Chapter 9: A Sobering Discovery
When he awoke the next day, Graham couldn't help but feel daunted by the scale of what he needed to do. He'd taken a potion of dreamless sleep to reset his circadian rhythm, but he still had no idea where to begin his work, unless -
Gripped by a sudden thought, he scribbled a quick note, summoned his money-pouch (a rather paltry amount) and went to dig through his old trunk; finally, he found his broom, shrank it, and put it into his trouser pocket, before apparating to Diagon Alley to see a man about an owl.
"Delivery to the UK, package under 20 grams." The woman at the counter droned, looking up at Graham, who nodded.
"Slow delivery can take up to two days, would-you-be-interested-in-one-of-our-" Graham recognised the sales pitch, and cut the evidently uninterested saleswoman off from finishing.
"No, slow is fine. And it's three sickles, yes?"
The woman rolled her eyes, but nodded; Graham paid her, headed through to the back-room of Eyelops' Owl Delivery Services, and took care to select a particularly ruffled-looking bird, who hopped onto his proffered arm. He carried the owl outside, then retrieved his broom and the note he'd written, mounted the first, and attached the second to the owl's leg.
Remus had specifically asked Graham not to contact him when he'd gone undercover; but Graham imagined that the end of the war would probably have meant an end to that policy. Besides, he was more than a little concerned about Remus, who must surely have been feeling the hurt of Sirius' betrayal and his friends' deaths far more keenly than Graham; so he was exceedingly glad that the owl duly set off on its way when he gave it the letter, and Graham made to follow its slow progress across the country.
Graham was a competent enough flier, but by no means was he a keen one, so it was with a considerable degree of relief that he approached his destination a few hours later, in a forest clearing by a building that would charitably have been described as a cabin but was really more of a hut. He hovered some distance above the treeline, disillusioned, and waited to see what became of the owl, which was tapping patiently at the hut's window; he still wasn't sure, after all, what company Remus had chosen to keep.
Fortunately, luck was on his side, and it was an incredibly worn Remus who emerged from the hut a few moments later, and squinted at the note he retrieved from the owl. Graham had, in terms vague enough that Remus wouldn't be implicated if another read it, intimated that he was on his way, and that Remus should signal if it was alright for him to approach - and, sure enough, the man looked up, and, cautiously, called his name. Cancelling his disillusionment, Graham called to note his arrival, and spiralled down to join Remus in the clearing.
Up close, Remus looked even worse than he had from afar. He hadn't shaved in some time, his clothes looked as if they'd been worn for days, if not weeks, and his unfocused eyes betrayed the fact that he'd been drinking enough to intoxicate a werewolf.
"Mind if I cast a sobering charm, Remus?" Graham asked carefully; at Remus' uncaring shrug, he cast the spell, and Remus staggered as the spell took away the numbing effects of the alcohol; his eyes widened, and he turned away, retching, and threw up.
Graham conjured a glass and charmed it full of water, and handed it to Remus; he watched sympathetically as Remus used it to swill his mouth out, drained it, refilled it, and drank another.
Finally, the werewolf seemed to reattain some semblance of stability, and he glared venomously at Graham.
"What in the everliving shite is worth putting me through that for?" He hissed. "I've already had the best week of my life; three of my friends are dead because the fourth sold them out to You-Know-Who; do tell me why a fifth decided that this was a good idea."
"Remus - I can't begin to imagine how the last few days must have been for you," Graham began, "but - at the risk of reintroducing hope to the equation - there's more than a slight chance that Sirius is innocent, that he didn't - do what people said he did. Could I come inside and explain properly?"
Lupin was, to put it mildly, unconvinced by the story Sirius had passed on to Graham.
"That's insane." He said, flatly. "Sirius wasn't lying; Peter is - was - a rat animagus, it's true. But the rest - well, it just boggles belief."
He paused for a moment, looking down at his mug; he might have been in mourning, but he was still British enough to have made them both tea.
