Disclaimer: I still do not own Harry Potter.
Author's Note: Hey everyone, I hope you're all doing well. I apologize again for the long delay between updates. I really hope to be faster in the future, but right now I'm still dealing with a whole lot of stress so my muse is slower. Thankfully, I recently started having counseling, so I am hoping things will get better soon. I'm having a good day today, so I'm very grateful for that.
Anyway, here's another chapter for you all. I hope you guys enjoy it - this is, after all, the First Task chapter. I really hope it comes out well - I've been looking forward to writing it.
Cho awoke on Tuesday morning, a mixture of creatures squirming around in her stomach. She was filled with both excitement and nerves, and she wondered how Cedric was faring. Knowing him as she did, she knew he would be nervous too.
As she got ready, she was quiet. Thoughts flew through her mind faster than she could catch them - what if something awful happened to Cedric today? No, nothing bad would happen. Cedric was the best at Transfiguration, wasn't he? Hadn't he helped her so much that she no longer dreaded going to class and embarrassing Professor McGonagall? Merlin, Cedric would hate to see her so worried. What would he think if he knew?
"Cho, are you okay?" Marietta asked quietly. "You look pale. I'm sure Cedric will be fine today."
Cho gave her friend a soft smile; she certainly wasn't being subtle about her worries, was she? She had to pull herself together so it couldn't be read all over her face. "I know he'll be okay," she told Marietta. "I have faith in him."
"I know you do, but I also know you're worried," Marietta said. "It's normal to worry about people you care about, you know. Just don't stress too much about it - he wouldn't want that."
"Yeah, you're right," said Cho. She knew this was the truth, but it was much easier to say she would stop worrying than to actually do it.
Cho and Marietta had been talking quietly, but unfortunately, it hadn't been quiet enough for Amanda and Meghan not to hear what they were talking about. As they were about to leave the dormitory, Meghan sneered at Cho. "Your boyfriend will be just fine," she said with an ugly expression on her face.
"Yeah," Amanda chimed in, the jealousy she was feeling extremely visible. "Too bad you can't show us the same level of thought. Meg and I may as well be persona non grata to you, now that perfect Cedric has come into your life."
Cho's insides instantly flooded with anger at the two girls who were being so utterly unreasonable. Had they really been her friends only a few short months ago? "Excuse me," she said, trying to stop her voice from shaking. "Whose fault is it that you've become "persona non grata", in your words? Every time we're in the same room, you either give me jealous looks, or you're asking me some question about Cedric that's none of your business. No, he's not going to sign your autograph. No, he isn't disgusted with Harry Potter, because he doesn't think he cheated, and by the way, neither do I. And if you must know, Cedric's not my boyfriend."
Meghan snorted. "It won't be long until that changes," she said coldly. "You're just too much of a fool to see it."
"And why is he so standoffish towards any girl other than you anyway?" Amanda snapped. "He's not a very good champion if he isn't nice to the people who like him."
"You two are being so awful," Marietta hissed, coming to stand beside Cho and putting a hand on her shoulder.
"Why are you defending her? You, of all people?" Amanda asked, truly sounding baffled. "She's neglecting you by spending all her time with Cedric! Ooooh, the perfect couple, having no time for anyone else!"
"That's not true!" Marietta shouted, her face red. "She is not neglecting me. We still spend time together, it's not like she's forgotten about me!" She looked at Cho, giving her a reassuring smile. "She's spending time with someone who makes her happy, and you know what? I'm not going to hate her and be jealous of her for it! And I don't blame Cedric for not looking twice at you."
"You only care about his fame!" Cho added, spurred on by Marietta's defense of her. "If you cared about who he actually is, maybe he'd give you the time of day too! Let's go, Marie," she implored, wanting nothing more than to leave the dormitory, which was suddenly supremely stifling.
"Sure," said Marietta, and without looking back, the two girls walked out of the room, leaving Amanda and Meghan to fester in their petty envy.
"Are you okay?" Marietta asked softly as they headed downstairs. She put an arm around Cho in support, instinctively knowing it was what her friend needed.
