Notes: AU, Multi-chapter, Set during the trio's Hogwarts years
Disclaimer: I am just but merely a fan of the universe created by J.K. Rowling.
"Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened."
- Dr. Seuss
As Hermione dashed through the stone hallways of the dungeons, she's thankful that it's devoid of any sentient entity – living or otherwise. She has her upper arm held close to her mouth, shielding a good portion of her face, as she runs as quickly as her feet could propel her. There's only one thought revolving inside the Gryffindor's head at the moment, and that was to get to the hospital wing before she was seen by anyone. This was because if anyone were to take a closer look, they would have seen that her two front teeth, which, while normally already rather large on their own, had grown a good two inches extending past her front collar. Her current predicament had started just moments ago when Harry and Malfoy decided to have a spontaneous duel outside the potions classroom. Their respective spells had collided in midair, resulting in both ricocheting off course and hitting her and Goyle. The latter had so many boils erupt on his face that Hermione almost caught herself thinking that perhaps she got the lesser of two evils.
Making her way across the entrance hall, it was impossible for Hermione not to pass by the animated paintings hanging on the walls. Whispering among themselves, most of the moving paintings unabashedly craned their necks to get a better look at the fleeing Gryffindor. Though as far as Hermione was concerned, they were all but a blur to her, thanks to the tears that were simultaneously clouding her eyes and trailing down her cheeks. She passes by one wooden door after another, hoping that it doesn't suddenly creak open to reveal someone who would be a witness to what Malfoy's spell had done to her. But so far so good, since she meets nobody. Not a ghost, nor Peeves, or even Mrs. Norris was in sight. Her black shoes patter noisily against the marble staircase as she ascended and she somehow manages to reach the top without a hitch.
But of course, her luck could only take her so far.
Turning a sharp corner, Hermione finds her eyes momentarily widening in surprise before she clumsily collides into someone.
Feeling rather disoriented, but thankful that no bones seem to be broken, Hermione shakes her head slightly to clear it. Upon regaining adequate control of her sight, however, it was only then that she became aware of breathing underneath her. She stiffens slightly as she registers the fact that she's lying on top of her hapless victim. Much too embarrassed to look the person in the face, Hermione keeps her head down as a severe blush invades her cheeks. The hard muscle underneath her fingers pointed to the fact that the person she crashed into was most likely male – that, or Merlin forbid, she had unintentionally tackled Millicent Bulstrode.
"Are you okay?"
It took all that she had for her not to lift her head and look the person in the eye. Hermione didn't find it at all difficult to recognize who the voice belonged to. After all, she had spent quite a bit of time listening and laughing alongside it just a few days ago. She opens her mouth, intending to answer him, only to find herself shutting it close again when she realizes that she doesn't really know how to. Her current situation wasn't exactly permitting her to talk much, if at all.
"Is that you, Granger?" Cedric asked, correctly identifying the younger girl despite not being able to see her face since she was still determinedly keeping her head down. The thing that clued him on her identity was the characteristic mass of brown hair that was currently tickling his chin.
'Of course it just had to be him.' Hermione thought to herself while she mentally rolled her eyes. Ever since their encounter at the library a few days ago, she had been secretly hoping that they would get another chance to meet again. But she certainly didn't expect or want it to be in this manner.
Merlin, what had she ever done in her life to deserve this?
"Can I assume that this is an attempt of yours at trying to sweep me off my feet?" Cedric joked as he propped himself up on his elbows. "Might be less dangerous if you didn't interpret that idiom quite so literally, though," he laughed and Hermione could feel his chest rumble as he did so.
Realizing that she's still straddling Cedric, and in the middle of the hallway no less, Hermione mumbles a quick incomprehensible apology as she quickly gets on her feet, intending to make a quick escape. Letting him see the hexed state of her teeth wasn't exactly a very fanciful idea to her. But before she was able to take more than three steps away from him, Hermione finds herself screeching to a halt when she hears no less than four different voices getting converging on her location.
