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death of a bachelor

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The summer of Newton Artemis Fido Scamander’s seventh year after being born into this world, he meets the love of his life.

It isn’t a nice, sunny day when daddy’s friends come to visit their home; rather, it’s rainy and humid and the Graves family arrives looking bogged down by the weather, according to his mum. His whole family greets them at the door and Newt peeks from behind his big brother, apprehensive of the strangers. Besides their skin and some articles of clothing, they’re dark all over and with no small wonder does Newt think how their bright and colourful daddy is friends with these people.

What’s even more amazing is that until daddy introduces them when they’re properly settled in the living room, Newt doesn’t realise that one of the Graves is actually their kid. Like Theseus and him are their parents’ kids.

He’s so old, is his first thought, then, and kind of scary. Percival Graves isn’t smiling, eyebrows thick and serious in a not-quite frown, dressed in a suit and tie. He refers to their parents respectfully as Mr. and Mrs. Scamander and shakes hands with both of them. He then offers his hand to Theseus who takes it firmly, ever the brave, confident one at only fifteen-years-old. Newt, tightly pressed to Theseus’s side on one of the sofas, assumes that’s it because he’s a baby and adults usually wave, pat his head, or ignore him altogether. But the man turns to him next, holds out his hand and meets Newt’s wide, surprised stare.

“Nice to meet you, Newton,” he says, a bit softer than his previous greetings to the others.

With those brown eyes focused solely on him, Newt sees that they’re warmer than he thought. He hesitates, feeling uncertain, and glares briefly at his brother who nudges forward. When he looks back at the younger Graves shyly, he’s wearing a small, crooked smile.

“It’s alright, Theseus, he's understandably wary,” and before Newt can muster the courage to reach out, the man steps back and it feels like he just missed out on an important opportunity.

Theseus and he separate from the group soon after to play by themselves while the adults talk and catch up and Newt regrets that moment, wishes he could have shaken the hand that acknowledged him. They're both kneeling in the dirt looking for insects to feed the baby bird they found last week when his brother asks what's wrong. Newt shakes his head but unconsciously glances at the window through which he can see his parents and the Graves.

“Does he scare you, Newt?” Theseus asks worriedly, pausing in his search. “Don't worry; I'll protect you.”

“It's not that, Theese,” Newt replies absently, watches as Mrs. Graves points at him for some reason.

And Mr. Graves the younger turns his head, catches Newt looking at him. His stomach rolls nervously when Mr. Graves stands and disappears from the living room, only to appear outside near where he and his brother are. Newt startles, yelps and falls back onto his bottom, and they both stare at each other in shock. Mr. Graves recovers first and walks over to Newt, presumably to stand over him and laugh as other kids usually do. He can feel his eyes well in shame before Theseus cuts in between them.

“Stay away from him,” he hears his brother warn.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to frighten him,” Mr. Graves apologises, and Newt looks up in surprise though all he can see is his brother’s back.

“Anyone would be if you apparated in front of them suddenly,” Theseus retorts as he turns to help Newt up.

“That is true,” says Mr. Graves, nodding solemnly.

Then he just stands there staring at them, and Newt tries not to squirm while Theseus dusts off the remaining dirt off him because he’s unused to such focus directed his way from someone not his family. He’s tugged behind Theseus who asks why Mr. Graves is out here.

Surprisingly, the man’s expression turns sheepish. “I would... like to make your acquaintance.”

Theseus snorts. “Not like that, you won’t.”

“Theese!” Newt gasps, horrified at the rude response.

But Mr. Graves isn’t angry; he actually smiles. “I suppose it’s obvious I’m not accustomed to children. Maybe you could teach me.”

He seems genuine, and it relaxes his brother a little though he grumbles about not being a kid. Mr. Graves asks what they were doing and Theseus looks to Newt, shoots him a mischievous grin before facing the other man again. It makes him nervous.

“We were just about to go see the hippogriffs.”

