Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter or any of other characters in this story.
Located in the village of Hogsmeade, the Three Broomsticks was a pleasant enough place for friends to meet and reminisce over their school days. Hogwarts Alumni would discuss old pranks, embarrassing tales about their friends, and stories of rivalries turning to friendship. Members of Slytherin would laugh about hating Gryffindor upstarts then laugh about coming to like said upstarts when they had left school for the Real World.
On Hogsmeade weekends, Hogwarts students, laughing over butterbeers, talked about assignments. They showed off their purchases, trying to determine which was better, Zonko's, or Weasley Wizarding Wheezes. Some made games of eating some of the more unusual treats; others merely dared their companions to eat particularly nasty looking Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans.
That is what usually happened at the Three Broomsticks. Such things did not happen on Wednesday nights, when students were up at the school, and the adults were either working late or resting at home, preparing for work the following morning. For now, it was busy, but not overly crowded, as only the regulars were in attendance. The regulars generally kept to themselves, never really mingling with others.
It was precisely for this reason that the Veterans met there on that night. In the back, there was a table that, though built for eight, had only seven chairs; Harry Potter, Ronald Weasley, Luna Lovegood, Neville Longbottom, and Ginny Weasley occupied five. The five of them met there every Wednesday, without fail. Well, usually. Sometimes Harry Potter did not come. No one asked him why. No one ever questioned his actions. And who would? He had defeated the Dark Lord Voldemort.
After the war, there had been parties and celebrations. More than a year after the war, though, things had settled down a fair bit, and those who fought the war had time to reflect. With that reflection came a sense of being different, apart, alien; they felt as if they no longer fit with the others.
It was Luna's idea. Most thought too much of the girl's 'loony' nature, forgetting that she was a Ravenclaw when she attended Hogwarts. Having spent time with Luna, the Veterans knew her flighty nature covered her brilliance. Her idea had been a good one. And so they gathered to sit with each other, to talk about everything but the war, and simply enjoy the company of someone who understood.
Two of the five had already arrived. Ginny arrived first, Neville only a moment behind her. They sat in their usual seats on the right side of the table. Ginny walked to the table. When he arrived, Ron would sit across from her, Luna beside him. Harry always sat to her right, his back to the wall, facing the door, the chair beside him empty. The chair across from him, the one with the back to the door, was also left empty. Harry insisted.
No one asked why.
Ron arrived next, brushing his mussed hair from his face; he had flown in this time, rather than flooing. Luna Apparated in, nearly knocking Ron over. "Oh my, I'm very sorry. The Glubbers must have interfered with my arrival."
"It's alright Luna," Ron said with a wry grin. They took their seats and placed their orders, saying nothing until Rosmerta brought their drinks and left. "Is Harry coming tonight?" He asked Ginny.
Ginny frowned. "He may be my boyfriend, Ron, but I am not his keeper. I don't know." She did not add that they had become somewhat distant of late. He had begun to insist on all manner of peculiar things. Once, he would make merry like the rest of them, drinking his fill, telling jokes, laughing, enjoying himself. Then he skipped an outing, having Kreacher tell Ron that he did not feel well. He had changed after that. He sat with his back to the wall, refused any alcohol, and all but demanded that there always be two empty seats at his table. "Why don't you ask your girlfriend, Hermione? Or is she mute, now, in addition to being a recluse?"
Ron frowned at his sister. "You shouldn't talk about her like that, Gin."
Ginny waved away his comment. "Come on, you know what I mean. We hardly ever see her. Merlin knows the last time she came to the Burrow. She never leaves Grimmauld Place."
"That's not true," Neville said. "I've seen her up at the school. She's been helping with the rebuilding. She's been looking for some of the spells the Founders used, so things can be restored to the way they were. She spends a lot of time in the library."
"Why am I not surprised," Ginny muttered.
"What was that?" Neville asked, eyes surprisingly hard.
"Nothing," she replied.
"You shouldn't be so jealous of Hermione," Luna said airily. "Things were very hard for her during the war."
"Oh, like they weren't hard for me? For Neville? For you? We spent months in a Death Eater Training Camp! Not that you would understand that, since you were gone for most of it."