Cho felt a mixture of both anger and sadness. "Not really," she admitted, knowing she could be honest with Marietta. She felt tears prick at her eyes, but furiously blinked them back. After all, she had known that her friendship with Amanda and Meghan was rotting away from the inside out, but she hadn't wanted to fully accept it. This confrontation, however, showed her that things were truly worse than she had ever thought.
"Forget them," Marietta soothed as they headed to the Great Hall for breakfast. "They don't know you, and they sure as hell don't know Cedric."
"It's not true, is it?" Cho asked in a small voice. "You said I wasn't neglecting you, but do you really mean that?"
"Of course I do," Marietta said at once, giving Cho's shoulder a reassuring squeeze. "I've said it before, and I'll say it again. I don't feel neglected. It's not like you've stopped caring about me."
"I never will," Cho assured her fervently. "Thanks for sticking up for me."
"Of course," Marietta said. "Amanda and Meg are being completely horrid."
At that moment, they walked into the Great Hall, and sat down at the Ravenclaw table. Neither girl said much as they ate; Cho was still trying to get her thoughts in order after the confrontation in the dorm, and Marietta let the silence remain. Cho couldn't be more grateful for that.
She turned to look at the Hufflepuff table, and for an instant, her eyes met Cedric's. He had been smiling and talking to the people near him, but when he saw her looking at him, Cho could see how he truly felt. There were definitely nerves there, but he gave her a small smile and a thumbs-up. Cho mouthed, "Good luck," at him, and she was happy to see his smile grow wider.
It was very difficult to concentrate in classes that morning, and Cho's body grew heavier and heavier with anxiety as each hour passed. She kept reminding herself to pull it together, that her nervousness wouldn't help Cedric and wouldn't help her, either. She needed to have faith in him, and in the people who were making sure the task would go off without a hitch. She blatantly ignored Amanda and Meghan, who kept glowering at her when they thought she wasn't looking. She couldn't help but feel much better when Marietta kept glowering at them, to show her support for Cho. Cho's feelings of friendship and respect for the other girl only deepened further. Never did she think she'd have such a good female friend as her.
When it was time for lunch, Cho could barely eat, no matter how hard she tried. She looked over at Cedric, and she saw how his own plate had hardly been touched. All she wanted was to go over to him and reassure him, as well as herself, that it would all be okay. But he was completely surrounded by all his Hufflepuff supporters, and she didn't want to embarrass him. Instead, she gave him a wave and a smile, knowing that it wouldn't be long now until he was called to get ready. His magnetic gray eyes caught hers again, and he waved and smiled back, his complexion paler than normal. Cho figured she looked the same, if not worse, than Marietta had said she did this morning. She prayed Cedric wouldn't notice.
Then, suddenly, Cho saw Professor Sprout walk over to the Hufflepuff table and say something to Cedric. Cho instantly saw his face pale further, and his friends and supporters gathered around him, some pounding him on the back and others hugging him. Cedric tried to smile reassuringly at them all, but Cho could see the strain on him.
And it was at that moment that she knew she had to say something to him. She was still worried about embarrassing him, but she couldn't let him go and face his dragon without wishing him luck. Marietta, sensing Cho's train of thought, nodded at her. "Go ahead and catch him before he leaves," she said quietly.
And so, Cho got up from the table and quickly intercepted Cedric before he could leave. "Cedric?" she said when she knew she was close enough for him to hear.
"Oh, hi, Cho," Cedric said, his voice tinged with the fear he was so clearly feeling.
Cho couldn't help herself - she walked up to him and put her arms around him, squeezing him tightly. Cedric seemed to need this, as he returned the embrace and squeezed her just as hard. "Good luck, Ced," Cho told him quietly. "You're going to do wonderfully."
"Do you really think so?" Cedric asked, and Cho didn't think she'd ever heard him sound so uncertain. He didn't sound panicked - no, it echoed the same vulnerability Cho felt on a regular basis but didn't show. Cho's heart fluttered, feeling honored that Cedric trusted her enough to show her this part of him.
