Chapter 18: Years and Years, Part One
The key upside of an international portkey was that it was functionally instant. A two minute flight across the Atlantic was not to be sniffed at - especially since Graham, even after earning wings of his own, still didn't feel comfortable in a plane.
The downside was that it still took two minutes of world-bending, gut-churning chaos before he was thumped down on American soil. It was only Graham's extensive practice creating portkeys for Lockwood that saved him from joining his fellow travellers in using the sick bag they'd all been given before lift off; his own rather shoddy spellmanship had caused rougher journeys, even if they'd been shorter.
The convenience just couldn't be beaten, though: within an hour of leaving Lockwood, he was in the back of an enchanted car (a model from the fifties - American wizards were more modern than the Britons, but they weren't fully up to date) on the way out of Boston; ten minutes after that (the scenery had blurred past at a rate that showed just how non-standard the car really was) found him on the steps of the Salem Institute for Magical Advancement, just in time for his induction.
The next few days passed in a blur, only partially because Graham had never been the best at dealing with jetlag. Returning to education was odd enough, but the American version of schooling - dorms, school spirit, and all that - was particularly jarring, especially when magic was added into the equation.
If the social side of things took some getting used to, Graham was at least pleased to find that acting as a war medic had given him more than a slight leg-up on his classmates.
"Alright, everybody - it's the moment you've all been waiting for: field practice."
Professor Markey, Graham's instructor in Emergency Care and Triage (a key discipline in magical healing: most things were fixable with magic plus time, but death wasn't), was an avuncular, portly man; if he'd liked the sound of his own voice a bit more, Graham might have equated him to Slughorn, but he didn't seem to share the other man's ego.
"Behind me," Markey continued, "is a very convincing facsimile of a person who has got himself into quite a lot of trouble. We're talking physical trauma, curses, potential toxins, the works: they've had a very, very bad day."
He waited patiently for his students' titters to die down.
"Now, I don't expect you to have all the solutions to the poor man's problems, but we're going to take a look at how to approach a case like this; and in particular, we're going to learn the utility - and limits - of the healing spells you learned during the MSATs. So, without any further ado -"
He twitched his wand, and the wall behind him melted away, revealing a hospital bed on which lay an extremely unfortunate body, with an accompanying smell that was if anything even worse.
One of the girls behind him retched, and dashed for the door; the rest of Graham's classmates held their position, but any amusement had drained from their faces.
"As you can see," Markey spoke, breaking the ensuing silence, "this stuff isn't always funny. I know that a lot of magical injuries seem to be jokes: a wizard who's accidentally switched their arms and their legs, say - but the truth of this stuff isn't always very funny at all. Now - do I have any volunteers - ah, yes, Mr. Longshaw."
Graham, for all that he didn't enjoy the smell, had seen worse in the war, so he stepped forward, the stares of his classmates digging into his back.
"Now, Mr. Longshaw - as I said, I don't expect you to fully heal this man today - just talk us through your thinking as you work, and we'll see how we go."
Graham nodded, distractedly, but his mind was already on the task: he hadn't had the luxury of a sanitary room in a lot of his earlier work, so this was already a step up.
"Alright." he said, after a moment's reflection, "we'll begin with a diagnostic suite, once we've removed any reactive counter-curses."
He began to cast, enunciating clearly for the benefit of the class. Reactive counter-curses had been one of the many horrible weapons Voldemort's followers had adopted: designed to trigger in response to diagnostic spells, often with explosive effect, they had killed quite a few people in the war - including several incidents when they had been cast on children on the speculative basis that their parents would try to heal them at some point in the future. They weren't hard to dispel - as long as you knew enough to try to.
A few moments later - he'd long since learned to chain his diagnoses to save time in an emergency - and Graham had all the results he needed to work with.
"Okay, then. We're looking at fractures down the length of the left shinbone, along with breaks in the first, second, and fourth ribs; onset of sepsis and potential blood poisoning; prior indications of concussive spells, including reducto, as well as several latent curses and a gut-bending jinx - sorry, the diminutive version of the entrail expelling curse. Patient unconscious so permission implied in absence of person with power of attorney -"
He broke off again, and, fully immersed in the technical challenge, began to cast once more. He aimed to resolve the magical impediments first, and disposed of most of them with a magical flushing incantation - more energy intensive than specific counter-spells, but much faster - followed by a series of generic counterspells, until the unidentified curses finally faded. Some of the swelling and most of the smell abated as he worked, until the facsimile of a man seemed almost human again.
