Chapter 4 : Thank You My Teens
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Thank You My Teens
Sound like colors. Laughter, yellow like the rims of morning daisies, bubbling forward. Words, green like dampened leaves, left forgotten for another day. Smiles, purple like the blush of plum blossoms. And between them, the familiarity of it all, in green and yellow and the splotches of colors that came when she closed her eyes. All, as ever, whirling within the easy rhythm of life that flowed with the glimmer of water upon silk.
A word which held no meaning to the unsentimental.
But she had grown sentimental at those artificial landmarks of her life. But, she always did cry easily. She looked around herself, feeling especially fond of her surroundings, even though, by no stretch of imagination, were they impressive.
The inside of The Niffler never looked quite as familiar as it did now. It was a nicer, more upscale restaurant that Padma’s appetite, Alicia’s absolute desire to eat in a fashionable place (“I can finally eat without hiding out of shame!”) and Hannah’s galleon pinching ways had blended together.
They were beside her now, at peace with themselves as they had always been. Padma, as always, wearing something comfortable and muted in robes the color of the sky. Hannah in her usual flower-printed robes. Alicia in spiked silver stilettos, dangly green earrings and bright orange earrings. And Cho in her creams and pastels. Them. Them as always.
It was a breezy spring night. Cho had unfortunately only seen the inside of her office room that day, but the shape of the grey clouds that wandered absently outside told her it had been a beautiful day. The fabric of the sky was streaked with gray. Small slices of conversation floated over to her.
“Mum, but I don’t want to – “
“- and then he said – “
“Did you see what Tina was wear – “
She would be twenty in fifteen minutes. Twenty. It felt impossible to register. Just yesterday, she was twelve years old and her mother was lecturing her over her Transfiguration marks, which were drooping like gillyweed in summertime. (“I’m trying my best, Mum!” “Why do I doubt that, Cho?”)
Cho Chang was nearly twenty years old.
So much had changed. A new breeze waved through the open door. The wooden edifice shook slightly. There was a pause in the natural hum of conversation, but fresh laughter quickly overtook them.
There had been Hogwarts. She had entered Hogwarts fresh-faced and the blushing new schoolgirl. She’d made friends with people she’d disliked and began disliking people she thought were her friends. She learned and made mistakes and learned again. There was sunshine and rain, laughter and tears, and beyond it all, in every blooming, billowing moment, there was life, twisting and turning, a path that let her see only the two steps ahead and nothing more.
She had fallen in love.
Or so she had thought. She’d fancied Anthony Goldstein (which, in hindsight of their later friendship, mildly disgusted her – it felt like fancying a cousin). Oliver Wood (he’d never noticed her until the very end), Kenny Bell (he had been sweet), and Roger Davies (doomed from the beginning).
And then Cedric and then Harry and then Michael.
In her defense, it had been a long seven years.
No birthday could pass without her remembering Cedric. Some part of it was silly – a little part of her was still stuck in the past. But no anniversary of life could be remembered without some reflection of the person who could not be there to celebrate it.
It still stung. It had reduced over the years. She’d let go, but never forgotten. And it still stung whenever she saw pictures of Harry grace the cover (with that redheaded she-troll, no less) of newspaper after newspaper.
Everyone still remembered him. The Boy Who Lived had gotten his happily ever after. But they had forgotten Cedric; he had died along with the hundreds of others who had passed along the years, faceless and nameless to the general public. And she was left to remember Cedric in a slow, quiet sadness. He would forever be The Boy Who Died.
There was a quiescent beauty in what they could have been. Roses and rainwater and chiming bells fluttering to the dreams of the winds. Perhaps it wasn’t love. Perhaps it was only infatuation. But beyond it – it was friendship. She would always look at her memories with him fondly – the laughter, the days spent in idleness like flowers by the lakeside.
Beautiful, but not meant to last. To every laugh, he would remain the small, biting tinge of sadness. The memories of a year alone provided enough nostalgia for a lifetime. She sat by her friends and felt the undulations of the breeze, felt the sentiments that they brought, and felt the incomprehensible distance between them. The final distance that neither of them could conquer.
But she was Cho Chang. She had made mistakes and cried for them. In her nineteen years of her life, she had yelled at her parents countless times, argued with her friends for the stupidest possible reasons. She had insulted relatives on accident, broken her wand three separate times, and never had received that O in Transfiguration her mother had sought with an unhealthily deep longing.
She didn’t become an Auror like she told herself she would be in those lonely days during sixth year. She shuddered slightly thinking of those days. She’d been remarkably – angry. Forsaking her friends and her family and all the time crying. Cold days, bleak nights and beyond it all, emptiness.
Merlin, some things in life could just be so unpleasant.
