Cho Chang held on tightly to Cedric as he gazed down at her, his eyes filled with the tender love he always showed to only her. The Great Hall was silent, as everyone else was preparing to watch or participate in the third task of the Triwizard Championship. Cedric knew he would have to leave her soon to accomplish the task, but he kept promising he would make it through safely, if only to see her beautiful face turned his way once more.
Still, the unknown dangers of the maze terrified Cho, and she wished, not for the first time, that Cedric's name had never been chosen. Why was it her boyfriend who had to risk his life repeatedly for some stupid competition?
She buried her face in his chest once more and said, "I love you, Cedric. Please be safe."
He tightened his embrace and kissed her softly on her forehead, "I love you too, and I will come back; I swear it to you."
Smiling gratefully, Cho pushed herself up to kiss his lips ever so softly, "Good luck."
It was almost time for the champions to go out, and Cho sent her boyfriend a final sad smile before he left. She would see him on the other side when he came out a victor, holding the cup above his head as all of the Hogwarts students cheered and applauded his remarkable bravery. She just knew he would. Then she would throw her arms around him and hold onto him tightly, because he was the real meaning in her life. Life without Cedric...she didn't even want to consider it. Sure, competitors had died in this task in the past, but not her Cedric. He would live, and they would finish school, get married, and spend the rest of their lives together. Neither had spoken of marriage before, but they had both thought about it, and they each knew the other's response would be a definite yes.
Joining her fellow Ravenclaws in the stands, Cho watched as the rules were read out, and the champions sent into the tall, green maze. Cedric shot her a last, fleeting smile before disappearing, and she blew him a silent kiss, murmuring, "Be safe."
What seemed like hours passed, and Cho watched her hands as she anxiously twiddled her thumbs. Fleur Delacour and Viktor Krum had already been removed from the maze, both being tended by mediwizards. That meant that her Cedric and Harry Potter were the only ones left in the arena.
"Oh please, let him be safe," Cho pleaded under her breath. She couldn't lose him.
Everyone was getting angsty now, as the minutes ticked by, and no champion came out. They could hear and see nothing, and the dead silence seemed so loud as Cho's heart pounded a loud, heavy rhythm against her ribcage.
"Calm down now, Cho. He promised he would be alright, and he wouldn't lie to you. Besides, it hasn't been that long," she tried to console herself. But something in the pit of her heart told her that something was terribly wrong. Cedric should have been back by now.
No, she pushed back the thought. Life without Cedric...there would surely be no happiness, no meaning, no feeling.
Sometimes, however, life didn't care how much it hurt, it just went on. Sometimes life wasn't "fair". Sometimes it went wrong.
Well, Cho's had only just scraped the top of the deep water of harsh reality. The plunge was coming.
Suddenly, there was a snap, and Harry appeared in front of the stands,clutching a strangely limp-
"-Cedric!" Already, tears of relief were spilling from Cho's eyes as the crowd stood to applaud the Triwizard champions. He had come back to her, just like he'd promised. Everything was going to be just fine. She began to make her way through the crowd, and couldn't help but note the fall in some of their cheers.
What? Weren't they glad to have Harry and Cedric safely back?
Cho shoved a tall Slytherin aside and finally got a view of Harry and her Cedric...
...Or, what had been her Cedric.
Her heart literally froze in painful realization, yet her mind refused to believe it. He couldn't
be...not Cedric...he wouldn't...
Something inside her eventually snapped in a loud smashing sound from somewhere deep within her soul. No, no, it hurt...it hurt so badly!
"No! No, he can't!" She wailed, running forward to find that Amos Diggory had also rushed forward. She didn't spare him another look, though, because her Cedric could not just die. That wasn't how life was supposed to be! Especially not Cedric's!
Her knees hit the hard ground as Professor Moody led a sobbing Harry away. Cho was deaf to all but the pounding of her own heart. She laid her head on Cedric's chest as if it were happening in slow motion. Tears began to slip from the corners of her dark eyes at the emptiness she felt in response.
That heartbeat she had loved to just sit and listen to on quiet afternoons...it wasn't there. The arms she had always felt so wanted and loved within...they didn't even seem to realize all she really wanted right now was for them to hold her close. The lips that had always pressed gently to her forehead when she lay against him...no warm breath left them, no tender words or kisses. He was so still, so cold, so empty...it was as if he wasn't even there any more.
But she didn't care. It didn't matter anymore...nothing did. Nothing except that this was not her Cedric...this couldn't be her Cedric!
She didn't have the strength to move anymore, so she lay there, against the empty chest of what had once been the best thing in her life, and sobbed her heart out. Eventually, no more tears would come, but still she cried, her throat dry, her lips cracked and parched, her entire body sore. Is this what they mean when they talk out having your entire world crumble around you? She wondered, because if it's not, it has to be even worse.
