Chapter 9 : Chapter IX
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This was the thought that marched in steady circles around Cho’s mind as she Apparated behind St. Mungo’s Hospital and slipped inside the building. Being careful to avoid the bored gaze of the receptionist, she walked alongside a group of nurses, her pristine white dress blending in perfectly. Cho followed them all the way down the corridor until she saw the familiar alcove that led down to the potions dungeon. When she reached it, she slipped down the stairs with a few quiet clicks of her heels.
Oliver was waiting for her, with bright blue streaks on his apron.
“Good morning,” Cho said. “Thank you for working with my excursion schedule.”
“It wasn’t easy to get the doctors to come in on a Saturday.”
“I’ll bet,” she replied. “Have you been experimenting?”
“No, I just spilled the first couple of samples I tried to prepare for the committee,” he said, his cheeks becoming a bit pink. “I’m too nervous. My hands were shaking.”
“I’d imagine that’s a bad quality for a potioneer.”
“You could say that.” Oliver moved around the table, wiping up spills and checking to ensure that the few sample vials he’d managed to secure were tightly corked. “Are you nervous, Cho?”
“I don’t know. I’ve never done anything like this before,” she admitted. “Should I be?”
“Well, since you don’t have the possibility of a black mark on your record as a future Healer, I’d say not,” Oliver mused. “But if you start to feel anxious… think of it like an exam. You passed your Potions O.W.L., didn’t you?”
“Actually, I haven’t taken it yet. I’ll have to go back to school after the war.”
“Bloody hell, you’re too young to be involved in all this.”
His words hung in the air for a few moments, and she avoided his eyes. His tone wasn’t patronizing; what bothered her was the note of pity he hadn’t even tried to conceal. She wondered if the doctors on the committee would dismiss her so easily.
She cleared her throat, fishing a piece of parchment out of her pocket. “I made a list of side effects.” She handed it to him.
“Good,” he said, taking it. “Stomachache—that I knew about, right?”
“That developed a few hours after the third dose. I think two was enough.”
“I suspected as much. Anything more serious, like loss of consciousness, heart palpitations, anything like that?”
“No, nothing that he told me about.”
“Excellent.” Oliver folded the list up again. “These are all fairly typical with any of the potions that we use. I don’t think they’ll be noteworthy to the doctors.”
“Great,” Cho replied.
“Well, we should get going,” Oliver took off his apron, taking a significantly cleaner lab coat off of the back of the door and putting it on over his shirt and tie. “How would you like me to introduce you?”
“Don’t worry. I’ll take care of it.”
Oliver grinned at her. “Come on, then. We don’t want to be late.”
If Cho wasn’t nervous standing in the dark laboratory with Oliver, she was certainly feeling it now, surrounded by bright lights and windows and accomplished Healers.
She forced her eyes over to the left, where Oliver was showing the doctors a vial of the potion, while the other vials were being passed thoughtfully from hand to hand. “The blue color comes from the addition of cerebrospinal fluid from the Welsh Green. Typically, of course, we would use the blood of this creature in burn cream, but the fluid has been shown to have specific benefits for healing of aerosol burns…”
“Interesting,” said a healer with a black goatee. “Did your companion help you come up with this formula?”
“Not exactly,” Oliver admitted. “I—Cho, perhaps this would be a good time to introduce yourself.”
Cho nodded, putting on a smile and facing the Healers directly. “I’m Cho Chang,” she said. “I’m not a doctor or a nurse here. I work as a volunteer nurse out in the field.”
“Where are you stationed?” A portly man with red hair asked curiously.
“France. I’ve been working with several soldiers, some Muggle, some magical. It’s hard work for me, but I’m sure it’s worse for the patients. There are so many things about the war that we don’t yet understand, and often there’s not enough food.” She paused, pleased to see that everyone in the room was paying rapt attention to her.
“How did you meet Mr. Wood?”
“Quite accidentally,” she answered. “I came to St. Mungo’s on leave one day, trying to find a better remedy for one of my patients. He was the only one willing to help me.”
“We have well established methods for treating burns,” a blond wizard in the back said.
“I’ve never seen anything like this before. He inhaled some sort of chemical weapon on the battlefield. It turned his skin red for several days and left him unable to speak. But this potion that Oliver came up with—it’s a miracle. He can talk again.”
“What?” the man with the goatee said, looking at Oliver. “You conducted human trials?”
Oliver’s skin faded to a pale white. “It wouldn’t have been ethical to expose animals and elves to a biological weapon. We would have no idea of the possible effects—”
“And you think humans are somehow more acceptable for experimentation?”
“The benefits are obvious. This patient needed to be healed. We did that for him.”
“I hope you’re aware, Mr. Wood, that this is grounds for termination. We have every right to remove you from the program and bar you from continuing medical study. Did you inform your colleague of the possibility of her removal from the service?”
“No,” Oliver admitted quietly, avoiding Cho’s eyes. “But yes, I am aware of that.”
“Why, then, did you pursue this course?”
“The side effects have been minimal,” Cho piped up. “Stomach and headaches.”
The room was silent for a long few moments. Then, the blond wizard spoke again.
“Do you two have any idea how fortunate you are?”
Oliver glanced at Cho. Then, the two of them nodded slowly.
“Mr. Wood, you will conduct trials according to protocol, using animals and elves. Then, assuming those are successful, we will require further human trials before the medicine can be widely distributed. Miss Chang can assist you in that respect.”
“Yes, sir,” Oliver said.
“If I ever hear of you conducting human trials without authorization again, you will be terminated and barred from every wizarding hospital in the country.”
“I understand, sir.”
“Miss Chang, you will report your results to your supervisors, yes?”
“Yes, sir,” she said, looking around at the Healers nervously.
“Good,” the doctor with the goatee said, standing up. “We’ll expect to hear the results of the animal trials in three months, and the elf trials in six, if all goes well. Do try to schedule that meeting for a weekday.”
Oliver nodded, and the other doctors got up, filing out of the room. When they were alone again, Oliver turned to Cho, frowning. “I—I’m sorry. I should have known—”
“What are we going to call it?” she interrupted.
“I hadn’t really thought about it.”
“Well, I’ll put my mind to it,” she said, grinning. “Congratulations, Mr. Wood.”
“And to you, Miss Chang,” he replied, now sharing her smile.
Cho looked up at the clock in the room. “I have to go. My leave is almost over.”
“All right. I’ll be in touch with more vials. Keep an eye out for willing patients.”
Cho nodded, resisting the urge to hug him as she turned and left the room. This time, when she walked down the corridor, she didn’t try to hide. She held her head high.
She even offered the receptionist a smile as she exited the building to Disapparate.
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