"Ah, relief from the heat!" the girl sighed lustily, opening her arms wide and shaking her hair over her shoulders.
Heads turned after her as she walk daintily to a table by the window. The male gazes were entranced by the way her hips moved, as if she was floating on thin air; the female ones shot daggers at her back. She didn't notice any of them. Nor did she seem aware of the scowl darkening her companion's face, until they were both seated and he gripped her hand and jerked her forward.
"You enjoy this, don't you?"
"What are you talking about? Michael, let go of my hand. You're hurting me."
"You know very well what I'm talking about," he hissed without releasing her. "You want every man in this shop to notice you, to ogle you. You sashay in here like a two-bit..."
"I wouldn't finish that phrase if I were you," she said very coldly, as her other hand disappeared inside the purse hanging on her shoulder.
"You've lost your mind," he spat back in disgust, but he released her imprisoned wrist and pushed his chair back slightly. "We're in a Muggle coffee shop. You can't..."
"Oh, but I can. Let's see... I believe you're about to have an allergic reaction," she whispered ominously, and her fingers came out of the purse holding a slim, highly polished piece of wood. "Don't worry, I'll be sure to tell the Muggles that you've been stung by a bee. The one that you've had up your butt all day long."
"Put that back," Michael snapped. "You're behaving like a spoiled brat. Just because you're of age, it doesn't mean you can go waving your wand around anytime I don't kowtow to your whims."
"Kowtow to my whims?" Her voice rose shrilly, and everyone turned to stare in their direction. She flushed and added in a half-tone, "I didn't ask you to kowtow to my whims. All I wanted was a show of support for something that is important to me! That's what boyfriends are supposed to do."
"Oh, yeah? How about what's important to me?" He racked his fingers through his wavy hair, making it look carelessly ruffled. He had the dark, brooding face of a romantic hero, and there was an haughty glimmer in his eyes that said he was quite aware of it. There wasn't a girl at Hogwarts he couldn't have had, except perhaps for the Granger bookworm - and he didn't want that one, anyway. Why, then, did he always have to be interested only in the stubborn ones? Not that he'd imagined Cho was going to turn out this way. She had seemed so fragile and unsure at the end of the year, that all he'd wanted to do was hold her in his arms and make everything better for her. It had filled his insides with tender warmth when she'd clung to him, and cried on his shoulder. He had vowed to be her protector, always. What a joke that had turned out to be! Barely a month into their relationship, he could hardly recognize his girlfriend. Gone was the needy girl with sad eyes! Almost overnight, she had changed into a willful shrew who cared nothing for his wishes or wants. Come to think of it, that's how things had gone wrong with Ginny, too. This argument was giving him an eery sense of deja vu. "I told you I didn't want you to go to that - what did you call it?"
"Audition," Cho replied coldly. "Yeah, you told me, but you never gave me a good reason for it."
"I gave you plenty of reasons." He crossed his arms and scowled at her.
"You whined and you growled, but you never said anything that made a lick of sense."
"Oh yeah? How about flouting the Decree of Secrecy, and risking a stay in Azkaban?"
"I did not flout the Decree," she said in a dignified tone. "I did not give them my real name, not that they would have believed me anyway."
"You talked to a bunch of Muggles that are making a... a - what did you call it? - about our world!"
"It's called a film. Or a movie. It's like moving pictures, only it's not just the people that change, but the background, too."
Michael's eyes grew wide, as he lost track of the argument. "They can do that without magic?"
"I told you, Muggles are a lot smarter than we give them credit for. Oh, Michael, why don't you come with me to see a movie? You'll love it!" she said in earnest entreaty.
Her almond-shaped eyes were glimmering with filmy wetness, and Michael felt himself relenting. Why not grant her this wish, after all? His fingers caressed her cheek as he nodded his assent.
"Alright, we'll go see a movie together."
"Really?" Cho beamed. "Oh, it will be brilliant! Maybe I'll get the part I auditioned for, and then we can go to the premiere and watch me on the big screen."
"I said we could go see a movie, not that you can play in one! I will not have my girlfriend prancing around in the company of some no-good actors, in those skimpy excuses for clothes the Muggle women wear."