They spend a good half-hour teaching Mr. Graves the proper etiquette of interacting with the creatures, and he does well considering most adults are intimidated by them. That isn’t to say Mr. Graves isn’t either because he certainly looks it, but he steps forward bravely and follows Theseus’s exact instructions. It’s weird to see since adults generally don’t want to learn from someone younger than them, and they tend to avoid anything they can’t intimidate themselves.

The wonder and surprised delight on Mr. Graves face when Fido bows back makes him appear younger than he initially seemed.

Mr. Graves proceeds to introduce himself to the rest of the herd and by the end, even Theseus seems grudgingly impressed. It’s then that Newt realises his brother wanted to scare the man, perhaps to avenge him, and he’s annoyed and grateful at the same time.

Newt’s sitting on the grass watching, leaning against Birdy, the youngest of the herd who is lying with him, when Mr. Graves walks over. He tenses, eyes shifting unconsciously to look for his brother, but Theseus must have gone to get treats for the hippogriffs. Birdy rises and Newt scrambles up, too.

The man stops, bows, and waits for permission before approaching, then he crouches in front of Newt. “Who’s this one?”

Newt bites his lip, fingers tightening on Birdy’s neck feathers. This is the second time he’s being addressed directly and it’s no less scary than the first, but for once, he wants to be brave, too.

“Her name’s Birdy,” Newt says quickly, then shuts his mouth with a snap.

He can’t quite meet the man’s eyes so he only hears the quiet sigh, but it makes Newt hunch in further despite his earlier determination. He can't help it, especially now that he's left alone with someone who could possibly hurt him.

“Do I make you uncomfortable, Newton?”

Newt wants to shake his head in denial, instead his whole body shakes. “I—I’m sorry.”

Mr. Graves lets out a noise like he’s upset and Newt closes his eyes, wishing his brother would come back soon. Birdy shifts, probably sensing his unease, and he feels bad for agitating her as well.

“I want to show you something,” says Mr. Graves after a moment.

There’s no anger, no irritation in his tone like Newt had expected, only gentleness, and it’s that more than the request that causes him to look again. Mr. Graves has pulled out his wand, a long and sleek-looking thing unlike Theseus’s slightly crooked one. A wave and a murmur, then a light appears at the tip of it, and the man starts waving it in random patterns to leave streaks of light in the air. Slowly, the light-lines form an image and Newt stares in awe as the picture of a miniature hippogriff floats between them. With another flick, it comes to life and flaps its wings wide in a majestic stance, so much like the real thing. When Newt reaches out to touch it, it explodes colorfully like a firework and he giggles.

“There you go, finally.”

He almost forgot about Mr. Graves, so mesmerised he was by the light display. The man is smiling and Newt returns it shyly.

“I like your drawing,” Newt mumbles.

Mr. Graves blinks like he didn’t expect that, and then he’s looking shy, too. “Thank you. Do you like to draw?”

Newt nods. “But not as good as you.”

“No need for that,” Mr. Graves shakes his head. “It’s all about practice. I wasn’t interested in drawing until much later than you, so I’m sure if you keep at it you can become much better.”

Again, Newt is surprised by the man’s kind words. Mr. Graves is nothing like how he imagined from first glance. Although there’s a small part of him that worries it’s all pretend, a bigger part doesn’t think so. Before he can reply, Theseus comes back and pulls Newt away, eyes flicking to the wand in Mr. Graves’ hand suspiciously. He curtly tells the man to come in for dinner and marches on ahead while dragging Newt with him by the hand.

“Sorry, Newt,” Theseus says, “I shouldn’t have left you alone with him.”

“He didn’t do anything, Theese,” Newt defends, a little upset at the interruption. “You should have seen the magic he showed me. It was—”

“What did mum and dad tell you about strangers?” Theseus cuts in and Newt huffs because it’s pointless to argue when his brother babies him like this.