She was nearly twenty. Hannah murmured something and everyone burst out laughing in a whirl of sounds and happiness and vibrancy. The world blurred past.
She was already legally an adult, of course. But no longer a teenager. It was the release of some small part of her identity that would soon be floating away. After all, she had become who she was in those years.
Some people really had an ugly adolescence. And, she knew, she had been one of them. There had been so many places for her to have gone the wrong path – to have walked away, to have fallen behind, to have said yes, to have said no, to have said goodbye.
But she had survived. She had emerged neither glamorous nor brilliant, but in her last hour to victory, she had emerged happy.
“Cho? You still awake?”
“Yeah I am, Hannah.”
The whole lot of them were drunk. Alicia had already proclaimed to the whole world the state of her sobriety when she had toppled over some time ago. She awoke to find herself wearing her dinner.
“Cho,” Padma slurred slightly, grabbing the firewhiskey and tipping herself more, “Have I mentioned that I love you?”
Alicia turned to Padma. “You did already, idiot.”
“Well, I do. That’s all.”
“What about me, then?”
“Why the hell would I love you?”
“Because I’m – “
“You’re the only who’s drunk to bits, not me.”
“Oh shut up.”
There was more laughter. Hannah, who had turned a delicate pink during this time, spoke up.
“Happy Birthday, Cho. Sorry we all turned out to be useless.”
“No, I don’t mind. And it’s not my birthday yet.”
“Useless?” Alicia interjected, “Speak for yourself, please.”
“I’m glad I met you, Cho. We didn’t really know each other in the beginning, but I really am lucky to know you.” Hannah turned around the table. “Same for all of you.”
“Oh, that’s sweet,” said Padma. She hiccupped and continued. “I’m glad I met you too. I don’t know where I’d be if I didn’t have someone to complain with all the time.”
Finally, Alicia spoke. “Remember that big fight we had last year?”
“About Michael? Yes.”
“Remember when I said we’d laugh about it one day?” Alicia pointed to herself and grinned. “Looks like I was right.”
Cho cringed. “Merlin, don’t remind me about him.”
“You’re the one who refused to leave him! The rest of us warned you – “
“I wish I’d listened. He was such a - a – “ Cho broke off, at a loss for words. There was not quite a word to convey the absolute frustration that was Michael Corner.
“Please, like you would have.”
“I know I wouldn’t have.”
“Let’s not talk about him,” Hannah said quickly, her own recent memories of a certain oh-so-cavalier Gryffindor at her eyes.
A quiet hush settled between them soon after. It was a sweet silence which Cho filled with bittersweet memories of sunny days by the lakeside at Hogwarts, splashing and laughing and not knowing. There were the nights on which her school work flooded her to her knees and she stared at the inky trails of the night frosted above her window and at the moon, which hung in an eerie solitude and wondered if life would ever move on. There were the afternoons were she navigated herself mechanically to her next class, automatically walking through the corridors and hallways that had so engrained themselves in her mind, stoically preparing herself for the dull day ahead.
Time had fluttered its wings and the track of days, which had lain before her like an eternity had disappeared. She had entered and left a different person. Then, there was adulthood. There was scrounging together Galleons to pay the rent and always being polite and drinking too much. There was tossing the whole stock of firewhiskey two seconds before her parents arrived at her new flat.
A tall, dark-skinned girl approached them and broke the silence that swam inside a thousand days.
“Sorry to disturb you, but are you – Cee, it is you! I knew it!”
“Angelina?” Alicia asked incredulously.
“Yes! God, it’s been ages!”
“Merlin – I haven’t seen you in a year! Not since the old days!”
Hannah, Cho and Padma all vaguely recognized Angelina Johnson. She was lanky and her hair looked windswept, but she was grinning. She knew Alicia and Angelina had been in the same house a few years ago. They both spoke, all bubbling laughter and familiar joy and easy friendship. Cho leaned on her elbow, growing uninterested with their proceedings. It always was a little awkward when someone arbitrarily stepped in.
“Where’ve you been? Why haven’t you written to me?” Angelina demanded.
“Why haven’t I written to you? Why haven’t you written to me?”
“It’s been busy; it’s Quidditch season and all.”
“So it’s true then?” Alicia said incredulously. “I’ve only heard rumors, but – “
Angelina grinned and swept back her hair again. “You’re looking at the new captain of the Holyhead Harpies.”
The thunderous pronouncement was met by a great deal of shrieking from both Alicia and Padma. Padma had been a fan of the Harpies for years now and Alicia was delighted to have free Quidditch tickets for the next five eternities.
A subsequent babble of Quidditch talk poured forth. (“D’you think the Harpies’ll have a chance this season?” “Did you hear about Katie trying out for the Cannons?”) Cho, who had given up Quidditch at the end of her sixth year, rolled her eyes. The thrill of flying and looping through Bludgers , all of the madness just to catch a small flying ball had faded with age. Hannah looked bored to tears.