"On the other hand - swapping secret keepers would be the exact sort of damn fool thing Sirius would suggest, if the fidelius thing is actually accurate. If we could check that with Dumbledore, and it turned out to be true, the rest might at least warrant investigation."
"So you'll help me?" Graham asked, hopefully; he really hadn't known what state Remus would be in, and the prospect of his assistance was far from unwelcome.
"I'll help myself, I think you mean." Remus said wryly. "I think you probably underestimate just how badly I want for all of this to be true, whether or not it actually is. If it does turn out to be a dead end, though, I - well, I don't know what I'll do with myself, I really don't."
Graham patted his arm, reassuringly; there was very little he felt he could say to that. The two of them finished their tea in silence, each lost in his own thoughts; it was Remus who rose to his feet first.
"Well, there are a few hours left in the day, and I don't want Sirius rotting in Azkaban if the bastard turns out to be innocent; fancy a trip to Hogwarts?" He asked, smiling faintly; Graham agreed to this plan, gathered his belongings, and the two of them apparated away.
Hogwarts was rather more northerly than Remus' abode had been, and the sun had already set by the time that Graham and Remus had trudged up to the castle's main gates. In the distance, the castle lights glittered, and Graham felt a sudden pang of intense nostalgia. He wasn't sure exactly how they were meant to alert the staff of their arrival, but Remus seemed to have had an idea, and was speaking quietly to one of the gargoyles at the gate; after a minute, he turned to Graham, looking satisfied by whatever he'd heard.
"They'll send someone down to fetch us, apparently - it should just be a couple of minutes."
The two of them stood and waited in silence; there wasn't much either felt able to say. After a few minutes, just as the statue had promised, a short figure hurried down the pathway, and beamed up at the two of them.
"Misters Lupin and Longshaw!" Said Professor Flitwick, beaming. "I wasn't aware that the two of you knew each other. Do come through - it's wonderful to see you both."
Flitwick, as always, proved to be emotionally perceptive, and commiserated with Lupin as they walked back to the castle; but he didn't press the topic too heavily, and steered the conversation on to the mundanities of school life, sharing tidbits about the goings-on at Hogwarts.
Graham could probably have sleepwalked his way through the corridors - just like most Hogwarts graduates - but Flitwick nevertheless guided the two of them up to Dumbledore's office and spoke the necessary password, before bidding them farewell and leaving them to climb the spiral staircase that had revealed itself.
"Come in, both of you!"
The voice had invited them in before either man had knocked, but this was very much a Dumbledore thing, so neither Graham nor Lupin were particularly phased. More surprising to Graham was how *tired* Dumbledore seemed - aside from his usual veil of cheeriness, the world seemed to be weighing heavily on his shoulders.
"Now," Dumbledore said, gesturing for the two of them to take a seat, "what could prompt an erstwhile healer and a particularly brave member of the Order to seek me out so urgently?"
To his credit, Dumbledore showed very little surprise at Graham's account of Sirius' pleas, and thought for a moment before replying.
"Well, I can at least confirm one part of that narrative - I was indeed the fidelius' caster, at the Potters' request. I did not, indeed, get told at any point who the secret keeper was; we had briefly discussed the available candidates, but the final decision was kept from me - the fewer people know the secret, the stronger it tends to be, you see." He gazed at nothing for a moment, before turning his attention back to his guests. "I'm afraid I can be no more definitive than that, but the matter certainly merits investigation; if you wish, I shall write you a letter of recommendation to take to the aurors, if that would be of any assistance."
"I - yes, Headmaster, that'd be an incredible help." Graham said, relief stealing over him.
"I do have another question, however." The older wizard continued. "What led you to visit Azkaban at all, Mr. Longshaw? I don't seem to recall you interacting much with Mr. Black, or, for that matter, Mr. Lupin, while you were at Hogwarts."
Graham found himself unexpectedly tongue-tied. "Ah, well - I, I suppose we hit it off in the war - I'd got back in touch with Lily to talk about some spells, and then Sirius was a go-between when she went into hiding, and I met Remus a little after that. The thing is, he knows where my family are - I'd mentioned it a few times - and I need to know if they're in danger now."
