A/N: you may recognise a few lines from the Goblet of Fire, when Ron and Hermione are fighting...I may have borrowed them...Anyways, a Hermione/Cedric for your eager(?) eyes. Enjoy

Disclaimer: J.K Rowling is God.

Chapter 1

(Knight In Shining Paperback)

Oh, for…the young woman trailed off, bending over to remove her elaborate heels. That complete arse Ronald Weasley had done it again; he had managed to ruin everything. For once, someone had actually shown an interest in her for her, and not for her brains, and what did Ron say? 'Fraternizing with the enemy' my foot! she thought savagely, straightening up and resuming her angry march.

Whenever she got in a state like this, she headed to where she felt most at home: the library. She loved it in there, because if you were having a bad hair day, the books wouldn't make snide remarks. If you were crying, the books wouldn't take the mickey; they didn't judge, they didn't whisper as you passed, and they most certainly did not read Rita Skeeter!

Yes, she loved books. The comforting feel of a heavy book in her hands made her feel as if she was back in her grade-school days, before she knew of this magical world. As the library doors came into view, the girl heaved a sigh of relief: finally she could just sit down at her favourite table in the Transfiguration section, pull out a hefty book on some sort of complex spell work, and forget about Ron, and Viktor, the ball, and the whole stupid tournament. She heaved open the heavy wooden doors (thank goodness it's open!) and trudged through the musty rows, weaving methodically through until, at last, her table came into view. Exhaling noisily, the curly-haired girl wiped her tear-streaked face and plunked herself down gracefully into the hard-backed chair. Once in the confines of her hovel, she allowed herself to cry freely, not even attempting to hold back the heaving sobs now racking her body, sending her breathing patterns into a frenzy.

She raised her head slowly and surveyed her beloved books, searching for one she could browse. Shakily, she stood and made her way quietly to the first shelf. Merlin, it felt good to get those heels off! The schoolgirl raised her right hand and brushed it softly against the aging books, reading the titles under her breath. Finally, she came across a book that peaked her interest (The History of Transfiguration). She gave a great sigh of relief and turned to go back to her lonely table.

The girl was looking at the page, yet she was unable to take anything in. Ron's words, and Viktor's angry face kept popping into her mind, distracting her. Giving up attempting to read the book, she instead let her head fall to the table, her forehead smacking loudly upon the table-top.

"Ouch…" she muttered, rubbing her forehead and wincing.

"A-are you alright, miss?" A tentative voice came from behind her. 'Miss' raised her curly head and peeked behind her. Her eyes widened and she flushed in embarrassment. There, standing behind her, was Cedric Diggory.

His grey eyes, so unlike the cold eyes of Draco Malfoy, shone with concern. His wavy bronze hair fell into his eyes, and he raised a thin but large hand to brush it away impatiently. His broad shoulders were pushed straight back, and he gave off an air of confidence and caring. She couldn't help but stare; he was undeniably gorgeous.

"Uh…y-yes, I'm fine…" she mumbled, not meeting his dazzling gaze.

He chuckled quietly. The sound made butterflies appear in her stomach. "Are you sure? That was a pretty hard knock, Hermione."

The girl raised her amber eyes to look at the boy beside her. During her embarrassment, he had walked closer and taken the seat next to her.

"How do you know my name?" Hermione questioned, her brow furrowed. How could someone like him possibly know who she was?

"And I thought you were the smartest witch of your age! You're Harry Potter's best friend, currently dating an international Quidditch star! How could I not know you?" he answered, a small grin playing at his lips. "It doesn't hurt that we met over the summer, either. Quidditch World Cup?"

Hermione nodded, her mind reeling. This gorgeous, popular, older boy knew who she was! Of course she remembered meeting him over the summer; she just hadn't thought he would remember her.

"Yes, yes I remember. We got the portkey together," she responded, looking into his handsome face. He nodded.

"Yeah…that was some game, wasn't it?" Hermione could tell Quidditch was his one true love, for his eyes shone with passion and his cheeks flushed as soon as it was mentioned. Just the memory of the World Cup made him excited. Boys.

"Yes, it was. Erm, if you don't mind me asking…" she looked at him. He gave her a nod, signaling it was fine. "Well, what are you doing here? Isn't Cho waiting for you?"

