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Will We Die

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  BOOM!

 

Newt narrowly dodged the incoming jinx, diving to the side and using his momentum to quickly roll back onto his feet and keep running down the narrow corridor of the abandoned warehouse. The entire place had anti-apparition charms in place, meaning Newt would have to devise a new escape plan and fast.

 

It was his own fault, really. He should have anticipated a higher level of security when he discovered the poachers were holding a live dragon.

 

Newt registered the high-pitched whistles of another incoming jinx at the last second, and barely managed to duck out of the way. He turned down a smaller adjacent hallway, hoping to lose the wizards chasing him.

 

Wrong move—it was a dead end. The solid wall of concrete loomed over the magizoologist, seeming to mock him with its immovability.

 

Good thing Newt was not so easily dissuaded.

 

His mind ticked through his remaining possibilities: he couldn’t keep running, and he couldn’t apparate away, this left him a single grim option. Newt didn’t wallow on it—worrying meant you suffered twice.

 

Decision made, the magizoologist bolted into the nearest open door and cast every locking spell he could think of—and hoped it would buy him enough time.

 

Not a single second had passed between Newt uttering the last charm and when he could hear his chasers firing their own spells at the door—intent on breaking it down.

 

Newt already knew he would not be able to escape, but there was a chance he could still save his creatures and the newly rescued baby dragon. So, with shaking hands and a heavy heart, Newt gently deposited his case on the ground and took a step back. He didn’t let himself think, just flicked his wrist and muttered the incantation that allowed his beloved case to wink out of existence, easily sliding by the many wards protecting the warehouse, and towards safety.

 

They were safe. Gone, but safe (so why did it hurt so much?)

 

The door blew open. Newt didn’t try to fight as his assailants whipped one spell after another to his unprotected back.

 

He sank into unconsciousness readily, greeting the darkness like an old friend.

 

***

 

The whole world was swaying. Was he on a boat? Newt couldn’t remember. It didn’t feel like any boat Newt had been on previously; the movement steadily going forward, rather than the usual rhythmic back-and-forth of ocean waves.

 

It was curiosity that pulled Newt from the fuzzy edges of unconsciousness.

 

The first feeling to bleed back into him was the throbbing pain from each of his upper arms, Newt barely opened his eyes wide enough to see the rough hands gripping him and hauling him along.

 

Ah. He wasn’t being swayed, but dragged.

 

The young wizard had enough mind to try and get his legs under him to ease the pressure on his shoulders. He stumbled along as best he could. But not soon after, he was thrust into a lavish office lined by tall bookcases and dominated by a massive mahogany desk.

 

Newt can’t help but wince as he is roughly pushed to his knees, only realizing as he works to keep his exhausted limbs upright that his hands have been tied excruciatingly tight behind his back. He tries to flex his fingers and finds he can’t feel them at all.

 

Newt’s thoughts are interrupted by someone entering the office (if the sound of the door opening and closing hadn’t given it away, the immediate hush that enveloped the room did; it was like everyone was collectively holding their breaths.)

 

Newt keeps his eyes downcast even as the new entrant approaches him and the tips of very black, very shiny oxfords enter his line of sight. Newt ducks his head further down as the stranger continues approaching.

 

Newt was entertaining the thought of actually scooting backwards in order to create more space between himself and this person that seemed insistent in entering his personal bubble, despite that being so very rude – but then there is a hand gripping his hair and wrenching his head backwards, forcing Newt to look the stranger directly in the face and–

 

Well it wasn’t a stranger after all.  Newt would recognize those mismatched eyes anywhere. The younger wizard is still processing this new development when Grindelwald starts speaking.

 

“Well, Mr. Scamander, you’ve certainly been an inconvenience these past few hours.” The man began, a smirk curling his thin lips but not reaching his eyes. “Although, I can’t say I’m entirely surprised, you seem to be making it a habit of meddling in my affairs.”

 

Newt, who was uncomfortable with eye contact in the best of cases, tries to avoid the older wizard’s gaze despite the man’s firm grip in his hair. Unbothered by Newt’s squirming, Grindelwald keeps speaking.

 

“I’ll make this very simple, Mr. Scamander. Tell me where you sent your case and I will let you be on your way. I am only interested in what you stole from me.” The man states plainly. “Resist, however, and you will suffer the consequences.”

 

That was hardly surprising

 

Newt let the silence hang heavy between them; there was no way he would betray the inhabitants of his case.

 

The silence is answer enough for Grindelwald, as the man is quick to release his grip on Newt’s hair and order his followers from the room. Once the entourage has exited, Grindelwald transfigures a chair into existence and sets it in front of the massive desk. With a simple flick of his wrist, the older wizard transports Newt from his position on the floor and into the proffered chair.  Next, he spells the ropes binding Newt’s wrists together to undo themselves, and made to secure Newt’s arms to the arms of the chair and his ankles to the legs, effectively restraining him again.

 

Newt can’t help pulling at his new bonds, and finds them unyielding. He feels more vulnerable now than he did kneeling on the floor. Or perhaps it has less to do with his position and more to do with the way Grindelwald rakes his eyes along Newt’s bound form. Slow. Calculating.

 

Newt swallows past the dryness in his throat, forcing his eyes forward. He expects Grindelwald to take a seat on the massive high-backed chair behind the desk, but instead, the older man rests on the edge of the desk in front of Newt, purposefully brushing their legs against one and other and leaning forward to crowd Newt against the back of his chair; ensuring Newt can look nowhere but him.

 

“You really must find a better past-time than inserting yourself into my business, Mr. Scamander. I might grow tired of these antics.” Grindelwald speaks the worlds slowly, letting them rumble from the depths of his chest, and allowing the lilt of his accent to caress each word.

 

Newt licks his lips before attempting to speak, “I can assure you, Mr. Grindelwald, it is not on purpose.”

 

This gets a deep chuckle from the older wizard. “A coincidence, then? Unfortunately for you, Mr. Scamander, I don’t believe in such trivialities.”

 

Quick as a snake, Grindelwald has wound a hand into Newt’s hair again, tilting the younger wizard’s head to expose his throat and force his eyes to meet the older man’s mismatched ones.

 

“In New York, I could have believed that our paths crossed accidentally. But twice? In just as many months? No, Mr. Scamander, this is no mere coincidence.” Grindelwald brings their faces impossibly closer together, relishing Newt’s increasing panic; his staccato breathes, dilated pupils, twitching limbs. The older wizard’s gaze danced across Newt’s features; assessing, calculating—seeking weaknesses to exploit.  Finally, the mismatched eyes settled back onto Newt’s own eyes. Decided.

 

“There is much I wish to discuss with you, Mr. Scamander. But first, I must insist that you tell me where you hid your case.” Grindelwald voices his demand softly, words spoken inches away from Newt’s lips.

 

The blood is roaring in Newt’s ears, his survival instincts kicking-in, trying to get his body to fight. He attempts to turn away, back away—anything to add space between him and the older wizard, but Grindelwald does not allow him the courtesy; instead, the man tightens his grip in Newt’s hair, pinning the younger wizard in place.

 

“The case, Mr. Scamander. Where is it?”

 

Newt squeezes his eyes shut and holds onto his silence, resolute. He focuses all his energy on keeping his breathing even. I will not betray them.

 

“The consequences of your silence really will be most unpleasant, Mr. Scamander.” Grindelwald whispers against his temple, soft and gentle. “Continued exposure to the Cruciatus Curse is known to drive people mad.”

 

It’s a mockery of comfort, and Newt’s stomach revolts at the forced intimacy. He bites his tongue to keep from whimpering, resolutely holding onto his silence. After a few moments, Grindelwald releases a deep, disappointed sigh, “Very well. I had hoped to avoid this, but you give me no other choice.”

 

The word is whispered against his skin, no more than a single breathe, but no less destructive because of it.

 

“Crucio.”

 

The pain was instantaneous; it felt loud, in comparison to the stillness of the room beforehand. Some part of him reasoned that the loudness was likely also due to his screaming, but Newt wasn’t aware of anything beyond the pain coursing his body like his blood itself had transformed to venom, burning him from the inside out.

 

There was no respite; it just kept going on, and on, and on. But surely his body must have burned away by now? Surely there couldn’t be anything left of himself. But the pain kept burning through his veins.

 

Eventually (hours, days, years?)  the pain stopped. Newt collapsed back into the chair, dimly remembering he was bound to it. As Newt collected himself, he becomes aware of the hands still cradling his head, thumbs delicately brushing the tear tracks that ran the length of his face. Felt the blood that runs freely from the chafe marks he had created along his wrists and ankles from his trashing.  The dull pain wasn’t enough to upset his all-consuming relief as Newt fought to even his breathing and erratic heartbeat.

 

And yet, it only took a single brush of Grindelwald’s lips against his tear-streaked face to break his newfound calm.

 

“Let’s try this again, shall we? Where have you hidden your case, Mr. Scamander?”

 

Newt eyes were watering so much that he couldn’t see Grindelwald’s face, inches away from his own, so he screwed his eyes shut. He would not give them up. He would not, he would not

 

This time the Crucio was whispered against his cheek.

 

Newt was better prepared for it, not that it hurt any less. He could register that he was screaming, could feel himself thrash against his bonds, could feel Grindelwald move his hands from their place cradling his cheeks to instead run into his hair and grasp his head, effectively tucking Newt under his chin and against his chest. Holding Newt as he fell apart in his arms.

 

It was another eternity before Grindelwald showed him mercy.

 

Newt’s body collapsed after being released from the curse. Falling limply against Grindelwald as his lungs greedily gasps to reclaim the breath they had lost screaming. They sat in silence for some time, Newt catching his breath as Grindelwald kept running his fingers gently through Newt’s hair and cradling his head to the man’s chest.

 

Eventually, Grindelwald’s hands wandered back towards his face, cradling his jaw, thumbs tracing his lower lip. Newt has enough mind to jerk away from the intimate touch, realizing too late that that could encourage more violence from Grindelwald. But the older wizard couldn’t have been bothered by the reaction, since his thumbs simply trailed back up to Newt’s cheeks instead and gently tilted the younger man’s head so that he could look him in the eyes (much to Newt’s continued discomfort).

 

“I don’t enjoy this, Mr. Scamander,” began Grindelwald, “Seeing you in pain gives me no pleasure. But your refusal to cooperate leaves me in quite the compromised situation—so, I must insist. Tell me where you sent your case.”

 

Newt closes his eyes, and tries desperately to keep his wits about him. He would not betray those in his care. He would not give in, he would not. No matter how much pain Grindelwald inflicted.

 

The older man lets out a deep sigh, disappointed, still absentmindedly running his thumbs across Net’s tear stained cheeks. “It is admirable, your devotion. However, it is misplaced, Newton. May I call you Newton? I think we have passed the time of formalities.” Grindelwald continued without waiting for Newt’s input on the matter. “I mean no harm to the creatures in your care, Newton. I only wish to take back what is mine.”

 

Newt takes a deep breath before rasping out, I won’t betray them. Any of them.”

 

Grindelwald is quick to warp even the simplest of statements, “But who are you betraying? Creatures have no concept of promises… You are only harming yourself. I have already seen the contents of your case, and found nothing of interest.” Grindelwald finishes, absentmindedly. But the hand cradling Newt’s cheek suddenly tightens, and his eyes narrow to slits.

 

Understanding dawns across the older man’s gaunt features. “Unless… you’ve acquired something new during your recent travels? Something interesting,” the man whispers. It is not phrased as a question.

 

Grindelwald’s thumbs are caressing Newt’s cheeks again; a rhythmic stroking.  Back and forth, back and forth. “Tell me, what are you hiding in your case, dear Newton?”

 

Newt just shook his head, helpless to stop the outpouring of please

 

“No, I’m not… I’m not! Please—“

 

But Grindelwald had no use for the young man’s lies, and simply kissed the words out of Newt’s mouth and replaced them with his own, “Crucio.”

 

Between the he sobs and screams, Newt shattered under the gentle cruelty. He willingly spirals into a merciful darkness.

 


 

Back in London, a very tired Theseus had made his way to his apartment. He settled in his home office, resting his tired bones after another long week at the Ministry.

 

It takes him several minutes to notice the battered case resting innocently on his desk. Theseus’ blood runs cold at the sight.

 

“Oh no… little brother, no…” Theseus quickly grabs the case, settles it on the floor, flips it open and enters the case. He doesn’t make it to the last rung of the ladder before he starts calling out, “Newt? Newt, are you here?”

 

Theseus makes a quick round of all the larger areas of the case and finds nothing.

 

Theseus makes his way to the back of the case, where he knows is a little shack with an extra bed. Sometimes, Newt would take a quick nap there (it depended on how messy is own room was at that moment).

 

Theseus opens the rickety door, and to his surprise, finds a body curled up in the small bed.

 

Relief floods him as he steps into the little shack, closing the door behind himself.

 

“Merlin’s beard, Newt! You had me so worried…” As Theseus approached the bed, he noticed a few things: first, the body on the bed had much broader shoulders than Newt, and yet their limbs appeared thinner. Also, their hair was black and cut atrociously short, instead of shaggy and ginger coloured.

 

In an instant, Theseus had his wand in hand and pointing it at the stranger “Who are you and what are you doing here?” The Auror asks coldly, his ingrained training taking over.

 

However, the body in the bed stays unresponsive (not surprising, since all of Theseus’ previous yelling hadn’t woken the boy either). The awkward silence that followed Theseus’ unanswered question gives the Auror the time to observe the curled-up figure on the bed.

 

It was a boy, but younger than Newt and clearly underfed going by the scrawniness of his limbs and the sharpness of his cheekbones. He had likely been abused as well, if Newt was offering him refuge, which is the most likely scenario.

 

Feeling sound in his analysis of the situation, Theseus re-sheaths his wand, and makes his way to the small kitchen situated at the back of the cabin to starts a pot of tea.

 

Some hours later, the boy comes to. It’s a slow thing; his long lashes flutter innocently a few times, before opening wide and finally landing on Theseus, who is lounging in one of the kitchen chairs, his cup of tea long finished.

 

The boy bolts upright in the bed, at first frightened, and then angry. His brown eyes narrowing to slits as he notices that absence of a certain ginger Magizoologist. Clever kid.

 

The boy rolls his shoulders back, and rises to his knees on the bed, trying to make himself bigger, and growls out, “Where is Mr. Scamander? What have you done to him?”

 

The Auror avoids the questions, instead commenting “You still call him Scamander? You must not have been travelling with him for long, then. Newt always insists on being called by his first name.”

 

The boy is not impressed at the deflection. Theseus is about to offer the kid some tea, but his figure has begun to blur, dark smoke growing out of his back and creeping up the walls in massive winding tendrils. His eyes flash white.

 

Theseus’ eyes widen in sudden realization. Because of course Newt would have rescued a damn Obscurus.

Chapter Text

When Newt opens his eyes, all he sees is black. His first thought is that he’s gone blind, but slowly, his eyes focus enough to perceive that he’s in actually in a dark cell; the only source of light streams through the single barred window on the wooden door.

 

Newt pushes himself onto his elbows with a groan. His bonds have been taken off—the only evidence he had had any are the deep welts rubbed into his wrists and ankles. His whole body aches. And to add to the already bleak situation, he is cold, hungry, and alone—

 

“So, you’re alive then?” rasps a voice from the furthest corner of the cell.

 

—Or, not alone.

 

Newt turns his head towards the origin on the sound, but can only see shadows in the dim cell.

 

“Hello?” He sounds back, perhaps he had imaged it?

 

But the voice greets him again, “In the corner. I would come to you, but—” the unmistaken jangle of heavy chains resounds in the confined space, “—I’m rather tied up at the moment.”

 

Newt doesn’t even stop to consider the potential danger of this new person, he just stumbles his way forward until his hand reaches a lump of something damp, solid, but warm.

 

“My leg.” The voice offers, slightly amused (how the man managed to find humour in this bleak situation was beyond Newt).

 

Newt scooches his way forward so he can sit beside the stranger. The younger wizard fights the urge to press their thighs together; that would be rude. Newt sits as close as he can, while leaving a sliver of space between them. Once settled, Newt addresses the stranger, “So, what did you do to deserve getting shackled?”

 

“I have a fondness for wandless magic.” Newt can’t see the man’s face, but he can hear the smirk that curls his lips.

 

“That would be useful right about now; I’m afraid I could never get the hang of it.” Newt replies.

 

The stranger just hums in response. They sit in silence for a few moments, before the man addresses Newt again.

 

“Care to tell me what you did to gain an invitation to the party? He doesn’t usually keep his guests overnight.”

 

Newt opts for the simple answer, “I stole something of his.”

 

The man must be surprised by the answer, because he immediately objects. “And? I assume you’ve already given it back?” 

 

Newt clears his throat, and fights the urge to squirm “Well, no.”

 

The older man presses, “Have you lost it then? Sold it?”

 

“No, no. I know very well where it is.”

 

“Then what’s the problem?”

 

“I won’t tell him where it is!” Newt exclaims, defensive now that he’s being interrogated again.

 

There’s a beat of silence.

 

Then another.

 

Suddenly, the man is laughing hysterically, shaking by the force of it. The heavy chains rattle.

 

It takes the man a long time to catch his breath, and when he finally does, he apologizes to Newt for his reaction

 

“‘I won’t tell him where it is!’ That’s the best news I’ve heard in a long time.”

 

“I don’t imagine you get much news down here.” Newt fires back stiffly, still unsure as to if he’s being laughed at or with. His efforts are rewarded with another mirthless laugh. “You’re right. Not much news down here.”

 

Unwilling to let the conversation die so suddenly, Newt asks a question of his own, “And you, what did you do to deserve imprisonment?”

 

The man lets out a deep sigh, “Not nearly as heroic as you, I’m afraid. I’m simply a means to an end.”

 

“How do you mean?”

 

“Well, to put it simply; Grindelwald only needed use of my face. And assurance that I would not be around to interfere in his plans, I imagine.”

 

Newt is shocked into silence. He knew from his innumerable letters to Tina and Theseus that the search for Percival Graves had yet to be fruitful. Most assumed that the Director was dead, since his value to Grindelwald had disappeared when the charade had been revealed.

 

Only one way to find out, “Mr. Graves?”

 

A sharp intake of breath and the other man goes still. For the second time, he has been shocked into silence.

 

“Did they—Where they able to—Does MACUSA know? They found him out? Are they coming?” Mr. Graves’ voice is deeper than before, laced with something thick; relief, and perhaps a bit of hope.

 

Newt is quick to offer reassurances, “Yes, Grindelwald was uncovered a few weeks ago. As I understand it, there is a nation-wide manhunt to find you.”

 

A stiffness Newt hadn’t even realized the man was bearing seemed to drain out of his limbs as Mr. Graves went completely limp in his bonds, body sagging against Newt, all prior humour gone, “Thank Merlin.”

 

They sit in silence for a few moments, as the older wizard collects himself. But it doesn’t take long before the Auror begins firing questions.

 

“Can you tell me what happened? Do you know any details?”

 

This time, it’s Newt’s turn to unleash a laugh. “Yes, I know quite a few details.”

 

So, Newt recounts all of the events from New York. Mr. Graves only cuts in a few times.

 

“The non-mag got bit by a what?”

 

“Murtlap. He had a more serious reaction that is usual.”

 

“Tina got demoted? To where?”

 

“Wand permits”

 

“Bernadette was going to let you get executed without a trial?”

 

“She was likely imperiused.”

 

And when Newt gets to the end of his tale, he is surprised by Mr. Graves’ reaction to Credence’s execution.

 

“The boy was the Obscurial?” the man asks, surprise quickly morphing to remorsefulness. “Poor kid. He deserved better.”

 

Newt looks at him in surprise, “Did you know him? Credence?”

 

The just shakes his head. “Not really, I only spoke to him once. It was clear that something odd was going on. It’s why I asked Tina to look into it. I should have known she’d get too involved.”

 

Newt was even more surprised by this development. “You assigned Tina to the case?”

 

“Well, it wasn’t a case yet. I just wanted her to dig around a bit. You should have seen the state of that boy’s hands, he was all cut up. It’s not right, Non-Maj or not.”

 

Newt feels his surprise morph into respect. That basically reflected his own views on magical beasts, and beasts in general: no one should suffer (or at the very least, they should not have to suffer alone).

 

Newt is about to tell Mr. Graves about the work he does, helping creatures all around the globe when their cell door is thrown open.

 

In walk two massive wizards, one immediately fires a petrificus totalus jinx on Newt while the other makes quick work of Mr. Graves’ shackles.

 

Newt is helpless as he watches the two men drag Mr. Graves out of the room by his shoulders, moving so swiftly that the older wizard can’t get his legs under him.

 

The cell door closes with a resounding bang.

 

Hours later, Mr. Graves’ limp body is dragged back in the cell and shackled up again. The man is coughing up blood, and going by the awkward angle of his legs, both are broken.

 

So, Newt does the only thing he can think of: as gently as possible, he repositions the older wizard so that he is resting his weight on Newt’s side, his head cradled on Newt’s shoulder and leaning slightly forward so that any out coming blood will dribble out of his mouth instead of gathering in his throat.

 

Next, he cards his fingers in the man’s hair, whispering sweet reassurances.

 

To his surprise, Mr. Graves does not utter a single protest as he is slowly lulled to sleep.

 


 

Back in London, Theseus is faced with a quickly unravelling Obscurus. He doesn’t have the time to process the danger of the situation, instead he let himself be guided by his finely honed Auror instincts.

 

First, show you are not a threat. Theseus offers his hands, palms forward and held up in the universal sign of surrender.

 

“I mean you no harm. My name is Theseus Scamander, I’m Newt’s older brother.”

 

The news seemed enough to pause the growth of the Obscurus, but he showed no sign of retracting the immense form yet.

 

Second, establish rapport. Theseus stayed in his seat, as he considered his next words carefully.

 

“I believe Newt has gotten himself in trouble, I would appreciate your help in finding him.”

 

It’s the right thing to say. The swirling tendrils begin retracting, coiling up and gathering themselves back into the boy. Theseus waits until he is more-or-less solid before continuing, “If the papers can be trusted, your name is Credence?”

