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A Bit of Bother and All That

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Despite later claims by Porpentina Goldstein, the first thing that Newt Scamander, illegal magizoologist, actually said to Graves was “Oh. I really didn’t think that there were two of those.”

Graves looked around quickly, wand cautiously raised. One of Grindelwald’s ‘silos’ of stored and mostly illegal paraphernalia had turned out to also include an acid-spitting two-legged ostrich-sized lizard, whose spit had dissolved, unfortunately, much of said illegal paraphernalia, a desk, several chairs, and Newt’s clothes. The lizard was asleep, bubbling gently beside the stairs, clutching the virulently pink flower bulb that Newt had thrown at it right before he’d been drenched.

“Where’s the other one?”

“No, no, I meant your coat,” Newt explained brightly. “I presume that you’re the real, ah, Director Graves, then. Tina did say that she was sending in some back-up, although I really should’ve remembered that the protective gel I rubbed on wouldn’t have transferred its efficacy to my clothes. Oh dear. I’m glad Pickett didn’t come along today.”

“What about my coat?” Graves said, a little bewildered by the torrent of semi-unrelated information. Tina had warned Graves about Newt’s ‘eccentricity’, and for the first time in her life, in Graves’ experience, she’d actually managed to completely understate the issue.

Newt smiled encouragingly at him, not in the least concerned that his clothes were still melting off him in handfuls. “It’s a very nice coat,” he said, sounding determined. When Graves merely stared, Newt deflated visibly. “This isn’t working, is it? I asked Ja… er, I asked a friend for tips on being more likeable, and he said, try to compliment something about them, and I thought, that does seem logical, but I’m afraid the results have been rather spotty.”

Graves bit down on a sigh, and put his wand away. “Did you bring your case of creatures?”

This got him a guilty look. “Maybe?” Newt hedged, when the blasted case was clearly in a corner of the room, behind the staircase, tied with string.

Graves gave up. “Just stash the Coatl in there and I’ll forget that this happened.”

Newt stared at him in surprise, even as his sleeves melted off. “You know what it is?”

“I went to university…?”

“Oh,” Newt said excitedly, “but you took the magizoology class. I mean. Care of Magical Creatures. Uh, the Ilvermorny equivalent.”

“What about it?” Graves asked suspiciously. A great deal of magical contraband, after all, was either crafted from magical beasts or were trafficked parts themselves, and Graves had chosen his final subjects and electives with the Auror program in mind. “I did very well, thank you. And by the way, if you don’t wash all that off with water in about five minutes, you’re going to develop a terrible rash, even with the gel.”

A quick Aguamenti and a hot air charm meant that although Newt was now acid-free, he was also extremely naked, freckles and all. A little reluctantly, Graves handed over his coat, which was a touch too short for Newt and far too broad at the shoulders. “This is a nice coat,” Newt told him, as they picked up the sleeping Coatl cautiously and manhandled it towards the case.

“Yes, you’ve told me. I expect it returned in one piece, if possible.”

“Of course. Ah. If I may ask. If you went to Ilvermorny… Professor Ah-ho-appa?” At Graves’ cautious nod, Newt smiled brightly. “She’s amazing. Without her collated knowledge from her people—”

“She didn’t like me,” Graves cut in bluntly. Ilvermorny was a long time ago, and not all of it kind. This managed to shut Newt up, all the way until they’d deposited the Coatl in Newt’s expanding suitcase, a type of device that Graves had never trusted and which always, also in his experience, tended to be used to transfer magical contraband. Of the highly illegal sort. Unfortunately, at first glance, Newt’s case was certainly not an exception.

Newt was rummaging in a set of crates. “I was very sure that I had a spare set of clothes around here,” he called, as Graves stared sourly at a huge Erumpent.

“What’s an Erumpent doing here? Don’t they tend to blow things up?”

“Only during the mating season. She’s recovering from a poaching injury. Almost well now. They’re dying out in Africa, did you know? First them, then the rhinoceroses will be next. And the elephants, too, eventually. People have this… hm, not this box… awful love of ivory. Never understood it. You might as well make a collection of toenails. Same stuff.”

“Human toenails don’t make things explode.” Graves paused, thinking this over. He’d seen his share of unusual explosions, working his way up MACUSA. “Normally.”

Of all things, this got a laugh from Newt, who stuck his head out of a small pile of boxes, grinning with delight. “I think you’re one of a very small number of wizards I’ve met who could’ve identified a Coatl and an Erumpent on sight.”

“Someone used Coatl acid to melt through a safe once,” Graves muttered, startled to find that he was disconcerted by Newt’s pleasure. Newt was… pretty like this, disheveled, dressed only in Graves’ coat, knee-deep in boxes and… Graves looked away, swallowing a sigh. “Give me back the coat whenever you’re next in New York,” he said, heading for the exit.

“Wait,” Newt yelped, and caught up with Graves at the ladder, grabbing at Graves’ elbow, and as Graves instinctively jerked away, they overbalanced against the wall, crashing against a stack of books. Graves swore, pushing books off his shoulders, as Newt froze on his lap, squeaking horrified apologies.

Graves pressed a hand over his face. “Get off, please.”

“Sorry, sorry.” Newt scrambled off, bright red. “Sorry. I just. Wanted to say. It’s been a… pleasure?” He said, cautiously.

Despite himself, Graves chuckled as he got to his feet, reluctantly charmed. “Surprisingly, yes. See you in New York, Scamander.”

“I’ll look after your coat!” Newt called up after him, as Graves made his way up the ladder.

Once outside, Tina arched an eyebrow. “Your ah… you’re missing your—”

“Don’t ask.”

Chapter Text

“I have a permit,” Newt said quickly, holding the ragged piece of paper before him and his case like a shield.

Graves didn’t even slow down, grabbing Newt by the elbow and hustling him away from the too-curious reception desks and staff. MACUSA was winding down into the night shift, which meant more people than usual in the Woolworth Building, coming and going. Wizards and witches were worse than cats for curiosity and the worst for gossip. “I know you have a permit,” Graves told him briskly, as he pulled Newt down the wide stairs to the street. “Didn’t you see the signature at the end?”

