In the wizarding world of Harry Potter, we are always told to value muggles but they do not seem to occupy a prominent role in proving themselves valuable. The following sketch is the beginning of a two-part investigation into whether or not muggles can actually stand in a room full of wizards.
Inside stepped two common folk.
They were certainly common.
The wife was a little, light thing, black-haired and fair. She was evidently a stranger to that home. She shrank close against her husband and held so tightly to his arm that her knuckles were white. He held her close in turn, as he could. She was more behind than beside him. It wasn’t fear for herself that provoked her; they could all see she was heavily pregnant.
Her husband was a medium man, slender. His eyes were large and deep-set in a face worn with care.
‘Wallace?’ he said, glancing around. ‘I—’
‘Edgar—Eddie Thrush? Is it you?’
Uncle Graves was astonishment itself. At his voice, the woman looked up with a bright, eager look.
‘Yes. Yes, it is me,’ said the man.
Jenny’s uncle started forward at once. His enthusiasm surprised them all. It surprised Mr. Thrush too, or else he knew what was coming, for Jenny saw the man flinch back moments before he was caught in the firm, crushing embrace of Uncle W. P. Graves.
‘Why didn’t you call?’ said Uncle Graves.
‘I—I didn’t think—’
‘Indeed you didn’t,’ said Uncle Graves, roughly. He drew back to get a better look at his friend.
Mr. Thrush was motionless under Uncle Graves’ scrutiny. That was at first. But when the latter’s gaze lingered too long on the obvious signs of fatigue and suffering, the former couldn’t suppress a nervous thrill and, as if he were ashamed, began to resist the now gentle support of the one who held him.
‘I—I have come—’
His hesitance caught. The woman paled behind him and reached again for his arm. Her familiar touch only aggravated some inner hurt, or broke the final dam of his pride. Mr. Thrush went down on his knees.
‘Please, Wallace,’ he said. ‘I have no work—no money. Please, my wife—I know that magic is not perfect or satisfying always, and I can do any odd jobs, and write, too, I can write your letters if you like, while you dictate—you know how hard of hearing magic is—are you still working on your Encyclopedia? I can edit, I will edit, you know that I write—’
Uncle Graves had listened in silence. His merry features were frozen and hard. Jenny felt the familiar blood rise in her in defense of magic; but Mr. Thrush’s plea was so genuine, his shame so complete when his wife bent to kneel with him—‘No-no, Eleanor, you stand’—that she almost forgot to be angry. They were common folk. They were, at the same time, uncommonly desperate.
‘Ellie, sweetheart, don’t—’
She knelt at his side. His features wrenched and he bowed his head, but not before he reached for her arm, and held her.
‘This is not a charity home,’ said Charles Graves, Jenny’s father. ‘There is one down the street, for non-magic persons.’
‘Sir, I would rather—’
‘Go begging, than endure? Ugh. I suppose begging has gotten you so far. It will get you nowhere here.’ He raised his hands in a florid gesture. ‘Get up, or I will suspend you both myself, and—’
‘Don’t be a fool, Charles.’
Uncle Graves’ voice surprised them all. It was breathless and quiet, which was very unlike him.
‘Don’t be a fool,’ he said again, even softer. He crossed to Mr. Thrush and his wife. ‘Get up, Eddie. Ellie. Up, both of you, before you break my heart.’
Mr. Thrush raised his head.
‘Wallie?’ he said.
It was a test. It was hope. Uncle Graves bent down and gathered up Mrs. Thrush, and when he set her on her feet he raised Mr. Thrush, too.
‘Never,’ he said, breathless and deadly firm, ‘never—never—beg at my door again. You will have whatever you ask. A bed, food, drink—whatever you ask, whatever is mine, is yours. Do you hear me, Edgar? For your wife’s sake, listen to me. For your own sake, let me help you without asking anything, anything at all, in return. You are starved. You are sick. When you are able to give, I’ll be glad of your eye and pen. We will talk about that in time. For now, come in and take off your coat. We were only just finishing supper, and the both of you will make the meal complete.’
He looked the two over again. He winked at Mrs. Thrush.
‘Come, come, my dear,’ he said. ‘I see Eddie hasn’t just been writing to keep you satisfied.’
‘Do shut up, Wallie,’ said Mrs. Thrush, turning slightly pink. Her shyness vanished before Uncle Graves’ teasing.
‘When? Since—oh, what am I at? Here, I’ll take that shawl.’