Title: As Loving Goes
Author: Amethyst J.
Author E-mail: AmethystJackson (at) hotmail (dot) com
Category: Romance, Humor
Keywords: Harry, Hermione, jealousy, Hogsmeade, Terry Boot
Spoilers: For all five books...ish
Summary: Sequel to Ghost of a Good Thing – a Hogsmeade weekend gone wrong forces Harry to confront his guilt complex. Again.
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: Um, yeah, so I sort of changed my mind about the story being a one-shot…but there will be absolutely no more after this. I'm not going to try to come up with another plot just because you all are desperate for vicarious smoochies. Tut tut, all of you.
And thank you to everyone who reviewed 'Ghost' – I still can't believe the number of reviews it received. I tried to reply to all of them…until I realized I was spending more time replying to reviews than writing the sequel, so I gave up, and those of you who didn't receive a thank you – I'm thanking you now. You rock.
And to those of you that I promised the sequel would be out within a week – well, it would have been, had an unexpected fanfict00bs (http:www. livejournal .com/ community/ fanfict00bs) deadline not come up, which I decided to save this for.
As Loving Goes
Five months had passed quietly since the day Hermione had come to Harry with tears in her eyes over what was possibly her most explosive fight with Ron to date. As predicted, Ron had been just a little frosty toward Harry and still wasn't on very good terms with Hermione when Harry returned to Grimmauld Place two weeks later, and he grew frostier still when Harry was named Quidditch captain. Harry, while slightly irritated with Ron's attitude, knew that he would get over both Hermione's rejection and the Quidditch business soon enough, and he did the best he could to improve matters by declaring Ron co-captain. Ron did prove to very useful. While Harry had become nearly as obsessed with Quidditch as Ron was over the years, Ron had been obsessed a lot longer than Harry had, and, as a Keeper, he knew much more about Chaser tactics than Harry did. Upon realizing that he was actually very important, Ron stopped minding that Harry was the real captain and reveled in playing the expert.
After returning to Hogwarts, Ron finally began to forgive Hermione as the pain of rejection wore off and he discovered that not all girls were repulsed by him, especially not the ones that enjoyed Quidditch. Hermione, in turn, began to forgive him for his harsh words and poor behavior, and by Halloween, things were back to normal.
In the meantime, Harry was constantly on the alert for any clue at all from Hermione that she might return his feelings. He came up with a few things, but none of them were conclusive. Every now and then she would look up at him and catch him staring at her, and he would look away, trying not to blush, but then, upon looking back, he would find her smiling. He thought that was a good sign, but he also worried that she might only be smiling because she was mentally laughing at him. That didn't seem like a very Hermione-like thing for her to do, but he didn't know what she really thought about him. Perhaps she would never show it, but she actually thought him to be silly and ridiculously obvious and not at all worth a second glance, and perhaps she thought it funny that he thought he had the slightest chance of being with her. He would feel better about matters, though, when Cho Chang would pass them in the halls and pretend they didn't exist, and Hermione would tut and say that Cho had never deserved him, always loud enough that Cho must have heard. This reassured Harry that Hermione couldn't possibly think as lowly of him as he feared.
Harry soon came to realize that analyzing Hermione's behavior was not the best way to decide when he should tell her he loved her. Every time he came up with something that seemed unarguable proof of her returning his feelings, the more pessimistic and self-doubting side of his brain would provide an even more unarguable reason why that something was actually proof that she'd never give him the time of day. It didn't help that Harry had no idea how to analyze female behavior. He wasn't a female, after all, and he never had been one – Hermione had always been his only link to the female world. It would have been very nice if Harry could have asked her to decipher her own behavior for him, but Harry at least knew enough about girls to know that that wouldn't be a good idea.
When opportunities presented themselves, Harry tried to use them to produce some kind of telling reaction from Hermione. When Hannah Abbott asked him to go to Hogsmeade with her, he mentioned it as casually as he could to Hermione, who seemed completely indifferent about the entire matter. "That's nice. She's a sweet girl. What did you say?" was her response. He told her he'd said no, and she asked him why, seeming only innocently curious. Slightly disappointed with this reaction, he told her, "I said I'd already made plans with you."