Dumbledore watched him carefully, but accepted his answer readily enough as he gave it, and moved the conversation on to more pleasant matters. After his guests had left, though, he sat for some time in thought. If Black was innocent, a great many things would change, largely for the better; but that was a question to consider as Lupin and Longshaw uncovered further information. The really intriguing moment had come when he'd asked Longshaw about his connection to Black; the man had clammed up with surprise and more than a little fear, and he didn't have to be the experienced legilimens he was to know that he'd lied about his reasons for investigating. What else, he wondered, was at stake here?
The sliver of hope which their investigations were giving him were doing a power of good for Remus' mood, and he even accepted Graham's offer to stay in the spare bedroom at Lockwood when it was given; the hut in the forest where Graham had found him had been the placed he'd gone for his transformations, he explained, but while he'd been working to infiltrate the werewolf clans, it had become his home, insofar as the hut could even count as a home.
"By the way," Graham mentioned, as they nursed a couple of beers down at the nearest pub that evening, "Whether or not Sirius turns out to be innocent, he did make one request we should fulfil either way; making sure that Harry's alright."
"Well, Dumbledore told us that he'd placed him somewhere safe, so I'm sure he's not too badly off - but I do agree. That much I owe to James and Lily, at least." Remus drained his glass, and set it down on the counter with a clatter. "do you think we could head back in a bit, actually? My last... change was three days ago, and I'm still not really feeling over it, what with everything that's happened."
Graham happily went along with this, and they headed back for an early night; Dumbledore's promised introductory note had asked that they be allowed visit the aurors the following morning, so the pair of them pitched up bright and early the next day. Graham took a special pleasure in telling the witch who'd fobbed him off that they had an appointment, and she grumpily went off to fetch the auror who'd been assigned to supervise their inquiry.
"Ah, Lupin, Longshaw - glad to see you both."
To Graham's pleasant surprise, Amelia Bones was the auror who accompanied them down to the evidence storage rooms; it was, she explained, the sort of job that was normally fobbed off to an unwilling volunteer, but she'd noticed the names on the request when she'd seen it.
"I'm as interested in all of this as you are, now." she said, leading them through the dingy maze of corridors that were the back rooms of the aurors' department. "I'm rather curious to see what evidence we actually collected on the scene of the crime that day."
The first stop they made was to search through a vast cabinet of confiscated wands, an experience Graham actually found rather sad; whatever their owners had been doing, it felt almost cruel to have deprived so many wands of their owners. Happily, they quickly found Sirius' wand, and Amelia passed it over to Graham.
"Do you know how to check its spell-casting history?" She asked, waiting for his nod before continuing. "Normally, there should be a list of the wand's last twenty or so spells, but I don't see one here. More sloppy work; not impressive at all. If you want, you can check it yourself; I need to go further in to find whatever else we have."
She left the two of them in the corridor; Remus withdrew a notepad, and indicated that Graham should cast his spell.
"Priori Incantatem Locavit." He murmured, and, with a shudder, Sirius' voice began to play, in a near-monotone - the effect was so unnerving that Remus almost forgot to start writing the spells down on his notepad.
"Stupefy, petrificus totalus, expelliarmus, stupefy, apparition, apparition, apparition, unspecified transformation, aguamenti, nox, lumos, apparition..."
The voice carried on, unheeded, and Remus met Graham's gaze, ashen-faced.
"Those are the spells he cast, in reverse order - the first one was the last, et cetera. And they said the aurors found him right after the explosion - he wouldn't have had the time to cover up with those other spells." He said; Graham finished his thought for him.
"And none of those would be able to cause an explosion like the one at the site, would they?"
Carefully, Graham ended the spell, and placed the wand back in its drawer, as Amelia bustled back towards them, now carrying a small box. Graham hadn't seen her look properly angry before, and he took a step back without realising it.
