Disclaimer: Everything recognisable is the property of Rowling and Meyer.
A/N: I know the premise isn't very original, but honestly I drew a complete blank at how to get things started.
Chapter 1: Wrackspurts Are Polluting the Air
I'm not being selfish, Hermione thought with fierce determination, the words beating in endless rhythm.
She really wasn't being selfish. She just needed to put some distance between herself and everything else.
She wasn't being selfish, she really wasn't.
Then why are you trying so hard to convince yourself of it? She thought shrewdly.
"It's ok you know," said Luna brightly.
"What's ok?" She asked looking up from the photo in her hands.
"It's okay to put yourself first sometimes," Luna stated with an absent smile, her head tilted slightly to the left as her eyes traced invisible patterns in the air.
If she were being completely honest with herself, Hermione wasn't even entirely sure Luna was actually talking to her.
"Luna..." Hermione began before trailing off into silence. In the last few months flatting with Luna, Hermione had found herself at a loss for words more times than she cared to count. Indeed, in all the time they'd spent together she still wasn't quite used to Luna's erratic trains of thought. It left her floundering to find her footing in situations like these; where Luna seemed to know more about the situation than she, herself.
Luna's hands batted at the space above Hermione's head, and her pale grey eyes focused on... thin air.
"Wrackspurts," she said, "they can feel you're conflicted, so they circle around your head, pushing it out of your ears and up into the air. It's a real treat for them you know, they love eating conflict. Fills them right up," she continued seriously.
A soft "Oh," was all Hermione managed.
Of course the wrackspurts.
It didn't matter that Hermione didn't believe in the wrackspurts. It didn't even matter that Luna did believe in them – not now anyway. Not after the Hallows incident and everything they'd been through in the last year.
Perspective, she thought with a wry smile.
"Yes, you're in quite a pickle. Your bag is packed but you've been staring at that photo for a while now," Luna went on, gesturing first to the backpack under Hermione's arm and then to the photo of her, Harry and Ron sitting under a Beech tree by the lake a few weeks after Riddle's death.
Hermione looked down at the photo with furrowed brows, her fingers stroking the edges fondly. It was a stolen moment of self-indulgence – one of the rare few they'd had in recent months.
"You feel guilty for leaving." It was a simple statement, more perceptive than any observation Ron or Harry had ever made and the smile curling at her lips came unbidden. Even after living with her it was easy to forget that Luna really wasn't that loony.
Like now for example, Hermione thought looking at her affectionately; eyes sliding down to the bright orange sneakers she wore and up to the heavily patched purple poncho with Muddled Mead corks dangling from the hem.
Hermione sighed, looking around at their now empty living room. The walls that were once lined with bookshelves now stood bare. It didn't really feel much like home anymore.
"Do you think it's alright? To leave?" she asked quietly, gazing at the empty space.
"Oh yes," Luna smiled. "It's okay to think about your needs too; to take care of yourself. You think so too otherwise you wouldn't be leaving. It's just the Guilt Griblets that are making you doubt yourself. A good spout of rain chases them right away."
"I don't think the Griblets will leave me alone any time soon, rain or no," Hermione said, pushing the photo frame into her bag.
"Perhaps not but maybe you should be more like Ron," Luna replied, patting Hermione on the arm sympathetically.
"Ron puts himself first most times. The Griblets don't bother him much."
"No, I don't suppose they do. He is making it incredibly difficult for me though and it… hurts," Hermione whispered, feeling the back of her throat close up. Ron always complicated things. The ache in the back of her throat grew as she looked around the room sadly, letting her mind wonder to a few hours earlier.
"I'm, sorry, what?!" Ron shouted, his ears burning red. At this there was a small thud and a low curse from the door.
"I'm going away for a little while… on a… break?" Hermione said, trying for nonchalance and failing miserably. She was so desperately trying to cling to her calm as she sat across the table from Harry and Ron in the cluttered kitchen of The Burrow.
This was exactly how she saw Ron taking the news and it was for that reason she hadn't told him she was leaving until the last possible moment. Though her heart fell a little when she looked from Ron's furious face flushed red, over to Harry's unbearably sad one. This too she had expected from Harry. She knew telling him would be so incredibly difficult, that Harry's hurt would be harder to handle than Ron's anger. She looked into his deep green eyes and saw the abandonment there. He'd lost so many even before Riddle's return, and now he was losing her too. It was what had kept her there, living a life in limbo.
"What do you mean you're 'going away'?" Ron scoffed as his chin dipped and his fingers came up to put air quotations around his words. Hermione shot him a dark look, a little anger seeping through the calm exterior she had so carefully put in place. He never failed to push her buttons.
"I'm tired, Ron – in my bones. I haven't dealt with my parents' death at all and I haven't had a chance to breathe since Riddle have been non-stop since the war ended and I just want to… get a little fresh air."
"Then go for a bloody walk! I don't know if you've noticed yet Hermione, but there's plenty of air outside," he retorted pointing towards the window. Hermione ignored him, keeping her eyes trained on Harry's.