"Is that the only reason you turned her down?" she asked.
"Well, no – I mean, I didn't want to lead her on. She's nice enough, and she's pretty, but…well, there's another girl that I'd hoped…well, anyway," Harry ended awkwardly, "I thought it best to refuse."
Harry thought he'd seen Hermione stiffen ever so slightly when he'd said, "there's another girl," but he didn't dare to hope…
"Um, well, Harry, you should know," Hermione said, looking very sheepish, "I sort of…er, agreed to go to Hogsmeade with Terry Boot."
Harry blinked, unsure whether he should stay and find out just why Hermione wanted to be with Terry Boot more than him or if he should just go to the root of the problem and strangle the Ravenclaw. He decided to stay.
"Terry Boot? When did this happen?"
"Well, he asked me in the library yesterday, and I thought it would be all right. You don't mind, do you, Harry?" she asked earnestly. "Ron's still going – you won't be alone."
"Actually, Ron's going with Lavender," Harry said, and he had to try very hard to resist the urge to throw a temper tantrum. What did she see in Terry Boot, anyway? He was…boring! And not at all Hermione's type. His hair wasn't that dark. Definitely not as dark as Harry's.
"Oh – oh, Harry, I'm sorry, if I'd known I wouldn't have accepted. Perhaps we could meet later in the day. And maybe you could talk to Hannah – tell her that your plans changed and see if she'd still like to go with you. It would be a very nice thing to do, and it would be better than going alone or staying behind, don't you think?"
Harry nodded, lost in moody, bitter thoughts. How could Hermione have made a date for a day that she'd already promised to spend with him? How could she be abandoning him? He was having a very difficult time coping with the shock the idea had caused him. The thought that Hermione could one day be taken away from him had never entered his head, especially the thought that she could be taken from him by a Ravenclaw, who, as far as Harry was concerned, had absolutely nothing that would make him more deserving of Hermione's attention and affection than Harry was. Could it really be possible for Hermione to go off and fall in love with someone like Terry Boot? Could she really marry some normal, and, again, boring man and have several curly-haired, bookish little children while he was left all alone, provided, of course, that he didn't meet an untimely death at the hands of He-Who-Must-Be-A-Constant-Thorn-In-Harry's-Side?
Oh, of course, Potter, he thought to himself, realizing too late what he'd failed to see before. Of course she wants to end up a normal man – normal men don't die trying to vanquish Dark Lords. How can she possibly imagine having a family with me when she's fully prepared for me to be too dead to procreate?
Harry was forced to wonder if he was being selfish in trying to keep Hermione all to himself. What sort of life could he possibly offer her when he couldn't even say it was likely that he would be alive in two years? And even if he did survive the final battle against Voldemort, what sort of condition would he be in? He remembered the Longbottoms – would he even be sane enough to recognize Hermione when all was said and done? No…she would be ten times better off with Terry Boot. Terry Boot would not get her killed; Terry Boot would not leave her miserable and lonely.
"Harry? Harry, are you all right?" she asked, pulling him from his gloomy musings. One look at her worried face was all he needed to confirm his thoughts – he had to let her go.
"Yes," he lied, trying to fake a smile but producing more of a grimace instead. "Yes, I'm fine."
She looked as though she was about to cry, and he couldn't stand to see it. "I'm so sorry, Harry," she said. "I had no idea you'd be this disappointed – maybe I should tell Terry I can't –"
"No," he said quickly. "No, don't worry about it, Hermione. I think…I think you're probably right. I suppose I'll go try to find Hannah…"
He left her, not wholly convinced that he had not just broken himself beyond repair…and though he felt he would be doing what was best for Hermione, he could not help thinking that there couldn't possibly be a more ridiculous sounding name in the world than 'Hermione Boot.'
Four days later, Harry found himself seated in the Three Broomsticks across from Hannah Abbott. Hermione and Terry were across the room, chatting happily about something. Harry wished he could think of something interesting to say to Hannah, but he couldn't focus on much else but Hermione.