"Quite right, I was held prisoner at Malfoy Manor, which you would not understand, as you were not there," she replied easily. "But it was alright. They didn't care about me; they thought I was very silly. And I had company. There wasn't very much to do though. But regardless, you have no reason to be jealous of the time Harry and Hermione spend together. Oh look, a butterfly!" Luna was looking out the window smiling whimsically.
Ron let out a forced chuckle and looked down.
Ginny sighed, frustrated. "I know it bothers you too, Ron. Harry is my boyfriend, Hermione is your girlfriend, and they spend more time with each other than they do with us. That is not right!"
Ron shrugged, looking almost helpless. "They shared things that we will never understand. Just like Harry and Hermione can never understand everything you and Nev and Luna experienced at the school under Snape's thumb."
"What do you mean, 'we will never understand', Ron? Weren't you out there with them, camping out?"
"Don't make it sound so fun, Gin," Ron said grimly. He took a sip of his drink. "It's not like we were having picnics and skipping stones in a lake. A lot of the time we didn't even know if we were going to eat," he said gruffly, evading the topic. The others sensed he did not want to discuss the subject and nodded. All of them, even Ginny, had subjects that were avoided, things they would not say about all that had happened.
Ginny changed the topic, turning to Neville. "So how is the reconstruction of Hogwarts going?"
"Surprisingly well," he said. He took a long drink and smacked his lips. "Things were tough for a while. No one knew where to start. There was a lot of damage, not all of it easily fixed. It was slow going at first, until Hermione joined in the effort a few months ago. No one knows the library half as well as she does, and she is the one finding all the spells we need.
"Most of the spells used have been lost over the ages, and the castle will only respond to those spells—Hermione said something about the nature of the castle changing because of the time span and something about absorbing magic. She's been a lot of help, even if no one understands what she says half the time. The school should be up and running next year. Then we can bring our students back."
"Funny, isn't it?" Ron said, staring at his glass of firewhiskey. "She won't go to the Burrow, but she'll go the place of the last battle."
"Not near the woods though," Neville said. "I asked her to help me carry some things out to the Green Houses, and she outright refused. Said something about trees and ran off to the library."
"Not very Gryffindor of her," Ginny muttered.
"Maybe she doesn't like going near the place where Voldemort almost killed Harry," Luna offered.
The others were silent. Ginny winced. She was very good at forgetting things she did not like to remember, and Harry's almost-death in the Forest was one. She had put it from her mind not long after it happened. She nodded.
The fire flared green, and Harry stepped through. He looked around, nodding to them when he saw them, and turned back to the fire. He tossed a bit of white powder in—Floo Powder, they knew—and talked to someone. He pulled away, and a moment later the fire flared green again. Someone else stepped through—Hermione!
Everyone at the table was shocked. Even Luna, normally so unaffected by the things around her, looked surprised.
Harry gave them all a wry smile as he sat down in his normal seat, Hermione silently taking the seat to his right. Hermione nodded to them all gravely, shifting uncomfortably in her seat.
"Hey Hermione," Ron said. "How've you been? I haven't seen you in…what, three days?"
"Four," she replied primly. "Honestly, Ron, can't you keep track of time?" Everyone smiled a little. That was the Hermione everyone remembered, not the quiet, sullen one who did not leave Grimmauld Place unless she had to—or to go to Hogwarts, apparently.
Rosmerta came over. "Haven't seen you in a long while Hermione," the woman said with a smile. "What will you two be having tonight?"
"Pumpkin juice please," Hermione requested, the primness in her voice gone.
Ginny rolled her eyes. Harry frowned at her; he must have seen.
"I'll take a butterbeer and pumpkin juice, on the rocks!" Hermione snorted mirthfully, covering her mouth to hide her grin. Harry grinned roguishly at her.
Rosmerta froze. "Rocks?" She asked slowly.
"Why in Merlin's name would you want rocks in your drink?" Ron asked, horrified.
Harry waved his hand. "Never mind," he replied. "Just a butterbeer and some pumpkin juice please." Rosmerta left.
"Rocks?" Ron asked.
"It's a Muggle thing Ron," Hermione replied, mirth in her voice.
Ron's lips twisted. "Muggles are stranger than I thought if they put rocks in their drinks."
