Summary: The war is over and Hermione, trying to figure out her life, moves into a room at The Leaky Cauldron. It is here that she runs into George Weasley, now a darker shell of his former self and grieving the loss of his twin. As George and Hermione grow close, he admits to her that he will never be able to move past Fred's death.. and that he is willing to do anything to bring him back. Post-DH. Ignores epilogue.

Author's Note: So.. I'M BACK! :)

I just need to say THANK YOU soooo much to everyone who read my fic Engaged Before the First Date and especially those who continued to favorite and review it even though it has now been nearly 4 years since I posted it! We just surpassed SEVEN HUNDRED reviews on that story! Say what!? Wow, that's awesome. And the reviews were always so nice and funny and often made my day :) So, truly, thank you so much. You have no idea how much the kind words meant to me and how happy it made me to read that you'd laughed/cried/snorted/bawled like a baby while reading my story, sometimes in public, earning you weird looks from strangers. Haha :)

Recently, I have been rereading/rewatching all the HP books and movies and I decided that I couldn't keep away any longer. I have to write some new fics!

So finally.. here I am. I'm so happy to be back and writing for the HP universe again :) I really hope you all will enjoy!

As with EBTFD, I promise I will not hold chapters hostage for reviews :P I love your reviews and they make my heart super happy, but I promise I will continue to post until the story is completed either way. Unless I die, in which case I will stop posting ;) (Also I promise not to mix up the twins' eye color in this one :P haha)

Chapter One

"Hermione," Harry said, fumbling to undo the zipper of my suitcase as I arranged a few books into a neat row on the tiny desk beneath the window. "Are you sure you want to do this?"

"Hmm?" I hummed. In my concentration to organize the books by alphabetical order, I had only half-heard him.

"I said, do you really want to.. do.. this.." he tried again, only this time his question was punctuated with awkward pauses and his final word went up in pitch at the end, like a foreigner who was learning the English language and hadn't quite yet mastered the intonation.

I turned to face him, one eyebrow raised in question, only to find him holding up a pair of my knickers, one finger hooked beneath the waistband. He was eyeing the undergarment with a perplexed expression, like he'd never seen girls' underwear so up-close.

"Harry," I said, snatching the garment away and then smacking his arm with it to snap him out of his strange daze.

"Sorry," he said, now looking mildly embarrassed. "Just trying to help unpack."

"I know." I gave him a friendly smile, trying not to laugh. "Thank you. And yes," I went on, now tucking the garment responsible for Harry's suddenly red face into the top drawer of the dresser in my new room, "I am sure."

Dusty little Room 113 above The Leaky Cauldron was not home by any means, but it would have to do for the time being.

"You could come stay with me at Grimmauld Place, you know. I wouldn't mind the company," he said, then adding with a slight grimace, "I'm still not quite used to how creepy that place is with just Kreacher and me staying there."

"Thanks, Harry," I said. "And you know I would love to stay with you. But," I paused to flash him a small smirk, "how would Ginny feel about that?"

Harry reached up to rub the back of his neck. "I hadn't really thought about that," he said. "But she knows we're just friends. She would understand you staying with me for a bit until you find yourself a place."

"I know she would. And I really appreciate the offer." And, honestly, it was more than a little tempting–the thought of moving in with my best friend rather than being all alone in a rented room above what could sometimes be a rather rowdy pub. I shook my head, both to pull myself from my anxious thoughts and to decline Harry's proposal. "I really feel like I need to do this on my own. Does that make any sense?"

Harry gave an eager nod. "Yeah, of course." There was a short pause before he added, "tell me why again?"

I sighed. I was tired of explaining myself and, more than that, I was tired of going over it all in my head. It felt like that was all I ever did anymore. I stayed inside my head, pondering and contemplating and trying to figure everything out. And for the first time in my life, all that thinking had gotten me exactly nowhere.

"It just doesn't feel right to stay at the burrow any longer," I said at last.

"Because of Ron," Harry said, just to clarify. He knew that Ron and I were back to bickering and being awkward around each other.

I groaned and began to pace. "I just don't know where I stand with him."

After all those years of Ron being completely clueless to the fact that I was in love with him, he had actually kissed me. In the midst of battle, he had kissed me. And I had hoped against hope that he'd finally had his big moment where he realized he'd loved me back all along... but then the battle was over, the war was won, and Ron and I seemed to be back where we started, stuck in this place where I loved him and where he had no idea how to act around me. It was infuriating. Ron was infuriating.

"We haven't kissed again," I said, my steps stilling. "We haven't discussed our feelings or where we stand in our relationship, if you could even call it that. Every time I try to bring it up, he just gets angry with me." I sat down on the chair beside the desk, drained by the mental exhaustion I was feeling. "And I can't exactly press him on the issue right now, can I?" I said, my voice going softer as I added, "with the family mourning Fred and all..."

Harry's gaze dropped to the floor and I knew he was thinking of Fred. And Remus and Tonks, and all the others we lost that night. And I knew he was blaming himself for it.

"And I can't go back to my mum and dad's house," I added quickly in the hopes of distracting Harry from his guilt. "Well, I suppose I could. But it hurts too much without them there."

