Newt truly didn’t know how he managed to get himself into these situations.
Well, that’s not quite true. He knew, technically, how he’d come to be sat in a chair in a grimy warehouse, wrists bound, longing for the comfort of his creatures and a decent cup of tea.
He had been in America not a day and a half when he caught wind of an unfortunately successful smuggling operation involving occamys. He did what he usually found worked best in such situations—he played the role of a wealthy, bumbling, british collector, and quite well he’d like to think. He’d convinced the smugglers that he had found them by stumbling through the proper black market back-channels (not entirely a lie), and arranged for the purchase of one of three occamy eggs, actually intending to steal away all of them when the proper moment arose.
It had been a solid plan, a decent, wholesome one, given that he’d had so little time to really think on it. The occamys had looked ready to hatch in a few days—Newt knew he had only a small window to save them. This had led him to be slightly more hasty in his attempt, not noticing that he’d left one of the smugglers unaccounted for.
Needless to say, he was now thoroughly irritated with himself, snatching anxious glances at the eggs that he had almost successfully stashed away in his pocket. The smuggler who had caught him in the act shifted slightly on his feet and blocked Newt’s view of them, so he was instead greeted by the sight of a grungy black cloak, lank dark hair, and a cruel smirk.
He eyed the man warily. There was a coldness in his gaze that worried him. It was at moments like this that Newt wondered why people feared magical creatures so. No creature of his could ever display such calculated malice. The man’s wand raised slightly, leveled mere inches from the bridge of Newt’s nose. He was close enough that Newt could smell his breath, and he fought the urge to turn his head away, to move at all.
He felt that taking his eyes off the man, even for a moment, would be very ill advised.
Discreetly, he pulled at the ropes around his wrists. He had been working them for a few minutes, and he believed them to be loosening. Still, his arms were already aching and the oppressive chill in the air didn’t help. It was likely past midnight by now, Newt considered gloomily. This really wasn’t how he’d wanted to spend the evening.
Once again, he found himself with a limited window of opportunity. Only he and the man in front of him remained in the storeroom, but the other three men he had met with were in the adjacent room. He had thought they all were in the other room, but live and learn, and all that. Hopefully.
As much as he liked his odds against one man instead of four, he thought he knew why the man hadn’t alerted the others to Newt’s attempted theft. The man had been leering at Newt the whole evening, his smirk widening whenever Newt had accidentally caught his eye.
Newt pressed farther back in the chair almost unconsciously, and the man tilted his head, gaze sharp. “You are a pretty little thing, aren’t you?” he murmured, more of his hot breath ghosting over Newt’s face. The man crouched down to eye level and trailed a hand over Newt’s leg.
No, he couldn't say this had gone well at all.
Desperately, he pulled at the rope one last time, bemoaning the fact that he wasn’t dealing with manacles instead—Pickett might’ve helped out then, but the bowtruckle was busy cowering in Newt’s pocket, and really, he couldn’t blame him. He maintained an agonizing few moments of eye contact, attempting to keep the man’s focus elsewhere while he twisted his wrists violently, and just managed to hold back a shaky sigh of relief as he felt enough give to slip out of the binds.
However, the man’s wand was still aimed at Newt’s face, and his other hand almost painfully clamped on his thigh. He fought a shudder at the contact and tried to keep his mind free of the panic that threatened to overwhelm him. He just needed some kind of distraction, something to draw away the man’s attention for just a moment—
From the other room came the sound of muffled shouting, and the man immediately released his grip and turned his wand on the source of the noise. The smuggler had the presence of mind to mutter, “wuh?” and then a spell hit him square in the chest, sending him flying into a large shipping crate. Newt turned his head away from the explosion of wood and dust, and looking back, eyes wide, thought that of any divine intervention he could’ve received, this had to be the best it got.
Shooting up to his feet, he murmured a quick accio for his wand and leapt over the debris, heading for the occamy eggs. He shoved them into the pocket of his coat once more and thought, finally, when—
One of the eggs rattled tellingly, and Newt froze. It simply wouldn’t do to have them hatch in this place. Merlin forbid one might accidentally imprint on one of these men, who would exploit them and do them harm. No, Newt had to get to his case.
Practically as he finished the thought he heard a cracking sound, and he let out a huff of exasperation. It was, unfortunately, quite dangerous to apparate with creatures like occamys while they were in the process of hatching. “Alright, alright,” he murmured, drawing the offending egg from his pocket, “I suppose when you’re ready, you’re ready.”
He had found that speaking helped to draw occamys from their shells, so he continued to whisper encouragements. He glanced around, hyper aware that any moment that the smugglers, or the person who’d bested them, could emerge at any moment. He could still hear muffled curses from the other room, so he hoped he had some time. The tip of a beak tentatively poked through the shell, and Newt smiled, briefly forgetting urgency for the wonder he always felt in these moments. “Hello, little one,” he said, beaming as he received a gentle squawk in answer.
He met the young occamy’s eyes and she doubled her efforts to break through the shell. After a few minutes, she had managed to escape her confines entirely. “Well done, you,” Newt said softly, and as the occamy wound herself around his wrist, the last chunk of the egg hit the floor.
At the same time that Newt winced at the echoing thunk the silver shell made, a voice, level and calm, commanded, “stop right there, and drop your wand.”
Newt glanced up to see a man with dark, intelligent eyes, slicked back hair, and a handsome face. This man must have been the newcomer who’d incapacitated the smuggler. Newt spared a second to think huh, because he looked so very familiar.
Then, he felt another egg rattle warningly, and before the egg could crack he was gone.
He saw the wizard lunge with his wand, trying to pull him back, but Newt didn’t worry. For all that there were many who had more power than him, none had ever matched him for speed.
He did wonder, fleetingly, what would have happened if he’d stuck around, though.
It was mid afternoon the next day by the time Newt had finished helping the occamys through their hatching, and had integrated them with the others. He went about his rounds giving a hearty greeting to each of his creatures in turn, gifting an extra helping of food due to his absence the night before.
Pickett was still steadfastly ignoring him (though Newt could hear him grumbling in his pocket), and he couldn’t really blame him. Last night had almost been disastrous, and if that wizard hadn’t come along... Well. Newt would’ve liked to think he could’ve handled things, but one really shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth.
He emerged from his case and into the dingy flat he’d rented out for the week. Newt glanced around at the grimy walls, frowned, and absentmindedly conjured a spell to clean the place up a bit. As exhausted as he was, he had no real desire to stay cooped up there for the entirety of his stay. There was a whole city he had never been to before and had yet to explore, and it was waiting for him beyond the walls.
He only hesitated when he glanced down at his case, wondering if it would be more dangerous to leave it there, or bring it with him. In the end, he decided to leave it, though he cast a disillusionment charm on the door on his way out.
Newt hadn’t really taken the time to look on his first run about the city—he’d been too concerned with the broken latch that’d almost given him away and the need to find a safe place for his case. Now, though, he finally had the time to take it all in. He’d been in cities before, though not very often. One didn’t tend to find many magical creatures in such populated areas.
Newt gazed at the towering buildings and the endless bustle of automobiles and moving bodies with wonder. He had been to marketplaces in Cairo, had ventured cobblestone streets of Europe more times than he could count, but everything in New York was on such a grander scale, it was absolutely breathtaking. There was so much sound and life in this place. It was very different from the plains and jungles he usually found himself—in those places there was life if you observed closely, if you knew where to look. Here, people unabashedly existed in enigmatic chaos. Newt found it quite beautiful.
He bought a newspaper on a whim, curious to see how the muggle world of New York was getting on. Newt had quite a bit of muggle currency to spare, as he often met more muggles than wizards on his travels. He flipped through the pages slowly, sparing a glance at the pictures in confusion before remembering, ah yes, they wouldn’t move of their own accord.
Newt stumbled upon a bench near Central Park and read, content in the fact that, for the rest of the day, he had nothing pressing to get done. Who knew when he would next find himself in New York? He might as well make the most of his stop here before he headed to Arizona. He became surprisingly saddened to hear of the passing of Harry Houdini, the article being not quite front page news, but still a key feature. He had heard of the man in passing and thought it a bit melancholic that the magician gave muggles their own taste of a little magic, only to die quite young. Despite this, it was refreshing to read a newspaper that wasn’t littered with troubling news of dark wizards and fanatic followers. In fact, the muggle world seemed to be doing quite well by comparison.
After a time, Newt’s stomach growled loudly, startling some pigeons that had settled nearby. It had been a while since he’d eaten, even by his standards. He wracked his brain, trying to remember if Theseus had ever recommend any places to eat in New York. His brother often found himself here to delegate with MACUSA, so Newt was sure he must have told him something of the like. The only place he could remember, however, was an establishment Theseus had mentioned offhand with “decent whiskey and entertaining people.” It didn’t quite sound like Newt’s cup of tea, but it was all he could think of, and he rather thought asking one of the grouchy looking New Yorkers passing by was beyond him at the moment. He tended to mumble with strangers and he’d found it got on people’s nerves.
Shrugging, he began to make his way with a vague, general knowledge of what he was looking for. With a bit of helpful magic, he was able to find the poster he was Theseus had described in a rather damp looking back alley. It read “Beguiling. Enchanting. Alluring.”
Newt stared at it for a moment, bit his lip, and when his stomach growled again, he rapped his knuckles on the wall. A pair of eyes revealed themselves, and Newt smiled nervously before glancing away. “Hello. Um... might I come in?”
The eyes narrowed with the sound of a scoff. The hidden doorway opened slowly, the sound of music nearly masking a muttered, “ain’t no way he’s an auror.”
Newt stepped inside and murmured his thanks to the man behind the door, who growled at him in response. He made his way over to the bar and smiled at the house elf he’d found there. “Hello,” he said cheerfully.
The house elf looked at him suspiciously. “Ain’t I seen you from somewheres?”
“Um... no, I don’t think we’ve met, unfortunately,” Newt said, taking a seat at a barstool.
The elf squinted at him, but seemed to agree, saying, “what’ll it be?”
“I-I don’t suppose you have anything to eat?”
With a raised eyebrow, the elf snapped his fingers, conjuring peanuts and small pastries. “Thank you...um, I’m terribly sorry I never caught your name,” Newt said apologetically.
The house elf stared at him. “Greg,” he grumbled after a long moment.
“Ah. Well, thank you, Greg. My name’s Newt,” he replied as he offered a few sickles in payment, which prompted an even more grumpily perplexed look before the elf accepted the coins and turned away to take the orders of other patrons. “You don’t happen to have any tea, do you?” he asked after a moment, only a bit hopeful, but judging by the snort in reply it was a pointless request.
Taking in the room, Newt ate his fill, quietly content to listen to the music. The house elf entertaining truly had a wonderful voice. His gaze wandered and he took in the many wanted posters on the walls. He thought it a bit ironic that so many decorated the walls when, clearly, the patrons of the establishment weren’t exactly of a law abiding sort. It was a speakeasy after all.
His eye was caught by one of the few posters that did not have a picture, but rather an auror’s sketch. He couldn’t really see the figure depicted—a large fellow sat in front of it, but he caught sight of the reward money: fifty galleons. Not quite a big fish, yet Newt was still intrigued by it. He leaned over to see more, caught sight of the edge of a blue coat, and thought, huh.
Then, a small scuffle broke out across the room, and Pickett broke his silence to give him a piece of his mind in the form of an irritated grumble and a series of chittering. Newt shoved the rest of the small pastry in his mouth and made his way around the commotion thinking that perhaps the people here were a tad too entertaining for his liking.
There was still some light out, so instead of apparating back to his small flat he decided to stroll there. Now that the rush of the workday had passed, people seemed less harried and more content. There were many people flooding in and out of small theaters he walked by, and he thought it might be interesting to see one of these pictures he’d heard so much about. But he’d left his case for as long as he felt comfortable, and thought, perhaps the next day.
He had nearly reached the small neighborhood of brick buildings that signaled his flat when he heard shouts coming from the next block over. Newt frowned and picked up the pace, passing his flat and coming across the sight of a large, black mass like a small hurricane bursting through one of the buildings. The sight of it, however brief, was enough to send Newt’s heart plummeting into his stomach. The explosion of debris was so violent that Newt had to duck behind the corner he had rounded, eyes widening when a stray brick shattered against the fire escape above him.
Heart hammering, he approached the wreckage cautiously. There was a thick cloud of dust in the air, making it hard to breathe. Some muggles were gawking from a healthy distance, as he was, but most were running, no doubt fearing further disturbances. There was no sign of what had caused the damage, but Newt knew what he’d seen. The obscurus had looked much the same as the one in Sudan.
Newt swallowed hard and shook himself. He had no idea where he could even begin to look for the source. Sudan was one thing. New York was another. He supposed MACUSA was the only place he knew of with enough resources for a search. This needed to be addressed immediately—the longer an obscurus poisoned the host, the more violent it became.
Newt knew who he needed to find. Theseus had said if he was ever in America and found himself in trouble, he should contact the director of magical security. Newt had never met him, but if Theseus trusted the man, that was good enough for him. It would have to be.
He wouldn’t let New York become another Sudan.
Wow! Thank you all so much for reading and enjoying this story! I've been dealing with the process of moving, so this chapter was a bit later than expected, but things are less hectic now. ;) Without further ado, here is chapter two.
