Author's Note: Passing through to throw this fluff at you. It's complete, so I should have the whole thing spammed up shortly. It's about as book compliant as any fic where Snape survives can be. I've also noodled around with some other canon bits, but most of those occur toward the end. This has been picked over by my own eyes, but no beta, so any errors are mine.
Disclaimer: Not mine. No money. Just playing with the characters in the sandbox, I swear I'll put them back when I'm done.
Of all the stupid, asinine things to - "Oh hell, why not?"
George beamed. It was nearly genuine. That made it worth it, no matter what. "You're the best 'Mione. And I'm sure ginger will look lovely on you."
She tried to scowl at him, though her lips quirked with mirth, and quipped, "Just because I've agreed to be your lab rat, doesn't make you my soulmate, George."
His eyes sparkled for an instant. The mischief didn't seem to come as easily to him in the years since Fred's death, but it did, now and then; it was bittersweet and beautiful. "You wound me, madam. Now I promise this won't hurt a bit, I've already done it to myself."
"Where's the lock, then?" Hermione searched the mop of ginger on top of his head, then their eyes met, and she knew. It hadn't changed color for him because his soulmate's hair was the same color. "Oh, George..."
He rubbed at a spot near his missing ear, "There's a cold patch here, now. So I figure, either I mucked up the charm or…."
"Or its Fred..."
George nodded. "Anyways. When you're ready,"
"Hit me with your best shot."
He drew his wand, cleared his throat and wove it intricately in the space between them, murmuring the spell. Hermione felt her scalp tingle near her temple and watched with rapt fascination as one thick chesnut curl turned shiny, inky black.
"Fascinating," George admitted, looking slightly less gob struck than she felt, "It turned black. Certainly not Ron then."
She wasn't sure if she should feel disappointed or not that the youngest male Weasley wasn't her match. She wasn't even sure if she should fully believe the lone twin that what he'd just done was meant to reveal one's soul mate. "Strictly out of curiosity, is there any way of confirming their identity? I'm pretty sure this color is quite common among more or less the entire Asian population, never mind the rest of the world."
He flipped through the pages of the dusty little tome he'd acquired that had contained the spell, "Well, aside from the lock of your hair they'll have, you'll know as soon as you come into contact with them - the book mentions a glow? - but otherwise, there's another charm here that we could try." She hovered at his side, skimming the page he'd opened to. "It would be tricky to pull off though, since we don't know who the other party is. I'd have to make a few calculations before we tried it, if you want?"
Hermione took a breath, "I'll think about it; I believe I've had enough of being your guinea pig for one day."
"I appreciate it, though. It's let me know I didn't totally bugger the spell on myself."
She smiled bitterly, "Glad I could help." She gathered up her beaded bag and cloak to leave, but paused when George spoke again.
"What are you going to tell Ron?"
Hermione cringed, "Well we haven't exactly been on speaking terms recently - mostly shouting terms… I suppose this will just be one more nail in our coffin."
"Hey," he called after her, just as she was crossing the threshold of his office, "I'll still be your brother after it goes tits up."
A bitter quirk tugged at her lips, "Thanks, George."
She wasted little more time in Diagon Alley after leaving the Weasley joke shop. Her shopping had been completed and she was due to meet Ron and their daughter Rose at the Burrow shortly. She looked forward to seeing her child; her ginger haired husband not so much. These days it was even hard for them to share civil words in front of Molly, but they continued playing along, though she doubted the Weasley matriarch was fooled. Hermione foresaw divorce and single-parenthood in her near future. Hopefully she wouldn't lose all the Weasley's in the ensuing mess. And she was fairly certain she would retain majority, if not sole, custody of Rose if for no other reason than the wild hours Ron kept as an Auror.
With a heavy sigh, she Apparated away to face the music.
Somewhere, deep in the stacks of Flourish and Blotts, a suddenly chestnut brown streak of hair on an inky black head was causing a silent and paranoid panic.
