Summary: When Ron and Harry can't assimilate to life after Voldemort, they decide to leave for awhile to find themselves. In the wake of their disappearance, Hermione is lost on her own, only to be found by two of the most unlikely people. Friendship, love, and loyalty were built to a strong degree, but years later, when her former best mates return, life becomes an emotional mess. FHr, Fred/Hermione/George (friendship)
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While You Were Gone
The end of the Final Battle brought both peace an unease. For some it was a time to take a deep breath and relax their fighting stances, for others it was a moment where they looked around in confusion, wondering what was next. So many had been so caught up in the war, that while they were thrilled that it was over, they hadn't really thought of what life might be like when it was truly done. Ron and Harry were two of those people. Upon the end of dark days, with Voldemort most definitely never to be a part of their futures, they found themselves struggling to find a place in the new world. Part of them wanted to be Aurors, to continue on fighting evil, but another much deeper part wanted to vacation; to get away from the limelight.
Harry had finally destroyed his adversary since he was just eleven years old, the creature that had taken any chance at normality and family from him before he even had a chance to enjoy it. Without that goal in mind, he felt rather empty, like he had no purpose any longer. For so many years he was the Boy-Who-Lived and the savior, that he wasn't sure who he was anymore. The media outlets were circling him like vultures, always wanting to know what was going on in his life, what he had planned now, but he had no vision for the future. He had often thought he wouldn't have a future. So he was at a loss at what to do with his new found life.
Ron, while previously he had always wanted fame and fortune, found himself rather exhausted. He had numerous routes in life he could take. He was offered a place on the Chudley Cannons, he was asked to be an Auror, and the twins told him he was more than welcome to work in their store, but none of these options truly appealed to Ron. He was tired and overused after hunting for Horcruxes and battling Death Eaters left, right, and center. He wanted to rest, to gather his former humorous self and just be Ron Weasley again, instead of the famous Harry Potter's best friend. He wanted out of the spotlight for awhile, to find where he really fit and who he really was.
He needed a break from everything. Including his family. His mother seemed bent on pretending the last eight years had never happened, wanting everybody to be one big Weasley family. She wanted Ron to marry Hermione, Harry to wed Ginny, and the whole Weasley clan to be at ease with everything. But Ron wasn't ready to settle down or come to grips with his new fame. He wanted to explore the world, find his own peace. And Harry agreed.
So late one night, a few months after Voldemort's defeat, found Harry and Ron playing a game of Chess in front of the fireplace at the Burrow. Everybody else had long gone home or to bed, leaving the two to their own devices. Hermione had slipped upstairs, knackered, a few hours prior. She had given them both a peck on the cheek and told them to get some rest, it wasn't healthy to stay up too late. She was perhaps doing the best out of the Golden Trio. She was happy with the fact that the world was now free of Voldemort, and though she didn't have that to focus on anymore, she was looking towards a bright future. With her grades and intelligence, she could have any job in the world. She had taken up Auror training immediately, surprising most everyone. Ron had kidded that he thought she'd just become a librarian, but Hermione had shocked them all with her desire to put away as many Death Eater's as she could. Harry had thought she would want to separate herself from that life, but it seemed it was quite the opposite.
They were all planning on getting a flat together soon, at Hermione's insistence that it would feel better if it were the three of them, rather than a houseful of Weasleys all the time. She understood that they felt overwhelmed lately. For so long it had just been the three of them; on the Horcrux hunt, chasing Death Eaters, tracking down Voldemort, always just them. But she was more at ease around the crowd than either Ron or Harry were. Or, perhaps she was just hiding it better. In the end, Ron and Harry realized they couldn't take much more of it anymore.
"Somebody told me Canada was nice this time of year," Ron said quietly, moving his piece over the board in a precise move.
They hadn't really spoken of their need to leave, but it was something both of them knew was on each others mind. They never told Hermione how hard it was lately, or how much they wanted to get out. They smiled at her when she smiled at them, they made small talk at the victory parties and posed beside her when they were forced into pictures, and they never once let her doubt that they were happy and content. That was a mistake, they knew, but they didn't want her to slip from her happiness to wallow in their discontent.
