Eyes could tell a lot about people’s personalities.
Percival would know; he’d spent years interrogating criminals and dark wizards of the sort. He knew the shifty eyed ones who refused to make eye contact. The eyes that blinked too much and he could even recall criminals whose eyes crossed when they were lying. Or he could tell when some of them (though rarely) were being honest. The way their gaze met his, steady and earnest, wanting to clear their name or get some of their punishment cleared off.
Eyes, the windows to the soul; they allowed him to read people and he’s very good at reading people. Eyes, as he recalled, reflect everything.
He’d seen lots of eyes over the years, not all of them dishonest. All sorts of colors dance in the light. Warm brown eyes, firm yet gently caring. Sparkling blue eyes, loving and lively. Dark brown eyes, commanding and fierce. Green eyes, kind and eccentric. Life and wonder reflecting in those green orbs flecked with pristine blue.
He cleared his throat, thoughts of green eyes clearing from his mind. It was irritating, constantly thinking of those eyes. Even more so when he knew exactly who they belonged to. It seemed they were determined to interrupt him of his work. Determined to have his full attention; to gaze at him with warmth and kindness that he didn’t see in a lot of people. He could count very few people in his life that had ever looked at him that way.
Like the way those eyes were looking at one Porpentina Goldstein.
He’d just stepped out of his office only briefly, to get started on his third cup of coffee when he noticed the two of them together, speaking about occamy eggshells or something of that sort. He’s not really listening to their conversation, at least, he’s trying to convince himself of that. Goldstein’s desk wasn’t far away from where they kept the coffee supplies, so it’s not like he couldn’t hear them. It’s just a matter he was trying to convince himself that he was not eavesdropping.
Which, he totally wasn’t.
“Do they start out as pure silver or does it develop?”
“They start out as pure silver. That’s why their nests are always ransacked. Or traffickers will kidnap a mated pair and keep them in mills.”
“I know, but there aren’t many. Occamys are hard to catch and extremely dangerous when threatened.”
All around him, all sorts of activity were going on; files being waved around, chatter and occasionally a laugh sounding from someone. Everyone looked busy, even Goldstein was typing up a report as Scamander chatted with her. From one side of the room, he heard Ashwood speaking urgently with Patel about something, more than likely a case. The two of them worked together well, Patel’s attention to detail and Ashwood’s down to earth personality balanced each other out. Especially with the major break through in one of their most impressive cases. This one involving almost the entire auror department.
There was a raid only two months ago, where they shut down a ring of wizards selling no-mag children to buyers in various parts of the world. Most got away, unfortunately, but they did manage to rescue most of the children, obliviating them and returning them back to the city. If he closed his eyes, he could still picture it now. A building full of rusted metal cages holding children, some no bigger than a three-year-old. They had cowered when he and the others entered after taking down all the traffickers, scrambling with bony limbs to the back of their prisons. They were absolutely terrified of them, whimpering and crying. The older ones begging to be left alone; the younger ones crying for their mothers. He had opened one cage door, a small girl with dirty blonde hair curled into a little ball. It was only when he pulled her into his arms that he realized she was dead.
Her name, as he found out later, was Dorothy Farwell. She was only two years old.
It was one of the more unpleasant part of their jobs. The Junior aurors were all warned of it, told that they would see things that would sicken most people. Yet, they were the same. They saw the worst of humanity; the worst things that wizards could do to each other and to the no-mag population, but they still felt it. He could see the rage on O’Malley’s face when he apprehended several of the traffickers. He saw the paleness of Anderson’s face; the protective way Patel cradled one small child in her arms.
They were battle hardened, he and the Senior Aurors, but not immune. The Junior Aurors, the new ones anyway, were immediately shell shocked. Completely unprepared for the sight before them. Weeks later, a few of them even resigned their positions. Did he blame them? No, no he did not.
The traffickers, from what he read from their reports, had no names yet. They didn’t even know if they were American, but they suspected they were part of the ring they broke down those two months ago. Picking up the pieces and trying to reestablish their “trade”. It’s disturbing, he’ll give it that. Ashwood and Patel had been working hard on this case, dedicating all their time to it. Patel had three children of her own; a reason to want these wizards put away for life or executed. Ashwood had neither, but he’d never known another auror with a stronger sense of right and wrong.
Blinking quickly, he pulled himself out of his thoughts and back to the task at hand. The coffee pot in his hands, ready to be poured into the cup but nothing came out. The noise was gone, shuffling away into the back ground like some distant echo until it faded away completely. There was no wall with the pictures of fallen aurors in front of him, only emptiness. Black emptiness entrapping him; a void he couldn’t escape from. He could not move, unable to even feel the cup and pot in his hands. He could feel a trickle of sweat that ran down his neck, dripping to the floor with a loud plink.
