Once

Summary: Despite being Quidditch captain, dating a beautiful girl, and being the golden boy of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Cedric Diggory still felt as if something was missing. When he met Brooke Stokes outside the school library, an unlikely friendship began. And as his feelings for the young painter grew to something more, he finally began to see that she was what was missing. But can their love survive the trials that are to come?

Author's Notes: Ok…I hate author's notes. But they are necessary at times. So…Cedric Diggory should never have died in Goblet of Fire. Totally my opinion. But in my mind, he is alive and well. At this point in the story, I'm not sure if he was ever in the Triwizard tournament—sorry guys…but it's gonna be an AU story. I haven't decided if I'll incorporate it into later chapters or not. So yeah…that gets it out of the way.
On another note, this is my first Harry Potter fic,and it is Cedric centered. Please be gentle with reviews. Thanks!!

Once

Chapter One

The Meeting

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Certainly is a waste of time.

This is the thought that crossed Cedric Diggory's mind as he sat in the stands, watching the Quidditch match being played before him. As Slytherin soared past Ravenclaw and scored yet another goal, he shook his head in disgust.

Slytherin was leading, 150-20.

He let out a sigh, watching as his breath came out in a puff of fog in the air, and he pulled his scarf a bit tighter around his neck.

As Hufflepuff Quidditch captain, it was his responsibility to keep an eye on the competition. He didn't, howver, need to sit out in the cold for half an hour to realize that it would be Slytherin his team would play in the next match. He had realized that after the first ten minutes. It was no wonder Marcus Flint had been so cocky the last few Arithmancy classes—he knew his team had learned some new dirty tricks and they had absolutely no trouble displaying them in full.

His gaze snapped back to the game as the two opposing seekers both took a downwards dive, and he muttered a curse a moment later when Draco Malfoy—Slytherin seeker—rose with the Golden Snitch clutched in his outstretched fist. A chorus of cheers and boos erupted from the stands, and Cedric watched as the Slytherin team huddled together in celebration and the Ravenclaws descended from their brooms in defeat.

Running a hand through his already disheveled hair, Cedric rose from his seat and made his way through the grumbling crowd.

As he made his way down the sidelines, he caught the eyes of the Ravenclaw seeker—Cho Chang—and he flinched inwardly at the scowl he received. So the meeting with his four-month long girlfriend would be yet another shouting match.

It seemed they'd had quite a few of those lately.

The relationship with Cho was certainly one of the main causes of Cedric's sleepless nights. He would lie awake wondering when they had switched from being a happy couple to being a discontented one. It seemed to him that their bad days far outnumbered their good.

"Ced! Cedric!"

Looking over, Cedric caught sight of his friend Oliver Wood jogging over to meet him and he couldn't help but smile. Oliver was the Quidditch captain of Gryffindor house, which automatically made him competition. But ever since Cedric had rescued him from a gangly group of Slytherin girls their first year at Hogwarts, the two had been inseparable friends. "Oliver," he yelled in response, waving his arm in the air in greeting. "Did you catch that horrid display out there?"

The expression on Oliver's face answered his question. "Flint's certainly pulling out all the stops, eh? Don't think he fancies losing the Quidditch cup his last year."

Cedric nodded, stuffing his hands into his khaki pockets. "Yeah, we certainly have our work cut out for us the next few weeks." The two walked side by side through the crowd, ignoring the raucous cheers from the Slytherin team as they headed to their locker rooms. "Flint's not going to make it easy."

Oliver grunted in response. "Has he ever?"

Cedric smiled at his friend, then quickly repressed a groan as he caught sight of Cho waiting at the entrance to the locker rooms. "What do you say to a late night game of Wizard Chess, Wood?," he asked, his gaze fixed on the small Asian girl who stood tapping her foot impatiently. "Bloody well might need some serious destruction after what's coming."

Oliver followed his gaze and winced at the severe look of irritation on Cho's face. "She sure is a sour loser, isn't she? I feel a mighty large lover's spat headed your way, mate." His gaze turned, he didn't catch the wince Cedric made at his choice of words. "Yeah, sure. I've got a tutoring session on Charms right now, so just come meet me in the library when you and Cho kiss and make up, eh?" He grinned and winked before slapping Cedric on the arm and jogging away.

