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So, that was New York.

Newt pulls his steamship ticket out of his pocket and looks out over the harbor, hopefully not for the last time. The place is bustling with Muggles, and he takes a moment to double-check the locks on his case before he starts to head for the dock.

Or - he's about to, but then he hears Tina's voice: "Newt!"

Newt turns, curious, to see her hurrying toward him; her grey coat blends in with the crowd, but in a sea of unknown faces she's a familiar one. She looks somewhat harried as she catches up to him, glances around surreptitiously, and then pulls him into a nearby alleyway. "Did I - forget something?" Newt asks, and she shakes her head.

"No, nothing like that," she assures him, eyes bright with impatience. "But President Picquery asked for you - it's a little sensitive, do you mind if I - "

"Not at all," Newt says, and she takes his arm and Apparates them just outside the Woolworth Building's front steps.

Newt's steamship isn't set to leave for another hour - he likes having the time to set up misdirection wards - but as they walk into the main entrance hall of MACUSA and he sees Picquery directing a crowd of Aurors he wonders if he'll make it after all. "President Picquery," Tina starts, and Picquery's sharp gaze instantly turns on Newt.

"Mr. Scamander," she says, "your visa application forms were completed accurately?"

"Yes?" Newt says, tentatively.

"Then you are, as you declared, a Guide?"

Realization dawning, Newt says, "Oh, yes - do you have someone in relapse?"

"It is," Picquery says, "slightly more complicated than that. Your scores were accurate as well? You are a certified eight-point-two?"

Tina glances at Newt, startled, and Newt ducks his head. "Er, yes, I am."

"Good," Picquery says, and inclines her head to one of her other Aurors, a short, wild-haired man who holds out a Portkey in the shape of an origami crane. "We've recently discovered that Grindelwald was keeping Percival Graves captive, and our best Guide - Miss Goldstein, who I believe you know - has so far been incapable of recovery."

"He's a Sentinel?" Newt asks, and takes the crane, folding his fingers gently around the paper. "I - you should be aware that even though I have done the requisite Guide training, there have been some compatibility problems - "

"He was only a six on record, so I doubt that would be an issue." Picquery examines Newt for a moment, and Newt briefly meets her gaze before looking away. "You can, of course, refuse."

"No," Newt says quietly, "no, I'll go."

"Miss Goldstein will brief you," Picquery says, and turns back to her Aurors as Tina waves over into the crowd.

"That's Queenie," she explains, quickly. "She's registered, too - only a seven, though that's more than enough for all our Sentinels at MACUSA. Was."

"Still is," Queenie says as she comes within earshot, "except for poor Mr. Graves. You'll help, won't you, Newt? I picked you as a Guide the first time I saw you, but I never knew you were nearly a nine."

Newt gives her a brief smile. "It's an outdated ranking system, I've always thought, but - if I can help, I will."

Queenie gives him a smile to match his, tight and a little worried, and shares a glance with Tina over Newt's head. "Come here," she says, and links their elbows as Tina turns away. Newt follows Queenie's lead as she takes them over to an empty corner, flicking her wand in a quick silencing ward. "Guide privilege, right?"

"Is it that bad?" Newt asks, and she bites her lip, the corner of her mouth turning down.

"It's not good," she says, finally. "Who knows what that jerk did to him, but he's - well, it's terrible down there, but I didn't think it'd be good to change the environment too fast. It's worse than the zones I normally have to deal with. But - " She peers at Newt, and Newt can't quite meet her eyes. "You've had some tough cases before, haven't you?"

Newt says, "I'd - really rather not talk about it."

"Of course not," she says, "I'm sorry, Newt. I really do hope you can get through to Mr. Graves - he's always been a great Occlumens, but... I don't know. Now all I can manage to read off him is the Sentinel - it's like there's nothing else there."

Newt exhales a breath through his teeth. "Is he feral?"

