Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter nor any of JK Rowling's wonderful characters. I am merely borrowing them.
A/N: As with all the one-shots in this series, the title comes from Rob Thomas' song, "Little Wonders". In my profile, you will find a link to the music video.
All of My Regret Will Wash Away Somehow
One month later…
"Mrs. Weasley, really. You don't have to throw me a birthday party. It doesn't matt-"
"You are not going to talk me out of this, Harry. I've already invited the guests. Besides, we could all use the distraction, love."
Ron paused on the stairs when he heard his mother and best friend's voices coming from the sitting room below.
His chest tightened at the sound of his mother's voice breaking with emotion.
"Mrs. Weasley, please – ," But Harry gave in. Mrs. Weasley's happiness meant more to him than being stubborn about a party. "Alright… we'll have a party. Thank you for doing all this."
Ron descended the remaining stairs and watched as Molly gave Harry a watery smile and patted him on the cheek before rushing off to the kitchen where she had at least a dozen pots boiling away furiously.
"Hey, Harry," Ron approached his friend as his mother disappeared into the other room.
Harry nodded his greeting. "I'm really not sure this party is a good idea. Can't you talk her out of it, Ron?"
"Not a chance, mate. She's been planning for weeks. It's the only thing that is keeping her mind off Fred."
"I know," Harry said solemnly. "It just doesn't seem right to be celebrating my birthday. After everything…"
"You mean, after you saved us all from the darkest bloody wizard of all time?" Ron smirked.
"You know what I mean."
"Look, Harry. I'm with you on wanting to skive off the party but I really think we could all use a laugh."
"Alright," Harry nodded. "I suppose it will be good to see everyone."
"Right. Hermione's invited her parents," Ron said, swallowing heavily.
Harry suppressed a chuckle. "You aren't nervous are you, Ron? You've met Hermione's parents before."
Ron shoved his hands in his pockets.
"I know. I'm not nervous… But when I met Mr. and Mrs. Granger before Hermione and I weren't…"
"Together," Ron corrected stiffly, his cheeks reddening now.
Harry laughed. "Come off it, mate. It will be fine. You wouldn't have let me act nervous around your parents when Ginny and I started – "
"If you say 'shagging' I might hit you."
"Dating. I was going to say dating," Harry placed a comforting hand on Ron's shoulder. "It'll be alright, Ron."
Ron nodded but still looked a bit peaky in Harry's opinion.
"Ron! Are you coming down to the party or not?! Hermione's just arrived with her parents and she's looking for you!"
"I'll be down in a minute, Ginny!"
Ron took a long, steadying breath and looked in the mirror. He tugged on the hem of his brand new, slate blue sweater. He had bought it especially for the party, spent a fair amount of money on it as well… and it itched horribly. But he wanted to make a good impression on the Grangers and he didn't feel that his mother's homemade maroon sweaters with the large "R" embroidered across the chest would have quite the same effect.
Running a comb through his slightly shaggy hair, he frowned, realizing he ought to have cut it. He momentarily debated trying to cut it himself or seeking a spell that might work but wisely decided against it. It would just have to do.
Ron exited his bedroom and climbed down the stairs, easily following the sounds of merry voices and the warbling tones emanating from the Wizard's Wireless. Walking out into the backyard, he was met with a crowd of his family and friends, all gathered to celebrate Harry's birthday.
He immediately spotted Hermione across the yard. She was introducing Neville to her parents who, despite their apparent happiness to be meeting their daughter's friends, looked decidedly out of place.
As though Hermione had sensed his presence, she turned and their eyes met at once. She smiled broadly and gestured for him to join them. He took another deep breath and walked towards her, tugging at the collar of his sweater, growing itchier with each step.
"Hi," Hermione smiled as he approached. He adored the way her cheeks tinged slightly pink when she looked at him. Perhaps it was a recent development or he just hadn't noticed it before but he was incapable of wiping the silly grin off his face every time it had happened.