"You really do love her, don't you?" asked the Hufflepuff, and Harry looked back to her with wide eyes. He had not signed up for a day full of loaded questions from girls he barely knew.
"Er…who?" he asked, feigning obliviousness. Clearly, his oblivious face only worked when he was actually oblivious, because she just smiled.
"You've been staring at her all day, Harry. But it's all right – you don't have to pretend for my sake. Every girl in Hogwarts can tell you have a thing for her – well, except her. But it's more than that, isn't it?"
"Well…yes," he admitted, blushing. "But…why did you ask me to go with you, if you knew that?"
She shrugged. "When I heard that Terry Boot was taking Hermione, I thought it might be worth a try."
"You knew?" he said, surprised and a little hurt. "How was I the last one to know?"
"She was probably afraid to tell you. She worries about you constantly, you know."
"She does?" Harry asked, finding it a little strange to be having this conversation on what was supposed to be a date, but he couldn't resist – if Hannah could offer him some insight into Hermione's behavior, he wanted to hear it…even if he would never act upon it. No, he definitely wouldn't act upon it.
"Don't tell me you've never noticed. I'm not really that close to her, but I've heard her talk about you enough to know that she's not happy unless she's sure you're all right, or she can be around you to make it better. I don't know how many times I've had her tell me that you weren't sleeping well or that you hadn't eaten much at breakfast – she's obsessed with your welfare. Excluding schoolwork, it's her favorite topic of conversation."
Harry was very surprised to hear Hannah – a girl he'd never spoken more than ten complete sentences to over the years, a girl that probably didn't know Hermione that well either – telling him these things, and he was yet more surprised to find that he shouldn't have been surprised. He should have seen what Hannah, and probably every other girl at Hogwarts, could see, and he should have acknowledged it every day; he should have appreciated Hermione.
Hannah looked at him very seriously over her butterbeer. "I know I don't know you or Hermione that well, and it's not really my place to be saying this, but I think you should ask her out."
Harry almost laughed. "If only it were that simple."
She frowned at him. "Why isn't it?"
Harry gave a hearty sigh, figuring if he was going to have a heart-to-heart with Hannah Abbott, he might as well make it a thorough one – besides, who better to spill his guts to than a girl he'd probably never have a full conversation with again? "Well, the thing is, you're right – I do love her. And that could get her killed." When Hannah just gave him a blank stare, he continued, "You-Know-Who knows that the easiest way to get to me is by hurting the ones I love, and if we started dating – if it was out in the open for everyone to see – he'd waste no time in going after her. I can't do that to her."
Hannah blinked at him. "But, Harry, she's Muggle-born and your best friend. Isn't she already a target?"
"Well…yes," Harry said, frowning down at his bottle of butterbeer. It wasn't something he'd failed to see, exactly…he'd known that she would be a target as soon as he'd realized Voldemort would be after him in particular…again. He had failed, however, to weigh that into his logic.
"So what does it matter if you date her?"
"Well, it's not just that," Harry said, wishing he hadn't already emptied his bottle because his mouth was feeling a bit dry. "I think…looking at the future…at least for now, it's better not to…start anything."
"I don't understand."
Harry squirmed. "Well…to be blunt, I might die. And she deserves more security than that…"
He could tell Hannah was trying very hard not to laugh. He fought the urge to glare at her. "Harry," she said, "everyone dies. Any one of us could die in the next five minutes. Just because you might have a greater chance of dying doesn't mean you should avoid dating."
"I just don't want her to get hurt, all right? She's better off with someone that probably won't be murdered, someone like…Terry," he said, knowing that even the hearing impaired would detect the disgust in his voice as he said the Ravenclaw's name.
"But she doesn't even like Terry that way," Hannah insisted. "He had to ask her four times before she'd agree, and even then she told him she'd probably leave in the afternoon to meet you."
"She did?" Harry said, not even bothering to disguise the eagerness in his voice this time. "But – wait, how do you know all this?"
She shrugged. "Gossip. Mandy Brocklehurst told me all about it – evidently, she was there when Terry asked her. The fourth time."
