"It's the best I can do, Percival," Seraphina leaned forwards on her desk, her eyes damp. Percival could tell she was struggling to hold back her tears. They had been friends since Ilvermorny; she was the only one who knew what happened in the three years between him graduating and joining MACUSA. She knew that she was condemning him to his greatest fear.
She reached across the table, taking his hand in hers and squeezing softly.
"If there was another way, I would take it. But..." her voice faded for a moment and she shook her head. "Azkaban... you'd be driven mad, Percival. You wouldn't stand it. I'd never see you again."
Her hand squeezed his once more. "And I know you would try to escape. We all know what the punishment for that is, Percival. The British might say they're being merciful, taking your soul rather than executing you, but I can't let my oldest friend face a Dementor's Kiss."
Percival couldn't meet her eyes.
"What about execution?" he asked the table. Death would be quick. It would be a punishment for what had happened, but it would be over and he wouldn't have to live the nightmare that was awaiting him.
"It would spark an international incident. I'm sorry, Percival. With Grindelwald still at large...I can't let that happen."
Percival swallowed, squaring his shoulders and looking up at her. One of the tears had slipped down her face, and she was blinking back more.
"It won't be like Jauncey," she murmured, and he fought down the flinch that always threatened on hearing that man's name. He tried to remind himself of the truth. Jauncey didn't control him anymore. Jauncey was dead. Percival was Director of Magical Security at MACUSA, the best auror in the Americas, and no one would control him again.
For so long, that mantra had gotten him through the worst that the world could throw at him. But Grindelwald had stolen his face, and usurped his position. While he had been caged in that cell, suffering from hunger, thirst, and whatever curses Grindelwald threw at him, he reminded himself of his role. That the pain would pass and he would escape. That he would go back to his job and he would be able to rebuild his life and reputation.
While hiding who he was, Grindelwald had sentenced the brother of the British Head Auror to death, and that wasn't something the British would take lightly.
"You have to sign the contract," Seraphina said softly, pushing the parchment across the desk with a quill balanced on top of it. For a moment Percival was amused by the British habit of sticking to the old ways, before he realised that there was no inkwell for the quill. He examined it curiously, then worked out what it was.
He gritted his teeth as he placed his left hand on the parchment, holding it steady. He placed the nib of the quill on the paper, and carefully signed his name, making sure that his hand didn't tremble as red flowed from the tip and his signature was cut into the flesh of his hand.
Seraphina nodded, and gestured to the other place he was expected to sign.
"Percival Scamander," he wrote out, cursing the family for having such a long surname. The injuries were healing, leaving a red mark on his skin. He put the quill down.
"A delegation from Britain will be arriving in the morning," Seraphina informed him. "I believe that Theseus Scamander will be among them."
Percival nodded, thinking back to the war, to the young man who had made him laugh. Things were different now.
"I've taken the evening off," Seraphina said after a moment, interrupting his thoughts. "I thought we could go and pack your bag, and share a bottle of firewhiskey."
Percival smiled at her, trying to hide his fear. It would have been easy to say no, to spend the night hiding in his apartment and dreading the morning. But this was a kindness. Seraphina had found a way to save him from Azkaban.
He stood up from his chair, and she followed as the marriage contract scuttled away.
"I know you might not be able to write," Seraphina said to him as they walked the short distance to his apartment. "But I've got you some pens and paper."
She held up a shrunken version. "They'll grow if you hold them between your hands."
Percival placed them in the case, followed by some clothing. He chose a couple of books, adding them to the pile, before stepping back and looking at it. It wasn't much.
In the morning he would leave for England, to be signed over to men who had every reason to hate him, and he didn't know if he would ever step foot on American soil again. Seraphina wrapped an arm around his waist and held out a tumbler of firewhiskey, which he took from her, gulping it down and feeling the heat of the drink burn his throat.