Stepping into the Woolworth Building left Newt a bit breathless for a moment. It seemed there was so much more movement and height than in the Ministry of Magic. The ceiling was obscured by a charm of a bright cloudy sky, and Newt found himself transfixed. He stared upward with a growing smile before remembering that he was, in fact, on a time crunch and had some very important information to share.
Sobering, he shook his head and began to look for any indication of the director’s office. He realized he didn’t even know what the man looked like. Perhaps he shouldn’t be quite so distracted when Theseus mentions things to him.
As he had discovered of the muggles in this city, most occupants of the building either seemed very determined to get somewhere or very busy with what they were doing. Slightly anxious, he searched for someone with a mildly open expression or, at the very least, someone who wasn’t scowling. Newt’s gaze caught on a young woman with short hair and kind, if distracted, eyes. Clutching at his arm, he approached her desk slowly. “Um... excuse me, um,” he glanced down at the nameplate on the desk, “Miss Goldstein? Could you tell me where I might find the director? I have some vital information for him--it’s really...um...v-very important...” Newt trailed off in confusion as the woman gaped at him, eyes wide.
“It’s you,” she mumbled, hands paused where she’d been writing a report of some kind.
Newt shook his head, glancing between her and the desk, utterly lost. “Have we...met?”
His words seemed to jolt her into action, her jaw snapping shut, and her face shuttering. Before Newt could react she whipped out her wand and a spell forced Newt’s hands behind his back, with another wrenching his wand from his pocket. He blinked, absolutely dumbfounded.
He was, in retrospect, rather used to things not going as he’d planned, but he was definitely having an off week.
People in desks around them were staring, and Newt couldn’t blame them. “Um...what?” he managed. Miss Goldstein came around the desk and grabbed him by the arm. “I think you will see the director after all,” she said, still staring at him with something like disbelief in her eyes.
“Oh. Well. That’s...good?” Newt murmured. Then, “are you sure this is standard procedure?”
Miss Goldstein ignored the question, leading him in grim silence down one of the buildings many corridors. Really, they all looked a bit the same to Newt, and in a way, he was thankful that he hadn’t had to find the director on his own. It might’ve taken him years.
The walk still took longer than Newt expected, and he became quite annoyed at being yanked about by his arm for so long. When he finally saw their destination ahead, the imposing, golden title reading “Director Percival Graves” on the door, he let out an explosive sigh of relief that made Miss Goldstein pause for a moment and look at him curiously.
Newt was essentially frog-marched into the office, and at this point, felt very put out by the whole affair. He rather thought he had been man-handled enough for the past 24 hours. This was certainly some way to treat a helpful informant.
Then, he saw the man at his desk, and his jaw dropped. “You?”
The director of magical security looked up, already scowling, and recognition flared in his eyes. “You,” he growled.
Newt blinked for a few moments, glanced around, and mindlessly tugged a bit at the magical binds around his wrists. “I’m s-sorry, but is this how you treat everyone that walks through MACUSA’s doors? It seems a bit extreme and unnecessarily aggressive.”
The director’s eyes narrowed to slits. The sight of such a glare might’ve made Newt’s knees quake had he been less preoccupied with being annoyed. Newt did have a tendency to run his mouth when he was nervous, but in this case, he thought his irritation well-founded. He attempted to demonstrate this by lifting his chin higher and meeting the director’s eyes for more than a second at a time. Newt thought he was doing an alright job of it.
However, Graves had already rounded his glare on Miss Goldstein. “Where did you find him?”
“Find me?” Newt echoed in the same moment that she said, “that’s the thing, sir—”
The man raised a hand at Newt, his gaze never leaving Miss Goldstein. “He, um,” she continued, glancing at Newt, “he just came up to my desk, sir. Asking for you.”
At that, Graves turned to stare at Newt incredulously. He seemed speechless for a moment, then leaned back in his chair, rubbing a hand over his face. “Are you completely insane?” he finally asked.
Newt let out a surprised laugh, which led the two aurors to look at him even more curiously. “Sorry, it’s just, I do actually get asked that a lot. But, as of the last few minutes, I’ve really been wanting to ask that of you two, actually,” he said, with a nervous smile.
Graves’ mouth opened, closed, then opened again, before he shook his head and pinched his nose with a sigh. “You have been wanted for questioning,” he grit out, “in relation to a busted smuggling operation.”
Newt blinked in surprise, ran through his memory, and thought, ah, yes, some things did make a staggering amount of sense in that context. “Oh,” he said sheepishly. “Well, no one told me.”
Graves’ jaw tightened, and Newt found his gaze drawn to it, only glancing away when Miss Goldstein shifted beside him. “You don’t seem to understand the severity of your situation.”
“I understand that there’s been some confusion and misinformation—”
“You were seen by me fleeing a crime scene,” Graves snapped.
“Only so I could get those poor occamys out of there!” Newt exclaimed.
“So you admit to taking evidence from the scene—”
“Evidence?” Newt interrupted, indignant. Really, this was the problem with MACUSA and the Ministry. They tended to treat magical creatures like objects, and for all Newt’s tried to convince wizards otherwise, he hadn’t really seen a difference made. Even Theseus, he felt, was more indulging than truly understanding. “They are living creatures, not fingerprints.”
“Living creatures attached to a couple grams of very valuable contraband—”
“The shells? Is that what the fuss is about? You can have the fragments back if you want them so badly.”
Graves looked as if he didn’t quite know how to react to that, after a beat narrowing his eyes again, but this time Newt thought there was something almost considering in his gaze.
“Those men in the warehouse,” Graves began slowly, “were wanted, not only for black market trading, but also in connection to six murder investigations.”
Newt immediately thought of the man with the cold, pale eyes, and fought to keep his breathing even. He could believe it. “Frankly,” Graves continued, “your involvement with those men brings into question your motives. Forgive me if I remain unconvinced.”
“I never met those men before that day,” Newt urged earnestly. “I posed as a buyer to remove the occamys from their care, to spare the animals further harm.”
“That’s it?” Graves asked, raising his eyebrows.
“That’s it. I swear.” Newt met the man’s eyes, trying to convey his sincerity.
Graves looked to Miss Goldstein after a moment. “Tina?”
“Well, sir... he did knowingly walk into a building full of aurors,” she said, actually quirking a small smile when Newt nodded along emphatically.
Graves seemed unmoved. “According to him, he didn’t actually know we were looking for him.”
“If he was really working with those smugglers, why would he take the chance? Personally, I would have stayed as far as possible from any kind of law enforcement until things settled down. Instead, he waltzed in practically the next day. Seems unlikely, sir.”
“I quite agree with that,” Newt couldn’t help but say, though he quickly returned his gaze to the floor when Graves scowled at him.
“And the occamys? Where are they?”
Newt swallowed nervously. “Um... they’re safe.” Before Graves could inquire further, Newt rambled, “if y-you need them in order to go to trial, I’ll happily bring them when the time comes, but please, I’d rather spare them being placed in stasis in an evidence locker. A-at a young age, occamys are incredibly social creatures and it could be devastating to their growth if they’re removed from that kind of familial environment for a prolonged period. I could write the Beast Division at the Ministry for permits as soon as this afternoon, if that’s the concern.”
Newt shifted uncomfortably as both Graves and Tina stared at him. Where Tina merely looked shocked, there was a peculiar expression on Graves’ face, his mouth open slightly and his eyes seemingly a shade darker. The director cleared his throat after a few moments of silence. “What did you say your name was?”
“Newt. Newt Scamander.”
“Scamander?” Graves repeated, incredulous. “As in—”
“Theseus Scamander, yes,” Newt said, as Graves closed his eyes and rubbed at his temple as if staving off a headache, “you see, the reason I came to find you—”
Newt was interrupted by the office door bursting open. “Sir!” the man rushing into the room exclaimed. “I’m sorry, sir, but—”
“O’Brien,” Graves ground out, the sound low in his throat, “tell me the reason you’ve invaded my office is to offer me the strongest coffee we can legally make. I’m too goddamn tired for this right now.”
“I-I’m sorry, sir, but there’s been an incident—a magical disturbance on 49th street,” O’Brien said.
Well, Newt thought wryly, at the very least someone managed to bring it up.
Graves sighed and rose to his feet. “Alright, O’Brien, with me. Goldstein, send word to Abernathy and get Scamander to a holding cell.”
Newt straightened up, eyes wide. A holding cell? He hadn’t even had a chance to tell Graves what he’d seen! “Wait, Mr. Graves, you don’t understand—”
“Sorry, Scamander, we can continue this discussion when I get back,” Graves told him, striding for the door.
“But—” The folds of the director’s coat billowed dramatically as he left the room.
Well. At least the man had looked apologetic. Sort of. Newt huffed, staring at the empty doorway, exasperated.
“I am sorry about this, Mr. Scamander,” Tina said, and the look in her eyes was truly sympathetic.
“So, you believe me, at least?” Newt asked.
Tina smiled, shrugging, “I do. Frankly, you don't seem the criminal type. But I’m afraid I will still have to take you to a holding cell. I could arrange to have some food brought down for you, if you're hungry.”
“Thank you, Miss Goldstein, but that's not necessary.”
“Oh, God, call me Tina, please.”
“Ah. Well, I really do prefer Newt, then. Usually when people say Mr. Scamander they mean to refer to my brother.”
They made their way out the door, Tina leading the way. “I can’t believe Mr. Graves acted like that,” Tina told him after a moment.
“Oh? Did something happen to make him angry?”
“Angry?” she snorted, “that was the most patient I've seen him all week.”
Newt stared at her. “Surely that's a joke.”
Tina shook her head wryly, then nodded in acknowledgment to an elf as they entered an elevator. “Hey, Red.”
“Heya, Goldstein,” Red answered, pulling at a lever which sent the elevator jolting downward.
“Hello,” Newt greeted him with a smile.
Red looked him up and down. “Who’s this guy?”
“The one Director Graves was yelling about yesterday.”
Newt glanced at her in surprise. “The director was absolutely livid after the raid. He said he’s never seen someone disapparate so fast,” she told him. “It’s why I was a bit shocked he didn’t... well, prosecute first, ask questions later so to speak.”
Newt considered their interaction in the office. For all that Graves was questioning, he never seemed outright hostile. He seemed very dedicated to his job, likely a very powerful wizard, and, as Newt had noticed in the warehouse, strikingly handsome. In fact, under any other circumstances Newt would’ve been quite pleased with the man’s attentions on him. As the elevator doors opened, Newt hoped neither of the other occupants noticed the red that had crept onto his cheeks.
“Alright, this way, Newt,” TIna told him, stepping out onto the floor.
Newt nodded, and followed. “It was nice to meet you,” Newt said to Red, who answered, almost startled, “uh, yeah. Right.”
They made their way down a long corridor, seeing few others, though with the late hour Newt supposed that made sense. As they turned a corner, Newt saw a man heading towards them with a sharp chin and serious face. “Abernathy,” Tina greeted him. “The director wants you—”
“I heard,” Abernathy answered, coming up to them. He spared Newt a glance, his gaze calculating and intelligent. It lasted barely a second, and then his eyes were on Tina once again, but the brief look had made Newt uneasy. “Destruction like that, must have been a beast.”
Newt snapped his gaze up from the floor, a response ready on his tongue. “Actually—”
The man’s eyes found his again, and Newt’s words died in his throat. He quickly looked away. The man’s eyes didn’t seem angry, just...strangely blank, impossible to read.
“What did you book him for?” Abernathy asked Tina, voice flat.
“He hasn’t been processed yet. If you’ll excuse us, I have to get him to a holding cell,” Tina said curtly, taking Newt’s arm and gently urging him to keep moving forward.
Newt chanced a glance back and the man’s eyes immediately found his. He stood incredibly still, watching them walking away.
Newt turned forward again, swallowing. He quickly cast his mind away from the man’s gaze and instead to what he had said. Surely... surely they wouldn’t immediately assume the destruction was the fault of a magical creature. He knew many wizards considered creatures a danger and nothing else, that many were wary of them, but--but they had no proof!
They came to a room with a guard, who stepped aside when Tina showed him her badge. “I'm sure this will be cleared up quickly, Newt,” she told him as she led him into one of the rooms.
He merely looked at her glumly.
He stared at the door for a few moments after she'd left, and yawned. He shifted. His chest grumbled at him.
He blinked. His eyes widened.
“Pickett!” he exclaimed and a small green head rose slowly from his coat pocket.
Pickett blew a raspberry at him, and crossed his arms.
Newt tugged at the magical cuffs around his wrists. He glanced at Pickett and then at the door.
He thought about what Abernathy said.
Well. He couldn't just stay there.
Percival glared at the rubble of what was once a grubby row of apartments down off of 49th street. As if he didn't have enough paperwork on his hands. If he glared at it hard enough, maybe it would just go away.
O’Brien was down the street taking witness reports under the guise of a New York sergeant. Percival sighed when he heard a man describe a black wind with eyes. It was protocol to interview any witness, but he doubted any of the nomajes would give useful testimony.
“Sir,” he heard, and he turned.
The man’s eyes scanned the wreckage behind Percival, then met his. “Sir, this destruction was obviously caused by a beast of some kind.”
Percival raised an eyebrow. “What brings you to that conclusion? Could've been a nomaj bomb for all we know.”