“Oh.” Newt stopped abruptly in his attempt to check said signature and nearly pulled Graves off-balance. Thankfully, this time, they were close enough to a lamp post for Graves to steady them, glowering at Newt as he hauled them down an alley, then another, before disapparating out of sight of any too-curious magical spectators.

“You have a really curly ‘G’,” Newt said, squinting in the gloom of the new alley, as though they’d done nothing more than walk across a street. “It’s nice. Did you have to practice drawing it?”

Graves pinched at the bridge of his nose and silently petitioned a greater power for patience as he let go of Newt’s elbow. “All right, Scamander. What do you want?”

“That’s a… very broad question?” Newt looked surprised. “You mean, right now, or, you mean in terms of acquisitions? I guess I wouldn’t mind finding a dragon, I mean, a Chinese dragon. That’s to say, ah, did you know, the Chinese believe in ‘celestial dragons’, but I think, if they do exist, they’re probably a subspecies of horned—”

“You wanted to talk to me about Chinese dragons?” Graves interrupted, caught between exasperation and bewilderment.

“Well, uhm, no, I didn’t want to talk to you about that, actually, I wasn’t looking to talk to you at all, not that I don’t like talking to you,” Newt said hastily, when Graves took in a deep breath, “but I was actually at Woolworth to give Tina, err, Miss Goldstein, err, Agent Goldstein, a signed copy of my new book, you see.”

Ah.

Gods-damn Porpentina Goldstein and her Best Intentions. Graves made a mental note to assign her the most hellish cases for the near future in revenge. About to offer Newt a stiff apology and return them to MACUSA, Grave paused when Newt plucked tentatively at his sleeve. “Oh. You have a third coat. That’s good.”

“Why? Do I want to know what happened to my second coat?” Graves asked dryly.

Newt actually blushed, a most becoming colour on the skinny wizard, even in the bleak evening light in the alley. “I’m really rather sorry! I was going to pay to get it replaced, that is, Tina said she was going to give me your sizing and maybe the name of your tailor.”

“Another accident with the Coatl?”

“Oh no, that whole thing in the silo was really the result of him suffering a terrible fright. Grundy’s actually very friendly. I’m working to get him returned to the Amazon, once he gets used to eating his usual diet again.” Newt looked rather sheepish. “It was Streeler venom, I’m afraid.”

“What? Those giant snails? How… No. No, I don’t want to know.”

“I gave the rest of it to the Occamies, they really like it. But I was going to get you a replacement,” Newt said hastily, then something seemed to bring him up short. “Or, Tina said, I could instead… take you out for… dinner?”

Graves raised his eyebrows, amusement threatening to unseat his residual annoyance. “You don’t sound very certain.”

“Well,” Newt said nervously, “it was a very fine coat, and I’m not familiar with New York, or with nice restaurants in general, let alone what you would prefer to have, so it looked like a further opportunity for me to put my foot in it, shall we say.”

“You mean,” Graves said dryly, “there’s something worse than having a Coatl melt your clothes off in front of me?”

“I’ve told you, Grundy was frightened at the time,” Newt said, genuinely puzzled for a moment before whatever tiny portion of his brain wasn’t obsessed with magical beasts took over. “Oh. You mean the melting clothes and the, uhm, state of undress. That’s always been a bit of an occupational hazard. But I’m generally awfully good at annoying people in a normal setting. I mean. A social setting.”

“We’ll see,” Graves said, more kindly than he’d intended. “There isn’t a bad place around the block, if you don’t mind Italian food.”

“Thank you, I’ll keep that in mind.” Newt was tucking his permit carefully into an inner pocket, staying put.

“Meaning—” Graves exhaled, “—do. You. Want. To have. Dinner. Now. With me.”

“Oh. Really?”

“Lord give me strength,” Graves muttered. “Forget it.”

“No, no, no,” Newt caught his wrist quickly. “Dinner would be great. Italian food is great. I was in Italy once.”

“After the Longana or the Lariosauro?” Graves relented, faced with Newt’s joyous excitement.

“The Squasc, actually. I was helping a tribe of them move away from a development.” Graves let Newt chatter on about Italy and the unlikely misadventures of a Squasc tribe through a decent dinner of lamb. It was soothing, in a way, a reminder that there were people out there like Newt, to whom MACUSA and all its politics, all its power, mattered little.

“It’s funny,” Newt said afterwards, when they were walking comfortably out from the restaurant, “having an Italian dinner without wine.”

“Alcohol’s prohibited.” Not that the federal government really had any means of enforcing it. “For No-Majs,” Graves amended. MACUSA hadn’t really seen the harm of stuff like giggle juice and butter beer, compared to all the other kinds of grotesque and often ultimately fatal mischief that practitioners could get up to.

“That’s a pity.”

“We could go to a place like Gnarlack’s,” Graves said absently. “But the moment I show my face at a blind pig like that, half the punters would be fleeing out the back.”

“What’s wrong with your face?” Newt peered at him earnestly. “I really like it.” Graves stared at him, and Newt stiffened, his ears reddening. “Oh dear. I said that out loud, didn’t I. On the other hand,” he said wanly, nervous again, “this truly is a record.”

“For what?”

“Triggering social mishaps, as my brother puts it.” Newt said, looking resigned. The decision came easily to Graves, at the end, with his pretty companion beside him, so eager for his attention.

“What are your plans for the rest of tonight?”

“Ah, I suppose I’ll find a hotel of some sort,” Newt looked around.

“You can come home with me,” Graves said quietly. “If you like.”

Disbelief tumbled quickly into that joyous, gorgeous excitement, and Newt took Graves’ offered hand without hesitation. They apparated behind Graves’ apartment building, beside the fire escape, and climbed up to his floor. It was a bachelor’s flat, small and halfheartedly furnished, but Newt looked around with intense curiosity, as though studying some strange new creature’s habitat.

“Nothing in here explodes,” Graves told him dryly, as he closed the door behind them.

Newt laughed, setting his precious case aside on an armchair, and let Graves pull him over for a tentative kiss, fumbled between them, made clumsy by nerves. It got better when Graves got them both on the couch, Newt’s hands clenched in the lapels of his coat, his skinny knees pressed against Graves’ hips. Newt calmed down as Graves tugged off his blue coat, and shuddered as his vest was undone. The bow tie was next, then the buttons of his shirt, after which Newt seemed to unfreeze his hands from Graves’ coat and plucked at his tie.