 

“Yes.” The voice that responds has an unnatural hollowness, it echoes in the small room.

 

“And yet those same papers also reported that you were killed in the attack.”

 

“They tried.”

 

Theseus is surprised by the flippant response, but doesn’t let himself get distracted. “Ok, so they tried and failed to kill you. Could you explain to me how you got here?”

 

The Obscurial pauses, considering his words, “They… tore me apart. With their magic.” He says slowly. “It felt like dying, all my pieces scattered in the wind. But, Mr. Scamander found the pieces of me, and helped me put them back together. He said he could take me away.”

 

 “Away from what?” Theseus inquires.

 

“Everything.”

 

“Ok. And did you know where he was going?”

 

“No.”

 

Theseus runs a hand down his face and tried not to let his disappointment show. He’d just have to find Newt the old fashion way.

 

The Auror stands abruptly, he had a guest to take care of before jumping into an investigation. He offers his hand to Credence in invitation.

 

“Come, we’ll get you fed and— “

 

But Credence doesn’t take the proffered hand, he recoils away, figure blurring and teeth bared.

 

Theseus throws up his hands again. “Whoa! Let’s calm down. You ok?”

 

The response is little more than a growl. “No touching.”

 

“Ok, that’s fine. No touching. I promise. But will you come with me? I can make us some quick supper. Maybe fix you with a new set of clothing?”

 

Credence studies the Auror for some time. Gauging the sincerity of his words. Eventually, he nods and quietly unfurls his long limbs and stands from the bed.

 

Theseus leads them out of the case, into his apartment, and into his bedroom. He searches the back of his closet for a set of clothing that might fit the gangly boy. He finds an old pair of pants and shirt. He folds them neatly before handing the clothing to Credence, who has been hovering a few steps behind.

 

Theseus points down the hall, “Washroom through that door. You can wash up and meet me in the kitchen when you’re done. I’ll fix us something to eat.”

 

The younger man nods his head and walks away, quiet as a shadow.

 

A few minutes later, Credence joins Theseus in the kitchen, dressed in the new clothing, hair wet and lips blue. His hands are clenched to repress his shivers.

 

Theseus nearly drops the pot of stew at the sight. “Merlin! What’s happened to you?”

 

Credence furrows his brow. “You told me to wash, sir,” The words come out choppy, cut apart by the boy’s chattering teeth.

 

“Well, yes—did you not see how to operate the hot water?”

 

For the first time this evening, Credence seems genuinely shocked. His eyes widen and his mouth drops open. “You can take hot showers?”

 

“Of course you can!” Theseus exclaims. How had the boy lived his entire life without the knowledge that showers could be hot? “How do you normally shower?”

 

“Quickly, sir.” Credence says.

 

Theseus bits his tongue and barely holds back an eye roll, but he can’t help drawling out a comment, “Well aren’t you a clever one. Do you usually sass your hosts?”

 

It was the wrong thing to say. Credence recoils, but unlike their time in the case, the boy draws in on himself, shoulders hunching down.  He bows his head and bites his lips, locking any further response behind teeth.

 

Theseus silently berates himself at the sight. He should have been more careful. He had already assumed that the boy was traumatized, this was just proof.

 

Theseus carefully considers his next words, “I was just joking with you, Credence.” He begins softly, hoping to coax the boy out of his shell again. “I forgot myself, I hope you can forgive me.”

 

Credence peeks up through his lashes, “Why would you apologize, sir? I’m the one that spoke out of turn.”

 

Theseus waves it off, hoping to lighten the mood. “Nonsense. You have every right to speak your mind. Now,” Theseus takes out his wand from its holster, “hold still, I’ll cast a body-warming charm on you, alright? I don’t want you freezing.”

 

Credence stiffens when Theseus raises his wand, but does not protest. Theseus says the incantation out loud and keeps his wand movements small to avoid frightening the younger man again.

 

Credence’s eyes widen as the first wave of the spell rolls over him. After the second and third, his mouth drops open as well. The sudden return of heat has his body tingling all over.

 

When Theseus sees the boy’s cheeks flush with colour, he wraps up the spell.  Credence doesn’t appear to notice; instead, he savours the warm that spreads all the way down to his fingertips. Even they have gained a slight hue of pink.

 

“There you are,” Theseus says, “all pretty in pink.”

 

Credence is startled back into the present. His wide eyes snap to Theseus’ as he tries to sputter a response.

 

“I—What did you… I’m sorry, sir?”

 

Again, Theseus seems to have backed himself into a corner. Damn his mouth for continuously misbehaving.

 

“I just meant it’s nice to see some colour in your cheeks, Credence.” Theseus says, nervously scratching the back of his head. “Now, dinner? I think I’ve made you wait long enough.”

 

Theseus puts away his wand and gently leads Credence to sit at the kitchen table, before dishing out their meal. They eat in companionable silence, Theseus scarfing down his food while Credence took each bite slowly; savouring the meal as if it were his last.

 

Theseus took this opportunity to shamelessly study the young man he seemed to now be responsible for. He knew, logically, that Credence was no shrinking flower—the display of power down in the case was proof of that—but siting in the low lighting of Theseus’ kitchen, dark hair wet and curling against pale skin. Lips and cheeks still flush from the warming charms and his eyes closed as he savoured each bite of food was making Theseus’ brain short-circuit.

 

But now was not the time to notice the beauty of the young man.

 

Plus, Theseus’ brain supplied helpfully, Credence had very specifically asked for no physical contact and Theseus has every intention of fully respecting that wish.

 

Theseus managed to get halfway through his meal before his mouth ran off on him again.

 

“After supper, I’ll show you how to work the temperature in the shower. You really shouldn’t be taking cold showers unless it’s necessary.” Theseus said, quietly laughing at his own joke.

 

However, Credence seemed confused. He tilts his head a little and asks very seriously, “When are cold showers necessary, sir?”

 

The question caught Theseus off guard, “Huh?”

 

Credence’s big eyes bore into Theseus’, “You said I shouldn’t take a cold shower unless it was necessary, sir. I was wondering when you would consider it to be necessary, sir.”

 

Theseus does not blush at the innocent question, he does not.

 

The Auror quickly shakes his head. “Finish your food, Credence. And no more calling me sir, I’m not that old yet.”

Chapter Text

This time when the cell door opens, it is Newt who is lead away.

 

The two guards grip him by the arms and hoist him up. Newt expects to be lead to the same office as his first encounter with Grindelwald. So, the younger man is startled when the guards lead him into a lavish dining room with two places set.

 

The guards deposit Newt into a chair, but don’t deign to tie him down. They step back to stand alongside the nearest wall only a few paces away. Newt considers bolting, but he is sore, tired, wandless, and outnumbered. He stays seated.

 

Newt isn’t made to wait long. 

 

“Ah, dear Newton, thank you for joining me. I hope you weren’t waiting long, it’s been a dreadfully long day and I was kept longer than anticipated.” Grindelwald enters the dining room with an elegant swoop, his long coat billowing dramatically behind him (not unlike the coat-cloak he wore while impersonating the Director of MACUSA). He greets Newt like an old friend, affectionately running his hand through the hair at the nape of Newt’s neck, and giving it a light squeeze before moving to take a seat beside the younger wizard.

 

Newt doesn’t know what to say or how to react, so he stays silent and tries not to flinch when Grindelwald’s knee brushes against his own under the table. The older wizard waves his hand and their meals are brought out.

 

Grindelwald tucks in to their first course, some kind of soup, without hesitation; but Newt is not so forth coming. He stares at the innocuous dark orange substance, mind whirling with the possibility of its contents.

 

“It’s not poisoned, if that is what concerns you, Newton.” Grindelwald offers, without looking away from his own meal. “If I wanted you poisoned, I would hardly require your cooperation.”

 

That was a fair point. With a shaking hand Newt picks up his spoon.

 

They eat in silence though the first course, as well as the second (a light salad). At the end of the third course (some roasted root vegetables, a cut of beef that Newt does not eat, and a roll of bread Newt sneaks into his sleeve to offer to Mr. Graves later), Grindelwald attempts conversation again.

 

“Was the meal to your liking? I see that you did not touch your meat.” Grindelwald asks as he casually sips at the remaining wine in his glass.

 

Newt decides to respond, because refusing to answer a direct question would be rather rude (he’s not willing to forgo his manners just yet).

 

“I don’t eat meat.” Newt replies, without actually looking at the man.

 

“Hmmm. Yes, I see how your lifestyle would promote such sensitivities.” Grindelwald acquiesces.

 

Perhaps it is the wine, or the fact that Newt is pleasantly full for the first time in a few days, or it could be because the older wizard is casually reclined in his chair, tie loosened and first button of his shirt popped open. Regardless of the reason, Newt feels a small bubble of courage grow in his chest.

 

“I’m not upset by the death of animals.” Newt beings, “I saw plenty of it during my travels, and not all of the creatures I take in are able to recover. I also understand the reality of the food chain. Some of the creatures in my care require meat as part of their diet.”

 

“Then why the vegetarian life-style?” cuts in Grindelwald.

 

Newt squares his shoulders, this is a conversation he’s had many times already.

 

“All the meat I purchase comes from cruelty-free sources. I refuse to contribute to more animal cruelty in this world. It became a challenge to keep finding such vendors, so I stopped consuming it myself. I don’t miss it.” Newt explains. He wrings his hands in his lap, but his jaw is set, chin tilted up. This is normally when people start laughing, or sighing exasperatedly.

 

Grindelwald does neither of those things. Instead he hums in agreement and takes another sip of his wine. Newt is left bereft. His shoulders are still tense in preparation for a fight, but this time he does not have an opponent.

 

And so, they sit in silence; Grindelwald deep in thought and Newt reeling from the lack of conflict.

 

Grindelwald is the one to break the silence.

 

“How do you choose which creatures receive asylum in your case? You can’t take them all with you.” Grindelwald inquires.

 

“I take in all the ones that are injured. Or at risk of extinction.” Newt rambles, in need of a way to vent his pent-up energy. “Most creatures only need a little bit of assistance; like some food or a bit of medication. It’s a matter of a few days, in and out. Or depending on their type of habitat, I leave them where they are and visit them until they outgrow my assistance.”

 

“You’re also in the business of rescuing, if memory serves.” Grindelwald intersects.

 

The older wizard’s tone was not openly hostile, but Newt feels the pointed jab.

 

“I consider it more of a restoration. Creatures are not pets to be kept and traded. They should be allowed to live in their natural habitats.” Newt counters.

 

Grindelwald meets his eyes and holds his gaze. Newt is the one to look away. “And you’ve taken it upon yourself to restore all of the creatures that have been stolen away? Don’t you believe your talents could be better applied elsewhere?”

 

“And where would that be?” Newt fires back, confused.

 

Grindelwald sets down his glass of wine, so that he can more easily lean towards the younger wizard. Newt can smell the wine of his breath, but the older wizard does not appear the least bit inebriated.

 

“By my side, of course.”

 

Newt does not consider himself a social man, by any means. But even he can discern that Grindelwald is not joking. Newt squeezes his hands between his knees to keep them form shaking. His words lump in his throat, as if they, too, are afraid of the man.

 

“What game are you playing at?” Newt asks, voice barely above a whisper (although some deep part of him understands that this may not be a game at all.)

 

Grindelwald grins, showing his teeth. “I am offering you a place by my side. An opportunity to give your work meaning, to see it have an impact!” Grindelwald explains, eyes aglow with intensity. “We all die, a little, in the things we do. Sacrifices must be made. And every man must answer this question eventually. So, I will ask you, Newton; what are you willing to die for?”

 

Newt is stunned into silence. He does not know how to answer the question that has been asked.

 

“I do not know what you want from me, Mr. Grindelwald. But my answer from New York has not changed” Newt forces himself to say, “I am not, nor will I ever be, one of your fanatics.”

 

Grindelwald’s grin freezes, then melts away. His face smooths into an unreadable mask, but his eyes search Newt’s face for something (truth? sincerity?). Eventually he nods to himself and finally leans away. “Very well.” The older wizard grabs his neglected wine glass, and downs the remaining wine in one shot before setting it down with a strange finality.

 

Newt watches the display with mounting distress. The carefully crafted atmosphere was quickly unravelling and Newt was only just understanding how fragile the situation had been to begin with.

 

Grindelwald stands abruptly, “Gentlemen,” he says, and with a single wave of his hand Newt was being manhandled again by the two guards he had forgotten where standing behind him.

 

Grindelwald sweep out of the room just as gracefully as he had entered it, and the guards easily dragged Newt along. It is only as they lead him up the set of stairs, that Newt understands their intention (because the cells were in the basement, not upstairs. And Newt had already been upstairs once before.)

 

Just as they had the day before, the guards thrusted Newt to his knees in the middle of Grindelwald’s office before swiftly departing.

 

Just as suddenly, Newt was pulled forward by invisible hands, and felt rope twining itself around his wrists and ankles, effectively restraining to the same chair as the day prior. The sense of déjà-vu was sickening. Newt fights down the bile that threatened to escape him.

 

But Grindelwald does not pay him any mind, he busies himself by pouring a few fingers of amber alcohol and savouring a first sip as he admires the view out of the window on the furthest side of the room. He takes another sip before setting down his tumbler.

 

“Thank you for entertaining me at dinner, dear Newton. But I believe it is time for us to get back to business, hmm?” Grindelwald announces to the silent room.

 

He does not wait for Newt to respond, instead he advances, grabbing a handful of Newt’s hair and wrenching the younger man’s head back to locks their gazes. Grindelwald’s eyes have lost their previous spark, his stare is flat like a shark’s; it devours Newt as effectively as a Dementor’s Kiss. Newt tries to escape the grip, limbs thrashing against the bounds that hold him, busting open the wounds from their previous encounter. The blood runs down the valley of his bone-white knuckles and drips steadily onto the floor.

 

Newt tries to breath past the terror clawing at his throat, but Grindelwald does not allow him a reprieve.

 

“Tell me, Newton, where is the case?”

 

But Newt is already shaking his head in refusal; eyes screwed shut in preparation for the first wave of the Cruciatus curse that is to come.

 

Except it doesn’t. Instead, Newt feels a hand encircle his exposed throat, and a thumb slowly crushes his trachea.

 

His eyes fly open in shock as his mouth gasps for a breath he knows logically won’t come. Newt’s body overrides his senses as it thrashes uselessly in their bonds—twisting and pulling to try and dislodge the hand holding him down. But Grindelwald is relentless, his thumb bares down onto the soft flesh, nail biting into skin, splitting it open.

 

It is only when blackspots start appearing in Newts vision that Grindelwald releases him. Newt gulps in as much air as he can, coughing uncontrollably. He can’t help flinching away when Grindelwald carefully wipes away the spittle that has gathered at the corner of his mouth before gripping the younger man’s chin firmly.

 

“I will bring you to the edge of death again, and again, until you give me what I want.” Grindelwald tells him, “I will cut you and watch you bleed until you have nothing left. I will fill your lungs with water and watch you as you drown. I will break your spine and watch as your organs fail one by one. But,” The man leans closer until their faces are but a hair breadth apart, and his lips brushing against Newt’s skin as e whispers into the young man’s ear, “When you reach the brink of death, when you think it is finally over, I will heal every hurt I have inflicted upon you so that we may begin again.”

 

Grindelwald leans away, a self-satisfied smile gracing his thin lips. Newt is unable to do anything more than tremble and bite his lip hard enough to keep his tears at bay.

 

Grindelwald pats his cheek “Shall we begin?”

 

Hours later, when Grindelwald has fulfilled his every promise, Newt is brought back to the cell. He is deposited at the entrance, an unrecognizable heap of new, unfamiliar flesh. His identity striped from his body, as he was remade, piece by piece, under Grindelwald’s hands. Even the chaff marks around his wrists and ankles have been healed. Newt feels the urge to scratch them raw again, in a futile effort to restore his body to a shape he recognizes.

 

The sound of jangling chains shock Newt back into the present. Mr. Graves’ gravelly voice is a god-send in this moment.

 

“Newt?”

 

With a half-chocked sob, Newt crawls towards the chained man and collapses in his lap, fingers curling into the man’s ruined shirt as he shakes.

 

“Shhh… You’re alright… It’s over now, you made it…” the older man keeps whispering reassurances, unbothered by the way Newt wets his shirt with tears.

 

Eventually Newt quiets, but does not let go. The silence of the room is broken by the older man’s grumbling stomach.

 

Oh, that’s right, Newt thinks, as he gets his arms under his body and pushes himself into a sitting position. Mr. Graves makes a noise of discontent. “No, stay. I’m fine, really.”

 

But Newt ignores the man, and pulls the squished bread roll he had snuck away from his meal from his pant pocket, a victorious smile forming on his lips, “I think I can help with that.”

 

“I—How? Where did you get that?” Mr. Graves asks, baffled.

 

Newt just shrugs. “It doesn’t matter, but I brought it for you.” So, the younger man rips the bread into bite-sized pieces and feeds the older man, who seems incapable of holding back little moans after each bite is fed to him.

 

When the bread roll is finished, Newt carefully wipes away the crumble around Mr. Graves mouth, who takes the opportunity to kiss the younger man’s finger tips. “Thank you. I don’t know what you had to do to get that, but thank you.”

 

Newt’s exhausted brain does not let him think, instead the younger man reaches out and cradles the older wizard’s face, “You’re very welcome, Mr. Graves.”

 

The older man turns his head to place a kiss on his palm. “My friends call me Percival.”

 

Newt can’t help the smile that breaks across his face. Grindelwald may have tainted his body, be the dark wizard could never touch this. This feeling of warmth and contentment that was usually reserved for the creatures he rescued and nurtured. That belonged to Newt alone, and he would fight with everything he had to protect it.

 

Chapter Text

Credence has never been so warm. Even in Mr. Scamander’s case, a lingering chill had clung to his bones. But, here and now sitting at the elder Scamander’s dining table, he is warm. His skin glows with it, plump and pink. Credence plays with his fingers, pressing his thumb into his index, watches as it goes white, and releasing so he can see the blood rush back. Press and release, press and release (white to pink, white to pink).

 

Credence enjoys the sight of it; the sudden rush, the ease with which his body can restore itself. He wishes his mind could be as accommodating.

 

The elder Scamander is more verbose than his younger brother. Credence does not often know how to respond to his casual conversations, but he tries his best. Mr. Scamander does not seem bothered by the stunted conversation; he easily fills the silence with stories and many expressions.

 

“That sure got him off his high hippogriff!”

 

“I warned them, don’t count your owls before they are delivered!”

 

“In for a knut, in for a galleon, am I right, Credence?”

 

The expressions are a little confusing, but Credence thinks he understand the gist of their meaning. In any case, it is refreshing to have a dinning partner with so much energy and enthusiasm. It’s almost enough to bring a smile to Credence’s face.

 

Later, when they had retreated to the sitting room and Mr. Scamander has finished his night cap (he had offered one to Credence too, but the young man refused), Credence feels exhaustion starting to pull at his bones. It had been a long day.

 

Mr. Scamander must notice the way the young man’s eyes are being pulled by sleep, because he gently deposits his tumbler before standing from his seat.

 

“Ready to turn in for the night, Credence?”

 

Credence nods in agreement and follows Mr. Scamander as he is lead to the guest bedroom. This one is as lavish as the master bedroom; adorned with a dresser, desk and chair, and dominated by a massive bed. Credence can see that pyjamas have already been laid out as well. Credence reaches out, runs his fingers across the fabric. It’s incredibly soft.

 

Behind him, Theseus clears his throat. When Credence turns to him, the man is nodding to himself, like someone who has checked off every item on their to-do list. “If you need anything, Credence, I’m just down the hall. Don’t hesitate.” With that, the elder Scamander departs, quietly shutting the bedroom door behind him.

 

****

Theseus is carefully shuts the door to the guest bedroom. He hopes Credence will settle-in without too many issues.

 

He makes his way to the kitchen, and starts a pot of coffee, his mind already trying to conjure up ways in which he can track his wayward brother.

 

Cup of coffee hot in hand, Theseus settles in his office and starts planning.

 

Not even an hour later, Theseus is drawn from his work by muffled yelling.

 

In a moment, the Auror is across the hall, barging into Credence’s room.

 

Sure enough, the young man is tangled in his sheets, thrashing around, wisps of smoke escaping him. Approaching the young man would likely scare him further, so Theseus tries to wake him verbally.

 

“Credence. Credence, wake up. Credence, you are safe.”

 

It’s not enough, the young man doesn’t even pause in his thrashing, his cries reaching a crescendo. Theseus can see all the small items in the room are levitating.

 

“Credence! Wake up!”

 

The sheets start tearing. More smoke escapes the thin body.

 

Theseus makes a split-second decision. He takes out his wand and vanishes the sheets tangled around Credence. The young man’s newly freed limbs curl around his body protectively, but he does quiet. Then he falls completely silent, the only sound left in the room is Theseus’ heavy panting.

 

“Credence?” Theseus murmurs, and taking a tentative step forward.

 

Credence’s eyes snap open, perceiving the threat. He scrambles back, smacking into the headboard and bares his teeth. His body smokes around the edges.

 

Theseus stops. He crouches down a little, bringing their eyes onto the same level.

 

“You’re ok, Credence. Just a bad dream. You’re alright. You are safe.” He keeps whispering reassurances.

 

Much as he had back in the case, Credence only takes a few moments to orient himself, and then begins to pull himself back together. The items in the room are gently deposited back where they belong.

 

 

Credence ducks his head, his whole body slumping forward like a marionette whose strings have been cut.

 

“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry…”

 

It’s like something cracks open. Or bursts. Suddenly the young man is sobbing, whole body shaking with the after effects.

 

“I’m sorry, Mr. Scamander! I’m so, so sorry…”

 

Theseus tries to approach him, intending to comfort the sobbing man in any way he could, but Credence was scrambling away again; long limbs flailing in his wake.

 

Theseus draws up short, suddenly remembering the promise he had made to a snarling man not too long ago. No touching.

 

“It’s ok, Credence. I remember, no touching. I promised.”

 

The young man had stopped crying when he was forced to retreat, but still managed a few sniffles.

