Title: A Strange Sickness

Author: Amethyst J

Author E-mail: AmethystJackson at hotmail dot com

Category: Drama/Snarky Humor

Rating: PG/PG-13

Spoilers: Books 1-5

Summary: A story for everyone who turns green at the thought of Ron and Hermione snogging – which, unfortunately, now includes poor Harry.

Author's Note: Yes, for the love of Harry, I will be posting Kissing Lessons 7 soon. For now, you can have this quick little one-shot I finished to post at the livejournal community fanfict00bs.

A Strange Sickness

Harry wasn't quite sure, but he thought there was something strange about the way he was feeling toward Hermione. Lately, every time he looked at her his stomach clenched and he felt a bit weak and shaky. Surely that wasn't normal.

While Harry wasn't exactly sure of the cause, he knew it had something to do with her budding relationship with Ron because the nausea had started around the same time that had.

Being alone with Hermione wasn't as bad. His symptoms lessened to a mild tightness of the throat and a tinge of fever. At least, he hoped it was fever. He didn't want to think about where the warmth and clamminess came from otherwise.

On the other hand, being alone with Ron left him feeling constantly and irrationally moody, something he'd never really experienced with Ron before. Yes, there were times when Hermione could frustrate him out of his wits…but Ron was usually the easygoing friend who never bothered him about anything, who he could be amiable and comfortable with no matter what. Now, however, it seemed as though everything Ron said – especially about Hermione – made him want to punch Ron or break something or vomit or – he could hardly admit it to himself – curl up behind his bed curtains and cry a bit. Obviously, something was very wrong when Hermione had him crying where a giant snake that could kill him in several ways didn't – and he'd been twelve then! Sixteen-year-old boys weren't supposed to cry over girls for no good reason – Harry knew something very strange had to be happening to him to cause this.

But the most perplexing of all these emotions were the ones that bombarded him when Hermione and Ron were together, in his presence – or outside of it, actually. Knowing they were together, even if he couldn't see them, was perhaps worse than facing it. Much as he tried to prevent his imagination from running wild, he simply couldn't help it. The thoughts of what they might be doing while they were off on their "study sessions" and "prefect duties" were enough to send him to bed early and guarantee him a night full of tormented dreams. He almost missed the death- and destruction-filled nightmares.

The only conclusion Harry could come to about his strange new symptoms was that he was thrown off by the severe change in the trio's delicate relationship. Their triangle had transformed dramatically, narrowing angles and shortening sides that Harry didn't want changed. He missed his friends, especially Hermione, which also confused Harry. Two years ago, he would have missed Ron more, much as he relied on Hermione. Something had changed somewhere between his fourth and sixth years that had brought him closer to Hermione without him noticing. Now, he felt extremely possessive of Hermione. Not jealous. No, he was definitely not jealous. That was further beyond normal than even he could venture. But she was his best friend, and, naturally, he didn't want to share her. Never mind that he hadn't been bothered by sharing her with Ron before the two had begun dating. He rationalized that he'd just never viewed Ron as a threat before. After all, Ron now had a greater claim on Hermione than he did. Ron now took priority over Harry. And he didn't like that feeling, naturally.

If Harry's theories on the matter didn't quite explain the sweaty palms Hermione gave him or the need to wretch when he saw them together, he failed to acknowledge that. Entertaining the possibility that his problem stemmed from anything but platonic conflicts was something that he couldn't – wouldn't – do. The other possibilities were more than he wanted to deal with; he just wanted his feelings to go away.

The problem was that he didn't think they ever would. The more Ron and Hermione acted like a couple, the worse Harry felt, and he didn't foresee that changing anytime soon, much as he wanted it to.

Hermione knew something was wrong with him, which, while making him happy to know she still paid attention to him, annoyed him just a bit, because no matter what, he absolutely could not confide in her. Unfortunately, Hermione was not the type to give up on anything without a fight, especially, it seemed, where he was concerned.

The worst of it began one night after dinner. Ron had all the prefect duties to himself for once, and Harry unwisely remained alone with Hermione in the common room. She kept shooting him suspicious glances over her book. Harry pretended not to notice and continued reading the same paragraph of his potions text for the fifteenth and sixteenth time.

"Harry, are you feeling well?" she finally asked him. "You've been rather pale lately, and I know you haven't been eating properly. If you're feeling ill, you really should go visit Madame Pomfrey, Harry. I know you don't like to, but you don't want to ignore it if something's really wrong."

Harry sighed and offered her a rather grim smile. He wished he could be angry at her concern; things would be much easier if he could. "I feel fine, Hermione. Don't worry about me."

