Ron had figured out pretty quickly that even with Fred dead. George would continue to prank and there were some things he would just never live down.
The first was his on and off relationship with Hermione Granger.
Unlike his mother and sister, George had always hated when the pair started dating again. He'd always say, "You'll be broken up with the year, anyway," in a very disgruntled manner. And he was always right. With the most recent breakup, Ron knew George felt a smug sort of victory, because he'd managed to impress it into Ron's head the he ought to break up with Hermione, and stay broken up this time.
It wasn't that George disliked Hermione, or even wanted her for himself. He just thought Ron and Hermione weren't right for each other.
Ron reckoned that George was probably right. Again.
The second thing he'd never live down was dancing with Minerva McGonagall in his fourth year. This was probably why George had shoved him toward the professor with firm instructions to waltz.
Hermione, the girl he'd brought as a friendly date, was now doing everything in her power to escape Cormac McLaggen while George drunkenly flirted with Angelina.
Ron wasn't quite sure why he put up with George sometimes.
The third thing Ron would never live down was his crush on Fleur Weasley, nee Delacour. Of course he didn't feel the same now, but the speechlessness had apparently been memorable enough for George to recount it at every family reunion and holiday, causing great embarrassment for not only Ron, but Fleur and Bill, too.
"You waltz far better than I recall, Mr. Weasley. Has Ms. Granger been giving you lessons?" McGonagall inquired.
"Yes," Ron answered, though that wasn't really true. As the best man, he'd gone through hours of lessons with Harry, until they were both tolerable.
Harry seemed slightly put out at the size of the wedding Ginny had planned. While he'd been willing to put up with the choreographed dance from the wedding party, he'd not been able to prevent himself from complaining to Ron about the number of guests she'd invited. But Harry was still smitten after eight years, and hadn't said a word to Ginny.
But Ron wasn't smitten. He'd pestered his sister until the guest list was reduced from 400to 200. "How can you even have that many friends?" he'd demanded.
Harry had told Ron he wanted to kiss him when he saw the revised guest list. Ron had cuffed Harry's ear and laughed.
Some things would never change. They'd always be best friends, and Hermione would always be their savior.
Hermione had, in fact, been present at his waltz lessons, so telling McGonagall that she'd taught him was true, and seemed simpler than reminding her about marriage customs. He was fairly sure she didn't care about how he'd learned, anyway – he'd never been any one's favorite student. That was Hermione's job. So why not make her look even better?
Speaking of Hermione…Ron swept his eyes over the crowd, searching for her. He'd bulked up while playing Quidditch, and was no longer the lanky boy from Hogwarts. He was still too tall, though. It had advantages, of course – like now, for instance. He could see clear over the top of everyone else's heads. He noted McLaggen was caught in conversation with Luna and her father.
Served him right, Ron thought wickedly. As fond as he was of Loony Lovegood and her wacko father, they were a pain to talk to.
Hermione was nowhere to be seen. He hoped she wasn't hiding behind curtains again. McLaggen would find her in no time.
The song ended. Ron escorted McGonagall back to her table and thanked her for the dance. She laughed gaily and patted his arm. "You were always such a sweet boy."
He wondered if she'd lost her mind. But he smiled, thanked her again, and walked away.
When he was seventeen and still in love, things had been simple. He was going to marry Hermione and Harry was going to marry Ginny. They'd buy houses next door to each other, work at the ministry together, and name their children after wartime heroes to remind people that they were the Golden Trio, plus one, thank you very much.
Well, that hadn't happened.
Being with him wasn't enough for Hermione. He knew it, even if she didn't. George had known all along. Ron wished he were enough. Things would have been simpler that way.
"Oh! Je suis désolé! I mean… I'm sorry."
Ron had migrated to his favorite spot, the buffet, when someone small had bumped into him, losing control of her plate and sullying his robes.
"It's all right," Ron said quickly pulling out his wand to clean his shirt.
"Let me help," the young woman said, pulling out her own wand. "Si vous-plait."
The mess was handled shortly with the two of them working together, but the young woman hurried to apologize anyway.
"I'm sorry. I should be…how you say…carefuller?"
"More careful," he corrected gently. "And it's not a problem." He looked at her face then, and realized whom he was speaking to. "Gaby?' He was suddenly stunned. Little Gaby, the girl he'd helped swim to safety when she was nine had blossomed into a young woman more beautiful than her sister had ever been. He found himself tongue-tied. When was the last time he'd seen her? Fleur's wedding? He remembered that she had worn gold that night, and he noted that she was wearing it again. She wore it well.
"Oh, Ronald!" she said, clapping her hands together happily. "You are looking very beautiful this evening!"
