TITLE: Breaking Free
AUTHOR: Sugah Sugah
SUMMARY: Ron is finally free of Lavender. Part 8 of the Made for You series.
SPOILERS: HBP
PAIRING: Ron/Hermione, duh
RATING: K+
DISCLAIMER: My name is not JK Rowling. I am in no way affiliated with her, Warner Bros., Scholastic, or Harry Potter. This is purely to satisfy my muse, which was incredibly disappointed that Ron chose Lavender (LAVENDER!) and simply wanted to do something about it.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is a repost. I didn't like the way this turned out, so I retooled it. Hope it works better than the previous version.
Set during chapter 22 ("After the Burial") and is told from Ron's POV.
Based on the song "When I See You Smile" by Bad English. Also a series of stories by lavenderbrown. No infringement is intended. It's kind of hard to find different ways to do the same exact thing.
Sorry I've been MIA. Computer problems and the absence of my muse have contributed to the lack of updates. But I'm back now.

Reviews are always appreciated.


Breaking Free

"Cause sometimes it seems like this world's closing in on me, and there's no way of breaking free, and then I see you reach for me…" – Bad English

Ron felt like the biggest, most useless lump of flesh that ever existed. Here was Harry, off to Aragog's funeral (though Ron was personally glad to be missing that – he got the shivers just thinking about it) to get that missing memory from Slughorn, and Ron could do nothing but wait until his mate got back. He knew that Harry was the bloody Boy Who Lived, but he just wished he could have done something – anything – to help, instead of just sitting around doing absolutely nothing.

With his best mate traipsing off into the dark, Ron had other things on his mind, and as he and Hermione followed the now invisible Harry downstairs into the common room, he didn't even notice Lavender sitting over by the fire. But he sure as hell heard her.

"What were you doing up there with her?"

"Huh?" Ron said, genuinely confused. He turned to face her as she came storming across the room, and Ron realized that it must look pretty bad to her – she couldn't see Harry, obviously, so she must've thought it was just him and Hermione alone in the boys' dormitory.

Well, served her right. Couldn't she take a bloody hint? He'd been going out of his way to avoid her for weeks now – not just being alone with her, but her in general. He was sure that Harry and Hermione were sick of being his human shields, and he knew Hermione was anxious for him to end things with Lavender, but it wasn't easy. How was he supposed to do this? Just come right out and say, "Hey, Lavender, I think you're obnoxious and I hate being alone with you and if you could just forget that we ever dated, that would be great, thanks"? That would never work. Ron wasn't good with words; he needed time to plan things like this out, time to practice what he was going to say so that he wouldn't sound like a complete prat when the time finally came.

But Lavender was getting closer by the second, and it looked like the time had finally come, and here was Ron with absolutely no idea what to say. And Lavender looked really, really mad. He hoped she hadn't been practicing her hexes.

"Well," said Hermione, a little too brightly, considering the situation, "I'll just be going then, shall I?"

Ron gripped her wrist firmly with his fingers. "Don't leave me alone with her."

Hermione smiled. "Oh but, Won-Won, this is your chance," she said, "to break free of the giant squid."

Lavender stood directly in front of the two of them, and though Ron was taller than she was, he cowered before her. The look on her face and the fire in her eyes reminded him of his mum when she was angry, and no one ever crossed his mum when she was angry. There had to be some class that the boys at Hogwarts didn't know about, where the professors taught the girls how to be properly mad, so as to make guys like him want to run screaming for the nearest door. If that were true, then the blokes should be taught how to stand up to girls who were that angry. It was only fair.

"I'm waiting for an answer, Ronald," Lavender said. Ron winced at her use of his full name, almost wishing that she would call him "Won-Won". He honestly wasn't sure which was worse. "What were you doing up there with her?"

The way she spat out the word "her" pissed Ron off, like Hermione was some kind of disease. But as angry as he was, he was afraid to even open his mouth for fear that Lavender would rip his head off. It was very obvious what Lavender thought he and Hermione had been doing up in his room, but she apparently wanted Ron to admit it.

"Harry borrowed one of my books," Hermione said, sounding insulted by the very insinuation that she and Ron had been doing anything inappropriate. She flipped her hair over her shoulder and braced her hands on her hips, doing her best scandalized impression. She had no idea how incredibly sexy she looked like that. "I was just getting it back."

Lavender narrowed her eyes, unconvinced. She used her head to gesture at Hermione's empty hands. "No book."

Hermione rolled her eyes in an exaggerated fashion. "I couldn't find it," she said, without even missing a beat. "You've been in that room," she said, and she was doing a very poor job at hiding the bitterness in her voice, "you know what a mess it is. I'm lucky I managed to get out of there without spraining my ankle."

Ron bit his lip to keep from smiling. Smiling would not be a good idea, but Hermione was doing such a good job at lying that it was hard not to.

