A/N: I think I ought to preface the start of this tale by explaining where it comes from and why I wrote it. Back during the "Long Summer" between Harry's fourth and fifth years, I began to write a story called "Phoenix Reborn" and posting it on GryffindorTower. Well, I was too slow to finish it before JKR released OotP and with that book a lot of things changed. A few specifics were that Sirius was now gone, Harry had developed a bit of a temper (even if it was, as I believe, mostly induced by Voldemort's using the Link with Harry and sending him some of his own anger either deliberately or inadvertently), and Ginny had done a complete 180 from how I envisioned her. I, like many fanfic writers, saw Ginny as a sort of paragon of pure love. She knew she loved Harry and that they were destined to be together. The only problem was getting Harry to realize this. Ginny was confident and strong in her love, if occasionally not in herself. This was how I was writing her in PR. Now we know that this is not the case. Ginny has moved beyond her crush on The Boy Who Lived and is growing into her own person. I felt it would be wrong to continue to treat her in a way that was so blatantly against JKR's vision. But I was having problems dealing with this new Ginny, adapting to her so to speak. So, I envisioned this tale and called it Adaptations for obvious reasons. It was originally supposed to be just three or for parts, enough to give me a handle on Ginny and figure out what to do about Sirius, but, as these things have a tendency to do, it grew of its own volition into something that will take at least a dozen, if not a couple more, chapters to complete.
Since I started "Adaptations", the founding feathers took the ashes of GT and built this marvelous site. I signed up and began to enjoy all my favorite writers again. However, "Adaptations" was not your typical H/G fic, in fact it hadn't become H/G at all, and so I didn't think it was what PS was looking for. I began to post it at Fiction Alley and on my own yahoo group (The Professor's Guild, hint hint, plug, plug). Sherry, one of the PS FF, read it there and recognized me from GT. She dropped me a note and asked if I was the idiot who was writing "Phoenix Reborn" and had such a hard time spelling pheonix (see?). We exchanged a few notes and since this story, although it is not a typical H/G, is the gateway to PR which is H/G, she asked if I would like to see it posted here. I was, needless to say, thrilled. Since my old GT beta, Ahmie, is rather occupied (if you're reading this Ahmie, give your belly a pat and say hello from me) the lovely and wise Kalarien has volunteered for the odious task of betaing this mind-bent engineer's work.
Anyways, I am drifting a bit, here is my little tale and I hope you enjoy it. As always, your comments and criticism are always welcome. If I never hear how my writing works from those who read it, how can I ever hope to improve?
Beta's note: Ha, didn't think you were going to get your author's note betaed, did you? Well, as lovely and wise as I might be, I must set the record straight on this "mind-bent engineer's work" and make it known that it was my pleasure to read, not the torture that BJ has made it out to be. After all, if the job was "odious," I wouldn't be doing it. So there.
The drive from King's Cross to Little Whinging passed in complete silence. Not a single word was spoken by anyone, and that suited Harry Potter just fine. He needed to think. So much had happened this last year that Harry no longer understood where he was. Obviously, he was sitting in the back seat of his Uncle Vernon's expensive imported sedan, next to a quite intimidated Dudley, but where did he stand in the real scheme of things? Was he merely a pawn to be played at fate's whim? Was his future already laid out and defined by some prophesy he knew nothing of until a few days ago? Was he the ordained savior of the Wizarding World? Harry snorted at this last thought and beside him Dudley jerked away, trying, if that was at all possible, to get even further away from Harry than he already was. Harry didn't even bother to smile; he had too many other things on his mind.
Eventually, the car pulled into the driveway of Number 4 Privet Drive, and Vernon stopped the engine and got out. The boot popped open at a push of a button on Uncle Vernon's key fob as he unlocked the front door of the house and went inside. Harry looked at his large and rather heavy trunk as well as the empty cage that would hold Hedwig when she arrived - Harry thought it would be safer for her to fly to Little Whinging rather than ride in the car with the Dursleys. He thought for a moment of asking Dudley to give him a hand then he caught sight of his beefy cousin disappearing around the corner of the house and out of sight. No help from there, he reckoned.
