Cedric Diggory/Hermione Granger
Cedric Diggory Hermione Granger Tom Riddle
General Alternate Universe
The Harry Potter at Hogwarts Years
Chamber of Secrets Goblet of Fire Half-Blood Prince
Published: 07/24/2011
Updated: 07/24/2011
Words: 5,812
Chapters: 1
Hits: 0

The Artifice


Story Summary:
Cedric Diggory wants nothing other than to survive through the tournament that he can take lightly no more. Unexpected second parties agree with his goal and begin to help him in his plight. However… just who is it that can really help him? The faceless benefactor who has taught him the importance of a ruse… or the girl whose hair is as unmanageable as her worry? Who can Cedric depend on when he doesn’t think he can depend on himself? Throw in a bit of romance, drama, and a mysterious diary and you’ve got the makings for an exceptional sixth year at Hogwarts for this Hufflepuff.

Chapter 01


Part I



Cedric was fairly certain that a "REAL Hogwarts Champion" would not be mulling forlornly over a table stacked head-high with books in the middle of said school's library at seven in the morning on a Monday. Tuesday was the day that unerringly (and hopelessly, in Cedric's case) followed Monday. In XX cultures, as Cedric knew quite well, Monday was the twenty-four hour time span that acted as the prelude to the ever-dreaded (in Cedric's case--again) twenty-four hours in which the world and its inhabitants lived harmoniously (or not) in the day called Tuesday. And this Tuesday in particular loomed like the entire world was preparing to take the mickey out of poor Cedric.

He'd spent the last... he didn't even remember how long... on preparing (sort of) for a challenge that he knew nothing about.

This contest is supposed to be difficult, not impossible!

A sigh. A scoff. A whimper. Cedric Diggory and the shelves of leather bindings surrounding him were quite familiarized with these sounds.

He was desperate. And hopeless. In a bad, bad way.

"I reckon you're just brushing up on your spells, then, Mr. Diggory?"

Cedric was struck out of his counterproductive attentions on self-pity. With cheeks the color of a spring flower and beetles of the same season crawling around his gut, he lied (not convincingly, he thought) to his Defense Against the Dark Arts professor.

"Uh, yes sir! Just, uh, perfecting the magic." He smiled and cleared his throat, though, in reality, he really only wanted to choke himself. Perfecting the magic? I sound like a complete dunder-head! Cedric tried not to let his eyes widen in realization. I sound like I'm trying to come on to him. Oh, bloody-hell--

"Perfecting, eh Diggory?" Professor Moody leaned with subtle intent over the cluttered desk between them, one of his hands lying heavily on a tower of transfiguration encyclopedias and charm guides and, and... He really had raided the library, hadn't he?

Once again, Cedric's wandering concentration (an oxy-moron, no?) was stirred up, and his mind, now sluggish from the monotonous hours of studying both in the early morning and in the dwindling hours of the night before, was wrenched back to focus on Moody's words. Of advice, perhaps?...

"Well then, I wish you luck in your endeavors that you seem to have flawlessly planned. It is very good to see a Hogwarts Champion so prepared for his task, especially one from Hufflepuff..."

Cedric's eyes tightened, but his head nodded and his lips curled despite himself. His fleeting intention to come forward with his... exaggeration... was cinched by the liquid indignation that clenched in his throat and threatened to spew out of his mouth, should he have opened it.

He didn't.

Moody's one real eye glinted in expectation. After a minute passed, his face contorted into a grimace (what was supposed to be a smile, Cedric thought loathingly), and a grunt squeezed past his chapped, ugly lips. He muttered, "Again, best of luck to you," and straightened, strengthening his grasp on the wooden staff beside him.

Cedric watched him begin to walk away when Moody unexpectedly stopped, peering minutely over his shoulder, magic eye-ball darting frantically (Cedric noted that it appeared to be attempting escape from his hideous face). The professor's words were low and frustratingly cryptic:

"It appears that you have all you need to guide you right in front of your nose, Mr. Diggory; don't be looking too far, or you'll never see it."

