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Cedric + Hermione Parts 19-36

October 17, 2020

FREE WRITING

1
Part 19

    "Come on, Hermione. Let's go."
    Hermione bit her lip. "But Ginny," she began, wringing her hands nervously, "w-"
    "No. I don't want to hear it. Look, now's not the time to have cold feet. I wish I could stay with you, but that room's only for champions and their partners. I have to go meet Neville, anyhow. Good luck."
    Ginny hurried off. Hermione's heart gave a painful thump. She looks so beautiful and she's so confident...why can't I be more like that?
    Steeling herself, Hermione stepped out from behind the wall and made her way down the stairs. As she walked, she examined the people on the ground below to distract herself.
    In the very left corner stood Harry, wearing bright green robes that matched his eyes. By his side was Parvati in an orange and pink dress. The two of them were staring at her in amazement. Hermione blushed and turned her gaze elsewhere. Fleur (in a light blue dress) glared at Hermione jealously. She was arm-in-arm with her partner, Roger Davies, the captain of the Ravenclaw Quidditch team, who was staring at Fleur with a dreamy look on her face.
    On the far right stood Cedric. His black robes made him look even taller than he already was. He had a shocked look on his face. Cho beamed at Hermione, her pearly white dress making her skin glow. The sight of Cho with her arms wrapped around Cedric made her mouth feel dry.
    Finally, Hermione turned her attention to the most important person in that room. Viktor Krum. His red uniform just added to his bulk. He grinned at the sight of Hermione and her heart to skipped a few beats. "My dear Hermyown," Krum greeted in a rumbling voice, bowing.
    Hermione held out a hand, which he immediately kissed. "Arr yoo readee do enter dee ballroom?" he asked.
    "Of course."
    And with that, the champions, arm-in-arm with their partners, walked into the ballroom.
                                                                                    ***
    Hermione twirled and spun and danced until she was ready to faint. Krum was at her side the whole time and the two of them waltzed across the dance floor. At last, she stopped, panting in exhaustion.
    "Viktor," she said when she had finally caught her breath. "Viktor, I am absolutely worn out. Would it be OK if we took a break? Just to rest a little bit and maybe we could get something to drink?"
    Viktor looked surprised. "Oh. I am terriblee sorry, Hermyown. Of kars we kan. I vill go get da dranks. Yoo fand somevhere do sit."
    Hermione gave Viktor a kiss on the cheek before going to find a seat. She spotted Harry sitting next to Ron. Their dates were nowhere to be found.
    She sank down in the empty seat beside Harry. "Whew. That was exhausting. Fun, but exhausting. Where have your dates gone, anyway?"
    Ron's face soured. "I could be asking you the same question."
    "Oh, well, Viktor's just gone to get drinks."
    "Viktor? I'm surprised you haven't started calling him 'Vicky' yet," Ron replied sarcastically.
    Hermione frowned. "What are you trying to say, Ron?"
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Part 20

    "He's the enemy," Ron hissed. "You're consorting with the enemy."
    "What are you talking about?" Hermione snapped. "Viktor's not the enemy."
    "He's from Durmstrang! He's probably milking you for information about the Egg!"
    Hermione felt her face get hot. "For your information, he has not asked me once about Harry!"
    "Guys," Harry interrupted, "please don't fight."
    “I don’t want to, but this dimwit isn’t giving me much of a choice!” Hermione exclaimed.
    “Dimwit? You’re the one falling for all of ‘Vicky’s’ tricks!”
    “Don’t call him that!”
    Harry, who had been staring sulkily into the distance, suddenly snapped, “Just cut it out, already! Hermione, can you please leave?”
    Hermione felt shocked. "What? But I didn't do anything!"
    "I don't care! Just...go."
    Hermione stood up and hurried out of the ballroom. She kept on running until she found a dark, secluded corner. Immediately, she slid down onto the floor and sobbed into her hands.
    Why is Harry mad at me? And why is Ron being such a brat? Today was supposed to be a happy day...
    After about ten minutes, she decided to go back to her dorm and sleep off her sorrow. But she had barely reached the stairs to the Gryffindor Tower when someone placed a calloused hand on her shoulder. "Hermyown? Veer arr yoo going?"
    Hermione turned and smiled weakly at the famous Quidditch player. "I'm sorry, Viktor...I don't feel very good. I don't want to leave you by yourself for the Ball, though..."
    Viktor's eyes widened. "Yoo arr seek? Yoo musd go ann rest. De Ball jusd ended, so donte vorry aboud me."
    Hermione flung her arms around Viktor. Just being in his embrace is so comforting...
    Viktor suddenly pulled away. "Now, go rest," he told her sternly. "I vill check on yoo in de morning."
    And with that, he left, smiling and waving as he did. Once he had turned the corner, Hermione slumped in relief. She turned to go up the stairs to the Gryffindor Tower when-
    "You just don't get it, do you?"
    Hermione gritted her teeth and spun around. "What is wrong with you, Ron? Are you spying on me now?"
    Ron stood with his arms folded over his ridiculous, frilly robes. He snorted. "You might be book-smart, Mione, but when it comes to real life...you are clueless."
    "You're the clueless one! If you would just stop and listen for one second-"
    "No, you listen!" The tips of Ron's ears were blazing red and his blue eyes flashed. "He is using you! Can you not understand such a simple thing?"
    "How can you sa-"
    "Think about it, Hermione! Use that big, fat brain of your's and think about it! There is no way that a famous Quidditch player like Viktor Krum would ever like you for any reason other than using you to win the Tournament!"
    Tears streamed down Hermione's cheeks. He's right, a voice in her head whispered. You knew something was wrong when he asked you, didn't you? Why would someone like Viktor Krum ever ask an ugly bookworm to go to the Yule Ball? 
    Hermione, not even caring who saw, whipped out her wand and pointed it at Ron. "You know how to fix that, then, don't you? Next time, ask me to the Yule Ball first, and not as a last resort! Engorgio Skullus!"
    Ron was flung onto the floor. His head slowly began to enlarge and inflate. He crawled over to a puddle and watched, horrified, as his head slowly grew to the size of a watermelon.
    "Hopefully, it will grow to encompass the size of your ego," Hermione spat. "Come near me again and you'll get much worse!"
    She pocketed her wand and ran down the nearest empty hallway, putting as much distance between her and Ron as she could.
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Part 21

