Disclaimer: Harry Potter does not belong to me and I am gaining no profit in the making of this story.
AN: A special thank you to my beta for this tale, TenthWeasleyWriter!
Chapter One: The Beginning
Bright sunlight betrayed the somber mood of Hermione's arrival to the Burrow. It was the first of July, just one short week after Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry had closed for the summer holiday. It had also been just one short week since she had made a last-ditch decision that would forever change her life and just thirty short minutes since Hermione Granger, supposed brightest witch of her age, had accomplished a task that even her two best friends had thought her incapable of: removing all memory of her existence from the minds of her parents.
Harry and Ron had known Hermione to be capable of the task ability-wise. Her talents were unmatched as far as they were concerned. However, mentally and emotionally both young men were saddened by the idea of their best friend having to resort to such drastic measures due to the war. When she had owled them separately a week prior with her painful solution to her worries over what to do to protect her Muggle mum and dad in a world that was growing immensely tragic for people of their kind, she had received answers that were so similar it had been as if Harry and Ron had been together writing them.
'Mione, there must be another way. Ron.
Hermione, there must be a better solution. Harry.
All three of them knew that a Memory Charm of such proportion had a slim chance of being reversible, if or when Hermione could locate her parents to attempt to. In the few days that followed, Hermione gained confidence in her belief that she would rather her parents be alive and happy without her than have them die because she had failed to do everything within her power to protect them. The deed was done with a resigned hand just five minutes before she had walked out of her house for the last time ever. Hermione had deleted the memories of their true identities, their daughter, and magic, and had inserted the memory of their non-existent decision to move to Australia. She had left two one-way plane tickets on the kitchen counter. They would be off that evening.
"You are more than welcome to go in, Granger."
The voice from behind Hermione brought her out of her thoughts with a jolt. She realized with vague embarrassment that she had been staring at the front door of the Burrow daydreaming for Merlin knew how long. She sighed and shook her head to snap herself out of thinking about her morning actions before shooting an apologetic look at George Weasley, who had been kind enough to meet her down the road from her house to Apparate her to the Burrow. She hadn't trusted herself to do it without splinching in her emotional state, so Mrs. Weasley had made arrangements for someone to assist her.
Hermione had actually been a little nervous when she had arrived at the spot Mrs. Weasley had mentioned to find one half of the most excruciating duo of pranksters she had ever met, leaning casually against a tree in Muggle jeans and a green t-shirt, waiting for her. He pulled off the look so well that she was positive no one would be suspicious of their meeting. Neighbors probably would be passing it off as a meeting of lovers under a romantic weeping willow. Hermione, however, knew the tree was chosen for the cover it provided. Having grown up with the twins, Hermione had automatically braced herself for the worst when she approached him. She presumed he would be insensitive regarding the whole affair, but to her surprise, he had merely hugged her in greeting, stated that he was George – since hardly anyone ever guessed it correctly – and then gathered her and her belongings to Apparate. He had done so without a single comment concerning her puffy red eyes or the obvious tear tracks that crusted her cheeks.
"I'm so sorry, George," Hermione said to him now. "You've been so helpful to me and now I'm just wasting your time, staring at a door like an imbecile."
"Oh, don't worry! The more time I spend with you, the less time I spend with Fred at the shop doing inventory," George laughed, shrugging good-naturedly. "Besides, it's a lovely door, isn't it?"
This brought a shy smile to Hermione's face and caused her to emit a faint chuckle. She reached forward and took the luggage that George had been holding for her from his hands, despite his insistence on bringing it up to Ginny's room, where Hermione would be staying, for her.
"We both know it weighs absolutely nothing due to the charms. Plus, you've done enough for me for the day," she stated kindly.
Relenting, George jovially wrapped an arm around her shoulders and opened up the door before leading her inside.
"Anything for you, Granger," he winked, causing a blush to erupt on Hermione's face as she hurriedly looked away from his gaze.
The pair immediately heard an exclamation of Hermione's name from up the stairs the moment they were fully in the house and George had closed the door behind them. Hermione smiled sadly at the sound, knowing Mrs. Weasley would be the closest thing to her mother she may have for the rest of her life now. She pulled away from George in order to walk to meet Mrs. Weasley, but had a sudden thought and turned back to the quirky jokester. Before she could think too much on it, Hermione leaned up on her tiptoes and pressed a quick kiss to the tall redhead's cheek before giving him a gentle hug.
"Thank you," she whispered in his ear before releasing him.
George grinned, surprise written all over his face. He reached forward and gave one of the curls that had escaped from her ponytail a gentle tug. "Not a problem. I'm always here to help a pretty girl in her time of need. Wouldn't have wanted you splinching something important off."
