A/N - This one shot is rather unusual for me, as it places Ron at the heart of the action. I also plan on writing a longer story based on elements of this one, so do be surprised if in the future some of this plot turns up in a longer story.
It was a warm spring day as Ron Weasley stood nervously outside a small cottage in Godric's Hollow. The cottage belonged to Ron's best friend, Harry Potter, but Ron was nervous about making his presence known as he hadn't seen his best friend in nearly six years. In fact he hadn't seen any of his friends and family in that time, and he was nervous about his comeback. Would people be able to forgive him for the way he'd just walked out on them several years earlier?
Ron's troubles had started shortly after the end of the war when he realised he wasn't coping with his grief following the final battle, where Fred and numerous others had died. But instead of talking about his struggles, he'd tried to forge on as no-one else seemed to be struggling as much as he was. Looking back, Ron realised things would have been totally different if he'd sought help at the time, but he hadn't. Instead he'd bottled things up until they'd became too much and he'd had to get away.
Of course his grief wasn't the only factor that had led to Ron turning his back on his friends and family for the last six years. The rest of his life had also seemed to have gone to pot, just as Harry's was turning out exactly as he'd always wanted. The comparison had proved too much for Ron, and he knew if he hadn't gotten away when he had then he would have ended up resenting Harry, and he hadn't wanted that. Harry was his best friend, and he wanted to be happy that his life was working out so perfectly after the war. If only his own life hadn't turned out to be such a disaster.
The first way their lives differed was their love life. After their kiss during the final battle, Ron had gotten together with his best friend, Hermione Granger. However, their romance proved short-lived and even before it was time for her to return to Hogwarts to do the final year she'd missed, the couple had parted ways. The split had been amicable as they both agreed they just didn't work as a couple, but it didn't stop Ron being upset that the relationship he'd pinned his romantic hopes on had turned out to be a disaster.
While Ron's love life had been sinking fast, Harry's had been going from strength to strength. After the war he'd gotten back together with Ginny, and even though Ginny returned to school for her last year, their relationship flourished. Harry even bought a cottage in Godric's Hollow, the very house Ron was now standing outside, for him and Ginny to live in after she left school. He'd even started making plans for the pair to have joint custody of Harry's godson, Teddy Lupin, before Ron had left.
Their love lives weren't the only area of their lives that Ron compared, he did the same with their work life. Despite not having the relevant qualifications, the pair had entered Auror training when Ginny and Hermione had gone back to Hogwarts. The new Minister of Magic, Kingsley Shackelbolt, had overlooked their lack of qualifications due to the fact they'd been so active in the war against Voldemort. Not that the lack of qualifications seemed to matter to Harry as he immediately took to the training, unlike Ron who found everything so tough. While Ron was struggling to cope with even the basic elements of training, Harry was excelling and early on it was clear that he was going to make an exceptional Auror.
With the Auror training proving too much, his love life a disaster, and his grief still so fresh, it all became too much for Ron, and shortly after the Christmas break, he'd snapped and decided he needed a break. Within a week, he'd quit his training, said goodbye to his friends and family and left wizarding Britain in the hopes of getting his head sorted. And even though it had taken longer than he'd thought, Ron was now in good place and he was ready to come home. He just hoped his family was ready to accept him back.
"Only one way to find out," Ron muttered to himself as he continued to stare at Harry's house.
He'd decided to start with Harry and Ginny as he figured they would be the ones most likely to react positively about his return. Plus he needed somewhere to stay, and he would rather stay with his best friend than with his mother. Knowing Molly she would smother Ron, and he wasn't sure he could cope with that. While he was ready to be back, he didn't want to go back to being a teenager, stuck at the Burrow with Molly fussing over him.
Bracing himself, Ron made himself walk over to Harry's house and up the twisted front path to the front door. Taking a few deep breaths, he knocked on the door and waited for a response. A few minutes later he heard footsteps on the other side of the door. Expecting either his best friend or his sister, Ron placed a smile on his face, but when the door opened he got a hell of a shock as standing in the doorway was his other best friend, and ex-girlfriend, Hermione Granger.
Ron stared at Hermione in total shock as he took in her appearance. Her long brunette hair was tied up in a high ponytail, and her face was make-up free, but still very pretty. She was dressed casually in a pair of jeans and a purple and white print top, although she wasn't wearing any shoes. She was also visibly pregnant, about five or six months by Ron's best guess. However, even more shocking was the toddler, mouth smeared in buttercream icing, she was holding in her arms. The little boy looked to be about two years old, and he had a shock of messy jet black hair and bright green eyes. In other words, he was a miniature version of Harry.