"Not - not quite," Queenie says, "so - just try your best, Newt? No one'll be mad if you can't, but everyone's beating themselves up over not noticing he'd been gone, and... some good news'd be wonderful."

"I will," Newt says, and she smiles once, tight and brief. "Oh, could you - "

"Sure," Queenie says, taking his case from his hands, "I'll take care of it for you. And - good luck."

She turns away and Newt watches her go for a long moment, grounding himself in his skin before he activates the portkey. Travelling by portkey never really suits him, and this landing is the worst by far; the light is so blinding it hurts, the smell the familiar reek of something caged. Newt's thrown back for a moment to a cave in Sudan, a Sentinel scratching herself out of her skin with her magic terrifying and wild, her emotions a wildfire, overwhelming against his own useless, deteriorating attempts at soothing her —

No. He's here, now, and Newt exhales and loosens the tight grip he keeps on his empathy as he descends the stairs.

The Guidebooks all say the most effective method for Sentinel rehabilitation involves the establishment of a connection, perhaps later to develop into a bond. Newt's always had trouble with the first and failed terribly at the second, but in the wake of failure he's learned the other tricks to perfection. His empathy he unravels like a blanket from the tight ball he keeps in his chest to a layer coating the area, until he can feel the busy whirring of people on the street, the low-burn frustration of someone in the apartment above, and it's there that he gets his first sense of Percival Graves: anger pounding against Newt's temples, wariness and adrenaline like a flooding river, barely banked, but - he's there. He's not lost.

Queenie was right, then. Newt's heartbeat is steady when takes the last step down into the basement, where the light's already leaving aftershocks of colour on his vision. Graves is there, wearing only his skin covered in long red welts, crouched on his haunches and chest reverberating with a low, dangerous growl.

Newt meets his gaze, prepared to immediately drop it, but —

Oh.

It's almost too much. Newt breathes out as Graves does, forces himself calm in that jittery way he gets around creatures too angry to reason with, adrenaline in his veins but his movements even and steady, his mind carefully blank. Graves's sharp spike of fear-anger-hate passes over Newt like a storm, emotion a crash of thunder and lightning when he's left himself vulnerable and seeking, face upturned to the rain —

It's all right. Newt breathes in again and pulls his empathy in a little tighter, smaller, until he can feel himself and not the light burning harsh and the itch to his skin and the sound of his blood pounding in his veins. Newt swallows and says, quietly, "Hello."

Graves looks at him. Newt can almost feel his conscious mind clawing forward and takes a step toward him, then another, the sound of it echoing from Graves's perception to his own. He drops to his knees there on the floor, the dirt cold like ice through the soft cotton of his trousers, and holds out his hand. "I can help you," Newt says, and he hears it strange and distant, filtered through someone else's ears. "If you'd like."

They may not have had a choice in the unexpected new bond between them, but Newt waits anyway. Every breath Graves takes has fallen in synchrony with Newt's own, and Newt keeps his hand outstretched as Graves slowly reaches out and takes it, fingers against Newt's palm.

Newt pulls him forward, then, and Graves falls into him with an unsteady shiver running across his skin. Newt's clothing is all Guide-approved, soft, worn fabric that doesn't itch or pull but he still shucks his coat to the ground as he presses his palm over Graves's closing eyes, his voice a low murmur in his chest. "It's all right," he says, as Graves makes a tight, pained sound, "just listen to me a moment. I'm sure you've done this before. Standard training doesn't quite cover everything, though."

Newt doesn't push calm toward him, uncertain of how it'll be affected by the bond, but perhaps Graves feels it anyway, by the way he relaxes in increments to Newt's voice. Every society learns a different way of talking down Sentinels from a zone, just as every Sentinel has their own preference, every Guide their own combination of empathy and words. For Newt, it's light: the first magic everyone learns. It's a spark of it in the darkness to a wild raging flame, the dull pinprick of a star a million miles away to this, light flooding in like looking into the sun. Newt sacrifices a hand for his wand as he continues to talk: "It's just like dimming a lumos - "

When he casts a delumination charm Graves immediately stiffens and pulls back, every muscle tensing, his magic coiled, his attention sharp and wary. Newt bites back a curse and lifts his hand from his wand without moving anything else, his heart pounding loud in his ears. "I'm sorry," he says, into the unsteady drip of water that breaks the silence. "I don't mean any harm. I'm here to help."

