Friendship

Her parents get her to see a therapist over the summer. They believe in talking, in working through your problems.

She says, I don't have any…

They say, We're worried about you.

She says, I'm okay.

They say, You haven't been the same ever since Cedric…

They don't finish that sentence, ever. Using words like died and death make it too real, so it's best to dance around the issue and avoid speaking the truth.

The therapist has dark blonde hair that reminds her of Katie Bell. Cho tells her this, unintentionally. It just slips out. She looks up in surprise and asks who Katie Bell is.

A girl in school, Cho says. It's a Muggle therapist, so she doesn't mention Quidditch. Doesn't mention that that's what she and Katie have in common, even though she's a Seeker and Katie's a Chaser, even though they're in different houses. She doesn't mention that she's memorised what Katie looks like after playing, hot and sweaty but always exhilarated. She doesn't mention that she knows how Katie gets worked up when she plays, knows how Katie needs to be touched afterwards.

The therapist nods, and moves on to why she's here.

My parents thought I needed to talk to someone… after my boyfriend died, Cho explains.

I'm very sorry…

She's heard it all before. All the platitudes, from everyone - her parents, her teachers, her friends.

It seems odd to hear the woman go on about how traumatic it must have been to lose a boyfriend, to mention love and passion. She wonders why she said boyfriend, why she didn't just say friend. Friend would be more honest.

But friend doesn't seem to warrant as much sympathy as boyfriend, and she feels like friend isn't enough to describe her and Cedric.

She did sleep with him, after all, although that was more of a comfort thing than anything else. It was after the Yule Ball, drunken and quick, fumbling yet determined, and afterwards he closed his eyes tightly and apologised. She'd kissed him lightly on the lips and told him that there was nothing to be sorry about.

But I… you know I don't feel… he'd begun.

I know, I know, she'd whispered. I don't, either, but can't we just pretend for tonight?

Pretend to be like everyone else, you mean? he had said in an almost-bitter tone. He never spoke like that around anyone else. She was the only one who saw this side to him, the side that made him slam his fist into walls when no one else was around, wondering why he had to be like this.

You're being a little melodramatic, aren't you? she often said to him. It's not a crime to be gay, after all.

He hated the word gay. It had too many negative implications. It was what his father called anyone who wasn't 'tough' enough.

And whenever she brought up this topic, he could always counter with I don't see you and Katie declaring your love for one another.

Do you think about him a lot? the therapist asks.

Sometimes, Cho says softly.

The therapist says nothing, waiting for her to respond. Cho's not sure what she's expected to say. She knows she can't say that she remembers sleeping with him to take his mind off Harry, or that the only secret she ever kept from him was that Harry had asked her to the ball, because she knew that would hurt him more than anything else. She can't talk about flirting mindlessly with Cedric because everyone else did, and then one day discovering that there was a lot more to him than met the eye. She can't talk about asking Cedric, playfully, who he liked, and then calling him on his careful answers. Cedric, you're playing the pronoun game, she'd said, half-teasing.

His face had reddened. I don't know what you're talking about.

Avoiding saying 'him' or 'her'? It's not important which one it is, you know. What's important is that you shouldn't be afraid to say which. We're friends, after all.

Him, he'd said, and then looked down in what seemed like fear.

Wasn't so hard, was it? she smiled.

And later she'd confessed to him that she liked Katie, and that Katie had been the first girl she'd ever done anything with, because she'd always been too afraid to make the first move, but with Katie it didn't seem to matter because everyone already thought that she and Alicia and Angelina were together in some kind of wild lesbian athletic threesome, which was complete rubbish, although Katie had grinned and said Unfortunately…

Katie had told Cho that she shouldn't be ashamed of what they had, but that she understood if she didn't want to tell anyone right now. Cho told Cedric and he'd smiled and said that she was lucky to have Katie, and she'd squeezed his hand and said, Someday you'll find someone who'll love you, I know it.

The therapist is still waiting. Cho wonders if she should mention the way they used to sneak into one another's rooms at night, not to fool around, as gossip would have it, but because it was so much better to fall asleep with another warm body beside you, with the arms of a dear friend around you, than alone.

She remembers how peaceful it was. She remembers the night after she saw Katie and Alicia and couldn't stop thinking about what Katie had said about a threesome with her teammates and how that obviously meant that Katie thought they were attractive, and she wondered if Alicia was prettier than she was. She remembers Cedric stroking her hair and soothing her to sleep, telling her that she was the most beautiful girl in the world. That was only a few days before -

Cho? the therapist asks, and seeing that she's not going to get anywhere with this, decides to try another route. Why don't you tell me about this girl you mentioned, this Katie Bell.

Cho shrugs. Not much to tell. I haven't spoken to her since school ended. Katie had said I'm sorry for your loss and if you ever need to talk… and Cho had smiled and said Thanks, and they'd almost hugged, but had pulled back, because that would have been too like old times.

Are you close?

Not especially. We were sort of friendly, I suppose, but she found someone, and I had Cedric, so… She almost chokes up when she says his name, and the therapist with Katie's hair colour looks sympathetically at her.

You must miss him very much.

She remembers the way he looked when he died, but tries not to, because it wasn't him, he wasn't there, his face was completely blank and he was just gone. And the way his mother spoke to her, softly, and said that they must talk, sometime, and that she seemed like a lovely girl. And the way his father was reduced to tears, unable to function, and she found it so hard to reconcile this weeping man with the proud parent that Cedric was always trying so hard to impress.

She remembers the way she'd kissed him good luck that morning and whispered to him, Now, remember, behave yourself when you're in that maze with Harry.

He'd smiled and said, I'll be a good boy, I promise.

I hope you win, she'd said, and he'd known that she'd meant more than just the tournament.

She remembers the way he looked that day, so full of hope, as if anything could happen.

Yeah, she says. I miss him.