Author's Note: Thank you to all the readers who've left reviews and expressed interest in my writing. The Odette's Court mention is in reference to the ballet Swan Lake. This is the newly betaed, tweaked version of Fifty Ways, and I thank my beta Layli for her awesome skills.
He sees her between the gaps in the shelves, books freewheeling and pirouetting around her, her slim hands plucking the necessary volumes out of the air.
When he first hears her name, he is thrown by the flat dissonance of her surname. Cho sounds like a caught breath, a light sneeze. Chang is not like Pratchett, Hewlett, Johnson, Knight, or Everard, familiar names. He changes his mind after she introduces herself – when she says her name, it sounds like the chime of bells. He likes it.
Cho seems to be surrounded by people wherever she goes. Her friends flock around her, a mass giggle whenever he walks by. Her Quidditch team, six boys hovering protectively over their smallest member, heavily padded arm guards and brooms at the ready. Davies is the worst – always touching her, his elbow to her shoulder, lifting her in the air after a win like she's a doll. No, Cho's only free when she's flying, and they're facing each other like it's meant to be – one goal only. He needs to stop looking at her if he wants to get the snitch.
His hair has always been a mystery to him. Usually he gets it to behave with a daub of Morris' old Particular pomade and a staying charm, but by lunch, his hair is unruly again. Cho's hair is stick straight and spills over her shoulders whenever she leans over, caressing her chin, and she's forever tucking it behind her ears. It shines even in the dimmest of candle light. She's probably never had a haircut in her life. He wonders if she irons her pants, she's so tidy.
He has a recurring dream that he wanders into the Quidditch girls' changing room by mistake. The Gryffindor girls have all packed up and gone off, but Cho is still there, brushing out her hair. She is damp and flushed pink from the showers. Droplets of water bead over her shoulders, slide down her waist and thighs. Her skin is paler at the waist, the color of milk against gold. She's wearing gray and blue pants with tiny ribbons on the side, and he can just see the curve of her back. Cedric wakes up, sweaty and unpleasantly moist.
He usually has chips with beef sandwiches, so when he sees the massive mound of potatoes steaming away on the far end of the Hufflepuff table, he gets up. As he walks by the Ravenclaws, he can't help but glance over at Cho. She's sitting next to Roger, and the blond boy playfully spears a chip with his fork and offers it to her. She laughs, and delicately snips it off the fork with her mouth.
When he goes back to his seat, Justin points out that he can barely see the chips for all the salt he's poured over them. Cedric's throat closes up, but he chews on determinedly.
As they shuffle onto the pitch for the traditional Quidditch team photographs, he sees a gap next to Cho and seizes his chance. Before Roger can crowbar his way in, Cedric takes Cho's arm and leads her away from the crowd. Katie Bell catches his eye and winks, while Alicia Spinnet mock swoons into Angelina's arms. Cho looks up at him wonderingly, and his prepared speech falls away when he looks into her eyes.
"What's your favourite colour?"
She says green. Green like the blades of grass that emerge from underneath the snow, after a winter's worth of waiting, like the sugared mint leaves Florean Fortescue puts on his sherbets, the green of spring and youth.
It's the most she's ever spoken to him, and all he can manage is, "Not blue, then?"
She laughs then, and shrugs her shoulders. Sometimes you get tired of the same old colour.
When the final picture is released, Cedric's surprised to see that Cho turns her head and smiles at him just as the flash bulb goes off. He also notices that both Roger and Harry sneak glances at her, but she only looks at him.
Cho has a dimple in her left cheek when she smiles, and sometimes she ducks her head when she laughs, as if she's embarrassed to be showing so much joy. He likes it best when she smiles with her whole mouth, her teeth bright against the red curve of her lips. Like a shiny new apple.
Given the location of Hogwarts, it's not unexpected to have a bit of rain now and then, but it's terribly inconvenient for Quidditch practices. Girls are funny about the rain as well – he overhears Megan and Hannah discussing the latest romance serial in Witchlets, and how terribly romantic the hero was dashing through pouring rain to get to his beloved. Rain is not romantic; Cedric thinks scornfully, it's weather.
Later in the Great Hall, he sees Cho sopping wet, a regretful-looking bundle of wires and fabric clutched in her hand.
"My umbrella gave out," she explains. Her hair is plastered to her head and neck, and her robes hang heavy on the ground.
She looks cold, and Cedric's already fumbling at the buttons of his cloak to give it to her, when one of her friends aims a drying spell at Cho. A few seconds and an intriguing steam shape later, and Cho is perfectly dry. She smiles at him as she walks by, the rain already forgotten.