"Whoever worked on this," Amelia said, unceremoniously thrusting the box at the two of them, "is worse than an idiot; incompetence alone doesn't explain this, even if we didn't know that Pettigrew was an animagus. His thumb is in there - have a look, and tell me what you see."
With some trepidation, Remus opened the box, and the pair of them gazed at the thumb for a moment, until realisation dawned.
"It's a clean cut," breathed Remus, "and an explosion couldn't possibly have been so neat."
"The wand's no better." Graham said, grimly. "Not a single spell on there could have caused an explosion like the one on that street - directly or indirectly."
Remus passed her his notebook; she glanced through it, and her face settled into an expression of curt resolve.
"I'm going to take this all to Moody, paranoid bugger that he is." Amelia said; she grabbed Sirius' wand, slammed the drawer shut, and began stalking back towards the offices, beckoning the others to follow.
Although he knew that Alastor Moody had been active in the Order, Graham hadn't been called upon by him to provide medical treatment while he'd been working with them; unsurprisingly, he didn't trust anybody else to provide him with potions or apply spells to him, and so the man had remained something of an enigma. Happily, though, his reputation for paranoia had him on board about as quickly as they explained the situation to him.
"Good thing you got back to me on this," he growled, as he paced around his office, "I smell a rat, figuratively and literally. I'll head to Azkaban tonight; if Sirius is so innocent, he won't mind taking a dose of veritaserum to substantiate his story."
There was little else for Remus and Graham to do after that, especially since Amelia had politely brushed them out of the aurors' department, promising that she'd keep them updated on any further developments.
Lacking anything else to do, Graham picked Remus' brain for anything he could recall on the topic of where Harry was; Dumbledore had been tight-mouthed on the issue in the press, and had given no further information to the pair of them.
"Well, their parents have all passed away, and James was an only child," Remus mused; "of Harry's closer family, he's got Sirius, who would be his second cousin, I think, and the Tonkses, that's Andromeda (formerly Black) and Edward - I think they're something approaching cousins once removed?" He paused for a moment, then snorted. "Oh, and there are the Malfoys, who are something on the same track, but I think we can safely discard them. Otherwise… well, Lily had a sister as well, I believe?"
"Alright; so that's the Tonkses we can check in with, and -" Graham's eyes narrowed in recollection - "hang on, I think I've actually *met* Lily's muggle sister and her husband; she was at Lily's wedding, and I gave her a bit of medical assistance. Um… Petunia, her name was, Petunia and Vernon. I think I even remember their address - Privet… something or other."
"Well, that's two things we can be doing!" Lupin said brightly. "Honestly, the stress of waiting to hear about Sirius will do me in if I can't do something; can we get to work right now?"
Graham wasn't sure if there was some kind of yellow pages for the magical world, but the brute-force approach functioned almost as effectively in lieu of it.
"Tonks Residence." He threw a handful of floo powder into the grate at the leaky cauldron, and groaned when this, too, didn't work; he'd tried seven different combinations of the name, now, and none of them had connected him to the Tonkses.
Over by the bar, Tom the barkeep was watching with some amusement. Finally, as he reached for his tenth attempt, depositing another few knuts into the pot by the floo powder, he relented, chuckling, and asked if Graham was perhaps trying to connect to the "Ancient and Noble House of Tonks". Remus burst out laughing when he heard the name, but Graham didn't quite understand the joke; in any case, though, he duly recited the name, threw the floo powder into the fire, and thrust his head through.
"Hello?" Graham called, finding himself in a small, though comfortably appointed, living room. "Is anyone at home?"
Nobody answered for a few seconds, but a girl of eight or nine finally came careening through the doors, almost tripped over her dress, and just about regained her balance before falling into the fireplace.
"Who're you?" she asked, curiously; Graham noticed that her hair had flashed white when she was tripping, before resetting to the pink it had been before, and wondered if she was a metamorphmagus - he'd never seen one before, only read about the theory.