With nothing else for it, Harry grabbed the handles of his trunk and began to heave it out by himself. He was shocked when it popped right out and hovered at his side, as light as a feather.
"Thought you could do with a bit of a hand," a gravelly voice growled in his ear and Harry realized that his minders were already back on duty.
With a grin and a murmured "Thanks", Harry guided his trunk into the house and up the stairs to the smallest bedroom. The room was just as cramped as Harry remembered, with the dusty, closed-in smell of a room not often used. The first thing Harry did was to open the window wide so that Hedwig could easily fly in when she arrived. Placing the empty cage on top of the small desk, Harry opened his trunk to unpack. His textbooks he also put on the desk temporarily; he would set them back in the trunk once it was empty. His cauldron, likewise, was set aside for the moment. Harry pulled his socks and pants from inside the cauldron and put them away.
Harry opened the doors to his wardrobe, and then reached into his trunk to pull out his bundle of school robes. He hissed as a sharp pain shot across his palm. Swearing softly under his breath, Harry pulled his hand back and looked at it. A jagged cut was torn diagonally across his palm and blood was dripping down to spatter on the wooden floor. A strange tingling sensation was beginning in his hand, as if it was going numb. Harry quickly wrapped a handkerchief around his palm to stem the blood and looked back into his trunk. The frame of the mirror that had been Sirius' last gift to him sat on top of the pile of robes, surrounded by shards of shattered glass. One particularly jagged piece had traces of blood along one edge. Harry reasoned that he must have cut himself on this as he reached for the robes.
The tingling feeling began to creep up his arm as Harry went into the bath to wash the cut and see about bandaging it. It stung fiercely as he ran water over it to clean away any dirt. Squinting close, Harry carefully checked that no stray bits of glass remained and wrapped his makeshift bandage back into place. The cut was too long and deep to just keep covered; it needed to be looked at if it was going to heal properly. Harry was dreading the idea of asking his relatives to take him to see a doctor when a thought struck him. As long as he was going to be stuck with babyminders, why not make use of them? Going back down the stairs and out the front door, Harry approached his uncle's car, sat on the boot and waited.
After a minute, Harry whispered, "Professor Moody? Can you hear me?"
"Aye, I'm right here, boy, and cut the ‘Professor' nonsense. I never taught you anything."
"What should I call you then?" Harry asked the empty air around him.
"Nothin', you're not supposed to known I'm here at all. But, if ye have to talk, I guess calling me ‘Mad-Eye' is as good as anything. Now what's the problem?"
"I cut my hand on some broken glass. I'd rather not bother my uncle to take me to a Muggle clinic but I think it needs more than a bandage." Harry removed his handkerchief and showed his still bleeding palm to the air in front of him.
"Only home for five minutes and already you've done a right job of buggering yourself up. All right, now hold still." Harry felt his hand grabbed roughly and twisted to a slightly painful angle as Moody examined the cut. "Well, if it's this or sending ye off for some Muggle quack to sew together like a torn pair o'pants, I reckon there's no choice for it. The way you lead your life, boy, you really ought to learn how to do this for yourself." Harry watched as the cut on his hand stopped bleeding and the skin closed up again, leaving nothing but a faint line behind. "There," Moody growled, "as good as new."
"Thanks, Mad-Eye," Harry said. "I better be getting back inside."
If Harry was expecting an answer, he was disappointed. He got off the car and returned to the house to finish his unpacking before going to bed, all the while flexing his newly repaired hand to clear away the last of the numbness.
The next morning broke bright and clear. Harry was awakened by a soft hooting from Hedwig, who now sat on top of her cage looking intently at Harry as he rubbed sleep from his eyes and fumbled for his glasses.
"Welcome home, girl," Harry said. At the bird's baleful glare, he continued, "And don't look at me like that. I don't like it any more than you do but I guess we're both stuck with it, at least for two more summers." Harry went into the bath and filled Hedwig's dish with water. Then he dug in his desk drawer for a couple of owl treats. "At least this year, you won't be locked in your cage all summer. Wish I could say the same for myself."