Cho's smiled vanished. "You will not have it?! Who the bloody hell do you think you are, to tell me what I can or cannot do? Or what I'm allowed to wear? I have every intention of being in that movie, if they'll have me. And I'll prance around anyway I want, and with whomever I choose."
"In other words, with Radcliffe!" he exploded, shocking her into silence. "You think I don't know that's why you want to be in those Muggle pictures? All you've been talking about since you got this stupid idea in your head is Daniel this, and Daniel that."
"Well," she replied coldly, "I didn't realize you were even listening to me. But if you'd paid more attention to my words, you'd recall that I said I was impressed with his talent. He really captures Harry's personality very accurately."
"Oh, yeah, I'm sure it's his talent you're interested in!"
"And just what's that supposed to mean?"
" 'Britain 's hottest star!'," he intoned in a high-pitched voice, dripping with disdain. " 'The heartthrob', 'The stuff of girls' dreams', 'Oh, he's so dishy!'."
"I didn't know you were a fan," she replied ironically.
"It's rather hard to ignore him, when every Muggle magazine has his picture on the cover. And when your girlfriend happens to be obsessed with the dishy heartthrob."
"Stop calling him that! It is insulting to him, and to me. I am simply impressed with his talent, nothing more."
"Oh, sure," he rolled his eyes. "His celebrity has nothing to do with it! Just like it had nothing to do with your feelings for Potter, I suppose."
"Leave my feelings for Harry out of this. I am not going to sit here and discuss him with you."
"Well, then, how about we discuss Diggory? Tell me, how come you only went out with him after he became a Triwizard Champion?"
Cho gaped at him in stunned silence for a long moment. Then, quite without warning, her face scrunched up and she burst into tears. She lowered her head, letting her long hair curtain her from view, but he could still see her small frame shaking with heart-wrenching sobs. Michael's heart squeezed in panic: he had to handle a crying girl now, and moreover, he had to do it in a public place! Practically everyone in the shop had turned to watch them, and most of the stares directed at him were accusing - though there was some amount of sympathy on the men's part. He was patting Cho's head awkwardly and trying to soothe her when a shadow fell over their table.
"Phew, it's so hot, you could cook a Hippogriff out there," the newcomer said, lowering himself in a chair and throwing the thick file he'd been caring on a side seat.
"Don't say Hippogriff when there are Muggles around, David," Michael muttered in annoyance, frowning at his older brother. As usual, his timing was perfect.
"No worries, bro. It's the latest rage. The Muggles are so taken with the 'Harry Potter' books that I could do a spell right now and they wouldn't bat an eyelash. They'd probably think we're shooting the next movie. Isn't that right, Cho?" he slapped her on the back with a guffaw. The muffled sob that issued made him notice for the first time that she hadn't greeted him, or even looked in his direction, since he'd arrived. "What happened here? Is something wrong with her?"
"Nothing's wrong," Michael said curtly.
"N-nothing," Cho hiccuped, raising her head, "except for the f-fact that in his opinion I'm a sh-shallow bubble-head."
"You called her that?!" David hollered in outrage.
"Of course not!" Michael protested. "I do not call my girlfriend names."
"No, you only a-accuse me of liking boys just b-because they're famous. And you're... you're dumping your insecurities on me, and trying to make me into the guilty party on top of it!"
"That's ridiculous," Michael sputtered, feeling his face flame up. Why did David have to be present for every embarrassing moment of his life?
"Oh, I quite agree that what you're doing is ridiculous," Cho said glacially, her voice gaining in strength. "Everything was fine and dandy between us when I was feeling down, but now that I'm trying to get back to my normal self, you can't handle it. You don't know what to do with a girl who has a mind and a will of her own. So let me make this clear to you, Michael Corner: we're only going out - I didn't sign up for a lifetime supply of your problems. Either you deal with them, or we're finished."
Tense silence descended over their table. By now, everyone in the store was eyeing them with a hungry look on their faces, as if they were watching some fascinating drama unfold. David seemed to realize that, as he twisted around and glowered at the spectators. His fierce gaze cowed them quickly. For all his easy going manner, the man could look quite dangerous when he wanted to. Michael scowled again.