“Is this all right?” Graves asked softly, as Newt buried his face against Graves’ collar, his breaths hitched in soft gasps.

“I actually had a very thorough education in Hogwarts,” Newt mumbled, laughter in his voice as he got Graves’ tie loose. “Despite the odds, I might add.”

“Count me unsurprised,” Graves told him, and Newt reared back and grinned at him, using the tie to tug Graves up for another kiss. He could get used to this, Graves thought, drunk from the moment, as he closed his fingers over Newt’s hips and pulled him flush.

#

“None of this is remotely acceptable,” Graves snapped in the morning, as they chased that gods-damned menace of a Niffler down a street.

“Sorry!”

Chapter Text

Graves had never really considered the consequences of Getting Involved with a magizoologist, up until the hippogriffs landed on his roof. At the first screech, Newt shot out of bed with a yelp, startling Graves into fumbling for his wand, bleary-eyed.

“What?” Graves demanded gruffly, looking around wildly. His flat seemed empty.

“I’ve forgotten! I’ve forgotten! What day is it?” Newt was frantically getting dressed, hopping about as he pulled on his union suit and trousers, then haphazardly buttoning up his clothes.

“Uh.” Graves stared at him blankly, then he flinched at the sound of another screech. “The hell is that?”

“Hippogriffs! My mother!” Still fiddling with his shirt, Newt grabbed his coat, darting out of the bedroom towards the fire escape and clattering upstairs.

What.

Graves got dressed quickly and followed, almost afraid of what he was going to find. On the roof of his apartment building, a pair of honest-to-fucking-Gods saddled hippogriffs pawed at the ground, bumping their eagle heads affectionately against Newt’s narrow shoulders. One was white with gray bars on its wings, and the bigger one was jet black from beak to tail. They were both bigger than what Graves remembered, from decades ago in Ilvermorny, as large as draft horses, though sleeker, with elongated taloned front feet in their eagle halves, and the graceful body of a thoroughbred horse from the ribs down. The black one hissed at Graves’ approach, and he stopped dead.

“I um, might have told my mother via an owl where I was. A week ago,” Newt mumbled, petting the black hippogriff until it calmed down. “Err. This is Fido, and. The white one is Artemis.”

“… Suddenly some things about you are starting to make sense.” Graves said slowly. “They can’t stay up here. Do you need me to get your case?”

“Um,” Newt said sheepishly. “I might’ve forgotten to tell you. But my mother invited us over for Christmas.”

“That’s in four days!”

“Ah, I told her we couldn’t possibly get over there in time on a steamship even if there were any tickets available, so I apologised in advance for missing Christmas, and I guess this is her answer.”

“Hippogriffs?” Graves said blankly, before realisation slowly dawned. “Oh no. No, no. Riding hippogriffs is a major breach of the Statute of Secrecy.”

“Only if you’re seen by muggles,” Newt said reasonably. “And there’s a very powerful disillusionment charm on those saddles. Besides, there’s an exception for training and exercise if you’re a breeder, and my mother’s registered with the Ministry. They’re very tame,” he assured Graves, even as Fido clacked his beak warningly.

“I haven’t even ridden a horse before, let alone one of these.”

“It’ll be perfectly safe. You strap down into one of the saddles.” Newt had a pleading look in his eyes, one that Graves knew intimately, given how weak he was to it. “I’m really sorry about this. I didn’t think she’d actually insist.”

“But?” Graves prompted dryly.

“But,” Newt agreed, though he did flush a little, “I was thinking how nice it’d be to show you the family estates, and, you already know my brother, and my father was also an Auror, so, it’s not like it might be that awkward, I mean, it may be terribly awkward, but. I want to spend Christmas with you and I suppose I could send the hippogriffs back and—”

“All right,” Graves gave in. “Fine. Can we at least have breakfast first? Or is that a bad idea?”

“You’ll… you’ll be coming?”

“I suppose it’d be rather rude to refuse,” Graves shrugged. “MACUSA’s closed for the holiday season, and Abernathy’s holding the fort. They can reach me by owl if there’s anything important and—” Newt was in his arms, kissing him joyously, and at the end of it, a little breathless, Graves was starting to feel better about the circumstances.

“We should have breakfast first,” Newt said. “I’ll get Fido and Art to stay quiet with a bit of feed. And you should pack. And.” He hesitated, for a long moment, nibbling on his lower lip. “Just. For your reference. My family can be really strange.”

“I’m an Auror, pet. I handle ‘strange’ all the time.”

#

Thankfully, the hippogriffs stayed quiet as Graves settled matters with Abernathy, signed a belated permit for the goddamned hippogriffs, picked up one of MACUSA’s owls, hurriedly bought a gift for Newt's family, and packed. By the time he got back up to the roof, it was well into the late morning, and Newt was brushing down Artemis with a curry comb.

“So. Which one isn’t going to eat me when I get on its back?” Graves asked, settling his suitcase and the owl cage down at a respectful distance.

“They don’t eat people,” Newt said reproachfully, as he finished off and put the saddle back on. “Just. Be careful of your fingers.”

“Great,” Graves said, resigned.

“Didn’t you meet a hippogriff when you were in Ilvermorny? They’ve had a breeding pair for years.”

“We didn’t have to interact with them, we just admired them from a safe distance. The female was brooding at the time, and the Professor decided to be careful.”

“Ah, I see. Well. Fido and Art are a breeding pair, so if you can get one of them to like you, the other one will tolerate you. Probably.”

This was going to be a terrible idea after all. Fido hissed as Graves tried to get closer, actually angling to get himself between Graves, Artemis and Newt, wings flared, and had to be soothed with treats and praise. In the end, Graves had to try feeding Artemis, tossing slimy hunks of raw fish from a respectful distance until she deigned to eat. After that, although Fido watched Graves suspiciously as he approached, there was at least no attempted murder.

“Guess you’d be riding Artemis,” Newt said, as they had sandwiches and tea, sitting on the edge of the roof.

“If she doesn’t try and kill me when I get on her back,” Graves grumbled. “Ilvermorny actually has a pair of Granian horses. We could borrow those. Maybe.”

