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15 December 2012 @ 10:41 pm
Leigh!fic | The Secret at the Grave (1/1) | Blaise Zabini/Cho Chang, Blaise Zabini/Romilda Vane  
Title: The Secret at the Grave (1/1)
Author: Leigh, aka leigh_adams
Characters: Blaise Zabini/Cho Chang, Blaise Zabini/Romilda Vane
Rating: PG-13
Word Count: 9,250
Warnings: None
Disclaimer: Harry Potter is JKR’s. No copyright infringement is intended, and no money is being made.
Summary: The women in the two black veils didn’t bother to cry.
Author’s Notes: Written for the 2012 round of interhouse_fest. Thank you to my amazing beta, amazonmink -- you’re the best! And a big thanks to elle_blessing for this awesome prompt (Two Black Cadillacs by Carrie Underwood). Even though I am not a Carrie Underwood fan, this story really wrote itself.



♦ ♦ ♦ ♦




September 2, 2009

There was something oddly comforting about the stillness of a cemetery. Despite the small group of black-clad mourners that shuffled towards the gravesite, it was quiet. The monuments – some covered in moss and weathered with time, others recently planted – stood guard over those they remembered. It was a small reminder that something would live on even after they were gone.

A bit of wind pulled at her veil when Cho stopped, letting the rest of their group move forward without her. One more hour, she thought, managing a smile when her mother looked back in concern. She waved her on and held up a finger, indicating she needed a moment alone. Her mother, bless her, just pursed her lips sadly and nodded.

After all, her daughter was now a grieving widow.

Cho nearly laughed. Instead, she sighed and looked out over the cemetery. Her husband’s final resting place wasn’t far from the designated Apparition point – not that she would be visiting often, but his mother would. Black suited Francesca Zabini, Cho mused uncharitably, and not without reason. The Widow Zabini (now on lucky husband number nine) was no stranger to funerals.

A frown pulled at her lips. That was wrong of her; she knew it, but she didn’t care. Losing a child was markedly different from losing various husbands – not that Cho could attest. She’d wanted children, had been willing to retire from the game she loved to have them, but Blaise had wanted to wait. They would have children, he’d promised her with a smile and a kiss.
In the end, it was just another promise he’d broken.

The rest of the group had stopped at the grave, and she could stall no longer. She’d started towards them, pebbles grinding beneath her black heels, when she heard the distinct ‘pop’ of Apparition behind her.

There was only one person it could be. Cho’s heart jumped, and her stomach started to flutter as she slowly turned to see who had joined her.

She vaguely recognized the woman. Of course, she had been a few years younger than Cho, and she’d been in a different house so it wasn’t as if their paths often crossed. Still, she’d had a bit of a flirtatious reputation, and word spread quickly around Hogwarts. The Chinese witch couldn’t help but look the other woman over, noting the superficial differences between them. While Cho was willowy and slender, the other witch was shorter and considerably more curvaceous. She had a voluptuous set of breasts – something Cho has always wished for herself but would never have without the aid of medical procedures. Her lips were painted a dark shade of red, and her black curls were pulled back beneath her matching black veil.

Cho’s lips quirked. “You came.”

The other woman smiled and stepped towards her. “I did promise.”

No other words were spoken. Cho extended her gloved hand, and Romilda took it. Together, the two women crossed the short distance to Blaise’s grave, ignoring the curious glances the rest of the mourners covertly – and some not so covertly – shot their way. It didn’t matter. After today, the likelihood of Cho seeing any of these people was slim.

Her heels sank into the grass when she and Romilda stepped off the path and stopped next to the deep hole where they would soon lower her late husband. A widow at thirty-one – she couldn’t say it was a scenario she’d ever envisioned for herself.

She was glad she’d worn sunglasses. No one would see her dry eyes.

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust…

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦


June 15, 2009

Cho was bored.

There were days when she thought she was going to gouge her own eyes out with a grapefruit spoon. Those days, today in particular, were a painful reminder that she was not meant to spend her days behind a desk, checking figures and calculating sums in her head. She was an active person by nature; she should be pursuing her passion out of doors.

And she had been, right until her last injury ended her career with Portree.

It had been a difficult decision to retire from Quidditch, but she knew that it was the right one. It didn’t make it any easier, though. Despite the magical healing advantages wizards had over Muggles, there were still areas, namely, traumatic brain injuries, that couldn’t be healed by magic. After a second concussion in less than six months, the team Healers had firmly suggested she’d take a ‘medical leave of absence.’

Her leave from the team transitioned into an early retirement – that was the only reason she was here in the offices at Zabini Diamonds, running over the business financials. She was good at sums and figures, but that didn’t mean she enjoyed them.

With a sigh, she took a sip of her tea. Her nose crinkled. She’d let it sit too long, and now it was cold. Cho hated cold tea. Glancing up at the clock, she saw that it was just past four in the afternoon. She’d let the afternoon pass her by again; she had meant to drop by the Ministry and see if Mandy was free for the evening. Blaise was in South Africa for the week, and Cho hadn’t seen her friend in far too long.

It was too late now. Mandyy likely had plans with her new beau. Besides, if she finished up the books from May, she could come in late in the morning. Maybe she would make an appointment at the spa.

A knock at the door jarred her thoughts, and Cho jumped in her seat. “Come in.”

The door opened, and Natalie poked her head in. “Do you have a moment?”

Cho waved her in. “Absolutely.”

