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The man who stumbles into Percival's office with no prior warning looks about as surprised to be there as Percival is to see him, given his strictly-enforced policy regarding impromptu appointments.

"Visitor for you, sir," says Abernathy from somewhere behind the man, nudging him further inside so he can promptly shut the door before Percival manages a response.

"I don't have unscheduled appointments," Percival shouts at the closed door, regardless. "I'm the Director, Abernathy!"

"Yes, sir!" calls Abernathy distantly. Percival grinds his teeth.

"Who are you?" he snaps at the man, shifting his attention abruptly.

"Er," says the man, eyes wide.

Percival takes in his unruly mop of hair, the spray of freckles across his nose and cheeks, the bow tie, the blue coat, down to his white-knuckled grip on a shabby brown suitcase. He sighs.

"Newt Scamander," he says, leaning back in his chair.

"I have permits!" says Scamander, twitching. He draws the suitcase closer to his body.

Percival raises an eyebrow. "If even half of what I've been told about that suitcase is accurate," he says, "One would certainly hope so."

Scamander coughs. "Yes, well," he says. "I've, um. Replaced the latches, and—permits."

"New York will sleep soundly, I'm sure," says Percival dryly.

"Yes?" says Scamander uncertainly.

Percival rolls his eyes. "I assume you aren't actually here to see me, appointment or no," he says.

"No, not as such," says Scamander. His gaze is trained somewhere around Percival's shoulder, eyes flicking intermittently to his face, curious despite seemingly better judgement. "That is, not at all. That is—I mean—not that I'm not glad to see you well and—well, yourself? That is—"

"It's quite alright," says Percival, taking pity. "I'm sure I'd have no desire to see me either, if I were in your position."

"What?" says Scamander, blinking.

Percival gestures loosely towards his own face.

"Oh!" says Scamander. "Oh, no, you're nothing like him at all." The casual certainty in his voice is a little bit breathtaking, like the assertion of Percival Graves' dissimilarity from Gellert Grindelwald is as true as the day is long, is fact, and not something that keeps Percival awake night after endless night, furious and fearful in equal measure. "No, it's just that I only came here to see Tina—that is, Auror Goldstein—because I promised I'd deliver—I, er, wrote a book?" He flushes slightly, but ploughs on determinedly. "And it's finally been published, and, well, she extracted a promise that I'd give her a copy in person, so. Here I am? Only she isn't at her desk, you see, and I suppose your, er, Abernathy recognised me and assumed I was here to see you, and I'm afraid I didn't get a chance to explain before—" He trails off and makes a jerky, cut-off motion with his suitcase.

"Right," says Percival slowly. He ignores the way he still feels somewhat off-balance and focuses on the issue at hand. "Well, Auror Goldstein is currently out on a call, but she's due back within the half-hour. You may wait at her desk, if you'd like. Or—not," he adds with a frown, noting the way Scamander's shoulders hunch inwards a little at the suggestion.

"Oh, no, that's—sorry," says Scamander, smiling a little ruefully. "It's just—people, you know. They're all rather more curious than the last time I was here. And still very—loud."

"Your case full of dangerous and highly illegal creatures never gets loud?" says Percival.

"It's—not the same," says Scamander. "They—well, I understand them, I suppose. And they're—they are far from dangerous, Director Graves. Ignorance on the part of wizardkind doesn't imbue any of my creatures—or any creature, for that matter—with an inherent nature of—of evil. The fact that we mistreat them, kill them or hunt them for parts, destroy their habitats and then have the temerity to call them dangerous when it is we who—well. This is why I wrote my book. Understanding fosters friendship, after all. It's always rankled me that the only available information on magical creatures is related solely to which parts of them we can use to our own ends." He twists his mouth in distaste, hands clenching and unclenching helplessly. It's an interesting counterpoint to the way Percival is starting to realise that this man is far from helpless—he's heard the reports from the Grindelwald fiasco, of course, and had spared a moment at the time to be suitably, privately impressed. Clearly Scamander is a skilled improviser, a skilled—if unconventional—wizard, and it makes sense now, in this context, his passionate defence of his creatures, the lengths he must have gone to in order to save them, to take care of them, to carry them with him wherever he goes.

"Understanding fosters friendship," Percival echoes. "Albus Dumbledore, no?"

"We, er, we correspond," says Scamander to Percival's shoulder.

"Indeed," says Percival. He tilts his head. "You consider yourself friends with your creatures?"

"Of course," says Scamander immediately. He looks perplexed at the insinuation that this wouldn't be the case. "They are—they're all highly intelligent, really, it's quite extraordinary, if—" He cuts himself off, ducking his head to peer intently at his suitcase, brows furrowed. "Dougal," he says sternly. Percival blinks, and something—Mercy Lewis, something knocks gently on Scamander's damned suitcase. From the inside. "Dougal, I'm fine," says Scamander to the suitcase. "Really. So is Pickett. Not long now, alright? Tina is arriving shortly, and I'm sure she'd love to come in for a visit." There's movement around the vicinity of Scamander's pocket, and when Percival narrows his eyes he sees something tiny and green and—and leafy peering hesitantly into the office. "Yes, yes, she's looking forward to seeing you too, Pickett," says Scamander, lifting a hand to the tiny green creature—a bowtruckle, Percival's mind supplies—and letting it wrap an arm around his pinky.

Percival predicts a massive headache in his very near future.

"Are you having a stroke, Mr. Scamander?" he inquires politely.

"I—I beg your pardon?" says Scamander, blinking at him.

"Who are you talking to?" says Percival sharply.

"Oh!" says Scamander. "I—Dougal is—he's a demiguise. That's—"

"I know what a demiguise is," Percival cuts across.

"You—right," says Scamander. "Well, he's quite secure this time, I assure you."

"This time?" says Percival.

"Um. That's—no one mentioned the, er—"

"No," says Percival. "It must have been lost in the deluge of information regarding the myriad other creatures you let loose to run amok around the city. An erumpent, Scamander?"

"It was an accident," mumbles Scamander to the floor, flushing.

"I'm sure," says Percival. "And Pickett?"

Scamander snaps his head up. "What about him?" he says, suspicious.

Good Lord. The man has clearly not missed a calling as an Auror. "The bowtruckle that lives in your pocket?"

"Yes?" says Scamander.

Percival pinches the bridge of his nose. "I'm the Director of Magical Security, Scamander."

"I—know?" says Scamander uncertainly.

"You do not inform the Director of Magical Security that a creature of dubious legality—one that can pick locks, no less—resides permanently in your pocket—therefore effectively on the loose, without a permit—whilst you waltz about MACUSA headquarters."

"Ah," says Scamander.

"Mr. Scamander," starts Percival.

"Oh, call me Newt!" says Scamander—Newt—abruptly.

The man cannot even deign to be lectured without interruption. Percival is beginning to understand the particular brand of frustrating and vaguely ridiculous chaos he's only heard reports of so far.

"Newt," he says, clipped through a clenched jaw. "While I do not doubt that you hold whatever permits are available for that case and the contents therein, I am also fully aware that no permit or combination of permits exists on this earth with the complete authority to legally excuse it."

