(A/N): After reading one Cedric/Hermione fic after another and despairing the lack of stories for this unique pairing, I’ve decided to put my money where my mouth is…The following fic is inspired by all of the CD/HG shorts I’ve read diligently for the past month, but mainly Minisinoo’s Finding himself. After reading her novel, I can’t seem to content myself with anything but Cedric and Hermione…Now, on to my story!
Chapter One: Pictures and Memories
The door loomed before him. It was of an average height and color. Seven feet tall, probably made of maple, with a redish brown tint to it. There was nothing remarkable about it. There were no markings that distinguished it from the one across the hall except for the golden number 21 that sat innocently above a small glass hole. A peep hole, it was called.
Gathering his courage, he raised a fist and knocked.
Silence. He knocked again.
There was a slight shuffling this time and before he could knock once more, the door swung open to reveal a surprisingly tall man. His height reached maybe a foot short of the door, but his shoulders were nearly as broad as the width of the frame. His brown hair was tousled as if he had been sleeping recently, and his clothes, a casual black robe thrown over a white button down shirt and black slacks, were wrinkled as though he had worn them for days.
His hazel eyes, even being puffy and red-rimmed, were sharp and pinned him firmly on the other side of the door. He was not welcome there.
“What do you want?” the man asked, his voice quiet but unyielding.
He shifted his weight. He would barrel past the young man if he needed to. “You know why I’m here, Longbottom.”
Neville Longbottom narrowed his eyes in a surprisingly threatening manner. “She doesn’t want any visitors right now. She won’t see anyone.”
“She’ll see me.”
“Why are you here?”
He felt some of his defiance fade as he recalled his purpose. “The same reason you’re here, I imagine.”
Neville, too, seemed to deflate as he remembered the circumstances. “She doesn’t need anyone else right now. We’re taking care of her.”
The plural caught his attention and his quick eyes darted past Neville to scan the front living area. Luna Lovegood and Ginny Weasley were hovering behind a deep maroon sofa, eyes wide and curious. He should have known her little army would be called to arms. She was never short of people who cared for her.
He was proof to that testament. Here he was outnumbered three to one, facing two lions and an eagle, and he was still calculating his odds of stunning the lot of them just so he could see her.
“I’m sure you’re taking good care of her,” he said to humor them, his right hand fingering his wand. He would only use it if necessary.
Neville nodded and made to close the door.
He stuck an arm out. “But I’m still not leaving.”
“Then enjoy sitting out in the hall.”
“Neville,” he hated that his voice took on a desperate, pleading tone. “Please, you know that things are different now. They’ll come for her, Neville, you know they will.”
Neville gritted his teeth. “She needs more than a protector. She needs her friends.”
Enough of this, he decided, pushing past Neville and entering the flat at last. “You’re not her only friends!” he shouted, patience snapping thin.
He regretted the outburst when he heard Ginny sob briefly, the sound rising up from her gut to be strangled in her throat. Neville glared accusingly at him as he went to her and threw an arm around her shaking shoulders. Luna joined their huddle, her wide luminous eyes filling with tears that spilled gently, rolling steadily down her cheeks.
It couldn’t have been anymore obvious that he was the outsider. He felt out of his league, like an intruder invading foreign territory. Mostly, he felt like an arse. How could he forget that she wasn’t the only one in pain or danger? She wasn’t the only one in mourning.
He looked away from the disheartened trio, ignoring the stab of jealousy that twisted his gut. At least they had each other. “I’m sorry,” he mumbled, his own sorrow choking his words. “I know it’s not easy for you all right now, but maybe one more person to help is just what you need.”
Neville sighed and did not meet his eyes as he whispered, “You’ll find her in the second room on the right. I doubt she’ll answer, though. She hasn’t spoken to anyone since it happened.”
He nodded his thanks. There were no words he could say, really, to make the situation any better. He doubted things would ever be better again.
