Author's Note: Just to warn you, this story contains references to sex, or as I would rather call it, making love. Under no circumstances am I trying to condone it if one is not ready - I actually want to convey the opposite. I have always been raised to believe that you shouldn't go that far with anyone unless you truly know you are in love with them, and they love you back. The human body is something to cherish, and I believe that wholeheartedly.
"You don't need to wear makeup to look beautiful, love. I love you just the way you are."
In all the years that Cho Chang will remain on Earth, she will never, ever forget those words.
As she'd entered puberty, she'd become very self-conscious about her looks and image. Outwardly, she'd never shown it - she'd always been the happy, positive, outgoing girl who was surrounded by a horde of friends, a sunny smile alight on her face. But inside, she'd been concerned - what if people thought her ugly? What did she need to do to remain beautiful in many people's eyes?
She'd started to apply makeup to her appearance, and she spent a lot of time staring into the mirror each morning before she went to classes. And it seemed to work, too - she saw the way that boys were beginning to stare at her, even the famous Harry Potter. She blushed at all their attention, and thought to herself: I must be doing something right.
But then, in her fifth year, she met Cedric Diggory. Both Seekers for their house teams, they'd met on the Quidditch pitch. One of the first conversations they'd had was about how it was such a shame there was no Quidditch that year, for it was interrupted by the goings-on of the Triwizard Tournament.
"But you're old enough to go in for it," Cho had said, smiling into his mesmerizing gray eyes, which seemed to captivate her. "Are you going to enter?"
A flush had crossed Cedric's face then, though he had tried to hide it by an outward display of confidence. "Yes," he had said. "I want to make Hogwarts proud."
But as she got to know him better, she saw a hidden discomfort within him - he was always worried about being a disappointment to his father, and it was really for him that he was entering the tournament.
Their friendship deepened, and they began to learn more about each other. And as the days passed, Cho began to notice that Cedric would stare at her like no other boy had ever stared at her before. Other boys looked at her with pure infatuation in their eyes, impressed with her beauty, but there was something more in the way Cedric looked at her. And he, in turn, was beginning to make her heart race every time she saw him.
The day he asked her to the Yule Ball, she was ecstatic. She told him, "Yes, yes, yes!" and gave him a bear hug, feeling over the moon, but as they parted to go their separate ways, doubt began to creep in. Why would someone like Cedric want to go with her, of all people, when he could have any girl in the school? Was she really that special?
She remembered the words her mother had said to her the year before, when she'd confided in her about the way boys looked at her. "Do not give your heart away too quickly, sweetheart," Meg had said, stroking her daughter's soft, black hair. "It is a fragile thing, and once it gets broken, it is not easy to repair. But as long as you're sensible, you will know what you want."
And as she lay in bed that night, thoughts of Cedric filling her head, those words played over and over again in her head. Could she trust him? Could she trust that he wouldn't break her heart? But the gentle, honest look in his gray eyes as he gazed down at her ... she couldn't doubt that sincerity, could she? He was the first boy to ever look at her with more than infatuation.
So, she went with her instincts, and she was never more happy to have done so. On the night of the Yule Ball, he'd gently taken her hand and led her onto the dance floor, and he'd taken her in his arms and held her close like she was his greatest treasure. Cho couldn't deny it now, or do anything to stop it - she had fallen head-over-heels in love with Cedric Diggory.
And it was later, in the rose garden, when he had spoken those words which she will never, ever forget. It had started innocently enough, with her telling him softly in his ear, "You are my champion, Cedric. And whether you make your father proud or not ... it doesn't matter. You have made me proud, and nothing will ever change that."
And he had looked down at her and smiled a soft, tender smile as he'd whispered back, "And you don't need to wear makeup to look beautiful, love. I love you just the way you are."
"You ... you love me?" Cho had whispered, tears of joy stinging her eyes as her heart swelled enormously inside of her.
"Yes, Cho." Cedric had then brought his face to hers, and then, their lips had met in a sweet, loving kiss. "I love you."
Cho tightened her arms around him, her tears falling in earnest now. "I ... I love you too, Cedric. You have made me the happiest person in the world."