He wonders if he would have met Cho if he hadn't been a wizard. Her family comes from an older and more complicated bloodline than his, and they weren't exactly neighbours. Though if he never met her, he wouldn't be going through whatever this was, so why bother wondering? A newer part of him - one that's worryingly exact about Cho's whereabouts and appearance (today: hair up in a pony tail, fringe curving slightly to the right so it appeared that she had a comma over her eyebrow, uniform same as ever) - points out that he can't imagine a world without her in it. His best mate sums it up best.
"Cedric, you've turned into a girl."
The best things about summer are the weather, free time, his mum's raspberry tarts, and listening to Quidditch trials on the wireless with his dad. Coming in a respectable second place: orange squash on a hot day, owl posts from his friends, swimming in the nearby lake. This summer is even better because he's got a Prefect badge waiting on his bedside table, the promised Captain's position in Quidditch, and Cho's postcard from Beijing. Sure it only said, "I hope you have a great summer. Good luck on everything, from your friend Cho." But when he holds it up to the light, he can make out a faint, scribbled-over impression of "with love and best wishes."
After he endures the good natured teasing from his friends about his Prefect's badge, he leaves them to go sit in the Prefect's compartment. He sees Cho by the sweets trolley, and walks faster. He's hard pressed to decide on what's brighter – her smile or his badge.
"Congratulations! I knew you'd make it."
She hands him a Pumpkin Pasty and waves goodbye as an impatient Roger tugs her away. He prefers Caramel Crumbles, but eats the Pumpkin Pasty anyway. This year is going to be different, he thinks.
He catches Cho on her own, late one night. Its five minutes past curfew, and she's staggering under the weight of several leather bound tomes and a tightly bound stack of parchment. She jumps a little when he taps her lightly on the shoulder, and then relaxes when she sees him.
"Oh! Hello, Cedric."
He picks off a few of the heavier books and says, "You do know you are breaking curfew, Miss Chang?"
She looks annoyed and then contrite.
"You're right, I am. How many points is it going to be?"
Cedric leans in and whispers, "Who said anything about points?"
He puts her books down and then pulls her gently into his arms.
"I think it should be kisses, instead." He kisses her on the forehead, near her temple, and then switches over to her cheek. Cho's gone all soft and pliant, and her eyelids flutter when he kisses her on the tip of her nose. She giggles a bit when he kisses her jaw line and mutters, "That's a bit ticklish," and she's in the middle of a smile when he finally kisses her on the mouth.
Cho tells him she had a half hour less to sleep because of his "underhanded ambush" and that next time, he should really stick to taking points off.
"Or maybe overseeing my detention, instead." She says this as she's lying against him, stroking his hand in her own.
They're sitting by the Black Lake, Cho's transfiguration textbook and his half-eaten apple next to them.
Cho decides they must have rules, that he can't kiss her right after curfew, "or I'll never get to sleep," but any time before is perfectly acceptable. No gratuitous kissing in front of Roger or any of her friends, she doesn't want to be a display. Holding hands is okay, and if he wants to walk her to any of her classes, she won't say no. Presents are not necessary. Cedric marvels at how easy it all is, and wishes he had thought of it sooner.
What makes him the happiest about being with Cho is how effortless it is.
She's a good listener and they can talk about other things besides Quidditch.
Her hand feels right in his, and he can go from a conversation about favourite classes to total rubbish with his mates without it being awkward.
She laughs at most of his jokes, and teases him when the punchlines don't quite work. There's hardly any weight when she leans her head against his shoulder, and he feels like he could hold her – if not forever (he has to go to the loo sometime), then for a very long time indeed.
He's not denying that Fleur Delacour is one of the most beautiful witches he's ever had the good fortune to see, let alone meet, but it's a sort of uncomfortable beauty.
She gives him a headache, makes his eyes water if he thinks about anything besides the graceful line of her neck, her plum mouth, the shimmering light in her hair.
Thinking about Cho clears his head, banishes the murky clouds. Cho's smile, her bubbly laugh, the way her eyelashes look as she's napping, these are all comforting tokens he grabs onto, until one day he looks at Fleur and feels absolutely nothing.
He doesn't miss the annoyance in Fleur's eyes as Cho comes up to him, takes his hand in her own. As they're walking away, he squeezes Cho's hand. She looks at him curiously. "Yes?"
He has to get it right,
it's a truth he's known for almost as long as he's known her,
and it's as simple as taking a breath.
"You're beautiful, Cho Chang."
The smile she gives him could light the entire Hufflepuff common room.