“All the witnesses seem to think it was something magical.”
“They think it was wind. ”
“What kind of wind has white eyes? Respectfully, sir, it's a creature, not just a rogue wizard or bomb.”
Percival made to reply, but a voice behind him cut him off. “Um, no, actually that's not right at all.”
Abernathy had his wand raised immediately. Percival turned slowly, trying to school the disbelief from his features, because he knew that voice. Newt Scamander stood before them, head tilted slightly, wringing his hands in front of him. He had a kind of sheepish, half-smile on his face, and his eyes darted between Percival and Abernathy guiltily. Percival registered O’Brien’s distant voice in the back of his mind, and a thunderous expression took over his features.
Percival marched forward, grabbed the back of Scamander’s coat as he yelped in surprise, and pulled the wizard into an alley between the two adjacent buildings. “Are you kidding me?” Percival growled, glaring at Scamander, who had the gall to look irritated. “What is wrong with you? Do you know what the charge is for apparating in front of nomajes? On top of the charges you already have hanging over your head?”
Scamander actually pouted. “It’s almost midnight. It’s not as if they saw anything.”
“Jesus Christ, ” he groaned, running a hand through his hair, and closing his eyes. “One of you Scamanders is going to do me in.”
Percival opened his eyes when Scamander said nothing in reply. The wizard had been looking at him strangely, but he looked away when Percival met his eyes, a flush of pink on his cheeks. Percival blinked, realized he was close enough to the other man to see individual freckles, and hurriedly took a step back, clearing his throat.
“If it’s any consolation, I hope that’s not the case,” Scamander supplied after a moment, gaze somewhere around Percival’s chest.
Percival sighed. “You seem to have a bad habit of escaping custody and then walking right back into it again,” he said wryly.
Scamander met his eyes. “That man is wrong. This wasn’t the work of a creature. The reason that I came to MACUSA was to find you—my brother told me I could trust you.”
Percival thought of Theseus, of how different the two brothers seemed, and yet, how they seemed to have the same attraction to danger. Newt was practically Theseus’ polar opposite in every other way. He was slim where Theseus was bulk, reserved where Theseus was boisterous.
But there was still the issue of the younger Scamander’s presence at a live crime scene.
“I should take you back to the Woolworth,” Percival told him, and yet it felt more like he was trying to convince himself.
Scamander exhaled through his nose and clenched his jaw. “Fine. Whatever you like. But this was not caused by a creature. This was an obscurus.” Percival looked at him sharply, but the man continued techily, “I came to your office to inform you of the fact, though I was unfortunately derailed by the accusations of smuggling.”
“Mercy Lewis, you were seen in the goddamn warehouse—” He stopped and took a deep breath. “An obscurus. One of the rarest magical entities ever seen,” he said, disbelief clear in his voice.
“I saw it. I headed to the Woolworth immediately afterward.”
“Say I believe you,” Percival said after a moment, ignoring the way Scamander sighed explosively, “did you see what the obscurial looked like? Who it might’ve been?”
“I only saw the obscurus,” Scamander said regretfully. “Please, the more time spent debating and delaying now will mean more suffering in the future. Whatever child is producing this obscurus needs help.”
Percival stared at him, at his earnest, green eyes. There was something that had been nagging at him all night. “One of the occamys hatched that night, didn’t they.”
Scamander blinked owlishly at the sudden change of topic. “Um, y-yes.”
“An occamy shell could be worth as much of a quarter mil if you pawned it right. You had enough time to leave with the shell. But you didn’t. You took the occamy and left the silver.”
Scamander shrugged, as if that was nothing. “Of course. I couldn’t just leave her.”
Footsteps sounded behind them. “Sir. I can take him back to his cell,” Abernathy said, and when Percival glanced at him the man was eyeing Scamander darkly.
Percival turned back and studied Newt with his wide, honest, green eyes.
He sighed. “That won’t be necessary,” Percival said, as Scamander perked up hopefully. “Newt Scamander is now under my purview.”
“Excellent!” Scamander exclaimed in the silence after Percival’s statement. “Now, I’m sure one of the muggles must have seen something, perhaps even the identity of the obscurus—”
“I’m sorry, are you serious, sir?” Abernathy asked, staring at Percival. “We’ve already been interviewing the nomajes,” he said darkly, with a glance at Scamander, “and not one of the fools has given us anything. If we put out an alert for a beast now, we can cut down the time—”
Percival grit his teeth, irritation spiking once more. The other wizard had been constantly jumping on cases left and right, dropping some immediately and taking a bizarre interest in others. In particular, Abernathy always seemed to want to be assigned to run ins with the Second Salemers. Two days ago, Percival had placed him in the Records Room instead of his normal post when he wasn’t on duty, as a warning. If he kept this up, Percival might have him demoted altogether. “You can continue to hold onto your beast theory, if you like,” Percival interrupted him coolly, “but I’m more concerned with our other, more dangerous potential threat, with the ability to shatter the statute of secrecy to pieces.” Abernathy looked ready to argue, but Percival wasn’t nearly finished. “I don’t know why it hasn’t seemed to occur to you, but we are all on the trail of the same damn thing, no matter what we speculate that it is. Now, I want you to finish conducting these interviews with O’Brien, get Goldstein up to speed, and then move forward with investigation with the evidence presented us. In essence, I want you to do your goddamned job. Is that clear?”
Abernathy’s face could have been made of stone. “Yes, sir.”
Percival watched him turn back to O’Brien pensively. Abernathy had always been ambitious, but Percival didn’t understand what seemed to be directing his motivations now. He was more single-minded than ever, but not in any way that made sense.
“You can be quite frightening when you put your mind to it,” Scamander said, wide eyed with something like awe when Percival glanced at him.
He snorted when he processed the words, quirking a small smile. “It was in the job description.”
“What?” Newt murmured almost distractedly, seemingly staring at Percival’s chin. Newt met his eyes, then hastily looked away, pink on his cheeks. “Oh, um, sorry, I was a bit, um—” The man’s stomach growled suddenly, and they both looked down at it.
“Hungry?” Percival finished wryly.
Newt huffed a small laugh and looked down, his unruly hair falling into his eyes.
“When was the last time you ate?” Percival asked. The long silence it took for Newt to consider this spoke for itself. Percival sighed. “Do you have food wherever you’re staying?” he amended.
Scamander glanced up at him, eyes wide. “Um...a bit?”
“Good. We’re going there and you’re going to show me where you’re keeping the occamys.”
“What?” Scamander blurted, looking panicked. “Wait, I...you see they aren’t alone, the occamys, they’re, um, I have other, um, c-creatures...”
Percival eyed him warily. Of course he’d have more creatures stashed away. “As long as there isn’t anything...obviously illegal...”
“Oh, I-I have permits for them!” Newt exclaimed. He then mumbled something that sounded like “mostly.”
Percival closed his eyes tiredly. “What was that?”
“Listen,” Percival told him, rubbing a hand over his eyes, “I just need to see the occamys as a formality, to corroborate your story. At this point, I doubt any charges will stick.” When Newt still looked jumpy, he added, “I’ve known your brother a long time. He always described you as a kind person, an altruist. If,” Percival mentioned wryly, “cursed by a knack of finding trouble wherever he went.”
Newt’s cheeks flushed a pretty shade of pink, his eyes downcast. Percival swallowed roughly. Mercy Lewis, Theseus was going to kill him.
“My brother often exaggerates,” Newt mumbled.
Percival glanced at him. “He’s been right so far,” he said simply.
Newt looked at him, blinking, eyes wide, and then turned his face away again. Percival almost missed the way his mouth curled into a small, incredibly endearing smile.
“I placed a disillusionment charm on the door,” Newt began slowly, “so it might be difficult to apparate there. Would you...do you mind walking? It’s not very far.”
“I don’t mind.”
They walked in a comfortable silence for a few minutes, and when Percival glanced over, he could still see the faintest trace of that small smile.
“It’s strange,” Newt said suddenly, “it seems you know a lot about me, and yet I know very little of you.”
“Oh? Theseus never mentioned me? That bastard.”
Newt snorted a laugh that took them both by surprise. “Well,” he began through a chuckle, “yes and no, really. Theseus has never trusted easily, but he always told me he trusted you. He said, if I ever found myself in trouble in America—something he considered more than likely given my travels—that I should find the director of MACUSA, Percival Graves. He never liked mentioning the war, I suppose that’s why I know so little of the man behind the position.”
Percival eyed him with a raised eyebrow. Newt had a look on his face like he was patiently waiting for an answer to some implied question. “What is it you’d like to know?” Percival asked.
Newt tilted his head slightly, considering, with the tiniest crease between his brow. “How did you come to be the director of magical security?”
It was an innocent enough question, could've just been the topic of small talk with anyone, but it struck Percival how Newt looked completely engaged and ready for an answer, genuinely curious. His head was tilted slightly towards Percival, auburn hair brushing his eyelashes. Percival swallowed and searched for answer. “Well,” he said, “I always knew I wanted to be an auror. Ever since I was a kid. Magic was this wonderful thing, in my family for generations, but I saw how easily it could turn destructive, terrifying. I wanted to ensure it remained the former. I started young after graduating from Ilvermony, and worked my way up from junior auror over the next five years. When I was eventually offered the position, I thought it would be the place I could do the most good.”
Newt was silent for a moment, then said, “you seem like a man who values rules.”
“They are there for a reason.”
Newt shrugged. “I’m more of the opinion that some rules are, at best, guidelines, and at worst, meant to be ignored.”
“Oh, I’m well aware,” Percival sighed. Christ, he was like Theseus completely in that respect. The elder brother had always had a loose interpretation of the law, though he was backed by a strong moral code.
“And yet,” Newt continued, looking sideways at him with bright eyes, “you must be, at least in part, of the same opinion, given that I’m not currently in a MACUSA holding cell.”
“Technically, you were supposed to be,” Percival scolded halfheartedly.
“And yet,” Newt said again, the words sounding like a smile.
Percival stuck his hands in the pockets of his coat and breathed out slowly, watching the wisp of it as is disappeared in the cold, midnight air. There was no one else on the street, no sounds other than the scuffing of their shoes on the uneven pavement. Newt seemed more relaxed than Percival had ever seen him. He supposed it was the lack of people. The other man had always appeared the slightest bit tense, both in his office and on the street corner with Abernathy. Now, his shoulders were loose instead of in danger of hiking up towards his ears, and he met Percival’s gaze more often.
“I’ll admit,” Percival said, eyes trained on a building in the distance, “as soon as you got away from me in that warehouse, I was determined to find you and bring you in.”
“Do I really look like a smuggler?” Newt wondered aloud.
Percival fought a smile when Newt actually looked down at himself. “No, not particularly.” No, not with his bowtie, vest, and bright blue coat. Really, there was nothing inconspicuous about Newt. Not that Percival was complaining—the coat only emphasized the color of his eyes. “But there was the fact,” Percival continued, “that I clearly saw you with something that looked suspiciously like an occamy egg cupped between your hands.”
“Ah, yes,” Newt said. “That would do it, wouldn’t it?”
“Mm,” Percival agreed.
“And then, of course, I bested you.”
“You didn’t best me, you ran away.”
Newt smiled, and Percival caught a flash of white teeth, bright eyes, and freckles. “Quite successfully, though.”
Percival shook his head in mixed exasperation and a strange, sudden burst of fondness that he couldn’t shake. It seemed both Scamanders also had a knack of quickly inserting themselves into his life, finding a niche and settling there, belonging there.
“I still don’t quite understand why you decided not to bring me back to MACUSA,” Newt said after a moment.
Percival thought about it. He honestly didn’t quite know what had spurred his decision either. A trust in Theseus that extended to this wizard he barely knew? The way Newt always seemed so earnest and honest? Whatever it was, he had blatantly ignored protocol for it. “I trust my instincts,” he settled on. “As soon as I saw you, I knew you weren’t malicious like those other men in the warehouse. When I spoke to you in my office, I was certain of it. What I still don't really understand are your motives.”
“What, saving an animal for the sake of saving an animal? Is that so hard to believe?”
“Most people wouldn't do so much for so little,” Percival pointed out somberly.
Newt sighed. “When I made to intervene, I was under the impression that if I didn’t do something those occamys’ eggs would be taken and sold, and they would either be forced to lay more eggs or be killed when they could not do so. It would have killed me to stand by and knowingly let that happen. I’ve seen too many creatures abused and mistreated, kept alive only because they were able to provide something wizards deemed valuable. I became a magizoologist to protect creatures that are unable help themselves and to try to show the wizards of this world their innate value.” Newt’s voice became fierce as he said, “I’ve known far too many people who justify the protection of a species because of what they can provide—silver shells, or healing tears. Why should any creature have to justify its existence? Imagine if someone went up to you and said, ‘well, it looks as if you’re doing a great job as director, but if you start slipping up, don’t be surprised if the words avada kedavra fly your way, because what use will you be then?’ Oh, this is it, by the way.”
Percival hadn’t even noticed they’d stopped walking, he was so stunned by the suddenly passionate and animated wizard in front of him. He glanced up at the building, then at Newt. The other man was flushed and breathing hard, brow furrowed and jaw clenched. “Sorry,” Newt said, blinking, cheeks pink again when he took in Percival’s stunned silence. “I tend to...um...ramble, I’m told, when I get going...”
