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Or Die Trying: The Story of Cho Chang

By Patrick Drazen

Romance / Fantasy

BOOK ONE FIRST YEAR: Impertinent Child


By monkeymouse

NB: JKRowling built the Potterverse; I'm just redecorating one of the rooms.

Rated: PG-13

Spoilers: Everything


Chapter 1. Impertinent Child

Long before she got to Hogwarts, Cho Chang had two great loves: to read and to fly.

She took to reading at an early age and was seldom far from a book when she was growing up. This pleased her parents, although some of her choices of reading matter did not. When she was eight, she happened to pick up one of the racier romance novels of Adelaide Sump McTwiddy, and made the mistake of asking her mother (whose book it was, after all) the meaning of the phrase "his throbbing manhood". They kept a closer eye on her books after that.

There was one book, though, that Cho kept hidden from them. She even pored through her father's library, found a special disguising spell and learned to use it to keep this book hidden. She did all this because both her parents had made it known that they didn't mind watching Quidditch, or hearing about it on the Wireless Wizarding Network, but "it would be a disgrace to the ancestors if a Chang ever stooped to playing Quidditch for a living".

But this was exactly what Cho wanted to do. And it was all the fault of the book that she knew, even at age ten, to keep hidden from her parents: "The Broom Gets All The Credit: The Autobiography of Eunice Murray".

Murray was one of the best Seekers of the century, and one of the few witch Seekers in a sport still dominated by wizards. In her memoirs, published just a few years before her death in 1942, Murray recalled everything: the struggle of the early years, the grudging recognition of her talent, giving way to respect at long last. Night after night, after her parents thought she had gone to sleep, Cho would read Murray's book by wandlight, thrilling again and again to descriptions of rushing through the air in all weathers, hurtling toward a certain crash into the stands, dodging Bludgers (and occasionally worse) and finally feeling the Golden Snitch vibrating in the hand like a wounded bird. Cho never tired of the book; she read it over and over, as if it held the answer to the big questions of her life--questions so big she couldn't even put them into words yet.

She knew about Quidditch practically from birth; almost everyone in the wizarding world did. When she was six, she was allowed to listen to matches on the radio.  The year was 1985, and it only took a few months for her to decide on a favorite team: the Tutshill Tornadoes.  They were having a good year, but fell behind during the quarter-finals.  That run of bad luck, however, only made Cho identify with them even more closely; they played with a determination and tenacity that would never let them give up.  Cho wouldn’t have used the word ‘inspirational’, but the Tornadoes inspired her.

When she was seven, she went with her parents to watch the final game of the World Quidditch Cup, which was held that year in Gibraltar, and that settled everything for her. She wanted to learn to fly; she HAD to learn to fly, AT ONCE. Her parents gave her a small training broom, thinking it couldn't go too far or too fast. She needed to learn flying eventually anyway, and maybe letting her try to handle this child-size broom (it was a "Bruno the Birdman", named after a popular character in wizard children's books) would let Cho get "it" out of her system.

They were wrong.

She learned to fly at home; in the combination two-flat and apothecary her parents ran at the far end of Diagon Alley. While they were tending the store, Cho would be tormenting the family cat (who her father, in a rare fit of whimsy, had christened "Chairman Miao") by chasing it around the parlor, up the stairs, in and out of bedrooms, down the backstairs, through the kitchen and out back to the dustbins. The cat was fast enough to make Cho learn speed, and the apartment was just cluttered enough to make Cho learn control.  In all of those mad dashes through the house, she never broke a single vase or piece of furniture.

She also learned one other thing, before she'd even heard of Murray's book: that the broom may indeed get all of the credit, but that a broom is only as fast and as flexible as its rider. She was able to push her Bruno Broom to fly far faster and handle much subtler than it was ever meant to do. By the time Cho got her Hogwarts letter, her flying—although limited to the family flat—was nothing short of brilliant.

And this bothered her parents.

