As the plane took off from London's Heathro Airport, Harry Potter let out a sigh of relief. Once the plane took off, he was no longer Harry Potter- The Boy Who Lived, and became simply Harry Potter. Looking out the window, Harry couldn't help but think that if someone had told him a year ago that the war would be over and he would be turning his back on the British magical world in order to go be an ordinary kid, he would have thought they were crazy. While one of his greatest ambition has been to be simply a normal child, the idea of leaving the one place and people he considered a home would be impossible.
Yet, following the Battle of Hogwarts, nothing felt like home anymore. The predicable events occurred: Harry went to sleep in the Gryffindor Tower after his meeting with Dumbledore The Painting, spent the next week helping repair Hogwarts while attending multiple funerals of the Fallen. After that first week, Harry returned to Burrow with the rest of the Weasley family and Hermione where the family settled into its regular patterns only with the shadow of grief with the lost of Fred. Mr. Weasley, Bill, Fleur, Charlie, and Percy all returned to their jobs, however, George refused to return to his and Fred's Joke Shop claiming it would be too painful to enter Weasley's Wizarding Weazes alone. Harry, however, was of the opinion that while George was in a considerable amount of pain, he simply lost interest in practical jokes and inventing.
During that first month at the Burrow, Harry and Ron approached Hermione while they were taking a walk through the orchard about the possibility of taking a trip to Australia to find her parents and return their memories. Where they anticipated an egger face and ready-made plan, they found themselves with two armfuls of a devastated Hermione. After about twenty minutes of almost hysterical crying, the boys were able to calm their friend down enough to discover something they could hardy believe: Hermione lied.
"So, you're saying we can't find them?" Ron asked while shooting a confused look at Harry over Hermione's head.
Hermione sniffed and replied, "No, we could probably find them using Muggle technology, you know, computers? But it wouldn't matter. I had to change their memories so they would hold up to the highest amount of scrutiny. It is more important that they live! Don't you get it! I had to do it!"
Harry was finally able to connect the dots. "You can't change return the memories, can you?" The look Hermione gave him made her look absolutely miserable.
"No, (hiccup) they will never remember. I want to make sure they have settled and are happy, but I can do that from England." The determination in her voice showed the boys the conversation was over, so they just held Hermione tighter in her fresh wave of grief.
After their conversation in the orchard, Harry noticed the change that had occurred in Hermione, or rather that change that hadn't occurred. While Ron and Ginny had settled in with the rest of their family and seemed to take comfort in being home, Hermione seemed restless and depressed. To Harry it was if he was looking into a mirror. Over the years the Burrow had been a spot of warmth and happiness. He still ate the food, played the Quidditch, and spent time with Ron, but the time was tainted- he was always the Famous Harry Potter. Everywhere he looked he was reminded of his life where every step until now had been engineered for him to be able to take down Voldemort. And now it seemed as if his future would be shaped around that same event. During their first month at the Burrow, Kingsley Shacklebolt, the newly appointed Minister of Magic, approached Harry, Ron, and Hermione about their futures making it clear that they would be welcome at any time in the Auror department or Magical Law Enforcement with or without taking their NEWTS. Where Ron seemed excited, Harry felt tired. He had been groomed since he was a baby to save the Wizarding world, and now that he finally succeeded, he was being pushed back in that direction.
On the afternoon before his birthday, Harry sat on the bank of the pond at the Burrow thinking about how not-fun being a future as an auror sounded. He heard a footsteps in the soft grass, and when he looked up he saw Hermione standing next to him.
"Mind if I sit?", she asked.
"Of course not, pull up some grass." Harry felt rather than saw her sit down and sigh. They sat in silence for a few minutes before Hermione spoke again.
"We need to talk." Harry glanced over to see Hermione playing with a strand of her hair while resting her elbows on her knees while she continued. "I have been watching you for awhile, Harry, and I think you are going to understand what I have to say. Well, more than Ron would anyways." Hermione's eyes met his in a look of hopeful understanding.
"My parents are gone- don't get me wrong, I'm thrilled they are safe and happy, but they are no longer part of my life. Our time at Hogwarts is over, and I keep thinking about Kingsley's offer. When he first said we could have guaranteed careers in the Ministry, I was thrilled. I thought it was everything we worked so hard for and it would be a chance to continue to make a difference. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized, I don't know what I want. When I first started thinking about what I wanted to do with my life, there was the threat of Voldemort over our lives. I knew that whatever happened, I would be part of that resistance, there was no question. But now. Now, with him gone I feel like I never got the chance to really think about what I want. And the more I think about it, the less I want to follow Kingsley's plan."
Harry felt like something warm was filling his chest. "I know exactly what you mean," he said. "I feel like everyone expects me to become this ultimate Auror or something. And back in fourth year, I wanted nothing else. Even before I knew Dumbledore practically bred me to destroy Voldemort, I through being an Auror was the best chance I would have to fulfill some destiny. But I did it. I don't know what I want anymore."
Hermione offered him a small smile that quickly faded when she made her reply. "Harry, are you happy here at the Burrow?"
Harry looked down at his knees and started playing with the grass at his feet as shame washed over him. He knew the answer to that question without thinking, but he still felt like he was betraying the people who he had come to love so much. After a few minutes of listening to Hermione's soft breathing Harry whispered, "No."
Hermione seemed to understand how he felt because her response came just as slowly and quietly, "Me either. I used to love being here, but now I just want to run. I wonder what it would have been like to be normal teenager. Not just without Voldemort, but without Hogwarts. It hurts to be here because I know I can't continue to be the person everyone wants me to be. I don't know who to be and I think you feel the same way."
