A/N: This is my first stab at Cedric/Hermione, I hope it's all right. The pairing was inspired by the fic 'The Road Less Traveled' by Agent of the Apocathery, who wrote Cedric and Hermione so well that I just fell in love with that pairing. I'm not sure if I'm entirely happy with this, but I don't think I can/want to do anymore so this is the end result. Read, review, and enjoy. Oh and by the way, it's set during the Quidditch world cup.
Hermione loses them amongst the masses, and decides to head for the forest, in an attempt to find some cover. She knows she is in greater danger than they are. She is a mudblood after all.
She trips, but manages to stay on her feet by grabbing onto the nearest tree, scratching her hand on the rough bark and jarring her wrist upon impact. Hermione imagines it's one of the less serious injuries of the evening. She casts a worried glance up towards the muggle family, still being paraded around in the air like balloons. She feels the stomach acid rise in her throat and tears her eyes away, heading deeper into the forest, constantly on the lookout for Harry and Ron, the twins and Ginny, Percy, Charlie, Bill, anyone. She wants now more than ever to see a friendly face, someone who she can feel safe with, and someone who will hold her hand when she jumps at the slightest noise.
Instead, she finds herself passing a group of Veela, and tuts at the pathetic excuses for men which are surrounding them, boasting their false achievements. She also sees a group of Bulgarians, one of whom seemed to have his face painted earlier, but after his team's loss decided to wash off as much of it as he could. There was still a faint red line around his jaw and under his eyes, and Hermione only notices because he is holding one of the small fires which Hermione has always been so adept at conjuring. It lights parts of his face, leaving other parts in deep shadow, and the image unsettles her slightly.
It is once she is alone again, no Veela, no Bulgarians, that she runs into Malfoy. Hermione runs through several spells in her mind, in case he takes the opportunity to try and hex her. She wonders whether a letter will arrive if she does defend herself, berating her for using underage magic.
"Lost Potty and the Weasel, have we?" Malfoy approached her with a smirk on his face, wand held firmly in his right hand. "You'd better hide. They can smell a mudblood a mile away. You'll be up in the air next."
"Your concern is touching, Malfoy." Hermione tries to muster up her most sarcastic tone of voice, but the slight shake in her words gives away her fear.
"You should be scared, Granger. You know what they're capable of. You know what they can do, and you know who they used to work for."
"That's enough, Malfoy."
Hermione looks towards a gap in the trees and sees Cedric Diggory standing there, all soft blonde hair and good bone structure, with those rosy cheeks that make him seem like he should belong to the monarchy. He's also sweaty, slightly muddy and looks like he's been involved in a few tussles. The authority in his voice shows Hermione for the first time why Dumbledore made him prefect.
"You can't tell me what to do, Diggory."
"I can tell the ministry officials that you were threatening Hermione. I'm sure they'll have a lot to talk to your father about. Not even a generous donation to St Mungo's could get him out of this if they catch him red-handed with his son practically worshipping the Death Eaters."
"If they catch him red-handed, Diggory, if."
"Get out of here before I hex you out of here."
Malfoy sneers and stalks away, no doubt hoping to find someone else he can bully. Hermione looks towards Cedric, who's sitting down on the ground, his back against the trunk of a tree.
"Thanks," she says quietly, also sitting down, glad that she's got someone with her. Somehow the whole thing doesn't seem so scary now she's got company, and Hermione hopes that he's not just going to have a five minute rest and then leave her on her own.
Of course he won't, he's a Hufflepuff, he wouldn't leave a teenage girl on her own in the midst of all this.
"It's nothing," he says. "That little git needs a few good hexes if you ask me. Are you OK?"
"Yeah, it's just Malfoy. I've been dealing with him for years."
"Yeah but most of the time you've got Harry and…" it's obvious he can't remember Ron's name, but Hermione's surprised he even knew her name, so she'll let him off. It's obvious he remembers the red hair though. "…Weasley with you and you're not surrounded by Death Eaters. It changes things a little bit, don't you think? Especially when you know his father's out there. Doing that stuff. Enjoying that stuff." Cedric scowls and flexes his fingers.
"Well the Aurors will catch them and they'll get put in Azkaban," Hermione says confidently. Cedric snorts.
"You think? Blimey, Granger, I've heard you're intelligent but I never heard you were so naïve."
Hermione's jaw drops slightly at the compliment turned insult. "Well there's no reason as to why they can't -"
"I take it you've read that book about the trials from just after You-Know-Who died. You've read just about every other book in the library."