After caring for his owl, Harry tramped down the steps and went into the kitchen for breakfast. The Dursleys were already up and eating. Harry surveyed the table to see if anything was left for his meal; all he saw was a single strip of bacon and an empty platter for eggs. Harry picked up the bacon just as Dudley began to reach for it. Harry saw his cousin shoot him a menacing glare and watched as he began to say something only to have his mind catch up to his tongue. With a snap Dudley shut his mouth and Harry smiled.
"I'm just going to cook myself up some eggs," he said cheerfully. "Would anyone else like some more?"
Dudley, who ever since he had taken up boxing had been taken off his diet, looked torn. On one hand, he had the prospect of more food, which was always desirable, but on the other was the horrible idea of actually asking something of Harry. Harry smiled again at his cousin's discomfort and turned to the cooker.
"Be sure to clean up afterwards," said Petunia in her usual waspish voice.
"And then there's work to be done," added Uncle Vernon. Harry shook his head; the fear of his companions at the station yesterday had seemed to have worn off rather quickly. Oh well, he thought to himself, things are back to normal.
After spending his morning working in the back garden, Harry decided to get away from the house for lunch. He made a few sandwiches and placed them in a paper sack along with a couple of apples and some cold drinks. Then, with a cheery wave at Dudley, who looked to be planning to spend his afternoon just as he spent his morning, in front of the television, Harry left for the park a few blocks away.
The sun was bright and a light breeze blew in Harry's face. Perfect Quidditch weather, Harry thought ruefully, as if he'd be able to fly any time soon. Harry listened carefully for any clomping sound that would indicate that Mad-Eye Moody was following him. He heard nothing. That meant that either Mad-Eye was now off Harry-watching duty, or else he had cast a silencing charm around himself to muffle the sound of his wooden leg. Harry was already calculating the probabilities of these two choices before he caught himself. Summer is not the time for paranoia, that's what the minders are there for in the first place. Let them be paranoid. Instead, Harry decided to have a bit of fun. Vaulting over the fence to the park, he sprinted down a low rise that was dotted with trees. Listening, Harry heard the sound of someone climbing after him and was immediately able to discount the option of a silenced Mad-Eye following him. Harry quickly reached the bottom of the slope and ducked behind the bole of a tree to see if he could spot his minder coming.
Harry watched the grass of the hillside being crushed by the invisible feet of his shadow, and then suddenly there was a muffled curse and the thud of a body falling. Harry laughed at the sight of various disconnected limbs flashing in the summer air as one part after another poked out of the Invisibility cloak. Finally, whoever it was came to a halt at the bottom of the hill. Still laughing, Harry strolled over to peer down at the pair of trainers that stuck, apparently straight out of nowhere, into the air.
"Have a nice flight, Tonks?" Harry asked casually.
"Oh, it was bloody marvelous, it was," came the answer shortly.
"Why don't you take that thing off and we can have some lunch? I assume you haven't eaten yet."
"Well, I had breakfast before I started my shift, but I could do with a bite," she said as she shrugged the cloak off her shoulders. Today, Tonks' hair was a delightful camouflage pattern of fluorescent greens and pinks, perfect if she was planning on hiding in the circus, and she wore a light short-sleeved shirt on top of a pair of blue jeans.
Harry smiled as he dug about in his sack and handed her a sandwich, and a drink.
"You might want to have a care..." Harry began but his warning was interrupted when Tonks popped the top on her can and fizzy orange soda sprayed all over her face and torso. "Oh well, I tried."
"Just great!" said Tonks, tearing a bite out of her sandwich. "Just what I need on a hot summer day, a face full of sticky orange... Hmm, this stuff's really not that bad, is it?" She sat there licking the spilled soda off her fingers and then emptying the can.
The two of them spent a pleasant half hour just eating in the shade and not talking. Harry enjoyed the company but didn't have the slightest idea how to start a conversation, unless it was about Quidditch or Voldemort, and he wasn't in the mood to discuss either just then. When the food was gone, Harry cleaned up the wrappers and cans and stood up.
"Oh well, nothing else to do today, so I reckon I might as well get started on my homework," he said. "Figure I'll just gather up a couple of books and sit here in the park to study."
