Chapter 2 : The Hidden Shore
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The Hidden Bank
Hardly a soul had known that Cho and Cedric had broken up just a few weeks before the final task of the Triwizard Tournament. Admittedly, the couple seemed to have been spending much less time together but most, including Lua, had attributed this to the tournament itself. Even fewer knew that a week before the event took place Cedric had sent a note to Lua, charmed to fly into her dormitory window as she lay sleeping after a particularly nasty History of Magic exam. The note seemed to have been written hastily and bore only a few words:
Meet me at the spot.
She knew, of course, exactly the spot he meant; a stony bank along the Great Lake where few students ventured. A place where the two had spent countless evenings, whiling away the hours, laughing and talking until the first stars could be seen reflected in the rippling water. The site was often abandoned because in order to get there, a short journey was to be made through the murky eaves of the Forbidden Forest.
It was a place that their parents, whom had met and been close during their own days at Hogwarts, often spoke of after a few bottles of mead. They would sit around the dinner table, glassy-eyed and reminiscent, exchanging stories of the many nights they had spent there. And though they advised their children to adhere to the rules and stay out of the forest as they were told, they were not careful to let slip detailed instructions on how to find the place.
Within her first few weeks at Hogwarts, Lua, who was two years younger than Cedric but had started school a year late due to her powerful shyness, had gone in search of the hidden bank alone.
It was not exactly difficult to find, though it took Lua a good deal of self-coaxing to enter the forest. The directions were almost spot on, though the fallen log her mother and Mrs. Diggory had spoken of, which in their day had served as bridge over a large ravine, had long since rotted away. Resolved to find the place, Lua had climbed down the gorge and back up the other side. (In her second year, she and Cedric would charm a rope to tie around the gnarled limb of an over-hanging tree and simply swing across.)
A triumphant, 12-year-old Lua had arrived back at the castle that night just as the students were shuffling into the Great Hall for dinner. Too excited about her discovery to wait, she hurried past the Gryffindor table and went immediately to where Cedric sat with his friends. Not embarrassed at all by her sweaty and dirty appearance, Cedric merely smiled and scooted over to allow her a seat next to him among the rest of the third-year Hufflepuffs, to the great annoyance of the gaggle of girls who sat around him.
“And what have you gotten yourself into?” he had asked with a laugh
“I found it, the spot my mum and your parents always talk about!” she said breathlessly
“How am I not surprised?” he said amusedly then asked, “and why wasn’t I invited?”
“Well, I-I figured you wouldn’t want,” she hesitated, “Wouldn’t be able to come.”
“Are you kidding me? I thought that was the plan! I thought we were going to find it together!”
“I’m sorry!” She said, blushing now but smiling broadly despite herself, “are you busy tomorrow? I can take you there.”
“Well I’ve got homework, but we can do it there I expect… yeah, let’s go after breakfast!”
Lua, sixteen now, walked quickly through the damp forest, reaching the ravine in record time. Grabbing hold of the rope she swung across the deep cut and landed quite skillfully on the other side. A few paces on she emerged noiselessly from the forest, onto a stony shore where the lake formed a small harbor, hidden by the arms of low hanging oaks. The water flowed in steadily from beyond the line of twisted branches. Here, it was deep enough to swim, though the further the creek crept into the dark wood beyond the clearing, the more narrow and shallow it became. The leaves of the trees were the brightest of green, though sparse and fragile with the coming of summer. Moss clung heavily to the rocks, wrapping with the vines up tree trunks and into bright white oblivion. Up, up and into the sky, blinding and only visible while the spring held out.
Lua skipped to the water’s edge, kicking her shoes off as she went, and waded in to her knees. The water was always perfect here. Perfect and blue and still. She closed her eyes and forgot about her exams, forgot about the Triwizard tournament. She thought only of the smooth mud beneath her toes, the cool water rippling against her shins. And she thought of him, Cedric.
