. Staring at herself in the mirror, she thinks she notices a slight weight gain, but isn't sure whether she is simply imagining it.
For all his doubts, Harry is delighted and constantly enquires over her health. So much so that Hermione tells him to get lost and get her some pistachio ice-cream.
On evenings, Hermione sits on their balcony in the rocking chair and thinks about the past. Back to the first days of their marriage where everything seemed wonderful. Back to the bright hopefulness when they first came to the village. Back to the icy silences that seemed to drench the past few years. Back to when she first told Harry that she wanted a baby.
It wasn't just to placate the gossiping bodies in the village. A wry smile curls Hermione's lips and she wraps an arm protectively around her expanding stomach. Her child would go to Hogwarts. And perhaps when that time came, Harry would be ready to go back as well.
Perhaps with the healing of the wizarding world, the rift in their marriage would follow the same road.