"Ron!" Hermione gasped, breaking the stunned silence at the doorstep.
"Hi, Hermione," Ron replied, finding his own voice.
"Oh god, Ron!" Lunging forward, Hermione wrapped Ron in a tight hug, the little boy she was carrying nestled between them. "I can't believe you're back."
"I'm going to be squeezed to death if you don't let me go," Ron joked. "Not to mention the little fella."
"Sorry," Hermione apologised as she released Ron and stepped back, ushering him into the house. "We're just excited, aren't we James? We didn't expect to see Uncle Ron today, did we?"
The little boy just giggled in response, and snuggled closer to Hermione, peering warily at Ron. Not that Ron could blame him for being cautious as to James he was a stranger.
"James, a very appropriate name," Ron remarked, wondering just what the situation with Harry and Hermione was. Hermione seemed very at home in the house, and there was no doubt James was Harry's son, but did that mean they were together? And if so, what had happened to Ginny?
"Harry thought so," Hermione replied. "Come on through, we're making cakes for this afternoon. We can talk as I work."
"What's happening this afternoon?" Ron asked as he followed Hermione down the short corridor to the welcoming kitchen that was alive with activity. The kitchen bench was covered with cupcakes in various stages of decorations, and the table was laden down with party food.
"It's Teddy's birthday," Hermione explained as she settled James down in a child friendly chair at the table. "We're throwing him a party, so Harry's taken him out for the morning while we prepare."
"We?" Ron glanced around, wondering who else was going to pop up.
"There's been various members of the family around all morning," Hermione answered with a wave of her hand. "They've all headed off to get changed for the party. I just need to finish these, and wait for Molly to drop the cake off."
"Mum will be coming?" Ron asked nervously.
"All your family will," Hermione said. "Well almost all of them," she amended, but before Ron could question her she continued to speak. "I hope you're staying, and this isn't just a flying visit. We've all missed you Ron, and there's nothing we want more than to have you home."
"Hopefully I'm here to stay," Ron said.
"That's the best news we could ask for," Hermione said with a smile. "We've all been so worried about you."
"I'm sorry, I just needed some time," Ron said. "I was sort of a mess back then."
"We know," Hermione replied, giving Ron a gentle smile. "We just wish you would have talked to us instead of running away."
"Sorry," Ron repeated.
"It doesn't matter now," Hermione insisted. "What matters is, you're back. Do you want a cuppa, and you can tell me all about your adventures while I finish the cakes." Turning to James before Ron had a chance to answer, Hermione shook her head at the little boy who was happily munching on a cake he'd helped himself to. "That is if this little devil hasn't eaten them all first," she said with a chuckle, tickling James's belly and making him giggle happily.
"He's such a lovely child," Ron said, smiling at the miniature version of Harry as Hermione began to make a pot of tea.
"When he wants to be," Hermione replied with a laugh. "Honestly, sometimes he's a right handful. But we love him anyway, and wouldn't change him for the world."
"I bet Harry's a great Dad," Ron said with a wistful sigh. It actually stung slightly that his best friend and the girl he'd loved for so long had found happiness together, but at the same time he loved them both and was pleased they were obviously so happy. Although he was desperate to find out what had happened with Ginny, not that it was really appropriate to ask considering the relationship Hermione now had with Harry.
"He is," Hermione answered with obvious pride. "James couldn't ask for a better father, and Teddy couldn't ask for a better godfather."
"Does Teddy live here permanently now?" Ron asked.
"Yes," Hermione replied with a nod as she finished the tea and handed a cup to Ron. "Originally Harry shared custody with Andromeda, but they slowly built it up so Teddy was spending more time with Harry. Now he lives here, but he still spends every other weekend with his Gran, and then there's the holidays she takes him on every year."
"And my family?" Ron asked. "Are they involved in your lives?"
"Of course," Hermione answered with a smile. "Your parents have been great to both Harry and I, and we're very much a part of the family. Now you've got all afternoon to catch up on the gossip here, right now I want to hear about you. What on earth have you been up to for the last six years?"
Despite still having dozens more questions, Ron began to tell Hermione about his life. He told her about his travels, and the people he'd met. He also surprised her by mentioning that he'd spent some time in the muggle world, learning to appreciate living without magic. He then surprised her even further by announcing he could now cook, and was actually rather good at it.
