Authors Note: Hello everyone, this is my first fanfic, so I'd love to hear what you think, both positive reviews or constructive criticism. This first post will be a bit longer than the usual, I'm thinking I'll try to keep them around 1,500-2,000 words but if you think something else would work better let me know. I'm new to the Hermione/George-ship, but I've fallen madly in love with the idea of them as a couple. This story had been bumping around in my head for a while, so I figured I'd let it out. It's set post Battle of Hogwarts two years, disregarding the epilogue. None of these characters are mine, I just like to fiddle with them. Enjoy! *Edited for a few grammatical errors!

Chapter One

Hermione nervously brushed off a nonexistent speck of dirt from her robes as she waited in the office of Weasley Wizard Wheezes. She didn't think she'd ever been this nervous to talk to George in her life, but as it was she didn't appear to have many options left. The woman tending the front of the shop had told her it would only be a few moments, but that had been almost fifteen minutes ago and Hermione felt like her stomach was filled with hot snakes. She looked around, once more taking in the deep purple walls, and the dark mahogany furniture. There was only one desk in the room now, but the over-large book shelf George had shoved against the wall to take up the space was obviously out of place. Hermione chewed at her left thumb nail nervously, pacing over to examine what appeared to be a large stuffed cactus.

She stroked her pointer finger softly along what looked like the plush spikes only to jump back with a squeak of pain. When she had touched it, the cactus had become real for a moment, imbedding one of the spikes in her finger. With a low oath she pulled it out and drew the red finger into her mouth in an effort to stop the pain and the dot of blood that had bubbled up. A low chuckle from behind her made her jump and twist around nervously, her finger popping from her mouth as she turned.

"The cutting cactus… not one of my more ingenious, or successful ideas, it never passed the experimental stage, but I like it, so I decided to keep one." George Weasley smiled softly at Hermione and gestured toward the chair in front of the desk as he took his own seat.

"It's been a while Hermione, but it's good to see you, how have you been?" His voice was rougher, much more serious than Hermione remembered, and she had to fight back the urge to frown. He'd changed so much in the past few years, almost to the point that he was unrecognizable, but that was one of the reasons why she was here after all.

"It's good to see you too, George." Her voice was soft, and she cleared her throat. Wouldn't do to have him thinking she felt sorry for him. "Things are, not the best unfortunately."

His eyes widened and he spoke quickly, "is everyone okay? Mum and Dad…?"

Hermione soothed him quickly kicking herself mentally for beginning this way. "No, no I'm sorry everyone's fine. They miss you, but they're fine, George."

He relaxed slightly back into his chair but his eyes were still wary. "What's wrong then?" His tone was skeptical, and she couldn't blame him.

"It's me," Hermione blushed nervously. "I was hoping that you might be able to help me with a…" she paused "situation."

He nodded relaxing further, "You know I'll do anything I can to help you Hermione, what do you need?"

This was where it got tricky. It was true, she did need his help, but she didn't want him to know that Molly had been the one to suggest this idea that she had hoped that while he helped her, Hermione could help him at the same time.

"I lost my job at the Ministry a month and a half ago." At George's incredulous expression she continued, "I was working on a pretty difficult case, dealing with Werewolf rights, as well as the desegregation of Hogwarts, and while I had the support of McGonagall, the Ministry was slamming the breaks claiming that board of trustees," here she couldn't keep the tremble of indignation out of her voice, "still deemed it an unnecessary risk to permit children who had been bitten to even be allowed on the grounds." She pulled her gaze up from her hands to meet George's gaze stubbornly.

"The Ministry completely frosted the program, claiming that it should be handled by the Department of Education, instead of the Department of Equality for Wizard and Magical Beings. The arses even went so far as to suggest that my department should be shut down. As if Voldermort was still at large and they were lesser beings! I- I lost it George. I mailed a Howler to the board of trustee's next meeting, as well as to my superior, the Head of Magical Being Regulations. I was delivered my pink slip within the hour. No references and they've blacklisted me from any Ministry position." Hermione shuddered out a sigh fighting back another wave of discouragement.