"I'm an acquaintance of your parents." He said, cheerfully (a technical truth - he had vague recollections of both Andromeda and Ted having been in their final year when he'd started out at Hogwarts). "Do you think you could fetch one of them for me?"
The girl shrugged, and sauntered out of the room (watching her feet very carefully, Graham noticed) and yelled for her mum; a few moments later, a rather graceful woman, came into the living room, tugging off a pair of gardeners' gloves.
"Oh, hello." She said, eyeing him curiously. "It's - Longshaw, isn't it?"
"Good memory!" he said. "Um - do you mind if Remus Lupin and I could come through to talk for a bit? Only, we've some rather important news about your cousin, Sirius."
Andromeda's gaze sharpened and her lips thinned, as all emotion drained from her face.
"Well." she said. "By all means, come through; this should be most interesting." She gestured at the fireplace, and Graham saw the flames turn green around him, indicating that travel was possible - so he yanked his head out, beckoned Remus, and walked into the flames.
"Well, interesting doesn't really cover it; it's rather more than that." Andromeda remarked, some time later. "And certainly it'd be a good thing for us if Sirius were to take up the mantle of the head of the Black family in the future. But - why are you telling me this? It's not as if either of you know me, and these are just allegations at the moment, hardly proven fact."
She looked at the pair of them, shrewdly; Graham was suddenly reminded of the fact that she'd been a Slytherin at Hogwarts.
"Why exactly where you interested enough in us that you'd come up with a reason to visit?" Andromeda concluded, watching with some amusement as Graham blushed and Remus squirmed with embarassment, before deciding that honesty was probably for the best.
"It's actually about Harry Potter." Remus said; Andromeda's eyes widened in surprise. "I want to know where he is and to make sure that he's alright. I owe that much to his parents; they were some of my closest friends."
Graham shrugged. "On my part, Sirius asked me to make sure that Harry was alright when I visited him - criminal or not, it's a request I don't mind fulfilling. I'm guessing this means you're not looking after him?"
Andromeda frowned. "Why would we - oh, I suppose we're some of his closest relatives? Apart from the Malfoys and my… other sister, I don't actually know if he has any other magical ones, come to think of it - but I never knew the Potters that well, I'm sorry to say. Sirius was always rather wary of me, just as much as he was of Narcissa and Bellatrix, and I suppose that carried over to James."
"Well, I hope that Sirius will reconsider that policy if he does turn out to be innocent - thank you for being so helpful, Andromeda." Remus said, rising to his feet. "I think we ought to be on our way, as we've a couple of leads to follow on Lily's side of the family - but it was lovely to meet you."
They exchanged pleasantries, and Andromeda escorted them outside the wards so that they could apparate. Before they went, though, Graham had one question.
"I wouldn't normally ask, but the curiosity's eating at me." He said. "Is Nymphadora a metamorphmagus? Only, I studied to be a healer, before the muggleborn changes came into effect, and I've never actually seen one before."
Andromeda looked at him, curiously. "Is that the case? Well, she certainly is - reminding her not to fiddle with her hair certainly adds a frisson of excitement to visiting the muggle world, I can tell you that much! Ted's a healer as well, as a matter of fact - though he's not currently practicing, of course. We're lobbying the ministry, but I expect it'll be some time before we make any progress on that front: of course, I doubt we'd make any progress at all without the work of young Mr. Potter!"
Finding Petunia and Vernon was, unsurprisingly, rather a nuisance. An owl addressed to Harry Potter merely circled in the air a few times, looking confused, before returning to them; Dumbledore had probably - sensibly - warded the place he was staying against magical location in case any of the Dark Lord's followers decided to seek their revenge.
Instead, Graham and Remus bought a copy of the AA Road Map on the basis that there could only be so many Privets in Britain. They were right, in that there were ten listed by the book, all over England. Graham only remembered the distinctly suburban flavour of the place, so they began with the ones which were near cities; but once they'd discovered the right Privet (Drive, as it turned out) they were faced with a second issue.