"Well," says Newt, looking rather worried now, "That's—I mean, yes, I'm sure you're right, but that's hardly my fault! I do have—I have all the permits I could find, I assure you, after last time, and—"

"My point," says Percival loudly, "Is that while your suitcase remains secure and your creatures remain within the suitcase, it is of very little interest to me or anyone else at MACUSA what exactly your permits do or not address, because none of it is our problem. However, when we become aware of creatures outside of the suitcase, knowing as we do the chaos they are liable to cause should they end up on the loose, we do find ourselves somewhat more—curious."

"Oh," says Newt. "Of course, yes, but Pickett is—"

"Just," says Percival, holding up a hand, "Keep him hidden, for Mercy's sake."

"Um. All—alright," says Newt slowly.

"Excellent," says Percival. "Well, Mr. Scamander, I daresay Auror Goldstein will be returning any moment now, so I'm sure the extent of your wait by her desk will be bearable."

"Yes," says Newt. "Er. It was a—pleasure? Meeting you, I mean. The, er, real you, that is."

"I'm sure," says Percival dryly, amused despite himself. "Good day, Mr. Scamander."

 

It's with no small amount of irritation that Percival apparates to the Goldstein residence as afternoon is crawling towards evening later that same day. Not so much because of where he's going as where he's going there from; his professional life feels dogged, now, more than it ever has, which is no small feat. He isn't exactly a stranger to pressure, from himself or from others, but these are the consequences of being impersonated by a dark wizard, he supposes.

The elder Goldstein shows him to Newt's suitcase with minimum fuss, at least, for which he resolves to give her the least unpleasant of whichever assignments come up at the office next.

He ducks inside with a short, "Thank you, Goldstein," mainly in deference to the lack of words that accompany her slightly anxious look.

The space he steps into is small, dim and cluttered, littered with paper and quills and herbs and potions, but conspicuously lacking Newt himself. Outside of that is— something different entirely. Very little surprises Percival anymore, but the world beyond the threshold of Newt's workspace is— extraordinary. Bright and wide open, humming with noise and movement and hinting at the same kind of limitlessness as the city outside. And there's Newt, pulled up short a little distance from where Percival is standing, arms loaded up with what looks like hay and staring at Percival with his mouth dropped open in surprise.

"Director Graves?" says Newt warily. He makes an objectively ridiculous picture, with his shirtsleeves rolled up to his elbows and his cheeks stained red from exertion, hair even more unruly than it was in Percival's office this morning, clutching his armful of hay to his chest. Percival tries and fails not to find it charming.

"Percival," he says absently, unsure even as he says it why he's allowing Newt Scamander, of all people, such a concession. Perhaps his mind has been addled by all the magic in this damned case.

"Um. Percival?" says Newt, still eminently uncertain.

"Yes," says Percival, giving himself a mental shake. "My apologies for the intrusion, Mr. Scamander."

"Newt," corrects Newt. "Was there—um, something you forgot to mention, earlier?" His mouth quirks slightly, and Percival finds himself biting back a chuckle.

"Not as such," he says. "Although my visit is not entirely unrelated to something I did mention earlier. We had a prisoner in interrogation attempt to escape this afternoon."

"That's—unfortunate?" says Newt.

"It is," agrees Percival. "He managed to pick the locks on his handcuffs, you see, which I'm sure you realise is an incredibly rare occurrence in a place such as MACUSA. Our primary concern, having foiled his actual escape, is how he managed to pick the locks. And as I recalled your—ah, friend—"

"Pickett?" says Newt, eyes widening. His hand flies to cup protectively over the pocket housing the little bowtruckle. "He would never—he doesn't even— he's been with me all day, Director Graves, I promise. He's very shy, you see, bowtruckles commonly are, but even if—the connection it would require with someone for him to help them escape is just—and he has some, er, attachment issues, so he's only ever in my pocket or in this case, and I can—I can assure you his time with me at MACUSA today is fully accounted for. Would you—I can ask Tina—I mean—"

"Auror Goldstein has already vouched for you both," says Percival. "And to be quite honest, Mr. Scamander—Newt—I assumed as much. I apologise for upsetting you. It's simply procedure, you understand. All bases must be covered, my own especially, not in the least because—well."

"Because Grindelwald posed as you for so long?" says Newt, and promptly looks horrified with himself. "I mean! I didn't mean—I'm sure you're eminently more competent than—oh dear."

Newt turns away, blushing furiously, and sets about gathering up the hay he'd mostly dropped in his passionate defence of Pickett the bowtruckle. Percival watches him, biting back a smile.

"I really am sorry," says Newt when he's composed himself somewhat, arms once again full of hay. For his creatures, Percival supposes. "I'm, er, not very good at—at saying the right things. Or not saying the wrong things, I suppose." He shrugs a little, resigned.

"It's quite alright," says Percival. "You're not wrong, in any case."

"Yes, well," says Newt. "Still rather tactless, as I'm told is my rather unfortunate wont."

Percival shrugs. "Tactlessness can be refreshing to the politically inclined," he says.

Newt quirks a small, pleased smile at him, then jerks his head around when some creature or other chirrups loudly from further inside the case. "Yes, yes," he calls. "You've caught me at feeding time, I'm afraid. The erumpent can get rather demanding when her dinner isn't suitably on time."

"The erumpent?" echoes Percival.

"Oh, would you like to meet her?" says Newt, beaming.

Percival most decidedly would not, which is why the, "Sure," that comes out of his mouth takes him utterly by surprise. Well. Newt is rather pretty when he smiles, he supposes.

"Excellent!" says Newt, breaking into a determined stride across his odd jigsaw of landscapes.

Percival sighs and starts to follow him, at which point Newt says, "Oh!" and swivels around so quickly that it's mainly Percival's excellent balance which keeps them from tumbling to the ground in a heap.

"Really, Scamander?" says Percival around a mouthful of hay and ginger hair.

"Oops, so sorry," says Newt, scrambling backwards hastily. "I just thought I'd bring the pellets along too, but, hmm." He glances down at his arms, full of hay, then over at a bucket sitting by the door to his shed, and then up at Percival. "Would you mind terribly—"

Percival sighs and summons the bucket to him with a flick of his wrist. Newt stares, looking delighted. "Wandless and wordless," he murmurs. "Amazing!"

"Surely you're used to it," says Percival, somewhat bitterly. "I'm told Grindelwald was equally proficient."

"Oh, but that's Grindelwald," says Newt dismissively. He starts walking again. "The amount of magical experimentation I hear that man pursues, one can hardly be certain which of his abilities are truly inherent. Yours, however—" He shakes his head. "Incredibly rare. The lengths it must have taken to keep you captive, when for most wizards it's simply a matter of disarming and restraining them—" He trails off, flustered. "Sorry. That's—incredibly tactless of me. You see what I mean."

"Yes, well," says Percival. "It did mean my captivity was rather more painful, and ultimately my skills made no difference, apart from a negligibly higher level of difficulty for him. I suppose I'm glad I could put up some kind of fight, but really more of a hindrance than a help, I'm afraid."

"Oh, no, not at all!" says Newt. "I daresay he knew what a powerful wizard you are, and prepared accordingly. The mere fact that you survived, and fought back, no less, without similar such preparation, never mind warning of any kind, speaks far more to your worth as a wizard and a person than it does to his."

Percival just stares at him in disbelief, because he's received countless platitudes ranging from guilty to pitying to encouraging, but none of them have hit him as hard as Newt's simple words, motivated by nothing other than the truth as Newt sees it. The man is—disarming, to say the least.