 

Theseus sits on the edge of the bed, allowing Credence plenty of room. “Want to tell me what that was about? Bad dream?”

 

Credence nods his head slowly. “Yes. From before.”

 

“By before… you mean your life in New York?”

 

Another nod.

 

“How do you usually deal with this?”

 

“Uhm…” Credence clears his throat, hesitating, “Mr. Scamander—ah, that is, your younger brother— “

 

“Please, call me Theseus and him Newt. It will be easier on all of us if you do.”

 

Twin dark eyes study him to gauge his sincerity. “Ok. Theseus.”

 

The Auror simply inclines his head to indicate that the young man should continue.

 

“Mr. S—I mean, Newt. Would. He… There was a potion. I think. It was dark purple, and it helped. With the nightmares.”

 

Theseus closes his eyes at the admission. Because of course. He was a little upset at himself for not having thought of offering the young man some in the first place. It also explained how Credence had managed to sleep through Theseus ransacking the case in his search for Newt.

 

“It’s called Dreamless Sleep.” Theseus explains, “It’s a sleeping draught. I’ll go get you some, Credence. Give me a moment.”

 

Less than a minute later, Theseus was handing the young man a tumbler filled with a generous dose of Dreamless Sleep.

 

Credence accepts it with shaking hands. Carefully avoiding any point of contact. “Thank you, Theseus.”

 

Theseus has to resist the urge to ruffle up the man’s hair. “If you need anything, I’m down the hall.”

 

And for the second time that night, Theseus exits the guest bedroom, quietly shutting the door behind him.

 

**

 

Credence wakes to a sunny room. He isn’t used to that; his room at the church hadn’t had any windows, and Newt’s shack didn’t either.

 

But this room does. The light filters-in through the thin curtains, landing across the bed. Credence can feel it’s warmth.

 

He doesn’t linger in bed, however tempting. Credence is quick to get ready, not wanting to appear slothful to his host.

 

He shouldn’t have worried. The house is empty, but for a simple note left on the kitchen counter, written in a neat script:

 

I’ve headed into work (at the Ministry of Magic). Feel free to do as you wish today, there is plenty of food in the conservator and pantry. And books in the library.  I’ll be home in the evening.

 

-Theseus

 

The note wasn’t very surprising (Newt had left him many similar ones during their time together). Credence decides that checking on the creatures should be his first order of business. The manual labour would also liberate his mind to ponder on the newest development in his life.

 

Credence enters the case, swiftly descending the ladder and searching briefly through the mess across Newt’s desk to find the first edition of the Fantastic Beasts book. Newt had gifted it to Credence as soon as the man entered the revision stage with his publisher, rendering this first draft unnecessary.  

 

With the book under his arm, Credence saunters out into the case to begin the feeding rounds.

 

Before, the freedom would have been daunting. Mary-Lou had beat into him a strict routine: wake, prepare breakfast, clean, hand-out pamphlets, and bed. Sleep. Repeat.

 

His time with Newt had been the complete opposite. After the man had found him, and coaxed him back into a corporeal form, his habitual life transformed into an adventure; each hour bringing new obstacles and treasures. Always different, always unexpected.

 

Newt appeared to thrive in the near-chaos of it all. It had been more of a shock to Credence, but the young man had adjusted as well as he could. The creatures needed regular feedings, and Credence had taken it upon himself to ensure Newt stayed fed too. Those responsibilities became the anchors of Credence’s internal schedule. No matter the chaos, the creatures and Newt would be fed at least twice a day.

 

It was nice to find the familiar comfort now, after the eventfulness of yesterday. Credence didn’t know how he felt about Newt’s brother yet. It had taken him weeks to trust Newt, but the wizard had proven himself worthy up to now (an ugly part of his mind reminded him that Graves had seemed reliable too).

 

Credence pushes the thought away, focusing on cutting the meat on his board.

 

Theseus seemed very similar to Newt, if a bit more verbose. And boastful. Neither of those things were inherently wrong, however. Just different.

 

If his time in with Newt had taught him anything, it was that different didn’t mean bad. Newt’s freckled skin was very different from his own, but that wasn’t bad. Their hair colour was also very different, but that was ok. Theseus was very loud, in comparison to Credence and Newt, maybe that could be ok as well.

 

Some hours later, Credence had managed to feed all the creatures, even the younger fussier ones. He re-emerges from the case. The clock in Theseus’ kitchen indicates that it is only two in the afternoon.

 

Credence contemplates what he could do. He doesn’t feel comfortable trying to organize the older man’s things, in case the intrusion isn’t welcome. Which also makes cleaning up difficult. The house seems relatively clean anyways.

 

Credence’s stomach grumbles in protest. He hadn’t eaten yet, unsure what he was allowed to have (despite what the note said, he didn’t want to presume).

 

His persistent hunger does give him an idea, however. A quick search through the pantry and Credence is triumphant. He rolls up his sleeves and gets to work.

 

**

 

Theseus apparates into his parlour with a sigh. Today had been a good day, but draining. And there was so much left to do.

 

The man was in the process of removing his coat when his brain registered the smell. It stopped him dead in his tracks. Coat forgotten, Theseus strides into the kitchen.

 

He finds Credence seated at the table, hands interlocked and resting across the polished surface of the table. A freshly baked loaf of bread on display in front of him.

 

The younger man does not directly meet Theseus’ gaze, but he does peek through his lashes, “Welcome back, Theseus.”

 

Theseus can’t help the way his head tilts to the side, curiously observing the domestic situation laid out before him.

 

“Did you make bread?” He asks, finally.

 

The blush that creeps into Credence’s cheeks is adorable. The young man even starts to squirm a little in his seat.

 

“I—well. I don’t know how to make much food. We only really made cabbage soup at the church. It wasn’t very good.” Credence starts explaining, more colour pooling in his cheeks as he goes on. “But, I thought you might be hungry? After a long day. I don’t know how to cook anything other than soup, but I know how to make bread. And you had flour. So, I just—is that ok? I’m sorry.” Credence kept rambling. The young man was twisting himself in knots.

 

As cute as the situation had been before, it appeared to quickly devolve into something much more serious.

 

“It’s perfectly alright, Credence.” Theseus interjects before the boy whips himself into a frenzy. “I just can’t remember the last time someone made me food. It’s very kind of you.”

 

Credence tense shoulders uncoil a bit at the words, his worry dissolving. “Do you want to try it?” Credence asks, voice hesitant.

 

Theseus gives him his biggest smile. “Absolutely, but I just need to run a few errands first, alright? I’ll be back in 20 minutes tops.”

 

Theseus waits for Credence to nod in agreement before quickly disapparating.

 

17 minutes later, he reapparates, presenting the bags cradled in his arms to Credence.

 

“I figured, since you made such fine bread, we could feast with some fine cheese and charcuterie? I also got some grapes, because I doubt you drink wine…” Theseus is carefully pulling out his purchases from the brown bag, laying them out alongside the loaf. A quick flick of his wand has a twin set of plates, forks, and glasses, floating out of the cupboards to join the growing pile on the kitchen table.

 

Credence stares wide-eyed at the display. “Oh.”

 

“Take a seat, Credence. I can’t wait to taste your delicious bread…”

 

Credence’s smile is brighter than all the stars in the universe combined.

 

Chapter Text

This time, when Grindelwald swoops into the room with excuses for his tardiness—great coat billowing dramatically behind him—Newt keeps his eyes trained on his lap, offering no greeting in return.

 

He is sat adjacent to the head of the table, close enough that Grindelwald’s knee can brush his under the table. The younger wizard hasn’t been bound, so he clamps his trembling hands between his knees.

 

Despite the frigid reception, Grindelwald takes his time settling in. He delicately drapes his coat along the back of his chair, sits, and flicks his napkin before draping it across his thighs. With a casual wave of his hand, their food is brought out.

 

Grindelwald takes one bite of their first course. And another. The only sound in the room is that of the cutlery scraping porcelain.

 

Newt still doesn’t make any move to pick up his fork. After a few bites, Grindelwald pauses—forearms resting against the edge of the table.

 

Waiting.

 

Newt doesn’t know what he’s doing. He has no actual plan; the only thing he knows with absolute certainty in this moment is that he can’t keep playing Grindelwald’s game.

 

It is only as Grindelwald releases a dispassionate sigh, that Newt registers the gravity of his quiet rebellion.

 

The man sets down his fork, casually wipes his mouth with his napkin. But the tendons in his hands are straining under his skin, betraying his anger. Hysteria starts to bubble in Newt’s chest, churning in his gut and rising to clog his throat.

 

This was a bad idea. A very, very bad idea.

 

But Newt can’t make himself move. Can’t get his body to correct his mistake. He’s completely frozen as the blood roars in his ears and his mind fixes its entire focus on the lone figure that rises from his seat.

 

Grindelwald makes his way towards Newt, prowling lazily. He knows he’s in control here. The older wizard perches himself on the edge of the table, beside Newt’s chair. He makes himself comfortable before planting his hand in front of Newt and leaning forward, crowding the younger man against the back of his chair.

 

Oh Merlin, nonononono

 

“Newton. What are you trying to accomplish here?”

 

Newt doesn’t answer. What could he possibly say?

 

Quick as a snake, Grindelwald grips the younger man’s chin between cold fingers, nails biting cruelly into the skin.

 

“I have… a very low tolerance for unresponsive guests, Newton. So, you can either pick up your fork,” Grindelwald punctuates his words by leaning further forward into Newt’s space, until their cheeks are practically brushing. Newt can feel the older man’s breath tickling is ear. It makes his hair stand on end. “Or we can continue this chat in my office.”

 

Message received loud and clear.

 

When Grindelwald leans away, Newt grabs his fork so tightly his knuckles turn white.

 

They eat mostly in silence, but whenever Grindelwald decides to ask a question—Where were you born? What do your parents do? —Newt doesn’t hesitate to answer.

 

The food is like ash in Newt’s mouth, sticking to his throat. He eats anyway.

 

An hour or so later, when their meal is finished, Grindelwald has their plates taken away and waves to the guards. They collect Newt by the arms and walk him out of the dining room.

 

Newt hopes that they are leading him back to his cell. He hopes that this evening is finally over—however, when he is lead up the stairs instead, Newt isn’t surprised.

 

The young man clamps down on the sob that threatens to escape him, but he can’t do anything to stop the tears that burn at his eyes.

 

The guards tie him to his usual chair as Grindelwald nurses his night cap.

 

Newt has his eyes closed, searching his mind for a happy place—but, those are getting harder to reach. He is so tired. So emotionally drained—he can’t keep going like this.

 

The younger man is startled when a hand cradles his cheek, brushing away the tear tracks Newt didn’t even know he had cried. Grindelwald is so close—his face hovers just before Newt’s, eyes dancing across the young man’s features.

 

“It doesn’t have to be this way, Newton,” Grindelwald whispers gently. “Tell me where the case is, and this can all end.”

 

Newt forces his eyes shut. He can’t stand the proximity. He hates everything—hates how the man speaks so softly, as if he truly cares. He hates the way Grindelwald touches him kindly, just for it to be turned into pain.

 

But, more so than all, Newt hates that he considers giving-in, even for a second.

 

So, Newt gathers his remaining courage and shakes his head.

 

As always, Grindelwald’s face does not show his anger. But his eyes do. One dark eye is a bottomless pit, while the other is a shard of ice. Both make Newt shake with fear.

 

“As you wish,” Grindelwald says as he moves to stand behind Newt, both hands coming down to grab at tense shoulders and squeezing painfully tight when Newt tries to curl forward.

 

Grindelwald releases a sigh, as if Newt is some unruly child misbehaving. “It really is such a shame that you insist on making this difficult, Newton,” Grindelwald says. “We both know you’ll give me what I want eventually, why are you putting off the inevitable?”

 

It lights a spark of anger in Newt to be chided like this. The young man latches onto the emotion with all his might (it’s much more bearable than the despair from earlier).

 

“I’m not giving you anything.” Newt spits out.

 

“We’ll see about that,” Grindelwald replies. Newt can hear the smirk curling the older man’s thin lips.

 

Newt braces himself. He doesn’t know what’s coming, but knows something will—

 

Legilimens.

 

Newt’s back bows under the mental assault.

 

It isn’t pain like the Cruciatus had been, but it’s a suffocating pressure. Grindelwald is everywhere—he can smell him, taste him in the back of his throat, and feel the man’s breath ghosting across the back of his neck. Newt screams and thrashes, bucking wildly in the chair to try to shake the man’s hold.

 

It’s futile, Grindelwald presence only seems to become more concentrated, coalescing like a noose around his throat until the young man can’t breathe and his mind goes blank.

 

Newt is still lost in the throes of his panic when the curse is lifted, his body collapes against the chair, has he gasps for air. Dimly, Newt notes that his wrists are bleeding again, the blood slowly trickling onto the floor.

 

The young man is seconds away from drifting to unconsciousness when twin hands that squeeze his shoulders bring him back into the present.

 

“Back with me, Newton?” Grindelwald asks, face coming to press against Newt’s cheek from behind. “Let’s try this again, but this time, do remember to breathe, yes?”

 

This time, Grindelwald easily slips past Newt’s mental defenses.

 

Newt doesn’t try to fight it—there really isn’t any point in resisting someone of Grindelwald’s calibre—however, once Grindelwald has settled himself inside, Newt quickly steers his thoughts into a memory, dragging Grindelwald along.

 

A face materializes in Newt’s mind. An older man with red hair.

 

They are in one of the many classrooms in Hogwarts, currently deserted due to the late hour. Newt is sitting in a chair, sweaty hair sticking to his forehead, elbows resting on his knees as he catches his breath.

 

“You don’t need to keep them out, Newton. You only need to lead them away from the memory you are trying to protect,” the man says. “You are wasting your energy trying to prevent the inevitable. Don’t fight me at the beginning.”

 

“But Professor—“ Newt tries to interject.

 

“No, my boy. The only way you can protect Miss Lestrange and keep your wand is if you can distract the Legilimens long enough for them to give up. If you exhaust yourself in trying to resist their entry, you won’t be able to lead them away from the memory they are seeking,” the man explains.

 

Newt bows his head in surrender. He understands what the man is saying, he just doesn’t like it. “Alright, Professor.”

 

The man rewards him with a small smile and a pat on the cheek. “You’re doing well, Newt. You just need more practice. Are you ready to go again?”

 

Newt breathes out through his nose, and back in through his mouth. He does so again, before nodding his head, “Yes, Professor, I’m ready.”

 

Albus Dumbledore offers one last smile before raising his wand, “Legilimens!”

 

Grindelwald pulls them out of the memory violently, knocking the breath from Newt’s lungs. Just as quickly, Grindelwald is standing before Newt, both hands fisted in his red curls, locking their gazes.

 

Newt doesn’t have the time to catch his breath before the man is diving in again. But, just as he had previously, Newt leads the dark wizard astray with a memory from his time at Hogwarts. Grindelwald pulls out and dives back in time and time again, but doesn’t manage to control the flow of thought.

 

Eventually, Grindelwald releases the younger man. He rounds his desk and riffles through the top drawer.

 

Newt is little more than a collection of exhausted limbs, streaked in blood, sweat, and tears—but he is triumphant. He beat Grindelwald. He kept his case safe.

 

He won.

 

“Oh, dear Newton, you didn’t think we were done, did you?” The cold voice pulls Newt from his reverie.

 

Grindelwald is back, with some slender silver object held in his hand. He leans against the desk in front of Newt, trapping the younger man between his legs.  “No, no, we aren’t done yet,” Grindelwald says, a spark of mania lighting his mismatched eyes. “We are just beginning.”

 

With two quick flicks of his wrist, Grindelwald uses the silver object to slice Newt’s shirt open, the remnants falling away to reveal his chest.

 

Newt can’t stop the surprised gasp that escapes him. What in Merlin’s name was that?

 

Suddenly the same object is pushing the young man’s chin up, a single sharp edge pressing into soft skin.

 

“It’s a straight razor,” the man says, “what Muggles use to shave. Percival Graves had it on his person when I took him,” Grindelwald continues. “At first I believed it a rather barbaric tool to possess—why stoop to Muggle standards when a quick spell does the job? However—” Grindelwald muses, pulling the razor away and examining it under the low light of the office. “It is so wonderfully sharp. There is nothing quite like feeling skin give as easily as butter under such a formidable tool.”

 

The blade comes back to rest under Newt’s Adam’s apple, the cool metal kissing his skin. Newt flinches away at the feeling, trying to escape, but the blade follows until Newt pinned in place—pressed against the back of the chair with his head thrown back. He can feel the blade against his racing pulse.

 

Newt didn’t think the situation could get any more uncomfortable until Grindelwald starts speaking again.

 

“You do make such a pretty picture like this. All spread out under me,” The man says.

 

Newt lets out a startled sound. What had the man just said?

 

Suddenly, the razor blade was twisting and angling away from his throat—it was being dragged down the length of his torso, leaving behind thin pink streaks across his skin. The blade ran lazy circles around Newt’s navel, before starting an upward trajectory. The blade scales across the younger man’s ribs and up his sternum before Grindelwald flicks the blade outward to scrap painfully across a nipple.

 

Newt yelps, limbs spasming in surprise and pain. “Merlin, what—“ Newt tries to ask, but Grindelwald cuts him off.

 

“You turn such a delightful shade of pink, Newton,” He comments. “It compliments your fair skin. But do you know what would look even better?” The man continues.

 

Newt is too preoccupied with watching the blade to formulate an answer, but Grindelwald’s tone suggest it was a rhetorical question anyway.

 

“Red, of course.” The man says before carving twin lines in the soft skin between Newt’s ribs in quick succession.

 

Newt screams, body curling forward—but Grindelwald’s hands are heavy on his hips, keeping him in place as the man looks his fill.

 

“Beautiful,” he breathes out.

 

Once Grindelwald starts, he doesn’t stop. The man carves the razor’s blade into each dip of Newt’s body, across old scars, and over each beauty mark.

 

Newt has reached a point beyond tears—this is somehow worse than any other torture Grindelwald has inflicted. Every other time was a barrage of pain that Newt had to grit his teeth and endure. But this time, Newt is painfully aware of every flick of the blade. No amount of crying, shouting, or thrashing can alleviate his pain.

 

“My, my, you have so many freckles,” Grindelwald says. “Imagine if I took the time to carve out each one, we would be at it for hours…”

 

The thought brings Newt back to tears (he didn’t know he had any left), as more please tumble from his dry lips between hiccupping sobs. “Stop… Please, please, no more… Stop…”

 

Grindelwald doesn’t pay it much mind, he keeps carving along one of Newt’s ribs as he says, “You know what I want, Newton.”

 

Newt is too caught up in his pain to truly understand what is being asked of him. “Anything, anything. Please.” He just needed the man to stop.

 

To Newt’s surprise he does. The blade stills, and then pulls away entirely. Newt’s body completely collapses, muscles going lax after such a long period of tension.

 

Soft hands come to cradle Newt’s face, supporting his head because his neck refuses to cooperate.

 

“Tell me, Newton. Tell me where it is.” The man whispers, almost feverishly.

 

The hands holding Newt’s face are warm. So, so warm. And the thumbs sooth along his cheeks, which feels nice.

 

“Where’s what?” Newt mumbles, eyes drifting shut—lulled by the warm touches. The pain is fading away.

 

“The case. Where is your case?” The voice insists, not letting Newt sleep.

 

“My… my… oh.” The case. His case. With his creatures, and his work, and—

 

Newt stops the thought before it can finish unfolding. The specifics don’t matter.

 

“Well?” The question pulls Newt’s attention. Grindelwald is watching him intently, lips curled in a smirk. He thinks he’s won.

 

Newt doesn’t have the stretch to speak, so he settles for shaking his head. No.

 

Grindelwald’s face morphs from quizzical, to shock, to rage is as many seconds. And then the blade is back, digging deeper than it had before. Newt screams in pain an horror as Grindelwald carves into his chest.

 

“Where.” Cut, cut, cut.

 

“Is.” Cut, Flick.

 

“The.” Cut. Flick. Cut.

 

“Case?”  Flick. Cut. Flick. Cut.

 

With a last cruel flick of the knife, Grindelwald stops his carving. Newt is left trembling in the aftermath, blood flowing freely from the words carved into his chest.

 

“You are trying the last of my patience, Newton.” Grindelwald says, voice deadly. He runs the blade across Newt’s exposed throat again and again, stopping only to rest the blood-soaked blade on Newt’s fluttering pulse point.

 

“Any stroke could be your last.”

Chapter Text

“You know, in any other circumstance I would be impressed,” Grindelwald says as he wipes his bloody hands with a handkerchief.

 

Newt let’s his head thump against the back of the chair. He’s more blood than flesh at this point; his chest and legs sliced to ribbons. Grindelwald must have cast some sort of blood-replenishing spell, otherwise he would have bled out a long time ago.

 

“Your dedication is very admirable, Newton. Very admirable,” Grindelwald continues. “I’m beginning to understand what Albus saw in you. Have you always been so loyal?”

 

Newt spits the majority of the blood out of his mouth, but still his words slur, “’m a Hufflepuff.”

 

The older man laughs, “I always believe them the soft sort.”

 

Newt doesn’t answer back; the world is fading around the edges. His body hurt so much, every cut stinging in the open air.

 

A soft tap on the cheek brings him back to full consciousness.

 

“We’re not done yet, Newton,” Grindelwald says, but makes no move to pick up the straight razor. Instead, he perches himself on the desk and spells Newt’s body clean. He doesn’t heal the cuts, but he does stop the bleeding. Newt is left to shiver for a few seconds more before his clothes are spelled back together as well.

 

Newt doesn’t question the kindness, he’ll accept any mercy he can.

 

“Whatever am I going to do with you,” the man murmurs, so softly that me must be speaking to himself.

 

Grindelwald carefully tilts Newt’s head this way and that. Newt can’t help the painful groan that escapes his throat. The world is getting fuzzy again.

