Chapter 12 : Into the New World
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The next few months passed them by in a haze of laughter and bittersweet happiness.
Cho and Hermione began revising the next draft of legislature and the office days she had once dreaded became calm, open days of work and rhythmic solace. This had never been the future she had imagined for herself, but it quickly became the one she wanted. This was her, making a difference.
As the summer wore on, Padma often began bringing Theodore to visit them at her flat. Cho marveled when she was alone that they had become something close to inseparable. It was an odd sight, especially after all of Padma’s angry feministic blather on how she could satisfy herself alone.
August came, with smiles and tears. August came as much as Cho believed somewhere inside that perhaps it would not, that perhaps it was some looming date never meant to be lived.
But it came.
Hannah packed her things with teary joy. They helped her put it all in boxes and Apparated to the Leaky Cauldron one by one, unloading boxes on the tables. Hannah’s pictures of her family, her pictures of them, all her blankets and bedding all left the flat one by one.
It was a life unraveling before Cho’s eyes. Memories flew into the air, joined the dust and pervaded everything.
They helped move all the boxes upstairs, levitated them into the bedroom that now belonged solely to the landlady of the Leaky Cauldron. There was a small bronze-plated sign on the door that read HANNAH ABBOTT, LANDLADY.
They stood before the sight of it, lost for words. Finally, Alicia took the step forward, opened the door, and they all began unpacking. The musty room transformed into a room that was so absolutely Hannah that it cheered them as the day closed. It was the floral curtains Hannah loved and the soft cushions and pastel quilts that made it a place in the universe that was indisputably hers.
Leaving her there was another teary ordeal in itself, but as Cho clambered into the Floo fireplace to return home around midnight, she could see Hannah surveying the place in pride.
That itself was enough.
Gone were sharing the dishes, gone were laundry days and borrowing shoes and bickering over who had forgotten to empty the rubbish bin. Gone were hearing Hannah’s favorite muggle television shows filtering in from the open door.
But her path had forked from Cho’s. This was her future.
The following months transitioned peacefully, though Hannah’s departure had left a hole in Padma and Cho’s flat. September evenings were a cool farewell to the cling of summer into the beckoning promises of an autumn were the tree beside her window shed from green into vivid yellows and oranges.
The wind had a new stinging clip in the air as the days progressed. September meant two separate baking disasters and Theodore visiting weekly and staying up too late, engrossed in the television and borrowing Alicia’s shoes. Work meant Tom and Genevieve arguing for Cho and working alongside an increasingly determined Hermione.
She saw Harry in passing often and smiled when she did. He seemed happier now – less tired and more awake. Within the end of the month, Hermione informed her happily that he had fixed things with Ginny again and that they were doing as well as they had before.
The news only made Cho smile.
October saw Alicia’s good-bye as she left. She resigned from work and packed her things as Penelope Clearwater shook her hand and congratulated her repeatedly. Angelina and Mandy hovered over her as she left the building. Her last article for Witch Weekly was on the new Leaky Cauldron and all the new hope and stories that had gone into it.
“Honestly,” she said to Mandy as she left the building for the last time, “that article was the only thing I can say I loved writing. I hope that changes in the future.”
“Good luck, Alicia,” said Mandy, smiling broadly. “You’ll do excellently.”
“Thank you for everything. Thank you for this opportunity. I couldn’t have done it without you.”
“Make sure you don’t forget us,” said Angelina, “or I swear Cee, George and I’ll come and find you.”
“I’m sure you will – ” Alicia broke off promptly. “Wait, did I hear George and I? Angie, does this mean – ”
At Angelina’s sheepish face and new blush, Alicia stood agog, before dropping her boxes and crushing her in an embrace.
When Alicia’s flat was all packed up and the key returned to the landlord, she hung outside the door for the last time, alongside Padma, Hannah and Cho.
She looked out into the blue evening and sighed. “This is it. This is really it. I’m almost shaking. I can’t believe it.”
“We’ll miss you so much,” said Hannah as Padma and Cho nodded.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do with you and Hannah both gone now,” said Cho morosely. “But I’m so happy for you. You’re giving up a lot by leaving, so you’re not allowed to feel anything but happy, alright?”
“Take care, Cee. No more ditching work when you get bored. And ease up on the Firewhiskey,” said Padma, smiling feebly.
“I love you three,” said Alicia. “I love you. Thank you for everything. I’ll come visit as often as I can and make sure you write me as often as you can. I want news on everything, alright? Hannah, love, good luck with the Leaky – you’re becoming the most capable landlady that’s ever been there. Padma, take care of your Prince Charming and yourself, understand? Cho, you’ve grown up so much. I’m so proud of all of you. I love you all. Be happy no matter what.”
And she let her hair fall into the wind before pulling out a wand. She was crying steadily now as they fell into one last embrace. The familiarity of the past was closer and farther than it ever had been.
She smiled one last time for them, waved her wand, and disappeared into the world that would be her own. Time was stopping. Life was moving.