He was quite sure she meant handsome, but despite her error, he felt himself turning red. "Thank you. You also look beautiful."
"I am sorry, my English is no good. You are forgiving me?" she seemed to know she'd said something wrong. "Bill is helping me, but I am struggling still. It is very difficult."
"I understand you just fine," Ron said quickly. Even as a member of the Golden Trio, he struggled with relating to women. He'd never been good at talking to them. He did know, however, that it was important to keep the conversation going.
Gaby rewarded him with a beatific grin. "Do you mind," she said slowly, as though carefully choosing her words (he supposed she was), "If I get more food?"
"Oh, no, not at all!" Ron said. Women also liked to be fed. "I was just getting some myself. Do you mind if I join you?"
Gaby smiled again. "Please! But will your…" she scrunched up her nose as she attempted to remember a word. "Your…little friend…no…" She hesitated again. "Your…Hermione miss you?"
He grasped what she meant – in French, girlfriend and boyfriend both translated to "petit ami", literally "little friend". "Oh, um, we're just friends now," Ron said hesitantly. He was fairly certain that was true. This time.
They chatted while picking up food, Gaby in broken and hesitating English, and Ron in patient, enthralled plain speech.
After that, he stayed by her side all night.
He couldn't stop thinking of her.
At work he was dazed and after he ignored a customer a third time, George sent him to the back to do inventory.
Even at a wizard's joke shop, inventory required no mental effort, so Ron spent the remainder of his shift daydreaming about Gaby and counting yo-yos that changed the sound of the user's singing voice with every flick of the wrist.
By the end of it, he'd realized he needed to see her again. He practically ran out of the door, only to rush back in when he spied a familiar head of blonde hair.
"Oh, there he is now," George said, obviously amused as he gestured toward Ron.
"Ronald!" Gaby said, delight clear in her voice.
The only people who called him Ronald were his mother and Hermione, and they only did it when they were angry. He thought he liked that she said it too, and without being angry. He smiled.
"Hi, Gaby." He was sure the grin stretched across his face made him look stupid.
This belief was only strengthened when George snorted. Brother knows best, he thought to himself.
"Why don't you go to dinner with Ronald, Gabrielle?" George suggested.
Gaby's cheeks turned pink, and Ron thought the shade looked rather fetching against her perfect, porcelain skin. "Oui! I mean, yes. Si…if that is ah, okay?"
"Yes, of course," Ron said so quickly he was sure he seemed desperate.
George had his back though. He pushed Ron toward the door, preventing analysis from Gaby. "Bye, Ron. Bye Gabrielle," he said and kissed Gaby on the cheek. When her back was to him, George winked at Ron and gave him a thumb's up.
George had never been wrong before.
"How long are you staying here?" Ron asked. They were seated in a small café, drinking tea while waiting for their food.
"I am trying to stay for the remaining months," she said, sipping her tea. She grimaced upon tasting it, and summoned some vanilla from the open bar.
"Are you looking for a job?" he asked.
"Yes. I was asking George if he could hire me earlier," she sipped her tea again, seeming a lot more satisfied with the taste after having added the vanilla.
He wondered why she was blushing behind her cup. "What'd he say?" Ron asked. George better have hired her.
For some reason, the mention of George made Gaby's blush deepen. It occurred to Ron suddenly that she might be interested in his brother. That would be a rotten spot of luck, but he supposed it wouldn't be the first time a beautiful girl picked one of his brothers over him.
"He said yes," she murmured.
Despite his worry that she was interested in George, Ron felt quite relieved. George wanted to date Angelina, anyway. He'd only been working her over for years. She was bound to give in eventually. "So we'll be working together!" he said cheerfully.
"Er, yes," she said. "Maybe my English improves."
Might as well take a page from Bill's book. "I'll help you in any way possible," he offered.
Gaby smiled and looked down demurely. "Thank you very much." That time, her accent was nearly perfect.
The following weeks could only be described as blissful. Ron and Gaby spent the entire workday together, and almost always went to lunch or dinner together. Ron was besotted. Sometimes, he thought she might be, too.
And not with George, he realized one day with relish. She paid George only as much attention as she would with any other employer. Ron was the one she sought out after work. He felt on top of the world.
It was nice to think that maybe he was worthy of love. Worthy of someone's full attention.
Then Harry and Ginny returned from their honeymoon, and he wished Ginny had taken a page from their mother's book. If she'd only just ignored him a bit more… Because Ginny wanted to fix Ron and Hermione, whether they wanted it or not.
First Ginny called him via floo. "Ron!" she said brightly.
Ron and Gaby were in his dining room, using flash cards in an attempt to broaden her vocabulary.