Tonks seemed to hesitate for a moment before speaking. "Ya know, Harry, if you're gonna study maybe it would be better to do it indoors. To cut down on the distractions."
"In other words, I'm supposed to stay inside all day so you can keep a better eye on me, is that it?"
"Well, ya see, folks just want to be sure you're safe is all," Tonks answered.
"Yeah, safe. Wouldn't do to have any more dementors pop up, now would it?" Harry replied sullenly.
Tonks tried to come up with an answer that would keep Harry's temper under control but before she could he spun on his heel and was off, back up the hill. Tonks just shook her head than ducked back under her invisibility cloak.
When Harry got back to Number 4, he stomped directly up the stairs and into his bedroom. So, he was supposed to stay cooped up in this room all summer, was he? He hated this place and everything about it. Feeling more like he was in a prison than some place he was supposed to call home, Harry flopped onto the bed only to be brought out of his funk by a soft hoot.
Sitting on the desk, perched right next to Hedwig, was a small screech owl with a letter tied to its leg. Wondering which of his friends had decided to write him so quickly - he hadn't even been back for a full day yet - Harry opened the note and read it.
I think we need to talk. Can we meet, maybe for lunch?
Harry read the short note through several times and he still didn't understand it. What could Cho possibly have to talk to him about? They weren't seeing each other any more. She was dating Michael Corner now. At this thought Harry's thoughts automatically strayed to Ginny Weasley, who had dated Corner up to the very end of the school year. He shook his head and brought his thoughts back to Cho. He wasn't sure if they were even friends at this point. Cho had made it obvious that she had chosen to side with her friend, Marietta Edgecombe, and not him when Marietta ratted out the D.A. to Umbridge. What could she want now?
Harry flipped the note over and began to write, intending to say that he wasn't allowed to go anywhere over the summer and anything Cho wanted to discuss would have to be done by owl, when his hand began to tingle again. He set his quill down and flexed and shook his hand to get the blood flowing again.
Why on earth did he have to stay cooped up here, anyway? His mind railed at the injustice of it. His friends were all free and they were likely in as much danger as he was. They could go outside whenever they felt like it. Have a walk, go to a park, visit friends, all except him, Harry had to stay locked up on Privet Drive, Azkaban South. All for his own good, of course. Nooo, wouldn't want ickle Harry-kins to get himself hurt. Everyone knows that he's completely unable to take care of himself. He needed babyminders watching him round the clock, just to make sure he was kept safe. He hated it.
Why shouldn't he go meet Cho if he wanted to? He should. He should, he could, and he would, he decided. But how? His watchers were hidden so he never knew where they were. They had invisibility cloaks… but then so did he. He could just slip it on and slide out the back door. Then he could just stroll away and no one would be the wiser.
Picking up the quill again, he wrote his answer:
Sure. How about Friday at the Leaky Cauldron around noon?
Tying the note back onto the small owl. Harry gave it a treat and lifted it back out the window. Smiling widely, Harry picked up his Transfigurations text and began to read. After all, Professor McGonagall had promised to do everything in her power to see that he became an Auror; the least he could do was to hold up his end and actually study. A bit.
The next few days passed in a blur of tedium. Harry spent his mornings doing chores and his afternoons reading his fifth year texts. It was amazing how many mistakes he found that had made on his O.W.L.s now that he had the chance to look up the correct answers. If only he could actually practice some of the spells rather than just reading about them.
The only break in the routine was the return of Cho's owl on Thursday bearing a note that said she would be at the pub waiting for him. Harry smiled at his Potions book, now that was a first, and went back to reading.
Harry awoke early Friday morning and hurried outside to wash the windows before the sun got too high. Then, after taking a shower and putting on his neatest Muggle clothes, he put on his invisibility cloak and slipped out the back door. As the door swung to behind him, Harry realized he had forgotten to check who was on Harry-watching duty today. If it was Moody, Harry was dead meat since his magical eye could see through invisibility cloaks. Oh well, it was too late to worry about that now. All he could do was to try to be as quiet as possible and hope that, if Mad-Eye was on, he didn't notice Harry sneaking out the back.