And he clunked away.

And Cedric looked dumbly at the overbearing stacks of books around him, noticing only after a few moments that something was different (a significance that he'd later wish he never knew of). Cedric reached for a small tome from the precipice of the tower that Moody had leaned upon. As he flipped the pages in his hands, Cedric sensed a nudging tingle in his fingertips--a tingle which he ignored. He used his fingertips instead to trace the indents of what may have once been a puncture that was now (not without flaw) resealed and touched up.

Now why would someone want to stab clear through a nearly blank-paged book?

He turned it so that he could examine the unembellished spine. The book's pages were water-damaged (he could barely read the name on the first page), the creases of the cover were bent and frayed (from years of mistreatment, it looked), and the dark black leather appeared to be... stained... so much so that he couldn't make out what the year on the cover had been (what could possibly stain black?).

Cedric mused that T. M. Riddle was certainly going to be displeased when he saw the condition of his perfectly empty diary.

Or perhaps T. Riddle was a girl?...


He was in a great deal of trouble. A great deal of trouble.

"Dragons?..." Cedric breathed to himself, his whisper the only sound floating amidst the dusky air of the sixth-year boys' Hufflepuff dormitories. He was supposed to have gone to his Charms class after his run-in with Harry. Flitwick had dismissed him immediately upon seeing him, however. His barely concealed panic had flooded through him up to his eyeballs the moment that Moody and Potter had gone out of sight behind the corner. Letting himself have a minute, he'd bent down to pick up his things that he'd dropped again--"damn bag!"--and trudged off to class... where he had been sent back to his quarters to rest. And throw-up his insides in peace.

He'd go crazy if he was locked in this room much longer. Classes would've at least distracted him! This "resting" was really only him bringing himself into a panic. But how else could he deal with this situation?

"Dragons!" Cedric felt like hitting something. Or dying. Which he probably would. Tomorrow.

A very tortured voice. "Oh, tomorrow..." His fingers tugged at his hair, and Cedric sat with slumped shoulders on the edge of his bed. In his mind, he was already defeated. How could they possibly expect students to face off against dragons? He had absolutely no idea of how he could succeed.

Stuck in his dormitories, he sourly wondered where all the time had gone. Did he really accomplish nothing in all of the late nights and early mornings? Was every extra hour poured over books so meaningless in light of this new information? Had he really blown it all away so easily? And here, he thought he had been working. But the only times he could truly remember were the ones of him smiling as fellow classmates congratulated him, when he was chuckling a bit at the badges but feeling ashamed to do so, when he was grinning as people stopped what they were doing just to take one glance at him, the champion... Had he really forgotten what it truly meant to be the champion? What his father had told him about the honor he would receive, not because of the title, but because of the bravery and the hard work and the intelligence that he showed? He wasn't a celebrity; he was a boy, still a boy, and this opportunity to prove that he could be a man... he had been wasting it. He had been embracing the wrong things all along. And now there was no time to remedy his mistakes. No time to learn what he needed to. There was absolutely nothing stopping him from getting his arse killed tomorrow, and it was all his and his overfilled ego's bloody fault!

Cedric had never felt so foolish. Never felt so scared.

Even defeated, he wouldn't give up just yet. In all actuality, there really wasn't an option but to go through with the whole mess and hope for the best. But now that he knew... he was going to try his best... not to win... but just to survive...

There were some minutes left before he could actually do something about it, though. He'd realized that he should at least wait for classes to be over before he left; he wouldn't be accused for faking illness and ditching. Then, he could go back to the library and start with his new approach of terror-filled determination. If he were honest with himself, though, he didn't want to set foot in that book-yard again for at least the next week.

Yet, in twenty minutes time, Cedric Diggory could be seen slouching into a chair, the same chair as in the morning and the day before and the day before that... He was tired and panicked and utterly hopeless. How does one approach a task with a dragon...?