In mid-November, on a day covered in cascading clouds, Hermione discretely called aside Cho. She leaned outside her office door and waved at Cho.
“Cho, can I talk to you?”
“Of course.” Cho promptly stood up and followed her inside. “Is this about Gen sending in that report late? Because I can – ”
“Here,” said Hermione, handing her a small white envelope. “This is for you.”
Cho gave her a confused look, but Hermione continued smiling in her enigmatic way. Cho took the envelope and opened it. A small card fell out into her hand. It was printed on lacy cream paper with ornate swirling text.
You are formally invited to the wedding of Harry James Potter and Ginevra Molly Weasley on the date of –
“Wow,” sighed Cho, her eyes widening. “Oh my god. Wow! They’re getting married!”
“Harry wanted me to ask you personally. He’s abroad at the moment, but he’ll be returning soon.”
“Wow, I can’t believe it!”
“You’ll be asked to not leak this to the press, of course.”
“Of course I won’t,” breathed Cho, “wow, Hermione, this is amazing! I’ve got to write to congratulate him!” She beamed at the letter, feeling a pleasant, light happiness at its contents. He was going to be happy. He deserved it.
November passed in a flurry of happiness and cold and a new lonely ring around Cho’s flat. The tree outside her window lost its leaves one by one until a small pile was at the bottom of its trunk. The earth was frozen and wet and cold, but the newness of the next year was on the horizon.
In December, Padma too left, though this proved hardly a surprise.
“He’s asked me to move in,” she said happily one early December day, “Can you believe it?! Theodore asked me to move in!”
Within that week, Cho had helped her pack her things. They embraced, cried, ate chocolate, and made promises of meeting often. But as she lingered over the door and watched Padma and Theodore Apparate away with the last of Padma’s things, Cho felt no regret.
This was their love. This was meant to happen. So Cho felt the cold air wafting in, took a deep breath, and let her worries evaporate to the stars.
The new thought of living alone was foreboding. But as Padma left, Cho surveyed her flat. It was too big for her now, with its spare rooms and extra silence.
So the hunting for a new flat began. In two weeks, Genevieve was able to find her a new flat closer to London than she’d thought would be. When Cho left her own flat for the last time, she roamed the rooms, feeling the days and nights of her past breathing, unfurling.
For one last time in her flat, time stopped for her. Her sadness was scattering. Her last few weeks of lonely wandering had brought forth a feeling she’d thought she’d nearly forgotten.
Within its four walls had rested the world that had been hers. Hers and her friends’. A beautiful world of peace. But it was opening now, opening into the new world coming with the New Year. 1999 was passing her by, into a brimming new dawn. A new millennia was unfolding.
Her new flat had only one bedroom and large cream walls and a beautiful tree outside. The stove only worked when it wanted to and the carpet was questionably spotted, but Cho was beginning to become accustomed to her days, its patterns and its new structure. But to some advantage, she found that her neighbor, instead of being another witch with a large collection of shoes, became a cute muggle boy her age.
She still saw Hannah and Padma occasionally and Alicia still less. Though things weren’t the same as they had been when they had lived together, she had the overbearing feeling that they were how they were supposed to be. Alicia had gained some fame traveling worldwide. The Leaky Cauldron began prospering, rising even past its former glory. Hannah had had a new start to her own life – she had begun dating Neville again. Padma and Theodore had sold his family house and moved into a new home together.
This was the future materializing. It was their dreams being built hope by hope. It was order, happiness – a future worth risking life for.
On New Year’s Eve, she sat outside the Leaky Cauldron with Padma, Hannah and Alicia beside her. She didn’t know how many more New Year’s they’d see like this together, with each of them living their own lives in busyness and rushed days.
But as the fireworks took to the blackness of the skies and alighted the heavens in blue and yellow and green, she thought that this was enough. The fireworks blended in with the night, in with the stars and she stood beside her friends, smiling.
They were falling headfirst into a new world, into new lives filled with the promise of happiness.
As the cries of “Happy New Year’s!” rang and everybody exchanged embraces, Cho thought that it was enough.
The new world had arrived at last. This was the future lying before them, waiting to be lived.
Author's Note: If you stayed with me for this long, thank you so much for reading! Thanks for giving a story about Cho and other minor characters a chance. I hope you've enjoyed watching Cho, Padma, Alicia and Hannah grow. It's been a pleasure writing (and rewriting!) this story; I've had in it my mind since April 2010 - the spring that inspired this premise.
Also, many thanks to Chos_Sista_Gurl for making the banner that finally gave me enough inspiration to stop being lazy and finally start this story. This story is dedicated to Jasaline, who read this story's first draft and for whom this story was written as a graduation gift. It is a story of our escapades, idiocy, and adolescence together.
So, for the last time, I ask you for your thoughts, whether you're an old reader or a new reader, and whether you've reviewed before or not. I'd love to know what you've thought of this story along the way. I hope you had as much fun reading as I did writing it.