Hermione turned to her parents. "Ron, you remember my parents, Richard and Jane. Mum, Dad, you've met Ronald before dur-"
The introduction was interrupted, however, by Mrs. Weasley who, having just noticed the Grangers, hastened over and began embracing them tightly.
"Mr. and Mrs. Granger! When did you arrive? My goodness, what a terrible hostess I've been! Have you eaten anything yet? I spent all day in the kitchen! You absolutely must try some of my homemade pumpkin pasties. Made from scratch! They are quite a delight, if I may be so bold as to flatter myself. But, oh my, have you met everyone yet? No, no, of course you haven't! Come along with me and - "
"Mum!" The edge in Ron's voice was borderline whiny but he was desperate to shut her up. Giving her a warning look, she nodded.
"Oh, alright. I'll be by later to see that you all get plenty to eat," She smiled, reaching up to fuss with Ron's hair. Adding under her breath, though not nearly quiet enough for Ron's comfort, "Honestly, Ronald! It wouldn't kill you to cut this mop of a hairstyle."
"Alright, alright," Molly smiled at her guests once more before bustling off to harass the other party-goers with her homemade delicacies.
Ron turned back to the Grangers. "I'm sorry about that. She's a bit excited."
"She's lovely," Smiled Mrs. Granger genuinely.
He was terrified that his crazy family would scare the Grangers off for good. He so badly wanted them to approve of him.
There was an awkward pause that followed. Ron shuffled his feet uncomfortably, harnessing all of his strength not to scratch beneath his suffocating sweater. He caught Hermione's eye and cleared his throat.
"Right… Mum, Dad, you remember Ronald?" Hermione spoke up quickly.
"As though you would let us forget, dear?" Mr. Granger chuckled.
"Hermione speaks of you and Harry all the time, Ronald," Mrs. Granger said warmly. "It is so nice to see you again."
Ron extended his hand and shook both of their hands firmly; maybe a bit too firmly as Jane Granger winced vaguely before he released her hand.
"The pleasure is all mine," Ron insisted formally.
"We were so terribly sorry to hear about your brother, Fred," Mrs. Granger added somberly.
Her comment caught Ron off guard and he nodded, trying to maintain his calm demeanor.
"It is such an awful shame." She continued.
"Yes," Ron answered uncomfortably, rubbing the back of his neck to ease some of the itching. "Thank you… for your… er… condolences."
"So Ronald," Mr. Granger broke another extended silence. "What are your plans now that the, uh, war has ended?"
"Ron and Harry both have been invited to work for the Ministry of Magic as Aurors. Remember, I told you about them? They are responsible for capturing dark wizards and maintaining peace in the Wizarding World."
"Ah, that sounds dangerous," Richard Granger said. "Not planning to finish up at Hogwarts then, Ronald?"
Hermione sniffed. "It is a rather great honor that Ron has been offered this position, Dad. They accept only the very be-"
"Actually, I have been thinking that I may turn down the Auror position and finish my last year at Hogwarts," Ron said suddenly.
Hermione stopped and turned to him.
"What do you mean, Ron? Just yesterday, you couldn't wait to start the Ministry's training program and – "
"Well, yes," Ron interrupted, smiling stiffly at her parents, "but I have always said that there is nothing more important than getting an education."
"When have you ever said that?" Hermione asked him with puzzlement written all over her face.
Ron began to scratch involuntarily as he became increasingly unnerved by this conversation, and his skin became increasingly irritate by the sweater.
"I've always said that, Hermione. You know that." He attempted to chuckle to appear more relaxed but ended up inhaling a small sweater fiber and began, instead, to cough uncontrollably.
George chose that moment to approach the foursome, having noticed Ron's apparent discomfort.
"Are you alright, Ronnie-kins?" He taunted his younger brother. "Choking?"
George pounded Ron on the back a few times for effect, sending the younger Weasley stumbling forward.
"Kids!" George exclaimed with a smirk. "You can't leave them alone for a moment. They'll put just about anything in their mouths, won't they?"
