She's not sure why she did what she did. She has no time for teenage infatuation, not when she has more important things to do - like piecing together her past. She wants desperately for him to just... hate her. Or at least, dislike her and have no interest in her whatsoever. And she thinks she was doing a good job of being a "bitch" - she shudders at the word - whenever he was around. But then, he just had to look so... honest, and pained, and... real. And he wasn't flirting or teasing or being a cocky arse. He was acting very much like - and she hates to admit this - her dream Cedric.
Her dreams are more vivid to her than any memory she can cling to. She doesn't understand this. Instead of remembering the fire and anything tangible, she sees owls, and cauldrons, and -she knows this can't be right- snow indoors! And she sees Cedric donned in yellow and black -colors he never wears at St. Agnes' because he's not a bumblebee for goodness' sake- but yet... they seem to suit him. And he's caring, warm, and protective, and every bit as much a Prince Charming as there ever was.
That must be it, she convinces herself. She reads about dream interpretations off the internet. He must represent her idea of love. Maybe she had a boyfriend in her past that looked like him. It can't mean she loves Cedric himself, can it? And her head is pretty good at following the rationale. Her heart, however, disobeys. Even when the girls tell her that she is just the "flavor of the month" and he's used to getting his own way.
It was, of course, easier when Rebecca wanted him. But now she's off with her own "flavor of the month", and the other girls aren't as aggressive in their affections for him. They would rather pine away their feelings, and love him from afar. Heck, if she had the choice, Cho would choose that too. But he keeps singling her out. And now they have that date coming up. She sighs. Maybe after that, he'd realize she's boring and nothing special, and he wouldn't ask her out again. Then, she could get back to discovering herself.
Nothing goes how she plans, and she resigns to that fact. Just today, Sister Catherine asked her to wait for Cedric at the back entrance to help him carry groceries. Naturally, she couldn't say no. So, she takes a broom and sweeps the cobblestones as she waits.
She looks up as the wind blows her hair away from her face. He's approaching on bike, a couple brown bags tied to the front and back baskets. His hair is tousled and shines under the morning sun. His eyes light up when he sees her standing there watching him. He smiles and she gives him a friendly smile in return. It darkens and her eyes widen. A car backs up rather quickly into the alley, and Cedric isn't paying attention. The car clips him, screeches to a halt, and she screams.
Everything happens so suddenly. She doesn't remember dropping the broom, nor racing to his side. There's blood on his face and she hears a crowd of murmur start to form. Spilled milk and crushed eggs line the pavement, and she's afraid when she sees how badly his bicycle is mangled. Because if it looks that bad, Cedric must be in worse condition. She doesn't know if she can touch him, but she reaches to hold his hand. Tears flow unrestrained. "Please, Cedric! You can't die now. Not when I gave up my life for you."
The words spill out and she gasps. She stands just as the adults arrive, barking orders for an ambulance and for the crowd to dissipate. She runs. She doesn't know where to go, so she buries herself in her room. For days. Just leaving for meals and for the lavatory. The girls tell her that he's fine. It looked worse than what it was and he was lucky to walk away (not literally, of course) with just bruises and a mild concussion.
In the dining hall, she times her entries, and walks in the middle of the students so she can avoid the spot next to him. She makes it a point not to look at him, forces herself to ignore him when he calls her name. He can't remember her; he's not allowed to remember them; her dreams are her memories, not his, not theirs. The contract blazes behind her eyes. She knows this is what she has to do to protect him.
But she can't stay locked in her room forever. Not when the seven year-olds drag her outside to play with soap bubbles again. It's something she misses, laughing and forgetting. She should have known Cedric would find her there in the courtyard, blowing a bubble out a metal hoop. He smiles at them, but his eyes look hurt and she knows it is directly reserved for her. The children rush around him and ask him to tell them a story. They beg her to stay and she sighs, gathering one in her lap as they sit on the grass.
"Once upon a time," Cedric takes a deep breath and winks at them. "There lived a prince."
"Was he as handsome as you?" The girl on Cho's lap asks, causing an erupt of giggles from the girls. Cho teases her in a soft whisper. "Pretty young to start flirting, hmm?"
"Only if you want him to be." Cedric grins. "Anyways, where was I? Oh, yes. There lived a prince."
"Did he live in a castle?" Another asks, just to be elbowed by the girl sitting beside her. "Of course, he does, silly! All princes live in castles."
"Yes, he did." Cedric continues. "One day, he meets the most beautiful princess he has ever seen."
The girls chorus a collective "oooo" while the boys start to gag. They all laugh at each other.
"The prince falls in love with her," he stares directly at Cho, "But she won't even give him the time of day."
"Oh, that sucks." One says and then clamps her hand over her mouth. Her friend pinches her. "Sorry!"
The kids laugh again. Cho clears her throat, and decides to continue the story. "What the prince doesn't know is that the princess made a deal with the dragon that lives in the forrest."
The boys start to perk up. Cho looks at all the children, carefully avoiding Cedric's gaze. "She promised that she wouldn't see the prince. In return, the dragon wouldn't kill him."
"Why can't he just fight the dragon?"
"The dragon is this powerful magical being. It can't be killed." Cho tells them. "The princess knows this. That's why she made the bargain."
"That's so romantic." The girls sigh in agreement. Cedric narrows his eyes.
"The princess doesn't believe in the prince." He says. "She should have faith that he could protect them from the dragon."
"The dragon is smart." Cho counters. "The trees and the wind talk to him. He'll find out if the princess breaks her word. The prince shouldn't tempt fate."
"The prince prefers to choose his own destiny, not follow whatever fate deals him."
"The princess thinks the prince should just forget about her and find another princess," Cho says. "There is, after all, a worldful of princesses."
By this time, the boys are getting rowdy, and the girls - who are watching them speak as if they are playing tennis - are getting annoyed with the boys. The kids grab what is left of the soapy pails and start splashing each other, but neither Cedric nor Cho pay attention to them.
"The prince doesn't want any other princess." He says.
"The prince is just stubborn." She says. The girl on her lap quickly scrambles off, and Cho receives a bucketful of water in the face instead. She looks at her drenched top, stands, and tries to shake some of the water off.
"Sorry, Cho!" The kids say and she laughs. They join her laughter. She untucks her shirt and wrings out what she can from the bottom. "I better go change."
She walks off and Cedric tells them to clean up the mess. He hurries after her. When he reaches her, he tugs on her arm. He tries not to stare at where the shirt clings to her body and instead focuses on her face.
"Dragons don't exist," he says.
She stares at a point beyond his shoulder. "Neither do happy endings."
to Part 5