They were all operating under the assumption that Percival Graves was alive. They couldn’t take the chance of acting as though he wasn’t, because he could be, could be waiting for a rescue that would never come if they gave up on him. So everyone agreed aloud that he probably - possibly - maybe was out there, still breathing, and every Auror was on the case, and every meeting had something regarding Graves’s potential whereabouts in the minutes somewhere.
Everyone assumed it. Almost no one believed it.
Melantha Park was not a squib, but it was a near thing. She was the embarrassment of her family, outshone by her five elder siblings, every one of whom was unusually talented in some discipline or other of magic. Her parents sometimes forgot to mention that they had six children.
But she didn’t waste time feeling sorry for herself. She got through school, moved out of her parents’ house, and even got a job at MACUSA itself. She didn’t need spells to brew great coffee or serve pastries and sandwiches with a smile, and she took great pride in doing her work well.
Still, it was shocking how rude some people could be. Here she was, working hard to make everyone else’s day go a little smoother, and half the folks she served wouldn’t even look right at her, much less smile back, or say a single friendly word.
Not Mr. Graves, though. He was reserved enough, it was true, and had a forbidding air even before he became Director of his department. But even though he was a busy and important man, he said good morning to Melantha every single day without fail, asked her how she was, and more than once told her she brewed the best joe in the city.
She missed him when he stopped coming to the canteen in the mornings. Not in a romantic, pining sort of way - she had a fella she saw on the weekends who complimented a hell of a lot more than her coffee - but because he’d always been a bright spot in her morning routine. When it was revealed that he had been abducted and impersonated, she was not entirely surprised.
And when it seemed like the people who ought to be out finding him were losing interest already, Melantha was determined to do something about it.
“Wait, Miss-- Park, is it?” President Picquery said, as Melantha was leaving her office after dropping off a lunch tray. “What’s that you have pinned on your blouse?”
Melantha knew she was blushing, but she stood tall and said, “It’s my ‘Graves Lives’ button, Ma’am. I don’t want people to forget that he’s still alive.”
President Picquery narrowed her eyes thoughtfully. “You’re goddamn right he is,” she said. “Where can I get one?”
The buttons were, objectively, hideous. Park had her heart in the right place, but it was clear to Seraphina that the woman had no sense of style. The one she wore was an awful salmon color, with green script. Fortunately, she’d made up a bunch of the little pin-backs in different colors, and Seraphina was able to choose the least evil among them.
Graves had not been - no, was not - a friend, but he was a valued colleague. Seraphina respected his work, and appreciated his commitment to it. She trusted him with her life, literally, all the time. And she had betrayed whatever trust he had in her by not even noticing that he’d been replaced.
The very least she could do was wear a tacky red and gold button on her lapel every day until he was found.
And he would be found.
Abernathy charmed his “Graves Lives” button so that the text flickered between white and black over the blue background. It gave him a headache if he looked at it for too long, but he counted it as a small sacrifice for the increased visibility. Supervisors had to look out for one another.
“I know I don’t remember everything that happened so great,” Jacob said. “If I’m honest, it all seems like a dream, still--” And you’re the best part. The best dream ever.
“Aw, honey. You’re so sweet,” Queenie said. She bit her lip against the urge to give Jacob a kiss, knowing that if she did, he’d never get a chance to finish what he’d been saying. And she was trying hard to let him actually finish his thoughts out loud more often. “Sorry. It seems like a dream, and…?”
He smiled goofily at her. “Uh. Sure. I know I don’t remember everything exactly right--” Did I really get chased by a magic rhino? Must have. I couldn’t make that up. “--but wasn’t Graves the fella we were against?”
Queenie looked down at the orchid purple “Graves Lives” button she was wearing on the lapel of her coat. “No,” she said. “That was a dark wizard pretending to be Mr. Graves. Grindelwald. He’s bad news.”
She shuddered, and heard Jacob thinking, protect you from anything, keep you safe, and cuddled into him when he put his arm around her. “The real Mr. Graves is missing. Tina and the other Aurors are looking for him, and I just wanted… Some of the other girls are wearing these, and since I can’t really help...”
“Can’t really help? You? Of course you can. You can do anything, baby.”
Queenie had to kiss him, after that, because what he was thinking was exactly the same as what he said.
“Boss!” Earluk said, almost dropping the glass he was wiping out. “What the-- Have you gone off the deep end?”
“Dry up, won’t you?” Gnarlack adjusted the angle of the “Graves Lives” button on his suit, tilting it rakishly. “I’m just showing some respect for a worthy opponent.”