Graham turned to his instructor, suddenly self-conscious in the silence that had descended while he worked.
"Uh, one more issue: sepsis suggests that this man has no magical core as his immune system has been compromised; that doesn't happen in wizards or squibs, so he's likely a mug- uh, no-maj. On that basis, potions should not be applied due to unpredictability of effect in muggles; I'd recommend a magical infusion to bolster his immune system, blood-cleansing and bone-fusing charms to aid healing and deal with the blood poisoning, and bed-rest under supervision so as to protect the statute."
The silence dragged on.
"Um, unless you'd suggest otherwise?" Graham added.
"No, no, Mr. Longshaw - that's... very good." said Markey, smiling weakly. "Though I think we should have a conversation about your, um, prior experience, after class, don't you?"
As Graham sank into the murky waters of academia on one side of the Atlantic, Delia and Remus were following his lead on the other, as they immersed themselves in the art of learning to teach.
The concept was more than a little alien to the wizarding world. As their array of teachers had shown at Hogwarts, teaching was typically the preserve of wizards who'd learned a lot about a subject and whose pedigree was sufficiently acceptable for pureblood parents. The main exception had been the Defence against the Dark Arts job, though the career and life expectancy of a Defence professor meant that the main qualifying traits were courage, stupidity, and arrogance (or, on more than one occasion in their Hogwarts years, evil intentions).
Remus wasn't a pureblood, so it wasn't exactly a shock to learn that muggles had written textbooks about how to pick textbooks for students to read. His mother had been a muggle, after all, and - even as they'd travelled from town to town, looking for increasingly esoteric solutions to Remus's 'furry little problem' - he'd spent plenty of time in muggle classrooms, picking up a scattershot view of the non-magical world along the way. It was just a little humbling to realise that the muggles had both the numbers and the care to put that much thought into the way they brought up their children: even if they couldn't vanish most of their problems with a flick of a wand, quantity evidently had a quality all of its own.
And Remus was finding the course genuinely interesting, even if that probably meant that he was genuinely boring. The trouble was - he looked up from his notes at Delia, who was across the table from him in the university library they'd chosen to study in; she looked up, smiled, and he turned back to his work, blushing - the trouble was that his schoolyard crush on Delia had re-emerged full-force, and he had no idea what to do about it.
It wasn't just a looks thing, though she was certainly pretty: at Hogwarts, she'd always been nice to him, and any attention from an older witch was exciting to a fifteen year old, but more than that, she'd been competent, and Remus had always been drawn to competence. And now that they were both learning to be teachers (something she'd already started on, before she'd been drawn back into the war effort), he was the primary recipient of that competence and attention, and he had absolutely no idea what to do about it.
And, even worse:
"Remus, I was thinking that we could hit the theatre tonight if you're game? There's a great play on at the National, and we can get discounted student tickets -"
She kept on asking him on these platonic not-quite-dates to 'get to know the non-magical world', and it was driving him crazy.
"It was torture, Sirius. Not the play, although I didn't really understand why everybody started singing every five minutes - the company."
It was a few days later, and, against his better judgement, Remus had decided to consult his overly enthusiastic would-be love guru, Sirius.
"I spent weeks having the very concept of joy drained out of my soul in Azkaban, and you think spending time with a pretty witch is torture?"
"Okay, maybe I'm being a little melodramatic -"
"I have a second job raising a child, and you have your evenings free for plays and concerts? I guess I should owl the ICW, because I think I've discovered a war crime."
"Oh, very funny, Sirius." Remus snapped. "No, it's torture because I want to tell her how I feel and I can't, because of the - because of my thing."
"Your furry little -"
"Yes. And I didn't tell her before because I didn't want to jeopardise Graham's whole arrangement, and now it's too late to say anything because she'll wonder why I didn't say anything before, and I'll ruin things either way -"
Sirius decided, reluctantly, that, entertaining though it was, the broomstick collision in front of him needed to be stopped sooner rather than later.
