Chapter 1 : I
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She thought that by this stage in her life she'd have everything she'd ever wanted; a husband, a child, a job, a house, a life... not necessarily in that order, but she'd have them nonetheless. She'd be happy and alive, and thankful for all that she had in the world that made her feel so special.
She snorted as she looked through the dying amber liquid in the bottom of her murky tumbler, seeing many criss-crossing scratches etched into a solid wood tabletop for all time. She wondered who had carved them, why the had felt the need and of all the things going badly in their lives, but all thought soon ceased with a harsh, callous laugh.
What did it matter? She didn't care what was going on in the lives of complete strangers when they'd ended up in the Leaky Cauldron just like her, drinking away their sorrows for one reason or another. They were just as sad as her, on a day when she should be feeling happy and alive and thankful for being born.
Hermione sighed and drained the remainder of her firewhisky, placing it back upon the table top with a dull thud and a feeling of complete emptiness settling upon her shoulders. With a weak chuckle, she looked to the centre of the table and focused upon the faintly glowing candle used to light the booth she was hiding in. Her eyes took a while to adjust as they blearily landed upon the flame as she waited for the final seconds before midnight when she'd officially be a year older.
Another year of feeling unfulfilled and empty.
Another year of being alone.
A clock chimed lightly from the bar as both hands reached the twelve, and with a sad smile, Hermione took a shallow breath and lamely blew out the only source of light, casting her into complete darkness as the first tears began to fall.
"Hermione, don't go," Harry said, emerald eyes glistening with sheer sadness at the thought of loosing his friend.
"I'm not going to be gone forever, Harry, I just want to get away for a while," Hermione reasoned as she stirred a lump of sugar through her coffee, three turns clockwise, one half turn anti-clockwise, then repeat.
Hermione knew that telling her best friend she was going to go abroad would be painful, but she knew that staying would be even worse for her own sense of self. She needed to get away, to live dangerously and try and get her life back on track before it completely slipped through her fingers and she was left clutching at nothing but mist.
Ginny, sitting calmly beside her husband of many years, nodded in understanding. She knew why Hermione felt the need to get away, and why her visits to the pair of them had gotten increasingly shorter and fewer over the years as their family grew around her. While she didn't pretend it hurt to see her friend so uncomfortable around her family, Ginny still felt pity towards Hermione, knowing she had everything in life that Hermione had desperately wanted and was robbed of.
"You'll still be able to write me, Harry; it might take a little longer, but I'll get your owl-"
Harry shifted slightly, managing to sneakily wipe his cheek on the shoulder of his shirt in the process that went unnoticed by the two women around him, and looked Hermione straight on. "Where will you go?"
Hermione stopped her stirring and thought in silence for a few moments, wondering where she would go to begin a new chapter in her life.
She hadn't the faintest clue.