Cedric sighed and looked down at the cedar table-top. "I just…I can't handle all of this. This tournament has me going mental with worry, you know? That ball just…it seemed so petty, compared to what's coming." He sighed again and ran a large hand through his bronze hair, giving it an interesting wind-swept look.

Hermione nodded, understanding. Watching Harry in that first task was so nerve-wracking; she had nearly gone over the bend watching him. Personally, Hermione couldn't wait for the whole thing to be done with.

"I know what you mean. Watching the first task…I don't know how you're still going! I would've holed myself up in my room, to be honest. The stress would've driven me mad!"

Cedric smiled as he looked into her eyes. "Can I ask you something?" he questioned her. Hermione nodded, intrigued.

"Why are you in here? I'm sure Krum is looking for you." Hermione shook her head, dropping her face so that her elaborately-set curls obscured her face. Tears were once again welling up in her eyes, and she shut them and took a deep breath to try and keep from losing it in front of Cedric.

"No, I'm sure he's fine," she muttered. Cedric furrowed his brow, confused.

"What do you mean, Hermione?"

Hermione reached up and angrily wiped a stray tear from her cheek.

"Ron is such a foul git! Why does he have to ruin e-everything?" she raged, tears now spilling down her fair cheeks. "For once in my life, someone has taken an interest in me for me! Why is that so hard for him to accept?"

Cedric sat quietly to her left, letting her get out her anger. He waited patiently for her to take a few calming breaths and wipe the tears falling freely down her face.

"Hermione," he said, softly. She looked up. "Ron's jealous, alright? But that's no reason for you to hole yourself up in this dusty old library and miss out on a wonderful night! Krum asked you to the ball because he likes your company. It's rather hard to enjoy someone's company when they aren't present…"

Hermione gave a watery laugh, her hands in her lap. Cedric reached up and brushed a stray tear from her cheek. Hermione smiled weakly, and met his grey gaze.

"Thanks…I—it's just so Ron to do something like that too! And Viktor heard his little rant about 'fraternizing with the enemy,' and 'he's just using you!', so Viktor's all huffy, and it's just—why can't Ron just accept that I'm a girl? A girl that a famous Quidditch star fancies? I mean, is it that hard to believe?" She let a dry chuckle escape her lips, even though she found none of this funny. Cedric reached down and grasped her thin hand in his own.

"Hermione, I've told you, Ron's jealous. That's the way boys work, you know? He's just angry he didn't ask you first. Besides, tonight is your night. Don't let Ron ruin that." Cedric began rubbing consoling circles on the back of her hand with his thumb. Again, Hermione's stomach flip-flopped.

I can't believe I'm having this conversation with Cedric Diggory! she thought to herself, nodding to what Cedric had just said.

"Okay…I'm just going to stay here for a little while longer. These books are very soothing," she replied, blushing as she realized what she was saying. To her surprise, Cedric nodded.

"I know what you mean; books don't judge you, they don't laugh at you, nothing. They just…accept you." Hermione's mouth dropped open.

"Exactly! Their like the best friend you've always wanted!" Cedric nodded feverishly, his grey eyes dancing.

"Yes, I know!" He looked into her amber eyes, hardly daring to believe his ears. This girl felt exactly the same way about his books! Never had he met someone that shared his passion for knowledge. "Uh…do you mind if I sit with you? Only I don't want to go back just yet," he asked, unsure. Hermione sniffled quietly and squeezed his hand.

"Of course, Cedric. You can stay as long as you want!" Cedric laughed lightly and nodded as he reached across her to grab the heavy hardback sitting abandoned in front of her.

"Do you mind? I haven't read this one…" Cedric asked, again looking her straight in the eye. Hermione struggled to breathe normally as she stared back, mesmerized.

"N-no, not at all…" Slightly shaking her wavy head, she continued, "It's actually quite interesting. There are all sorts of obscure facts and whatnot."

"I'll need everything I can get on Transfiguration…" he muttered, more to himself than to Hermione.

"What do you mean?" she asked, confused.

"Well…I don't suppose Harry's told you what the Second Task is, has he?" Hermione shook her head, her confusion growing.

"No…no. He hasn't figured out the egg yet, see…but…what does that have to do with the Second Task?" she inquired, her amber eyes searching his face.

