Chapter One – Return to Diagon Alley

She hadn't been to this town in the longest of times. It had seemed like a long time at least. It had really only been two years, but when she was far away, it had seemed like decades. She hadn't even planned on returning to this place. But...something must've pulled her back.

This place was Diagon Alley, in London, a place where she had visited most often when she was a child. A naive child. She lived in Wales for the past two years. Again, it was not that far away...but it was far enough. None of her friends lived there. She had been renting an apartment there, until she found a suitable place to live. But she hadn't.

I will sometime...maybe it's here though. Maybe I should find a home here, after visiting a few people, she thought to herself as she pushed through the crowd. Or, was pushed, rather.

Her hair wasn't the same as it had been. She had straightened it, and used some gel to keep it flattened down. Although you could not recognize her from a mile away now, her hair was the same chocolate brown. The point was not to have people recognize her, actually.

Her friends might though. Maybe all the years before she had been noticed by her hair. Probably, considering how large and bushy it had used to be. She still had the same face—with her beautiful brown eyes—except for a bit of makeup: mascara, eye shadow, lipstick, foundation, and eyeliner. She was never one for makeup. You could say she downright hated the stuff. But if it meant she wouldn't be recognized, she was all for it.

Hermione Granger was a changed woman. Being twenty-two, she could do anything her heart desired. She didn't have a job however. She used the money she had to her name to pay for her apartment, and travel, and taxes. She didn't have a house yet—this was her first day in London since she left—but she was staying at a hotel until she bought a house.

Seeing a place she would be able to distinguish blindfolded, she pushed through more people, and walking into a brick building. It was much more…enthusiastic…on the inside than it was on the outside. Things were popping up out of strange places all of the room, toys were spinning around, and children (and even adults) were screaming with joy and laughter.

"No, no, Meg, bring that box over there, to the back room in the corner please. The back room, please, Meg," a redheaded man who faced away from Hermione, who looked around twenty-three or twenty-four, was saying angrily to a blonde woman, about the same age as Hermione, maybe a year older.

"I'm doing my best Fred! This box is heavy, and you know I forgot my wand at home! You're lucky I'm even helping you!" the blonde girl shouted back, walking slowly into the back room, caring a box that was almost bigger than she was. Her figure was small and curvy, yet she was almost as tall as the redheaded man. Her face was red, Hermione saw, and she was glaring at the redheaded man, who she called Fred.

Fred Weasley. Hermione knew his face anyways. He wasn't as short as he had been, but taller than she had remembered. So much had changed in two years. But she probably hadn't seen him for over three years or three and a half.

"Meg, why don't you just apparate home and get your wand!" Fred growled back at her, turning away from the back of the room and talking to a costumer, his eyes gleaming angrily, but trying to put on a smile.

Hermione picked up a random object, making sure it didn't shoot anything at her, or anything that could possibly harm her, and got in line to get up to the counter. She was behind about twenty other people, and she really didn't want to wait. But because of her new 'disguise' they wouldn't know who she was if she just went up to the side of the counter.

Meg didn't come back out of the room. She probably did as Fred had said, and apparated to her house to get her wand. Who was that Meg? And why was Fred lucky to have her working there, if she seemed like such a bad employee?

The line was moving considerably fast, for a line this long, and she was now only fifteen people away. Now ten. Now five people…and now she was up. She brushed a stray piece of hair behind her ear, and held up the object.

"It's broken. There aren't anymore," she lied, moving right in front of Fred so she would be able to block the bucket where they were from view. "I just picked it up, and it wouldn't do a single thing. You call this a joke shop? I call it a dumb shop with items that don't even work. And the ones that do are dangerous."

"Excuse me? These items aren't dangerous at all ma'am. And," Fred grabbed the item out of Hermione's hand and pressed a button, "it works just fine. Apparently this is not a dumb shop, you are just a dumb person. Now, if you don't want me to make you, I suggest you leave right now. You're holding up the lines."

"Touchy," Hermione laughed, not moving a muscle as she heard people tap their feet behind her. "You might want to work on your…costumer satisfaction rating. Seeing as you are this rude, it must pretty low."

"Look ma'am, can you please leave? I'm asking nicely now, for you, so can you just leave? Look at the line, it's long. People are waiting," Fred sighed, leaning on the counter, closer to Hermione. She simply laughed again.

"Keep them away from the first years! They're too dangerous!" she implied, hinting that she was Hermione. He would have to figure it out eventually. "I'll confiscate them…"

"Hermione? Hermione Granger, what the hell are you doing here? Where have you been for this long? Holy shit, George! George, put down that thing and come here! George, hurry up!" Fred yelled, turning around and looking into the back room.

Hermione smiled, and George, Fred's twin, came out, looking tired, and his face was as red as his hair, which was messy, and sticking out in strange places. He reached his hand to the back of his head and scratched his head. "What'd going on?" he asked, looking at Fred and yawning. "What thing am I working on? Oh wait…oh yeah. Why did you—"

"It's Hermione!" Fred yelled, gesturing to her, and she smiled and waved. The people standing behind her were clearly frustrated, and she had the urge to just turn around and tell them to shut up. But she didn't, she just put her hand down and continued smiling.