There was no other way out. She was trapped.
Clamping her eyes shut, the feeling of humiliation heavy on her shoulders, Hermione finally lets out a helpless whimper as her tears pour without abandon. She reluctantly turns to Cedric, whose jovial expression momentarily freezes before it rapidly dissipates. Concerned gray eyes scanned the full damage Malfoy's hex had done to her before it darted up to meet her brown orbs. It wasn't difficult for him to see the panic etched in her eyes. He motions for her to come near him.
"Stay there," Cedric whispered to Hermione as he pointed to the nearby marble figure of Serena the Sleepy, the very same witch that inspired the muggle fairy tale of Sleeping Beauty. "Don't worry, I'll lead them off." He tells her before he quickly strides to the direction of the incoming voices.
Quickly ducking behind the statue of the drowsy witch, Hermione sits herself on the floor, back against the base and draws her feet close to her body, almost mirroring a fetal position. As she tried to stop her sobbing, she overhears Cedric make up a white lie about someone having dropped dungbombs in the vicinity.
It wasn't exactly a big secret that she needed braces. In fact, before she had left for Hogwarts, her parents were already trying to sell her the idea of wearing them. Why she just had to be the one hit by that specific wayward spell was beyond her. Hermione snorts to herself as her thoughts take on a bitter timbre. Perhaps this whole catastrophe was the universe's way of trying to tell her something – maybe it's a preview of her next life wherein she is destined to be reincarnated as a beaver.
Wiping her tears away with her sleeve, Hermione remembers that it's never good to dwell on the negative. She takes a deep breath to compose herself but feels her heart start to race again when her ears pick up approaching footsteps. She relaxes somewhat upon hearing Cedric's gentle voice.
"They're gone now. Let's go."
Looking up, Hermione's eyes immediately locked themselves onto Cedric's. He extends his hand to help her up, and still trembling slightly, Hermione takes it, instantly registering the warmth present there. It was a comforting feeling that reminded her of the times her dad would hold her hand as they walked back home from the park when she was younger. It made her feel safe; So much so that in the back of her head, she was actually hoping that Cedric wouldn't let go.
Hermione allowed herself a small smile when he didn't.
Her tears were long dry by then, courtesy of the yellow handkerchief she had clutched in her right hand. A badger was intricately stitched on one corner and Hermione vaguely wondered if Cedric would still want it back after she had used it to dry her tears and blow her nose. It was rather quiet – Cedric had just left a few minutes ago – and the only moments wherein this tranquility was pierced was whenever Goyle would let out a loud yelp as Madam Pomfrey methodically applied a potion to his face. For some reason, Goyle had thought it wise to start picking on the boils as he made his way to the hospital wing. That just had the added effect of delaying treatment to Hermione because Madam Pomfrey now has the additional job of disinfecting the boils he managed to get his hands on.
"Honestly," exclaimed an exasperated Madam Pomfrey from somewhere at the opposite end of the Hospital Wing after Goyle let out another yell. "Stop squirming and sit like a man!" the nurse firmly scolded.
For someone that carried himself somewhat like a troll, Goyle could act like such a baby at times.
Surrounded by the same set of curtains that protected her from wandering eyes when she had turned part cat back in her second year, Hermione finds herself with nothing to do as she awaits her turn to be treated. All she has at the moment is the company of her thoughts and it just so happens that they decide to ruminate upon a certain friendly Hufflepuff who has the grayest eyes she has ever seen. Before departing earlier, Cedric had bent down and whispered a few choice words in her ear. Her tears were still flowing back then but she had registered every single word he told her. After straightening back up, Cedric had given her one last comforting squeeze on her shoulder, and he was gone.
Hermione didn't really know how long she waited in her own private enclosure. Time seems to stand still when one is miserable. And this illusion of time stopping is actually why she jumped a little when the curtains around her were suddenly drawn open.