      Once she had gotten far enough, Hermione slumped onto the floor. “Stupid git,” she muttered under her breath. “He has to ruin everything, doesn’t he?”
     “Jean? What are you doing here?”
     Hermione looked up to see Cedric towering over her, a concerned look on his face. “I could ask you the same question,” she said bitterly.
     “I...was looking for a place to be alone.”
     “Me too." Hermione snorted. "Look how well that worked out for the two of us." She paused. "Why do you want to be alone?"
     Cedric sighed, sitting down next to Hermione. “Promise you won’t hate me after I tell you?”
     “I promise.”
     “I went outside to take a breather. The Ball wasn’t over and Cho was still inside, dancing. Unfortunately, I wasn’t alone. Lavender Brown popped out of nowhere and kissed me straight on the mouth.” Cedric wiped his lips fervently with his sleeve. “Anyway, before I could do anything, Cho came out.”
     “What’s the problem? I thought you didn’t like Cho?”
     “I don’t! At least, not in a romantic way. She’s an old friend...and I already told you that my parents and her parents think we’re the perfect couple. So, apparently,” Cedric continued angrily, “all that pressure addled her mind! She confessed that she liked me, right then and there!”
     Hermione raised an eyebrow. “Oh, poor you,” she said in mock pity. “A pretty, smart, nice, and perfect in every way Ravenclaw likes you. Isn’t life unfair?”
     Cedric glared at her. “I already told you that I like someone else! And having one of my best and oldest friends like me...that just makes everything awkward. I mean, imagine if Ron or Harry liked you!"
    "Well, I'd be overjoyed if Harry liked me, but he doesn't. And Ron's too much of a git for me to consider liking him, so-"
    "Fine, fine," Cedric interrupted. "Bad example. Imagine...er, if Neville liked you!"
    Hermione shrugged. "It'd be better than nothing. Some of us don't get the luxury of choosing, you know."
    Cedric rolled his eyes. "Whatever."
    "Just continued with the story."
    "So, I immediately blurted out that I didn’t like her back. In front of Lavender! Like the complete and utter idiot that I am! Cho just ran. I wanted to follow her, to apologize...but I had to stay behind and modify Lavender’s memory.”
     “What?” Hermione stared at Cedric, shocked.
     Growling, Cedric turned away from her. “Don’t look at me like that! I had to! Lavender’s the biggest gossip in the school. She would have humiliated Cho and I couldn’t let that happen! You hate me now,” he said softly, “don’t you? Or, at least, you must think I’m an idiot. Running around, breaking hearts..."
     Hermione lifted her hand and turned Cedric’s face until he was facing her. “Cedric,” she began, staring into his beautiful gray eyes that were wet with frustrated tears, “I could never hate you.”
     Cedric placed his hand over her’s, which was still on his face. “Thank you, Jean.”
     Feeling her face grow hot, Hermione began to pull away.
     “Wait.”
     Hermione looked back into Cedric’s eyes, her heart beating at a thousand miles an hour. “Yes?”
     Her heart melted into a melty pile of goo as he closed the distance between their faces.
     Mint...he tastes like mint. And his lips are so warm...so soft. 
     Hermione leaned into the kiss. Her arms went around his neck, and she could feel his going around her waist.
     It feels good, doesn’t it? a voice in her head whispered. Your first kiss? But...it’s not genuine, is it? He’s Cedric Diggory. Why would someone, who can pick any girl in the school...pick you?
     Hermione suddenly pulled away. Her lips felt cold without Cedric’s covering them. “Cedric, what are you doing?”
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Part 22

     Cedric stared at her, a perplexed look on his face. “Er...I was kissing you?”
     “Well, I got that,” Hermione snapped. “But why?”
     “Because I li-"
     “I hope you’re not about to say it’s because you like me because I don’t believe you.”
     Cedric’s grey eyes were filled with confusion. “Why not?”
     “Because you’re Cedric Diggory! Hufflepuff Seeker, Champion of the Triwizard Tournament! Every guy in Hogwarts wants to be you, and every girl in Hogwarts wants to be with you!”
     “So?”
     Hermione’s vision blurred as her eyes filled with frustrated tears. How can he be so stupid? “Don’t you understand?” she shrieked. “Do you know who I am? I am Hermione Granger, hated by everyone because I’m smart, or because I got to go with Viktor to the Ball, or because I’m friends with Harry Potter!"
    "That's not true, Jean-"
     “It is true! You have no idea what it’s like to be me! Constant pressure from the teachers to be smart, scorn from other students when I don’t fulfill their expectations! And don’t even get me started on Harry and Ron! They hardly appreciate anything I do for them, and yet, I can’t find it in myself to tell them that!
     “I’m not a Ravenclaw because I’m not smart enough to make everyone happy. I’m not a Hufflepuff because I find myself helping you with the Tournament even though I should be focusing completely on Harry! I’m not a Slytherin because I’m too ignorant to be cunning! And I am for sure not a Gryffindor because I don’t have a brave bone in my body!
     “So don’t even pretend like it’s possible for someone like you to like me! Because it’s not!”
     “Jean, you-"
     “You’ve got the easy life; a life of comfort and popularity! No matter how much you complain about the pressure you are under it is nothing, nothing compared to what I have to go through!”
     Cedric’s eyes flashed. “You don-”
     “Just go back to your easy life and leave me alone!”
     “My life isn’t as easy as you think!”
     “Oh yeah? In what way?”
     “You really want to know? Fine,” Cedric spat. “My mother was badly injured about a year ago in a freak accident. I don’t know the specifics, but she is constantly victim to irrational mood swings and hallucinations. It is incurable because this is the first known discovery of something like this.
     “My beautiful, intelligent, wonderful mother is reduced to a blabbering, drooling idiot for at least fifteen hours a day! And my father has to work overtime to try and save up enough money to fund a project that will find a cure! This Tournament is nothing but a game for the other champions, but it’s different for me!
     “That’s why I asked for your help. Not because I wanted to use you to win myself glory or a stupid trophy, but because my mother’s life is on the line! The doctors at St. Mungo’s have agreed that if we don’t find a cure within the next three years, she will slowly deteriorate from the inside. And I can’t let that happen!”
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Part 23