Harry glanced up at him. "I've always wanted to go to Niagara Falls. Remus told me that my dad took mum there once." Truth be told, he wouldn't care if they holed up in some ratty town where there were hardly any people nearby. He just wanted to be somewhere quiet.
Ron nodded, tapping his chin, "A small vacation won't hurt anybody. They'll understand."
"We could write," Harry agreed, moving his own Chess piece and wincing a moment too late when he realized his mistake. "Not sure Hermione would be interested though. Her Auror training is getting rather vigorous." He winced, knowing that some selfish part of him was angry that she could be happy when he could barely stomach the idea.
Ron sighed, frowning, "She'll understand though, probably better than the others. We won't be gone long though, eh," he said, shrugging. "Just need a break from all this." He motioned with one arm, his eyes still focused on the Chess board.
Harry bobbed his head agreeably, "Sounds good to me." He rolled his eyes as Ron won the game and gave him a small triumphant smirk. "I'll get the ink and parchment, we can leave a letter tonight. Unless you wanted to leave later," he said, looking over at him as he leaned back on the couch. The relaxation that had set in his shoulders at the simply idea of getting away was waning. He didn't want to wait a moment longer. Couldn't imagine how he'd get through breakfast, seeing all their smiling, happy faces when he knew he was just itching to run away and hide from it all. That he'd be leaving them behind so he could find himself.
Ron shook his head, grimacing, "I gotta get outta here as soon as possible." He winced, realizing that was probably rather mean to his family, who was trying to be supportive, but knowing that it was what was best.
"Yeah," Harry said understandingly, jumping up from the couch and searching around for a bottle of ink, a sharp quill, and some parchment.
An hour later, Harry and Ron had penned out their apologies and explanations, leaving a note for the Weasley family and a separate one for Hermione. They gathered the things they would need and with one last look back at the Burrow, they sighed and moved to the outside of the apparition wards to disappear and reappear at the London airport. It was best not to do it magically by portkey so they couldn't risk having any of the Weasley family try and coax them back. They just needed some time away, to let things settle down. They would come back when the Wizarding world wasn't so obsessed with them, when they were able to breathe and see a real future for themselves.
Harry found himself happy that Hermione had told him it was smart to take out money for a sudden departure and used his Muggle stash to pay for their plane tickets. When they arrived in Canada, they would find a Wizarding community and take money out of his Gringotts account to tide them over. For now though, they were comforted in the fact that they were finally getting away. They were going to be half way around the world, far from the media and coddling family members who thought they were helping but weren't. They could breathe.
Hermione woke up early, per usual, and gave a great yawn as the bright sunlight made her blink rapidly. Drawing herself out of bed, she stretched her arms high above her head and let out a pleased grunt when her body arched and twisted from the comfort of sleep. Grabbing her clothes for the day, she slipped out of Ginny's old room and tip toed to the bathroom, wanting to shower and change for the day ahead. She had Auror training in an hour and would have to eat a quick breakfast and probably put a blanket around the boys, who likely fell asleep downstairs.
After a hot shower, she slipped into her Auror training robes and walked back to her room, needing an elastic to pull her thick curls up in. Her hair had tamed some over her journey, especially after cutting half of it off simply because it was safer. Her hair seemed to have a mind of its own and sometimes wrapped itself around her face at the most inopportune times.
It was as she was pulling her hair up that she spotted the note with her name written in a messy scrawl on the bedside table. Slipping the elastic around her curls sloppily, she went over to the note with more than a small bit of interest. Flipping it open, she recognized Harry's writing almost immediately and then found herself slumping onto the bed, her hand covering her mouth and her eyes blurring with tears. She read it again, and again, and three more times before she had it memorized and was sure that it wasn't her imagination.
Sniffling, she rose from the bed and walked out of the room, the note clutched tightly in her hand. She couldn't believe it. She was stunned. Her feet moved of their own accord, directing her to the kitchen. She was surprised to find Fred and George Weasley there, rifling through the fridge and cooking something up on the stove. They didn't even live at the Burrow anymore, but they spent a great deal of time there, visiting and generally bugging their mum.
"Ah, and the treacherous Auror Granger wakes from her slumber," George said jovially, flipping a pancake without even watching. It landed perfectly, but Hermione was still in too much of a stunned state to really take notice of it. "What? No corrections about you being a trainee and not a full fledged Auror this morning, Granger?" he asked, smiling at her.