Percival couldn’t have held back his smile even if he tried. He saw Newt glance down at his mouth, blink, and then turn an even darker shade of pink, if that were possible. It struck Percival that he’d smiled more that night than he had all week. “I completely agree,” he told Newt, who, after a brief pause of disbelief, grinned back.
“Of course,” Percival said, as they made their way into the building. “And Piquery’s ban on magical creatures is only straining things, increasing the amount of smuggling and ignoring the real issue.”
Newt nodded along almost frantically as they walked. “Yes, yes, exactly. Instead of attempting to restrict the amount of magical creatures in the states, MACUSA’s aim should be to create more protective reserves. That way creatures wouldn’t often stumble on large pockets of civilization and we could further avoid the ecological damage of extinction.”
Impressed, Percival said, “you’ve given this a lot of thought.”
“If I don’t, who will?” Newt said softly. “Frankly, there aren’t a lot of wizards who care anymore. The continuous indifference is something that never fails to amaze me, in the worst way.”
They came to an apartment door which Percival couldn’t quite look at directly. “Strong spellwork,” he commented, and it truly was. The magic on the door forced his eyes away insistently, each time making him confused, briefly, as to why he’d wanted to enter. He’d already seen Newt’s skill apparating, and it seemed his charms were powerful as well.
Newt pulled out his wand, but paused, fiddling with it between his fingers. He hesitated, then said, “Mr. Graves—”
“Percival, please.” His last name was all well and good for underlings in the office, but hearing how stiltedly it came from Newt’s mouth felt wrong, somehow.
“Percival,” Newt amended softly, looking slightly more at ease. “I...I do not, in any way, want to impede on your duties as director, but I would like you to understand that...what I am about to show you is my life’s work. I am very fond of all of the creatures under my care.”
Percival saw a weight in Newt’s gaze that spoke volumes. The other wizard maintained eye contact, until Percival said, “I promise, I will do everything in my power to make sure things stay just as they are.”
Newt nodded, with the barest hint of a relieved smile. He opened the door, and led Percival into the small apartment, and further to the bedroom. Percival glanced around when Newt stopped there, eyes finally training on the weathered case on the bed that Newt seemed to hover over. The other wizard placed it onto the ground and slowly opened both latches and glanced back at him. “Do come inside, Percival,” Newt grinned over his shoulder.
Percival gaped, speechless. The air was suddenly fresher than it had been in the musty apartment, the horizon bending farther than he could even see. He could sense the presence of magic, a lot of it, woven together, fitted expertly like a perfectly tailored suit. There were entire worlds encased in tarp rooms, an endless suitcase filled with tiny suitcases. Percival had seen cases similar in the hands of smugglers, but those had been shoddy and crude compared to this. This...this felt real, and even with Percival’s knowledge of magic he could feel his senses being fooled. He felt the rain from the thunderbird (Mercy Lewis, a thunderbird—if Newt didn’t have paperwork this’d be a headache for the ages), and he felt the dust it swooped up sting his cheeks as it beat its enormous wings.
“Hello, Frank,” Newt said softly, hands stroking the giant creature’s beak.
Percival let out a shaky laugh. “Frank?” he asked, voice slightly strangled.
Newt turned back and grinned at him. “Isn’t he beautiful?”
Percival took in Newt’s relaxed happiness, the way the rain plastering hair to his forehead made his eyes even brighter, the brilliance of his smile, and his self-assured confidence in this place. “He is,” Percival agreed dazedly.
Newt was leading him through the various habitats, when Percival caught sight of creatures he’d only ever seen in his school textbooks. He stopped dead in amazement, while Newt carried on oblivious. “Are those graphorns?”
Newt turned back, glanced out where Percival was staring, and murmured, “oh, yes. Look, there’s Cindy now.”
Almost immediately, the ground began to shake and Percival’s eyes widened when one of the creatures came bounding along the plain towards them. Newt came up in front of him, greeting the graphorn with a gentle, “hello.” Newt turned and reached out his hand. “Would you like to meet her?”
Percival huffed an incredulous laugh, looking from Newt to the graphorn. “Cindy’s very friendly,” Newt assured him.
Hesitantly, Percival took Newt’s hand, who guided him right before the great thing’s nose. Cindy took a moment to feel at his hand, then allowed him to pet her head. Another graphorn appeared over a ridge, with two other small ones following close behind. “They’re the last breeding pair that exists,” Newt told him sadly. “I managed to save them, at the very least.”
Percival stared at him. “Jesus, Newt. This...what you're doing here...” Well, he didn’t quite know how to put it into words. Nothing seemed to capture the magnificence of it all. “This is incredible,” he settled for, breathlessly, and the word was not nearly enough.
Newt’s smile was once again blinding. “Would you like to see the occamys now?”
When they arrived at the habitat, Percival couldn’t tell which of them had been from that warehouse and which Newt had already—they all looked like they belonged there. Newt had him hold one of them, and Percival dazedly brushed its feathers as it playfully nipped at his fingers. The only fully grown occamy was an imposing figure, but after a long moment of prolonged eye contact that left Percival sweating the creature huffed and curled up again, content with his presence. Newt had beamed at him, a soft look in his eyes. “Occamys are very loyal creatures,” he said quietly, as he smoothed down one of the young occamy’s feathers. “They can sense it in others as well,” he told him, and when Percival met his eyes there was a warm openness there that made him look almost ethereal.
Oh, Theseus was definitely going to kill him.
Newt gave him a tour and had him help to feed the animals, all of them very eager to see Newt. Along the way, Percival was finally introduced to a small bowtruckle that had been hiding away in Newt’s pocket. It had cautiously emerged when they passed by its home tree and chittered at Percival curiously—though Newt was quick to assure Percival that Pickett really did seem to be taking a liking to him by even showing himself at all—but he refused to leave Newt’s pocket, stubbornly crossing his arms.
Some habitats, Newt told him, held creatures that were very wary of strangers and so they skirted around them. Percival still managed to get a peek at some of them (“Jesus Christ, Newt, that’s a nundu—” “Her name is Annie, and she’s very sweet, Percival.”).
There was one corner they didn’t visit at all. Newt didn’t mention it outright, but Percival noticed he would try to subtly divert his attention away whenever they came near. He remembered, vaguely, a glimpse of snow, a cold gust that managed to reach them as far as they were, but it left Percival’s mind as soon as he glanced away. Any curiosity vanished as soon as they entered the next enclosure and as the tarp disappeared from the corner of his eye, the entire memory dissipated like smoke.
The mooncalves were among his favorites, and he told Newt as much as they made their way back around. “They’re very sweet, yet shy creatures,” Newt agreed. “They did seem to really take a liking to you,” he told him, smiling softly, and Percival couldn’t help but smile back. He made to ask where Newt had found them when he felt something tugging at his pant leg and glanced down, and a creature that looked somewhat like a platypus glared up at him.
“Ah, that’s the niffler,” Newt informed him. “I’ve been trying to come up with a name for a while. He’s a sweet, but pesky thing. Has a habit of getting out.”
Percival glanced at him, a touch concerned by Newt’s flippancy. “Newt, you can’t let these creatures loose in the middle of New York.”
“I’m well aware,” Newt pouted. “The last thing I want is to put them at risk. That’s why I got the latch fixed.”
The niffler was attempting to climb Percival’s leg now, it eyes trained on Percival’s watch. “Hey! No, that’s not yours,” Newt scolded, scooping the struggling creature up. The niffler looked at Percival’s watch wistfully. “I’ve been trying to teach him that stealing is bad. He has an affinity for shiny objects.”
Percival smiled at the image of the niffler struggling in Newt’s arms and making a mess of his hair and waistcoat, but sobered quickly. There was something he needed to address, but he had been prolonging it all evening. “Newt, could we...talk? Back in the apartment?”
Newt blinked at him, then his expression became more serious, and a tad nervous. “Of course,” he said, setting the niffler down.
They emerged from the case and, to Percival, the room seemed duller in comparison. Newt’s magic was an incredible thing to behold. As Newt closed the case, Percival sighed. “You realize,” Percival said slowly, “that I will need to describe this in an official report.”
There was silence behind him, but he heard Newt’s jaw click shut. “I see,” Newt finally said woodenly.
“MACUSA cannot remain unaware of the existence of these magical creatures in the state.”
“I see,” Newt said again.
Percival sighed and turned around. “Newt this doesn’t have to be a bad thing. You’re a British citizen and that case is technically your property—the ban on magical creatures wouldn’t apply. This could put you on MACUSA’s radar as a potential consultant for cases involving these kinds of things. You could help spread awareness, like you said.”
Newt held himself taut, right hand clenched. “What I’ve learned,” he began after a moment, “is that people tend to immediately scorn and fear what they don’t understand. Several, if not all, of the creatures under my care won’t be looked on favorably.”
“I promise you I will not let MACUSA take this case away from you,” Percival assured him, and he absolutely meant it. He knew how difficult the creation of the case must have been, knew how much of Newt’s magic was painstakingly poured into it and how much the creatures meant to him. He’d be damned if he let anyone take that from him. “I’ll edit parts of the report. God knows you don’t have a permit for that nundu.” Newt looked as if he were about to object, then thought better of it. “But MACUSA couldn’t do a thing about most of those creatures with the proper paperwork. MACUSA needs to know about you Newt, needs to know about this. Otherwise, how will anything change?”
Newt looked at him sharply. “Theseus said I can trust you,” he said eventually.
“You can. I hope you know that.”
Newt was silent for a long time. Percival watched his features hopefully. “Perhaps nothing about Frank either,” Newt murmured pensively, and Percival let out a long exhale.
Percival returned to MACUSA with the report in hand, after a long few hours, at the end of which he told Newt to “eat something already, Christ,” and practically forced him to get some sleep. The halls of the Woolworth were eerily quiet, the late shift like a skeleton crew. Only a few essential personnel were left. Percival rubbed at his eyes with the palm of his hand and yearned for, if not a bed, then some very strong coffee. He entered the musty cellar of the Records Room, dodging the files flying into shelves, and greeted Abernathy at the main desk. “Sir,” the auror said in turn, clipped.
Percival sighed. He set the folder on the desk. “Put this in the Scamander file.”
“Does he even have a file, sir?” Abernathy asked, blandly mocking.
“He does now,” Percival replied techily. He turned to go, then, sighing, turned back. “Abernathy, I think you’re wasted down here. I really do. But there’s a reason you see so little field work these days. You can’t pick and choose your cases like you’ve been doing, and you can’t blatantly ignore good insight when it’s staring you in the face.”
Abernathy merely looked at him, then smirked. “Scamander does have an easy face to stare at, doesn’t he?”
Percival inhaled sharply. A kind of shocked rage was his first reaction, but a small voice in his mind berated him—was he really so transparent? He felt hot anger well in his throat, and he narrowed his eyes, furious. “I’m done. I’m done with your constant insubordination, and I’m done making excuses for you. This is now your permanent assignment. You should be lucky if you’re still even considered an auror. Is that clear?”
Abernathy’s eyes had been cast down on the folder, but when he glanced up Percival was infuriated to find not even a hint of remorse. “Yes, sir.”
Percival stormed out, fuming, before the last syllable was even out of his mouth.
Wow, thank you all for enjoying! So many of y'all are real curious as to what's going on with Abernathy (for good reason) and I wanted to give you the answer this chapter....buuuuuut it got really, really long lol. So what I've decided to do is post the next chapter really soon, im talking like at most two days from now, so you'll have answers soon, I promise! For now, enjoy this more lighthearted chapter!
Percival returned to Newt’s apartment the next day, after a sleepless night. The whole business with Abernathy left him uneasy and he decided, when he got back to the Woolworth, he’d put in a request for a psych evaluation. Percival had known Abernathy since he was a junior auror at nineteen, and his recent behavior was worrying to say the least. As of now, however, he wanted to throw himself into the investigation. He needed some time to cool off before seeing Abernathy again, and his stewing on the matter wasn’t helping anyone.
He knocked on the door—a difficult feat considering the charm—and frowned in alarm when a moment later there was the sound of a muffled thump from inside, and a frazzled voice calling, “um, busy! Please come back at another time, thank you!”
“Newt?” he asked through the door, slightly concerned. “What’s going on?”
There was a brief silence. “Percival?” Newt asked, followed by a louder crash, “Ah! Oh, bugger—um, nothing to worry about, I just—this isn’t a great time!”
Percival knocked again more insistently. Honestly, if Newt was trying to be convincing, he wasn’t trying very hard. “Newt, open the door.”
“Um, it’s a bit of a mess at the moment—”
“Newt,” Percival growled, and after a beat, the door swung open with a distracted pull of magic from a backwards flip of Newt’s wand, hitting the wall loudly.
Percival watched, dumbfounded, as Newt placed his wand between his teeth and he scribbled furiously on a notepad, all while intermittently climbing onto the counter and yanking open kitchen cabinets and drawers, peering inside. Percival glanced at the rest of the room and found it in a similar state of disarray. Dressers had been dragged away from walls, bedsheets strewn across the floor, and the bed itself was levitating three feet in the air. Percival stared, briefly wondering if someone had spiked his coffee. “Um... Newt?”
“Hmm?” Newt answered distractedly, having paused in the center of the room, writing feverishly with a furrowed brow.