     Hermione stared at Cedric, her mouth agape. “I’m so sorry, Cedric; I had no idea,” she said when she finally found her voice. 
     Cedric’s somber grey eyes were filled with sadness. "Jean-"
     Hermione held up a hand to stop him. “I really am sorry, Cedric. You have more of a reason to win the Tournament than anyone, even Harry!” She took a deep breath. “So I...I’m going to help you. And I’m not gonna help Harry anymore.”
     “What? No, I can’t ask you to do that for me.”
     Hermione sighed. “You don’t have to ask. And I’m doing this just as much for your mother as I am for you.”
     “Jean...”
     “But there is one condition.” Hermione fixed Cedric with a stern look. “You have to promise that when I’m not helping you, you have to leave me alone. And...our relationship is going to be completely platonic, so don’t even think about making any advances on me.”
     “Bu-”
     “That’s my condition. If you want my help, you will accept it.”
     Cedric was silent for a long time. For a few seconds, Hermione was afraid that he was going to refuse. I’m only worried about him refusing because I don’t want his mother to die, she told herself. It has nothing to do with the fact that I don’t want to have to start avoiding him...
     “I accept your condition.”
     Hermione was snapped out of her reverie by Cedric’s reply. “Really?”
     “Why? Do you think I’m lying?” Cedric asked, a glint of amusement in his eyes.
     “O-of course not!”
     Cedric stood up and a soft smile flashed across his face. “I’m just teasing you.” He offered her his hand. 
     Hermione looked at it uncertainly.
     “Relax. I’m just helping you up. Nothing romantic about that, right?”
     Hermione slipped her small hand into Cedric’s warm and smooth one. Her heart beat a little faster and her face heated up slightly. It's warm here; that's the reason I'm blushing, she told herself sternly.
     “Yeah. Nothing romantic about that at all..."
                                                                        ***
     Hermione walked into the Gryffindor Common Room to see Ginny sitting in an armchair, waiting for her. “Why are you back so late?” Ginny demanded. “All the other girls were back hours ago, and they already went to bed!”
     “I got lost,” Hermione lied.
     Ginny snorted. “Yeah, as if. You know this castle better than anyone, except maybe Fred and George...anyway, how’d it go with Viktor? And why did I hear my brother ranting about you earlier?”
     “It went amazing! Viktor is so romantic! I had a great time! And what about you?”
     “Neville kept on stepping on my feet, but other than that, I enjoyed it. But you’re avoiding my question. Why is my brother mad at you?”
     “Which one?”
     Ginny rolled her eyes. “Don’t play games! Ronald, of course!”
     Hermione shrugged. “How am I supposed to know? He’s always mad at me...”
     Ginny narrowed her eyes. “Fine. I’ll let this one go...for now.” She stood up. “Anyway, we better go to bed. It’s almost midnight!”
     The two of them headed up the staircase and then went to their separate dorm rooms. Hermione snuck past her sleeping roommates (Lavender was snoring so loud that it made up for the creaky floorboard Hermione accidentally stepped on). She passed Parvati’s bed and sank into her's.
     What a day...
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Part 24

     "Still haven’t found out anything about the Egg?”
     Hermione shook her head. “Sorry, Harry. I’ve been looking everywhere”
     Ron snorted. “You’ve got to be joking! You’ve literally read every book in the library, and you’re saying there’s not one thing that contains a clue about the Egg."
     “Oi, Ron, Harry! You guys ready to go?” George popped up next to Harry, grinning excitedly.
     Fred appeared behind Ron, placing a hand on his shoulder. ”Yeah, you ready, Ronald?”
     Ron jumped. "Hey! I told you guys not to do that!"
     Fred ignored him and instead, turned to Hermione. "Why aren't you-"
    "-coming with us, Hermione?" George finished.
    "Crookshanks isn't feeling so good," Hermione lied. "I think it'd be a good idea if I stayed and watched him. Plus, there's always next week!"
    George shrugged. "That's too bad-"
    "-'cause we were hoping-"
    "-you would-"
    "-join us at-"
    "-Zonko's Joke Shop."
    Hermione raised her eyebrows. "Any particular reason?"
    Fred smirked. "Well, there's this giveaway-"
    "-to the person who can-"
    "-answer the most questions-"
    "-about the history of Hogsmeade."
    Laughing, Hermione shook her head. "What makes you think I would let you have the prize?" she asked slyly, before walking away.
    She climbed the stairs to her dorm. It was empty, except for an orange lump of fur on her pillow, purring loudly.
    "Aw, Crookshanks, sweetie, come here," Hermione cooed.
    Crookshank's ears twitched, but he didn't move.
    "Come on, darling, we've got to go to the library."
    Crookshanks stood up on her pillow and stretched. Leaping onto the carpeted floor, he wove his way around and in between Hermione's legs. She reached down and picked him up. "Goodness, Crookshanks, you're getting fat!"
    The pudgy orange cat snuggled in her arms and she carried him down the stairs. By the time she reached the Gryffindor Common Room, it was almost empty. She exited through the portrait hole and headed for the library.
                                                                                   ***
    "What. Is. That."
    Hermione placed Crookshanks on the table in front of Cedric. "It's my cat, Crookshanks."
    Cedric grinned. "He's fat."
    "Meow," Crookshanks replied.
    "He says it's all muscle," Hermione told Cedric, giggling.
    "I'm surprised Madame Pince would let an animal into the library, no less a cat! Don't they shed everywhere?"
    "She has a soft spot for Crookshanks. You see, Crookshanks always treats books with the utmost respect; he's never shredded a book in his life! And he helps keep the rat population in the castle down. You know how much Madame Pince despises rats."
    "Of course." Cedric grinned. "Do you ever wonder why she hates rats so much?"
    "No. But go ahead and tell me."
    "Well, when I first came to Hogwarts, I had a rat named Pickles. He had green fur and he was always very energetic. One day, I was walking (OK, maybe more like running) down the corridor with Pickles in my hand and I bumped into Madame Pince." Cedric snickered. "P-Pickles accidentally found his way into her robes-" Cedric could not continue for how hard he was laughing.
    Hermione was horrified. "Cedric! That's horrible!" she admonished. "You shouldn't laugh about that!"
    "I can't help it, Jean! Anyway, I had to send Pickles home. He's still there, in fact."
    "Well, enough of that, it's about time we started studying. Are you ready?"
    "Yes. Oh, and I think I've figured out the mystery of the Egg."
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Part 25

     Hermione stroked Crookshank’s fluffy orange fur. “Well? Are you going to tell me about it?”
     Cedric sighed. “It’s kinda embarrassing...”
     “I won’t laugh.”
     “I...sometimes, I like to go out to the Lake. You know, just to clear my mind. Well...I brought the Egg with me. Hannah surprised me and I dropped the Egg in the Lake. The squid fetched it for me, but when it fell in the lake...I thought I heard something. Like a voice.”
      “So...you think opening the Egg underwater will give you a clue?”
      Cedric shrugged. “Honestly, I think I’m an idiot. But...if you think I should try it...”
      Hermione scratched behind Crookshank’s left ear. “You should definitely try. But where would you open it?”
      Cedric contemplated for a moment before brightening. “The Prefects’ Bathroom! It’s perfect! We can go there tonight! Midnight, preferably, so nobody else will be there. That is,” he continued, blushing, “if you want to join me.”
      “I don’t have a bathing suit...but I suppose I could ask around and see if anyone has one I can borrow.”
      “Great! Then see you tonight!” Cedric got up and strode away quickly.
                                                                          ***
     “You’ve got to be joking...I am not wearing this.”
     Hermione stared into the mirror. She wore a blue, one-piece bathing suit that was a size too small (at least that was the way it looked) and had the thinnest straps she had ever seen. Ginny sighed. “Sorry, but it’s either this or a bikini.”
     Groaning, Hermione stepped away from the mirror. “Ugh, he’s gonna get the wrong idea if I show up like this.”
     Ginny raised her eyebrows. “What?”
     “I mean...” Hermione’s face reddened. “Tomorrow, I’m going swimming with someone,” she lied.
     Ginny narrowed her eyes. “If you say so.”
     Hermione quickly covered herself with a pink towel. “OK, well, good night.”
     “Are you gonna sleep in that?”
     “What? No, I’ll change in a second.”
                                                                          ***
     Midnight came all too soon. Hermione snuck down the stairs, clad only in her bathing suit and towel. She climbed out of the portrait hole and met a familiar pair of grey eyes. “Lead the way,” she mouthed.
      Cedric nodded. The two of them crept through hallways and corridors until they finally reached a pair of gilded wooden doors. Inside was an Olympic-sized swimming pool. Golden faucets poured sparkling clean water into the pool, and there were soap bubbles everywhere.
       Hermione turned to Cedric and almost had a heart attack.
       She had known that Cedric was fit, but she didn’t know he was a supermodel! He wore a pair of green swimming trunks, which, fortunately (or unfortunately), did not cover the miles of abs on his chest. He was muscled and lean all over!
        Hermione quickly looked away. “Y-you have the egg?”
       “I do.” Cedric set it down on the floor. “Are you ready?”
     Hermione had a hard time letting go of the towel. When she finally worked up the courage to, she let it slide to the ground. “Yes.”
     Cedric didn’t reply, prompting Hermione to look up. He was staring open-mouthed at her. She blushed and hurried to the edge of the pool. Sliding into the water, she immediately felt more secure. “Come on. The water’s warm.”
      Cedric grinned, shaking off his trance. “Alrighty, let’s see if we can crack this Egg open.”
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Part 26

