A/N: This story is a sequel/continuation to The Contract (building from the alternate ending in chapters 9 and 10). Pairings will be canon; so, you might see some other couples/relationships come into play. This is first and foremost a Cedric and Cho story.
A/N 2: The story starts directly after The Contract, which would be after OotP. Most of the OotP events happened as they did in the book; the only exception would be that since Cho was not there, Marietta did not join the DA and so, she couldn't have betrayed them to Umbridge. The rest... well, you'll have to read to see what happened...
A/N 3: Warning - updates to this story will be SLOW, as I am working on other fics for Cedric and Cho, and Draco and Cho... so don't expect a complete story soon.
Cho didn't think she could be surprised anymore. Not after the impromptu visits by both her parents and Cedric's. But fate has a way of saying, Guess what? I'm not finished with you yet, and Cho feels her heart leap into her throat when her next customer calls her by name.
She turns. Her eyes widen. "Harry?"
There he sits. Disheveled and ragged, as if he had run straight from London to Oxford without stopping for a glass of water. His Hogwarts emblem is hidden by a simple muggle jacket, but she can tell he's wearing his school uniform. She quickly glances around, and notes that no one is paying attention to them.
"What are you doing here?" She asks. Her head begins to buzz.
"I needed to see you." He says, his tone quiet and serious.
"You shouldn't be here..."
"It's all right. No one knows I'm here." He tries to sound reassuring. "Except Hermione and Ron, but I know they won't tell anyone."
"Why are you here?"
"I need to talk to you."
She looks at him for a moment. A thin layer of statically-charged soot clings to his clothes, and she figures that if it is important enough for him to floo, the least she could do is listen. "Okay..."
"In private." He stops her from taking the opposite seat.
"Well..." She thinks, and throws another quick glance around. No one appears interested in their conversation. "My shift ends in about half an hour. We could go to my place and talk there. Would that be okay?"
He nods, and smiles gratefully. She studies him. He seems... different somehow. More serious. And not quite as bumbling. And thin... "Why don't I get you something to eat?"
"I... uh... don't have any money." Harry blushes slightly. "I only had enough to buy the round-trip train ticket..."
"That's all right." Cho says. "It'll be my treat."
"Really?" He appears more appreciative and this time, Cho feels herself surprised by his stare.
"Sure." Her smile is genuine. "I'll be right back."
She puts an order for burger and fries, and goes to wait on her other customers. The work is steady, and she doesn't have time to wonder why he's there and why he needs to talk to her. He sits quietly, eating the food methodically as if his mind was elsewhere, and stares at the booth ahead of him. He only looks up when she refills his water glass, a smile breaking his stoic expression, before his eyes turn blank when she leaves.
Thirty minutes fly quickly, and she tries to shake the uneasy feeling she has. Harry wouldn't do anything to jeopardize her life, right? He seems decent and honorable enough, but they weren't exactly good friends in school. She only knew him by reputation, which she didn't pay much attention to, and by their friendly quidditch matches. What could he possibly want to talk to her about?
After she wipes her tables and collects her tips, they make their way to her apartment. The walk is uneventful; she doesn't ask about Hogwarts and he doesn't waste time in small talk. Is he there to deliver bad news? Her stomach clinches. No, don't jump to conclusions, she tells herself. She would have received an owl from her parents or Dumbledore if there was any news. It can't be bad news, she stamps into her mind. It can't.
Inside the apartment, he sits and she looks at him patiently. Safe and sound. No weird looks from passerbys. No cold and dreary gloomy clouds above. For a Friday afternoon, it is a nice day. Cho tries to relax. Harry wouldn't be there unless it was important, and "important" doesn't necessarily mean "bad".
She watches him fidget slightly. He looks as if he has grown a couple more inches the past year, and she smiles, wondering if he finds it awkward just as Cedric did when he had to get back into seeker mode. She sighs. Flying on a broom and searching for the elusive snitch, that was one thing she missed. Her eyes daze slightly in the memory, and she misses the look Harry gives her.
He stares almost mesmerized at the cozy and warm environment. It's small, but exudes care and love in its detail. His eyes zero in on a small picture standing amongst a few - one of her and Cedric at Gretna Green. Cedric had picked her up and spun her around, and even though the picture wasn't magically moving, the photographer seemed to capture the light and happy mood of the occasion. His eyes tighten unconsciously.