"Thank you," says Percival roughly, clearing his throat.

"Of course," says Newt, looking puzzled. "Ah, here we are!" he adds happily as they approach a Savanna-like habitat. Percival can see the erumpent idling in the grass a reasonable distance away, and he's rather hoping Newt will just dump the hay and move on until the man whistles, and—good Lord—the erumpent blares a pleased-sounding noise and comes bounding towards them, explosive horn and all. "This is Annabelle," says Newt proudly as the erumpent skids to a halt with inches to spare. It takes all of Percival's considerable willpower not to step back in instinctive alarm.

"Charmed, I'm sure," says Percival, when he realises Newt is waiting for him to say something.

Newt ducks a smile and deposits the hay in front of Annabelle, who spares a moment to coo in thanks before attacking her meal with enthusiasm. "She's rather terribly spoiled, I'm afraid," Newt says fondly. "Developed a taste for the clover in this particular blend of hay. She'll have to be weaned off it before I return her to the wild. Not long now, isn't that right, girl?" She spares a moment from devouring the hay to lift her head and coo agreeably. "Her leg was severely damaged by poachers," Newt explains. "She managed to—er, blow them up—" He darts a slightly nervous glance at Percival, who bites back an exasperated sigh with some effort. "Um. Blow them up before they killed her, but the injury meant she couldn't then move. By the time I found her she was all but starved. I wasn't sure I could save her leg, either, but of course, erumpents are fantastically resilient. I suppose I was worried that something severe enough to hurt her in the first place—"

He doesn't continue, watching Annabelle with an affectionate kind of thoughtfulness, and Percival mentally concludes that the injury was either medically or magically severe enough that healing it took a level of skill and ability beyond the reach of most wizards. Interesting.

"Occamys!" says Newt abruptly.

"What?" says Percival.

"The occamys need to be feed—some of the new hatchlings need food at fairly regular intervals—and those pellets you're holding are for the mooncalves. Here, I'll show you."

He leads Percival away from the erumpent's habitat, doubling back past another sandy stretch of grassland, which Percival throws a cursory glance, and then—and then another, longer look, pulling up short.

"Is that a nundu?" he asks, disbelief warring with something rather like horror.

"What?" says Newt hastily, speeding up and making a beeline for an area closer to his shed, with different, gentler light and far more trees, thin trunks rising out of the soft earth and a large circular nest made from the same kind of wood. "She's fine, I fed her a little while ago, but we really must get to the occamys, right here, look—" He crouches by the nest, murmuring soft greetings and stretching a curled-over fist in towards the little coiled-up creatures. They chirrup and bump their heads against his knuckles, and Newt throws a smile through his hair at Percival.

"Yes, yes, they're very sweet," says Percival. "The nundu, Scamander."

"She's harmless!" says Newt defensively.

"Harmless?" echoes Percival incredulously. "Do you have any idea—"

"Of course I do!" says Newt, staring hard into the nest of occamys, mouth tight. "I think I have more of an idea than anyone, in fact."

"Oh, for the love of—" Percival shakes his head. "I'm not claiming to know more than you do in this particular area, but are you sure—"

"I am," says Newt, shifting his gaze to Percival. "I promise. Please, Director Graves—"

He is pleading, Percival realises. He looks terrified and all the more determined for it, fingers twitching like he thinks he may have to go for his wand in order to protect his creatures, protect them from Percival. He remembers, abruptly, what Grindelwald, wearing Percival's face, did to him: forcibly ripped these adoring creatures from him, and then sentenced him to death.

The headache is back, prodding mercilessly at his temples.

"Alright, alright," he says, holding up a hand. "In that case, I'm going to assume that I was mistaken."

"Mistaken?" says Newt warily.

Percival rolls his eyes. "I suppose I didn't have a chance to properly observe whichever creature was in that particular habitat," he says. When Newt starts smiling, he adds sternly, "However, please try to remember that should any sudden inexplicable plagues be inflicted upon the people of New York, I will not hesitate to retract my statement about being mistaken, and you will be the very first person I blame." He narrows his eyes and levels Newt with a warning look.

"Of course," says Newt, beaming. "I just—yes, of course. Thank you. Um. I should—oh, yes, yes, hush," he says to the occamys' crescendo of imploring chirrups, drawing his wand from his pocket and summoning another bucket, this one full of—Percival peers inside and makes a face, leaning back again hastily. The occamys seem happy enough with the insects, in any case, crunching them down one after another until Newt withdraws the bucket with an apologetic noise. The occamys settle down with varying degrees of reluctance—all but one, that is, which curls itself around Newt's wrist instead, chirruping imploringly until he lifts his arm with a soft chuckle and it edges upwards along his sleeve, settling contentedly with its head resting on his shoulder.

"More attachment issues?" says Percival dryly.

"Oh, no, Attie's already very independent," says Newt, twisting his head at an odd angle so he can look at the little occamy. "Incredibly adventurous for such a young thing. She likes to ride along during feeding time, you know, see the other creatures and habitats. It's very interesting."

"For her or for you?" asks Percival, amused.

Newt huffs out a surprised laugh. "Both, I'm sure," he says. "Shall we—would you like to see the mooncalves?"

"Surprisingly, yes," says Percival. "I've never come across one before."

"Yes, I imagine there wouldn't be much demand for them on the black market," says Newt, once again leading them further into his case. "I mean—I assume that's how you recognised most of the others?"

"That, and I took a magizoology class at Ilvermorny," says Percival.

"Oh, you—really?" says Newt, looking delighted.

"It seemed relevant," says Percival, shrugging. "I always intended to be an auror."

Newt hums. "Surprisingly few of the aurors I've encountered bothered taking Care of Magical Creatures," he says. "The Hogwarts magizoology class. I suppose most people think whatever defensive measures they learn to use against other people are sufficient for dealing with animals." His face twists, clearly conveying his opinion on that particular outlook. "It's a shame. It would—well, it seems to serve an auror well, having some—some knowledge. It certainly serves the creatures." He shoots Percival a hesitant, almost hopeful little smile, one that makes Percival's chest tighten oddly.

"Perhaps," he says, frowning to cover the lingering feeling of strangeness. "The mooncalves?"

"Just through here," says Newt, leading them past a small, shimmering lake and into— well, into nighttime. It's beautiful, the vast, starry sky and shining full moon, the soft, swaying grass and the gentle-looking creatures that gather around Newt immediately, blinking up at him with their big, liquid eyes. "They're very shy, so in the wild they only come out of their burrows on the full moon," Newt explains. "But it's always nighttime in this habitat, and I've charmed the moon so that it completes its full cycle in a day, rather than a month, to coincide with feeding time, you see. I was worried it would be too disruptive for them, at first, cause undue stress or unnatural changes in their habits, but they've adapted wonderfully. Their burrows were destroyed by some awful bit of land development outside of London, and I came across this herd in quite a frenzy. I'm trying to find somewhere appropriate to relocate them, but I suspect these may be some of my more long-term residents. They grow quite attached to their homes, you know, and I'm not sure how well attempting to resettle them a second time would work." He sighs, but he's still smiling fondly at the creatures, reaching out to scratch the more insistent ones under their chins.