The petite blonde smiled and stepped into the office, shutting the door behind her. Natalie McDonald had been her husband’s personal assistant for nearly five years. Cho had been initially wary of her, Blaise’s pre-marriage, womanizing ways were well documented, but her fears had proven unfounded once she’d met the blonde’s girlfriend at the company Christmas party.

Casting one more look at her teacup, Cho settled back in her seat and smiled. “What can I do for you, Natalie?”

“It’s only a small question,” the other woman said quickly, settling into the seat across Cho’s desk. “I was just preparing Blaise’s expense reports for last month, and I didn’t want to trouble – or embarrass – him with something like this, so I thought I would ask you for your help instead.”

Cho raised a brow. “Embarrass him? What has he done?”

Pink tinged the blonde’s cheeks. “I think he’s accidentally expensed some personal things the business account. Here.” She reached across the desk and handed Cho a receipt form. “It’s from a shop in Milan, towards the bottom. May twenty-seventh.”

She glanced over the paper with an appraising eye, looking down the row of itemized expenses until she found the questioned notation. “Innamorasi.” She understood now why Natalie had said embarrass - Innamorasi was an exclusive lingerie shop.

“But that…” she trailed off in thought. It was strange; Blaise hadn’t bought her lingerie in months – she had plenty of it, as she often told him with a laugh. And he certainly hadn’t bought her nearly seventy galleons worth of it!

A cold knot was forming in her stomach, and it took effort to force it down. Was her husband buying lingerie for another woman? The paper shook in her hands, making her grateful for the protection of the desk. She didn’t want Natalie to see.

“This is slightly embarrassing,” she said, her tone forcibly light, “but you’re right. Blaise did make a mistake on his finances.” She glanced up and managed a smile for the blonde girl. “Let’s keep this between us? I’ll take care of it when he gets home.”

Natalie gave her a bright grin. “That’s brill. I didn’t fancy bringing that up with him, you know?”

She felt like vomiting. Instead, she settled for a small laugh. “I don’t blame you.” She had to get out of there. Already, her stomach was rolling around in waves, and her hands trembled like leaves. “Thank you for coming to me about it. Why don’t you go ahead and take the rest of the afternoon off?”

The assistant looked at her in surprise. “Oh my gosh, thank you!” Then, as if to tamper down her enthusiasm at getting out of work early, she added, “Are you sure?”

“Absolutely. Go buy a new pair of shoes or take in a film, something fun.” She glanced at the clock and pretended to think, “In fact, I’m about to head out myself. I’ve plans for drinks with some friends.”

“You’re the best, Cho.” Natalie giggled happily and jumped out of the chair, calling, “See you tomorrow!” as she shot out the door.

As soon as she was alone, the smile melted from Cho’s face. Her hands gripped at the receipt, the parchment crumbling along the edges beneath her fingers. It wasn’t enough – she couldn’t know for certain if her husband was carrying on an affair by that invoice alone.

Standing, she crossed to the small fireplace and grabbed a handful of Floo powder from the small jar. She threw it into the flames and stuck her head inside as soon as they burned bright green. “Innamorasi!

After a moment of staring at an empty office, a woman entered and gave her a wide, gracious smile. “Benvenuti Immorasi. Posso esserti d’aiuto?

Cho’s Italian skills were minimal. “Mi spiace, non parlo Italiano. Parla Inglese?

The Italian woman nodded, nonplussed, and settled into a chair next to the fireplace. “Si. How may I help you?”

“I’m so sorry to bother you,” Cho said, “but my husband placed an order for me last month, and I have yet to receive it. Mr. Zabini?”

“Ah, yes, Signore Zabini.” The shopkeeper nodded with familiarity. “Si, he was here last month, but we delivered the package the next week.”

Cho frowned, swallowing past the lump in her throat. “Perhaps you could tell me who signed for the package? I hope none of my staff made off with it, but,” she faked a laugh. “You never know.”

“Of course. I am Isabella, I will be happy to see who took the package.” Rising gracefully from her seat, she crossed to a large ledger sprawled across the desk. Flipping back, Isabella hummed as she ran a lacquered nail over the pages. “That would have been… May twenty-seven, no?” She glanced up to see Cho nod. “Yes, I have here that the package was delivered to a Miss Romilda Vane of Nine Via Nerino. Does that sound familiar?”

Vaguely, but the woman didn’t work for her or her husband. “Yes, of course. It must have been delivered while I was away on business. I’ll speak with her at once.” She chose to ignore the lingering look Isabella fixed her with. The lie was feeble, but lying had never been her strong suit.

Apparently, it was still her husband’s.

Another moment passed, and Isabella inclined her head. “Of course. If there is anything else we can do to assist you, please do not hesitate to ask.”

Grazie. You have been most helpful.”

Prego, Signora Zabini. Arrivederci.

She pulled her head out of the fire and sat back, watching as the flames turned from green back to their normal fiery red. Her heart was in her stomach, and despite the heat from the fire, she was chilled to the bone.

Romilda Vane. She had never spoken to the other woman, but she knew her by reputation. A Gryffindor a few years younger than herself, she’d once tried to drug Harry with a love potion. When that didn’t work, she’d gone through a slew of other students at Hogwarts. From what it sounded like, she’d sank her talons into Cho’s husband.

But what was she going to do about it?

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦


June 19, 2009

Cho was not a confrontational person by nature. She’d joined the DA as a way to honor Cedric’s memory, to help counter the evil that had been done to her boyfriend. There was a reason that she and Harry had never really worked, and it was more than her lingering feelings for Cedric. She wasn’t cut out to be a hero’s girlfriend – or wife. She shied away from conflict, only wading into the fray when she was desperate.