"Of course I think so," Cho said, her own anxiety decreasing as all her energy was put towards helping Cedric feel better. "I'll see you afterwards, all right? You don't want to be late."
Cedric managed to smile shakily. "You're right," he said, giving her one last squeeze. "I'll see you afterwards, then."
And then, he walked away, out of the Great Hall and towards whatever was to meet him. Cho watched him go, and her spirits were lifted by the sudden confidence she now felt, the utter conviction she now possessed that everything would be okay.
"Ladies and gentlemen! It is my great honor to welcome you all to the First Task of the Triwizard Tournament!" The loud, booming voice of Ludo Bagman echoed around the stands that had been set up close to an enclosure which Cho guessed contained the dreaded dragons. "And my, my, do we have a treat for you all today!"
The atmosphere in the arena was one of sheer joy, excitement, and anticipation as applause and cheers answered Ludo's welcome. Cho sat next to Marietta, with Amanda and Meghan being in the row behind them. Now that it had been a while since she'd helped Cedric feel better, anxiety was starting to overwhelm her again. She fought it back, though - she had to believe that nothing would go wrong. Cedric would be fine, and she'd get to congratulate him afterwards.
The cheers lasted for a long time after Bagman finished speaking, and each person in the crowd began chanting the name of the champion they wanted to come out on top. Despite her anxiety, Cho couldn't help but join in with them all - the excitement was contagious. "Dig-dig-dig-diggory!" she screamed along with the others who were cheering for Cedric. "Dig-dig-dig-diggory!"
Bagman eventually had to blow a whistle in order to get everyone to calm down. "I know you're all excited!" he cried, a huge smile lighting his face. "Let's get on with the show, shall we?"
As he explained what the task would be, there were gasps and cries from the crowd. Even though Cho already knew most of it, she still had the same expression on her face as most other people - one of trepidation and nervousness. The only thing she hadn't known, which she guessed neither Harry nor Cedric had known either, was that each champion had to get past a dragon in order to retrieve a golden egg.
Before Cho knew it, Bagman was announcing the entrance of the first champion. "The first brave soul to retrieve his egg," he boomed out, "is Hogwarts' very own, very handsome, the one and only, CEDRIC DIGGORY!"
Cho felt like her heart was about to beat out of her chest as she saw Cedric walk out. To anyone not being fully observant, he looked composed, but Cho saw the underlying anxiety within him. Pride welled up inside of her - he was doing his best to keep it together, though, and he even managed a smile for the crowd.
Suddenly, a cannon blast rocked the stadium, and this could only mean one thing: Cedric's turn had officially begun.
The next few minutes was a slice of time which Cho would never forget for the rest of her life. She screamed, gasped, held her breath, sighed in relief. She didn't think she'd ever experienced so many emotions in just a matter of minutes as she watched Cedric conquer his dragon. He Transfigured a rock into a Labrador in order to distract it, something which Cho and Cedric had planned out the day before.
The most terrifying moment for Cho came when the dragon thought that Cedric posed more of a threat than the Labrador, and promptly turned on him instead. Cho knew true fear when the dragon roared and blew out a tongue of flame which shot towards Cedric, burning his arm. The crowd gasped and screamed, and Cho couldn't say she didn't do the latter as Cedric's face contorted in pain. Cho gripped the edges of her seat, her heart pounding. Marietta put an arm around her, but she could barely feel it.
But Cedric persevered, and Cho's heart swelled with more emotion than she thought she could hold when, despite the obvious pain he was in, he was still able to make the Labrador distract the dragon enough again so that he could retrieve the big golden egg. Once he picked it up, the crowd went wild, jumping out of their seats and cheering so loudly it made Cho's eardrums vibrate. She wasn't usually the kind of girl who made an extraordinary amount of noise, but today was an exception. Losing every inch of her inhibitions, she was on her feet like everyone else, stamping and cheering and applauding. Cedric was grinning as the dragon handlers subdued the dragon, and he was led away to a medical tent that had been set up so that he could receive treatment for the injury he had sustained.
