Cho looked at her reflection and slowly beamed. She put her hairbrush once over her glossy hair, before putting it by her mouth. “Today, Padma.”
“We know, Cho,” said Padma, ladling soup into two bowls. She pushed it towards Hannah, who was lost in the pages of the Daily Prophet.
She emerged at the sight of the steaming tomato soup. “Thanks.”
“Anything interesting in there?”
“A few things. Cho got mentioned in here.”
“Oh, let me see!” Cho grabbed the Prophet off Hannah’s hands and smoothed it out on the table. There was a picture of Hermione beside the now-Minister of Magic, Kingsley Shacklebolt, in the halls of the Wizengamot.
Cho scanned the column quickly. “It’s mostly on the new legislation Hermione and I’ve tried to draft.”
“Is it some kind of a permanent new law?” asked Hannah, “What’s it about?”
“It’s just a draft. It’s on muggleborn and muggle rights being assured and protected by the Ministry. It’s just a quick draft, though. I’m sure the Wizengamot and the Law Enforcement Squad and the Aurors will all be taking a look revising it. I think the Minister will too, obviously.”
“But is your work done, then?”
“Not exactly. I’m helping with the research. I’m sure they’ll ask me to help along the editing process.” Cho looked at the picture of Hermione smiling at the cameras. “Hey, look, she mentioned me! In a quote – nothing much – she says she thanks ‘her administrative assistant, Cho Chang, who was of enormous help and support along the whole process’ – wow - ”
Padma snatched the paper out of her hands. “But your name’s officially in a newspaper! That must be something, right? You’re probably the first out of all of us!”
“Technically Alicia is.” But Cho was grinning. It was a cheerful sight to see the Saturday afternoon stream in without discretion, highlighting the white patches on the blank walls and the sea of carpet. Even the dingy kitchen, with its creaky table, old cabinets and lone stove huddled in the corner seemed alight with energy. “I’m happy she remembered me.”
“Of course she would. Hermione’s quite nice. I’ve been trying to tell you all along, but you were intent on thinking she was some kind of crazed nut,” said Hannah.
“Not crazed, exactly…”
“I think you’ll find Ginny’s quite nice as well. If you’d bothered to know her much.”
“Whatever,” said Cho, rolling her eyes. “Either way, Weasley’s the last thing I should be thinking about before I go to meet Harry.”
“Are you really meeting at the Leaky?” asked Padma, tsking. “Such an unromantic first meeting.”
“You’ve forgotten about the renovations,” said Hannah, frowning in disapproval. “The chandelier, the table, the lamps – I’m sure that’s why Cho - ”
“He suggested it, actually. I guess it must be convenient for him.”
“ – and I’ll have you know it’s not unromantic in the least, Padma. It’s quite lovely. Actually, just last week, when Susan was helping me do inventory, some bloke who’d ordered food asked her out for a date. So there. And that was where Neville and I met often too.”
“What bloke?” asked Padma interestedly, “Who asked Susan out, I mean?”
“Tom something. He seemed familiar. Tom Derbent or something like – ”
“Derwent,” said Cho, eyes agog. “Wow, there’s a strange combination. Tom and Susan. Well, I suppose it might work out.”
“Cho, it’s nearly half-past noon. You should leave,” said Padma.
Cho took a hasty look at the clock, before abruptly running to the closet for a coat. “Alright, I’ve got to go! I’ll see you all soon!”
She pulled out her wand and the room began swirling out of sight. Just as it completely disappeared, she could hear Padma saying, “God, she’s such a ninny. I do hope things work out for her with Potter, though.”
The day was half-cloudy and breezy in all the places where it wasn’t. Diagon Alley was packed with jostling shoppers, mothers yelling for their children, and young children packed around the newest released broomstick. It was tousling crowd, with conversations being punctuated with the occasional elbowing or stomping.
Cho looked at the mess of people on the cobblestone streets happily; it was a sight that had been missing of late – the happiness, the crowds, the bursting vigor of the day. She smiled and turned away to face the door of the Leaky Cauldron.
Today was luckily Hannah’s day off work. Lucky only because Cho didn’t think she could withstand the awkwardness of a lunch date with her friends lingering at such a close distance.