He turned and walked through the living room, grimacing slightly at the pictures of her and them that littered the whole place. He’d been to their flat numerous times and it had always been a place of warmth and laughter. Pictures of them and of their families were on every wall and it made one feel literally surrounded by love.
But there was no joy to be found in the smiling pictures tonight. He did not feel any warmth as he passed a picture of them, this time with him in it, smiling and laughing.
He came to a stop in front of the second door on the right. It wasn’t her bedroom, but the one the other two had shared. He never understood why they had chosen a two bedroom flat when there were three of them and they had enough money to buy all of Diagon Alley. The flat itself was rather large, but it was extremely modest. There was nothing in the two bedroom, one bathroom flat that bespoke of the fame and notoriety of its occupants.
But it had always radiated warmth and that sense of home. It was never just a flat, a place where they went only to avoid the streets. It had been their haven, a place to escape the pressure of life and war. He had come over at least once a month to have dinner with them, and each visit had dragged at his feet when it came time to take his leave.
The door loomed before him. He rapped lightly on the white frame.
There was no answer, just as Neville predicted, but he did not wait for one this time.
He entered the room quickly, before he lost the nerve, and was momentarily blinded by the brightness. He had expected her to be sitting in the dark, but it seemed every light in the room was on.
The first thing he noticed was the color orange. There were orange banners, orange posters and streamers. Even she was wearing orange. She sat huddled over a desk wearing a large, baggy Chuddley Cannons shirt and white socks. He colored slightly when he saw the creamy skin of her thigh and realized she wasn’t wearing anything else. Just an overly large Cannons shirt and white socks.
He looked away from her and her thigh. The room was swathed in Quidditch posters, mostly of the Cannons, although he saw some with the crimson colors of Oliver Wood’s team. There were two, large beds on either side of the desk, the one on the left was neatly made whereas the one on the right was covered in old, and if his nose was to be believed, dirty clothes.
There were pictures in here, like everywhere else, and not just of Quidditch players. There was a blown up photo of the three of them in their graduation robes, smiling and waving at him, and another one of them in their Auror robes, their smiles less bright than before, but present nonetheless.
“Go away, I’m busy,” she mumbled without looking up from her desk where she appeared to be scribbling furiously.
He cleared his throat. “Granger.”
She froze instantly. There was a beat of silence before she slowly sat her quill down and turned to face him.
“Diggory,” she greeted in turn, her voice flat but not very surprised.
Cedric Diggory studied her rather pathetic appearance. Her once bright eyes were dull as they stared at him, a flat brown color. Her hair was uncontrollable as ever, but was restrained slightly by an elastic band that secured the long frizzy locks up high. Purple circles underscored her listless eyes and he could tell by looking at her that she hadn’t slept or eaten for days.
This was not Hermione Granger, he realized. Not anymore. Something had happened that night three days ago. She had seen something that changed her. She wasn’t the bright know-it-all he had enjoyed teasing just to see her cheeks heat up in a rosy blush and her eyes flash dangerously. She had always been spit and fire and now all that was left was smoke and ash.
Cedric was even more concerned.
She cocked her head slightly and frowned as though confused. “Don’t you read the Prophet?”
Cedric looked at her in disbelief. “The Daily Prophet is rubbish, Hermione. You know I don’t trust it.”
She smiled vaguely, her pale pink lips curving slightly in a parody of her usually friendly grin. “They’ve got it right this time, though. Haven’t they? Harry and Ron are-” she cut off, her throat swallowing the word.
But he still heard it. It hung in the air between them.
Dead. Harry and Ron were dead.
“Hermione, what happened?” he repeated, his voice achingly soft as he fought his own sorrow.
She sighed. “What’s there to explain, Cedric?”
He moved closer to her, forgetting his earlier discomfort about her lack of dress. “I don’t understand, Mine. How did this happen? This wasn’t supposed to happen!”