This year had been a strange one for them. Most years they spent as much time together as their schedules permitted, which sometimes limited them to passing conversations in the halls and charmed notes. They would spend a day or two together at the spot, peruse Hogsmeade together and study together. The summer and Christmas holidays almost always meant they had at least a week solely for one another. There was never any conflict, perhaps a little tension, but they had always been friends… the best of friends. Not this year. This year they had spent months at a time ignoring one another in the halls, arguing in corridors…
But Lua tried not to think of that. It had been months and months since he had asked her to meet him here and she was happy for it. They had only recently begun talking again, but hadn’t had any time to see one another. She opened her eyes to the dazzling green and scanned the opposite shore and hanging trees, wondering now where he was. Suddenly, as though in answer to her curiosity, she felt two hands at her waist, pinching her sides. Startled, she jumped and turned around, instinctively slapping Cedric’s shoulder playfully.
“Jerk,” she laughed, “have you been here all this time?”
“Well ,” he smiled, and she melted, “ I was planning on scaring you…but you looked so peaceful. I just couldn’t bring myself to do it” he teased.
She rolled her eyes and smiled up at him, “So what’s up?”
“Ahh,” he said, putting his hands in the pocket of his black jeans, rocking on the balls of his feet, “we’ll get to that.”
“Yes. Let’s catch up first” he said, pulling a cloth bag and pipe from his pocket.
Talking and giggling inside a thick haze of purple smoke, they packed the pipe liberally with the contents of the bag, passing it back and forth to one another, deeply inhaling the sweet-smelling plant. They formed smoke birds and sent them soaring through the trees. They sailed smoke ships over the crystal water… which were then attacked and overtaken by hazy purple sea monsters. They talked idly of the universe, and how they were scared to die but wondered what happened after. They both agreed to never become ghosts and they made a pact to never go this long without hanging out again. Before long the bag was empty, and with their minds buzzing they laid down on the rocks next to each other, staring through the patchy leaves at the yellow sky above; the sun was setting.
They had been lying in content silence for some time when Cedric finally spoke
“I broke up with Cho,” he said, “a few days ago.”
Lua turned her head to face him as his words sunk in to her still-fuzzy brain. He was looking at her intently, and she suddenly became self-conscious. She sat up to escape his gaze, and looked upward toward the darkening sky.
“Oh,” she said lamely and bit her lip. She smiled faintly and looked down at him. He was also smiling, looking out over the swimming hole.
“For good?” she asked, trying to seem as though a year of discontent had not suddenly melted away.
“Yes,” he said simply, rolling over and jumping to his feet, “fancy a swim?”
“S-sure” she stammered without thinking and took his outstretched hand. He pulled her to her feet and kicked off his shoes.
They rarely came to the hidden bank without the intention of swimming, so both had their bathing suits on beneath their clothes, which were soon scattered about the shore as they waded into the pool together. When the water was at their thighs, Lua stopped to brace herself for the cold.
“Come on!” Cedric urged, taking her by the hand as though it were nothing.
“Why did you break up with her?” Lua asked suddenly, her courage allowing her one moment for curiosity’s sake. Cedric looked down at their entwined hands and smiled.
“Because she wasn’t you” he said simply without looking at her and pulled her closer to him, leading her now into the dark water.
“Tell me more,” she said as they walked and then swam through the water, “Why now?”
Cedric sighed. She knew he wouldn’t want to talk about it now… but she needed to understand. She had been waiting too long.
“She saw us talking at breakfast the other day and went mad. She said I looked at you different…And I realized I couldn’t argue with her about it... Because I do, and I know it” he said, “she said I hadn’t looked happier to talk to someone in ages. Even her, and I knew it was true.”
“Was she the reason you stopped talking to me last time?” Lua asked
“Yeah,” he replied, “And she was already mad that we were friends again. That last argument was my excuse to end it.”