"…I don't believe it." Remus muttered. "And muggles actually want to build their houses like this?"
Graham chuckled. "Well, I think they want to build houses quickly and cheaply, and to know exactly what they're getting. I'm not saying I disagree, mind you!"
They walked from door to door, trying to look for any identifying marker, until Graham lost his patience, and knocked on the next one he came to - a minute later, an small, slightly shrewish woman answered him.
"Hello?" She said, scowling; "Are you here to sell me something? Because we're not interested."
Graham smiled, though it was a rather fixed smile; his family had found door-to-door salespeople just as frustrating.
"No, no, not at all!" He said. "For some reason I thought that this was Petunia's house - we've come down to visit, but I clearly put the wrong door-number down!"
The woman's expression lightened up. "Oh, you're looking for the Dursleys?" She said. "Well, you're close enough - they're at number 12, over the street." She indicated the house in question, and they thanked her for her time.
"Remus," Graham said, as they crossed the road, "I think it might be for the best if I visit the Dursleys on my own. They really didn't seem to be fond of magic, though it was just after they'd been injured by spellcasting back at Lily's wedding; I fixed them up, which I hope would put me in their good books."
Remus shrugged. "Well, if you think so; I've not actually met the Dursleys, but I've not heard particularly complimentary things being said about them. I'll wait on the bench over there, then; but if Harry is there, I want to see him, okay?"
They parted ways, and Graham went to knock on the door; a few moments later, a harried-looking woman answered it, cradling a child with her other hand.
"Yes?" She said, then, eyes widening with recognition - "it's you!"
"It's me." Graham agreed. "Would you mind if I came in? Only, I have some rather important questions about the Potters..."
Petunia had not changed very much since he'd seen her last, except that her face had acquired a network of worry lines in the interim. She led him through to the living room, where her son was messing around with wooden blocks on the floor; another child, though, was sleeping fitfully in a cradle, and - Graham's breath caught in his throat - there, on his forehead, was the scar that the papers had described with such excitement.
Petunia gestured him to sit in an armchair; resting her other child - a daughter, it seemed - in a second cradle, she perched on the sofa opposite him.
"He just - arrived, one night." She said, softly. "With nothing but a letter, and the blanket that man had left him in - he was freezing cold the next morning, when we found him there."
"You mean - Dumbledore just left him on your doorstep - he didn't explain anything?" Graham sputtered. Whatever he'd been expecting to find at the Dursleys', it wasn't this.
Petunia nodded, grimly. "Well - the letter explained things, a little. It said that my sister was dead - lovely to find out second-hand, of course - and that Harry needed to stay with us because of something to do with his mother, some kind of… protection." She wrinkled her nose at the last word; clearly, magic had regained none of its appeal since the wedding.
"That's, well, rather ridiculous." Graham managed. "I've been trying to find out what happened to Harry since the night Lily and James died - the papers have no idea, which is probably a good thing, given the way some of those treat mu- non magical people."
"Well, I certainly don't want wizards at my doorstep," Petunia sniffed, "but, well - I mean, Lily's my sister, and of course I wouldn't want her child to go to an orphanage, but three children is simply -"
Petunia paused, and Graham noticed just how tired the woman looked; with three young children to care for, she couldn't have been getting much sleep, if any.
"The thing is, we just don't earn enough for three children!" She continued, frustrated. "Vernon understands - of course he does - but things are already tight with Vernon earning to feed four mouths, and with Harry on top of that, the sums just don't add up. I mean, in a few years, once the children are at school, I could go back to work - but how we'll get to then, I just don't know - not to mention the fact that we simply don't have the space for three children in one house!"
Graham made a sympathetic noise. "I really do understand, Petunia - though I can't quite believe that Dumbledore would just abandon the child to your care. Look - I actually brought an acquaintance with me, who's waiting at the end of the road. Do you think I could fetch him, and bring him in? I have some potentially good news for you, you see."
By the time Graham had brought Remus in, Petunia had made tea for the three of them; she explained the story to Remus, who was no less surprised than Graham had been, and more than a little upset.