“We could, but they might get eaten by the flock. Mother has a couple of pairs that can be rather aggressive.”

“And you say they don’t eat people?” Graves asked facetiously, just to watch Newt sputter and frown at him. “Your mother… breeds hippogriffs? For fun?”

“It’s a serious hobby. A business, even. She can barely keep up with the demand even in a good season.” Newt grinned a little playfully at Graves. “She probably made more money than my father, even when he was still working as an Auror.”

“I can believe that. Any other surprises?”

“I don’t think so,” Newt said, which was probably a lie, given how Newt kissed him quickly to cover for it. They cleaned up, locked up, and tried approaching the hippogriffs again, at which point Fido clearly had second thoughts about the whole matter, angling forward again, hissing at Graves as he hastily backed out of range, folding Newt protectively to one feathery flank with a wing.

“Sorry about that,” Newt said, laughing. “Fido and I were born about a week apart. So we grew up together. Hey,” Newt slapped a hand lightly against the hippogriff’s neck. “Cut it out, Fid. He’s mine.” Fido stared at Newt with open disbelief, which Graves would’ve found funnier if his heart wasn’t trying to beat faster at Newt’s casual statement. “Come here, Percy. Ah. Slowly does it.”

Cautiously, Graves stepped closer, wary of the huge beak. Fido glared at him, but allowed him to come within striking range, possibly as a trap. The wings flared, and Fido started to hiss, only to quiet down as Newt pressed his palm against the curve of that deadly beak, pushing down firmly. There was some resistance, but eventually, the hippogriff bowed his head.

“I think he can sense that you don’t like him,” Newt told Graves, beckoning.

“It’s not personal. I’m not really fond of giant magical beasts that try to eat me.” Graves said, though he reluctantly stepped closer. Fido twitched, tensing up as Newt grabbed Graves’ wrist and pressed his palm against the creature’s neck. Under his palm, he could feel the powerful thump of its pulse, the surprising softness of its feathers. It was warm, far warmer than a human, and as Graves tentatively petted him, Fido grudgingly relaxed.

Artemis was far less trouble. She was sedate as Graves hooked the owl cage and traveling case on her saddle, and although Graves climbed on with far less grace than Newt with Fido, she braced for his weight without a peep, and waited patiently as he strapped his legs to the saddle.

“Ready to go?” Newt asked, nudging Fido with his knees to the edge of the building, his own case lashed to Fido’s saddle.

“Not really,” Graves admitted, holding on awkwardly to the pommel. “Shouldn’t we have some kind of practice trip or Jesus…!”

Impatient to fly, Fido leaped off the side of the building, spreading his wings, and with a chirrup, Artemis followed, lunging into space. For a dizzying moment, Graves was convinced that they were going to fall, at this bonebreaking height, but the great wings spread, impossibly catching the breeze, then they were ascending into the afternoon sky, higher and higher. Beneath him, New York seemed to shrink, from great gray and silver blocks into neater, angular patterns, then a veinwork maze of streets, then a toybox of tiny buildings. He could see the Woolworth building from here, and Central Park, and the Hudson. Then they were bursting through cloud cover, into thinner, colder air, over a vast sea of foamy cotton.

“Wow,” Graves breathed, and couldn’t help but laugh as Artemis screeched in response, an eagle-cry, fierce and free. Ahead of him, Fido answered them with a cry of his own, and Newt glanced back, grinning, straight-backed and graceful in saddle. He whistled shrilly in a sharp staccato, and Artemis sped up, drawing level.

“We’ll stop over at the Aerie for the first night, then the Roost on the second. We’ll reach Sussex on Christmas Eve.”

“That’s cutting it close. Aren’t these two tired, if they just made a transatlantic trip to come and get us?”

“Oh no, hippogriffs are normally used to long distance trips. It’s good for them, the exercise. They’d probably be tired by the time we get to Sussex, but it won’t hurt them.” Newt smiled, brilliantly happy. “I’m really glad that you agreed to come.”

“I had to meet your family sooner or later.”

Strangely, this sobered Newt up quickly. “Uh yes, about that. They. Really are very strange, I do think. So. I’m sorry in advance?”

“… Now I’m starting to get worried.”

#

The Aerie, like the other roosts of its kind, generally served mostly as a resting point for messenger owls. Traffic was high during the holiday season, and they followed a steady stream of birds circling down wearily towards the tiny, rocky island. The owls diverted to the blocky tower with large rectangular mouths set into it like rungs, while the hippogriffs landed further away at a circular courtyard. Graves was hungry, numb and sore in areas he hadn’t ever thought could hurt that way, and painfully grateful to be on the ground again. He wasn’t looking forward to the even longer flight tomorrow.

Newt looked at him with concern as they unstrapped and dismounted. “You could head in,” he suggested, gesturing at the weirdly Tudor villa that sprawled beyond the courtyard. “There should be rooms available. Not that many people fly transatlantic unless they really have to. I’ll catch up.”

“Lucky us.” Graves said. The promise of a bed, food and a warm bath felt like unimaginable luxury right now. “What are you going to do?”

“I need to brush down Fido and Artemis and settle them into a stall. There’ll be attendants in the stables, but I’d rather do it myself. Besides, they’re probably not used to hippogriffs.”

“I’ll help,” Graves decided, swallowing a sigh, and ignored Newt’s protests as they led the hippogriffs to the stalls. There indeed weren’t many other travellers crazy enough to be flying transatlantic during the winter: most of the stalls were empty, with only a couple at the far corner occupied by Granian winged horses, which whinnied in alarm as the hippogriffs were led in. Newt spoke quietly with an attendant, and they pulled Fido and Artemis into the stall furthest from the horses, a large one with clean hay.

Graves struggled a little with unsaddling the hippogriffs, though he managed, even with Fido shooting him a surprisingly dirty look for a creature that was half bird, half horse. Eventually Newt returned, with curry combs and gear. “The fish they’ve got is fresh enough,” he said. “Fido and Art should be willing to eat that from a trough without being hand-fed. Fido’s not so bad, but Art’s terribly spoiled. She’s from the Charlemange line, out of Versailles. Cost mother a fortune in manifests and Galleons.”

“So are you named after her, or is she named after you?” Graves asked, amused, copying Newt’s actions carefully as he rubbed Fido down.