When Cho entered, she saw Hannah’s Uncle Tom leaning over the counter, serving foaming Butterbeers to a small group of warlocks, all of whom seemed to be sharing one edition of Transfiguration Today. Teenagers on summer break were giggling over the newest edition of Witch Weekly, while several middle-aged witches sat around them, covered in shopping bags.
He wasn’t here yet.
Cho gave a smile and a wave to Mr. Abbott as he gestured her to an empty table near a window with two chairs.
The renovation had down miracles to the place. People were back and although the place looked fancier, cleaner, and more appealing than Cho had ever remembered it – even before the war – it still had the same atmosphere. There was a winding staircase that led to the rooms above the Leaky, where some of the guests had stayed before in the past. They had been entirely empty of late, boarded off and gathering dust.
But Cho supposed with all the renewed interest in the place, it would only be a matter of time before Mr. Abbott and Hannah were cleaning off the bedrooms and bathrooms upstairs.
The Leaky Cauldron was alive again.
And Cho looked outside the window by her table, feeling the wind rustle through from the street below. It was July in the air and the world was growing, healing, changing. And she had been a part of it. She had lived through it. Despite the tears and anger and awkward teenage years, she had lived through it.
There was a push of the wooden door and a new stream of visitors entered. Cho was still watching the world outside the windowpane as the rush of footfalls approached.
Cho looked up, momentarily startled, before she began smiling. “Oh, Harry. Hi.”
He pulled the chair beside her. This was the closest they’d been since her sixth year. It was…odd. Not unpleasant, not different, but not entirely familiar. As soon as he faced her, she knew something was stranger.
He was taller than she’d remembered. Same lanky build, same round glasses, same messy, black hair and same bright green eyes.
“So, do you want to eat?”
“Of course.” Cho smiled. “I’ll get Mr. Abbott to come here.”
As soon as she’d returned to her seat with Mr. Abbott in hand, Mr. Abbott promptly said in his raspy voice. “Mr. Potter, a pleasure as always.”
“Yeah, same,” said Harry, smiling slightly. “I’ll just have a Butterbeer for now, thanks. I already ate a bit coming here.”
“Alright, just tea for me,” said Cho to Mr. Abbott. If he was surprised that they knew each other, he concealed it with a bow and a flourish of his hand.
“He’s been here for ages,” noted Harry. “Like decades, probably.”
“Well, he helped open this place. He’s probably going to retire soon, though. Hannah says he wants to.”
There was a pause.
“How’ve you been, Harry?” asked Cho softly.
“I mean, not just since this year. I mean since – since – you know. Since sixth year.”
“Fifth for me.” He gave her a nonchalant look. “Alright on the whole, I suppose. You know, the war and all. I’d rather not get into all that.”
“Of course. Where’re you living now?”
A Butterbeer and a cup of tea were levitated their way as he spoke. They rotated in the air before them. A porcelain bowl with crumpets arrived for Cho. As Harry pulled them out of the air and set them before her, he tipped over his Butterbeer onto his own sleeve.
As the foam lapped against his robes, Cho pulled up the Butterbeer tankard away from him.
He was scowling down at the small amount of Butterbeer foam his sleeve. Cho sighed and pulled a napkin and wiped it away.
“Be more careful.”
“No, it’s fine. You’ve always been a bit clumsy. Except on the Quidditch Pitch.” Cho smiled at some longworn memory of their first Quidditch match.
“I doubt that anymore. It’s been a while since I’ve played.”
“Obviously I’ve been busy with the Department. Aren’t you in Law Enforcement now? Hermione’s been talking a lot about you.”
Cho smiled. “Not exactly Law Enforcement. Not on the Squad, at least. I suppose I take care of the administrative work.”
Harry nodded, taking a sip. He began downing the Butterbeer in large gulps. “We’ve got some of those in our Department too. All of them need a few. So how is that for you?”
“Fine. I like my work a lot now, with Hermione around.”
Harry raised an eyebrow, his skepticism clear on his face. “I’m surprised to hear that.”
“I was never under the impression you liked her. Or she liked you. Even at Hogwarts.”
Cho blushed furiously, the red spotting her cheeks. “Um – are you referring to – ”
“God, I hoped you’d forgotten!” groaned Cho, “I really hoped you’d forgotten! This is so embarrassing!”
“Trust me, it’s hard to forget when a girl starts crying like hell, says some random rubbish about your friend, then yells goodbye and runs out. I had to go back in the rain.”