"Well, uh…it—I'm meant to stay underwater for an entire hour! How the devil am I to manage that?" Cedric ran his hands through his hair once more, his face twisted in confusion and worry. Hermione grabbed his hand still resting in his lap and squeezed comfortingly.

"I'm sure you'll be fine, Cedric. They wouldn't assign it if it weren't possible…" Cedric sighed again and raised his face to meet hers.

"I suppose…it's just—how am I meant to go about solving this? We haven't covered underwater survival in classes!"

Hermione shook her head. "Cedric, I'm sure there's a way. It will just take a while to find…why don't you ask McGonagall? She's bound to know something."

"She can't, she's not meant to help me!" he wailed, his hand flying to his bronze tresses once more, as he ran an agitated hand through them. He opened his eyes, and they seemed to take on a new sparkle. "Hey…you don't suppose…I mean, it is to say…"

Hermione furrowed her brow. He wasn't making any sense. "Come on, Cedric. Out with it," she encouraged, smiling slightly.

"Well, you don't suppose…you could help me? Only I'm sure you're busy with Harry and all…" he trailed off hopefully, his eyes pleading. Hermione's stomach flipped and flopped, and she smiled brilliantly.

"Of course! It would be most interesting; I could learn all sorts of advanced Transfiguration and the lot!" she replied enthusiastically, her amber eyes sparkling. Cedric let out the breath he had been holding with a 'whoosh!'

"Thank Merlin, Hermione. No, no, thank you!" He laughed in a relieved sort of way. Hermione chuckled softly, and she ran her thin fingers through her intricately woven up-do.

"Well, I guess I'll get back to the ball. We could meet back here tomorrow, to begin the search?" she invited, albeit nervously.

"Sure, that sounds excellent! I'll catch you up, yeah? Have fun, Hermione," he answered, smiling at her. She couldn't help but grin back.

"Where have you been?" Ron demanded, as Hermione entered into the Great Hall, a small smile still playing at her lips. She turned to face him, and her eyes flashed dangerously. Ron flinched slightly, but otherwise stood his ground.

"I really don't think that's any of your concern, Ronald," she said coolly. Ron gaped, but quickly recovered.

"Off with Krum, were you? Giving him an insider's view of things, hmm?" Hermione glared at him, appalled at the things he was insinuating.

"What I do with Viktor is none of your business, Ronald," she replied, bristling, "but, for your information, I wasn't with him." Ron glared, his rising flush of fury bypassing red and going straight for maroon.

"How many times must I tell you, he's using you!" he bellowed. Hermione opened her mouth to retort, but Ron wasn't done. "All this nonsense about 'interschool unity,' that's utter tosh, Hermione! He's from Durmstrang, for Merlin's bloody sake!"

"What, so you think he's pretending to enjoy our discussions, that he asked me to the ball as some sort of—of attack strategy?" she yelled back, matching his rage.

"That's exactly what I'm saying! He's far too different from you to be serious! I mean, he's an international Quidditch star! He could have any girl here!" Hermione's mouth had dropped open, and angry tears were welling up in her bright eyes.

"So you're saying I'm too ordinary for him to fancy me?" she hissed, her eyes narrowing dangerously. "You're saying, no one would pick me with all these other girls around?" Hermione's tears were threatening to fall, but she blinked rapidly to stop the inevitable flow.

Ron opened and closed his mouth, at a loss of what to say. "W-well, no…it's just…Come on, Hermione! Why'd you have to go with someone from Durmstrang? There are plenty of Hogwarts blokes available, you know, and none of them would try and sabotage Harry's chances at this tournament!" he shot back, his face, which had been slowly returning back to its original colour, flushed red again.

Hermione frowned at him angrily before answering, her tears now falling, one by one, down her pale cheeks.

"Well, you know the solution then, don't you!" she yelled, taking a step forward.

"Yeah? And what's that?" Ron countered, copying her movements.

"Next time there's a ball, ask me before someone else does, and not as a last resort!" And with that, she spun on her high-heel and ran up the marble staircase, her periwinkle robes flowing out behind her gracefully as she went.

Ron remained standing, open-mouthed, at the bottom of the staircase, staring helplessly after her.

"Well…well that's completely besides the point…" he muttered to himself, determinedly ignoring the swooping sensation he felt in his stomach as he watched her go.

A/N: any suggestions for chapters would be welcome...I'd love to hear your ideas as to where the story could go. Review!