She flinched at his nickname for her. He came up with it during her seventh year when they really started to become good friends. No one but Ron and Harry would ever get away with calling her Mione, even though Cedric had thought it very endearing. Her-mi-on-e was a mouthful, no matter how well it suited her personality, and since Mione was only reserved for her two best friends, Cedric had decided to drop the ‘o’ and called her Mine.
He was sure she’d reject such a playful but possessive nickname, but she had surprised him (as she often did) by smiling in amusement as he explained his logic.
And, he thought with more than a little smugness, no one else (not even Ron or Harry) could get away with calling her Mine.
“I don’t know what to say.”
She refused to look at him and was playing self-consciously with the hem of her Cannons shirt. It had ridden up slightly and rested innocently half-way up her thigh.
“Anything,” he pleaded. “Say anything.”
A rush of air passed through her parted lips. “There’s nothing left to say. Go home, Cedric. I’m busy.” She turned back to the desk and picked up her quill to continue writing.
Cedric stared at her back and remained unmoving. How could she dismiss him like that, as if he was nothing more than an afterthought? How could she sit passively, unconcerned that everyone in their world was talking about her? She had been the only one with them, after all, the only one to witness the horrible tragedy.
And she wasn’t talking.
Not that he blamed her. He wouldn’t want to relive what must have been a horrifying, scarring night, but people were talking. There was a cloak of mystery around the whole events of that evening. What had they been doing at that dilapidated muggle orphanage in London? Why didn’t they alert anyone, or arrange for backup? Why had Death Eaters been there?
How did Ron Weasley and Harry Potter die?
“I’m not going anywhere, Mine,” he stated quietly, but firmly. “Not until you tell me what happened.”
“You’ll be staying indefinitely then. Ginny and Luna have been using my room. Neville has been sleeping on the couch. You can stay in here with me if you like. I’ve been using Harry’s bed; he washes his sheets more often. You can sleep in Ron’s.”
He looked at her incredulously. “How can you talk like that? How can you casually sit there as though nothing happened? Harry and Ron are dead, Hermione! They’re dead!”
“I know that!” she shouted abruptly, slamming her palms flat down onto the desk, making the inkwell jump dangerously. “Why does everyone insist on pointing that out? Don’t you think I know that? I was there! I know that they’re gone and not coming back! Why do you have to rub it in my face? Why can’t you all just leave me alone?“
Cedric jumped as she pounded the desk again. A part of him was relieved to finally see some sign that she was in pain, too. That she wasn’t unaffected by the death of her friends. The other part, however, felt like a heel. Of course she was in pain, how could she not be? She, Ron, and Harry had been inseparable since Halloween their first year. Even he, two years their senior and in a different house, had known that. Where there was one, the other two weren’t far behind.
But now there was just her. One third of a golden trio, she looked wrong without them beside her. He almost couldn’t recognize her without Harry holding her hand or Ron’s arm casually thrown around her shoulder. She looked smaller by herself, deflated as if Harry and Ron had taken her with them even though her body remained.
It scared Cedric. Death had always been trivial to him in his youth. He’d heard about the stories of the first war, stories about the green death and murder. But in his youthful arrogance he had been so certain that it would never happen to him. That sort of thing would never happen to him.
How wrong he had been, so foolish. The Triwizard Tournament had seemed like a lark at first, something that would restore honor to the Hufflepuff name. They weren’t weak because they were able to build loyal friendships and depend on one and other. He wanted to win the house cup for his mates so that never again he would feel the need to apologize when he told people which house he was in.
“A smart lad like you in Hufflepuff? How odd!” his father’s Ministry friends always said.
There was nothing odd about it, he wanted to scream. The hat sorted students based on their most predominant characteristics, not the only ones. Hufflepuffs could be fierce when loyalty demanded they defend a friend in need. They could be sneaky in order to do the right thing. And even if all the odds were stacked against them, badgers would fight bravely to the bitter end when cornered.