Some men came to take the body-she refused to call the shell that had once housed such a beautiful, comforting, always at least somewhat optimistic soul her Cedric-and she was simply too weak to protest. Maybe she was starving and parched. Maybe she was tired. Perhaps even sick, but she couldn't feel it. She lay against the rough ground, but felt nothing.
Life was a bleak, grey pallet, with no end in sight, and the beginning too far behind to be visible.
There was no point, no meaning, no feeling, no light, no colour, no happiness, no enjoyment, no beginning, no end, and nothing in between. Life was an endless, mundane, grey quiet circle, and it just went around and around and around.
Cho tried to move on, she really did. She tried to reach any island in the endless grey sea. Harry tried to comfort her, tried to put her mind to rest by telling her that Cedric had died smiling.
Died smiling? Oh, the irony! Did it matter? He'd still died, he'd still left her here all alone after promising he never would. He had lied.
Her Cedric had lied.
But it didn't matter, she still missed him, and, maybe he was dead, but she still loved him with every fiber of her being. She loved him no matter what. Pretending to date Harry Potter didn't change anything: she felt nothing for him. But oh, she missed her Cedric so badly some days. Like the days when they both finished studying early and he would take her out to sit by the lake and just lie there, side by side with their fingers entwined. Oh for one more day like that!
But life was a cruel taskmaster, and Cho could never have her lover back in this life.
The Wizarding War came, and she battled on through the grey nothing, not because there was anything to be gained in the end, but because her mother had always taught her to "be strong, no matter what". She might be strong, but she was now nothing more than an empty shell.
Before she knew it, the boy she'd dated once or twice, Harry Potter, was off marrying another girl, but she didn't know anything after that, and she didn't care.
He had probably forgotten all about her. Then again, what was to remember? She had never treated him as if she could actually fall in love with him. No, Cedric's death was too hard to bear already, and betraying his love for any other boy would only make it worse.
The days were long and same-old.
But occasionally, perhaps once a month after Cho had turned thirty, she began to see a very tiny light somewhere in the distance.
She would see him sometimes, as she she crossed a street, she would glance to the left for just a split second and see him watching her, his merry blue eyes shining with pure love. Then she would blink, and he'd be gone.
Other times, he might come to her on a grey, rainy afternoon and take the seat beside her on the couch, she would lean her head on his shoulder, and just lay there until she fell asleep...only to awaken to find herself lying against the arm of the couch.
She still loved him, that she knew for sure, and she would love him until the end of time, no matter what happened.
Then, she turned forty, and Cedric's visits became more frequent, perhaps once a week.
They would sit up late at night in front of the fire, just talking. Her grey sea of life would be forgotten in his happy, love-filled eyes, and they might share a kiss occasionally. She would awaken in the morning to find herself alone in front of the fireplace as the embers cooled.
Still life dragged on until her forty-fifth birthday. She had never married, because she knew she could never love anyone other than Cedric. And her birthday came and went without any fuss or excitement, until that night.
The lights were all out in Cho's house, and she was completely and utterly alone. She sat on the edge of her bed with her chin in her palms and just stared at the floor. She was forty-five years old! Where had her life gone? But the thought was fleeting, because her mind immediately realized that it didn't matter. Life was nothing without Cedric.
Then she felt a light touch on her shoulder. Not just any touch, though. This particular hand on the bare skin of her shoulder due to her sleeveless tank top, sent an eclectic current through her body that she hadn't felt in so many years she couldn't count, because time was nothing.
She hesitated, then looked up to find herself lost in the eyes of an older-looking Cedric Diggory. He looked to be about her age now, but he still had the same merry blue eyes, the same kind face.
"C-Cedric?" Cho's lips could barely form the word. She had "seen" him so much over the past fifteen years, but she hadn't actually seen him so real and tangible as he was right now. It was so overwhelming to truly be this close to her Cedric after so long. She instinctively stood and wrapped her arms around his waist, completely speechless. Her body molded against his just as if they had never been apart, and Cho just held onto him.
He planted a soft kiss on her dark, straight hair and held her close, "Cho, how I have missed you, Love!"
His voice was thick with emotion, and she knew he was about to cry. She still knew him so well after all these years.
"What is it, Cedric?" She whispered, so scared that he would vanish if she spoke to loudly. She didn't want him to leave her again...not yet! She wasn't ready yet. Then again, could she ever be ready to lose him all over again?
"We'll be together soon, my dear, I know we will, but...it's going to be scary for you," she felt his tears now wetting her hair as he continued to kiss it tenderly.
