Challenge: The Weird Random Pairings Challenge
Challenger: Ralinde
Pairing: Cho Chang/ Madam Rosmerta

Sneaking out of the castle was easy for Cho; it always had been that the Ravenclaws would have a way around anything, their innate curiosity meaning they were just curious as to whether they could do things, even if they didn't technically want to.

SO that was how Cho found herself scurrying though a passageway that her and a couple of friends has unblocked the week before. She wanted to see where it came out, though she was almost positive it would be somewhere along the Hogsmeade high street. She hadn't expected it to be The Three Broomstick's basement though. The Ravenclaw pulled herself through the opening and quietly slid the stone slab back into place. Cautiously, she proceeded to the stairs at the end of the large room, where she gingerly made her way up with not a little bit of hesitation. She appeared behind the bar, quickly ducking and getting out from behind it, sitting at the nearest table.

The popular little pub was busy that night, though Cho was relieved to see that no teacher were in residence, as she had feared. She just had to hope that Rosmerta wouldn't recognise her. Though the sixth year was already seventeen she had no doubt that she's get sent back to school to a very disappointed Head of House. The bartender was making her way over to the table.

"Anything to drink, love?" she questioned with a kind smile on her face.

"Just a Butterbeer, please," the younger girl she quietly, attempting to keep her face hidden.

"Don't look so worried, Cho. I won't tell if you won't." the barmaid was unusually perceptive and the student couldn't help but be thankful of that.

"Thank you," she smiled and the older woman winked before taking her leave, bringing her the requested Butterbeer as soon as she could manage with quite so many people crowded into the small tavern.

It was only hours later as she somehow found herself helping to stack the chairs and wipe down the tables that she realised that she had enjoyed herself. She had spent as much time as the curly-haired woman had been able to spare talking to her about this and that, and much of the rest of the time had been a respite she hadn't realised she needed. She found herself looking forward to the next night she could spend there, even though it would no doubt affect her sleep patterns rather negatively.

"So I suppose you'll be wanting me to let you use that secret passage again?" Rosmerta asked with a smirk.

"Ah, erm, yes please?" she asked, almost shyly. "Also, would you mind terribly if I came back? Just, it's been a welcome respite."

"Of course, dear," she smiled warmly. "If you don't mind me asking though, respite from what?"

The younger girl sighed. "Everyone expects me to be distraught about Cedric, and I am, I really am. I just feel like everyone's internally judging me whenever I smile or laugh. But then on the other hand if I look sad or even neutral then everyone's always asking me if I'm okay. Sure, I really liked him, but we dated for only about six months, and I wouldn't have said that I loved him," she paused. "I'm really sorry for piling this on you," she muttered, embarrassed.

"It's fine," Rosmerta smiled encouragingly and gave the younger girl's hand a squeeze. "I'm happy to listen as I feel that that's what you need. Different kinds of people handle grief in different ways and you seem to be of the sort where you try to work through it, instead of shutting down like many others do."

"I've had the whole of the summer holidays to mourn, to cry. I was hoping that we could all come back this year and try to act as though everything was normal. They all want me to talk about it. I know he died a hero; I know that he was amazing and brave. But would he really want us all to waste away, would he really want us to not move on?"

"Of course he wouldn't. Give them time; it's only the third week of term."

"It's been three weeks of walking on eggshells! I can barely cope," she sighed. "It's probably going to be like this until the Christmas holidays."

"Probably. But that's what people are like, they're nosy and annoying, you just have to expect it."

"But it's not fair, it's my business. I just really hate a lot of people right now," she sighed and checked the clock. "Bloody hell, it's one. I should go. Thank you for tonight," smiled shyly at her new confidante and turned to go.

"No problem. Goodnight Cho."

"Night, she murmured softly and slipped back down to the basement and then back to the castle and her bed.

Cho went back that Friday. And Saturday as well. It became somewhat of a ritual for her, and whenever she went she would tell Rosmerta whatever was happening in her life. Sometimes she even got some background information on the vaguely enigmatic barkeep. She'd even got some funny stories about previous partners out of her, which she'd been surprised to find out were male and female.

On the last Hogsmeade weekend before Christmas she realised that this would be the last time she saw Rosmerta for about four weeks. So she bought her some flowers to say thank you and a small pendant necklace. She slid onto a stool and watched the older woman as she took orders and passed out drinks with a smile on her face. That was the moment when Cho realised that she was going to miss her.

