The day of the Quidditch World Cup, Hermione lagged behind Harry and Ron, who were too excited to realize they were running up a hill in search of a mangy old boot. She and Ginny hung back, amused at the boys’ earnest search for a piece of trash.
“Arthur! Good to see you.”
Hermione was surprised to see others looking for the same portkey they were. Amos Diggory, apparently, and his son Cedric.
Ginny elbowed her, giggling. “He’s fit,” she whispered.
Hermione couldn’t help but agree.
Cedric looked to be a bit older, having already finished his growth spurt. He was tall, but his body looked filled out and toned with muscle, not scrawny and thin like most of the Weasley boys. His hair was a honey brown, kind of longish but styled well, and he had a strong jawline and high cheekbones.
He was very attractive, Hermione noted. Very attractive.
Cedric still seemed sleepy, though. He kept closing his eyes and rubbing at them while the others wandered around looking for the boot. Eventually he joined them all, and to Hermione’s surprise, he extended his hand to her first.
“Cedric Diggory, 6th year Hufflepuff prefect and seeker,” he said.
Hermione took his hand without hesitation. “Hermione Granger. 4th year Gryffindor,” she said, smiling. “Pleased to meet you, Cedric.”
Cedric grinned. “The pleasure is mine, I assure you.” He paused. “You’re staying with the Weasleys?”
“Yes,” Hermione said. “They managed to fit me in sharing a room with Ginny.” She laughed. “It helps that we’re the only two girls.”
“I bet.” Cedric tilted his head, as if examining her. “So. Are you excited for the game?”
And to Hermione’s astonishment, he kept up a conversation with her through the Portkey, through admittance into the Quidditch grounds, and all while the tents were being set up. Cedric’s father looked aggravated with how Cedric kept lingering, and finally, Cedric bid her goodbye as his father tugged him away.
“What was that all about?” Ron asked immediately, Harry and Ron coming to her side to watch Cedric walk off.
“Honestly, I have no idea,” Hermione said. “He was perfectly polite though, and he was explaining some advanced Transfiguration theories that help stabilize tents with more room inside of them. It was fascinating.”
Ron scoffed. “Swotty stuff, then.”
“Ron!” Harry objected. He shot Ron a dirty look, before looking back to Hermione. “We’re glad you made a friend to talk about advanced magic with, Hermione,” he told her. He grinned sheepishly. “I know we don’t really help out much there.”
“I don’t need you to,” she said, tugging them both into a hug. “You’re my best friends just the way you are.”
The three laughed and hugged before gathering up a bucket and setting off to explore the Quidditch grounds, looking for water to get for the camp.
Spellfire flashed around them, Hermione and Harry and Ron running into the woods to get away from the men in black cloaks and masks. Hermione was terrified – she’d read enough history to know who those people probably were, and she knew what they thought of witches like her.
“Stay quiet,” Harry whispered to them. “I think I hear someone…”
There was a sound of a branch breaking, and Hermione whirled around with her flashlight and her wand out.
It was Cedric, squinting into the flashlight beam. Hermione stared.
“What are you doing here?” she hissed, clicking the flashlight off. “You’re of age – why didn’t you Apparate away?”
Cedric ignored the question, instead hiding behind the trees and logs with them, peering around to look for threats.
“We need to stay low,” he told them all. “If they don’t know we’re here, we can wait them out. There’s Ministry Officials chasing them all off now.”
Harry and Ron nodded, wide-eyed, as Cedric laid out a strategy – one that Hermione thought they largely already had. But if Cedric instructing them meant sure she stayed safe and alive, she was grateful for it.
Of course, it all went to hell when the Dark Mark erupted into the sky from just behind them, and a million stunners came flying at their little group.
As the Ministry officials interrogated Harry and the House Elf, Hermione was still breathing hard, looking at Cedric oddly, though Cedric seemed intent on listening to the Ministry officials.
When the stunners had flashed, his first instinct had been to grab her waist and pull her behind him, getting her out of the way and blocking her from being hit with his body. They’d been behind a tree, so it’d hardly been necessary, and she could have just ducked, too, but Cedric had yanked her further out of the way to shield her, almost without a thought.
She’d just met him, Hermione thought. What kind of person protected someone they just met with their life so readily? Was that a Hufflepuff thing? Was it a chivalry thing, because she was a girl?
Cedric was interesting, Hermione decided. She wondered if she’d be able to figure him out if she got to know him better.
“He’s looking at you again,” Ginny said, nudging Hermione.
“He’s looking over here,” Hermione corrected. “He could be looking at Harry – half the school seems to be.”
“I hate being stared at,” Harry said, scowling at his plate. “First day back, and already all the firsties are staring at me like I’m some bloody spectacle.”
“Language,” Hermione admonished.
Harry and Ron were crushed by the announcement of no Quidditch, the announcement of the Triwizard Tournament only slightly helping to mitigate the loss. Hermione was horrified that they’d institute such a barbaric tournament – one with a death toll! – but it was clear her opinion would hold no sway.
To her surprise, Cedric lingered behind after the feast, meeting up with her in the crush of students exiting the Great Hall.
“No Quidditch this year,” he commented, and Hermione winced.
“Right, you’re Seeker, aren’t you?” she said. “Sorry. Harry and Ron are really disappointed too.”
He waved off her words. “It’s alright. Maybe I’ll go out for Hogwarts Champion in the tournament instead.”
He grinned, and Hermione shoved him.
“You’re in Hufflepuff. You’re supposed to be one of the responsible ones,” she complained. “I thought Gryffindor had all the fool-hardy ones that run straight into danger.”
“Are you saying you think I’m not brave?” Cedric challenged, his eyes dancing.
“I’m saying that there’s a death toll for this stupid tournament,” Hermione insisted. “That it’s dangerous.”
Cedric’s eyes caught hers.
“And you’re saying you don’t want to see me hurt?” he murmured, and Hermione’s breath caught.
“…no,” she admitted. She blinked, shook her head a little bit, and straightened up, lifting her chin defiantly. “I don’t want to see anyone get hurt.”
Cedric was grinning at her again.
“But me especially, right?” he teased.
Hermione rolled her eyes. “You’re incorrigible.”
Cedric laughed and gave her a jaunty wave as they parted, him heading off to the Hufflepuff common room, she to the Gryffindor. Ginny caught up with her as she climbed the third staircase.
“He was flirting with you!” she said. “Hermione, he likes you!”
“He was just talking about the tournament,” Hermione dismissed. “Don’t read too much into it.”
“You’re not reading enough into it, Hermione,” Ginny insisted. “He talked to you a lot at the Quidditch World Cup too, didn’t he?”
“It was a good conversation,” Hermione defended.
“He didn’t even know you, though,” Ginny pointed out. “And he went straight to you to strike up a conversation anyway. You must have enchanted him at first sight!”
“We just seemed to click,” Hermione admitted. “Conversation feels natural and fun. He’s very quick on his feet and witty, and he’s very smart.”
“And he’s handsome,” Ginny reminded her. “And he fancies you.”
“Alright, I’ll give you that he’s handsome,” Hermione conceded as they clambered through the portrait hole. “But he’s being polite and just chatting with a new friend. I wouldn’t go so far as to say he fancies me.”
Ginny scoffed and rolled her eyes.
“You might be smart in classes, but you’re really dumb in love,” she pronounced. “I’m the smart one in this arena. Watch, and we’ll see – I know I’ll be right in the end.”
Cedric continued to bump into her with some regularity, chatting her up each time they met. He often teased her about her homework and her studies, but his teasing was good-natured, and he began frequently sitting down with her in the library to talk about what she was working on, explaining the magic behind it that she’d learn in later years.
“Summoning and Banishing isn’t just based on want, it’s based on the flow of the magic,” he explained. “Think of it like your magic is a magnet, pulling the object towards you. When you Banish it, you reverse the polarity, and your magic shoves it away.”
“You study the flow of magic in upper years?” Hermione asked, and Cedric shrugged, sheepish.
“Not really. Flitwick gave me some extra reading,” he admitted. “I had questions beyond the scope of the class.” He looked defensive. “But it was really interesting, and it was a really useful book.”
“I’d love to read it,” Hermione told him honestly. “I love learning about the theories behind magic, and supplemental reading is kind of my hobby.”
She offered him an embarrassed smile, well aware of how swotty it made her sound, but to her surprise and pleasure, Cedric just gave her a slow grin.
“Bookworm after my own heart, aren’t you?” he teased, and Hermione’s face flushed, making his grin grow even wider.