Angelina finally stepped back. She had the haunting air of someone entirely at ease with herself. “Can’t stay any longer, Cee. I’ve got matters to take care of.” Angelina pointed to a table behind her and her eyes twinkled mischeviously. “I just wanted to see if it was you. I’ll send an owl later. I’ve got loads to tell you! Nice meeting the rest of you!”
With a furl of swishing hair, she retreated away.
“Wait – is that – is that George?!” shrieked Alicia to Angelina’s back. She turned to the rest of the group, fuming. “Is she seeing him?! Why didn’t she tell me?”
In the few minutes that she had conversed easily with her friend, the table had again lapsed into a comfortable silence. Cho was again staring off into the star scattered horizon line, Hannah was pouring herself another drink and Padma looked as though she were contemplating it.
Finally, Padma spoke. “Guess what I found out a few days ago? Terry Boot’s getting married!”
Hannah choked on her drink. “What? He’s getting married?! To whom?”
“To some muggle girl that works down the street from St. Mungo’s.”
“Oh my god,” said Cho softly. “Is he really?”
Terry Boot was getting married. All four of them knew him. He was fair-skinned, soft spoken and cautious. Everything he said had a ring of hesitancy to it.
Cho thought he was adorable.
Padma thought he was a flaky basketcase. (“A cute basketcase,” she admitted reluctantly.)
“He can’t be getting married!” Cho said, “He’s too young!”
Alicia raised her eyebrows. “You do realize he’s only a few months younger than you, right?”
“That’s my point! He’s younger than me and he’s getting married. Cee, I won’t be ready for years, much less months.”
Hannah, ever complacent, shrugged. “I’m sure he’s thought it through. Ooh, but isn’t it lovely? I just love weddings! What’s her name?”
“Whatever her name is, she’ll be Anna Boot soon enough.”
“Do you think he’ll invite us to his wedding?” Hannah asked. “Oh, but I don’t have anything to wear – “
“I should hope so,” Cho said.
“He better.” Padma growled. “I didn’t tutor him in Potions all through fifth year for nothing!”
Another natural pause occurred. Alicia was leaning against her chair and staring off into nothingness. Padma and Hannah were mutually emptying the remainder of the Firewhiskey. Some part of it felt surreal to Cho. It was the knowledge that everything was changing.
They were perched on the valley of the future now and the sun would flit and flee. Some people Cho had known for years and whom she still imagined to be children were growing up and moving on. Some were moving across the continent. Some were getting married, finding new jobs, and having children. It was impossibly, unimaginably life. The prospect thrilled and frightened her.
“Cho – look at the time!” Hannah broke through the silence excitedly. “It’s nearly midnight! Only two minutes left! D’you want to count down?”
Cho grinned. “I was born in China, just so you know. And I was born at dawn. Technically, China’s several hours ahead, so I’m already twent-“
“Oh, stop ruining the fun!”
“Fine, count. Do whatever.”
The two minutes of her teenage years were ebbing away quickly. The years, the friends, the mistakes, the sunshine and shade. All of it was over. She was thankful for it – for all of it.
It was the end of an era.
Midnight came. Midnight came impossibly and beautifully and with it came a small surging of newness. It was the end of before and beyond and below and it was the future.
“Happy Birthday!” Padma squealed and the three girls fell over each other in an attempt to reach her first. They all did, and inconveniently for Cho’s breathing patterns, all at the same time. They crushed her in their memories.
“You’re twenty now! Congratulations!” Hannah squeaked.
“I can’t believe you’re twenty,” Alicia said, grinning profusely. “You’re ancient.”
“I can’t either. That means we’ve known each other for eight years now!” Padma’s eyes widened. “I can’t believe it passed so fast!”
Cho struggled against their embraces and finally pushed them away. She took a deep breath of air. “I love you guys. I can’t believe it! I’m twenty! I still feel fifteen!”
With that, she burst out into peals of nostalgic laughter.
The sky above was swirling with stars and the wishes of millions. Somewhere within its unseen alcoves and twists and turns lay the faint idea of tomorrow, shining and hopeful. She did not think she knew much about the future, but she supposed as long as her friends were there, it couldn’t be too bad.
Author's Note: Thanks for returning for chapter four! It's not exactly action-packed, but I hope it shows Cho in a new light and in perspective of all the growing up she's had to do. The concept of this chapter actually inspired the premise of this whole story back in April 2010. The beautiful chapter image above was made by ChoS_Sista_Gurl at The Dark Arts.
Thanks for all the reviews and support! Please review letting me know how you thought this chapter was.
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