She was desperate now.

It was Friday, four days since Natalie had approached her about Blaise’s lingerie purchase. Four days since Cho had really slept, or ate, or done anything remotely normal. She still felt as if she would vomit at the mere idea of food. At tea on Wednesday, her mother had clucked her tongue and commented on how gaunt she looked – not good for carrying children.

But it was eating away at her. She’d known about Blaise’s womanizing past when they met, and she even knew that he had been seeing other women for the first six months of their dalliance. What had started out as casual sex had evolved into something more with the passing of time. Though it had taken nearly a year and a bottle of whiskey before he confessed the feelings - love - he had for Cho, feelings that scared him witless, it had been worth it.

Marietta had thought she was crazy, but Penelope had understood. The older woman knew what it was like to fall in love with a Slytherin, the breathtaking, dizzying way your world was slowly consumed by them. It was thrilling and terrifying all at once, falling in love with a man whose faults were so clearly defined but didn’t seem to matter.

When Blaise had asked her to marry him, a mere six months after his confession of monogamy, she’d said yes. And blind little fool that she was, Cho had never thought he’d resumed his philandering ways. Now, it was all she could think about – how many of his business trips (and there were many) had actually been on business?

In fact, was he with another woman in South Africa? Or was he really visiting a business partner?

The sleepless nights had led to this: Cho at her desk, her tea forgotten and a dozen sheets of parchment crumpled on the floor around her. Her office was a room victim to a localized disaster, and she was like a woman possessed. Every time she tried to write, she threw her efforts away.

Why was she bothering? What sane woman would write a bloody letter to her husband’s mistress? What in Merlin’s name could she possibly hope to accomplish by this?
Cho sighed and slumped in her chair. This would come to nothing, just as her career had come to nothing – as her life had. But she still had to know.

Leaning forward, she picked up her quill and smoothed a fresh piece of parchment on her desk.

Dear Miss Vane,

I know that you and I have not met, but I recently discovered something and felt I needed to write. My name is Cho Chang. Well, Cho Zabini – I’m Blaise Zabini’s wife, you see, and it has recently come to my attention that the two of you have engaged in some sort of affair.

He has not told me about this. I only discovered it through a bit of careless financial paperwork. I believe my husband purchased a large quantity of lingerie for you last month?

To tell you the truth, I don’t even know why I’m writing. Perhaps for confirmation of some sorts? I’m not going to play the jealous spouse, shrieking and demanding that you quit shagging my husband. Blaise is in South Africa until Sunday – at least, that’s where he said he was – and I just… I just need to know.

Sincerely,

Cho Zabini


There. Simple, succinct, and utterly ridiculous. Cho’s nose crinkled in disgust as she folded the letter, then dribbled a bit of hot wax on the fold and pressed the heavy seal into it. Z for Zabini – a gift from her husband the night before their wedding.

For a split second, she considered chucking it into the rubbish with all the rest. She could just sit quietly and pretend she didn’t know a thing. That was what a good wife would do – so said the voice in her head that sounded suspiciously like her mother.

And that was resolve enough for Cho. Whistling her owl to her, she gave him the letter. “Romilda Vane in Milan. Wait for a reply.”

Archimedes gave her a soft ‘hoot’ in reply and sailed out the open window.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦


June 23, 2009

She was taking her morning tea when Archimedes reappeared at the window.

For a moment, Cho was sure she was hallucinating. It wasn’t that she hadn’t expected her owl to return, of course he would come back. But even though she had told him to wait for a reply, she honestly hadn’t thought he would return with one. She could see, though, there was a neatly folded letter clutched in his talons.

Rising, she crossed the room and opened the window with trembling hands. Her barn owl flew in with a soft ‘woosh’ of air, dropping the letter next to her teacup before he bobbed his head and snatched the still-warm toast from her plate.

She didn’t have the heart to chastise him. The odds of her actually consuming it were slim, anyway.

Settling back down in her seat, Cho stared at the letter. It looked so simple, unassuming. Just her name -Cho Zabini - written in a loopy scrawl across plain parchment. She wondered, not for the first time, why she’d even bothered to write the woman. It wasn’t as if anything good could come of it. But she was a Ravenclaw, and the desire to know things hadn’t died when she’d left school.

Swallowing, she reached out and broke the seal. The parchment shook ever so slightly as she unfolded it, smoothing it out so she could better read the feminine handwriting that covered the page.

Dear Mrs. Zabini,

I’m sorry for not immediately responding to your letter. Honestly, at first I thought you were playing a prank on me. The idea of Blaise Zabini married… well, it just seemed like a joke, you know?

But I’ll go ahead and tell you the truth. Yes, I have been seeing Blaise for a while. Two years in July, actually. I’m not trying to hurt you, but if you know of his infidelity, it’s only right that you know this wasn’t some one night stand with a slag he met at a bar.

First, I didn’t know he was married. I don’t blame you if you don’t believe me, but it’s the truth. My reputation in England probably still carries taints of ‘the girl who tried a love potion on Harry Potter.’ I didn’t finish at Hogwarts; I transferred schools after the Final Battle, and I haven’t been back to England since I was sixteen. There are too many memories for me there, and I’ve got a pretty good life in Milan. I’ve successfully avoided everything that has to do with my past there (except for Blaise, but I only knew him by reputation at school).