“Mercy Lewis, Newt what is going on?”
Newt looked up at him, blinked, and then glanced around the apartment as if seeing it for the first time. He looked back at Percival, sheepish, and took his wand from his mouth. “It’s the niffler,” he said, in motion once more, peering into cabinets. “I can’t find him.”
“He got out?” Percival asked incredulously. “I thought you said you got the latch fixed—”
“I did!” Newt exclaimed, a kind of giddiness in his voice, and he whirled around to face Percival again. “Don’t you see? That’s what’s so fascinating! Nifflers have a certain knack for squeezing themselves through very tight spaces—the biology behind it is really quite astounding—but the fact that he’s managed to leave the case while it’s locked suggests a level of that ability I wasn’t even aware existed—”
“Christ, Newt,” Percival groaned, pinching the bridge of his nose. “How do you know he’s even still here?”
“Things have been steadily disappearing for the past half hour,” Newt told him. “This,” he said, waving the pen he had been writing with, looking slightly manic with the way his hair stuck up at odd ends and his face was covered in a thin sheen of sweat, “is my spare. He took the first one while I wasn’t paying attention. It had a bit of silver on the end, you see.”
Percival thought he really should have been angry, but eventually he merely huffed out an incredulous laugh at the sheer ridiculousness of the picture in front of him. Newt was, in this moment, the embodiment of chaos. Percival had always led a very ordered life, everything had its place and things moved along schedule. Meeting Newt had upended things, but Percival had never felt such a sense of absurd elation than he did in that moment, wondering how he could locate a niffler for the impossible, radiant, whirlwind of a wizard in front of him.
Newt tilted his head curiously at him, but Percival shook his head dismissively and suggested, “he’s drawn by things that shine, right? Things of value? Well, we collect as much of that as we can find and draw him out.”
“Excellent idea,” Newt nodded, pointing his pen at him. “The only problem is I haven’t much of that left. Oh, your watch! The niffler seemed quite taken with it yesterday.”
“Right.” Percival brought his hand to his wrist, paused, then pushed his sleeve up and stared, disbelieving.
“Oh, dear,” Newt murmured.
Percival looked up at him, then narrowed his eyes, glancing around the room. “He’s very skilled,” Percival conceded after a moment.
Newt looked as if he very much wanted to laugh, but was trying valiantly to keep his face a mask of seriousness. The effect was ruined somewhat by a slight creaking noise that brought a trickle of dust from the ceiling, which landed on Newt’s nose and made him go cross-eyed. They glanced at each other, then slowly looked up. A small bill peaked out from the top of the ceiling fan, and a corner of Percival’s watch was pulled out of view. “Don’t look so smug!” Newt called up, arms crossed.
Newt’s look of disapproval as he levitated the niffler down was almost comical. The niffler hurriedly tried to stuff Percival’s watch into its pouch, but Newt was quick to scold, “no, that is not yours. Give it back to the nice man.”
The niffler, after a moment of pouting, begrudgingly held the watch out for Percival to take. “Now, what about the rest of it?” Newt asked him. The niffler tried a look of innocent confusion, but Newt merely flipped him over and things began to clatter onto the floor, namely a multitude of coins, a few rings, and, at last, a ballpoint pen.
Percival raised his eyebrows. “Does he always get so lucky?”
Newt had the look of a long suffering parent. “You have no idea.”
Suddenly, a faint sound of whistling from the adjacent street drifted in through the window, and the niffler stiffened in Newt’s arms and slowly turned his head towards the sound. The whistling grew fainter and, as if a flip were switched, the niffler struggled and writhed so abruptly that Newt lost his grip and the creature skidded along the floor, took a leap, and crashed through the glass of the window.
Newt and Percival shared a look of panic and, with a flick of a wand that sent Newt’s suitcase to his hand, they bolted through the door, taking stairs two at a time, and rushed onto the street. Percival caught sight of the niffler turning an alley corner, and he sprinted after, Newt’s footfalls close behind. There weren’t many people on the streets yet, but there were enough to make Percival nervous. Luckily no one was quite cognizant enough to look too closely at the rodent-like figure darting between legs. “Newt, I swear—” he called back, panting. “I ask for one thing—”
“Less talking, more running, please!” Newt answered breathlessly.
The niffler made another hairpin turn and Percival heard the faint whistling cut off suddenly with a strangled shout of surprise. Percival and Newt quickly turned the corner and saw the niffler eagerly rummaging through the suitcase of a man who was seemingly knocked over, looking dazed and vaguely terrified. “Oh, great,” Percival panted, gesturing at the scene to Newt. “Just what we needed.”
“At least he’s stopped,” Newt reasoned, ever the optimist, in between large breaths.
Percival cast a quick disillusionment charm to mask both entrances to the alley. Crude, he conceded, but effective for the time being. Newt had made his way over to the niffler and again shook all of his stolen goods back into the suitcase. It appeared the majority of it was old fashioned jewelry: bracelets, rings, and brooches.
The man finally seemed to focus on the creature in Newt’s arms and let out a sound of alarm, scooting back against the wall. “ Jesus. What the hell is that thing?”
“ Nothing, ” Percival said, in the same moment that Newt said, “he’s a niffler.”
Percival pinched the bridge of his nose and sighed.
“We do apologize,” Newt continued, glancing at the man sheepishly. “He probably wouldn’t have followed you so ardently if you didn’t have so many, um—” He tilted his head to glance into the case, then finished, slowly, “...items.”
The man, looking wide-eyed and utterly lost, asked dumbfoundedly, “he, uh, likes jewelry?”
“Primarily, yes. Technically things that have a shiny quality,” Newt clarified, now trying to coax the niffler into his own case. “Is there any particular reason you’re carrying so much?”
“I, uh, need collateral for the bank,” the man answered dazedly. “Thought my grandma’s old jewelry might work.” He paused, then murmured, brow furrowed, “can’t seem to make the trip without something weird happening.”
Newt perked up at that, having successfully gotten the niffler back into the case, but Percival pulled out his wand and stepped between them. “Alright, that’s enough,” he said, aiming the wand at the man, who eyed it with trepidation. Percival couldn’t help but feel a little bad. It wasn’t the man’s fault he’d been caught up in all of this, and Percival never liked obliviation. Taking memories away seemed so invasive—it was why he tried to avoid putting himself in situations that forced his hand. “Sorry about this,” he said regretfully, and the spell was just forming at the tip of his wand when Newt shoved his arm towards the ground.
“Wait a moment,” he said with a frown at Percival, and turning towards the man, he asked, “what do you mean, ‘something weird’?”
“Newt,” Percival sighed.
“Percival,” he said, glancing at him excitedly, “what do we know of that has happened recently that could be categorized as ‘weird’?”
Percival glanced, incredulous, between Newt and the man, who was slowly inching away with a concerned expression. “The odds of that...” he reasoned.
“It only happened two blocks away.”
Percival stared at Newt. “You do know this isn’t how real investigations work, right?” he asked, only half joking. Newt merely looked at him, expression hopeful. “Alright,” he sighed and glanced at the man. “What did you see?”
The man blinked at him, uncomprehendingly. “Uh...what did I...?”
“You said every time you make the trip,” Newt encouraged gently. “Did you happen to make that trip yesterday around seven?”
“Uh, yeah,” the man nodded, “yeah I did. It was uh, on my way back. That’s when I saw it.”
“This thing,” Percival asked wryly, crossing his arms, “did it happen to look like a black wind with white eyes?”
“Yeah! Jesus, yeah, that’s what the guy turned into. How’d you know?”
“The guy?” Percival froze and locked eyes with Newt, who looked quite pleased with himself. There was no way. “You saw the obscurial?”
“The child who became the black force you saw,” Newt clarified.
“Uh, I did, yeah. But, uh, he wasn’t really a child. More like nineteen or twenty, least. Hey, what’s an obscurial?”
“That’s impossible,” Percival argued. “No obscurial has ever survived to adulthood,” he said, looking at Newt for confirmation.
To Percival’s surprise, Newt looked considering. “Did you see anything else?” Newt asked slowly.
“There was this other guy there, too. Talking to the obscurial guy. This second guy seemed to be making him kind of nervous, and when he left obscurial guy just lost it and turned into that thing—” Newt’s case twitched on the ground and the man jumped away from it, eyeing it with suspicion. “Uh, fellas, can I go now?”
“One moment, Mister...?”
“Uh, Kowalski, Jacob Kowalski.”
“Newt Scamander. Pleasure. Mr. Kowalski, do you think you could describe the two men’s appearances?”
“Uh, I don’t know, it was pretty hard to see... they were both male, had dark hair? The one who left early was dressed pretty nice...? Sorry, fellas, I don’t have much more than that,” Kowalski said apologetically.
Newt turned to Percival with a frown. “What do you usually do when your witness can’t provide detailed information?”
Percival shrugged. “Veritaserum sometimes works.”
“We are not drugging him,” Newt objected immediately, looking scandalized.
“Well, you asked,” Percival pointed out, exasperated. “We don't even know if he's giving reliable information at all. An obscurial past the age of maturity? It's unheard of.”
“I've seen stranger things happen,” Newt said, unrelenting.
“Fine. Say he saw what he says he did. Veritaserum we can use anywhere, but we can’t bring him into the Woolworth for further interrogation. Piquery would have my head if a nomaj was exposed to MACUSA headquarters, obliviation or not.”
“Then what do you propose?”
Percival sighed. He was considering another approach, but that also involved exposing Kowalski to more magic than he would have liked. “Tina’s sister, Queenie,” he said reluctantly. “She might be able to give us a clearer picture. She's a Legilimens,” he added at Newt’s questioning look.
“Ah,” Newt said, considering. “That might work.” He turned to Kowalski. “Mr. Kowalski, could we perhaps treat you to lunch?”
Queenie swung open the door with her usual bright smile, and when her eyes found Percival they grew wide. Percival nearly groaned out loud. His mental shields were usually impeccable, but it seemed Queenie was having an exceptionally good day. She glanced between him and a thankfully oblivious Newt, and looked positively elated. “Oh, honey,” she murmured, smile growing wider.
Percival shook his head at her slightly. Absolutely not.
She pouted, but the smile returned almost immediately, directed at Newt. “Hi, Sugar! Percival’s told me all about you.”
Percival rolled his eyes. Queenie was one of the few people at the Woolworth who addressed him by his first name, and it wasn’t so much that he allowed it but that he begrudgingly accepted it. Queenie had a way of getting what she wanted. She wasn’t the airhead that some people made her out to be. It was a great tactic, Percival had to admit. There was no better weapon than cultivated underestimation—a skill she and Newt seemed to share.
Newt’s cheeks turned pink and he blinked rapidly, glancing at Percival. “Oh, um, h-he has?”
“Well, not directly— you know how he is,” she told him, winking at Percival and waving a hand through the air. “Come in, no need to stand out on the stoop all night.”
As they were ushered in, Queenie finally caught sight of Kowalski. “Oh!” She glanced at Percival in surprise.
“A necessary evil,” Percival told her.
Newt huffed and frowned at him. “That’s rude.”
“No offense,” he told Kowalski, who looked slightly dazed again as he stared at Queenie.
“Uh, no problem,” Kowalski answered distractedly.
Queenie leant on the doorframe and bit her lip. “Oh, honey, I’m sorry about your bakery. I hope it works out. You bake?” Kowalski made to answer, a starstruck look on his face, but Queenie continued, “I love to cook. You hungry? Whatever you like, I can whip it up for you.”
Percival glanced between the two of them. This wouldn’t end well.
“Oh!” Queenie blushed, and beamed at Kowalski. “Thanks, honey. You aren’t the first to think so,” she added with a wink.
“Alright,” Percival interrupted them, grabbing Kowalski’s lapel and pulling him inside. “That’s enough of that. Let’s get on with it, shall we?”
“Get on with... what, exactly?” Tina asked, coming in from the dining room. “Can you tell us again why the nomaj is here? And Scamander, for that matter,” she added, giving Newt a look. “I’d heard you released him, but didn’t quite get the full explanation.”
“His name’s Jacob, Teen,” Queenie murmured distractedly, running a hand through Kowalski’s hair. “Is it ok if I call you Jacob?” she asked him, and he nodded dazedly.
Percival took in Tina’s crossed arms, Newt’s sheepish expression, and Queenie and Kowalski, who were busy mooning at each other. He sighed. “Maybe we should sit down,” he conceded.
“Oh, that poor kid,” Queenie murmured sympathetically, after Percival and Newt had told them what they’d discovered.
“That’s just the thing,” Newt said, leaning forward, “Mr. Kowalski claims the boy was at least nineteen. Not quite a child.”
“Which we’re still not sure is even possible,” Percival had to point out again.
Newt sat back and drummed his fingers on the dining table pensively. His brow furrowed and his eyes went distant, as if he were remembering something. Percival eyed him curiously, but didn’t pry.
“More strudel, honey?” Queenie asked Jacob, who smiled at her.
“Sure, thanks, sweetheart,” he answered.
She pulled one from the oven with a flick of her wand, Jacob once again staring in awe as it landed in front of him. Percival was at least glad he’d passed the stage of shouting and shying away from things, but this would make it all the more difficult for them later. He eyed Tina across the table, and knew she was thinking the same. Jacob would have to be obliviated eventually, there was no way Percival could ignore that, but he dreaded how Queenie would take it. An angry Queenie could set the world on fire and come out looking casually innocent. A heartbroken Queenie could make the whole department feel unspeakably low, and not just because of her Legilimency.