He pulled out some texts that he had carried with him to add to the still towering stacks around him (it was quite nice of Pince to lend him a reserved table; normally she was a bit... tart). Charms. Defense. Transfiguration. Cedric sighed. At least I have transfiguration. Something I'm good at.

Cedric stared at the little black diary he next pulled out of his bag (an old, used bag, now) and let it rest on the table in front of him. It was a curious thing, surely. Something that he knew he shouldn't trifle with right now (especially now, after his very recent revelation of his own stupidity) when he was supposed to be working on not dying--but he really needed to sort out his thoughts before they drove him barmy. He needed to get it out now so he could focus more certainly on his task.

So he wrote. On the first blank page of the little journal.

Monday, 23 of November,1994

Cedric looked back to his ink bottle, refilled his quill, and turned once again to the book.


Perhaps he really was mad.

Because he knew that he had just written the date upon the sheet of paper before him. But there were no markings on the paper. At all.

And so he wrote again.

Monday, 23 of November, 1994

And he watched, astonished, as the words were absorbed into the paper. He flipped the page. Blank, all the way through. He turned back to the very first page of the book, where the name "T. M. Riddle", though badly smudged, was still visible. Then, he flipped back to his first page and wrote, once more, the date.

Monday, 23 of November, 1994

His astonishment only increased after the words disappeared. His letters were gone. And in their place were someone else's.

We have established that the date is, in fact, Monday, 23 of November, 1994.

Cheeky book.

He was completely baffled.

What is this? Cedric wrote.

It was a few moments before the book responded.

What you are writing in is the journal of T. M. Riddle. Who are you?

Did he have time for this? It didn't seem a clever thing to chat with a journal that talked back. He had no idea what kind of magic was placed on the book--no idea of the threats it could be hiding. But he was so curious... And this was definitely putting his mind at ease with the smart use of distraction...

Who are you? Cedric knew that answering the diary truthfully could prove potentially dangerous. He tried to think of a name--quickly, mind you--and took a look about the library area. And there he saw Harry Potter's little bushy-haired girlfriend (really, he knew better after traveling with the two of them to the World Cup, but still, they were close). She was writing. He watched as her pale hand almost flew over the parchment, neatly scribbling in small lines of script that seemed to run out of her sleeve rather than from the inked tip of her quill. Cedric didn't know that it was possible to write so quickly.

He looked to the diary and wrote without thinking.

My name is Hermione Granger. What is your name?

That was a mistake. He may have avoided the storm, but--he looked over to the fourth-year, her hand still fluttering diligently over the scroll--where exactly did he push it to? In his mind, he sent a quiet apology over to her and hoped that this wouldn't leave him (or her) buggered in the long run.

He registered that the book was taking a considerable amount of time to reply.


Oh dear. His eyes flickered to the girl and then back down, where new words were already beginning to fade.

I find myself not believing you. You are not Hermione Granger.

Well. Good for her, bollocks for him. What now? Keep it talking.

How is it you know if I were lying about who I am?

I know. It is that simple and does not need explanation for the likes of a liar and an intruder.

He scrambled for something to reply, his writing now spiky with stress; his rush left tiny blots of ink across the page.

My name is Cedric Diggory, and I have no intentions to intrude upon... your privacy. I merely wished to talk because this diary is a curious thing. I would understand completely if you did not believe me or wish to speak to me after my misgivings, but I would like to chat and ask you for some advice.

How was that for charm? But now the diary knew his name... He was not unaware that this could bode quite badly for him.

As if he needed more problems.

...It is quite a bore, if I may say so, being confined to one's own memories, and for that reason alone we will keep up this correspondence. Cedric let out a sigh of relief. I may choose when and if I answer any of your questions; my secrets are mine, and you have no rights to them, even if you think otherwise because of my diary being in your possession. I have rights to question you, however, and I would appreciate if you always answered my interrogative truthfully... Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Tom Riddle. And now, my first question... Why did you choose the name Hermione Granger?

Truthfully, he rather hoped that the book would have forgotten the name; he didn't want her mixed up in any business she didn't need to be. He already fumbled the situation enough for himself, anyway.