Cedric laughed as she floundered for a response.
“Stay here, and I’ll go find it for you, yeah?” he said, standing. “I think I remember where it is in the stacks.”
Hermione held her face with her hands, her cheeks hot under her fingers.
With a statement like that, it was possible Ginny was right, Hermione admitted to herself. Accusing her of being after his heart was definitely flirting, if she knew the meaning of the word.
As Cedric came back and settled in with a charming grin, handing her a thick book, Hermione felt her heart skip a beat and her face flush once more.
Even if he was flirting with her, she mused, it wasn’t like she was opposed to it. She kind of liked it. And maybe she’d end up flirting back after all.
“He likes me,” Hermione whispered to Ginny, both of them sitting on her bed. “Ginny, he likes me, I think. He made a remark today about how he should give me a rose.”
“A rose?” Ginny squealed. “Did he?”
“Well, no – we were in the library,” Hermione admitted. “But he was teasing me about my hair, saying a rose behind my ear might help, the thorns tangling the curls and threatening them into place.” She flushed. “But then he pushed my hair behind my ear and just looked at me, and he murmured about how someone as lovely as me deserved to be given roses.”
Ginny squealed loudly and clapped her hands.
“Even you have to admit that he likes you!” she declared. “Are you going to go with him to Hogsmeade?”
“He hasn’t asked,” Hermione pointed out. “And I’m not exactly comfortable asking myself. He’s the one pursuing me, for whatever reason, so I feel like that should be his job.”
Ginny laughed. “I’m sure he will as soon as one’s announced,” she declared. “He really seems to like you.”
“I don’t get why, though,” Hermione argued. “He just started talking to me out of nowhere. He’s older, he’s handsome, and he could talk to any girl on the planet. Why’d he pick me?”
“You said that you just seem to ‘click’ though,” Ginny said. “People don’t ‘click’ with just anyone, you know.”
“How did he know he’d click with me?” Hermione asked. “He came out of nowhere, really. I didn’t even know him until the Quidditch World Cup.”
Ginny tilted her head, looking puzzled.
“You say he’s a 6th year?” she asked.
“Yeah,” Hermione said. “Just, though – he was just behind the cutoff.”
Ginny gave her an odd look.
“The cutoff?” she asked.
“The cutoff date for the school year,” Hermione explained. “It’s August 1st – something to do with old magical festivals in the fall. And he was born the 15th – he’s one of the oldest in his class.”
“You know his birthday?” Ginny grinned, eyes alight.
“It came up,” Hermione said hotly. “We were discussing mine, which is soon, and he mentioned his.”
“But that means he’s of age,” Ginny said wonderingly.
“So?” Hermione objected. “He’s just turned 17. I turn 15 in a few days. That’s not that much of an age gap.”
But Ginny was looking at her with a glint in her eyes.
“I wonder…” she said. “Let me go and find a book.”
Ginny never returned with the promised book, even after they went to the library together the next day. After Ginny was gone a while, Hermione went after her, wondering if she had gotten lost in the stacks.
Instead, she found Cedric talking to Ginny in the back of the library, his voice low. Curious, Hermione inched behind them through a different row, eavesdropping through the books.
“—concept of it,” Cedric was saying. “I don’t want her to feel forced into anything, you know?”
“She wouldn’t,” Ginny was arguing. “She’d want to know.”
“What if she doesn’t see the same?” Cedric retorted. “What if her eyes aren’t mine?”
Ginny fell silent, Hermione trying to puzzle out what Cedric could possibly mean.
“That can happen?” she asked finally, and Cedric nodded.
“Not often, but it does,” he said firmly. “Enough that I want to be careful about this.”
Ginny sighed dramatically.
“If you want to court Hermione formally and be all proper and prim about it, then fine,” she said. “But I think you should tell her.”
“I will,” Cedric said. “Eventually. But it’s too early for that now.”
Sensing their conversation wrapping up, Hermione scurried from the stacks back to her table. She quickly resumed writing her essay, waiting for Ginny to come back, but to her surprise, it was Cedric who joined her at her table and sat down.
“That’s Ginny’s seat,” Hermione informed him, and Cedric just grinned.
“Ginny’s not here, is she?” he pointed out. “If she comes back, I’ll move.”
As he struck up a conversation with her about how the visiting schools could possibly be getting to Hogwarts, Hermione wondered if he hadn’t shooed Ginny off just so he could sit so close next to her.
Cedric still hadn’t asked Hermione to formally court her. Hermione began to wonder if Ginny had been exaggerating, when she’d eavesdropped on them in the library. She replayed the conversation over and over, trying to make sense of the parts that didn’t make sense.
What if her eyes aren’t mine? for example, made zero sense. Unless it was a very romantic saying amongst purebloods about finding love in each other’s eyes, she had no idea what that meant. Maybe it meant if her eyes strayed to someone else? Another suitor? But Hermione was just guessing. She honestly hadn’t a clue.
There was the other part – Ginny’s I think you should tell her, and Cedric’s answering I will. But it’s too early for that now. Too early for what? Hermione had half a mind to demand answers, but part of her shied away from insisting on an answer.
What if it was love?
It was absurd, of course – they hadn’t even dated, but what else would it be too early to tell her? It was the only thing Hermione could think of, and though Hermione didn’t really think that was it, she still found her heart fluttering at the thought, her mind drifting to wonder what it would be like to be loved by Cedric Diggory.
To be fancied by Cedric Diggory apparently meant spending time together in the library, practicing Charms in the old Charms classroom, and blushing all over the place. Cedric seemed to make a game of it, flirting with her and teasing her until her face burned red.
He was kind and charming and clever. He was handsome and fun. He made her feel special, and Hermione liked feeling special to someone.
She started opening up to him, little by little, meeting more of his curious questions with honest answers than shrugging them off. He asked what she wanted to do after Hogwarts, and while she would have once said she had no idea, it was too far away, she instead confessed she wanted to become Minister of Magic someday, even though she knew all the blood prejudice she’d have to fight to get there.
Hermione also quietly told him of her parents, of how they’d gone from proud and supportive to polite and cold. They couldn’t relate to her anymore, with witchcraft on her shoulders, and the lack of their love and isolation wore on Hermione. She hated the feeling of being alone, of feeling abandoned, and Cedric’s vitriol towards her parents’ behavior had been validating and liberating, though it had been painful to share.
At one point, Cedric quietly confided in her about the weight of his father’s expectations. His father was a Ministry man, and he wanted Cedric to be a Ministry Man too. Cedric didn’t want to go into the Ministry, though – he wanted to do something with magic, not just regulate and legislate it. He wanted to be the one creating charms, the one helping transfigure homes, the one bewitching things to fly. He admitted he’d never dared tell his father; when he’d expressed wanting to be a professional Quidditch player at age 12, his father’s responding rant about being silly and stupid for a living had stopped him from ever being willing to confide in his father again.
Still, Cedric didn’t ask her out. He flirted with her, he teased her, and Hermione thought he meant it, but he didn’t do anything more, and over time, Hermione began to wonder if she’d misjudged him. Did he just want a friend, and he was just overly friendly with everyone? Was this just affection from him? Did he actually fancy her, or had she been projecting her own wishes and fantasies onto his actions?
Still, though. At the least, Hermione had gained a friend, and she didn’t have many of those. She had Harry, Ron, and Ginny, and with Cedric, she had one more.
Hermione had been aghast at the Goblet of Fire ceremony. Four names had come out – four horrible, horrible names, when there should have only been three.
Harry had been one of them. Harry swore up and down that he hadn’t put his name in the Goblet of Fire, and Hermione believed him. Harry never liked the spotlight or his fame, and he’d taken her rants about the death toll to heart. No, someone was out to get Harry, possibly hoping for him to lose his life, and Hermione worried herself sick over it. She would have to help him train long and hard to help him adequately prepare.
But the other had been Cedric.
Cedric Diggory, Hogwarts Triwizard Champion.
The honor. The prestige. The fame.
But Hermione couldn’t bear it.
Her face had gone ashen when his name was called. Cedric had cast a glance at her as he left to go to the small room off of the Great Hall, but Hermione couldn’t really register if he said anything to her.
Cedric was going to be in the tournament.
He hadn’t even told her he wanted to enter.
Evening found Hermione crying in Ginny’s bed. Yells of Harry and Ron drifted up from the boys’ dormitory, while Ginny rubbed her back and hugged her.
“I can’t believe he’d do this!” Hermione cried. “He could die!”