Hermione rolled her eyes before lightly swatting his arm.
"No, I'm not thanking you for getting me here – though that was very nice of you to do. I'm thanking you for making me smile on the hardest day of my life to date," she said, meeting his eyes in an attempted show of gratitude while mentally forcing herself not to hover on words like "pretty" and "important." "You're a really great guy, George."
She could tell that George didn't quite know how to respond to that, so she gave his arm a squeeze and then grabbed her luggage from the spot on the floor where she had placed it before and made to head to meet Mrs. Weasley without a backwards glance.
George's voice stopped her one last time though.
Hermione spun around again to look at him and was surprised by the very serious expression with which he returned her gaze. She couldn't remember ever seeing either of the twins without a smile. Usually when they were serious it was not quite sincere, as it was generally meant to mock someone like their brother Percy, who tended to be far too serious (a bit like Hermione, actually). Despite all that, Hermione was fairly positive that that was not the case with George now.
He scratched the back of his head and glanced quickly down at the floor before bringing his eyes up to hers again. "I just wanted you to know that if you ever want to talk about earlier... Well, I may not be your first choice in a confidant, but I'm here to listen if you want me to. I get that it bloody sucks – what you're going through, that is... and I just want to be there to help if you need it. Er, so if you'd like, I can lend you an ear and some nonjudgmental conversation, Granger." His whole body seemed to relax once he was finished, as if he had been holding in one big breath for the entirety of his thought process.
It was almost relieving to see the great, confident George Weasley seem flustered about something. Hermione gave him a full smile, a feeling of intense gratitude filling her up and warming her. She knew that it would be friends like George that would get her through the coming storm.
"I'd like that, Weasley," she stated, putting a teasing edge on the use of his surname, since he always referred to her by hers. On a serious note, she added, "I just need some time to think on my own first. But I most certainly will take you up on that offer, if it still stands when I'm ready."
"It will, and I completely understand," George said before motioning toward the stairs. "Well, I'll see you later, because Mum will probably throw a fit if you don't run along and find her."
Hermione hurried down the hall and up the stairs then, forcing herself to not turn back and send another glance toward her newfound confidant.
George eyed Hermione carefully until she was fully out of sight. He reached up to brush his fingertips over the spot on his cheek where her lips had brushed. He felt a nervous flip in his stomach just thinking back to the contact and the way her warm, genuine smile had made him feel slightly off balance. From the moment she had turned the corner to meet him earlier, he had known there was going to be something different about his relationship with Hermione Granger this summer. The most obvious sign was that instead of feeling pleasantly happy to see his little brother's best friend again for the first time in ages, George had felt hot from his insides out, looking at the woman that she had grown into over the years. Merlin, he had always known she was pretty; however, he failed to realize that she was breathtaking until she literally had stolen the air from his lungs.
"Is this a guessing game? Are you a plant? Are you an animal? Are you a codfish? That's it! Do I win a prize?!" George's twin teased, coming into sight after George had blinked a few times.
"Bugger off, Fred," George chuckled after closing his mouth. "It was obviously more clownfish, anyway. And shouldn't you be at the shop?"
"I'm on my lunch, and Verity is covering for me," Fred dismissed before waggling his eyebrows suggestively. "Back to the fish thing! By the looks of Miss Granger, I'd wager on blowfish."
George sputtered and blushed in response, not knowing what to say. This caused Fred to burst out laughing and pat George on the back in mock concern.
"Judging by that reaction, and the surprising absence of a witty comeback, I'm guessing you noticed some sexy attributes of our favorite prefect, as well," Fred said.
George decided not to clue his brother into just how true that statement was.
Hermione was surprised to find Mrs. Weasley waiting at the top of the stairs, with an interesting emotion playing across her usually so loving face. The older woman seemed incapable of escaping her thoughts until Hermione had made it all the way up the stairs and had called the woman's name lightly. Mrs. Weasley's eyes flew to Hermione's and then, instantly, the expression was gone, and a smile of pure happiness took its place.
"Hermione!" she cried, throwing open her arms for an embrace. "I'm so glad you're here."
Hermione pulled back after a long moment and returned the smile. "I'm just happy that you took me in."
"Nonsense, you poor girl. You're family in everything but your name. Speaking of which – let's go find Ron," Mrs. Weasley said, causing Hermione to blanch slightly at the transition used for that train of thought.
She chose to merely nod her head in response.
AN: This is the first story that I'm starting in years. I previously wrote under a different pen name, but I wanted a fresh start. This story is going to be influenced by the Nicholas Sparks novel, The Notebook. You'll have to tell me how you like it! Review, Review, Review!