She was the first person I saw after you asked. I thought it would be best, at first, not to give my true name to a diary that writes back... I apologize if you take offense.

Cedric held his breath.

It was a wise precaution, I admit, but I do not do my dealings with those who lie to me. It is an inconvenience, no?

Could a diary's words convey menace, Cedric pondered? He rather suspected they could. He wrote back: The morality of lying is not what fazes you? The only way he could think of to rectify the situation was to avoid it.

'Immorality' is the word I'm sure you were thinking of, but no. Cedric blinked and, after a moment, exhaled quietly. The diary went on. Who am I to decide what is morally correct for society? People lie for themselves, and selfishness, though frowned upon, shows love for one's being. Lying only irritates particularly when something that needs knowing is lost behind falsities. It is an inconvenience to have to dig it up and reveal its importance. Time and resource are lost, wasted on the inane that could have been avoided with truth.

Cedric thought a bit through his words and began to pen back his reply.

An interesting theory, but morality must come into play somewhere. Do you not find yourself disgusted based on the actions of people because they conflict with your own beliefs? There was a brief pause in his writing as he mulled over the intelligence of inquiring what he knew he now had to. And are you familiar with the name Hermione Granger? Is that why you are curious?

Mr. Diggory, I find myself disgusted with many, but their confliction with my beliefs rarely has anything to do with morality so much as... disagreements of nature. And the name Hermione Granger... Cedric couldn't help but look over at her again; she was still scribbling away, and he could hear her writing even when he once more focused on the book. It sounds as if you made it up. I was going to advise you not to use the name as a pseudonym. Ever.

These words disappeared before a new sentence (made up of quite neat and intricate lettering, Cedric thought not a little enviously) turned up.

Can she see you writing to me?

Cedric tried to look inconspicuously, even though there was an odd twist in his gut (something didn't feel right), but he only saw her ever-laboring form of slouched girl hidden by voluminous hair and cloak, eyes still on paper and nowhere near his table.

No. She isn't even looking. Too preoccupied with her own studies--

I would appreciate it if this interaction is kept secret, Mr. Diggory. Could you please do this for me? It was surprising that the diary had interrupted him, for some reason.


Cedric scribbled that out.

May I ask why?

You may. Cedric either wanted to scoff or smirk. But I choose not to answer at the moment. Now, please, Mr. Diggory, I ask that no one be made aware of these conversations. I do not wish to make you doubt your trust in me, but I must maintain privacy and secrecy... If you do not think that you can keep a secret, I will be forced into irresponsiveness.

...And he knew he certainly did not have time for this. It was too puzzling, too cryptic, too many holes left blank. It wasn't safe. It wasn't smart. It was simply another opportunity to find out just how stupid Cedric Diggory really had become.

The book left him another message.

I am sorry, if this is what you choose.

Later, Cedric would note that this particular response was the one that changed everything. Later, he liked to think that he wouldn't have carried on with the book if it hadn't presented those words.

... I will keep all interactions between us a secret. And please, refrain from calling me Mr. Diggory. Cedric is fine.

And the deed was done. Cedric knew (and ignored) that he should have stopped; given the book up, perhaps; not trusted it so willingly. He would research the diary later, though, and would continue to chat for now. He knew that this wouldn't be the last he spoke with the diary. Especially if it could help him.

The diary seemed to know exactly what he was thinking.

Then Cedric I shall call you. But for now, what is it you wish to learn? And nothing on my origins, please. I've already told you far too much to maintain the pleasantness of light conversation.

Cedric preoccupied himself with refilling his quill while he pondered over his response. What did he wish to learn from the diary? And, more importantly, what information did the diary have to offer?...

I'll agree simply because the conversation must move on, but, I must tell you, I feel more befuddled now than I did when my ink first disappeared.

That was a safe statement. He needed to stall a bit, think his way through...

For that, I am sorry, but you are right in thinking that we must move forward. The trick to polite conversation is to never talk about oneself or the weather. Anything else is debatable, but do refrain from mentioning politics and spell-casting too much.