George whistled admiringly. "Mailed them a howler did you? There's my gal." He shook his head disgusted. "Lesser beings, that's bloody outrageous!" George was livid, "to completely disregard all your hard work? To attempt to shove us back into those dark times…"

"That's exactly how I felt," Hermione calmed slightly at his defense of her actions. "The only problem is that now I can't find another position anywhere, and I've used up all my savings. I can't even afford the rent to my flat-."

"Do you need money Hermione? I can probably-." George interrupted his eyes gentle.

"No, no of course not! I was hoping that I could possibly work here, with you." She bit her lip. Now came the hard part. "I was hoping that I could work for you to pay to rent the room in your flat. Your Mum offered to let me stay at the burrow, but after everything with Ron…" She halted nervously attempting to read his expression. He looked slightly put off and she felt her face flame.

"I'm so sorry George I know I shouldn't ask…"

"Fred's room you mean." His voice was heavy and he rubbed a flat palm across his brow, his brown eyes downcast.

"It's too much, I know it I-."

"No," he amended. "It's all right Hermione. I'll have to clean it out a bit, still haven't gotten completely around to that yet, but I don't mind." He grinned weakly at her. "I know how had it will be for you to resist me once were living together though, sure Ickle Ronnikins can handle it?"

She laughed sadly. "I'm not sure. But right now this is really the only option I have, so he will simply have to manage." She thought back to how jealous he'd been in the first few months after they'd separated and suppressed a shudder. Thank God things had improved since then. "He's gotten much better since he started seeing Hannah about six months ago. They actually met through Neville, she'd taken up an internship at the Hospital Wing under Madame Pomfrey."

"Hannah Abbott?" George asked, "The tiny thing from Hufflepuff? She must barely reach his elbow!" He laughed and Hermione joined him.

"I haven't seen them together, but it must be a sight, Harry says things are going well though." She wished Ron would talk to her like he used to soon, but she supposed that might be asking too much too soon. They'd broken up a year ago and at the time he hadn't really understood why she'd ended things, but Ginny said he was beginning to understand her reasoning now though.

"Is he still not speaking to you?" His voice was gentle but the question still grated.

"He is, yes, but the way he used to? …no. He owled me after I lost my job at the Ministry, and we see each other at dinner at the Burrow, or Harry and Ginny's; It's getting better." She shrugged. "He just needs more time I think." She could pretend losing one of her best friends didn't hurt, but from the look in George's eyes he saw right through her.

"You don't have to work at the shop 'Mione, you can just stay with me, it's not a bother, I know you're probably busy with your book."

She shot him a surprised look, "you remembered that?" She had mentioned it only once, at dinner at the burrow almost four months ago that she'd wanted to write a book on the historical treatment of magical peoples and beings, but hadn't really expressed how serious she'd been about it at the time. She'd gotten a few chapters written since she'd been let go from the Ministry, and the thought of hours to write was appealing, but unreasonable.

"Of course, I think it'll be brilliant. Not quite as brilliant as a biography of yours truly," he gave an exaggerated wink and she couldn't help but laugh. "But brilliant none the less."

"That's sort of sweet George, but you don't have to do that, I'd prefer to work at the shop, I don't want to be any more of a bother than I need to." She also knew from Molly and Ginny that George was struggling at the shop. He was reluctant to hire another manager to replace Fred, even two years after his death, and he'd had a few problems with theft from past employees.

George shrugged looking tired, "if that's what you want, we can work something out." He pulled out a ring of keys, and selected a small brass one. "Effingo," he muttered quietly quickly creating an exact replica of the key and handed it to her.

She took it gratefully. "Thank you George, I really appreciate it, I won't be a bother at all I swear."