He reaches out, tentatively, and presses his palm to Graves's shoulder. Graves doesn't move, barely breathing, his expression unreadable in the dark. Newt's voice is remarkably steady when he says, "Just dim the light a little more. It's in your hands, now - all you need to do is pull it back. There's no danger here. You can let the magic go."

It's a long, fraught moment before Graves does. Newt can feel the instant Graves's vision starts to come under his control as the echoing ache in his own eyes starts to fade. "Just like that," he coaxes, as Graves's knife-sharp focus on him draws him toward Newt's touch, the startled wariness of him easing as he presses his face to Newt's shoulder and breathes him in. "Easy, now."

He can tell the moment Graves's instincts relinquish enough of him for his conscious mind to take control, can feel the rush of thinking awareness in the bond between them, Graves's emotions a riot and then - stillness. Newt flicks up a few sensory muffling charms, releasing the magic carefully as Graves shudders and lets all his breath out in a rush.

Tentatively, Newt says, "Mr. Graves?"

"I," Graves manages. His voice is hoarse, and Newt conjures a glass and some water, helping bring it to Graves's mouth as he slowly pulls away. Graves downs it greedily, and Newt becomes aware as he does of the thirst gnawing at his throat.

Newt says, "A little more slowly, if you can," and packages his worry in calm and a gentle concern. Graves relents, and Newt lets him take it when his hands have stopped shaking, his fingers stable enough to hold it as he takes measured sips.

"You're a Guide," Graves says, eventually. His voice is still scratchy, his slow-growing awareness making the aches of his body far more obvious; Newt soothes it as best he can without being overwhelming. Even so, Graves's emotions spike: wariness and curiosity in equal measure before he smooths them over with the ease of long practice. "With... MACUSA?"

"A consultant, I think," Newt says. "But yes. President Picquery asked me to be here. I'm Newt. Newt Scamander."

"Scamander," Graves repeats.

"Yes, you know of Theseus? He's my older brother. I learnt quite a lot about being a Guide from him." Newt presses his lips together and studies what he can see of Graves, the details of his face obscured in shadow. "Are you - all right?"

"I've been better," Graves says. "You're... my Guide."

"For now, at least," Newt says, and presses his palm to Graves's arm. Graves closes his eyes at the touch. Newt can feel the way he grounds himself, anchoring sensation to conscious awareness, and he says, "Do you have a place you'd like to go? I"m sure your house has a quiet room - "

"No," Graves says, though Newt hardly needs it with the wave of revulsion that comes with the thought. "No."

"I have one of my own," Newt says, "but it's always a little unpredictable Apparating straight inside my case - I'll send a message for proper coordinates, but we may have to do a slight detour." He looks at Graves's face again, the focused edge to his attention, and knows he should keep talking; he says, "It's a set of Undetectable Extension charms, you see," and continues on in that vein as he quickly conjures up a note and sends it winging away.

He pauses when Graves's concentration starts to fall. Graves opens his mouth, closes it again, and says, "What happened? To..."

"Grindelwald?" Newt asks, and Graves's muscles tense as he nods, once. "He's in MACUSA's custody. The rest of it is rather a long story."

Graves says, "Your reply," a moment before it comes, a makeshift paper bird careening down the stairs. Newt opens it, a quick note of coordinates and a sweet aside from Queenie promising no distractions. "From... Goldstein?"

"Yes," Newt says. "Should we go now?"