"Oh." Harry looked over at Hermione. He was pleased to find her looking back at him, and he smiled at her. She smiled back, and his heart thumped happily, before she turned back to Terry, saying something, and then they both got up and started walking toward them.
"Want me to get rid of Terry for you?" Hannah asked with a mischievous smirk that made him think he'd probably enjoy her method, whatever it was. He took one last glance at the Ravenclaw and smirked right back at the girl he'd quickly come to view as a rare female ally.
"Do your worst."
Hannah looked positively delighted, and he wondered momentarily if she had more motivation in separating Terry and Hermione than just helping him.
"Hello, Harry, Hannah," Hermione said pleasantly. "Enjoying yourselves?"
"Yes, it's been lovely," Hannah answered. "And you?"
"It's been…nice," she said, though she was looking at Harry. Harry didn't notice, but Hannah and Terry exchanged a significant look. "We were wondering if you'd like to make it a double date of sorts – perhaps we could all go 'round the shops together."
"That sounds like a wonderful idea," said Hannah, and Harry nodded his agreement. Looking at Terry, Harry could tell he wasn't happy with the arrangement and had not been privy to the idea until Hermione had chosen to offer it to the others, but he couldn't say anything without being imprudent, not when Hermione had spoken as if he'd been part of the plan.
As they walked along the main road in Hogsmeade, Harry found that he was having a very easy time forgetting all his good intentions of giving up Hermione for the greater good of all in favor of the jealousy that sprang up whenever Terry so much as looked at Hermione. Whenever Terry spoke, he had to struggle with the urge to interrupt – or to shut him up in a much quicker fashion, like hexing him. Terry seemed to sense this animosity, perhaps because Harry was glowering at him, but he fought valiantly to ignore it, much to Harry's amusement.
He glanced over at Hannah, wondering just when she was going to do as promised and get rid of Terry. She gave a slight bow nod that clearly said, "Give me time."
Harry glanced at Hermione, who, to his surprise, had been watching him and Hannah, and didn't seem to like what she'd just seen. He raised an eyebrow at her, but she just responded with a vaguely confused expression that didn't seem quite genuine.
He couldn't dare to hope…but what Hermione had just done had looked like jealousy. But it didn't make any sense. If she'd liked him all along, why had she agreed to go with Terry when she'd already been going with him?
Fine bloody day for Hermione to start leaving clues, Harry thought to himself, frowning. Normally, he would have grasped at any little sign she showed of wanting him at all, but today, after he'd settled on giving her up, it only made things more confusing. What Hannah had said made sense, but he still wasn't convinced that Hermione wouldn't be much happier with someone that was much less likely to be murdered in a year or two, even if everyone else thought she was perhaps a bit obsessed with him.
"Anyone fancy a visit to the bookshop?" Hermione asked. Harry automatically agreed, but Hannah chose it as her moment to step in.
"Actually, I'm dying to get to Honeydukes, and I'd like to get back to school early for some studying…Terry, do you want to come? Harry and Hermione can go on to the bookshop and meet us there when they're done."
Terry looked from the expressionless Hermione to the threatening-looking Harry to the expectant Hannah, and it's anyone's guess which one swayed him to go, but it can be supposed that Harry's warning glare had a heavy influence on his decision.
"Um…all right, if – if you don't mind, Hermione."
"No, go ahead!" she said cheerfully, "We'll be along soon enough."
Hannah led a rather put-out Terry off as Harry and Hermione continued their walk down the street to the bookstore.
"How do you like Hannah, Harry?" Hermione asked him as they walked into the shop.
"She's nice," Harry said. "We had a very enlightening talk."
Hermione raised an eyebrow but didn't question that statement as he followed her to the Transfiguration section.
"Do you think you want to go out with her again?"
"Oh, no, definitely not," Harry replied, hoping she wouldn't ask any questions that would require him to give himself away. He wasn't sure if he wanted to or not.
"Why not?" she asked, examining the back cover of Toad to Stool: Turning Animals into Useful Items.
"Well, it's like I told you. There's another girl I like, and she knows that."
