Stevie: Well, it's been almost half a year, and the story is finally coming to an end. A/N: As some of you may already know, I'm considering a sequel! Check my profile for information as the next few weeks pass. Oh, and one more thing – thanks so much for every single review, favorite, and alert. You don't know how much it means to me. I really hope you guys enjoyed this story! Stevie: Goodbye all!
When they let me out, it's only because Cedric's funeral is occurring later that day. The first thing I do when I get back to my dormitory is take an hour-long, burning-water shower, doing my utmost to avoid Carla… to avoid people in general, actually.
Once I come out, I realize don't know what to wear. I've never been to a funeral before. Of course, if Cedric was here, he would say it didn't matter. He'd say that I look beautiful in everything. But the point is that he's not here; I'm completely alone.
Alone in the room. Alone in the world. It's all the same to me now.
In the end, I manage to find a pair of grey slacks that I've never worn. Grey like Cedric's eyes. I'm digging through the few things left in my trunk, looking for a suitable shirt, when I find… what's this?
A faded black shirt. I know it's not mine; in fact it takes a few extra seconds for me to recognize it, and when I do, a dull shock vibrates through my chest. It's Cedric's old "dress-up" shirt. I was there with him the day he bought it. How did it get in here…?
I stand motionless in front of my trunk for a moment, inhaling the scent that still remains around the shirt, hovering like a forgotten ghost.
I don't realize Carla's watching me from the doorway until she shuffles her feet; clears her throat. "Um, Skylar, it's about to start. The funeral."
I nod, staring unseeingly at the wall.
She shifts her weight, looking at me awkwardly. "Do you need help or anything?"
Shake for no. Nod for yes. I shake.
She leaves me alone. I let the soft fabric of the shirt slide up one arm, then the other. Numbed, I count the buttons as I button them. One… two… three…
I'm ready now. I'm ready to go. To "see" him for the last time.
Ten minutes later, I'm outside with the entire student body of Hogwarts, plus all the teachers and people from Cedric's life, people that even I don't know. We all stand or sit here, outside on this clear midmorning, for the same reason.
A man in a black suit steps up in front of the coffin and starts to talk about Cedric's life. I tune him out. He knows nothing about Cedric. What he's saying is empty, rehearsed, planned. I look up at the sky instead, at the sun. A brilliant orange-yellow against the soft blue and wispy white.
I stare for too long and my eyes start to burn. I close my eyes and see bright spots as tears automatically form to stop the pain.
The man's done talking now; the monotonous tone of his voice comes to an abrupt end. A few of us get up and gather around the grave. I follow them in a daze, watching as they start to lower the coffin into the dark abyss.
"Goodbye, Ced," I whisper. Right before they levitate the dirt onto the hole, I pick a stray flower from the earth and drop it onto the coffin. A few people glance at me appreciatively and I offer them a small, sad little smile.
And then the dirt falls.
Everyone starts to walk away, although some go to me or Amos first to offer their condolences. Soon I am the only one left.
I read the inscription on the tombstone a thousand times, till I have it memorized – not that it's worth remembering. It's one of those stupid, cliché little things that's always on a gravestone in one form or another. I could say so much more about him than that.
I could say amazing. Wonderful. A hero. The best thing that ever happened to me. I could say a hundred things, a million things. But I don't think all the things I have to say would fit on one tombstone.
Maybe just one phrase would be enough. Just one.
"I love you."
I give his grave one final look and walk away, knowing that I'll never come back.
x x x
I don't go to the Leaving Feast that night, even though I know that these are the last hours I'll ever spend at Hogwarts. It just wouldn't be the same without Cedric.
I sneak up to his dormitory while everyone else is at dinner. I've already decided to spend the time I have left reminiscing. I climb onto that familiar Hufflepuff bedspread and pull the curtains around me. I grab his pillow and bring it to my face, inhaling deeply. Everything here still smells like him.
I take the pillow with me, sitting in the exact center of the bed, and tug at the shirt. Cedric's shirt. In spite of everything, a faint smile manages to light up my face. I remember everything about this shirt.
It was the summer before fifth year. We were at Diagon Alley, buying clothes in Madam Malkin's shop. Cedric, as usual, was whining up a storm. The boy had never liked clothes shopping, so I usually ended up picking his things for him. I thought this would be one of those occasions. But then he spotted the shirt.
"What about this one, Skylar?" he asked, pulling at something hanging in the clearance rack.
I rolled my eyes. "Cedric, how many times do I have to tell you? Anything on Malkin's clearance rack is stained, ripped or…" But my voice trailed off as I looked.
It was actually a decent shirt.
"We're buying it," I said calmly, heaping it on top of the armful of clothes I already held.
"You know, Skylar," he said, leaning against the wall as I walked over to the check-out. "With the way you buy things for both of us all the time, some people are going to think we're married."
Merlin. How that boy used to make me blush.
Even though he'd tried so hard not to make it a big deal, he'd worn that shirt the first day of fifth year. I think he was proud of himself for finding something wearable on his own.
That first day of school was the first day I finally came to terms with the truth: what I felt for Cedric was so much more than a schoolgirl crush. It was the day I realized that when you've felt the same way for five years, it doesn't just go away.
As usual, Cedric was oblivious to my epiphany.
I tried out for the Quidditch team that year, because Cedric was the captain and he kept bothering me to try, at least once.
"Come on, Skylar, it'll be fun!" I remember him saying.
Well, he lied. It was more or less a nightmare. I had to use one of the school's brooms, and everything went wrong from there. He told us to fly around the Pitch once, but my broom ended up bucking and spinning like a wild stallion. Potential Chasers had to try and catch Quaffles thrown from five or so different directions. I think I caught one. Or one and half.
It was a royal screw-up. But I do remember him wearing that shirt.
He came up to me after, laughing in spite of himself, saying, "Skylar, you're my best friend and all, but I can't let you on the team."
Best friend. Those words were the second-best thing he could have said to me.
And he did say the first best. He said 'I love you' two years later.
But the best memory? The best one of all?
I rub my face in the pillow and think. My whole relationship with Cedric (the boyfriend/girlfriend one) in seventh year is definitely at the top.
But there was that one summer. The summer before sixth year.
We sneaked out of the house on the last night of summer vacation. I remember the black shirt clinging to his body in the early morning atmosphere. He wouldn't tell me why we were sneaking out until we got there. "There" was a huge rolling hill in the countryside, covered in scarce flowers and lush green grass. We stayed out all night long, just talking. With Cedric, you didn't always have to have a conversation going. The silence was just as beautiful.
We watched the sunrise together. And as the big golden sphere peeked over the horizon, he took my hand in that special best-friend way and said, "Skylar, I'm always going to be with you. I promise."
And as I wrap my arms tighter around the pillow, I know he never broke his promise. He's still here with me now, watching me, protecting me. Loving me. Loving me the way I love him.
Now is the moment I thank him for everything. Inhale, exhale, speak.