The niffler is well again, thank you for asking. They do get colds from time to time, but generally it is not serious. I believe it may have something to do with their hoarding tendencies. They love coins, as you know, and currency passes through so many hands it becomes exceptionally dirty, which of course can lead to an accumulation of undesirable microorganisms. Not a problem for you and I, but we don’t lick and nuzzle our Galleons before storing them inside our bodies.
The book is progressing. I met with the publisher the day before yesterday to discuss, of all things, the cover. I feel it is a little soon, since the text itself is not yet complete, but it seems that publishing does not follow the same logic as the rest of the world. In any case, if it ever makes it to print, the cover will be green.
Does your sister really not know that you know she is seeing Jacob on the sly? You’ll forgive me for saying that it seems unlikely. I know you have grown up together, and that if anyone could hide their thoughts from her successfully it would be you, but surely she is particularly motivated to learn the truth in this instance? She must be worried that you will find out and feel compelled, because of your position, to report her association with a
Muggle No-Maj. Particularly because your reinstatement wasn’t without detra
Tina, I’ve just thought. Maybe she does know that you know, but is pretending she doesn’t so that you can pretend that you don’t, and won’t have to report her. It’s a terrible position she is putting you in, but I suppose she is in one herself, isn’t she?
I’m sorry to end on such a note, but I have an appointment with a Swedish Short-Snout that I really can’t miss. I’ll tell you all about it in a day or two.
P.S. Thank you for the button. I don’t know the man personally, of course, but I would support the rescue of any stranger who was a victim of Grindelwald’s, even if he wasn’t someone whom you so particularly admire. In fact, could you send another with your next letter? My brother knows Graves somehow, apparently. They have corresponded for some time. I’m sure he would like to wear a button in solidarity, too.
“Floor 32, please,” Sam said. “That’s a swell hat you’ve got there, Red.”
“Thanks.” Red tapped the button he’d attached to the band, smiling a little. “Not part of the uniform, but who’s gonna complain? Going up!”
Sam’s own “Graves Lives” button was on his lapel. “If someone does, you send ‘em to me.”
Red rolled his eyes a little. As though he’d ever need help from some junior Obliviator bozo. But the kid meant well.
NEW TREND SUPPORTS MISSING DIRECTOR
by M. Carneirus
“Graves Lives,” or so proclaim the campaign-style buttons worn by hundreds of wizards and witches here in New York City--and beyond. The trend started with one Melantha Park, an employee of MACUSA, who says of her creations, “I just didn’t want anyone to give up on finding [Director Percival Graves] alive. I think he’s out there, and he needs our help.”
The brightly colored buttons are ubiquitous now at MACUSA headquarters, and have begun to spread through the wizarding population of New York City at large, and even the world.
“I sent one to my cousin in Billings,” said Augustus Fitch, a broom salesman. “He was in Director Graves’s class at Ilvermorny and still talks about the pranks they used to pull on each other. I knew he’d want one.” And the buttons have gone overseas, as well. It has been rumored that British war hero Theseus Scamander wears a “Graves Lives” button on his lapel.
A top-level staffer confirmed that even President Picquery is sporting a button. “President Picquery encourages all efforts to find Director Graves,” this reporter was told. “And this awareness campaign might help bring in new leads.”
Where can you get your own “Graves Lives” button? Park is still making them and handing them out, free of charge. “I am running short of supplies, though,” Park said. “If anyone wants to pitch in.”
Beryl got back to the typing pool a bit late after her lunch, and took a moment to check her makeup with the compact mirror she kept in her purse. She fixed her hair a little, smoothing an errant curl, then adjusted the “Graves Lives” button on her blouse, making sure it was straight. The real Mr. Graves would hardly approve of a crooked button, she was sure. He was always so elegant and tidy, with his tailored suits. The impostor had copied those, but it was a surprise that no one had noticed he wasn’t Mr. Graves, really, considering the little details. Beryl wrinkled her nose in memory.
Queenie, from Wand Permits, was walking by with a stack of paperwork and suddenly tripped, almost dropping it.
“What was that?” she said.
“What?” Beryl asked.
“What did you just say?”
Beryl frowned at Queenie. “I didn’t. I wasn’t talking.”
Queenie bit her lip. “Um, I think you were. Talking to yourself a little, maybe? It’s just that you said something about Graves…”
Beryl’s frown turned to puzzlement. Had she really been talking to herself? That wasn’t a usual habit of hers.