"I can't believe they'd just - leave him there!" He burst out. "What if something had found him in the night, or -" he trailed off, looking bewildered.
"We're both glad that he's alright, and in such good hands." Graham continued. "But I really do understand how stressful it must have been for you. The thing is - well. I didn't actually know Lily and James that well, in the end, and Remus - well, he's got a recurrent disease that incapacitates him often enough that he couldn't care for a small child alone."
"Not that I got asked, either way." Remus interjected, bitterly. "But - well. We don't know for sure, not yet, but Sirius Black - another of James' friends - was put in prison right as the war ended, and we suspect that it was for a crime he didn't commit. If he's set free, then there's a good chance he'd want to - and be able to - take Harry off your hands and raise him himself."
Petunia gasped. "I don't want to say I don't want the boy - I mean, I'm certainly not a fan of wizards, but it's not his fault he was born that way! But -"
"We understand, Petunia." Graham reassured her. "But I should warn you - we don't know if our suspicions are correct, yet - and if they are, there'll be rather a lot of red tape to go through before we can come and look after Harry."
It was then that Vernon arrived home, and a half-hour was spent with him, retreading the same territory as before, as Petunia left to feed the children. She had been worried about keeping Harry; he proved rather more blunt.
"It's not a question of whether we want to; we're not going to be able to." He said, looking rather embarrased. "We weren't expecting to have our Dahlia - she was a surprise, in fact - but looking after her and Dudley, well, we were already starting to cut corners. We're still paying the mortgage on this place; even if we downsized, we wouldn't have the room, and we would still need to make rent."
Graham nodded, understandingly. "I do understand, Vernon. And I think that Sirius - if he's let off - will be more than happy to take Harry in, though it'll take some time. There aren't any immediate alternatives - certainly I wouldn't qualify for adoption, and Remus, well, wouldn't be able to look after Harry."
Remus agreed, looking frustrated.
"Believe me," he said, "there's nothing I'd like more than to take in Harry as my own. But I don't have the capability, what with my illness; I'm afraid it'll be at least a few months before we can really offer any help. Unless -" he turned to Graham, consideringly. "You've been working on that place for a while, now. How are your household spells?"
Graham laughed in surprise.
"Now there's an idea!" He turned to Vernon. "How would you like it if we could cut down on your bills, and give you a little more space, in the meantime? I'm guessing you don't want much magic in your life, but we could probably do a few things to make your lives easier, while we're here."
Although he was clearly very wary, Vernon was certainly not one to turn down offers of free home improvement, when they came; Graham and Remus explained the same to Petunia, who was similarly on board, so they went about with their changes.
The first of these was the work of Remus, who offered to give the Dursleys a hand on the food front.
"If you have anything that won't go off in a hurry," he explained, "I can enchant it so that it never actually empties, at least not for quite a long time - a month or so, even, if you're not trying to empty it non-stop. Wizards can't create food, for some reason - but we can make more of it. I can come and put a new one of these on every month, if you like!"
Duly, he enchanted the salt, some flour, baby-powder and moisturiser, at Petunia's request, a few jams, and some sugar ("Well, I suppose I'll be baking a lot more!" Petunia said, tittering nervously) while Graham muttered words at the inlet pipe which connected to the sink; a few moments later, he let out a bark of triumph.
"Yes! Just like my place, though your plumbing's more complicated." He twisted back to face the still-nervous Dursleys, and explained. "I've basically done the same thing as Remus, but more permanently, because water is for some strange reason easier than food for magic to handle. Basically, whatever water comes into your house is multiplied about ten times over, so you'll use ten times less from the grid - it should cut your bills down to nearly nothing."
"Well, that's a few hundred quid a year right there." Vernon was doing his best to smile along at this, but the use of magic certainly wasn't making the man relax.
