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Disclaimer: Harry Potter does not belong to me and I am making no profit in the creation of this story.

AN: A very big thank you to my beta, TenthWeasleyWriter!

Chapter Three: Reaching Out

The path up to the home seems familiar and warm. There is a wheelbarrow in the front garden next to a patch of red roses — her mother's favorite flowers. Hermione smiles in excitement as she recalls the many memories she has of her parents trimming the rose bushes together while she was growing up. They would work side by side, never having to disturb the comfortable silence with unnecessary chatter. Hermione had always been in awe of that, often finding herself rambling needlessly just to fill the awkward silence. She supposed this was the reason she was considered by many to be a know-it-all; she spewed random facts to fill the void.

Hermione feels a desire to be in a relationship where silence was comfortable and companionable, like her parents' marriage, rise up within her. She aches to see them again, to feel the warmth of their arms around her and to once again share her life with them. It has been far too long since that day when she had to say goodbye to them for their own protection.

But the world is different now. There are no Death Eaters. No Voldemort. Harry and the Order of the Phoenix won!

Hermione hesitates at the front porch, looking up at the doorbell and briefly panicking at the thought of the Memory Charm not working properly. She is not an expert in them by any means. Harry and Ron had told her from the start that it was possible she would never get her parents back, but she had chosen to do it anyway out of her need to protect them. It's too late to turn back now, though. She has to try to get them back for all the tears she has shed missing them. She won't know until she gives it a go.

She grabs the railing and pulls herself up towards the door. Her feet feel heavy, and she has a nervous pit in her stomach.

She pauses one last time in front of the door, giving herself one last moment of this crazy feeling of excitement to hold onto in case she can't modify their memories once more to include her in them. It is just as she is finally raising her hand to knock on the door to her parents' new home that she hears it.

A scream. It's shrill and terrible. It's the sound of torture and a plea for an end to just come. It's a desperate ache for the pain to end, even if that means death. It's a scream that sounds like it is coming from a woman.

Hermione freezes in horror for just one long moment before she is spurred into action. She bangs on the door, shouting for her mother and father. The door will not budge, even as she drives her shoulder into it, until she feels painful bruising spout across her shoulder. Her breath is coming in sporadic puffs, her heart painfully lurching in her chest. She tries to punch her fist through the window just to the left of the door, but her fist rebounds off of it. No damage is done, except to Hermione's hand. Deciding to find a different entrance, she leaps from the porch with a sob to sprint around the house.

The screams continue. Hermione feels the tears coming as her heart continues racing in anxiety. She did not do all of this just to lose her parents as they were finally about to reenter her life.

She races to the back of the house and finds the back door open. She doesn't even have to give it a push. Instead, Hermione throws herself into the house as quickly and frantically as she can while still calling for her parents. Upon entering what must be their living room, she finds the scene of a massacre. Her vision goes black for a second in disbelieving terror. Blood fills the room, falling from the ceiling and dripping down the walls. Hermione scans the scene with wide eyes. The room stinks of the metallic scent of fresh blood. It takes her a moment to register that someone has painted the skull and serpent of the Dark Mark on the wall directly across from where she stands. It is painted in blood.

It makes no sense. Voldemort is dead!

Then Hermione hears it. A whisper. She follows it, shaking in terror and trepidation. The soles of her shoes are already covered in the violent red of blood. The voice is coming from up the stairs, which shine bright with a streak of blood, as though someone were dragged up them. Hermione wipes at her eyes with a quivering hand as she slowly climbs to the second floor of the house.

Now the whisper becomes clearer to her. It says "no," over and over.

No. No, no, no, no. No. No, no. No.

The sight makes Hermione gag once she reaches it. The bodies are unrecognizable. The only distinguishing features are the charm bracelet with a pink rose piece, hanging from her mother's mutilated wrist, and the plain silver chain hanging around what is left of her father's neck. Hermione sobs as she sinks to the floor in between the bodies. She reaches for her mother's hand, since the whisper is emanating from her; her father is obviously completely gone.

Just as her hand is about to close around her mother's, though, the woman jerks the hand away in a move that makes Hermione gasp in fearful surprise.

"Please, don't hurt us anymore."

