A/N 2: I put Cedric's birthday in late August, making him a Virgo. Why? Because JKR roughly said Hufflepuff = Earth element (Gryffindor = Fire; Ravenclaw = Air; Slytherin = Water), and of the three Earth signs (Capricorn, Taurus, Virgo), Virgo would give him a bday close to the beginning of the school year. And Virgo = Virgin/Innocent and that was the symbolic meaning of his death. Sure, he could be a Leo (although Harry is one) or a Libra or any other sign, but Virgo just fit in my mind. (/ramble)
Cedric feels so happy he would burst into Broadway songs upon the tree tops if (1) he could actually carry a tune, (2) if the Sisters would allow spontaneous musical outbursts, and (3) if Cho actually let him announce to the school that they were together, a couple, going steady, boyfriend/girlfriend, whatever the hip/down/groovy/cool/sweet term is... in love.
But, naturally, Cho is a bit shy and since St. Agnes is not too keen on public displays of affection, Cedric reserves his hugs and kisses for empty classrooms and their weekends alone. With innocent eyes, he manages to slip in hand-holding when they're in the courtyard or corridors and an occasional kiss when no one's watching. She always blushes and smiles at him, calls him "giddy" or "feisty" (depending on how ardent he acts), and tells him to "behave". He doesn't mind. She can be as serious as she wants to be, just as long as she loves him, and he knows she does.
She says he has an excuse. His birthday is coming up, and everyone usually gives birthday boys lots of freedom to be crazy. Even the Sisters turn a blind eye to his bouts of hyperness. They wouldn't though, if they knew that he had been and continues to sneak into her bedroom late at night. And he thanks the good Sisters daily for giving the older students separate rooms.
A tap at her window startles Cho, and she turns - surprised since her room is on the second floor- to see Cedric pushing the window farther up so he can enter.
"Cedric!" She is smart enough not to yell, but she whispers just as sternly. She crosses her room, looks out her window at the tree (guesses correctly), and then back at him. "What are you doing here?"
"I wanted to make sure there were no dragons under your bed." He tries to look serious as he kneels and checks the floor. She raises an eyebrow, but covers her laughter with her hand.
"Yup." He smiles. "But I should stay here. Just to make sure you're protected."
"You never know when they could appear." He tries not to stare at the shadows of her curves under her over-sized shirt. She tiptoes up to give him a kiss.
"I thought you told me that dragons don't exist."
"I said that, didn't I?" He kisses the tip of her nose before whispering in her ear. "Well... if I tell you the truth... will you promise not to laugh?"
"I'm afraid of the dark." He says. Her smile grows.
"Well, in that case, you better stay." She pushes him down on her bed and crawls under the covers with him. As she flicks off the light, she kisses his forehead. "Don't worry. I'll protect you."
He smiles into her hair and cuddles close. Before dawn, he always leaves lest they get in trouble.
Some nights, they do more than just cuddle, but he is not the 'kiss and tell' type and he protects her reputation and their privacy with every fiber of his being. He loves her, and he doesn't get tired of saying it, nor of hearing it, especially when the midnight moon shines through her window and she glows underneath him.
His birthday wraps up the last of the August birthdays, and marks the end of the summer. The students are simply happy for any reason to throw a party - or an organized festivity as the Sisters say - and the merry buzz around St. Agnes grows. The younger children enthusiastically display their artwork in the dining hall, and help with the other decorations. The older students are in charge of the refreshments and music (which have to go through the Sisters' screening). While Rebecca and Ken worry about the songlists, Cho busies herself in the kitchen.
Cedric smiles as he enters, carrying a couple bags of groceries. He has never smiled so consistently before that his cheeks are sore, but he doesn't care. He gives Cho a peck on her temple as she cuts stacks of sandwiches into triangles. "The craziest thing happened to me on my way home from the market."
"What?" She pulls a plate down from the cupboard.
"Some guy kept jumping up and down -well, maybe not quite jumping- but he was really excited. He kept saying, 'you're alive, you're alive.'"
Cedric jumps himself, startled by the plate shattering on the kitchen floor. He looks at Cho, who looks unusually pale. "Are you okay?"
"It must've just slipped out of my hands." She mumbles. She stoops down to gather the broken pieces and Cedric quickly pulls out a broom and pan.
"Here. Let me." Cedric sweeps the remaining shards. They dump the plate into the trash and wash their hands. He pulls down another plate and sets it on the counter. Cho gives a half-smile as her thanks and resumes cutting. She swallows. "Did he say anything else?"
"Yeah." Cedric reaches into the first bag and pulls out loaves of bread. He chuckles. "He said his name was Finch - or was it Fitch? - no, something like Finch-Finch..."
"Finch-Fletchley." Cho supplies in a quiet voice. Cedric raises an eyebrow but shrugs.
"Yeah, and he kept calling me, 'Diggory'. He said he couldn't wait to tell Professor Dumberstore - no, Bumblebore - no, Drummersore - whatever. He couldn't wait to tell some professor. He looked like he just won the lottery or something." Cedric laughs. "Isn't that funny?"