"Rose is finally asleep," Ron commented quietly, closing their bedroom door behind him.
Hermione was already in bed, reading. At his announcement, she carefully closed her book and placed it on the night table, "Entirely the fault of Molly's doting over the weekend, I'm sure." Her lips quirked momentarily, unable to begrudge her mother-in-law's fawning over her granddaughter. The smile fell then, "I suppose it's time for our nightly screaming match, then?"
Ron scowled. "It's not my intention, but I'm sure that's how it will end."
"It's not my fault you're a complete dunderhead sometimes."
He tossed his wand at the night stand, clattering to a rest against his lamp and alarm clock, "Well mind telling the dunderhead what's up with your hair now?"
"It's a charm George wanted to test, if you must know. I was at the shop today trying to pick out your Christmas present and he asked for help."
Ron sat at her bedside and reached out to finger the inky curl, "So what's it do?"
Hermione braced herself against the inevitable blow up, "I question the theory and the accuracy of it, but it's supposed to reveal your soul mate."
She watched the splotchy red of his anger creep up the back of his neck to his ears, but was surprised when deathly calm colored his tone instead of his usual high pitched bellow. "Soul mate? This is black, last I checked my hair isn't black. Who is it then?"
"I haven't the faintest."
"You're lying. Who is he, Hermione?"
She huffed and crossed her arms, "I'm doing no such thing, Ronald. The book George found it in said the glow would reveal the truth that the hair implied. It was nonsensical. The only reason George even asked for my help was because his hair didn't change color when he tried it."
The redhead heard none of it, stamping to his feet - here came the screaming match, "How long, Hermione? Is Rose even mine?"
That made her blood boil and she was on her feet in a flash, "I can't believe you'd insinuate I'd ever be unfaithful to you! You sanctimonious slimeball! If either of us had the opportunity to have an affair, it would be you with your wild office hours!"
A guilty gleam flashed in his eyes almost too quick for her to catch and she felt all the fight leave her, though the anger remained. " So that's the way of it then," her voice was quiet and defeated. Her heart hurt; despite the flaws in their marriage, she really had hoped they could work past it and be happy again, like they had been just after the war. " I'm done with this farce. I want a divorce, Ron."
He looked like he contemplated arguing and decided against it just as quickly. "I'll go stay with mum until you find your own place."
"As long as you don't fight me for custody of our daughter, I won't fight you for the house."
"Wonderful. I'll go to the Ministry in the morning to start the paperwork. Can you ask Molly to watch Rose again tomorrow while I'm out? I'll start looking for a flat once I'm done at the Ministry."
He nodded, keeping a tight lipped silence as he grabbed his wand and stalked out of the house. Hermione didn't let the tears fall until she heard the crack of his Apparition.
George and Arthur came by the next morning, shortly after she'd cleaned up her and Rose's breakfast.
"Good morning, Hermione," Arthur ventured gently as George swept his niece into the air to gleeful squeals of 'Uncle George!'. "How are you holding up?"
She took a deep breath, "I didn't sleep much, I cried most of the night. But I'm okay now. Terrible as it sounds, I'm relieved it's finally coming to an end."
Her breath hitched when he enfolded her in his arms, "You'll always be a part of the family, remember that."
Weasley the younger chose that moment to interrupt his father, "Mum nearly killed Ron last night when he showed up. Her scolding woke the rest of us. He's a total wanker."
"Thanks, George, I needed that laugh."
"On the house, since I figure I didn't help matters much."
Hermione tucked away Rose's favorite blanket in her bag and passed it to her soon to be ex father-in-law, " It would have happened sooner or later, George. You just expedited the process. I'm rather glad of that, honestly, since I may have gone mental if he'd managed to get me and his mistress pregnant." She shook that thought away, "Anyways, all of Rose's things are in her bag, Arthur, and Molly can send a patronus if she needs anything. Otherwise I should be by around supper. Thanks for taking her on such short notice."
"We're her grandparents, Hermione, it's no trouble at all. Will you join us for dinner?"
