And Cho is beautiful, so beautiful. Modest, face smooth, mouth deep and warm and red. Her eyes blink angelic, half reproachful - as if she knows, knows everything, can read his very mind.

One could imagine her body as a plane, another dimension, a slab of cool marble. One might picture themselves wandering across her skin, crawling, licking, devouring her. One might even settle between her breasts, in the crook of her arm, beneath her round and stubborn chin. Every piece of Cho must be traded for, in gifts, in kisses, in compliments. In warmth. He must tell her he loves her, or she will not unbutton her blouse.

He must. He must tell her. He must say it.

And oh,

Cho is easily imagined, her body lifted from nothing - he has never had a girl, never touched one like this, never imagined being with one so little, so precise. Her wrists he circles in his hands, pinning her; and she laughs, laughs, laughs. She sighs, and moans contentedly into his kiss, smearing red lipstick into the smoothness of his chest. Her mouth hangs open at times, in an expression of what can only be longing, and she whispers so intimately. She must be thinking about it, even now. Look at that coy smile. And he smiles back, mouth curving against the skin of her thigh.

But he has never had her. They've never done it, only hinted at it.

The very first night she spends in his flat, he is amazed by how familiar she looks, curled in bed - a fatal, fatal familiarity, one that leads him to kissing her, and as soon as they've kissed he is trying to touch her, and she is laughing, and drawing the covers up over them. It looks as if she belongs here, as if she's always been here. And he never even meant to find her so beautiful, to linger on every word, or dream about her, or anything.

He knows better than to fall in love; it hasn't happened to him until now, and he's been so successful, hasn't he? But of course, as soon as there was Cho, he began to slip; and the slip continued, sliding through from not answering letters to forgetting to eat to every other possible area of his life in hiding, until he realised he'd been daydreaming about making love to her for weeks. Thinking of this, it is all he can do to let out a sigh, the deepest breath he has ever held, when she finally begins loosening those buttons. One at a time. Slowly.

--

Percy first meets Cho in school, of course, and the very last time he meets her is during his own graduation ceremony. ("Good luck, then," she called over her shoulder, suddenly surrounded by a group of laughing girls. And then Penny tugged at his hand impatiently, anxious to have his attention again.)

Cho later tells him that she thought he was so uptight, then - she never would have thought him capable of tenderness, let alone the desire he shows her now. But every time he came to visit Penny in the common room, years ago, she always made sure to be studying there, if only to see him shrink under his girlfriend's complaints. Penny was always complaining, it seemed, or upset about something; all in all, it hadn't been very good for him to be dating her as long as he did, because he was already a nervous wreck and she made him even more of one. Cho recalls the gossip about their relationship: people thought they were going to be engaged when out of school, wouldn't that be cute. Cho, of course, knew better.

Always did, always does, and always will.

She knows everything.

Now, three years into the future, Percy is watching her brush her hair. She looks divine, more than beautiful, and his eyes forget their manners, watching her. He's aroused. And she laughs slightly, laughs, laughs - at his expression, at his perpetually thin body, at the constellations she has discovered in his freckles, and of course, at the ironic hunger in his eyes.

Because who would have thought, really? They're the last people in the world anyone would expect to be in hiding together: Cho damned by her past ties to Harry Potter, and Percy by his heritage. But here they are, and it's all right. At first, Cho wished the Order had paired her up with anyone else, but there it is - you never know what you're getting into until it's all over you.

The first time they kiss, it is a fragile thing, born of loneliness: half longing, half terrible, whimpering fear. Their house is in the countryside, far from the city. Woods surround it, and a quiet little stream bubbles past. They have a high iron fence, quite imposing, and a path of cobblestones. It is very scenic, except at night, when all good country houses go bad - and one evening, it becomes so black and terrible outside, and there are so many creaks on the stairs and the second story floorboards that Cho begins to cry, she is so scared. Percy sets down his book, disturbed, and looks at her.

"Are you quite all right?" is the question, but Cho only bawls harder.