"They seem— quite content," says Percival. There's something innately soothing about this particular habitat: the low light, the quiet, the harmless little creatures. The illusion of vastness in this small, safe space. He blinks and lifts the bucket he's still carrying. "Their dinner?"

"Oh!" says Newt. "Yes, here, let me— " He waves his wand, casting a charm of some sort under his breath, then says, "Just throw the pellets, they like to eat them out of the air."

Percival does, and the pellets hover easily in Newt's levitation spell, just the right height for the mooncalves to pluck them into their mouths. Percival feels his own lips twitch in instinctive response to the creatures' simple pleasure, and Newt catches his eye with another small smile of his own, looking soft and content in the artificial moonlight. It's a rather lovely moment— Percival feels like he understands, a little, the no-maj inclination to call things magical without any inkling of its actual existence.

On the heels of that somewhat ridiculous thought, it's also as good a time as any for Percival to take his leave, so he hands the bucket to Newt and says, "Thank you for the tour. I should go— I need to finish things up at the office."

"I— yes, of course," says Newt, fumbling the bucket slightly. "Um. Thank you. For your help."

"Invaluable, I'm sure," says Percival with a smirk. "Good day, Mr. Scamander."

"Newt," says Newt. "Good day, Percival."

Percival nods and turns to make towards the shed, back into the world outside.

 

That night, when he's staring up at his dark ceiling in preparation for another mostly sleepless night, he thinks of Newt's mooncalf habitat, the peaceful glow of the charmed full moon and the tranquil, star-touched corners, the shifts and sighs of the creatures shuffling through the grass, and for the first time in months, falls easily into a peaceful, dreamless sleep.

 

The relief of a decent rest lasts until mid-morning the next day.

"Let me get this straight, Collins," says Percival icily. "The junior auror under your supervision, was injured because you decided that the unidentified customers dealing with the known illegal potions dealer in the store you were staking out because we finally traced the potions from the autopsy reports to that same store, were somehow not important enough to warrant your personal attention?"

"They didn't seem dangerous," Collins protests.

"They didn't seem dangerous?" echoes Percival, low and furious.

"They—

"Tell me, Collins, did we have any reliable descriptions with which to identify the suspects?"

"No, sir," mutters Collins mutinously.

"Do we ever take who or what we see in the course of an investigation at face value?"

"No, sir."

"Do we ever simply assume that a situation under our watch is not likely to become volatile?"

"No, sir."

"And do we ever," finishes Percival, cold and threatening, "Send a junior auror, whose training and protection are our responsibility, anywhere potentially dangerous on their own?"

"I really— "

"No," snaps Percival, holding up a hand. "In the course of less than half a day's work, you have managed to break each and every one of the most fundamental rules by which aurors must conduct themselves. It may be a record, although I'd advise against listing that on the resume for whichever hapless position you apply to fill next."

"What?" sputters Collins.

"You're fired," says Percival, and doesn't give the idiot a chance to reply before he marches into his office and closes the door with a flick of his wrist.

"Oh, hello," says Newt from one of his guest chairs, smiling brightly and straightening in surprise, as though Percival appearing in his own office has somehow managed to startle him.

"How do you keep managing to get in here?" says Percival irritably, dropping into his own chair. "Is the Department of Magical Law Enforcement really getting so lax? Do I need to fire more people?"

"Oh, yes, I heard that— er, exchange," says Newt, head tilted a little and still, inexplicably, smiling.

"Then what on earth are you grinning at?" snaps Percival. Contrary to what many may think, he doesn't actually enjoy firing people. Having an auror in his employ incompetent enough to require dismissal compromises his integrity as director, of course, but more than that, it compromises the safety of everyone else in his department, the maintenance of which is and always has been his primary concern.

"Oh!" says Newt. "No, it's just— I'm trying to understand— mainly because I don't quite understand— but it does sort of make sense, although not at all in a way that indicts you, especially that, ah, incident just now, you were absolutely right, but just— you're very— professional, I suppose, and so uniquely qualified, and it's unfortunate that qualities like being driven and dedicated sometimes manifest as— although I still maintain it takes a rather stupid or— perhaps unobservant would be a better word— not that I think anyone at MACUSA is stupid or unobservant! Erm. I'm going to stop talking now, I think."

Percival stares at him. "Was any of that supposed to make sense?" he asks.

"Oh, in an ideal world." Newt sighs. "Sorry."

"It's fine," says Percival shortly. He has an inkling of what Newt was trying to get at, and he appreciates the sentiment, although thinking too much about why, when by all accounts Grindelwald was entirely unpleasant in his tenure as Percival Graves, tends to leave him caught in a useless and uniquely frustrating cycle of anger and guilt and helplessness, and he generally tries to avoid doing so outside of the long sleepless stretches of night time in his bed. "Is there a reason you're in my office?" he adds after a moment, when Newt fails to make any further comment.

"Oh! says Newt. "I'm waiting for Tina again, we're going to get lunch, but she's not quite finished with her paperwork and I— well, I suppose I thought I'd be proactive about avoiding questions from the rest of your department."

"They're not all completely unpleasant, you know," says Percival, wondering when in the twenty-four hours he's known the man his office has become some kind of a refuge for Newt.

"No, I know," says Newt apologetically, ducking his head. "I meant that entirely— well, almost entirely— in reference to my own rather limited social finesse."

"You seem to get along well enough," says Percival, amused despite himself.

"Oh, I don't know," says Newt. He shrugs, looking down at his hands. "Perhaps, but— I've always gotten on better with creatures than with people, as a whole."

"Yes, well," says Percival, pulling out a fresh incident report form with great distaste. "People are rather terrible, as a whole. It's no discredit to you if you have the good sense to distance yourself from them."

Newt laughs, sudden and startled. "Oh," he says. "That's— no one's ever put it quite like that. I'm not sure— I mean, yes, I suppose, of course, but I'm— there are also those who— "

"Are hopelessly stupid and therefore belong to the wider majority of terrible people," Percival cuts across with finality. "The ones you do get along with belong to the much more rare minority who possess both intelligence and good sense to balance their good intentions. Goldstein, her sister, your brother. Even that no-maj baker, from what I've heard."

Newt is silent for a long moment, biting his lip. "And you?" he says eventually.

"Perhaps," allows Percival, wondering vaguely what on earth he's doing. Twenty-four hours, and Newt Scamander is certainly upholding his reputation as a force of thorough disruption.

At least this time he hasn't unleashed an entire menagerie of magical wildlife upon the city.

Small mercies.

 

It's a week before he sees Newt again. Percival's not even sure he's still in the city until Newt pokes his head around his office door, mid-morning on an already endless Friday.

"Am I— are you busy?" he asks hesitantly, pausing a half-step inside the room.

"Always," says Percival wearily, setting down his quill and rubbing at his aching temples. There's nothing he hates more about his position than having to wrangle with budgeting memos. He can't even begin to fathom what those lunatics over in Automobile Alterations want with half his surveillance budget, but he'll be damned if he's letting them get it. The sudden onslaught of palpable relief is due entirely to the prospect of a break from this madness, he tells himself gamely, and not at all related to the confirmation that Newt is indeed still here.

"Oh," says Newt, face falling slightly. "Erm. You look a bit— tired? I have tea!"