“I’m sorry,” said Cho feebly. “I really am – I don’t know what got into me and things were going – ”
He waved her away dismissively. “Don’t worry about it. That was ages ago.”
There was another peaceful pause. Cho drank her tea, which had already cooled and allowed the background chatter and ambience of the day overtake her.
A few minutes later, she set down her cup. “Harry, can I ask you something?”
“Why’d you come today?”
“Why did you come today? I mean, I’ve been asking for a bit now, but you could’ve always said no. I never really thought you wanted to see me again. Like after the Final Battle, Weas – Ginny – seemed – um – angry to see me there and I was thinking you weren’t going to come – ”
Harry looked at her thoughtfully. “I’d forgotten about that. You wanted to talk to me back then.”
“I wasn’t going to steal you away or anything she might’ve been thinking, I swear. It was in the middle of the war – nobody had that kind of rubbish on their mind – ”
“Yeah, I know. What was it?”
“I just wanted to see you again. Before the end, you know. I wanted to wish you luck and apologize for everything – in case – ”
Harry was silent for a moment. “Yeah. I don’t blame you.”
“So why’d you come today?”
“Hermione,” muttered Harry. “She told me I should. I haven’t had much to do except work lately and Ginny and I’ve been separated for a few months – well, she reckoned I should. She said it’d be good for me. Probably seeing you again would help me or something.” Cho could see him rolling his eyes.
Suddenly, Hermione’s intention was clear.
Cho struggled to push back the feelings of sudden disappointment and nostalgia. Madame Puddifoot’s, Cedric’s grave, the Yule Ball, passing each other in hallways and corridors and -
This was clear now.
Some question she’d always pondered was being answered now.
Harry was looking at her. “Why did you want to meet me again?”
“No real reason,” admitted Cho. “It’s just been a while. I wanted to see you again. I thought it was because I wanted to apologize, maybe – ”
He waved his hand again. “I told you, it’s all over with.”
Cho looked at him. His confident face, the sureness behind his eyes. This was Harry. But it wasn’t the Harry of the past. “Yeah, I can see that now. It really is.”
Again? Harry and Cho, again?
“You’ve been working too much,” said Cho, tilting her head to the right. “You look like you haven’t slept in ages.”
“Comes with being an Auror.”
“No it doesn’t. I know that Ernie Macmillan’s an Auror and from what I’ve heard, he doesn’t do a thing.”
“Ernie’s different,” said Harry.
“It comes with being you. You’ve done your part. You-Know-Who’s gone forever this time. Everyone’s helping fix – fix everything again. You don’t have to keep working this hard. Everyone wants to help.”
He looked around tiredly at the new insides of the Leaky Cauldron. A faint grin tugged at his face. “I suppose things have changed again.”
“What else is wrong?”
There was silence.
“I’d rather not talk about this.”
“Is it Ginny Weasley? What’s happened?”
“Cho, really – ”
She gave him an adamant look. “Look, why do you think Hermione sent you here?”
A familiar look of cluelessness spotted his face. “Er – I’ve really got no idea, actually.”
“You trusted her judgment?”
“Well, she wanted you to get a break. Just to relax.”
He downed the rest of his Butterbeer in one gulp. “And that’s achieved by telling you about Ginny how exactly?”
“Stop acting like I’m going to kill you. You’re so tense – look at you.” She poked his stiff arms. “I’m your classmate.”
“We’re friends, aren’t we? Just relax. You don’t have to act so – so stuffy all the time. You’re reminding me of Percy Weasley, to be honest.”
He gave her an odd look at the word ‘friends’.
True, it had popped out at the wrong moment.
They weren’t friends, were they? He’d been cordial enough. They’d spoken over the last few months, exchanged polite words, smiles, and greetings. And here they were, over Butterbeer on some forgettable Saturday. There weren’t any of the butterflies or fireworks or nervous, bubbly feelings of a teenagehood past.
That chapter had closed.
Perhaps Hermione had seen that already. Perhaps that was why she had received Hermione’s curious looks – at this sudden revelation. Not at recycling the same kisses and tears of four years past.
“Percy?” spluttered Harry, pushing his glasses back up.
“Yes, a bit,” said Cho. “So, tell me. What’s wrong?”