 

“Stay with me, Newton. I have a few questions left. Now, now, don’t be like that—” Grindelwald gently stokes the younger man’s cheeks as he whimpers. He hurt so much, he couldn’t take much more—“

 

“—Your creatures are safe for tonight, Newton. Just answer me this,” Grindelwald placates, gently adjusting the angle of Newt’s head until their gazes lock. Not that it matters much, Newt can barely keep his eyes open. But every time they flutter shut, Grindelwald shakes him just hard enough to pull him away from the edge of unconsciousness.

 

“What did you do to gain the attention of Albus Dumbledore?”

“I—what?” Newt croaks out.

 

“Don’t be coy. One of the most powerful wizards in the world took the time to personally tutor you in the arts of Occlumency. Why?” Grindelwald presses.

 

Newt feels his brow furrow. Why was any of this relevant?

 

“I did something reckless in school.” Newt begins, his breath coming hard. Merlin, he hurt. “They were going to break my wand over it, but Professor Dumbledore stepped in. He couldn’t keep them from expelling me, but at least I got to keep my wand.”

 

Grindelwald’s voice sounded far away. But no, he was still holding Newt’s cheeks, “That doesn’t answer my question, Newton. Why would he help you?”

 

“I—he was my teacher,” Newt says. Was his body floating? No, he could feel the ropes digging into his bloody wrists.

 

“And?” Grindelwald asks, when Newt doesn’t elaborate.

 

What? Newt thinks. What is he talking about?

 

Newt opens and closes his mouth, and opens it again, but still no words come out.

 

“I don’t know what you want me to say,” He breathes out eventually.

 

Newt is starting to recognize the telltale signs of Grindelwald’s anger. The overt calm, the firm press of his mouth, or in this case, the tightness around his eyes.

 

Grindelwald let’s a hand drop away from Newt’s cheek. It skims down the soft skin of his neck, the edge of his nails dragging across his skin, but not piercing it. Finally, it comes to a stop on the younger man’s shoulder, his thumb pressing lightly into the seam of a wound.

 

“Try again,” Grindelwald instructs.

 

Newt’s mind jumps like a broken record. He doesn’t want more pain, please no more pain. His body struggles in the bonds, be he isn’t any more successful now than he was earlier.

 

“I don’t know, I swear, I don’t know what you mean. Please, I’m sorry, I don’t know—” Newt begs, knowing he can’t do anything to prevent what happens next.

 

The thumb digs into his wound, pushing in past the knuckle. Newt screams, and screams, and screams.

 

“I don’t know, I don’t know! I swear, I don’t know!” It hurts, it hurts it hurts.

 

Grindelwald doesn’t relent, thumb curling cruelly into the damaged flesh.

 

However, when the young man’s eyes flutter shut, slim body seizes one last time, Grindelwald allows Newt’s tired body surrender to the gentle mercy of unconsciousness.

 

And if he takes the second to run his blood smeared fingers through the ginger man’s hair, carefully wiping away the tear tracks across freckled cheeks, no one is left to witness.

 


 

 

This floaty feeling is new to Credence.

 

He feels like a balloon floating away in the sky, hovering miles and miles above everyone else. He is untethered, free from the usual shackles of his mind.

 

It’s nice, this feeling. Freeing in a way the Curse isn’t. The Curse is heavy and electrifying (Credence doesn’t like it, but sometimes he can’t help it).

 

But this floaty feeling isn’t that. This is a nice floaty, it’s comfortable (safe?)

 

The older Mr. Scamander—Theseus, he said to call him Theseus—is still talking animatedly.

 

Credence likes that too, the talking. He didn’t think he would—he hated when Mary Lou talked. But this was different. The same way the floaty feeling was different.

 

Newt didn’t talk as much, and that had been ok too. But this was better. Credence felt like he was part of a conversation, even though he didn’t have to say anything—Theseus talked enough for the both of them; simultaneously asking and answering his own questions (which Credence found very funny. Why ask the question in first place?)

 

“Are you tired Credence? Yes, you’re tired. Let’s get you to bed, it’s been a long day,” Theseus asked, answered, and concluded, already rising from his seat. He waves his hand to clear the table of the remaining bread and cheese. Each gets wrapped in brown paper (where had that come from?) and gets stored away.

 

“I—I had a question first, if you don’t mind, Sir—Theseus,” Credence says, before the other man can whisk him off to bed.

 

Theseus pauses, clearly surprised by such a bold statement—although his mind reminds him of all the times Newt told him questions weren’t bold at all—Credence charges ahead before he can talk himself out of it.

 

“Yesterday, you said that Newt was, uhm, missing? Did you—do you know where he is? Do you know if he is ok?” Credence rushes out.

 

For the first time they met, Credence sees Theseus hesitate. The man seems to be considering his words carefully.

 

“Yes, Newt is missing. I haven’t found him yet, but—” Theseus waits until Credence is looking him straight in the eye. “—I will find him. I always do.”

 

“Is he in danger?”

 

“I don’t know, Credence. Knowing Newt, probably,” Theseus says, a little exasperatedly. It speaks to years of experience with the matter.

 

“I—what can I do to help? I want to help” Credence says.

 

“That’s very sweet of you, Credence. But—” Theseus tries to say but Credence cuts him off.

 

“I want to help. Please, I want to be useful.” Credence says as forcefully as he dares.

 

The interruption leaves Theseus a little speechless. Who knew Credence had it in him?

 

Theseus takes his time to sit back down in his chair, lounging back as he looks over Credence. The young man is curled forward, hands clamped between his knees, his prior comfort evaporated.

 

“What do you propose, Credence?”

 

Credence jumps at the question, not expecting the other man to give in so quickly. “I—uhm… What do you need?”

 

Theseus releases a mirthless laugh, causing little shivers to race up Credence’s spine. But not in a bad way. Credence doesn’t know what to make of that information, so he ignores it for now.

 

“I need a great many things, Credence. But I don’t know what you can do, so why don’t we start there?” Theseus says. “How much control do you have over your Obscurus?”

 

“My—oh, you mean my Curse?” Credence asks.

 

Theseus merely tilts his head a little to the side like a puppy, “Your what?”

 

Credence feels his cheeks heat under the attention. He can admit that the name sounds a little ridiculous out loud. “My Curse. Its—I didn’t know what it was before Mr.Gr—before. Uhm. I thought I was cursed.” Credence stumbles over his words, his whole body heating up with embarrassment.

 

But Theseus isn’t laughing, if anything he looks thoughtful. Like the jumble of information that Credence had mumbled somehow made sense.

 

“I suppose it makes sense you would have named your Obscurus. What a terrible thought, to believe oneself cursed,” Theseus says finally, eyeing Credence carefully.

 

Credence doesn’t know what to say, so he doesn’t respond.

 

“Newt did explain to you what an Obscurus is, right?” Theseus asks.

 

Credence remembers when Newt had first found him. How he had gently gathered Credence’s body and carried him into the safety of the case. How Newt had healed, fed, and clothed him. And somewhere in the middle of all those things, how Newt had tried to explain the situation to Credence.

 

So Credence nods his head to Theseus, “Yes, he said it was a parad—pari…uhm…para—“

 

“Parasite?” Theseus interjects.

 

“Yes! That.” Credence agrees.

 

“And do you know what it means?” The older wizards asks carefully.

 

Credence feels his cheeks flush, and his tongue peeks out quickly to wet his dry lips.

 

“That it’s… bad? Evil.” Credence tries.

 

“Not quite. Look Credence,” Theseus says, disappointment colouring his tone. It makes Credence’s stomach clench. He’s been on the receiving end of that tone so many times, and it usually ends with his palms bloody or his knees sore for hours of kneeling.

 

But Theseus doesn’t appear mad. The man reclaims his seat, leaning forward on his elbows before addressing Credence again.

 

“A parasite is something that feeds off of another being. And because they need this other being to survive, they try to protect it.

 

“An Obscurus is the same. It feeds off of the excess magic a child is supressing, and attacks anything that threatens them, or their Obscurial.” Theseus explains, and after seeing Credence’s brow furrow in confusion he adds, “the Obscurial being you.”

 

“But I thought I was the Obscurus,” Credence argues, tone plaintiff even to his own ears.

 

“No, you’re the host—we call that the Obscurial. The Obscurus is the magical force that comes out when you’re in danger.”

 

This didn’t make any sense. “But I control it. It attacked the people that I—like Mr. Shaw and Ma, I wasn’t in danger. Just angry,” Credence argues.

 

Theseus just shakes his head, “Credence, the danger doesn’t need to be rational. The Obscurus operates on whatever you are feeling. Not any kind of rational thought.”

 

“But—I let it hurt people. I could have stopped it an I didn’t,” Credence shouts. When had he gotten so angry? Credence catches his bottom lip with his lips to bite down on any further out bursts. What must Theseus think of him now? He was acting like an unruly child.

 

Credence can taste blood in his mouth. He really shouldn’t be so upset, it was only a matter of time before Theseus saw all the ugliness lurking beneath his skin. Better get it over with now.

 

“Credence,” Theseus says gently, oh so gently, and Credence really doesn’t deserve such kindness after that awful display, “Whatever happened in New York is not your fault.”

 

Credence expects his host to be angry, or upset, or a great many things—he does not expect to see Theseus sad. Like Credence was a kicked puppy cowering at a street corner, not the murder that he is.

 

“Yes, it is,” Credence says, with absolute conviction. Because if he isn’t evil, and unnatural, and twisted, what is he?

 

This is the only thing he knows. He clutches onto it like a blind man to a cane.

 

Theseus must read his stubbornness in the clench of his jaw and stubborn set of his shoulders, because he does not press the issue.

 

“There’s no point in arguing about it tonight, we can both sleep on it and talk again tomorrow, ok?” Theseus proposes.

 

Credence doesn’t have a better idea, so he nods his head stiffly.

 

They finish cleaning the kitchen in silence, and a few minutes later they are heading to their rooms.

 

Before Credence can open the door to his room, Theseus clears his throat.

 

“We have a rule in the Scamander household,” the man says, eyes downcast. It reminds Credence of Newt.

 

“We don’t go to bed angry. So, if I made you angry or upset, I want to apologize,” Theseus says, words soft but sincere.

 

It is only due to years of practice schooling his features into neutrality that allows Credence to swallow down his shock.

 

“I’m sorry, too.” He says, instead of questioning the apology. He didn’t want to start another argument.

 

Theseus’ answering smile is nearly blinding, it shows off his rows of perfect pearly white teeth.

 

“I might be pushing my luck, but can I get a hug? To make sure there aren’t any hard feeling lurking somewhere?” The man offers, tone light but his eyes tell a very different story.

 

Not that Credence notices, his mind his flashing back to New York, to a man with black hair and a blue scarf. A man of honeyed lies and claiming touches.

 

Credence hides his shaking hands behind his back. He tips his head back up to peer at Theseus, looks into his sad, blue eyes.

 

“Not tonight,” Credence answers, cheeks immediately heating.

 

Theseus’ eyes light up and his smile returns full force, so Credence does the only logical thing: he runs into his room and slams the door behind himself.

 

That isn’t what he meant to say at all.

Chapter Text

“Credence grab your coat!” Theseus shouts the second his feet touch the ground in his apartment, the sound of his apparition echoing faintly in the apartment.

 

Credence, who had been drinking a well-earned cup of tea at the kitchen table, startles so badly some of his tea sloshes out of the cup. He sets it down before he can make a bigger mess, and turns to face the Auror, who is waiting expectantly at the door.

 

“Theseus, I don’t have a coat,” Credence says.

 

“Hmmm…” Theseus’ brows pull together in consideration, “Very true. First, we’ll get you a coat. Then we will go.”

 

So that is how Credence ends up bundled in one of Theseus’ old coats—how it has retained traces of the man’s scent while being stored at the back of his closet for years is a mystery to Credence. It’s made of dark blue wool, that should be scratchy but somehow isn’t and keeps Credence very warm.

 

Credence tries to only bury his nose in the lapels to inhale the smell of Theseus while the man is otherwise distracted.

 

“Ok, so,” Theseus says, he gives another cursory glance around the apartment before nodding to himself. He had Newt’s case in one hand, and held a few documents in the other.

 

“Is it ok if you hold onto my arm, Credence? I need you to side-along with me, since I don’t have a portkey,” The man finally says.

 

“Oh,” Credence replies

 

Theseus shuffles a little awkwardly on the spot. “I won’t touch you back. You just need to put your hand on my arm,” Theseus says, holding out his arm but not making any move to approach the young man.

 

Credence stares at the offered appendage. It’s not that he doesn’t want to take—quite on the contrary, it’s that he wants it too much.

 

Credence wants to touch this kind, boisterous man. Wants to hold his hand and burry his nose in the warmth of the man’s neck. Even worse, he wants the man to touch him back—but his heart remembers the last one he wanted to touch, the only one who had touched Credence in return. The one Credence thought would save him, but had become the one to hurt him the most.

 

Credence had promised himself to never allow anyone to control him like that again. He would never let himself want like that again.

 

It is better to never know touch at all, than to have had it and to see it turn cruel.

 

Credence is brought back into the present by Theseus’ awkward shuffling. The man is still waiting a respectful distance away.

 

Theseus wasn’t taking, like the other one had. Theseus wasn’t trying to control him, or manipulate him. He was asking for permission.

 

So maybe, this one time, Credence could allow it?

 

“Ok,” the young man breathes out, slowly advancing and delicately placing his hand on the crook of the older wizard’s elbow.

 

Quick as a shot, Credence is pulled along with Theseus as they wink out of existence.

 

*

 

When they land on the steps of Hogwarts, Theseus has to fight the urge to catch Credence when the young man stumbles out of their apparition.

 

Luckily, Credence catches himself against the nearest wall. His face is carefully blank, but Theseus can tell his eyes are a little wider than usual.

 

“Breathe through it, your stomach will settle in a few moments,” Theseus instructs, in what he hopes is a helpful manner. Apparation is always worse in side-along.

 

“I’m fine,” comes the curt response. But the Auror sees Credence take slow, deep breathes anyway.

 

Credence has had the chance to catch his breath by the time Albus Dumbledore arrives to greet them.

 

“Professor,” Theseus says, with a respectful nod. He has never been as familiar with the man has Newt was, but he hadn’t hesitated to contact him when his usual avenues to tract down Newt had all failed.

 

“Auror Scamander,” the professor greets in return. They share quick handshake before Theseus moves to introduce his live-in Obscurus.

 

“This is Credence. Credence, this is Professor Albus Dumbledore. He taught Newt and I in school,” Theseus quickly explains.

 

The professor turns his keen eyes to the young man, observing him with a kind, but distant curiosity. The older man reaches out a hand to Credence, and Theseus interrupts to save Credence the trouble of doing so.

 

“Oh, Credence doesn’t like to tou—“ the Auror begins, but Credence is quick to cut him off, stepping boldly in front on the man, and shaking Dumbledore’s hand.

 

“Hello, sir,” Credence says, calm and composed.

 

Theseus had felt it would be more beneficial to explain the whole story to the professor in his letters, than try to hide the truth about Credence. It was clear to Theseus had made the right decision, because the professor’s eyes betrayed his interest despite his cool façade. The way he cradled Credence’s offered hand between the two if his—gently pulling the younger man closer—didn’t escape the Auror either.

 

However, Theseus was surprised by Credence’s lack of evasion to the contact. It made something ugly stir in the pit of the Auror’s stomach. Theseus tries to shake it off—jealousy wouldn’t help anyone right now. Plus, Credence was free to do what he liked. This had nothing to do with him.

 

“It’s a pleasure, truly, to meet you Credence,” Dumbledore says, his voice low and soft, still holding onto Credence’s hand.

 

Credence simply nods, unsure how else to respond. Theseus barely holds himself back from slinging his arm around the younger man’s shoulders. Credence didn’t need that kind of territorial bullshit right now.

 

“Shall we?” Theseus urges, un a barely-civilized manner. Dumbledore had held Credence’s hand long enough.

 

*

 

Credence follows behind Theseus and the professor.

 

He doesn’t know where this confidence had arisen from, only that it had felt right in the moment to be firm. Plus, there was something unthreatening about the professor.

 

Credence couldn’t quite put his finger on it, but when the professor had been looking at him, it hadn’t felt like the older man was seeing him at all—like the man was seeing what Credence was, rather than who he was.

 

It didn’t feel threatening, or offensive. It had felt more like a detached curiosity—and Credence knew how to hide from that. He had mastered the art of blending into his own character so that no one could ever touch who he truly was. It had hurt less, that way. No one had known him, they would project their own beliefs onto him and assume they were right in their beliefs.

 

Credence had thought that his disguise had died along with his past—but perhaps it is more accurate to say that the Scamander brothers are just more observant than most. Or perhaps cared more.

 

No, that didn’t work. The professor clearly had some sort of interest in him, so that theory didn’t work.

 

Credence kicks a small rock from his path. They are walking across a stone bridge of some sort, towards a massive castle.

 

Credence looks up to Theseus’ back, casually observing how the man moves, before flicking his eyes further ahead to watch Professor Dumbledore and back to the ground.

 

When he looked at the Auror, his eyes followed the lines of his back, watched as his muscles moved beneath the fabric of his coat. Credence could have watched him all day.

 

And when Credence watched the professor instead, he could force his eyes to follow the same path as they had on Theseus, but the desire to do so was absent.

 

Credence feels his cheeks heat, and forces his eyes to stay on the ground. Perhaps the reason for his body’s ability to receive touch form some people and not others had more to do with Credence’s own feelings towards the men than the men themselves.

 

Theseus glances at Credence from over his shoulder, a casual smile on his lips, but his eyes are pinched in a way Credence hasn’t seen before.

 

“You alright there, Credence? You look a little flush,” the man asks kindly.

 

It just makes Credence blush harder, so he nods his head quickly and drops his eyes back to the ground, heart beating wildly.

 

Lord have mercy.

 


 

When Newt comes to, he’s cuddled against something hard, but warm.

 

“Hey,” comes a soft voice from above, “how are you feeling?”

 

Newt blinks open his eyes to see the blurry outline of Percival’s face, framed by his arms manacled above his head.

 

“Hi,” the young man breaths, nuzzling deeper into Percival’s side, “you’re very comfortable.”

 

The man hums noncommittedly, seeming happy to let Newt rest some more.

 

In any other circumstance, this situation would be wholly pleasant—the fact that they were being held against their wills by the darkest wizard of their age put a damper on the situation.

 

Newt was realizing he rather enjoyed being cuddled with Percival—the man was warm and solid beneath Newt’s cheek, and the rhythmic cycle of his breaths were a comfort to Newt. Plus, the man had a witty and dry sense of humour that Newt was rapidly acclimating too.

 

Newt had thought he would end up alone in life—he had had hopes for Tina, since they had gotten along fairly well after the whole New-York-Obscurus-Debacle, but the truth is that no matter how hard Newt had tried to reciprocate her feelings, deep down he knew that he would never be able to match the emotion he saw in her eyes.

 

He had tried, he really had. But even as he tucked a strand of her hair behind her ear before boarding his boat—he had not felt anything beyond a friendly affection.

 

But this, what he felt simply sitting beside this man was more than that—much more. And perhaps his emotions were being influenced by torture, imprisonment, and general isolation but, even if they were, it shouldn’t negate their validity.

 

Newt is pulled from his reverie as his throbbing limbs were bleeding back into his consciousness.  It wretches a groan from his throat as his tired muscles seize painfully. Grindelwald hadn’t healed his body this time.

 

“Try to breathe through it,” Percival says. “That’s it, inhale through your nose—yes, very good—and exhale through your mouth. Yes, good. And again,” he continued to encourage.

 

Newt dutifully followed the older man’s instructions, and slowly the pain mellows to a tolerable degree.

 

“Merlin, that man is the devil,” Newt moans, as the last of the cramps fade away.

 

“Your body will learn to adjust,” Percival says. “It will become more manageable.”

 

Newt just moans again, breath coming out in short pants, “I don’t know how much longer I can take this,” he admits.

 

Percival quickly jumps to his defense, “You don’t give yourself enough credit—most people wouldn’t have survived their first day under the hands of that madman,” he says. “Just focus on getting through it one day at a time.”

 

“Is that what you do?” Newt questions. “Take it one day at a time?”

 

“Yes and no,” Percival answers. “What Grindelwald wants from me—it would endanger the whole of MACUSA. And by extension, the whole country.

 

“I can never give him what he wants. Not ever,” the man says, resolute—like Atlas bearing the weight of the world.

 

Newt runs his hands comfortingly across Percival’s torso. “That’s a lot of responsibility for you to shoulder,” he whispers.

 

But Percival just snorts, “It was in the job description.”

 

“Still,” Newt insists stubbornly, “most would not have upheld their oath under your circumstances. You should be proud.”

 

Percival tries to snort again, but his flippancy misses the mark this time, “Pride is the last thing I need in here.”

 

This time it’s Newt’s turn to hum in agreement. The young man shifts a little to get more comfortable, but quickly freezes as his shirt rubs against the wounds on his chest. He gasps, shuddering at the reminder of the words Grindelwald carved into his chest, ‘Where is the case?’

 

“Shhhh…” Percival soothes. “Do you want to talk about it?”

 

Newt just shakes his head, “I’m just so tired.”

 

Percival gently nuzzles at his hair, “I know, Newt. Just hold on a little longer,” he says. “MACUSA is coming for us. They’re coming. Just hold on a little longer,” the man urges.

 

So, Newt nods his head, breathing in the comforting scent of the man, “Ok.”

 

*

 

It is some hours later, as Newt and Percival are dozing happily, that they hear the telltale sign of guards descending the stairs to their cell.

 

Newt hugs Percival’s middle a little harder, it was likely going to be the older man taken away this time. Newt tries to comfort the man as best he can in these last few moments, “You can do it, Percival. One day at a time, right?”

 

Percival doesn’t answer, but Newt hadn’t expected him to.

 

When the guards unlock the room, Newt carefully extracts himself from the man’s lap.

 

“Well isn’t this interesting?” comes a voice from the entrance, and Newt’s entire being freezes, still half-draped across the director’s lap. They lock eyes and Newt sees his own dread reflected in Percival’s eyes.

 

Grindelwald claps his hands gleefully, a sickening smile on his lips. The Dark wizard takes another moment to observe his prisoners before turning on his heel and shouting over his shoulder,

 

“Bring them both.”