"You're upset because she doesn't know about the werewolf thing, yeah?"
"You're afraid that this witch, who you like because she's clever and pays all this attention to you, will be shocked to discover you're a werewolf?"
"Remus - remind me what Delia said when you said you might be sick over the full moon period a couple months ago?"
"'She joked that it was probably my 'time of the month' and that she knew how that felt, and then she got a bit embarrassed, but that's not -"
"And remind me what you said the first thing you noticed about her apartment was?"
"Well, she had a copy of 'Hairy Snout, Human Heart' on her mantelpiece, which is all well and good -"
"Mm-hm. I should probably also mention that she told me that she realised that you were probably a werewolf a few weeks ago, and that she didn't care in the slightest. She just didn't want to confront you about it before you were ready."
Remus stared at Sirius. Sirius stared at Remus. Sirius's house-elf, Mopsy, walked into the room with a teapot, took in the scene, and slowly backed out again.
"She... outed me to you?" Remus managed, once his shock had abated a little.
"She said, and I believe this is a direct quote, that 'as one of his oldest friends you probably know a lot about Remus's medical issues so I want you to know that I couldn't care less about any affliction he suffers from including purely by way of example a magical disease recurring on a monthly basis, Sirius', and then she said she had to go to a class and left straight after. I imagine you can probably read the runes there."
Remus stared blankly into space; Sirius, who was drawing enormous satisfaction from his shock, decided to throw another spanner into Remus's works.
"She also said that she 'hoped Remus knows that I've grown very fond of him', and while I don't want to speculate on what that means -"
Remus leapt out of his chair.
"Sirius, I've got to - I mean, I just remembered that there's a place I needed to be -"
"I bet there is." Sirius said, smugness seeping from every word. "Have fun; don't do anything I wouldn't!"
The only disappointment, he mused, once Remus had hurriedly apparated away and Mopsy had refilled his tea, was that Remus hadn't stuck around long enough for Sirius to really start to embarrass him.
It was, once Remus and Delia had worked through a very overdue conversation and removed the word 'platonic' from their dates, a productive time for the denizens of Lockwood. Amelia, who received the news from Delia that there was no news in their meetings every month, couldn't help but feel a little jealous, because her own job seemed to have become a lot harder and much more futile in the meantime.
Admittedly, this was in part because Susan was well into the terrible twos and her evenings were nearly as tiring as her workdays, but it was mainly because Bartholemew Gamp was proving himself a very stressful Minister for Magic - especially for somebody with Amelia's career ambitions.
Of course Gamp had been the right choice for the job, and Amelia had happily voted for the man; she'd met him at plenty of parties when she'd been a child, and he'd always been perfectly nice (and, more to the point, had evidently brought into the Bones philosophy of mingling widely and wisely among purebloods). Compared to Smythe, who had promptly followed up his disastrous electoral bid with an archetypally moronic Nundu-hunting expedition in Botswana, from which (no surprise) he had not returned - well, perish the thought.
But nevertheless - Amelia re-read the departmental mandate she'd received that evening, and sighed; she'd finished her work for the night, but she couldn't quite bring herself to get up and head home.
Gamp, she thought, was proving to be exactly the Minister his poorly-concealed backers had hoped for. He had quickly ramped up the exclusionary measures that Minchum had introduced with his all-new idea of the 'hostile environment', which had officially become law after a difficult few months in the Wizengamot.
The basic principle - in fact, the main new legislative provision in his bill - was, on its face, almost progressive, at least for Wizarding Britain. Despite the best efforts of the Ministry, Gamp had posited, muggleborns had not been successfully integrated into Wizarding Britain, a failure he placed, in his rhetoric, equally on well-meaning but ineffectual wizards and disinterested muggleborns (at the time, Amelia had noted, with some dread, the distinction the man drew between wizards and muggleborns). Therefore, Gamp felt, new alternatives should be offered to muggleborns - specifically, resettlement programs, with the ministry footing half the cost of language vials and expediting transit paperwork as an incentive.