Quickly climbing over the low fence that separated the back of the Dursleys from the next street, Harry ducked through a garden and onto Gladiola Court. Up this street and two over, Harry stopped behind some bushes and stripped off the cloak. The day was already warm and beneath the cloak beads of sweat had begun to stream down Harry's face and neck. Hastily folding the cloak and stuffing it into his school bag, Harry set off. Three more streets over, he felt that this was finally far enough that the sound of the Knight Bus' arrival wouldn't carry back to Privet Drive, Harry raised his wand hand and jumped back as the violently purple, triple-decker Knight Bus mounted the curb and shuddered to a halt.
Brushing past Stan the conductor, Harry dropped some sickles into his hand and said, "The Leaky Cauldron, please".
"Should be there right quick," answered Stan. "Just a couple of stops to make first."
Just over forty-five minutes later, Harry gladly stepped down onto the curb outside the derelict looking sign for the Leaky Cauldron pub. He entered the dark interior and waited for his eyes to adjust.
"Is that? Bless my soul, so yes it is! Harry Potter! We haven't seen you around here for awhile. What can I get for you?" Harry recognized the voice of Tom the publican and walked towards the sound.
"Hi, Tom. I'd like to get a table if I could? For two? And a butterbeer while I wait for my..." Harry thought of what he should say. Was Cho his date? Surely not his girlfriend since they weren't going out anymore. "friend," he finally settled on. "Should be joining me in a few minutes."
"Actually, Harry, I'm already here."
Harry spun around and saw her sitting at a small table at the back of the room. "Cho," he sputtered. "I didn't expect you... I didn't think you would be here already."
Cho blushed prettily. "Well, I did say that I would be meeting you, didn't I? Hard to do that if I don't get here first."
Harry flushed lightly and took the other seat at the table. The two sat looking at each other, saying nothing, until Tom had brought Harry his butterbeer and left again.
"So..." they both said together and blushed.
Cho smiled at him, "You go first, Harry."
"Well, I was just thinking that... you know, you look nice today," Harry said, not being able to think of anything else to say. He stared down into the foam of his stein.
Cho rewarded him with another smile and said, "Thank you." After a moments pause, she continued, "I supppose, since I'm the one who asked to see you, I really ought to say something too." Harry just nodded and took another drink from his tankard. "First off, I think I ought to apologize."
"You've got nothing to apologize for, Cho." Harry said.
"I mean for Marietta, for what she did."
Harry's faced hardened.
"She's really not a bad person. It's just that her mum works for the Ministry..."
"Yeah," snapped Harry, "just like Ron and Ginny's dad, but they didn't..."
Cho interrupted him before he could begin a full-on rant. "Harry please, don't get upset. I just want to try to explain."
Harry took a deep breath, he knew he had been losing his temper a lot lately and he tried to control it now. "OK," he said tightly.
"Like I said, her mum works for the Ministry and she really needs her job." Harry sat up straight in his seat and was about to snap again but he reigned in his temper and managed to stay quiet as Cho continued. "I know, Mr. Weasley does too but Marietta's mum isn't as... as involved as Mr. Weasley is. She does her job and goes along."
"Well, good for her," Harry said sullenly.
"Harry," Cho pleaded, "I'm not saying that she's right or anything. It's just that she had been under a lot of pressure at work to help Umbridge monitor things and at the time most people thought you... that you were..."
"A nasty little liar, just out to get my name in the paper?" Harry offered with a sneer.
"Well yes," Cho answered. "Not everybody, a lot of us knew better, I did, but a lot of people believed the stories about you. They'd been hearing stories about you all their lives and believed them all so far, so why stop now?"
Harry sat back in his chair fuming and Cho looked a little hesitant when she continued.
"The people who knew you knew better though. Nobody that really knew you believed what the papers said." Harry softened slightly at this. His friends had believed him, and a lot of others had, too. "But Marietta didn't know you, did she? She was my friend and I'm the one who dragged her to the D.A. meetings. If it wasn't for me she wouldn't have been there at all and she wouldn't have..." Cho trailed off.