Graves picks himself up slowly, with Newt's help. He keeps a hand on Graves's elbow and steadies him when he stumbles, swaying into Newt like he's something he can't help but be drawn to; it makes Newt feel not precisely anxious, but a strange uncomfortableness he tries to bury under layers of carefully-cultivated calm. "That's it," Newt says, and forces himself to act as he would with any other creature, any other Sentinel. "I'll Apparate us out. Queenie's done her best, but the room isn't isolated."

Graves closes his eyes for a moment and nods. "Yes," he says. "And... I should hear it. That story."

"You probably should," Newt agrees, and Apparates them both away.

Queenie's set his case in their spare room, surrounded by a quick set of muffling wards Newt is grateful for. Even with everything dulled, Graves's nausea threatens to overwhelm him, the sound of New York past the windows loud enough through their bond that Newt's ears hurt. Newt takes quick stock of the location and Apparates them again, his line of sight enough to get them to the room he's kept for years.

Graves doesn't quite collapse on the bed, but it seems he's doing all that he can to stop himself from it as he gingerly takes a seat. Newt's quiet room lives well up to its name, the magic in the wards woven delicately into the charms creating the space. Newt had spent months on it like the rest of his habitats, and every time after he stayed with Theseus there'd be a little more magic in it, courtesy of Theseus's own just-in-case.

"If you'd like," Newt says, "I can - "

"No," Graves says. "Stay."

Newt doesn't need their bond to hear his emotional state but with it it's inescapable, Graves's immediate self-recrimination and disquiet. Newt wonders how much of his own hesitance bleeds through as much as he tries to bury it, and he forces a brief smile, dropping to the mattress and taking off his boots. "Of course," he says, and he's the one who reaches out, pulling Graves in as his senses fluctuate, the headache of maintaining control easing as Newt smooths a hand over Graves's hair in a steady, soothing ritual. He talks, then: his voice pitched low like he keeps it with his creatures as he tells the entire fiasco that happened, glossing over the parts he can't put to words, not yet, not here.

Graves dozes off to the sound of Newt's voice, the scent of him flushing his thoughts, and Newt detaches himself once Graves's emotions settle to a steady, even keel in sleep. He doesn't go far, but even the Goldstein's apartment feels terribly close with Graves's mind tied so inexorably to his, and Queenie has a cup of tea for him already when Newt sits down at their kitchen table, his head in his hands.

"He's okay," Queenie says. "Right?"

"Can't you tell?" Newt sips at the tea, thankful of the warming heat, the way it nearly burns his tongue. "I - yes. I'm sorry."

"It's all right," Queenie says, smiling. "I'll let President Picquery know. Are you going to stay? A new bond - "

"Please," Newt says, wincing, "not now. I have no idea what he thinks of it - and for something like this it's..." Newt doesn't know what to think of it himself, he doesn't say, but he's certain Queenie can hear it nonetheless. "There are - techniques, aren't there? Would you mind - "

"Don't punish yourself, Newt," she says.

"Yes," Newt says, "I know. I - I'm not."

Newt takes her Guidebook on bonds back into his case and skims it as he busies himself with his creatures' care. His Swooping Evil's been woken more over the last few days than it likes, and he feeds it while he checks the Niffler hasn't yet gotten his sticky fingers on anyone else's things. There's the graphorns to feed, his occamies to console, and Newt's peering consideringly at Frank's old Arizona sky and arguing half-heartedly with Pickett when he feels Graves stir.

It's - extraordinarily strange, to be so connected to another human being. Newt's not sure if he should go, but Graves sends a carefully-focused thought of everything's fine that makes Newt pause. The occamy who's decided to join him chirps, curious, and Newt slides a gentle hand up her scales and says, "It's quite all right."

Perhaps Graves wants this as much as Newt does, or less. Newt doesn't know what to think of that.

Pickett tugs imperiously at Newt's hair, and Newt shakes his head and chides him as he picks up his bucket and goes back to his rounds.