"Air?" Harry repeated, his expression contorting in confusion for a moment before softening. Hermione nodded keeping her eyes on him seeing something in his face shift. Something like comprehension settled on his expression and the look in his eyes held more understanding than she'd expected to see.
The guilt hit her again in that moment, because if anyone needed air it was Harry.
"Where've you been living the last few weeks Hermione? Jupiter? Because I can see plenty of air from where I'm sitting!" said Ron, flailing his arms about. "You need a break? Hogwarts doesn't start for months! Months! And after the whole You-Know-Who thing, you don't even have to go back if you don't want! What do you need a holiday from exactly? You don't need to go away Hermione, everything you could want is right here."
He doesn't understand, Hermione thought sadly. But really what had she expected? Ron, who'd never gotten enough attention his entire life, was finally getting enough. She knew he deserved it, especially now, it's just she didn't want it – not so much of it anyway.
"I want to get away from 'the whole You-Know-Who thing'. I want to be able to leave my house and not be afraid that rogue Death Eaters are going to jump me when I reach down for the potatoes at the store. I want to be able to walk into Flourish and Blotts and not see my face plastered across every surface conceivable. I want to walk down Diagon Ally and not have people pointing and whispering and staring at me with pitying looks. I shouldn't have to ignore them; I should be allowed to be normal. I want every day not to be so hectic. I want to be able to go back to Hogwarts and not remember the bodies everywhere, everywhere! I want to be able to breathe air that isn't filled with sorrow and war and loss. I want to be able to come here, Ron and sit with you and Harry and just be happy. I want to be with my two best friends and for once not have to look after them. Please Ron, I just… I want to live," she finished on a groan. Her cheeks burned a bright, frustrated red and she couldn't quite keep the irritation from her voice. It was a tired back and forth and to be honest, after all these years, she was sick of arguing with him.
"Look after us? What do you mean look after us? You're not our Mum Hermione."
Oh and didn't that just push her closer to the edge. Her jaw dropped open and she stared at him a moment too frustrated, too angry to form coherent sentences.
"It's been rough the last few months, trying to get on with life but it's getting easier and it'll keep getting easier! It won't if you run away! Things have been hectic yes, but people need us! They need our support. You should be proud that people know you; that people recognise what you've done! You should be bloody happy!" Ron growled in frustration. "Why're you being so difficult? People respect us! We'd never want for anything – why are you so eager to run away from that?"
"Ron," Harry groaned, looking to his right at the red steaming mess that was his friend.
"I don't get it, I really don't. Why do you have to leave Hermione? What's out there that's not right here?" Ron asked, his frustrated blue eyes burning into hers.
"History," she said simply. "I have history here Ron. Good and bad. I need to get away from it. Just for a bit. I need to go and just be me without all of the baggage that comes from the war. I need to recover from it. I need some space from it. Everything here reminds me of it. I need some air."
"Again with the bloody air," Ron huffed folding his arms tightly across his chest.
"Where are you going?" Harry asked, ever the diplomat. His voice seemed almost too quiet in the aftermath of their heated argument.
There was a moment's pause where Hermione battled with her thoughts. The retort she had ready for Ron died on her lips and instead she threw a small almost non-existent smile in Harry's direction.
"I don't know," she admitted, in a little voice. It was a terrifying revelation, one she'd had doubts about since its conception. "It was Luna's idea," she added, almost sheepishly.
Harry chuckled softly.
"Luna?" Ron scoffed. "Of course bloody Luna. You let her talk you into this? You realize she'll probably have you camped out in the desert living in a sandcastle."
"Don't," Harry warned, irritation colouring his voice for the first time. He leaned away from Ron, folding his forearms along the edge of the table and looked at Hermione, long and hard. Stress pulled his features tightly together; there were lines around his eyes and heavy bags underneath that lingered, even now so long after he'd destroyed Riddle's Horcruxes. There was a lingering stillness about him that he'd never had before and he looked so old.
"It's okay," Harry said bringing his hand up to cover hers. Ron shifted uncomfortably in his seat. Hermione threw him a withering look while Harry ignored him. "The pity you get used to. The guilt never goes away, but you get used to that too. There's so much in the way here, too much to be able to relax and recover. You deserve a break. You've looked out for us all through Hogwarts and then kept us alive in the hunt for the Horcruxes. You've always been there Hermione and now you need time away from that. I understand. I'd come with you if Ginny and I weren't trying to make such a go of it."
At this Ron gaped. "What? You want to leave too?" he screeched, his voice shooting up a few octaves, causing Percy's owl to glare at him from his perch.
"Ginny wouldn't leave you lot right now and I'd never ask her to."
He understood, which if she were being completely honest, she knew he would.
"Hermione..." Ron pleaded, realizing this talk was turning a dark corner.
"Just leave it Ron," Harry groaned, looking warily at him.
"But Harry she wants to leave us. She wants to leave me. How can you want that?" He asked, with wide eyes.