"So, why did you bring her, if she didn't want to come?" Harry asked.
"Well, I reckon I just needed to be sure that there was somebody there I could talk to, that I wouldn't be alone. She didn't want to come, and then, over the holiday, when her mother started pestering her about not getting on Umbridge's bad side, about how she needed to make sure that Umbridge thought she was helping her to... you know."
"Take over the school?"
"Well, yeah. She just couldn't fight it anymore. She didn't understand the truth. She thought it was all just a game we were playing."
"A game!" Harry shouted. Everyone in the pub stopped talking and stared at them. Harry quickly lowered his voice and continued. "Was it just a game that brought Voldemort back? Was it just a game that got Cedric killed?"
Cho recoiled at Harry's attack and tears sprang to her eyes. Harry immediately regretted his outburst. When was he going to learn to control his temper?
"Cho, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to drag up things."
"It's OK, Harry. I guess I ought to be used to it by now anyway." She wiped her eyes with her kerchief and then blew her nose before continuing. "I just wanted to let you know how sorry she is, for what she did. She didn't mean for anyone to get hurt. She just wanted to do the right thing."
The words struck Harry like a curse. He sat back into his chair, stunned. She had just wanted to do the right thing. Just as he had ‘just wanted to do the right thing' when he thought he was saving Sirius, and look how that turned out. Sirius was dead. At least Marietta didn't kill anyone. She might have given Fudge his opportunity to drive Professor Dumbledore from Hogwarts, but that hadn't killed anyone, and Dumbledore was back now. Maybe even Umbridge had thought she was doing the right thing. Was he any better than they were? What right did he have to judge them when his own self-righteousness had killed his own godfather? He had no right at all.
"Harry? Are you all right?" Cho asked, looking concerned. "What's wrong, Harry?"
Harry's vision swam as he tried to deal with this new realization. Maybe they were all just trying to do what they thought was right? What was the real difference between them?
"Nothing... nothing's wrong," he stammered as he quickly scrubbed at his face. "I'm fine."
Cho continued to look at him as if she were debating something. "Are you sure?"
"Yeah, I'm sure," he said nodding. "I guess I just realized that I have no right to judge what she did. I tried to do the right thing too, and look how that turned out."
Cho looked puzzled and Harry saw that she didn't know all of the things that happened that day, but he was in no mood to tell her the story. Instead, he changed subjects.
"Is that all you wanted to talk to me about?"
Cho seemed startled by the sudden change but recovered quickly. "Ah, actually, no it wasn't. Really, it wasn't even why I wanted to see you. I just thought that it needed to be said."
"So, what did you want to talk about?" Harry asked.
"Oh, well," Cho stared fixedly at the table, "do you... Do-you-think-I-cry-too-much?"
"What? Where did THAT come from?"
"Well, you know, after we stopped..." Cho hesitated and Harry saw that she was obviously uncomfortable with this topic.
"You mean after we stopped seeing each other?" he offered.
"Yeah, after that. I sort of started seeing Michael Corner." She looked at him from beneath her lashes. Harry was a little surprised at how long they were, and how dark. How they curved slightly upwards, away from her eyes.
"Yeah, I heard that."
"I didn't mean to hurt you, Harry," she said urgently. "It just sort of happened. After the last Quidditch match..." Harry heard her voice start to hitch and knew that she was going to start crying. Again.
"Cho, there's nothing to cry about. I wasn't hurt. We had broken up and, I reckon, you could see someone else if you wanted." Tears were now streaming down her cheeks and Harry began to feel decidedly uncomfortable. "Ah, please, Cho, don't cry," he pleaded.
"That's just it. I can't stop," she said before pulling out a clean handkerchief and sobbing into it. "I don't know why but somehow I just can't stop crying."
Harry just stared at the tabletop, unable to look at her in this state. After a minute, she began to regain some control and looked at him. Harry sensed her eyes on him and returned her gaze. "You mean you don't know why you cry so much?" he asked.
Cho shook her head but then Harry remembered back to something Hermione said about Cho feeling guilty about liking someone after Cedric. He mulled this over for a minute.