He's absentmindedly tossing pellets to the mooncalves when he gets a sense of Graves's resolve for a confrontation, and Newt can't help but be wryly amused, knowing his own thoughts have trended into evasion. He bolsters his own spirit as Graves approaches, and manages a genuine smile to see him, newly cleaned and shaven. He's objectively as handsome as Grindelwald's impression of him was, even dressed in some of Newt's rather ill-fitting clothing, though the dark circles under his eyes and the gauntness to his face speak testament to the difference between them. "You found the bathtub, I see," Newt says. "Everything was all right?"

"Yes," Graves says. He seems as though he doesn't know where to look; he fixes his gaze instead on the mooncalves, squeaking cheerfully, and his eyebrows furrow. "You said you were a magizoologist."

"Newt Scamander," Newt says, "yes. President Picquery called me back in for, ah - "

"You can say it," Graves says. "Sentinel recovery and rehabilitation." His voice is dry, his emotions flat. "I suppose she'll want me to take the aptitude test again."

For all that they're supposedly bonded, Newt has no idea what he's thinking. "I'm not - bound to MACUSA's rules on this sort of thing," he says, carefully, "if you're worried I'll disclose."

Graves exhales, closing his eyes for a moment. "No," he says, sounding fractionally friendlier, "it's all right. My apologies. I only - Grindelwald made it a point to enhance my senses beyond what I'm used to. Some sort of curse. It's still... challenging."

Newt says, "You're not in danger of - "

"No," Graves says quickly, "no. You're very, ah, even-tempered. But you said you were planning on leaving?"

"Not immediately," Newt says. "If you're in need of me - it would be rather remiss of me to leave, wouldn't it?" He tries for a light tone, and isn't sure he makes it with Graves's pessimism pounding in his head, lingering in the space between them. "At the very least, I'll stay until you're settled again."

Graves examines him, for so long Newt feels self-conscious and distracts himself again with the mooncalves currently crowding him for food. "Yes," Graves says, "of course."

"Well," Newt manages.

"I should go to MACUSA," Graves says, "but your space here is rather isolated compared to New York. Would you mind...?"

"Oh," Newt says, with some relief, "no, of course not. We're at the Goldstein's right now - you're welcome to my quiet room in the meantime, and we can meet up with President Picquery tomorrow. It's rather late, anyway," he adds, though he's unsure of the time, and perhaps Graves can tell, by the slight twitch of his smile.

"I do appreciate it," Graves says. "This must be an unexpected complication for you."

"Yes," Newt says. "I - I wasn't trying for this at all." Perhaps he would have, if things had gone worse, and he'd failed at getting through; perhaps he wouldn't have, after the last time he'd failed. He hadn't suffered psychic shock from Credence's death if only because things hadn't gotten quite that far, but Newt wonders, now, if Obscurials are largely immune to Guidance. He'd always thought it was simply him, but - "But you hardly asked for this, either."

"No," Graves says, "no."

He leaves Newt there, to care for his creatures, and Newt watches after him as he goes. A mooncalf butts its head against Newt's palm and Newt curls his fingers in its short fur, smiling despite himself as it eats a pellet from his hand. "It'll be fine," he says. He isn't sure if he believes himself.

It won't matter for long, he tells himself, and he isn't sure if he feels disappointed or relieved.

 

They find out the difficult way the limits to which their bond can reasonably stretch. Tina had given Graves back his wand and he'd Apparated to MACUSA himself, and even that, that split-second distance makes terror and a base, atavistic fear clog Newt's throat until he can barely breathe; he arrives just in time to catch Graves's arm as he spins, eyes wild and snarling, and Newt, unthinking, pushes -

Every Guide learns the trick, but Newt uses it less than most. Technically, he's good at it, just like everything else about being a Guide, but growing up with a largely-incompatible Sentinel in his brother Theseus has lead him to prioritise methods that actually work. So he's stunned beyond measure when Graves simply - stops, instincts suppressed by the flush of Newt's own steady thoughts. Graves blinks, conscious awareness bringing with it confusion and wariness, and Newt pulls back the muffling blanket of his emotions as rapidly as he dares. "I'm sorry," he says, quickly, and hopes his lack of negative intent makes it through their bond.