As he was talking, Hermione finished her cakes and placed them on a stand before settling them on the table. She then gave James a wash and briefly popped him upstairs for a change of clothes, before she returned to listen to the rest of Ron's stories. When she returned, Ron noticed she'd let her hair down, and it now fell in soft waves down her back. She also added a dash of lip gloss, making her lips sparkle slightly, and slipped her feet into a pair of flat sandals.
"Most of the party will be held outdoors," she explained, pointing Ron towards the window.
When Ron looked outside he found a large bouncy castle was sitting at the bottom of the garden. There was also a few brooms lying beside a tree, and plenty of blankets spread around for people to lounge on.
"Wow, it looks like some party," Ron remarked.
"It should be, Harry's been planning it for months," Hermione replied.
Turning back to Hermione, Ron smiled at the way she was sitting making faces at James as he played with her hair and chatted on to her. He watched them for a bit before Hermione looked up, realising she was being scrutinised.
"Sorry, you just look so cute together," Ron said with a grin. "You look like a great mother."
"I hope I am," Hermione replied. "It's not easy, but I do hope I'm doing a good job."
"Of course you're doing a good job, you're Hermione Granger, you always do a good job," Ron said with a laugh.
Hermione opened her mouth, but before she could speak the sound of the front door opening reached them and the shouts of an excited young boy travelled down the hallway.
"Teddy!" James cried, bouncing excitedly on Hermione's lap.
Moments later a young boy shot into the kitchen, his unruly hair a bright shade of electric blue. Like his mother, he was a metamorphmagus, and like Tonks, he loved nothing more than changing his hair colour to suit his mood.
"'Mione," he cried, rushing over to her and wrapping her arms around her waist. "James," he greeted, giving the younger boy a pat on the head.
"Have you had a nice time?" Hermione asked.
"Yeah, we went to the shops," Teddy replied. "And I had an ice-cream," he whispered conspiringly.
"Ssh, Teddy, you weren't supposed to tell," a voice from the doorway said jokingly, and Ron looked over to find his best friend leaning against the doorframe, looking happy and relaxed. "Now Hermione will be angry."
"Only at you," Hermione replied, smiling sweetly at Harry. "I told you not to let him have sweets before the party."
"What can I say, I like to rebel," Harry replied with a cheeky smile.
"Don't I know it," Hermione said, rolling her eyes. "Come on Teddy, let's go and get you ready for your party. Harry, there's someone here you might want to see."
Hermione handed James over to Harry as she took an excited Teddy to get ready for his party. With his son in his arms, Harry took a wary step into the room, not sure what to expect. What he didn't expect was to find Ron sitting at the kitchen table, hidden from view from the doorway.
"Ron," Harry gasped as he rushed forward and embraced his old friend. "Tell me you're back for good."
"I am, if you'll have me," Ron replied with a smile. He immediately felt comfortable with Harry, and it was as though no time had passed since they last spoke.
"Definitely," Harry grinned. "We're not letting you get away again. If you want you can stay here with us."
"As long as Hermione doesn't mind," Ron replied.
"Why would Hermione mind if you stayed with me?" Harry frowned, but before Ron got a chance to reply there was a knock on the door followed by Molly's voice announcing she was here.
Before Ron knew it, his mother entered the kitchen carrying a dragon cake for Teddy. Luckily she manged to deposit the cake before she swept Ron up into a hug, all the time sobbing wildly as she greeted her wayward son. Molly was still clinging onto Ron when Hermione re-entered the room with Teddy.
"Nana Molly," Teddy cried, rushing over to his cake. "This cake is brill."
"It is," Hermione agreed, looking at the cake in awe. "Scorp would love a cake like this."
"Anytime," Molly replied as she finally let Ron go, although she remained standing directly in front of her son. "Are you really back?" she whispered.
"I'm back," Ron confirmed. "And I'm so sorry for worrying everyone. I just needed to get away."
"That doesn't matter now," Molly replied, cupping Ron's face in her hands. "What matters is that you're back."
"Yeah, you're the perfect gift for Teddy's party," Harry agreed. "Don't you think Teddy? Isn't it good to have Ron back?"
"Yeah," Teddy replied as he scrutinised Ron. "Can you play tricks like George? Or talk to dragons like Charlie?"
"I don't think Charlie can actually talk to dragons," Hermione pointed out.