    Cedric joined her in the pool, still clutching the Egg to his chiseled chest. He smiled at her. "Ready?"
    "Yes. Let's do this."
    Hermione closed her eyes and stuck her head underwater.
    "Come seek us where our voices sound,
    We cannot sing above the ground,
    And while you're searching ponder this;
    We've taken what you'll sorely miss,
    An hour long you'll have to look,
    And to recover what we took,
    But past an hour, the prospect's black, 
    Too late, it's gone, it won't come back."

    Hermione stood up, smoothing her wet hair away from her face. "W-what do you think it means, Cedric?"
    Cedric stood up as well, grinning. "Come on, Jean, I'm nowhere near as smart as you. If anyone can figure it out, it's you. Plus, I don't even remember what the Egg said!"
    Hermione repeated the words until Cedric had memorized it. "So what do you think?"
    "Hmm...do you think they are underground creatures? Because they cannot sing above the ground?"
    Cedric frowned. "I don't think so..."
    "Let's get out of the water."
    The two of them climbed out of the pool and wrapped themselves in towels. Suddenly, Hermione gasped. "Wait...we couldn't hear the Egg until we put it underwater...what if the creatures live underwater?"
    "That makes sense."
    "I'm gonna have to do some research on that first, though. And it's pretty late..." Hermione stood up. "I guess I'll see you later, Cedric."
    "Leaving so soon, Jean?" Cedric grinned mischievously. "Is there any way I could convince you to stay?"
    Hermione gave him a stern look. "No," she told him stiffly.
    "Aw, Jean, don't go yet," Cedric called after her. "I was just kidding."
    "See you later," Hermione called back.
                                                                                      ***
    Hermione gasped for air. Strong arms were carrying her out of the Lake. She saw Viktor's concerned face. "Hermy-own? Arr yoo OK?"
    Cheers erupted around them. Cedric was standing a few feet away from them, glaring at Viktor. Cho was standing next to him, studying her feet awkwardly. The two of them were dripping wet, but surprisingly, Cedric's head was dry. He must have used the Bubble-Head Charm I recommended to him, Hermione observed.
    Fleur paced at the edge of the water, wringing her hands. Next to her, Madame Maxine seemed to be comforting her, though it was obviously unsuccessful.
    "I'm fine, Viktor," she told him, scanning the crowd. "But where's Harry?"
    Viktor gestured toward the Lake. "Still don deer," he rumbled. "I am vedy happy dad yoo arr OK."
    Before Hermione could reply, he pulled her close and kissed her.
    My first kiss...well, not really my first. Cedric was my first...but I shouldn't be thinking about that.
    Viktor's sturdy frame pressed against her petite one. Surprisingly, his lips were soft. She breathed in his musky scent. He smells woody and...and musky...
    Suddenly, Hermione heard more cheers. She pulled away from Viktor to see Harry drenched and soaking, dragging both Ron and a miniature version of Fleur out of the water.
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Part 27   

    Hermione hurried to examine Harry. "Harry, are you alright? What-" She paused, noticing the gills on the side of his throat. "You used Gillyweed? You genius! How did you manage to get one?"
    Before Harry could answer, Fleur came running as well. "Gabriella!" she cried, throwing her arms around a miniature version of herself. "Are you hurt?"
    Once Gabriella had replied in the negative, Fleur stood up, looking Harry straight in the eye. "You saved my little sister." Leaning forward, she kissed him softly on the cheek. Then, she turned to Ron and did the same.
    She's so confident...but I guess she has reason to be. I mean, her grandmother is a Veela! I wonder...what would it be like if my grandmother were a Veela. Would I be as confident as she is?
    Hermione felt Viktor's hand on her shoulder. "Hermy-own," he murmured in her ear, "afder dis, meet me behind dee skool."
                                                                                                ***
    "What is it, Viktor?"
    Hermione had finally managed to escape the crowd and sneak behind the school, where she promptly ran into Viktor.
    "Hermy-own...I dook yoo do de Ball. And de Professors think yoo arr mosd impordand do me. So, I ask yoo, will yoo be my girlfriend? Officially?"
    "What? But, Viktor, I...I don't know. I just..."
    Viktor stepped forward, his dark eyes filled with kindness. "I understand. Yoo vant to go slow. But even if ve keep dis a secret, I vill still be all for it. I love yoo, Hermy-own."
    Hermione felt like she had just been hit by a train. "Viktor! You barely know me. You can't love me!"
    "I do. Please, Hermy-own, do me da honor of being your boyfriend."
    My first boyfriend...I'm so tempted. But is it right? "I just don't know, Viktor. Can you give me a day or two to think about it?"
    Viktor nodded. "I vill respect your vishes. But I vant to give yoo something to take into consideration while yoo are thinking."
    He stepped forward and pressed his lips hard against her's. He was kissing her so roughly that it almost hurt, yet there was still a gentleness to it. Why...why is kissing Viktor so...so intoxicating? I never want to stop.
    But Viktor pulled away, breathing heavily. "More," he told her. "More lader."
    And with that, he was gone.
    Hermione stood there, staring after him.
    "Why, Jean? I want you to tell me why."
    Hermione spun around to find herself face to face with Cedric. His stormy grey eyes stared into her soft brown ones. "Cedric! Were you spying on me?"
    "Why?" Cedric growled. "You're completely willing to snog him, and be his girlfriend, but I don't get any of that? And don't use that stupid, stupid excuse. That you're too ugly or dumb or whatever for me. We both know that's not true!"
    "I-"
    Cedric stepped forward, inches away from her now. "What is it? Are you afraid of me? Is that it? Big, scary Cedric and sweet, emotional Viktor. What does he have that I don't have? Why am I not good enough for you, Jean, huh?" His eyes were filled with tears now. "Why?"
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Part 28