"Tea?" says Percival. He raises an eyebrow, mouth twitching. "I don't know how your Ministry is still functioning, if it relies solely on Britain's inexplicable preoccupation with tea. I need about a gallon of coffee, and possibly some Pepper Up."

Newt laughs, stepping fully into Percival's office. He is indeed holding a steaming mug of tea. "I suppose I'll drink the tea, then," he says, folding himself into a guest chair. The smile he throws at Percival is bright and almost suspiciously guileless.

Percival narrows his eyes. "Oh, give it here," he snaps after a moment, reaching out a hand.

Newt laughs again and leans forward to pass Percival the mug. "There, you see?" he says, drawing back and watching Percival take a long, grudgingly appreciative sip. "Much better than coffee."

"Lies and slander," mutters Percival, slouching back into his chair and letting his eyes fall closed.

"Alright," says Newt agreeably.

Percival slits his eyes open. "What brings you to MACUSA today?" he asks. "Goldstein again?"

"Oh, no," says Newt. "Well, yes. I mean— er, Queenie, not Tina. I'm actually not sure why I'm here this time, to be quite honest."

"That sounds faintly ominous," says Percival.

Newt shrugs. "It's Queenie," he says. "She doesn't always explain why she does things. I suspect it's because half the time she's responding to— " He cuts himself off abruptly, eyes going wide. His gaze cuts from Percival to the door and back again, finally settling somewhere on the wall behind Percival, mouth pursed, twin spots of pink staining his cheeks.

"What?" demands Percival, frowning.

"What?" says Newt. "Oh, nothing. I'm just— er, Queenie's just talking to Tina, and then I— "

"Sir!" says Goldstein breathlessly, bursting through his door.

"Oh, thank goodness," mumbles Newt, pulling his suitcase onto his lap and hunching his shoulders. Percival drags his eyes away with reluctance, still entirely bemused.

"What is it?" he says to Goldstein.

"Oh, good, Queenie said Newt was here," says Goldstein. Newt, inexplicably, draws further into himself, until Goldstein adds, "I've been in contact with one of our scouts, who mentioned a disturbance near Times Square about half an hour ago. It seems there's a, er, hippogriff on the loose, causing some panic amongst the no-maj's, as you can imagine."

Her eyes slide to Newt, as do Percival's.

Newt blinks. "It wasn't me!" he says defensively. He actually looks vaguely offended, of all the ridiculous hypocrisies.

"Really?" says Percival skeptically.

"Of course not, why would you—"

"Really?" says Percival, raising his eyebrows incredulously.

Newt ducks his head, suitably chastised. "Well, yes, alright, I suppose it might be the—logical assumption, but I have no hippogriffs currently in my care, and—oh! But I can help!" he finishes brightly, beaming.

Percival just stares at him. "Might be the logical assumption," he echoes flatly. "You really have no notion of your own chaos, do you?"

"I'm well aware that my last visit to New York was something of a—"

"Disaster?" supplies Percival.

Newt manages to scrounge up a glare to direct at Percival, although it manifests rather more like an uncertain squint. "For you, yes. For me, it really was more of an anomaly. You don't—it's just that I have more experience with—well, with myself, you see. Nothing like the last time I was here has ever happened before, and I'm sure, given the many—ah, extenuating circumstances, it won't happen again. But I do understand that for everyone here, it being the first and only time you—well, they—encountered me and my creatures, it would leave a certain—impression. Of what I'm like. In a more—general sense?" He appears to run out of steam, trailing off somewhat uncertainly.

Percival sighs. "That's all very well," he concedes. "Although statistics tend to lose value as reassurance for the ill-fated one out of every hundred. And everything else aside, I'm afraid I still fail to see the harm in properly securing a suitcase full of illegal magical creatures."

Newt quirks a smile. "Yes, well, lesson learned," he says cheerfully.

"Besides," Goldstein pipes up, "If Newt's creatures hadn't escaped, I wouldn't have caught him that day at the bank, and then who knows how long it would've taken for Grindelwald to be revealed. It was Newt who finally figured that out, you know."

She's only trying to talk up her friend, Percival knows that's all she's doing, and that she's still wont to speak without first thinking, but it stings just the same, rubs at a very raw and overworked wound he's not sure will ever quite heal.

"Thank you, Goldstein, I'm well aware," he snaps, willing his hands to remain unclenched. "Someone who'd never met me, no less, as opposed to people I worked alongside every day."

Goldstein flushes and looks away. Percival feels a twinge of guilt—it's not her fault, he knows. It isn't anyone else's fault. It's his own for never letting anyone close enough to truly know him, for fostering the cold disposition not readily discernible from that of a powerful dark wizard, for allowing Grindelwald to capture him and wear his face in the first place.

"Um," says Newt eventually into the uncomfortable silence. "Hippogriff?"

"Yes," says Percival sharply. He has a job to do. "Let's go."

 

"You won't—I mean, the creature won't be—hurt, will it?" asks Newt, biting down on his lip as they approach the alley where the Hippogriff has barricaded itself, screeching up an unholy racket. "Hippogriffs aren't a danger to people, they're just—well, like any creature, they get defensive if they're afraid, but they're really marvellously intelligent, and I can—"

"Newt," Percival cuts across. "First, hippogriffs are one of the few magical creatures of whom ownership is not illegal in the United States. It's hardly the beast's fault if its owner has failed to properly care for it. And second, the harsh nature of our laws regarding the shelter and transportation of magical creatures is a result of their tendency to be sheltered and transported mainly for the purpose of dangerous criminal activity. It goes some way towards lowering the likelihood of them being traded for parts, but it does also mean that creatures we find alive are often—mistreated, as we have no real recourse for rehabilitation and resources aren't usually directed towards relocating them. I don't personally hold with this side of those laws."

Newt opens his mouth, closes it again, then says, "So—"

"So you're welcome to add this particular creature to your menagerie, if you'd be so kind as to stop that damned shrieking. I daresay it will give your case an additional element of novelty."

"I—novelty?" says Newt, frowning.

Percival smirks. "Well," he says, "As far as I can figure, it would be the only legal thing about it."

Newt coughs out a startled laugh. "I have permits!" he says.

"For the nundu?" Percival raises an eyebrow.

"What nundu?" says Newt, wrinkling his nose rather endearingly and shooting Percival a quickfire grin as he darts past, towards the hippogriff. Percival snorts to himself.

The man is a thorough menace. It's entirely too charming.

 

"I apologise, Goldstein," says Percival stiffly as they watch Newt, having proceeded past eye-contact and bowing, carefully check the hippogriff for injuries. "It was wrong to direct blame at you. Of all the aurors in this department, you handled that situation most commendably."

"I—thank you, sir," says Goldstein, visibly surprised.

Percival nods.

"For what it's worth," adds Goldstein hesitantly, "None of us would have been anywhere without Newt, truly. Despite his—chaos." She quirks a tiny smile, commiserating and fond all at once.

"Trust me, Goldstein," says Percival, watching Newt whisper lowly to the clearly enamoured hippogriff, "I know."

 

Mid-afternoon finds Percival back in his office, obliviation squad dispatched, hippogriff safely ensconced in Newt's suitcase, two junior aurors assigned to track down the creature's previous owner, and budget memos gratefully shoved aside in favour of a far more straightforward incident report. He's just signing off on the transfer into Newt's custody when the man in question ducks through the door, glancing at Percival's desk and apparently deciding he's not too busy to be interrupted. Percival sets the report aside for filing and makes a mental note to check the wards on his office— they don't tend to be at full strength unless he's not physically present, but they usually alert him when someone's about to enter. Odd.

