A/N- It's the end! And I think I accomplished my task. I made Ron not loathsome. Onto the next story!
P.S. Sorry if you like Fred but I've never been a big fan of him. There's something about him that I've just never liked and this gave me the opportunity to work out why that would be.
Ron Weasley arrived in Diagon Alley on August 24th with his brother Charlie and their girlfriends Lexi and Roxi. They'd decided to see him off to Hogwarts together and Charlie had borrowed a coworker's flat for the week. They had three bedrooms, which suited Ron just fine. He and Roxi certainly kissed but they were definitely not ready for sex. "Ready to get your broomstick?" Roxi asked him.
"I definitely am," Ron nodded. "But I want to stop by George and Percy's shop first."
"I think that's a great idea," Charlie nodded. He wanted to see this shop for himself. Padma's letters to Ron that summer about the shop (a better choice of letter writer than George who was bouncing with excitement that his dream was coming to fruition) were very vivid and detailed and he was eager to see the product of their efforts.
They knew immediately they'd found the shop when they read the sign above a storefront that said, 'Sirs Percival & Laughs-a-Lot Proudly Present: The Giggling Grail!' "If this isn't George's shop I don't know what could be," Charlie said.
They entered to find a shop that looked like a medieval festival had thrown up. Ron smiled. It was so George it was amazing. George popped up in front of them dressed like a jester, "Welcome weary travelers! Sit and be amused by Sir Laughs-A-Lot and lovely Lady Grinevere!"
A groan followed George's announcement, "George I swear on the Lady of the Lake I will hurt you if you don't stop calling me that!"
Ron turned to see Padma dressed in period clothing as well, "You can hit him, Padma. We won't say anything."
"So this is the lovely Padma," Charlie said, taking her hand and kissing the back of it, "You poor, brave woman."
"Bit your tongue cur!" George said, pointing his jester's staff in Charlie's face, "Or I shall challenge you to a duel!"
"It's nice to meet you Charlie," Padma said, "and to see you again Ron. Ignore my boyfriend. He calms down around closing time."
"And your mother has already been by screaming about George and Padma 'living in sin' so if you say a word we get to toss you in the water tank," Penelope said, coming over.
Padma grabbed George by the ear and dragged him away to deal with other customers, "Sorry we're really busy," Percy said, appearing dressed as a knight, though without the armor at present.
"I wanted to see the store," Ron said. "It looks great."
"George thinks up the ideas, Padma works out how to execute them, and we have success," Percy smiled, "We're really packed right now but come back around dinner time and we can all get dinner together."
"Sure Perce, that's fine. Enjoy work." Percy smiled before walking over to a customer.
The group exited and gathered up Ron's supplies. His OWL results were quite good, according to Charlie. He got an O in Charms surprisingly (although on second thought Hermione tutored that subject), A's in Potions, Transfiguration, Astronomy, and History of Magic, and E's in Herbology, Diviniation and Care of Magical Creatures. Charlie and some of the other dragon keepers had given him advice; he'd dropped Diviniation and History of Magic but retained everything else. Charlie constantly drilled into him to look toward a career after Quidditch and when he explained it, it made sense. So Ron made sure to take other classes that gave him opportunities when he left Hogwarts.
His broomstick was saved for last. Entering the shop and choosing his broomstick, a Nimbus 2003, was a dream come true for him. He wanted a broom fast enough to ride for pleasure but not too fast for his role as keeper. The newest Nimbus model was perfect for that.
By the time they'd finished their errands in Diagon Alley it was time to return to The Giggling Grail. When they arrived George was out of the jester costume and smiled, handing Ron a box, "Congratulations on your OWL results Ron."
Ron sat the box on the counter and cautiously opened it, his head tilted away from the package and arms fully extended. This had Padma, Penny, and Percy laughing hard. "I'm offended," George said, pouting.
"Not a chance of that happening," Padma said, pulling him to her, "however the box is safe Ron. Penny wrapped it."
"Oh that's a relief," Ron sighed, moving to face the package properly. Inside were two mirrors. "What are these?"
"Communication mirrors," Padma explained. "It's something the Marauders used and we've been working on. If you say the other person's name, their mirror will vibrate and you can talk to them no matter how far apart you are. You mentioned that Roxi lives across the pond and we thought this would save some owls." George grinned at that.
"Wow," Ron said, looking at the box. "Th-thanks." He looked up at Roxi, who had a smile on her lips. His brothers could be pretty cool.