"Ge- George- Get off!" Ron managed to sputter between hacking up fragments of sweater and scratching his arms roughly.
George stepped back. "Alright, alright. No need to throw a hissy fit, Ronnie-kins." George winked charmingly at Hermione's mother. "And you must be Hermione's younger sister?" He reached out and kissed the back of her hand.
If Ron had not been at the tail-end of a coughing fit, he would have punched his brother. As it was, he simply rolled his eyes.
"May I offer either of you a cool, refreshing beverage?" George asked with mock-debonair charm.
Richard chuckled politely. "Er, certainly,George. That would be very kind of you."
George bowed dramatically and walked off towards the house. Hermione watched him go, shaking her head with amusement.
"It's good to see George in such good spirits. Isn't it, Ron?"
He did not answer, trying as hard as he was to not scratch himself mercilessly beneath his sweater.
"Ron?" Hermione turned to look at him and gasped. "Ron!!"
"What??" He asked gruffly, scratching his back furiously.
Hermione's eyes widened. "You're all red, Ron!"
"What are you talking about?" He examined his hands and pushed up his sleeves to reveal blotchy red marks covering his body.
From the corner of his eye he saw Mr. and Mrs. Granger hurriedly take a few short steps back. Brilliant, he thought to himself, they think I've got some sort of contagious skin disorder.
"You must be allergic to this material," Hermione stated, tugging at his sweater. "Here, take it off."
"Wha – Hermione, No. I'm not going to take off my sweater here, in front of everyone!"
"Oh, for goodness sake, Ronald. You look like a tomato with a skin rash. Take the sweater off."
Ron looked miserably from Hermione to her parents, who had the decency to act as though they were not paying attention despite the fact that they were standing not three feet away.
Hermione held out her hand impatiently, waiting to take the sweater from Ron. Her wand was already held aloft, undoubtedly to cast some sort of de-itching spell.
Defeated, he pulled the offending sweater over his head and handed it off to Hermione who instantly began waving her wand at it and reciting spells he had never heard before.
She turned to him with her wand out. "Now, let's see about this ra – Oh my." Hermione looked from Ron to his shirt and back up at his face. "Maybe you'd like to go inside and change into something else first?"
Ron furrowed his brow in confusion. "What are you talking about?"
At that moment, George returned with two glasses filled with ice-cold lemonade. "Merlin's beard, Ron,what have you got on?!" He shouted raucously.
Ron looked down and, regretfully, remembered that he had been out of clean undershirts when he'd dressed. The only shirt he could find was his ancient orange Chudley Cannons t-shirt that not only bore numerous questionable stains but had a more than a few holes as well. He quickly covered one of the larger holes with his hand after seeing that it exposed a patch of freckled skin near his navel.
"Uh… I didn't have any clean shirts," He tried to explain quickly to Hermione and her parents.
Again, Hermione's parents nodded and smiled politely through somewhat perplexed expressions. They accepted their beverages from George and thanked him profusely.
Ron looked to Hermione helplessly. She did not look terribly happy with him at the moment.
"I didn't have any clean shirts!" He said defensively.
"So you decided to wear the filthiest of the lot?" She said in a loud whisper. George snickered loudly at his brother's humiliation.
"I'll just go and change then," Ron said, offering a wary smile to the Grangers. Before he could escape into the safety of the house, Harry and Ginny approached, hand in hand.
Ginny took one look at a blotchy, red Ron in his bright orange shirt and burst out laughing, causing George to erupt in laughter all over again. "Oh my God, Ron! What in Merlin's name are you wearing? It's ghastly!" Ginny exclaimed.
"I didn't have any clean shirts!" Ron repeated for a third time, near hysterics by now.
"That doesn't make any sense… why would you – "
"Ginny," Harry squeezed her hand, interrupting her next insult to her brother. "Have you been introduced to Mr. and Mrs. Granger?"
Ginny tore her highly amused gaze away from Ron and turned to Hermione's parents. "Yes, I have. It's so nice to see you both again."
