Blame it on the Conkers

Hermione Granger sat beneath a grandeur horse chestnut tree, Transfiguration homework spread out in front of her. She was outside for two reasons: a) Ron and Harry were in bitter moods about Harry's entry into the Triwizard Tournament and b) it was such an unusually lovely autumn day out and Hermione couldn't afford to miss it. Sighing, she dipped her quill into the smooth black ink pot and hand poised for a second, began to write.

No sooner had she finished the first paragraph but she heard a yelp of pain. Whirling around her gaze fell on the popular and good-looking Hufflepuff Prefect, Cedric Diggory. She tried to suppress a giggle as yet another prickly conker threatened to land on his head, but no such luck and she snorted, causing him to look in her direction. Hermione blushed and swiftly turned away, smiling.

Thinking Cedric had walked away, she continued on with her essay, only to hear footsteps crunching the fallen leaves and sensing someone's eyes on her, she looked up. Cedric stood in front of her, his cheeks flushed a little, yellow and black scarf full of thorns. His lips were pressed together solemnly although his grey eyes were filled with laughter, and Hermione expectantly waited for him to say something, and when he didn't she filled the void.

"Afternoon, Diggory," she said, a hint of sarcasm in her voice as she continued, "such a lovely day today, isn't it?"

"It would be if I wasn't being attacked by horse chestnuts." Cedric grinned mischievously, carefully plucking out the small thorns on his scarf with his fingers.

Hermione chuckled. "What were you doing over there, anyway? Surely you realised that the outer branches of this tree are most dangerous to be standing under, especially in autumn." She was surprised to see Cedric look almost uncomfortable.

"Well, you see… er… I saw you sitting here by yourself. I thought you might like some company," he replied, shrugging.

Hermione felt a slight flush creep up onto her cheeks, but thankfully it went away quickly.

"Oh, um… would you like to join me, then?" she said quietly, patting the ground beside her.

"Sure." Cedric found a place on the ground to sit, and once settled he asked her, "What are you working on?"

"Transfiguration essay," she grumbled, resting her quill in the ink pot.

Cedric's eyes were alight in an instant. "Transfiguration? Mind if I take a look? It's sort of my, expertise, you might say."

Hermione dutifully handed it over, and Cedric admired her neat handwriting before beginning to read. After he had finished he smiled approvingly before handing it back.

"Well?" Hermione asked.

"It's very good, especially for a 4th year."

"Oh, well that's a relief!" she muttered, but Cedric heard her and chuckled. "What?"

"Nothing," he said innocently.

Hermione eyed him curiously, and thinking he was finished talking to her she picked up her quill and resumed her writing. She had only written a mere sentence when Cedric grasped her wrist. Looking up at him, Hermione raised an eyebrow.

"Listen, Granger, I didn't come all the way over here just to watch you write," Cedric said, letting go of her. Hermione bit her lip nervously; Cedric was the first boy to ever take notice of her in that way, it seemed, but she still felt a little uneasy. Could he be playing some cruel trick to amuse his Hufflepuff friends?

"What did you come for, then? To mock me because I'm such a bookworm?"

"An incredibly cute bookworm at that, but no, that's not the reason," he said honestly, and Hermione was rendered speechless for a second, feeling her heart racing at sixty miles an hour.

"Stop playing games," she chided, although her heart was not in her words.

"Who said anything about playing games?" Cedric replied calmly.

"Nobody," Hermione said, sighing and looking down. Cedric took this opportunity to lift up her chin and she found herself falling into his misty dewdrop eyes.

"Chin up, Granger, there's no reason to look so downcast! Tell you what – would you like to accompany me on the next Hogsmeade trip? I think we both deserve a few butterbeers, considering the Tournament seems to be stressing more than a few people." He winked at her.

Hermione finally realised that he was telling the truth, and she was definitely going to reprimand her friends for labelling him as a 'dumb pretty-boy who couldn't string two words together'. They were wrong – he was intelligent. And rather sweet, she added as an afterthought.

"I'll accept your invitation – on one condition." Hermione announced, testing him.

"What's that?" Cedric asked, very inquisitive.

"That you swear to me you're not joking when you say that,"

"Blame it on the conkers, then, shall I, for my sudden urge to talk to you?" Cedric teased.

"They might have knocked a few brain cells out of your head," Hermione pointed out, and Cedric laughed.

"Maybe… but I have a feeling they were steering me in the right direction," he replied casually, gesturing to the fallen conkers that had coincidentally made a kind of 'path' to where Hermione was sitting.

This can't be happening, Hermione thought happily. Either it is or a conker's fallen on my head, too, and all of this is now a dream.

But by observing the way Cedric looked at her, she rested with the fact that the latter seemed improbable, and also considering none of the spiky fruit had actually made contact with her curly tresses.

Blame it on the conkers for my irrational thinking, then, I suppose! Hermione mused and smiled, which made Cedric return it with reciprocated feeling.