Harry takes a deep breath. It takes him a good five minutes to summon the courage to ask her his question. He clears his throat. "I wouldn't be asking you this if I thought there was another way... but... would you come back to Hogwarts with me?"
She blinks at him in surprise, her mouth forming a small 'o'. This is something she definitely didn't expect. He swallows and continues. "I... I want to know... I need to know... what you did... to get Cedric back."
His eyes start to glaze, but he wills the tears from falling. "My... godfather... was killed... by Voldemort... and I... want... him back."
"Dumbledore said there wasn't anything I could do..." Harry rushes on. "But I know you know of a way. He told me what you did last year... I know there's a way."
Cho swallows. "Harry..."
"Please, Cho." He begs. "Please don't tell me it's wrong, or I shouldn't do it. He is.. was.. is... he's like my father... and Voldemort's taken away... everybody that I've ever loved..."
He stares at her before diverting his gaze to the floor. "I don't need a lecture... I just need to know... will you help me?"
"Harry..." Cho bites her lip. "What exactly did Dumbledore tell you?"
"He..." Harry changes his mind and rushes in an excuse first. "Don't be mad at him, Cho. He only told me because he wanted to help me. I felt... Cedric died and it was my fault."
Cho's eyes widen. "It... how... why do you think that? It wasn't your fault."
"I..." He looks at her, realizing she had never been told what really happened. She didn't read The Quibbler last year. Of course, she didn't. He admonishes himself. She wasn't at Hogwarts. "We... that is, Cedric and I, reached the cup together. He wanted.. me to take it because I had helped him earlier.. but I wanted him to take it because technically, he reached it first... We argued, and finally agreed to take it together."
Harry swallows. "The cup turned out to be a portkey, and it delivered us straight into Voldemort's hands. He.. killed Cedric... because he only wanted me."
His breath shakes. "You see? It was my fault. If I didn't insist on him taking the cup with me, then..."
"Harry..." Cho reaches out to give his hand a squeeze. "It wasn't your fault. Really."
He looks a bit surprised at her forgiveness. "Dumbledore... he told me that you signed a contract. To exchange your powers for Cedric's life. He told me... so I wouldn't feel..."
Cho nods. "I'm... I'm glad he told you. You needed to know."
"But... now, Voldemort... he killed Sirius... and I..."
"I don't know how I can help you, Harry." Cho tells him. "I'm a squib now. I can't go to Hogwarts without drawing attention."
He looks hopeful. "That's not a problem. You just need to take the train to London, and meet me at the Leaky Cauldron. The fireplace there is linked to the Floo Network, and we'll be able to travel by floo powder to the Three Broomsticks in Hogsmeade. Hermione will meet us there and we can sneak you into the castle."
"Apparently, you've given this a lot of thought." Cho straightens.
"Will you come?" He edges on his seat. "It should only take a couple of days at most. You just need to show me where you found the spell... the contract."
"Are... are you sure about this, Harry?" Cho asks. She takes a deep breath trying to sort her thoughts into words. "You're... you're the 'boy who lived'."
He grimaces at the title, but she continues before he can interrupt. "I can imagine how difficult it is to be the Harry Potter, but people - wizards and witches - are going to look at you for guidance. For leadership. Against Voldemort and his followers."
She looks at him, but he keeps his gaze centered on his hands. "If you go through this, Harry... you'll be ordinary. You'll give up all of your powers and become a muggle. And.. you might not remember anything."
"Cho..." Harry speaks seriously. "I wouldn't be asking you this if I knew there was another way... but... it's something... I have to do... I just need to see that there's a possibility... that there's hope."
Cho stares at him for a long time before clapping her hands on her knees. "Okay. I'll go with you."
Harry's eyes brighten. "Really?"
"Yes." She nods as they stand. "I'll show you where I found the contract. You need to see it for yourself, to see how complicated it is, and what sacrifices it asks of you, before you can decide if this is what you really want to do."
"Great!" Harry nods almost excitedly. He glances at the clock on the mantle. "I better get going... My train will be leaving soon."
"I'll take the train after that." Cho tells him as they walk to the door. "I have to change clothes and get a few things before I leave."
"Okay." Harry smiles. "Then, I'll see you at the Leaky Cauldron?"
As he reaches for the door, the door opens... and he runs smack into Cedric Diggory.
To Part 2