Completely and utterly…
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, George, Ginny, & Hermione,
It’s me, Harry. Well, I’m in Norway. It’s crazy here. We’ve been going non-stop since I arrived. And the language! Wow! Well, lucky for me, everyone I work with speaks English. It’s much colder here than in England right now. We’ve been coming up with lots of good ideas and it’s actually been really interesting. I just wanted to let you know that I’m here and settled in. I miss you all. Already I have so many stories to tell you! But, I have to get back to work, just wanted to post this, this morning.
Harry stared at the parchment. It seemed simple enough. It would let them know what they wanted to hear – that he was doing all right. But he wasn’t, really. He missed England, he missed the Burrow, he missed the Weasleys, and he missed Hermione. He was, however, thankful that he was being kept so busy that he hardly had time to think about everything. Whether that was what was best for him, he wasn’t sure, and didn’t allow himself the time to think about it. He was, however, already hoping that he wouldn’t have to wait the entire year, as his coworkers indicated might happen, before he saw everyone again.
Harry even went so far as to hope that the Weasleys and Hermione would like to take a vacation to Norway and come visit him. He could introduce them to his coworkers, specifically Kees, who was from Holland, and liked to frequent every Muggle coffee shop in the city, planning to some day find the perfect cup of coffee. Kees had been one of several who had come over to help Harry move into his flat on his second day in Norway. He was the funniest bloke in the department, and Harry could imagine him getting on well with George. Kees had been an Auror for several years and had battled many Dark Wizards, probably Holland’s equivalent of the Death Eaters. But Harry didn’t often ask questions about it. It was rather a silent agreement in the office not to ask questions.
There was also Sean, from Ireland, who had worked for years as a Curse Breaker in an unofficial organization in Ireland, similar to the Order of the Phoenix. He and Sean got on well and often ended up having lunch together. Already Sean had made Harry try a local dish, Komle, just so he could get a good laugh out of it. Harry’s office was full of respectable wizards and witches, mainly wizards though, who really knew their stuff. Harry didn’t mind spending the long days with them, but most everyone in the office tended to keep their distance when it came to building close friendships. Harry didn’t mind. He wasn’t ready to have close mates yet who asked all those personal questions that came with the territory of friendship. Even so, he did manage to spend time with Sean and Kees, usually when he didn’t feel like being left alone with his thoughts and memories. It was safe with them, because they weren’t about to ask.
Harry also thought of how he could show off his office to the Weasleys and Hermione, if they did ever come to visit. It looked nothing like an office, really, which was why Harry actually liked it. Their office was located on the fourth floor of a short, squat building in the heart of the city. The floor was divided into different departments, and theirs was rather large, taking up the back half of the entire floor.
The office vaguely reminded him of the Gryffindor Common Room. There were a few large tables in the center of the office where many group meetings and discussions took place. In the corner were sofas and comfortable sitting chairs where lots of thinking happened. In the connecting room was where the action transpired. Harry thought of how he could demonstrate the new lessons they were developing and showcase the new standard-curriculum spells in their Spell Experimentation and Examination Room.
This was his favorite room in the office. Whenever a spell demonstration was needed, they would all watch in the S.E.E.R., analyzing and discussing the spell’s use, accuracy, and importance, then debate over what year students could accomplish the spell. Sometimes, in his off-hours or during lunch, Harry would hang out in the S.E.E.R. and practice his old spells - all the ones he, Ron, and Hermione had worked so hard to perfect. Inevitably, he would usually dissolve into a reverie of old memories, and would have to be pulled out by Sean or Kees and put back to work with everyone else.
Harry also wanted Hermione and the Weasleys to see his flat. It was nothing special, but it was his, so he would want them to visit. W.I.T.S., Wizardry International Teaching Society, had already acquired the flat for him before he arrived, so he didn’t have much of a choice, but it had been one less thing for him to worry about. He was free to change flats and find a new one, but he was content with the present one. It was located on the outside edge of the city, which Harry was pleased about, however it was large - a bit too large for his liking. It still had furniture from its last occupant, though it had been immaculately clean when Harry had arrived.
When the men from work had helped move him in, they informed Harry that the flat had belonged to a wizard who had worked with the founder of W.I.T.S. for years. He had finally just retired, and the flat had been saved for Harry. That seemed to comfort Harry about using the previous owner’s furniture, and really he was quite glad not to have to sleep on the floor his second night in Norway. The flat was dull and plain, with white walls and wood floors. He hadn’t done much to decorate yet because he really didn’t care to. However he had at least managed to unpack all his things. When relaxing there, he spent the majority of his time in the armchair in the sitting room, or else in the large bed in the bedroom. He had not had to purchase either piece of furniture, and he welcomed the worn, well used, comfy feeling that came in reclining in each of them. He would definitely want the Weasleys to see his flat, and he was sure Mrs. Weasley would help make it homier for him.