"Sorry about the delay," A drop of sweat made its way down the side of Madam Pomfrey's temple. "That boy wasn't making it any easier for either of us by being so fidgety." She closes the curtain behind her after she enters. "Alright then, sit still and this will be over in a few seconds." Madam Pomfrey explains before conjuring up a small mirror from thin air and handing it to Hermione. "It's going to be shrinking rather quickly so immediately signal to me when they're back to their original size."
Hermione nods in understanding.
Using her wand, Madam Pomfrey points it at the bottom side of Hermione's teeth. "On three then," She counts down slowly before murmuring an incantation. A bright light flashes before both their eyes and Hermione could see her two front teeth rapidly shrinking.
A few seconds pass and her teeth is above her collar. Another few seconds pass and it's above her throat. A few more and it shrinks above her chin. It's now getting very close to its original size but the words Cedric whispered to her earlier before he left were now echoing nonstop inside her head.
"Silver lining, remember? It's there, Granger. Always. You just need to look hard enough."
Hermione smiles inwardly as she realizes the wisdom behind Cedric's words. As she looks into the mirror, seeing her teeth return to its original size, she lets Madam Pomfrey shrink it just a little more than she should have.
'Sorry, mum. Sorry, dad.' Hermione thinks to herself. ' But it looks like I wouldn't be needing those braces after all.'
Cedric quickly climbed the staircase, skipping a step or two in his haste, hoping that he would be able to catch Hermione before she left the Hospital Wing. He would have liked to stay with Hermione earlier, but Champion business required his presence elsewhere at the time. The wand weighing ceremony didn't take long at all and to his pleasant surprise, he wasn't even chastised for not being on time. Harry had unknowingly covered for Cedric when the younger boy had allowed himself to be whisked off inside a cupboard by a blonde reporter. The private interview between the two was actually still ongoing when Cedric arrived so it didn't matter much that he was a little late. Though judging from the scowls Harry had when he had re-emerged, Cedric had serious doubts if the younger Gryffindor was even a willing participant in the interview to begin with. Cedric had then tried to catch Harry's eye numerous times during the entire ceremony in order to inform him that Hermione was at the Hospital Wing, but he never did succeed. Even at its conclusion, Cedric was still unsuccessful. Harry had hightailed it out of there so fast that Cedric was left with little doubt that it had something to do with the way the blonde reporter – Rita Skeeter, as she had introduced herself to him – was eyeing the Boy Who Lived like a vulture drawn to a carcass. It would only be later that Cedric would come to realize that he had in fact heard of Rita Skeeter once before. During breakfast last summer, his mum had questioned out loud the reasoning of the Daily Prophet in employing such a shoddy journalist in their ranks.
Turning one last corner, Cedric finally catches sight of the Hospital Wing. He stops his jogging and breaks into a run. Making his way to the door in record time, Cedric barely had any time to jump out of the way as the door was suddenly pushed open. Thankfully, his quidditch reflexes saved him from having a door smash into his face. A sheepish looking Hermione Granger greeted him from the other side of the doorway.
"Whoops?" Hermione offered with a small embarrassed grin, her lips parting slightly to reveal normal sized human teeth. Cedric was glad that all traces of her earlier tears were now gone, the only indication that she had been sobbing at all were her still slightly puffy eyes. But the more Cedric looked at Hermione, the more he couldn't help this nagging feeling that was telling him that something seemed different about her...
He tilted his head to one side as he tried to figure it out.
"What?" Hermione asked self-consciously. She ducked her head and tugged on the hem of her robes upon noticing Cedric appraising her with furrowed eyebrows.
Remembering that is was quite rude to stare; Cedric pushed the errant thought at the back of his head for the meantime and quickly replied a nonchalant, "Nothing," before grinning back at her. He then quickly changes the subject, a little embarrassed himself at having been caught staring.
"I'm this close to swearing that you want me harmed, Granger," Cedric says with a teasing grin.