Everything was cold. A bone chilling sort of cold that pierced right through him. No light; no warmth. Just a numb cold that engulfed his entire form. His ears picked up laughter and his stomach churned violently. He knew that laugh; he knew it better than anyone else in the whole world.
Grindelwald stood before him wearing a cruel smirk. With coldness in his eyes like a star burning far away in the night sky. Unfeeling. Callous to what he had been doing to those around him. “How are we today, Director Graves?” he asked, but it was more of a taunt really. “Director Graves-”
It was like someone performed a Lumos spell and the darkness vanished. Silence descended on the room and he felt everyone’s eyes on him. He only then realized that the coffee had spilled from the pot, the glass slipping to the floor with an ear shattering crack. A flare of embarrassment made his stomach clench uneasily and he cleared his throat, using a bit of wandless magic to clean the mess up and repair the broken objects.
“Carry on,” he ordered with a hoarse voice, and for a quick moment, no one moved until Tina cleared her throat. Her concerned eyes were not the only ones looking at him. Those blue eyes were fixated on him, unspoken worry in those dazzling orbs.
He inwardly groaned. He did not just call Newt Scamander’s, his best friend’s little brother, eyes dazzling. No. No, no, no. He was not about to cross that road; Theseus would probably hex him if he even tried to ask out his “precious baby brother.”
He wanted to leave and stop his senior aurors from getting distracted, but he couldn’t. His feet couldn’t seem to remember how to move, and he was suddenly aware of how everyone was staring at him, wondering if they should say anything.
“You have ten seconds to get back to work, or I’ll make you all rewrite your reports.”
He gave an inward sigh of relief at the sudden flurry of movement as his aurors returned to their jobs. Only Tina and Newt continued to observe him, with a mixture of sympathy and worry in their expressions. Newt’s cup of tea was still held tightly in his hands, smalls puffs of steam rising from the beverage and Tina’s own cup of coffee lay abandoned near a stack of papers on her desk that she wasn’t looking over.
As if sensing what he was thinking, Tina shook her head. “Newt’s not distracting me, Mr. Graves. These are just some permits I’ve filled out for him.”
As if to prove himself, Newt wandlessly waved a piece of paper over and held it almost shyly between long fingers. Indeed, it was a permit for a creature, a nundu or… Merlin help them, another niffler. He couldn’t recall how many times in the past seven months since his rescue that the creature had found its way into his office, taking random heirlooms and trinkets before Newt would catch it and return the items back with a red hue spreading across his cheeks.
He didn’t mind, not really anyway. It gave him more reason to check up on his charms and make sure the greedy little thing didn’t find its way into his office anymore. It gave him more of a reason to see Newt anyway.
If he weren’t good at keeping his emotions in check, his face would have matched the pink that dusted Newt’s face as he continued to gaze at him with curiosity. MACUSA’s new Magizoologist had proven to be quite an asset to their department with the success of his book. He had been meaning to read it, but there was always something to do. A criminal to take to trial, another case that needed solving and truthfully, he was glad there was something to distract himself with.
“You know, those aurors of yours really aren’t the brightest. Not a single one of them is suspicious. Really thought at least one of them would notice; you truly are quite forgettable.”
There was an odd tingling at the back of his neck, a cold chill that ran down his spine. He felt his hand began to shake again and quickly, yet subtly, placed them both behind his back. Straightening his shoulders, avoiding the gaze that somehow managed to see right through him. “Carry on,” he nodded to all of them, suddenly wanting nothing more than to remove himself from their unwavering gazes of sympathy, worry, and worst of all, pity.
Turning on his heel, he made his way in the direction towards his office. People seemed to move out of his way, holding their files or whatever it was they were carrying close to their chests. Down the darkened halls that were beginning to match his mood, it grew quieter. Only a few other aurors and other officials stood in close together, speaking in hushed tones that obviously were to deter others from listening in. Honestly, he found himself thinking, if they wanted to gossip, they should do it in their offices.
His office had been the previous director’s office before his retirement four years ago, and had originally belonged to the director before him. Neatly on his shelf were various items that belonged to him or to MACUSA, and there was at least one photograph of his family there, stern faced despite the happy occasion that day, which was, if he recalled correctly, his eleventh birthday. Then there were folders neatly stacked and labeled in the cabinets and he glowered. Grindelwald hadn’t even bothered to keep his things organized, leaving his filing system a complete disaster that had to be redone.