"Oh, bloody – " Ron began, but stopped when Gaby smacked his hand. She had realized he was swearing, and had made it her personal mission to make him stop. "Sorry," he mumbled. He'd quit swearing, but only for her. Around anyone else, he swore normally.
He got up and walked into the living room. "Hello, Ginny."
"Hi, Ron, listen, I was thinking that we could double date this Friday. I've already cleared it with Hermione, so I expect you to meet us at my favorite café in London, six o' clock sharp! See you then!"
True to form, Ginny didn't give him time to protest. Her head disappeared immediately. She didn't even let him say goodbye.
He groaned. But then he perked up. He had an idea.
"I'll make a call, too." He threw some floo powder into the fireplace, and stuck his head in. "Hermione Granger," he said, and a moment later, he was looking into Hermione's living room.
"Oh, hi, Ron," she said. She moved into the room, in jeans and a t-shirt. Her hair was pulled back tightly and twisted upward. Her arms were covered in paint. He wondered when she'd taken up that hobby. "I suppose you're here to complain about your sister?"
"Not complain. Suggest a solution," he said pleasantly.
"I'm all ears," she said, sounding interested.
"I'd hate to give Ginny the wrong impression. After all, at this point, we're just friends."
"Right," she agreed.
"So I was thinking we could both bring someone else. I have someone in mind, but will you be able to find someone?" he asked. "Not that you couldn't. You just tend to overlook the people who are interested in you."
Hermione flushed. "Well, if worse comes to worse I'll ask Cormac. But no, I have a few ideas."
"It's a deal," Ron said cheerfully. "Don't bring McLaggen, though, or you'll never shake him."
She laughed. "No problem. Later, Ron."
Feeling satisfied, he returned to the dining room to ask Gaby a very important question. This time, he was determined to seem like a normal human being. No shouting. She wouldn't even be walking, which she did just as well as her sister had, and he felt confident that he would be able to hold it together.
"Gaby," he said cheerfully. Might as well start out normal. "Doing anything Friday at six?"
"Well, I will be finished with work at five. So unless we are going to dinner, no," she said.
"Well, can I take you to dinner? My sister was hoping we could all go on a double date. Her and Harry, me and Hermione, I mean. She thinks we should still be dating, but Hermione and I are just friends. So I called Hermione up and we've changed it to a triple date, to give Ginny the clear message. And…I like you, and I wanted to know if you would go with me?" he asked. It still came out in a rush, but at least it was understandable. He hoped. He hadn't meant to tell her he liked her, but the cards were down now. So maybe…
Gaby hid her face in her hands, and peeked over them. "You are serious?" she asked.
He nodded, biting his lip.
"Okay, I will go with you. I...also like you," she said, turning pink.
"Oh," he said, ducking his head shyly. After a moment of silence, he peeks up at her. She was shuffling through flash cards anxiously, her face still bright pink.
He swallowed nervously. He thought about kissing her, but chickened out. So he reached over and grabbed one of her hands. Gently he pulled the cards away from her, and sat in the chair next to hers. His knee pressed against her thigh, and he smiled at her. He held up a card. "How about this one?"
Ginny was not amused. "I said double date. And what are you doing with Gabrielle, anyway?"
"She's too good for me, isn't she?" Ron said, cheerfully. It was true, but he wasn't going to think about that – for whatever reason, she was here, with him. She was also here, listening to Ginny practically insult him. He figured he should stick up for her. That's what a guy on a date did, right?
"That's not true," Gaby said quickly. "I think you are very worthy."
He grinned stupidly. If the weeks before Ginny's meddling had been blissful, the past week had been pure euphoria. Now that they each knew the other had feelings, they were even closer. At work, he would casually brush by her. During lunch, she would make sure their knees touched under the table, and usually reached out to touch his hand, more than once. No kissing, but he almost felt like this was better. All his relationships had started with kisses. Usually the girl started them. This time he wanted it to be different, because this time he wanted it to last.
Ginny looked quite disgruntled. "Well, what about you, Hermione? What are you doing here with Neville of all people?"
"Neville is a friend," Hermione said irritably. "I asked him to come because I'm not actually looking for a relationship at the moment. In any case, Neville is a wonderful man and I probably couldn't have found any one better!"
Hermione Granger, protector of the small.
"Furthermore, Ginevra, I don't appreciate your meddling when it comes to Ron and I. While we have frequently dated, I should think it's obvious by now that we aren't meant to be together. I'd like to enjoy an evening with my friends, but if you keep up this snippy behavior, I think Neville and I will take our leave."