The issue, and the main source of Amelia's extra stress, was how her duties had changed when it came to the muggleborns who weren't interested in uprooting their lives, which was most of them. In addition to the professional limits imposed on muggleborns (now extended to 'muggle-raised half-bloods', a legally meaningless term that essentially let employers fire most half-bloods at will) Gamp had imposed a new, additional routine of auror patrols around 'areas of suspected muggle incursion' on top of their actual duties; which meant that the entire auror squad, but especially someone with Amelia's ambitions, had to spend an additional fifteen hours of their week patrolling Charing Cross Road, Fort William, or any one of a number of other magic-adjacent hotspots across the country.
And now - Amelia looked at the mandate again, as if its contents might have changed while she thought - the aurors were going to have to investigate referrals from the Department for Magical Integration, Gamp's newly created task force for uncovering 'anti-magical agitators'. It was a task designed effectively to uncover scapegoats, whether muggleborn or muggle-loving, to drive the engine of public opinion.
Sirius was going to blow his gasket when he got in and read the missive in the morning, and Moody, who'd muttered darkly about "more damned politics getting in the way of my job" before leaving that evening, might even make good on his ever-present threat of retirement, which would just mean more work for her. Amelia knew she'd need to give those 'referrals' her full attention if she was still even remotely interested in pursuing promotion in the DMLE, which she still thought she was.
The issue was that she was starting to wonder why she'd been so set on it to begin with...
If her friends had asked, Amelia might have - accurately - said that she was too busy for a relationship, what with her job and adoptive child taking up so much of her time. The fact that she was increasingly convinced that relationships just weren't for her didn't need to be raised; even if the Bones legacy was theoretically secure in Susan, spinsterhood was still something of a taboo, especially for someone as theoretically eligible as her.
Across the ocean, Graham discovered a different flavour of the same problem in his studies at Salem: while he had time, and had tried to make time, for romance, his past had made him far too intense - and too secretive - for any of the six relationships he attempted in America to last for more than a few months.
The issue was that, even three thousand miles away from Lockwood, Graham was unable to resist the allure of a good project. A school for muggleborns was a perfectly worthy goal, sure - but he was increasingly convinced that he'd mainly done it because he just wanted to create something useful.
And that went for most of his free time at Salem, too - even if the air of mystery around his past (helped by the fact that half his class was convinced that he was a war veteran, which even American wizards seemed to venerate a little) made him an initially exciting prospect, Graham just wasn't able to devote anywhere near the attention expected of him in a relationship, when there was so much for him to be busy with.
Healing (an effectively bottomless field of discovery once you had the skills needed to create charms and potions of your own accord) was just too distracting, Graham had tried to explain, as Lucia (November 1982 - February 1983), berated him for his inattentiveness. Volunteering as a magical paramedic (being able to create portkeys and heal on the spot had practically resulted in him being forced to sign up by his supervisor) took up half his evenings alone, and he'd excitedly signed up to research programs on counter-curses and pediatric care, which seemed to occupy most of the rest, once Lockwood administration (another few hours' work in itself) was dealt with.
Then there was the other medical project: the one which MACUSA, still isolationist if not anti-muggleborn, absolutely wouldn't have sanctioned if it had known about it.
"How're you doing, Graham?"
Not to mention the fact that his correspondent was based on the other side of the Atlantic.
Jessica, after finishing her six years at Oxford and obtaining her doctorate, had (after a brief post-wedding honeymoon in which she considered and quickly discarded the prospect of being a housewife) quickly secured a transfer to University College Hospital. Dave had also managed to secure a spot, a convenient coincidence which Graham found deeply suspicious; not that he'd ever accuse her, but he'd have put money on the confundus charm playing a role in the process.
Either way, the point was that Jess had secured a place on the highly competitive immunology team at UCH, and she had roped Graham into her search for answers to a growing list of questions that were bemusing - and horrifying - the non-magical medical profession.
"Yeah, I'm fine. How's Dave?"
"At a conference in Switzerland on urinary tract infections; having the time of his life, I imagine."
Jess sighed, and Graham tried not to think about how tired she looked. Newly galleon-rich, he'd invested in a set of two-way mirrors for them to use, but staring through a screen wasn't a great substitute for actual contact: he wished he could give her a hug.