He sighed, now suddenly remembering that he hadn’t gotten his second cup of coffee for that morning. However, he wasn’t ready to go back out there, so he would have to tough it out for a while. The quiet of his office was unnerving, and for a moment, he regretted adding a silencing charm over the room. It was true, he preferred to work in silence, but now it was like an unwanted stranger. Months of silence, of darkness in his own watch had made it practically unbearable. He never thought he would miss the chatter and occasional laugh, the familiar sounds of his co-workers’ voices.
He shook his head to clear those thoughts, returning to his seat to look back at the case at hand. Another instance of No-mag child trafficking had struck again, only two months after they shut down the ring. Both Ashwood and Patel were convinced that it was the same group, the ones who escaped picking up where they left off. He could believe it; they didn’t actually catch the leader and he would be lying if he didn’t admit it was a bit personal.
Two weeks ago, No-Mag’s Mr. and Mrs. Mariano had awoken on Monday morning to find their only son, Michael, missing from his bed. Normally, MACUSA wouldn’t have bothered looking into it, but since the kidnapping matched the same way the others had months ago, they knew better this time around. He suspected they were reestablishing their ranks, though the biggest clue and indicator that this was not a normal case was the symbol painted on Michael Mariano’s wall. A triangle with a circle and a line inside. Grindelwald sign.
And now, another face was printed next to the Mariano’s boy. Alice Fitzgerald, a six-year-old No-Mag from Queens, had gone missing as well with the same insignia painted in the place where she had been kidnapped.
So, he would not lie and say this was not personal. He was not typically a vengeful man, but ever since Grindelwald’s escape only three days after being arrested and the resurgence of the traffickers, well, it was needless to say he was in a particularly foul mood.
There was a knock on his door that pulled him from his thoughts and immediately he wandlessly opened the door. Appearing almost shy, Newt Scamander stood in the doorway with a white ceramic mug in his hands. “Can I come in, Mr. Graves?” he asked politely, allowing a soft smile on his face.
He nodded as Newt stepped in with quiet yet deliberate footsteps. Newt set the cup down on his desk, keeping his gaze momentarily on the steam rising from what he assumed was supposed to be coffee. Instead of the rich deep black it normally was, the contents in the cup was thin and light colored, like soup. Newt flushed. “I’ve never really made coffee before; I don’t drink it. But you looked like you wanted some and Mr. O’Malley took the last bit from the pot, so I thought I would make a new one.”
He watched in concealed amusement at the Magizoologist’s rambling, and graciously took the cup from the table. “Thank you,” he said, and he did mean it. The man who, despite his quirks, had to be one of the kindest people he had ever met. A rare type of person whom you only meet once in your life, or so his mother had told him. “I admit, I’m not much of a tea drinker myself.”
Newt’s shy smile relaxed. “Most Americans I’ve met aren’t.”
A silence descended upon his office, neither uncomfortable or pleasant. Just that same, nerve wracking silence that made his heart rate pick up. He was aware of those robin’s egg blue eyes studying him, and if it were not for Newt’s kind nature, he might have felt a bit more intruded upon. “Are you alright, Mr. Graves?” he asked, with an air of caution in his tone. “You seem more distracted as of late.”
“It’s nothing to worry about,” he brushed him off quickly, which, only resulted in a frown that clearly indicated that Newt was not entirely convinced. He sighed for what seemed like the hundredth time that morning. “Please, do not trouble yourself Mr. Scamander. There’s more important things for you to worry about.”
“You’re no less important,” Newt said softly, but firmly. “And please, Newt is just fine.”
“Alright then, Newt,” he leaned forward, setting the cup back down after taking a small sip and somehow managing to hide the look of discomfort from the Brit. “There is no need to be so formal here in my office. You may call me Percival, if you wish.”
Newt nods, and he followed the blue gaze to the small stack of papers on his desk. The images of the two most recent kidnappings. Newt frowned. “Those two, the two muggle children, they went missing recently, yes?”
Newt hadn’t been there during the raid, but if he had, then the memories of what they found would keep him up for days as well. “Yes,” he confirmed. “From the same type of families. Low-income, different races, anyone who most no-mag’s could care less about.”
“Tina mentioned a symbol; Grindelwald’s,” Newt began. “Can I see?”
“The case doesn’t involve creatures,” he only watched as Newt sorted through the papers with an unreadable expression. He stared back at the cooling cup of coffee, Newt still looking at the symbol with narrowed eyes. “They should be rather easy to catch this time; their pattern hasn’t changed.”