He waved away her thanks. "Don't think a thing of it Hermione. If you'd like you can move in tomorrow, I'll likely be here until late tonight. On Thursday's I do inventory of the shop which can take a while."

"That's just fine, Harry and Ginny are going to help with the move, we'll just floo in about eleven?" She smiled feeling like a great weight had shifted from her chest as he nodded.

"Sure, I might be down in the shop, but I'll hear you moving about up there and pop in to help." He stood, "I hate to run, but I don't want to leave them out there two long without supervision."

She nodded as she rose, "oh no it's fine. I should get back to pack anyway. I'll see you tomorrow?"

Grinning wickedly George wrapped his arms and pulled her to him planting a noisy kiss onto the top of her head. "Oh 'Mione, we're going to have such fun you'll see. Eventually you'll hardly even remember that I was a last resort."

Hermione was stunned at the flash of the old George and snuggled into his side, pinching him teasingly at the waist. "Never a last resort George my dear. You know you're always my first choice."

His smile brightened and then floated away, and to her disappointment as they left the office he slowly let his arm slide from her shoulders. That happened a lot unfortunately, he'd seem like the old George one moment, and then almost as if he remembered Fred was gone, he'd slip away from them again. They had just exited the office when the flustered clerk rushed George looking distraught.

"What's wrong Lynn?" His tone was comforting and much more mature than Hermione had ever heard it but the girl wasn't calmed.

"It's Melinda, she didn't show up for her shift, Mr. Weasley, and she closed last night. I think you need to check the safe; she's been acting really strange lately… I think…" She pressed her lips together nervously and George groaned.

"Bloody hell, not another one." He rubbed his palm across his forehead once again and Hermione couldn't help but notice the slight wrinkles at the corners of his eyes that hadn't been there the last time she'd seem him. As he walked swiftly toward another office he turned to Hermione, "Don't leave just yet please, I might need your help."

"Of course," Hermione nodded quickening her pace to match his long strides. She watched as he murmured an incantation wandlessly and the door clicked open for him. He barreled in and quickly opened an old muggle safe with a few quick twists of his left wrist. She bit back the quip about his using a muggle tool, which would make his father proud but knew this wasn't the time.

He glanced inside and moved a few coins about. His face split into a cheerful grin. Hermione peeked inside and noticed that it looked sparse, so she didn't understand his cheer until he spoke.

"Well, she got off with about fifty galleons, but.." He chuckled.

"Fifty galleons! Blimey Mr. Weasley, why're you laughing at that?" Lynn's voice was horse and she looked distraught.

"I charmed the galleons," George said composing himself, "They'll last about a day then simply disappear and reappear back her, if she doesn't try to spend them, and if she does, well, let's just say she'll be begging me to take the money back."

Lynn sighed relieved and George smiled and gave her a reassuring pat on the shoulder.

"Thank you for telling me though Lynn, I appreciate you're honesty I know you and Melinda were close."

She shook her head embarrassed, "Not any more, I swear I never would have recommended her for the job if I'd known Mr. Weasley."

Hermione could tell from the way Lynn looked at George that she'd taken a bit of a fancy to him, but he seemed not to notice as he offered her words of comfort. She couldn't understand why, but the way the pretty blonde was gazing up at George gave Hermione a strange twisting in her stomach.

"Well Hermione, turns out I'll be needing your help more than I thought. If you don't mind, I'd appreciate it if you could stay just for a few hours? I could show you around the shop, and you could cover Melinda's shift?" Hermione smiled and just as she was starting to agree Lynn spoke up quickly.

"Oh, it's no bother Mr. Weasley, I can stay for Melinda's shift. I'm sure your friend has somewhere she's needed."

George's ears tinged pink and he nodded, "You're probably right Lynn, if you don't mind staying I'd appreciate it." Lynn grinned at the praise and Hermione couldn't help but feel a bit deterred by the young woman's desire to see her off.