Richard Granger smiled broadly. "We wouldn't have missed it. The great Harry Potter! It is indeed a pleasure to see you again." He shook Harry's hand for longer than was necessary.
Harry chuckled. "I'm not sure about 'great' but Harry works just fine. I'm pleased to see you both."
"Hermione speaks about you so often and we have heard the most incredible stories of your accomplishments!" Mrs. Granger gushed. "Hermione just thinks the world of you."
"That's kind of you to say, Mrs. Granger," Harry said.
"Oh, you must call me Jane. I insist!"
Harry laughed along with her and shot a quick glance to Ron. He jerked his head in the direction of the house indicating that he was giving him the chance to slip away and change his shirt.
Ron smiled half-heartedly at his best friend and nodded. He shoved his hands in his pockets and trudged across the yard, listening to the sounds of his girlfriend's parents singing Harry's praises.
He stopped short though when he heard a woman shriek from behind him followed by his father's booming voice. "George! What have you done?!"
Knowing his family as he did, that outburst from his dad could only mean one possible thing and Ron knew that it would not result in anything pleasant. He turned around and forced himself to open his eyes to survey the damage.
As suspected, it was not good.
Mr. Granger's ears seemed to be growing larger at an alarming rate. So rapidly in fact that by the time Ron had sprinted back across the lawn, Mr. Granger's earlobes hung past his waist. Mrs. Granger was no better. Her eyebrows were cascading down so they nearly concealed her entire face and were growing longer with each passing second.
Jane Granger screamed again. "Richard!! Make it stop!"
Ron hurried over, horrified at the scene.
"George, you had better fix this right now!!" Arthur Weasley shouted angrily.
"What were you thinking!?" Ron yelled at his brother.
"I was just trying out some new products from Weasley's Wizard Wheezes," George said innocently as he tried various counter spells on Hermione's parents.
"George, it isn't working!" Hermione cried.
"Hang on. Maybe I need to reverse the spells…" He pondered aloud.
Ron fanatically tried every counter-spells he had used in the past to reverse the effects of his brother's products but nothing he tried seemed to work.
"Oh, get out of the way," Hermione said with exasperation, clearly worried for her parents. In less than five minutes, she had stopped both her father's ears and her mother's eyebrows from growing. Now she busied herself trying to get her dad's ears, which now dragged on the ground, back to their normal size.
Arthur tried to make light of the situation, asking Mrs. Granger if muggles had any sort of device to tie back eyebrow hair in a fashionable way; which inevitably led him to launch an entire discussion on the absurdity of muggle hair care products.
And just when Ron thought it could not possibly get worse, his mother rushed over and was nearly brought to tears by her youngest son's poor choice in attire.
"I didn't have any clean shirts!!" He shouted over the chaos.
It was useless. This was a complete nightmare.
Ron stomped off and headed toward the house.
He kept walking even when his mother hastened after him, shrieking at him about his disheveled appearance. Ignoring her hysterical rant about how he should be more like Harry or Bill or whoever.
He strode through the kitchen but rather than turning up the stairs to his bedroom, he continued on through the house and out the front door. He walked up the path from the Burrow, kicking at rocks and pebbles along the way. His shoulders slumped and his walk slowed to a dejected stroll.
Well, that couldn't have possibly gone any worse, he thought. He had always been abundantly aware that he didn't deserve Hermione but, until today, he thought there was still a chance. Not now. Maybe their worlds were too different or he was too poor or Harry was too great… there were a million reasons.
He just wanted one day. One day where he could prove to Hermione and her parents that he was the man for her. That there was nothing he wouldn't do for their daughter and that he had never, and would never, love another woman for the rest of his life.
But it was never that simple. Not for Ron Weasley.
He approached the small glade a short ways up the path where he could sit somewhat concealed. Sinking to the ground heavily, he dropped his head in his hands and groaned.
"What a bloody nightmare," he said aloud to no one. "What a complete and utter nightmare."