"Yes he can, Charlie is the coolest," Teddy insisted.
"Yeah, Teddy here is a bit of a dragon fanatic," Harry said, affectionately ruffling his godson's hair. "He thinks Charlie is the bee's knees, because he works with dragons."
"Sorry Teddy, I can't talk to dragons, and I'm not good with jokes and inventions like George," Ron said, kneeling down so he was face to face with the young boy. "But I tell you what I can do, I can fly really fast. If you're good, Harry might let you come for a ride with me later on."
"Can I, Harry?" Teddy asked excitedly.
"We'll see," Harry answered, as the doorbell went again and there was sounds of more people entering the house.
For the next ten minutes there was a steady stream of guests, most of them Weasleys, and Ron found himself at the centre of attention. Almost everyone wanted to know if he was back for good, and he was thrilled to find everyone was pleased to have him back. No-one was off with him, and everyone said how great it was to see him again.
"How are you coping with being the centre of attention?" Harry asked as he handed Ron a cold beer and the two men settled down on some of the chairs dotted around the garden.
"I don't think I've completely managed to steal all the attention from Teddy, so my job isn't complete," Ron joked.
"Seriously though, what's it like been back?" Harry asked.
"Honestly, it's weird," Ron admitted as he let his eyes drift around the back garden. There were still guests arriving, but all his family were already here, apart from Ginny who'd never even been mentioned by anyone. "I feel like I've got so much to catch up on."
"I suppose you will do," Harry agreed with a nod. "A lot's changed since you went away."
"Yeah, my best friends are parents," Ron remarked, his attention falling to Hermione who was standing in the kitchen doorway, speaking to someone inside while watching Molly sitting with James. "What's it like?"
"Scary, but at the same time, great," Harry replied. "James is the best thing that's ever happened to me."
"And when's Hermione due?" Ron asked.
"Just over three months," Harry answered. "Although, I'm not sure I envy her taking on a second. I imagine it must be hard to have two children under the age of three."
Ron frowned at Harry's wording, but he got distracted from replying to Harry when he spotted Andromeda emerging from the house. Andromeda's presence wasn't a surprise since she was Teddy's grandmother, but Ron was shocked to see the older witch accompanied by an elegant blonde witch he recognised as her sister, Narcissa Malfoy.
"Is that who I think it is?" Ron whispered to Harry.
"Yes, Narcissa and Andromeda are very close these days," Harry replied. "You're not going to cause trouble, are you Ron?" he checked, warily eyeing his friend.
"No, live and let live I say these days," Ron replied with a shrug. "I don't hate anyone. Hell even Malfoy could arrive at the party, and I wouldn't get mad."
"Funny you should say that," Harry muttered as a tall, handsome blond man appeared in the kitchen doorway holding a squirming toddler was a shock of platinum blond hair.
"Bloody hell, it is Malfoy," Ron gasped as his old school enemy walked over to Molly and deposited the little boy he was carrying onto the throw next to where she was sitting with James. "You're friends, these days?"
"Good friends," Harry answered. "That doesn't mean I don't want to be your friend, Ron. But I won't chose between the two of you. You're my oldest friend, and I want you back in my life more than anything, but Draco is a good friend, and I won't stop spending time with him."
"Wow, I really was a jerk when I was younger wasn't I?" Ron said, shaking his head sadly.
"What do you mean?" Harry asked with a frown.
"I mean, all those warnings you felt you had to give me," Ron answered. "If you were sitting here with my teenage self, then you're right, you would have had to worry about me causing trouble. But I'm not like that anymore. I don't know Malfoy anymore, just like he doesn't know me. I can't promise we're going to be friends, because I can't predict the future, but I can promise you that there won't be any trouble from me. I have no problems if you're friends with Malfoy."
"That's good to hear," Harry replied. "And I'm sure Hermione will be pleased to hear that you have no problems with him."
"Yeah, Hermione always did like people to get along," Ron chuckled.
Harry nodded, but he didn't reply as Hermione emerged from the house and made her way over to where Draco was still standing talking to Molly. Beside him, Ron was also watching the action and his mouth dropped open when Hermione wrapped her arm around Draco's waist and he gave her a quick kiss.
"Remember what you said about causing trouble," Harry warned.
"Don't worry, I'm not going to cause trouble," Ron replied, even though his attention didn't move from where Draco and Hermione had settled down on the throw beside the two boys while Molly got up and headed indoors. It was clear the pair were a couple, and a very hands-on one at that as they hadn't stopped touching from the moment Hermione had reached Draco's side.