“I don’t recall Grindelwald specifically going after no-mag children,” Newt pondered thoughtfully, fingers lightly tapping against the dark wooden surface of his desk. “There is nothing to gain from the murders of innocent children except…” he trailed off uncomfortably.
He didn’t to finish his statement; he knew exactly what the British wizard was thinking. While unpleasant, it wasn’t an uncommon move for adversaries to go after children on the opposing side of a conflict. Or the unintentional victims during violence. Originally, he believed that the dark wizard had considered them useless in terms of his plans, but he was clearly mistaken. And because of that mistake, many lives had been lost and ruined.
“You attended the funeral of that no-mag child, didn’t you?” Newt inquired softly, prodding carefully at an already painful subject matter. The look the redhead received made the younger wizard flush a bit more. “Sorry, I don’t mean to intrude on your business. It’s just, I was there too and happened to see you.”
“Really,” he blinked once, a million questions running through his mind. The most notable being: How did he not notice Newt Scamander? “I didn’t see you there.”
Newt shook his head. “I didn’t stay for very long; I don’t do well at funerals.”
It had been quite the funeral as well. Any funeral was a somber occasion, but this one was almost unbearable to sit through. The no-mag’s didn’t notice him there due to his ‘Notice me not’ charm, so he was able to go about undetected. Both Mr. and Mrs. Farwell were besides themselves at their only daughter. When they lowered the small white coffin into the ground, all that could be heard were the wails coming from the now childless-mother. He could barely sleep at night without hearing those sobs.
“I am sorry, though,” Newt began once more, folding his hands across the light brown material of his vest. “That you and the others had to witness something like that.”
He raised an eyebrow. “Newt, we are trained aurors. It is our duty to live in a world full of darkness so that these things don’t happen again. We knew what we were getting the moment we decided our careers.”
“None the less, I am sorry,” Newt continued gently. “That these things have happened.”
“Not like they’re you’re fault,” he attempted a smile in hopes of lightening the already tense filled room. “There’s no need to concern yourself with cases like these. You already have to deal with the witches and wizards who have no respect for creatures.”
Newt regarded him solemnly. “We all deserve the same amount of respect as the person next to us. Magic or not, beast or human, we all live together so all this animosity is pointless.”
He cracked a smile at that. “Not sure everyone would agree with you, misguided as some opinion appear to be.”
He was pleasantly surprised when Newt smiled back. “I think you would be right on that.”
He watched as those blue eyes looked over to the bookshelves, landing on the old photograph. “Is that you?” he asked, looking at the image of a boy holding his acceptance letter to Illvermorny with a small smile while a little girl with long black pigtails hung on his arm.
“My eleventh birthday, and the day I happened to receive my acceptance letter,” he answered back easily, leaning into his chair. At Newt’s somewhat incredulous look at his parents’ solemn expression, it took everything he had not to grin. “My parents were happy that day, I promise you.”
“And I am guessing that the girl is your sister?”
“Gracia,” he replied and made a mental note to give his younger sister a call. “My younger sister.”
“I don’t think Theseus ever mentioned you having a younger sister.”
Theseus was one of the few people outside of MACUSA and Illvermorny to know much about his family. Not that he was ashamed of his little sister; quite the opposite, actually, but the less was known about his relationship with his family, the better.
“Maybe I should go to precious Gracia’s house and have a little fun, hm? Listening to her scream and cry while she looks up at the face of her beloved older brother fucking her.”
He was thankful for Newt’s voice pulling him out of his thoughts. “Yes?” he cleared his throat, pretending not to notice that look of worry and sighed. “Newt, I promise I am fine.”
Newt, in turn, did not look convinced but otherwise said nothing. The once peaceful atmosphere had become tense once more and he noticed Newt twitch slightly, clearly uncomfortable and avoiding eye contact with him. “So,” he started and Newt’s attention was his once more. “The rest of your family, aside from Theseus, are in England, yes?”
Now that got a reaction and he immediately noticed the way the younger wizard’s face set in a hard line. Those blue eyes appeared far away, as though thinking of the people he had left behind across the ocean. “Yes,” Newt finally answered, as if he had been thinking on how he was going to give his answer to Percival’s question. “They, ah, live in England.”
Ah, he finally realized he had found a sore spot and made a quick note not to bring it up again. Whatever Newt’s grievances with his family were, it was not his business to pry. It was no secret to him that Newt was the “black sheep” of the family. From what he had read in Theseus’ letters, Mr. and Mrs. Scamander had been less than pleased with Newt’s expulsion from Hogwarts and current life decisions. He could understand, somewhat. He sympathized with Theseus, for his own sister was so unlike the rest of the family. Ever since childhood, she had been a smiling, bright ray of sunshine contrasting with the rest of their somber, stone-like faces.