“Boys are stupid, ‘Mione,” Ginny said. “They do dumb things for fame and glory.”
“But risk his life?” Hermione was inconsolable. “I might never see him again! I might watch him die right before my eyes!”
Ginny was biting her lip.
“Have you talked to Cedric about this?” she ventured.
“No. When would I have?” Hermione demanded, eyes red and watery. “The Champions all went into the little room, and the rest of us were sent to our Common Rooms. When would I have gotten to talk to him?”
“I don’t know. I thought maybe he would have caught you and pulled you aside…” Ginny trailed off. “I think you should talk to him about this, though.”
“Oh, right, and say what, Ginny?” Hermione glared. “‘How dare you take autonomy of your own life and do something you want to do because I don’t want you to’? That will go over well.”
“It’s not like that,” Ginny argued. “You’re allowed to care for him and worry about his safety.”
“I’m not,” Hermione said viciously. “He’s a friend. It’s inappropriate for me to be this attached to him.”
“Hermione!” Ginny objected. “He fancies you; you fancying him back is a good thing!”
“He doesn’t,” Hermione said. “If he did, surely he would have made a move by now. Maybe he did at one point, but he’s since changed his mind.”
The awfulness of that struck Hermione a moment after she said it; maybe he had intended on dating her, but something about her had repulsed him and he’d changed his mind.
Hermione cried harder, sobbing on Ginny’s coverlet as she sadly stroked her back.
Hermione started avoiding Cedric.
It wasn’t hard, really – with Harry and Ron fighting, it was easy for Hermione to just stay next to Harry and support him. Cedric had never approached her when she was with someone else, so it was easy to avoid him without making it obvious that that’s what she had chosen to do.
But it was for her own peace of mind, really. Hermione was aware that she’d been getting too attached, too drawn to Cedric than was appropriate for their friendship. She’d presumed certain things, based on his flirtation and the conversation she’d overheard, and she’d allowed herself to get carried away in fantasy.
It was a cold realization, that she hadn’t really known Cedric at all.
She’d never thought he’d compete in the Tournament. Sure, he’d teased her about her concern over the Death Toll, but Hermione thought he was just trying to provoke a reaction. She didn’t realize he really didn’t care about the Death Toll. Or maybe he did, but he was cocky enough to think that surely it wouldn’t someday include him. She didn’t even realize he wanted to compete in the tournament – was this to meet his father’s expectations? Was this to try and establish a name and some fame for himself to prepare for graduation?
Hermione hadn’t the slightest idea, and for the first time since meeting him, she tried not to care about the answers to the questions that burned at her.
Time in the library became a secretive thing, actively avoiding Cedric by darting around the shelves at times. Viktor Krum, one of the other champions, lurked around in the library an awful lot as well – researching for the tasks, Hermione suspected – and in desperation one day, she asked him to sit at her table, so Cedric would leave her alone.
Viktor had been surprised, but he did so with great aplomb, and Hermione had felt her legs go weak with relief.
Afterwards, Viktor often joined Hermione at her table, often with several of his fangirls sitting down on the other end, alternating between sighing at him dreamily or shooting death glares at Hermione. Hermione was perversely amused by Viktor’s seeming inability to shoo them off.
“They are everywhere,” he huffed, telling her one day. “If I had known vhat life vould be like with fame, I maybe vould not have chosen this career.”
His annoyance had made Hermione giggle, and Viktor had given her a gentle smile, and for the first time in a long time, she felt her heart lighten a bit.
Cedric suspected something, Hermione knew. He glared at Viktor in the library when he passed by, as if annoyed he had taken his place. She caught him shooting her meaningful looks and glances in the Great Hall, but Hermione didn’t know what they meant anymore. Did he want her to linger behind to talk to her? Did he want to practice flirting with her some more? Did he want to toy more with her heart?
Hermione tuned him out, as well as any distractions, and threw herself whole-heartedly into helping Harry come out of this alive.
But she was still glad when Harry told Cedric in advance about the dragons.
The morning of the First Task dawned cold and clear, and Hermione felt nervously confident about Harry’s chances of surviving. He’d mastered the Summoning Charm, and he had a good plan. He just had to pull it off without getting eaten alive.
Merlin, she was going to be sick.
The Champions were pulled into a side tent, and Hermione bit her lip, looking at the small tent.
Ginny sighed. “Go,” she said, and she shoved Hermione towards the tent.
Hermione didn’t need told twice.
She found Harry and hugged him fiercely. Harry chuckled, reassuring her, teasing him that she was more worried about him than he was.
“Of course I’m worried for you,” Hermione said, her voice wavering. “This might be the last time I ever hug you!”
She clung to him again, and Harry chuckled, patting her on the back and helping her straighten as she sniffled.
“I’ll be fine, Hermione,” he told her. He offered he a small grin. “After all, I’m Harry Potter.”
Hermione laughed weakly, wiping her eyes. She sniffled, glancing around the tent as she did, worried she’d made a spectacle of herself.
She’d managed to keep her scene with Harry quiet, it seemed, or the others were too distracted to notice or care. Viktor Krum glanced at her a couple times but seemed utterly preoccupied staring at one of the tent walls. Fleur Delacour was muttering to herself and tracing wand movements through the air. And Cedric…
Cedric was looking at her, his warm honey brown eyes meeting hers.
It might be the last time she ever met his gaze.
She could feel her eyes filling with tears again, and she broke away, rubbing her eyes fiercely, taking Bagman’s entrance as the prime opportunity to escape. She hurried to the stadium and made her way to Ginny, still sniffing.
“Alright?” Ginny asked, as Hermione sat down.
“We’ll see,” she sighed. “We’ll see.”
Cedric was first.
It was awful. The idea of getting a dragon to chase around a bloody dog… Hermione wanted to yell at him, scream at him that that’s not how dragons worked. He managed to get the egg, though, only getting some minor burns in the process.
At least magic could fix those, Hermione presumed. Otherwise, burns that bad would be painful for weeks.
Harry was spectacular. He flew freely and well, snatching the egg nimbly and quickly, and Hermione nearly screamed herself hoarse in pride. She and Ginny waved flags frantically, and she could see Harry grinning up at them all afterward from his broom, his relief evident in his face.
As they all went up back up to the school, presumably for a loud party in the Gryffindor Tower, Hermione felt her arm tugged as she was pulled out of the flow of traffic, off to the side behind the stadium. She stumbled before catching herself, her eyes flying to the person who had grabbed her.
It was Cedric. She felt her eyes go wide.
He looked at her for a long moment silently. Hermione let him look, her eyes on the ground.
“You’ve been avoiding me,” he said quietly.
It was almost worse this way, than if he’d angrily accused her. Hermione could handle anger, could throw her own anger and vitriol back. But this, this quiet statement…
“I have,” Hermione said steadily.
Cedric looked up at her.
“Why?” he asked.
Hermione bit her lip.
“I don’t want to answer that,” she told him honestly.
“What?” Cedric’s brow furrowed. “Why not?”
“Because it’s inappropriate,” Hermione said.
Cedric looked confused, before he shook his head. He looked at her and sighed.
“I miss you,” he told her plainly. “I miss spending time with you.”
Hermione heart ached at his words, but her temper flared.
“Oh, like I’ll miss you if you die in this stupid tournament?” she snapped back, and Cedric recoiled, her tone vicious.
“Hermione—” he began, but Hermione could feel her emotions welling up inside of her, and she couldn’t hold them back.
“Those were dragons, Cedric! You were half a second from being burned alive right in front of me!” She could feel tears gathering in her eyes, and she blinked furiously to keep them away. “I can’t do this – I don’t want to see you die!”
“Hermione…” Cedric’s hand was on her back now, stroking, and Hermione was crying. She wasn’t even aware that he’d moved.
“I don’t want to see you die, Cedric,” she said miserably. “It would break me.”
Cedric’s eyes went wide.
Slowly, he tugged Hermione closer to him, enfolding her in his arms and cradling her against his chest as she cried. Hermione let him, part of her soaking in the comfort he offered even as her mind railed against her heart, screaming at her to not get further attached.
After Hermione’s tears dried and she was just left sniffling, Cedric pulled back a bit, looking at her.
“How’s that inappropriate?” he asked quietly. “That you don’t want me to die?”
“It wasn’t that,” she said quietly. “It was something else.”
Cedric looked at her for a long moment.
“Are you okay?” he asked her.
His eyes were shining with concern, and Hermione felt her heart flutter. With a sigh, she gave in.