"Look, Cho," David said quietly, "I know my brother can be a pain in the butt, but he must have something going for him if a pretty girl like you decided to date him. True, I personally don't understand why anyone would choose this knucklehead, but I figure you must have had a reason. So maybe you should think about it before you make a decision. Okay?"
Cho shrugged and didn't answer.
"Right then," he clapped his hands, trying to sound cheerful, "how did the audition go?" He could tell it was the wrong question immediately, from the storm brewing on Michael's face.
"It's all your bloody fault! You're the one who put these stupid ideas in her head, about movies, and auditions, and Muggle celebrities. Mark my words, sooner or later you'll get in trouble with the Ministry. And I won't have you bring Cho down with you when it happens."
"I see you're back to harping about my career. Why can't you get it through your thick head, Mick?" he used the hated nickname on purpose, making him wince. "I work with special effects people - they're used to making magic of their own. They may not use wands like us, but trust me, the things they can do with a computer... Besides, Cho wouldn't even be doing that. She only auditioned to be an extra in the next Harry Potter movie - she'll just dress up in robes and wave a fake wand around. There's no harm in that."
"That's what you said before, too. You may have convinced the Ministry that working on those Muggle pictures won't jeopardize the secret of our existence, but how long do you think they're going to ignore what you're doing? You're basically showing the Muggles our world."
"Oh, come off it, Michael," Cho snapped in annoyance. "You haven't even seen what David did. His version of Hogwarts looks nothing like the real one. Why, I'd die of cold if I had to live in that Gothic castle all year long! And the Hogwarts Express - please, it was just a Muggle train. As for the Forbidden Forest..."
"Well, what about Quidditch?" Michael interrupted grumpily. "I heard Justin Finch- Fletchley say that it looks exactly like in real life. You should have changed that, too, David, if you don't want to get in trouble with the Ministry!"
"Change Quidditch?!" David and Cho exclaimed at the same time, goggling at Michael as if he'd grown another head.
"Have you lost your mind?" David added in disbelief.
"You can't touch Quidditch," Cho said with an air of finality.
"You're both crazy." Michael said the words quietly this time, as if at last he'd discovered what was wrong with these two people in his life. "And when you face the Wizengamot..."
"We won't," Cho interrupted. "Even if I had gotten the part I auditioned for in January..." she trailed off as she saw the surprised look on the brothers' faces. Darn, she hadn't wanted to mention it. The failure still stung.
"You auditioned in January?" David asked, rubbing his chin thoughtfully. "But that's when they were casting for..." His eyes grew wide. "You auditioned for the part of... Cho Chang?"
"WHAT?!" Michael exploded. "You wanted to... to play yourself?"
"Yeah, well, I didn't get it," she said morosely. "They told me I didn't really understand my character."
David patted her shoulder gruffly. "Shows how much they know. Don't worry, there will always be a next movie, if that's what you want to do for a career."
"You wanted to play yourself?" Michael repeated, gazing off into space as if trying to catch a slippery thought. "That movie is supposed to take place last year, during the Tournament, right? B-but that would mean..." His eyes narrowed in suspicion. "You were Diggory's girlfriend last year, and starting to like Potter, too, by your own admission. So had you gotten the role, you'd have had to snog the actor that plays Diggory in the movie! I bet he's a good-looking one - he'd have to be, in order to get that part. And Radcliffe? Were you hoping to snog him, too? Did you snog Potter last year? Or did you only..."
"Oh, here we go again," Cho muttered in disgust as she slid her hand inside her purse with a determined glint in her eyes.
A/N: Yes, I know that in JK's notes, Michael Corner is listed as half-blood, which would make his ignorance of Muggle movies seem odd. However, he is also listed there as a Hufflepuff, and she's obviously changed her mind about that in the books. So I took the liberty of assuming he's a pure-blood in the books. If you don't like that assumption, you could always imagine he's been raised in the magical community, with little or no knowledge of the Muggle world.