The Sugar Quill
Author: Jane (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Decisions  Chapter: Default
The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

The air was brisk, but Harry was glad to feel its cold slap on his face. Behind him Hogwarts stood proudly, a gleaming jewel set in a perfect blue sky. He sat on a stone bench and stared out across the lake. School was over for another summer, and his sentence at the Dursleys' would soon begin. His jaw clenched at the thought of going back to live with his relatives, especially after what he had endured the last few days. Harry rubbed his scar and sighed. Lately, it felt like he was carrying Hogwarts around on his shoulders. If only Cedric....

"Cedric." He couldn't escape the pain that name evoked. Tears filled Harry's eyes, and for a moment the world was a blur of light and colour. The tears spilt down his face, and then he blinked, clearing his vision. The sounds of footsteps and rustling grass had him sniffing quickly and dragging his arm across his face.

"Please. Please, don't let it be Malfoy," begged Harry under his breath.

He looked up and was surprised to see bright red hair and freckles. It was funny how alike all the Weasleys' features were, but somehow on Ginny they were unique. She was usually very shy around him. He knew she and Hermione were good friends, yet Harry often saw Ginny alone.

"Hi." Harry looked expectantly at her. Wondering what she wanted. Hoping he didn't have red, puffy eyes.

"Hello, Harry. I hope I'm not bothering you. It is just that I saw you sitting out here alone and I...." She stopped speaking and gazed intently at the lake, as Harry had done. Her hand tightened on the back of the bench. Harry was startled by the intensity of her expression. He could feel Ginny's emotions pouring from her, though she was silent.

"I used to come out here and watch the water. It seemed so peaceful." She looked down at Harry. "That was right after they released me form the infirmary. You know, when you rescued me from Vol... the Basilisk?" Her face grew red with embarrassment.

"I remember," answered Harry wearily.

"Well, anyhow, I used to come out here a lot, and wonder how I could have been so... so stupid, as to have kept that wretched diary. Dad told me not to trust that type of rubbish, but I was feeling sorry for myself. I went ahead and wrote in it, never stopping to consider what might happen. I could have gotten people killed. Hermione had to spend weeks in the hospital wing because of me. She's my best friend, and I almost killed her!"

Harry sat in shock as he listened to Ginny's speech. It was the most he had ever heard her speak in his presence. Here she was pouring out her heart to him. He wanted to comfort her. He understood her sorrow.

"It wasn't your fault Ginny. Tom Riddle's diary tricked you. That's what Voldemort does, he uses people." He leaned forward to pick up a rock from the lawn and throw it far away, towards the water.

"I'll never forget waking up with blood on my hands," she said in a horrified whisper. Harry could see the tears in her eyes. He didn't think, but reached up and placed his hand over Ginny's smaller one.

"It wasn't your fault. Dumbledore didn't think so. He wouldn't have let you stay if he thought it was. It was Voldemort!" Ginny winced when he practically shouted the name. "He destroys everything," Harry said bitterly.

Ginny looked down gravely at Harry. "It wasn't your fault either, Harry. You said it yourself. It was him." She couldn't bring herself to say the name, and wondered how Harry didn't choke on it when he did. "He is the destroyer."

Harry jerked his hand away, and shoved them into his pockets as he slouched low on the bench with his long slender legs sticking out in front of him. He refused to meet her eyes. He chose to focus on the small yellow flower poking out between the blades of grass. Ginny took a deep breath, and sat down next to him. She felt warm, and smelled like something fresh and sweet. Like the flower, maybe. Harry grimaced at his fanciful thoughts.

Ginny trembled. Harry looked furious, but she was determined to go on. He needed to hear this from someone who understood the guilt and anguish he was feeling. She turned slightly in her seat so she could look right into that pale scowling face.

"Harry, it took me a long time to be able to face myself and not feel guilty about all the destruction I caused with that awful diary. But I had to forgive myself in order to go on. I don't know everything that happened with Ced..." her voice faltered, "Cedric. But I know that sharing the victory with Cedric was a noble thing to do."

"If it was so bloody noble than why did Cedric die?" he spat out.

"You were doing a good thing. It was Voldemort!" Ginny blinked and looked terrified when she realized she had said that name out loud. Harry looked shocked. Ginny decided that if saying Voldemort was what it took to get Harry's attention, then it was worth it. "He killed Cedric. Just like he was responsible for opening the Chamber of Secrets. At least you did what you did for a good reason. I was just being silly." Her face was pale. Harry could see that saying Voldemort's name frightened her.

"Well, you never got anyone killed," he said viciously. He couldn't understand why she was here pestering him.

"It was a near thing Harry Potter, and you know it! What then? Would you have tossed me into Azkaban? It was almost you I killed." She yelled indignantly.

The burst of anger directed at him surprised Harry. If things had been different he might have laughed. She was always so blasted quiet when he was around, like a pale little ghost. Yet hear she was roaring at him.

"I would never have blamed you," he said slowly.

"Then why are you blaming yourself?" Her face was serious now. The anger was gone. "If you keep blaming yourself, then he wins. The despair will drive you mad. Believe me, I know. He doesn't just destroy lives, Harry. He kills hope, and happiness, and trust and all the good things we have. Besides you, Cedric was one of the most decent fellows around. I am sorry he is dead," she said with a shaky breath, "But Cedric's parents don't blame you. If anyone has the right to hate you it would be them. But they don't because they know it wasn't your fault."

Harry continued looked out at the lake, not meeting her eyes.

"What about Dumbledore? He'd have kicked you out immediately if he thought you were responsible. He didn't. He practically called you a hero," Ginny continued, hoping Harry would respond.

At this Harry snorted, "Bugger that!"

Ginny grinned at his disgusted look. She reached over, brushed aside his shaggy black hair and gently touched his scar. The shock that went through Harry was quite different than what he felt when Voldemort was nearby, but equally alarming.

"Think about what I said, Harry. Please. Let go of your guilt. It's okay to grieve, but don't give in to despair."

She got up and walked back to the school. For a long time after Ginny left Harry sat dumbfounded by this fierce new Ginny. He heard her voice echoing in his mind - imploring him not to give in. Automatically, he reached up to touch his scar, much like Ginny had. When he took a deep breath, the air felt warmer. He slid stiffly off the bench and stretched before heading for the lake.

As he drew nearer, he could hear the water lapping gently on the shore. It brought back memories of the Triwizard tournament. He remembered how Cedric had struggled to free Cho. For the first time since Cedric's death he thought of her and wondered how she was doing. His heart stumbled as he considered that she might hate him for getting Cedric killed.

While he stood silently watching the smooth surface of the water, he forgot his worries about Cho and thought about Ginny. She was right. The lake did seem very peaceful - on the surface. Harry knew from experience what could be hidden underneath. Things just weren't that simple for Harry Potter any longer.

Harry turned away from the lake, and headed back towards Hogwarts. He recalled what Dumbledore had said, "Remember Cedric Diggory." He would remember Cedric, he thought. When the time came for him to choose between what was easy and what was right, he would act not only for his parents, but for Cedric as well. And when that time came, Voldemort would remember Cedric Diggory too. He would see to it.

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