I’m really, really sorry for any grief or pain my relationship with Blaise might have caused you. I know it probably doesn’t mean anything to you, but I never would have slept with him if I’d known he was married. I’m really not that kind of a girl. It’s just… well, you know what it’s like, being with him. I think his attentions would overwhelm the most sensible of women – and I’ve never claimed to be sensible.

If I were you, I’d chuck him. I haven’t seen him in a few weeks, but he’s supposed to come back to Milan next month. I intend on ending our relationship, if that helps. It probably doesn’t, but I’m not completely heartless.

Again, I’m sorry.

Sincerely,

Romilda Vane


Cho sat back in her chair and exhaled heavily, letting the letter drop to the table. Two years. Two bloody years? It had been bad enough thinking of her husband having a small fling – but from that time and intensity of it, it sounded like this was anything but ‘small.’

And if Blaise had a girlfriend in Milan, who knew how many others he had?

She worried her lip between her teeth. “If I were you, I’d chuck him.” Cho snorted – as tempting as that sounded, ‘chucking’ her husband was not an option. There was so much more at stake than just her pride or her broken heart.

Her husband. Blaise Zabini, the only man she’d ever really loved, that deep, all-consuming love that made it hard to breathe, had cheated on her. Repeatedly. The knowledge cut her to the core and pulled a fresh sting of tears to her eyes.

She blinked them away and shook her head. She’d cried enough already. And really, Cho was surprised she was still able to cry. Her pillowcase was stained with a week’s worth of tears already.

Summoning a fresh sheet of parchment and her quill, she leaned forward and sighed.
Merlin, she was a masochist.

Ms. Vane,

Thank you for being honest about the state of your relationship with Blaise. I don’t know what I was hoping to hear – perhaps that you were just a little bump in the road or a passing fancy, I suppose. I see that’s not the case.

I also appreciate the advice, but I’m afraid that leaving Blaise is out of the question.

If you don’t mind me asking, how did the two of you meet? He doesn’t travel to Italy as much as he would like (or at least, I didn’t think he did), and I can’t recall any business trips to Milan. Most of his business is in Rome.

- Cho Zabini


♦ ♦ ♦ ♦


June 25, 2009

Cho,

Do you mind if I call you Cho, by the way? I’ve never been high on formalities, and calling you “Mrs. Zabini” just seems so stiff.

You’re right. I didn’t meet Blaise in Milan, we met at a party in Rome. I run a small potions shop in the wizarding section of town, and the guy who owns the shop next to mine – Luciano Conti – invited me to come as his plus-one. He’s a gem dealer. Completely gay, but he’s a good time so I said yes.

Like I said, I only knew Blaise by reputation. Someone introduced us at the party, we chatted a bit, flirted, had a few drinks, et cetera. At the end of the night, he escorted me back to my hotel since Luciano had abandoned me for some model.

Well, that was the beginning of that.

Whenever he’s in Italy, he comes to Milan for a day or so. And I’ve been to his family’s place at Lake Como – the villa, you know? But I’ve never met any of his friends, and he’s never met any of mine. He was just someone to help ease the loneliness of being so far away from home.

Now it’s your turn. How did you meet Blaise?

- Romilda


“Hello, beautiful.”

Cho’s head snapped up from the letter. “Blaise, you’re home early!” Her voice sounded enthusiastic enough, she supposed as she hurriedly stuffed the letter inside the large ledger.

Rising from her seat, she crossed around the desk and leaned in to greet her husband with a kiss. “I wasn’t expecting you until tomorrow.”

Blaise’s arms wrapped around her waist, and Cho shivered when he pressed a kiss just below her ear. “I missed you. Couldn’t stand the thought of being away for another moment.”

“You ran out of clean clothes again, didn’t you?”

He chuckled, and the low rumble vibrated across her skin. “You know me too well, Cho.”

Do I? If she were a braver person, she might have said something akin to ‘I suppose Romilda is pants at laundry, then.’ But Cho wasn’t brave; she was complacent. She was a good wife, everything she had been taught to be.

So instead she smiled and looped her arms around his neck. “Well, you’re lucky we have house elves to clean your laundry, aren’t you?”

“Mmmm, house elves and an empty bed.” He pressed his forehead against hers, rubbing his nose along the side of her own. The timbre of his voice dropped to the tone that always made her knees go weak. “Let me show you how much I’ve missed you.”

The letter was still fresh on her mind, but with Blaise’s hands sliding beneath her shirt, Cho couldn’t remember why she should have said no.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦


June 26, 2009

Romilda,

You may call me Cho. If we’re going to be corresponding, then shedding formalities seems to be an appropriate thing to do.

To answer your question, Blaise and I met at a benefit gala in 2001. I had just been called up from the Portree reserve squad, and he had recently come back to England after doing an apprenticeship with a master jeweler in Paris. We talked for most of the night, and he asked if he could take me to dinner that next week.

We weren’t exclusive. At least not at the beginning. He was seeing someone else when we first got together, a woman I knew about. But he broke it off with her a few months later. We were married two years after our first night together. I know it seems sudden, but like you said – he is overwhelming. And I was still am in love with him.

About a year ago, I sustained two consecutive concussions during Quidditch matches, so I retired from the game and went to work at the store. Blaise hates financials and paperwork – which is how I found out about you.

He’s home, by the way. He returned yesterday. I only really had the chance to return your owl because he’s having drinks with the other Slytherin mates at Malfoy Manor – Astoria Malfoy is pregnant, and I suppose they wanted to celebrate.