    Hermione stared at Cedric, her mouth wide open. "Cedric," she whispered. "Cedric, please don't cry."
    Tears were now flowing down Cedric's handsome face. His expression was full of anguish. "How can I not?"
    Cedric, I...how do I put this into words? But Hermione knew she had to. "Cedric..." She took a deep breath. "I'm scared."
    His face falling, Cedric turned away from her. "You're scared of me. I knew it."
    "No!" Hermione placed her hand on the side of his face, forcing him to face her. "I'm not scared of you! Please don't misunderstand! I'm scared of...of my feelings for you!"
    Grey eyes widened in surprise. "What? What do you mean?"
    "I mean...when I'm with Viktor, I feel safe. Not because he makes me feel safe, but because I know I don't love him, so I'm not afraid of what might happen. But the way I feel about you...I've never felt that way before. You make me feel loved and special. You make me feel like I actually have worth. I can't control myself around you. Why do you think I avoid you so much? Every time I see you, I just want to-"
    Hermione threw her arms around Cedric, smashing her lips to his. Her body melted into his, a perfect fit. His strong arms were less bulky than Viktor's, but much more comforting. Every time their lips made contact, it made her feel like she was on a cloud, like she was floating away.
    Finally, Cedric pulled away. "Jean, why are you so down on yourself?"
    "What do you mean?"
    "You call yourself ugly, but you're wrong. I love the way your hair feels with my hands in it. I love your soft, chocolate-brown eyes. I love your smile...when you're excited or passionate about something, you are the most beautiful person in the world to me. And how can you say you're not brave?
    "I know you'd do anything for your friends. And being yourself in a world like this...that's the bravest thing a person can do. Jean, you might not be perfect, but I love you...flaws and all."
    Hermione's heart jumped. He...said it. He said that he loves me. And for whatever reason, him saying that doesn't scare me nearly as much as it did when Viktor said it. I almost...I almost want to say... "I love you, too, Cedric," she whispered. 
    "But...what about Viktor?"
    "I'm gonna turn him down. I mean, you heard me, didn't you? I love you."
    Cedric grinned. "Jean, you have no idea how happy you make me."
    Hermione tapped his nose playfully. "Maybe not, but it's nothing compared to how happy you make me."
                                                                                            ***
    "What? Are you being serious, Mione?"
    Ginny sat facing Hermione on her bed. Her brown eyes were wide with excitement. "You and Cedric?" she squealed. "Aw, Mione, please tell me more! Wait a second, what about Viktor?"
    Hermione shrugged. "I like him, but I love Cedric."
    "Well, I think it's wonderful! Tell me everything!"
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Part 29

    "Hermy-own? Vat iss your answer?"
    Hermione clenched her hands so hard that her nails dug into her palms. "I...I'm sorry, Viktor. I-we can't be together. You are a very nice person, but-"
    Viktor held up a hand. "Please, Hermy-own, vill yoo tell me de reason?"
    "I like someone else."
    "Ah, I see. Very vell. But I still love yoo, and if yoo ever change your mind, I vill be vaiting." Viktor took her hand and kissed it before leaving.
    Hermione breathed a sigh of relief. That went better than I expected! But I knew Viktor would understand. He's such a gentleman and so sweet, but I don't love him. Maybe I could given enough time...but Cedric is the only one for me.
    Just then, she heard a voice. "Mmm, Cho. You're so amazing; I love you."
    Trembling, Hermione started to move closer toward the voice. No. No, it can't be. Please, no.
    As she turned the corner, she could barely stop herself from letting out a surprised gasp. Cho was snogging someone, snogging them to death, by the looks of it. And that somebody was none other than-
    "Cedric?"
    Cedric turned around, a dazed look on his face. It was the same look he had every time he kissed her. "Hmm? Who? What?"
    Hermione stomped up to Cedric and folded her arms, glaring at him fiercely. "What are you doing?"
    "Um, snogging Cho?" Cedric frowned. "Why? Did I do something wrong?"
    "Yes!" Hermione's eyes were full of tears. How could he? "Did you forget our conversation yesterday so quickly?"
    Cedric seemed to be thinking. "Oh! Yeah, that conversation! Well," he continued, shrugging, "I changed my mind."
    "You what?"
    "Look, Mione, I love Cho. It's that simple."
    "You love her?" Hermione turned to see a cowering Cho. "He loves you?"
    Cho wouldn't meet her eyes. "I-I...I'm really sorry, Hermione. I had no idea that you two were-"
    "Don't believe him!" Hermione spat. "He's a liar! Yesterday, he was on and on about how much he loved me! I should have known it was a lie!"
    And with that, she ran away as fast as her legs could carry her.
                                                                                            ***
    "What?" Ginny shrieked. "He didn't!"
    "He did." Hermione bit her lip, trying not to cry.
    "That's horrible! Just wait until I tell Susan and Hannah about this. They'll be furious!"
    "Wait, you haven't told anyone about this, have you?"
    Ginny turned as red as her hair. "Um, no. I totally didn't tell Alicia, Katie, Angelina, Luna, Lisa-"
    "What? Ginny!"
    "I'm sorry, Mione. It's ju-"
    "Did you really tell everyone?"
    "No. I only told people I know I can trust. And only girls, too, because I didn't think you'd want any boys knowing about this."
    Hermione sighed. "Well, that's great! I've been wondering why people have been staring and looking at me as if I have two heads more than usual!"
    "Will you forgive me? Please? I'm really, really sorry."
    "OK, OK. I forgive you."
    Ginny squealed and threw her arms around Hermione, practically squeezing the breath out of her. "Thank you, Mione! Thank you so much!" Then she let go and sat back. "Now, what to do about Cedric...if we combine forces with everyone that I've told, we'll be able to get sufficient revenge. What do you say, Mione?"
    No, don't do it, the angel on her shoulder whispered. You still love him. You don't want to hurt him.
    You've got to be joking me, the devil on her other shoulder scoffed. You want to hurt him as badly as he hurt you.
    Hermione smirked. "Let's do it."
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Part 30