That is, if the nomaj didn’t break her heart before all that. Percival eyed Kowalski suspiciously.
“Oh, he would never,” Queenie assured him, “He's the kindest, most handsome nomaj I've ever met.”
“He's the only nomaj you've ever met.”
“Really, honey,” she said turning from Percival to face Kowalski, twirling a strand of hair. “I've never met anyone like you.”
Kowalski actually winked at her. “There's no one like me.”
“Christ, ” Percival groused, putting his head in his hands.
“So, what do you think, Queen?” Tina asked, bringing them back to the matter at hand. “Do you think you could draw out a clear image?”
Queenie nodded. “Oh, I’m almost positive. It’s pretty fresh, right? Just yesterday you said?” she asked Jacob, tilting her head and resting it on her hand.
“Yeah, just yesterday,” he affirmed. “I couldn’t really make out the faces, though.”
“That’s alright, you just try to remember, real hard, and I’ll see what I can do. You’re ok with this, right hun?”
Jacob nodded, and Queenie leaned in. “Well, alright, then. Try to picture it—yeah, like that...” She had her eyes closed, but after a moment her brow furrowed. She didn’t look concentrated, but concerned.
“What is it?” Percival asked worriedly, leaning forward in his chair. “Did you recognize one of them?”
The sounds of scrubbing and boiling from the kitchen came to an abrupt stop as Queenie’s magic stuttered, and the china that had been levitating crashed to the floor. Percival shot to his feet, Jacob to the left of him doing the same. Queenie’s eyes shot open and she looked visibly upset, eyes watery. She locked eyes with Percival, and his heart sank like a rock and seemed to settle in his stomach.
“Oh, Percival,” she whispered. “Abernathy was there.”
All of the eyes in the room settled on him.
Heyyyyy what'd I tell you guys! Next chapter up already daaaamn
Now we finally answer the question: what's up with Abernathy
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Percival strode through the halls of the Woolworth, Tina and Queenie behind him. People took one look at his thunderous expression and dove out of the way, crowds parting with glances of unease. Percival felt torn in half between anger and betrayal, both feelings simmering in his gut. Christ, how long had Abernathy been withholding information, working to derail investigations? Percival couldn’t make sense of it, and as they searched through the Woolworth, he tried to neatly categorize things in his mind.
Abernathy had been taking strange cases lately, constantly teetering on the brink of disobeying orders, and now the evidence suggested he was working against MACUSA itself. Queenie had been adamant that Kowalski had seen something real, and Percival trusted her.
But it didn’t make sense. Abernathy had always been diligent about upholding magical law, believing in the need for justice and order as much as Percival.
He supposed the only way to understand would be to ask Abernathy himself.
They strode into the Records Room, wands at the ready, where a young junior auror named Julie sat at the front desk. She glanced up, took one look at them, and her face went white.
“Where is Abernathy?” Percival asked rigidly.
“He—um, he’s in the b-back, sir,” Julie answered breathlessly. “Should I go and—?”
Percival strode past her, wand raised as he glanced through the endless isles. He finally found Abernathy practically lounging against a shelf, reading over some manuscript. The sight of him was absolutely infuriating. Percival ripped the journal away from his hands with a flick of his wand, and shoved him against a shelf with a hand fisted in his coat. Abernathy quirked an eyebrow, nonplussed. “Yes, sir?”
Percival raised his wand between them. “I am placing you under arrest,” he growled, “for knowingly hindering an investigation, withholding vital information from your superiors, and conspiring against MACUSA.”
Abernathy opened his mouth as if to object, then closed it, eyes scanning Percival’s, looking almost amused. “Cat’s out of the bag, I suppose,” he murmured. Percival was prepared if he chose to reach for a wand--Abernathy had never mastered wandless magic--but all the auror did was snap his fingers, and suddenly the world exploded into sound and bright light.
Percival was thrown backwards, crashing against the wall, ears ringing. He staggered to his feet as soon as he was able, squinting as the room came in and out of focus. There was a blackened ring around the spot where Abernathy had been standing, and the shelves that had surrounded them were practically demolished, some of them singed and smoking. Percival scowled and patted down his own slightly smoldering coat as he walked, coming up to the entrance again. Queenie was helping a dazed Tina from the floor, and Julie had been knocked into the desk, dust and ash in her hair.
“He knew he’d be found out eventually,” Percival grit out, shoving his wand into his coat pocket, “so he prepared a goddamn escape route.” He pointed at Tina and said, “I want every goddamn auror in this building looking for him.”
Tina nodded. “Of course, sir.”
Percival glanced at the destruction of the room and cursed under his breath. “I want that bastard found as soon as possible.”
By the time he returned to his office, he was so angry his hands shook and his jaw ached from how tightly he’d been holding himself. He sank into his chair and stared a the paperwork on his desk, racking his memory. How long had Abernathy been doing this? Scheming, plotting behind their backs? It felt so wrong to even consider—he’d trained Abernathy, he’d known him for years, worked beside him for years.
He didn’t know how long he sat there when there was a knock at the door. He sighed. “Come in.”
Newt tentatively poked his head in, looking at him sympathetically. “Tina told me what happened,” he murmured.
Percival rubbed two fingers against his temple to stave off a looming headache. “Of course she did.”
Percival heard rather than saw Newt close the door behind him. “I didn’t get much of a chance to tell you,” Newt began, “but I’m sorry. I know he was someone you placed a lot of trust in, so...it must have been a shock.”
Percival laughed humorlessly and shook his head wryly. “Honestly,” he told Newt, glancing up, “the way he’s been acting, I should’ve seen it coming.”
Newt looked at him, expression still sympathetic, and Percival had no idea how he kept it so closed off from pity but he was grateful for it. “Were you two close?” Newt asked him carefully.
Percival breathed in deeply. Close? He didn’t know if he’d categorize it that way. He wasn’t really close with anyone, except maybe Theseus when they were very, very drunk. Percival was the very opposite of an open book, purposefully, so no, close wouldn't be the word he would choose. But he’d cared about Abernathy, cared about his progress. He’d always taken his advice to heart, and Percival had been proud when he’d become a senior auror a year ago after a well won case.
After all, Percival had been the one to recruit him in the first place.
Gritting his teeth, Percival found the appropriate papers for that official report of the incident that he’d been dreading. “I must be blind,” he muttered darkly, uncapping a pen.
He didn’t really expect Newt to respond—Christ, he knew he wasn’t a great conversation partner at the moment—but after a brief silence, Newt said quietly, “it can be difficult to acknowledge the bad in people we’re close to. It’s easy to make excuses until it’s too late.”
It was the careful absence of emotion in Newt’s voice that had Percival immediately glancing up at him. Newt stared at the ground, mouth thin and pale. He didn’t look at all like elaborating, so Percival just nodded, swallowing dryly. “I guess so,” he agreed somberly.
“If you ever...want to talk. About any of it,” Newt said, all earnest green eyes, “I would be glad to listen. Anything to help.”
Percival nodded again tiredly. “You know what would help? If you got some sleep.”
Newt actually looked offended at the suggestion, and it almost, almost made Percival quirk a smile. “No, don’t argue with me. I know you didn’t get much with your niffler getting loose.”
Newt ran a hand through his hair, expression sheepish. “I got some,” he grumbled halfheartedly.
“Sleep,” Percival told him, pointing at the door. “We’ll convene with Kowalski again once I’ve reported Abernathy’s charges.”
Newt looked considering, biting his lip. “Are...are you sure you don’t need anything?” he asked softly.
Percival looked at him, with his steady gaze and soft expression, and a sudden wave of want rammed into him like a truck. He closed his eyes. “Yeah,” he rasped. “I’m sure.”
The clock dragged on after Newt left, and the words Percival had been writing practically blurred in front of his eyes. He had been recording Abernathy’s past cases for hours, painstakingly pouring through the details. He had finally reached those of the past month, but his pen stuttered to a stop as he began to record the current case. His encounters with Abernathy over the past few days flew through his mind, and he shot up to his feet, a feeling of growing dread overwhelming him. Before the disturbance on 49th street, just before the obsucrial, Abernathy had taken over Records.
Percival stood up, raced into the hall, and apparated down to the lower levels, heart hammering, and he blew past the aurors who were scanning the destruction of the Records Room. He rifled through the broken shelves, each minute growing more frustrated, before he found the location he was looking for. The files were scattered, and the feeling of dread grew when Percival realized the one he needed wasn’t there. The Scamander file, with its detailed descriptions of Newt’s case, was gone.
Percival hadn’t recorded an address, but the file being missing was enough. Abernathy’s vague animosity towards Newt was more than enough. He wasted no time and apparated to the cramped hallway of Newt’s apartment building.
If Percival had thought Newt’s apartment looked ransacked before, it was nothing compared to now. The door was blown off its hinges, mostly splinters, the disillusionment charm all but obliterated.
He pulled out his wand, heart in his throat. He wanted nothing more than to make sure Newt was alright, to call his name, but he didn’t know whether Abernathy was still inside. A part of him still balked at the thought, but the evidence was right there in front of him. It was almost impossible to reconcile the wizard he thought he knew with this destruction and mayhem.
He entered the apartment silently, wand at the ready. Scanning the room revealed no one, but the living quarters were practically demolished. Furniture had been upturned, books and journals littered the floor, but there was a sense of frustration and anger about it all. Abernathy hadn’t found what he’d been looking for.
The silence was almost oppressive.
Suddenly, the back of Percival’s neck prickled, and he whirled around, eyes widening as he saw the distinct red of the cruciatus curse flying towards him. A flick of his wand brought the dining table flying up to meet the curse first, and the wood exploded into pieces. Percival ducked behind the kitchen counter for cover as jagged pieces of wood embedded themselves in the walls. “Excellent reflexes, Percy,” Abernathy’s voice called mockingly. “It’s too bad, I would have loved to see you writhe.”
Percival breathed in slowly, absolutely certain. That wasn’t Abernathy.
Percival had just been promoted to senior auror when he was asked to oversee the newly recruited wizards being trained. Overall, results were well above average, but there was one candidate who consistently caught Percival’s attention. He threw himself into the simulations and tests with a fervor Percival saw only rarely, and his scores were the highest among all of them. There was something, Percival noted curiously, that seemed to be driving him. He approached his tasks like someone who had nothing to lose, made risky close calls and practically consumed critiques, making sure this or that spell was impeccable in the next session.
A week after he first noticed him, Percival sat across from the trainee conducting one of the preliminary interviews. The first question he was supposed to ask glared on the page. “So,” he began, straightening the paper in front of him mechanically, “why did you choose to become an auror?”
The kid, Abernathy his file said, shifted forward minutely. A bead of sweat was forming at his brow despite his calm demeanor, and he took a breath before speaking. Percival bit down on a smile. “I want to help people. I want to provide a feeling of safety in the wizarding—”
“Stop,” Percival interrupted him, leaning back in his chair. “Don’t give me that memorized bullshit. Why are you really here?”
Abernathy looked startled for a moment, like a deer caught in the headlights. His expression flattened out almost immediately. “Like I said, sir.”
“We need to work on your poker face,” Percival told him.
The kid’s scowl deepened.
“You look angry, are you angry?” Percival asked, purposefully keeping his voice level and flat.
“I’m sorry, is this an interview or an interrogation?” Abernathy grit out.
“Why are you here?” Percival asked again. “If you don’t answer,” he continued, after a long silence, “I can answer the question for you.”
Abernathy narrowed his eyes at him, working his jaw. “You got some kind of file on me?” he asked, mouth tight.
Percival reached down under the desk, and placed a hefty folder onto the table. “I do,” he confirmed. “I haven’t looked at it yet,” he said, before Abernathy could come up with some retort, “but I will if you keep feeding me a fabricated answer.”
Abernathy breathed in deeply, and merely looked at him.
“I’ll ask one more time. Why are you here?”
Abernathy’s gaze dropped to the table and stayed there, his jaw clenched. When no answer was forthcoming, Percival reached for the file between them. “That file’s gonna give you the wrong answer,” Abernathy said quietly.
“Oh, yeah? What is it going to tell me?”
Abernathy looked at him. “That I’m here for revenge.”
“And you’re not?” Percival asked levelly.
Abernathy took another breath, and was silent for a while. Percival waited it out. Abernathy’s eyes were cast down when he finally said, “you know, I loved my mom. She was a squib, but she never minded it. She said...” he paused and swallowed. “She said seeing a little magic in me was more than enough for her. She worked in a nomaj copying house, long hours, but she always came back home smiling. One day, after work, she was coming home, walking through an alley and this wizard, this deranged, drunk lunatic sees her, and decides to cast the cruciatus curse.” Abernathy stopped, and met Percival’s eyes. “They said he cast that spell over fifty times.”
“Jesus,” Percival muttered.
“Yeah,” Abernathy snorted, sporting a deprecating smile. “Though I don’t think he had much to do with anything. She’s still alive, at least. That’s what people told me, trying to be consoling. At least. I visit her every week, but she’s not there anymore. Not really. She doesn’t speak, doesn’t look at me. Only stares out the window, and shakes.”