"Now," Hermione said, "if you don't mind, I've got homework to do." She turned on her heel and stomped away in a huff, leaving Ron alone with the raging troll who had taken the place of his girlfriend.

Ron cleared his throat, which unfortunately drew Lavender's attention back to him. "I have homework, too," he said, and he made his way to the staircase.

Lavender took a step to the side, blocking his progress. He cursed all the times she'd been practically attached to his hip; she seemed to be able to anticipate his movements. "You do not have homework, Ronald."

That wasn't entirely true. He did have homework – they all had homework – but he would of course wait until the next morning and try to come up with the answers at breakfast, as per usual. Lavender had witnessed many of his last minute attempts to finish his assignments. He tried a couple of times to move around her, but she followed his every move, and he gave up with a sigh. It looked as though he was finally going to have to face her.

It wasn't that he didn't want this – he'd been wanting to chuck Lavender for weeks now. He wanted the opportunity to prove to Hermione that he wasn't a complete and total git, that the two of them should be together, and that Lavender was a barmy tart and he had absolutely no feelings for her whatsoever. Of course, accomplishing that was going to be no easy task, and Ron had not been looking forward to the actual breakup, which was why he had been putting it off. He could row with Hermione for hours, and he never backed down from a fight with her, but he was afraid of rowing with Lavender. When he and Hermione fought, he knew that they didn't mean anything they said – usually. With Lavender, he knew that every insult, every insinuation that came out of her mouth would be what she was really feeling.

"We have to talk," Lavender said.

Ron flinched automatically. Those were never good words to come out of a woman's mouth. Granted, this was the conversation he wanted to have, but he wasn't relishing having this conversation. Amazing, how one girl could turn him into a blathering idiot. Actually, now that he thought about, it wasn't that amazing. Hermione could quite easily make him put his foot in his mouth. He gulped and nodded. "Okay."

"This," Lavender said, gesturing at both of them with her hands, "is not working."

Ron nodded, unsure of what to say to that. "Okay."

Not the right thing to say, apparently. Lavender's eyes darkened. "Ronald, you're supposed to say something like how you're going to fix this." She blinked a couple of times. "Preferably by buying me something shiny and expensive."

Ron nearly choked on the huge gulp of air he was swallowing. Shiny and expensive? Did she know nothing about him? Of course she knew nothing about him. How would she? It wasn't like they talked when they were together. He'd tried, once, and gave up almost immediately. He didn't like having to explain about his siblings – Lavender didn't know all of them, and he got sick of constantly reminding her who everyone was. He'd tried talking about Percy and she was so confused that he just let the whole thing go. He never had to explain things with Hermione; she just knew.

What in Merlin's name had he been thinking, going after Lavender? He was such a git. No wonder Hermione had wanted nothing to do with him. He took a deep breath and steeled his nerves; he was going to have to suck it up and take this like a man.

"I don't think – "

She didn't let him finish. "I don't feel special, Ronald," she said, crossing her arms. "You've been spending more time with her than with me lately." There was only one person she could have been talking about, with as much malice as she was using. "She was with you in the hospital wing. She told me that you weren't allowed to have visitors, and then she was there with you."

Ron pursed his lips and bit his tongue to keep himself from responding. He'd been really proud of Hermione telling Lavender that, because it kept her off his back for a while – not as much time as he would have liked, because Lavender ignored it and came anyway, but good enough. But it had been weeks ago, and he thought he had explained the situation to her.

"I thought you two weren't friends anymore." Lavender stuck her bottom lip out in a pout that Ron couldn't believe he had once considered attractive. It looked like someone had hit it with an engorgement charm. Hey, now there was an idea.

Ron rolled his eyes. "Lav, we've been over this."

"I am your girlfriend!" Lavender said, and by now everyone in the common room was staring at them, and suddenly Ron was in the middle of one of his nightmares – a loud, public breakup. The last thing he wanted was an audience. "Not her – me!"

"I know that." He gave serious consideration to doing a silencing charm on her just so that she would shut up. But he'd left his wand upstairs in his room.

"Then act like it! You never want to do anything with me anymore! You never want to be alone with me! You don't wear the necklace I gave you! You don't like any of my friends! You don't listen to me!"

Ron snorted and, before he could stop himself, heard himself say, "Yeah, well, that necklace was ugly."

He realized what he said almost the minute the words were out of his mouth, but it was too late to take them back, and Lavender recoiled as if struck. "I looked everywhere for that," she said, sounding genuinely hurt. "I thought you'd like it."

Like it? How could he like that gaudy monstrosity she had the audacity to call a necklace? What self-respecting bloke would like a necklace, anyway? He'd get the piss taken out of him if the other guys even saw that necklace, let alone if he wore it. He'd hidden the hideous thing in a pair of his old socks and buried in under mounds of old homework assignments in his trunk. It was bad enough Harry still teased him mercilessly about "my sweetheart", the last thing he needed was for the others to do it, too.

