There’s a lot to be said for creature-keeping permits, and Percival Graves has said almost all of it at one point or another.
Newt Scamander has yet to listen to any of it.
“Director Graves, if you’d just come and look–”
“You’re keeping creatures without a permit, I don’t need to look.”
“Please!” Newt hated the pleading sound in his voice, but he has to get the Director’s attention. And something about that must have struck a nerve because the man stops and turns to Newt, eyebrow raised expectantly. “I’ve made improvements to the case, since–er, since last December. It’s perfectly safe now, there’s no danger–”
The Director looks to the heavens. “Fine,” he says.
Newt’s heart leaps, and in his breast pocket Pickett lets out a tiny cheer. “Let me show you the way,” he says, and unlocks the case.
After two hours inspecting the suitcase, the Director declares it fit to exist on American soil. He writes up a special permit specifically pertaining to Newt, a license granted exclusively for this suitcase, and Newt finds himself infinitely grateful to the man.
“You can come down, any time you like,” Newt says, tucking the permit in his pocket. “I mean–for inspections, and so on. Or if you only wanted to, I wouldn’t mind the company.”
“We’ll see,” Director Graves says dryly.
This is not a promising exchange.
Newt, therefore, finds himself stunned when Director Graves knocks on the lid of the suitcase two days later, asking to be let in.
“Is this an inspection?” Newt asks, thinking warily of the Fire Crabs that got out this morning.
“No, Mr. Scamander. I suppose you could say that this is a social call.”
Newt blinks hard, taken aback. “…would you. Er. Would you like to meet the Occamy babies, in that case? I’ve got chores, but they mightn’t mind some company…”
Director Graves nods. He doesn’t smile, but Newt thinks that’s rather ordinary for him. He’s a somber man, with every right to be. Newt takes him to the Occamy nest, where all of the little creatures start chirping and peeping, stretching up their necks for their mummy.
“They’re rather sweet,” Director Graves says, looking down at them.
“Would you like to hold one?” Newt asks, looking sideways at the man.
He looks startled. “Me–one of them?”
“Yes,” Newt says, scooping up Clara–one of the most amicable to being held and petted–and letting her settle herself in his cupped hands, resizing herself to fit perfectly.
Cautiously, Director Graves holds out his hands. Newt transfers Clara into them carefully, where she curls up and coos, nuzzling her beak against his thumb.
“I’m starting to see why you don’t want to give all this up,” the Director says, holding Clara carefully.
“It’s not about pets, Director Graves–”
“Graves. Just Graves.”
Newt meets the man’s eyes for half a second. “Graves,” he says. “They aren’t pets, no matter how much Clara here likes to be cuddled or Pickett likes to sit in my pocket. I’m keeping them here for their safety. Someday, I’d like to reintroduce at least a few of these creatures into their natural habitats.”
Graves studies Newt like he’s studying a creature. “Admirable,” he says, and his small smile feels utterly genuine to Newt.
Newt has a regular visitor now. Graves is always courteous, knocking before he enters; Newt can’t convince him that it’s not necessary. Sometimes he merely comes and sits by and observes; other times, he helps Newt with chores, or simply follows him and watches. Newt’s not used to the attention, but finds he rather likes it. Especially when Graves turns out to be interested in all the things that Newt has to say about the creatures.
He helps brush down the Graphorns, and reluctantly assists in dental work on the Mongolian Death Worm, and puts food in the Grindylow pond. He'll hold Pickett, when the little Bowtruckle takes a liking to him. Auror training has given Graves good reflexes, nerves of steel, and powerful intuition; Newt can’t help thinking that Graves would be a spectacular magizoologist, if he wanted to take up the profession.
And even if it sounds like Graves is justifying all this to the outside world as constant oversight, Newt has an inkling of the truth. He sees the faraway look in Graves’ eyes, the persistent tremor in his hands, the exhaustion marked in his face. He needs healing and safety, and he’s found it here in Newt’s suitcase.