Cedric laughed aloud, not under his breath like he wanted to. He noticed that Granger looked up at him, seemingly noticing him for the first time. He pretended to be busy so as to not keep her attention. He wrote again to the book and did not include her observation in his writing. It was better that way, he knew.

You are a diary with wit; how charming!

Cedric, if you please... I am a part of man within a diary.

That was... perplexing. And it made him uncomfortable; he shifted, squirming in his seat. This was ominous, and he didn't think that his worry was founded only in his head.

...And how did you get there?

The diary--Riddle--did not, at first, respond.

Forgive me for prying, Mr. Riddle; I know we've already discussed the matter of your origins and privacy--

I killed a man.

And this time, when the diary interrupted him, a bolt of fear zinged through his entire body; it started in his heart and spread through to his toes, his fingers, up to his hairline. Cedric shivered.

He dropped the quill immediately. The inked end of it slid across the page and left a trail of chicken-scratch hairs of black. They quickly disappeared--were consumed. He wondered how he should shut the book, for a gut instinct told him it needed to be shut. He didn't want too touch it, though.

Script somehow appeared cleverly around the broad white feather and its sharpened end. Cedric wondered, for the first time, how peculiar it was for something to drift from pure softness and transform into a deliberate point, a prickled danger.

And then I wrote myself in.

His fingertips trembled. He couldn't breathe--was this the diary's doing or his own? He felt out of control, frightened, terrified! What was happening? Was his shortness of breath all in his head?

Tell me, Cedric...

He couldn't look away. He couldn't!

Did you really believe that?

And he almost choked. Cedric blinked rapidly, not wanting to believe his eyes and desperately wanting to believe them at the same time. He noticed that these words lasted a bit longer on the page.

He could almost feel a faceless smirk.

Cedric Diggory was right well irritated now. He huffed and puffed and sulked. He hadn't been teased--and such a horrible thing to tease!--like that since he was small.

And it wasn't funny. He was angry. He wanted to drop the diary, kick it into some dark corner, and leave it be. He wanted to write back the nastiest things he could think of--and he was feeling quite creative at the moment, too.

But he couldn't do that, and he knew it.

So what are you, a diary that shocks people to death?

It wasn't as original (or as demeaning) as he wanted it to be, but anything else would be outright offensive. This was a backhanded insult, an easy, subtle jibe.

Unless it actually was a diary that shocked people to death.

It may have been a bit of cruel humor, but I did not lie when I said that I am more man than pages of writing canvass, as I'm sure you wish I was. It was a jest, dear Cedric. Don't tell me that you actually brought yourself into a panic over the absurdity of a murdering book?...

Well, his backhanded insult had seemingly backfired. How is it that Riddle managed to paint him into a fool so easily?

One would think that, for having so much free time, as I'm sure you do, you'd be able to work up an actually acceptable sense of humor. Forgive me for being startled by the responses of a faceless, mysterious author.

Forgive me, as well. It has been a while since I've made jokes.

"C-could I use that?" a hesitant voice asked of him.

Cedric looked up. And slammed the book shut on his quill, breaking it in the process.

"Excuse me?" he asked of Hermione Granger. She, however, was looking at his ruined quill. He glanced back down and made sure his hands covered the book completely. "Oh, um, I can fix that. And I mean, if not, I have... er, others." She was looking at him now, brow furrowed, and he could see the indecision in her wide brown eyes.

"I just, uh," she began to stutter, "I was wondering if I could use... that charms book! For my paper, I mean."

The charms book in question laid atop one of the piles closest him, and he wondered how she would have seen it from her own table. She cleared her throat, and Cedric saw through her strained nonchalance quite easily. Her arms crossed in front of her, and she shifted her weight unsteadily, biting her lip while doing so. Cedric thought she looked... torn. Her gaze only met his every few moments; she seemed as distracted as he felt.

He glanced down quickly. It felt as if the book beneath his fingertips quivered in irritation.