Ginny laughed, Neville chuckled. Luna smiled whimsically and looked out the window again. Harry frowned and Hermione looked down. Harry looked like he was going to say something but Hermione put her hand on his arm and shook her head. Ginny noticed, not liking the interaction at all. She leaned over and kissed Harry. She meant to kiss him on the mouth, but he had turned away to look at Hermione, so Ginny only caught the corner of his lips.
Rosmerta returned, two child-sized cups of pumpkin juice and a mug of butterbeer. Harry took them all, setting one cup in front of Hermione, kept one for himself, and set the mug of butterbeer in front of the other, empty chair. As one, Harry and Hermione raised their glasses, toasting the empty chair, then drank. That was another strange habit Harry had picked up some months before—buying a drink that would go untouched and toasting the empty chair across from him. No one had questioned this either.
"So," Harry said, setting down his cup. "How are things in the Green Houses looking, Nev?"
Relieved that Harry's odd rituals were over—for now—Neville told Harry of his progress in re-growing the plants that had been destroyed. Next Luna talked about how things were faring in her life, the Ginny, then Ron. Throughout it all, Hermione spoke little, only smiling at some of the more unusual things Harry said, doubtless Muggle references. Her eyes continuously flickered to the door before she looked back to the speaker.
An hour later, when Hermione began to squirm, Harry stood and grabbed the mug of butterbeer. Hermione stood alongside him, a wand in her hand. The wand was new; her first wand had been lost. They later found out that Bellatrix had destroyed it in a fit of rage after they'd escaped the Manor. This one had been made especially for her by Mr. Ollivander. It was the first wand he made after he recovered. She hadn't told them what kind it was, and they couldn't quite make out the pattern.
The others watched Harry take the mug outside and dump its contents in the grass, Hermione beside him like some sort of watchdog. They came back in, giving Madame Rosmerta the mug. The pair bid everyone good night and went to the fireplace. They shared a look, and Harry turned to face the door, wand at the ready. Nodding, Hermione flooed to Grimmauld Place. Harry waved at the group one last time, and followed her.
Ron shook his head. Harry had left two full hours before he usually did. But then, Harry was doing a lot of odd things of late, including his odd drinking rituals, and swearing off alcohol altogether. He looked around the table, but the others shook their heads too. "Maybe it's a Muggle thing," he offered.
"Like the rocks?" Ginny asked wryly.
"I guess," Ron replied, raising his firewhiskey and taking a drink. "Maybe we should ask."
"I think, Ronald, that we wouldn't understand," Luna said gently. "Harry and Hermione share a lot of things that we can never understand, their Muggle heritage is just a small part of it. Just as you cannot understand everything that happened to Ginny, Neville and I at Hogwarts, just as we can never understand what happened to you three in the forest, so we can never understand Harry and Hermione."
Ron and Ginny shared look, both uncomfortable with the thought. Ginny looked unhappy, but Ron shrugged to himself. Qué será será. What will be, will be. And there was nothing he could do about it.
The fire flared green and Hermione stepped into the foyer. She stepped to the side. Harry flooed in a moment later, and Hermione deftly caught him by the arm as he stumbled out. He smiled at her. "I can take down dark wizards without batting an eye, but I still can't use the floo properly."
Hermione smiled in amusement. "Well, what kind of a witch can barely mount a broom, let alone fly?"
Harry laughed. "You fly just fine, Hermione, you just prefer to have your feet firmly on the ground."
"Indeed I do." Her smile slipped away. "I'm sorry," she said softly.
"I made you leave early. I know you did, Harry, I saw Ron check his watch when we stood up. He had that look on his face that he always gets when his routine is broken."
Harry waved away her concern. "It was nothing. To be honest," he said, looking a little abashed, "I don't really care for those meetings. They don't—" Harry paused to consider his words.
Harry nodded, eyes on the ceiling. "Yeah."
"I think they are jealous. Ron and Ginny, I mean. Well, not Ron so much as Ginny. Not that there is anything wrong with Ginny—"
"Hermione, you're rambling," Harry interrupted gently. "And why are they jealous?"
"In think they are jealous of how close we are."
Harry considered it for a moment. "I don't know," he said finally. "But the, girls are a mystery to me." Hermione quirked a brow at him. "Not you, Hermione. You are the only girl who makes sense." He turned away. "Kreacher!"
The aging house elf appeared. "Yes Master Harry?"