"Did Michael say something to you about it?"
"No, not really," she said but Harry realized there was more to the story. "He just made a couple of comments. Little things, like how he ought to invest in a handkerchief manufacturer, or something."
"That's not fair," Harry said. "Who's he to go talking like that? He has no idea what it's been like for you."
"But he's right, Harry. I can't seem to stop crying. It seems like anything will set it off. Good, bad, it doesn't matter, I just start crying. I can't help it. Sometimes I wonder if… I wonder if I'm…" She hesitated.
"If you're what, Cho?"
She had her head lowered towards the table and wouldn't return his gaze. "If I might be going mad," she said in a small voice.
"Oh no, Cho," Harry couldn't help but be drawn towards this girl who was obviously in so much distress. "No, you're not going mad."
Cho sniffed loudly and whispered, "I'm not?"
"No, you're not. It's just been a rough year for you, that's all. I'd dare say you've been through more in the last year or so then you ever could have imagined, right?"
"Well, yeah. Things have just seemed to get so out of hand," she said weakly.
"You just need some time to sort things out."
"Maybe you're right," she said, a little more confidently this time.
"I'm sure I am, and I'm sure your parents agree, don't they?"
"Oh, my parents don't know. They would never understand," Cho said quickly.
Harry was shocked, how could parents not understand their child in pain. How could they not see it. "What do you mean? Can't they tell something's wrong?"
"Oh, I'm sure they've seen that I'm kind of moody."
‘Moody?' Harry thought, ‘That would be an understatement.'
"It's just that I don't talk to them about things. They wouldn't understand."
"How do you know that if you never give them a chance?" he asked.
"It's just that… You see, Harry, I come from a very traditional family."
"So? What does that have to do with this?"
"Harry, I'm Chinese," she said as if that explained everything.
"Harry, Cedric wasn't," Cho stated flatly.
"What does that have to do with anything?" Harry asked.
"Harry," Cho began slowly, as if she were talking to a very small, or very slow, child, "I almost didn't go to Hogwarts at all."
"But you're from a wizarding family, aren't you? Why wouldn't they want you to go to Hogwarts?"
"Because I'm Chinese," she answered again.
She looked at him and saw that these things were just beyond his comprehension. Taking a deep breath, she began to explain. "My family is very traditional, very old-fashioned. I was born here in England but I'm not supposed to be English. I'm Chinese, even though I'm FBC." "FBC?"
"Foreign Born Chinese," she explained. "In China, I probably wouldn't even be considered to be a true Chinese girl. I'd have to prove myself to them. That's what my parents wanted. When I came of age, they wanted to send me back to China, to go to school there. So I could learn to be a good Chinese girl and a dutiful wife. They still want me to go back after I finish this year."
Harry shook his head, he was trying to take this all in but it was so beyond his thoughts that he couldn't grasp it all. She was Chinese but not Chinese. She was English but not English either. Well then, what was she?
"I guess it's hard to understand if you're not raised in the culture. My parents were pleased when I got my Hogwarts letter – it is a very prestigious school, after all – but they still wanted to send me back to China. I was supposed to live with an aunt there and attend a real Chinese school. But then my aunt became ill. I supposed I should have gone anyway, to care for her before I began school, but she didn't want a stranger to nurse her. So I stayed here in England and Hogwarts was a second choice school for me. My parents weren't happy about it, especially when they learned how few Asians attend, but they had no choice really, even if it wasn't what they wanted."
"But what do you want, Cho?"
"It doesn't matter."
"What do you mean it doesn't matter? How could it not matter?" Harry was lost again. How could what she wants not matter?
"You don't understand, Harry, you're not Chinese."
"But what does that matter?" he asked again, his voice starting to rise.
"Harry, in China, or a traditional Chinese family, the children are taught to obey their parents. Our parents look out for us and make all the decisions. It is assumed that they have more wisdom then we do, and that they will act in our best interests, even if we don't understand."
Now that was something that Harry could understand. Having people make all of your decisions for you, never asking you anything or telling you anything, and all along you were supposed to just go along because they say they are acting in your own best interest.