“The former, of course. Theuderic—her breeder—refused to have her transferred to Sussex while she was still a foal, just in case there were complications, but the sale was finalised while my mother was still pregnant with me.”

“Was your brother named after a hippogriff?” Graves asked dryly.

“Three, actually. Not that he’d tell anyone if he can help it.” Graves let Newt’s warm chatter wash over him, trying to stifle his yawns.

They stayed until Newt was sure that the hippogriffs were both willing to eat, then they finally decamped for the main villa with their luggage. Graves ate the passable stew in a daze, and it was a relief by the time they got to their rooms. He drew a bath in the tub with magic, heating up the water, and lay in the water contentedly, closing his eyes. Newt had wandered off to feed his other creatures, but Graves was in no further mood to be helpful.

“Hey,” Newt said, and Graves woke with a start. “Water’s getting cold.”

“Mm.” Graves yawned, as Newt took care of the cold with a flick of his own wand, setting it aside. “I’ll get up.”

“No need for that yet.” Newt was naked, and he blushed a little under Graves’ appreciative stare as he climbed into the tub. The water sloshed, but Newt made a quick grab for his wand, clearing that up and lowering the water level in the tub. He had just enough time to fumble it back on the side table before Graves pulled him down for a kiss, their bodies flush, his free hand carefully kneading Newt’s ass.

“Ah!” Newt made a small sound of protest, and Graves stopped.

“Sore?”

“No more than you probably are. But I’ve got a salve for it. Once we’re out of the bath.”

“And are we? Getting out of the bath?” Graves asked, amused. Despite his weariness, the short nap coupled with Newt’s naked body, pressed so close, had woken up a salient part of his body, trapping his thickening cock between them.

“It’s a nice bath. You don’t have a tub in your apartment.” Newt kissed Graves’ cheek, then his throat, blushing to his ears. “I. I want to, ah. Ride you. Here?”

Graves stifled a groan with superhuman effort. “Are you sure? Tomorrow’s going to be an even longer trip.”

“I have the salve. And besides…” Newt mumbled, the rest of his words inaudible.

“What?” Graves stroked his spine, curious. “Besides what?”

“I… I think I’m going to enjoy feeling it,” Newt stammered, ducking his face away, bright red. “It’s, it’s a little perverse, perhaps—”

“Fuck,” Graves breathed, made abruptly dizzy with lust, reaching for his wand. He tried to be patient through prep, with his slick fingers spreading Newt open, Newt’s hips lifted out of the water, but it was difficult, with Newt’s mouth pressed against his ear, moaning so prettily, squirming and desperate just with Graves’ fingers.

Newt whimpered as he sat on Graves’ cock, grinding down impatiently; he would have taken Graves to the hilt in a shot if Graves had let him. “Please,” he whispered breathlessly, as Graves cursed and let him down another inch. “Percy, God, Percy.”

“Take it slow,” Graves begged, straining to stay still. “You’ll hurt yourself. Too sore tomorrow.”

“I can handle it,” Newt said, scowling at him, sighing as Graves leaned up to kiss his freckles, waiting for the tight clench around his cock to adjust. It had been a long week at MACUSA, winding down for Christmas, and with the late nights and Newt working on his second book, they hadn’t done much recently other than use their mouths and hands, if at all. That was an oversight. Newt squeezed his eyes shut, his mouth open in a soundless cry as Graves finally sank in, balls deep. “God,” Newt finally gasped. “God, I’ve missed this.”

Graves couldn’t find the words to reply. He kissed Newt’s shoulders instead, the memorised freckles there, the pale scar that curled down from Newt’s collar, an old scratch. He lapped at hardening nipples, earning a little yelp and fingers clutching at his hair; the touch of teeth got him a sweet little yowling cry. “Shh,” Graves murmured, amused. “The neighbours.”

“I want you to move,” Newt whispered back instead, fiercely.

“When you can take it.” Graves ignored Newt’s squirming the best that he could, holding Newt down, kissing freckled skin until Newt relaxed, leaning down for his mouth, his breathing tremulous. When his body finally adjusted, Graves rocked slowly up against Newt, ignoring the nips and pointed frowns, though Newt let him lead, breathing hard, his elegant fingers clenched hard over Graves’ arms. They’d leave bruises.

“I want… I want this harder when we get home,” Newt said, in a wavering voice, breathless and unable to meet Graves’ eyes.

“Which home?”

“Somewhere… aah! Wherever. Where you’re willing to do it harder. When, ngh, when we’re less tired. When. Tell me if you want me to stop talking.”

“Sweetheart,” Graves growled, “we go through this every time.” He rocked up, a little more roughly, and Newt buried his cry against Graves’ throat. He felt so good. “Keep talking, pet. Tell me how much you want this.”

“I, I really like having you inside me,” Newt blurted out, though he didn’t look up, and Graves loved this part of Newt, that the often randomly chatty, professorial part of him didn’t always clam up during sex, especially now that they were far more comfortable together. “Wish you didn’t work so hard. We could, oh, do this more often. I was. I was rather hoping, nmph, that we could spend Christmas in bed.”

“Now you tell me,” Graves said, in a slightly strangled voice, reaching between them to close his fingers around Newt’s cock, stroking briskly in the splashing water.

“W-well, I guess, that’s, ah, probably not so feasible where we’re going, but,” Newt let out a blissful groan as Graves shifted slightly. “Oh yes, that’s it. Oh Percy.”

Graves growled, lifting them out of the water with a grunt, balancing Newt against the edge of the tub and the wall. Newt bit down on his lower lip, wrapping his thighs eagerly around Graves’ waist, then he keened as Graves thrust up inside him, slow and deep and hard. With Graves stroking him roughly, Newt was soon writhing, begging, garbled with pleasure; he cried out as Graves bit down, high on his throat, soiling the space between them. Graves slowed, breathing hard, but fingers dug against his neck, urging him on, and he closed his eyes, riding out Newt’s pleasure, until he finally ground in deep with a broken gasp.

Newt was sore in the morning, even with the salve, though he looked a little pleased about it. “Stop that,” Graves told him, as they dressed. His cock had ached a little when he’d noticed.