Percival watched him closely. “What happened to the wizard?”
“They had him pegged for Askaban,” Abernathy told him, voice even. “He did two years before he was released to an asylum on grounds of insanity. Apparently,” Abernathy smiled humorlessly, “he claimed that he saw her silhouette come out of the fog, and thought she was a boggart. He managed to slit his wrists a couple months later.”
Percival studied him silently. Abernathy seemed calm, at least outwardly. Percival knew the admission couldn’t have been without an old pain, and he almost regretted having to bring it up, but all aurors in training needed to be vetted thoroughly. There was no time at MACUSA for vendettas. “All this, and yet you claim that your motivations aren’t out of vengeance,” he had to point out, “even some proactive kind?”
Abernathy shook his head. His expression was completely open, removed of any tells, when he said, “no. Maybe I wanted that once. But there wasn’t anyone left to blame after he died, and even before that...” He trailed off, and stared at the wall. “It was a loss for nothing and no one’s sake, Mr. Graves.”
Percival leaned back in his chair, considering. “So. You know what I’m going to ask.”
Abernathy looked at him and Percival saw steely truth in his gaze. “I’m here because I don’t just want to see justice done. I don’t want aurors to deal with an aftermath, to deal with tragedy and pick up the pieces. I want to stop wizards who torture mothers in the streets—accidentally or not—before they even get a chance to do so. I want to spare the next kid his or her parent’s death at the hands of some fanatic. I want to make the wizarding world safer without the irony of consulting the decreasing causality statistics telling us what a bang up job we’re doing.”
Percival tamped down a smile of approval. There was a fire in Abernathy that reminded Percival of the drive he’d felt when he first started, an idealism and determination. They needed more of that in these goddamn offices. Still, he said, “kid, you’re preaching prevention. Of course it's nice not to have to start with a body and work backwards, but as nice as those cases are, they’re few and far between.”
Abernathy shrugged, and almost smiled. “With respect, sir, I’d like to work to boost those numbers.”
Percival stared, then gave a low chuckle. He crumpled up the sheet in front of him, and stood up. “Abernathy,” he said, “I expect to see you in tomorrow.”
“Of course, sir,” the young man answered easily.
Percival exited the room, and turned to the Legilimens who had been watching and listening behind the glass. The man nodded at him, but Percival had already known what the man would determine. As Percival passed by he said, “I want that kid instated as a junior auror right now.”
“Who are you?” Percival asked the imposter calmly.
There was a silence, then a chuckle. “Finally catching on, I see,” the voice said, mimicking Abernathy’s intonation, his cadence.
Whoever it was, Percival had to admit, they had paid a sickening close attention to detail.
“Tell me,” the man continued, “what was it that gave me away?”
“Cruciatus curse,” Percival stalled distractedly as he inched closer to edge of the counter.
“Oh, please. Don’t tell me it’s because no auror would stoop so low. I think you and I can agree, Percy, that that is far from true.”
Percival grit his teeth in a silent flare of anger. “No,” he continued, voice level, and chanced a glance around at the middle of the room. “He just had a particular dislike for it.”
An understatement. Percival knew Abernathy would die before casting it. A horrible thought struck him, and he amended the statement in his head with despair. Abernathy would have died before casting it. He had no way of knowing if Abernathy was still alive, and he felt the loss like a stab in the gut. It was worse than a betrayal. At least under those pretenses he’d been alive. At least.
Percival heard the abrupt creak of a floorboard and blindly fired a spell at the source of the noise. He chanced a step beyond his cover and saw the imposter deflect the blow, and he quickly fired a volley of spells in succession, hoping to catch the man off guard. The man was pressed back, but managed to counter all of the spells with a few of his own, his face a calm mask, while Percival was already sweating in concentration.
Whoever it was, they were also very, very skilled.
Percival lost track of time. The only thing he was aware of was the constant cycle: deflect, counter, attack. Misdirected spells shook the walls and blew holes through the thin plaster. Eventually, the man began to breathe hard as well, but it only seemed to spur him on, giving him more energy while Percival tired.
“It’s a shame about poor Newt,” the other man said suddenly, and Percival stiffened, barely managing to deflect a particularly nasty curse. Percival had just assumed Newt had chosen to wander off somewhere else instead of returning to the apartment. It wouldn’t have been unlike him. But really, he had no idea where Newt had gone after he left his office.
And the other man had been here first.
The imposter smirked. “The things a man could do with a mouth like that.”
Percival immediately felt rage well up in his throat, and his spells became more quick and vicious as they left his wand. “I swear, if you laid a finger on him,” he growled, feeling a keen satisfaction when the other man’s eyes widened briefly. Clearly, he had been hoping to catch Percival off guard, but he had only motivated him further. He kept the movements of his wand controlled and sharp, leaving no room for the other man to successfully land an attack.
It finally appeared as though the other man was fumbling through defensive spells, casting few of his own. The man practically snarled, his face contorting in such an ugly way that he barely resembled Abernathy at all. Percival smirked triumphantly, but it fell from his face and panic flooded his veins as he heard Newt’s voice from the doorway croak his name, as if he were in pain. He saw red auburn hair flash at the corner of his vision, and he glanced at it automatically. With one look he could tell Newt’s presence was manufactured, quickly and shoddily conjured and disappearing into smoke as soon as he looked at it. It had taken up a fraction of a second, but it was a moment too long.
Percival looked back to see a lightening fast motion of the other man’s wand, cracking like a whip through the air. An immense force sent Percival crashing backwards and he lost his footing, a sudden, intense pain in his midsection making the world blurry and muted. He fell, reeling as his head smashed against the doorframe. The world went black for a few moments as he gasped for air, and all he heard was soft, mocking laughter.
He brought his hand to the burning in his stomach, and inhaled sharply when it felt slick and wet, bringing a sharp lance of agony. Blinking, he could just make out the form of his wand in the corner and he reached for it with shaking tendrils of magic desperately. The other man carelessly waved his wand and suddenly Percival’s wand traveled through the air sluggishly, at a snail’s pace, and Percival watched, enraged, as the man plucked it from the air with a twisted grin. The other wizard considered it for a moment, turning it around in his hands. “Perhaps I could kill you with this?” the man murmured to himself. “That would be suitably ironic. It really is a perfect fit, isn't it? It seems so impeccable,” he continued, raking a finger up the length of it with a sickening smile at Percival. “So uniform, without fault. But there's always weakness, hidden just under the surface...” he held the wand up, and suddenly red fissures glowed just beneath the wood, and the wand began to fall apart, as if eroding, chunks clattering on the floor. “Yours was easy enough to find,” the man murmured, looking down at his handiwork with a curving smile.
To Percival it felt like he had broken bone instead, something painful and close to his soul. That wand had been with him since he’d started at Ilvermorny. He stared at the shattered remnants on the floor, not really processing what he was seeing.
The imposter crouched down, coming to eye level, and he was still wearing Abernathy’s face. Percival snapped.
He hurled a confringo curse with all the strength he had left, bringing part of the ceiling raining down and sending pieces of splintered wood flying, and apparated into the bedroom. His injury made it incredibly hard to focus and he didn’t dare chance a greater distance. He cast a protection charm on the doorway, sinking on shaking legs to rest against the wall adjacent. Almost immediately the thin shield was set upon by a barrage of curses, and Percival heard that maniacal voice sing-song, “oh, what a naughty boy you are, Percy.”
Grimacing, Percival turned his attention to the gash on his midsection, bleeding sluggishly, his clothes all but soaked through. With a trembling hand, he pulled back the flap of his coat to see it more clearly. Percival saw it was deep and jagged before he had to turn his gaze away, swallowing shakily. Just looking at it made him feel dizzy. He knew he was losing too much blood too fast—he needed to heal, and quickly, if he wanted to have any chance. The doorframe was already splintering under the force of the spells, and as Percival took a breath to center himself a chunk of wood was blasted away, inches from his face.
Alright. Emotions aside. He didn’t need a wand—he could work without it. He brought both hands to the wound and began to murmur the Vulnera Sanentur, the strongest healing spell he knew. The sounds from outside the room silenced abruptly, which made Percival pause—why had he stopped?—but another bolt of pain shot up his spine as one of his hands slipped and he continued breathlessly. The last syllable had only just left his mouth when the wound tore further, and Percival choked on a scream. His ears rang and he wrenched his eyes shut against the waves of agony.
“You like that?” the man asked him quietly, suddenly by his side, breath hot in his ear. Percival twitched at the sound, but barely processed the words, his heart thumping in his ears, vision spotty. “Something special, just for you. Consider that the signature topping my resignation.”
Percival slowly turned to look at him, shifting against the doorframe painfully. He eyed the once familiar features and grit his teeth. “Revelio,” he rasped, glaring daggers into the man’s eyes, and he must have known, must have seen Percival’s intent, but he did nothing to stop the spell.
In fact, his smile grew as his hair turned white, and his eyes turned pale and cold, like chips of ice. Percival swallowed down a sudden jolt of fear, turning his face away in revulsion. This monster, this murderer, had been playacting as one of his best aurors, and Percival hadn’t even noticed. “How long?” he asked hollowly.
Even though he wasn't looking, he could hear the smile, the sickening curve of pale lips. “I'll let you think on that, Percy,” Grindelwald said, and he stood up, running a finger along the stripped bed frame. “You know, you gave me so much wonderful reading material, down there in Records. I was fascinated by this case of little Newt’s. Where exactly is he hiding it?”
Percival glared up at him, and kept his mouth shut. Grindelwald tilted his head, looking disappointed. “Oh, come now, Percy,” he said, drawing his wand.
“It must have been hard for you,” Percival mocked, his voice hoarse, “to choke out all of those ‘yes, sirs.’ For a man with such big plans, you're known to have a pretty fragile—”
A burst of red light left Percival screaming, head swimming.
“I could have taken you, instead,” Grindelwald hissed, inches from his face. “I was impatient, and little Abernathy crossed my path first, but you were anything but untouchable, remember that,” the man said, reaching out and running his fingers through Percival’s hair, as if he were petting him.
Percival jerked away, disgusted, but the fingers tightened to a fist and dragged his head back, his throat exposed.
“I wonder, if I became Percival Graves, instead,” Grindelwald mused, tracing the line of Percival’s throat with his wand, and Percival couldn’t help but feel a pang of fear at the wizard’s casual threat—the rational part of him reasoned that surely someone would notice. But then again, he hadn't with Abernathy. “I would love to see Newt again, and with your face, that could be very interesting. I’d like to have a little chat with him." Percival fought down a sigh of relief. As revolting as that thought was, it meant that Newt hadn't been here when Grindelwald had arrived. "You’re a bit of a bore, Percival,” the wizard lamented, jerking Percival’s head back farther. Percival racked his mind for a spell, anything, but his thoughts were growing fuzzy and scattered with the blood loss. “I’m sure Newt would be more fun—we both seem to have a keen interest in obscuri, wouldn’t you say? And I think little Newt knows a bit more than he’s letting on, hm?”
Grindelwald came a fraction closer, and Percival took advantage of the fact and spit in his face. The only sign of anger was the slightest twitch, and then Grindelwald pressed the tip of his wand to Percival’s temple, a steady, ominous pressure. “They say the cruciatus curse straight to the head causes instant madness,” the wizard said calmly, pressing harder. “Perhaps that would loosen your tongue.”
Percival met his gaze evenly. This wasn't how he pictured the end, but beggars couldn't be choosers. “Aren't you going to ask for my last words?" he rasped. "I thought you were supposed to be a gentleman revolutionary.”
Grindelwald grinned like a cat. “And what would the great Percival Graves say?”
Percival smirked, and braced himself. “Fuck y—”
There was a sudden commotion somewhere behind him, then Grindelwald pulled away and swore, and suddenly the room lit up with spells flying left and right. Percival saw the ominous green of the killing spell leave Grindelwald’s wand almost manically, and Percival was disgusted to think that anyone could cast something so vile so gleefully.
Still, he was unspeakably grateful for the distraction. While the chaos ensued, he tried to apply more pressure to the wound in an attempt to stop the bleeding, but his hands were going numb and he couldn't seem to get them to cooperate. It became harder and harder to keep his eyes open, and he supposed, eventually, he must have just given in, the world going dark, gradually, like the droning turn of a dial on a radio.
When he came back to himself the first thing he saw was Newt’s face. He thought, for a moment, he was dreaming, but Newt looked pained and worried, more than Percival had ever seen him. “Hello, darling,” Newt murmured in a voice that fought not to shake. “You’re going to be right as rain in a moment, I promise.” One of Newt’s hands gently cradled the side of Percival’s face, and the other gently moved Percival’s own from the wound. Newt inhaled sharply, wincing. “Alright, just one moment love, and you’ll be alright...”
Percival realized too late what Newt intended. Newt had his wand drawn over the gash, a look of concentration on his face. “No...w-wait—” Percival rasped, but the damage was done.
The healing spell fizzled into nothingness as the wound ripped open further and a strangled scream tore through Percival’s throat, the world disappearing into blackness and muffled by a ringing in his ears. Sounds barely filtered through like wisps of smoke.
“—sus, what was that—”
“...hexed it...Percival, stay wi...”
“...et a medic—”
“Ok, ok—can’t use magic...something else...”