“Things aren’t working out with me and Ginny. That’s about it. We argued and ended it.” At Cho’s skeptical look, he asked, “Well, what do you want?”
“I don’t know, something more exciting and deep?”
“It is what it is, alright? That’s about it. We argued, ended up yelling about me working too much. We haven’t seen each other since.”
Cho rolled her eyes again.
“An argument isn’t a reason to make yourself miserable.”
“So Hermione tells me. Look, I’d prefer that we didn’t – ”
“Take care of her, Harry. In the end, you chose her, didn’t you? Over me?”
At his lost look, she smiled. “Look, I don’t mind anymore. It’s in the past. Before you throw something away, just remember how much it means to you. I wish I had listened more to that when he’d said it.”
“Cedric.” Cho laughed. “It’s funny, isn’t it? We’ve lost so many people along the way, but Cedric’s always going to be special, because we lost him first.”
At Harry’s neutral expression, Cho patted the space by his hand. “I always end up bringing him up when we’re together. You must hate it.”
“No, of course not.” He shrugged. “Cedric was yours. Ginny was mine. You know, those things happen that way.”
At Cho’s raised eyebrows, he asked, “What? Isn’t that fair to say?”
“No, not really. Cedric’s dead. It isn’t fair to say that at all. Ginny’s still here. You just had an argument with her. It isn’t the same.”
“Sorry – er - I didn’t mean it that way. You know what I meant, right?”
“I suppose I do.” She took a look at the clock behind him. “Wow, it’s nearly two.”
“Is it?” He rose suddenly. “Damn, it’s getting late. I have to go.”
She arose alongside him. “Alright then.”
“Thanks for today, Cho. Really. I mean it.”
“I didn’t do much,” said Cho.
“No, you did.”
“And thanks for coming. Sorry for nagging you so much about it.”
He held the door open for her as they stepped out into the light of the afternoon. The streets were still bustling with activity.
“I think I learned something today,” said Cho happily.
It was time to let this go. It was time to look back with no regrets, no extraneous feelings. This was the past. There were no more Potions Dungeons or Yule Balls or Cedrics or Harrys in her future. That was the past.
She smiled up brightly at him. She brushed slightly against him.
“Bye, Cho. Thanks. For today.”
A breeze passed in between them.
“Take care, Harry,” she said softly. Within a moment, he had disappeared.
When Cho Apparated back home, the afternoon was transitioning into the laziness of the evening. Hannah was fiddling with the radio. Padma was lying lopsided in a chair. To Cho’s surprise, she could see Alicia by the sink, washing plates.
“Hi! I’m back!”
Everyone looked up simultaneously.
“Oh good,” said Alicia. She shared a look with the other three. “Alright then, I guess we can tell her.”
“Not yet,” hissed Padma.
“How was it, Cho?” asked Hannah. Cho took a seat beside her.
“It went better than I thought it would.”
“So you’re officially together with Potter now?” asked Alicia. “God, how – ”
“No, I think we’ll just remain friends.”
Alicia broke off and stared. “Wait, what?”
“I think we’ll just be friends.” At everyone’s look of surprise, she asked, “What? Is that so shocking?”
“Not from other people,” said Padma, “just from you. You never want to remain friends, Cho. You don’t like letting go. Remember how long it took you to accept Michael Corner was a complete prick?”
“Five months,” said Alicia matter-of-factly. “Face it. You’re pretty and you’ve had idiots drool all over you in Hogwarts, so you never liked accepting it was time to move on. You kept waiting and holding on.”
“I do not!” said Cho, blushing at the allegations. “I’m not fifteen any more!”
“Either way, I’m pleased,” said Hannah, smiling her approval. “You can finally let all this silliness go.”
“Of course I can. I could tell as soon as we started talking, really.”
“Nothing much. We just talked about our lives and all that. I don’t know, as soon as we were talking, I got to realizing that – that this wasn’t the same feeling from sixth year. That he was so grown up now, that he had been through so much. As soon as I realized how much time had passed between us – just four years, not even that much, really – but how many things had happened – people died and grew up – and changed for the better – it just seemed really stupid. Really stupid. Harry’s such a decent guy.”
“Isn’t he?” asked Hannah, who was now positively radiating. “Oh, I’m so happy looking at you! You’ve finally become the you you should be!”