"Well," says one of the Aurors, one Newt vaguely recognises, "looks like you've got a handle on him."

"I," Graves says, voice coming back to him, "can handle myself, Abernathy, thank you. Don't you have work to do?"

Abernathy says, "Mr. Graves," with a mocking tilt to his head as he goes, and Newt doesn't meet Graves's eyes as Graves straightens his hastily-resized clothing, exhaling through his teeth.

"I'm sorry," Newt says, again.

"Not as sorry as me," Graves says, flatly. "We'd best see Picquery before anyone else decides I'm prime for baiting."

"What he did," Newt says, hurrying to keep up with Graves's purposeful stride, "it - it wasn't you."

"Of course it wasn't," Graves says, "but nevertheless..."

He doesn't finish, even when they're standing in the elevator, rising up and across the Woolworth building's floors. Newt pretends to be absorbed in watching the view beyond the glass; Graves's emotional state is a riot of irritation and annoyance under his careful facade of calm. And it doesn't get better by the time they stop at President Picquery's office, a statuesque room of dark wood and minimalist shelving, where Newt stares at his feet when she says, "Thank you, Mr. Scamander," with none of the frostiness she had not two days earlier.

"I am still capable of being Director," Graves says, cutting past her attempt at pleasantries. "Now, if you could inform the Aurors of that fact - "

"You know it's protocol," she says, "Mr. Graves. In fact, I believe you insisted on instating it - "

"For reassuring those people who think us Sentinels can't do our jobs," Graves says, "not to force myself into some charade of a testing system once again - "

"Mr. Graves," she says, voice sharp. "I cannot be seen to waive the requirements you yourself put in place, no matter the reason. You've passed these tests before."

Graves says, "Yes. Before." His mood is darkening, and Newt tries to think of anything more cheerful for distraction and fails. "Has Grindelwald told you anything?"

"No," Picquery says, "nothing useful. Do you want to question him?"

"Aren't you going to stop me?" Graves glances back at Newt and offers him a tight impression of a smile. "I nearly lost myself earlier. When Mr. Scamander leaves, I imagine the adjustment period will keep me away for weeks. Months."

Picquery's eyes slide to Newt, and Newt manages a brief smile. "I'm afraid we've bonded," he says, quietly. "Entirely an accident."

"But a fortuitous one," she says, slowly, looking back at Graves, to Graves's dawning but displeased realisation. "A possibly unstable, overpowered Sentinel in the Auror corps is a liability; a bonded one, an asset."

"Mr. Scamander is a British citizen. You can hardly force him to - "

"It's all right," Newt says, carefully. "If you need me to stay..."

He trails off at the sharp, pointed direction of Graves's attention, his emotions bristling against Newt's thoughts. "Mr. Scamander," Graves says again, "was returning home when you called him in for this."

"For you," Picquery says, eyebrows rising. "You're welcome to your position, Director, once you've re-established yourself, whatever course that may take. Mr. Scamander, as a bound Guide you're afforded leave to stay here in the interim. Though I cannot grant you leniency if any... incident occurs." She looks pointedly at his case.

Newt says, "Thank you," under her expectant stare, and feels the bubble of Graves's frustration that accompanies his sharp nod.

"If that's what it takes," Graves says. "Madame President."

Newt doesn't broach the topic until later. There are things Graves needs to do: his house, for one, is still being cleared, the work Grindelwald did while impersonating him being examined for intent. Newt finds himself at somewhat loose ends and stays, looking over Grindelwald's files on the Second Salemers, while Graves tests the limits of their bond; without the sudden disconnect of Apparition it's easier for him to keep his focus and calm.