“Stop what?” Newt asked, though he knew perfectly well, grinning as he pulled Graves over for a quick kiss. “On our way back,” he said brightly, “we could do things more slowly. Stay a few days.”

“On our way back,” Graves growled, nipping Newt lightly over the reddened mark he’d made last night on Newt’s throat, “we’re taking a steamship, and you’ll be wearing a gag.” He smirked at the strangled noise Newt that made. “So. Breakfast?”

#

They were too tired to do anything in the Roost but eat, feed Newt’s creatures, and pass out. At least the final leg wasn’t so long. They descended out of cloud cover over rolling green fields bordered by thick forests, a sprawling estate around a mansion that had most definitely been made Unplottable, judging by the odd way the muggle roads seemed to veer around it. Graves blinked. Newt had always seemed comfortably well-to-do, though Graves had always assumed that it was because of his unexplained Ministry job, bolstered by book sales. This, though—

“We’ll hand the hippogriffs off at the Glen over there and walk to the main house,” Newt called over.

“The main house?”

“Well yes,” Newt looked puzzled. “There’s also the groundskeeper’s place, and the Glen’s staff, separate from the house staff, of course.”

“Of course,” Graves echoed, disoriented, and Newt shot him an odd look, but then they were circling down onto lush turf, beside an open garden of manicured trees, from which other hippogriffs of various colours glanced at them curiosity.

Graves unstrapped himself gratefully even as a one of the ground staff marched over briskly from where she was inspecting a tree with a stepladder, pursing her lips as Graves slid off the hippogriff with relief. He handed her the reins, rubbing his back and glancing over at Newt.

“If I don’t ever have to ride a hippogriff ever again,” Graves said wearily, “that won’t be a moment too soon.”

The woman sniffed. “Well, it’s a privilege that isn’t appreciated by everyone,” she said frostily, and glanced at Newt. “Good afternoon, darling. How was the flight?”

Newt had gone a little pale when Graves had spoken, and now he sighed. “Hello, mother. Uh. Percy, this is my mother, Arianne. Mother, I’ve told you about Percy.”

Graves froze, embarrassed. Newt’s mother was tall, nearly as tall as Graves, with crow’s feet at the corner of her green eyes, her hair folded away under a wide-brimmed hat. She wore a heavy leather apron over an old shirt and trousers, and she frowned at Graves, looking him over. “Hmph. Another bloody Auror.”

“Theseus is an Auror,” Newt said, though he smiled faintly.

“Oh Heavens, don’t keep reminding me,” Arianne shuddered. “When I married your father I had no idea that your brother would follow in his footsteps—”

“Well, he is our father,” Newt said mildly.

“—but at least I have one sane child, more or less,” Arianne adjusted Newt’s collar absently. “Congratulations on your book, dear. It made quite a splash here. I bought a hundred copies.”

“What? Mother, I told you not to get too excited.”

“Pssh. I’m going to have someone make a sculpture out of them. Maybe another hippogriff statue, though we might need more books, if so. We’ll put it up in the foyer. Speaking of which, I do feel you should have let me revise the hippogriff section,” Arianne said, pursing her lips again. “It was woefully short. You could have given them a whole chapter, at the very least. Two would’ve been better. You didn’t even go into any real detail about the various subspecies, let alone their common ailments.”

“If I’d let you revise the hippogriff section the book would’ve been called ‘Fantastic Hippogriffs and Where to Find Them’,” Newt said dryly.

“What a great idea for your second book, dear. Head to the house, your brother’s already here. I’ll have one of the house-elves bring your things up to your room.” Arianne frowned at Graves again, giving him a second once over. Then she sighed loudly, took Fido’s reins, and marched off towards the stables.

“Come on,” Newt said, unconcerned, starting to head towards the mansion beyond, then he paused as Graves didn’t budge. “The house is over there?”

“I probably should apologise to your mother first,” Graves said ruefully. “I thought she was one of the ground staff, and I think I’ve offended her.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Newt said dismissively. He seemed amused. “Unless you’re one of her hippogriff fancier friends, or her own flesh and blood, she won’t give you the time of day. Don’t take it personally. It's still a mystery to Theseus and me why she even married our father.”

“She didn’t approve of you bringing home an Auror,” Graves observed, as he followed Newt over the gravel path.

“That’s just her. She’s got nothing against Aurors specifically. Just that she was rather hoping that I’d meet someone who was deadly keen on hippogriffs, so she could pass on her ‘life’s work’,” Newt said, shaking his head. “She thinks magizoology’s a bit of a waste, though she’s starting to come round. All the European hippogriff breeders recently joined forces as a lobby group in the various Ministries, trying to push for protecting wild hippogriff reserves.”

“Is all this from breeding hippogriffs?” Graves nodded at the estate.

“Oh no, not at all. It was from my mother’s side of the family.” Newt smiled, a little sheepishly. “Yaxley.”

“Ah.” One of the Sacred Twenty-Eight.

Newt shot him another strange look. “Is something wrong? You seem rather shocked.”

“I didn’t know that you lived in a mansion.”

“I don’t,” Newt said, puzzled. “Most of the time, I live in hotels, or tents. Sometimes my case. Recently, I guess, your flat…” he trailed off, as Graves glanced away at the garden. “Is that the problem? Good Lord,” Newt said, starting to laugh. “Percy, you can be truly dense sometimes. Do you really think that I’m the sort of person who would care about whether someone’s from a wealthy family?”

True. “… I’m not very good with surprises,” Graves admitted.

Newt shook his head. “I really don’t see what’s the… Wait. Don’t move.” He clenched his hand tightly in Graves’ elbow, and circled around to a side, quietly picking up a stick from beneath a tree. Then he leaned over, using the tip of the stick to pry at the ground.

A rectangular section of the turf hinged up, wide enough to fit a man and just as deep. From within, a face smudged over the cheeks and forehead with dirt glanced up, grinning, under a green soldier’s helmet, dressed in fatigues, waving a wand. “Oh, I say. Hello, my boy! You’re back for Christmas. Brought a friend?”

“My father,” Newt said, with a sigh. “Lucius. Dad, this is Percival Graves.”

Lucius Scamander peered over at Graves, lifting up the edge of his helmet for a better look. “Graves. Hm! From the Graves family? One of the original twelve?”

“Yes sir,” Graves said, trying not to gawk and failing pathetically.