Hermione sobs at her mother's plea, instantly knowing that despite all that she has done to protect them, it was not enough. Now, despite her efforts, they are both gone. And they died without the memories which would tell them they had a daughter who would do anything and everything for them.

Hermione's eyes flew open as she gasped awake in a panic. She sat up in bed, clutching her chest as it heaved up and down, her heart racing in a steady beat against her ribcage. Feeling the tears streaming down her face, Hermione raised a shaking hand to wipe at them frantically before remembering that she had done the same thing in her nightmare. She numbly dropped her hands back to clutch at the covers. She pulled her legs up and wrapped her arms around them, vaguely noticing that she was shivering.

One quick look at Ginny's bed found the redhead blissfully asleep. Hermione was relieved that her nightmare hadn't caused too much noise. Her throat felt raw, as if she had been yelling in both her dream world and her reality, and she found herself struggling to accept her parents' death as just a trick of the mind. She wanted to see them, to make sure they were all right. The nightmare had been so very vivid. She anxiously spared her body a glance, expecting to see blood. She could almost smell the scent of her parents as they bled out in front of her, a thought that made a sob rise up before she could help it. She threw a hand over her mouth to squelch it before Ginny heard.

Suddenly, a thought came to Hermione. There had been someone that she had really been tempted to talk to earlier. And honestly, she really did want to talk about what had just happened. It was everything that she had hoped to prevent from happening by wiping herself from her mum and dad's memories. She didn't know if she could live with herself each day, knowing that it had been her fault, if her dream became a horrible reality one day.

Throwing off the covers, Hermione dashed away tears and bit her trembling lips to prevent any noise. She was sure to tread slowly on the way to the door, watching the rising and falling of Ginny's chest the entire way. When she was in the hallway, she grimaced as the click of the door sounded like an obnoxious bang in the silence of the darkened house. Hermione was sure to place a hand over her mouth and listen intently for movement from any of the slumbering Weasleys. When she decided it was all clear, she quickly made her way down the stairs and into the living room. She cast a Silencing Charm around the room before facing her target.

As she reached for the Floo powder beside the fireplace, she thought absently about contacting Harry, if he could be reached at his aunt and uncle's. Her head told her yes, because she could always rely on Harry to talk her out of a bad place with his genuine sympathy and wisdom. Her heart, on the other hand, told her that the only one she wanted to speak to in that moment was George. Her confidant. The one person who had reached out and made her day bright for a moment, despite the shades of gray that surrounded it from the beginning. She had been offered his help, and now she was going to reach out and take it, no matter how awkward it may be.

Biting back more tears, Hermione reached a trembling hand forward without a second thought and threw the Floo powder into the grate. There was no turning back now.

"Georgie, you need to get up."

His twin's voice seemed far away.

"Georgie, get up."

Fred's voice sounded louder, definitely more stern. George’s attention began to slowly focus. He had never been a fast riser. He swatted grumpily at Fred, sick of him always pulling this shite. He always woke George up far too early.

"C'mon, George! It's Hermione!"

George's eyes flew open. The surprise he felt immediately gave way to panic once he saw his twin's own wide eyes staring back at him from no more than three centimeters from his face.

"Granger?" His voice came out in a slur, sounding more like a moan than a name. He was already rising to a seated position on his bed, throwing off covers and looking past Fred for his wand. "What happened? Is she all right? Where is she?"

George had spent the rest of the day after leaving the Burrow with the pretty bookworm on his mind. She had left an impression on him with her beautiful smile, which had been both devastatingly sad and tragically hopeful at once. He'd found himself wondering what it had been like for her to leave her house, perhaps for the last time ever. He'd thought about how strong she was to hold it together after what she'd had to do.

All of his thoughts of her came rushing back to him like a bucket of cold water to his tired body. What if something had happened to her or her parents in the few hours since he'd left her?

"Calm down," Fred said, his eyes betraying his confusion as he placed a hand on George's shoulder. "She's physically fine, but seems out of sorts about something. She Flooed and asked to speak to you. I was just getting home from the shop when I heard her calling your name from the fireplace."

George relaxed somewhat, running a hand over his face to wipe away some of the stress that his wake-up call had caused. He quickly stood, thinking to himself that no good could come out of a visit from an "out of sorts" woman this early in the morning.

"What time is it?" he called back to his brother as he shoved his legs into a pair of pyjama trousers.