Hermione put back the book. "You told her? And she was all right with that?"
"I didn't have to tell her," Harry answered. "She already knew."
She stopped examining the shelves to turn and look at him, shock stamped clearly on her face. "What…how?"
Harry shrugged. "I guess I was obvious about it."
Hermione turned away from him with a frown. Her eyes looked sad as she picked up another book. He wondered why that was – could she be upset, thinking he liked another girl? Or could it be that she'd noticed his feelings for her and was sad because she was convinced it would destroy their friendship?
"So, um, what about you and Terry? Do you, er, like him?" Harry questioned, trying not to look too terribly interested.
"Oh, well, I suppose he's all right," she said, brushing past him to move to the Household Charms section. "He's polite and considerate, and he's intelligent, but…well, I must say, he is a bit…boring."
I knew it! Harry quelled the triumphant shout that wanted to break free. "I take it you won't be going out with him again, then?"
"No, he's not really my type," Hermione said a bit briskly. She seemed guarded. Harry wondered what it was that she didn't want him to know.
"Mmm. No, his hair's not dark enough." Harry wished he hadn't said that as soon as the words were out.
Hermione turned around and frowned at him. "Why do you have such a strange obsession with hair color? It has nothing to do with compatibility. Besides, if his hair was any darker it would be black."
"You don't like black hair?" he asked, and he did his very best to hide how interested he was in her answer.
She quirked an eyebrow at him. "Yes, I do like black hair, but that's not the point. The point is that Terry's hair is almost as dark as it gets. How is that not dark enough?"
"I just imagined you with someone with black hair is all," Harry said, looking away so that hopefully she would not see him blushing.
"Oh? Like who?" she asked him with a smirk. At this point, Hermione had stopped looking through the books and Harry had stopped pretending to be interested in any of them. He rather wished they could get back to looking at the books. "How many people do we know that have black hair? I suppose you might have thought I'd be a suitable match for Voldemort – he has black hair, hasn't he?"
"Actually, I think Voldemort's losing his hair…last time I saw him it looked a bit thin…"
"Harry," she said firmly, but gently, "Who have you been picturing me with?"
She knew, and Harry knew she knew, and he also knew that she knew that he knew she knew. He couldn't admit it, though. A very stubborn part of him was still clinging to the belief that she was better off with someone else, someone with greater longevity, and he would not tell her, not if he could avoid it.
"Nobody in particular," he answered her, shrugging. "Just…someone with black hair."
Hermione took a step closer to him, making him feel very, very nervous. "I don't know many people with black hair, you know," Hermione said. "I don't think I'd be very compatible with Snape, do you? (Harry winced.) And it doesn't seem like the most feasible option to go back in time and seduce your father, though he must have been very handsome – you're supposed to look just like him, after all." Harry blushed, and she came even closer, close enough for him to feel her body heat. "I think you're the only black-haired someone left, Harry."
"Hermione," he whispered, feeling panicked, "I –"
"Hush," she said quietly, taking his hands in hers. "That girl you like – I know it must be me, because if it hadn't been, I would have noticed in a heartbeat – it would have made me insanely jealous, just like Cho did."
"Cho did?" Harry said, amazed. "Then why did you try so hard to help me?"
Hermione gave him that exasperated look she tended to give when he was missing a very obvious point. "Because, if she made you happy, I wanted you to have that. You need more happiness in your life. And now…we have a chance at happiness, don't you think? But you're running away from it – why?"
"For you," he answered, everything he'd been dying to talk to her about beginning to spill out before he could stop it. "For your happiness – Hermione, I might not even be alive in two years. Don't you…don't you want more than that? Don't you want a husband that's going to be alive – a family, a real life?"
"Oh, Harry, you are a daft git," Hermione said, tears brimming in her eyes. "Yes, I want a husband and a family and a real life, but I want it with you, and that's the only way I'll have it. You're the best friend I've ever had, Harry, and I've shared every important event in my life with you. There's no way I could ever come close to loving anyone else as much as I love you. I've thought about a future without you, Harry, and I can't imagine one – so no matter what the risks are, my future will be with you, and you won't be dying, because if you do, I'll die with you. Have I made myself clear?"
