That Within Which Passeth Show
How's the summer been so far? I'm waiting on tenterhooks for the OWL results of course, but I must admit I haven't been doing very much with myself – lots of lying around in bed and no reading. My Dad's been reading the Prophet quite a bit, and getting a bit restrictive. I think the Ministry acting like idiots was a good distraction for him, even though he didn't believe them. I realise now that I haven't got too much to write about – though, given current events I suppose that's a good thing. Anyway, the reason I'm writing is, there's a Tornadoes match in a couple of weeks and…I know tickets can be hard to get but my mum's friend works in the Department of Magical Games and Sports, and, well, I know they're your team so…would you like to go? Let me know if you're interested.
Cho read the letter twice then set it carefully beside her plate. She filled her mug with coffee and took a long, slow sip. She took small, neat bites of her toast and ignored her mother's glances. They sat in silence for a minute or two before her Mum said, "Aren't you going to write back?"
Cho stood, taking her last slice of toast with her. "Later," she said. "I'm going flying – I'll be back this afternoon."
She lifted her broom over one shoulder and tucked her wand into a back pocket. Leaving the house, Cho made her way towards a local park that had a section Muggles couldn't penetrate. She'd been working on her flying ever since she'd returned from Hogwarts. It still rankled that Ginny Weasley had beaten her to the Snitch – in only her second match.
Her flying had been off all year – well everything had been off, as her exam results had amply demonstrated. Cho had always had the kind of mind that picked things up easily. She wasn't a genius or anything of that sort, but she rarely had to work to understand concepts. Perhaps she had been arrogant, assuming that she would always be able to breeze through school – but if that had been the case, she was certainly humbled now.
Her mouth twisted wryly as she mounted her broom. She'd been practising viciously for the two and a half weeks, and she was starting to think that, finally, she was getting back to her old from. That didn't mean she wasn't going to practise until she was stiff and sweaty. She had a definite purpose in mind; though it was such a huge undertaking that she didn't quite want to admit it to herself.
It was nearly four in the afternoon when she landed. Instead of going home for a shower, and food for the gnawing hunger in her belly, she sat down on the grass. The muscles in her arms and legs hurt, but she definitely didn't want to see her Mum. She'd been gearing up for a 'talk' for the last few days, and Cho just couldn't face it. After all, just because she had a new boyfriend didn't mean that, well it didn't mean…
She turned to lie on her side and blinked back tears. Cedric. She knew it was stupid, she knew everyone thought she'd overreacted but…ridiculous or not, Cho knew that dozens of wizard couples had met at Hogwarts, and somehow she had harboured a hope that she and Cedric would become one of them. Ever since her fourth year, and the first match she had played against him, she had fancied him and thought about him and…now he was not.
She had to stop crying about it – she had to. Not only would Cedric have hated to see her cry, she couldn't keep doing it to herself. Her NEWT year was coming up; she was going to have to make decisions about her whole life. But she kept coming up against the cold, evil fact of it – Cedric was dead. He should have been alive and breathing and happy, and instead he was dead, and for some reason she just couldn't make herself accept it.
She sat there for a while, sniffling and trying not to, trying to be strong. She rather felt it was about she showed some strength. Eventually her jeans and tee shirt clung to her skin where she lay against the ground. She stood up slowly, stretching her arms over her head. She started to make her way home. Something had changed today – Cho felt a new, steely resolve. She knew what she had to do.
Ottery St Catchpole was so small it barely merited the name of village. Cho looked around her in bewilderment – it looked like a purely Muggle settlement, but this was definitely the name on the Cedric's address. She quailed inwardly – maybe this was a horrifically bad idea, maybe she should just go home. She was on the point of lifting her wand to Dispparate when she heard a voice calling her. "Cho! Cho Chang!"
She turned to see Ginny Weasley walking towards her. Cho stifled a sigh; she and Ginny just didn't get on. They hadn't ever actually quarrelled, in fact they were usually exquisitely pleasant to one another, but they both knew.
Ginny was weighed down by several shopping bags, and Cho thought she saw a tin of treacle peeking over the top of one. "What are you doing here?" Ginny said. "Are you here to visit Harry?"
Cho wrinkled her brow, surprised, and said, "Harry?"
"Yeah. He's staying with us for the summer." Ginny's voice trailed off for the summer, and she sighed. "Blast. You didn't know. Mum'll kill me – we're not supposed to tell people."
"I won't tell anyone."
"I know you won't, I just…oh never mind. So, why are you here? I thought you lived around York somewhere."
Cho really didn't want to confide in Ginny Weasley but…she might know where to go. "I thought I'd visit the Diggorys," she said, avoiding Ginny's eyes.
It was a moment or two before Ginny said, "Well, follow me then."
