a/n: Thanks for all of your kind words, please note that I'm totally open to suggestions and let me know what you think!

Chapter 2: Help

Hermione could tell by her countenance that Ginny would love nothing more than to chastise her for spying, but they both knew that this would give Hermione license to confront the red head about the harsh words that had been overheard. As if realising this at once they both exhaled like a pair of whistling kettles, and the grievance rose up and away between them.

"I'm sorry," Hermione said for good measure. Neither wanted to conduct such an unnecessary conversation with each other, it was their one joint goal to avoid too much interaction. Hermione felt sure that on Ginny's part this was motivated by an overt dislike and probably no small amount of prejudice.

"Forget it," the younger girl advised with her usual authority. Hermione's own feeling were a different matter and, she was sure, far more complicated.

Ginny rubbed the red splodge formed on her forehead over the point of contact between them and scowled anew.

"Ron's gone," Hermione whispered, and tore her eyes away from the mark on the other girls skin, she knew she would have one similar although it would be less visible with her colouring.

"I hope you gave him a decent send off," Ginny replied. Hermione held her tongue with some effort, and Ginny huffed and put on her apron. Without another word Ginny pulled a tray of polished silverware from a lower shelf and began to wrap knives and forks together in soft cloth napkins.

Hermione hesitated for a moment, wondering what she was expected to do. Hesitantly she reached for one of the aprons left on the hook and put it on. She could sense Ginny following her movements in her peripheral vision though she gave no indication of being interested. A flame seemed to emerge in Hermione's breast, there was a desire within her to impress Ginny, perhaps even to prove her wrong.

She could do this, she had been working her whole life and could easily take fast and efficient notes. Hermione's father had died before she had had a chance to remember him and as a result it was just her and her mother, Jean, when she was young. It would've been difficult for Jean to support them both if she hadn't had the good fortune to be hired as a governess to tutor the daughter of a wealthy family in London. They had even agreed to house Hermione under the condition that she work with the staff on the upkeep of the house. As a result of years helping to run such a household and under her mother's tutelage Hermione herself would've made a fine governess, and perhaps even a teacher. She might still be working in London if she hadn't ruined it all, if it weren't for Ron she'd be worse off again. She owed him this.

Quietly Hermione moved to stand beside Ginny and picked up one of the napkins, she reached for a fork and Ginny put her arm out to block her from the tray.

"I can do it," Ginny snapped, reaching with her other hand to take the napkin from Hermione. Feeling stubborn, Hermione held on and Ginny's effort tugged them closer, shoulders pressing against each other.

"I'm just trying to help," Hermione said, she turned to put some space between them but Ginny still faced the counter, neither let go of the cloth.

"If you want to help me: then go upstairs and read one of your books," Ginny said, and with a quick jerk she pulled the napkin from Hermione's hand.

"Ron's gone, that means you'll need my help tonight if you're going to run this place." Hermione crossed her arms. When Ginny turned to face her, she actually looked surprised.

"Aren't you supposed to be clever?" Ginny asked, a wicked smile spreading over her face.

"Clever enough to remember that this was prearranged weeks ago," Hermione replied, suppressing the desire to smile back, knowing better than to take the appearance of Ginny's pretty teeth as a sign of glad tidings.

"For Ron's benefit. Honestly, do you really think that having you serve customers would help any of us? Least of all you?" Ginny asked, shaking her head. Her vibrant hair slipped forward to frame her face and she pushed it behind her ears with freckled fingers.

"Don't condescend to me, I know this isn't what you wanted, but this is how things are now. You're used to working with family, but I'm a fast learner if you'd just forget your prejudice and give me a chance," Hermione said, and Ginny's smile faltered. She glanced behind her at the sound of her mother turning on the oven and ushered Hermione further from the kitchen.

Once they were on the opposite end of the bar Ginny spoke: "You might think that I'm prejudiced, but I'm the only person in this family who is actually thinking of you." Hermione raised an eyebrow, and ignored the anticipation she felt as Ginny leaned close and continued in a hushed tone. "You're not in London anymore, and no one here is going to care that you speak French or play piano. When they look at you they're only going to see one thing, and I'm not sure why you're pretending that that's not true."

"It's very low of you to pretend you've been mistreating me for my sake," Hermione said. One of the few things Hermione found attractive about Ron was how easy it was to make him blush, now Hermione found with little surprise that she found the colour flooding forth up Ginny's neck infinitely more enticing.

"Maybe Ron and Mum can overlook the fact that you haven't stepped foot into the street since the day I picked you up from the train station but I've noticed. Yet you failed to notice that every errand they might have asked you to go on I have completed in your stead." Hermione briefly entertained a notion of staining Ginny's cheeks and neck further with some well chosen words or even kisses. Deepening the soft pink to a burning red.

"You hate me," Hermione said, as if to remind her. Somehow this made Ginny laugh, her eyes creasing invitingly.

"And you accuse me of being too quick to judge?" Distantly they heard the bell tower ringing, alerting the village of Ottery St. Catchpole that it was five o'clock. In a joint motion they looked toward the door. It was later than Hermione had thought. The pub was due to open and after one more stolen glance Ginny regrettably moved away from her to unlock the door.

"You'll still need help," Hermione repeated, and Ginny shrugged.

"You don't believe me?" She asked, pausing with the key in the lock.

"If you run this place wrong you could lose your livelihood," Hermione said, not really in reply but in an attempt to understand.

"You think I'd force us further into poverty for the sake of my pride?" Hermione was confused, usually she just tolerated Ginny's silence or her dismissal, now she was nearly overwhelmed by this wave of honesty, if she dared to believe it. Hermione felt a rush of hope and fear. She wondered at the significance of this change in Ginny coinciding with Ron's departure.

"Of course not," Hermione replied at length.

"Good, you can apologise for underestimating me later, for now just trust me," Ginny said, and without checking to see if Hermione moved out of sight, she turned the key in the lock and pulled down the latch, opening the shutters. Hermione almost tripped in her haste to move out of the bar as the evening light rushed in from outside. The door back into the private quarters closed with an inconspicuous click as she backed into the family room. The moment Hermione had shut herself out of sight she cursed herself.

"You're a fool," she whispered to the empty room. Recounting the conversation in her head she tried to understand how Ginny had managed to get her way, and make it feel as though she were doing Hermione a favour. "That manipulative trull!" Hermione exclaimed, and reached for the handle, prepared to storm back into the bar and complete the shift whether Ginny liked it or not. But then she paused, trying again to find the edges of her confusion.

Ginny had made it seem as though Hermione had somehow failed to notice that she had been making efforts on her part. Hermione couldn't believe that she had failed to notice anything about Ginny. Even though Hermione attempted to frame her comments as defensive when she spoke to Ron, Hermione spoke about Ginny often and since she'd arrived in the village she thought of her even more than she mentioned her.

Hermione should've known the moment she saw Ginny in the train station that she'd made a mistake in coming here. At least when Ron was living with them she had a constant reminder of her duty to him, and of what he had rescued her from. Now with him gone, she felt as though she was doomed to make the same glorious mistakes she'd made in London all over again. Only this time she feared the consequences would be far worse.

In that moment, Hermione would've run away if she'd had anywhere to go. Anywhere where she could be safe from Ginny's watchful hazel eyes.

Hermione gave up on the door and in doing so accepted the possibility that Ginny didn't hate her, and in fact wanted to help her. Accepting this caused the mixture of hope and fear that had forced her to do as Ginny asked to swell in Hermione's chest.

"You're a fool," she whispered again, and hid her face in her hands.