Cedric kept his eyes trained on his friends retreating back before taking a deep breath. Turning, he made his way towards his waiting girlfriend, once again thinking that his whole afternoon was still just a waste of time.

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Cedric loosened his tie as he leaned against the pillar flanking the entrance to the library. Cho's disgruntled complaints about his ignorance as of late still echoed in his throbbing head. He closed his eyes as he pinched the bridge of his nose, sighing against the pain in his temple.

If he had been ignorant lately, the only reason was because Cho had not bothered to share anything with him. Apparently, being a boyfriend meant you were to be a mind reader when it came to your girlfriend's daily routine.

Sighing deeply, Cedric slumped against the pillar. What was wrong? His life was far from horrible. He was Prefect, Head Boy, the pride and joy of the Diggory clan. He had captured the heart of one of the most beautiful girls in school…so why did he suddenly feel that something essential was missing from his life? Why did he feel that his feelings for Cho were not truly as authentic as he led his friends to believe? Did he truly love her? Or was he simply just going through the motions because it was easier than facing the truth.

Shaking his head free of such thoughts, he quickly turned on his heel to head into the library, then faltered when he collided with something. Or, from the sound of surprise it made as it toppled to the floor, some ONE.

Opening his eyes, he looked down into a pair of startled brown eyes. Brown eyes that quickly turned from startled to annoyed. Looking further, he saw that the brown eyes were encased in a heart-shaped face that was framed by long brown hair. The girl was gazing up at him in astonished annoyment, her hands splayed behind her in the fall.

"Don't you watch where you're going?"

Cedric shook his head, realizing suddenly that he had just been standing there for several seconds looking down at the young girl. "Beg your pardon?"

Brown eyebrows arched over her brown eyes. " I said, don't you watch where you're going? You completely ran me over!"

Cedric frowned as he looked around him, seeing several books thrown over the floor, as well as a black backpack laying a few inches from the young girl, its contents strewn about. "I'm sorry, I'm afraid I wasn't paying attention."

The girl ran a hand through her hair. "You think so?" she asked sarcastically.

Bending forward, Cedric extended a hand to her, watching as she eyed it cautiously before taking it in her own and allowing him to pull her to her feet. As she stood to her full height, he saw that she barely reached his chin. Her school robes fell to her calves, and theemblem of the house of Gryffindor was stitched in the upper corner. Pulling his gaze back to her flustered face, he dropped his hand to his side. "I am sorry. My mind was a thousand miles away."

He watched as her gaze searched his face for a millisecond before her expression softened. She shook her head and smiled softly. "It's alright. It could happen to anyone, I guess." She bent down and began gathering her books in her arms, her brown hair falling forward. Cedric quickly followed suit, gathering her backpack and placing its strewn contents back inside. He eyed several paintbrushes as they both straightened, and he quickly placed them inside as well before handing her the backpack. She smiled at him. "Thanks."

Cedric nodded, smiling in return. "Your welcome." He looked at her a moment before continuing. "You're American, aren't you?"

He watched a slight blush crept across her face. "Guess you can't hide that Southern accent, huh?" She smiled. "It's like a giant pink elephant when you're at a school in Europe." She raised a hand and brushed a strand of hair behind her ear as she looked back up at him.

"Are you alright, then?" he asked, motioning to the floor. "I'm afraid it sounded like a nasty fall."

The American girl grinned suddenly, displaying two rows of perfectly white teeth. "I'm fine. It's sounded worse than it was. You caught me off guard, is all. What on earth had you so distracted?"

He didn't know if it was her easy smile or the way her voice was softly spoken, but Cedric suddenly had the strongest urge to spill his guts to this girl. To finally tell what had been conflicting him for the past several months; what had kept him awake into the wee hours of the morning as everyone else slept on peacefully. Looking into her face made him feel more comfortable than he had been in a long time. He watched as she waited for his response, and he shook his head, smiling slightly. "Nothing. Just blanked out for a second or two." He extended his hand. "My name's Cedric. Cedric Diggory."