Her hands are tentative, soft. He tries not to wince as she comes nearer to the burn, but does anyway. Even the suggestion of her hand touching it is too painful to bear, and he bites his lip. Cho sighs, and puts her hands in her lap.
"I hate seeing you hurt in this way."
Cedric takes her hands and carefully places them on his knee.
"Madam Pomfrey says the salve will work in just a few moments. Do you want to know a secret, though?" Cho nods yes.
"I was worried as I was coming down, not about the next challenge or even my score – but if the burn would scar. That you'd have an ugly, miserable boyfriend." Cho frowns and blinks rapidly, wipes away a tear. She says fiercely, "You would never be ugly." She strokes his thumb with her own.
"Not to me."
Even though it hurts, Cedric pulls her closer, so she can lay her head on his (good) shoulder.
He's helping her back into her clothes, straightening her skirt when he says it.
"I heard Harry asked you to the Yule Ball." Cho pulls her sweater down, but not before Cedric gets a promising glance of her stomach, toned and taut from Quidditch stretches.
He licks his lips and tries not to stare as Cho says, "Oh" with an embarrassed smile. "Yes, he did."
"Lucky for me, I asked you first." She smacks him gently on the chest, and then kisses him. "For a while, I thought you weren't going to ask me at all – you were so busy preparing for your tasks and your school work, and I didn't want to assume…just because we're dating," and Cedric reaches up and pulls her down so she's straddling his lap. He's still naked and only covered by his bed sheet, and when he finishes kissing Cho, she can feel how interested he is in staying naked. "A bit more than dating, I'd say. I thought you were supposed to be a clever Ravenclaw." Cho's pink and breathless, and she playfully swats his hands away. "But you asked, and so I said no. I felt horrible doing it." Cedric cocks an eyebrow at her and says, "You know, I could take care of that." Cho half-heartedly struggles to get up, and then slumps against him.
"You're lucky you're a Prefect."
He smiles, kisses her hair.
He remembered his first flying lesson with Madame Hooch. After the basic 'up' command, she had gathered the first years around her and told them there was more than the broom keeping them alight. "A Muggle could get a hold of one of our brooms and he still wouldn't be able to fly. Do you know why?"
He had piped up, "Why?" It had something to do with belief, and Wizard body chemistry and gravity – basically Wizards were more in tune with the Earth, and therefore more connected to gravity.
Gravity being the force that tethered them to the Earth, and not spinning off into the horizon as if they were an overturned game of Gobstones. He tries to remember this when he sees Cho descend the staircase from Ravenclaw Tower in her dress robes.
He expects the cold shoulder from Harry, what with the badges and then having to see Cho in his arms, but he expects more from Roger. He's a Ravenclaw, for Merlin's sake, they're supposed to be calm and rational. While Roger's never been overly friendly, he's never been hostile either. The last straw is when he sees Cho blinking back tears after speaking to Roger. She doesn't hear Cedric calling after her, and doesn't show up at dinner. Cedric patrols Ravenclaw tower that night and stops Roger before he can escape through the portrait hole. Davies is indignant but not surprised.
keeps his voice low and his hands at his sides.
"Listen to me, you wanker. I don't care what your problem is, you don't take it out on Cho. You make her cry again, and I'll see to it that you're in detention for the rest of the year." Roger blinks and then says, "I thought you were supposed to be fair."
Cedric says, "Yeah, well I thought you lot were supposed to be smart."
He walks away just as Roger says, "I saw her first."
Cho scratches away at her parchment, and frowns. She flips through her textbook, reads through her notes and then bites her lip. She takes a deep breath, and then exhales.
"Ced- stoppit. I know you're doing it." Cedric, sitting across from her, feigns wounded innocence.
"Whatever do you mean, Chang?"
Cho rolls her eyes and says, "Please. I know you're doing some kind of charm."
At his bemused expression, she says, "I'm supposed to be concentrating on my Potions essay, and all I can think about is you. Are you sitting in a sunbeam? Did you brush your hair today?" She puts down her quill. "Cedric, if you don't come over here and kiss me, I'm going to do something terribly naughty that will probably result in Pince banning us from the library."
Later at dinner, Cedric passes Ernie Macmillan ten Sickles and five Knuts for the sunbeam. "Nice touch with the dust motes, mate. Cho said they set off my hair nicely."
It's weird sleeping with another person, actually sleeping beside them. Cedric furrows his brow and wonders how he used to sleep with his teddy. Cho is considerably larger than his old bear, but just as soft. He slides his arm underneath hers and breathes in the smell of soap, shampoo, and sleepy girl.