And said ray of sunshine had slapped Grindelwald across the face when she was notified they had found him locked in his own pocket watch.
As he was trying hard not to think about those months kept in his own watch, the door to his office was immediately flung open. Auror Patel stormed in, wand in hand and wide eyed with a few strands of her dark hair loose from the hair pins. A crumpled note was clutched in her hand, which was shaking ever so slightly. “Director Graves!” she pushed past Newt, who immediately stepped into the background the minute she had entered. “We…we got something a few minutes ago!”
“What?” he asked, intrigued and concerned at how pale her face had become.
She placed the note on his desk, staring at it as though it would catch on fire and somehow injure her in the process. “It came to our office a few minutes ago, with only an address from where it had come from and blank letter. Ashwood revealed what was inside, and began to read it out loud to me when he suddenly stopped. Went as pale as your coffee cup, sir and just took off. Not a word to me, just immediately ran out.”
He took the note, holding it carefully, looking for any other enchantments that could have been placed. On the outside of the note was a single address, and the hand writing on the note itself was all loops and spirals. fancy handwriting of someone of status and experience with writing.
I know your secret. They’re lovely, by the way. I commend you on being able to hide them for so long. You know where to find me.
He turned the note over again in his hand, narrowing his eyes. “And you said he just ran out? No reason at all?” he looked at the address written down, the reminder suddenly switching on. He could have sworn the man had a different address, but then again, it wasn't as though he had been to his house before.
Patel nodded, but even she looked doubtful. “I think it is?”
Well, he mused to himself, his robes moving from across his room and covering his body. At least it wouldn’t be an entirely uneventful day and it was an actual excuse to leave his office and not see those pitying expressions, then he was almost glad. Almost being the keyword, seeing as how much trouble Ashwood could be in.
He spent half a year in his pocket watch protecting his aurors the best he could. He wasn’t about to fail them now. He strolled out of his office quickly, Patel and Newt practically on his heels. “Goldstein, O’Malley, come with me,” he stood by their desks for a brief moment the second he stepped into the senior auror department. Tina looked up immediately from whatever she was typing and the somewhat indignant expression on O’Malley’s face told him that he just inadvertently cockblocked him from doing his secretary, Amanda Weaver, later on.
“And just where are we going, Percy?” O’Malley grinned at the childish nickname, one that for some reason, stuck ever since their time at Illvermorny. He then looked around, as if somehow just realizing that one of their own was gone. “Hey, where’s Ashwood?”
“Maybe you would have noticed him leave if you weren’t so busy chatting up Amanda.” Patel said dryly, giving him a side glare.
He ignored them, their somewhat childish banter falling deaf on his ears. From a little bit behind him, he could feel Newt’s magic brush up against his own. Gentle, much like the former Hufflepuff but still as unyielding as the younger wizard’s loyalty towards his creatures and friends. He frowned slightly at this. Newt Scamander was…odd, but he would agree with anyone else who knew the young man that he certainly left an impression.
It suddenly occurred to him. “Scamander,” he glanced back towards the magizoologist. “This isn’t in your department, if memory serves me right.”
Newt, though with a slight flush, only looks at him with a small look of what he dared called stubbornness. The same look Theseus had during the war and even still had afterwards. The two brothers were more alike than they thought. “It could be related to a case of my own; we don’t know who wrote that note or why, so it very well could be about an animal trafficking ring I’m currently looking into with Tina.”
When he looked towards Tina for conformation, she merely nodded wordlessly.
He didn’t say anything else on the matter, and they exited MACUSA with silence. Apparition never took long once they reached the point they were able to, and in a single moment, he found himself staring at a two-story brick stone townhouse. In a no-mag neighborhood, no less and a sudden feeling of foreboding fell like a shadow across his mind. On the outside, it appeared to be a normal house.
“This isn’t Ashwood’s house,” Patel frowned suspiciously as she tucked a few strands of inky black hair into her hair pins. She looked around, glancing at the sleepy neighborhood. “This is an entire no-mag neighborhood. Are you sure this is the right address?”
“Yes,” he responded, not even having to bother looking down at the crumpled-up piece of paper tucked away in his robes. Wand in hand, he walked up the steps, murmuring a spell that checked for any wards.
“Someone’s been here,” he called back to the other four, hand resting on the unlocked door. “The wards protecting this place have been deactivated.”
He was instantly met with the metallic, sickly sweet, scent of blood assaulting his nose. In his ears, rang a cold laugh.
“Don’t die on me now, Mr. Graves. We’re just getting started.”