- Cho


♦ ♦ ♦ ♦


June 27, 2009

Cho,

Something you said earlier has been bothering me. When you said you that leaving Blaise was out of the question, what did you mean by that?

I guess I just don’t understand. Your husband has been carrying on an affair for at least two years (and I’m just assuming there are other women out there), but you won’t leave him? If I were married to him, he’d get the sharp side of my wand and a swift kick out the door.

- Romilda


♦ ♦ ♦ ♦


June 28, 2009

Romilda,

When I was nineteen, I learned that my father had been having an affair. Like Blaise, it wasn’t some one-night stand. He had been seeing a woman in Luoyang for the better part of fifteen years. He even fathered two children with her, and the only reason I found out about the whole thing was because his mistress died. Papa wanted to bring them into our house, but Mother said he couldn’t do it because he didn’t want to dishonor her like that.

And that was the thing that I never understood. Mother knew. She’d known about it for almost the entire time. She knew.

When I found out, I asked her why she was still married to him. I was nineteen, I didn’t understand how she could stay with someone who had betrayed her like that. I still don’t understand…

My mother looked me in the eye and said, “I made a vow, Cho. We do not break the vows we make.”

You see, while it’s acceptable to most people now, divorce is just not acceptable with the older generation. It’s especially taboo among Chinese. I grew up in England, and I’ve only ever visited China. But my parents are from China, and so is the majority of my family. I know my friends – my English friends – would support me if I chose to leave Blaise.

But my family would completely shun me. Divorcing Blaise would be the ultimate shame in their eyes. It’s an old-line way of thinking, but it is what it is. So you see, I can’t leave Blaise. I can’t risk losing my parents. When I said “till death do we part,” it was meant literally.

- Cho


♦ ♦ ♦ ♦


June 30, 2009

Cho,

That’s barmy. But at the same time, I get it. That doesn’t mean I agree with it. Hell no, I think it’s daft. But I do get the problem you’ve got.

He’s coming to Milan this weekend. I just got the owl this morning.

So, where did he tell you he was off to this time?

- R


At the sound of a knock on her dressing room door, Cho glanced up and met Blaise’s gaze in the mirror. She smiled and set her earring down on the table. “What are you hovering there for, Blaise?”

He stepped into the room, his footsteps muffled on the plush carpet as he crossed to stand behind her. “I’m afraid I’ve got some bad news, darling. Monsieur Van Cleef has asked me to come to Paris this weekend for a show, and I’m afraid I can’t say no.” His hands ran over her bare shoulders. “I don’t want to go, but I have to.”

Cho sighed at the easy lie. How many times had his business obligations really been trips to Milan? This one was certain, but she had no idea of the others. To her husband, it looked like she was disappointed at him leaving; he didn’t need to know what she really thought.

“I’m sorry,” he said. Blaise leaned over and dropped a kiss to the top of her head. “I’ll only be gone for two days. I promise, I’ll make it up to you.”

“Maybe we can visit the villa?” she queried innocently, flicking her gaze up to his with a smile. “It’s been so long since we went there last, and it’s so lovely in the summertime.”

Blaise’s easy smile never faltered. “We’ll see.”

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦


June 31, 2009

Romilda,

This time, Paris. He knows I won’t raise a fuss if he says it’s a favor for Master Van Cleef. He did his apprenticeship with Van Cleef & Arpels, and he likes to return to Paris whenever he has the chance. Though now I suspect he’s not as often in Paris as I’ve been told…

Is he taking you to the villa, by chance? I asked if we might go soon since it’s been a long time since I went with him to Italy – now that I think about it, it’s been over two years. He didn’t really answer the question, which makes me think he was planning on taking you there.

Enjoy the pool. I’ve always loved the view at sunset.

-Cho


♦ ♦ ♦ ♦


July 8, 2009

Cho,

Did you take Divination or something? He stayed at my flat on Friday night, then we left for Como. We were there until Sunday night.

I wanted to write sooner, but I’ve been tied up with a complicated potion since Blaise left. There’s something you need to know.

Blaise proposed.

Okay, it wasn’t exactly a proposal. But he gave me a ring – a beautiful one, a big flower with pink and purple gems.

Before you ask, I told him I needed to think about it before I could accept such a gift (I know it’s not the best, but it was all I could think about off the top of my head). I don’t think he knows that I know he’s married. But Cho, I am furious. You know, it’s one thing to know that your boyfriend is married – it’s a completely different thing for him to fucking propose (or something like that) to you while he’s married!

I don’t know what he’s playing at. He can’t marry me if he’s married to you (well, he can’t marry me when I say no, but whatever). And he has to know you won’t agree to a divorce.

I know he didn’t really propose, but what kind of man gives a woman a very large, very beautiful ring with no intentions of marrying her?

-R


♦ ♦ ♦ ♦


July 17, 2009

“I think Blaise is having an affair.”

Penelope glanced up from the double pram parked next to their table. “What?” she asked, surprise evident in her tone. One of the swaddled infants within cooed and grabbed at her finger, pulling it into his mouth with a gummy ‘smack.’ “What makes you say that?”

Cho shrugged and broke off a piece of her scone. She hadn’t meant to bring up the affair with her friend, but the knowledge was slowly eating away at her. She needed to sound out her thoughts, and despite the correspondence she had started with Romilda, there were some things that she couldn’t tell the woman. Despite her friendly overtures, the woman was still her husband’s on-the-side piece.

