Title: The Ghost of a Good Thing

Author: Amethyst J.

Author E-mail: AmethystJackson AT hotmail DOT com

Category: Romance

Keywords: Harry, Hermione, fluff, goo, hugs, etc.

Rating: PG

Spoilers: For all five books

Summary: Harry comforts Hermione after a fight with Ron. The title is a Dashboard Confessional song, but this is not a songfic. The song has nothing to do whatsoever with the fic.

Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.

Author's Note: Warning you now – this is a one-shot. There will be no talk of more chapters, if you please.

As most of my fics seem to be these days, this was written for fanfict00bs, which can be found on under that username.

The Ghost of a Good Thing

When the doorbell rang at Number 4 Privet Drive, Harry expected to open the door to one of Dudley's gang or Mrs. Next-Door. Instead, he faced a bloodshot-eyed Hermione.

"Hello, Harry. I…is it okay that I'm here?" she asked, her voice suggesting that she was on the verge of tears.

"Of course, come in," he said, moving away from the door.

"Your relatives won't mind?" she questioned, stepping inside.

"That doesn't matter," Harry said, leading her upstairs. "So what's wrong?"

Hermione stopped on the stairs, and Harry turned around to see her. She looked surprised.

"Am I that obvious?"

Harry offered her a weak smile. "I could tell you'd been crying. What happened?"

She sighed as they continued up the stairs. "I've just had a fight with Ron. A big one."

"About what?" he asked warily. He wasn't sure he wanted to be dragged into this.

"Well, he asked me to be his girlfriend."

"Oh," he said as he led her into his room, shutting the door behind them. For some reason, his throat felt tight. "And what did you say?"

She looked at him like he'd just sprouted a second head. "I refused, of course. What else would I do?"

"Er, I'd always thought…never mind. So what happened after that?"

Hermione sat on his bed, making herself comfortable and looking for all the world like she sat there all the time. "Well, you know how Ron is. Whenever he's upset, he refuses to see the obvious…or refuses to see reason all together. He said a lot of horrible things to me. He said it was all because of you – that I only cared about you, that I wouldn't even be friends with him if it wasn't the only way I could be friends with you." She'd become very tearful at this point, and Harry was feeling increasingly more awkward. "And then he finally said that I'd have accepted in a heartbeat if he had a fancy broom and a scar on his forehead."

Harry sank down on the bed beside her. His insides were twisting with a very strange and unexpected feeling of guilt. But it didn't make sense. After all, it wasn't his fault Ron thought that way, and even if those things were true, he couldn't be blamed for it. It wasn't as if he'd been trying to lure Hermione away from Ron or use his fame or flying skills to impress her.

He looked over at Hermione. She still had tears running down her face and she was staring down at a handkerchief that she was twisting in her hands. For the first time that he could remember, he wanted to hug her…which was strange, because he'd never really felt the urge to hug anyone. He didn't even know how to hug someone; he'd never done it before. Of course, he'd been hugged several times – mostly by Hermione – but he'd never initiated a hug before. He'd probably do it wrong. He'd probably accidentally touch something he wasn't supposed to touch. But he wanted to do something – anything – to comfort her.

And for once in his life, Harry didn't need Hermione to figure out his problem for him. He suddenly knew exactly why he felt guilty about the things Ron said; it was because he wanted them to be true. He wanted Hermione to care more about him than Ron, he wanted her to want to be with him, and, God help him, he really did want to touch those parts of Hermione that he wasn't supposed to touch.

He was beginning to feel a little dizzy, but Hermione was still crying, and he still had no idea what she thought about the things Ron said, so he settled for putting an arm around her, careful that his hand rested on her arm and not one of those things.

She turned her head to look at him with a small smile, and he asked with a somewhat strained voice, "What did you say to him?"

Her smile turned abruptly into an angry scowl. "I told him he was a moron, and that he was so blinded by his jealousy of you that he couldn't comprehend the fact that I just didn't like him that way and wouldn't like him that way even if I'd never met you, maybe because I don't like redheads and he's gotten so full of himself ever since he got good at Quidditch that no girl other than Luna Lovegood could stand him."

"What sort of hair color do you like?" he asked curiously as she blew her nose.

She gave him a very perplexed and slightly annoyed look, and he regretted asking the question until she said, "I like dark hair, but what has that got to do with anything?"

"Nothing," he said, suppressing a smile as his heart did a guilty but triumphant little summersault. "Go on."

"Well, naturally, Ron immediately went into denial and said," and she mimicked Ron's voice, "'You never minded much when Harry was the Quidditch star.'" She hiccoughed. "And that was the last straw. I told him that it didn't matter who was good at Quidditch; it mattered that he went about ruffling his hair like an idiot trying to impress girls. Then I told him he needed to stop assuming you were trying to conspire against him or something because you'd never do anything like that. Then he stormed off and I came here on the Knight Bus."

She sighed, resting her head on his shoulder. Some butterflies in his stomach began to flutter. "He's never going to speak to me again, is he?"

Harry gave her arm a reassuring squeeze. "He might be able to look at you without turning purple in a month or two."

She laughed slightly, her breath tickling his neck. He fought the urge to pull her closer as she continued speaking.