Snow smells like crisp cold air, bright and clean. It crunches underneath his feet and packs in his hand, a perfect snowball. Cho sees it coming just a little too late and shrieks when it hits her in the chest.
"Oooo, I'm going to get you for that!"
They end up building forts and recruiting members of their respective houses.
Blobs of snow fly through the air and Cedric's covered in a mess of melting snow and twigs when he finally corners Cho near a snowman. "If you concede defeat, I'll go easy on you," he mock growls.
Cho pretends to think it over and then hurls a snow ball at him.
The snowman bursts open, revealing a slightly blue, but grinning Terry Boot, who dumps a bucket of snow over his head.
Cho laughs so hard, she falls over.
Love isn't so much falling as it is a thief, stealing over him quietly and without much notice until he's several yards deep in green murky water, thrashing about desperately to get to the dreadfully still girl below. He remembers there were three other people down there, but all he sees is Cho. Her gasp when she breaks through the surface is the sweetest noise he's heard.
"This is a stupid game," he says through chattering teeth, trying to keep a hold of her and the towel at the same time.
Cho just closes her eyes and puts her hand over his heart.
"I'm alright, Cedric."
I'm not, he thinks.
It burns, for an instant, and all he sees is green
Her favourite time of year is autumn, when the trees shake their heads and come up dappled in reds, oranges, and golds. She likes the swish swish of leaves underneath her feet, the way the air smells of wood-chips and cinnamon, and the familiar sight of Hagrid dragging a rake through the earth. Autumn also signals the beginning of Quidditch, and this year is going to be their year, or so Roger promises.
runs into the Hufflepuff captain, Cedric Diggory outside of the
pitch. He's breathing hard, and his right cheek is bruised. "Hullo
there – I'll be off the pitch in a few minutes. Just give us five
minutes or so – I'm trying out new Beaters."
He frowns, and gingerly touches his cheek. "That is, if they don't kill me with stray Bludgers first."
Before she can reply, his teammates holler at him to come back. Cedric sighs and says, "Right, off for round two. Won't be more than five minutes, I promise."
minutes later, a sweaty and decidedly battered Cedric staggers out,
supported by his teammates.
One of them sees her and calls out, "It's all yours now! We mopped up the blood as best as we could." Cedric grins at that, and waves feebly at her as he goes by.
There's a bit of leaf stuck in his hair.
It's been ten years since Ravenclaw has had a girl on the Quidditch team, and Roger points out that fact would look nice in the letters back home.
"Just think, you'd be making history. I mean, your parents are bound to be impressed, right?"
Cho snorts and shakes her head.
"I think you've got your parents confused with mine. It's not like getting top marks in exams or my charm work – they think Quidditch is just a frivolous phase I haven't snapped out of. " Roger thinks it over and says slowly, "Well, for what it's worth, I think you're perfectly charming."
Cho groans and says, "Roger, that was terrible."
He grins, and shrugs. "Yeah, I know."
For anyone else, the sky is an endless stretch of blue overhead, sporadically punctuated with clouds.
For Cho, the sky begins and ends over the pitch.
Flying is the closest thing to escape at Hogwarts, freedom from homework, demanding professors, and exhausting if well-meaning friends.
During Quidditch games, all she has to do is concentrate on getting the Snitch, and then her part's over.
Even though the Snitch is golden, it's like catching the sky in the palm of her hand, and when she turns to look at her teammates, all clad in blue, it's in their eyes and smiles too, and maybe that is what she loves best about flying. That the sky accepts her as she is, envelops her when she's careful, and falls away when she isn't.
She hears a lot of things about Cedric Diggory, knows him by reputation and of course, by sight.
Six feet tall at least, with curious grey-blue eyes (depending on what the lighting conditions were), and a thatch of dark brown hair, Cedric is a perfect specimen of sturdy, ruddy cheeked Englishness.
After her team spectacularly trounces Hufflepuff, he's still gracious enough to tell her, "Good game. You fly really well – Chang, is it?"
She nods, smooths away her fringe from her sticky face.
He smiles a little, repeats her name. "Cho – I'll have to remember that. Well, see you around, Cho."
Roger accosts her afterwards,
asks her what Cedric said.
She shakes her head absently, and says "Nothing much."
There's something about Cedric that puzzles her, and it hovers in the back of her mind all through dinner and afterwards. Just as she's pulled her curtains around her bed, it comes to her.
Cedric is simple. Not simple stupid, as the Hufflepuffs are often (unfairly) accused of being, but there's no artifice there, no deceit. She can read his emotions as clearly as the charts in her Arithmancy text.
