Disclaimer: I still do not own Harry Potter.
Author's Note: Thanks so much for the wonderful review, Yellow 14. I'm glad you liked my portrayal of Meghan. Her personality is definitely based on some of the girls I went to high school with, as is Amanda's. I'm also glad you liked Cho's first meeting with Cedric.
I hope you enjoy this conversation between them as well.
The next morning, Cho woke up late. It was Sunday, after all, and she enjoyed the luxury of sleeping late on Sundays. Meghan and Amanda had already left their room, but Marietta still remained, having only just woken up herself.
As they got dressed, Marietta said, "Cho, I'm sorry about how the others were acting last night. You seemed pretty bothered by it."
"I was," Cho admitted, still feeling stung by the reactions of her other roommates to the news of her and Cedric's conversation. "They made a really big deal out of nothing."
"I know," said Marietta. "I think it's great that you and Cedric talked. I hope you have a nice time this afternoon."
"Thanks," said Cho as she pulled her hair up into a ponytail. She still couldn't believe she was meeting Cedric this afternoon. "Do I look okay?" she asked her friend, scrutinizing her expression.
"Oh, Cho, you look fine," said Marietta with a smile. "I honestly don't know why it is that you worry about your appearance so much. You're so pretty, I don't know how you don't know it."
Cho smiled, touched by Marietta's sincerity. "Thanks, Marie," she said softly.
"You've really been having a hard time of it lately, haven't you?" asked Marietta sympathetically.
Cho sighed deeply, her heart heavy. "Yeah," she replied quietly. "I got a letter from my mum yesterday. It didn't really say much, and that said everything."
"She's still fighting with your dad, then?" Marietta murmured, walking over to Cho and patting her shoulder.
"Yeah," said Cho. "But all she'll ever say is, "your father says to study hard." I'm so sick of it." A surge of anger broke through her sadness. "I feel like studying is all I ever do. Just because I'm a Ravenclaw doesn't mean I have my head buried in some book."
"I know," said Marietta in a calming tone. "You should be able to do what you want to do, too." Her hand moved from Cho's shoulder to her back, and she gave it a light squeeze. "Come on, my friend. Let's go eat," she said. "You need to get some nourishment into you."
Cho laughed. "Yes, Mother," she teased, feeling a surge of affection rise up. Marietta smiled at her comment, and the two girls made their way out of their dorm.
Cho spent the rest of the morning with Marietta. After breakfast, as much as Cho didn't feel much like it, she went to the library to study. She knew she had to do well on the OWL's that were coming up this year, and she felt guilty for that little burst of anger earlier. She believed very highly in her education, and knew Meg only wanted the best for her daughter. Why should she be angry about something she knew was incredibly important?
At lunchtime, Cho and Marietta met up with Amanda and Meghan. Even though Cho was still a little hacked off at them, she tried to tell herself she was overthinking everything. They had been friends for years, and there was a big part of her that did not ever want things to change. She chatted with them, attempting to break past the tension that seemed to hang in the air.
She left quickly once she'd eaten; she was really looking forward to spending time with Cedric. Something about him drew her in, and she honestly couldn't figure out why she'd never noticed it before.
"Have a good time, Cho," Marietta whispered as Cho got up from the table. Meghan and Amanda looked on, slight giggles escaping their lips which Cho did her best to ignore.
She walked out of the castle doors and towards the Quidditch pitch, the sun warming her body. It was a rather brisk day, but Cho had always loved the autumn weather. The air smelled fresh and promising, and the school grounds had a feeling of serenity about them.
As she arrived at the pitch, she could already see Cedric sitting in the stands. She felt a smile creep across her face, but as she got closer, she noticed that he didn't look happy. He wore that same look from yesterday when Cho had asked what had brought him out onto the pitch. He seemed so lost in thought that he didn't notice Cho until she was right in front of him. "Hey, Cedric," she said softly.