Neville nodded. He was still the young boy who quaked in the face of danger, but always stepped forward to fight anyway. He would stand up for himself if Ginny turned on him any more.
Ginny huffed, seeing the solid front they were all making, and Harry patted her shoulder in a consoling manner.
"Good to see you all," he said happily. "I for one am delighted that our foursome has expanded."
Harry and Ginny were perfect for each other. They both had a tendency to overreact, but not at the same time. Then the other person would be there to smooth things over, like Harry was doing now.
"Let's go," Ginny huffed.
The dinner then went off without a hitch. Ginny got over her irritation and was pleasant toward Gaby and Neville. She didn't subtly kick Hermione and Ron's feet together under the table, or get annoyed when Ron spent a lot of time focused on helping Gaby speak.
At the end of the night, Ron asked Gaby if they might take a walk before she apparated back to the flat she was living in.
They held hands as they walked through the streets. Cars rushed by, but he had a quieter place in mind.
They reached the park he'd been aiming for after a few minutes, and Ron pulled her over to a bench under a streetlight. "Check this out," he whispered, sitting down at the bench.
She sat next to him and waited patiently.
He pulled out Dumbledore's deluminator and clicked it once.
Gaby gasped when the light from the streetlight collapsed in on itself and pulled into a tiny orb. It floated down and hovered just outside the deluminator, before it got sucked in. "How beautiful," she whispered. Her accent was perfect.
He smiled, and released the light back into the streetlight.
She laughed and leaned against him.
He was happy. He couldn't imagine anything better.
"Ronald," she said quietly. "I have a confession."
"What's that?" he asked curiously.
She sat up straight. "My English is practically perfect. I've been pretending to speak it poorly for weeks. But I've been trained in English ever since I was nine years old."
Ron was baffled. "Why would you do that?"
She blushed and looked down. "I…I was hoping, that there would be someone like Bill. Who would help me 'learn' English, and then perhaps we would be more than friends."
"Oh." Ron was still confused, but he thought he understood a bit. He wondered if she was bringing it up to break up with him. Were they together now? He wasn't sure.
"It worked," she said. "Better than I expected, because it was you."
"Me?" he asked in disbelief.
"You. I didn't come to England planning on wooing you, or something like that, I but when I saw you at the wedding, you were still the boy who saved me from drowning, only more handsome." She smiled sheepishly. "I may have run into you at the wedding on purpose."
He sort of gaped at her now. "Me?"
"Yes," she said with a small laugh. "Is that really so hard to believe?"
"Yes," he said, honestly.
She sighed. "I do not know why you are so hard on yourself."
He shrugged. He didn't really know himself.
"I guess it's your mother's fault. You get forgotten as the youngest son, overshadowed by his sister. The only girl you had a seriously, long lasting relationship with constantly broke up with you, and the one brother who treats you as an equal is constantly comparing you to the one he lost," Gaby said, impassioned. She'd obviously given this a lot of thought. "And then your two best friends haven't spoken to you in the entire month we've spent together. One of them was on a honeymoon, but what's Hermione's excuse?"
Ron flushed. "I don't – "
"Don't defend them, Ron, I'm not accusing them. Well, not really. I'm just explaining why you think you aren't worthy of love."
"I –" Ron was beyond flustered at this point.
"I'm not finished. Ron, you are worthy. I love you, more than you could imagine. Maybe this is too fast, but I am French, and you know they say we love quickly. So I love you, and you deserve it. Please –"
He cut her off by grabbing her face and kissing her firmly. When he pulled away, he said, "I'm wholly unworthy, but that's your mistake, and I love you, too."
"I am going to prove you wrong," Gaby said, and she pulled his mouth back to hers.
I'm counting on it, he thought.
And then he realized George had been right all along. Maybe he'd put in a good word with Angelina.
A/N: Okay, so the ending was a little rushed. Sorry about that. But I have a two hour window to write these each day, so I'm sorry if it happened to fast.
So, two things about this story (probably three but just wait, I'm not sure yet):
1. I love this ship a lot. I don't care if you don't feel the same; they are my OTP.
2. This made me like Ron again. I think too many fanfictions paint him in a really negative light, and people tend to forget that Ron is just a middle child who didn't ever get enough attention from his mother. I think George and Ron would have grown closer after Fred's death, which is why I still have Ron working at the joke shop. Anyway, I love the Ron I wrote, so please don't hate on that~ (Actually, go for it. If you have a different opinion, I'm totally cool with that. Talk to meh!)
3. (see, told you) I'm writing a second one-shot that will be posted tomorrow, this time about Hermione. Her presence in this story is meant to raise questions - I hope it did.
I'll post it tomorrow! Review, if you feel like it. :)