Her reply is a mumbling but adamant story about Cedric, as if she's trying to convince herself he was real. Presently they begin to discuss what it's like missing someone that way - the gasping, hungry, soul deep sort of way, the never-waking-till-you-wake-me sickness. And her body falls open, suddenly relaxed. Her limbs splay artfully on couch. Percy forgets he is still holding his book. He is amazed at her receptiveness, her understanding, and the sharp little shelf of her collarbone. It's as if everything he says finds a home in her, and he is hardly able to keep from pouring out his heart to her then and there. He's never had anyone speak to him so earnestly, so emotionally - but so politely.

And then there is silence.

For a moment they stare at eachother, and suddenly the absurdity of their situation is almost palpable; first Percy begins to laugh, and when she has gotten over her pride, Cho joins him. Cedric is often considered the first casualty of war, the first fallen, but he has no presidence here; Cedric wouldn't have been caught dead in hiding, let alone in an abandoned country house. And Cho has been over him for months now, over him. It took her the longest time, of course, but she's pulled through; or at least, that's what she tells Percy next.

"I'm glad you're all right now," He says brightly.

And her hair is shining in the light from the window, and carefully she runs her fingers through it, and her eyes haven't left his, and her body and her face and her mouth are wired, are glowing. Percy has to blink ... she's brighter than words. And damn, it's inconvenient.

First, there's her unfaltering logic: a language he understood long before English. The way she pronounces karma, as if it's the punchline to a joke. And her eyebrows lift, and her eyes are black like coal, or worse, the paint they use to color Harry's hair on the wanted posters. She never ceases to remind him of his own mistakes, but it's all right, then -- he's got to confront them, whenever she's around. Percy was never good at that.

There's the shape of her mouth, a cross between an orange slice and an archer's bow. Her eyes are exactly one eye apart, the standard - and he's checked. Her ears are pierced, but she never wears earrings; her one piece of jewelry is a big jade pendant, and he has dreams of sucking it like a piece of candy.

Then there are his memories of her the very first time they arrived in the house: the sleepy light as she browsed the bookshelves, and thier conversations late into country nights full of crickets and the strangest sounds, pulled straight from a schizophrenic nightmare. He's only known her for two or so weeks now, but one could say he's smitten. Everyone close to him knows: when Percy is caught up in something, he's caught up. It was the same with school and with work. It is his biggest flaw, and probably his saving grace, too - even if it makes him so difficult.

Now he's remembering a phrase he learned in Arabic once, somewhere in the wild sands of Egypt, and his mind is full of Cho in various states of undress. The two thoughts come together suddenly, a wild mash of syllables and body parts, and Percy's eyes are fixed on hers.

It is all he can think of, until he discovers he's kissing her. Cho Chang tastes like tea and breath and cherry lip balm. And yeah, she almost kisses back, but then her eyes fly open and she is half-indignant, half-amazed.

"Percy!" She backs away for a moment, and eyes him carefully. "What are you doing?" She asks, color rising in her cheeks.

"I don't know," he admits. "I'm so sorry, I don't know what came over-"

"You can't just kiss a girl like that, you know. You've got to warn her first."

In a moment she's knocked his book out of his fingers, and takes her place under his bewildered hands.

--

"Tell me you love me," Cho commands.

Her fingers hover above the last button, clasped just below her belly button; when he notices they are shaking, he must kiss her. Tentative, sad, half-drowned passion. There is something of guilt in the kiss, and both pull away simultaneously. The feeling is bitter. Percy suddenly pushes her hands away, reaching his own around her waist. You are so beautiful, he thinks. I can't do this to you.

But yes, yes he can. He does, almost. Within ten minutes he's panting, with his forehead pressed against hers, and then she is crying again - whispering to him that it can't be true, all those awful things. Did he really abandon his family? Why is he in hiding, then? She bats her eyelashes against the hot skin of his lips, and before he can quiet her she's telling him she doesn't care.

Fuck all, she mutters, eyes glittering.

"Those things hurt me, you know," he says.

Says, "I'm not inhuman."

Says, "Neither are you."

They watch eachother, and she grows tender, and then they're kissing. He rests his head on her breast. Later, it will barely fit his hand.