Cedric whipped his head around, startled by the voice. His gray eyes instantly brightened at the sight of her standing there. "Oh! Hey, Cho," he said, and just like yesterday, he moved over to give her room to sit down. "How are you today?"
"I'm fine," said Cho, looking at him with concern. "I'm glad you came."
"Me, too," Cedric said. "Beautiful day, isn't it?"
"Yeah," said Cho, noticing that though he tried to keep his tone light, there was something forced about his delivery.
She wondered whether it would be too nosy of her to ask what was wrong. They'd only had one short conversation - was it appropriate for her to pry into his business? But something in those gray eyes called to her, and she decided to follow her instincts. "You seem down," she said quietly. "What's wrong?"
Cedric was silent, his face still downcast. Then he looked up at Cho, and uttered one simple word. "Parents."
Cho stared. Had she heard correctly? Had Cedric just said he was having problems with his parents too? "Really? Me too," she admitted.
Cedric looked surprised at that. "You too?" he asked. "What did they do?"
"They won't stop fighting," Cho admitted, curious at how simple it seemed to tell Cedric this.
"Oh, I'm really sorry, Cho," Cedric said, and Cho could tell he really meant it. "That's rough. How long has that been going on?"
"Over the past year or so," said Cho. "And I don't know why it all started. And my dad's really changed. He's always snapping at Mum, and Mum gets tired of it and snaps back, and it goes on from there."
"You know it's not your fault, right?" Cedric said softly. "You sound like you think it is."
Cho looked at Cedric in amazement. How could he possibly know that? She didn't know quite what to say, but Cedric only smiled gently at her, seeming to understand without her having to express anything.
After a few moments of silence, Cho asked, "What about your parents? What's upsetting you about them?"
"Well," Cedric said, "it's really my dad, not my mum. She's great, but my dad wants me to be perfect. He's always lecturing me to do better."
"That's not fair," said Cho immediately. "Why does he do that?"
"Dunno," said Cedric, looking extremely vulnerable at that moment. "He's always bragging to everyone he meets about how wonderful I am, but at home he's always comparing me to other people. Mum gets on his case about it, but he won't stop."
"Well, he shouldn't do that," said Cho, feeling very indignant on Cedric's behalf. "It seems to me like you do really well with things already. You've beaten me at Quidditch!" she teased, causing his face to lighten a little. "No, really," she said, "nobody's perfect, and your dad shouldn't make you feel that way. I know what that's like, Cedric. My dad's always expecting great things from me too. My mum cuts me slack, but when she and my dad aren't fighting, she's demanding that I work hard and make her proud."
"That's exactly what my dad says," Cedric told her. "Work hard and make me proud, son, he says. I try and try, but nothing ever seems good enough."
"That's nonsense. Don't listen to him," Cho implored, staring into his deep gray eyes. "There's nothing wrong with you."
Cedric appeared to be very touched by her words and the sincerity contained in them. "Thanks, Cho," he said softly. "And I'm really sorry about what's happening with you too. Don't listen either, and remember that their fights aren't your fault."
"Thanks," said Cho, her heart warming. Suddenly feeling more energized, she asked, "Would you like to take a walk?"
There wasn't a cloud in sight, and the sun shone down, making the castle grounds sparkle. Cho marveled at the beauty that Hogwarts always seemed to possess. "Sure, I'd love to. That's a great idea."
The two got off the bleachers, and began to walk around the grounds. A comfortable silence settled between them; the only sound was that of their footsteps and the quiet whisper of the wind as they traversed the path.
Cedric eventually broke the silence. "So, what's your favorite subject?" he asked curiously.
"Ancient Runes," Cho answered immediately. "I find it fascinating."
"Oh, that's so Ravenclaw," Cedric said, and there was a light, teasing tone to his voice.
The comment made Cho laugh. "Oh really?" she replied, mock scowling at him. "And what about you? What's your favorite subject?"
"I really like Herbology," Cedric said. "Plants have always interested me."