Hermione shakes her head with a laugh. It was a down to earth chuckle – quite unlike the high tinkle most Hogwarts girls had in their repertoire – and Cedric found that quality in her rather refreshing. "Rest assured that I have no ill intent towards you, Diggory." Though secretly, Hermione did have to admit, whenever she met Cedric, it seemed to be through the most unorthodox of circumstances. "I solemnly swear that all bodily harm I may cause you is purely coincidental and not at all premeditated."
"Well, that's good." Cedric sighed. "For a second there I thought you secretly hated me or something." He joked.
Shaking her head once again, Hermione momentarily dropped the joking tone and truthfully admitted, "After everything you've done for me today, I don't think I have it in me to hate you." She flashes Cedric another grin, the feel of it still a little odd as she tried to get used to the new smaller than normal size of her teeth. And it was true, the Hufflepuff was fast growing on her– his easy going nature and unparalleled optimism was something she wouldn't mind immersing herself in.
"How awesome is it that I can make you smile like that?"
"Don't let it get to your head, Diggory." Hermione lightly shouldered him as they continued walking down the corridor. "But seriously, though. Thank you again for today."
Waving a dismissive hand, Cedric replied, "Don't mention it. I'm pretty sure you would have done the same for me if the roles were reversed."
"You wouldn't?" He asked, a little surprised at her answer.
"To be fair," Hermione began explaining her case, "if we had switched places earlier, and I was the one tackled to the floor, I probably would have been left unconscious." Hermione gave Cedric a teasing grin, not unlike the one he was sporting earlier, before looking at him from head to toe, "You're an awfully large person, you know."
"Why do I have a feeling you just called me fat?" Cedric said as his laughter echoed around them both as it bounced against the castle walls.
"A case of semantics. Take it how you will," Hermione grinned.
"And how about you?" Cedric asked in amusement, "I suppose you're the poster girl of normal sized people?"
By then they had reached the staircase, the same one that would take them down to the Great Hall for dinner so it made Cedric a little confused when instead of descending, Hermione started to climb up the stairs to the next floor instead.
"Well, I suppose this is good bye, Diggory."
"You're not heading down to dinner?" Cedric inquired.
In response to his question, Hermione pointed to her two front teeth. "Madam Pomfrey told me my teeth are going to be a little sore from the shrinking spell. I'm not supposed to eat anything for at least an hour." She drops her hand back to her sides. "I'm going to the library for a while. You go on ahead, Diggory." She sincerely smiles at him. "Thanks a million again for today."
As Cedric watches Hermione walk away, Cedric finds himself calling out, "You want some company?"
The Hufflepuff momentarily pauses as he realizes that Hermione might want some time alone after everything that happened to her today but to his pleasant surprise, before he could take back his offer, she turns around, nods, and tells him, "I'd like that."
Cedric jogs to catch up with her.
"You sure you're not hungry?" Hermione asks Cedric once he is in step with her once again. It was basically a chance for him to back out in case he has changed his mind. After all, boys need their sustenance. Ron's eating habits was a constant reminder of that.
"I can postpone eating for an hour," Cedric says as they make their way to Madam Pince's lair. "Besides, it would be a crime to deny you of my presence," Cedric adds cheekily.
"You do realize today wasn't the first time you've used me as a pseudo cushion to break your fall, right?" Cedric said softly to the younger witch as they faced each other in the library.
After a few seconds of silence wherein she seriously contemplated if that, in fact, did happen, Hermione replied, "Please tell me you're joking."
Cedric grinned, looking as if he was thoroughly enjoying hanging this piece of information over her head just a little out of her reach. He shook his head. "Not one bit, I'm afraid. I'm being quite serious here." He pauses for a while, judging her reaction. It wasn't hard to see that Hermione was trying really hard not to blush. "You see, I distinctly remember your hand being placed dangerously high on my upper thigh when this happened."
And with that, the floodgates were thrown wide open. Mouth agape, Hermione turned beet red in front of the amused Hufflepuff.