“You mean she finally stopped clinging on,” said Padma, rolling her eyes. “Thank God, Cho. You and Potter – it’s just not right.”
“I can’t imagine us together anymore,” admitted Cho. “Every time I try thinking something romantic between us, it feels really strange. I don’t know. And I reckon he’s still in love with Ginny Weasley. You should’ve seen his face when he talked about her. He was the sourest thing I’ve ever seen.”
“Ugh, the sister of the Flobberworm that took me to Ball,” moaned Padma.
“Oh let that go already,” said Hannah. “Cho did.”
Alicia looked around nervously. “Well, I suppose it’s time. Can we, Hannah?”
“Alright,” said Hannah complacently. “But you first. Yours is more important. Go on.”
“What happened?” asked Cho suspiciously. A feeling of horror swelled up. “Is something wrong?”
“No,” said Alicia carefully. After a tense silence in which she stared at her hands, she said slowly, “I’m moving. I’ve received a new job offer.”
“M – moving?” asked Cho, frowning. “No – no, I’m really happy for you, Cee, if it’s what you want. What job?”
“International correspondent. I’m reporting on all kinds of international incidents, news, trade, wars, poverty, anything really – for a newspaper called The Magistrate,” said Alicia, beaming. “I got the offer a while back, but I’ve been waiting to tell you. I told Hannah and Padma this morning while you were gone.”
“Wow,” whispered Cho. “Is this what you’re always on about? This dream job?”
Cho pulled her into a hug. “I’m happy for you, then. Really happy. Really, really happy. Look at you. You’ve done it, even with all the complaining.” She pulled away slowly. “But international – does that mean – ”
“Yeah,” said Alicia, slowly, her eyes lowering. “It does. I’m going to be abroad most of the time. I’ll still visit every two months or so if I can – ”
“Every two months?” said Cho. “That’s – that’s – ”
She sighed. The sudden disappearance of a neighbor she’d had, of a friend, of another voice that chimed into gossip and sessions of drinking and complaining, whose shoes she privately nicked, whose confidence she’d always admired –
“I’m not leaving until October. It’s only July, so we’ll be alright for now.”
“Still, it’s inevitable. October, I mean.”
“Us splitting apart was always inevitable,” said Padma. “As much as we’d like, it can only be part of our lives. Eventually, people move away, get married, get a new job. Life comes in.”
“Life,” said Cho in exasperation.
“Life is a good thing,” said Hannah, “and so is change. We’ll all miss Cee madly when the time comes, but I hope everyone can be supportive of her.”
“Of course,” said Cho.
“Always,” said Padma. “If this is what she wants, I’ll never say no to that. After how hard she’s worked, she deserves this.”
Alicia beamed. “I love all of you. I hope you know that. I’m so glad that if I needed three insane girls to be my neighbors that it was you lot. You’re all lovely.”
“This is so bittersweet,” said Hannah, mopping at her eyes.
“Don’t cry Hannah,” said Cho, putting her arms around her. “It wouldn’t be fair if we cried because something good’s happening for Alicia. We shouldn’t be sad that good things are happening to her.”
“It isn’t that,” said Alicia, smirking. “She isn’t crying for me. She’s crying for herself, the ninny.”
“We had quite the confessional this morning when you were gone,” said Padma, grinning slightly. “Alright Hannah. Out with it.”
“Un – I’m – the – ” Hannah broke out into a fresh swarm of tears.
“Oh God,” said Padma, as Hannah leaned into her shoulder. She patted her briefly, before shaking her head. “Come on, you’ve got to. No – I’m not telling her for you, don’t even ask. This is your news! You already cried this morning, don’t go at it again, you’ll give yourself a proper headache tomorrow.”
“What’s wrong?” asked Cho. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing’s wrong,” said Alicia, looking radiant with happiness. “Everything’s right. That’s enough, Hannah. Be confident. This is wonderful news. You’ve completely earned it. Your mum would be so proud.”
“A few days ago - Uncle Tom decided to r – r – retire at the end of the summer,” said Hannah. She looked up, still teary. “I – I’ll be the new landlady of the Leaky. Officially. He’s already planning to sign it over to me at the end of next month and move away.”
“Oi, is that why you were crying?” asked Cho, “Isn’t that wonderful news? The Leaky’s like an heirloom and it’ll really be yours! It’s amazing!”