During dinner, the adults are too busy talking to one another and even Theseus gets to join in the conversation occasionally. It turns out that Mr. Graves is a Junior Auror back in America, has been for two years already after his training straight out of school, following in his father’s footsteps. It intrigues his brother when he hears that the man was at the top of his class since Theseus wants to be an auror like their daddy as well, and they suggest that maybe Mr. Graves can teach him some things while they’re here.

And just like that, Newt is forgotten. Mummy doesn’t even notice that he’s not eating his veggies, doesn’t scold him not to play with the food. He wants to go back outside and play with Birdy, maybe read her a book. It’s boring listening to grown-up talks about law-enforcement and training and hexes when he can’t even use magic yet.

He doesn’t realise when he falls asleep.

 

 

The Graves don’t come the next day due to sightseeing, but they do the day after. Newt’s just finishing breakfast as mummy brushes his hair in an unsuccessful attempt to tame it. Theseus enters the dining room with their guests in tow and Newt reflexively shrinks back into his chair at the sudden crowd. Mr. Graves—dressed in similar dark clothes as before—spots him and smiles.

“Hello, Newton,” he says, and it occurs to Newt that the last time wasn’t a fluke; he’s being acknowledged.

His mother knocks him literally out of his stupor with knuckles to his head and he stutters out a rushed  “Hello, Mr. Graves.”

The other adults smile and greet him as well, and Mrs. Graves teasingly asks if he got enough sleep last night. Newt blushes and stiffens in embarrassment as he recalls waking up yesterday in his bed with no recollection of how he got there. She pats his hair and calls him cute, and he can't help the grimace at hearing that which makes her chuckle.

“Mother,” Mr. Graves sighs.

“Hush, dear,” says Mrs. Graves, tucking a curl behind Newt’s ear. “If I can’t dote on my own child, then I will very well do so with another.”

“I’m far past the age of being doted upon.”

“Twenty-two is hardly old, Percival. You are still my baby.”

And then she walks off to help mummy who is brewing some tea, leaving a steadily reddening Mr. Graves. He clears his throat when Theseus laughs and Newt finds it funny as well. Mummy scolds them for being rude.

That afternoon, daddy wants to duel against the older Mr. Graves for fun, but the other man suggests he test his son’s skills instead. The three of them apparate outside and he and Theseus sneak after them. Theseus has always been interested in dueling which he can't practice outside of school and Newt is eager to see magic other than the usual spells for household chores.

They find their daddy and Mr. Graves facing each other from a distance, wands at the ready, and Mr. Graves' father standing between them. Mr. Graves has rolled up his sleeves and removed his tie, mouth frowning and brows scrunched together. He makes being twenty-two seem old.

Once the other man signals for them to start and steps out of the way, nothing happens. Daddy just stands there, wand limply at his side while Mr. Graves shifts slightly and nothing more, though he grips his wand tighter. Yet they’re looking at each other as if the duel has already started and something about the atmosphere makes Newt nervous. He twists a hand into Theseus's shirt unconsciously.

“It’s alright, Newt,” Theseus murmurs, ruffling his hair.

No sooner he says that, the first spell is casted. A streak of yellow light flies from Mr. Graves’ wand towards daddy with an exclamation and Newt gasps when it crashes into something invisible. Daddy grins and shoots something back immediately and his spell does the same thing, disappearing in sparks as it hits a wall. Mr. Graves sends a few in quick succession and some are blocked, others dodged, and from there it goes hard and fast. Both men are flicking and swinging their wands tirelessly and it doesn’t even seem like they’re breathing in between movements.

The energy and sounds are almost too strong for Newt to handle, even standing far away from the fight, but he can’t turn away. He leans into his brother who’s vibrating in excitement judging by his face, and does his best to keep watching. He knows his daddy is strong, has always been told how he catches the bad guys and protects their family and it’s thrilling to get a glimpse of how he does so. But Mr. Graves, too, is pretty awesome, to duel against someone who’s more experienced than him. His movements are quick and graceful, smoothly connecting from one action to the next. The man grins like he’s having fun.