"This was in the presence of other people too, mind you," Cedric added with twinkling eyes before she could deny anything. "You're lucky I didn't tell my dad or Mr. Weasley about it." He teased her further.
Chocolate brown orbs widened significantly as everything clicked into place. There was only one time when this could have possibly happened.
"The portkey," Hermione whispered to herself but Cedric had managed to read her lips.
"Bingo," He grinned.
The portkey that they had taken to get to the quidditch world cup that summer resulted in such a wild tangle of limbs that she wasn't really sure what her hands had been touching by the time they landed on their destination. Hermione could feel her cheeks burn even more as her brain started to paint a rather vivid picture in her head.
"That's quite an expression you've got there," Cedric observed. Leaning a little forward from his seat, Cedric had watched in complete entertainment as Hermione's expression rapidly shifted from one of realization to one of complete and utter mortification in about two seconds flat.
"I– Well, it's– I– You–" Hermione stammered for a while before she manages to string together a complete sentence. "It's not like I meant to put my hand… there." And with that, another large invasion of red pigment attacked her cheeks, this time also spreading to her ears and down her neck.
"You look absolutely mortified in taking in the idea of having touched me," Cedric commented. He has never seen anyone look so red in his entire life. "I'm not that repulsive, am I?" Cedric asked with a small petulant pout, somehow managing to look both comical and adorable at the same time.
"I– No! Of course not!" Hermione denied before catching sight of Cedric trying without much success in suppressing a laugh. "You're having fun with this, aren't you?" Hermione deadpanned.
"Perhaps just a tad." The Hufflepuff admitted with a mischievous grin.
"Well, at least one of us is getting some good out of my embarrassment." Hermione chuckles, all the while wondering why exactly she manages to embarrass herself whenever she finds herself in the company of Cedric Diggory.
Cedric nods approvingly. "That's the spirit!" He suddenly exclaimed.
Jumping slightly in surprise, Hermione holds her hand close to her heart, feeling it thumping quickly as adrenaline courses through her veins.
"I'm sorry?" Hermione said, not quite cottoning on.
"You're finally seeing the silver linings in things." Cedric claps his hands, but softly, aware that they're still inside the library. "I see I've taught you well," He says proudly.
When Hermione doesn't say anything, Cedric inquired with a soft chuckle, "Is it getting annoying yet?"
"You mean your endless supply of optimism?"
"The one and only."
"No," Hermione answers him after a dramatic pause. "It hasn't come to that yet, so don't worry. Rest assured that I'll warn you if it's nearing that point, though." She grins widely, showing off a perfect row of white teeth. "Besides, thanks to your little pep talk earlier, I actually consider having my teeth hexed as a blessing." She says before proceeding to tell him all about how she doesn't have to wear braces anymore since she let Madam Pomfrey shrink her teeth smaller than normal.
'So that's what seems different about her,' Cedric thought to himself before saying, "Braces are those metallic contraptions muggle healers of the mouth–"
"Dentists," Hermione offered helpfully.
"Dentists," Cedric corrected himself, "use to straighten teeth, correct?"
Hermione nods in affirmation.
Cedric suddenly laughs a little too loud, earning him a trademark death glare from Madam Pince in the process, as he recounts how he came to know about braces. "I sort of know what they are because Amber Miller – she's in my year but in Ravenclaw – reported about dentists in Muggle Studies before for extra credit. She literally freaked out half of the class as she shared all the gory details that happen when muggles go to the dentist. Actually, I distinctly remember my best mate Phillip's face going blue at one point. I'm pretty sure it was when Amber was talking about teeth extractions," Cedric sniggers.
"Who knew my parents' profession would bring such terror to the hearts of wizards?" Hermione asked rhetorically, laughing at the absurdity of the sentence she just said.
"Both your parents are dentists?" Cedric asked before pushing his chair away from Hermione, as if scared of her. In response to her raised eyebrow, Cedric tells her, "Remind me never to tick you off, Granger." A few seconds pass wherein they both just look at each other, daring the other to laugh first. In the end, Cedric cracks first but Hermione was soon to follow.