"Cho!" The blonde's face visibly brightened and she hurried to the bar.

"I was hoping to see you. This'll be the last time I see you until after Christmas won't it?"

"Yeah, Friday night's girl's night, it's a tradition and there's no way that I can get out of it."

"Shame," she sighed. "Anyway, I have something to give you."

"Me too," Cho said with a grin.

"You got me a present?" the barkeep looked taken aback.

"Yeah, of course. You've helped me out so much during the past few months." She pulled the bouquet of carnations out of her bag and a small wrapped box.

"Oh these are gorgeous!" she exclaimed, picking up the flowers, inhaling their unique scent. "Carnations are my favourites, too."

"I know, you said at some point, and I remembered. There are a few lilies too because they're my favourite."

"Oh you're amazing. Give me a second, I'll go get a vase," she came back with a vase full-full of water and a wrapped present. She handed the box to Cho.

"Open yours first while I arrange the flowers." Cho ripped into the gift voraciously, where she was confronted with another box, which she practically tore open to reveal a beautifully made pair of Quidditch gloves.

"I had been thinking about getting you jewellery or something but then I remembered you complaining about your gloves and wanting to get some good ones but you felt like your parents would scold you for wasting money."

"Oh, they're fabulous," she grinned and pulled them out of the box before putting them on, marvelling at the way that they fit her hands. She leant over the bar and pecked a surprised blonde on a smooth cheek. "Open yours," she urged.

The older woman opened her present rather a lot more sedately but gasped all the same when she saw the small silver pendant nestled on a velvet cushion. It was an extremely lifelike fireball, somewhat like bluebell flames in looks.

"I remember you saying that your favourite element was fire even though as a Ravenclaw you feel as though it should be air."

"It's beautiful," she pulled it out of the box slowly, delicate silver chain slipping through her fingers. "I've been looking for one like this for years. Put it on me?" Cho smiled and took it from her, signalling for her to turn around. Rosmerta did so and pulled her blonde curls out of the way so that the dark-haired witch could secure it around her neck. For some reason she couldn't quite figure out she let her fingers linger on warm skin for a moment longer than needed. When Rosmerta turned around an intense eye-contact that neither of them truly understood the meaning of was established.

"Merry Christmas," the younger girl muttered even though it was weeks away.

"And a Happy New Year," she smiled, softly.

"A whole month," she sighed. "This has become somewhat of a necessity for me. At least I've passed my Apparation test. You might be seeing me at some point."

"I hope I do."

"We'll see, I'm pretty sure my parents will drive me crazy. Have a good week or two then."

"You too," the blonde couldn't resist rounding the bar and pulling the shorted girl in for a hug. When they parted she smiled again and fought through the crowd to the door, unable to resist looking back to see that Rosmerta's eyes were still trained upon her.

She'd managed to resist visiting until Christmas Day. She'd come to the conclusion that visiting the Inn was almost an addiction that she'd tried to wean herself off. During many hours of reflection in her room though, she has come to the conclusion that it was actually the barmaid that she missed, not the pub itself. That had been hard to deal with. She was straight, surely? Apparently not. The time away had caused her to start dreaming about the older witch and everything. So here she was, knocking on the closing Inn door at 9pm on Christmas Day, hoping that the blonde would open up. She finally did, wearing a dressing gown and brandishing her wand.

"Cho," she grinned and lowered her wand.

"I know it's presumptuous of me to think that you aren't already spending Christmas with someone but I had to see you."

"Its fine, come in. I'm glad you're here actually."

"Are you sure?" she asked nervously as she stomped snow off her boots and stepped into the surprisingly cold pub.

"Come on," the dressing gown clad woman urged and led her through the maze of tables through to the back and up a staircase then into a small but tidy living room.

"Can I take your coat?" Cho smiled gratefully and handed it over, looking around the warm space with interest. "Would you like something to eat or drink?"

"Erm, could I have some tea please?"

"Sure, come keep me company while I make it," she led her through to a lean kitchen that was furnished in warm mahogany with marble counters.

"I guess your parents were driving you mad?" she prompted with a quick grin.

"They were, but that's not why I'm here," she sighed. "I'm going to do something that's potentially very stupid, and very Griffindor-esque now," she took a deep breath. "I came here because I missed you. Because I think I may be in love with you," she closed her eyes and braced for impact.

"Oh thank God I thought that you were never going to say it," the older woman grinned at her and kissed the worried look off of her face.