Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter.
A Mother Knows
As Harry Potter, who was being escorted by Remus Lupin, made his slow way into the somber church for Cedric Diggory's viewing and funeral, he wondered why he was even allowed to be here at all. Why on Earth had the Diggorys wanted him to come when he, by all rights, had killed their son? Because of his darned nobility, he'd led the seventeen-year-old Hufflepuff right to his death. The sound of his lifeless body as it collapsed to the ground, the sight of his empty, lifeless eyes staring into nothingness, were things that had haunted Harry's mind endlessly since the night of the third task.
When they were inside the church, Remus gently led him to the place where everyone was standing, the place where Cedric's body lay. He felt pure agony tear through his heart as he saw all Cedric's friends and family walking past the casket, some with stony faces, but most shedding tears. He felt his stomach sink as he saw Cho Chang among them, the girl he'd had a crush on for the past year and a half. She was crying buckets of tears, stroking Cedric's limp hand, and Harry now felt sorry for every bit of the jealousy he'd felt in regards to their relationship. It was obvious that she'd loved Cedric, and the agony she was going through felt like purely Harry's responsibility.
Soon, it was Harry's turn to walk past the casket, and as he stared down into Cedric's face, he said, "I'm so sorry, Cedric." He tried to hold his tears at bay; Merlin, Cedric truly didn't deserve this, he'd had so much to live for! He remembered the last words the boy had ever spoken: "Wands out, do'you reckon?" He had heard those words in his dreams every night for the past week.
Cedric's parents were also standing by the casket. His father was sobbing, entrusting all his weight to his wife, who was actually being extremely strong. Harry found this rather different, for it was usually women who cried and men who remained stoic, but not in this instance. Perhaps what he'd thought was always true was only a stereotype, he reasoned as his guilt threatened to swallow him whole.
"It's all right, Harry," Remus's gentle voice told him as Harry cast an agonized look at the two people who had raised Cedric. "It wasn't your fault. Come on, let's go and sit down, the service is about to start."
Harry felt hollow inside; how could Remus think it wasn't his fault? He numbly followed Remus away from Cedric's body and to one of the pews. As they sat down, the organ began to play, and the people who had crowded around the body came to sit down as well.
The service was heartbreaking. A few hymns were sung, and Mrs. Diggory's speech about Cedric was heartwarming. Harry now truly understood what he'd missed out on by being jealous of Cedric; he'd missed an opportunity to have a wonderful friend. Cedric's dorm mates got up to speak about him as well, telling everyone that there was not one student Cedric hadn't offered to help in their time of need, whether it was to do with schoolwork, tutoring, or emotional problems.
After the service came the worst part of all, in Harry's opinion; the burial. He could hardly bear to look at everyone as they walked outside to the little graveyard. Cho was bawling her eyes out, her face buried in her mother's shirt while Mrs. Chang stroked her hair. Her father, with a stony face, laid a hand on Cho's shoulder, lamenting the fact that his teenage daughter had lost her boyfriend, her first love, in such a tragic fashion. He had broken her heart but not in the way first loves usually did.
Harry looked down to the ground; he couldn't bring himself to look at the casket as it began to be lowered into the hole that was prepared for Cedric's body to lie in. The Minister said some final words about Cedric, and sobs were heard all around the graveyard, the ones of Cho and Cedric's father being the most noticeable. Harry felt totally out of his league, the sight of Cedric's sightless eyes swimming before him once again.
Once it was all over, Cedric's mother blew her nose and said, "Now you are all welcome to come back to my home for the reception. There will be lots of food and drink there, and we can share memories of Ced."
Harry really didn't want to go, but he knew he owed the Diggorys big-time. Something was telling him he couldn't wimp out on this, that he had to face the consequences of what he had done. Remus, who hadn't said much during the day but had kept a comforting arm around Harry, side-along Apparated with Harry to the Diggorys' house. Harry had never felt the sensation of Apparition before, and it made him feel quite nauseous.
At the reception, he was introduced to many of Cedric's friends and relatives, and he couldn't bear the suspicious looks he got from all of them. It was plain to see that many of them didn't believe the story of how Cedric had died; they thought Harry had something more to do with his death than he really had. Instead of feeling anger, though, Harry just felt pure sadness. It served him right that these people thought he wasn't telling the truth; according to his relatives, he'd always been a freak and a burden, anyway.
Things came to a head, though, when Remus told him he was going to the bathroom and that he'd be right back. Once the werewolf left his side, a few boys came stumping up to Harry, murderous looks upon their faces. Oh, no, Harry thought, trying to shrink into the floor. It's Cedric's roommates.
"Potter," one of them said, staring viciously at the young boy. "We just wanted to let you know that we don't believe a word of this You-Know-Who crap you're spouting."
"Nah, it's all bull," said one of the others. "Who says it wasn't your wand who did the deed?"