Eyes back up, Cedric replied, "Of course, if you need it, take it. It's not checked out under my name, I just, uh... picked it up just now, so... of course." How is it that he managed to acquire a stutter within the last five minutes? Even under duress he could still talk, surely (excusing his previous shock, though--or perhaps because of his previous shock)? Besides, he only felt this agitated when he knew he was interrupted in doing something wrong. Perhaps he was?... He spared another glance at the diary and suddenly hoped that he wasn't acting too suspicious.

She hesitantly grabbed the book and tucked it to her chest. And then she stood there, not leaving but not contributing anything more. He watched as she bit her lip--very pink, he thought--again.

She opened her mouth but nothing came out; she choked on soundless words before him. He let her, because, really, he couldn't think of anything to say either.

Perhaps not "either." She looked like she wanted to say something but couldn't work up the nerve to say it. Cedric waited (he was good at listening) for her to find her thoughts.

"I shouldn't--I mean, there's--" It was nothing, but it was something. He still looked to her, calmly meeting her eyes, trying to look encouraging without asserting any pressure on her. He managed to cover up the little book with another text on the sly, making it look like he was simply shifting around materials, keeping eye contact with her all the while. He could be patient.

"Has... has Harry... have you talked? With Harry, I mean?" she asked finally. Her eyes were wide with concern, and he began to feel nervous simply because she looked it.

"Yes." He nodded as well. "Just earlier today, actually." His supposed tranquility surprised him. In his head, thoughts were spinning. Could he confide in her that he knew about the dragons? Did she know about the dragons?

Did he look like he was trying to keep a secret?

If he did, did she merely write it off as nervousness over the tournament?

It took quite a bit of effort to not rip the diary off of the table and shove it into his bag and out of sight.

"Do you know about... the dragons?" she whispered, leaning in after she checked to make sure that no one was around them.

He nodded slowly.

She breathed a sigh of what seemed to be relief. He watched as her eyes closed and her breath left her. She looked so much looser now. Had she actually cared? If he knew or not?

"I just," she began, "I just wanted to be sure you knew. I mean, Harry knows, Viktor and Fleur do as well, I'm sure... I just needed to be... certain... that you knew too."

Her cheeks and neck were a bit redder, he noticed.

"Can--Can I ask why? Why you wanted to tell me?"

She paused, biting her lip once more. It was sort of endearing, but it made her look quite young and unsure of herself. Perhaps she needs more confidence, he thought to himself. Confidence? Blimey no! She's a Gryffindor! She just needs more social skill, that's all.

"I... wanted to make sure you knew so you didn't get... hurt." He blinked, surprised. She lost her poise then, sighing, grimacing, and she pulled out a chair across from him. After she plopped down, they both noticed that they could only see a part of the other's face over his stacks. He laughed quietly and moved his chair around so they could speak more amiably.

"I've done so much research," she sighed, clenching her eyes shut and rubbing her forehead. "There have been so many accidents in this tournament. It's a disgrace that the faculty--and the heads of the wizarding world!--should want to continue such... barbaric customs." She shifted more to look directly at him, pouring out her worry to his practically stranger's status. "Harry, he doesn't know what he's in for--that people have died, Cedric!" They both flinched, and she muttered an apology.

"But don't you think that the 'heads of the wizarding world,' as you put it, would stop the games if we were in danger? I mean," he took a breath, "don't you trust Dumbledore to keep things in control?"

"But that's just it!" she cried, lifting her arms exaggeratedly. He almost quieted her, but she continued on in a softer tone. "They--you will already be in danger! Just by setting foot in those--those... monsters' paths!" He didn't think it fair to refer to the dragons as monsters, but he definitely conceded the point.

She huffed angrily. "It's just so stupid! So sickening! Sickening to think that people would derive enjoyment from students, learners, facing off against a fire-breathing dragon! It's pure stupidity to be involved in the whole thing!"

Granger finally seemed to grasp who it was she was talking to and had the guile to look sheepish. "Not to say that--that you are... unintelligent." She was very, very red. He nodded his forgiveness, and she exhaled, once again, in response.