Ginny started walking and Cho followed her, incredulous. "But you don't even like me."
"No – but I liked Cedric, and I used to like Michael, so…"
Cho flushed, reminded that Ginny's dislike wasn't entirely unfounded. There weren't many girls who would be gracious to someone who had kissed her ex-boyfriend on the very day of their break-up.
"I don't blame you," she said. "I wouldn't like me either."
Ginny gave her half a smile and said, "Well, never mind that now."
They walked in silence for several minutes before Cho asked," Where are we going?"
Ginny smiled impishly and said, "See Ottery St Catchpole stretches out further then you'd think. It's a bit of walk to the house, but I know some shortcuts."
They made desultory conversation about Quidditch until they reached a small cluster of trees, and Ginny stopped. "Cho?"
"Why do you want to visit the Diggorys?"
Her knees felt weak. "I don't know…I just thought…I've been so miserable all year – I thought it might help."
"Okay – it's just, Mum's been visiting them and…she says they're not doing well."
"I just want to tell them that…that he was wonderful Ginny."
Ginny smiled and started walking again. "I knew him, you know," she said. She caught Cho's look of surprise and added, "Not well – just from him living here – but he always said hello to me in the corridors. I liked him."
Cho smiled – that sounded exactly like Cedric. Ginny seemed to find this encouraging, for she continued. "He danced with me at the Yule Ball… You were off with your friends, and I was limping after dancing with Neville, so he offered. All my friends were jealous afterwards."
Cho laughed lightly, but it was hard to keep a conversation going, as much as she appreciated Ginny's help. They walked on for at least half an hour before reaching the house. Soggy clouds hung overhead, and Ginny glanced at them worriedly before saying, "Cho, if, afterwards, you want to talk or have tea or…whatever, you can come over to the Burrow."
She sighed. "I don't think Harry would like that."
"Sod him…I mean, it can't make him any more depressed. And he's probably out with Ron anyway. If you want to, pop over."
Cho appreciated the gesture and said, "Maybe. Where do you live?"
"It's about the same distance on the other side of the village."
"That far! Ginny you didn't have to…"
"I know I didn't." Ginny said calmly, "But you looked like you needed it."
"Okay, well, thanks. And, tell Harry I said hello."
Ginny smiled and said, "Good luck" before walking back the way they'd come. Cho watched her go – preferring the sight of Ginny's back to the Diggory house. When she finally turned to face it, nausea clenched her stomach, and she had to make an effort of will to walk up the garden path. She'd never found a simple cottage so threatening before, and her right leg shook uncontrollably as she raised a hand to ring the doorbell.
The Diggory's house was unnaturally still – Cho could almost hear the echoes of Cedric's voice, so much so that she longed to put her hands over her ears. Mrs Diggory had recognised her instantly, so at least she had been spared the pain of introduction, but their conversation as they sat at the kitchen table was horribly stilted. Cho could see herself with a sudden, painful clarity, interrupting this poor woman's peace for her own selfish purposes.
After a long silence Mrs Diggory said, "How are you dear?"
For some reason she couldn't lie. She wanted to, but the words jammed like the plug of a sink in her throat. She swallowed with difficulty and finally said, "Not well. I nearly failed my exams, and I've been flying really badly all year and…I don't know."
But she felt a sudden surge of liberation. All year she had been playacting at happiness – joining a new club, dating Harry Potter, and feeling even more miserable when she failed, inevitably, at the deception. Admitting that she honestly felt sad and awful was almost dizzying.
She saw a look on Mrs Diggory's face however that made her continue. "And I know I shouldn't be telling you this, I really shouldn't, it isn't even why I came here, but…"
Mrs Diggory took a sip of her tea, her hand trembling slightly. "Why did you come here?" She said.
"I wanted…I wanted to tell you that Cedric was wonderful. He really was, and I knew it, and I'm so sorry…"
Cho bowed her head, shaking with suppressed sobs. She kept talking however, "And I have a new boyfriend, and he's really nice, and Cedric would have liked him, but I feel awful…I just wish it had never happened."
Even as the words left her lips Cho cursed herself – how could she be so insensitive? What was the matter with her? She put her hands to her face and took a few deep breaths before saying, "I'm sorry. I really didn't mean to do this. I feel terrible."
Mrs Diggory met her eyes levelly. "Have some more tea dear."
The conversation turned to less fraught subjects, and soon Mrs Diggory asked, "What do you intend to do after your NEWTs?"
Cho swallowed – she had been thinking about this. "I thought I might…become an Auror…"
Mrs Diggory interrupted. "No, dear. You would be so unhappy, and – I don't think being an Auror is for you."
"But after…I want to make sure it doesn't happen again."
"And after this war is over? What then? There are other ways Cho."
"Well then…I'm not sure. Muggle relations maybe – I always thought that sounded interesting."