Hermione narrowed her eyes at him. "I know you well enough to know when you're lying to me, Harry, and I don't understand why you feel like you need to. What is it, Harry? Is something bothering you? Are you having nightmares again? Is your scar hurting? I know you don't like talking about those things, but you really shouldn't bottle them up –"

"It's not nightmares," Harry interrupted, "And my scar isn't hurting. I'm not ill. Yes, there are things on my mind, but nothing I want to talk to you about."

Hermione nodded, her eyes darting away from his quickly. "I thought we were closer than that, after all we've been through," she said quietly, almost managing to disguise the hurt in her tone. Harry sighed again, feeling ashamed of himself for having hurt her. Why couldn't things be simple again? Why couldn't they be back in second year when Ron was his friend and Hermione was his friend and there was nothing to complicate that?

"Hermione, I didn't mean it like that. It's not you – it's just better for everyone if I don't talk about this at all."

Hermione gave him a knowing look. "Better for everyone? Is it better for you?"

Harry shrugged. "Better for me if it keeps everything around me from falling apart. Just…stop worrying. It's nothing I can't cope with."

Hermione frowned. "It's about me and Ron, isn't it? Our relationship bothers you."

Harry refused to meet her eyes. "Of course it's not about you and Ron. I told you I was fine with it."

"And I told you I know you well enough to know when you're lying. Whatever it is, Harry, you know that you can talk to me about it. If this thing with me and Ron is bothering you, I want to know – you're still as important to me as ever, no matter whom I'm dating."

Her words bolstered him just enough for him to resolve all over again to ignore his strange feelings. Hermione still cared about him; that was what mattered, in the end.

Harry smiled at her, though somewhat unconvincingly. "Don't worry about it, Hermione. It's just going to take some getting used to, that's all." By the look on her face, Harry knew that she wasn't ready to drop it, so he faked a yawn. "I'm really tired…I think I'll head up to bed early tonight. See you in the morning."

Without looking at her, he gathered up his things and headed upstairs, pleased with his escape but sure that she was not going to let the issue go that easily.

The next morning at breakfast, all seemed to be quite normal. Hermione had a book propped up against the pitcher of pumpkin juice, Ron was making an absolute mess with his breakfast, and Harry was trying his best to appear perfectly content.

Unfortunately for Harry, the moment he allowed himself a second of self-pity, Hermione happened to look up and see his miserable expression, and from there, everything quickly fell to pieces.

"Harry? Are you all right?"

"Fine," was his automatic answer as he glanced up at her with a fake smile that he knew she'd see right through, but he thought it was worth a try.

Hermione slammed her book shut with a resounding clap that had the entire hall looking in their direction.

"Harry? Could I speak to you outside?"

The anger in her expression was enough to silence any excuses Harry might have dug up to avoid going with her. Feeling a bit like a dog that had just destroyed his master's shoe, Harry followed Hermione out into the Entrance Hall. Hermione led him over to the stairs, where she ordered him to sit.

Looking up at Hermione, who stood before him with her hands planted firmly on her hips, he felt like he was a troublesome child about to be thoroughly scolded by his mother.

Probably because you're acting like a child, a voice very similar to Hermione's chided him from within. He did his best to shoot it a mental glare.

"Harry, you're being ridiculous," she said.

"What?" he said incredulously. "Hermione, I haven't said or done anything!"

"That's exactly the problem!" Hermione cried. "You couldn't get out of the common room fast enough when I tried to talk to you. You won't tell me what's bothering you. At meals you sit there and you pout at your plate and you won't even look at me! I'm your friend, Harry, I've always been there for you, and ever since I started dating Ron, you've been treating me like a complete stranger."

Harry sighed. Seeing the hurt in her eyes, he couldn't help giving in to her. If he was hurting her, she had a right to know why, and damn the consequences, as long as she was happy.

"You won't tell Ron about any of this?"

"Of course not," she said with a great deal of relief in her tone. She sat down eagerly next to him and looked at him attentively. "Whatever it is, I'm here for you."

Harry took a shaky breath, feeling the full weight of her gaze on him. "It's just…ever since you and Ron started dating, I've been feeling…strange."

"Strange? How so?" Hermione asked, visibly struggling to retain her blank expression.

Harry cleared his throat. "Well, for one, I've been feeling angry at Ron a lot. And I don't know why. It doesn't make any sense…we used to get along fine, but now it's like everything he does just…bothers me."

Hermione frowned. "What else?"

"I feel awkward when you and Ron are around, together."

