Chapter 1 : One
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Everything you recognize is property of JKR. Everything you don't recognize is property of me. Stealing is bad for your consceience.
The first time Cedric saw Hermione by herself was in the library. Admittedly, he wasn’t exactly surprised; she looked most herself with her nose in a book. What took him was that she wasn’t surrounded by her two male friends. It seemed that whenever Cedric saw Harry Potter, Hermione and that young Weasley boy were always with him. Cedric had a difficult time imagining how any of them would look if they were by themselves.
But there she was, sitting alone at a table with seven empty chairs, her mind in a whole different world. Cedric wondered what drove her away from her friends to seek solace in the library. Perhaps the same as what had brought him there.
Although she was considerably younger than he, he didn’t doubt that they could be experiencing the same rough patches with their friends. Sometimes Cedric felt like he just needed to distance himself. He needed some time alone, to find out who he really was. It was embarrassing for him to admit, but Cedric, already seventeen, was quite foggy on this. He wasn’t sure who he could be without the constant support of his friends. Though it was comforting to know that he could always count on them to be there for him, he knew that one day would come when he wouldn’t have anyone to rely on other than himself. At times like these, when he sneaked to the library by himself, secure in the knowledge that his friends would not follow, he got little tastes of what it is to be alone.
Part of him warmed at the thought of being alone. It forced him to be truthful with himself, and he discovered a lot about himself. How many years had he lived feeling fake? How many false smiles had he given to enemies? How many times had he bit his tongue to avoid confrontation? And because of all this, how many friends did he have that, had he been honest straight away, he wouldn’t?
Perhaps these types of epiphanies were occurring in young Granger’s heart at the moment. Though doubtful, Cedric wouldn’t put it past her keen mind. He hadn’t ever met this girl, but he expected she was bright. More mature than her peers.
He could hardly judge a stranger’s personality and tribulations from his hovering around the restricted section. If he wanted to understand this person’s ideas, he would have to make a conscious effort to speak with her. If he wanted to know that someone else, if even a fourth-year girl, was going through the same difficulties in identity, he would have to reach out and ask.
Cedric straightened his tie and cleared his throat, taking long strides toward Hermione Granger, sitting alone at a table made for eight.
Hermione could sense another presence hovering around her. There was someone keeping an eye on her; she could feel it. She tried not to divert her eyes away from her book, but every now and again she peeked over her shoulder without moving her head. Though she was uneasy, excited butterflies bounced around her insides.
She had been feeling this way more frequently in this, her fourth year. She thought about people in ways that she didn’t bother discussing with Harry and Ron; she knew they wouldn’t understand. While they were busy talking about Wizard’s chess and the Quidditch cup, and judging people based on the way they presented themselves physically, Hermione was thinking about what kinds of inner struggles such a person might be going through, and how Harry and Ron’s harmless comments could be considered hurtful. Surely the two of them hadn’t considered that.
It wasn’t that she was drifting away from her two best friends, but just that she was finding more and more differences among them as of late. As Hermione was sitting in the library, Harry and Ron were probably in the common room, talking about their shared dislike for Draco Malfoy over a game of Wizard’s chess. That didn’t appeal to Hermione, although she was invited to stay. She found that very interesting, as well; she was invited to stay and spend time with them, but chess is a game designed for only two players.
No matter. She would rather be alone and lose herself in a good book anyway.
But she wasn’t alone, if her senses were correct. And they were, confirmed when she felt the back of a chair smack the back of hers. Someone had taken a seat at the table behind Hermione, so that they were sitting back-to-back. Of all the empty tables in the library, this person chose the one directly behind Hermione? And more specifically, the chair directly behind her.
She tried not to be bothered. She kept her eyes on the text.
Sitting at her table would be too obvious, Cedric decided. So he chose to sit behind her. That way, he wouldn’t bother her too much. He wanted her to know he was there, without a parade-style entrance with trumpets and fanfare.
He kept his eyes forward, taking careful aim to take notice of her movements, if any. He wanted to make sure she was comfortable with his presence before he made it known verbally.
Cedric heard Hermione shift in her chair a few times before the acknowledgement of him was done. When silence fell behind him, he turned sideways in his chair and looked at her, getting a face-ful of bushy brown hair. It suited her, though. Cedric couldn’t imagine Hermione Granger with a more stylish look, sitting alone in the library on a Saturday night.
Of course, not many could imagine Cedric Diggory choosing to spend his Saturday night alone in the same library, making small-talk with a fourth-year.
He took careful time to prepare his words. He could feel that his voice would shake if he spoke, so he took a deep breath before saying, “It’s a Saturday night and you’d like to spend it in this dingy old place?”
She didn’t answer immediately. He thought perhaps she didn’t think he was speaking to her. But she must have because, he reasoned, there was no one else in the place.
“Consider the source,” she said, not moving in the slightest from her position.
Cedric smirked. She was as clever as he thought. “I expect my reason is similar to yours.”
“What makes you think that?”
“I just assumed that...”
“You know what they say about people who assume, don’t you?”
“Call it a hunch, then. A gut feeling. I can just tell.”
“Sounds like an assumption to me.”
“There is no convincing you of anything, is there?”
“Being skeptical is much safer in the long run.”
“How do you mean?”
“Safer from disappointment, for one. It’s just more practical to have a disbelieving disposition.”
“Is that why you won’t look at me when you’re talking to me?”
“Why, then? Don’t you want to know who you’re arguing with?”
“It doesn’t matter who you are. I’m arguing with your ideas, not you.”
“Are you saying you don’t care who I am?”
“There you go again.”
“If you don’t look at me when you talk to me, people will think you’ve gone mad and you’re talking to yourself.”
“I don’t care what people think.”
“Rubbish. I don’t believe you.”
“Believe whatever you want.”
“Well, if you’re not going to give me the common courtesy of eye-contact then I’ll leave you alone. Sorry for bothering you. Enjoy your evening.”
Cedric got up from the table and walked away.
When it started, Hermione sincerely didn’t care who had chosen to sit in the chair behind her and start talking about assumptions. But once he mentioned common courtesy, a pang of guilt struck her. It occurred to her that she wasn’t being very friendly, which this stranger didn’t deserve. She felt as though she had won this discussion – oddly, she viewed it as a competition of sorts – and she felt she had the upper hand during the whole thing. It wouldn’t hurt to see the back of the head of the person who had chosen to talk to her on this boring Saturday night.
Hermione craned her neck and turned around. Leaning his elbow on a bookshelf with a knowing grin on his face was Cedric Diggory. She had fallen right into Cedric’s trap, and she only realized it when it was too late.
She immediately turned back around, but the damage was done. Cedric chuckled behind her. “It doesn’t matter who I am, eh?”
She had to admit; it was a stealthy endeavor. She hadn’t even considered that she could have been the pawn of a dupe. She also had to admit, though, that it was pretty funny. She looked tried to hide her smile when she looked back at him, but traces of it leaked through the corners.
He returned it. It was a game well played by both parties. “See you around,” said Cedric, striding out of the library.
Hermione turned back to her book and continued reading, but none of the text registered in her head. Her thoughts were on how she had been played for a fool by Cedric Diggory.