"Are you sure George? I don't mind…"

"It's perfectly fine." Lynn answered for George shooting Hermione a look that clearly said back off. "Mr. Weasley knows I can handle myself quite well, this way he can focus on the inventory. I always worry about how late you stay here on Thursdays."

George shot Hermione a sideways grin and winked at her. So he does notice how she feels Hermione thought to herself. Not willing to upset someone who would soon be her coworker over nothing, Hermione decided to let it slide.

"I'm Hermione Granger by the way," she said with a smile and George shook his head ruefully.

"With all the excitement I've completely forgotten myself. Hermione, this is Lynn Clearwater, Penelope's younger sister, Lynn this is Hermione. She's agreed to take on a temporary position as Associate Manager her to help out." Both Hermione and Lynn gaped a bit at the title. Hermione because she hadn't expected it and Lynn because she'd clearly expected it to be her.

"Ah- how nice to meet you Ms. Granger." Her tone was decidedly cool and Hermione had to force a grin to her face.

"Please, call me Hermione. I'm looking forward to working with you." Lynn nodded wiping the sour look of her face to smile brilliantly at George.

"If that's all Mr. Weasley I'll just had back to the front end. It was nice to meet you Harmony."

"It's actually-." Hermione started to correct her, but Lynn had already pulled the door shut behind her. George snorted from behind her and Hermione turned with a roll of her eyes.

"She seemed lovely."

"She is actually. Decidedly lovely," George grinned wickedly, "She's a bit of a pining for me, but it'll pass, I try to make sure she catches me from my best side to speed it along." He drew a flourishing hand to his missing ear and tilted his head coquettishly.

"You devil," Hermione gasped with laughter, "you're leading the poor thing along!"

His face suddenly serious George shook his head. "Nah, she's implied a couple of times she'd enjoy my company… but I've put her down as gently as possible. I think the fact that I don't really date makes her think she has a shot. I would never though."

"I know you wouldn't, George," Hermione soothed, squeezing his arm gently. Impulsively she wrapped her arms tight around his middle and squeezed tightly. "Thank you for helping me, George." His large arms wrapped smoothly around her, one across her shoulder tightly, and the other gently behind her head. She felt safe, and protected, in a moment of weakness she allowed herself to nuzzle her face into his shoulder and inhale his scent, an interesting mix of spice and citrus. For a moment he tensed, as if he knew what she'd done, but then he leaned down low and whispered in a voice that could only be described as sultry into her ear.

"Bet this isn't what it looks like when Ron hugs Hannah," She pulled back rolling her eyes and swatted his chest with the back of her hand.

"Arse," she groaned but he chuckled.

"Now that's what a man likes, a woman who he doesn't have to break his back to kiss." His brown eyes twinkled and Hermione twisted away attempting to ignore the tingle of attraction she felt at the way his eyes swept over her lips.

"Shameless flirt," she scolded and he swept into an exaggerated bow, tipping a nonexistent hat.

"At your service m'lady." He peaked up at her and she shook her head with a laugh.

"And on that, I'll see you tomorrow George."

George rose and, was that a flash of disappointment in his eyes? "Very good, very good, until tomorrow, Mione."

"Good night, George." Hermione called out over her shoulder as she left the back office. She offered Lynn a polite goodbye, and as quickly as she could, made her way back to the street. The second she was outside Hermione took in a deep cleansing breath. That had been… strange.

She wouldn't deny that she'd known George was an attractive man, but the way her pulse had leapt simply from a look from him was concerning. She twisted on her heel quickly apparating back to her flat instantly. She knew she should begin to pack, but instead she flopped onto the couch wearily. George had seemed much like his old self today, which had been amazing. It was normal for her to enjoy herself when he was obviously doing so well. That feeling, it was just a result of her dry spell, that was all.

She hadn't been with anyone, even kissed anyone, since Ron, and that was obviously just beginning to take a toll on her, that was all. That had to be all, Hermione tried to convince herself as she slipped into the first restful sleep she'd had in weeks.