Lavender's bottom lip quivered, and quite suddenly she burst into tears. Not what Ron had been expecting.

"You don't l – love me anymore!" Lavender said. The words were punctuated by ear-splitting wails and muffled by her hands, which were covering her entire face.

Ron had to bite his tongue to keep from saying that he had never loved her at all. He just stood there, useless lump of flesh that he was, unsure of what he should do. Should he go over there and try to comfort her, or would that give her the wrong idea? So he just stayed where he was, hoping that she stopped crying soon. This was getting embarrassing.

"You don't spend any time with me anymore," Lavender said again, still sobbing. "You spend all your time with Hermione."

Ron rolled his eyes. "We're friends," he said, practically growling. He was apparently going to have to club Lavender over the head to get that concept through her thick skull.

The tears stopped as abruptly as they'd started. "You are not allowed to be mad!" Lavender was really seething now. Smoke was almost pouring out her ears. "I just caught you with her alone in your room!"

"We weren't doing anything!" He wanted to add that they had been talking to Harry, but as Harry was nowhere to be found, and no one was supposed to know about his invisibility cloak. Besides, if he wanted to hang out with Hermione, he was allowed to do that. They were friends. And Lavender hadn't caught him doing anything – they'd just come down the stairs, innocent as can be. "We're just friends!"

"Oh, please, Ronald, I'm not stupid!"

"Well, you could've fooled me!"

The common room went dead quiet. Ron could not believe that he had just said that. He wasn't sure who was more surprised – himself or Lavender. For as scared as he was of provoking her, he just kept making her angrier by putting his big dumb foot in his mouth.

"What did you just say to me?"

Ron immediately tried to backpedal. He held up his hands and started to slowly back away from her. "I didn't mean it that way, Lav, I meant – "

Lavender's voice rose to a pitch that was sure to shatter every window in Gryffindor Tower, and she kept coming at him. "We are through, Ronald Weasley! And don't even think of trying to come crawling back to me, because I'm too good for you! You don't deserve me!"

With that, she turned and stomped up the stairs. Several of the girls in the common room applauded Lavender's outburst. Ron could only stand there, momentarily stunned. She had ditched him? It only took about three seconds for him to come to the realization that Lavender had just broken up with him. He was no longer permanently attached to the giant squid. He could do the one thing he'd been wanting to do since fourth year – pursue Hermione. Ron glanced up the staircase to the girls' dormitory, wondering just how long he could force himself to wait before snogging Hermione senseless in some empty classroom.

Merlin, would she even go for something like that?

"Tough break, mate," said Seamus, coming up from behind him.

"What?" Ron asked, unsure what he was talking about. Tough break because Lavender had dumped him, or because she had dumped him in a very public, humiliating fashion, in front of the whole of Gryffindor Tower? Ron didn't really care either way; he'd been putting off ending things with Lavender for weeks, and as for the rest of the House, they would gossip about it for a few days and then move on to some other topic.

"She's…talented," Seamus said, grinning. "If you know what I mean."

Ron shook his head. Lavender was talented, Ron had to admit that. But Ron would take Hermione's inexperience over Lavender's "talents" any day. He wanted more than just a snog partner. He wanted a girlfriend. "Finnegan, the first years know what you mean."

"I'm just saying… Shame things had to end like that. How far did you get with her anyway?"

Ron could not believe he was actually having this conversation with Seamus, of all people. He was a bloke, he knew there was no good way to answer that question. "None of your bleeding business, Finnegan."

He didn't wait around to hear Seamus's response and took the stairs to the dormitory two at a time. He closed the door behind him and collapsed on his bed. He stared absently at the wall, replaying the whole conversation in his head. It got the desired outcome, but he wished he could have handled it differently – a little less stammering and a little more firm insistences that their relationship was a crock. He hated the fact that Lavender had broken up with him, especially just because he'd called her stupid without meaning to call her stupid.

There was a knock at the door, and Ron craned his neck over his shoulder. None of the other boys would knock to come into their own room – Neville maybe, if he thought Ron wanted to be alone.

"Come in."

"Ron?" It was Hermione. She opened the door a crack, and her big bushy hair poked through into the room. Ron had never been happier to see hair in all his life.

Ron rolled over and sat up immediately as Hermione pushed the rest of her way through the door. He wanted nothing more than to rush over, pin her against the wall, and give her the best snog she'd ever had. Way better than that sodding git Krum. But he kept himself rooted to his bed, knowing that if he did try to snog her, he could scare her away, and that was the last thing he wanted to do. "Hey."

"I take it things went well," she said, and she was doing a very poor job of hiding her grin.

Her grin was contagious, and soon Ron was smiling, too. "You heard, then?"

"The whole tower heard." She was still smiling, but her face softened. "Are you okay?"