And, of course, if they came to visit his flat, they would have to meet his neighbors. He was located at the end of the hall, so he only had one flat adjacent to his, and it was rented by Morten Meller and Kristoffer Juvnes. They were Muggles but were eccentric enough to pass as magical. Harry wasn’t sure what to make of them, but they had come knocking loudly on his door the day after he had moved in, and they had swept around the flat, jabbering and fixing coffee, convincing Harry they were all going to be the best of friends.
They were nice blokes, but it was difficult explaining his moving to Norway. They didn’t understand what had attracted him, nor could they make much sense of what exactly his job was. Eventually, Harry just told them he was an accountant, to which they both grimaced and never bothered him about the subject again. He liked Morten and Kristoffer, even if they did pop by at the most random times. Harry thought Hermione would like them, and Ginny would probably be enthralled.
But Harry scolded himself for spending so much time thinking about being with the Weasleys and Hermione when it had been his decision to leave them all in the first place.
For the most part, he felt like he was doing okay, at least during the day, in his office and when working on his Defense Against the Dark Arts ideas. But everything was different at night. He hated living alone in his own flat.
He had spent years with the Dursleys, and although he had no desire to live with them ever again, at least there had always been other voices in the house. He had shared a dorm with other boys from his year when he was at Hogwarts and he had spent nearly all his time with Ron and Hermione for the past several years. When on the hunt for the Horcruxes and Voldemort, he really had spent every waking moment, and even some sleeping moments, with his friends. After the battle, he had lived for weeks in a house full of people. Now he was alone in his own place; it was foreign and unnerving. He supposed he had known what he was getting into, that he had wanted it even, but sometimes at night he wasn’t so sure. More than just being alone in his flat, he hated that there wasn’t another single soul around when he woke up from the nightmares.
Yes, the nightmares still haunted him. It was affecting his sleep even more though, now, and he would sometimes arrive in the office in the morning having not slept at all. It was at night when Harry missed having people there who understood him and all that he had been through. During the day, he welcomed the distraction and was glad that the offices weren’t full of pity-filled stares, although, he had had his fair share of stares since arriving. But it was at night when he longed to sit in the company of people who understood, people who knew. Yet, he had chosen of his own free will to leave them.
Of this, he had to keep reminding himself.
It’s not so bad, is it? Surely he would be forced to move on and figure out what he wanted do with his life, since somehow fate had determined he should live when so many others had died.
But he missed them. He missed her.
Hermione found that all of her strength had somehow been unhinged, and her emotions were betraying her. She had been proud of herself for keeping everything together for so long after they had made it out of the war. Sure she had cried a few times, but her emotions had only been displayed in private or, at times, to Harry.
But now, somehow, she found that with Harry’s departure all her emotional control had dissolved. It began with her collapsing into Mr. Weasley’s arms immediately following Harry’s egression and continued during the next week while she hid herself in her bed, refusing to leave, talk, or eat – except when Mrs. Weasley forced some kind of food into her room and stayed until it disappeared. The desire to get out of bed had left Hermione. She was content to lie under her covers, sleeping when she could, or else thinking of Ron and Harry. Ron had left her without choice, but Harry had left her by choice. She was angry at herself for being angry at him.
He had to leave – she understood that, she just wished he hadn’t had to leave her. Or, that he would have taken her with him. But he hadn’t invited her to come. Not once. Perhaps it was better this way, better that they were apart, especially with the way things had… changed, the last couple of days before he left. Hermione was afraid to dwell on those memories.
On the one hand, she felt something so right when she was near Harry. On the other hand, she felt a deep shame and guilt for betraying Ron.
In her mind flashed Ron’s brilliant red hair and bright blue eyes. He was smiling to her, and she longed to be held in his embrace. For a moment her heart filled with soaring elation and jittery butterflies as she drowned herself in a happy image of her beloved. But her heart tore, not for the first time, as the haunting image of his lifeless body destroyed the beautiful picture of joy.
He was dead. Yes, that’s it, Hermione. Think the word. Next you have to say it. He’s dead.
Now her heart was divided between the past and the present, between what could never be and what might could be, between what she always wanted and what she had never even thought about wanting. Which did she want? She couldn’t really choose between the two, for one option was now unavailable. But in a way, she felt like she had to choose. If Ron were there, she knew things would be so different. But he wasn’t there, and things were different. Was that what she wanted? Did she want Ron gone so she could pursue these new feelings? Or did she want Ron? Hermione hated this battle. Either way she felt like she would betray someone.
Finally she concluded that she would be the worst person in the world if she… developed feelings for her dead boyfriend’s best friend. But Harry was her best friend too. They had all been best friends. Hermione hopelessly cast her head against her pillow and tried to force the thoughts out of her mind. It didn’t even matter! Because Harry had left.
Hermione only allowed herself a week of misery in her bed. Despite being pained and depressed, she was nonetheless still a logical and practical being. She knew hiding for the rest of her life wasn’t an option. She knew she had to find out what she was living for. So, Hermione began trying to organize things to do with Ginny during the day. They would travel to Diagon Alley or even check out a Muggle movie theatre. Soon they began inviting George along. Hermione appreciated the distraction and was happy to be with them. She was hesitant to share her deepest pains and struggles with them, but she did not object to roaming around town together or discussing what Hogwarts would be like when Ginny returned.