Cedric had seen the Triwizard Tournament as his opportunity to prove that, although it had been Cedric’s housemates who pushed him to enter. He remembered going into the Great Hall, his sweaty palm tightly clutching the slip of parchment with his name and school neatly scrawled on it. He’d underestimated his popularity, apparently, for it wasn’t only his housemates pushing him forward with good natured ribbing. The three of them had been there, Ron and Harry smiling nervously at him and Hermione sitting in between them with her nose stuck in some book. He hadn’t paid them too much mind other than to think that they were an oddly matched trio.
But then Harry came into the champion’s room after him, his bright green eyes wide and confused. A fourth champion. Suddenly, Cedric was very curious.
At first he was sure Harry had put his name in the goblet, as a prank though, and not as a glory hog. He hadn’t planned on actually being selected, but Cedric hadn’t really seen him as competition. The Boy-Who-Lived he may be, but he was still only a fourth year. Cedric resolved to ignore his presence.
That was until Harry told him about the dragons, and Cedric was sure something was not quite right. Things were rarely what they seemed to be in the Wizarding World, after all. He snuck around, determined to find out what was really going on, and had come across Harry and Hermione desperately practicing summoning charms. Ron was nowhere to be seen and Cedric belatedly realized that the inseparable trio hadn’t been so inseparable lately. But if Ron was mad at Harry for being in the tournament, and if Hermione was acting like Harry’s very life depended on mastering a simple charm, then this was no prank gone awry.
Harry hadn’t put his name in the cup.
Cedric had always taken his prefect duties seriously, and he decided that making sure Harry Potter survived the year was not only his duty as an older, wiser student, but also the right thing to do.
So Cedric had returned the favor and gave Harry the tip about the egg. At the bottom of the Black Lake he’d seen Harry hovering before his two friends, obviously knowing Ron was his to save, but unwilling to leave Hermione regardless. He tapped his watch with his wand to warn him of the time before collecting Cho and heading to the surface.
He’d made it his personal goal to save Harry, but during the third task, Harry saved him- twice. He still had nightmares about that maze. Not the creatures in it, for the maze had been so much more than that.
“The maze changes people,” Dumbledore had solemnly warned. “Oh, find the cup if you will, but be very careful you don’t lose yourself along the way.”
He was right. The maze changed Cedric. It showed him a side of himself he’d never known existed. And Cedric did not like what he saw, because even though he had vowed to look out for Harry, the fact remained that at the first glimmer of the trophy, Cedric had violently shoved the smaller boy to the ground.
But Harry Potter had turned back from the trophy to save him. Harry chose to do the right thing. The tournament no longer was about Hufflepuff’s glory and Cedric knew exactly what he had to do.
“Take it. You saved me! Go on and take it!”
It shamed him that even though he was sure he was doing the right thing he still could not keep the resentment out of his voice.
“Together,” Harry had countered. “It will be a Hogwarts victory.”
They’d argued more, but when it came down to it they both wanted to simultaneously win but have the other win as well.
Cedric settled for the tie.
They grabbed the cup at the same time, and Cedric immediately knew something was wrong. He didn’t remember much of his night in the graveyard other than a streak of green coming towards him and Harry pushing him out of harm’s way. He’d hit his head on the edge of Tom Riddle’s tombstone, losing consciousness instantly.
When he later awoke, he was still on his back and in the graveyard. The first thing that registered across his mind was the smell and feel of grass. He twisted his neck and his head swam and his vision blurred with black spots. Fighting off the darkness, Cedric sat up and looked around for Harry.
And saw him locked into a stand still with the Dark Lord. At least, Cedric assumed it was Lord Voldemort. Honestly, it couldn’t be anyone else. He was tall, much taller than himself, and thin. His skin was pallid, an unhealthy gray color. There were two slits where his nose should have been and he looked like someone had crossed man and snake into one being. But what really struck Cedric were his eyes. Two glowing red orbs pierced Harry, but the younger boy seemed not to notice for he was intently focusing on the golden white connection between the two wands.