The changes in the Wizarding World were not met with wide acceptance. But what had hindered magical Britain so long was their constant obedience and that did not change despite the hatred for having a muggle, queen or not, ruling them with an iron fist. Gary Charlton and others like him, raised in the muggle world and not a fan of the magical world's way of doing things, found it almost comical.
Albus Dumbledore had lost many of his distinctions for his treatment of Harry Potter, including his Order of Merlin. He'd made his peace with that. He retained his post at the Wizengamot with the understanding that if he stepped out of line Her Majesty would literally have his head. The new headmaster of Hogwarts was a muggleborn who had served as a headmaster for an elite muggle school. There were changes to the curriculum, but only one staff change. Binns was sacked and a goblin took up the post after Her Majesty invited the head of the Nation, Ragefist, and asked him how She could help them. Humbled by her words, Ragefist served as an advisor to her and helped her in both worlds and especially with financial matters, including her grandsons' trusts.
Ragefist proved invaluable to the Crown in the years to come. Her Majesty was the only muggle Gringotts worked for but he took care good care of her accounts and possessions.
Fred Weasley sat in the Leaky Cauldron and watched as George entered with Padma, the pair laughing together. He frowned as he watched them get a booth and settle into one side of it together, snuggled close. He still remembered George's words after he'd divorced Angelina.
Freshly divorced from Angelina, Fred walked over to the shop Percy'd bought George. He was elated. He'd get to run the shop, Perfect Prefect Percy would get the boot, and it'd be just the two of them again as it should be. He hadn't talked to George recently but he'd heard enough of his mother's shrieking to know that George had divorced Padma. He went up the back way to get to the living quarters and knocked. George opened the door after a few minutes, a towel around his waist, "Fred?"
"Hey less attractive twin. Ready to work on our shop?" George stared at him, confused. "I dumped Angelina, you dumped your obnoxious know-it-all; now things can be back to normal."
A woman's voice called out from within the apartment, "George? Who is it?"
Fred grinned, "A celebratory shag eh you dog? I'm up to join in the fun." He moved to push past George but George didn't move. "Well move George I want into our apartment."
George spoke in a controlled anger, "You don't own part of the shop. You don't own part of this apartment. And I thought I made it clear the last time when I broke your jaw. I don't swap or do any of that stupid stuff you think we should do. We might be identical in appearance but we're not identical in any other way," he glared at Fred.
"George who is it?"
The voice was louder and Fred recognized it that time. "I thought you divorced Padma."
"We divorced because we intend to remarry on our own terms," George answered. "We're not broken up. In fact you interrupted us celebrating our divorce. The shop belongs to Percy, Penny, and the Clearwaters. I'm just the guy imagining things and with the help of my brilliant lover I can execute them." George glared at Fred, "When we found out about this law you said to me that you were so grateful Angelina was a pureblood and how unlucky I was that the two girls you knew best were half-bloods. You didn't care to help me. You didn't care to work out who I could possibly marry. You just took off to shag your girlfriend and revel in the fact that mum couldn't get mad that you'd already been shagging her. You never asked who I was going to marry or offer to help me out. Now you're divorced and expect me to just drop Padma and hand over everything we've worked for to you? Go to hell Fred. The two people in my corner since the whole marriage law debacle started were Padma and Percy. I wouldn't drop either of them for you and I most certainly wouldn't drop both of them for you." With that George slammed the door in his face.
Fred hated the marriage law. It had ruined his relationship for George. But what he really hated was how George had just tossed him over for some bird. Admittedly, Fred had often done that to George. Padma was George's first girlfriend but Angelina wasn't Fred's first girlfriend. He'd had two before her (namely the two he'd mentioned to George when the law passed) and had often tried to get George to go with him. Fred could have two dates instead of one then. But George had never gone for anyone.
Fred wasn't sure what to do with his life. He had stayed with Lee Jordan for a few weeks before he'd been kicked out; Lee wasn't about to clean up after Fred and after two warnings Fred was out on his behind. Fred would rather be dead than ask Percy for anything and so he found himself back at the Burrow. His mother had made him apply to the Ministry but with the takeover he'd not qualified.
He was stuck and George was happy. Obnoxiously happy. As usual, Fred had leaped in feet first without much thought. Instead of having a happily ever after, he had a bitter, angry ex-wife. None of the girls he knew would give him the time of day. Apparently Angelina had been talking. For Fred the plan had always been a shop with George, an apartment with George, and George running interference with all the girls in Fred's life. George, in Fred's mind, would just have to put up with it because they were twins and George would get blamed since they looked so similar. But anymore they didn't. George had some dark highlights in his hair suddenly and he had very muggle hairstyles, which was the opposite of Fred's long wizarding hairstyle. George also dressed different.