Newt can relate to that.
“Your Demiguise is very affectionate,” Graves says one day, lounging in the workshop while Newt attempts for the sixth time to work out exactly what compounds make Runespoor venom so ridiculously potent. This is a task that would be easier if it didn’t blow up every time that Newt tries to conduct chromatography on a sample.
“He just likes you,” Newt says absently, preparing his solvent. It’s stronger this time, but hasn’t reacted poorly to the venom yet, so hopefully he’ll get something resembling results.
“What do you mean?”
Newt glances at Graves, who’s sitting on the floor with Dougal on his lap, running his fingers through Dougal’s fur. Pickett is perched on his shoulder, just in case this attempt at chromatography goes wrong too. “He usually turns invisible around people he doesn’t trust.”
Graves’ voice sounds odd. “He trusts me?”
“Of course he does,” Newt says. “I do.”
He looks at Graves again, who looks like Newt has just slapped him. His eyes are wide and he’s staring at Newt in something that’s almost fear. Newt recognizes that look; it’s the same one he’d worn when Jacob had said he thought Newt was amazing. Newt gives the man a small smile and then returns to his work.
The chromatography works, but raises more questions than it answers. That seems to be a common theme these days.
By a series of increasingly unlikely coincidences, Newt ended up keeping a small herd of Thestrals in the case. One of them is expecting, and he keeps her in a separate stall, quite large, with enormous quantities of straw. She’s a skittish creature, but she seems to feel quite safe with Graves, even more so than with Newt. He likes her just as much, coming to visit her often.
At this point, it’s been months since Newt received his special permit. Graves is a fixture of the suitcase now, belonging here as much as Newt himself does. He sometimes comes now when Newt isn’t even there, and Newt trusts him absolutely.
This is how it comes to be that Graves is the only one there when the Thestral mare gives birth.
Newt’s out, giving a lecture on the care and keeping of magical birds, when a Patronus arrives bearing a panicked message from Graves that the Thestral mother is giving birth. Newt drops everything to get home because the worst thing that can happen is that Graves decides to help, when he absolutely shouldn’t.
This is not what Newt returns to. Graves is standing near the stall, watching in what looks like frozen panic. “Is she all right?” Newt asks, practically running up to the other man and barely remembering to keep his voice down.
“She’s fine,” Graves says. “I didn’t…I had no idea what I was doing…”
Newt looks past him, at the stall, where the mare is on her feet, nosing at a skinny, gangly little Thestral foal. “They look lovely,” he says. On sheer instinct, he takes Graves’ hand, because the man looks like he’s going to fall over. “I wouldn’t have done anything if I’d been here, either. She knew what to do. And see, they’re bonding already.”
For some reason, Graves doesn’t let go of Newt’s hand. They watch the Thestrals for a long time, hand in hand, and it’s the most comfortable Newt has felt in a long time.
Something changes after that.
“Don’t people ever think it odd that you spend so much time here?” Newt asks. They’re deadheading the Helianthus aphroditus plants, which requires them both to wear masks lest they accidentally get hit with the pollen and find themselves in an incredibly uncomfortable situation.
Graves drops another dead blossom into the bucket at their feet. “Not particularly,” he says. “No more so than they find the rest of me odd. You know that Picquery is looking for my replacement?”
“Oh,” Newt says. “I’m sorry.”
“Nothing to be sorry for,” Graves says. He looks around, at all the creatures, at the vast suitcase. “This is…better. Much better. I like you.”
Newt’s heart, for some reason, skips a beat.
He tries to blame it on pollen getting under his mask.
It doesn’t work.
“Call me Percival.”
The Occamies like Percival best now, and Newt finds himself unable to summon up jealousy when he discovers that Clara has decided to move into Percival’s waistcoat pocket. She’ll never be able to be rehabilitated, not with how much Percival feeds her and talks to her. Newt does make fun of Percival for days when he finds out that Percival had taken her in to work and let her out in his office without a permit; Percival pleasantly offers to rescind Newt’s permit.
