Title: Bend and Break
Rating: Teen (just to be safe)
Summary: "If only I don't bend and break / I'll meet you on the other side / I'll meet you in the light..."
Fandom / Pairing: HP, R/Hr
Notes: Parts One of ?. Set during HBP, the sequel to Thirty Kisses.


"Oh," the Fat Lady breathed. Before her stood Ron and Hermione, identical looks of surprise on their faces.

"Perhaps I'll just...step out for a moment," she said quietly, rising. In a blink of an eye, she was down the hall.

They were effectively trapped.

Neither of them made a motion to speak, to move, to escape. Subtly, they shifted away from one another. The hallway was silent, devoid of anyone else.

It was Hermione who broke first. "I thought you were with Lavender," she spat, the venom in her voice making him wince.

"She's with Parvati; they're working together on something," he replied quietly. He deliberately avoided her gaze.

There was another long silence, and some part of Hermione ached. When did just being near him hurt so much? When had the silences become the most painful part?

"I don't get it," he blurted suddenly, a drop of anger in his voice. "What do you have against her, anyway?"

She took a step back and glared. "You can't honestly be that thick!"

He snapped. "I'm not, but sometimes I wish I was. At least then, you'd be direct with me."

"I was never anything less than clear with you!"

"How was I supposed to take your 'hints,' then? I'm the one with the emotional range of a teaspoon, right?" He glared at her coldly.

She flinched. "You're taking that out of context."

"Still hurts," he bit back.

They were quiet again for a stretch of time. He felt the red heat of anger creeping into his vision and tried to shake it off. It wouldn't do for him to lose it, not with her.

"Why her?" She wasn't looking at him, opting to glare at the carpet instead.

"Why does it matter? Why aren't you happy for me?" He tossed back.

"Because she isn't--" She pressed her lips together. She doesn't want to finish that sentence. Funny how he could still read her.

"Because she isn't what, Hermione? A brunette?" He took a step closer to her. "Smart?" One more. "Funny? Charming? What does she lack, Hermione?"

"I don't have to tell you!"

"Then you don't have the right to be jealous or angry or whatever it is you are!"

"I don't?" She reeled, shocked.

"Do you know why? You're my friend, nothing more. You have no right to be anything other than supportive. That's what a friend does." He made a decisive gesture with his hand, and he was struck by how similar this was to a daydream he'd had once.

"Friends don't kiss friends and then never mention it again."

They both froze. Hermione felt her chest contract, and it was hard to breathe. She was playing dirty, and she knew it.

Then again, two could play at that game. "Friends don't kiss Bulgarian quidditch players and don't tell other friends!"

She clenched her teeth. "You kissed me in the Department of Mysteries! You said you had to do it. Why, Ron? Why was it so important that you do that there and then?"

"Why did you kiss him?"

Something clicked. "That's what all this is about? Me kissing Krum two years ago?"

"Don't oversimplify." He replied coldly, colder than she'd ever seen him.

"Then tell me what this is about, Ron! Because I for one sure as hell don't know."

"You wouldn't understand."

"What wouldn't I understand? They were just kisses! Do you want to know why? Because he made me feel special! Like I was beautiful and desirable, something I had never felt before. Not with you forgetting I was female!"

"Hermione--"

"What is this about, Ron? Why did you nearly hex Ginny when she told you? Why are you doing this?" She made a sweeping gesture with her arm.

"Dammit, Hermione, don't you get it? I was supposed to be your first! Not him -- ME." He laid his palm flat, fingers splayed, on his chest to punctuate the last word.

For another long moment, the only sound was their breathing. Quietly, Ron leaned his back against the wall and tilted his head up.

"Do you really think I forgot you were a girl?" He laughed humorlessly. "God, Hermione, I've been all-too aware of that fact since we were in third year.

"Why am I doing this? The same reason you did it to me. I was tired, Hermione. Tired of teaspoons and jealousy and avoiding this--" he gestured at the space between them, "and tired of waiting."

"If you had waited until Christmas--"

"If I had waited, what would have happened? Maybe a moment under the mistletoe? Maybe something would have happened? Don't kid yourself, Hermione. We are who we are; you and I both know that wouldn't have happened."

"Ron..."

"Maybe I did this to be vindictive. It's not so much fun on the outside, is it?" He shot her a sidelong glare, blue eyes icy in the light.

A spark of anger flared in her and she opened her mouth to retort when Ron pushed off the wall and made to walk away.

"I'll see you 'round, Hermione." Without another word, he walked off.

Once upon a time, he had used to say, "I'll see you later, Hermione," in a voice that had made her shiver. The way the syllables of her name had rolled off his tongue had sent goosebumps up and down her arms. It was the drop of warmth in his voice that had made everything else seem so cold.

Now, she shivered from the ice in his voice and his eyes.

"I bet Violet, once, a while back, that you two would be a couple soon." The Fat Lady quietly mused. "I suppose I owe her that bottle of champagne now."

Hermione quietly turned to the painting.

"Password?"

She shook her head. "I'm changing it."

"To what, dearie?"

She paused. "Goosebumps."

"Done." And the portrait hole swung open.


AN: This is the first part of a planned seven (though that's subject to change). I loved writing this. but it was hard. I took a long time trying to figure out how I was going to pull their argument off. How do you portray two people as hurt and confrontational at the same time. I mean, it's difficult enough in a visual medium; text-based? That's even harder.

Points to anyone who can name all the references to Thirty Kisses in here.

Comment and critique, sil vous plait. ♥