“Think I might’ve known your grandfather. Sour chap, what! Are you an Auror too?” When Graves nodded cautiously, Lucius beamed, clambering out of the hiding place. “Good, good. You’d understand perfectly, then. House and home, man’s castle, holding down the fort. Theseus told me all about the Balkans. Terrible business, terrible. But you’d know about that.”

“Mother really doesn’t like you digging holes around the Glen,” Newt said patiently.

“Pssh! Your mother. She doesn’t understand Auror business.”

“Father, you’ve been retired for ten years.”

“And? The brain doesn’t stop working, what! I’ll show you the new fortifications. No need to thank me, boy, just admire the sheer genius of it all.” Lucius grabbed Newt by the wrist, and disapparated.

In the silence left behind, Graves blinked. Then he gingerly pushed the turf back down, in case someone fell into the pit, and, after some hesitation, continued walking towards the house. He’d just cleared the Glen when someone apparated near him, looking around before glancing over and grinning, a hand pushed into a coat pocket. It was Theseus Scamander. Newt’s older brother also had ginger hair, though it was slicked back neatly over his high forehead. There was something of Newt in his green eyes, and freckled grin, but the resemblance ended there. Where Newt was pretty, his brother was tall and austere, elegant in charcoal and blue, his coat cut to a tapering fit over a cravat and vest.

“Director Graves,” Theseus greeted him, wandering over to his side.

“Mister Scamander,” Graves replied, with the same wry humour. They shook hands. The Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement had the same firm, confident grip that Graves remembered, the same arresting, intelligent stare. “Thanks for your help with Grindelwald.”

“Not at all. Always a pleasure for the DMLE to assist Magical Security with their inquiries.” The DMLE had supplied security and transport to move Grindelwald to Azkaban. “I’m glad that you were found. Must’ve been quite an ordeal.”

“I got off lightly.” Graves said, with a grimace, as they headed towards the mansion. “Bastard left us in a terrible mess. We’ve only just managed to put out all the fires.”

“We’ve been dismantling his network here in the UK. Not really making progress as quickly as I’d like,” Theseus pulled a face. “They have sleeper cells everywhere. Radicalising the young and impressionable. It’s a problem.”

“Picquery has some ideas about that. MACUSA tries to keep tabs on all witches and wizards after Ilvermorny, but it’s possible that it’s not sufficient, particularly for the young. The Auror system in America as it is now responds to symptoms. After effects. It isn’t pre-emptive. And the faults in such a system were made obvious during that rampage.”

“Community policing?” Theseus sighed. “There are far fewer Aurors than there are wizards and witches, that’s the problem.”

“Because only the very best of the various schools get to become Aurors. Which is a problem in and of itself,” Graves pointed out. “I’m not sure about the situation in London, but in New York, a great number of the Aurors under my command are from pure-blood families. Not because they're better than muggle-borns, but often because they generally do better, thanks to influence or private tuition. They can lack a certain perspective.”

“You might have a point,” Theseus said thoughtfully, and they talked shop all the way to the mansion, at which point Theseus invited him over to the drawing room for a drink. Within, the mansion had clearly come from old money—large oil portraits looked down at the both of them from the marble foyer, and landscapes lined the high-ceilinged corridor to the drawing room. Tall French windows opened out to a manicured garden and a fountain of a leaping hippogriff, the high hedges and perfect lawns reminding Graves rather depressingly of some English lordship’s domain.

“So,” Theseus said, a little wearily, as he poured them both a notch of whisky from a bottle at the sideboard. “About my brother.”

Graves managed not to flinch. “Yes?”

“He’s rather preternaturally good at getting into trouble, as you may already have noticed,” Theseus said evenly. “And after what happened in Hogwarts, he doesn’t trust anyone easily any longer. And yet here you are.”

“You don’t think that I’m worthy of his trust?” Graves retorted, never one to shy from an accusation, implied or otherwise.

Theseus lifted a shoulder into a light shrug. “You’ve been a reliable ally—professionally—since I took office, and I hope I’ve extended you the same courtesy. Professionally, I think you’re quite likely a good man, and an excellent Auror, judging from your record.”

“Other than the part where I was kidnapped by Grindelwald?” Graves asked dryly.

Theseus sighed. “I’ve faced him before, briefly. I had five of my best Aurors with me, and he killed one of us and got away. So believe me, I’m not one of those people who’d hold something that was out of your control against you.”

“But?”

“But you’re a hard man,” Theseus said bluntly. “We all are. You, me, Hana over in Tokyo, Arjana in Johannesburg and the rest. The job grinds you to flint.”

Graves looked pointedly at the gold band on Theseus’ ring finger. “You’re married.”

“To another Auror. Miko’s in the stables, trying to help Mother out with the hippogriffs. Not that it’d be appreciated,” Theseus said, with a quirk of his mouth. “You’re either as mad for the damned things as much as Mother is, or she has no time for you.”

“So I’ve been told.”

“I haven’t paid Leta Lestrange back for what she did to my brother in Hogwarts,” Theseus said coolly, “but just for your reference, I don’t forget my grudges. Even if my brother might. So I’ll be watching you.”

“I wouldn’t expect anything different,” Graves said, pointedly raising his glass for a toast. Theseus relaxed, a little grudgingly, and by the time Newt burst breathlessly into the drawing room, they were talking shop again, this time about the Mongolian situation.

“Oh. Good. You’re. Still alive?” Newt looked at Graves, then at Theseus.

Theseus sighed. “Really, brother. If I wanted to get rid of someone, I know twenty-one non-magical ways to hide the body.”

That’s what worried me.”

“We’re talking about work,” Graves assured Newt, with a straight face. “And unfortunately, we’ll probably keep doing that over the whole weekend. Terrible habit.”

“Oh. That’s. Good? I think.” Newt stared at Theseus, and Theseus smirked.

“I’m going to have to go rescue the missus. See you at dinner, brother. Percival.”

Newt waited until Theseus had wandered off, then he groaned, burying his face against Graves’ neck, hands curling in the collar of his shirt. “If we disapparate to London we can probably catch a steamship back to New York in a few hours,” he mumbled.

“What for?”