He had no idea how long he was sitting there but the sun had set in the sky before he noticed that it must have been well over an hour. Clearly, no one was going out of their way to find him. Hermione must be furious with him for humiliating her in front of her parents… she would probably never forgive him.
Footsteps could be heard approaching from the dirt path. Ron leaned down, resting his elbows on his knees, hoping to remain hidden. The steps grew closer until they stopped directly behind him.
Ron sighed. "Please go away, Harry. I don't feel like talking to anyone."
Not Harry's voice at all. Ron felt his ears burn hot as he scrambled to his feet. "M- Mr. Granger! I'm sorry, I thought you were… someone else," Ron stammered, attempting to brush the dirt from his pants.
"I thought I'd like to get some air," Mr. Granger said. "Have a seat, Ronald."
"Er… yes, sir." Ron sat back on the dirt mound stiffly, brushing his dirt flecked hands on his shirt… reminding him why he was sitting alone out here in the first place.
Mr. Granger sat easily on the ground beside Ron and looked out over the meadow that spread out before them, barely visible beneath the dimming sky. Ron noticed with great relief that the older man's ears had been restored to their normal size.
The two men sat in silence for so long that dusk was upon them before the stillness was interrupted.
"Sir," Ron croaked before clearing his throat. "I just want to say I am sorry for all the trouble. I really feel awful about everything…" He trailed off. There didn't seem to be enough words in his vocabulary to explain how apologetic he truly was.
Richard Granger observed Ron for a moment before looking back out over the darkening landscape.
"You really care for her, don't you?" He asked the young man.
Ron's back straightened instantly. "Yes – Yes, sir. I care for Hermione… very much."
"I can tell," Richard said with a tiny smile. "She cares very much for you too, you know."
"Yeah?" Ron asked, a bit of sarcasm escaped him. He was near certain he had ruined everything.
Hermione's father nodded confidently. "You know, Ronald. When I met Jane's parents for the first time, I spilled hot tea all over her Mum's white Easter dress." He chuckled at the memory.
Ron laughed despite his current state of upset. "What happened, sir?"
"I went to the toilet and hid for the remainder of the afternoon."
The two men erupted in commiserating laughter at the very thought of the very proper Richard Granger hiding in a toilet.
"Did, uh… Did her parents ever come to – "
"-approve of me?" Richard finished. "Yes, they did. I came to have quite a nice relationship with them both as a matter of fact."
Ron nodded to himself. "That's nice," he offered, not sure what else to say. Spilling tea on an Easter dress seemed to absolutely pale in comparison to the chaos that inevitably ensued whenever his family was involved.
"I checked the toilet first before I came to find you out here," the older man smiled.
Ron shrugged. "One toilet for all those people… not much of a hiding place."
Richard laughed, "No, I suppose not." He looked over his shoulder toward the house. "How long do you think we have before anyone else comes looking for us?"
"We have some time. This is my best hiding spot," Ron attempted a miserable smile.
Richard raised his eyebrows in jest, "It may be a bit more effective if you wore a less conspicuously colored t-shirt."
Ron blushed cherry red and forced a smile. "I suppose you're right."
Another silence befell them. Ron thought back to how this day had gone so horribly wrong that he now found himself being pitifully consoled by the one person whose approval he had sought. For what may have been the millionth time in his life, Ron wished that he could be more like Harry… or an only child if nothing else.
He fell into his thoughts and almost forgot that he wasn't alone. So much so that he jumped slightly when Mr. Granger cleared his throat and began to speak.
"There was something you were hoping to ask me today, wasn't there, son?"
Ron froze in shock. "How- How did you know that?"
"Ronald, any man who has asked a father for his daughter's hand in marriage can surely spot the signs."
"Oh… right," Ron stared straight ahead, his mouth had gone dry.
Ron turned to with a confused expression. "Sir?"
"Have you changed your mind about wanting to marry my daughter?"