If the Ravenclaws are air and often preoccupied with their inner dialogues, Hufflepuffs are the earth below, reassuring and blunt.
It becomes something of a badly kept secret around Ravenclaw tower that Harry Potter has a crush on her.
Marietta and Leonie tease her at breakfast that Harry's staring, while the younger Ravenclaws giggle into their toast.
Roger sips his coffee and doesn't say a word, but Cho can sense him grinning behind the porcelain rim.
"Oh shut up, all of you," Cho says crossly. She stirs her porridge and drowns it in swirls of honey.
She promises herself she won't look in his direction – he's so young, and she'd be more flattered if she wasn't so embarrassed. There's nothing preventing Marietta's hawk-eyed glance, however.
Sure enough, she pokes Cho and says, "You'll never believe who's looking over here now." Cho doesn't take the bait, and concentrates on the patterns her spoon's making in her porridge.
"If it's that Slytherin girl again, I thought it was made clear she's got a lazy eye."
sigh could have impressed even Professor McGonagall, it was that
class of exasperated. "Cho Chang, it is not that girl. It's a --"
and she leans over and whispers something that sounds like "Brick
Cho blinks and says, "Pardon?"
Marietta rolls her eyes and mutters, "Never mind, I'll tell you later."
Roger reaches over and steals Cho's last piece of toast.
Even though she's not supposed to, Cho passes notes to Marietta during History of Magic.
It's only one of a number of ways they have to keep awake during Binns' lectures, and the most entertaining. Marietta's taken to folding her parchment into fancy shapes and charming them to float toward Cho. Today's note is in the shape of a crane, and Cho carefully peels back its wings and reads, "Cedric Diggory was looking at you during breakfast."
Cho's first question is "Why?"
Which is followed by "But I don't even know him!"
She's sitting on her bed in the dormitories, and Marietta and Amelia are clustered around her. Leonie is lying on her own bed, reading Witch Weekly.
Amelia flips her braid over one shoulder and yawns. "Have you looked in the mirror, silly goose?"
Marietta chimes in with, "Who cares why? Cedric Diggory fancies you."
She wiggles her newly varnished nails at Cho and says, "You're so lucky. Practically all of Hogwarts loves him, and he picks you."
Cho's not certain she likes the way Marietta says, "and he picks you" but decides to ignore it.
"I still say you're just imagining it. He probably just glanced over once and you mistook it for something else."
Marietta snorts and says, "Right. He just happened to look over at the same spot you sat in the entire time."
Leonie puts down her magazine and says, "That's too much of a coincidence -" and Cho automatically replies, "There's no such thing as coincidences."
Her friends laugh, and Amelia says, "Well there's your answer then. Go on, give it a go."
During dinner, Cho looks over at the Hufflepuff
table, to see if she can catch Cedric in mid-glimpse, but he's
sitting with his back turned to her. After a few minutes of using her
spoon as a mirror, Cho gives up and eats her chicken pie.
Roger teases her with, "Fixing your hair again, Chang? Don't worry, it's still there, still perfectly in place."
She sticks her tongue out at him, and he responds in kind. Penelope says, "Oh really, you two," but smiles.
After three swallows of her pudding, Cho
nudges Marietta and whispers, "I told you that you were imagining
it. He hasn't looked at me once tonight."
Marietta neatly cuts her pear in half, and says, "Maybe. Bet his mates saw you looking though, and now he'll know you were looking at him."
drops her fork.
"Oh, bollocks." At Penelope's scandalised look, she blushes, while Amelia and Leonie burst into traitorous laughter.
There is a game called Chinese Whispers, where people line up in a queue and whisper a secret or some other nonsense in the next person's ear. The trick is to translate it successfully to the last person in the queue. Rumours are like that – Cho hears the most wondrous and inane things, often about the same person.
Harry Potter slays a dragon in his first year is a popular one. As the term went on, it was amended to he slew a basilisk during his second year. He wears mismatched socks. His best friend is in love with him.
Names change, but the game remains. Lately, maybe because of the company she keeps, the rumours have all been about Cedric.
Marietta says he's pining away. Leonie drops off Transfiguration notes and adds that Cedric's been seen in the library, one of her favourite places.
Amelia takes top prize when she comes in from Ancient Runes and says when the letters of their names are mixed together, they spell "Fate." Admittedly in Trollish, but Fate's Fate no matter what language it happens to be in.
Which is just a fancy way of saying coincidence, Cho thinks.
Until Su Li arrived, she had been one of a handful of Asian students, and the only Chinese in Ravenclaw.