"What is it, Mr. Scamander?" he asks, standing and summoning his coffee with an absent gesture. He leans back against his desk and looks at Newt questioningly.

"Newt," says Newt automatically. "I—about the suitcase."

Percival bites back a groan. "What's happened now?" he demands, bracing himself.

"Oh, nothing!" says Newt hastily. "Erm. I just wanted to say—about the—" He waves a hand. "Properly secure business. I really am—I don't just run about with it liable to pop open at any moment. Not because of what the creatures may do outside of the case—not that I'm not concerned about people's safety!" he adds at Percival's pointed look. "I just—I know what people are like. With things they don't understand. They fear them, and when they fear them, they lash out. Usually without stopping to consider that the thing they fear is far more afraid and confused than they could ever be. My primary concern is always the safety of my creatures, Director Graves," he finishes quietly.

Percival stares at him. He isn't quite making eye contact, but he's no less assured or compelling because of it. He's a riot of colour and chaos, with his weathered blue coat, his copper curls, his constellation of freckles and bright, earnest eyes, standing suspended for this brief, still moment in Percival's immaculate office. It's a rather strikingly beautiful reflection of the fundamental character Percival has come to know, has come to like: the fierce determination and protectiveness that allows every gentle, kind-hearted whim carving out the core of him to flourish.

"Percival," he says, just as quietly.

"I—what?" says Newt, blinking.

"I believe I told you to call me by my first name, Newt," he says, smiling just a little.

"Oh!" says Newt. He flushes. It's rather gorgeous. "I—yes, of course, um. Percival."

Percival feels his smile stretch a touch further. "Would you like to have dinner with me?" he says.

Newt's head snaps up, eyes wide.

"Tonight," clarifies Percival. He tilts his head. "If you don't have prior engagements, of course."

"I don't usually have prior engagements," mumbles Newt, smiling wryly. "You—really?"

"Really," says Percival. And, softer, "Very much."

"Oh," says Newt. His cheeks are still very pink. "Then—dinner would be—I'd like that. Very much."

Percival lets himself step closer to Newt, lets himself lift a hand to touch his heated cheek. "Thank you," he says, low, drawing his thumb over the high arch before letting his hand drop again.

"I—yes," says Newt. His eyes are on Percival's hands; he sounds a little dazed. Percival feels a slow, warm bloom of accomplishment and anticipation uncurl in his belly. "Tonight?"

"Tonight," agrees Percival, taking a step back. "You're staying with the Goldsteins?"

"I am, I— yes," says Newt. He blinks, then shoots Percival a quick little half-grin. "Did you want to come by?"

"Funny," says Percival dryly. "I'll meet you outside their building. Seven?"

"Alright," says Newt. "I'll— um. I'll see you then?"

"You will," says Percival, feeling his mouth curl upwards, gentler than he's used to, as he watches Newt leave his office.

 

"I've decided on a name for the hippogriff," says Newt as soon as he spots Percival outside the Goldsteins' building, seconds from apparating. He bites his lip and adds, "Er. Hello? Sorry."

Percival laughs quietly. "Hello," he says. "Well, don't keep me in suspense."

"Oh!" Newt grins. "I think I'm going to call him Bob."

"Bob," echoes Percival.

"Yes, short for Boniface, you see?"

Percival does not. "That's— nice?" he tries, at a genuine loss.

"I think it suits him," says Newt, shrugging. "It means good fortune, you know."

"Well," says Percival, "In that case, it suits him very much."

Newt beams at him. "Where are we going?" he asks.

"Somewhere quiet," says Percival, taking Newt's arm gently. "Side-along alright?"

"Of course," says Newt, shuffling a little closer.

Percival smiles and apparates them away.

 

"This is rather charming," says Newt as Percival leads him into the restaurant. It's a small, lamp-lit little place, scattered with scrubbed wooden tables. The service is discreet and the food is good. The only outward hints of magic are the one corner of the ceiling where the paint gives way to perpetually dark, slow-circling clouds, and the lights that hover rather than hang.

"It's less ostentatious, as far as magical restaurants go," says Percival. "I sometimes prefer no-maj establishments for that reason. We have a terrible tendency to show off when we can."

Newt laughs. "Yes, it seems to be a universal wizarding flaw," he says. "I wouldn't have minded a no-maj restaurant."

"I didn't think you would," says Percival dryly. "But considering your case and the contents of your pockets, I thought it best to err on the side of caution."

"Oh, really, I told you I'm not— you're teasing." Newt squints at him.

"I am," says Percival, smirking.

"Well, alright," says Newt, ducking his head and smiling at the ground.

"I chose this place because I like it," says Percival as they take their seats. "I thought you might, too. We're on the northernmost tip of Manhattan, where the Hudson meets the East River. It's still a very undeveloped part of the city. I come here sometimes during difficult investigations, when I need a moment's peace. It's— a good place to regroup, I suppose."

"Have you been here recently?" asks Newt, studying his menu intently.

Percival is silent for a long moment. "Yes," he says eventually.

Newt looks up at him, biting his lip. "You— I just thought— it seems as if you feel— guilty, I think?" he says carefully. "Perhaps angry, too. About what happened. I thought maybe—"

Percival breathes in and clenches his jaw, measuring out a few breaths before he responds.

"I suppose I'm— bitter," says Percival, looking unseeingly across the room. "Because I'm guilty, yes, you're right. The anger is often— misplaced. There's no one to blame apart from myself. I can hardly be angry at anyone for not realising when I never let them close enough to know me in the first place. I can't begrudge them not being able to tell one cold disposition from another."

"But that's— that's ridiculous!" says Newt.

"Is it?" says Percival, glancing at him. "No one noticed. That's just fact. There must be a reason. Cause and effect, isn't that what you scientifically-inclined call it?"

"Well, first of all, that principle is somewhat more complex than— no, never mind that," says Newt, shaking his head and leaning forward a little. "It's just— you can't seriously think that you're really like Grindelwald in any significant way. I— beside the fact that he went to great lengths to maintain his illusion, you are— you're nothing like him. I'm not very good with people, and even I can see that beneath your— work-sharpened edges, you're a kind-hearted person. And very— really quite gentle. And principled, of course, and you're— funny? Stop— why are you looking at me like that?"

Percival laughs quietly. "You're a uniquely compelling man, Mr. Scamander," he says. "I'm trying to decide whether it's you who are mistaken, or an entire department of highly trained aurors."

"Everyone is free to conduct themselves as they choose," says Newt. "Well, within reason. Within the law, perhaps." He shoots Percival a small, conspiratorial smile, and Percival huffs a helpless laugh in return, rolling his eyes. Newt shrugs and adds, "By all accounts you are— and were— a highly competent Director and a fair leader. Grindelwald managed only the most superficial of impersonations— a passable imitation of your professional exterior. I really think the rest was— well, your colleagues may not have gone so far as to suspect you'd been physically replaced, but I don't believe the changes went entirely unnoticed, either."