"I'm sorry, but... it's so worrying. And I just had to make sure that you had as much protection as the others do--as much prior knowledge and such. It's... fairer that way... still vile, but fairer."

She looked at him again, and he thought that maybe, for a second, she could see how forlorn he felt. "It's also safer." Granger put her hand on the edge of the desk, leaning in reassuringly. "You--all of you--are so much safer with that knowledge too."

He had never thought of it that way. Up until now, he almost wished he didn't know about the dragons so wouldn't be constantly seizing up to a panic. He realized she was unquestionably right, and her concern unsettled him but also made him feel better.

"Thank you, Granger--Hermione." She gave him a smile; he noticed it was a bit watery and began silently begging to whoever was listening that she wouldn't cry. He patted her hand that was still on the table-top comfortingly, if a bit awkwardly too. She laughed a bit at that but finally sniffled, wiping the other hand over her face just a bit to catch any tears that may have traitorously leaked out; he was happy that there weren't any.

"I'm sorry to have bothered you, and I would have asked Harry, but he's so stressed... I imagine you all are." He gave a grimacing smile that made them both chuckle.

"I hope for your safety tomorrow, Cedric."

"Even still, you'll be rooting for Harry, no doubt." It was supposed to make her smile, but he thought it sounded a bit like he was flirting. That was surprising to him.

She blushed prettily once more and blinked a bit. Not trying to catch his attention, he could tell, but thinking and trying not to look like she was.

"I might wear something yellow, I suppose. After all, the tournament is supposed to be about wizarding cooperation and all. I believe that it could be extended and applied just within the school too."

He smiled and agreed quietly. They paused and examined each other. It wasn't exactly uncomfortable; just new. "Thank you again, Hermione," he said.

"You don't have to thank me, Cedric. It was the right thing to do."

He shrugged. "All the same."

She stood and stepped away from the chair. He was contemplating if he should stand too for her exit when she noticeably turned her attention back to him.

"Oh, and... if you need this book... well, I don't really need it, I just didn't know how to..." she trailed off awkwardly, tipping her head to the side slightly in embarrassment.

"Yes, thanks," he offered, taking the book from her and setting it on one of the stacks on his table.

Gauche and tactless. That was what the air between them had once again become.

It was a pity; he thought it quite nice to talk to her. He knew before that she was undoubtedly intelligent; now he knew she was kind. Perhaps they could interact more in the future.

"Well, I-I have to go... Harry needs... um... for tomorrow..."

He wanted to ask her if she knew his strategy--it was likely she was helping him with it. But he knew that wouldn't do and only nodded.

She dipped her head, seemingly asking permission for dismissal. He gave it, and, after a little, shy wave, she walked back to her table, picked up her bag--she had put all of her materials in it already, he saw--and hurried out of the area, towards the exit of the library.

It was his turn to sigh now, albeit tiredly.

And then, suddenly, he remembered. The task was still tomorrow. He still was unprepared. And... now he probably had a furious book to deal with.

He dragged his chair around and sat back down. With a flick of his wand, he vanished his old quill and took out another. Then, he opened the little diary.

Before he actually wrote, he dropped a blob of ink, thick and pooling, onto the paper which he had been writing on.

His talk with Hermione was a refreshing dose of (somewhat) normal, human interaction. He felt like he hadn't had that in weeks.

If the blob didn't disappear, he knew that he had really been imagining all this time. The book was, most likely, the product of his panicked and overactive mind. Granger's interruption with this "conversing" had changed his perspective on the book to absurd and impossible now. He felt a bit silly and unwilling to believe his previous thoughts of an actual talking book--

His ink disappeared into the book's pages.

Hmm. For a moment, he was a bit disappointed; a talking book was quite a creative, if troubling, thing to imagine.

And he had really wanted to laugh this entire situation off later.

Because Granger had reminded him--dragons. Tomorrow.

And, when he thought things couldn't have picked a more opportune time to become just a bit more peculiar and frustrating...

Tom did not write back.