"I'm not entirely sure that I really want him to speak to me again. I mean, he's been a good friend, for the most part, but I'm tired of all the bickering. I don't like fighting all the time. And I'm tired of all the things he says to make himself feel like he's got power over me…"

Harry frowned. He'd never noticed that. "What sort of things?"

"Oh…well, he never says them outright. They're just…implied. Maybe it's just the way I'm interpreting them. He might not mean to imply anything. But sometimes, it's like he's trying to say that I don't matter. That I'm still the annoying little tag-along that I was first year, like I only hang around to nag you both. Like I don't really matter to either of you. It's like it's this big competition over who the real best friend is, and…oh, I shouldn't be talking about all this with you, Harry. You must be thinking this is all your fault…but it isn't, it's just Ron's stupid obsession with having something you don't and my silly insecurities…. It's unfair to you, to have to deal with my blubbering and Ron's attitude when you've got so many other things to worry about…more important things."

Harry shook his head, daring to put his other arm around her, resting his own head on hers. "Nothing's more important than you." He wanted to leave it at that…he intended to…but it implied so much…no, he couldn't leave it there, so he added, "And Ron. My best friends."

If she noticed the hesitation in what he'd just said, she did not remark on it, but she wound her arms around his middle and said, "I'm very lucky to have you as a friend, Harry."

"I don't know how lucky being around me is. Ludicrous, perhaps. Dangerous, perilous, potentially fatal, yes..."

Hermione pulled away, looking at him with a very tender expression. He wanted to kiss her.

"Harry, I wouldn't be here if it wasn't more than worth the risk. You're the most selfless, most loyal, kindest person I know…and you're the best friend I've ever had. And…I love you. I know you think I'd probably be better off if you pushed me away, but being away from you is worse than anything Voldemort could do to me. I wouldn't be able to stand not fighting right by your side."

Somehow, she knew exactly what he needed to hear – and in a way, she always had, even if he didn't want to hear it or chose not to listen. She was his truest and best friend. He'd always considered Ron his best friend, and he loved Ron like a brother…but even Ron had not always been there. No, it was Hermione who had never given up on him, who had never turned against him when the rest of the world and even Ron had, who had never been too afraid to approach him when his defenses sprang up and he desperately needed someone to break through them and make him see reason. Hermione knew him better than anyone else, sometimes better than he knew himself, and he needed her so very badly.

And he loved her.

He looked into her warm eyes, feeling more at home there in that moment with her than he'd ever felt in his life. He smiled. "I think I'm the lucky one, Hermione."

And Hermione did what Hermione did best – she hugged him, throwing her arms around his neck and managing as always to completely obscure his vision with her hair. In the past, her hugs had been somewhat welcome but always so confusing or surprising or awkward to really be enjoyed, but now…now this was another one of those things that had become distinctly Hermione for Harry – things like books, quills, cats, and now, her hugs.

"Ron's wrong, you know," he told her as he continued to hold her (she didn't seem very inclined to let go either). She pulled back to look at him inquisitively.

"About what?"

"That you have to be his friend to be my friend. He's wrong."

"I know," she said with a hint of a smile. "I'm beginning to see that now."

She pulled away entirely, standing up and looking out the window. He resisted the urge to pull her back as she stifled a yawn. "What time is it?" she asked.

Harry glanced at his watch. "Nearly nine."

"They'll have realized I'm not there by now," she said quietly. "I suppose I should head back before they send out a search party."

"You could send them an owl."

"Yes," she sighed, looking around the room as if waiting for something to convince her to act.

"If you don't want to go back tonight," he ventured, trying not to sound too hopeful, "you can stay here, and I'll smuggle you out in the morning."

"It is getting dark…probably safer to wait until morning…and I'm so tired now…you wouldn't mind?" she asked hesitantly.

"Not at all," he said, standing. "You take the bed, I'll sleep on the floor."

"No, I'll sleep on the floor," she said automatically, as he'd known she would.

"I'm not arguing with you about this. I'm sleeping on the floor," he said stubbornly.

"Then we're both sleeping on the floor," she said, crossing her arms.

"Fine. We'll share the bed." He was hoping she would refuse and guiltily hoping at the same time that she would agree so that he could have her body close to his.

"You don't mind sharing with me?" she asked, looking at him strangely.

"Why would I?" he answered, confused and suddenly panicky. Had she realized that purely platonic relationships between males and females didn't usually include wanting to share a bed?

She shrugged. "Just making sure."

Harry stood and pulled the blankets back for her, and she slid into the bed. He turned off the lights and crawled in beside her. Wordlessly, she turned and snuggled into him, resting her head on his chest. She fell asleep quickly, and as he listened to her quiet breathing, he came to a decision.

He would not feel guilty for loving her. Loving her was not betraying Ron. She was not Ron's property; she would choose who she would be with, and she had already chosen against Ron. And if she loved him, by some chance, didn't she deserve the right to choose him – didn't she deserve to be loved? Yes, she deserved all the love in the world.

He would give Ron time to get over her, and he would wait for some sign, and when the time was right, he would tell her that he loved her. But for now, he would watch her sleep.