"Yeah." Cho moves the plates to another counter, and starts a new plate. "So... what did you tell him?"
"Oh, just that he was mistaken." Cedric shrugs. "But he kept insisting, kept saying 'Merlin, you're alive.' Between you and me though, I thought he was an egg short of a tray. What do you think? Do you think I look like a Merlin Diggory?"
Cho laughs and the color returns to her cheeks. "Cedric suits you just fine."
She sweeps the crumbs into the sink. "Do you think we have enough food?"
Cedric glances around. Bags of chips, pretzels, and candy line one wall. A vegetable tray and dip, and mounds of cut sandwiches fill the counter-tops. "This looks like enough for me. But what will everyone else eat?"
She laughs and throws the dish towel at him. "After we fatten you up, we plan on sticking an apple in your mouth and roasting you over an open pit."
"Sounds good. As long as the dying man gets a last request." He grins, and pulls her over to him by her waistband.
"And what's that?"
"I get to have you for dessert." He kisses her fully on the lips. She smiles into his mouth.
"Sister Margarita could walk in any minute." She tells him as she kisses his ear. She fingers his lips. "And I still have to shower and change for your party."
He grins. "Can I help you scrub your back?"
She looks as if she's giving it serious thought. A smile forms again, and she leads him out. "Only if I can scrub yours..."
Several hours pass before the younger children have been sent to bed and the party gets into full swing. There is music and dancing (though everyone is careful not to show much gyration in front of the circulating chaperone), and everyone is chatting and laughing. Cedric looks away as Ken starts another joke that he has heard before, and scans the room for Cho.
"Hey, Karen." He talks to the girl next to the punch. "Have you seen Cho lately?"
"She said she was going to get more snacks." Karen smiles. He waits a few minutes but when he still doesn't see Cho floating around, he makes his way to the kitchen.
"Hey, Sarah." He passes another girl carrying a bowl full of chips. "Is Cho in there?"
"Nope." She shakes her head. "She said she was going to the restroom."
"Ah." Cedric nods. He busies himself with a cup of punch, thanking his friends when they say, "Happy Birthday!" and clap him on the back. A few more minutes pass and he slips outside for a breath of fresh air. He walks down the corridor to the nearest lavatories, but only a few crickets respond to his steps. Maybe he just missed her. He walks back, catching a shadow flicker out of the corner of his eye.
"Cho!" He calls out, smiling. She's crouched behind a pillar, looking at the opposite direction. When he calls her name, she straightens and turns. His smile fades as he notices that she's changed from her dress to jeans and a tee. A knapsack sits on her shoulder, and a pasted smile aligns her face.
"Hey, Cedric." She says, gaining her voice.
"What are you doing?"
She looks conflicted, unsure of what to say. She swallows. "I have to leave, Cedric."
"What? Why?" At first, he thinks she's joking, but the way she's acting makes him believe otherwise.
She steps up to him and kisses him on the cheek. "It's something I have to do. I'm sorry I can't tell you more."
She turns away, and he grabs her arm. "I'm coming with you."
Surprise lights her face. Before she can argue, he sternly tells her, "You're not leaving without me."
"Cho, I'm not going to lose you." He says. "Give me five, ten minutes to pack my stuff, and I'll meet you at the gates."
"And don't for one second think you're going without me. Because I will follow."
"Ten minutes, Cedric." She says. "Not a second more."
He hurries, stuffs his essentials into a backpack, and true to his word, returns in the allotted time. Shadows dim the entryway, and she is nowhere to be seen. "Cho?"
She emerges from behind the brush. "Cedric, are you sure about this? For all you know, I could be a crazed lunatic."
"You might be a crazed lunatic, but you're my crazed lunatic." He says. "And yes, I'm sure. I've never loved anyone as much as I love you, and I'm not giving that up without a fight."
She looks touched. "I love you, too."
She opens the gates a crack and slips through. He follows her in silence, as she walks through the small streets, navigating like a pro. He suspects (and would be quite right) that she had planned her escape a while ago, and is not so surprised when they wind up at the train station. He is surprised when she asks for two tickets to Cornwall. "Cornwall?"
"I'd choose America if we had passports." Cho says.
"Why not Gretna Green?"
"Scotland?" Cho shakes her head. "That would be the first place they'd look."
"Who are 'they'?"
"I... I can't tell you." Cho hesitates.
"If we go to Gretna Green, we'd be marry before they would have any say in the matter."
"Marriage isn't the issue." She says, then realizes what he just said. "Cedric?"
He chuckles and runs a nervous hand across his hair. "Sorry, that's not exactly how I planned to propose."
She kisses him, but still buys the tickets for Cornwall. They make their way to the platform and board the train. After they find an empty cabin and settle in, she snuggles next to him and he places his arm around her.
"I'm sorry I can't tell you more..."
"That's all right." He kisses her softly. "I understand."
As she drifts to sleep, he pulls out the note she had placed under his door. He rereads it before folding it back into his pocket. He kisses her forehead, its three words drifting into the back of his mind, as he closes his eyes.
The dragon knows.
to Part 7