“He’s been spending more and more time out of the country. He’s home perhaps one night a week, if that.” She brought the bite to her lips and nibbled on it. It tasted like cardboard. “When he is home, we might make love once – if that.”

“I thought he’s always been like that?” Penelope straightened in her seat, reaching for her tea once the babies had been settled. “Travelling with work, I mean.”

She shook her head. “It’s different now. When we were first married, he was only gone for a night at a time. Maybe two if it was urgent. Now it’s at least a week if not longer.”

The look Penelope fixed her with made her squirm internally. “Why are you looking at me like that?”

The other woman quirked one perfectly manicured brow at her. “Cho, I have known you for at least fifteen years. I know your tells, and there’s something you’re not telling me.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she demurred automatically.

Penelope snorted. “Spill, or I’m sending these two home with Auntie Cho for an extended weekend.”

Cho’s eyes widened slightly. “That’s dirty pool.” She crinkled her nose at the idea. As much as she wanted children – despite it all, she still wanted to be a mother – Penelope’s two babies were exhausting.

Twins. She had no idea how Penelope coped.

It was as if a dam had burst. Over the next half-hour, Cho shared the entire story. Blaise’s mistake in accounting, the confirmation with the lingerie shop, and her month-long correspondence with Romilda. Feelings she had been internalizing the entire time – the depth of her sadness at his betrayal, her anger that he would do something like this, and the fury she felt at his audacity – came bubbling forth.

She wasn’t surprised to note there were tears in her eyes when she’d finished, though the heavens only knew how she still had tears left to cry.

“I don’t know what to do, Penelope,” she whispered brokenly.

Her friend sighed and reached across the table, covering her cold hand with her own. It was a sign of solidarity, a tangible moment Cho clung to like a lifeline.

“We’ll figure something out.”

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦


July 23, 2009

There was a note and a box waiting on her pillow when she returned home from work that Thursday. With Blaise in New York – confirmed, this time – for the week, Cho had been spending long hours at the office. Some nights, she sprung for a suite at the Savoy. Staying in their bedroom… it brought memories of happier times.

Well, if not happy, then she’d been blissfully ignorant.

Her curiosity was piqued at the velvet box, though she knew who it came from. Blaise had simple, elegant handwriting; she would recognize it anywhere.

She reached for the note and flipped it open, breaking the seal.

Santorini. Saturday night. Bring your purple bikini.


Despite herself, she couldn’t help but smile. The beach sounded like a perfect respite after spending long hours at the office, sick to her stomach and unable to sleep. It would be good to get away from England, even if it was just for the weekend.

Turning her attention to the jewelry box, she flipped it open – and her stomach plummeted.

Nestled inside its velvet confines was a ring. A stunning, handcrafted ring shaped like a flower, its petals lined with brilliant pink and purple stones. It was the sort of ring a man gave the woman he loved when cost was not a limitation.

And Cho was certain it was the exact same ring her husband had originally given to another woman.

She dropped to box on the bedspread, ignoring it when it bounced off and hit the floor. She had tunnel-vision as she marched towards her study, stopping only in the dining room to grab the decanter of red wine and an empty glass from the sidebar.

Archimedes ruffled his feather and hooted at her when she blew into her study. Trembling hands poured a full glass of wine, then jerked a fresh bit of parchment from a nearby stack. She dipped the tip of her quill in a pot of ink to scribble out a quick note.

Romilda,

You don’t have the ring Blaise gave you, do you? I didn’t respond to your earlier letter because I really didn’t know what to say. But now I do.

If you haven’t seen him since and don’t have the ring, I know where it is. He gave it to me tonight. Left it on my pillow with a note to join him in Greece this weekend.

He has to be on some sort of hallucinogenic. I was upset at him before. I wanted to curse him, to hurt him the way he’s hurt me, but now, I want to kill him. I have never been so mad in my entire life – I have never physically wanted to cause bodily harm to another soul the way I do at this instant.

Now, I have a date with red wine. Lots of red wine.

- Cho


♦ ♦ ♦ ♦


July 24, 2009

Cho,

That bastard! I really have no idea what else to say other than… FUCK. I want to rip his head off – both his heads.

We could do it, you know.

- R


♦ ♦ ♦ ♦


July 25, 2009

Romilda,

Do what? In my fit of rage and alcohol, I don’t seem to remember everything I wrote.

- Cho


♦ ♦ ♦ ♦


July 26, 2009

Cho,

We could… get rid of him. In a permanent way. The kind of way that would make a divorce a moot point.

- R


♦ ♦ ♦ ♦


July 27, 2009

Romilda,

I don’t follow. What would make a divorce a moot point?


Wait. No. Absolutely not. Are you insane? I… NO.

- Cho


♦ ♦ ♦ ♦


July 28, 2009

Cho,

Think about it. It’s the perfect solution for you. You said it yourself, you can’t (or won’t, same difference here) divorce him. It’s not fair to you to know that he’s cheating – if not with me, then it’s a pretty sure bet that he’s got some other arse on the side in addition. He’s not going to stop. If he were completely out of the picture…

We can make it stop. You could be free from him.

Just think about it.

- R

P.S. You might want to burn these letters. Just in case.


♦ ♦ ♦ ♦


July 31, 2009

Romilda,

I thought about it. And I still think you’re mental. My answer is no.

- Cho

P.S. I’ve been burning every letter we’ve exchanged thus far. If Blaise finds out we know one another, it happens on my terms.