Hearing Hermione articulate his feelings caused Harry's eyes to fill with tears. He felt like he was grieving not only for the people he loved but for himself, the man he thought he was going to be and the past he never got to have. Hermione took a shuttering breath and continued speaking looking directly in Harry's eyes.
"I know Ron doesn't feel this way. He is so happy be to back and hasn't stopped talking about how fabulous it would be to be an Auror. But as much as I love Ron, I can't stay here with him." Harry knew as much and felt his heart breaking for his friend because he knew what Hermione was going to say next. Or at least what he hoped she would say.
"Harry, I think we should leave. I've been thinking about this for awhile and I think we need to find a place where we can be teenagers and figure out who we are. And we cannot do this at the Burrow. Harry, I want to go to America and go to high school with muggles."
Harry started at this revelation. He thought she was just going to suggest they leave and find a new place to think, maybe even leave England. But America! Muggles! His shock must have appeared on his face, because Hermione quickly continued to explain.
"We need to leave England because wherever we go, we will come across some witch or wizard who will always see the Boy Who Lived and his brainy best friend. Even if we go to America and stay in the magical community, you are still famous! I'm not saying we give up magic, I'm saying we take a couple of years and experience a childhood without the need to hunt a magical terrorist and go to a place where we are completely not special. We could rent a house, go to high school, and our biggest worries will be homework." By now Hermione had shifted to her knees and had grabbed Harry's arm in both of her hands speaking earnestly. "Think about it Harry. It wouldn't have to be forever, but it would be something just for us."
Hermione's words seem to sink into Harry's brain. He could picture everything she described. He saw them living in a house like what he would see on American television when he lived with the Dursleys. They would drive a car to school and no one would whisper about his scar. They could just be kids. As these images jumped through his head, Harry felt himself smiling which made Hermione smile just as widely. They sat there smiling with their eyes gleaming about what they could do in America when a voice behind them said,
"Count me in."
The two friends jumped startled at the sound. They turned as one to see George standing behind them, having listened to their conversations. This was the first time either of them had heard George speak in over two weeks. His voice sounded rough from disuse. As they looked up at him in surprise, George spoke again.
"I can't stay here any longer. Everywhere I look, everything I do reminds me of Fred. Each time my family looks at me I see pain in their eyes because they are seeing Fred. Did you know I sold the joke shop to Zonkos?" Harry and Hermione shook their heads, shocked that George would do such a thing.
"Why di-?" Hermione began to ask when George cut her off.
"I see him everywhere too. The shop was our dream together. It worked because it was Fred and George. I can't do it alone. Without him, I don't know who to be. I want to go with you to America." George held up his hand to stave off Harry's protests about leaving his family behind.
"This is something I have to do. I was going to leave anyways, but this is a perfect plan. I took Muggle Studies, so I know for a fact you will need me." George gave them his best "duh" expression but the two looked clueless so he filled in the blanks they were obviously missing.
"In the muggle world, you aren't adults until you are 18, and even then, you don't have as many privileges until you are 21. If you want to go to high school, you have to have a parent or guardian. That's where I come in. As a 23 year old, I can act as your guardian without you guys having to deal with the muggle government." At this declaration, Hermione started.
"Oh my God, how could I have not thought of that?" Hermione looked over at Harry and smiled.
"This could work."
Over the next few weeks George, Harry, and Hermione met quietly around the Burrow making plans. They made sure no one knew what was happening, and it was the most difficult to keep their plans from Ron.
"I hate lying to him" Harry told Hermione one day as they walked to the apparition point on their way to London.
"Neither do I, but he will try to convince us to change our minds. Once we have a concrete plan, we can tell him."
They spent time in muggle London trying to figure out their first question as to WHERE they would go in America. Their first instincts were places they were more familiar with like New York or Los Angeles. But Hermione brought up the excellent point that those places have huge wizarding populations as well and they would be more likely recognized. After spending hours with an atlas in one of London's libraries, they finally made a choice: Lima, Ohio. It was far enough away from most major cities that they wouldn't be instantly recognized yet its population was large enough that there were several high schools. George had made a shocking announcement that he wanted study to be a Healer and there was an American wizarding hospital at an apperating distance away in Chicago. The biggest bonus was the fact that Hermione had a second cousin on her mother's side who was a teacher at the local school and would be able to help them figure out the American systems. Hermione hadn't seen her cousin since she was a young child, but she knew he had been told she was a witch and of her time at Hogwarts. After a few emails through a new account they set up from the library's computers had the two cousins reconnecting and him agreeing to help them with their plan.
The second weekend of August found Harry, Hermione, and George sitting nervously around the Weasley dinner table that had once again been set up outside in order to accommodate everyone. There was silence as Harry laid out their plan, that Hermione, George, and himself were moving to America where the younger set would go to muggle school and George would study to be a Healer. When Harry finished his announcement all that could be heard were crickets chirping in the summer evening for a solid minute. Then everyone began to speak at once over each other and Mrs. Weasley began to cry. After what felt like hours their idea had finally been accepted by most. Ron had stormed off to his room and locked the door while Mrs. Weasley muttered angrily over the dishes in the kitchen.
After tearful goodbyes from everyone but Ron, who refused to acknowledge his friends or brother, the trio left the Burrow with their backpacks packed with all of their possessions thanks to Hermione's undetectable expansion charms and well placed feather-light charms. They apparated to the point at the Leaky Cauldron under the invisibility cloak in order to not be recognized. Once they hit the streets of London, they removed the cloak and headed for the underground that would take them to the airport. They decided to travel as muggles, under the hopes of coming to America detached from their identities as possible.
Sitting in his seat on the flight, Harry looked over to a sleeping Hermione and a George torn between terror and fascination at their altitude and felt for the first time in a long time, peace. He tilted his head back on the headrest and thought to himself,
"Bring it on, Ohio."