 

Chapter Text

Credence doesn’t understand much of what is happening. Something about apparition and reverse-tracking and magical trails and traces.

 

They had arrived at the castle hours ago—Hogwarts, Theseus says as they climb one of many winding staircases—and now were in the professor’s study. A big room lined with overstuffed bookcases and trinkets and big pointy hats.

 

There is also a great big, red bird in the corner. It had promptly caught fire when the trio had entered the room.

 

Credence only manages to choke back his scream due to years of experience. The professor looks to him anyway, as if anticipating the reaction.

 

“Fawkes is a Phoenix, Credence. When they die, their body becomes fire and they are turned to ash.”

 

Credence wonders if the explanation is supposed to be reassuring, because it isn’t.

 

But the professor isn’t done, “All for good reason, dear boy. Because it is only from the ashes that they can be reborn,” the man continues

 

And sure enough, the pile of ash starts quacking, and a much smaller but equally vibrant bird, emerges. Credence does make a sound then, “Oh. He’s beautiful,” he says, voice awed.

 

The professor smiles at him again, “You can get closer and look at him, Fawkes won’t bite. But let him decide whether or not he is in the mood for petting, hmm?” the man finishes, moving instead to lay Newt’s suitcase on a table.

 

Credence heeds the man’s words and approaches the stand slowly. The young bird is happily munching on whatever pellets are in its food bowl, completely unconcerned with the guest approaching.

 

“Hello,” Credence whispers, when he is close enough to observe the many layers of colour found in the bird’s feathers. It isn’t just red, it seems, but a mix of deep burgundies, oranges, and golds, “Aren’t you just beautiful.”

 

The bird appears to preen at the compliment, hopping closer to where Credence stands and fluffing it’s feathers happily. Credence reaches a hand up, and hovers it closer to the bird, but does not make contact.

 

His heart nearly soars right out of his chest when the bird nuzzles his palm.

 

Professor Dumbledore calling his names brings Credence back to reality. The Phoenix hops back to his food bowl to munch some more. Credence walks back to the two men, who are poised over Newt’s case.

 

“The mind’s ability to heal itself never ceases to amaze me,” the professor says when Credence reaches them. “Did you know that Fawkes is one of the first creatures Newt rescued?” he continues, eyes sharp. “You see, Phoenix tears have very potent magical properties, and some believe that it can be harvested—hurt the animal enough and it will open the flood gates, so to speak.

 

“Little do they know; a Phoenix tear cannot be taken. It has to be given.” The man finishes, and Credence feels the weight of his gaze keenly.

 

“Why are you telling me this?” Credence asks, because he feels like the professor isn’t talking about the Phoenix at all.

 

But the man only shrugs, “Looking at Fawkes now, you could not guess the hardship he has endured. I would like to believe we all have the ability to outgrow our past, if we so wish it. To remake ourselves and rise out of the ashes,” the man says with a small smile.

 

Credence doesn’t know what to say in return, and is saved by Theseus’ not so subtle interruption.

 

“Not to put an end to the metaphors, but may we return to the issue at hand?” Theseus says, rather gruffly. And if Credence isn’t mistaken, the Auror shuffles slightly closer to Credence.

 

“Yes, indeed,” the professor says, and does get to work.

 

Credence had more or less been ignored from that point forward. When he started to fidget, the professor invited him to take a seat in one of the plush armchairs. “It might be some time yet, Credence. Why don’t you make yourself comfortable?”

 

So, Credence had, and began reading the titles off of the spines of what must be thousands of books stuffed into the bookcases. None of them made sense, and some didn’t even appear to be English at all.

 

Theseus wasn’t handling the idleness nearly as well.

 

“Auror Scamander,” the professor says, “perhaps a walk around the castle will be of some benefit to you,” he finishes, not even bothering to look up from the spell he was conducting on Newt’s case.

 

Theseus huffs a breath, clearly heeding the dismissal, and looks over to Credence, “Would you like to accompany me for a walk, Credence?”

 

Which is how he ends up walking the halls of Hogwarts, as Theseus rattles off story after story of his time as a student. Credence can tell the man is trying to appear cheerful and composed—but it comes across more twitchy and awkward.

 

It must be near midnight at this point, and the castle is entirely deserted. So, after they have been walking for more than an hour and Theseus appears to be running out of stories to tell, Credence pulls him to a stop in the middle of empty hall.

 

Theseus stops mid-sentence, and just stares at Credence’s hand on his arm, mouth slightly agape.

 

Credence doesn’t let go—in fact, he pulls the man slightly closer. Until they are looking at each other face to face, rather than side by side.

 

“We’ll find Newt, Theseus. I know we will,” Credence says into the silence, in what he hopes is a reassuring tone.

 

Perhaps it is only a trick of the light, but Credence thinks Theseus’ eyes might be a little shinier than they were a moment ago. Is that good? Bad? Credence doesn’t know.

 

“I know,” Theseus finally says, and his voice is definitely thicker than it had been. “I just hope we’re fast enough to save him.”

 

Credence doesn’t know what to say to that, so he just moves to clasp the Auror’s hands between his own. The Auror’s hands are always so warm.

 

They stand together like that for a long time—long enough for a pale blue bird that looks remarkably like Fawkes to float to them. “Come quick,” it says in the voice of the professor before disappearing once more.

 

Theseus starts running, pulling Credence along by the hand.

 

“I have a location,” the professor says once they are back in the study. “Go to it.”

 

“What about you?” Theseus questions, but he has already pulled his coat back on and is handing Credence’s over to him. Credence puts it on quickly.

 

The man shakes his head, “There are things I must get in order. I spelled the location into this portkey, take it and go.”

 

Theseus accepts the news with a nod. On three, Theseus and Credence take hold of the portkey and are pulled away.

 


 

To Newt’s surprise, they aren’t brought to Grindelwald’s office. Rather, they are being dragged to a different room in the basement.

 

Going by the stiffness of Percival’s posture, it is a room familiar to him.

 

When the wooden door is swung wide open, Newt’s already-wobbly knees give out completely.

 

The stone walls are lined with chains and rows of whips. Tables are set up throughout the room, displaying racks and racks of—

 

“Admiring my collection of toys, Newton?” Grindelwald asks, observing the trembling wizard as he shucks his coat and drapes over a display of wicked knives and mallets still speckled with blood.

 

Newt squeezes his eyes shut. Don’t think about it.

 

Newt can’t do much as the guards manhandle his body, dragging his unresponsive limbs further into the room. The younger man is distantly aware of Percival cursing at Grindelwald.

 

“Am I not enough entertainment for you, Grindelwald?” Percival yells. “We’ve had so much fun together, why are you changing things now?” the Auror spews an endless stream of comments and insults.

 

He’s trying to steer the attention away from Newt, the younger man realizes. Some distant part of him recognizes the sweetness of the gesture (despite its futility).

 

Grindelwald must think it’s sweet too, because when Newt finally opens his eyes the Dark wizard is openly smirking, but his gaze is still on Newt. A moment later, it flicks to the guards, “To the cross, I think,” the Dark wizard instructs.

 

“Let him be, you fucker!” Percival exclaims, as Newt’s body is brought to a wooden structure in the shape of an ‘X’.

 

“He’s got nothing to do with this. It’s between you and me,” Percival continues to object, but the guards don’t slow in their movements. Once Newt’s arms and legs have been secured to the beams, Grindelwald instructs the guards to leave, and moves to stand at Newt’s exposed back. The placement of the cross arranges Newt to face Percival, who has been shackled to the wall opposite him. The man hangs awkwardly, his weight supported on his shoulders since his broken legs can’t hold his body. Newt can see pain pinching at the corners of the older man’s eyes, but most prominent is the anger twisting his face and concern bleeding from his eyes.

 

Newt manages to bite back his whimpers when Grindelwald runs his hands down the length of his clothed back, but he can’t keep the horror from his eyes. Selfishly, he seeks comfort in Percival’s gaze. He wants to drown in those soft brown eyes, to climb inside the man’s head and hideaway from what he knows will happen next.

 

With a snap of fingers, Grindelwald vanishes all of Newt’s clothing—leaving his wounded skin vulnerable to the chill in the room. Most of his wounds have cracked open due to the harsh treatment, but whatever spell Grindelwald had cast during their previous encounter keeps the bleeding at bay.

 

“This is how this will work,” Grindelwald explains, casually rolling up his sleeves. “I will ask you questions, dear Director, and for every lie or refusal to answer, Newton here,” the man continues, running a casual hand across one of the displays of whips, before picking one. “Newton will get a kiss from my whip.”

 

Newton barely hears Percival’s shouts above the blood roaring in his ears. He hides his face in the crooks of his arm and just tries to breathe.

 

Worrying means you suffer twice, he tries to remind himself. Just breathe.

 

“Let’s start off easy, Director,” Grindelwald says, smacking the ridding crop unnecessarily against his open palm. Newt flinches at the noise anyway.

 

Breathe.

 

Fuck you, Grindelwald,” Percival shouts.

 

“Later, if you like,” Grindelwald remarks comically, likely just to see the Director squirm. “For now, I’d like the password to your personal safe in MACUSA.”

 

Never,” Percival growls. Newt tries not to whimper as his fate solidifies.

 

Worrying means you suffer twice.

 

“How unfortunate for Newton,” Grindelwald says, and Newt feels the leather of the whip trail down his sweating back. Breathe.

 

“You get one last chance, Director, to spare him,” Grindelwald entices. Newt bites his lip and tries not to beg.

 

Breathe, just breathe.

 

“Newt,” Percival says, and Newt looks to him.

 

The man hangs limply from his chains, hands twisting uselessly. They both know there is only one thing that can stop what will happen next.

 

Percival’s eyes are tortured, but resolute, “Newt, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry—“

 

Newt hides his face away again. Breathe, just--

 

Newt doesn’t get to finish his thought, as his back explodes with pain and his screams ring in the room.

 

*

 

Percival’s shoulders are on fire. The constant strain of supporting his body was likely causing irreparable damage to the joints and muscles.

 

But the physical pain paled in comparison to the guilt weighing on his mind, as he watches Newt get struck again and again by Grindelwald’s whip.

 

Whatever spell the Dark wizard had cast over Newt to prevent blood loss had either expired or been lifted a while back. Newt’ pale limbs were currently streaked with rivulets of blood leaking from most of his body, and pooling at the base of the wooden cross. The young man himself is white as a sheet and glistening with sweat. He looked otherworldly—a fallen angel whose wings had been ripped out. A lamb sacrificed on the altar.

 

Of all the things Grindelwald had done, Percival felt this was the worst. He knew how to take pain, to grit his teeth and curse as his body is whipped and burned and carved. He knows how to shield his mind and protect all the secrets that were entrusted to him.

 

He does not, however, know how to deal with the knowledge that he is complicit in the destruction of such a beautiful, kind man. 

 

“Your stubbornness is most unfortunate, Director,” Grindelwald says. “It is almost a pity to wreck such beautiful skin. How much of it will scar, do you think?” the Dark wizard continues, running a hand down Newt’s back, tracing over open welts and making the younger man shudder and whimper, fresh tears running the length of his pale cheeks.

 

“Stop this, Grindelwald,” Percival snaps, furious but powerless.

 

Grindelwald smiles, amused. He looks to Percival over Newt’s slumped body.

 

“You know how to make this end, dear Director.”

 

Percival doesn’t answer—can’t answer, no matter how much he wants to. He watches helplessly as the Dark wizard grabs a fistful of ginger locks in retaliation, forcefully exposing the vulnerable column of Newt’s throat, as the young man struggles weakly.

 

“Shhh, Newton dear,” the Dark wizard soothes. “Such a lovely throat, it wouldn’t do to leave it unmarked when the rest of him has been so thoroughly loved…” Grindelwald pulls out his wand and brings the glowing tip to Newt’s skin, before either of the captives can protest.

 

Newt’s hoarse screams echo in Percival’s ears, and when Grindelwald pulls away, an elegant, curving ‘G’ is branded into the pale skin of the young man’s neck.

 

“There, Newton,” Grindelwald says, triumphant. “Now you’ll never forget the time we have spent together,” he says while tracing a careful finger over the fresh wound.

 

Newt gasps and shivers, before slumping in his bonds.

 

Unconscious, Percival hopes. He wishes he was, too.

 

“Poor dear,” Grindelwald coos, petting the ginger man’s hair. “I think that’s enough for one day. Perhaps he’ll have more luck tomorrow,” he continues, causally unrolling his sleeves and straightening his clothing. A few cleaning spells and all the blood is gone from his person.

 

Percival hates the way the Dark wizard touches Newt. Hates the casualness of the whole mess.

 

“You fucking beast,” Percival growls, swearing to any and every higher power that he will tear this man to bloody pieces. “I’ll make you regret this.”

 

Grindelwald sighs, and Percival wants to tear the smirk off his face.

 

“You could have stopped me at any point, dear Director,” the Dark wizard chastens. He summons his coat with a snap of his fingers, “but you decided not to. Newton’s blood is on your hands, and you know it.”

 

With that Grindelwald takes his leave, leaving Percival to snarl at his retreating back, with only the pain in his body and the weight of his guilt to keep him company.

 


 

They land in an old warehouse building, Credence notes. The walls are stained black, as if a fire had torn through the space. The door frame has been blown to bits.

 

Theseus is colourfully swearing. “Probably some fucking poachers,” the man says. “Why do you always go after the poachers, Newt. Fuck.”

 

Credence doesn’t much understand what a poacher is, but what is currently concerning him is the sudden activity of his Obscurus.

 

“Theseus,” he says warningly. There is smoke escaping him in small, curling tendrils.

The man doesn’t hear him, just miles around the room kicking boxes and waving his wand around.

 

Theseus,” Credence tries again. The Obscurus rolls around under his skin, pushing and pushing. It wants out.

 

When Theseus finally looks over, Credence’s eyes are white.

 

“Whoa, whoa, Credence! Are you ok?” the man exclaims, stance at war between approaching the young man and giving him more space. “What do you need? Tell me, let me help,” the man says.

 

But Credence can’t answer. Knows that if he opens his mouth only smoke will come out.

 

Theseus comes forward, gently cups his hands around Credence’s shoulders.

 

But Credence pulls away, tries to warn Theseus away—he can’t hold it back, he can’t, he CAN’T!

 

The last thing Credence sees are Theseus’ eyes as the Obscurus bursts from his being, engulfing them both. It burst through the ceiling of the warehouse and takes them away into the night.

 


 

Newt is suspended in the edges of consciousness when the greeting comes from over his shoulder. Newt can’t see the man enter the room, but the voice is one he knows well at this point.

 

“Rise and shine, darlings!” Grindelwald says.

 

Newt wishes he could get pulled under again, there was so much less pain there.

 

“How are we feeling?” Grindelwald asks, right behind Newt now. A hand creeping up to cradle the back of Newt’s head and play with the short hairs at his nape.

 

Newt groans—from pain, fear, or general discomfort he doesn’t know. Maybe a combination of all three.

 

“Oh my, you are looking quite pale, Newton,” Grindelwald states with mild concern. Suddenly there is fresh blood pouring from his numerous gaping wounds, causing Newt to shiver as his flayed nerves are stimulated.

 

Blood replenishing spell, Newt’s mind offers.

 

Grindelwald mumbles something else under his breath, and the blood flow stops. Trapped within Newt’s body. Newt isn’t familiar with the spell, but it was the second time Grindelwald had cast it upon him to keep his blood from escaping, without actually healing the wounds.

 

“There, much better,” the Dark wizard concludes.

 

But just when Newt thinks that Grindelwald might be done with him, the ropes binding Newt to the cross disappear, and Newt falls into the Dark wizard’s open arms. The wounds on Newt’s back burst with pain—his exhausted body and numb limbs jerk and shiver, but he’s too weak to defend himself. Or alleviate the pain. Grindelwald’s arms wind around Newt’s waist, supporting the young man’s weight, before depositing him onto a wooden chair.

 

Newt’s breath catches in his throat. The entirety of his back in being pressed into the unrelenting wood. His mind can barely process the fresh pain because Grindelwald is still moving him—rearranging his legs so they are splayed open, and his arms rest on top of the armrests. Then there is a headrest growing from the back of the chair, pressing against the back of Newt’s skull.

 

All the while, Grindelwald shushes him gently, “There, there, Newton. Don’t hurt yourself. We’re almost there,” he says. And at the snap of fingers, Newt’s carefully arranged body is secured in place with tight ropes—around his ankles, forearms and throat.

 

He tries to breathe through the pain, but his limbs struggle against their confines and chafes his already damaged skin raw.

 

He hates it, he hates not being able to move. Hates the pain. Hates that all he can do is cry.

 

Merlin, he’s tired of crying.

 

Newt doesn’t think the situation can get much worse until Grindelwald shifts his attention to Percival instead. Newt shouldn’t be surprised by the turn of events, but he is. Like being doused in ice water, Newt’s focus shifts from self-pity to fearful dismay. It is a different kind of fear—a helpless, gnawing dread that builds and builds until the pressure becomes suffocating.

 

“No,” Newt gasps, but Grindelwald pays him no mind as he forcefully yanks Percival head up by his hair—demonstrating none of the gentleness he usually uses on Newt.

 

“No,” Newt repeats again, more forcefully. And again, he is ignored.

 

Percival shows none of Newt’s fear, however—he stares down the Dark wizard with the fearlessness of a true warrior. Newt wishes he could mirror his confidence.

 

“How are you, Director?” Grindelwald questions.

 

“Peachy.”

 

“Good, good, you won’t mind if I move you around a bit, then?” Grindelwald asks, as he pulls out his wand. It is a quick series of movements; first the chains secured around Percival’s wrists vanish, leaving the man only in manacles. Then, his wrists are bound behind his back, and a new chain is looped into the mix, so when Percival’s body is hoisted back into the air, he is being lifted by his bound wrists behind his back.

 

The whole thing takes a matter of seconds—and it is likely due to the swiftness that Percival doesn’t scream (though his mouth hangs open and his eyes screw shut in pain).

 

Pole hanging is a common type of torture used in war. Having a person’s entire weight supported on their wrists and shoulders would rip all the ligaments and tendons from the joints, causing near irreparable damage. It’s an awkward position, Percival’s torso is forced to lean forward until it is nearly parallel to the ground and his arms are twisted cruelly behind his back. His body holds its position for a few seconds more before his damaged shoulders give and an awful, wet ripping sound echoes in the room—Percival does scream then, body curling and jerking but unable to alleviate the pressure on his destroyed shoulders. He is now more upright, but his shoulders are twisted past the point where they should be. If Newt didn’t know better he would have thought they were dislocated.

 

“Comfortable, Director?” Grindelwald asks. When Percival doesn’t answer, Grindelwald lays a hand on the man’s back and pushes, causing Percival to scream again.

 

Fucking bastard,” Percival shouts, much to Grindelwald’s delight. Newt feels nauseous.

 

“There you are. Now, Newton,” Grindelwald says, “the rules are the same today. Refusal to answer my questions or lying will mean our dear Director will be punished.”

 

This was horror like nothing Newt had ever felt before. His gut is churning and there is acid in his throat.

 

“Where is the case, Newton?” Grindelwald asks.

 

Newt’s mouth hangs open, but no words come forth. There has to be something he can offer the Dark wizard.  Because Newt know he can’t bear the knowledge that he is responsible for more hurt befalling Percival. He can’t.  Percival who has comforted him from the very first day, who talked to him and soothed him as he cried. Percival, who even now, doesn’t beg—doesn’t do anything that could spare him the torture. Percival who bears the weight of the whole world on his shoulder already and he just expects to have to bear this, too. It breaks Newt’s heart.

 

Newt watches as Grindelwald turns his attention to Percival, who has shut his eyes and clenched his hands, his body a rigid line.

 

Grindelwald raises his wand and—

 

“Wait!” shouts Newt.

 

The wand pauses, but does not lower.

 

Newt takes a breath, then another, “I’ll tell you what I’m hiding. What I found. I’ll tell you, but you have to let him down. And heal him.”

 

“No, Newt don’t,” Percival tries to say, “I’m not worth it.”

 

But Newt doesn’t pay him any attention because Grindelwald is in front of him now. “Tell me,” the man says.

 

It’s a bad idea. A terrible idea. But Newt doesn’t have any choice. He can’t let Percival be mutilated any further. He just can’t.

 

“First, take him down,” Newt says this a voice that is surprisingly firm. He ignores the way Grindelwald’s mouth twists into a scowl. Newt rushes forward with his explanation, “As a sign of good faith. Take him down and then I’ll tell you.”

 

Grindelwald doesn’t take his eyes from Newt, but he flicks his hand behind himself and Percival’s body falls to the ground. Newt can hear the man moving around on the ground, but he can’t see anything because Grindelwald is suddenly leaning over Newt’s bound body, their faces inches apart. Waiting.

 

Newt takes a breath, then another. Squeezes his eyes shut and hopes he isn’t making a big mistake.

 

“I found Credence.”

Chapter Text

Silence.

 

Newt’s heart is thundering.  Part of his mind registers that Percival is shuffling somewhere behind Grindelwald, the effort causing him to wheeze—but all Newt can see is Grindelwald’s motionless figure still poised over his bound body. The man doesn’t even appear to be breathing.

 

Newt doesn’t know what he expected as a reaction. Elation or triumph, perhaps? But not this blank look. This complete lack of anything. Grindelwald is truly surprised, and that terrifies Newt—the Dark wizard is unpredictable in the best of times. But this… Newt doesn’t know what will happen next.

 

*

 

Somewhere in the night, Credence fights his Obscurus, trying to regain control. He fights without limbs, chokes on smoke even though he doesn’t need the air. What he does need is to get control of himself before he hurts anyone.

 

Credence thinks of Theseus—his eyes and his warm hands on Credence’s shoulders before the Obscurus took over.

 

What happened to him?

 

*

 

Finally, after a moment that felt like an eternity, Grindelwald’s surprise coalesces into intent.

 

There is a sudden flurry of action—the Dark wizard accios a wicked knife to his hand. He walks to where Percival is still trying to sit up against the wall, takes the director by the hair and slices Percival’s throat clean across.