    "Ginny, please, tell me."
    "No, no, and-hmm, let me think...no."
    "You know I hate surprises! Please," Hermione pleaded. "Just tell me what the prank is!" 
    Ginny shook her head, grinning evilly. "Absolutely not. I want it to be just as much of a surprise to you as it is going to be to him."
    "What are you girls talking about?" Ron complained before stuffing a spoonful of mashed potatoes in his mouth.
    "None of your business," Ginny snapped.
    Harry shrugged. "You heard her. It's none of our business."
    Suddenly, Hermione heard a yelp from the Hufflepuff table. She turned just in time to see Cedric, who was sitting right beside Cho, turn pink. Literally. And that wasn't all. His nose turned into a beak, his hair turned purple, and branded on his forehead in green was the word "liar."
    The whole school, even most of the Hufflepuff table, burst out laughing. Ron laughed so hard that mashed potatoes came out of his nose.
    "That should get him, alright," Ginny whispered.
    But she was wrong. Cedric wasn't affected in the least. He was still staring at Cho, as if they were star-crossed lovers. Cho hadn't laughed, but it was probably because she hadn't even noticed the change in Cedric. She was doing her best to avoid looking at him.
    "He doesn't even seem to care," Hermione hissed back.
    Ginny scowled. "Man! I thought that one was sure to work. Fred and George taught me how to do that prank, and they said it was a guarantee to leave someone humiliated and embarrassed."
    "He's too busy staring into Cho's eyes," Hermione muttered.
    "Sorry, Mione, I was positive that would work."
    "It's fine. Don't worry, I don't care. He isn't worth my attention." 
                                                                                             ***
    A few days after her encounter with Cedric, Hermione was reading in the library. She heard a voice. "Ready to start studying for the last round?"
    Cedric stood in front of her, in all his grey-eyed, handsome glory.
    She immediately went back to reading her book.
    "Er, hello? Are you ready?"
    Hermione looked up, careful to keep her voice flat as she asked, "What are you talking about?"
    "Aren't you gonna help me study?"
    "No."
    Cedric frowned. "Why are you being so cold, Jean?"
    "Really? Don't you remember our little encounter a few days ago?"
    He seemed to be thinking really hard. "Wait. Wait, you mean-" Cedric gasped. "Jean, I-"
    "No. No excuses. I'm still going to help you, but only because I don't want your mother to die," she said, repeating the speech that she had practiced in the mirror at least a hundred times. "But we're going to keep talking to a bare minimum. And we'll only study every two weeks. That's my new offer."
    "Listen, Jean, I-"
    "Stop. Let's just study. In silence."
    Cedric seemed like he was about to try to say something else, but Hermione glared at him so fiercely that he eventually sat down and started studying with her.
    It hadn't even been ten minutes before Cedric started speaking again. "Are you and Viktor Krum a couple now?" he asked quietly. There was no anger in his voice, no bitterness. Just resigned acceptance.
    "No," Hermione replied just as quietly. "I rejected him and then I saw you and Cho. But...he said that he would love me forever. And he would take me back anytime." But I'm not going back. Because for whatever reason, I still love you.
    "You should've said yes. You should go back to him right now and ask to be his girlfriend."
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Part 31

     Hermione looked up, her eye twitching. "Excuse me?"
     Cedric looked down, not meeting her eyes. “You could be happy with him, Jean. Happier than you could ever be with me.”
     "Let's get one thing straight. After I help you win the Triwizard Tournament, I don't ever want to talk to you again. I'm doing this for your mother's sake, not your's. The moment you win, we're pretending that this never happened. That we never met. Is that clear?"
    "If that's the way you want it."
    "It is," Hermione lied. "Oh, and from now on, my love life is none of your business. And your love life is none of mine. Do you understand?"
    "Yes."
    "Good. Now read this book."
                                                                                        ***
     Later that day, as Hermione was walking down the hallway, Susan Bones appeared in front of her. "Hermione! Can we talk?"
    Hermione resisted the urge to roll her eyes. Why do all the girls in Hogwarts find it necessary to give me their "condolences?" I don't want to talk about it! But she nodded. "Of course, Susan."
    The two of them went into an empty classroom. Susan locked the door and placed a Silencing charm on it before turning around. "OK. So I've heard what happened. And I want to tell you that all the girls in Hufflepuff that know about it are on your side."
    "Uh...thanks, I guess."
    "Also, I've decided to take it upon myself to help you. Am I correct in thinking that you've never had a boyfriend before?"
    That's kind of personal but- "Yes."
    "Well, after Cedric's little fiasco, I bet you're not feeling too well. What you need is a rebound. Something to get your mind off Cedric. And I have the perfect person for you to go on a rebound with. Drumroll please...Blaise Zabini!"
    If Hermione had been drinking something, she would have spit it out. "Blaise! B-but he's a...a Slytherin!"
    Susan made a pouty face. "Oh, honey. Don't you know Slytherin boys are the best for rebounds?" She suddenly blushed. "They're pretty wild; they can make a girl forget about anything! And plus," she continued, "they're hardly ever serious about dates. So it's OK if you go on a date with a Slytherin once, and just leave it at that."
    "I don't want a rebound."
    "Look, Hermione, I'm doing this with your best interests in heart. And Blaise isn't like the other Slytherins! Come on, it'll be good for you!"
    Hermione sighed. "I don't really have a choice, do I?"
    "Nope. Don't worry, I'll take care of everything."
                                                                                    ***
    Hermione was wearing a shimmering green dress, her hair was done up, and her makeup was beautiful. It was a Saturday and she was sitting at the edge of the Great Lake next to a picnic basket. Why did I agree to do this again?
    Suddenly, a voice spoke into her ear. "Hey there, beautiful. Waiting for me?"
    She turned to see Blaise Zabini standing behind her in all his glory. He had dark skin and black hair that was slicked back. His dark brown eyes danced with a mischievous light as he grinned at her. He wore a loose white t-shirt and blue jeans. "How are you, sweetheart?"
    Hermione sniffed. "I thought you didn't like Muggle-borns? And why are you dressed in Muggle clothes?"
    Blaise sank down next to her, still grinning. "Muggle clothes are comfortable. And I do like Muggle-borns. I just pretend like I don't because that's what Slytherins are supposed to do. But it doesn't bother me; a person can't help their parentage. Plus, pretty little things like you shouldn't have to suffer for the way you were born."
    And that's when Blaise pressed his lips to her's.
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Part 32