“That’s what I said, but nobody listens to me,” said Padma, picking at a spot on the carpet.
Alicia and Hannah exchanged a meaningful look. “Cho, this means Hannah’ll have to move out.”
There was a pregnant pause.
“The landlady has to live above the Leaky. Hannah’s uncle wants to open the Leaky for boarding again by mid-August. He’s already been working on restoring the bedrooms. It isn’t too hard – from what Hannah’s told me, it’s just got a lot of dust. But after he’s done with that, he’s really done. It’ll be all Hannah’s. She’ll be living in the rooms to take care of the place day and night. That’s her job as landlady. It’s not like she’s a waitress anymore or in charge of cleaning. She owns it.” Alicia sighed proudly.
Suddenly, the flat seemed empty. The future seemed blanker.
Cho had always known that one day, this chapter of her life would close, just as Cedric and Harry and Hogwarts and her old friendships had all closed.
But that day had seemed so far away. It was someday, some gloomy day – not today. Never today. Today was a safe harbor, brimming with promise and friendship and memories. They had been children together and had lived through a stormy adolescence. The last few months had been a peaceful bay of happy, joint living.
She had become herself because of them. They had made her happy during her depression, calmed her down, given her some of the most exuberant, vivacious memories of her life. There was the goofiness and stupidity of the drunken times they’d had together. There was Michael Corner being hexed. There was a new job at the Ministry, there was meeting difficulties and overcoming. There was growing, enduring.
She sighed. The tears would come later. Later – not yet – but they would come. Now she was assured of that, at least.
But they weren’t entirely of sadness.
This was the future shaping itself. This was the end of her blissful world of familiar gentleness. This was the rest of their lives mapping themselves.
She looked up, keener and brighter than she had felt in a long time. “I’m so proud of you, Hannah. And you, Cee. You’ll be amazing.”
As they engulfed her in an embrace and the echoes of laughter rung throughout the flat, Cho could feel herself releasing, one by one, all the memories of her past. Stupid memories. Happy, sad, embarrassing, seemingly pointless, ones that she had come to regret, ones that she had forgiven herself for – until they filled the oxygen of the air. This was the oxygen of her life, past and present.
It had been a long day.
The trees outside the window swayed in the twilight breeze, rippling the scant light.
The future seemed frightening without the security of them constantly by her side. But that didn’t mean they were gone forever. There would inevitably be change and time and distance. That was the truth of all friendships – that they would someday be weakened by life.
But she had had today and everyday of the past with them. She had some of the happiest moments of her life with them. If there was any poetry or melody to life, it was moments like these.
Moments filled with pride at what they had become.
That Alicia had found her purpose, even though she had spent half of her Hogwarts days snogging boys, playing too much Quidditch and never doing enough homework. That Hannah had found her place in life, even though she had spent all of her sixth year in tears after her mother’s death, even though she had never seen herself as anything worthwhile. That Padma had found her future with somebody else, even though she had always said that she was meant to be alone.
And that Cho had, even with all the mistakes and regrets and tears, become who she was.
This was her generation growing into their place in the world.
Her generation, which had lived through the war. Her generation, which had lived through death and sadness and had helped rebuild the world.
My generation, she repeated to herself as the twilight of the evening washed into the pink hues of dusk. Idle breezes clipped through the flat, painting the blank walls in bittersweet remembrances of a time long past. Stars sailed into the sky as the patterns of pink receded into an ocean of blackness.
That evening, they drank and ate and laughed. Hannah cried more, Padma forced them all into drinking more than could possibly have been healthy and Alicia danced to music on the radio as Celestina Warbeck filtered through the night.
Through the laughter and drinks, Cho could feel one blooming, blossoming thought swelling out of her, out into the walls, into the memories and laughter and past them – past the breaking day, past the toils of life, shining into the shelter of the stars themselves.
It’s finally time for my generation.
Author's Note: And there it is - the Harry/Cho date is over and the premise of this story is pretty much complete. There's still one chapter left, an epilogue of sorts that I'll be posting up in the coming days. What'd you guys think of the date and of Cho's decision?
All four girls have their separate lives carved out for them now - I'd love to know what you think of their growth through the story. The last two chapters haven't gotten much feedback, but since this is the most important chapter of the whole story, I'm hoping to see more of what you guys think of it and of all the characters. :)