Padma's sweet, but while she's Asian as well, she couldn't really understand why Cho misses sticky rice, her grandmother's pork buns, or the sound of crickets at night.
With Su Li, Cho doesn't have to pretend to blend in with all the other scarves and uniforms jostling through Hogwarts.
They are sisters underneath the same golden skin, with thick black hair and eyes like questions – Su Li tells her how people used to ask her where her eyelids were, and Cho laughs and remembers the curious, guarded way people would look at her.
As if she was a exotic animal who had learned how to speak.
On Monday, Roger gets the notice from Madame Hooch about the official Quidditch team photos.
Like with everything else involving Quidditch, Roger draws up a list of improvements.
"Bradley, no more potatoes at dinner, Bloom I want you to stop messing about with your hair, we could house Quaffles in it. Harrison, you are forbidden to wear your lucky tie, we've had complaints. Chambers, no smiling with teeth, it makes you look like you're scowling, and lastly, Corner, I've had a personal note from Katie Bell requesting that you stop making googly eyes at her." Everyone else on the team howls, and even Cho has a hard time not laughing.
Michael pouts a little but eventually he finds the humour in it and spends the rest of his time making outrageously soppy faces at everyone.
escape Cho's notice that Roger doesn't set her a task, so when the
meeting breaks up, she stays behind the others until it's just Roger.
She teases him,"Hey, so what's my task, Roger? Hair up or down? Should I put on lip gloss?"
She bats her eyelashes exaggeratedly, but Roger doesn't smile.
He looks almost uncomfortable, and says roughly, "Do what you like. Just show up on time, all right?"
As a conversation starter, "What's your favourite colour?" is only trumped by "How's the weather?" in safeness.
It is unassuming, polite and probably wears galoshes in the rain.
It is perfectly Cedric, she decides, and it's odd how right that is – that there's a state of being that is so uniquely Cedric.
He's so tall and gangly out on the pitch, and she's heard Roger complain more than once about Cedric and his unnatural looming advantage, but when he's just talking to her, she hardly feels the distance at all.
It makes her turn her head and study him closer.
It gets easier after that, to wave and say hello when she sees him in the hallways.
Like her, he is often surrounded by friends, though they are far louder and boisterous than her group.
He's always smiling and laughing, and even when he's not, she thinks she can see amusement in his eyes.
Marietta and Amelia have let up on the Cedric saga as of late, and it's a relief not to juggle one infatuation with an imaginary one. She likes Cedric, and what she knows of Harry, but she doesn't feel like she's ready for anything more.
Eddie Carmichael brings up the topic of snogging when they're in the common room, studying.
As he's the only other boy in the room besides Terry, it causes a ripple effect of embarrassed laughter from the girls.
Su Li looks up from the Divination chart she's sketching with Padma and says, "And why are you so interested?"
Eddie reddens, and says he saw Penny kissing Percy Weasley good night.
After the shocked silence, Marietta recovers enough to say, "You'd better not call her Penny to her face. I did once, and I thought she was going to freeze my eyebrows off." Eddie mutters, "Might as well have done, it'd be a vast improvement."
Terry smothers his laugh and
scoots closer to Cho, who's trying to read her Arithmancy notes
through the giggles.
"So, bets on if she hexes his trousers again?" Cho shakes her head and whispers, "Can't. Penelope and Roger put anti hex charms around after that last time. Apparently scorch marks on the wallpaper lowers the tone of a place."
Terry laughs out loud at that, and for the first time, Cho notices how nicely his jawline meets his neck, and the way the laugh travels. From his eyes to his lips, down his throat, spreading outward to his shoulders, Terry laughs with his entire body.
For a moment, Cho wonders about his mouth and when she looks up, Terry looks back.
They meet in the library, on the pretext of looking up information for Professor Flitwick. Cho tells Leonie that she'll be back in time for tea, and she wonders what Terry tells his friends, or if he does.
When he joins her by the Encyclopaedias, she decides she doesn't care.
Terry's flushed, and his normally tidy brown curls are mussed, as if an owl's made a nest of his hair.
"Cho," he says, before he grabs her hands and pulls.
She bangs her chin on his
nose before they figure out the arrangement, and it's a bit like
being tickled by a moist sponge.
Terry's hands are stiff on her shoulders, and she feels like hers shouldn't be dangling useless by her sides, but when she makes a move, Terry steps back with a startled, "Oh," and the kiss is broken.
Cho tries to make
sense of it, and says weakly, "Well...that was..."
Terry cuts her off and says rather rudely, "Rubbish."
He's got his face in his hands, and Cho says, "Well! I can't help it, I've never been --" and Terry looks up, and she's startled by how wet his eyes are. "Terry?"