Marietta hugged Cho, her own relief plainly showing on her face. "He'll be okay, Cho," she whispered reassuringly. "He did wonderfully."
"Yeah, I know," said Cho, her own voice quiet and shaky with relief. "He was amazing."
As she watched the rest of the champions complete the task, she knew she was distracted. All she wanted now was to see Cedric, to throw her arms around him and congratulate him. She wanted to feel his warmth, to feel the strength that he always exuded. She had known how much he meant to her, but seeing him in danger today gave her brand new perspective. The relief she now felt was unparalleled.
Despite her distraction, she was still able to observe the strengths and weaknesses of the other champions. She was especially impressed by Harry; his strategy to summon his Firebolt was extremely inspiring. She couldn't understand how so many in the school were so blind - one look at his face, and she knew he'd been forced into this. The boy looked incredibly young as he took on his dragon, which turned out to be a Hungarian Horntail, the most vicious of them all. That sense of wrongness returned to Cho's stomach again as she watched Harry. There was something sinister about his being involved in the tournament, but Merlin, she couldn't figure out what.
Finally, once Harry had conquered the Horntail, Cho couldn't wait any longer. She had to see Cedric, and she honestly couldn't care less as to how it might look to people like Amanda and Meghan. Marietta cast her another one of her knowing looks as she got up out of her seat and made her way to the medical tent, making sure not to run into anyone as she passed.
Once she made it to the tent, she saw that it was separated into little cubicles. As she glanced around, the sound of a familiar voice made her look in the other direction. "Is that you, Miss Chang?" Madam Pomfrey asked.
"Er, hello, Madam Pomfrey," said Cho, hoping she wasn't interrupting the mediwitch. "Is Cedric okay? Can I see him?" Her face flushed in embarrassment, realizing her words had come out very quickly.
Thankfully, Madam Pomfrey only smiled at her. "I just finished healing him, dear. He's going to be fine," she said quietly. "I can lead you to him if you'd like, but only for a moment. The word is that Mr. Bagman would like to see the champions again for more instructions." Her face changed to that of fury for an instant before she composed herself again. "Dragons," she muttered. "Sometimes, I fear that common sense is very lacking these days."
Cho couldn't help but agree. All the champions had been incredibly lucky that they hadn't gotten severely injured, or worse, from completing this dangerous task. She shuddered when she thought about what could have happened.
Before she knew it, Madam Pomfrey had led her to Cedric's cubicle, where he was sitting up, his arm covered in a bandage. The instant he saw her, his face lit up in a warm smile.
And Cho, without thinking, ran to him, leaving Madam Pomfrey behind. "Cedric," she breathed, and finally, he was within reach, warm and solid and alive. "Ced, thank Merlin you're okay. You were amazing," she told him sincerely. "I'm so proud of you."
Cedric sighed against her, hugging her back just as tightly as she was holding onto him. "Thanks, Cho," he said softly. "That means a lot." He looked at her deeply, as if memorizing her face. "You helped, you know," he said, smiling softly. "Our brainstorming session yesterday really helped."
Cho smiled back at him, her heart lighter than it had been all day as the worry and anxiety completely left her body. "I'm glad it did," she said.
"I heard Harry was amazing," Cedric said, and even though he tried not to show it, Cho could hear in his voice the nervousness he felt about coming in second place - Harry and Krum had tied for first. "I never thought of flying."
"Ced, you're an amazing flyer, but you're also wonderful at Transfiguration," Cho reassured him. Then, she cut right to the heart of the matter. "And if your dad doesn't understand that, then he's a fool," she said fiercely. "You don't have to come in first place for the whole world to know you're brilliant," she whispered. "And I certainly think you are."
And as the two teenagers hugged once again, Cedric smiled gratefully, saying nothing in response. But the look on his face was enough for Cho to know that her words had made him feel a whole lot better - and Cho was extremely glad for it.
With relieved sighs, they both basked in the moment, because for now, it was over. The First Task was finally over.