And the next six months had whirled by as though she was on top of the clouds. She still couldn't believe that every time she met those gray eyes, they were filled with love ,... love ... for her! Now girls looked at her with envy as they passed her in the halls, and boys glared at Cedric as though he had done them some great personal wrong. But this didn't phase the couple in the least - their world revolved only around each other. \
Their relationship progressed, and there came a point where hand-holding, hugging, and kissing led to more - their hands began to explore each other's bodies. They'd sneak into empty classrooms at night, and there, love continued to blossom. The first time they'd made this arrangement, Cho knew she had found someone who would never hurt her, never take advantage of her, and never force her to do anything she wasn't ready for. He'd even asked softly, "Are you sure this is what you want, Cho? Are you sure you're ready?"
And Cho had answered with certainty, "Yes." She knew many might judge her for this if they knew, they might think her too young, they might tell her she didn't know what being in love felt like, but she knew they were wrong. She loved Cedric, and she knew Cedric loved her. They were each other's firsts, and they were both nervous, but she knew, just as he did, that this felt right. She could see the hunger for her in his gray eyes - he was a seventeen-year-old boy, after all - but there was an overwhelming love there, too, and to Cho, that was the most important thing of all.
There were many times during that period when Cho felt that this was too good to be true, that it was unbelievable that at such a young age she had found her soulmate. Not only could they show each other their love on a physical level, but they communicated on an emotional and spiritual level as well.
On the night of the third task, just before he went into the maze, Cedric cornered her, and they shared a long, warm hug and a kiss that was filled with all the love they held for each other. Through the years to come, Cho will wonder whether somehow, some way, he knew what was coming, what was going to happen to him, because he whispered those magic words to her again, the words he'd told her in the rose garden at the Yule Ball, all those months ago.
"You don't need to wear makeup to look beautiful, love. I love you just the way you are."
And now, it's a few months later, and Cho is sitting on the Astronomy Tower looking at the stars, the stars that Cedric had gazed at with her, his arms wrapped protectively around her, her head on his chest. Tears are streaming down her face, and she can't stop repeating Cedric's name between her heartbroken sobs. She misses him so much, it's like half her soul has been ripped out. She can still remember what his lips tasted like, what his warm, gentle hands felt like on her body, the way he stroked her hair tenderly like she was the most precious jewel in the world.
That summer had been horrible. After Cedric's funeral, where she'd seen his beautiful body being lowered six feet below the ground, she had moped around her house, constantly in floods of tears. She felt as though she could never stop crying for him, and she feels like she will continue to for the rest of her life.
Out of everyone who knew about how deep she and Cedric's relationship had gone, her mother was the one who understood most. She held her daughter every night after nightmares of his lifeless eyes, his angelic face frozen in a look of shock and fear. She held her daughter as Cedric's name was screamed over and over again into her white nightgown.
One night, after a particularly horrific dream, Cho had wailed hysterically, "He was everything to me, Mum! Everything! I'll never be able to fall in love again! Never!"
Meg Chang had then taken Cho's face into her hands, and she had said softly as she tenderly wiped tears from her swollen eyes, "Someday, Cho, those words you just spoke will be proven wrong. Someday, you will realize that your Cedric gave you the most precious gift of all."
"What's that?" Cho had croaked, her voice hoarse from all the sobbing and screaming.
"He taught you how to love yourself for who you are," she whispered. "Haven't I always told you, darling, that you didn't need to doll yourself up to impress a boy? If they really love you they will appreciate you no matter how you look. I know you didn't believe me when I said it, but now it has been proven to you. He cherished you, Cho, truly cherished you, and you will always have that to hold onto."
"But he's not here anymore, Mum," Cho wept. "How can I ever hope to find that again?"
"Honey, he will always be with you," Meg soothed as she rubbed her hand up and down Cho's back in comfort. "And his love will always be with you. It may not feel like it at the moment, but you will become stronger for this, and what he felt for you will give you strength to pursevere on life's journey. You are a very lucky girl, Cho - to find someone who loved you as much as he did - still does, in fact - is a blessing."
And as Cho continues to gaze at the stars, a few months after hearing those words, she hopes with all her heart that it's the truth. There's a raw, bleeding hole in her heart right now, and she still feels as though it will never heal, but she will still take those words to heart, because if there's anyone Cho has always trusted unconditionally, it's her mother.
And as she closes her eyes and bows her head in prayer, she whispers, "I will always love you, Cedric. Please give me the strength to carry on."
And years later, as she walks down the aisle on her father's arm to her husband, her entire countenance radiates happiness. True to her mother's word, she found that love again, and she can't wait for her new life to begin. As she takes his hand and the vows are spoken, she silently says:
Thank you, Cedric. My mum was right. Your gentleness, your tenderness, your love for me ... you taught me how to be a better person. You truly gave me the most precious gift of all.