“I suppose so,” she said. She offered him a weak smile. “Just… don’t die, okay?”
Cedric adopted a highly-offended expression.
“Are you saying you don’t think I’m capable of winning the tournament?” he said, adopting a haughty tone, though his eyes sparkled with playfulness.
Hermione smiled softly, amused by his antics despite her aching heart.
“I’m saying I care about you,” she said. “Not that I don’t think you capable, but that I want you safe and sound.
Cedric grinned at her.
“Caring about me sounds like a good thing,” he said, eyes dancing. “I promise you, I don’t mind.”
Hermione rolled her eyes. “Of course.”
“Now, c’mon,” he urged her. “I have on good authority there are at least two parties going on in the castle tonight, and we can’t miss both of them to cry out here in the cold.”
The girls were all aflutter over the announcement of the Yule Ball, while most of the Gryffindor boys looked like they had been told they were expected to go explore a sewer line for a lost sickle.
“Oh, we’ll need dates!” Lavender squealed to Parvati Patil behind her, and Hermione felt her throat close up.
Dates. They would be expected to have dates.
Dates were for girls like Lavender Brown, pretty girls who boys took to Hogsmeade and tried to snog, not bookworms who were overly self-conscious and had crazy hair. Someone would ask Lavender Brown to the ball within the week, Hermione predicted, while she’d be lucky to get a date at all.
Hermione wondered if she could just arrange to contract Dragon Pox and avoid the entire embarrassing thing.
Dancing lessons with Professor McGonagall had been distracting if nothing else. She’d been paired with Harry, who wasn’t bad, but he certainly wasn’t particularly good, and helping guide him into leading was a challenge that took up all of her mind.
“Start on your left foot, Harry,” she reminded him. “I go back on my right.”
“Why don’t they just enchant shoes that can do the dancing for you?” Harry complained, and Hermione laughed.
“The shoes moving without you moving with them would make you just lose your balance,” she pointed out. “Some things you need to practice to learn.”
By the end of the lesson, Hermione felt fairly secure in her basic ballroom dancing skills. She’d rotated among the boys, practicing with Dean, Neville, and George Weasley, who had enjoyed sending her into dramatic twirls. She wondered if the students from the other schools had dancing lessons as well; she wouldn’t be surprised if Beauxbatons had an entire class dedicated to it as part of the course schedule.
After they were excused, Hermione went up to the library, intending to look up some more dancing resources. If she was going to be forced to go to this ball, she was going to do her very best, even if it was in silly things like ‘dancing skills’ and ‘looking pretty’.
She had found a beginner’s guide to the samba with illustrated moving diagrams when Viktor found her in the shelves.
“You are learning?” he said, his accent thick. “For the ball?”
Hermione gave him a wry grin.
“It’s been a while since I’ve done this,” she admitted. “At least there’s a month or so to learn.”
Viktor gave her a crooked grin back.
“The Yule Ball,” he said. “Do you haff a companion?”
His phrasing made Hermione pause.
“You mean like a date?” she asked, and Viktor nodded. She laughed. “No. It was only announced today, Viktor. I don’t think anybody does yet.”
Viktor tilted his head at her.
“Some people haff already close ones,” he said, his English awkward. “They take their paramours.”
“Oh, like the people already in relationships?” she clarified, and Viktor looked relieved.
“Yes,” he said. “Those already ‘dating’.”
“I guess you’re right,” Hermione conceded. “Those with boyfriends or girlfriends probably assume that they’ll go together to the ball.”
She continued paging through the book. She could feel Viktor’s gaze on her, and after a moment, she looked back up.
“Are you one of those?” Viktor asked. “Vith a ‘boyfriend’?”
“No,” she said. “I’m not.”
Viktor looked satisfied.
“Then,” he said, taking a step back to bow to her, offering her his hand, “vould you like to go to the ball with me?”
Hermione stared at him.
“With you?” she asked, her mouth dry. “As your date?”
Viktor raised an eyebrow.
“Yes,” he said. “As my date.”
Hermione felt her heart flutter as she took his proffered hand.
“I would like that very much, Viktor,” she said.
“Then it is settled.” He pressed his lips to the back of her hand gently, his eyes holding hers, and Hermione felt her face heat up. “You will accompany me to the ball.”
“A ball!” Cedric said, his eyes alight. “Did you ever imagine such a thing?”
“Honestly, yes,” Hermione said, folding her arms. “It’s tradition. I read about it when I researched the tournament.”
“Of course you did,” he said ruefully. He grinned at her. “I wouldn’t expect anything less.”
Hermione rolled her eyes but smiled. It was a comfortable comradery, to have Cedric back at her side.
Cedric had slotted back into her life easily, as if he’d never been gone at all. They’d resumed Charms practice easily in an abandoned classroom, Cedric determined to master the Bubble-Head Charm and Hermione practicing with him.
“Did you get dancing lessons?” Cedric asked her, grinning. “Ours with Sprout were okay, but can you imagine the poor Ravenclaws with Flitwick?”
The mental image of the small half-goblin teacher trying to lead a girl a full foot and a half taller than him proved too much, and Hermione dissolved into giggles, Cedric grinning at her with sparkling eyes as she laughed.
“Ours went okay,” Hermione said, once her giggles had subsided, though there was still amusement in her tone. “McGonagall was a strict task master. You should have seen the horror on Ron’s face when she told him to take her waist.”
Cedric laughed. “I bet that was a sight.”
“The lessons were helpful,” Hermione mused. “I suspect they were more necessary for Gryffindor than other houses, maybe. I think all the Slytherins probably had dancing classes as children.”
“It’s fairly standard in a pureblood child’s education,” Cedric admitted. “I took them up until I went to Hogwarts, myself.”
“Ugghh,” Hermione groaned. “So everyone will be able to dance better than me already, having had multiple years of actual lessons. Meanwhile, I’m stuck trying to learn out of a book, practicing by myself, looking like I’m dancing on my own with a ghost.”
Cedric chuckled, but he looked at her sideways.
“You’re practicing dancing?” he asked, and Hermione flushed.
“I don’t like doing things poorly,” she admitted, not looking at him. “I don’t like doing anything poorly. And I don’t want to embarrass myself in front of the school.”
Cedric gave her a soft smile.
“Hermione, I can’t imagine you’d ever be as bad as all that.” His lips quirked upwards. “If you’re worried, though, do you want to practice?”
“I have been practicing,” Hermione snapped. “It’s just hard, doing it from a book—”
“No,” said Cedric. “I meant here. With me.”
Hermione felt her heart stop.
Slowly, she looked up at Cedric.
He was offering her a soft, teasing smile, but his warm eyes held no malice of mischief. Hermione felt her heart skip a beat as her breath caught in her throat.
“Alright,” she managed. “We can practice here.”
Cedric grinned widely. “Excellent.”
He conjured a record player, putting on a classic waltz, and he bowed in a very over-the-top manner to Hermione.
“May I have this dance, my lady?” he asked, offering his hand, and Hermione laughed as she took it.
“You may,” she said, amused, and Cedric’s eyes lit up as he tugged her closer.
His hand was large, spanning her waist, and his shoulders were broad under her hand.
“Right,” Cedric said. “Ready?”
With no more warning, he stepped into the dance, Hermione hurriedly stepping back half a step after the beat. She managed to catch up in the next two, and soon they were doing a very basic box step.
“See?” Cedric grinned at her. “You’re a natural.”
“We are doing one thing and literally repeating it over and over,” Hermione said, rolling her eyes. “I would expect rather more from someone who had lessons for years.”
“Is that a challenge?” Cedric said, his eyes glinting.
Hermione raised her chin. “And if it is?”
Cedric grinned. “Then get ready.”
Abruptly, they were moving a bit quicker, the song having picked up. Hermione struggled to keep up, trying to remember the steps she needed to hit, but as the song went faster, it became more natural to just let Cedric guide her through the dance, keeping her eyes on his instead of her feet.
“And now…” Cedric murmured.
He raised a hand and pushed on her shoulder, and Hermione found herself going into the most natural twirl she’d felt yet, spinning back into him as he tugged on her hand. She laughed as she caught herself on his shoulders, but he was quickly leading her again through the dance, doing a changeover of places at one point and another twirl.
“You are good at this,” she conceded, smiling and laughing as he raised their arms and did a silly twirl of his own as the song ended.
Cedric raised her hand and pressed his lips to the back of it, his eyes holding hers.