Pain and shame warred within him. He’d been unconscious while Harry Potter fought the Dark Lord. In fact, had Harry not pushed him out of the way Cedric wouldn’t have woken up at all.
It was time to return the favor.
“Harry, now!” he shouted.
No one had given the unconscious boy a second thought when they arrived, and with the element of surprise on his side, Cedric surged to his feet, his head pounding and his vision tilting dangerously, and called out for Harry.
Their eyes locked and Harry, such a bright lad, Cedric reflected later that evening, nodded.
He broke the connection at the same time Cedric yelled, “Expelliarmus!“
The Dark Lord’s wand soared through the air in slow motion.
Bugger all, I just disarmed the Dark Lord!
There was no time to digest that fact because Harry was running to him and summoning the cup and with a blinding flash they left the graveyard and landed with a painful thump back on Hogwarts grounds.
He could vaguely hear Harry shouting and music blaring, but he couldn’t focus on anything until a face hovered above his and small, soft hands slapped at his cheeks.
“Cedric, are you alright? Look at me!”
The tone was so bossy there was no way he could disobey even if he wanted to. Dutifully he opened his eyes and stared into the face of what he thought at the time was an angel. Hindsight made him realize it was Hermione Granger taking control of the situation, and making sure he was alright.
“Are you an angel?” he’d asked, his mind drowsy and befuddled.
She rolled her eyes. “I most certainly am not,” she’d replied in her best no-nonsense tone. “You’ll be fine, Cedric. We’ll get you to Madam Pomfrey.”
And he was fine, physically. She saw to it that he made it to the Hospital Wing and was healed within two days with nothing but the faintest scar on his forehead, not nearly as recognizable as Harry’s infamous lightening bolt, but it receded into his hairline above his left eyebrow and was visible enough to those who knew where to look. But mentally, that was another story.
Cho acted like nothing happened, like Cedric had not nearly died. Her presence became suffocating and he began to resent her lack of understanding. Hermione didn’t push him or Harry when she visited them in the Hospital Wing, so why couldn’t Cho be more like her? Their relationship became so strained that he was forced to break it off. He’d always known they’d never get married, but she had been a nice distraction at the time.
But with the death of some friendships, Cedric found strength in others. He and Harry became thick as thieves, and by extension, that made him friends with Ron and Hermione. He and Ron could talk Quidditch until the early morning, but it was Hermione he really connected with. She was always so fierce and passionate in their debates and in her defense of her friends and house elves alike. He often found himself dumbstruck at her amazing capacity to care for others.
Cedric found himself smiling at her longer than necessary, giving her second glances.
Harry and Ron constantly ribbed him about it.
“Tell ‘er you love ‘er, mate. Put yerself out of yer misery!” Ron crowed.
They downed another shot of firewhiskey.
“Who said anything ’bout love?” he slurred.
Harry glared menacingly. “It better be love. I ain’t gonna sit by if ya wanna shag ‘er an’ leave ‘er!”
Cedric swallowed another shot. “I’d never!”
“Yeah, mate, Diggory ain’t got it in ‘im tah treat a bird like dat,” Ron agreed, nodding enthusiastically.
“What is this?”
The three of them turned to see Hermione Granger standing in the entryway of the kitchen, hands on her hips and glaring.
“Mione! Want some?” Ron boomed, holding out a shot to her that sloshed dangerously.
Her glare intensified. “You two, get to bed. Now!” Ron and Harry staggered to their feet, knowing better than to argue with her when she used that particular do-as-I-say-or-else tone.
Cedric grinned. “Hiya, Mine! Don’t you wanna take me tah bed, too?”
She rolled her eyes. “Honestly, Diggory. What am I to do with you?”
“Take me to bed and shag me rotten?”
Hermione huffed. “It’s to the couch with you. As often as you come here we ought to have gotten three bedrooms. You boys will drive me into an early grave. I know it!”