"You'll pay, Potter," said a third. "Cedric was the best friend we ever had and you took him away from us. You're disgusting, did you know that? You probably did it for the prize money and I bet you had something to do with those attacks and the Chamber of Secrets two years ago."
Harry started to shake, the grief and guilt blinding him. "I didn't," he blurted out, his voice tiny and ashamed. "I ... I'm so sorry about Cedric, I didn't mean for this to happen."
"Sure, sure," said the second boy, cracking his knuckles. "I hope you get sent to Azkaban and the Dementors suck you dry. You deserve that and so much more."
Harry hid his hands over his face, trying to blink back tears that he knew he couldn't shed in front of these boys. "We hate you, Potter!" they all spat in unison, clenching their fists.
But then, a new voice permeated the air as it said softly but fiercely, "Stop harassing Harry RIGHT NOW, gentlemen. You have no right after what he's been through. If Cedric were here, he'd be ashamed of you."
And she beckoned for Harry to come with her, and Harry felt pure shock go through him as he recognized Cedric's mother. Why was she, of all people, defending him?
"Come on, sweetheart, let's go get some air," she said quietly as she put out her arm for Harry to take. Reluctantly, his heart pounding and his tears about to fall, he followed her out into a secluded spot in the Diggorys' garden.
Once they had arrived, Mrs. Diggory looked tenderly at the boy who had risked his life to bring her son's body back, so that she could at least have closure. "Honey, I'm so sorry," she whispered as Harry's tears, which he had held back for so long, finally began to fall. Deeply ashamed, he tried to wipe them roughly away, but Mrs. Diggory caught his hand in hers as she continued, "There's no need to be ashamed, love. What those boys did was completely wrong, and you are not to blame for what happened to Cedric."
A sob caught in Harry's throat, and the next thing he knew, he was in Mrs. Diggory's arms, his hair being lovingly stroked. His sobs came harder then; this was the only motherly figure besides Molly Weasley who held him with so much affection, so much care. Images of Cedric's lifeless gray eyes, his fearful and shocked expression, his ghostly words of "Hold on, Harry," all flooded into his mind, and between his sobs, he whispered, "I'm so sorry, I'm so sorry," over and over again.
"Oh, sweetie," Mrs. Diggory crooned as she lowered herself and Harry to the grass, beginning to rock him as if he were a small child. "It wasn't your fault, it wasn't. Amos and I do not blame you, and we know that wherever Ced is now, he wouldn't either. You were truly a brave young man to risk it all to bring him back to us. Thank you so much, honey."
Harry didn't know how long it was that he sobbed in Cedric's mother's arms, comforting words being whispered to him. But when it was finally over, he lifted his tearstained face and looked at the woman who was being so strong. "I'm so sorry ... for breaking down like that," he said ashamedly.
"Oh, Harry," Mrs. Diggory said tenderly, squeezing the boy's hand. "I'm glad you let your emotions out. I knew you were having a hard time all day."
"How ... how did you know?" Harry croaked.
"A mother always knows when a child's hurting, baby," Mrs. Diggory replied quietly. "Raising a son for seventeen years clued me in on that."
"Why ... why don't you blame me?" Harry asked in a tiny, strangled voice. "I mean ... I was too slow, I couldn't protect him, I was stupid to think that ... to think that the tournament wouldn't be messed up by Voldemort."
"You had no way of knowing," Mrs. Diggory said, ruffling harry's messy hair. "And I admit, it would be easy to blame someone, but I put the blame where it belongs ... to the people who killed him. You risked your very life to do what you did for him at the end, and for that, I couldn't be more grateful."
After a long silence, where the two just stared into each other's eyes, she said, "Ced was a wonderful person, Harry, and if he were here, I know what he'd say to you. He was always telling people to cherish their lives, and he'd want you to live yours to the fullest. Don't spend every day wasting away in guilt, Harry. Remember him, but do all you can to bring goodness and peace into the world, do what you can to stop the thing that happened to Ced from happening to anyone else."
"I will," Harry promised, a spark of determination showing in his emerald eyes. "But ... will other people blame me? Those boys ..."
"I think they're just hurting really badly right now," Mrs. Diggory consoled him comfortingly. "I know that in time, when the truth is really known and the Ministry believes your story, that they will come to see that what happened wasn't your fault in any shape or form."
"Thank you," Harry mumbled, feeling as if a great weight had lifted off his shoulders, and some of the grief and guilt ebbed away.
"You're welcome," Mrs. Diggory said as she held out her arms for another hug. Once the embrace had been shared, she said, "Let's go back in the house and share some more memories, okay? And thank you so much for coming, it would have been wrong not to have you here."
"No problem." Harry said softly as Mrs. Diggory led him back into the house. Suddenly, the day seemed more bearable.