“I was just thinking that the real one always smelled so nice. You know? Some kind of cologne or something. And Grindelwald looked like him, and acted like him, and probably used his cologne, too, but sometimes he smelled like…” She wrinkled her nose again. “Like a sewer. Just a little. But I’ve always been sensitive about smells.”
Queenie set her stack of papers down on the corner of Beryl’s desk, too close to the edge, and didn’t even look as they tumbled off and fell to the floor. “You have to come with me,” she said forcefully. “Right now.”
“What? Why?” But Queenie seemed so intent on it that Beryl was already standing.
Queenie grabbed Beryl’s wrist, and started towing her to the elevator. “I think you just broke the case!”
Tina had buttons in different colors for each day of the week. She was wearing a yellow one when they finally found him.
The typist’s sense of smell had provided the clue they’d been missing. They had searched every building that Graves had any connection with, and every building that Grindelwald’s supporters had even breathed near, it seemed, and they actually had checked underground near Graves’s residence, and a few other key areas around the city. But not in the sewers surrounding the Woolworth Building.
But once they had a reason to direct the hunt downward, Tina’s search team was able to detect a space that had been magically carved out just past the anti-Apparation wards. The next trick was figuring out how to get in.
“I wonder if no-maj explosives would do it?” Roberts wondered aloud, after they’d tried the fifteenth thing that didn’t work.
“Do you know how to use those?” Smythe asked, a little more sincerely than Tina was comfortable with.
Roberts shrugged. “How hard can it be? Don’t you just set them on fire?”
“I guess one of us better ankle back to HQ and get some backup,” Smythe said. “Someone will be able to crack it, eventually.”
“Oh, fuck it,” Tina said, and Apparated blind.
It was the kind of thing she had been taught to never, ever do at school. And the message had been driven home when she was in training as an Auror, when a fellow trainee tried it and lost an arm inside a wall. It was a stupid, stupid thing to do. But Tina couldn’t even chastise herself properly once she saw Graves, chained to a wall and barely conscious. She couldn’t have let him stay in that, that pit for one second longer.
“Graves!” she said. She knelt by his side and put one hand on his neck, reassuring herself that he was actually still alive. He breathed, had a pulse, even flickered his eyelids, but he didn’t respond to her voice or her touch. “I’m here. You’re safe, now. Hang on.”
Grindelwald had used actual chains, spaced far enough apart that Graves could barely move his arms. It had probably prevented him from using wandless magic at first, Tina thought, as she examined them. Malnutrition and general ill treatment would have made that even more impossible, with time. The dried blood staining Graves’s sleeves and the raw, torn skin circling his wrists showed that he had struggled to free his hands repeatedly, even so.
There was probably a spell that would be perfect for gently removing the cuffs from Graves’s wrists, but Tina couldn’t think of it, and his pulse was so faint already… She blasted the ends that were sunk into the walls, instead, destroying them with brute force. Graves’s arms dropped, the chains hitting the ground with a jangling clatter.
“It’s okay, Percival,” Tina said, as she put her arms around him, half-lifting him - she shouldn’t have been able to do it, but he was so thin - and got them both out of there.
“Goldstein!” Smythe yelled, when she popped back into the sewer proper. “You damn fool!”
“Help me with him,” Tina said, ignoring Smythe completely.
Rogers was a big man, and he took Graves from her, hefting him easily. “Morgana’s tits,” he muttered. “What did that bastard do to him?” In the light of Smythe’s Lumos, they could see bruising all over Graves’s face, and marks that looked like the result of some viciously nasty hexing.
“We’ve got him now,” Tina said, wiping sudden, messy tears from her face. “He’s going to be okay.”
He knew that he’d been rescued. He had a blurry impression of light, fresh air, gentle hands. Goldstein crying unattractively. Potions tipped down his throat, clean sheets and a soft bed, competent-sounding people discussing his condition in largely favorable terms. But Graves wasn’t really aware until he’d been in the hospital for about a week.
He opened his eyes and blinked at the ceiling. It was a clean white, illuminated by actual sunshine from a real window. Nothing stank. His arms and shoulders didn’t ache. Graves smiled, and turned his head to take in more of the room.
There was a bouquet of pale roses on a bedside table, with a ribbon tied in a cheerful bow around the vase. Pinned to the center of the bow was a button with the words “Graves Lives” on it.
Percival Graves frowned in consternation, and spoke the first words he had said aloud in weeks.
“What the hell?”