 

*

 

The Obscurus howls and twists—moving faster and faster. It is getting closer.

 

Closer to what?

 

*

 

Newt can’t scream, he is too shocked. There is so much blood, it pours from the cut on Percival’s throat like a red curtain coming down across the stage. The end of an act. Percival’s mouth hangs open on a silent cry. He is surprised too.

 

Grindelwald is back. He pinches Newt’s chin and locks their gazes, but the sight of Percival’s cut throat is imprinted in Newt’s mind.

 

“Tell me where to find Credence, or the Director dies.”

 

*

 

The Obscurus shrieks—furious, elated, wanting.

 

Closecloseclosecloseclose

 

That is when Credence feels it—a familiar buzz of energy. A hand on his neck. A necklace in his hand. A hit. Betrayal.

 

This time, it is Credence who screams into the night.

 

There, they think together. Below the ground.

 

Closecloseclosecloseclose

 

Together they burrow into the earth, shredding the netting of protective wards like wrapping paper. They tear through stone walls like building blocks.

 

TheretheretheretherethereTHERE

 


 

Theseus was helpless to evade the Obscurus when it had wrapped around him. He expected pain, or the pull of apparition—but he feels neither. It’s rather like riding a broom, except the vehicle of smoke moves all around him, like a tumble weed over grass.

 

Under different circumstances, it could have been a pleasant experience. But now isn’t the time to think about it. He needs to help Credence—how, though?

 

What does one do to help an Obscurus?

 

Theseus is no closer to answer when he gets suddenly thrust out of his ball of smoke, barely catching himself on hands and knees. A quick look around reveals stone floors and walls. Displays of weapons and tools, as well as wooden structures--

 

Theseus doesn’t get a good look because the Obscurus tears through it all to reach Grindelwald—

 

Grindelwald!?

 

Theseus’ first instinct is to try to help Credence, but the Obscurus has completely engulfed the Dark wizard (who barely had the opportunity to shield himself).

 

Right. Credence was probably ok for the time being. As if to prove a point, the Obscurus grabs Grindelwald—shield and all—and throws him clean through the adjacent wall and follows after just to keep batting at the Dark wizard’s protective cage as if it was a toy.

 

The sudden departure leaves Theseus’ ears ringing. Which is probably why it takes him so long to realize someone is shouting at him.

 

“—IVAL!”

 

Theseus turns to see a very bloody, very naked Newt tied to a chair. He takes a handful of steps towards his baby brother before registering that the younger man is shaking his head.

 

“Save Percival!” shouts Newt, eyes flicking between Theseus and someone resting up against the wall, in a pool of blood.

 

Graves.

 

Theseus is on his knees beside his old friend in seconds, eyes taking in the damage. There is so much blood, and the Director is barely conscious—mouth agape and eyes drooping.

 

Despite the severity of the situation, it’s a surprisingly easy fix. Episky heals the cut, and a few blood-replenishing charms bring the man back to full consciousness, gasping and retching through new flesh.

 

“What do you need, old friend?” Theseus asks. Graves’ body is a bloody mess, but they don’t have the time to heal everything just yet.

 

“Undo the manacles,” Graves says when he finally catches his breath. It’s a tricky affair—the manacles are thoroughly warded and charmed, but Theseus eventually manages to disarm them. They fall to the ground.

 

Graves tries to push himself up, but his arms collapse beneath him. “Fuck,” he curses into the floor.

 

“What’s been done?” Theseus asks. There isn’t any blood, and they don’t look broken.

 

“Pole hanging,” is the response, and Theseus shivers in sympathy.

 

“How bad?” the Auror asks, vanishing Graves’ shirt to see the damage for himself. “Merlin’s beard…” Both shoulders are horribly swollen and deformed.

 

Graves only grunts.

 

“Let me help,” Theseus insists. The Auror moves the protesting limbs back into a normal position and spells them to stay in place. Graves grits his teeth and groans at the hasty reconstruction, but eventually, Graves’ arms are strong enough to move. Still weak, but functional.

 

They allow themselves a few breathes of rest.

 

“My legs,” Percival beings hesitantly, and Theseus nods in quick understanding. Those he can tell are very broken.

 

“Sit against the wall, I’ll take care of it,” the Auror says, gently gripping one of Graves’ legs between his hands and wastes no time whispering the most gruesome bone-healing charm (all Aurors know it, in case of emergency, but rarely use it due to its painfulness).

 

Percival screams as the bone of his right leg is clumsily fused back together, but after a few breathes, he offers Theseus his left. A heartbeat later, he nods his assent and Theseus heals the second leg.

 

Percival beats his fist into the concrete floor, but his body is finally in working order. He can help now. He feels his magic steadily rising in his chest—oversaturated due to weeks and months of suppression.

 

Theseus offers the Director a hand, helping him stand, before flicking his eyes to Newt, who is conscious but slumped in his bonds. All the fight drained from his limbs.

 

Percival’s heart squeezes in his chest. Now is not the time for guilt.

 

“Take care of your brother, Scamander,” Percival says gruffly. “I’ll help Credence with Grindelwald.”

 

The director turns to follow the path of destruction created by the Obscurus, but a hand catches his arm. Theseus’ concerned eyes bore into him.

 

“Are you sure?” The Auror asks, the single question heavy with unspoken ones.

 

Percival nods, “I’ve been waiting weeks to repay the beast’s hospitality,” he says.

 

It’s Theseus’ turn to nod in understanding. “I’ll be there soon to help, old friend,” he says, before turning his attention to his little brother.

 

Percival makes a hasty retreat, both to ensure Grindelwald is well and truly caught this time (and truthfully, because he can’t bear to see Newt’s broken body a second longer).

 


 

 

Credence strikes the shinning blue bubble protecting that man—Grindelwald, he had been informed by Newt what felt like ages ago—over and over again. Credence can’t gauge the state of the man now, he is sightless in this form. Not that that makes him any less dangerous—on the contrary, he is that much more because of it. A feral, wounded beast howling in pain and regret.

 

He pushes and tears and screams—assaulting the Dark wizard with all his might.

 

Credence doesn’t know how much time has passed, and some small part of him has realized that he isn’t gaining much ground. But, he doesn’t know what else to do, so he keeps raging. He has a lot of rage left.

 

Their dance is interrupted by a shout.

 

“Credence!” comes the voice. A voice Credence hadn’t thought he’d ever hear again.

 

“I can help, but I need you to step away! Credence!” shouts Mr. Graves.

 

The surprise isn’t enough to pull Credence out of the Obscurus, but it is enough to bring the mad swarm of smoke to a near stand-still.

 

Credence can’t see Mr. Graves—not in this form—but he can hear his laboured breathing. His erratic heartbeat. The man is scared, and he smells of blood, so likely hurt, too. Beyond that, Credence can feel the man’s swell of magic, dancing beneath his skin. Credence realizes that he knows the taste of this magical signature—from the early days of his meetings with Mr. Graves. Credence hadn’t considered the possibility that he had met the real Mr. Graves.

 

Mr. Graves must interpret the lack of attack as an invitation to keep talking.

 

“Can you hear me, Credence?” he asks.

 

Credence allows his Obscurus to ripple in reply. Yes.

 

A hitched breath. A thundering heartbeat.

 

“Listen to me, Credence, I need you to step away from him.” Mr. Graves says. “You’ll get tired eventually if you keep going. He knows that. He’s banking on it.”

 

The Obscurus doesn’t like the sound of that. He has Grindelwald pinned, why would he let him go? He wants him dead.

 

“I want him dead, too,” Mr. Graves echoes the thought. “If you can take his wand, I can do the rest,” the man says. “Can you do that, Credence? Get his wand and we can end this.”

 

The Credence is shaking within his armour of smoke—he wants to believe it is all because of anger, but it’s from fear, too. He has control over Grindelwald like this, what will happen when he lets go?

 

“Please, Credence,” Mr. Graves pleads. “You have no reason to, but I need you to trust me. This is how we get him. Take his wand and we can end this.”

 

*

 

He must have said the right thing, Percival thinks, as he watches Credence pull his Obscurus away from Grindelwald’s shield bubble. The man inside is crouched, knees bent and on the balls of his feet, wand out. Ready.

 

Percival doesn’t have a wand of his own—but his supressed magic is tingling just beneath his skin. He should have enough, he thinks, even if he’ll be casting wandless spells exclusively.

 

They’ll just have to be quick. Or hold out until reinforcements arrive. Percival had sent out a Patronus, but he doesn’t know if MACUSA and the Ministry will respond. What reason do they have to believe a random Patronus? Especially since it is no longer a wampus, but a thunderbird—

 

Percival can’t think about that right now.

 

“Both MACUSA and the Ministry are on their way,” Percival lies anyway. “You can’t hide indefinitely, Grindelwald.”

 

Whether the Dark wizard buys his bluff is irrelevant, since he cancels his shield with a single flick of his wand, raising from his crouch.

 

Credence pounces right away, but the Dark wizard casts him aside easily with a spell that sends the Obscurus crashing through the wall.

 

“You wouldn’t have tipped your hand like that if you truly believed they were coming, dear Director,” Grindelwald challenges, and when the Obscurus rushes him again he deflects just as easily as he had the first attack.

 

“Do you think you can keep me, Director? Do you think you can stop me?” Grindelwald taunts.

 

Percival doesn’t respond—he knows all too well how skilled the man is at mind games—but when Credence goes to attack the Dark wizard for the third time, Percival is ready. He whips out a wandless accio, which Grindelwald narrowly deflects along with the Obscurus.

 

It beings a dance between the three of them—Credence and Percival alternating attacks while Grindelwald deflected them. The dark wizard appears unbothered by the increasingly close hits. Neither side is gaining any ground, and there does not seem to be an end in sight for their duel—until Grindelwald jerks unexpectedly, eyes flying to the ceiling. Graves follows the movement, but sees nothing.

 

Credence, however, takes advantage of the opening—swooping in and stealing the wand from Grindelwald’s hands.

 

They barely have a second to celebrate their victory before Grindelwald corrects them.

 

It appears that the Dark wizard has been holding back, because within a heartbeat the man throws a hex at Credence, slicing cleanly through the Obscurus and causing Credence to shift back into flesh and bone. Grindelwald has his wand summoned back into his hand before the young man’s body even hits the ground.

 

Percival’s first instinct is check on Credence, but Grindelwald knocks him down with a hex.

 

“It appears our game is over, Director. It was a pleasure while it lasted, but it is time for us to part ways,” Grindelwald says.

 

Percival doesn’t expect the Avada Kedavra that Grindelwald sends his way, the green light expanding until it is all he sees.

 

He expects it even less when the green light is absorbed by a wall of smoke that quickly constricts until only Credence’s body is left—swaying on unsteady legs. Percival reacts on instinct, catching the young man as his body crumbles. The weight is too much for his clumsily healed limbs, and they both crash to the floor again, Credence motionless in his arms.

 

“Pity,” Grindelwald says—calm, collected, and unbothered, “He had so much potential.”

 

Percival barely hears the man past the roaring of blood in his ears. He trembles with emotion—fear, exhaustion, anger. He’s nearly choking on it, because Credence deserved better than this.

 

Fucking murderer,” Percival roars. He’s a wounded beast, but a dangerous one. There is no way he can deflect a Killing Curse straight on without a wand. He can, however, smite the man with all the magic he has left. The effort will likely kill him, but it appears that in the cards regardless.

 

Percival holds Credence’s body closer and lets his magic swell. He feels it build under his skin as Grindelwald advances—but he needs to wait until the very last moment. He only has one shot at this.

 

Grindelwald raises his wand arm, and Percival gets ready to push, feels his magic jump like static between his fingers.

 

“Avada—” the Dark wizard beings, but is interrupted by someone apparating in front of him. Percival pulls back his magic and barely manages to hold it inside.

 

“Gellert!” Dumbledore hollers, arms spread wide to shield both captives from Grindelwald.

 

To Percival’s surprise, the Dark wizard doesn’t smite the professor. Rather he lowers his wand.

 

Dumbledore takes advantage of the situation; with a dramatic swoop of his arm, the professor has encased himself Grindelwald into a magical force-field. Unlike the usual blue-hued bubble, this one is tinted such a dark red that nothing can be seen inside. Percival recognizes the marks of old magic—a spell tied to the caster’s life. Dumbledore has created a stalemate, but Percival cannot understand why—it only creates an advantage for Grindelwald.

 

Suddenly there is a thundering of footsteps and a dozen Aurors enter into the room. They don’t see him at first, too concerned with the glowing red bubble. As they raise their wands to dismantle it, Graves makes his presence known.

 

“Stand down!” He yells as loudly as his damaged throat allows. In the next instant, there are a dozen wand tips pointing in his direction.

 

“Graves!” comes a shout from the crowd. He recognizes the voice before Seraphina Picquery has had the chance to break free of the crowd.

 

Percival feels sick, all his magic swims just beneath the surface of his skin, and it wants out. Percival grits his teeth and holds it in.

 

“Tell them to stand down, Madame President—it’s a life spell. Dumbledore cast it, any interference will only weaken him,” Percival explains.

 

Picquery stops mid-stride. She always was quick at understanding a situation.

 

“Create a perimeter, Aurors. Wands at the ready, but do not fire until I say so,” she instructs.

 

When the Aurors have all taken their place, the President turns her attention back to Graves. She comes and kneels beside him.

 

“Is that…” She asks.

 

“Yes,” Percival answers. “Credence fought. He took the Killing Curse for me—” he beings to explain when Credence suddenly shifts in his arms. A tired groan escaping his lips.

 

Percival is struck dumb. He saw Credence take the Killing Curse, and yet the boy in his arms is moving. Percival his over-saturated magic is causing him to hallucinate, until boy’s eyes blink open.

 

Yup, definitely not dead.

 

“What are you taking about, Graves—“ Picquery tries to ask, but they are interrupted by Theseus’ thunderous arrival.

 

“Where is the bastard? Where—Credence!” Theseus shouts.

 

Mercy Lewis. Percival’s head is swimming. Too many things happening and his magic isn’t being reabsorbed at all. Percival tries to distract himself from the buzzing of magic that rings in his ears. Theseus is approaching. And Seraphina is beside him. And Credence is in his arms. He needs to be debriefed, and he has to help them fight Grindelwald. What is happening inside the force-field? Dumbledore is powerful, but can he beat Grindelwald? Why didn’t Grindelwald kill the professor when he had the chance?

 

And under it all, a constant, endless stream of where is Newt?

 

Percival tries to ask Theseus when the man kneels down, but all that comes out is a garbled mess. The world is starting to get fuzzy. Suddenly there is a hand on his forehead

 

“—he’s burning up—“

 

Is that Seraphina?

 

“Sleep Percival,” the voice continues.

 

Percival doesn’t want to. There are too many questions that need answers.

 

“Sleep.” The voice insists. Multiple voices?

 

“Newt—“ he chokes out. He needs to know.

 

“He’s fine. He’s with a healer, and you will need to see one, too. Now sleep.

 

And Percival does.

 


 

Grindelwald could hardly believe his eyes—what a day today had turned out to be. First the Obscurus, and now Albus was here as well. Had I known he would make an appearance, I would have worn a better suit.

 

The professor looks much the same as he always does—dressed in a smart suit, and his hair perfectly coiffed. The beard is new—but then again, Albus always did like to make himself appear older. It suits him, Grindelwald thinks.

 

The Dark wizard is too distracted with his observations to pay any attention to the spell the professor has weaved around them.

 

“Albus,” he says, “to what do I owe the pleasure?”

 

“You know very well, old friend,” Albus replies with all his usual poise. They are trapped in the shield the professor has cast, but they are still meters apart. Albus makes no move to close the gap, so Grindelwald doesn’t either—he’s happy wait and see what the professor has planned.

 

“Do I?” Grindelwald asks. “I have written you many times—you haven’t deigned to reply before.”

 

“You abducted, tortured, and impersonated the MACUSA’s Director of Magical Security.”

 

“Yes, well,” Grindelwald acquiesces without fanfare. “If I had known it would get me your attention, I would have done it much sooner.”

 

“Be serious, Gellert,” Albus chides. “Do you have any idea what you’ve done?” The professor was trying to keep his tone even, but Grindelwald could spy the fire in his lover’s eyes. He remembers the days where his lover was not nearly so composed—days of fire and passion.

 

Albus had tried to extinguish his fire after the death of his sister—a tragedy, truly, but not reason enough to give up on everything they had worked for, Grindelwald thinks—and no matter how hard the professor tried to choke his flames, a spark lingered.

 

Grindelwald thinks he might be able to coax it back to life. “I’ve done only what we promised each other we would achieve,” he says. “Moving the world forward. Creating a better tomorrow, a greater good—“

 

But Albus cuts him off, “They aren’t only going to send you to Azkaban, Gellert. Not anymore. Not after this,” he says, gesturing around them. “They will have you Kissed for what you’ve done”

 

The news should be more worrisome, but to Grindelwald, the possibility of it seemed very far away. “Worried for my well-being, Albus? You could always join me; together, we would be unstoppable.”

 

But Albus is shaking his head. This was a tired argument, so Grindelwald doesn’t linger on it.

 

“So, if you haven’t come to join me, why are you here Albus?”

 

“To help you make the right decision,” the professor says.

 

“And what would that be?” Two can play this game.

 

The professor expands an empty hand forward, palm up. “Hand me your wand.”

 

Grindelwald waits for further explanation, but none is offered. “And?”

 

“And we let it end.”

 

At that, Grindelwald laughs, “Why should I?” This is a tired argument, as well. Albus could decide to give up on their plans, but he could not force Grindelwald to do the same.

 

Albus gestured to the force-field he had cast, and the red-hue of it only now registers in Grindelwald’s mind as a potentially dangerous detail.

 

“What have you done, Albus?” Grindelwald asks, the cold fingers of dread running down his spine. He should have known something was amiss. He should have recognized the mad gleam in Albus’ eyes as something more than just passion. He should have known.

 

“The spell is tied to my life, Gellert,” Albus says. “If you won’t give me your wand, you’ll have to kill me to get out.”

 

Never.” The word is wretched from Grindelwald’s throat without his consent, raw and bloody. There had to be another way.

 

“You’ve never been the self-sacrificing type, Albus.” Grindelwald tries. “You’re like me, you want the fame and recognition. The dead cannot be rewarded.”

 

“You’re right,” Albus says. “My greatest desire is my greatest flaw. Which is why I beg of you, Gellert. Let it end. If not for yourself, then for me.”

 

Grindelwald snarls—unwilling to accept that he’s been trapped. That months and years and decades of work are suddenly coming to a head.

 

Grindelwald recalls his words to the Scamander boy, will we die, just a little? It is poetic, really, that he is now facing the same question.

 

“Why should I do it for you?” Grindelwald spits the question, furious. “You left me. Ignored me. Discarded me. Why shouldn’t I let you die?” But even as he asks, he knows he won’t. He couldn’t.

 

He expects Albus to be armed with excuses. To cite reasons of morality and equality. He does not expect the apology his lover whispers, voice brittle and hollow because that well of emotion has long ago been emptied and left to ruin.

 

“I’m sorry, Gellert.”

 

It hurts to hear the apology now, after decades of wanting and waiting. The pain of if leaves him momentarily speechless.

 

“I’m so sorry, Gellert,” Albus says again, hands clenched in fists at his sides. “I needed to move on with my life, and I had hoped you would come to your senses. I would have welcomed you with open arms.”

 

Grindelwald doesn’t want to hear it. Doesn’t want honeyed promises of what could have been from this man he barely recognizes. He wants what they use to have—he wants to see his Albus ruffled and wild and free. Not this caged bird too afraid to spread its wings.

 

“You try so hard to pretend to be something you are not, Albus.” Grindelwald says. “You fear your power, and it cripples you—just imagine what we could have achieved if you just let yourself go!” Grindelwald lets himself fall into practiced words, a familiar rhetoric. “The world would bow down at our feet and we could remake it into our image. A better image.”

 

“And what of those that do not bow?” Albus asks simply, the question lacking any heat. He already knows the answer.

 

“They will be made to bow, until they learn it is for their own good.” It is harsh, but necessary.

 

“Like you made Newt bow?” Albus accuses, and it sets Grindelwald’s blood afire. Why did it always come down to that damned Scamander boy?

 

And that’s all the boy had really been to him—not Newton, or dearest, but that damn Scamander boy. He had tried to understand the appeal; he had played with the boy, touched him, held him, spoken with him—but none of it unclouded the mystery of why Albus desired him.

 

“I saw him on my way in, you know,” Albus cuts into Grindelwald’s thoughts. “The Obscurus tore a hole the size of Manhattan in your wards, right in your dungeon,” the professor spits the word in barely disguised fury. “You had no right to do that to him—or anyone else.”

 

“And why not?” Gellert needles, because it doesn’t matter if they’re both angry and fighting—any emotion is better than the frigid control Albus had before.

 

“You had no right to do that to him,” Albus repeats. “He’s good—better than the both of us could ever hope to be.”

 

Grindelwald scoffs at that, “He roams the world catching and release animals. What’s so special about that?”

 

Unexpectedly, Albus’ anger cools. Its void replaced by sadness that Grindelwald can read in the softening of the professor’s eyes. It’s a look he hasn’t seen since they were boys—a look Albus use to give him when Grindelwald would misinterpret a simple situation for a complicated one.

 

“When we were younger, we thought we were going to create a better world,” Albus beings, words soft and gentle. The tone is as familiar as the sadness of his eyes. “A greater one, we had thought. But we were doing it for the glory of it—to bolster our own egos, our sense of importance. But Newt…” Albus trails off, considering his words.

 

“Newt wants all those same things,” he continues. “He has a vision for a better world and he is fighting to see it realized—despite his odds of failure. And he’s not doing it for the glory, or the fame, or even the money. He’s doing it because it is right. Newt is a stronger man than either of us can ever hope to be,” Albus says again, rushing to finish before Grindelwald can try to disagree (not that he was about to).

 

“That’s why I helped him, Gellert. Because, no matter is he fails or succeeds, he’s leaving the world a better place than he found it. But I wanted to help him succeed.”

