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Aftermath by Flavia
Chapter 1 : Cho
Rating: 15+Chapter Reviews: 5

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Gorgeous CI by aurevoir @ TDA

There is a fine mist of rain falling on the green hillside near the village of Ottery St. Catchpole, the weather unseasonably cool for late June.  The drizzle keeps all living things indoors or huddled underneath shelter so there is nobody to witness the sudden, magical appearance of a lone figure near the crest of the hill.  Without so much as a glance behind her, the woman begins her slow but determined journey to the valley below.

She is young, still in her twenties with long dark hair that frames her delicate features and a slight, athletic build, though most of her body is hidden beneath the dark, ankle-length cloak she wears.  Instinctively, she pulls it tighter around herself as though trying to keep out the rain…or something else.  Her feet barely make a sound as she moves deftly through the grass, expertly avoiding holes made by unseen animals and debris that has blown over from the nearby woods.

Those who knew Cho Chang in her younger days would say that she has not changed much in appearance; she still has the look of the sprightly, intelligent, Ravenclaw seeker who would make her way through the Hogwarts corridors surrounded by a group of friends, laughter filling much of her days.  But upon closer inspection, there are small, yet significant, changes in her; the colour of her cheeks is permanently paler than it used to be, as though she is perpetually ill or spends a lot of time indoors.  The natural, shy smile she often flashed to others is rarely seen anymore, and her eyes – once a deep shade of brown that once caught the attention of Harry Potter himself – are now dull and flat, rarely showing any expression.

An inviting looking cottage appears in the distance, and Cho makes her way towards it, seemingly oblivious to the puddles in the dirt track that flick mud on to her boots and the hem of her cloak.  The cottage is in pristine condition, as though the people living there have nothing else to do but give copious amounts of time to the meticulous upkeep of their dwelling.  As she approaches, Cho knows that the freshly painted fence has nothing to do with house-pride but with the desire to keep busy, distracted.  Fifteen feet from the wooden gate, she turns, now walking parallel with the boundary as she skirts around the building towards the garden in the back.  She pauses for a minute when she draws level with the back door, considering going inside to say hello, but decides better of it.  She doesn’t want to talk today, not to anyone living inside the house anyway. 

Not to anyone living, period.

This is a journey she has made before, in fact it is her seventh trip in as many years, the first only days after the fateful and famous (or infamous, depending on your perspective), Battle of Hogwarts.  She knew he’d want to know the outcome and even though part of her taunted that it was pointless as she’d most likely be talking to herself, Cho had made that first visit and reported the whole story all the same.  She hadn’t been able to stop herself returning every year after that, almost as if an invisible force was drawing her in.

Underneath a vast oak tree sits a modest stone block, this is Cho’s destination and she quickens her pace slightly as it comes into view.   The stone is surrounded by perfectly maintained lawn, the bright green of the grass contrasting with the almost white-grey of the stone, Cho stops a few feet away from the stone and takes a deep breath.

“Hi Cedric,” She speaks softly, partially because she doesn’t want her presence to be known by the people inside the house and partially because she knows that if he is listening, then he will hear her voice no matter the volume.  “June 24th already, huh?  Goes by so quickly these days.”  She knows that it is stupid to be making small talk with a dead person, but she can’t help herself; the normalcy of it calms her nerves.

“I got a new job you know, working at the Daily Prophet of all places.  Not sure I’d ever really dreamed of becoming a journalist but it’s actually a lot of fun.  I’m working for the Sporting department, mostly reporting on Quidditch matches, team drafts and injuries, that sort of thing.  It can be a bit tedious at times but I don’t mind it.

“I got to interview Ginny Weasley the other day, sorry, I mean Ginny Potter.  You remember her?  Gryffindor, a few years below me, she was in the DA too.  She married Harry Potter a couple years back – did I tell you that?  They invited me to the wedding, I thought it was really sweet of them, but I didn’t go.  Thought it might be a bit awkward…”

Cho shuffles her feet a bit and straightens the edge of her cloak before continuing her chatter.

“She’s going back to playing after having her first child and they wanted to do a bit of an article about women in Quidditch, you know being mothers and all that.  She’s pretty determined, done amazing things for the Harpies in her time there…

“Anyway, it’s a good job and I’m happy there I think.  It’s a nice steady income too, not that money is everything, but you know, it’s nice to have something to spend in Quality Quidditch Supplies.”