"No!" Ron turned towards Mr. Granger. "No, sir. I just thought that… that you may not approve…"
"I think, sometimes, we are far too critical of ourselves and our loved ones, especially when we are wishing to make a good impression. Wouldn't you agree?"
"Er… yeah, I suppose that can happen," Ron scratched at his neck, the blotches seemed to be fading but the itching had not yet disappeared. "If someone wanted to impress someone's parents, that is."
Richard nodded with a fatherly smile. "When it comes down to it, Ronald, I love my daughter and though it is nearly impossible for me to imagine that anyone can truly deserve her, I have no doubt in my mind that you have earned her love as much as you have earned my respect."
Ron could hardly believe his ears. "Sir? Are you giving me permission to ask Hermione… to marry me?"
"Yes, I am, if that is what you wanted to ask me."
"Bloody hell…" Ron clapped his hand over his mouth. "Oh sorry, I didn't mean to say that. It's just that… I- yes, of course I want to marry Hermione. I always have. I… I don't know what to say. Thank you- so much, . I…" Ron trailed off, he began to feel slightly choked up. He surely did not want to start sobbing like a baby and lose 's respect when he'd only just gotten it. He took a deep steadying breath. "Right, then... Mr. Granger, may I... ask Hermione to marry me?"
Richard Granger too looked a bit overwhelmed with emotion. "Just promise me that you'll make her happy. That is all I ask."
"Yes, sir," Ron nodded fervently. "I promise, I promise I will make her happy every day for the rest of her life, if she'll have me."
Mr. Granger smiled a slightly watery grin and rose to his feet. "Well, then it looks like there is just one question left to be asked and it is up to Hermione to answer that one."
Ron could not stop smiling. He was certain he had never in his life been happier to be Ron Weasley than he was at that moment. Because he was finally going to have everything he had ever wanted. When he finally proposed to Hermione, it would be with the wholehearted consent of her father.
"Thank you, sir. Thank you so much." He stood and offered his hand to the older gentleman who accepted it gladly, returning his hand shake.
"Of course, Ronald."
Just then, Hermione's voice could be heard, calling from a distance. "Dad? Ron? Are you out there?"
"Looks like we've been spotted," said Richard under his breath. Then, much more loudly, "Over here, dear!"
Hermione jogged the rest of the way up the darkened path to meet them. "Here you both are. I've been looking everywhere. I was getting worried."
"Sorry, dear, we just got to talking. Ronald, here, was telling me about that exciting new job he's been offered at the Ministry. You were right, love, he is a mighty impressive, young man." He grinned at Ron then at his daughter.
Hermione blushed hot crimson with embarrassment. "Er… yes, of course he is. Very much so."
Ron beamed down at her.
"Shall we head back to the party then?" Richard asked.
"Yes, we ought to get back. They are getting ready to serve dinner."
"Excellent. I am very much looking forward to those pumpkin pasties your mother spoke of." With that, Mr. Granger headed off toward the house, smiling secretly to himself all the way.
Hermione and Ron walked at a slower pace down the path.
"What were you and dad talking about?" She asked curiously.
Ron shrugged but smiled to himself. "Oh, this and that, you know." He reached out and took Hermione's hand in his, glancing at her with a playful smirk. "So, you think I'm impressive, eh?"
The red flush creeped further up her cheeks. "Well, I may have said that I thought you had matured to a point where you had come to deserve such a prestigious position… for one so young… and I… well…" Her voice trailed off. She gazed up at him and sighed. "Of course, I think you're impressive, Ron. More so every single day."
He squeezed her hand comfortingly. "What a coincidence, I feel the very same way about you."
Hermione laughed aloud as they walked together back to the party.
Ron's heart felt lighter than it had in recent memory, maybe ever. Maybe all the darkness was finally behind them. Now, he thought with elation, he had a future to look forward to… and with any luck, Hermione would be at his side the whole way.
A/N: I hope you enjoyed the third installment in this series. If you can, please take a moment to share your thoughts! Thank you all so much for reading!