“It’s a lot more fun if you’re dancing with someone you want to,” he murmured, and Hermione felt her breath catch.
The moment broke a moment later when Cedric grinned widely, letting go of her hand and giving her a dramatic bow.
“That was excellent,” he told her, his eyes dancing. “I saw that samba book in your bag. Do you want to practice it later this week?”
Hermione found herself agreeing, part of her musing at the irony of learning to dance with one champion in order to dance at the ball with another.
Under Cedric’s tutelage, Hermione learned the basics of the samba, the tango, and some basic swing dance moves. It was much easier to learn from someone who knew what they were doing, and it was fun, too.
Doing anything with Cedric was fun, really. They just seemed to click.
A couple weeks before the ball, Cedric tried to teach her the quickstep, which resulted in much stepping on of feet and laughter. Hermione was panting and giggling by the end of the lesson, Cedric grinning at her.
“I think I’ll concede defeat on that one,” she said ruefully. “Hopefully that one won’t come up.”
She smiled at him, and Cedric looked startled for a moment, before he smiled back.
“Are you looking forward to the ball more, now?” he asked her. “Now that you’ll be more comfortable dancing?”
“I will, actually,” Hermione said. “A lot more, now that won’t embarrass myself on the dancefloor.”
Cedric chuckled, but his eyes held hers. There was something intense in them, and Hermione found herself meeting his gaze, her breath catching.
“Then,” Cedric murmured, extending his hand, “would you like to accompany me?”
Hermione’s heart stopped.
“What?” she said weakly. “Like, to the ball?”
Whereas normally Cedric would raise an eyebrow and tease her, Cedric instead just nodded, his eyes fixed on hers.
“Yes, Hermione,” he said. “As my date, to the ball.”
Hermione’s heart flared to life as it danced in exaltation and success while at the same time it plummeted.
“I—Cedric, I—” Hermione faltered.
“Yes?” Cedric gently prodded.
“While I’d love to go with you – genuinely, I would – I’ve already accepted someone else’s invitation,” she said, her voice quiet.
Cedric’s hand slowly fell, staring at her.
“You accepted someone else’s offer?” he said. His voice sounded off, weird.
“Yes,” Hermione said, biting her lip anxiously.
Hermione blinked at him.
“Because he offered?” she said, not understanding. “I mean, I wasn’t expecting to get asked at all, only as a last resort by Harry if he couldn’t get anyone else, really, so I was flattered and happy to get a date at all.”
“Wait, what?” Cedric was pacing around the room now, tugging at his hair, confused. “You didn’t think you’d get asked at all?”
Hermione’s answering laugh held no mirth.
“Why would I, Cedric?” she said. “I’m not exactly the type of girl guys tend to fall for, the ones who have companions to Hogsmeade every other week.”
Cedric stared at her.
“Why didn’t you wait for me?” he said plainly. “Why didn’t you wait for me to ask you?”
Hermione stared at him. “Why would I think you would?”
They looked at each other for a long moment. Cedric’s eyes were dark and fierce, almost angry, and Hermione felt tense and stressed, her eyes anxiously scanning over his.
“I thought—” Cedric said finally. “I thought—I thought you understood me. And my intentions toward you.”
“I—I thought I did, once,” she admitted. “But you never said anything. You never did anything more. I figured I had presumed wrong.”
Cedric stared at her for a long moment, before dragging his hand through his hair and tugging, pushing the other hand to his eyes.
“Of course,” he said, laughing mirthlessly. “How would you know, if I didn’t tell you? Why did I think to just presume, instead of using my words?”
His mirthless laughter angered her, and Hermione got mad.
“Excuse me,” she snapped, striding up to him. “You are the one who started flirting wildly with me out of nowhere, trying to fluster me and make me blush, but then never doing anything more. You are the one who teased me in private, but never asked me on a Hogsmeade date in public. You are the one who made suggestive implications, but never so much as indicated you’d actually want a kiss!” Her hands were thrown up in exasperation now, Hermione indignant in her fury. “When I learned you’d entered the tournament and hadn’t even told me, even knowing how I felt about the tournament, I figured you were just toying with me, or you were flirty with every female friend you found.”
She was furious to discover her eyes were tearing up with her emotion, and she angrily wiped them away.
“So what are your intentions, then, Cedric?” she demanded. “Are you interested in me? Should I have presumed?”
Cedric looked at her for a long moment, the silence dragging on, before he turned abruptly and strode strongly out of the room, leaving Hermione to collapse to the ground, sniffling and crying quietly into her knees.
“Cedric is trying to figure out who your date is.”
Hermione glanced over at Ginny, who was hovering near the edge of the couch she was reading on.
“Let him,” she said dryly. “So are Harry and Ron.”
“Yes, but it’s different.” Ginny sat down next to her, drawing her knees up under her. “He wants to find out so he can threaten them, so he can go with you instead.”
“What a gentleman.” Her sarcasm was cutting. “Threatening a lady’s date so he can steal her away.”
“It’s not like that, Hermione,” Ginny whined. “Hermione—”
“He wouldn’t tell me what it was like, after I turned him down,” Hermione cut in. “I flat-out asked him his intentions toward me, and he just stared at me blankly before he whirled around and walked out.”
Ginny winced. “Well… while that sounds really bad…”
“Why are you so adamant about Cedric?” Hermione demanded, turning to face Ginny. “I have a date, one who’s charming and straightforward and honest with me. Cedric clearly has some issues to work through about what he even wants, and he can go deal with that himself.”
“What if his answer would have shocked you?” Ginny countered. “How would you have reacted if he said something like ‘Even though you’re only fifteen, I want to marry you?’”
“I would have been shocked, but I’d still rather know,” Hermione shot back, folding her arms. “I’d always rather know, even if it’s unexpected and a bit intense.”
“That’s what I said to him,” Ginny grumbled, folding her own arms and sulking. Hermione raised an eyebrow.
“Do you have anything to tell me?” Hermione challenged.
Ginny grumbled for a moment, before a slow, mean grin spread across her face.
“No,” she said finally. “It’s not my place. And if Cedric is determined to fuck it all up, so be it.”
Hermione was anxious, but it was an anxious/excited, not anxious/nervous.
She’d spent hours getting ready for the ball. Her hair itself had taken hours to straighten and pin up just how she wanted it, and she’d had to do her makeup twice, messing up with her eyeliner the first time.
Ginny had squealed when she saw her, gushing over how beautiful she looked and how pretty her periwinkle robes were. Ginny’s excitement gave Hermione the courage she needed to go and find Viktor, who would be waiting outside of the Great Hall with the other champions.
Ginny went with her, leaving her at a landing above where the champions stood. Ginny gave her a mischievous grin before waving at her and flouncing off herself, undoubtedly to meet Neville already inside the Great Hall.
Hermione took a deep breath, steadying herself, held her head high, and slowly descended the stairs.
The first thing she noticed was Harry wasn’t even there yet – and how difficult was it for a guy to comb his hair and put on robes? The second was Viktor, who was watching her descend with a smile, looking surprised and pleased.
The third was Cedric.
He looked incredibly handsome in his robes, the style he’d chosen looking very well-tailored to his form. The royal blue matched the theme of the Yule Ball and suited his coloring, bringing out his hair and his eyes. Cho Chang stood next to him, looking delicate and beautiful in her white cheongsam, and Hermione felt a pang of jealousy as she looked on her until she saw Cedric.
His eyes were caressing her every step.
Cedric looked awestruck, she noticed; breathless and astonished, his eyes drinking her in. He looked like for all the world all he wanted to do was worship her, and the look in his eyes told her he probably wasn’t imagining something much different than she was.
When she reached the ground, she went over to Viktor, who was still smiling at her. He snapped his boots and bowed, and she curtsied back with a laugh before taking his arm.
She could see Cedric’s abrupt scowl in the reflection in a suit of armor, before he turned away.
Harry was astonished to see her on Viktor’s arm, not hiding his surprise, but Padma was pleased and complimentary, and Hermione happily repaid the compliments with ease; she really did look nice.
When the champions were finally given leave to go in, Hermione stood straight and smiled, taking Viktor’s arm as they went inside.
Everyone was cheering the champions as they swept in, and they each took up a position on the dance floor, ready to open the dance.
The opening strains were that of a waltz, to Hermione’s relief – simple, easy – and Viktor smiled at her as his hand held her waist, her own hand going to his bicep. From over his shoulder she could see Cedric looking over Cho’s shoulder, his hand on her waist, his eyes meeting and holding hers.