Graves's irritation has slowly given way to a flat resignation, and it's evened to a steady temper by the time he finds Newt again. "Was Grindelwald a Sentinel?" Newt asks as he gets to his feet and picks up his case.

"He must be," Graves says, and offers his arm. "Side-Along?"

Newt takes it, and is whisked away.

Graves's home has had the wards picked over by a dozen different wands. Graves winces when he sees the mess the Aurors have made of it, but seems more wary than anything else when he steps through the front door. Newt examines the hallway, picking out the life he must have led; no photographs, a few frozen portraits, and very little else.

"I wanted to apologise," Graves ventures, now that they're alone. "I've been..."

"Reasonably frustrated," Newt says, carefully. "I - do understand. It can't be easy having your livelihood depend on a bond you didn't want."

"And that because of a fucking magical supremacy fanatic," Graves says, and he scrubs a hand over his face. "This place stinks of him. Would you mind...?" He gestures, and Newt offers him a faint, tentative smile.

"Of course not." He sets his case down in a corner, leaving his coat hanging over it as he rolls up his sleeves and pulls out his wand. "Where are we starting?"

Graves's smile is more vicious than soothing, but Newt's relieved by his genuine pleasure as Graves lifts his wand and magic to the walls. "Right here will do."

It's hours of work to clean a house to a Sentinel's exacting standards, even with magic as an aid. Newt spends ten minutes trying to unravel a complicated bit of spellwork before Graves blasts the probably-an-heirloom vase to pieces, and one wall is so saturated in Grindelwald's magic Graves demolishes it entirely, vanishing the bits of paint and brick that remain. And once it's clear to Graves's reined-in senses, Newt keeps a steady eye on him as he carefully enhances each one, until every speck of dust and dirt and every part of the man who'd taken his life is gone.

They leave after that for dinner on Newt's gentle urging, at one of Graves's preferred restaurants. Newt isn't certain what to think of the way Graves treats the link between them - there's resentment, certainly, but not directed at Newt, and his resignation and dull displeasure he keeps well-muffled under more salient thoughts. Newt knows Graves would hardly have chosen this, had it been an option - but it wasn't.

He's not sure how much of his own discontent leaks through, or if it's his occasional surreptitious glances at Graves that gives his thoughts away. But it's Graves who, tapping his fingers on the rim of his water glass, says, "About this bond."

Newt says, "Oh. Yes."

"You can't like this - you don't," Graves corrects, his gaze piercing. "You didn't expect a bond - neither of us did. If you want to break it and leave now, I won't stop you."

"It hasn't been - terrible," Newt says, but he can't meet Graves's searching eyes. "And your work..."

"I'll manage," Graves says, eyebrows rising. "I've been unbonded for years. Suddenly gaining one isn't going to turn me into some - "

"No," Newt says, quickly, "no, I didn't mean - I'm sorry. It's just - even with Grindelwald in custody, there's quite a lot to sort out, and I imagine you'd prefer to be involved. Considering what he did." Graves's stare hasn't wavered, and Newt swallows. "I don't mind staying, for that."

"If this is out of obligation - "

"Can't it be both?" Newt says. "I - made rather a mess of this whole thing, I'm afraid. But if this were to happen to anyone - well, we've worked well together already. It isn't so bad."

The flush of warmth in his chest feels foreign and strange, and Newt glances up to see Graves's eyes soften, his mouth curve into a faint smile. "It hasn't been," Graves says. "I suppose if anything came out of this, it's that. Have I... have I thanked you, for helping me?"

"Enough," Newt says, and tentatively reaches out across the table, his hand palm-up. Graves takes it, his palm against Newt's warm and dry, their bond a heady, solid thing between them. "But it is what I'm here for. As your Guide."

"Not only for that, I hope," Graves says, his tone lighter than it's been since they've met, and the weight of his touch lingers on Newt's skin long after it's gone.