Disclaimer: Don't own and never will.
AN: Based off of the fanfic author ChoCedric's fic Keep Holding On, chapter 37. (Of course, by the time I publish this, ChoCedric may have already made it obsolete, but I digress. Also, apologies to the author ChoCedric for the title, but it felt appropriate here)
"Kill the spare!"
Cho Chang sat in her bed, reading through one of her old Defence Against the Dark Arts textbooks.
She SHOULD be asleep. It was late at night and it had been a long day. The trial had been…trying to say the least. Seeing Cedric murdered so callously…
She closed her book. It was late and she was in no fit state to take it in. She should be sleeping, not going over her old classes and especially not one of her weakest subjects. (She HAD scraped an Exceeds Expectations in the subject. She was proud of that. But she only passed with help from Cedric.)
She closed her eyes.
"Kill the spare!"
Cho's eyes shot open as those three words blasted through her mind. She swore. Tears began to prickle her eyes and Cho let them. Trying to stop them was a futile task. She had tried before and failed. In fact, she was surprised that she had anything left to cry with. Yet here she was crying yet again. Once again, silent tears were running down her face. Every time she closed her eyes, the same memory played through her mind. The flash of green. Cedric's horrified face. That cold voice and that callous order. Three little words that changed everything in an instance.
She had known that You-Know-Who was evil. Tragic stories of families torn apart by his hand were all too common in the Wizarding World. She knew on an intellectual level that he was a cold blooded murderer and the terrible human consequences of his actions. Practically every Pureblood and even a lot of halfblood family had suffered from Voldemort and his supporters in some form or another. (Or had family members who were actually on Voldemort's side. The hidden dragon in the room that was rarely mentioned in public and NEVER in polite company.) She had known, but it was something in the past. Something that had happened in an impersonal past. Thirteen years of peace had dulled the past and left the Wizarding World in a state of comfort and complacency. Even the Death Eaters at the World Cup had done little to stir up the wizarding world.
Nobody wanted to think too deeply about the possibility of another war and the troublemakers were just…masked thugs. Cho certainly hadn't given it much thought. (A part of her wondered if she hadn't been deliberately avoiding thinking about it.)
"Kill the spare!"
Cho shuddered as the cold, imperious voice of You-Know-Who rang through her mind once more. Even seeing him through a memory made her feel absolutely terrified. Even though he wasn't in the courtroom with them, she could feel his malevolence and darkness and sheer unadulterated power coming from him. It left her feeling scared and small. As though the mere idea of resisting was impossible. For Harry Potter to have faced him alone…
She doubted that she would have been as brave or as skilled. There was a reason she was a Ravenclaw and not a Gryffindor after all.
And then there was what happened to Dumbledore.
The headmaster had seemed to be unstoppable. A beacon of power and hope. Even when the Chamber of Secrets had been opened and nobody seemed to know anything, Dumbledore remained a reassuring presence. And Fudge had tried to forcibly change his mind with an assault that was the stuff of nightmares. All to keep the Wizarding World in a state of complacent comfort.
She scowled angrily as she thought about it. A state of complacent comfort. The perfect setting for You-Know-Who to operate. For the Death Eaters to gain the advantage. Her parents had angrily ranted about it when they thought she was asleep. The people who would have died, who would have been murdered or controlled into doing truly horrible things.
All so that Cornelius Fudge could avoid having to actually deal with the problem. So he could pretend that he was without flaw, that his tenure as Minister was a good one. That he had never been wrong. That the Ministry hadn't made a mistake and put an innocent man away into Azkaban for years without even the formality of a trial. And to achieve this, he was willing to lie and torture and for an innocent boy to take the blame. All so he could keep his image of a peaceful, trouble-free Minister.
It was sickening. Harry was only a year younger than her. He had the rest of his life ahead of him. But Cornelius Fudge was prepared to throw Harry's future away, just to save his reputation. Was there anything Fudge would not do to save himself and his image?
It was disgusting. Easily on a par with the Death Eaters in her opinion. She hoped that he went to Azkaban for a very long time for his crimes.
"Kill the spare!"
Those three little words. They embodied everything that You-Know-Who was at heart. What he sought to accomplish, what he was prepared to do, how little the lives around him mattered. The kind of actions that he thought acceptable. The casual, senseless nature of his order. The callous killing of a young man who had barely begun his adult life.
Intellectually, Cho had known that about You-Know-Who. His nature, his ability and his personality was not exactly secret. There was a reason why he was so feared. A reason why the Wizarding World was afraid of his name. The idea of him having someone killed just because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time should not have come as a surprise. There were plenty of stories of him doing that from the previous war after all.
But therein lay the problem. The names of the people who had been murdered were just names to her. She didn't know any of them personally.
Oh she understood on an intellectual level and it horrified her. But there was a gap, for want of a better word, between knowing about it and actually feeling it.
She wasn't sure she was explaining it very well to herself.
But Cedric? Cedric was personal. Cedric was her friend and later boyfriend. The handsome, charismatic Quidditch captain who was widely loved by his team and his house. A boy who was kind and caring and driven to be the best. He had hopes and aspirations and dreams. A bright future with the Appleby Arrows as their reserve seeker and hopefully more.