They’re so comfortable with each other that sometimes they don’t have to talk at all. Percival’s simply there, a presence that Newt’s not sure how he ever lived without. He finds a smile on his face just hearing Percival’s tread on the ladder, or his voice as he scolds the Nundu when it’s grumpy.
Percival’s retirement is a solemn occasion where he’s laden with awards. Newt’s invited, of course; he watches from the sidelines as Percival shakes hands with notaries. His smiles never reach his eyes, and when it’s all said and done Newt comes to him with the suitcase and asks if he might stay over tonight.
Of course Percival is fine with that, and they Apparate to his house together. He still has the Director-look on his face, and Newt feels lost. He doesn’t know what to do to help, how he can fix this. So Newt asks if Percival would like to go down and take care of the Thestrals, on the off-chance that this might help.
They’re just reaching the pasture where the Thestrals come to feed when the littlest Thestral, the colt that had been born two months ago, comes running up to nudge at Percival’s chest and play with him. Percival smiles, really smiles, for the first time that day, and Newt feels a surge of relief. He turns away, Summoning feed, and by the time he turns back around Percival has his hands pressed to his face, shoulders shaking.
Newt drops everything and pulls Percival into an embrace. He’s never, not in all the time they’ve spent together, seen him like this. Has never seen him crack or break. And now here they are.
Percival comes along when Newt leaves for South America. The new Director of Magical Security isn’t nearly so lenient about Newt’s case, so he’s not going to stay in America. He tries to convince Percival that it isn’t necessary, but Percival just looks at him, and Newt gives in.
They sail for South America together.
Newt was right, all that time ago. Percival is a good magizoologist, a perfect partner for Newt. They work well together.
In the Amazon, Percival hauls Newt out of rivers, helps him get down from trees, and forcibly wraps him in a blanket and feeds him soup when he catches some kind of cold. He takes care of the creatures and helps Newt catalogue and organize all of the data he’s taking. When they accidentally stumble across a Lethifold, Percival casts the Patronus Charm that sends it fleeing. They fall asleep side by side more often than not, and in moments of high emotion they’ve fallen into a habit of holding hands.
There’s a lot of unspoken feelings there, Newt thinks: but he’s not going to the be the one to say anything here. He’s afraid of what might happen if he’s wrong.
Percival says it first, looking at Newt over a campfire in the Atacama Desert.
“I think I’m in love with you, Newt.”
When Newt recovers, he hasn’t quite recovered his words. That’s a problem.
He solves it by just going around the fire to kiss Percival.
“I thought we were headed for Tokyo?” Percival asks as he and Newt go up the gangplank onto the cargo ship, departing Lima shortly. They’ll be traveling this way because it’s easier not to be packed aboard a ship full of people.
“We need a stop in Hawaii,” Newt explains. “I’d like to take a look at some of the creatures that live on the volcanoes. I hope you’re ready for fire.”
Percival shakes his head and smiles. “Newt. I live with you. I have to be ready for anything.”
Newt ducks his head, a little embarrassed. “It’s not my fault that things just happen around me.”
They’re out of sight of anyone else, so it doesn’t surprise Newt when Percival leans in to kiss him. “You bring excitement with you.”
“I carry it in my suitcase,” Newt says. He grins and takes Percival’s hand. “More excitement than ever, with you.”
“Merlin’s Beard,” Percival says, rolling his eyes, but he holds Newt’s hand all the tighter.
The ship departs, carrying them for Hawaii, and then…who knows? Newt certainly doesn’t. All he knows is that everything important in the world can be fit into the small suitcase he's carrying by his side. There’s a lot to be said for living life that way, and Newt Scamander hasn’t said half of it yet.
He’s sure that Percival Graves will be there to listen to all of it.