Chapter 8 : Chapter VIII
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Finally, she sighed, moving away from the door and toward the patient.
“Good afternoon,” Cho said as she drew near to him, staring at his back.
Cedric said nothing. Cho rounded the bed, seeing that his eyes were open.
“You’ve barely touched your breakfast.”
Cedric sat up enough to retrieve his pencil and pad of paper from underneath his body, scribbling a message for her. “Give it to someone else, then,” it said.
“You know, it wasn’t easy for me to get that. Sister Miriam would have my head.”
“I don’t need special treatment.”
“I thought you would appreciate it. We didn’t have enough for everyone.”
“I’m tired. Just let me go back to sleep.”
“You weren’t asleep when I got here,” Cho observed. “Any more side effects today?”
He looked at her questioningly.
“The potion, I mean—does your stomach still hurt?”
“No,” he lied.
“Good.” Cho smiled. “What about your throat?”
“Haven’t used it.”
Cho frowned now. “What’s wrong?” She sat down on the edge of his bed, taking care to keep some distance between them. However, her eyes were full of compassion.
Cedric sat up a little, looking at her. She couldn’t help but admire the way the late afternoon sunlight played across his face as it streamed in from the nearby window. It picked up the faint blonde streaks in his hair. “A friend of mine died in battle,” he wrote.
“Oh,” she said softly. “Is that what the visit from yesterday was about?”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” she added, not sure what to say in this situation. When she had signed up to help with injured soldiers, Cho knew to expect to see bloody, grisly scenes. In fact, she had been pleasantly surprised not to see more blood spilled at the hospital. She had almost forgotten that she was missing the worst of it in many cases, in terms of the men who were too badly broken to ever leave the battlefield.
Her companion looked away, putting his notepad down.
“Did he—I mean, did he suffer for very long?”
He shook his head.
“I’m glad to hear it,” Cho replied. “What about your other friends? Were they hurt?”
Cedric turned over as if to go back to sleep, ignoring her.
“I asked you a question,” she prodded softly, placing her hand on his back.
He said nothing, though his eyes remained open.
“Please…” she said, saddened. “Perhaps talking to me will help.”
“It’s a war,” he growled at last, and she was shocked to hear the words erupt from his lips, the sound coming from deep in his throat. “Everybody gets hurt!” he shouted, sitting up and causing her to stand quickly. Cho, along with several other neighboring patients, stared at him. Cedric stared back, frowning. “What?”
“You—you can speak,” she said slowly, her eyes wide.
“I…” Cedric trailed off, looking down in surprise to find his pad and pencil still lying in his lap. He gasped, taking in air. As the breath traveled down his throat, he felt the dull ache of disuse, but the ageless pain of the burning gas had been reduced to almost nothing. “I…” he said again, just another trial with no real sentence in mind.
“You can speak,” Cho whispered, looking at him.
“Cho!” Miriam yelled, and the girl smiled, hurrying off to answer the sister’s call.
Cedric continued to stare down at his writing supplies, feeling them in his fingers and grinning in disbelief. “I can speak.” He said it to himself over and over again.
It was almost impossible for Cho to wipe the smile from her face as she approached Miriam. “Yes?” she managed.
“What happens if one of those magical sticks ends up in the hands of a non-magical patient?”
“Your lover boy over there—his stick has gone missing from the pantry.”
“Oh,” Cho said quietly.
“What happens if someone who isn’t a wizard picks it up?”
“Nothing,” she replied. “It only responds to the touch of a witch or wizard.”
“I had hoped so,” Miriam said. “If it turns up, please let me know.”
“I will,” Cho said, nodding and smiling.
Miriam nodded back, though she raised an eyebrow as she walked away.
As Cho went about her closing duties that evening, she was filled with excitement. She pondered what to put in her next letter to Oliver. Cedric couldn’t just talk—he could yell! That must mean that the pain and burning in his throat had subsided. It meant that the medicine worked, far better than the generic pain reliever had done. The two of them had done something that would help hundreds of other soldiers.
She had turned up the stairs to go to bed, after making sure the pantry was securely locked, when she heard a faint tapping at the window. A windblown-looking owl waited there for her; it hooted impatiently as she approached and opened the window. A folded piece of crisp white parchment was held in its tight grasp.
It’s smashing to hear about the potion. The side effects seem very minimal for a new concoction. I need more tests with your friend – see the bag the owl is carrying. I predict two doses will be an appropriate course, but one more for good measure.
If recovery is accomplished, I say we bring it before the doctors at St. Mungo’s.
Cho looked up, glad she hadn’t yet given the owl a bit of bread and sent it on its way. She felt the owl dig into her shoulder slightly, taking it over to the table and letting it down. Then, she sought a strap among its dense feathers. When she found the bag, she removed it from the bird and opened it. Inside were three more thin blue vials.
Cho closed the bag quickly, putting it underneath her arm and pressing the medicine tightly against her side. After giving the bird its well-earned bread, she watched it fly out into the night, a new note carried between its talons: The patient can talk again.
Then, she forced herself upstairs to go to bed—to wait and let the future unfold.
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