And Cedric was someone she knew. Someone she cared about. Someone she loved, first as a friend and later as a partner. Someone who had helped her become a better person in her opinion. He was kind and empathetic and he helped her be more than just the pretty quidditch player.
And in turn, she saw that he was not the dumb, silent player who could barely string two words together, but so much more. That his silence was not from a lack of intelligence, but a calm, considered response.
And Harry had to see him die. Seen all of Cedric's hopes and dreams vanish in the blink of an eye.
"Kill the spare!"
Cho chuckled bitterly as tears ran down her cheeks. Like everyone else, she had thought that Harry had somehow managed to get past the age line and enter his name. The idea that it was an elaborate plot hadn't crossed her mind or Cedric's for that matter. The very idea would have seemed to be nothing short of absurd and yet it was true.
It made her feel ashamed to have believed that he had entered himself deliberately. It should have been clear that something was wrong when the Goblet of Fire spat out a fourth name. A fourth name in a tournament of three and Harry Potter's name no less. The Boy-Who-Lived attracted trouble like rotting meat attracted flies. If even half the rumours about him were true, he had faced danger well beyond his years and well beyond his famous encounter with You-Know-Who.
And he had been the one to see Cedric die. She winced as her mind reminded her of that little detail.
She began to dry-sob as her tears finally ran out.
It seemed almost selfish to be focused on Cedric. Harry had been through hell and she was focused on her boyfriend. He had been forced to fight You-Know-Who in person. Had his dead parents and his famous scar brought up all the time. Had memories so traumatic that Dementors made him pass out. Was in hiding after being falsely accused of murder.
There was even that stupid, idiotic campaign to have Harry expelled. She had argued badly about that with some of her friends. The ones who seemed to think that because she was his girlfriend, that she would want revenge against Harry for surviving where Cedric had not.
(A part of her wondered if Harry had asked her first and she went with him, whether they would have been so eager to believe the worst of Harry.)
Cedric would have been ashamed of his fellow Hufflepuffs.
It wasn't Harry's fault that he had survived and Cedric hadn't. You-Know-Who was a hateful, powerful wizard and Harry's survival was unusual. Then again, so was his survival against You-Know-Who as a baby.
And she trusted Harry. She felt like he was their best hope for defeating You-Know-Who.
It was irrational of course. Harry was a year younger than her and it was his friend Hermione Granger who had the reputation for being smart. But Harry had survived and defied You-Know-Who before.
She looked out of her window, watching the stars twinkling in the night sky. Cedric had always struggled with astronomy. The constellations that decorated the sky were a constant mystery to him and a running joke between them.
She let out another dry sob. She would never hear Cedric's laugh again. Never see his eyes light up with laughter or even cry bitter tears of sadness. Never again would he plan for a quidditch game with her or help a new flyer gain confidence. So many things that he would never do again. And all because of three little words.
"Kill the spare!"
She felt violently ill as those three words ripped through her mind again. Cedric had done nothing to deserve being so callously murdered except be in the wrong place at the wrong time. An inconvenience to be removed, an annoyance to be casually tossed aside. An unimportant insect to be squashed in the grand schemes of his return. He could have stunned Cedric just as easily. Left him unconscious for the whole ordeal The results would have been the same. He didn't need to kill Cedric and cause all this pain. This deep, aching pain that surrounded her and threatened to drown her in its depths.
If she was feeling this, she could not imagine how much worse Cedric's parents felt.
Did his proud, pushy father regret pushing his son into the tournament? Did his mother regret not forbidding her son to enter? Did they wish that they had spent more time with him or that they had done or said something different with their final day, their final hours with him?
How many more people would have to go through the same trauma? How many more lives would be cut short. She shuddered. How many more people would have been hurt if Fudge had his way?
Take her cousin Katie for example. She was married to a charming Muggle born wizard named Ryan and was a fairly important healer at St Mungos. Their family would be a prime target for a resurrected You-Know-Who. If they didn't know about his return, then...Cho shuddered slightly at the thought.
Her eyes drifted back to her textbook. Blood purity was no protection. The cold, callous murder of Cedric showed that all too clearly. All it would take is for someone to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. And she knew that Cedric would not have been comfortable standing aside. He would have joined the fight. Not out of some misguided belief that he would save the world or ideals.
No, Cedric would have joined to help protect the people who mattered to him. To his muggle born friends and the younger muggle born Hufflepuff students.
She picked up her book once more. It might be futile, but she had to do something. War was coming and she needed to be ready.
AN: Okay so a little background details. In Order of the Phoenix, Cho mentions that she's never been able to stun anyone before, indicating that Defence Against the Dark Arts is a weak subject for her. At the same time, it's implied that she's still doing Defence Against the Dark Arts. So I gave her the lowest possible grade that I thought would allow her to take the subject at NEWT level.
As for Cedric, I always headcanoned that he was friends with Cho long before they started dating.
AN2: Yes, Cho Chang's cousin Katie is a deliberate nod towards ChoCedric and her fiancé Ryan.