And then the dance began.
The Yule Ball was a blast.
Hermione hadn’t known quite what to expect, but when the band began alternating formal dances with looser, more free ones not unlike what she’d have expected at a muggle dance, she laughed and loosened up, letting Viktor tug her and twirl her freely. Conversation became next to impossible as the music was so loud, but Hermione was laughing and flushed from dancing, Viktor smiling at her and looking pleased all the while.
When there was a pause in the music for applause, Hermione panting, she was surprised to see Cedric stride up, deliberate.
“Do you mind if I cut in?”
Viktor looked surprised, but gestured his acquiescence, and Cedric moved to Hermione, his eyes holding hers.
“May I have this dance?” he asked.
Hermione swallowed. “You may.”
It was a more formal one, the fun band taking a break. But it was one she had practiced, one she had practiced with Cedric just like this, his hand on her waist guiding her around the room, and Hermione felt her breath catch as his eyes held hers, pushing her into a twirl.
When he tugged her back, he held her even closer than before, and Hermione couldn’t find it in her to object.
“You look radiant tonight,” he told her.
Hermione blushed. “Thank you. You—you look very handsome in your robes.”
Cedric grinned at that.
“Good. I’m glad you think so,” he said. His grin faded. “Just lucky they match your robes.”
Hermione offered him a small smile. “Surely that’s a good thing?”
Cedric’s hand tightened around her waist for a moment, before he spun her out into a twirl.
“Did he say anything?” Cedric asked, once she was back in her arms.
Hermione blinked. “What?”
“Viktor. Did he say anything?” Cedric asked, maneuvering her into a flashy turn. “Did he say you were his eyes?”
“His eyes?” Hermione repeated, puzzled. “What does that mean?”
Cedric looked relieved for a moment, before straightening up, looking determined.
“Don’t worry about it,” he told her. “It doesn’t matter.”
Something told her it very much did matter, judging from the look on his face, but Hermione didn’t push. Instead, she focused on the feel of Cedric’s bicep under her hand, the warmth of his hand on her waist, and the flush of her cheeks as she danced the night away.
After a few more dances, alternating between Cedric, Neville, Viktor, and then Cedric again, she went to go and get a drink. She chatted with Harry and Ron, both of whom were sulking and firmly not enjoying the dance, before wandering off in search of her date.
She eventually found him outside, in the rose garden, talking to Cedric.
“I haf no idea vhat you are talking about,” Viktor was insisting. “I like Hermione. She is kind, she is clever, and she does not moon over me like most girls.”
“You’re of age,” Cedric argued. “You must know. Is she your eyes as well?”
“Vhat does that mean?” Viktor demanded. “‘My eyes’? Is this an English saying?”
Cedric stared at him in wonder and confusion.
“Do… do you not have eyes, in other countries?” he faltered. “Is it… was it a gift given just to the Isle?”
“You are not making any sense,” Viktor informed him, annoyed. “I am going to go dance vith Hermione. Not because she is ‘my eyes’, but because I like her.”
Hermione scrambled back inside, quickly taking up a position of searching for him just as Viktor returned inside.
“Viktor!” she said, adopting a pleased tone. “I was looking for you!”
“I needed some air,” he told her, giving her a smile. “Vould you like to dance again?”
Hermione smiled. “I would love to.”
She lost herself in the music once more, giving herself over to the enjoyment of the night and the thrill of it all. Viktor was an excellent partner, attentive and fun, and she danced with him long into the night.
But as she did, part of her watched Cedric, who seemed to be on a mission of some sort.
He’d gone and talked to Fleur, then talked to several other of the visiting students, before talking to others of his classmates. It was after he approached Yuki Tanaka, a seventh year, that he seemed to come to some sort of realization, and he approached Dumbledore after that, who drew him out into the rose garden for a conversation.
She wondered what had gotten into Cedric, that weighed so heavily on his mind to distract him from the dance. Cho was having a blast without him, the pretty girl never lacking for partners, but it surprised her to see him withdraw so early.
As the dance wound down, Viktor took her hand and bowed deeply over it, kissing the back of it.
“I had a vonderful time,” he told her. “Thank you for coming with me.”
Hermione blushed and gave him a small curtsy. “The pleasure was all mine.”
Viktor smiled and left, heading back to the boat where the Durmstrang students were staying. Hermione watched him go, wondering at how strong the warming charms must be in order to keep a boat that size warm in the winter.
“May I have the last dance?”
Hermione turned to see Cedric. She glanced around.
“Where’s Cho?” she asked.
Cedric shrugged. “I suspect she went to bed.”
“I think this is just background music,” she said. “Not really intended for dancing.”
“Then we won’t really dance.”
Cedric offered her his hand, Hermione took it, and he pulled her into his arms.
He held her closely, and they swayed gently to the soft strains of music, one of the last people around, and the only ones standing in the hall outside of the Great Hall.
“You really do look beautiful tonight,” Cedric murmured, his hand running over her back. “I could scarcely take my eyes off of you.”
“Thank you.” She smiled faintly. Cedric gave her a soft smile back, and Hermione felt her heart warm.
In bed later, Hermione’s cheeks were still warm, and she wondered why she kept replaying the few dances she’d had with Cedric over and over again in her head, when she’d had a great time with Viktor most of the night. It wasn’t like she wasn’t attracted to Viktor (because she was), or like she didn’t like him (because she did), but just… for some reason, soft thoughts of Cedric lingered, the memory of his hand on her waist or his eyes holding hers.
“You what?” Ron’s jaw dropped.
“You will be perfectly safe,” Dumbledore assured them calmly. “You will be bewitched into a perfectly safe sleep, and able to breathe water harmlessly.”
“I do not want to do this!” Hermione objected, somewhat shrill. “This tournament is bad enough, with the champions endangering their lives! I certainly did not agree to endanger mine!”
Dumbledore sighed, turning to Ludo Bagman and Igor Karkaroff.
“Who else do we have for Viktor Krum?” he asked, and Karkaroff scowled.
“No one,” he said darkly. “We would need to get one of his teammates or his family, all of whom are home in Bulgaria.”
“Well, will we need to delay the Second Task until we can get one of them?” Dumbledore asked, blinking at them.
Bagman’s jaw dropped.
“You can’t delay the Second Task!” he objected. “It’ll throw off the whole tournament!”
“We can’t have the Second Task if Mr. Krum does not have someone to rescue,” Dumbledore pointed out reasonably. “Surely with the Triwizard Tournament such a focus of the Ministry, an International Portkey would not be too hard to procure?”
Hermione’s heart felt a pang as she looked over the others. Ron and Cho were looking at her pointedly, while the small blonde girl just looked scared.
“Fine,” Hermione huffed, folding her arms. “I’ll do it. But just know if something goes wrong and I die, I’m leaving detailed instructions on how to sue the Ministry for everything it’s worth.”
Hermione awoke gasping, coughing for air as she floundered in the lake. She treaded water as best she could, her robes heavily laden with water, her mind racing to recall where she was and what was going on.
“C’mon, Hermione,” a familiar voice said from her side. “I’ve got you.”
Still somewhat caught off-guard, Hermione let him pull her, before looking up at her rescuer.
“Cedric,” she said, and he glanced back at her, looking worried.
“Come on,” he urged. “Your lips are turning blue.”
Hermione allowed him to pull her from the water and over to the Champion’s Deck, getting a blanket for her. Madame Pomfrey hurried over.
“Honestly, swimming in the lake in the winter,” she tutted. “Here, Miss Granger: fresh, dry robes.”
She guided Hermione to a changing station set up, shielded by hung cloth. Hermione changed quickly, her teeth clattering. She was just handing her wet clothes to Madame Pomfrey when she heard a fight break out.
“He cheated! He cheated!”
“I did not!”
Hermione looked over to see that Viktor had returned. His head was reshaping itself, gills on his neck melting back into his skin. He was glaring at Cedric, who was glaring right back.
“You did,” Viktor hissed. “You stole Hermione from me.”
“Hermione’s not yours,” Cedric spat. “Don’t blame your failures on me.”
The judges hurried over to the quarreling champions.
“What’s going on?” Bagman asked.
“Ve had to rescue our hostage,” Viktor said. “Vhen I arrived, Diggory vas just leaving. He had Hermione – mine – and left his own alone.”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Cedric scoffed.
Dumbledore looked puzzled.
“Mr. Krum is correct, Mr. Diggory,” Dumbledore said. “Ms. Granger was intended to be his hostage. Ms. Cho was your own.”