Percival breathes out, marvelling slightly at Newt, as always, at his utter goodness, his uncanny ability to break down Percival's lingering fears one by one. "I can't come up with an argument to counter that," he says, smiling wryly. "Still, the situation has made me aware of some parts of my life I'd like to address. For myself, in time."

"Well," says Newt, "I suppose that sounds alright."

"I'm so glad you approve," says Percival just as the owner of the restaurant, a severe-looking woman with silvery-grey hair and matching eyes, comes to take their orders. Newt shifts uncomfortably under her questioning look, and when she's gone Percival adds, voice low, "I came here to eat one time after a particularly trying day surrounded by far too many irritating people. I wasn't in much of a mood for further human interaction, so when she took my order I suggested they start using some variation of the Protean Charm on their menus instead."

"Oh dear," says Newt, swallowing a laugh.

"Indeed," says Percival ruefully. "In the long course of my career, very few criminals have managed to intimidate me quite so thoroughly."

Newt drops his head and laughs helplessly, hair falling into his eyes. Percival reaches out to brush it aside, skimming Newt's temple with the tips of his fingers before he pulls back.

"Oh," says Newt a little breathlessly as his laughter trails off. "I'd— I'd like to see that place. Where the Hudson meets the East River."

"I can show you," says Percival. Newt is— truly beautiful, when he's happy, smiling.

"Yes, please," says Newt, leaning back a little as their meals are served.

He waits until they're finished with their food before he asks the question he's been thinking about since Newt came back to his office this afternoon. In the meantime he listens to Newt talk about his creatures, excited and expansive, entirely in his element. He shakes his head in disbelief as Newt details how he spent the time before Percival collected him for dinner: trying to teach Pickett proper hippogriff etiquette. "It makes sense, really," Newt says. "Pickett is with me more often than not, and he's learned to get along with all of the other creatures. It's much safer for him if Bob trusts him, you see. I just need to— er, convince him to bow, and they'll be fine."

Percival laughs, so thoroughly charmed it's honestly a little sickening. He sets his knife and fork down on his empty plate, leaning back in his chair, and watches Newt work on the last few mouthfuls of his own meal. When he pushes his plate away, glancing up across the table, Percival gives him a measured, encouraging look and says, "I wanted to ask you something."

"Alright," says Newt.

"When you mentioned people lashing out at things they don't understand," says Percival, choosing his words carefully. "You've seen that with your creatures."

"Of course," says Newt.

Percival nods. "And yourself?"

"I'm— " Newt furrows his brows. "What do you— "

"The way you spoke," says Percival, "It seemed as if you were referencing not only something you've seen, but also something you've experienced."

Newt stares down at his empty plate, mouth twisting. "Yes," he says. "At Hogwarts, mostly. I was— different, I suppose. To most of the other children. I wasn't interested in a lot of the same things, and— well. It's not— I don't look back on that time with— entirely with regret, but I suppose it did shape many things about me. I imagine that's the same of all childhoods."

"Of course," says Percival.

"What you were saying earlier— last week, I mean— about distancing myself from people," Newt says, lifting his eyes to somewhere around Percival's collar. "It's just— besides my life now not being particularly conducive to building relationships in the first place— and of course there are those truly awful people I wouldn't try to befriend for any number of galleons— but it's often— I've always been odd. I know I annoy people. For many reasons, I'm sure, but often because I just don't understand them. And so they just— they tend to distance themselves from me as much as I do from them. Sometimes perhaps more. This is why— when I said I find creatures easier, understand them better— there's far less artifice. Far fewer games. They're just— entirely genuine."

"Well," says Percival, "I maintain that those people are all morons." Newt laughs, and Percival quirks his mouth in return. "I understand," he adds quietly. "But I am glad you have people now whose good intentions towards you are sincere. It does get rather tiring, without them."

"Yes," says Newt, looking down at his hands. "It does. But I'm— I'm glad, too. New York has certainly been an entirely different experience to what I expected."

"Tipping towards the good end of the scale, I hope," says Percival.

Newt huffs a laugh. "There were a few initial obstacles," he says. Percival snorts at the understatement. "But yes, the end result has been— incredibly good."

"Good," says Percival firmly.

Newt smiles at him, then startles when their plates vanish and a tea tray rattles into being between them. One of the cups tips over onto its side, and Percival hands it to Newt with an eye roll.

"No finesse," he says.

"It's an, er, abrupt bit of spellwork," agrees Newt, peering at the items on the tray.

"Tea?" asks Percival. When Newt nods, he adds, "Go on, then," to the teapot.

The teapot puffs out a sharp cloud of steam, like an exasperated sigh, but empties a helping into Newt's cup obediently. Percival pours himself some coffee by hand, watching Newt's involuntary little smile as the sugar bowl edges almost shyly towards his cup.

"Thank you," Newt says to the sugar bowl. He doctors his tea, then sets the spoon carefully back into the bowl and gives it a gentle, encouraging nudge with his knuckles.

Percival catches a laugh between his teeth; if crockery could preen, honestly.

"What?" says Newt, catching the look on Percival's face.

"Not a thing," says Percival, mouth quirking. "Another new friend?" He tilts his head at the sugar bowl, which has edged closer to Newt's hand, just shy of touching.

"Oh," says Newt, glancing down. "Well, I suppose it's absorbed a fair amount of magic in its tenure. Charmed objects, you know, they're really quite fascinating. My father has had the same teacup following him around the house for twenty years, and— well. It's, er, quite loyal."

Percival raises his eyebrows. "I get the feeling there's more to that story," he says.

Newt laughs and stretches his left hand out over the table, palm down, showing Percival a small, shiny burn scar between two of his knuckles. Percival brushes his thumb over it, mouth curling up slightly. "It knew him, you see," says Newt. "Or rather, it knew I wasn't him, and reacted quite— unhappily." He smiles, wry. "Very rudimentary, as far as personalities go, but effective." He tilts his head. "And reflects well on my father, which is— nice."

Percival laughs. "People, objects— I'm starting to see why you prefer creatures," he says.

"Well, I mean, usually," says Newt, ducking his head and shooting Percival a glance through his lashes. Percival smiles and squeezes his hand, letting the touch linger before he pulls back. It's a moment before Newt, looking promisingly distracted, blinks and adds, "Oh! I wanted to— something you said today, about magical creatures. I didn't know you were— unhappy? With the laws regarding them, I mean."

"You think I'd be overlooking half the things in your case if I didn't disagree with at least parts of them?" says Percival.

"I—don't know," says Newt uncomfortably. "I suppose I assumed it was more of a—a courtesy."

Percival rolls his eyes. "I'm not known for being courteous when it comes to enforcing the law," he says. "However, I'm also aware that some of our laws are long overdue for rewriting. The bans and restrictions on magical creatures—it's an inelegant coverall for a very nuanced issue."

"Yes!" says Newt loudly. The sugar bowl jumps, and rears back in alarm when Newt waves his hands for emphasis. "I just—of course I think there should be bans on trading creatures for parts, and using them towards dangerous ends. No one should be allowed to keep a creature simply to make use of its various properties. But to ban the creatures themselves, to ban anyone at all from sheltering them, or to make transporting them elsewhere so bothersome that most people don't go to the trouble—it's an entirely separate issue, and they shouldn't be addressed by the same laws. If it were just a little easier to shelter and rehabilitate creatures here—if just a little more time and care went into maintaining their natural habitats and prosecuting poachers—wouldn't that have a positive effect on your efforts to stop illegal trading?"

