“Wotcher Cho! How’s your mum doing?” Nymphadora Tonks joins me in the lift at the Ministry as a bustle of passengers disembark and the doors close, leaving the two of us alone in the compartment.
“She is doing much better. I am going to meet my father and her at St. Mungo’s. She needs some final testing to see if everything is going to be alright.” I look above us at the hovering memos as they fight for airspace. I will have to pick up lunch on the run so I can be back at work after Mami’s appointment.
“That’s good to hear. I know you had quite a scare there for a time. I’m glad her health has improved.” I look from the ceiling back down to Tonks and am struck by her cheerful demeanor. It is infectious and I smile at her in return.
“Me too. We were all so worried it was going to be the...,” I cannot seem to bring myself to complete this sentence. Blame it on superstition. “Well, you know what I mean.”
“But now things are looking up.” She gazes at the fluttering papers above us as she rocks from her toes to her heels and back again.
“And things can only get better from here.” I jump up and snatch one of the memos as we both burst with laughter and the lift's doors open once more...
“Cho Chang?” the receptionist outside the Healer’s office calls my name out into the crowded waiting room. A child behind me shrieks in impatience. “Please go into Healer Merryweather’s office. They’re waiting for you.” I walk down the sterile, artificially-lit hallway to the awaiting office. The door is already open and waiting for me and when I enter the smart and spartan space I notice that the Healer will not meet my gaze...and father’s hands are folded in his lap as he sits and watches the floor in front of the Healer’s desk. I suddenly feel sick as I shut the door behind me.
“What, what is going on?” I demand.
“Please, have a seat, Miss Chang.” The man motions for me to take the chair beside father. “We have the results of your mother’s brain scans.” Healer Merryweather, a thin man with an abnormally upturned nose and salt-and-pepper colored hair, opens a dull brown folder and thumbs through its contents.
“And?” I ask impatiently, my voice rising slightly.
“The prognosis is not as good as we had hoped.” The Healer’s voice is flat.
“Why, what, what do you mean?” I ask as I turn to father, but he still watches the floor.
“Miss Chang, the mass in your mother’s brain has not reduced in size as we would have hoped with the potion therapy,” Merryweather continues. “The reason for her false recovery is that the mass has shifted, taking pressure off of the areas that were causing her prior problems.”
“So what does this mean? What’s going to happen now?” My voice has now betrayed my full panic.
“Calm down, Cho. It is not this man’s fault.” Baba breaks his silence, his even voice attempting to redirect me.
“What is not his fault? What do you mean?” The nausea I felt just moments ago has ended and now my vision starts to blur as my throat constricts. “What is going to happen to Mami? She was supposed to be getting better!”
“As I said before,” the Healer begins, “The prognosis is not good. Surgical Apparation of the tumor is not an option and potion therapy has been unsuccessful. I will make arrangements for Mrs. Chang to have pain relief and anti-swelling potions when her time comes. I will do everything within my power to make her as comfortable as possible.”
And just like that...
My mother is dying.
“That is it? That is all? So what you are saying is there is nothing more you will do for her?” I feel the need to find some way, any way, to strike a bargain for my mother’s life. There must be something this man is not telling us.
“There is nothing that can be done to stop or reverse the growth of the mass.” Healer Merryweather stands and walks around my father and me as he moves to the door of his office. “I am very sorry, Mr. Chang, Miss Chang. I’m going to give the two of you some privacy. Please feel free to stay as long as you need.” I do not turn to see him leave. I only hear the swish and click of the door as it shuts behind him, leaving me and my father alone in this cramped room.
“He is wrong!” I turn to my father, my hero. “Baba, please, there must be something more we can do for her. We can’t just sit back and watch her die!” Even after my panicked urging, Baba remains calm and thoughtful. He controls his emotions in a way that Mami and I never could. After a period of silence that only spans a few minutes, but feels like years, my father speaks.
“The medicine in this country, in this culture, is substandard. Even the medicine that is available to the Wizarding community.”
“What are you saying, Baba?” The hair on the back of my neck rises in apprehension of his next words.
“What I am saying, daughter, is that it is time for me to take your mother home.” Finally, finally, my father looks up at me and meets my eyes. His jaw is clenched in his decision. “The potions and therapies available there are much more ancient and guarded, more effective than this Western Wizarding medicine.”
“But if you go back there, you will be arrested as a political dissident.” The tales of how my parents fled their mother country after my birth flood my memories. But he cannot go back to China. He is a wanted man.
“I would rather rot in prison knowing I did everything I could to save the woman I love than live forever without her by my side.” At his words I am silent because I know they ring true. I would do this for George. George would do this for me... Still, the pain and fear of losing both my parents is unbearable.
“Will you help me do this thing, daughter? I cannot do this alone. I will need you to help me plan and organize this journey for your mother and me.”
“But I’m going with you.” I cannot let them go back alone.
“No, child, you cannot.” He extends his hand to mine and I take it. The skin on his hand is darkened with experience and age. “You know what I tell you is true.” I cannot speak for fear that my own emotions will overcome me. I am afraid that once I start crying...I will never be able to stop.
“Will you do this thing for me, daughter?” He asks again, calmly, heroically.
“Yes, Baba, I will.”