Cho was continuing now, "The parents make all of the important decisions. Even most of the marriages in wizarding China are arranged. Often the couple doesn't even meet until after they are already husband and wife."
"That sounds awfully sil…"
"NO!" Cho snapped. "No, Harry, it's not silly! That's the way things are. It's my heritage. It's who I am. Even if I don't want…" She stopped suddenly and covered her face.
"Even if that's not how you want it?" Harry asked softly, and Cho slowly nodded.
"And Cedric didn't fit into your parents' plans?"
"He wasn't Chinese, I wasn't supposed to be seeing him at all. But he made me feel so special." Cho raised her head and looked at Harry again. "He made me feel like it mattered what I wanted. Like I mattered."
"You do matter, Cho. And it matters what you want. No one should have that much power over your life, even your own family," Harry said.
Cho was shaking her head as if trying to deny what she knew to be true.
"So, you loved Cedric," Harry said calmly.
Cho looked at him with eyes so bright that Harry thought for a moment that they were glowing.
"He loved me," was all she said.
Harry didn't know what to say for a moment. How could he respond to something like that?
"And you never told your family?"
"They wouldn't understand. They knew that I dated boys at school but they made it clear that I wasn't supposed to get too serious with any of them. I was supposed to marry a Chinese man. Someone they approved of."
"And so they don't understand why all this is affecting you so?" Harry said, and Cho nodded.
"What can I do to help?"
"I don't know," she answered, "maybe there's nothing anyone can do."
"There's got to be something. Even if it's just to help you deal with things, to talk them over," Harry said. "Maybe that's why you cry so much. You're trying to not deal with things that sooner or later you're going to have to face."
Cho tilted her head at him, eyeing him as if she were trying to understand. "Do you think you could help me?"
"I dunno," Harry answered honestly. "I could try, at least."
Cho grinned at him and Harry felt as if a huge weight had been lifted from his shoulders. "Could you? I'd really appreciate that Harry. Even if it was just to talk about things."
"We could have talked about it before, you know."
"I guess, but…"
"But you felt guilty talking to a bloke who was likely your boyfriend about another bloke that used to be your boyfriend. One that you never really got over?"
Cho nodded sadly but she was still grinning, even if it was just a little. Harry looked at his watch and saw with a start that it was getting late and that he would have to rush to get back to Little Whinging.
"Cho, I'm sorry but I really have to run now." Cho looked shocked and sad, so Harry quickly explained. "You see, I didn't tell anyone that I was going out. I sort of snuck out and if I don't get back soon there's going to be trouble."
"Oh, Harry!" Cho exclaimed, "I didn't mean to get you into trouble with your family. I'm sorry, you shouldn't have come. They'll be so worried."
Harry quickly moved to calm her. "Cho, it's not my family, they won't worry and I'm sure that they don't mind at all that I'm gone. Quite the opposite in fact." She clearly didn't get his joke, Harry had never really explained to her about his family situation. "Listen, just trust me on this and I'll explain it all the next time we meet, OK?"
"The next time?"
"Yeah, that is if you want to?" Harry asked uncertainly.
"Yes! I'd really like that." She was smiling again now.
"OK then, how about next Tuesday, same time, right back here?" Cho nodded her agreement. "Then it's a date," Harry finished.
"Not a date," Cho corrected, "an appointment."
Harry smiled, "Right, an appointment." He guided Cho over to the fireplace where she flooed back home. Then Harry quickly ducked into Diagon Alley; he needed to get to Gringotts to have some of his gold exchanged for Muggle money. He didn't want to take the Knight Bus back to Surrey, too much chance of being spotted. Instead, he decided to start using Muggle transportation to get to and from London. Voldemort and all his pure-blooded Death Eaters would have a harder time following him that way.
Two and a half hours later, Harry was striding up to the front door of Number 4 Privet Drive. His step was lighter and he felt happier than he had in weeks, but he wasn't sure why. The door was unlocked and he let himself in. He didn't call out because he knew no one would welcome him, instead he went into the kitchen to get himself a glass of water.
As Harry entered the kitchen, he noticed a familiar figure sitting at the table, waiting. It was Remus Lupin.