"Clearly my reputation precedes me," Hermione answers, a little icily. Cedric merely smiles, but the smile disappears once he starts talking again.
"Well in that case you'll have read that just about every single Death Eater who renounced You-Know-Who after his downfall managed to wriggle out of any sort of punishment. Only the loyal ones like Bellatrix Lestrange and Sirius Black went to Azkaban, expecting to be rewarded for their loyalty one day."
Hermione looks away at the mention of her best friend's Godfather, and wonders how he and Buckbeak are getting on.
"Yes but surely tonight proves that they haven't given up their old ways? That they are a danger to the public and it's the Ministry's duty to protect the public and do something about them!"
"A bit of muggle baiting? The Ministry won't do a thing because it'll cost too much money and take too much effort and they'll probably try to hush all this up anyway. Death Eaters have been quiet for almost thirteen years now, this'll just scare people."
Hermione sighs, knowing that Cedric has more than a good argument. She knows she shouldn't still have faith in the Ministry, not after how wrong they proved to be when it came to Sirius, but Hermione always has faith in the rules, and the Ministry are, supposedly, the enforcers of the rules.
"Are you all right?" she asks after a moment's silence. "You look like you've been through the wars a bit."
"I started helping out, but as soon as Dad saw he went ballistic and told me to wait in here. Apparently it doesn't matter that I come of age at the end of September, I'm not allowed to help." He looks slightly bitter about being sent away to be kept safe, like a good little boy, and Hermione can't help but sympathise.
"He's just worried about you," she says gently. "Mr Weasley won't let Fred and George help out either, and they come of age in April."
"What'll the Weasley twins do though? Turn all their robes pink and put dung bombs everywhere?" he chuckles slightly, and Hermione guesses that it's because of the mental images which his words have conjured in his mind, and she finds herself smiling also.
The pair of them talk for a short while longer, moving gradually from one subject to the next, each glad of the company that the other brings, because the sound of their voices helps to drown out the sound of the shouting and screaming that's coming from the edge of the woods.
There is a bang that makes the pair of them jump, and Cedric is on his feet before Hermione can even get over the shock. She stands as well, and follows his gaze through the trees. There is something green and glittering, and although the shape of it is not clear, a shared glance tells them that they have both come to the same conclusion.
Cedric takes Hermione's hand and leads her quietly and quickly away through the trees, putting as much distance between themselves and the Dark Mark as possible. He looks around them constantly, eyes searching for any sign of movement, and he is so focused on not getting attacked that he trips over a tree root, pulling Hermione to the ground with him as he falls.
"Sorry," he says breathlessly, getting up quickly and holding out a hand to her. She takes it and he hauls her to her feet. "Sorry." His cheeks are a little rosier and she thinks it's probably due to embarrassment.
"Don't worry," Hermione answers, pulling the sleeves of her jumper up to her elbows. "Are you all right?"
They reach the edge of the woods and find that there are no floating muggles, no Death Eaters, but there are lots of Ministry officials.
"Hermione!" Fred and George are making their way towards her, and a short way away she can see the other Weasleys and Harry.
"We've been looking for you everywhere! Harry and Ron said you got separated."
"Yes, we did, but I'm fine. Is everyone OK?"
"All fine. You found her then, Ced?" Fred turns to Cedric, whose eyes are scanning the Ministry crowd for any sign of his father. He turns his attention to Fred.
"Yeah. Malfoy was being a git so I sent him on his way. Did you see the -"
"Yeah, we saw. No idea who conjured it though. Your Dad's over there, Dad was talking to him a minute ago." George throws a thumb over his shoulder to indicate the general whereabouts of Amos Diggory and Cedric nods in appreciation.
"Right, thanks. I'll see you at Hogwarts." Cedric gives Hermione's shoulder a slight squeeze, nods to the twins and strides over to the large group of wizards in order to find his father.
"Come on," George nods over to where the other Weasleys are standing, and once she is back in the large group and being fussed over by them all, her eyes meet Cedric's and she smiles the smallest and most tired of smiles at him.
He returns the same smile and turns away, giving his attention to his father once more, who is talking quickly and making big gestures.
As the pair of them walk back towards their campsite, Cedric turns around and holds up his hand in a small wave, before turning back and jogging for a few paces to catch up with his father.
She is submitted to some serious questioning later by Ginny, who says she wishes that Cedric Diggory had rescued her instead.