She tries to laugh at this, but the attempted chuckle turns into a sort of choked sob instead.  A memory of their first date in Hogsmeade village comes to mind and Cho is overwhelmed by the recollection of sitting across from Cedric in Madam Puddifoots, talking incessantly about their favourite broomsticks and who was going to win the next European Quidditch Cup.  She remembered the way he had reached across to hold her hand in his, so naturally like it was the most normal thing in the world, but at that moment, Cho had felt like she could fly without the help of a broom or any other magical device; this was a magic all its own.

Composing herself, Cho inhales deeply and continues her one-sided conversation.

“I went to the memorial last month.  I didn’t really feel up to it, but I’m glad I went all the same, even if just to go to the Leaky Cauldron afterwards with the rest of the DA.  You know Tom, the old guy who owned the Leaky Cauldron?  He’s retired, moved on or up or something.  A girl called Hannah bought it from him, she’s really young too, a year younger than me anyway, but that’s still pretty young to own a pub!  She said she’s worked there pretty much since re-doing her seventh year at Hogwarts and had quite a bit of gold put away from when her Mum died some time ago, so she made the decision to go for it, make the investment and all that.

“She’s dating Neville Longbottom too, they’re a sweet couple.  Do you remember him from school?  Probably not, but I’ve told you about him and the battle…” Her voice catches on the word ‘battle’ and Cho falls silent for several minutes, staring steadily at the words on the stone.

Cedric Amos Diggory

1977 – 1995

Beloved Son and Friend

Good and Kind and Brave

There is very little sound except for the steady rhythm of Cho’s breathing and the quiet drip, drip, drip of water droplets falling from a nearby branch to a small puddle below.

“I’m seeing this bloke at the moment, well that is we’ve been out a couple of times,” Cho eventually continues.  “He’s a muggle, but his brother is a wizard.  I work with him at the Prophet – the brother that is.  He’s nice, you’d like him I think, he’s kind and funny and doesn’t think magic is too odd, although he doesn’t know much about Quidditch, but I can fix that.” A smile crosses Cho’s lips, but it is short lived.

“They were talking about you at the memorial,” Cho’s sudden change in topic surprises even herself.  “People were sharing stories about you and they all talked about how brave you were.  McGonagall said you were one of the best Transfiguration students she’d ever seen and Professor Sprout had so many stories she could have gone on all night, said you would have been head boy if you hadn’t…”

The misty rain is clouding Cho’s vision, but when she wipes at her face it is dry, and she realises that it’s not rain, but tears that are threatening to overflow. 

“You would have made such a good head boy too, and your Dad would have been so proud.  Remember what he said after the second challenge?  ‘Modern day knight in shining armour, my boy.  And so humble he’d never tell a soul!’”  Cho smiles at her pathetic attempt to emulate the older man’s voice.

“He had enough pride for the both of you, still does I suppose.  And he had good reason to be proud of you, I mean you were all those things that everyone said about you, you were honest and you were kind and you were funny and you…you…”

The tears are no longer just welling up in Cho’s eyes, they are overflowing now, flooding across her cheeks in little rivers and dropping on to her cloak, mingling with the raindrops that already cling to the fabric.  She swats at her cheeks pointlessly, not able to stop the flow.

“You were so brave Ced, and it’s not fair that you had to die when the rest of us get to live, people who were nowhere near as brave as you.  People like me.”  Cho’s shoulders slump as she gives way to the torrent of grief she has been holding in all morning.  She wraps her arms around herself and weeps for Cedric: the first boy she had kissed, the first boy she had loved, the boy who hadn’t lived.

After some time, the rain has grown more substantial and Cho has cried herself hoarse.  With no more tears left in her to shed, Cho straightens up, brushing the last of the salty droplets away from her bloodshot eyes and pulling out her wand. 

“Orchideous,” She mutters, and a beautiful bouquet of flowers bloom out of nowhere.  Cho steps forward and gently places the blooms at the base of the headstone, pausing to kiss her hand and press it gently against the cold granite surface.

“Bye Cedric, I’ll see you this time next year,” Her voice is barely a whisper now, and without another word, she turns and walks away, away from Cedric and his earthly memorial, away from the childhood home where he grew up and dreamed about his future and learnt to play Quidditch.  Cho wouldn’t see this place for another year but it will be in her heart, in her soul, just as Cedric always will be.  It is ten years to the day since Cedric died, just over seven since the end of the war, but Cho knows that some things never change, some memories never fade, and some wounds can never be healed.

The inscription on Cedric’s gravestone is from Dumbldore’s ‘Remember Cedric’ speech to the Hogwarts students after Cedric’s death.  Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, pg 628, Paperback edition.

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