She hated these things. The poshness; the artificial laughs; the politics. They were worse than the Ministry Balls. Merlin knows that she had to stop going to those. She couldn't handle the pitying looks, the uncomfortable gestures. Cho hated small talk; it was the only thing Gryffindors were good at, excluding recklessness and attempts at suicide. At least the 'Claws could hold meaningful conversations, but they were too wise to get into politics and too proud to fight a losing War. Only a handful of Ravenclaws had recognition as heroes and even a smaller few joined the Wizengamot. This, however, made no difference in the blandness of the night because of her alienation. Stripped of the honour Ravenclaw house had previously bestowed upon her; presented her with. She had the brains, but not the pride. The attendees knew how to make her feel like Typhoid Mary. She missed her days in Hogwarts. Long debates by the fire about the effectiveness of Disillusionment charms, Wizardkind's emergence, the faulty wording in the Statute of Secrecy. She missed the flushed faces, wild eyes, insightful views. She missed her the disbanding of logical fallacies and she missed the petty arguing. She thought her loss of identity and the Ministry Balls were bad, but this was a whole new evil. Literally.

She could feel the dark magic, concentrated in this teeming chamber. It was trapping her, suffocating her. Literally— no one in the world knew how to drown themselves with fragrances quite like the Pureblooded. Which made her even more unique, more conspicuous. She was the norm. The subtle piece of modern art shoved in a room full of classics. The half-blood propelled in a room full of Purebloods. Sure, there were others like her— there had to have been. But even among her own kind, she was still the outcast. It was branded upon her psyche. She withstood a curse of isolation. She would never be able to call someone her equal; belong to someone or have someone belong to her. Her nomadic lifestyle was another reason. She broke it off when anything became too serious. She left before she could lose control. But she was unique. The invigorating hybrid encased in a room of the dying breed. She became a paradox; the future intermingling with the past. She dangled what they would die for in their pompous faces. She was the nerve-wracking stain on their introverted lifestyles. She had what they used to have; what they valued more than life. But that wasn't important. Tonight's theme was blood. Genetics. How this one room even existed still. Without the interbreeding, Purebloods would have died out centuries ago. Millenniums. Except the Malfoys. The reason she was here.

Only Circe could tell her how the Malfoys managed to stay pure— how to keep the gene pool fresh without ever dabbing into anything Muggle. Or, her theory, how many half-blood kin they had to disown— to wipe out. Her thoughts digressed. She began to remember the reason behind this horrid trip.

It was March of 1999. Cho was fresh from counseling, still facing nightmares from the War. The Ministry was being rebuilt and she needed someway to get her life back; find her happiness. After a bout of depression, she decided to change herself— to rediscover herself, her goals, and life. She was tired of drowning and being beaten by her misfortunes. She was tired of hating herself and alienating everyone around her. She had lost Cedric, Fred, her parents, Marietta. Everyone. She took Oath with herself that she wouldn't be next. She would blossom and bloom and live for not only herself, but for those who couldn't. In counseling, she managed to forgive herself. She forgave Cedric for leaving her; her parents for underestimating her; Marietta for betraying her; herself for the constant neglect. Her counselor finally managed to persuade her to attend the Hero's Ball. She told her it would be a good way to get back into the public eye— to stand strong for all the other Ravenclaws too wise and proud to admit defeat. As she dressed, she took a good look at herself. She saw the pain in her eyes replaced with contentment. It was too early to actually feel happy, or anything; but, for once, she thought she was a while away from suicidal.

At the Ball, she received many oblong looks and open stares. She knew better to challenge them. Instead, she feigned naiveté. She looked around, ghosts of her past haunting her eyes, looked longingly at the glasses of champagne and happy couples. She knew how politics worked and she knew that playing the victim, which she was, would get her on the front page of the Daily Prophet. This would make it so much easier to find a job, she mused, and just have everyone come to me instead of sending owls and resumes that would be promptly ignited or trashed. Soon enough, Witch Weekly and the Daily Prophet were sending her owls, begging for interviews and her untold account of the War and lost loves. The next week, she was pitched on front covers with Rita Skeeter spreading as much bullocks as she could. The next month, she had a job at the Daily Prophet—in politics.

The memories made her sick. She wasn't proud of her journey; she was just proud that she made it— especially after her brief escapades with the infamous Cormac McLaggen. She still couldn't look at strawberries and crème the same way again. The thought made her skin crawl while becoming flushed. With him, she discovered her superpower. She discovered how to make it in this demented world, where the world was run by politics and human nature. Morals and purity no longer existed. Her thoughts digressed.

She took in her surroundings again; she fanned out her skirt and combed her hand through her raven locks. Cho was still self-conscious; but she knew she was attractive. She was pretty, petite, and feminine. An unconventional warrior. Nothing sexy, she still had her boyish build and childlike features, but it played into her innocence. From her years during and after Hogwarts, the alumni learned a valuable lesson; innocence attracts creeps. Cho Chang met Blaise Zabini in May of 2000 at the Third Annual Ministry Hero's Ball, celebrating those who fought and fell at the hand of Tom Riddle. She had heard a few less-than-friendly stories about the bloke; however, when she saw him, she threw all caution to the wind. He was tall, dark, and enticing. Dressed in impeccable black robing with a fresh pressed white Oxford and polished, dragon hide loafers, the dangerously mysterious Italian Slytherin immediately caught her attention; and later, her fancy.

After his dramatic exit, she quirked an eyebrow. Oh yes, she remembered, the second reason she decided to live for a night. He had something she wanted, but she had something she needed. She summoned an elf and clasped a glass of Firewhiskey. She would need something stronger than pumpkin juice to make it through tonight. It was closing in on the twenty-second hour, but the fun hadn't even begun yet. She toasted to herself and treachery as she sipped her glass. She felt someone's eyes on her. No, she thought, they couldn't know. One thing that Cho praised herself on was her ingenuity. The other quality, her allure. The childlike trust that died with Marietta. The naivete and love that died with Cedric. The submission that died with her parents. Her carefree nature that died with Fred. The confidence that Blaise stole from her. And she wanted it back. She had played traitor to love in 1994. She played traitor by association in 1996. She played traitor in morals in 1998. She was a traitor to herself in 2000. She sure as hell wasn't going to play ally to a Pureblood in 2002.

There were many things that Cho Chang was. She was smart, sensitive, and sentimental. She was innocent and dainty. She played the lamb to her morals. Only to her morals.

She accepted his bequest. Oh Merlin, she begged, give me strength.

A/N: I am a horrible, terrible, disgusting bloody liar. If you've been patiently waiting, I apologize. I don't know why anyone would put up with my sorry arse. Anyway, yes. This is ridiculously short, but I'm using borrowed time. I'll have part two up sometime. Then it should be one or two more full length chapters, then I'll edit it, and I'm finished. No more multi-chapters until summer. Seriously. I owe you guys! I've just revised this chapter (much longer) and I hope everyone is sated!