The fight heats up even further, lights flashing and spells cracking, and one is knocked off course. It heads straight towards Newt and his brother.

Newt watches, frozen in horror, feels Theseus wrap his arms around him. Suddenly, a large shape appears in front of them and blocks his view, followed by a loud crash that startles a scream out of Newt. He shakes and can’t help the tears that start to fall as he waits for an impact, pain, something—

—but it never happens. It goes quiet except for his own cries and a soft 'wow' breathed by Theseus.

Still trembling, Newt peeks under Theseus’s arm and sees that the shape in front of them is Mr. Graves. The man looks pale, eyes wide with guilty, shoulders slumped and head slightly bowed. It doesn’t immediately occur to him that the man just protected them, as overwhelmed as he is by what happened.

“Boys!”

Someone drags Theseus away from him and Newt whimpers, trying to hold on, but then he’s lifted into a tight embrace. He recognizes after a moment that it’s daddy and squeezes back as tightly as he can, buries his face into daddy’s shoulder.

“That was a close one,” he hears daddy mutter before kissing his head. “Your mother is going to kill me. Thank you, Percival.”

Curious, Newt lifts his head and turns to see.

“Not at all, sir,” Mr. Graves says quietly, sounding as guilty as he looks. “It was my fault, after all. I apologise for nearly harming them.”

Daddy makes a disapproving noise. “Nonsense, I was at fault, too. Got a little too excited.” Then he chuckles. “Those were some impressive reflexes.”

Mr. Graves nods slowly, still tense. “Thank you.” His gaze shifts to Theseus who’s under daddy’s other arm, then to Newt. “I’m sorry, Theseus, Newton. I hope you can forgive me.”

Newt doesn’t understand what’s going on, but Theseus replies, “Well, you did save us. If you teach me some moves, I might consider it.”

Mr. Graves snorts lightly and relaxes some. “You’d have to graduate first.”

“Hey—”

“Alright, we can continue this inside,” daddy interrupts. “Lunch should be ready soon.”

He wipes the stray tears from Newt's eyes and tugs Theseus along to walk ahead. Over daddy’s shoulder, Newt can see the older Mr. Graves walk up to his son and say something which makes Mr. Graves look up in surprise then nod. They follow slower, talking to each other with gestures thrown in. Mr. Graves' father does some kind of movement with his arm and the other man copies it. They do that two more times before they notice him and Mr. Graves smiles a little crookedly and waves at him. Newt hesitates before waving back then ducks his head. His heart beats faster for some reason and he doesn’t think it’s because he’s still scared.

Later on when Theseus describes the incident from his perspective as they lie in bed in their shared room, how Mr. Graves appeared out of the air with a crack, wand already swinging to blast the hex away, Newt listens with rapt attention.

“He’s not bad, I guess,” Theseus shrugs casually as if he wasn’t enthusiastically recalling everything a few seconds ago.

But Newt wants to know more, see more, and he finds himself sneakily following the man around the next day when all their parents are out for a day trip and Mr. Graves has to babysit him and his brother.

Theseus is in the bedroom trying to get some homework done which leaves Newt to play by himself. He's a bit lonely and wants to ask Mr. Graves if he wants to play with him but he’s still shy after knowing the man for only two days. He watches him give himself a tour around the house, check in on Theseus every once in a while, and pretend to look for Newt even though the occasional glance to where Newt is hiding reveals that he actually knows.

Every time Mr. Graves finds him watching, Newt runs away before he can call him. And that’s how most of the morning passes, with Newt not really getting what he wants.

Right before lunch, Mr. Graves settles down in the living room with a book and starts reading. Now that he has stopped moving, Newt has an easier time observing his target from his position behind the unoccupied couch.