Fred pulled his head out of the fridge, his hand wrapped around a jug of pumpkin juice. He looked over at her, smiling widely before it fell away. "You okay there, Hermione?" he wondered, closing the door and walking closer. "You're paler than usual."
"Almost Malfoy pale," George added, smirking.
Hermione blinked a few times, trying to gather her thoughts but still feeling frazzled. "Th-They left me," she finally managed, her mouth quaking with the full realization.
"What?" Fred asked, his brows furrowing as he looked at his twin, who shrugged. "Who left you?"
"They just up and left in the middle of the night," she said, her voice low and shaking. "Needed time, they said. Needed to get away, they wrote." She shook her head, tears springing up and a scowl finding its way onto her face. "They just left me," she half-shouted, lifting her eyes to dart back and forth from Fred and George. "After all we went through together, after everything that's happened, they tell me I have to understand," she spat, her shoulders beginning to shake violently.
Fred reached out, placing a hand on her shoulder to see if she was all right. "Harry and Ron left?" he asked, slowly, not quite understanding.
She pushed the note out to him, her anger and sadness boiling over, until she was one shaking mass of hurt. How could they do that? How could they leave in the middle of the night and think she'd be perfectly okay with it? They were supposed to be her best friends! After all that had happened, shouldn't they go through this problem together too? Why couldn't she come with them? Why couldn't they have at least talked to her about how they were feeling? All she got was a piddly note about how she had to understand that it wasn't her, they just needed time to adjust. That the media was too much, that having so many people around was suffocating. That they weren't sure who they were or what they were supposed to do now.
Well what if she was feeling the same way? Just because she didn't say anything, didn't mean she wasn't insecure. Yes, she did join the Auror Department, but she wasn't planning on being an Auror forever. And she mostly joined it out of a sense of familiarity. She had been fighting evil since she was eleven, and while she had many other skills, it was the one that was ingrained in her to the point of being almost an identity. So she went on with what she knew, at least until she was sure she could let it go and become a normal, well balanced witch. One who didn't need to fight evil every day or look toward the next big problem in the world with the need to be the person to fix it. She could have used a vacation, she could have used somebody to talk to about how she was feeling. But they just gathered themselves in the middle of the night and left her to find their own way in the world, one where apparently she wasn't needed.
Fred passed the note to George, his face quickly turning the familiar Weasley red and his hands fisting at the sides. "Cowards sneaked out in the middle of the night," he muttered, looking over at the broken witch to his left. Coward wasn't a word usually used to describe either Ron or Harry, especially after all they had done to save the Wizarding world, along with the brilliant witch they had left behind. But at the moment, Fred couldn't help but think that was exactly what they were. Instead of facing the new world, they ran away from it, hoping when they came back things would have changed to how they desired them to be. He had yet to see them do anything but play Quidditch or Chess, mope around the house, and eat his mum's food. At least Hermione had become an Auror trainee, she was doing something, even if it wasn't a lifelong career for her, of which he knew it wasn't. Fred could understand that things were tough, that there was a lot of pressure being who they were, but that no reason to run away like they had.
"So, what, they expect us to just accept that they've up and left us and understand that they needed to get away?" George asked, annoyed. He crumpled the note, tossing it on the counter and turning just in time to pull the pancake off the pan before it burned. He poured another on and then turned back to Hermione and Fred. Hermione was slumped against the wall, her cheeks tinged pink with her anger and her tears still rimming her eyes. Fred was glancing from her to the note, his expression going from sympathy to anger.
Hermione didn't say anything after that, instead slumping into a chair and staring down at the tabletop listlessly. Fred and George exchanging a knowing expression, understanding that Hermione wasn't just losing her best friends, but her familiars. Harry and Ron had been with her from nearly the beginning, they had kept her back safe, relied on her genius to get them through, and overall worked as a team 24/7. To be without them had to be a large shock to system for her. For Hermione, Harry and Ron, were the Forge to her Gred. She wasn't sure how to function, really. And so, with that in mind, the twins decided that they weren't going to let Harry and Ron's selfishness take Hermione down with them.
