Disclaimer: No Harry Potter for me. No Alfred, Lord Tennyson, either.

A/N: this actually isn't an angsty, tragic fic! i'm so proud of myself. enjoy the anti-canon goodness!

Cancer

It's like a disease. It's not pleasant or filled with…I don't know, rainbows and sunshine. No, my love for Harry Potter has been a cancer. It crept up on me, a silent killer, and before I knew what was happening, I was head-over-heels for my best friend. Your cells aren't supposed to mutate. And you're certainly not supposed to fall in love with your best friend. That's bad, taboo, bad. Especially when you're the bookworm and he's the dashing hero.

It didn't start in first year, contrary to many peoples' opinions. No, that year, at least, we were just friends. It was second year, after I'd woken up from being Petrified and found out how much time he'd spent at my bedside, although I admit it wasn't just that incident. I told you, it's a cancer. It had been developing for some time already, and I guess that just threw everything into the glaring light of…whatever it was. But I knew then, that something had changed, and I'll let you know, I didn't like it. I didn't like it one bit. So I decided that I had to distance myself slightly from one Harry Potter, and maybe then I'd get over this little trifling infatuation.

Oh, how wrong I was. But I crammed my schedule regardless and used that awful Time Turner, and I suppose it worked. I hardly ever saw him without having stacks of books up to the top of my hair (which is saying something, as it was very bushy back in the day), and even then, he was siding with Ron. It was perfect: he was being a prat; I was overloaded; I should have easily un-fallen for him. Except for that whole adventure we got to go through with Buckbeak and whatnot, and all that did was bring us closer than ever. I was so mad. And then fate intervened in the form of Viktor Krum—I had a beau. (I never really considered him a full-on boyfriend, and "beau" is just more sophisticated and fun to say.) And the cancer left me, especially when I found out that Ron was all jealous of Krum. Now it had to be perfect: Ron liked me; I was with Viktor; Harry couldn't possibly still be in the picture.

When Harry said, back in fourth year about that horrible Rita Skeeter article about us, that I "hadn't been and wasn't his girlfriend", I was probably the only person who noticed that he hadn't added the hope-crushing "and never will be" into that sentence.

I've had multiple relapses. I've thought I was better (fifth year) and then found out, no, I was not (also fifth year). I decided to devote myself to the epic "Quest of Ron" (sixth year) and now I find out, at my supposed-almost-always-meant-to-be-boyfriend's brother's wedding that I'm not nearly cured of my cancer. It's a debilitating disease, and I had to leave the reception party. I couldn't stand hanging around with everyone watching Ron and me like hawks, as if expecting that we would jump each other and have a snogfest right then and there.

So now I'm over here, out in the yard, far away from the glare of the magical lanterns, alone with my thoughts. Which are currently hovering around the word "snog" itself—why does it sound like some unpleasant combination of snot, snore, smog, and snort? It doesn't sound romantic at all. Of course, I really don't know what "romantic" is, now do I? But my thoughts are abruptly interrupted by his voice.

"Hey, 'Mione...you're missing the party. I trust you realize that," he said, his voice low and teasing.

I looked up at him and felt that familiar if still unpleasant clenching of my heart. Even though his bottle-green dress robes were a little short—a carry-over from fourth year after; none of us could very well venture into broad, public daylight to go shopping—he still was devastatingly handsome. His black hair was messier than ever (of course, I liked it better that way), sticking in all directions and just the right length for running one's fingers through it. Specifically my fingers. But he hardly needed to know that.

"Harry, I'm not the brightest witch of my age for nothing. Of course I realize I'm not at the party. Honestly!" I declared with a forced little laugh, hoping he would accept that for what it was worth and walk away and leave me in peace to die of this terminal disease.

"Just checking," he chuckled, and contrary to my hopes (fears), he strolled a little closer, tilting his head back to stargaze. "It's a nice night, isn't it?"

"Very pleasant," I admitted, picking a blade of grass off my light blue robes.

He kicked the dirt with seeming absentmindedness, his hands clasped behind his back. "Do…do you remember that one saying? The one about loving and losing and how it's better or something…" he trailed off, looking at me expectantly.

And as usual, I had the answer. "'Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. Alfred, Lord Tennyson."

He nodded and almost grinned, his glasses endearingly crooked on his nose. "Yeah, that's the one." He fell silent again.