"Two in the morning," Fred replied. "If she wasn’t crying, I would have been convinced you were being booty called."

Ignoring that last comment, George made his way down the short hallway of the flat he and Fred shared to the fireplace. Even through the flames, George could see that Fred had been right in saying that the witch was crying.

"Hermione?" he greeted nervously, not quite knowing what to do now that he knew she was all right, but definitely distraught. He didn't have much, or any, experience with crying women. He tended to avoid being in situations like this. Even with Ginny, George tried to always do the cheering up after the sobbing subsided, instead of being the one with calming down duty. Bill and Charlie were much more paternal than he was. More than once he had seen his eldest brothers rock their sister into a relaxed state while whispering soothing words into her hair.

A part of George recognized that this was completely different than all of those times with Ginny. He wanted to make all Hermione's pain go away, and he found himself wanting to personally be the one to do it. He felt a bit of panic at the thought, but quickly stamped it down to focus on the flames as she responded to him.

"Hi, G-George," Hermione whispered brokenly, looking up at him nervously through despondent eyes as he got down on his knees so they could be face to face.

He wanted to immediately begin throwing questions at her, yet resisted. He knew that bombarding her wasn't what she needed at the moment.

"How can I help?" he asked, choosing to approach the situation from a broad route, one gentle question at a time. He seemed to have said the right thing, because the woman before him sagged in tired relief at his words.

Hermione was obviously speaking through tears as she responded to him. George noted that she sounded like she was barely holding herself together as her voice trembled over her words. "I j-just need s-someone right n-now and you s-said y-you'd be that s-someone if I ne-needed someone. C-can I c-come see you, 'Orge?"

His heart flipped affectionately in his chest at her weak utterance of his name. He hated himself for momentarily basking in how adorable she sounded. George opened his mouth to tell her not to come over, but before he could Hermione had already continued frantically.

"W-Wait. Can I e-even come to you? Am I-I trapped h-here because I-I'm not r-redheaded or short-tempered? I'm a b-brown-haired prisoner!"

At first, George thought that the witch was going a bit mad. Then, barely containing an exhausted laugh at her expense, he realized she was talking about the wards that had been placed on his mum and dad's house. She thought she couldn't leave because she wasn't a Weasley.

"Everything is going to be all right. Calm down," George soothed tenderly, holding his hands out in front of him in a move with which one might approach a sleeping dragon. "Yes, you could come through if you wanted to. The wards keep people out, not in. It's not safe for you, though. Let me come to you."

He moved to get up but then paused, fully grasping something that she had just said in her moment of hysterics. "Wait a second. You think you're not short-tempered?"

"Wh-what are you t-trying to say?"

"Nothing, never mind. Step aside, I'm coming through."

Hermione's head disappeared from view, making room for him to step into the grate and call out the name of his parents' home.

"You th-think I'm h-hot-headed?" Hermione asked, continuing their conversation the moment he appeared in front of her. She reminded him of a lost puppy with her glistening brown eyes, peering up at him, doe-like, as he turned towards her and brushed some ashes from his chest.

George paused, trying not to give in to a smile at her words. He didn't want to worsen her mood.

"Well, there's a silver lining: I definitely don't think you're redheaded."

"My b-body wants to laugh, but I'm j-just so tired," she murmured miserably, wearily rubbing at her eyes while trying not to picture how pathetic she was acting.

"You can just owe me a laugh, then. How's that?"

"Can you j-just give me a h-hug, p-please?"

He spread his arms out wide and let her walk into them, surprised at the deep, contented sigh that she emitted the moment her face came to rest above his heart. He wondered if his erratic heartbeat could be heard by her, or if hers beat just as fast. He tilted his head a bit to check her face and saw that she seemed to be completely knackered. He sighed, shaking his head at the turn his night had taken.

Then, on a whim, he wrapped his arms around her and Apparated them upstairs into Fred’s and his old room. He promptly sat down on his old bed and began rocking the witch who seemed perfectly unaffected by their change in scenery as she ducked her head into the notch of his neck. George then found himself in a position he had only seen others in: Rocking a crying woman in his arms and murmuring soothing words into her hair.

AN: This update has taken awhile, which I definitely apologize for! Hope you all liked the George bits that I put in there for you! Now, review so I know what you think! :)

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