"Another bad day on the ward, I presume." he said, quietly.
"Another day, anyway." she said. "Gray, they're so young, you know? It's never easy, and the way some of their parents treat them -"
"It's terrible, though I suppose not unexpected, given that GRID mostly affects -"
"Not GRID; you know that's inaccurate and prejudiced, Graham, come on."
"Crap, sorry." Graham said, chagrined. "Slip of the tongue, I swear. AIDS, I mean. Sorry, Jess, really."
"It's fine, Gray - and sorry for snapping, it's just been a long day. What do you have for me?"
Salem's medical library was extensive and diverse, but it stayed very far away from the dangerously illicit subject that was magical treatment of muggles - even though, as Graham had frustratedly noted to his supervisor on multiple occasions, wizards constantly had to heal muggles in cases of potential statute breach. Jess's resources at UCH, of course, were entirely unaware of the existence of magic, so the pair of them had been running a tag team effort in Jess's quest for answers, or, even better, a solution.
"Nothing very directly helpful, I'm afraid." Graham had long since exhausted every no-maj treatise he could find, and his research was growing more esoteric and less helpful in equal measure. "Except a charm which could, I hope, forcibly put Kaposi and Hodgkin into remission for a few months - more symptoms stuff, but nothing substantive. Sorry."
"Anything's helpful; I'm just not able to apply the infusion to more than a patient or two per day without coming close to collapse, and that's doing absolutely nothing."
It was beyond illegal, but the only meaningful treatment Graham and Jess had been able to come up with to date was the highly intensive, long-forgotten technique that was magical infusion. Originally devised as a way of giving squib children a fighting chance at overcoming muggle illnesses by forcibly flooding their system with magic, Graham had suggested it on the basis that wizards were largely immune to muggle diseases because of magic, so it was worth seeing if muggles might have their immune systems bolstered in the same way.
And it was sort-of working, even if it felt at times as if they were pouring a cup of water on a forest fire.
The problem - and the agony for Jessica - was that it was perfectly possible to cure most of the symptoms of the horrible illness, but it wasn't possible to do so in a way that wouldn't risk disastrous muggle and magical attention; even though it fundamentally provided little more than a month or two's good health and remission, the infusion was completely unnoticeable to muggles, and was at least something. The fact that the workings of the disease were still so unknown was a plus in that respect: mystery improvement was just one more unusual occurence in a field that was practically made of oddities.
"I'll fax you the instructions for the charm later today." Graham said; he paused, considered whether to air his next thought, and decided that it was worth suggesting. "And… I was thinking that you might want to get Remus and Delia involved in helping with the infusions, Jess."
There was a pause.
"I don't know that that's appropriate, Graham." Jessica said, at length. "I'm already way over the line of medical malpractice, doing this, and bringing other people in - I mean, anyway, I wouldn't want to trouble them -"
"You remember Remus's condition?" Graham interrupted. He'd told Jess, back when he'd first found out, and he was still embarrassed about the breach of confidence, but what was done was done.
"You mean the fact that he's a -"
"Yes. What do you think he'd want to do if he learned that he could help a group of horribly stigmatized, vulnerable people, suffering from an affliction with no known cure?"
"Fair point." Jess said, at length. "I'd appreciate it if you reached out to him, Graham - he's more your friend than mine -"
"Absolutely." Graham said. "He'd be delighted to help, I'm sure; Delia too. But enough about that - I think I remember you saying that you wanted to explain your team's research on T-cells?"
"Yup - let me grab a drink, and we can get stuck in."
Jess put down the mirror, and Graham pulled out a pad of paper and a biro to take notes. In spite the subject matter, he realised, with some amusement, that he was smiling - in part because of his indefatigable friend, but mainly because there really was nothing like working hard at work worth doing.
AN: Thank you for reading! This is one of two scattershot chapters which'll span several years. By way of comment and - perhaps - reassurance, I'd note that Jess's thread isn't intended to be a main plot point going forwards. It's what she's up to in her story, not an ongoing item in this one, but, in a tale about a medical muggleborn exploring the muggle-magical divide, I wanted to examine both sides of that equation.