♦ ♦ ♦ ♦


August 2, 2009

“Do you have a moment, Cho?”

Cho felt an odd sense of déjà vu when Natalie poked her head in the door. But she managed a small smile and a nod for the blonde – it was hardly the other woman’s fault that all this had come to pass.

Since Romilda’s initial suggestion, she had internally debated the pros and cons of following through with the woman’s idea. She was mad at Blaise, furious, even. She was hurt, and she was sad, and her heart was broken.

But could she endorse the thought of… killing him?

Natalie coughed and Cho jumped, startled out of her thoughts by the bemused blonde. “I’m so sorry, Natalie, my mind is in a hundred places this afternoon. What do you need?”

“I… it’s…” she blushed and handed her the paper. “June eighteenth.”

She quickly scanned the receipt, and the feeling of déjà vu deepened. “June eighteenth…” A purchase at Coup de Foudre, a well known lingerie shop in Monte Carlo for fifty galleons.

Another country. Another woman. Just as Romilda had suspected – and just as she had feared.
She shook her head. “I’m so sorry he’s done this to you again, Natalie.”

“Oh, it’s fine!” the perky witch said with a relieved giggle. “I just didn’t want to say anything to him about it. I mean, how embarrassing is that to have that sort of talk with your boss, you know?”

Cho nodded, her lips twitching in a faint mockery of a smile. “I’ll handle him.”

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦


August 3, 2009

Romilda,

I still can’t do what you’ve suggested. It’s just… it’s not in me.

But if something were to happen to him – perhaps while he was away? A permanent sort of thing… well, what I’m trying to say is this:

Let’s do it.

- Cho


♦ ♦ ♦ ♦


August 4, 2009

Romilda,

Alright, ‘fess up: what made you change your mind?

I haven’t changed mine. But I’m curious.

- R


♦ ♦ ♦ ♦


August 6, 2009

Romilda,

You were right. There’s another woman. She’s in Monte Carlo – unless I’m wrong, and Blaise bought you fifty more galleons of lingerie from Monaco?

- Cho


♦ ♦ ♦ ♦


August 7, 2009

Cho,

He’s not bought me any lingerie since the first one you asked me about. So yeah, there’s someone else.

- R


♦ ♦ ♦ ♦


August 8, 2009

Romilda,

How would – how would you accomplish this? This feels so macabre to discuss, but I suppose even with the subject matter, I’m a Ravenclaw.

- Cho


♦ ♦ ♦ ♦


August 9, 2009

Cho,

I’m a potions master. There are ways.

- R


♦ ♦ ♦ ♦


August 14, 2009

Their bedroom was dark, and a soft breeze from the open window ruffled the curtains. Blaise’s arm was curled around her naked body, one hand cupping a petite breast as her breathing evened out. If Cho detached from her emotions and didn’t think about, well, anything, then she could still enjoy sex.

Blaise sighed and pressed a kiss to her neck. “Mmmm, I’ve missed this.” He skimmed his hand down her side, playing his fingertips over her lower belly. “Work is a much crueler mistress than you, love.”

It was Cho’s turn to sigh. “When are you leaving again?”

“The twenty-first. Van Cleef is opening an exhibition in Amsterdam that weekend, and then I need to go back to South Africa for the week. But,” he rolled over on top of Cho, letting her feel him growing firm against her soft stomach, “I’ll be back at the first of September. Let’s go to Mexico that week, get away from it all.”

Cho shifted beneath him, pulling a strangled groan from Blaise’s lips. “Well then, I suppose you’ll have to make it up to me – tonight and in Mexico.”

“That, beautiful, I can do,” he rasped as he sank into her wet heat once more.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦


August 16, 2009

Romilda,

He’s leaving on Friday. Amsterdam to South Africa – is there a stop in Italy somewhere along the way?

- Cho


♦ ♦ ♦ ♦


August 17, 2009

Cho,

Well, would you look at that? I’ve just received an owl, inviting me to the Como villa next Thursday evening. Apparently, he’s leaving South Africa early and meeting Malfoy there on Friday night. It’s a short window, but it’ll do.

I’ll owl you.

- R


♦ ♦ ♦ ♦


August 21, 2009

Cho wanted to memorize every single detail about the moment. Blaise’s suitcase was packed and magicked into his pocket. He was wearing a crisp green Oxford shirt, pressed black trousers, and a black Italian leather belt with matching shoes. He smelled slightly earthy, a mixture of his cologne and his natural scent. His gold wedding band shone against his dark skin.

If all things went according to plan, it would be the last time she would ever see her husband alive. She’d expected to feel panic. Wasn’t this where she changed her mind and begged him not go, citing womanly premonition or some ilk like that? Cho wasn’t a brave person. Any minute now, she half-expected to break into tears and confess the entire plot.

But she didn’t. She smiled and kissed Blaise one final time, reaching up to adjust his collar ever so much, just as she did every time he left for business.

“I’ll be back before you know it,” he murmured as he pressed a kiss to her forehead. “And I’ll be missing you every day. I miss you already.”

“Me, too,” she said with a soft smile. “Now go, or you’ll miss your Portkey.”

Blaise grinned and stole another quick kiss. “Don’t get into trouble while I’m gone,” he teased, brushing a lock of hair out of her eyes. She opened her mouth to make a halfhearted joke in reply, but a ‘crack!’ of Apparition echoed, and he was gone.

Cho sighed. “Goodbye, Blaise.”