Newt stared at him suspiciously. “You’re taking this surprisingly well. The first time Theseus brought Miko home, years back when they were still dating, she nearly broke up with him on the spot, half a day in.”

“She clearly got over it.”

“I’m not sure how that happened. Besides, it’s an outlier. None of Theseus’ other girlfriends or boyfriends have ever lasted more than a day out here.”

“I’m made of sterner stuff,” Graves assured him, stroking the small of Newt’s back. “How were the ‘fortifications’?”

Newt assumed a look of visible pain. “Please don’t mention that over dinner. There’s going to be a most awful row, once Mother finds out what he’s done to her azaleas.”

#

“Ah, I forgot to tell you,” Newt said apologetically, as they set the furniture to rights, healed the shallow gash on Graves’ arm, and calmed down the spooked hippogriff filly in the room. “The hippogriffs have the run of the house.”

“I’m still trying to wrap my mind around that concept,” Graves said, wide-eyed. From the corner of Newt’s chambers, the bluish-gray filly flapped her wings at him, mantling. “I mean, I’ve heard of people who let their cats roam around their properties, or their familiars, but hippogriffs are… rather big, wouldn’t you say…”

“It’s a large house,” Newt said, a little defensively, “and my room hasn’t been in use for a while, so I suppose that’s likely why Lily decided to stake it out. Normally, Fido would be in here, but Art’s probably close to coming into season, so they’ve been nesting over at the Glen.”

“You know,” Graves said slowly, “when you told me that your family was strange, you could’ve just said that they gave hippogriffs the run of the house.”

“Oh,” Newt blinked at him. “But this wasn’t what I meant when I said that they could be rather strange. The hippogriffs are clean and very well behaved.”

“I… you… never mind,” Graves gave up. “I’m going to have a bath.”

“Oh. About that.”

Five minutes later, Graves watched sourly as two hippogriffs, including the filly, shoved into the bathroom and started drinking out of the bathtub the moment he filled it with water. “They really like water from the Aguamenti spell,” Newt said apologetically. “They can sense it from across the floor.”

“That’s. Quite all right.” Graves used a cleaning spell on himself and his clothes, edged around the large beasts, and went to lie on the couch, exhausted. Newt shot him a worried look, but ducked off, probably to feed his beasts.

The fireplace was nice, at least, though it also served as a reminder of how large Newt’s ‘room’ really was. It was bigger than Graves’ flat, even. There was a living quarter, with the fireplace and an impressive collection of magizoology and travel books, paintings of magical beasts, the ensuite bathroom, and a sprawling bedroom, with a wardrobe of beautiful clothes, all unworn. It made Graves a little uneasy. To distract himself, he summoned a random book to himself from the shelves, turned a few pages without really reading anything, and ended up dozing off in his shirt and trousers, propped on cushions.

He woke up to a hand shaking him lightly on the shoulder and Newt’s voice whispering, “Don’t. Move.”

“Hmph? What?” Graves blinked awake, vaguely aware of a weight on his belly, and froze when he recognised Fido’s great head, lying against him. The hippogriff was asleep, Artemis curled against him on the floor, while Lily was pressed closer to the fireplace, hindquarters and talons stretched out.

“I think he’s warming up to you,” Newt whispered brightly.

“I’d rather he did that with his beak further away from certain parts of me,” Graves hissed. “Some help here?”

“He’ll be most terribly grumpy—”

I’m going to be most terribly grumpy,” Graves growled.

“Oh, all right.” Newt waded over, tickling Fido under his chin until the hippogriff yawned, opened one eye, and nudged Newt with sleepy affection. Newt gently tugged until Fido tucked his head under a wing, but before Graves could get up, Newt climbed onto the couch and into his lap, leaning up for a kiss. “It’s midnight,” Newt said softly. “Merry Christmas, and all that. I bought you a present,” he said apologetically, “but the Niffler got into it.”

“Mine’s in the Evidence vault,” Graves admitted. “I didn’t have the time to pick it up, and I’m not sure if it would’ve survived the trip. Confiscated it in a raid a week ago.”

“What is it? In the vault? Is it a creature?" At Graves' nod, Newt tensed. "Are you sure it’s all right? It might need more space than that.”

“It’s an egg, the Beasts Professor from Ilvermorny assured me that it won’t hatch for a couple of weeks or more yet, and before you start on me, it’s being kept under the correct conditions. According to your book.”

“What sort of egg?” Newt pressed.

“It’s not much of a surprise if I just tell you what it is.”

“But it’s Christmas,” Newt complained. “Percy. What is it? Occamy? Chimaera?”

“You’ll just have to find out later,” Graves said, smirking, and closed his eyes, settling Newt against him on the couch. “‘Night.”

“No, no. Don’t go to sleep. You can’t just make me wait another week. Percy. Percy!” Newt stilled, as behind him, Fido let out a grumpy squawk, then he sighed as the hippogriff rested his head and beak over the both of their flanks. “Now look at what you’ve done.”

“Merry Christmas, and all that,” Graves echoed wryly, and kissed Newt on the mouth before he could object. Newt stared up at him with pleading eyes when they parted for breath, and Graves relented. “All right, if it’s really killing you not to know. It’s a dragon egg.”

“A dragon!” Against them, Fido let out a reproachful trill, eyes closed, and Newt lowered his voice. “What sort of dragon egg?”

“Looks like a very big pearl,” Graves said teasingly.

Antipodeon Opaleye? Right. We’re going home now.”

“Newt—”

“…In the morning…?”

“No. We’re going to spend Christmas with your family, like your mother asked. Or you’d probably regret it later,” Graves pointed out, amused. And hopefully, he wouldn’t lose any fingers to any goddamned free-roaming hippogriffs in the process. “What?” he asked, as Newt stared at him.

“I… don’t know what I did to deserve you,” Newt said, so very seriously, kissing Graves on the cheek, then curling up, tucking himself under Graves’ chin.

“Could say the same,” Graves murmured, kissing Newt’s unruly ginger hair. He petted Newt’s back, as Newt relaxed against him, and Fido snorted, twisting around, folding a wing over their knees. It was… strange. But it was a strangeness that was so Newt that Graves couldn’t help but feel drawn to it, regardless. Recklessly.

“…Tomorrow morning?” Newt murmured hopefully, against his chest.

Newton.”