"Hermione? Where?" George said, looking around, and straight at her and smiling. "No…where's the hair…and this girl is wearing makeup. Hermione never wore makeup. And she was never this pretty."

"Hey!" Hermione yelled, putting her hands on her hips. "It's strange how compliments can be insults at the same time…but I will forgive you because I am nice like that. Fancy little place you have going here, isn't it? Definitely dangerous though. Who's that Meg girl? The one with the box who forgot her wand."

"Oh, that's my girlfriend. She just happened to come into the shop one day as a Daily Prophet writer, and it was love at first sight," Fred sighed, and George batted his eyes, put the back of his hand up to his forehead, and fell dreamily into a chair. "She doesn't really want to be helping me here, but she got fired from the Daily Prophet. She thinks I'm lucky to have her working here because of that."

"Hermione, come back behind the counter. We're—you're—holding up the lines. Just climb over, will you?" George said, standing back up. Hermione jumped up onto the counter, and George grabbed her arm to help her down.

"Thanks. But, uh, you really think this will help the lines? You're still talking to me, aren't you?" Hermione laughed, and Fred and George nodded.

"Right you are. That's what we have Meg for. Hermione, will you be the dear you are and go see if she's back from getting her wand?" Fred said, with a hint sarcasm in his voice as he called Hermione 'a dear'.

Hermione smirked, glaring lightly at him, and went into the back room. There were metal shelves on each side of her, filled with boxes of the stuff out in the store; extras needed only if the product sold out. She walked down the hallway of shelves and got to an opening, with only one way to turn: to the left. She did so, and saw a desk with cauldrons, and distorted object spread on top of it.

She saw a clipboard next to the cauldron and looked at it. It was a blueprint of something Fred and George were working on. It looked like a cube, a basic cube really, with minor aspects that make it different. But she didn't understand exactly how it was different. What made it worthy of a joke shop? Well, just because she didn't understand doesn't mean no one else did. Fred and George must know what they're doing.

She heard a pop!, and murmuring from the shelf hallway, and turned around. Walking over to the hallway, she saw Meg, fuming, with her wand in her hand.

"Excuse me?" Hermione said softly, making Meg jump, and spin around. Her blonde hair fell over her face, and she brushed it out of the way. Her breathing was deep, and she put a hand over her chest.

"What are you doing back here? It's for employees only. And over there is only for the owner's of this shop," Meg hissed, looking over Hermione. "They work on their new products over there, not even the employees are allowed over there. Are you even an employee?"

"Well, no, I just—"

"Then you shouldn't be back here. It's for employees only. Since you are not an employee, you shouldn't be back here," Meg interrupted, and Hermione smiled and sighed.

"You don't understand, I'm—"

"Not allowed back here. Would you like me to bring it up with my bosses? I can if you want, they're right out there in the shop. So you either leave right now, or we'll go have a little talk with them," Meg interrupted again.

"No! Wait, I kn—"

"Fine. Come with me please," Meg growled, walking back out into the shop. Hermione sighed and followed her. "Fred, George, I found this girl back in your inventing room. She must be trying to steal your products, or something, as she is not an employee. She refused to leave when I asked her to, so I'm asking you what to do."

George snorted, and Fred grinned. Meg rose an eyebrow. "Well…we sent her in there looking for you. Of course, knowing you, I should've realized you wouldn't listen to her. Meg, I would like you to meet our good friend Hermione. Well, our brother's good friend anyways. We haven't seen her in a long time, and we're going to go back to our house for a bit. Will you be able to handle the shop while we're gone?" Fred explained, and Meg put a hand to her mouth, and gasped as she looked back at Hermione. Hermione was looking at George, with a confused look on her face.

"Yeah, and oh my gosh, I am so sorry! I have the tendency to not listen to what people say. Sorry. I suppose you hate me now. That's okay. I talk too much anyways, so a lot of people hate me. I feel bad for Fred though, he's my boyfriend, did you know? Yeah, so I'm surprised he doesn't hate me too. I just talk way too much," Meg sighed, and Hermione turned to her and laughed.

"That's okay. But I didn't know we were going to the Burrow," Hermione said through gritted teeth, smiling as wide as a doll.

"Oh, we're not going to the Burrow, we'll go there later. We're going to our house," George corrected, and Hermione made an 'O' with her mouth. "We'll just freshen up a bit, become great pals, and then go to the Burrow."

"That might be a while then," Hermione sneered, referring to the becoming friends bit. "But I'll go, only if I get to see Ron and Ginny, and your mum, and everyone else tonight. I have to see them, I haven't seen them in two years."

"Then let's go. We're wasting our bonding time!" Fred said sarcastically, walking out from behind the counter, followed by George and Hermione. Fred waved to Meg, and Hermione simply smiled back at her.


Disclaimer: I own nothing put the plot. Everything else belongs to the amazing J.K. Rowling, my hero and idol, which is basically the same thing, but oh well.

Author's Note: So, this is my first non Hermione/Draco or Hermione/Ron fanfiction. So please be kind, I know this isn't the best.