Her father had taken a second name to do business with in Diagon Alley; to most wizards there he was James Arthur Chang. But with his family, and with the few other Chinese wizards in or near London, he was Chang Xiemin. The evening the Hogwarts letter arrived, he called for a family meeting. Cho could hardly contain herself, she was so thrilled at the prospect, but it was as if her father was deliberately trying to throw cold water on her hopes.

"I've checked their rules, and they just don't allow the First Years to be on the house Quidditch teams. That's damned sensible, I think. You'll have enough to do with your studies. You're not going there to play at sports, after all."

The question was out of her mouth before she realized it: "Then what am I going there for? I can learn witchcraft anywhere."

"Don't be impertinent," her mother said, although she'd said the phrase so many times to Cho that it was becoming automatic. "For what it’s worth, Hogwarts is the finest school of witchcraft on this forsaken island. You think we want you to just learn how to run the shoppe? You could stay home for that, but I can promise you that you'd never see the outside of the shoppe. At Hogwarts you can learn many things, meet some of these gwailo, and build a successful life when you grow up. And you'll be guided and protected by good teachers."

"Fine, then; I'll play in my second year."

"If you do, there won't be a third year!" her father thundered. "We're not sending you off to be a Quidditch player; there's no future in it!"

"But there are lots of witches who play for a living."

"And look at them!" her mother hotly joined in again. "Look at the Daily Prophet and see how many of them get married one month, then divorced the next. They get hit in the head so often that they can't think straight. And then there are those, those unnatural freaks!"

"What's that supposed to mean, mummy?"

"Never you mind! You'll find out when you're older."

Actually, Cho had already found out. Eunice Murray's memoirs weren't as frank as some of the programs on the World Wizarding Network, but the book was dedicated to Murray's "best friend and closest companion" without mentioning a name. She got the impression--confirmed by giggling wizarding friends in the schoolyard--that Murray, indeed any woman who played Quidditch, was probably part of that "other tribe" of girls who like girls. Cho couldn't really imagine it--she couldn't even imagine liking boys yet, let alone other girls--so she simply let it slide. But she wasn't about to discuss such things with her mother. Give her one more excuse to come down hard on Cho.

Cho's relationship with her mother was, at best, mixed. The woman who translated her own name to Lotus when she came to England refused to give her daughter a translated name, or even an Anglo name: "Wendy Chang! Nell Chang! Imagine!" Maybe Cho's mother had really loved China and hated to come to England; she never had anything good to say about it, or about the gwailo who lived all around them. But she wouldn't speak of such things, either, especially to her daughter.

Maybe it was all my fault, Cho thought. Maybe it all started with the braids. The night before her first day at grade school, her mother had gone to the trouble of plaiting Cho's hair into two braids that hung off the sides of her head, just behind her ears. After it was done, Cho looked in the mirror at herself, and immediately decided what to do. As soon as her mother dropped her off at school and left, Cho asked permission to go to the loo. There, she undid the braids.

Of course, her mother couldn't scold her in public when she picked Cho up at the end of that first day. And Cho knew her father would support her decision; he thought Cho's braids made her look, as he put it, "as if she was fresh off the Portkey." She had no idea what that meant, but she could tell that he thought she looked stupid. After that, Cho's mother didn't bother with the braids, and told her daughter, "You can get yourself ready, you know so much about it. Then we'll see who looks the fool."

But Cho had already been taught to brush out her long black never-cut-once hair every night before bed. She thought it was her best feature, and made her look like a princess. And she was right, even though her mother would rather be eaten by a dragon than admit it.

In the end, Cho told her parents that she wouldn't go out for the Quidditch team--neither her parents nor the school would let her, anyway, so she felt nothing was lost.

But when she went to King's Cross on 1 September 1990, to begin the voyage to Hogwarts, it was with a large trunk of clothes and books (including Murray's autobiography hidden among her underwear), a newly-bought horned owl she'd named Quan Yin (after the Goddess of Compassion), a new set of robes, a new wand (eleven inches, willow, with the hair of a unicorn inside) and a fierce desire to fly as soon as she got the chance.

to be continued in chapter 2, wherein Cho rides the Hogwarts Express for the first time

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1. BOOK ONE FIRST YEAR: Impertinent Child
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