The girl smiled as she shook his hand. "Quidditch captain of Hufflepuff, yes, I know. You're quite alegend in these halls. I'm Brooke Stokes."

Nodding, he withdrew his hand. "I'm afraid I don't know you so well. I haven't seen you around school much."

"Well, that's because you're a seventh year, while I myself am still just a sixth year. I'm pretty sure they keep us separated."

Sixth year Gryffindor. She would be the same year as Cho, which surprised him. Cho always seemed to be friendly with most of the girls in her year. He had never once seen her with this girl. He was sure he would remember those eyes.

"I hope I didn't make you late for anything," he said, stuffing his hands in his pockets. "Running you over and all."

The light laugh the left her mouth made him smile. "No, I was just finishing up a tutoring thing before headed back to my dorm. Nothing life or death."

Someone calling her name behind them made them both turn, and Cedric watched as Oliver Wood walked over to them, grinning as he caught sight of him. "Oy, Ced," he said, coming to a stop beside Brooke, a large book clasped in his hands. "I was wondering when you were gonna get here." He glanced over at the brunette at his side, handing her the book in his hands. "You forgot your Charms book, Stokes."

Brooke smiled and took it from him. "Thanks, Oliver. You probably just saved me four hours of freaking out about where I left it."

Cedric looked between the two, a look of surprise on his face. "She's your Charms tutor?" he asked his friend.

Oliver nodded. "Yeah, she's a young one, but she's a miracle worker at Charms. Flitwick is always raving about her during class, how's she's the only sixth year that mastered seventh year charms in her third year." He gently punched the girl playfully on her arm as she blushed madly. "She's a lifesaver, I have to admit." Looking back at Cedric he grinned. "All well on Lover's Lane, mate? Get everything all sorted out."

Cedric grimaced at his reference, glancing over at Brooke to see her smiling at him. He found himself smiling back, at ease. "For the moment, I suppose."

The grin that appeared on his friend's face was one of sheer competition. "Ready to be beaten shamelessly at Wizard's Chess, then? Or are you too worried your failure will ruin your Golden Boy image when it reaches the student population?"

Brooke laughed at this sentence, and pulled her bag strap further up her shoulder. "Oh, that's my cue to exit stage right before the testosterone poisoning gets too much to bear. You Quidditch captains are way to competitive for your own good. I'm going to scram before it gets ugly." She bumped her shoulder against Oliver's. "I'll see you next week, Wood." Looking over at Cedric, she smiled. "It was nice to meet you, Cedric. Finally able to see the guy that so many envy face to face." She laughed softly as she walked around them. "See ya around." She headed off in the direction of Gryffindor common room, and Cedric smiled as he watched her go.

"She's something, ain't she?," he heard Oliver mutter next to him. He turned back to see his friend staring after her as well. "I thought Flitwick was bonkers when he recommended her to me as tutor last year. She was a fifth year alright, but probably should have been a sixth back then. She's got the determination. A bit strange though." He grinned. "Did you know that she's never seen a Quidditch match in all the time she's been here?"

Cedric smiled. "It happens. I nearly forgot that Americans attended Hogwarts. I guess they're few and far between."

Oliver sighed. "It's a shame. If they're anything like Brooke Stokes, there should be many more."

"Are you infatuated, Wood," Cedric asked, laughing quietly.

Oliver shrugged. "I was last year. She's a looker, got to admit that. But I don't think she was interested. She's a sweet girl, though. I don't mind having her around. Reminds me of my sister back home, now that I think about it." He grinned over at him. "Enough bullocks now, Diggory. Prepare to be defeated in the worst way."

Both young men laughed as they headed to the now deserted dining hall, and all the while Cedric kept glancing back over his shoulder, searching for the short figure with long brown hair that he had met just moments ago, and he couldn't help wondering when and if she would ever cross his path again.

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Whew! Alright, the first chapter is up. Victory music plays in head. I hope y'all liked it! Constructive criticism, only please. I would like your opinions though. Until next time!!