"It does take some getting used to," Harry admitted. "But once you accept it, you can see how perfect they are together. Draco really loves her and Scorp, not to mention the baby, and they make a perfect family."
"Scorpius, their son," Harry explained. "He was born the day after James."
"So James isn't Hermione's?" Ron checked. Obviously, she couldn't have given birth to both toddlers, but Ron had been sure that Hermione and Harry were a couple.
"No, of course not," Harry spluttered. "What made you think that?"
"Well, Hermione looked so at home here, and she clearly loves James, not to mention you and Teddy," Ron answered. "I just thought you were a family."
"No, Hermione already has a family," Harry replied. "But she does love us, and she's been great this last couple of years. I honestly don't know how I would have coped without her."
"Why? What exactly happened, Harry?" Ron questioned. "This has something to do with Ginny, doesn't it?"
"Ginny is James's mother," Harry said, his voice flat as he spoke about Ron's sister. "After she finished school, she got a contract with a professional quidditch team, and her career was going great guns. Then she was in a minor bump and taken to hospital for a check over, which was when she found out she was pregnant. She wasn't happy about it, but she'd told us all when she'd found out and everyone else was thrilled. It wasn't the easiest pregnancy, and several times she told me she wished she'd gotten rid of James before she'd told people she was pregnant. We all thought her attitude would change when she had James, but it didn't. It quickly became clear she resented him for ending her career, and she just didn't bond with him. Anyway, one afternoon when James was just a few months old, she dropped him off with Molly, saying she was going shopping. Insisted she packed her bags, left me a goodbye note and left. No-one's seen her since. Your family, and Hermione and Draco all supported me and are the reason I coped with two boys."
"Wow, I don't know what to say," Ron said. To be honest, he would never have thought his sister could be so cruel as to abandon her child, but sometime people surprised you.
"I'm sure we'll have plenty of time to catch up properly now you're back, but for now let's concentrate on happy things," Harry said. "Come and meet Draco, and then we can see about Teddy blowing out his candles on his cake."
"Are you sure about Malfoy?" Ron asked. "I know I'm not going to cause trouble, but will he?"
"No, he won't cause trouble," Harry said. "He's not like that anymore. Besides, if he caused a fuss both Hermione and Narcissa would kill him. Surprisingly, the Malfoy men are very much under the thumb of the Malfoy women. Lucius is just the same, he won't dare step out of line with Narcissa and Hermione around."
"You're friendly with Lucius Malfoy?" Ron questioned in shock. He could just about understand Harry's friendship with Draco, but he couldn't see Harry interacting with the elder Malfoy in any possible way.
"We all get along," Harry replied. "Normally he would have been here, but he had a business meeting in Paris he couldn't put off. But you can guarantee that he's sent a great present for Teddy."
Still reeling at the thought of Lucius Malfoy sending presents for Teddy, Ron followed Harry as he made his way across the garden to where Hermione and Draco were sitting. By this time, Hermione had lain down and she was lying with her head in Draco's lap while his fingers ran through her curls. Beside them, James and Scorpius were playing happily with an assortment of toy dragons.
"You don't mind if we join you, do you?" Harry asked.
"Not at all," Hermione replied as she pushed herself up so she wasn't lying in her husband's lap. "Pull up some blanket."
"I thought I'd introduce Ron and Draco properly," Harry explained.
"Good idea," Hermione said with a nod. "And I hope you're both going to play nice."
"We're not children, Hermione," Draco answered with a roll of his eyes.
"No, but the pair of you don't exactly have the best history," Hermione argued. "Call me crazy, but I don't want Teddy's party to be ruined by my husband and my best friend."
"The party won't be ruined," Ron promised. "I say we forget the past and start a fresh."
"I like that idea," Draco said with a nod as he held his hand out for Ron. "It's nice to meet you, I'm Draco Malfoy."
"Ron Weasley," Ron replied, taking the blond's hand and giving it a firm shake. "And it's nice to meet you too, Malfoy."
Hermione and Harry exchanged a smile at the pair's interaction. While it was clear there was no instant friendship between them, there was also no animosity either. It was a fresh start for them both, and Hermione and Harry were confident the friendship would slowly build between the pair. Who knew, maybe this time in a year the pair could be the best of friends. And even if they weren't, the important thing was that they learnt to get along. After all, they were now both part of the same, large, extended family.