They fell into silence then; it felt natural, comfortable…it reminded her of the days they had spent the previous summer swimming in the French Riviera. Together, they waded to the center of the pool, and treaded water without speaking; both unsure of what to do next until Cedric, laughing at the silence, plunged suddenly under water and grabbed Lua’s feet, pulling her below the surface. She emerged sputtering and cursing at no one; Cedric was still under water or else, swimming somewhere out of site. She decided not to give him the satisfaction of looking for him, she floated on her back instead and tried to calm her mind and ease the tension in her belly.
As she knew he would, Cedric soon popped out of the water behind her. But rather than splash her as she had expected, he grabbed her under the arm and pulled her to him. She shivered as their bodies touched; her back to his chest. He let his lips linger near her ear for just a moment and whispered, “So, what now?”
Lua reached under the water to where his hand rested on her waist and took it, pulling herself around to face him. She wanted so badly to be charming, to play it as coolly as he could, but she was clumsy with her words and she knew it. What she did not know was that he loved this about her, and it took his breath away to face her in the water. He adored how sweetly she struggled to find the words to express what he knew she felt. He felt her shivering and pulled her closer. Her arms were wrapped tightly around his neck now, their faces little more than a few inches apart.
“I can’t be happy without you” he said finally, when she didn’t respond, and kissed her lips lightly, pulling away quickly to gauge her reaction. She could think of nothing to say, though there were a million words on the tip of her tongue. Instead she pulled his face to hers again and kissed him deeply. Clumsily, reluctant to let go of one another, they made their way out of the black pool, to lie together on the shore, kissing until their lips ached.
When stars swept the sky above them, and their faces were barely visible in the light, they pulled their clothes over their wet swim suits… kissing again at intervals between articles of clothing, laughing in spite of themselves at the difficulty of putting on jeans with damp legs.
Lua had long since lost her fear of making the journey back through the forest in the dark. Still, she was usually alert for signs of trouble, strange shadows or unfriendly sounds… not dangerously unaware of everything but Cedric’s hand in hers. They did not speak as he lead her, almost blindly, through the thick underbrush of the forest and back to the castle. Dinner was long since over, but they had still gotten back early enough to sneak in unnoticed.
Cedric led the way to the Hufflepuff common room, playfully making Lua cover her ears as he recited the password to the still-life portrait which guarded it. The comfortable room was relatively full, mostly with students cramming in some last minute studying. Three giggling girls in the corner stopped when they saw Cedric come through the portrait hole, ready to invite him over hopefully but frowning when they saw Lua a few paces behind him. She had visited the Hufflepuffs here on many occasions; some of them even looked up from their books to greet her, to which the girls raised their eyebrows disapprovingly.
They stayed up late that night with Cedric’s best friend Alex, purposely trying to outlast any stragglers, throwing random Transfiguration questions at Lua, who was worried about an exam she had the following morning. Cedric packed his pipe several more times and Lua, dazed from smoke and lack of sleep, let her head fall to his shoulder, deeply content. She realized then how much she had missed this; the time they had spent together in previous years when her Hufflepuff visits had been more regular. Quidditch rivalries almost always meant uncomfortable tension in her own common room; Lua was good friends with the Weasley twins and with Harry Potter. Not to mention, she had dated Oliver Wood the previous year. She remembered with a smile how much Cedric had disapproved of that.
At some point she drifted off to sleep, waking suddenly to Cedric’s lips on her forehead. He smiled as her eyes fluttered open.
“Alex just went to bed” he whispered, “Do you want to come up?”
Lua nodded sleepily and Cedric took her hand, leading her down a dark tunnel-like passage, through a round yellow door and into his dorm where half a dozen boys were sleeping soundly. They crawled in bed together, fully clothed and exhausted, fumbling with the bed hangings to ensure their privacy. Once they had gotten settled beneath the sheets, Lua laid her head in the crook of Cedric’s shoulder, kissing his neck softly as he wrapped his arm around her and turned slightly to face her. He stroked her cheek lightly and kissed her forehead, nose, cheeks and then finally her mouth.
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