"I'd say that's a good idea – and we'll need people like you in the years to come."
Cho eyed her curiously. "What do you mean?"
Mrs Diggory sighed and ran a hand over her face. It struck Cho that she must be an uncommonly kind woman – and she had the same grey eyes as Cedric. She sighed and said, "I'm afraid I can't tell you that dear, but no doubt Professor Dumbledore will explain when you leave school."
Cho nodded. A long silence stretched between them – they could hear the light rain spattering on the windows. Eventually Mrs Diggory stood and went to her dresser. She fumbled in a drawer for a moment before sitting back down, and pressing something round into Cho's hand.
Cho took a closer look as Mrs Diggory explained, looking out the window. "I thought you should have this – he used for practise – I intended to post it to you, but, between one thing and another…"
Her voice trailed off, and Cho said quickly, "I understand."
The object in her hand was a Golden Snitch. Cho stared at it in wonder as the small wings unfurled – it was so beautiful. She and Cedric had spent hours talking about Quidditch, even comparing favourite Seekers – hers was Dai Llewellyn, his Josef Wronski. She smiled tremulously at Mrs Diggory and said, "Thank you. You've been very kind. I should probably go now."
She shook hands with Mrs Diggory, promised to write to her every so often, and left. When she stepped outside the door and took a breath of the damp, clean air, she felt suddenly fresh, as though some horrible festering infection round her heart had drained away. It was time to go home and with a flick of her wand she Disapparated.
She was ready.
She had practised for three weeks now, and it was time. She hung in the air now, her stomach liquid with fear, and steeled herself. In half a second she was hurtling towards the ground. She came closer and closer, resisting the urge to pull up, resisting the temptation to close her eyes. The ground was so close she could make out individual blades of grass.
At the last possible moment, she pulled up. Instantly she sagged on her broom, feeling slightly sick. She had done it – she had successfully attempted a Wronski feint.
And Cedric wasn't there to see it. He was the person who had talked about it, who had wanted to try it and encouraged her to do the same, and…now he was not.
She fell from her broom to the ground, landing hard. She curled up in a ball, sobbing desperately. Cedric, oh she loved him, she loved him and he was gone. He wasn't ever coming back. Cho hugged herself, trying to feel some semblance of warmth.
He was gone – and she had achieved the Wronski feint. And she would grow up and have a career and a life and possibly even a family and he would always, always be gone. She would never see him again. It wasn't fair. He was so wonderful – brave and kind and good – and he was gone.
She was crying so hard she felt her stomach cramp, and her skin sting from the salt tears sliding down her cheeks. Her sobs clawed their way out of her throat, until she felt she could no longer bear it – all, all she wanted was him, even for just a second, and he was gone, gone.
Cho put her hands to her mouth, trying to hold her dreadful, animalistic cries, in, but it was impossible. She didn't care if anyone saw her, she didn't care if anyone heard her, she just wanted that dreadful bruising ache in her heart to stop.
She didn't know how long she lay there but eventually, still hiccupping and her face still raw, she mounted her broomstick again. This time when she dipped into the Wronski feint she concentrated not on the necessity of pulling up, but on the sheer magic of the air speeding past her skin as she slid down towards the ground.
When she dismounted she somehow knew that she would never succeed in the Wronski feint again. The sun had almost set, dim rays stretching across the grass, and Cho hugged herself for a moment.
She took the Snitch from her pocket and looked at it carefully. For a moment she considered letting it go and just walking away, but she didn't have the heart. Feeling slightly foolish, she brought it to her lips and kissed it gently. She couldn't quite say the words, but it was a promise to her and to him, and perhaps that would ease the pain, somehow.
The next Monday Cho ate breakfast with her mother, and told her all about Michael, and the school year. She described the school for the umpteenth time for her brother who was due to start that September. She gave her broom a quick check for broken twigs or cracked varnish, and smiled momentarily at the Snitch that flew around her bedroom light.
Cho took up her quill and started to write.
I'm sorry it took me so long to get back to you – I've been training like mad for Quidditch, and various other things (which I'll tell you about when I see you – I don't really feel like writing them down.) I hope you're not too nervous about the OWLs – you know you'll do fine.
I'd love to go to the Tornadoes match with you…
The title comes from Act 1, Scene 1 Hamlet:
"Seems, madam! nay it is; I know not 'seems.'
'Tis not alone my inky cloak, good mother,
Nor customary suits of solemn black,
Nor windy suspiration of forced breath,
No, nor the fruitful river in the eye,
Nor the dejected 'havior of the visage,
Together with all forms, moods, shapes of grief,
That can denote me truly: these indeed seem,
For they are actions that a man might play:
But I have that within which passeth show;
These but the trappings and the suits of woe."