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦


August 27, 2009

It’s done.


♦ ♦ ♦ ♦


August 29, 2009

For a woman who had knowingly let another woman murder her husband, Cho was eerily calm. Perhaps she’d finally gone around the bend – Merlin only knew, the past two months of internal torment had taken their toll. She’d lost at least a stone, and if she heard one more mother, hers or Blaise’s, comment on her letting her looks go, she was going to scream.

She was sure that any minute now, the Aurors would knock on her door and take her to Azkaban.
Cho had scoured every inch of the office, taking care to make sure there wasn’t a letter that had missed its date with the fire. If she was asked about it, she could answer honestly. She knew about the affair and had for months, but she had taken precautions. Her past few evenings had been filled to the brim with social engagements with friends, drinks with Mandy, dinner with Penelope and the twins, a book signing with Padma and Lisa. All events in the public eye with plenty of witnesses to verify she was in England and not in Italy.

“Why no, officer, of course I didn’t kill my husband,” she muttered under her breath.

She nearly screamed when, at that same moment, there was a knock at the door.

Her heart was racing in her chest as every fear of being found complacent raced through her mind. This was it. She was done for.

There was another knock.

Swallowing, Cho smoothed her hands down the front of her dress and tried to look calm. Her footsteps echoed through the hallway and foyer as she shooed a house elf away, reaching to open the door herself.

There were two men on the front stoop. One was an Auror she recognized from school, Ernie Macmillan, Lisa’s boyfriend. The other man was clearly some sort of foreign official.

“Hello,” she said uncertainly. “Can I help you?”

“Signora Zabini?”

She nodded at the same time Ernie said, “Mrs. Zabini, this is Ufficiale Benito Prezza of the Italian Ministry.”

Buon giorno, signore,” she said in her stilted Italian.

Signore Prezza gave her a small little nod. “Signora, I am afraid I have some bad news for you. It is about your husband, Signore Blaise Zabini.”

“May we come in, Cho?” Ernie said quickly, glancing around the street. Even though it was half-past seven in the evening, there were still people out, and the sight of an Auror on a normally quiet village street was already drawing looks.

“Please do.” She opened the door and gestured them inside. “If you’ll go through that door into the parlor, I’ll be right with you. I just need to brew some tea.”

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦


August 31, 2009

Wednesday, Kensal Green Cemetary at noon.


♦ ♦ ♦ ♦


September 1, 2009

I’ll be there.


♦ ♦ ♦ ♦


September 2, 2009

The Ministry official had finally ended oratory on Blaise’s fine attributes: loving husband, beloved son, caring friend and noted philanthropist. It felt as if they had been standing there for forever, though the service had only lasted an half-hour. She had refrained from rolling her eyes while Draco talked about what a good friend Blaise had been and how much he’d be missed, but by the time the official had started the ‘real’ eulogy, she was starting to feel physically ill.

Two cemetery employees were there to lower the casket into the ground, one on each side with a wand. She watched as her husband – a man she’d given her heart to, a man she’d loved with all her being – was lowered into the ground forever.

Natalie was crying into her girlfriend’s shoulder. Across the open hole from her, Astoria dabbed at the corner of her eye while Draco supported his pregnant wife with a hand at the small of her back. Daphne Greengrass’s hat was so large, Cho was surprised anyone could see Theodore standing at her back.

Pansy was staring at Cho. She could feel the Slytherin woman’s gaze on her, burning an accusatory hole in her chest. Was she being paranoid? Most likely – Blaise’s little group of friends had never really accepted her. They’d tolerated her for his sake, but she was an outsider and always would be.

And it didn’t bother her one bit.

When the casket was finally resting at the bottom of the grave, Cho and Romilda released their grasp on each others’ hands and stepped closer to the open hole. The man who’d brought them together, her husband, was gone.

She was free.

Her fingertips loosened their grasp on the red rose she held and let it fall to rest atop her husband’s casket. Bending over, she scooped a small handful of dirt from the pile and dropped it down, symbolizing her final farewell. At her side, Romilda did the same.

She could feel the questioning looks, and she even heard a few whispers catch on the wind. “Who is that woman?”, those sorts of questions. They could – and they would – gossip to their heart’s content. Cho had played her part to the end.

Glancing over at Romilda, Cho felt a strange sensation tugging at her lips: a smile. She hadn’t smiled - really smiled – in a long time. It felt strangely liberating. At odds with their present location, of course, and she knew the hawk-like eyes of her mother wouldn’t miss it, but she couldn’t bring herself to care.

Romilda smiled in return.

The group of mourners started to disperse then, everyone heading their separate ways, some to other graves, others to the Apparition point. Francesca’s husband had bustled her away as soon as the service had ended, and Cho’s own parents were walking away.

It was time for her to do the same.

They didn’t need to say anything else. Over the past two months, they’d said all they needed to say. What was done was done, and they could both return to their lives. Cho didn’t feel any guilt or remorse, only a queer sense of happiness.

With a crimson smile on her lips, Cho gave Romilda a small nod of farewell and turned to leave. The other woman did the same, turning down the pebbled path towards another row of graves.

Their secret, they left buried with Blaise.


 
 
Ronironi_2010 on October 31st, 2013 08:17 pm (UTC)
Love it!!!!
Gelseygelsey on September 15th, 2015 03:08 am (UTC)

Ah I love this so much. I've loved that song ever since I saw the music video while having my oil changed one day. Fantastic! You have every reason to me proud of this fic.