I frowned, studying his profile. That was a very un-Harry question to ask. He was probably referring to the prophecy, though. He had told Ron and me right after school got out, although I suppose I should have been more shocked or horrified than I had been. I guess now it has to happen, whereas in the past it had always been a vague inclination. But somehow I'd always thought it would end like that—some climatic, dramatic showdown of good and evil, The-Boy-Who-Lived versus You-Know-Who.

"Worried about the prophecy?" I finally asked, still watching him solemnly.

He glanced at me quickly and looked away just as quickly, giving the dirt a harder kick than before. "Yes…and no. I don't know, really." He shook his head, smirking. "Ron was right. You do always know everything."

"Well, not everything," I corrected before adding, "just mostly everything."

"Same difference," he said dismissively, and we shared a brief laugh.

The minutes had slid by before I ventured, "Did you ask because of…Ginny?" I don't know why I asked. I didn't want to know. But I suppose the suspense was killing me.

"No," he said resolutely, swiftly. "Not because of her," he repeated, more quietly. At last he looked at me again, his emerald eyes searching the very depths of my brown ones. "Are you worried? About the prophecy?" he elaborated, though he obviously didn't need to.

"Harry…" I breathed, unable to believe that he was questioning this, questioning me. "Of course I'm worried! You're…you're…" I cut myself off, or my thick throat did that, and looked away. You're my best friend? True to some degree. You're the man I love? Wasn't going to make it out of my mouth anytime soon.

I heard him walking, but I didn't realize he had been walking closer until he extended his hand into my line of sight. "Want to dance?"

I looked up at him, startled. "What? I…I already told you, I'm not going back to the party."

"Who said anything about going anywhere?" he asked, that lopsided grin on his face. I loved that smile. "We can hear the music fine right here."

I felt my own smile tugging at the corners of my lips, and I surrendered to the cancer and took his hand. He pulled me to my feet and then drew me close, closer than I thought a best friend should have. I could hear the music, and it was some slow song, but the words were lost to the distance and the wind, and all we got was the lilting melody. That was enough, though, and we swayed on the spot, not really dancing but not exactly not dancing, either.

"Do you believe it?"

I blinked, pulled out of my reverie that this was our first dance at our wedding, and gazed full into his eyes, which held more desperation than I'd ever seen. I frowned slightly and gave my head a little shake. "Believe what?"

He sighed and suddenly was incredibly uncomfortable. "What that Alfred guy said."

"You mean Alfred, Lord Tennyson?" I corrected with a hint of a grin, but he only rolled his eyes.

"You knew what I meant, 'Mione," he grumbled, unable to continue his own grin.

"Yes, I did," I acknowledged, and I really didn't have to think much on the point. It was hardly my place to contradict one of the greatest English writers. And, more importantly, I'd done a lot of thinking related to loss and love and Harry, so I had a wealth of information on the subject. "And yes, I do. Wholeheartedly."

He nodded, processing that, and I hadn't really thought he'd continue, but he did. "So…if, say, there was the opportunity for you to love someone, but there was a great risk that you'd lose that someone…would you do it? Would you be with him?"

I looked at him, startled at the urgency written all over his features. I couldn't help but wonder why he was asking me all these questions. After all, he couldn't possibly…no, he couldn't… "Well, Harry, that's pretty much the same question as before. And you already know my answer to that one."

"So you would?"

"Honestly! Yes, I would," I reiterated, a little exasperated by his meandering questions.

He swallowed, and I heard his breathing quicken. "Even if…even if he were…me?"

I hadn't realized we had stopped moving a good five minutes ago, too shocked by this sudden confession. Harry…he…and me…? And he wanted…to…what? I couldn't wrap my mind this. I, Hermione Jane Granger, could not wrap my mind around something. "You want…" I paused, rallied myself, and looked him straight in the eye. "You want to…be with me? Me?"

He broke out in that lopsided grin. "Well…yeah. If that's okay and all."

"Okay? Okay? It's not okay, it's…it's…brilliant," I finally decided, smiling like a goofy idiot myself.

"Really?"

"Harry! When have I ever lied to you? Believe me already!" I was beyond exasperated now.

His grin broadened. "I just wanted to make sure that you were absolutely certain before I did this."

I had no time to call into question his intentions because he was kissing me, full on the lips with nothing friendly in the slightest about it, before my brain could possibly recover. It was a soft, sweet kiss, not one of those ones when the people look like they're attacking each other or trying to eat each other's faces. No, this was perfect, beyond perfect, and I only had one more thought before my mind abandoned me, my fingers anchoring in his messy hair.

Cancer had never felt so good.

And I had never felt so alive.

Fin