In her dreams, he is always fighting a dragon - the Swedish Short-snout (its silver blue always struck her as almost pretty, with the majesty and grandeur of a lion) - and it is not the dreams that make her cry, but rather when she wakes and sees his empty eyes looming in front of her vision; death, the Killing Curse, written across his face. Then she remembers her heart plummeting, the moment of horror, the thing she’d miss most, and that’s when the tears start.
She tries to explain this to Madam Pomfrey, but she gets little further than dreams before the tears bubble up in her throat and she is unable to choke out the explanation. She takes the draughts of dreamless potion and chooses not to numb the image of him fighting. Pours them down the sink, nightly, and lists the things that Cedric achieved that she never could: The dragons, the lake (her chest tighten slightly, and wonders if he is still capable of missing her the most), the Blast-Ended Skrewts and all those unthinkable things in the maze. And he still died. Murdered.
The shift is startling, sudden, and much too soon for her to admit out loud. The emotions are too complicated to decipher, the thought processes unfathomable, her heart beating and breaking and healing all at once. Because one night, she dreams of a dragon with black scales, stark yellow pupils and more dangerous and more terrifying than its almost-beautiful predecessor: She dreams of a Hungarian Horntail.
And there is a different hero fighting her dragon.
When she writes an essay on dragons in Care of Magical Creatures, Marietta keeps her steady eye fixed on her as she carefully prints out her essay. She avoids mentioning their dragons, instead writing a good few inches about the Chinese Fireball and the Hebridean Black, dedicating the most of her essay to the magical properties associated with the beasts. In her mind’s eye, she can see their scaled, almost skeletal heads rearing upwards - bright blue flames that wound the retina and burn at the back of her eyes with the salt of barely repressed tears, or bright, searing white emblazed across her vision. The acidic feel of horror and anticipation and shock as she watches them fighting: A taste of adrenaline in the air, her muscles rigid as she doesn’t breathe - the shoulder wound, the burn, the broom, the Labrador, the summoning charm, the transfiguration (she remembers the events with equal clarity, as though they have been branded into her memories for the rest of her life).
“I don’t want to go.” Marietta says, neglecting her own essay (an extensive essay into the effects of magic induced sleep - varying from the Draught of Living Dead to sleeping spells, written for extra credit rather than for an actual class; Marietta always wanted nothing more than to please her parents through academic success).
Cho ignores her, pressing her pen further into the parchment. Useful in a wide variety of healing potions, removes spots...Cho pauses, biting her lip to avoid looking up at her friend.
“Fifth use: Red ink,” Marietta says, pointedly. “I don’t want to go.”
“Then I’ll go on my own,” Cho says, her forehead creasing as she looks up at her friend. “I’m going.”
She wants to say, “He’d go.” Or, “They’ve got to fight or they’ll die.” Or even, “She needs to talk to Harry.” But the words keep turning to dust in her mouth and into hot tears rolling down her face; Cho, so clever, so sensible, so torn apart by this stream of events.
“I’m not letting you go to the Hogshead alone,” Marietta says regretfully, irritated, maybe a thread of understanding embedded below it all.
Cho is always surrounded by a sea of pretty friends and pretty people. All of them know but they do not understand the grief, and the fact that she’s not okay, really, and that she’s confused and sad, and she needs to talk to Harry because he understands, because he’s going through the same thing. She has always been popular; she has never felt quite so alone.
It is a motley crew of misfits that assemble in the mysterious room with the books, the cushions, the mirror; but she feels more at home amongst this group of people who believe in Harry, believe in Cedric (the two concepts mingle in her mind daily because to believe Harry, you must believe that Cedric died as a hero rather than due to a tragic accident, and yet it twists in her mind who she believes in and who she is here for), and believe that there is a reason to fight.
The people in this room have the edge of something within them; they are in an army, they are passionate, and full of enough hope and simultaneous despair to prepare themselves for this oncoming bloody, vile war. They understand that she is here for a reason. They don’t tiptoe around her on eggshells, waiting for her to cry and weep and fall apart; instead she is welcomed, at home, part of something bigger than herself. She is learning how to protect herself.
Her name is signed across the sheet of paper pinned to the wall, a declaration of defiance, and she has proven to herself that she is more than a grieving teenager: She is a soldier. Perhaps one day she can be dangerous. Perhaps one day she will fight those who ruptured her life and sent her spinning into this emotional, painful, gritty grief that acts as her shadow. Even now, it haunts her sleep with dreams of dragons and the moments after she wakes with dead eyes.