Cedric’s eyes went wide.
“I—I didn’t even notice her,” Cedric admitted. “I saw Hermione—and I just assumed—”
“Vhy vould you think she vas yours?” Viktor hissed. “You tried to sabotage me!”
“I didn’t!” Cedric insisted. “I—I just saw her, and remembered the song, ‘an hour long you’ll have to look’, and I couldn’t just leave her there—”
“I vould have saved her!” Viktor spat. “She is no one to you! Vhy did you—”
“She’s my eyes!” Cedric roared.
A heavy silence fell, three of the judges all looking stunned.
Cedric looked resigned.
“She’s my eyes,” Cedric repeated. “I—I couldn’t leave her—”
He looked away, anguished, and Hermione felt her heart go out to him, though she didn’t know what he meant.
“This… well, this changes everything,” Bagman admitted.
“Changes what?” Karkaroff demanded.
“Ludo, those from the continent do not have eyes,” Dumbledore said quietly. “They were a gift given to us from Merlin when Avalon closed itself off from this realm.”
“They—they don’t?” Ludo’s expression was shocked, then turned to one of abject pity. “That’s awful.”
Dumbledore shrugged. “It is what it is.”
There was a shout, and the judges turned as Harry Potter spluttered to the surface, dragging Cho, Ron, and the small blonde girl with him. Hurriedly others went to help him haul the hostages out of the lake, quickly getting the hostages changes and draping a blanket around Harry.
Hermione sat next to Harry while the others changed, Cedric and Viktor still engaged with the judges.
“What happened down there?” Hermione murmured.
“I got there first,” Harry said. “I figured Ron was mine, but with you and Cho as hostages too, I couldn’t just take him. So I waited around for the others to come, to make sure everyone got back safe.”
“Oh, Harry,” Hermione said fondly. “Always the hero, aren’t you?”
Harry rolled his eyes but continued.
“Cedric got there next. His eyes went huge when he saw you, and he dove right for you and started hacking at the rope.” He paused. “I don’t know if he even saw Cho, really. He just panicked when he saw you.”
“It sounds like it,” Hermione murmured.
“Krum got there right as Cedric freed you. It looked like he was trying to yell, but he’d transfigured his head into a shark’s. He looked at the other hostages before taking off after Cedric, chasing him.” Harry winced. “When I could feel my gillyweed wearing off, I knew it’d been far over an hour, and I fought the merfolk to bring everyone else back.”
“Good thing, too,” Ron added, plopping down next to them. “Turns out Fleur didn’t even get past the grindylows.”
“Still doesn’t explain why Cedric got Hermione, though,” Harry pointed out. “He took Cho to the ball, while Krum took Hermione.”
Ron shrugged. “No idea.”
“He said I was his eyes,” Hermione said. “Whatever that means.”
Ron sucked his breath in sharply.
“Oh,” he said, his eyes going wide. “That’s—that changes everything. No wonder he couldn’t leave you behind.”
“But what does that mean?” Hermione wanted to know. “What does it mean, someone is someone’s eyes?”
Harry looked just as confused as her, but Ron shook his head vigorously.
“No. No way. If you’re already his eyes, you need to ask him,” Ron said insistently. “This is a conversation for you and Cedric, Hermione.”
Hermione accepted his response with poor grace.
The judges had pulled away from the champions to confer, and Fleur descended on Harry and Ron to thank them for saving her sister. Ron went with Fleur to “see if her sister was okay,” though it was clear he just wanted to be around Fleur. Cho sat nearby with Madam Pomfrey, looking furious, and Hermione nudged Harry.
“You’re the one who saved her,” she prodded him. “Go see how she is.”
Harry brightened. “Yeah… yeah, I will.”
Harry went over and dropped down next to Cho, while Cedric came over to her.
“Hermione,” he said, sitting down next to her. His voice was quiet. “You alright?”
“I’m cold and confused,” she told him honestly. “What does it mean that I’m your eyes?”
Cedric’s expression was guarded.
“If you don’t tell me, I’m just going to go and look it up,” Hermione informed him, and Cedric sighed.
“I’ll tell you,” Cedric promised her. “Just… not now, not here. After the challenge, I’ll take you aside… and I’ll tell you.”
Hermione searched Cedric’s eyes for any sign of deceit, finding none.
“Fine,” she sighed. “But right after the challenge.”
Cedric offered her a small grin. “Deal.”
Hermione huffed but settled herself back down, shivering in the wind with her wet hair.
“Cold?” Cedric asked. Hermione nodded, and Cedric pulled her closer to him, nuzzling her into his side.
“You’re so warm,” Hermione said wonderingly, curling into him further without realizing it. Cedric laughed.
“Glad to be your personal heater,” he teased. Hermione’s face flamed and she went to pull away, but Cedric laughed and held her close. “Nuh-uh. I rescued you; I have to make sure you don’t freeze to death now.”
Hermione’s face was hot, but she didn’t really mind, looking out over the lake with Cedric at her side as the judges quarreled and argued.
In the end, Harry came out ahead.
“For speed, skill, and outstanding moral fortitude, we award Mr. Potter fifty points!”
Cedric had gotten “for successfully rescuing a hostage but returning just outside the time window, we award Mr. Diggory forty-five points!”
“There was a slight misunderstanding regarding the hostages,” Dumbledore said cheerfully, ignoring Krum’s and Karkaroff’s scowls. “But as Mr. Krum’s speed would have placed him arriving a few minutes after Mr. Diggory if he had paused to rescue a hostage, we award Mr. Krum forty points.”
Fleur got twenty-five that were clearly pity points, but Hermione didn’t let it bother her.
“Now?” Hermione prompted, as Cedric helped her to her feet.
“Now,” Cedric agreed, joining the crush of students as they headed back up to the school.
Cedric guided her toward the abandoned Charms classroom where they frequently spent time.
“This will be simpler if I demonstrate,” he told her. “Come on.”
He closed the door behind them, before turning to Hermione.
“I need you to blindfold me,” Cedric told her seriously.
Hermione stared at him. “Blindfold you?”
“Yes. I need you to make absolutely sure I cannot see anything,” he told her. He conjured a blindfold, handing it to her. “Trust me.”
Shrugging and willing to suspend her disbelief, she obligingly blindfolded Cedric, being sure to make sure to cover the entirety of his entire eye sockets with the dark cloth.
“Now, help me sit down, facing away from the chalkboard.”
That was simple enough, Hermione guiding him to the stone floor.
“Now.” Cedric sounded nervous. “I need you to write a message to me on the chalkboard.”
“A message?” Hermione said skeptically.
“It could be anything,” Cedric said. “Just… just write something, Hermione.”
Hermione went to the board.
“…you’re still wearing the blindfold?” she said carefully, looking back.
Cedric was still facing the doorway, the blindfold still tightly around his eyes. “I am.”
Hermione stared at the chalkboard for a long moment, holding the chalk. Cedric wanted her to write him a message, one he couldn’t see, and she had the wild urge to write him a real one, not just something silly.
“I can’t believe I’m doing this,” she sighed, putting her chalk to the board.
It was a quote from Shakespeare, one that had been brought to mind when Cedric had mentioned his eyes. It was one her mother had been fond of saying and teasing her father with, and with Cedric looking at her so softly, it had been on her mind.
“Alright,” she said. “I have.”
“Good.” Cedric’s voice sounded odd, Hermione noted. “Now… come stand in front of me, but face the chalkboard.”
Hermione obliging went around to stand in front of him. She looked down at him, curious.
“Face the chalkboard,” Cedric gently chided, as if he knew she was looking at him.
She blushed, her eyes returning to the board. “Alright.”
Cedric was silent for a long moment, taking a deep breath before beginning to speak.
“Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind,” Cedric recited. “And therefore is winged Cupid painted blind.”
Hermione looked back down at him, then back up at the board, then back down at him.
His blindfold was still firmly on, with no way he could see.
“How?” Hermione asked quietly.
Cedric smiled up at her, unseeing.
“I told you,” he said softly. “You are my eyes.”
Hermione slowly sank to her knees, tugging at the back of his blindfold. Cedric’s eyes met hers a moment later, deep and open.
“I can see through your eyes,” he told her. “When I close my eyes, I can see through yours.”
“Why?” Hermione asked. “How is that even possible?”
“Eyes are the window to the soul,” he quoted. He smiled softly. “You’re my soulmate, Hermione.”
Hermione wondered if she stopped breathing, Cedric’s eyes holding hers.