Harry knelt to look in Kreacher's eyes. "Kreacher, Hermione and I are heading up to the attic. Will you please bring us some tea?"
"Yes Master Harry Sir," Kreacher said, then disappeared with pop.
"Shall we?" Harry asked, offering her his arm. Smiling, Hermione took it, and the two set off for the attic. "Well, you didn't do too bad tonight," Harry said. "You were there for an hour. That's pretty good. You think you are up to visiting the Burrow?"
Hermione bit her lip. "There are an awful lot of trees…" she murmured.
Harry nodded. "We can wait until you're ready. It's fine."
"It's not fine! I'm a Gryffindor, I couldn't even help Neville carry a few plants out the greenhouses because they were too close to—"
"To a forest where your best friend not only died but came back to life," Harry interrupted easily. He shrugged. "For all that I'm going to be an auror, I won't go near the Forbidden Forest either."
Hermione shuddered and pushed open the door to the attic. They walked over to the small table and chairs Hermione had transfigured when the two began to spend time there. The tea was already waiting. "Thank you, Kreacher," Harry and Hermione said at the same time. They looked at each other and smiled, taking their seats.
"So who did we toast tonight?" Hermione asked, pouring tea for them both. Harry prepared the tea in accordance to their respective tastes.
"Colin Creevey," he said, handing her a cup. "I save our friends for when you're with us. Next time you're ready to go out, it will be Cedric, then Remus, then Tonks, Snape and finally Fred."
Hermione smiled sadly. "Alphabetical by last names, eh?"
Harry returned her smile. "They were all important to me. It seemed to only way to honor them all and not play favorites."
They were silent for several long moments, sipping their tea and enjoying the quiet. There always seemed to be noise everywhere, so Harry relished in the quiet of Hermione's company. Unlike Ron and Ginny, who hated silence, Hermione was perfectly fine with not talking. There was, however, subjects that needed to be addressed.
"So," he said softly, pulling her away from her thoughts. "Have you considered when you are going to do about your parents?" It was a sensitive topic.
Hermione seemed to crumble in on herself for a moment before she leaned back in her seat and squared her shoulders. "I wrote to them, asking what they wanted. They were so angry. Not at me, Harry, don't look at me like that. They were angry with the wizarding world. They said—how did Dad put it?—I can't remember. Something about a corrupt society that puts children on the front lines of a battlefield had no right to claim me. He wants me to leave England. Mum does too. They think I should to somewhere that completely untouched by the war."
Harry nodded slowly. "And what will you do? Have you decided?"
Hermione shook her head. "I can't leave. You're here, for one, and I have so many people depending on me—"
"—there are the spells to reconstruct Hogwarts—"
"—there is Ron—"
"—the rest of the Weasleys—"
"—Neville, Luna, even Mr. Ollivander—
"You can't shape your life around what other people say they need from you. You are not their servant. If you need to leave, leave. Hogwarts will manage. Ron and the Weasleys will manage. Our friends will manage."
"And what about you?" She asked.
"I can manage. Not well, not without you looking out for me, but I can manage."
"Harry, I—" She stopped at stared at him for a long time. "Harry, I don't think I would come back. Ever. Not even to visit."
Harry watched her solemnly, waiting for her to explain herself. She always did.
Hermione sighed heavily and pulled out a chain from around her neck, easily slipping it over her head. From the chain dangled a single house key. "I don't know why I still carry it," she said softly, looking at but not seeing the key hanging on the chain. "It unlocks the door to a home that isn't mine anymore." She slowly lowered it to the table, the chain pooling around the key. "Everything here feels different. It's like—"
"Hogwarts isn't our Hogwarts," Harry interrupted. "Hogsmeade isn't our Hogsmeade. The Hogwarts Express isn't our Hogwarts Express. Our home is not longer our home," he said, nodding. "I feel that way too." He sipped his tea and winced. "Cold," he explained. He waved his hand over the cup, heating it. He watched the steam curl in the air. "So where do you want to go?"
Hermione shrugged. "I don't know. Is there anywhere in the world that you can live in the country, but not see a tree for miles?" She quipped, her humor dark.
"Australia," he replied. "Your parents still live there, yeah? The Outback has a lot of open space. No one to worry about, and in some areas I think you can go for miles without seeing a tree." Hermione gave him an odd look. "I did a project on it before I came to Hogwarts."