     Blaise's lips had been in contact with her's for about three seconds when she suddenly shoved him away, spitting into the grass. "What in the world was that?" she demanded angrily.
    "What do you mean?" Blaise asked, raising his eyebrows.
    "Y-you...you kissed me!" Hermione cried before running to the edge of the Great Lake and rinsing out her mouth.
    "Honestly, Granger," Blaise called, "I'm a little hurt. I've always thought my kisses were one of a kind."
    Once Hermione had decided that her mouth had been sufficiently washed, she went back to sit next to Blaise (though farther away this time). "You know, I haven't been totally honest with you," she told him, sighing. "The only reason I'm on a date with you is because Susan told me I had to have a 'rebound' or whatever."
    "Hmm. A rebound. Does this mean your heart has been recently broken?"
    "Yes."
    "By whom?"
    Hermione raised her eyebrows. "Isn't that a little nosy?"
    Blaise grinned. "Fine, fine. If you tell me who broke your heart...I'll tell you who broke mine."
    "Wait...do you mean-are you saying that you were using me as your rebound?"
    "Obviously. Don't you know that if you're a Slytherin boy recovering from a heartbreak, Gryffindor girls are perfect for rebounds? They like to dominate and take control of the situation, which is exactly what boys need when their hearts are broken."
    "Hmph! I would curse you right now if it weren't for the fact that I was using you as my rebound as well!"
    He snorted. "Lucky me."
    "So you want to know who broke my heart, huh? Well, it's the perfect-on-the-outside and definitely-not-perfect-on-the-inside Cedric Diggory."
    Blaise's eyes widened. "Diggory? I thought for sure you would say Krum!"
    "No. Viktor's too nice and sweet to break my heart."
    "Well, well, well. I guess I really don't know everything, do I?"
    Hermione rolled her eyes. "Far from it."
    "Well, the one who broke my heart goes by the name of Astoria Greengrass."
    "I don't think I've met her before. Who is she?"
    Blaise sighed, a dreamy look upon his face. "An angel. She's the most beautiful creature I have ever met. Kind, intelligent, and best of all she doesn't talk my ears off! I mean, I'm all for well-spoken women, but sometimes, I just want some silence."
    "What happened?"
    "Turns out, she secretly has a crush on Draco," he replied, shrugging. "And honestly, I think she's better off with him. I love her, but...it's because I love her that I'm willing to let her go. And what about you? Is there a specific reason you and Diggory didn't work out?"
    Hermione smiled sadly. "Cedric...he has a way with words. He promised me the world and the next day, I found him snogging Cho. And he acts like he's not at fault! A few days later, he was telling me that I should be Viktor's girlfriend! As if it's any of his business any more! But I...I guess I agree with you. He's probably happier with Cho, anyway. He'll make her happy, and she'll make him happy."
    Blaise's jaw dropped. "Are you kidding me? Listen, the other day, I was snogging Pansy-I mean, er, I was in a broom closet on my own when I heard Cho and Cedric having a fight outside. Cho was yelling at Cedric to leave her alone and Cedric kept on demanding to know something. I'm not exactly sure what it was...but I did hear something about a love potion..."
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Part 33

    Hermione's eyes widened. Could it be?...could Cedric really had been under the influence of a love potion? Wait, I'm not trying to just make up excuses for him, am I? Would...would Cho really do that?
    Blaise ran a hand through his hair. "It could've also been a dove ocean," he added, smirking.
    Hermione snorted. "Yeah, right."
    Blaise sighed. "Well, I suppose you'd better take your leave now, huh?"
    "What? Why?"
    "'Cause obviously you need to go talk to Diggory about this. It's OK. If it were Astoria, I would do the same."
    "Y-you think I should confront him and ask?"
    "Why not? Just go; I'll clean up here."
    Hermione smiled. "Thanks, Blaise."
                                                                                        ***
    "Cedric? Uh, I think I just saw him walk that way."
    "Thanks, Hannah!" Hermione cried as she ran in that direction.
    "Umph! Woah, wh-Jean?"
    Hermione stepped away from Cedric. "Sorry, I didn't mean to run into you."
    "No, uh, it's OK."
    "Cedric," Hermione began, fixing him with a serious look, "I need you to be serious with me. Answer this question honestly, OK?"
    Cedric nodded. "Of course. You know I wouldn't lie to you, Jean."
    "Cedric...did Cho give you a love potion?"
    For a second Cedric looked flabbergasted. Then his face turned serious. "She...no. She didn't. I...kissed her of my own accord. And I'm really sorry that I didn't talk to you first, but it's my fault. Cho...didn't do anything."
    Even though she had been expecting this, it didn't make it hurt any less. "I see. Well, I'm sorry for bothering you."
    Cedric closed his eyes, breathing deeply. "Jean," he said, his voice strained. "I...don't think we should see each other anymore."
    "What do you mean?"
    "I...I'm ready for the third round. I think you should just focus on helping Harry now. Thank you for everything, Jean. I'm really glad that we got to spend some time together. After this, I...won't bother you anymore."
    Hermione felt like there was an enormous lump in her throat. It's as it should be, she told herself. "You're welcome, Cedric," she replied before walking away.
                                                                                        ***
    "And there goes Harry and Cedric in the maze!" Ludo cried.
    Hermione sighed. "Why can't we see in the maze? I'm sure there's a spell that allows someone to see from the outside but not from the inside!"
    Ron rolled his eyes. "Come on, Mione, where's the fun in that? The whole point of this is how exciting it is to not know what's going on!"
    "I think Hermione has a point," Ginny replied. "I mean, it's no fun if we're just waiting for them to come out of the maze, is it?"
    "It's plenty of fun!" Ron protested. 
    "Oh yeah, so fun! Whoop-dee-doo, look at us waiting and waiting and waiting and waiting."
    Hermione laughed. "Well, it's not much different from the second round. We didn't get to see much of what was going on there either."
    Ginny nodded. "And in the first one, Harry disappeared for a long time, so we didn't get to see that, too!"
    Luna, who had been staring at the maze listlessly, suddenly turned to them. "Oh, you guys can't see through the maze?" she asked dreamily.
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Part 34

    
"Hermione? Can...can I talk to you for a second?"
    Hermione nodded. "Sure, Cho. What's on your mind?"
    Cho glanced nervously at Luna, Ginny, and Ron. "I mean, can I speak to you alone?
    "Uh, sure." Hermione stood up and followed Cho to a secluded corner under the bleachers. Cho quickly cast a Silencing Charm and other protective spells to make sure they wouldn't be overheard. Then, she turned to Hermione. "Hermione, I-"
    "Wait. I think I know what this is about. Listen, Cho, I loved Cedric. And I wanted to be with him. But...he kissed you of his own accord; he told me himself. And you didn't know about me and him. So I hold no grudge against you, Cho. You're not at fault here."
    Cho slumped to the ground, tears streaming down her face. "Cedric is so good to me," she sobbed. "And you are, too. I-it's true that I didn't know about you and Cedric, b-b-but what I did was still unforgivable!"
    Hermione shook her head. "No, Cho. Like I've said, I've already forgiv-"
    "No!" Cho wrung her hands anxiously. "No, I...I did it! I gave Cedric a love potion!"
    Hermione's jaw dropped. "What? But he said-"
    "Cedric is the type of person that would give up his happiness for me. And I can't let him do that anymore! I realize now...Cedric likes me platonically, and only platonically. I'm so sorry, Hermione. I had no idea that you and Cedric were-but it's not an excuse! I...I understand if you hate me now."
    Oh, I want to hate her. I want to hate her...but I can't. She looks so pitiful, and I can tell that she's remorseful. And didn't I try to do the same? Hinder her so that I could have Harry for myself. "I forgive you, Cho," Hermione whispered. "And I appreciate you being honest with me. And...as long as we're being honest...I asked Cedric to take you to the Ball because Harry was going to ask you and I wanted to take Harry to the Ball."
    Cho was silent for a moment. Then, she stepped forward and hugged Hermione. "I'm sorry. And I forgive you."
    Hermione hugged her back. "I'm sorry, too. And...I forgive you, too." She pulled away, grinning. "Anyway, there's no lasting harm done. Once Cedric and I clear this up, we can be together again, and nothing will get in the way!"
    "Does that mean...you don't like Harry anymore?"
    Hermione nodded. "Yes. You can have him all to yourself. Now, what do you say we get back to the Tournament?"
    Cho smiled tentatively. "Sounds good to me."
    Suddenly, Ginny ran up. "Cho! Hermione! Hurry, you need to come here!"
    Cho waved her wand to make the Silencing Charms disappear before asking, "What is it?"
    "Something went wrong; Harry and Cedric disappeared for a little bit, but they came back! And Cedric isn't breathing!"
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Part 35