She chewed her lip, "We'll see."
"Ron won't be there; Harry came to get him this morning about a case they're working on, he said not to expect them back until late." George explained.
"Then I don't see why not."
"Excellent," Arthur beamed, "Molly will be thrilled to hear it."
"Best be off then, dad, I've got new inventory to stock."
Hermione sat at a corner table at the Three Broomsticks in Hogsmeade late that afternoon, sifting through the housing section of The Prophet. She'd nearly exhausted the listings when she came across a slightly peculiar one. It read: Wanted - apothecary shop apprentice. Must have sufficient knowledge of brewing and handling of potions and potions ingredients. Proprietor will provide accepted applicant with the modest two bedroom flat above the shop if desired and a modest income for personal needs. Inquire at Highland Apothecary, Hogsmeade Village.
"Might as well pop in and see about this one while I'm here, then I'll go to the Burrow," she promised herself quietly, gathering up her belongings and leaving the money for her tab on the table.
It didn't take long to walk to the apothecary, a shop she'd seen in her school days but never had reason to enter. A bell chimed above her head when she pushed open the door. It was blissfully quiet and smelled of must and potions ingredients; Hermione thought it was wonderful.
A round, jolly looking older wizard greeted her promptly, "Good afternoon, how can I help?"
"I'm actually here to inquire about your wanted ad in the Daily Prophet. Now, it's been a few years since I've really done much brewing, but I'm a quick study, I'm sure I can be back up to speed in no time."
"I was beginning to wonder if anyone would show interest in that ad. What's your name, dear?"
"Hermione Weas- Granger. My name is Hermione Granger."
"Granger? In my shop? Oh, I'm delighted! Your intelligence is well-known here in Hogsmeade, what with Hogwarts just up the way. Didn't I read about you marrying Harry Potter's friend a few years ago?"
Hermione felt the heat coming to her cheeks and tugged at her unnaturally dark curl, "Yes, well, Mister Weasley and I are separating and I find myself in need of a job and a flat for my daughter and I."
A swirl of pity and understanding washed across his face, "I'm so sorry to hear that dear, and at this time of year, tsk; would you like to see the flat upstairs?"
"That would be wonderful, Mister..."
"Appleborne. Henry Appleborne; right this way, Ms. Granger," he held one hand toward her as the other gestured toward the back of the shop.
"Mummy! Mummy!" Rose came tearing out of the house barely a moment after she landed in the yard, a neatly tied stack of books clutched in her arm - reading assigned by her new employer to brush up her brewing skills with over the weekend.
"Rose!" She dropped to her knees to catch the enthusiastic three year old, "Did you have fun today? Were you good?"
"Yes mummy. But I heard gramma say that you and daddy were getting something called a dive-horse. What's that? Can I ride it?"
She sat back on her heels, "No, sweetie. Mummy and daddy are getting a divorce. That means we won't be married anymore and we won't live together anymore."
"Oh… Is it because you yell a lot?"
Hermione winced, but remained honest, "That's part of it, Rose… Now let's go inside for dinner."
They were met by the Weasley matriarch and patriarch, the one eared wonder and Ginny, "Hey, 'Mione. Mum flooed me about my great git of a brother this morning. Harry was livid."
She hugged her friend as she dropped into a chair at the table, "It's alright, Gin. We would have gotten here eventually."
"I still can't believe that louse of a son of mine would do such a thing! We raised him better!" Molly stomped a foot and waved her wooden spoon threateningly. Then the switch flipped and she crooned sympathetically, "Did you have any luck today, Hermione dear?"
Hermione perked up, "I did, actually! I found a job in Hogsmeade at the apothecary and it comes with a cozy little flat upstairs. I start Monday. Could any of you help me move mine and Rose's things this weekend?"
"Absolutely! I'll drag Harry along, he has tomorrow off."
"We can keep Rose for the weekend if it will help; it looks like you have some homework to do on top of moving."
"That would be wonderfully helpful, Arthur, thank you."