"Fabulous," said Ron. "I can breathe again."

She gave a little laugh and immediately clapped her hand over her mouth, as if realizing what Ron had said. "That really wasn't funny, Ron," she said in a mildly scolding tone, but she didn't seem all that upset by his comment.

Ron shrugged. "Sorry." He wasn't sorry. At least, not about what he had said. But he was sorry for a lot of other things, and he was wondering just how he could even begin to apologize for all the hell he'd put her through over the past few months without sticking his foot in his mouth, like always. Then it occurred to him that Lavender had run upstairs to her room, upset over Ron and Hermione, and Hermione had been in that room. "She didn't say anything to you, did she?"

Hermione shook her head. "I wasn't in there – I was in Ginny's room."

Ron breathed a sigh of relief. He didn't want Lavender to say anything to Hermione about this; he just knew Lavender would blow things out of proportion, and Hermione would probably say something that she would regret and proceed to torture herself over it for days. It was just the way she was. "Good."

He looked up at her, wondering just how completely inappropriate it would be if he kissed her right now. What was the appropriate amount of time after a relationship had ended to make a move on another girl? Probably longer than five minutes, that was for damn sure, but she just looked so pretty standing there at the door, a slight blush tingeing her cheeks pink. But Hermione must've read the look in his eyes, because she said, "I think we need to – "

Ron groaned louder than was normal, and Hermione jumped. "Please don't say 'talk', Hermione. I've had enough of that for one day."

Hermione licked her lips; he really wished she wouldn't do things like that. She had no idea how sexy that was. Or maybe she did, and she was just doing this to torture him. "I was going to say we need to take things slow."

Ron hoped his disappointment wasn't evident. "Slow?" he asked. He just wanted to make sure he had heard her correctly. He shifted position on the bed, so that he was kneeling at the foot of it.

Hermione stayed where she was, on the other side of the room. Maybe she was afraid, as he was, that if she came any closer, they'd be all over each other. What a silly thing to be afraid of. "It's just… You and Lavender just broke up, and I don't – I don't want anyone to think that…" She paused and took a deep breath, averting her eyes. "Everyone in Gryffindor heard what Lavender said, Ron. I don't know how many of them believed it, but if we were to all of a sudden – "

He found himself smiling. She was worried about what people would think. It was so typically Hermione. It was so unbelievably endearing. "It's okay, Hermione." He bit the inside of his cheek. "I understand."

"Are you sure?"

Ron nodded. "Slow, yeah. Sounds good." He stared at her for a moment or two, then blinked and said, "I screwed things up once, Hermione. I don't intend to do it again."

"Good," Hermione said. She remained where she was standing, back against the door. "I just didn't want you to think… I mean, I do want to be with…" She trailed off, laughing nervously. "I wanted to say something to you. I wanted you to know that I still…"

Ron smiled softly. She looked so beautiful. What the hell had he been thinking? How could he have ever chosen Lavender over her? And now she was standing there, in his room, telling him that even after everything he'd done to her, she still wanted to be with him. It was more than he could have ever hoped for.

And if he even attempted to say anything, he would just screw it up. So he said nothing.

They stared at each other for another few minutes, and then Hermione blushed and looked away. "I should probably get back downstairs." She turned to open the door, and Ron was off the bed in a heartbeat, tripping over Dean's shoes in an attempt to get to Hermione before she left.

"Hermione, wait!" She paused, her hand on the doorknob, and looked at him in shock. "By slow, you mean… I mean, are we – "

Hermione moved so quickly that he didn't have time to react, stepping forward and pressing a quick kiss on his forehead. Before he even realized what she had done, she had stepped back again. "Don't worry, Ron. There's plenty of time for us."

She opened the door. Ron, on impulse, reached out and shut it before she could step through it. Hermione raised her eyebrows, and her mouth opened slightly – probably in shock at Ron's actions. And before he even really knew what he was doing, he had surged forward and pressed his lips to hers.

Stars exploded behind his eyes, and he thought his heart might burst, it was beating so fast. He wanted to go farther, wanted to deepen the kiss, but after what she had said about wanting to go slow, he didn't think it would be a good idea. She might punch him. Or sick another flock of canaries on him. So he just moved his lips over hers – once, twice – a gentle caress, and then he was done. It felt like an eternity but was probably only a few seconds. He pulled away to look at her and was pleased to see that she was smiling.

He licked his lips, savoring the unique taste of Hermione that still lingered, and leaned forward until their foreheads touched. "Sorry. I know you want to go slow, but I just – I just couldn't take it any more."

"Well," Hermione said, as she opened the door and backed through it, "I suppose I can forgive you. Just this once."

She threw him one last smile and ambled down the stairs. Ron pressed a hand to his forehead and stared down the staircase after her. Then he shut the door and collapsed against it.

"Yes!"