"Hermione," Harry said, taking a few steps toward me as I, fighting back tears, focused my gaze on a frayed patch of the rug that sat on the floor before the fireplace. "Auror training starts next week," he went on. "We're going to make it safer, and then we're going to go find your parents and bring them home."

I blinked against the tears and then nodded, not trusting myself to speak. I knew he was right in wanting to wait, in not wanting to rush bringing my parents back. It had only been a couple of months since the final battle and several of Voldemort's biggest supporters were still at large. Sure, they were probably hiding, terrified in knowing that their powerful Dark Lord had been defeated once and for all, but they were still out there all the same. In all likelihood, they would remain hidden for a while, licking their wounds, but only until their anger would drive them to regroup and to seek revenge for everything they imagined they had lost with the death of Voldemort. And Harry Potter and those he loved would undoubtedly be highest on their to-kill list. That made me–and by extension, my parents–a target.

I still had my moments when I was tempted to go find them on my own, of course, desperate for the comfort only a parent's hug could provide but, just as I'd warned Harry all those times he wanted to play the hero and go off by himself, I knew that I couldn't do it alone. No; it was wisest to wait, so that is what I would do. And then as soon as was possible, we would go find my parents.

I rose from the chair and took a step to close the last bit of distance between my friend and myself, wrapping my arms around Harry's neck. Instinctively, he encircled me in his own arms, pulling me in. It might not have been the motherly or fatherly hug I was currently craving, but it was wonderful in its own way and by the time Harry had eventually pulled back, I was feeling much better than I had been just a few moments earlier.

"You know where I am if you need anything," Harry told me in a serious tone.

I gave him a watery smile as I reached up, affectionately cupping his cheek against my hand. He smiled back.

"Thanks, Harry," I said.

He gave me a tiny nod to accompany his smile as he began to back out of the room. "'Night," he said, just before he stepped out into the hallway and pulled the door shut behind him.

I let out a deep breath.

Part of me was thankful to be left to my own thoughts, thankful for the privacy to put away the rest of my belongings without Harry Potter stumbling upon my unmentionables, but part of me was also anxious about being left alone. Having previously lived every day of my life with my parents, or in a dormitory filled with giggling Gryffindor girls, or surrounded by the Weasleys at the burrow over holidays, or even those months in the tent with Harry, this was the first time I'd ever really been on my own. That was frightening enough as it was but, like everyone else who had been affected by the war, there was a lot on my mind. And at that moment, I didn't particularly feel like sitting alone in the silence and facing it. So instead, I picked up my purse and made my way out of the room and down the stairs to the pub to see about having some dinner.

Much to my relief, I found that the noise of the crowd was sufficient to drown out all thoughts of Ron and my parents and my future and my career and everything else that had recently been consuming my brain and threatening to drive me mad.

I found a small, unoccupied table in the midst of the crowd and sat myself down there, patiently waiting for old Tom to make his way over to take my order. As I waited, I took the time to glance about the room, giving a polite nod or smile to any who returned my fleeting gaze.

It was only then that I noticed the boy sitting in the corner. The group of witches now standing from their table and moving towards the bar must have been between us up until that moment, blocking our view of each other, because there was no way I would have missed that bright red hair otherwise.

Sitting alone in the corner and staring with a somber expression down at the table where before him there sat a small glass of what appeared to fire-whiskey, was George Weasley.

I bit my lip at the sight of him, but I stayed where I was, simply watching him for a moment, unsure of whether or not I should go over to him.

George had changed since the night of the final battle. As a matter of fact, I wasn't sure I knew anyone who had been so grievously affected by it as George had been. He'd lost his twin that night, and I was certain I had never seen anyone grieve more deeply than George was grieving Fred.

Granted, I had seen George only twice since that night but, because my memories of him were still very much memories of the boy he'd been before, that just made the difference I saw in him now seem so much more drastic.

Having just swigged down the last of the fire-whiskey from his glass, George glanced up and looked about, likely hoping for a refill, when his head turned in my direction and his eyes met mine from across the room. For just a fraction of a second, a look of surprise crossed his face, his eyebrows raising ever-so-slightly at the sight of me. But then the moment passed and the emotion was gone, his mouth straight, bright blue eyes grown dull once more, his face unreadable. He let his gaze fall back to the empty glass in front of him.

I wavered for a moment as I rose slowly from my seat, but my fear of not knowing the right thing to say was outweighed by the hurt I felt at seeing a friend in so much pain, and so my resolve strengthened as I crossed the room. I stopped just in front of his table, my hands fidgeting before me as I stared in silence down at the boy who now seemed unwilling to look up and meet my gaze.

As I feared, I had no wise or comforting words to share. None that I thought could actually help him or reach him through his pain, at least. But, knowing I had to start somewhere, I quietly cleared my throat and opened my mouth to speak.

"Hello, George."

Author: Reviews are not required but are very very loved 3 But please be kind :) I've not written a thing in months and I'll be the first to admit that I'm feeling a bit rusty!

Also, I'm planning to write a romantic Harry/Hermione fic once this one is completed (or at least near-to-being-completed) but I'm still kinda toying around with ideas for that one. If you have any thoughts on something you'd like to see written for Harry/Hermione (post-DH) let me know in a review or in a private message. I am searching for inspiration! :)