Always to the couch and never to her bed, he thought sadly. Cedric shook his head and dispelled the memories. He loved to flirt with her and get her flustered, but whenever she reciprocated he could never tell if she meant it or was only teasing. It helped knowing that Harry and Ron were rooting for him. They played the role of overbearing overprotective brothers so well that even though Cedric was firmly benched for the game, he could rest assured that he would receive no real competition when Hermione called him in.
At Ministry dinners and balls, Cedric found himself to be Hermione’s default date, and while manners dictated she dance with certain stuffy politicians when they asked, Harry and Ron did an excellent job of frightening the more exuberant suitors away. Two thirds of the most successful Auror team in their history, they were quite fearsome when they wanted to be. They’d hover on either side of her, frowning at any young lad bold enough to approach her. They never spoke to the wizards attempting to woo their friend, only glared, but Cedric was convinced their silence was far more terrifying than anything they could say.
Just three weeks ago they’d gone to a charity gala thrown by the Ministry in an attempt to prove that there was still some normalcy even with Voldemort returned. They’d been obligated to go, and even if it was being thrown for the wrong reasons, Hermione still pointed out that proceeds would be going to a good cause. Cedric found himself to be her default escort once again. Harry and Ron always went stag, but Hermione liked using Cedric as an excuse to decline dances or unnecessary escorts.
“So sorry, I’ve come here with someone already,” she’d demur.
Later they’d go back to the flat and brilliant but naive Hermione would always joke and laugh about how people would try to get close to her in order to meet the famous Harry Potter. He’d share a look with Harry and Ron. They all knew that Harry was probably the last thing any wizard was thinking about when Hermione Granger was in front of them, smiling and laughing in her evening gown finery.
That had only been three weeks ago. Three days ago, he’d gotten a letter from Remus Lupin that merely read:
Harry and Ron are dead. Check on Hermione.
Dead was a terrible word. There was something infinitely final about the way Remus had put it, so very matter-of-fact. Harry and Ron are dead- fact, (You will) check on Hermione- fact.
Then the rumors started. A traitor, most were calling her, but not publicly. It was all very hush-hush still. No one dared accuse her without proof, of which there was none since she had been the only other person present at the time of their deaths and she certainly wasn’t talking.
Instead, she was sitting at a desk and writing.
“Hermione, stop. Get some rest now,” he said, his voice cracking slightly.
“I can’t stop. There’s not enough time for rest,” she said distractedly, her hand never pausing in her writing.
“Just go to sleep. Everything will be fine when you wake up, I’ll see to it.”
They both knew he was lying.
“I can’t, Cedric. I have to finish it.”
He blinked. “Finish what, Mine?”
She huffed and even though he couldn’t see her face, Cedric knew she’d rolled her eyes. It was a terrible habit of hers. “Voldemort’s still out there.”
“Hermione!” he said loudly. “For Merlin’s sake, no one expects you to keep fighting!”
“Well they should!” she countered, looking at him again. “Just because they’re gone doesn’t mean he’ll stop. You’re a fool if you think that, Cedric.”
“Leave it to someone else.”
She snorted. “Who else is there?”
She was right. She always was. No one else knew about the horcruxes, Harry only told her, Ron, and Cedric. She and Cedric were all that was left.
“I’ll help you,” he offered desperately. “You can’t do this alone.”
Her words, which were spoken in a sorrow so deep Cedric couldn’t even begin to fathom it, cut into him better than any well aimed slicing hex.
“I am alone.”
Cedric stared at her hunched back, the tears he’d been fighting for so long spilling down his cheeks. What could he do? What would any man do to save the woman he loved?
She’d said he could have Ron’s bed. She’d offered to let him stay.
Cedric moved to the bed, shoving aside a pile of dirty socks and robes. His hands shook as he peeled away Ron’s Quidditch jersey and he sat gingerly on the edge of the bed feeling as though he was intruding on a sacred burial ground.
“You are not alone,” he whispered into the silence of the room.
The only response he received was the never-ending scratching of her quill on parchment.