He wipes at his face, and fumbles
through his pockets for a tissue.
Cho finds her handkerchief and hands it to him.
Terry accepts it with a mumbled, "Thanks, Cho" and blows his nose. "I didn't mean you were rubbish – and, was it really your first time?"
Cho nods, and Terry swears. "Oh Merlin. I'm so sorry, Cho."
She shrugs, leads him away from the book shelves and they sit down.
"It's all right, I mean, first times are always awful, aren't they?" She read that in a book once.
Terry shakes his head vehemently. "No, it's not okay. If I had known – I mean, not even once? Are you sure?"
honestly, Terry. Yes, you were it. Number one!"
Cho's proud of how calm she is, despite the simmering embarrassment she's feeling.
She knew she wasn't ready, and yet she practically launched herself at Terry. Well, she learned her lesson.
And apparently it was that she was a crap kisser.
Terry lays his hand softly
against her arm. "Cho, I'm really sorry. Look, why don't we try
She looks incredulously at him. "What, after you said it was rubbish? This is not inspiring confidence in me, Terry --" and his free hand rises up, tips her chin and his lips swallow her words.
The second kiss is gentler, as if Terry is whispering against her mouth instead of trying to eat it.
Her hands find their way naturally to his hair, and stay there.
She shuts her eyes.
When she opens them again, Terry's drifted off and is
back to sitting by her side.
He cocks his head at her and asks, "Well?"
Cho blinks and says, "Nothing. I felt nothing."
Terry exhales. "Me too."
His admission doesn't annoy her, it only buoys her strange sense of giddiness and relief.
She quickly adds, "Not that it wasn't nice. It was!"
Terry nods and smiles. "Very nice. But – nothing."
Eventually, it all
spills out – Terry's first kiss from the boy who did the milk
rounds back home, the almost-kiss between Cho and a neighbour boy,
before her brother had walked in and spoiled it all by telling their
"And now here we are," Terry says, and squeezes her hand. Cho grins. "Here we are."
"Promise you won't tell
Cho ponders this and suddenly gets it.
Terry blushes, and says quietly, "It's the Quidditch."
thinks of Cedric Diggory, and the way he looks in his robes, all
bright yellow and black accents.
"Believe me, Terry, I completely understand."
Being in like with Cedric is a lot like being friends with him, only with more private smiles and demure nods.
Cho feels awkward and giddy at the same time, which is disastrous for her walk. After Amelia steers her away from the umpteenth pillar and scolds her for nearly colliding with the very visible wall, Cho vows to stay within Ravenclaw tower and to only leave for classes and food.
Her brilliant plan is foiled by Cedric, as he invites her for a quick lap around the pitch. Flying and Cedric is too hard to resist, and Cho shows up, her heart thudding against the ties of her Quidditch robes. She wants to know when he got so beautiful, the placid calmness of his face turning into something far more noble and elegant.
His once messy hair is now 'artfully tousled', and his eyes, well! The less said about them the better. Cho feels like she's swallowed a romance novel whole.
Cedric smiles and holds out his hand, the mock snitch squirming between his fingers.
It hits her as she's closing the lid of her trunk, the last of her clothes neatly folded and packed away. Leonie finds her sitting on her stripped bed, her head bowed and hands clasped in her lap.
"Get a move on, Cho, or you'll be late for the return carriage!"
Cho says, "I already am."
She realizes she's memorized his smile when she sees him on the Hogwarts Express. His Prefect badge gleams against his robes, and he seems to have gained another inch over the summer. All she can offer him is a Pumpkin Pasty and a smile before Roger drags her off.
Cedric grasps her by the elbow and moves closer, his face a few centimetres away. If she wants to, she can lean in and smell the clean soap and linen, the slight peppermint of his aftershave. His hand trails down to her wrist, his fingers curl protectively over the sensitive part, where the bones meet.
Other times she dreams he comes behind her, sweeps her hair off her neck and then slowly kisses her collarbone, up and down, little exclamations of love.
There are so many stairwells at Hogwarts, empty airing cupboards, the various alcoves and cul-de-sacs and Cho daydreams about them all.
Which is why when Cedric appears out of nowhere on the one night she's breaking curfew, Cho jumps from more than nerves.
The Beauxbatons girls are all slim of hip with curved calves, and delicate ankles and long necks. If Odette's court had been real, they would have been the Beauxbaton demoiselles, with Fleur Delacour as their princess. Cho wants to like Fleur, doesn't begrudge them space at the Ravenclaw table, but Fleur wears her aloof beauty like a shield. The Beauxbatons boys are slightly better, and Cho notices that one of them, Julien, tracks Fleur with his eyes.