Harry could barely comprehend what she'd said. He'd never truly thought that she could even be interested in him, let alone in love with him. Surely it was the most wonderful sound he'd ever heard, her telling him that not only did she love him, but that she could never love anyone more than him.
He still worried, but he believed in Hermione more than anyone or anything else in the world, and he couldn't bring himself to doubt what she spoke of as truth. If she said he wouldn't die, then he would not die – if only for the sake of making sure she was right yet again. If Hermione needed him in her life, he would not argue, and he would not run from her. He was determined now to secure her happiness by whatever means necessary, and if that meant admitting to his feelings for once in his life and letting himself love, he would embrace it and never take it for granted. He would never take her for granted – never again.
"Yes, Hermione," he finally said, "You've made yourself abundantly clear, as always."
He didn't need his Inner Eye to tell him what was coming. It was, after all, the Hermione thing to do.
With perhaps the greatest force in the history of Hermione's hugs, she threw her arms around his neck, nearly knocking over the bookshelf behind them. He laughed, folding his arms possessively around her. How could he have thought for a single second that he could live without this?
He kissed her forehead, wondering at how easy it now was to show affection, even though doing so had always made him uncomfortable in the past, and how completely instinctual it was rapidly becoming to show his love – an emotion he'd always striven to hide, because when he loved something, it would be taken away from him.
But he could not hide anything from her, and she would never try to take anything away from him.
"I love you," he whispered, quietly enough that only Hermione would be able to hear him.
She lifted her head and kissed his cheek. "I love you, too, Harry." He knew he'd never hear any sentence in his life as important as that one.
Hermione rested her head on his shoulder and sighed. "We should probably get to Honeydukes. They'll be wondering where we are."
The mention of their dates brought back the question he'd wanted to ask for days. "Hermione?"
"Why did you agree to come here with Terry?"
"Oh – well, I suppose there's no use pretending now…I…well, I was hoping it would make you jealous," she admitted, blushing.
"It worked," Harry said. He frowned. "What are you going to tell him? I mean, about us?"
"I don't know. I suppose I'll have to tell him the truth, won't I?" she said, looking worried.
"Yeah, I reckon so," Harry said awkwardly. He thought about what it would be like to walk into Honeydukes with Hermione and stand there as she told Terry their date was off because they'd just confessed their love for each other in the Household Charms section. He didn't like the thought.
"We'll have to tell Ron when we get back as well," Hermione mused. "I think he'll be all right with it…don't you?"
"As far as his tongue was down Lavender's throat yesterday, I should hope so," Harry joked, though he felt a little apprehensive. Ron seemed to be over Hermione – he'd developed some sort of relationship with Lavender over the past month – but that didn't necessarily mean there weren't lingering feelings… Hermione hadn't wanted Ron, so it wouldn't be fair for Ron behave as though something had been stolen from him when that something was a thing he'd never had and never could have…but that didn't mean Ron wouldn't react that way.
"Don't worry too much about it, Harry," Hermione said gently, pulling him out of his thoughts. "Even if Ron doesn't accept it right away, he'll come around in time, once he sees reason and realizes he's better off with Lavender than he ever would have been with me. Let's just get to Honeydukes so you can slug it out with Terry."
Harry smiled, reassured. "Let's getting going then."
Harry was content to allow Hermione to lead him out of the store and down the street. For once, he was convinced that he did have a future to look forward to – one that would hopefully include Terry Boot never looking at Hermione again, Ron being uncharacteristically supportive of their relationship, and, if Harry could ever work up the nerve, a chance to kiss Hermione.
A/N: This was unbetaed, so if you noticed any typos or general weirdness, please tell me about it so I can fix it. Also, yes, I'm aware Harry and Hermione were both out of character here - Harry by spilling his guts inexplicably to Hannah, and Hermione by totally usingTerry to get at Harry. Ah well. I sacrificed character for the sake of comedy. Hope you can forgive me.
And please review, even if you only say you liked it or you didn't – I'll appreciate anything and everything. Really.