Harry Potter, even in fourth year, had never expected to be sitting in the dining room of Cho Chang's house. He had been hoping simply never to see her again, and Ginny had every intention of keeping it that way. Still, when Luna Lovegood had sent owls to friends describing "a rather unlucky situation", he had felt obliged to help out.
"So, who else is expected?" he asked, as he shifted in his rather oversized seat. Luna looked up from her tea. "I also wrote to Hermione, Ron, and Neville about it. I hope they can help out.
"I'd rather wait for everyone to be here before I explain things," Cho said, pausing from gnawing her lower lip to explain. She tried to ignore Ginny's disguised sigh of frustration. Harry stroked his girlfriend's hand to calm her as they waited for the others.
Ron was the first to arrive, cursing to himself as he banged his head on the fireplace grate. Harry winced in sympathy, having run afoul of it when he had flooed in himself. As Ron gathered himself together, another puff of smoke announced Hermione.
"Watch out for that-" Ron warned, but a sharp cry from his girlfriend cut him off. As he helped her up from the floor, Harry and Ginny rose from their chairs to greet them.
"Hi, Harry, Ginny." Ron looked towards the table, "Luna, Cho." Ron and Hermione looked at Ginny and Harry with suspicion as soon as they turned from Cho. "It's for Luna," Harry explained feebly. Hermione sighed. "I hope this really is important." The four made their way back to the table.
"Hello Ron, hello Hermione," Luna smiled at them. Cho gave them a timid nod which they icily returned in kind.
For a while, they sat there. The guests were feeling awkward and the host was biting her lip and tapping the blue porcelain plate in front of her. There was another puff of floo powder. They turned, expecting Neville to complete the group.
Instead, they saw a tall, well-dressed man in robes stride out of the fireplace, dodging the grate with practiced ease. "Cho?" he called out as he took in the room. His resulting double-take at seeing the guests would have been funny if not for the tenseness of the situation. "Are these friends of yours, Cho?" He looked puzzled as he studied the guests. "Yes, Dad. I owled them to see if they could help me." Her Scottish accent was a sharp contrast with his slight, cultured Mandarin tones.
"I sincerely hope they do, provided it's within the rules." His expression softened.
He walked over to the table, Harry and the rest standing up in reaction. "Luna Lovegood."
"Sen Chang, Cho's father," he replied in turn. He shook their hands, stopping at Harry. "So, war heroes, eh? I've heard so much about you, Harry, and I know the Weasleys from a few years back" He peered down his nose at the young man in front of him.
There was another awkward pause, broken when Mr. Chang turned to Cho. "Your mother won't be here until seven. Have you been treating the guests well?" She blushed, embarrassed. "I'll get the tea," she said quietly, as she got up from her chair and walked out.
"Cho's told me quite a lot about you, Harry. Apparently, aside from killing – well, you know – you're quite good in Quidditch. She used to talk about you all the time," Mr. Chang continued as he took a seat. "Not so much in the past years, though."
"Things got in the way," Harry offered lamely.
"So, has she told you about this situation?" Sen's expression turned dour.
"Not yet." Ron shook his head. Luna piped in, "She's waiting for everyone to show up. We've got one more expected."
"I've heard of him. Something in the papers, the same place I've heard of the rest of you. You've all been in the war, I assume. I was worried about my daughter. I hope she did well." Harry could not remember Cho in the war, and found himself speechless. Luna came to the rescue again. "She was part of the resistance in the school. I remember how hard she tried. I lost sight of her in the battle, though."
Finally, the flash of the floo illuminated the living room. Neville couldn't escape the grate either. Ron and Hermione got up to see him up as he massaged his aching head. "Hello Hermione, Ron. Is everybody here?"
Ron nodded. "Now there is."
Hermione added, "And now it's time to find out about this business once and for all." As they walked back to the table, Cho returned from the kitchen, "Oh, hello Neville. I was beginning to think you weren't coming."
"Hello Cho. I was taking a nap when the letter came. What's going on?"
Cho sighed as Neville and Mr. Chang introduced themselves. "Now that everyone's here, I'd like to explain how this thing started. Look at this." From her pocket, she drew a wrinkled piece of paper and passed it to Luna. "It's from Lucius Malfoy. He's invoking an old pureblood rule against the Chang family," she explained.
"The rule of Morgianna of Abington," her father added.
"But I thought it was illegal!" Hermione exclaimed.
"What is it?" Harry asked, looking at her.
"It's a fifteenth-century rule that obliges one who loses another's holy artifact to repay it with their child. I thought it was outlawed by the Wizengamot in 1912."
"So did I, but it was reintroduced during the takeover last year," Sen grimaced. "And now she's obliged to marry Malfoy's son." Cho looked as if she was about to cry as the statement sank in.
Hermione looked panicked. "Isn't there some loophole?" "I'm afraid I've tried everything in my power. I don't have any copies of old law books, and I don't know where to find them." The patriarch's dark eyes watered. "If there's anything any of you can do…"
"I've been against these laws since the moment I heard of them. We'll see what we can do." Hermione looked determined. Ron gave her a "what-do-you-mean-'we'?" look, but reluctantly nodded when he saw Cho's expression. Harry and Neville shared concerned looks. Why hadn't the world changed after Voldemort? What had gone wrong?