"Well, that's perfectly normal, Harry. You're just not used to us dating yet."

"Well, yeah, I know that, but…it's not just an awkward feeling, it's like…well, it makes me feel sort of sick."

"Sick? What do you mean, sick?"

"Like I want to vomit," Harry clarified.

"Oh." Hermione looked down at her hands thoughtfully. "Anything else?"

"Well…there's…you," Harry said, blushing furiously. "I…I don't know, it's like…I feel like he's taken you away from me. And I don't know how to act around you anymore…"

"Oh, Harry…" she breathed, her eyes beginning to look a little watery. "You…you don't…you don't fancy me, do you?"

"I don't know," Harry said helplessly, unable to deny the nature of what he was feeling any longer. "I – I know I shouldn't because you're my friend, and Ron's my friend, and you're dating him, and you just don't fancy your best friend or your best friend's girlfriend. But – but I can't stop feeling this way and I don't know what to do anymore…how do I make it go away?"

Hermione swallowed and sat down heavily beside him. "Harry…oh, Harry…I…this is really hurting you, isn't it?"

Harry didn't answer. She already knew the truth. "Maybe…" she said, "maybe I should just end things with Ron."

"No!" Harry said forcefully. "You can't – not because of me – that's exactly why I didn't want to tell you, I was afraid I'd mess things up, and I was right –"

"No, Harry," Hermione cut him off. "Things were messed up before you said a word. Harry…I'm going to tell you something that you absolutely cannot repeat to anyone, Ron especially."

Harry nodded, curious. "Of course."

"I…I sort of only agreed to date Ron because I felt sorry for him, and I…well, I didn't think I'd ever find a boy I really liked who would want to be with me because, let's face it, boys just don't look at me that way."

"Well, I can count at least four or five that do right now…"

Hermione rolled her eyes. "Well, naturally you and Ron would, but – did you say five? Don't be ridiculous, Harry."

Harry almost laughed. "Oh, come on, Hermione. Krum was practically in love with you, and don't tell me you've never seen the way Terry Boot looks at you – he's always gawking at you as if he's never seen you before."

Hermione tilted her head and gave him a strange look. "No, I'd never noticed – but you did."

"Well, yeah," he said, squirming awkwardly under her stare. "It's pretty obvious…"

The corners of her mouth curved upward on the verge of a smile. "You do fancy me."

Harry blushed and looked away. "I'm sorry…I tried not to, I just…I couldn't help it."

To his surprise, Hermione took his hand. "Don't be sorry. I'm not."

Harry gaped at her. "What? Hermione – but…Ron!"

Hermione looked away guiltily. "This is going to sound positively awful, but…I really…don't want to be with Ron. I'm just not attracted to him – I mean, there's nothing wrong with him, but he's just not for me, you know? – and he's always trying to kiss me and paw at me and it's absolutely awful," she sighed. "I never planned to spend the rest of my life with him. It's not as if I should feel guilty for not being madly in love with him. And I sort of…I sort of had my heart set on you, Harry."

Harry stared at her in disbelief. "You what?"

Hermione blushed, looking ashamed. "I'm horrible, aren't I? I shouldn't have dated Ron if I fancied you…that's not fair to either of you…but I figured it would be years before you ever saw me as more than a friend, if you ever did, and I thought I might as well give Ron a try because I might never have you…and now look what a mess I've made."

Harry, whose heart had begun to pound rapidly and erratically, tentatively took her hand. "So…er…what do we do now?"

"I suppose we'll have to take it slow – I'll break it off with Ron, and then we'll give him some time to recover, maybe try to find him someone else to move on to, and then you and I will gradually begin dating."

"You mean…you're going to leave Ron for me?" Harry said, alarmed.

"What were you expecting me to do? I told you, Harry, it was never Ron I really wanted. I know you can't stand the thought of playing any part in hurting Ron this way…but what about me? How could you ask me to stay with him, knowing it was you I wanted?"

Hermione sighed and offered him a bittersweet smile. "I don't want to hurt him, either, Harry, but if I stay with him, knowing what I do now, I'd be deceiving him – we both would."

Releasing her hand with one last bracing squeeze, Harry nodded his agreement. "It's for the best."

"It is. For all of us." Hermione stood, brushing off the back of her robs. "We should head back in. Ron will be wondering what we're up to."

Harry followed her until she stopped midway to the doors of the Great Hall and turned back to him.

"I just wanted you to know," she said with a grin, "as bad as this all seems…I still can't wait to kiss you."

Harry blushed furiously but returned her grin. "Me neither."