Cho's smile widened. "Oh, that is so HUFFLEPUFF!" she exclaimed.
Cedric laughed, and Cho was amazed by the sound. She'd heard him laugh before, but it was always down a school hallway or in the Great Hall. Hearing it up close opened something in her, and she laughed too. She noticed how Cedric's laugh was melodious; it started as a low chuckle, and then went up an octave before coming down again. It was a very unique sound - she'd honestly never heard a laugh like his before.
For the rest of their walk, they talked of lighthearted subjects. They spoke of their favorite Quidditch teams; Cho had supported the Tutshill Tornadoes since she was six, and Cedric had grown up with Puddlemere United. "I heard that Oliver Wood, you know, the Gryffindor captain who graduated last year, got on the team," he said. "He's really good. It's exciting that he went professional."
"Wow, good for him," said Cho. "Did you see the Quidditch World Cup over the summer? I went with my mum. We really enjoyed it. We supported Bulgaria, and it's a shame they lost. Viktor Krum was amazing, though."
"Agreed," Cedric said. "My dad and I went to see it. Mum's not interested in Quidditch. She's always thought it's too dangerous. Dad and I supported Ireland, but you're right about Krum."
"My dad doesn't really understand Quidditch," said Cho. "It's not the danger he's worried about, it's just that he thinks flying on broomsticks is strange. He understands the wizarding world, but he says that as a Muggle, there's certain things he finds odd."
"Your dad's a Muggle?" asked Cedric. "What does he do for a living?"
"He's a university professor," Cho replied. "He teaches at a school where we live, in Winchester."
"That's neat," Cedric replied. "My dad works at the Ministry, in the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures office."
"Oh, wow," said Cho. "Is your mum a witch?"
"Yeah. She was a Ravenclaw, and my dad was a Hufflepuff."
"My mum was Ravenclaw too. She met my dad while working in a clothing store."
"Interesting. My parents met at Hogwarts."
Cho and Cedric continued to exchange information about each other as the afternoon passed. For the first time in a while, Cho's worries seemed to slip away as they continued their walk.
At one point, Cho asked him, "Are you going to enter the Triwizard Tournament?"
"I've thought about it," said Cedric. "I think I am going to." He looked nervous at this pronouncement.
"That's great!" exclaimed Cho. "Well, I wish you the best of luck. I know you'll do great if you get chosen."
"Thanks, Cho. But I'm sure loads of people will enter," said Cedric, blushing.
"Maybe, but that doesn't mean you won't get chosen, you know," said Cho, smiling. "It sounds like it's going to be really exciting. There hasn't been one of those in years. I'm glad there are going to be extra precautions this year."
"Yeah, definitely. I'm looking forward to Beauxbatons and Durmstrang coming here. I always like meeting new people."
"Yes, same here. It should be interesting to compare and contrast Hogwarts with the things they say they learn at their schools."
Finally, their feet grew tired, and they sat back down on the bleachers again. Cedric reached into his school bag, and pulled out a box of chocolate frogs. Opening it, he offered it to Cho with a smile. "Want any?" he asked.
"Oh, wow, thank you!" said Cho, whose mouth watered. She adored chocolate frogs. She took one out of the box, unwrapped it, and put the succulent treat in her mouth. She grinned, and reveled in the sweet taste of it.
Cedric smiled at the expression on her face. "Take more, if you want them," he said. "My mum sent them to me. She'd be very happy about me sharing them with a friend."
Friend. The word made Cho feel warm inside. Cedric Diggory, someone she had never expected to look her way, was calling her a friend. Normal, ordinary Cho Chang, flawed, insecure, imperfect Cho Chang. This gorgeous, handsome boy said he was her friend.
And at that moment, Cho's hazel eyes met his gray ones, and she beamed. "And I'm happy that I have a friend who's sharing them with me."
They smiled at each other, and both dug into the box, munching on their chocolate. And as the sun shone and the wind blew, Cho had the thought that this was a very good day indeed.