Their piece de resistance, however, required a bit of teamwork between Graham and Remus - the former of whom didn't have the ease of transformation, while the latter lacked the experience in charms, to carry off their masterstroke alone. Using the blank bit of wall behind the staircase, Remus moulded a cavity from the wall, just a foot or so in depth, before going to find a piece of wood in the garden; meanwhile, Graham scribbled runes into the cavity with a permanent marker a nervous Vernon had lent him, before retreating to the comfort of the lounge with his wife.
Finally, half an hour later - just after Remus had lugged his newly-transformed door into the corridor - Graham was ready, and, with a tap of his wand, the cavity quivered, and smoothly expanded downwards in a series of steps. Graham was very proud of this - getting expansion charms to do more than a simple box expansion was an enormous pain, and very few wizards went to the trouble of doing more than just 'bigger' with their spells. Remus eyed his spellwork approvingly, before getting him to step aside, and charming the door into the wall - and, with that, they were finished.
"Petunia, Vernon!" Graham called.
A few moments later, the pair emerged; Vernon, Graham couldn't help but notice, was moving far more easily after he'd shed some of the weight his thyroids had been piling on him.
"I'm rather proud of this, to be honest." Graham said, indicating the door behind him. "We've managed to build you a basement!"
Remus pulled open the door, and led them inside, and down the steps - lighting his wand on the way. The basement was by no means enormous - it was perhaps the size of the first floor, although Graham fancied that he could have made it larger if he'd wanted - but Vernon and Petunia couldn't help their gasps of surprise, nevertheless.
"This is -" Petunia couldn't finish her sentence, and simply stared for a moment. "You're saying Lily could have done this sort of thing?"
Graham snorted. "Lily invented the spell that I used for this - with her mind, I bet she could have put a ballroom in here with space to spare!"
Vernon, unsurprisingly, was more cautious. "So… this is all safe?" He said.
Remus nodded. "Well, it's foolproof for at least the next century, but in theory, the spell doesn't have a sell-by date." He said. "I won't bore you with the details, but in any case, if it starts to fail, it'll just start shrinking very slowly; you'd have months to move things out of here once you noticed."
"Now," Graham continued, "You'll notice that the carpet and the wallpaper are the same as they are up by the doorway - that's because I extended from those materials. If you want to replace them, you can do that; you'll also need to extend cabling down here manually, because magic and electricity do not react particularly well, as a rule. Does this all make sense?"
Petunia snorted. "Well, it doesn't make sense; I mean, it's magic. But it is - well, it'll make things easier, at least; if… he isn't found innocent, though, will you come and tell us? We've savings for the time being, and Harry isn't that expensive to look after, either - but we'll have to make plans of one sort or another, if things don't change."
All the home improvement in the world couldn't make the Dursleys comfortable with magic, and it was already quite late in the evening, so Graham and Remus made their excuses, and apparated back to the Leaky Cauldron to get some dinner. Harry's situation had left them both with decidedly mixed feelings.
"Well, he's safe." Graham said, swallowing a bite of sheperd's pie, "and he's out of the public eye. Neither of those things are bad, exactly."
"On the other hand, he's not exactly going to be happy, is he?" Remus countered. "The Dursleys are going to struggle, cheaper bills or no, and they just don't really want him. That's not a good upbringing for any child, is it?"
"Yeah, I know." Graham looked up at the floating candles which illuminated the Cauldron, and let out a surprised chuckle. "You know, a few years ago? I'd given up on this place; I told myself that magic didn't want me, so I could do without magic. I'm glad I was wrong; I really am. It's strange to think that You-Know-Who's actually dead."
"It's stranger," Remus replied, "to think that we met the person who did it today, and he can't change his own underwear. Think he deserves a toast?"
"That, and more." Graham said. "To Harry Potter!"
AN: Thanks again for reading! As you can see, a couple of earlier changes are manifesting now. I'm choosing to write the Dursleys rather sympathetically, but at root, they're still quite unsympathetic people who see in Graham and Remus a chance to get rid of a child they can't care for.
As always, reviews are a privilege and a pleasure to receive. Thank you for reading.