Fred didn't find it fair. George got everything he wanted. Well, except for Padma. Fred had never wanted her. Maybe just to stick it to George but Padma wasn't like the girls Fred chased. Padma was more like Hermione Granger. Dangerous when crossed and not afraid to aim below the belt to protect herself. Fred was a bit afraid of her.
"I'm going to miss you when you go back to Hogwarts," George said, pressing his forehead to hers.
"Technically I don't have to go back," she said. "I could stay and study on my own, maybe even get a tutor to keep me on track and arrange for tests for me to take."
"I don't want you to give up school for me," George protested.
"What if I don't want to sleep alone again?" Padma kissed him gently, "George you were my only friend at school. I'd be going there to be alone. I can study just as well on my own and I could help with our store. And keep you in line," she added with a cheeky smile.
George chuckled before growing serious, "I'll support whatever decision you make, Padma. I just don't want you to regret your choice years from now."
"I won't regret it George. Besides, without me you'd be helpless."
"Helplessly horny," he muttered.
"That especially," she teased as a waiter approached to take their order.
September 1st letters arrived for Draco, Millicent, Ron, and Victoria. In it Harry and Hermione wrote that they wouldn't be returning to Hogwarts and Harry went a little further, saying that the magical world had taken his family and his childhood from him; he wouldn't let them take Hermione from him too. Draco, Millicent, and Victoria were stunned but Ron actually wasn't. Maybe it was because he knew about Harry's past more than the others.
On Platform 9 3/4 Ron said goodbye to Charlie, Lexi, and Roxi. He was pleasantly surprised when she kissed him goodbye, "We use the mirrors once a week. Don't forget," she smiled.
"I won't," he promised. "Enjoy school Roxi."
"You too," she said. "And good luck at your quidditch games."
"Thanks," he smiled at her and hugged his brother and Lexi before Roxi gave him one last hug and kissed him again and he walked onto the train. He suddenly stopped and looked back, "Maybe we can do something for Christmas break."
"Maybe we can," she smiled back. "Bye Ron."
"Bye," he said, waving as the train started to move.
Millicent was sitting with Draco and Victoria when Ron entered the compartment. "You have a girlfriend?" Millicent asked.
"I guess so," Ron said. "We hung out alot over the summer," he shrugged. He looked at his ex-wife, "How was your summer?"
"It was okay," she said. She turned back to Draco and Victoria to talk and Ron decided to go find some other members of the Quidditch team. They'd need to know that Harry wasn't coming back. There was a weird vibe between him and Millicent for some reason and Ron didn't quite understand why; they'd never been romantic. If Millicent had showed up with a guy he'd have been happy for her.
Somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean, Harry and Hermione were enjoying what normally was the start of a new school year. "This is so much better than a drafty Scottish castle," Hermione sighed.
"The view is better too," Harry said, smiling at her.
"So what do you think Black Island will be like?" Hermione asked, stretching out on a lounge.
"Sirius says it's really beautiful. But isolated so that will be a bit weird. Every place we've been so far has had loads of people."
"You just want my parents distracted so we can snog and shag."
Harry laughed, "We are very capable of gaining privacy love. I'm just concerned there might not be anything for them to do." They'd learned some things over the summer. The Grangers were big on finding activities at each place they stopped at. Sirius and Remus, meanwhile, went to clubs and weren't hard-pressed to find girls. Harry and Hermione would go to a few sights (or more, depending on if there was a spot they especially wanted to visit) but they liked playing in the water and just relaxing in the sun and surf together.
The Grangers, Harry'd learned, weren't ones to just relax. They liked to be doing something almost all the time. Harry thought they were a bit too busy on vacations. Granted, this was his first vacation. But since Hermione didn't mind just relaxing and playing around he figured they probably had the best way to do things.
September 9, 1998
Harry Potter sat in the stands of Old Trafford holding his girlfriend's hand. Sitting the row above them were the Charlton family and Fleur, who looked more nervous than Harry had ever seen her. That day in a match between Manchester United vs Charlton Athletic, Gary was getting his first team debut. Harry and Hermione had promised to be there years ago, and had kept that promise.
"I wondered if you two would come," they heard. They both glanced up to see Ron Weasley. "You both look good."
"You do too," Harry said, standing with Hermione to make it easier for Ron to sit down. Hugs were exchanged, "I thought you had some hot girlfriend."
"Roxi has to babysit today," he said, "and she insisted I come anyway. He showed up for my first team debut so fair is fair."