They abruptly stop when they hear someone hiss, "Might I remind the both of you that you're both inside the library?"
"Sorry, Madam Pince!" Hermione mouths to the librarian, who now had her arms crossed in their direction.
"I think we better talk about something else lest we risk getting kicked out of here," Cedric says after Madam Pince stalks off to find other student offenders she could tell off.
"So…" Cedric trailed off as he ponders about a new topic to tackle. "Earlier today, which class were you lucky enough to get a free pass from?"
Cedric couldn't help but laugh once again at the downright scandalized look that crossed Hermione's face at his words. Thankfully, Madam Pince was nowhere in sight this time.
"There is nothing lucky about missing a class!" Hermione says, aghast Cedric would even dare to say something of the sort.
"Well, if you ask me, I certainly wouldn't mind missing Potions…"
"Funny you would say that seeing that the class I missed earlier was Potions– Why are you looking at me like that?"
"So you're telling me you'd rather be in Snape's class than not?"
Hermione makes a fervent nod. "I could have missed some important lecture today, you know!"
Cedric continued to look at her as if she was off her rocker. "We're talking about the same Snape, right? Greasy black hair, hook nose, permanent scowl, would probably step on a newborn kitten if given a chance, Snape?"
Despite herself, Hermione found herself smiling at his description of the infamous potions master.
"Personally, if ever I had the fortune of missing Potions, I'd consider that a silver lining." Cedric says with a laugh.
It was actually like déjà vu for Cedric and Hermione because the last time they were both in the library, the very same thing had happened. Once again, here they were both in their own little bubble, shut out from the rest of the world as they simply enjoyed each other's company– especially through the friendly banter and teasing quips they traded with each other. The only major differences this time was that they were seated at a different table in a different aisle and Phillip wasn't playing spy on an adjacent table. Seconds eventually turned into minutes, which in turn evolved into an hour and a half and neither person really noticed the time flying away. In the end, both of them almost completely forget about dinner and thus, they had to rush down to the almost empty Great Hall (dinner time was almost over) and eat as fast as they could before the magic silverware would disappear for the night.
But it didn't really matter to either of them that they couldn't adequately enjoy their food. As Cedric and Hermione locked eyes from across the Great Hall, a common thought was revolving inside their heads.
The overtime bonding session they had at the library had been worth every single second.
I know, I know. I am a horrible, no, despicable, person for not updating in such a long time. If it's any consolation to my readers out there, I have an entire plan (complete with chapter outlines) all written down for this whole story. I know what I want to do it. I've got everything planned out. It's just really, well, finding the time and motivation to type everything down. I admit, I get some free time to write here and there but I'm usually so tired by then that my brain just shuts down on me. And that's the last thing I ever want to do, to put out a chapter that I feel was rushed simply for the sake of posting something new. Then there's also the fact that this chapter underwent a lot of rewrites because I couldn't quite get the atmosphere I wanted in my first couple of attempts.
But enough of my excuses! Now I want to talk a little bit about this chapter. The events that happened between Cedric and Hermione I specifically tailored to coincide with canonical events that happened in chapter eighteen of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. The first half obviously weaved in Hermione's mishap with the Densaugeo Hex with my story concept of silver linings while the latter portion was greatly inspired by this specific line in the book:
"Harry went down to dinner. Hermione wasn't there – he supposed she was still in the hospital wing getting her teeth fixed. He ate alone at the end of the table, then returned to Gryffindor tower."
It was a perfect opportunity to expand a what-could-she-have-been-doing-at-that-time scenario.
Oh, one last thing. The translation list on my profile page has been updated. Hungarian translations (by crystalfrost26) of Eavesdropping and For Training Purposes are now available.
Anyway, see that box down there? Can I ask you guys to leave a review? Yes? You will? Promise? Pinky swear? Awesome, thanks so much, guys!
Til next chapter then.