With his face and posture relaxed, Mr. Graves doesn’t seem so old despite the stern-looking eyebrows and dark, dark eyes. His lips twitch up as he reads in a half-smile like he’s reading something funny and when his hair that’s too long in the front falls into his eyes, he brushes it back without missing a beat. For some reason, even such an ordinary action he has seen many times already from mummy and his brother looks stylish to Newt when Mr. Graves does it.

Not lifting his eyes from the book, Mr. Graves says, “Why don’t you get your own book and join me, Newton?”

A surprised squeak leaves him and Newt flushes, having been lost in his thoughts that he hadn’t expected to be addressed. Of course Mr. Graves knows he’s here like all the other times he knew. He wants to run away but he also wants to listen, and he stays frozen with indecision for a minute. The man says nothing else and when Newt peeks around the couch, Mr. Graves waves him over without pause in his reading. Encouraged, Newt dashes upstairs to grab a book and almost trips on his way back down, hops eagerly onto the seat next to the man. Mr. Graves smiles at him and asks what he’s reading, and he wordlessly shows him the book’s cover.

“I think I remember that one,” Mr. Graves says. “The boy is raised by animals, right?”

Newt nods, pleased that Mr. Graves knows about it. He opens the book that Theseus has been helping him read onto his lap but soon finds himself stuck on a part.

“I don’t know what—” he starts automatically, then bites his lip in realisation that Theseus isn’t here.

“What is the matter?” Mr. Graves looks over and Newt shakes his head, but the man leans closer, sees Newt’s finger pointing at a word. “'Marrow',” he reads, then proceeds to explain what that means in a gentle, patient tone and asks Newt if he understands.

And any reservation Newt had disappears, and he reads in comfortable silence until the next question, then the next. Mr. Graves answers and explains kindly each time and before he know it, he’s leaning into the man’s side as they read the book together.

That’s how Theseus finds them when he comes downstairs to take a break from his homework and to have lunch. He only raises a brow, then announces that he’s hungry.

They eat reheated stew that mummy made the night before and Theseus asks if Mr. Graves can help him with homework. The man sighs and complains that they’re taking advantage of him but his expression is one of amusement.

It’s how they all end up in the living room with Theseus asking too many questions and Mr. Graves replying half the time with answers the other half with telling him to think for himself. He also draws another picture for Newt that’s just as good as the hippogriff from the other day, this time on paper, and Newt wants to learn.

“You should be an artist, Mr. Graves,” Newt says sincerely, eyes transfixed on the way the pencil moves, clean black lines on white.

Mr. Graves blinks, smiles, but it looks a bit sad. “That’s very kind of you.”

The finished product is a panther and Mr. Graves tells him that he likes Bagheera from the book they read. Newt likes Bagheera, too, and he says as much.

“My house creature at school was a wampus, which is kind of like a panther,” Mr. Graves also says.

Newt likes this, hearing about the man. He has a nice voice even though he talks funny which is apparently how Americans usually talk. In return, Newt shares about himself, how he’s shy around people and that he really likes animals and how much he loves Theseus.

“I figured as much,” Mr. Graves laughs. “I’m envious; I’m an only child.”

“You can come over whenever you want and play with us, Mr. Graves,” Newt offers in a sudden burst of boldness, then a little uncertainly, “Right, Theese?”

His brother looks up, looks between them, and shrugs. “We’re too young to be his friends, Newt.”

Oh.

Newt swallows and tries not to pout like a baby, the words hitting him harder than expected. Mr. Graves has been really nice to them so far, didn’t get angry or annoyed even once, so Newt didn't think they were bothering him.

“That’s not true,” says Mr. Graves, patting Newt's head. “I don’t think age matters when it comes to friendship. But I guess you just didn't want to be my friend, Theseus.”

Theseus gapes and turns red. “That's—no, I mean—”

Mr. Graves laughs at his flustered brother and Newt does, too, relief and happiness soothing the tightness in his chest.

This must be what it feels like to make a friend.

 

 

During the next week, Newt tries to do everything he can with Percival, his new friend.