Hermione nodded and looked down at her tea. "Would you visit me?" She asked, her voice soft, quiet, shy. None of which, Harry felt, suited her personality.
"Visit?" He snorted. "I'm going with you!" Her head snapped up and he looked at her wistfully. "I would love to see a wallaby."
She couldn't help it. She laughed. "A wallaby Harry? Really?"
"Yes, really," he replied with a grin.
She smiled and shook her head in amusement. "What would Ginny say if she heard us joking like this?"
"I'm not joking, Hermione," Harry said softly. "And Ginny will just have to deal with the situation. Ginny did not believe me in fourth year when my name came out of the Goblet of Fire. Ginny did not lie to Umbridge to keep her from cursing me. Ginny did not try to convince me not to go to the Ministry because it was a trap, and then follow me anyway to keep me safe. Ginny did not almost die for me again, and again, and again." Harry took her hand. "You never abandoned me, Hermione. I'm not going to abandon you."
"Thank you, Harry." It was all that she could say.
"So, when are we going to break it to everyone that we are leaving?"
Hermione frowned. "I never said I was leaving, Harry."
Harry shrugged. "I decided we should go." Hermione opened her mouth to reply. "This place is killing you, Hermione," he said firmly. "You can barely bring yourself to visit your friends. You don't feel at home here. And…you're not alone. I look at my friends, and I see who's not sitting at my table. I look around Hogsmeade and I see the buildings that aren't standing. I look at the train, and I see the seats that aren't filled. And when I walk through Hogwarts, I see flashed of lights from curses, I see people falling and not getting up. I see black robes and silver masks. I'm ready to get away too, Hermione."
"Well, Mum and Dad will be pleased." They grinned at each other. "As I recall, Dad wasn't too happy that you had to lead the charge, so to speak. He'll be thrilled you're leaving too. If we go."
"When we go," Harry corrected. "So, Australia and no forests. How about a place with just a few trees? Because I think you would be able to handle trees just fine if they were, say, on the coast. Near the beach."
"Yes, I would be fine with that—"
"I'm sensing a 'but' in that sentence."
"—but there would be an awful lot of tourism."
"Oh yeah. I hadn't thought of that. Hey, what about using some charms to keep people away? There's got to be a nice little corner of the Australia for us to set up residence. We can manage. And it will be easy to visit your family then, wouldn't it?"
Hermione looked at him for a moment. "We must be mad, picking up and leaving like we are."
"Mad as Hatters," Harry replied cheerfully. He'd found that he enjoyed making Muggle referenced that no one in the wizarding world would understand. It was a way to turn the tables, as he was forever out of the loop when people would mention things that people only know if they are raised in the wizarding world. Like the Tales that Beedle the Bard wrote.
"Are we really doing this?" Hermione asked him.
He looked into her eyes for a moment and nodded slowly. "Yes. We are. We both need to get away, and neither of us will abandon the other. What are friends for, right?"
Hermione smiled warmly and raised her teacup. "To Friendship."
"To Friendship—in Australia!"
They laughed and clinked glasses. "Cheers," Hermione said, then took a drink.
"Cheers," Harry replied. The set their cups down. "So, Hermione. Do you think we could have a pet wallaby?"
A/N: As requested by a very few number of people, a sequel to Closure. This, like the other, is a one-shot. I will admit that it was not what I had intended to write when I first began this little project, but as I was writing, I found that this was really the only way it could progress.
I am aware that Harry and Hermione escaping to Australia is fairly common in fan fiction, and I am not copying those stories. But it seemed unfair to make the Grangers move since they had settled into Australia, and both Harry and Hermione needed to get away from anything reminiscent of the Second War, mentally and physically. It was either Australia or Texas, and Australia has wallabies, and Harry would need a pet, but something different from Hedwig (also, I rather imagine he would fantasize about having one when he was studying Australia when he was with the Dursleys—an escape-fantasy, so it won.
On a final note, I'm assuming that Tonks became Lupin-Tonks, so my alphabetical system is legitimate. That said, I hope you enjoyed the story. Whether you did or did not, please let me know in a review—I can't fix a problem if I don't know it exists. Thank you for reading.