The Sugar Quill
Author: The Nebula's Daughter  Story: Absolution  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.

"It come to naught that I forgive you, if youíll not forgive yourself" Arthur Miller, The Crucible

Answers are important things. Just ask anyone. Ask Harry Potter. Harry had so many unanswered questions of his own that it never occurred to him that he might hold answers in which anyone would be interested. Which was why it was such a surprise to him when he was pulled aside to answer a very important question.

It was the first day of classes in Harry's fifth year at Hogwarts, and he, Ron, and Hermione were making their way to Defense Against the Dark Arts from Potions. Ron had had a few choice words to say about that being the first class on their schedule. He was still complaining.

"Two rolls of parchment! Two Rolls! On the first day back! There is no doubt about it this time, the man is evil." Hermione pounced. Harry was beginning to suspect that she did indeed enjoy scolding the two of them. Including Ron. Especially Ron.

"Ron! We have our O.W.Ls this year, if you haven't forgotten, which you probably have! We need to do more work to be prepared! Professor Snape is just trying to..." Ron interrupted her tirade with an unholy glee.

"Two. Rolls. Hermione, he assigned us two rolls. He. Is. Evil."

"Ron Weasley, youÖ"

"UmmÖExcuse me?" All three looked down to find one of the first year Gryffindors, a pretty little auburn-haired girl, standing in front of them. She was holding a plate of cookies in her hands and looking incredibly nervous. Harry searched his mind for her name, eventually coming up with Grace. She fidgeted under the gaze of the older trio. With an expression that suggested that this action was costing her more effort then anything she had ever done before, she thrust the cookies toward Ron. He took them automatically. Grace, blushing furiously, spoke in an embarrassed rush,

"Thank you for helping me with my trunk yesterday!" Message delivered, she bowed like a Japanese schoolgirl and raced away at breakneck speed.

"Sheís a sweet kid. She didnít need to do that." Ron looked amused as he stuffed one of the cookies in his mouth. "MmmmÖGood." Hermione rolled her eyes at him. "What?" Crumbs crumbled onto the front of his robe.

"You are making a mess." Hermione reached out to brush crumbs off his front. He caught her hand and they both froze, staring at each other. Harry watched, grinning stupidly. He found it highly amusing when Ron and Hermione had one of their U.S.T. moments (Ginnyís name for them). He thought it was great that his two best friends liked each other.

The sound of someone clearing her throat nearby caused Ron and Hermione to jump apart and Harry to look around for the source. He promptly wished he hadnít.

It was Cho Chang. An icy cold knot gathered in the pit of his stomach. Cho was exactly the person he had been hoping to avoid. All summer he had been unable to think of her without picturing her the way she had looked at the end of term banquet, tears rolling down her cheeks and wetting her collar as she made no attempt to wipe them away. Cedricís death had done that to her, and since on some level, he still held himself responsible for that death, he was afraid she blamed him for it too.

"Harry?" she asked.

"Yeah?" he answered, as the cold knot broke into little ice butterflies that proceeded to attempt to fly up his throat.

"Could I talk to you?" she glanced at Ron and Hermione who were being very quiet. "Alone?"

She and Hermione exchanged a look. Hermione nodded and dragged Ron down the hall. He was protesting feebly and confusedly. Harry found himself wondering how girls exchanged complex messages without words. Maybe they were telepathic.

"Yeah, sure," Harry heard himself say. He seemed to have lost control of his vocal cords. She opened the door to a nearby classroom. He followed her in. It was yet another of those classrooms no one ever seemed to be using. All the desks had been shoved against the walls and there was a fine layer of dust all over. Slowly she turned to face him and took a deep, shaky breath.

"I know I'm asking a lot . . ." She glanced down at her hands, which she had woven tightly together, "and I don't really expect you to tell me . . . but . . ." She trailed off and took another deep breath. Harry began to feel even more nervous. What was she going to ask? "How did . . . What hap. . . How did Cedric die?"

Harry froze. He couldn't think of what to say or how to say it, and yet he was somehow telling her everything. He told her about the spider at the center of the maze and how he and Cedric had helped each other past it. He told her of their decision to take the cup together and how it had turned out to be a port key. He described the graveyard they had been taken to and told her that there had been a death eater waiting for them there. His voice cracked when he spoke of the spell that had ended Cedricís life and he heard himself stop. He looked up from the spot on the floor he had been staring at all though his narrative to find that Cho was crying. She wasn't making any sound but her shoulders were shaking and tears were running down her face.

"Er . . . Cho? You okay?" He felt extremely awkward.

"I'll be fine. Thank you, Harry." She smiled sadly at him. "Harry? I don't blame you for what happened. You shouldn't blame yourself." Harry could feel tears beginning to burn behind his own eyes. Cho gave him a warm, sisterly hug, thanked him again and disappeared down the corridor. Harry stayed behind, trying to sort out all of the confusing emotions inside him. There was grief for Cedric, sympathy for Cho, and a great deal of relief that she did not blame him, but none of the giddy joy he would have expected after being hugged by her. Which could mean only one thing. He no longer had the feelings toward her that he had had the year before. This was almost as much of a relief as discovering that she didnít blame him for Cedricís death.

As he walked to Defense Against the Dark Arts for which he was about ten minutes late, he felt as if something inside him had been unlocked. As if some part of him that had been tangled and knotted was coming undone. It hurt a little but he didnít mind. It was the kind of pain there was when a wound was healing, a reminder that it was still there, but would soon be gone.

Harry felt better then he had all summer. He had been forgiven for his failure, and now he could move on. If Cho could forgive him for such a fatal error, then surely he could take whatever was coming.

Authorís note:

No, I donít think Harry failed. Harry thinks he failed, thatís why I put it in. So Ďfore yíall flame me for it stop and think.

Yes, Grace is a self insertion. Sheís pretty much who I was when I was eleven and had a huge crush on a guy who was two years older then me. Thatís less of an age difference then there is between Grace and Ron, but hey! Itís just a crush. Besides, if I had met Ron when I was eleven I would have had had a crush on him. I think I handled her pretty well.

Thank you for reading, please review. Pretty Please? Pretty Please with a cherry on top?

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