The others are disappearing now. She sends Marietta away, stands near the mistletoe, waits for Harry. It’s okay, she tells herself. You’re getting stronger and you need to talk to Harry because Harry understands. Maybe she can slay a dragon. Maybe she can save herself. Maybe she can move beyond this somehow.
Except then, too late, she realises: Too soon. There’s Cedric, but there’s also Harry, and there are two dragons, and she is crying under the mistletoe. Harry approaches her and Cedric is dead, and she’s always liked both of them, but Cedric misses her most, but Cedric is dead and she can’t stop crying now.
She blinks up at Harry through her eyelashes, the tears clinging onto them for a split second before they fall and trail down her cheeks. Harry will understand, she decides. Harry will know what she’s going through. She can talk to Harry.
Cho would like Harry to tell her what happened in Mad Eye Moody’s office, with that eerie backdrop of the smoky reflection of enemies who were not there in the Foe Glass and the gentle hum of Sneakoscopes endlessly whirring. She would like Harry to explain what happened in that graveyard before Harry and Cedric’s body came spinning back and turning her life into a whirlwind of unexpected grief and hurting. She would like to hear about Voldemort returning to life with his white skin and the red eyes she imagines.
She thinks that she can handle it. Perhaps understanding will strengthen her resolve (it is building every day, although the dragons in her dreams continue to oscillate and fluctuate and brew dark guilt and anticipation and confusion) and Harry has that power. Sometimes she considers that is the draw to the bespectacled, green-eyed hero.
Cho knows she is imagining it, but it seems to her that there is an edge to the look Marietta gives her, as if she expects Cho to fail. Cho expects herself to fail. The theory is simple: A happy thought and a few muttered words. Yet she spends her days sporadically weeping and the first waking moments of each day with the taste of tears, familiar on her lips, and the eyes of her dead boyfriend gazing back at her. Happy is the problem. Happiness is the issue that stands in the way of everything she wants to grasp. If she can stop crying, if she can stand tall and move onwards, if Harry will just explain...
The room is full of silvery shapes: Graceful, beautiful. They are in the fringes of the room and filling the whole of the Room of Requirement with a startling light that makes her want to blink.
Her wand is good for Charms. She is talented at Charms even without the ten inches of fig wood and the unicorn hair within, yet she does not believe she has it within her to be truly happy even for a moment.
The room is watching and Cho has to try. She thinks of that moment just after Harry defeated his dragon, when neither champion was hurt, and both boys seemed invincible. It seemed eternal glory and a thousand Galleons would cost nothing. It was before she had to worry about the second task, or the Yule ball - when she had been able to release the tense muscles in her hands, when there was hero, and victories, and you could taste the atmosphere of unadulterated celebration. She’d been happy then.
Maybe happiness is currently too high of an aim. The circumstances have played out in ways she could never have expected, and to be happy would mean being heartless, but it isn’t out of her grip in the future. Perhaps that is the key to it all.
Cho Chang thinks of heroes defeating dragons, except this time she is facing her dragon, its scales the grey sheen of grief, and its fiery breath leaving a burning of ash and hurt. She thinks of happiness, of fighting back, and of being strong. She digs into the reserves of all she has left, lifts her wand, and casts the spell one final time.
Her Patronus is a swan: Serene, graceful, beautiful, vicious.
Betas: forsakenphoenix and TenthWeasley who didn't mock my 2AM writing and cleared up all the silly errors.
Uses all prompts:
- features your House’s Champion (Cho Chang)
- mentions at least 4 specific breeds of dragon (Swedish Short-Snout, Hungarian Horntail, Chinease Fireball, Hebridean Black)
- mentions at least 1 Unforgivable Curse (killing curse)
- mentions a Blast-Ended Skrewt
- features a dragon
- mentions a Sleeping Draught (10 points)
- mentions 2 of the following types of magic: a transfiguration spell, a sleeping spell, the conjunctivitis curse, the summoning charm (accio) (transiguarion spell, sleeping spell, summoning charm)
- includes mention of at least 5 of the 12 uses for dragon's blood (canon or made up by the author) (potion strengthener, red ink, spot removal, healing potions, oven cleaner)
- mentions at least 2 of the following types of Dark Detectors: Foe-Glass, Sneakoscope, Secrecy Sensor, or Probity-Probe (Foe-Glass, sneakoscope)
- features a theme of flourishing in the face of adversity
- mentions the details of your Champion’s Wand, as provided by your Head of House