"I have to die..." the realization suddenly dawned on Cho, and she looked up searchingly into Cedric's eyes, "I have to die?"
He nodded mutely, and stroked her cheek softly, "Tomorrow, Love. Tomorrow, you must die. You will be scared...very scared. But we will be together afterwards, I promise, and this time, I will keep that promise."
She reached up to run her hands through Cedric's dark hair as she looked deeply into the worried blue eyes of this one man she loved so much. If he said everything would be fine in the end, there was no way she was going to doubt him.
She leaned up to press her lips ever so softly to Cedric's, and...oh, the memories! This kiss felt so like the one just before the third task so many years ago. It was really her Cedric, and she knew he was telling the truth this time.
As they drew apart, she brushed her lips down his chin in total awe. Her lips remembered his skin so well. How she had missed him!
"Will you stay with me...when it happens?" She pleaded.
Cedric closed his eyes and nodded, looking pained, "I will carry you through, I swear."
He picked her up bridal style and laid her on her bed, pulling the covers over her and kissing her once more on her forehead.
"Goodbye, my Angel, I will see you tomorrow," he promised, and she, surprisingly, had no doubt about his honesty. Everything was going to be just fine. This time, it really was.
Death couldn't scare Cho Chang when her precious Cedric was waiting on the other side.
The next morning, Cho sat up in bed and rubbed the sleep from her eyes before swinging her legs out of bed and going to the bathroom to shower and dress for work. She had mostly forgotten the last night, and what she remembered seemed like a distant dream. However, the endless grey sea seemed to be melting away, slowly but surely.
Feeling lighter than she had in years, Cho left her house and walked to her bus stop, wondering if something important was supposed to happen today. Surely there was something...she knew there was something going on today, but what was it...?
She stopped on the sidewalk at the bus stop to wait for her ride.
"Cedric...?!" Cho's mouth dropped open and she stood frozen for a moment.
Then she leapt forward just as he ran towards her, catching her in his strong, Quidditch-toned arms. She threw her head back and laughed as he spun her around, kissing every inch of her face. Never in her wildest dreams had she dared to hope to feel like this ever again...yet here she was, in the arms of the single man she had always loved.
So lost was she in the moment that she didn't notice they were in the very middle of the street and the bus would never see them in time enough to stop as it rounded the corner...until just then.
"Cedric...-" her eyes widened in horror as she saw what time it was nearby. The bus was never a second late, and its second to arrive was five seconds away.
"Trust me," his voice was gentle and earnest, and Cho forced her terror away to meet Cedric's eyes one last time in her mortal life, before his lips descended on hers and everything else faded. She didn't even hear the bus driver suddenly honk his horn and slam on the breaks just a second too late.
Then it hurt.
Her wail of human agony split the serene morning air as she felt her legs knocked from beneath her, obviously broken from the sickening crunch as the fender hit the backs of her legs. Her knees hit the pavement hard and sent burning pains all the way up to her brain. She couldn't stop herself from falling forward except with her hands, and then the bus' fender slammed into her spine as the vehicle jolted to a rough stop.
The last thing she felt was Cedric's tender hands stroking her face as the blow to her spine ended her fragile life. She fell forward against him, just seeing the tears of tormented agony on his face. She knew he had come back to the mortal world simply to die with her to make the passing easier. The bus had completely run him over, and he died a horrible death just so she wouldn't have to face it alone. He had kept his word.
And Cho Chang's vision went black.
It was as if she was watching everything play by from a bird's eye view. She didn't feel quite solid, and she couldn't see herself, so she had to assume she had somehow become a vapor riding on the winds higher in the atmosphere.
The bus was being backed up, and there lay Cedric, his body completely crushed below the chest. Tears welled in Cho's eyes...those, she knew were actually eyes.
There lay her bloodied body, on top of Cedric's, their hands still clasped, his free hand still in her hair.
But they had died together, and that was the only way she ever could have seen herself dying: with Cedric.
Her vapor was passed through by another, and she turned to see Cedric's face in the vapor, his eyes shining with not pain, not anger, not frustration, but complete adoration.
"I told you we'd be together. I told you I'd go through it with you," Cedric's voice was definitely his, but it now sounded so light and care-free, "I got to keep my promise this time."
Cho could only gaze back in wonder. He had done it all for her, and that only made her love him more. Tears shone in her eyes as she whispered, "Thank you, Cedric...thank you."
Then he pointed upwards toward a golden light with one hand, and offered the other to Cho, "Shall we?"
She took it lightly, to find he still felt very real, "Yes, we shall."
Kissing him tenderly on the lips, she clung to him and let him take them both up to the golden light...to be together for the rest of eternity.
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