He invites him on a trip to Diagon Alley when mummy takes Theseus shopping for new school supplies, and he walks along the streets with Theseus in one hand, Percival in the other. They go to the bookstore, the pet store—at Newt’s insistence because it’s his favourite—and the sweets shop where they get ice cream.

Newt gets to watch Percival fight again and thinks it’s even more awesome than the last time. Percival helps groom the hippogriffs, reads more books with him, and gives Newt tips on how to practice drawing. He’s always so kind and gentle and gives Newt lots of on the head which Newt usually doesn’t like, but it’s okay when Percival did it. Their parents laugh and tease that Newt is enamoured with Percival but he doesn’t know what that means, only that he hopes the man can stay with them forever.

So, he comes up with a solution.

“When I grow up, I want to marry Percival,” Newt announces as he enters the kitchen one day.

Mummy, who is baking Newt's favourite cookies at the moment, chuckles. “Oh dear.”

Because marrying someone means living and doing things together everyday, like his parents, so it’s a brilliant idea.

“He’s so strong, mummy,” Newt gushes, “and dapper and smart and nice. He can do so many things and likes being my friend.”

“What do you think, Percival?” mummy says at the same time as a hand ruffles Newt’s hair.

“I think Theseus is going to kill me,” Percival sighs.

Mummy laughs again and Newt turns around to face the man.

“What do you mean?” Newt asks, confused.

“It’s nothing.”

Newt slips his hand into Percival's and tugs to get his attention. “We can get married, right?”

Percival smiles like Newt said something particularly funny. “That isn’t exactly how marriage works, Newt.”

“What do you mean?” Newt repeats, frowning.

“You only do that with someone you really love,” Percival explains. “You’ll know when you get older.”

There it is, the excuse that adults use when they think Newt won’t understand something, and he doesn’t like it, especially from Percival. All he hears is that the man isn’t agreeing with him but before he can express his displeasure, mummy calls him over to help with the cookies and the problem he had is soon forgotten.

Until the day Percival leaves.

Newt feels overwhelmingly sad and his tears won’t stop as he clings to Percival who’s standing by the door with his parents, getting ready to go.

“Newt, honey—”

He shakes his head hard, won’t listen because if he lets go, Percival will go away.

“I’m sorry, Percival,” he hears mummy sigh. “He has never been this attached to anyone before.”

“We’ll head out first, dear,” Mrs. Graves says. “Take your time.”

Barely aware of their parents exchanging hugs and goodbyes, Newt curls his fists tighter into the fabric of Percival’s trousers, sniffling. For once, the hand patting his head doesn’t make him feel better, only reminds him that this will be the last time it happens. Then someone pries his hands off and Newt cries out but he’s immediately wrapped in strong arms that have become so familiar in the past two weeks.

“I’ll come back, Newt,” Percival says, “or you can visit me next time. That’s something to look forward to, hm?”

Newt shakes his head again.

Percival chuckles. “No? You don’t look forward to it?”

“No,” Newt says at last, arms tense where they’re surrounding Percival’s neck. “That means you have to leave first.”

“I’ll write you as often as I can,” the man promises. “Besides, once you go back to school, you’ll have so much fun you’ll forget about me.”

That doesn’t sound good, and Newt’s eyes fill up anew with tears, his heart hurting. He draws back slightly to look into warm, dark brown eyes that he will miss terribly, that smile at him. Percival swipes a thumb under Newt’s own eyes to clean the wetness.

“Will you marry me?” Newt asks wetly, ignores the weird noise Theseus makes behind him. “When you come back?”

Percival sighs and then smiles like always and removes Newt’s arms from his neck, holds Newt’s hands in his large ones that are rough yet soft.

“I’ll think about it,” Percival answers.

The next thing Newt knows, he’s sitting at the entrance and staring at the door that closed behind Percival a few minutes ago, hoping it will open again. But it doesn’t.

And Percival doesn’t come back for a long time.