"Because," Harry replied, his face scrunching up in concentration, trying to find the right words. "I want what's best for her," he sighed. A faint pink started to stain his cheeks and he shifted uncomfortably in his seat. "Look mate, it's about... feelings. Hermione... she's not leaving us. She's not even leaving us behind. She's trying to move on," he said.
"But she is literally leaving us! How can you Hermione? How can you leave us after all we've been through together? What about – what about us? I thought we were trying again, you and me?" Ron asked turning back to her, completely desperate.
"Ron don't." Harry warned, his hand dragging raggedly down his face, before he covered his eyes in shame for his friend.
"Ron," Hermione sighed. "We have tried, over and over again. We've talked the issue to death. I can't try and be in a relationship with you again. We want different things and you can't compromise. I need some peace. After all we've done I deserve a bloody break!" She growled.
"Can you even hear what you're saying Hermione? It's like you only care about yourself! You're leaving Harry after everything he's been through. You're leaving me after everything we've been through together – done – together! We need you!" Ron shouted, leaping to his feet. "How could you leave us? Me? We do everything together – and you're leaving us to go off and do Merlin knows what with Merlin knows who!" He shouted angrily. Growling in frustration he stormed out the back door and down the garden path.
"She'll come to her senses soon enough," he grumbled as he made his way to the apparition point. "After she realises how much she misses us, she'll come back. She can't go for long. She knows where she's needed most, where she belongs," he growled as he slammed the gate shut behind him. " She'll remember soon enough. I'll go to her house every damn night and tell her so if I bloody well have to."
Hermione shook her head trying to shake the prickle of tears in the back of her eyes.
"Ron," he muttered, with a shrug of his shoulders.
"Ron." She nodded back.
"When are you going?" He asked, now that Ron had left the room everything was a lot less heated.
Harry blanched, struggled for a moment then choked on his words. "I'm coming to see you off," he managed.
"No Harry," she vehemently refused. "If you do I'll just break down. I can't leave in tears. I don't think I'd be able to leave at all actually. Why do you think I waited so long to tell you?"
He frowned at her for a while before nodding reluctantly. They sat in contemplative silence, holding hands, still.
"I won't be gone forever, but you - you'll come visit won't you Harry? A lot?" Hermione asked, letting her insecurities take hold.
"Next week too soon?" He asked and she couldn't help the look of pure elation that broke out over her face. She wanted a break, yes, but she didn't want to lose her friends, Harry especially.
And Ron, she decided, begrudgingly.
"Not soon enough," she grinned back. "Just make sure you don't tell Ron, not at first anyway. You know how he is."
Harry chuckled. "Wouldn't dream of it. He'd probably body bind you and drag you back if he could get away with it." He was only half-joking. Knowing Ron he'd probably think he was doing her a favour and Harry made a mental note to keep a closer eye on him while Hermione was away. "I'll miss you Hermione," he said honestly. "Luna too."
"Maybe you and Ginny will come over once you've sorted everything out?" Hermione suggested, hopefully.
"Maybe. She's so stubborn, but," Harry said running his hands through his hair.
"That's what you love about her."
"So very true." He grinned.
"Are you ready?" Luna asked jolting Hermione back to the present. They were flying to their new home but apparating to the airport.
"Yes," Hermione said glancing around their home one last time. It was a small cottage just outside of Ottery St Catchpole that the two had fled to from The Burrow. With the two of them, Harry, Fleur's parents and sister, Andromeda and Teddy staying there as well as all of the Weasley's (minus Fred) things had gotten a bit claustrophobic. She never could've imagined herself living with Luna but shuddered at the thought of living alone and Luna was the only person willing to move out of The Borrow. Now, Hermione couldn't imagine her life without Luna being so entangled in it.
Hermione smiled at the memories that flashed up in her final glance. In the corner of their lounge was where Teddy Lupin had taken his first steps. The far wall had a slight green tinge to it where one of Neville's Gargantula plants had splattered its oil when he had brushed the leaves the wrong way. The back meadow was where Luna and Charlie had herded in dozens of strange looking animals, for Hagrid's birthday party; at which Hagrid had gotten Draco Malfoy so rip roaring drunk he never made it to the bathroom and threw up all over the carpet in the hallway - and then again in Hermione's wardrobe. The kitchen was filled with memories of Bill telling them about powerful protective enchantments they should use on the house while Fleur taught Luna and her how to cook; memories of Mr Weasley marvelling at Hermione's cell phone, accidently taking pictures of Mrs Weasley's bum as she stuffed their fridge full of food. The laundry where she'd found George and Lee Jordan passed out, too drunk to apparate all the way to their flat or go back to The Burrow and face Mrs Weasley. There in front of the fireplace was where Hermione and Luna had fell down in exhaustion many nights, too anxious to be so alone in their own rooms. The front patio was where she, Harry, Ginny, Luna and Ron had whiled away precious few free afternoons. Everywhere, everywhere memories…
"Goodbye house. We'll come back and see you soon," Luna said hugging one of the walls. She floated out the door jamming onto her head a bright pink beanie which Hermione recognised as an enlarged version of the house-elf hats she'd made back in her fourth year.