Roger is no better, and can barely form a coherent sentence around the French girl.
"I can't help it," he says under Cho's bemused gaze. "She's bewitched me or something!"
If sensible Roger can fall under Fleur's thrall, Cho's worried about Cedric. She's taken to calling him 'hers' in private. Her Cedric, quiet and thoughtful and impossible – so impossible that he should be with her at all, when he could have anyone. He meets her gaze from across the room and smiles warmly.
She gets an owl from Cedric telling her to go down to the lake. When she arrives, he points toward the centre of the lake, where a pair of swans are floating.
"Oh," Cho breathes out. "They're magnificent."
Cedric nods, and says, "Aren't they? Hagrid told me that they're pretty rare out here, as the giant squid tends to dislike foreign visitors, but it's made an exception for these two."
They admire the swans for some time, and Cedric slides his hand around Cho's waist.
"You know, my dad told me that swans mate for life."
Cho looks up at him, and he's blushing, pink blossoming over the tips of his ears. Cho snuggles closer and sighs.
"Did he?" His hand tightens around her waist and he bends to kiss her forehead.
"Pretty incredible, don't you think?"
The promise is unspoken, and Cho knows she can't foresee the future, but for now, all she needs is this.
"I'm quite certain that you're not supposed to use your Prefect powers in this way," Cho teases Cedric as he mutters "Pine Fresh" into the wall. The hidden door reveals itself, and Cedric playfully pushes Cho inside.
"And what will you do, Miss Chang? Punish me?" He's left off his robes for the evening, and is only dressed in his Hogwarts sweater, tie and black trousers. His prefect's badge is pinned crookedly against his chest, and Cho swiftly unpins it, drumming her fingertips against his sweater.
"Perhaps, if you ask very nicely, Mr. Diggory."
Cedric captures her hand in his and
"Oh please, Cho."
She had only meant it as a joke, but the way his eyes gazed at her in challenge, it sent little darts of heat all around her skin and down her spine. It was like being dared.
Cho reaches up and tugs at his tie.
Cedric bends down obligingly and she whispers, "I think you need a bath." He smirks, and kisses her, his fingers tracing oblique symbols against her back.
"Only if I get to see you naked." She hooks her fingers through his belt-loops and pulls him closer. "If you insist."
Cedric has this freckle near his right shoulder blade, light brown against the peachy warm colour of his skin. It is like a speck of cinnamon on milky tea, and she would lick it, except Cedric's asleep, and she needs the rest.
So she settles for tracing a heart around it, and says, "You're mine."
The canopy sways a little and Cedric murmurs, "hmmm?" and rolls over, his arm trapping her own.
The decorations at Madame Puddifoot's are uniformly garish and so awful as to constitute visual assault, but Cho doesn't mind. Cedric brings over two steaming cups of chocolate, ducks the persistent seraphim and tulle hangings, and places them on their table.
"The things I do for you, Chang," he grumbles good naturedly and sits down. "Urrgh. This place is...wretched."
Cho rolls her eyes and picks up her chocolate, inhales the sweet richness. She moans happily, and Cedric arches an eyebrow at her.
"Should I leave you two alone, or can anyone join in?"
In answer, she kicks him underneath the table.
He makes a face at her, and takes a sip of his own chocolate.
His eyes grow wide.
After his initial taste,
Cedric's voice is hushed, almost reverent.
"I may have to run off with Madame Puddifoot, Cho."
Cedric looks around once more, takes in the red and pink spangles, the crimson velvet curtains.
"But not her decorator."
Their combined laughter rings out through the shop.
Cedric's saying something, but she can't properly listen, she's so tired.
Automatically, she says, "I'm alright, Cedric." Really, all she wants to do is just close her eyes and go to sleep somewhere nice and warm.
Slowly, feeling returns and she shivers, the water droplets heavy against her skin.
Cedric rubs at her shoulders and her back with the thin towel, and he's shaking.
Cho turns her face into his neck and shuts her eyes.
Cedric's arms wrap around her and she manages to push some of the numbness away to listen to what he's saying.
I love you.
Cedric said he'd meet her after the ceremony, no matter who won. He was going to meet her, collect on his congratulatory kiss, and she would fuss over the new scratches and bruises. It would be such a story to tell over breakfast, and-
Fleur's scream cuts through the joyful orchestra, and she can't see what's happening, what's going on?
The boy sitting next to her, suddenly inhales and grabs her shoulder. "Don't."
And there is Cedric.