Percival saw Newt scramble out of his line of sight fuzzily, and he was gone for a while. Percival’s eyes must have slipped closed again, but he forced them open when he heard his voice return.
“Ok, stay with me, oh God, Percival, don't close your eyes,” Newt rambled breathlessly as he rubbed something between his hands.
Newt brought his hands to the wound and Percival instinctively braced himself for pain, but instead there was an intense feeling of cold, and then an instant numbness. Percival let out a shaky sigh. The pain dulled to a pulsing ache, and the lack of it made the exhaustion more intense, now that he wasn't fighting against something.
“Percival?” Newt urged again, cupping Percival’s face, thumbs brushing over his cheekbones, “don't close your eyes, that's it, let's wait for the medic, love. Tina’s just gone, but she'll be back soon.”
Newt’s face was incredibly pale, the freckles a stark contrast. Percival openly stared at him, too tired to care about politeness. In that moment, his bright, green eyes focused on Percival, he was the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen. “Your brother’s going to kill me,” he laughed breathlessly, voice practically a whisper. Oh, the irony.
Newt looked endearingly confused, probably for good reason, Percival didn't really know what he was saying. He felt another, if distant, wave of pain, and he instinctively shut his eyes against it. He heard Newt objecting, but he couldn't, for the life of him, open his eyes again.
The last thing he was conscious of was Newt’s voice, frantic and distraught.
I always thought Grindelwald would find some way to be more creative than just the cruciatus curse. Poor Percival.
Newt sat at Percival’s bedside, holding the unconscious auror’s hand and willing him, for the thousandth time, to wake up.
Of course, there was no movement in answer—the only indication of life was the steady rise and fall of his chest. Newt’s thumb brushed the back of Percival’s hand absently as he studied Percival’s features. The man looked calm in sleep, but pale, so much so that it made Newt’s skin crawl. He hated to see Percival so expressionless, so blank. Newt yearned to see his mouth fighting a smile again, with his eyes crinkling charmingly at the corners.
Pickett chirped mournfully from Newt's pocket, sinking down lower in the fabric, and Newt tried and failed to muster a smile for him.
It was already the third day, quickly turning to the fourth as the sun sank through the windows behind them, and Newt felt like a weight was constricting around his chest every moment Percival didn’t open his eyes.
It was almost worse than when Newt had found him in the apartment. At least then Percival could look at him.
It was Queenie who’d known. Newt had accepted Tina’s invitation for dinner and gone to the sisters’ flat. It had been surprisingly...nice, at first. It had been a while since he'd had a home cooked meal, and even longer still one with people he felt comfortable calling friends. But, unexpectedly, Queenie had turned pale, with more fright in her eyes than Newt had ever seen. He remembered how his stomach dropped when she told them, frantic, how he felt like the air in the room had thinned and his lungs felt sparse.
Taking on Grindelwald had been truly terrifying. There was a gleam in that man’s eye that spoke of a love of cruelty—Newt had seen its likeness many times before. Tina made all the difference, fighting furiously beside him, looking all the world like the righteous, powerful auror she was. Though, Newt suspected the reason Grindelwald had fled wasn’t much due to a lack of skill so much as his being caught by surprise. The sheer power behind the few spells he deigned to cast was unlike anything Newt had seen before.
When Newt had found Percival, all he felt was a horrible, gut-wrenching fear. His face had been so pale it was practically grey, twisted in pain, and there had been so much blood, a thick puddle of it growing steadily under Percival’s prone form and seeping thickly between his fingers. Newt had managed to stop the bleeding with a poultice containing a fractional amount of diluted phoenix tears. It had cost him a fortune in Egypt, and he had only had the one. He had been loathe to buy it at the time—he had discovered that the phoenix that had been used to cultivate it was long dead due to mistreatment, and the thought of in any way profiting from that set his teeth on edge. But it have would have been useful, as much as he had hated to admit it. Now, he thought it was worth every penny.
Without it, the nurses had told him somberly, Percival would be dead.
It was a nasty wound, cursed, responding dangerously to almost all forms of magic. The medics had done what they could. There was no longer bleeding, but there was a scar, and a mass of painful looking bruises. Immediate danger had passed, but Percival still didn’t wake.
“Cruciatus curse,” they had said. “Mental and physical trauma.”
“When will he...?”
“There’s no way of knowing if he will.”
If. Not when.
Tina had shouted them out of the room then, the air darkening tellingly around her, yelling what good they were if they couldn’t save him, why don’t you just help him, you bastards—
But all Newt had felt was a muted disbelief, a numbness. Percival had to come back. He had to, because Newt had never told him how much he meant to him.
Newt didn’t know what love felt like. He loved his creatures and his brother, but Percival wasn’t the same as all that, it wasn't familial like Queenie grinning and pulling him into the kitchen, or Jacob with his easy smiles.
He didn’t know what love was supposed to feel like. All he knew was that the thought of a world without Percival—absent of his hard won, but beautiful smile, and his soft, wondrous glances when he thought Newt wasn't looking—was like a world without air, or sunlight, or magic itself.
He didn’t leave Percival’s side, no matter the murmured sympathy of the nurses or the urging of the Goldsteins. He wanted to be there when Percival opened his eyes.
When the medics had determined that nothing else could be done without the use of magic that might worsen things, Newt felt a kind of anger he’d never known, but it was directed at the man who had contrived such a malicious curse. Cruelty for cruelty’s sake—it was something Newt had seen time and time again and something he could never comprehend or think to forgive. The thought of Percival in pain like that made Newt feel sick to his stomach, restless and utterly useless because for once his skill in healing magic could do absolutely nothing at all.
The light of the sun turned a gentle orange as it set, but it cast long shadows throughout the room and over Percival’s face, making him look like a ghost. Newt swallowed down a sob and brought the back of Percival’s hand to his mouth, closing his eyes. “Please,” he whispered, voice shaking. “Please, just...please, open your eyes, love.”
But there was nothing, not even a twitch.
Newt glanced away, fighting tears. “Oh, God,” he croaked, “I should have listened to you, I should have gone back, then I would have been there and maybe this wouldn’t have h-happened. I’m sorry, please, please just wake up, p-please...” His throat closed up and he couldn’t choke out anything more. He rested his forehead on Percival’s thigh and grit his teeth so hard it hurt, and he couldn’t stop silent tears from sliding down his cheeks.
He could feel the hope he’d been holding on to begin to slip away like the sunlight.
The wave of sudden despair was so all-consuming, he almost didn’t feel the twitch of the hand clasped in his own. Almost.
Newt whipped his head up so quickly it hurt, eyes wide, searching Percival’s face for any sign of movement. For a few horrible moments there was nothing, and that despair began to creep back, but then Newt saw it, the barest flutter of eyelashes. Newt leaned in closer, heart in his throat. “Percival? Percival, can you hear me?”
Percival’s brow furrowed, and sluggishly his eyes opened, unfocused at first, then settling on Newt. Percival’s expression, before pained and confused, went suddenly soft, and Newt felt elation and relief ballooning in his chest. He smiled and swallowed around the lump in his throat, so very relieved he could hardly breathe, blinking away residual tears. “Hello, darling,” he laughed, voice thick.
Percival furrowed his brow and brought a hand up—the one that Newt didn’t have clutched in a death grip—and brushed Newt’s cheek. “You’re crying,” he murmured. Then, Percival’s eyes went wide and he jolted up, hissing when it aggravated his wound and sinking back down. “Newt,” Percival began breathlessly, voice thin and hoarse, “are you alright? He hasn’t found you, has he?”
Newt shook his head, dumbfounded at the sudden anxiousness in Percival's face. “I...found me? I don’t—”
Percival looked even paler if that were possible. “Jesus, Newt, your case—he was looking for it, and I—Christ,” Percival grit his teeth, and looked away. “I practically handed it to him, that goddamn file, if I had just paid more attention...”
Newt couldn’t believe it. Percival had just woken after sustaining a near fatal injury, and he was worried about him? “Newt, I practically led him to you,” Percival continued, voice strained, and he looked shaken, pale, mouth twisted and brows furrowed, and Newt’s heart ached with the need to smooth it all away. “If you’d been there...God, I said I’d protect your case, and you, you—you’re a civilian and I put you in danger—”
Newt couldn’t stand it, listening to it, as if he might blame Percival, for anything.
Newt moved on impulse, on a whim. He surged forward and pressed his lips against Percival’s, effectively swallowing the flow of words in exchange for something much sweeter. Percival froze, and for a moment Newt felt an awful uncertainty, but in the next instant Percival relaxed into it, mouth moving languidly against Newt’s, a low groan escaping his throat that made Newt blush. Percival’s hand entwined itself in Newt’s hair, pulling him closer. Despite everything, Percival still smelled like the air before a storm, like impending rain, and it was dizzying.
Percival pulled back slightly, breathing heavily, pupils blown wide. “Oh,” he murmured, a small, dazed smile pulling at his lips, and he looked at Newt like he was something incredible.
The sight of it was almost too much to bear, and Newt closed his eyes. Just a few moments ago he'd been wondering if he would ever see Percival’s smile or his warm gaze again. “You almost bled out,” he breathed shakily, “on that apartment floor.”
Percival sighed, and reached up a hand to gently brush hair out of Newt’s face. “Hazards of the job,” he said ruefully.
“Please don’t ever do that to me again,” Newt whispered.
Percival leaned in closer, pressing their foreheads together. “I’ll try,” he said softly, “I promise.”
Newt breathed out a shaky sigh. He supposed that was as good as he was going to get. “I can’t believe you’re worried about me,” Newt laughed unsteadily, smiling crookedly.
Percival’s gaze softened again, and he said, “well,” that smile growing even larger, “you have an unfortunate knack for finding trouble.” He tilted his head and chased away Newt’s reply with a gentle kiss, slow and lingering, his arms pulling Newt so close he practically slid into the cot. A warm contentment blossomed in Newt’s chest. Everything felt perfect.
Until Percival pulled back with a grimace and a shaky exhale, his face twisted. “Ahh, what...?” he panted, and he reached down to lift up the thin hospital shirt, brow furrowed.
Newt watched his expression carefully as it flitted between confusion, anger, and resignation. It was the last that felt most like a punch to the gut. Experimentally, Percival shifted to sit up farther, succeeding in doing so, but not without a hiss of pain. Percival closed his eyes. “That bastard,” he laughed humorlessly.
Newt bit his lip. “The medics said you’d have a successful recovery i—as soon as you woke up.”
With the way Percival tensed, Newt could tell he'd caught the slip. Percival didn’t look at him, his face was turned away so Newt couldn’t see his expression, but he saw the tightness in his jaw, the sharp line of it as he grit his teeth. “What happened to him?” Percival finally growled, and his voice was low, angry, like a live wire.
“He...he escaped,” Newt told him reluctantly.
Percival breathed in slowly. “Did he say anything to you?”
Newt frowned. In the heat of the moment, he hadn’t really been paying attention. But he remembered Grindelwald’s parting words, in the instant before he disapparated. “He said, ‘you’re an eager one,’” he recounted, noting the way Percival’s hand fisted in the sheets, shaking slightly. “And then...”
“What?” Percival pressed.
Newt swallowed, recalling the sickening smile on the wizard’s face. “Then, he said, ‘it isn’t time for you yet.’”
“Christ,” Percival grit out angrily, “fucker has a flair for dramatics, doesn’t he.”
“So it would seem,” Newt agreed weakly.
He saw Percival’s throat work, his expression dark. He finally looked at Newt, gaze carefully blank, expression strangely stiff. “He was looking for you, and your case,” Percival said slowly, plainly, as if running it through his mind himself, “because he believes you have more information on obscuri than he does.” Percival didn't say it out loud, but it was clear he thought the same, watching Newt quietly. Percival’s eyes were calculating—not cold, but considering, and he was worryingly silent after he'd spoken his peace.
Newt glanced away, nerves gnawing away at his stomach. He hadn't shown the obscurus in his case to anyone, ever. Obscurials were widely treated as evil, when they were just tormented children. The Ministry or MACUSA were not much better.
He would have been content to leave the failure behind him, but he had kept the obscurus to study it because he knew, given the right knowledge, given enough time, he could have saved her. That was the worst of it. He could have accepted failure if he was doomed to it, but there was a sliver of a chance for success, and he had let it slip through his fingers.
He could still hear the pounding of frightened villagers at the walls, once her neighbors, now desperate to be rid of her, to lock her away. Aamira had been gentle, but so very afraid, and so very angry. She'd been ripped away from her home, her parents killed in the chaos, and in answer the obscurus ripped her apart from the inside. Newt couldn't separate it in time.
He kept the obscurus hidden away partly because he feared MACUSA’s stance on them, but more so because it was a reminder of that little girl’s blood on his hands. Sometimes, in the quiet morning hours he spent in his case tending to his creatures, the guilt almost ate him alive.
But Newt trusted Percival, more than he did almost anyone else, and so he took a deep breath and murmured, “I have to show you something.”
Heyyy sorry that this chapter's a little short, I have a lot of shit to do unfortunately but I wanted to get an update out for you guys
Don't worry, Percival isn't too badly off--but he isn't quite up to full strength anymore, thanks to Grindelwald (dun dun duuun)
And of course it takes a near death experience for either of these two to make a move lol--more sickening fluff to come! ;D