There was one day a year that Hermione tended to withdraw from everyone around her. Her withdrawal was subtle and those few who had noticed never questioned or spoke of their curiosity. She never planned meetings on this day. She did not make arrangements to visit friends for lunch or share a drink after work. Her life continued as normal, in most respects, but it hadn't become unusual for her to take the day off work in recent years and just spend the day lost in memories of what might have been and to remember the life of a boy she'd never forget.
Today was the fifteenth anniversary. Fifteen years. For half her life, she had kept her secret even from her closest friends. She didn't dare share it for the fear that she'd eventually forget. It was a silly fear, of course, but she wanted to keep those months of happiness to herself. They were special to her, even all these years later, and she knew that no one else would really understand.
Well, one person understood as only one who had been there, who had seen beyond the surface, really could. Her husband knew and he respected that she had cared for another before him. He was not jealous of a ghost of the past that lingered in her mind and he had no reason to be. Hermione loved him dearly, after all, and he knew this. When this day arrived, one that had meaning to him as well, he would always wake her with a tender kiss, a stroke of rough fingers against her cheek, a whisper of 'I love you', and then he would give her space to remember the first boy she'd ever loved, to remember Cedric Diggory.
The Daily Prophet had published a retrospective in the paper that morning. Viktor had left it on the table for her after warning her about the articles before he left for work. The paper was now lying on the bed around her, two grainy photographs bearing wet drops of tears. A photo album was open beside her, one spot empty. That photo was clutched in her hand as she rested against the pillows and ran her finger over the smiling face of a handsome boy.
She was taken back to a warm summer night. The touch of his hand on her arm as he'd pulled her free from a crowd of Quidditch fans that were celebrating the win of the Irish team. Careful there, Granger. Don't want you to fall or get hurt. A warm smile, kind eyes, and a stray lock of hair that fell across his forehead.
It was the first time he'd spoken to her.
Hermione looked at him, young and handsome, his entire life ahead of him, and she cried silent tears for the man he'd not been allowed to become, for the life he'd not had the opportunity to lead, for the uncertainty she always felt on this day, and only this day, when she asked herself what might have been if only.
There was little room for regrets, for thoughts of things that were beyond her control, and she did not dwell on grief and mourning. She was happy, loved her husband nearly as much as he loved her, and doubted any other possible future would have been better than what she was fortunate to have found.
It was only occasionally that she heard a familiar laugh and turned to find no one there, that she saw a flash of yellow and black and sought a handsome boy with a playful smile, that she felt the warmth of his fingertips shyly caressing her face, that she felt the ghost of a kiss against her lips and remembers. This day, however, is one she'll never forget. To do so would be to forget those stolen moments, to forget the secret friendship, to forget the stirrings of first love and attraction, to forget him.
Her relationship with Cedric had been extremely private; a secret between the two of them. No one knew about their secret meetings in the library or their walks by the lake in the evening when others were studying. A part of her believes that the reason she can't completely let go of the memories is because he was taken so unexpectedly before they had a chance to find out if it was simply a childish infatuation or if it could have been love and the grand sweeping fairy tale often written about in books.
She knows that it's really is unfair to Viktor to behave like this even just the one day a year. After all, with him she found the fairy tale. He gave her love that was tender, passionate, supportive, and true. He was far too understanding and tolerant, willing to give her space, to hold her and dry her eyes when she's finished celebrating the memory of Cedric.
When she thinks about Cedric and what might have been had he not been killed, she doesn't feel guilty, doesn't believe she's betraying the love she has for her husband. As Viktor told her the night she first told him about Cedric, confirming what he'd suspected even back then, there were moments in his own past that he sometimes idly wonders about and considers alternate futures in the same way she does. That not mean you vould change things or love me less, Her-my-knee. It simply means you are human to vonder 'vat if'.
Hermione looked at the photograph that Cedric had given her after the second task all those years ago. She brushed a soft kiss against the face of the handsome boy who had never been given the opportunity to grow up and then carefully placed the photo back in her album. A quick drying charm on the newspaper removed the wet traces of tears. She folded it up and placed it in the back of the photo album along with other various clippings she'd kept over the years.
She took a deep breath and shut the album. She went into the loo to wash her face and looked in the mirror. Cedric's voice was a whisper of the past in her ears as she wiped her eyes. You've got a great smile, Granger. You need to smile more often. Stop being so serious all the time or life will pass you by. Can't have that, can we?
"No, we can't have that," she whispered softly. Hermione smiled and decided she'd owl Viktor to see if he wanted to go out for dinner. For a moment, she thought she saw Cedric behind her, smiling warmly, but she blinked and he was gone.