Author's Note Last Chapter! About time, huh?
Disclaimer I still don't own Harry Potter :(
VII: Epitome of Ecstasy
"You look really nervous, mate." Ron observed, watching Harry pace back and forth in the Gryffindor common room.
"You know he's right Harry, you do look a bit pale." Neville added, true concern etched on his innocent face.
"You're not going to puke are you?" Ron chided again, backing away from Harry and shielding himself with his arms.
Hermione elbowed him in the stomach and gave shot him a warning glare. Neville laughed at Ron who had started to whine about Hermione being an abusive girlfriend.
"Everyone seems to feel sorry for you but it's me who's the victim in this relationship!" He rubbed his stomach and looked seriously at Harry. "Ya know Harry, I see why you're so nervous now. Girls can be bloody violent sometimes."
Harry smiled apprehensively, "Um…"
"Oh, stop it Ron! I only hurt you when you're acting like a complete and utter wretch." Hermione said frankly.
"That is so not true! When I act like an utter wretch? You hurt me all the time!"
Hermione smiled flirtatiously. "Well that's just because you act like an utter wretch all the time!"
Ron lifted his eyebrows a couple times in succession. "Turns you on doesn't it?"
Hermione just smiled and leaned in to kiss Ron on the lips.
"That's my cue to leave. I'll see you later, Harry. Good luck and whatever you do don't turn into them." Neville gestured towards Ron and Hermione who remained in a lip-lock. "They're so disgusting it hurts!" Neville added.
Harry laughed and waved as the other boy left the room. He was then left with his two friends who remained preoccupied. 'Well, at least they don't fight like they used to.' Harry thought, waiting awkwardly for his best friends to remember he was still in the room. 'Then again, the fighting was a lot less awkward.'
He coughed loudly and Hermione and Ron pulled apart.
"Honestly, how do you two breathe?" Harry asked with a chuckle that put a reddish tint onto both of his friends' faces.
"Sorry, Harry." Hermione said sheepishly. "We're supposed to be providing you words of encouragement. I guess we've been failing miserably, huh?" She smiled apologetically but Harry just waved his hand and shook his head.
"Don't feel bad. I mean yeah it's a bit annoying when you two get mushy on me but it's alright."
Ron and Hermione stared at him silently for a moment before Ron squirmed uncomfortably. "It is?"
"Well yeah. I mean I see how the two of you care so much about each other and it makes me feel like I can have the same thing with Cho. I really admire you guys, did I ever tell you that?"
Hermione grinned and Harry knew she was struggling to keep herself from giggling at the excitement she was feeling from his words. Ron was staring open-mouthed.
"You never had to tell us that, Harry. We already know." Hermione walked over to Harry and enveloped him in a big hug. "We admirer you just as much and we know you're going to do great today. Cho's crazy about you and for good reason."
Harry smiled gratefully. "Thanks, Hermione. That really means a lot to hear you say that." He glanced over at Ron who was watching Harry carefully. He looked as though he were trying to think of something to say but was having trouble finding the right words.
"Uh…" he stammered. "What she said!" He declared, pointing a finger at Hermione. Hermione rolled her eyes but Harry needed nothing more than that to know Ron, as always, was behind him one hundred percent. Ron glanced at the grandfather clock and grinned. "It's show time, go get her mate!"
Harry smiled and took a deep breath. "Wish me luck!"
"Luck!" Ron and Hermione chimed as Harry exited the common room.
He was feeling more anxious than ever for his first official date with Cho (not including the Yule Ball.) Harry had planned to spend the afternoon with Cho in Hogsmeade, exploring the village and having lunch at the Three Broomsticks. Hermione had helped him to plan much of the afternoon and Harry carried a list of places she'd recommended they visit in his pocket.
As fate would have it, Harry spotted Cedric Diggory leaving the Hufflepuff dormitory just as he walked by. The two hadn't spoken much since the night a week prior when Cedric told Harry that Cho shared the same feelings about him as he did about her. The atmosphere between the two had been a bit awkward since that night.
"Hey, Harry!" Cedric greeted, gesturing to his friends to go ahead without him. "I'll catch up." He insisted to a boy Harry recognized as one of Cedric's roommates. The others nodded and left Harry and Cedric alone in the corridor.
"Uh…hi Cedric. How are things?" Harry realized only after that what he said might have been a bit stupid. He was certain Cedric knew about his date with Cho that afternoon and chances were he wasn't thrilled about it.
"So, big date today, huh? Cho's really excited. She wouldn't shut up about it last night, actually." Cedric chuckled softly.
"Oh. I'm sorry."
"Sorry? Don't be sorry. It's a good thing for her. I'm really happy for both of you."
"Thanks, Cedric. Look—I never really thanked you properly for everything you've done. If it weren't for you I probably never would have—"
Cedric held up his hand to silence him. "I appreciate your gratitude Harry, but really, it isn't necessary. You would have ended up with Cho with or without my help."
"What do mean?"
"Can you keep a secret?"
"Sure…" Harry looked at Cedric with one eyebrow raised.
"Well then, between you and me? It was never me Harry, it was you."
"Excuse me?" 'It was never me Harry, it was you.' What exactly was that supposed to mean? Harry waited patiently for the older boy to finish.
"It was always you, Harry; The one she wanted." With a final and sincere look at Harry, Cedric headed off down the corridor, jogging to catch up to his friends.
Harry watched the Hufflepuff until he turned a corner, disappearing from view, reflecting on Cedric's final words.
'It was always you, Harry; The one she wanted.'
Harry's face gave in to an uncontrollable smile, feeling less nervousness; like a weight had been lifted from his shoulders.
He half walked, half ran to the Hogwarts entrance feeling a sudden confidence that everything was going to be perfect. His excitement grew more still at the sight of Cho dressed casually in a pink and gray striped sweater and khaki pants, her winter coat draped over her arm. She smiled brightly at him when he had approached and her face turned slightly pink.
"Hi Harry" Cho greeted sweetly.
"Hi Cho." Harry returned, breathlessly. Harry couldn't take his eyes away from her; she looked more beautiful than ever. "You look beautiful." He said, panting.
"Thanks. You look very handsome." Cho giggled softly and Harry smiled as memories of the Yule Ball flooded back to him. "Are you alright?" She asked referring to Harry's erratic breathing.
"Oh, yeah I'm fine I was just…jogging before I came so I'm a little worn out. Guess I'm not in very good shape." Harry ran a hand through his hair in an attempt to play cool.
Cho laughed in response. "That makes two of us then. Did you want to rest up a bit before we go?"
Harry shook his head. "Nah, I'm fine. We should head out now while it's still a bit early. We want to get there before it gets too busy."
"Too busy? Where are we going?" Cho looked quite curious but Harry refused to tell her. He wanted the Hogsmeade trip to be a surprise.
"It's a surprise," he grinned cheekily. "We are going to need this to leave the grounds without being caught, though." Harry opened a knapsack he'd brought with him and removed a silvery object.
Cho raised an eyebrow quizzically for she had no knowledge of Harry owning an invisibility cloak. "We're sneaking off the grounds. But what if we get caught?"
Harry shrugged his shoulders. "We won't, trust me. I've done this loads of times." He smiled encouragingly.
So… this is it." She smiled shyly.
"Yeah this is it." Harry grinned boyishly, "I guess we should get going then." He extended his arm, offering Cho to take it the way she did at the ball.
Cho's eyes lit up as a smile spread across her lips. She wrapped her arm around Harry's, allowing him to escort her out of the castle and out into a clear, beautiful, winter wonderland. Harry nor Cho could recall a day that had ever been so perfect.