 

Grindelwald accepts the answer without struggle—because the truth of the matter is that he had missed Albus’ ability to explain the simplicities of the world that often evaded his understanding.

 

“Do you love him?” Grindelwald asks. Because he needs to know.

 

“Newt?” Albus questions, taken off guard. “Oh, Gellert. Is that what this has all been about?”

 

The professor turns away, a heavy hand dragging the length of his aging face, for the first time this evening, his perfect façade finally fractured—but not in the way Grindelwald had expected.

 

“I thought you knew,” Albus says softly, brokenly.

 

“Knew what?” Grindelwald asks, because this is one of those simple things again and he doesn’t understand.

 

Albus takes a breath. Runs a hand over his hair, ensuring it’s still properly coiffed. Straightens his suit. In a moment, his armour of control it back. It breaks Grindelwald’ heart a bit, because he doesn’t want Albus to think he needs to shield himself from their affections.

 

“Do you love me?” Grindelwald asks, forgetting about the Scamander boy.

 

But Albus ignores the question. “For the greater good, for Arianna, for the boys we once were—please, Gellert. Let this end.”

 

But Grindelwald can’t let it go. He needs to know, “Do you love me, still?”

 

Do you love me like I love you?

 

Albus doesn’t reply right away. He considers his words carefully, as he usually does when trying to distance himself for the matter at hand.

 

“Yours are,” he says slowly, “the only hands that have ever held my heart.”

 

Ever the diplomat.

 

“That isn’t an answer, mein schatz,” Grindelwald says softly, and a little breathless. The endearment slides into the end of the sentence so naturally that Grindelwald doesn’t realize he’s said it.

 

The professor shifts—flinches?—on the spot, clearly wanting to either advance or flee, but holding himself still.

 

“Gellert—“ Albus says, but Grindelwald cuts him off.

 

“Look at me, Albus.”

 

Surprisingly, the professor does. Their gazes lock and what breath Grindelwald had retained is stolen from him. What he wouldn’t give to live in this moment forever.

 

“You,” Albus begins, but his voice catches. He tries again. “You are the only one to have ever owned my heart,” Albus admits, and Grindelwald sighs in relief—because ownership he understands. No one can have two masters, and if he owns Albus’ heart, no one else can.

 

Grindelwald bridges the gap between them. He stops when they are scant inches apart. This close, he can see the way his lover shakes. He wants to reach out and sooth, but does not dare to touch. He may own Albus’ heart, but Albus similarly owns his. It is a mutual ownership, a mutual damnation.

 

“If I asked you for a kiss, would you give it to me?” Grindelwald asks, though their mouths are so close they are sharing air.

 

“Please,” Albus breathes, making no move to close the space between their bodies. “Please, do not ask it of me.”

 

Grindelwald wants to rage. Wants to scream. Wants to take.

 

And with anyone else, he would have. But not with Albus.

 

Instead, he looks into the eyes of the man he loves, and holds out his wand, handle first.

 

Will we die, just a little? Gellert thinks.

 

Yes, yes we do.

 

 

Chapter Text

All Newt can see playing across his eyes is the sight of Percival’s throat being sliced open over and over again. And when an Obscurus tears through the wall and swipes Grindelwald away, he hardly even blinks--it’s like the icing on top of an already towering cake of despair.

 

But then he sees a familiar figure tumble out of the smoke and for the first time in days, hope blooms in his chest. Maybe there was a chance to turn this around.

 

“Theseus!” Newt tries to yell, but his voice cracks and wheezes. He swallows past his dry throat and tries again.

 

“Theseus, save Percival!” this time his voice carries the words, but Theseus doesn’t hear him, too busy staring after the destruction of the Obscurus. But Newt needs to keep trying. Needs to save Percival. He can’t lose him now, not after everything.

 

“Theseus, save Percival!” Newt screeches, his voice torn to shreds and protesting the abuse—and his brother finally looks over to him, keen eyes quickly taking in his haggard appearance and starts towards him.

 

Newt shakes his head as obviously as he can and shouts again, “Save Percival!”

 

Bless his brother’s Auror reflexes, he quickly understands and his attention turns to Percival’s crumpled figure.

 

Newt sees that the director’s eyes are still open. That there is still blood pumping from the wound. There is still hope.

 

He’ll survive. He has too.

 

And he does. Percival gets pulled back together piece by piece, through screams and shouts, and in a matter of minutes he is up and moving—chasing after Grindelwald and what must be Credence, Newt thinks. It would make sense. He hopes Credence is ok.

 

Suddenly, Theseus is standing before him, “Newt…” he begins, voice raw. It’s not the first time that Theseus as found his little brother roughed up—Merlin knowns it happened often enough at Hogwarts—but not like this. Never like this.

 

Theseus’ hands are gentle as they cradle Newt’s cheeks, the touch so different than Grindelwald’s. Newt nuzzles happily into the familiar contact.

 

“Untie me, Thes. Please.”

 

And he does. With gentle hands and simple spells, Theseus frees his little brother and gathers the younger man into his arms. A quick spell conjures a simple robe that he wraps around Newt’s slight frame. “It’s over now, it’s all over, I’ve got you, Newt.”

 

Newt doesn’t realize he’s crying until Theseus wipes away his tears—again, it feels nothing like when Grindelwald did so. It’s not even the same kind of tears. This is relief. Unadulterated, and familiar—a deeply rooted understanding of Theseus will take care of it.

 

For the first time since his capture, Newt lets himself drop his guard, going boneless in his brother’s arms.

 

“Don’t fall asleep just yet, Newt,” Theseus says, his hands jostling the tired Magizoologist. Newt makes a sound of protest, but opens his eyes (when had the closed them?)

 

“What do you want me to heal first?” His brother continues to prod. Newt only moans in response—he doesn’t want to move. He’s warm and comfortable like this (although part of his brain acknowledges that he’s high on endorphins and really should let himself be healed before it fades).

 

And Theseus doesn’t let him rest anyway, “Come on, Newt. What do I heal first?”

 

“My back,” Newt mumbles. He just wants to sleep, regardless of what logic dictates.

 

“I’ll need you to move a bit, can you do that?” Theseus asks gently, guiding his younger brother to straddle his lap, chest to chest. Newt nuzzles into his brother’s neck and doesn’t have the energy to flinch when the robe is pulled down to expose his flayed skin.

 

Theseus makes a wounded sound at the sight of beaten, bloody flesh, but doesn’t let it slow his movements. As always, he is meticulous in his approach, and they quickly fall into a rhythm—the Auror traces his thumb across Newt’s back, feeling for tender spots, and muttering healing spells as he finds them.

 

Newt’s back is halfway healed by the time MACUSA and the Ministry arrive.

 

“Scamander!” Someone calls, but Newt doesn’t have the energy to see who. Theseus doesn’t pause in his healing as he starts explaining the situation.

 

“Grindelwald is here—Episky—and so is Percival Graves—Episky—and the Obscurial, Credence—Episky—Barebone.”

 

“The Obscurus is alive?”

 

“Yes, but—Episky—he’s on our side. He’s—Episky—fighting Grindelwald right now. Just follow the holes in—Episky—the walls. You’ll find them.”

 

Newt loathes to let his bother go, but he would rather have him helping stop Grindelwald.

 

“Go help them, Thes,” he says, attempting to push himself up and off his brother. “I’ll be fine, and they need you.”

 

To Newt’s surprise, Theseus pauses in his healing. Usually it takes more of a fight to convince Theseus to leave.

 

“I’ll be fine. Go help Credence,” Newt tries again, taking a shot in the dark.

 

And hits the bullseye. Theseus inhales sharply at the comment, but doesn’t refute it.

 

“Go,” Newt says a final time, and the Auror finally nods. Theseus places Newt back into the chair he had vacated earlier, and signs the Mediwizards over. Newt lets himself submit to their tests and diagnostic spells, giving a final squeeze to his brother’s hand and watching Theseus follow after the other Aurors.

 

The healers talk amongst themselves and Newt lets the endorphin-high finally pull him under.

 

 


 

 

Theseus sits with Credence cradled in his lap, and watches as Graves passes out on President Picquery.

 

What a fucking Day today had turned out to be.

 

The ominous red magical force-filed continued to glimmer in the middle of the room. No one really knew what to do about it—taking an offensive approach seemed dangerous, so they had no other option but to wait and hope Professor Dumbledore could manage the situation.

 

Theseus didn’t know how he felt about the fact that the entire situation was resting on the shoulders of a civilian—even one as powerful and cunning as the professor.

 

But there was nothing he could do about it now, so Theseus turned his attention to things he could control instead.

 

First, he would get Credence, Newt, and Graves to St. Mungo’s.

 

Second, he would ensure they each got the best medical attention.

 

Third, he was getting them all home (Merlin knows Newt and Graves both hate hospitals; and chances were that Credence would as well. What a stubborn lot, they were).

 

All in all, the first phase of his plan goes down fairly easily. Newt and Graves are still unconscious—but in stable conditions, he’s assured many times over by the Mediwizards— so the trajectory to the hospital goes well, and both are swept away by healers upon arrival.  All in all, a smooth transition.

 

Credence, however.

 

Not so smooth.

 

The young man is stubbornly latching onto consciousness, despite being white as a sheet and shaking like a leaf, the majority of his weight supported on Theseus’ side since he vehemently refused the offered stretcher. Theseus decides to apparate them both to the hospital.

 

But even upon arrival, Credence stubbornly refuses to let go. Not that Theseus minds—if anything it soothes some deep part of him to be so needed. To have Credence pressed against him from hip to shoulder.

 

But, this isn’t about his selfish need to touch the younger man. It’s about what Credence needs. So, when a healer approaches them, asking Credence to please follow me so we can get you checked over, and Credence turns down the offer—Theseus steps in.

 

“You need to get looked at, Credence,” the auror says, as gently, but firmly, as possible.

 

Credence does some kind of flinch-and-freeze against him, his pale hands tightening in the fabric of Theseus’ coat.

 

“Do you need to be looked at, too?” the younger man asks.

 

“No,” Theseus replies. “But I also didn’t battle the darkest wizard of our time.”

 

Credence’ only response is plaster himself impossibly closer to Theseus’ side.

 

Again, Theseus squashed down his inner beast roaring in delight. Not now.

 

“I can go in with you, if you’d like, Credence,” the Auror tries. Because there was no way Credence could leave the hospital without someone checking him over and ensuring he was indeed, healthy.

 

Credence does that flinch-freeze again.

 

“The quicker you let this healer take a look at you, the quicker we can go back home,” Theseus says. He hopes it’s a tantalizing offer, because he doesn’t have much else.

 

Credence doesn’t flinch this time, but inhales rather sharply.

 

“Home?” he parrots, a little hesitantly. As if it’s a foreign concept to have a home to go back to, and Theseus’ heart breaks a little. “Yes, Credence. Home.”

 

Finally, Credence nods—a small, shy thing. “You’ll come with me?”

 

And Theseus just has to hug him a little closer, “Yes, for as long as you want,” Theseus says. He tries to make it light, but even to his own ears it completely misses the mark.

 

The healer gives him an odd look, but had the decency not to comment. “Follow me,” she says.

 

Once Credence has been settled on a cot (no longer plastered onto Theseus’ side, but still holding his hand) the healer beings a rudimentary check-up.  She does some diagnostic spells—but not the same ones Auror use in the field. Aurors use spells that signal any serious damage, such as broken bones, starvation, and any other immediately dangerous symptoms. Healers, however, use diagnostic spells that directly measures the vitals of their patients. Which is why Theseus doesn’t understand the feedback provided by the spell, and therefore cannot explain the healer’s increasingly disturbed expression.

 

He wants to ask what’s wrong, but he doesn’t want to worry Credence. The Auror bites his tongue and waits while the healer runs a few more spells of increasing complexity.

 

However, he snaps when the healer tries to excuse herself.

 

“I’ll be right back,” she says, turning to exit the room, but Theseus catches her hand.

 

“What’s happening?” the Auror asks, feeling Credence’s cold, sweaty palm squeeze his own.

 

“It’s,” the healer begins before shaking her head. “I honestly don’t know. It’s nothing bad, per se, I just need a second opinion. I’ll try to get the Head Healer to come take a look.”

 

“Take a look at what?” Theseus needles, and the healer casts her eyes quickly between Theseus and Credence.

 

“I—his vitals are just all over the place. Nothing so extreme that it is worrisome, just out of place. But I can’t find the cause of the fluctuations, or even the source. It’s like there’s a piece missing.”

 

“But nothing serious?” Theseus confirms.

 

Thankfully the healer shakes her head. “Not that I can see, but I would prefer for our Head Healer to take a look and confirm.”

 

At that, Theseus nods. “Thank you for your thoroughness.”

 

The healer nods in return before walking out.

 

The next person to walk into the room is a short, stout man.

 

“Head Healer Brown, at your service,” the man presents himself, hand outstretched to Theseus.

 

“Auror Scamander,” Theseus says in greeting, causing the older man to quirk his brow.

 

“Any relation to the other Scamander I’ve just tended to?” the healer asks.

 

Theseus sucks in a quick breath, the healer doesn’t appear worried, so Theseus will take it as a good sign of Newt’s health.

 

“Yes, he’s my younger brother.”

 

And the healer nods along casually, looking over Credence’s chart as he keeps addressing the Auror. “Very well, very well. Your brother will make a full recovery. The majority of the damage was superficial, and very little was inflicted with magic.”

 

Theseus lets the relief wash over him, before moving on to another line of questioning. “And what of Director Graves?”

 

Again, the Head Healer answers, non-pulsed, “Ah yes, Director Graves. His case is a little more complicated, but he’ll live—of that I have no doubt.”

 

“He’ll live?” Theseus parrots. Is that the best they could hope for? “In what capacity?”

 

The healer shrugs a single shoulder, “It’s hard to say at this point. The damage runs deep, and his magic is still being siphoned down to a manageable level. His legs and shoulders are severely deformed. But we are still working on him, so we’ll see what happens.”

 

The healer says all of this while skimming Credence’s file, radiating absolute calm. Finally, the old man looks up, pinning Theseus in place with a keen gaze. “Fear not, Auror Scamander. The director is getting treated by a team of highly skilled healers. Plus,” the man explains, eyes moving to Credence for the first time. “We have a young gentleman right here who needs our attention. Credence, is it?”

 

Credence nods his head, eyes widening slightly at the sudden shift in focus.

 

“I’m going to take my wand out and run a few tests on you, is that alright, Credence?” the healer asks. He waits for Credence to nod.

 

Again, the diagnostic spells offer feedback that Theseus cannot comprehend, so he waits for an explanation.

 

It’s a few minutes later that the Head Healer addresses them again. The man has run several tests, but his face (unlike the previous healer) does not betray any emotion.

 

“I have a single question,” the healer says, lowering his wand. “And I need you to be frank. I cannot help you otherwise.”

 

Theseus is quick to answer, “Yes, yes, of course.”

 

The healer regards Theseus, then Credence, before looking back to the Auror.

 

“Credence is the Obscurial, yes? The one from America.”

 

Denial is the first thing on Theseus’ lips, and the healer reads his intention from his eyes. “Frankness, Auror Scamander. I need the truth.”

 

Theseus snaps his mouth shut, mildly chastened, and reigns in his anger.

 

“So what if he is?” There, that was somewhat civil.

 

And, to the Auror’s confusion, the healer is nodding his head, “Good, good. That’s very good.”

 

“Good?” Theseus asks, skeptical.

 

“Yes,” the healer says, casting some more spells, and this time displaying open satisfaction. “You’re perfectly healthy, young man.”

 

“What about the… fluctuations? The missing piece,” Theseus questions. What was happening?

 

The healer doesn’t skip a beat, “It is my professional opinion that the Obscurus has moved on, or died. In any case, it no longer inhabits Credence.” The man says, offering Credence a smile. “And the fluctuations are the result of Credence’s body trying to adjust. Like a dormant muscle flexing. Now,” the healer continues without pause, leaving Credence and Theseus reeling at the sudden news. “I would like to conduct a quick physical of you, Credence. Just to ensure there aren’t any physical markers we’ve missed.”

 

“Physical?” Credence asks, eyes very wide, and his hand squeezing the life from Theseus’ hand.

 

“Yes,” the healer says. “If you’d be so kind as to pop off your shirt—“

 

“No,” Credence cuts in suddenly, and the room falls into an awkward silence.

 

“I’m afraid I really must insist,” the healer says.

 

“Credence,” Theseus says, stepping in to reassure the younger man. “It’s going to be alright, you’ve already done so well—“

 

This time, it is he who is cut off.

 

“I need you to wait outside, Theseus,” Credence says, letting go of the Auror’s hand.

 

Wait, what?

 

“Huh?” the Auror asks eloquently.

 

“Please, go wait outside,” Credence repeats.

 

What was happening?

 

Credence takes his silence as a refusal. “You said you would stay as long as I wanted you to. And now I want you outside,” Credence says all of this with his eyes fixed on his lap, hands wringing together.

 

Next, the healer jumps in. “Auror Scamander, if you please,” the man gestures to the door.

 

Still struck speechless, Theseus picks up his pride and turns to the door. Some petulant part of him wants to slam it, but he resists. Credence didn’t owe him anything. Merlin, he was acting like a teenager who got turned down for the Yule Ball.

 

A few minutes later the healer exits, bee-lining to where Theseus is leaning against the opposite wall, stewing in his own misery.

 

“I don’t normally do this,” the healer begins, “but I think I understand what happened in there,” the man says.

 

“Is that so?” Theseus bites. He was being an asshole, but he didn’t really care right now.

 

“Look,” the healer says, clearly unimpressed by the Auror’s petulant behaviour. “The young man clearly looks up to you in some capacity. He cares about your opinion.”

 

Theseus scoffs at that, “Clearly not, he didn’t want me with him.”

 

The healer just barely stops himself from rolling his eyes. “He’s covered in scars, Auror Scamander. Deep and old and ugly. He’s likely ashamed of them.”

 

Oh.

 

“You think he doesn’t want me to see his scars?” Theseus asks.

 

The healer nods, “It’s very normal behaviour. Most victims fear showing vulnerability. Especially to those they care about.”

 

“Oh.” Well, that was just making him feel worse.

 

“If I can offer a bit of advice,” the healer continues. “Show him some of yours. I’m sure you have some due to your time as an Auror. Show him that he’s not alone.”

 

With that, the healer turns and leaves.

 

Theseus enters Credence’s room, where the young man has finished redressing himself and sits on his cot, facing away from the door.

 

Credence looks so small against the white walls of the room. His narrow shoulders are hunched all the way to his ears and his head is ducked down in a way Theseus hasn’t seen since their first day together. The sight tugs at his heart. He wants to see Credence standing straight, speaking his mind, staring the rest of the world in the eye and showing it who he is. He wants to see Credence flourish and grow—and most of all, he wants to see him happy. Wants to see him smile and laugh.

 

So, Theseus doesn’t think, just shucks his coat and starts unbuttoning his shirt and vest, throwing them off.

 

Credence turns at the sound of clothing falling to the ground.

 

“Theseus, what are you…”

 

Theseus marches forward, standing right in front of the younger man, grabbing one of Credence’s hands and holding it to a scar he has across his hip.

 

“I got this one in the war, I slipped and landed on some barbwire. Truly stupid. It’s scarred over because I did a shoddy job healing it and it got all infected. This one,” Theseus continues, drawing Credence’s hand up his torso to rest on his ribs. “I got during a raid. Someone hit me with a slicing hex. And this…”

 

Theseus continues, he explains the story of all the scars he can remember, and admits he has some that he can’t remember getting—and all the while Credence is transfixed, allowing his hand to drag along Theseus’ skin and over the bumps and ridges of his body.

 

Theseus doesn’t pause, doesn’t look at Credence all the while he’s monologuing, but once he runs out of words he peaks up beneath his lashes to look at the young man’s face.

 

And Credence is crying, cheeks streaked with tears, creating wet patches on his shirt when they drip off.

 

“What do you think of my scars, Credence?” Theseus asks.

 

“I’m sorry that you were hurt,” the young man says.

 

“Yes, but what do you think of them? Do you think they make me lesser? Or ugly?”

 

No,” Credence answers immediately.

 

Theseus bends at the knees until he’s level with Credence. So that he can look the younger man straight in the eyes.

 

“So why do you think I’ll think any less of you for yours?”

 

Credence’s breath hitches, an ugly twisted sound. Fresh tears slip down his face.

 

“They’re—they’re everywhere, Theseus. All over me. I’m ruined.”

 

“No, you’re not. Not even close,” Theseus says. “You’re a survivor, Credence. And all the more beautiful for it. They are the marks of everything you’ve bested. Of everything you’ve surmounted. You are kind, and good, and giving despite the ugliness you were made to endure. Despite the ugliness that was inflicted on you. They do not make you ugly, or ruined, or less.”

 

Theseus takes Credence’s face between his hands, and Credence lets him. “You are more. More than what they tried to beat you into, more than what they could ever imagine.”

 

Credence takes Theseus’ hands, brings them under his shirt and over the base of his back, where Theseus feels the thick scar tissue.

 

“How is this not repulsive?” Credence asks, but the Auror can see the glimmer of hope in the depth of his eyes.

 

It gives Theseus and idea. A terrible, terrible idea—he’ll probably regret this. He really shouldn’t. Oh, he really shouldn’t.

 

But looking into Credence’s eyes, his sense of logic is thrown out the window. Fuck it.

 

Theseus uses his grip on Credence’s back to flip their positions—seating the Auror on the cot with Credence in his lap, their hands still on Credence’s back, under his shirt.

 

Credence’s mouth opens in surprise, a little gasp escaping his pink mouth—and Theseus claims those beautiful lips in a kiss, channeling days and days of pent-up longing and desire and letting it pour out. He doesn’t reach up to cup Credence’s head like he wants to, doesn’t control the kiss. If Credence doesn’t want this, he can easily pull away.

 

But the young man doesn’t—he freezes at first, and then melts. Goes absolutely boneless under Theseus’ hands, lush mouth parting even wider to give Theseus better access.