"Who is she babysitting for?" Roxi had two older brothers and an older sister.
"One of the guys."
"You travelled across the pond for today," Harry smirked. "I'm impressed Ron."
"I like the USA," he shrugged, "plus it's far away from my mum."
"I can see the appeal of that," Hermione said. Ron laughed. "Have you heard from the other three?'
"Victoria's pregnant so I don't know if they'll be coming. I think she's having complications with it. And Millicent doesn't really talk much to me anymore. Not since I met Roxi anyway."
Hermione frowned. Millicent had never shown any interest in Ron, but she'd taken him dating someone very hard. After Harry and Hermione had left England Millicent had withdrawn. It concerned Hermione, but Harry's mental health and happiness was too important to put to the wayside just to humor friends of theirs. Ron sat down on Hermione's other side, "How are your travels?"
"Fun," Harry said. "We just spent three months in Brazil. We helped build a school and get it started. We'll probably head back right away. I think we could build an orphanage in Rio." Harry and Hermione had found their purpose. Given his fame and the fame she got for both being with him and having helped him over the years, normal careers weren't an option. So they decided to throw themselves into helping less fortunate peoples and places around the globe. Harry's fortune was always growing despite the money they took out of it thanks to the goblins' shrewd investments. Harry loved building things and especially seeing kids' eyes light up when they had a new school or orphanage. They focused on orphans since Harry was one, but they put their all into everything they did.
"What's Draco doing?"
"According to Padma and George he's living off his family's investments but not like you guys. He's more a rest and relaxation guy than anything else. Victoria works in the ministry as a secretary or something I think."
"How's The Giggling Grail?"
"Fantastic business and George and Padma are now part owners. They bought out the Clearwaters after their second year in business. Padma aced her NEWTS which gives George just one more thing to brag about. They plan on getting married 'for real' as they say next year."
"That's sweet," Hermione smiled, leaning into Harry. "What about Percy and Charlie?"
"Percy and Penelope are trying to start a family and Charlie eloped with Lexi. They're going to stay in Romania with the dragon preserve. And Fred is a beater for the Chudley Cannons. Hasn't helped them win though."
"I do know that Millicent works in a shop in Hogsmeade," Hermione said. "But she doesn't write us often."
"Me either," Ron said. "According to Parvati she had a boyfriend but it didn't last long."
As the teams walked out and names were announced Gary's name was met with large applause. Harry cast a glance up at Sir Bobby, who had a twinkle in his eye as Gary stood alongside the team. "He'll be great," Harry said. Sir Bobby gave him a nod and smile in response.
Five minutes into the game Gary scored his first professional goal. Old Trafford erupted as he sent a thunderbolt shot into the top corner of the net. After that you could see the tension had left Fleur, who had gripped Ron's shoulder particularly tightly when Gary'd been passed the ball prior to the goal. The next day Ron found finger shaped bruises on his shoulder from her grip. When the game ended it was 5-0 with Gary instrumental in the win.
They all went out to dinner afterwards to talk and catch up. Spread out across the globe as they were you never knew when you'd next get to talk to one another. With Ron playing as a keeper for a quidditch team in the USA and Harry and Hermione's permanent address being their boat which had traveled the globe twice already you never knew where you'd end up. Or just how relationships would deteriorate while others grew or were even reborn.
Late that evening as Harry, Hermione and Ron waited for their portkeys back to the Americas Ron looked at his friends, "You know, Roxi asked me if you two would ever get married."
Hermione raised an eyebrow, "Oh?"
Ron nodded, "I told her that I wouldn't be surprised if you already were. Marriage isn't a boulder you're approaching. It's a pebble in the road you're walking down."
"Very poetic Ron," Harry said. "Too many bludgers to the head?"
Hermione laughed and playfully slapped Harry. Ron grinned. "No I keep my head protected. I guess I just think you're already so invested in each other…marriage isn't as big a deal for you. And everyone knows how devoted you are to each other; we've known that since we were really young. For most people marriage is this step to begin their lives together or tell everyone how they feel about each other; you two already have both of those things covered. Married or not your relationship wouldn't change at all." A porter waved Ron over to get his portkey. "I'll see you two then."
"Take care Ron." Hugs were exchanged and he walked to the portkey. A few minutes later he had vanished. Harry looked at Hermione, "Are we sure that was Ron?"
Hermione shook her head, "We all change, Harry. Ron's is incredibly obvious but you and I are not the same people we were at eleven years old."
"True," Harry nodded. "We were shorter." Hermione shoved him as she made her way to the portkey, Harry laughing as he followed her.