It wasn’t long before Hermione was accompanying the Weasleys to King’s Cross Station and Platform Nine and Three-Quarters where they were sending Ginny off for her final year of school. Hermione managed a grin to herself, remembering how she – the homework crazy, book-loving, outstanding student – had ditched her final year and instead had spent it gallivanting across countries with her two best friends, attempting to destroy evil and rid the Wizarding world, the entire world even, of its darkest enemy. Well, that was one way to end a wonderful career of school life at Hogwarts!
Hermione hated the idea of “moving on,” but she knew she had to. She was looking for a flat for herself in town, though Mrs. Weasley kept insisting that Hermione was welcome to continue living at the Burrow. After many long talks with Mr. Weasley, and a couple of interviews, she finally secured herself with a job inside the newly reformed Ministry of Magic, which now had a Minister of Magic whom she could really stand behind. For now, she was going to be working in the Obliviator Headquarters, under the Department of Magical Accidents and Catastrophes. The Obliviator who had just retired had been the last Muggle-born wizard in the department. Most of the other Obliviators were just as hopeless when it came to Muggles as Mr. Weasley was. Having a new Muggle-born witch among the Obliviators would help smooth over their encounters with Muggles, who were often the ones they were required to obliviate.
Hermione wasn’t particularly interested in this job; she much rather would have been working somewhere with Wizard and Magical Creature Relations, perhaps working again for the promotion of Elfish welfare. But this was the only position Mr. Weasley had been able to find, and Hermione truly was desperate to find a job and force her mind to ponder on something new for a change. She needed to be busy. Anyway, the job was a good starting point for her, and gave her something to do during the day. She didn’t plan on keeping this job for very long, in fact she didn’t necessarily want to work at the Ministry, but it provided her with something to do, for now.
About two weeks after starting her new job, Hermione had finally received her first paycheck, which included enough money for her to be able to pay a month’s rent, and she began renting her very own flat. George had helped her locate a nice flat available near Diagon Alley, not far from Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes. She and George now spent a lot of time together, more than they used to. It wasn’t the same as being with Harry or Ron, but still George was a good friend. They didn’t ever talk about the serious things, but they often got together just so they weren’t sitting at their flats alone. Frequently Hermione would stop by the shop on her way home from the office and she and George would go out for butterbeers and talk about their jobs. That’s where George had volunteered to help her find a flat.
The Saturday after she had signed her rental agreement, Mr. and Mrs. Weasley and George all came over to help move her things in. Mrs. Weasley gave her lots of things to make the place feel like home – such as some old pots and pans, one of their living room arm chairs, and even the bed Hermione had been using in Ginny’s room. Hermione had contended with Mrs. Weasley, saying they should leave her old bed at the Burrow because she would need a place to sleep when she came to visit, but Mrs. Weasley had stated that they could easily transfigure a bed or move one of the others into Ginny’s room. Hermione couldn’t really win an argument against Mrs. Weasley, so she agreed. Mrs. Weasley had then insisted on taking her shopping to fill the refrigerator with food and to get all the other supplies a new flat required.
It was an odd feeling when they all finally left and Hermione was alone in the flat, alone for the first time in months. She sat on the familiar Weasley armchair, her arms on the overstuffed armrests of the chair, her body slumped and sunken down into the cushion and her feet sprawled out lazily in front of her. She surveyed the still-quite-empty living room around her, then took to staring out her front windows. She decided she would have to buy a window curtain to give her a little privacy in her living room.
Well, I’ve got my own place now, just thought I’d let you know. I moved out of the Burrow. It’s a small flat, but it’s just me living here for now. I’m thinking about getting flat-mates. It just feels empty, you know? I have a job now too. Mr. Weasley helped me get a position at the Ministry. It’s all right for now, but I don’t think I’ll stay here forever. Ginny’s at her last year at Hogwarts. George opened the shop back up, and he’s got some good business since Hogwarts is back in session. I still eat dinner with Mr. and Mrs. Weasley about once a week. Anyway, I just wanted you to know what’s going on. You’ll have to change your posts for me, anyhow, since I’m not with the Weasleys. Well, write and tell me what you’re doing these days. I’m sure your life is a lot more exciting than mine. I miss you Harry. Hope you’ll be able to come visit some time.
Love from Hermione
Hermione looked over her words. It wasn’t the most eloquent letter, but of course Harry wouldn’t care. There were plenty of things she wanted to tell him or talk to him about, knowing he of all people would understand. But if they were both really moving on now, why should she write to him about the nightmares that hadn’t gone away? Or about going to take care of her parents’ home and all the Muggle issues involved in dying…? And why, of all things, should she tell him that she just wished he were there with her? Was that really what she wished? Well, she wished Ron were there, too. In fact, it seemed quite an unfair predicament, and Hermione forced the thought away as one shoos an incessant bug out of the air around them. Anyway, thinking about and hoping for Ron to return was all in vain. But hoping for Harry’s return… well, at least she had a chance with that thought. Didn’t she?