 

Theseus moans at the sweet surrender, finally allowing his hands to roam further up Credence’s back, trailing light finger over every scar he finds—showering them all in love. Theseus can tell Credence is crying again, can taste salt on their lips, but he doesn’t stop.

 

At some point, Credence winds his arms around Theseus’ neck, plastering their chests together. And they just keep kissing each other, parting long enough to catch their breaths before diving in again.

 

And again.

 

And again.

Chapter Text

Newt wakes to hands. So many hands on him, touching and probing.

 

And he doesn’t think—just starts struggling, trying his best to dislodge them and protect himself. He hurts so much—he can’ take much more. And Percival. Where is Percival?

 

Distantly he hears voices arguing, “...awake...needs...”

 

Sterile smells. Potions. Healers.

 

Right , they were rescued. Theseus and Credence were there. And Grindelwald.

 

“Wait…” Newt argues feebly. There is a hand cradling his head. A bottle at his lips.

 

“Are they ok?” he asks, desperate. “Did they make it out? Are they safe?”

 

A voice replies, but Newt can’t tell from where, all he sees are shadows outlined by bright lights. “There haven’t been any casualties or major injuries, Mr. Scamander. Please let us finish healing you.”

 

Comforted by the news, Newt allows the potion to be poured into his mouth and falls back into the familiar darkness.

 

The next time he wakes, it’s to a commotion of voices. They are muffled and distant, but definitely arguing. Intrigued, Newt opens his eyes.

 

He’s alone in a dark room, the lights are off but moonlight streams in from the window. He’s dressed in the standard hospital gown, the thin fabric chafing at his newly healed skin. His body doesn’t hurt, but there is a lingering ache—the kind even healing potions can’t quite remove. He moves to sit up, and feels the stiffness of a bandage across his throat.

 

Newt reaches a hand to touch at the singular injury, probing it through the barrier.

 

The branded G throbs in protest.

 

All at once, the memory floods him—Grindelwald touching him, whipping him, branding him. Grindelwald torturing Percival. The screaming—so, so much screaming—from pain, horror, and surprise.

 

Newt’s stomach heaves, bile burning his throat even though his stomach has nothing to vomit.

 

The voice in the hallway shouts again, pulling Newt’s attention like a dog on a leash. Newt still can’t decipher what is being said, but they sound distressed.

 

Before his mind can register his actions, Newt has thrown the covers off of himself and starts towards his door. He pauses with his hand on the handle, second-guessing himself. Perhaps he should stay in bed?

 

No. Anything was better than wallowing in the past. Newt turns the knob and steps out into the brightly lit corridor. The shouting is much clearer out here, and Newt easily follows the noise, his bare feet barely making any sound against the pristine hospital floor.

 

At the crossroads of corridors, Newt sees Percival feebly fighting some healers.

 

“I’m fine!” the director half-shouts, stubbornly pushing off multiple healers’ hands. “I just need to find Newt. Have you seen Newt?”

 

But the healers ignore their patient’s request, and keep attempting to corral him towards the elevators.

 

“We need to take you back to your room, Mr. Graves, if you could please…” one of the healers says.

 

“No, no, I need to find Newt. You. You don’t understand ,” Percival keeps arguing, movements growing increasingly spastic.

 

“Percival,” Newt calls, voice choked—and Percival’s eyes snap to him. Like a moth to a light, the man fights his way past the healers, and takes Newt into his arms.

 

Newt doesn’t fight it—he lets himself be embraced and hugs the man tightly in return, burying his nose in the crook of Percival’s neck.

 

“You’re alright. Are you alright?” Percival whispers into Newt’s auburn hair, voice tight.

 

“Yes, yes, I’m fine, Percival,” Newt says, squeezing the man a little tighter in the circle of his arms.

 

But Percival pulls away, “Let me look at you. Are you certain? What’s this—“ the director questions, quickly taking in Newt’s appearance and the presence of the bandage. Percival trails a single finger delicately along the borders before Newt stops the trajectory by laying his hand over the man’s.

 

“Percival,” he says, trying to catch the man’s wandering gaze. “I’m fine. I promise. And now you need to let the healers look at you .”

 

But Percival ignores him, his free hand still feeling along the length of Newt’s back. Searching for injuries that no longer exist.

 

“Percival, look at me…Percival!” Newt shouts, grabbing the stubborn man by the cheeks. “Let them take care of you.”

 

“I’m fi—“ Percival tries to say, but Newt cuts him off.

 

“If not for yourself, then for me. Please,” Newt insists. Why did Aurors always have to be so stubborn?

 

The director doesn’t respond—he is motionless beneath Newt’s hands. And suddenly, Newt recognizes this behaviour—and he corrects his initial assumption that Percival was being stubborn and refusing care because of some misplaced Auror-pride- thing. Newt recognized the dilated pupils, and slight shine of his eyes—the older man was afraid.

 

The magizoologist lets his hands trail back into the director’s hair, combing through the lengthy tresses to cup Percival’s head in his hands, right at the back of his neck. Locking their gazes.

 

“Put your hands over mine,” Newt instructs calmly. Percival does without hesitation, but his eyes wide and unblinking, and his breath is still too shallow. Anyone paying attention could spot the staccato beat.

 

But most people don’t pay attention.

 

Newt takes a careful step backwards, pulling Percival along. The man follows seamlessly, eyes locked with Newt’s.

 

“Where do you need him?” Newt asks the healers, not looking away from Percival.

 

“His room is a floor up…” the head healer says a little hesitantly.

 

“Could we use my room? It is just a few doors down,” Newt asks, playing with the hairs at the base of Percival’s to keep the man calm and focused.

 

“Yeah. Yeah, ok,” the head healer agrees, turning to his colleagues who all nod in agreement.

 

“Good, follow me,” Newt says, walking backwards gently, allowing Percival plenty of time to follow. One step, then another.

 

“There you are, Percival. You’re doing so well…” Newt encourages, feeling Percival’s hands shake and squeeze over his own. “We’re almost there,” he continues.

 

Percival is silent throughout, but he keeps following after Newt as the younger man leads them into his vacated room. Someone turns on the lights as Newt pulls Percival to the bed.

 

The healers follow them silently, only approaching once Percival has settled.

 

“What do you need from him?” Newt asks, one hand still cupping the man’s skull while the other rests on the director’s thigh.

 

“Just running some checks to ensure everything is healing properly.”

 

The healers wait for Percival to nod his consent before proceeding. But the man remains unusually quiet and still throughout—and his eyes never leave Newt’s.

 

*

 

It all feels like a dream to Percival.

 

Newt stays seated with him on the soft hospital cot even after the healers have left—informing them that while his body is technically healed, his shoulders and legs are permanently weakened. Percival doesn’t think too hard about the implications that will have on his job moving forward. Or his life.

 

His breathing must get noticeably shallow again, because Newt begins to gently shush him.

 

“You’re ok… you did so well… shhhh, I’m here, you’re alright, Percival…”

 

Percival’s body moves on autopilot—like it had in the hallway—and he just turns completely into Newt’s embrace. Again, Newt returns the hug.

 

It must be a dream. It felt real—Newt’s warmth pressed against him, and his gentle hands soothing the small hairs at the base of his neck.

 

But it couldn’t be real. It just couldn’t.

 

So why is he still holding on? Get ahold of yourself, Graves.

 

“You’re alright Percival. You did so well.”  Newt kept a steady stream of reasurances flowing, filling the void of silence that would exist otherwise.

 

“I’m here now. I’ve got you, Percival.” The magizoologist says, and he sounds so damn sincere that it breaks Percival’s remaining composure. Ruins the fantasy, because it couldn’t possibly… couldn’t ever… not after what he had allowed to happen

 

“No you’re not !” Percival means to say, but it comes out more as a strangled sob, muffled against the bandage on Newt’s throat. Because he’s weak and he still can’t fucking let go.

 

Newt goes completely still, the gentle caresses freezing mid-motion. Percival’s breath catches somewhere in his throat. He wants to take the words back, but he can’t and he shouldn’t want to because it wasn’t real anyway, and it will be better to stop pretending now than later.

 

Slowly, so slowly, Newt’s hand pull the director away from his embrace.

 

Percival doesn’t fight the separation, but he’s shaking. His eyes sting and there is bile in his throat because he doesn’t want it to end, doesn’t want Newt to leave. But he will. Of course he fucking will. Why would he stay?

 

Percival wants to scream, but he doesn’t. He lets his head be guided until he’s once again snared in the stare of the magizoologist.  

 

“Do you want me to leave?” Newt asks so simply. As if it’s Percival’s choice. As if there is any chance that he could keep this beautiful, amazing, courageous person.

 

He can’t speak. Instead his eyes flicker down to the bandage on Newt’s throat. One of many injuries that were his fault.

 

Newt’s face twists into a frown, a hand coming up to cover the bandage self-consciously.

 

“He doesn’t own me,” the redhead spitfires.

 

And then it’s Percival’s turn to frown. “Of course now. No one could ever own you.”

 

Newt’s frown deppens. “Then what’s wrong?”

 

“You’re hurt.” Percival says plainly.

 

“And? He hurt you, too.”

 

“It’s different --”

 

“How could it possibly be different?”

 

“Because I should have protected you!” Percival yells. Whatever control he still possessed implodes, words pouring from him like water escaping a damn.

 

“He made me choose, and I didn’t choose you. I couldn’t.” It hurts, it hurts so much to say. It had been the hardest decision he ever made, to choose MACUSA over Newt.

 

“I let this happen. It’s my fault. He hurt you, and it’s my fault.” Each confession is pulled from his mouth like teeth, bloody and awful. Leaving gaping holes in their wake. Percival can barely breathe from the pain of it.

 

“I’m sorry. I’m so damn sorry, Newt.” Percival says, because that’s what he’s been trying to get to. Because it’s his fault and he needs to apologize, and there is no way Newt will actually forgive him, but he still has to say it. He needs Newt to know.

 

“Newt, I—” Percival beings, but Newt interrupts.

 

“Stop. Just stop for a minute,” the ginger man instructs.

 

Percival can’t decipher what that tone of voice means, so he shuts his mouth and awaits judgment. Surely this is when the charade ends. This is when Newt leaves for good.

 

Percival grinds his teeth together to keep from begging the man to stay.

 

The silence hangs heavy for a long moment. Percival doesn’t dare look up at Newt. He knows he’ll crack if he does.

 

“Percival, will you look at me?” Newt asks gently.

 

It almost kills him, but Percival does. And when Newt reaches up to cradle his jaw between warm hands, Percival thinks this might not be the worst way to go. Much better than on the battlefield somewhere like he always thought his end would come.

 

“Percival,” Newt begins softly. “What have you decided will happen next?”

 

“You’ll leave and I won’t ever see you again.”

 

“And why is that?” Newt asks, voice soft but controlled. This isn’t how Percival thought this was going to go at all. Does Newt want him to confess again?

 

“Because I failed you. You were under my protection, and I allowed him to hurt you. You deserve better than that. Better than what I allowed to happen to you. You deserve—” Percival’s self-deprecating monologue is cut short.

 

“I am not your responsibility, Percival” Newt says plainly. “I never expected you to protect me.”

 

“I’m sorry, I know I failed—” Percival tries again.

 

No . You’re not listening to me.” Newt interrupts again, squeezing Percival’s cheeks to get the Auror’s attention again.

 

“You already carry the weight of MACUSA on your shoulders. I refuse to be another burden for you to carry. My safety is not your responsibility, but my own. You didn’t fail. What happened to me isn’t on you . If anyone should be apologizing, it should be me .” Newt explains hotly. “You almost died because of me. When he cut your—” Newt’s voice catches before he can finish the sentence. “If Theseus and Credence hadn’t arrived when they did, I don’t know what I would have done, Percival,” Newt admits, voice shaky. He takes a deep breath before continuing.

 

“What I’m trying to say is that we both had to make some terrible decisions in there. And I definitely won’t fault you for yours, if you don’t fault me for mine,” Newt finishes.

 

Percival is struck speechless. This beautiful, beautiful man.

 

“You’re staying?” Percival clarifies, hesitant but hopeful.

 

And when Newt nods his head, the Auror could bet his heart beat right out of his chest. With a watery laugh, Percival takes Newt into his arms again, squeezing him tight.

 

It doesn’t take long for laughs and smiles to give away to tears. Percival is the first to crack, heaving huge wet sobs. He’s so fucking tired and he’ll never be the same and he doesn’t know what he’s going to do. But Newt is steadfast in his reassurances. It’s over. They are safe. No one can hurt them anymore.

 

Newt guides him  through the storm of emotion and guilt and fear, until they are both cried out and exhausted, but sated. It feels good to have talked about it. To have peeled away the worries and to have felt them dissipate. Percival feels lighter.

 

They sit on the hospital cot for a long time, warm, safe, and comforted. A perfect moment in time that Percival never wants to outgrow.

 

But the world goes on, and eventually the bubble is burst.

 

“Can I ask you a favour, Percival?” Newt asks into the silence of the room, only punctuated by their quiet breathing and their hearts beating in tandem.

 

“Anything.” Percival answers, the words slipping from him effortlessly.

 

“My neck… where Grindelwald branded me. They couldn’t heal it.”

 

“Ok,” Percival acknowledges, and waits for Newt to continue.

 

Newt takes a few moments to gather his words. “I don’t want to be reminded of him for the rest of my life. I would like… If you don’t mind… I was thinking you could change the mark. Maybe.” Newt rambles nervously.

 

“I want to help you, Newt. I do. But I don’t understand how you want me to heal you when the healers could not.”

 

“I’m not talking about healing! I want you to add to it. Make it PG instead of G .” Newt says.

 

“That would be painful, Newt. I don’t think I can…”

 

“Please, Percival. You said anything.”

 

Damn it.

 

“I didn’t expect torture to be what you asked for.”

 

Instead of answering, Newt climbs onto Percival’s lap and wraps his hands around the Auror’s neck. Percival’s arms wind around the younger man’ waist automatically, holding him close.

 

“Please,” Newt begs again, head titled innocently to the side so Percival is eye level with the damn bandage.

 

“You’re certain?” Percival questions as he lifts a single finger to trace the edges of the bandage.

 

“Yes,” Newt replies, his voice hitching at the contact on his throat.

 

“I’ll do it when you’re asleep,” Percival agrees, thinking that it will settle the matter. But Newt has other ideas.

 

“No. Now, please.”

 

Why?” Percival questions, voice thick with confusion and unease. Why did Newt want this? Hadn’t he been hurt enough?

 

“I don’t want to remember him,” Newt whispers against Percival’s hair, breathing in the scent of safety. “I want to look at it, to touch it, and think of you. To remember that if I am to belong to someone, it is you and not him.”

 

“And you’re fine with belonging to me, as long as it isn’t him.”

 

That gets Newt to pause. “It goes beyond that, but yes.”

 

“Oh?” Percival needles. Which causes the prettiest blush to colour Newt’s cheeks.

 

“Will you just.. do it? Please?” Newt asks again, growing slightly impatient. Maybe a tad flustered.

 

“Ok. But, on one condition,” Percival says, arms locking tighter around Newt’s body.

 

“Anything,” Newt echoes his words from earlier. They were such a sappy mess. Percival couldn’t believe he hadn’t realized earlier.

 

Well, there really wasn’t any time like the present, right?

 

“Marry me.”

 

It strikes Newt speechless, his beautiful mouth hanging open in shock.

 

“Are you serious? You don’t have too—”

 

Percival cuts him off. “My Patronus is a Thunderbird. At Ilvermorny, it’s the house of the spirit. Of the Adventurers. Like Frank. Like you.”

 

But Newt isn’t having any of it. “We’ve never even kissed !”

 

Well.

 

“I can fix that,” Percival says, big hands running the length of Newt’s thighs in what is supposed to be a reassuring manner, but likely comes across more suggestive.

 

Newt looks down at Percival’s hands, back up at his face, and back again. The situation finally seems to register fully because he breaks out into a big smile.

 

So without further response, Newt closes the distance between them, his mouth an offering that Percival gladly accepts.




 

It’s a few days later that the quartette is released from the hospital. Since they are in England, it is decided that they will settle at the Scamander household in order to recover fully.

 

“MACUSA can wait a little longer,” Percival promises Newt, when the magizoologist worries they are keeping the director from his duties.

 

Newt’s parents are first delighted, then flustered when they learn that they will be hosting two extra guests.

 

“All four of you? Oh my, but we haven’t that many rooms —” Mrs. Scamander worries, but Newt is quick to reassure her.

 

“Just three rooms, mother. Percival and I will share my old room—“ Newt beings to explain, but is cut off by Theseus.

 

“Make that two, please,” the Auror says, a little hesitantly. His eyes squarely on the ground, and…

 

Is he blushing? Newt thinks. Impossible.

 

“Credence insisted,” Theseus clarifies, cheeks growing pinker.

 

Yup, he’s definitely blushing.

 

The look on their mother’s face is nearly comical. It quickly turns to joy, however.

 

Mrs. Scamander claps her hands gleefully and sets off to organize with the house elves.

 

“So, you and Credence, huh…” Newt questions lightly, once she has gone.

 

“Oh, don’t you start, Newton,” Theseus chastens. “I’ve seen your neck, you’ll need a higher collar if you’re thinking of hiding your little mark.”

 

But Newt only shrugs his shoulders. “At least we’re getting married, what excuse do you have?”

 

Theseus’ gaping expression is worth his mother’s squeal from the next room.  

 

“You… and Graves…?” Theseus stutters.

 

“Yes,” Newt answers, pulling out his wand to get some water boiling on the kitchen stove. “And you and Credence, apparently. Tea? We have a lot to catch up on.”

 


 

How Dumbledore’s life had come to this, he had no idea.

 

The man he loved, a genocidal maniac at his core, was chain to the wall of the highest turret of his own castle, as Dumbledore warded the place to become a self-sufficient prison. Once locked, no one would ever be able to come back in, or out, while he still lived.

 

It had been Dumbledore’s own idea to make it a permanent closure. The professor had learnt a long time ago that removing temptation altogether was the key to maintaining a course. Like never responding to Gellert’s letters. Like accepting a position at Hogwarts instead of at the Ministry. Like locking away the man he loves and throwing away the key.

 

It’s a long and arduous process, getting the warding done correctly. But there is also a chance that Dumbledore is stalling to draw out the inevitable.  

 

Gellert remains oddly silent throughout, simply watching the professor as he works.

 

Only once the last interior ward has been laid, does Dumbledore break the silence.

 

“Any last requests before I leave, Gellert?” the professor asks, turning his head in the direction of the blond man, but not meeting his eyes.

 

“Albus,” Gellert breathes, his accent caressing the word, rendering the pronunciation unique. Dumbledore tries to stifle the wave of shivers that race up his spine.

 

“Yes?”

 

“Will you look at me? If this is to be the last time?”

 

Dumbledore isn’t surprised, but the way his heart clenches doesn’t hurt any less with the knowledge. He looks up into mismatched eyes and tries to remember to breath.

 

“Mein schatz,” Gellert says it like a prayer. Perhaps to him, it is. “Bearer of my heart. Owner of my heart,” the man continues, “come closer.”

 

Dumbledore tries to convince himself that he is allowed a few moments of weakness. Gellert was captured, about to be locked away for the rest of time; surely they could have this one last moment.

 

Dumbledore approaches until there is only a few feet between them.

 

“Closer,” Gellert whispers, hands curled in the chains that hold him, using them to lean himself further forward.

 

Dumbledore advances until they are a hair’s breadth apart and he can count the flecks of colour in Gellert’s eyes, tracing their pattern like a well-loved constellation.

 

“Yes?”

 

“My last request,” the dark wizard whispers, head angled to speak by the professor’s ear, “is for you to promise to never forget me. To never forget us.”

 

Oh, how those words hurt. But, the professor nods anyway, heart in his throat.

 

Gellert drinkings in the emotion, a demon feeding on the remnants of the professor’s soul. “Out loud, Albus. Promise me.”

 

“I promise.” The words are thick as blood, curdled and poisoned.

 

Gellert’s eyes shine with victory and his mouth curls in a smirk. “You’ll be back for me, one day.”

 

“This is goodbye, Gellert.” Dumbledore says.

 

“But it doesn’t have to be. You’ll tire of this mundane fight. You need an adversary, you always have. I’ll be here when the time comes.” Gellert promises, mismatched eyes gleaming in the low light. “You’ll be back for me.”

 

Dumbledore doesn’t respond. Can’t respond. The words land like physical blows and Dumbledore feels his composure fracturing. The moment of weakness was over.

 

Taking one last look at Gellert, Dumbledore turns and leaves. He hears Gellert shouting at his retreating back, the words echoing in his head even after the door shuts behind his back,

 

You’ll be back. You’ll be back. You’ll be back.

 

He had thought it was going to be easier, confronting Gellert. He had assumed that their years of separation had dulled his feelings. But he had been wrong. Everything had come rushing back to the surface the second their eyes had locked.

 

Dumbledore doesn’t have time to reminisce, or grieve for the boys they once were. Instead, he steels his spine and starts setting the remaining wards.

 

You’ll be back. You’ll be back. You’ll be back.

 

Dumbledore thinks of Newt, and Director Graves, and Credence, and the countless others that Gellert had harmed. For them, he won’t come back.

 

He’d done what was necessary—it was simply poetic that he had had to bury his heart in the process. And deep down, Dumbledore wishes he never ran out of wards to set. Wishes he could stay in the moment indefinitely. Wishes he have to find a way to live with yet another burden. Another failure.

 

He lowers his arm slowly when the last ward has been cast. The silence is deafening.

 

Dumbledore doesn’t cry—he trained himself out of the ability a long time ago. It had seemed a good idea then; it had made him feel more mature. More in control. Tears were a show of weakness, and he wanted to be the best. Him and Gellert.

 

He wishes he could cry now.

 

Instead, he pulls on his mask of calm and pushed the feelings aside. He’d learn to live with them, just as he had learned to live with each of his other burdens.

 

Plus, there was still work to be done—the signs were everywhere. A darkness brewing in the world—both magical and non-magical. Gellert’s activities were only the beginning of something much dark to come.