    H
ermione had no idea how she made it there, but she soon found herself kneeling in front of Cedric's body, along with many other students. Harry was nowhere in sight, but for once, Hermione didn't care.
    Cedric's robes were torn and muddy. His brown hair stuck up at strange angles. His lips, the same lips that had spoken "Jean" as if it were the name of an angel, the same lips that she had kissed so many times (and yet not nearly enough), were pale and bloodless, just like his face.
    But worst of all, his beautiful grey eyes stared up at the sky listlessly. The same eyes that had stared at her in so loving a way, the same eyes that allowed her to interpret his every mood, the eyes that had been filled with so much love and sorrow and heartbreak and kindness...were now blank. Just...blank.
    "Cedric," she sobbed into his robes, not caring who saw. "No, Cedric! I-I never got to-"
    Hermione kissed his cold lips over and over, waiting for some sort of reaction. For him to sit up and ask her why tears were streaming down her face. For his lovely grey eyes to look at her once again, and make her feel like the only girl in the world. "Why won't you wake up?" she screamed.
    And then, strong arms were pulling her away from him. She scratched and clawed, but it was no use. Viktor murmured into her ear softly, but she didn't hear. Ron's blue eyes, filled with confusion but also sympathy, were in front of her's, but it didn't matter. Cedric was dead...and he was never coming back.
    It could have been three hours, or it could have been three days, but eventually, two people made their way to her. The man had Cedric's messy hair and strong jaw; the woman had his grey eyes and kind face. The woman looked rather sickly (perhaps because tears flowed down her face, as well as the man's). She knelt carefully in front of Hermione.
    "Is your name Hermione Granger, dear?" she asked softly.
    Hermione nodded.
    The man knelt down beside her as well. He held out an envelope. His voice was weak and broken. "We are Cedric's parents. We found this in his room. It's addressed to you."
    Hermione took the envelope carefully. Indeed, it was addressed to one "Hermione Jean Granger, Gryffindor, Hogwarts."
    But instead of opening it, she turned back to the parents. "I loved Cedric," she said simply. "I don't know if he told you, but we were gonna d-"
    "He sent us a letter a few days ago," the woman interrupted. "And it explained everything."
    And even though her heart was in pieces, Hermione managed a weak smile. "If we had married, I would have been your daughter-in-law."
    The man's breathing hitched. "A-as it is, if you ever need to talk to someone or just mourn...send us an owl."
    Hermione turned to the woman. "What about you-"
    "I...I think I'm just gonna take my chances. And if I die...at least I'll be with my son." And she gave Hermione a weak smile. "I'll tell him you said hi."
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Part 36

   Ron explained everything to Hermione later. How Cedric had died and why. What had happened to Harry after he brought Cedric back.
    It was a week later. The other schools had already left. Ron was sitting next to Hermione in the Gryffindor Common Room (it was late, so it was empty except for them). She was holding the envelope in her hand. "Are you gonna open it?" Ron asked softly.
    Hermione nodded. "Yes. But...I'd like to be alone."
    "Of course," Ron replied immediately. He hesitated before giving Hermione a hug. "I can tell he meant a lot to you, and I'm sorry," he told her before leaving.
    Hermione swallowed back tears and opened the letter.
    "Dear Jean,
    
    My dear, sweet, lovely Jean. I know that after the Tournament, you won't want to talk to me ever again. So...I'm writing this letter that I'll probably never work up the courage to send. Cho...she gave me a love potion. You have no idea how much I wanted to tell you, but I couldn't. Cho is like a sister to me, and I couldn't let you hate her.

    It was easier to let you hate me anyway. And it's for the best. You deserve so much more than an insecure basket-case like me. As much as I hated the thought of you and Krum dating...I think I can handle it now. You'll be happy, and that's all that matters to me.

    It really doesn't matter who you date. As long as you're happy. And I'll always love you. I know I'm still young and it's crazy for me to say that I love you already (especially since we only started talking to each other less than a year ago), but I feel a real connection with you. I've never been one to believe in soulmates and true love, but if such things do exist, then I believe you are my soulmate.


    I hate how you put yourself down. You're always saying that you're dumb, or ugly, or a horrible person. But Jean, you're nothing like that! I wish I could let you see yourself through my eyes...

    I can't imagine never having met you. I love you so much that it just doesn't seem possible. You're kind and loyal. You stick with your loved ones through thick and thin. You're brave and determined. I have no doubt that you'll be Minister of Magic one day. You're one of those people that can literally do anything if you set your mind to it.
    
    Everyone in Hogwarts is always talking about how smart you are, and you are very smart, but you are so much more than that! You are good and pure and honest and everything I wish I could be.
    
    Sometimes, I fantasize what it would be like if I told you the truth. Maybe one day, we could get married and have children. Son or daughter, maybe even both. I'd love them either way because I'd know that there's a part of you in them. We could live wherever you want, do whatever you want, as long as we're together.

    If somehow, I work up the courage to send this letter, maybe you'll forgive me. For what a jerk I've been to you. But even if you don't, I'll never stop loving you. Jean, you are my one and only. I'll never date again because it wouldn't be fair to the girls I date. I could never love someone like I've loved you.

    I just wish I could kiss you one last time. Hopefully, I've let it all out in this letter, so that I can leave you in peace. I hope you live a happy life.

    Love forever, Cedric.


    Hermione couldn't stop the tears. She also couldn't stop her sobs from echoing around the Common Room. When she finally pulled herself together, she clutched the envelope to her heart. "Cedric," she whispered, "thank you. Thank you for giving me your love, love that I never knew I needed. I don't know if I'll ever be able to love after you, but even if I do, I promise that I'll never forget you. Thank you for letting me have a place in your heart. You will always have a place in mine."
99.99% of this belongs to J.K. Rowling.
LOVE YOU ALLLLLLLLLLLLLLL! <3

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