Piling a stack of pancakes and a handful of bacon on three plates, George served out breakfast for the odd trio and sat down to bring Hermione's spirits up with humor. While in the beginning, she merely graced them with a mild smile and a nod of her head as they joked around and kept up a humorous banter, it wasn't long before she gave in to the need to laugh.
"There it is, George, a smile to make any man's heart aflutter," Fred said dramatically.
"Careful there Granger, direct that grin of yours elsewhere before Fred becomes lovesick. I need him to work this weekend, can't have him drooling over memories of you and your milk mustache," George said, chuckling.
Hermione's hand rose quickly to her mouth, eyes wide and searching to remove the offending white liquid from its perch only to realize she wasn't even drinking milk. "Oh honestly, George Weasley!" she exclaimed, rolling her eyes.
"Can I be blamed for your gullibility?" he asked, winking. He leaned forward, a winning smirk on his face. "Don't worry. Spend a little time with us and before you know it, you'll have our every trick figured out."
"You'll know what's up our sleeves even when we're not wearing shirts," Fred told her, nodding.
"Are you planning to walk around half-dressed often?" she asked, lifting a brow. "A little warning, please. I'd prefer to keep my breakfast."
"Oi! Did you hear that Fred, she doesn't adore our manly physiques!" George exclaimed with dramatic outrage.
Hermione couldn't keep the chuckle from escaping her, watching with interest at the spectacle they made of themselves as they rose from the table in tandem, hands moving to the waist of their shirts. "We'll show her," they said simultaneously.
"No, no, no, you won't!" she said, waving her hands around, her eyes wide. "Sit your bottoms down and finish your breakfasts. Enough of this silliness, we'll never speak of what's under your shirts again!" she said decisively.
The twins glanced at each other and then turned roguish grins at her. "And what about what's under our pants!"
She sighed heavily, shaking her head, though she did find that they'd done exactly what they'd set out to do. Take her mind of all that had been weighing her down since she woke. No longer were tears clouding her eyes or a tight grip claiming a place on her heart. Instead, she found resolve taking over. If they thought they could just leave her here, they had another thing coming. She wouldn't waste her time sulking, but boy when they returned they were going to get an earful, she decided. Looking over at the twins, she thought, perhaps they could supply her with a little revenge for her friends lack of thought to her emotions. Nothing too serious, just something to teach a lesson. Yes, this time away from each other would be well used.
And so began the new mission of the twins, to keep Miss Hermione Granger from falling into a lonely sense of loss without her two daft gits who sat fit to abandon her at such a bad time. While previously the connection between Hermione and the twins had been thin and rather strained given that she was so uptight and rule bent, they found a middle ground to work on. Them being out of school kept them from fighting over what they usually had. Her being an Auror still had her interested in keeping the law, but it didn't hinder their business and certainly had no qualms with it, so she had nothing to really lecture them on. Opening up a space for them to get to know each other outside of the usual restraints, which included her being the crush and friend of their younger brother. Now she was just Hermione, a potential friend and current project to keep them busy.
Fred and George felt happy when Hermione had to leave before Molly and Arthur woke up, as they were sure Hermione would regress back to her shocked self if she had to explain to her surrogate parents that Ron and Harry had up and left in the middle of the night, leaving them all behind with nothing but a short letter in explanation. She gave the twins a peck on the cheek, thanking them for helping her through the morning and then she was off, to learn how to keep them all safe; an angel watching over them. What would that make them? they wondered.
Hours later, when the rest of the house rose from the warmth of their bed covers, the boys were ready to share the bad news and weren't surprised to see their mum looking to them to take care of Hermione. They had already shouldered the idea and were looking forward to it. They wondered how she would fit in. Fremionerge, they decided, was a horrible name, as was Germioned. They'd have to keep with Hermione, sadly enough. It was sure to be a great friendship.
To Be Continued...
A/N This is not one of my one-shots, obviously, but a story I started awhile ago at the insistence of my beta. I'm still working on new chapters to my other various stories and I hope that this will tide you over until then. I'm dealing with a lot of personal problems right now, but I don't want to leave you all with nothing. So, per usual, I hope you enjoyed this! Please review, it's very appreciated!