“Magical people have soulmates, if they’re born in the UK,” he told her. “When you come of age, you can see through their eyes when you close yours.”
“That’s…” Hermione’s mouth was dry. “That’s an incredible invasion of privacy.”
Cedric’s lips quirked. “Perhaps.”
“So…” Hermione said, thinking back. “So you… when you spoke to me that day, the day of the Quidditch World cup… you knew?”
Cedric took her hands to hold in his.
“I’d been seventeen for a week by then, so incredibly confused,” he told her. “I knew my soulmate was in the Weasley house, but I could see Ginny at times, and the Weasleys only have one girl.” He gave her a tentative grin. “I was so relieved to discover who you really were to me that morning, you have no idea.”
Hermione laughed despite herself, taking Cedrics hand in hers and turning it over.
“So… we’re soulmates?” she asked. “What does that mean?”
“That our souls match,” Cedric said. “We’re fated together. Each other’s perfect match.”
He smiled at her, but Hermione tilted her head.
“Does it?” she asked. “Or is there more?”
Cedric’s eyes dimmed. “What do you mean?”
“If we were fated to be together, why wouldn’t you have told me as soon as you knew?” she asked. “Why keep it quiet for so long and not let me know?”
Cedric closed his eyes and sighed.
“The eyes… they don’t always match,” he admitted. “Sometimes two people will see through the eyes of the same person, but she’ll only see through one of theirs. There’s no way to tell until both parties are of age, to make sure they both see through the others’.”
“And you were worried I’d see through someone else’s,” Hermione said in understanding.
“Maybe a little,” he admitted. “Wouldn’t you be, though? Knowing you have a soulmate, but not knowing if you’re hers?”
Hermione gave him a soft smile and reached up to push a damp lock of hair back behind his ear, cupping his cheek.
“I don’t need to see through your eyes to know,” she told him. “Cedric, our connection… I felt something so intense and so suddenly, for so long…” She smiled wryly. “If anything, I’m glad there’s a reason behind it, to know I haven’t suddenly and abruptly gone boy-crazy and mad.”
Cedric laughed and grinned at her, tentatively.
“Boy-crazy?” he teased. “Only over me, I’d hope.”
Hermione flushed and shoved him.
“You know it’s you,” she told him, rolling her eyes and smirking. “I was trying to stop myself from falling in love with you, you know. Your constant flirting but never anything more had me feeling like you were leading me on.”
Cedric had gone very still.
“From falling in love with me?” he said quietly.
“…am I misunderstanding this?” she ventured, her voice shaking. “Are soulmates not romantic in the wizarding world?”
“No, no, they are,” Cedric hastily assured her, seizing her hands and looking at her earnestly. “Just… we’ve known each other since August, Hermione. And you… already…?”
“It took me to October to realize,” Hermione confessed. “When you were chosen as champion, and I realized how devastated I’d be if you were gone.”
Cedric looked simultaneously thrilled and torn.
“I realized the day of the World Cup,” he admitted. “When the Death Eaters attacked, and my first thought was panic for if you were okay…” He grinned sheepishly. “I know that’s a little quick, to fall in love with someone, but in my defense, you’re very enchanting.”
Hermione blushed brilliantly.
“Say it again,” she bid.
Cedric looked puzzled.
“Say it again?” he said. “What did I—oh.”
Giving her a slow smile, he tugged her closer, so she was kneeling between his knees.
“I love you, Hermione,” he told her quietly, his eyes shining into hers. “More than anything else I‘ve ever known.”
Hermione felt her heart leap.
“I love you too, Cedric,” she said, beaming back at him. “I’m so glad to know you love me too!”
Cedric grinned at her widely, happily, joy sparkling in his eyes. Hermione waited a long moment, and waited, before pulling back to give him a puzzled expression.
“I just told you I loved you too,” Hermione told him, and Cedric blinked.
“Yes…?” he said. “I thought we’d established that.”
“And you just smiled at me.”
“I’m happy about it,” Cedric pointed out, confused. “Isn’t that the expected—”
Annoyed with his obliviousness, Hermione rolled her eyes and tugged him forward into a kiss, pressing her lips to his.
Cedric gasped, his hands coming up to hold her at the waist, and Hermione smiled into the kiss, deepening it and taking advantage of his open mouth. Cedric was slow at first, tentative, before gaining confidence and kissing her back heatedly. Hermione nipped at his bottom lip playfully, feeling a thrill when she heard Cedric moan.
Cedric pulled away, panting for breath, and Hermione promptly began kissing his neck.
“Hermione! Hermione, what—”
“We’re soulmates,” Hermione told him between kisses. “You cannot tell me it’s not appropriate to kiss you now.”
“It’s—Merlin, Hermione, you can kiss me whenever you like—but we’re not even betrothed!”
Hermione fell back on her heels, staring at him.
“Betrothed?” she asked flatly, and it was Cedric’s turn to flush.
“Well, yes,” he said. “I mean, there’s a way to go about these things properly. If we don’t want to shame your family and ruin your reputation—”
“Is this one of those antiquated pureblood traditions?” Hermione demanded. “No kissing until you’re formally courting or engaged?”
“I—it’s not like that,” Cedric argued. “It’s to protect and respect the woman’s honor—”
“Bully for my honor,” Hermione said. “I want to kiss you.”
“If it’s really to respect me, shouldn’t you respect my choice?” Hermione said, folding her arms and giving him a pointed look. “I choose to kiss you. Do you want to kiss me?”
The look he gave her was heated.
“You have no idea, Hermione,” he murmured.
“Then,” Hermione said, tossing her head. “I fail to see the problem.”
Cedric looked torn for a moment, before giving in with a growl and pulling her toward him, sealing his lips over hers. A strong hand came up to gently cup her face, tender, and Hermione melted against him with a sigh, kissing him back with everything she had.
When Hermione finally pulled back from their kisses, she was dazed.
“I cannot believe,” she said, “that you’ve been depriving me of that for months because of my honor.”
“Well,” he said, his eyes dancing with mischief, “we’ll just have to make up for lost time then, won’t we?”
To absolutely no one’s surprise, Cedric and Hermione began dating after that. To Hermione’s pleased surprised, Cho began seeing Harry, which had Harry beaming and his confidence higher than ever.
Their relationship experienced a significant damper when Harry, in the lead for the Triwizard Tournament and the champion to enter the Third Task maze first, had discovered the Triwizard Cup at the center of the maze was a horrifying Portkey, one that had transported him to the site of Voldemort’s resurrection.
Hermione had been terrified, hearing Harry recount his story, and she had clung to Cedric and wept afterwards.
“What if you had gotten there first?” she cried. “Voldemort needed Harry alive, but he wouldn’t have needed you! You’d have died!”
Cedric held her close, engulfed in his arms.
“But I didn’t,” he reassured her. “I could have, but I’m okay.”
Dumbledore reconvened the Order of the Phoenix that summer, and Hermione and the Weasley Twins had ruthlessly eavesdropped in.
“I suspect he has severed his soul,” Dumbledore was telling them grimly. “Several pieces of evidence have recently come to light, and I believe he has created multiple Horcruxes.”
There were several gasps, while Hermione exchanged a puzzled look with Fred and George.
“How?” someone demanded. “How do you know this?”
There was a sigh, and a familiar voice began speaking.
“I used to see through Tom’s eyes,” Professor McGonagall said tightly. “At one time, he may have seen through mine. But the last thing I saw was him do a ritual and a murder over his old diary, and then my sight went black.”
“The diary that possessed Ginny!” Arthur exclaimed.
“Precisely.” Dumbledore sounded grave.
With Professor McGonagall’s help, and Dumbledore’s extensive research, the Order of the Phoenix was able to find and destroy most of Voldemort’s Horcruxes. A few still lingered, but as each Horcrux was destroyed, Snape reported that Voldemort had lost more strength, more sanity, more power, and they were able to forestall his attacks and efforts at domination for a while.
It was in her sixth year that Hermione woke one morning, yawning, before rubbing her eyes to get the sand out.
Immediately, she felt a sudden sense of vertigo, as if she was falling and about to die. But she wasn’t – she was on a broom, for some reason, hurtling toward the ground after the snitch, people in Puddlemere United Quittich robes flying around her—
Hermione opened her eyes, smiling widely, and laughed in relief.
When she sent her daily letter to her fiancée, Cedric, who was dutifully waiting for her to graduate school before marrying her and carrying her off, the scroll only held five words and a heart.
Your eyes are mine, too. ♥