"It would," says Percival. "I agree with you."

"Yes," says Newt, slumping back in his chair, cheeks flushed. "I—yes. Good."

Percival wants to reach out and touch his pinked-up cheeks, wants to catch Newt's long, elegant fingers again and not let go. He restricts himself to smiling at him instead, small but unbearably fond. "It's like you said," he says. "Lack of understanding fosters fear, and fear fosters discrimination. I imagine your book will go a fair way towards changing things for the better. I hear it's doing very well."

"Yes," says Newt, ducking his head. His blush darkens. "I mean—I hope so. I hope it changes things."

"You do," says Percival softly. "I have no doubt your book will prove to be equally compelling."

Newt looks somewhat helplessly over Percival's shoulder, scrubbing a hand through his hair. He looks flustered and gorgeous for it. Percival feels a warm rush of pleased satisfaction.

"Would you like anything else?" he asks. "Dessert? Or I could take you to the water."

"The water, please," says Newt immediately.

"Gladly," says Percival. He leaves the money for their meals, along with a generous tip, on the table, then stands and holds a hand out to Newt.

Newt takes it without hesitation. His palm is warm, a little damp but not unpleasantly so. Percival can admit to himself that he tugs a little harder than is perhaps necessary, just to make Newt stumble towards him, chests and shoulders bumping briefly before they right themselves. Newt shoots him a look, shy and fondly knowing.

They make their way out onto the street hand-in-hand, and Percival says, "Ready?" to Newt as they pass into the shadows beyond the lamps.

Newt nods, and Percival presses his lips to Newt's temple, the surprised little noise it elicits just audible above the rush of displaced air as Percival apparates them away.

He takes them as close as they can safely get to the water; it's easily close enough to feel the salty spray on their cheeks if the wind turns just right. Newt takes a step closer immediately, setting his suitcase down safely behind him, and Percival lets their hands slide apart, keeping a close eye on Newt's footing.

"The Hudson is on the left," he says. "It's connected to the East River by a tidal strait— this water in front of us— called the Harlem River. This most northern stretch is fairly new— it was altered for no-maj navigational purposes, I believe. The curve and currents of the water were too difficult to safely traverse, so they cut off a part of the island to straighten the path somewhat. It's now connected to the mainland, and they call this the Spouting Devil Creek."

Newt stares out at the dark water, transfixed. "All without magic," he murmurs. "Amazing."

"Upper New York Bay is the southernmost point of the island," says Percival, watching Newt instead of the river, the planes and hollows of his face, his hair caught in the breeze. "Where the Hudson and the East River proper flow into the ocean. I find this— more interesting, I suppose."

"It's beautiful," says Newt. "I've already seen the harbour, the statue, but this— I never would have seen this, if you hadn't— thank you." He turns to Percival, smiling, eyes reflecting the soft, smoky moonlight. Percival wants to touch him so badly his chest aches with it.

"May I kiss you?" he asks, rough.

Newt makes a noise and drags Percival in with both hands fisted in his lapels, crushing their mouths together. It's a shockingly hot counterpoint to the cool breeze coming off the water, and Percival huffs a surprised laugh against his lips, tilting his head and angling Newt with gentle fingers, aligning them properly and sinking into the slow, molten pleasure building between them.

It's altogether lovely, Newt's kiss, a little clumsy and so very eager, his chapped lips and his hands clenched too tightly in Percival's coat, trying to pull them tighter together. The noises he makes—muffled little half-broken things, eager and almost surprised. Percival gives him a gentle scrape of teeth, helpless not to, coaxing his mouth open and licking inside, making it wetter, deeper. It makes Newt groan, one of his hands stealing beneath Percival's coat, nudging under his jacket to curve around the shape of his ribs. He arches his neck into the hands Percival has cupped over his jaw, pressing his whole body in closer, closer, until there's nowhere left to move, giving with abandon and taking with undisguised pleasure.

"I'll take that as a yes?" Percival says roughly when they pull apart to breathe.

"Blanket permission," says Newt breathlessly, smiling as he chases Percival's mouth for another kiss.

It's Percival who groans this time, dropping a hand to tug Newt closer by the hip, fitting his palm over that narrow waist. Newt is hot and hard against him, mouth gone spit-slick and soft and swollen. He's so damn willing, so open it takes Percival's breath away, makes him want.

He lets his mouth fall to Newt's throat before he loses his mind completely, kissing over the shuddering pulse in Newt's jugular. Newt makes a strangled little sound, tipping his head back wordlessly, and Percival sucks up a mark on his pale skin, slow and thorough.

"Oh," gasps Newt, fingers twisting in Percival's coat, digging into his ribs. "I— please— "

"I want to take you home," whispers Percival against the shell of his ear. "I want to— "

"Yes," says Newt immediately. Percival kisses the hinge of his jaw, trailing along the sharp bone, and Newt shivers against him. "Yes, I want— let's— oh."

"Oh?" echoes Percival, kissing Newt's mouth again, the freckles on his top lip.

"I have to feed my creatures," says Newt between kisses. "It's already quite late, and I— I can't leave it, but I want— would you mind terribly— "

"I'm a patient man," says Percival, amused. He kisses the corner of Newt's mouth and adds, "I can be a helpful one too, occasionally."

"Really?" says Newt, pulling back far enough to beam at Percival.

Percival rolls his eyes. "Of course," he says, dragging his thumb over Newt's bottom lip. Then he pauses, tilting his head, and adds, "Although I will not go anywhere near the damned nundu."

"What nundu?" says Newt, the corner of his mouth twitching before he breaks into helpless laughter at Percival's long-suffering look, dropping his head to Percival's shoulder.

"I've created a monster," says Percival wryly to no one in particular, carding a hand through Newt's hair. "What nundu. Your flagrant flouting of the law is beginning to sound entirely too comfortable."

"Oh, hush, Addie is lovely," says Newt, lifting his head.

"I'm reserving judgement," Percival tells him, taking in Newt's flushed cheeks and bright eyes, his gorgeous, kiss-darkened mouth. "You, however— "

Newt ducks his head, and Percival tips his chin up to kiss him again, grinning.

"Shall we?" he says, pulling back just enough to make the words clear.

"Yes, please," says Newt.

Percival laces their fingers together, and Newt picks up his suitcase with his free hand, tucking himself in close as Percival apparates them away one final time.

 

Feeding Newt's creatures is a hurried affair made clumsy by their haste. Percival is probably far less helpful than his promise led Newt to expect, with the way he can't keep his eyes from straying to Newt at every opportunity, making him fumble hay and pellets and insects alike.

By the time they make it back into Percival's bedroom Newt is a picture of flushed disarray, creased clothes sitting at odd angles on his frame. His coat has long since been discarded, and Percival starts working on his vest without delay, tugging at the buttons impatiently. It doesn't even occur to him until he's pushing it off Newt's shoulders that he could have used magic instead. Newt is laughing under his breath, twisting this way and that in a futile attempt to help Percival in his task, ducking into Percival's space for kisses every few seconds and thoroughly ruining Percival's efforts to divest him of his shirt. It's definitely not a conscious decision, but between Percival's magic and his hands clenching in Newt's shirt, the slick slide of their mouths together as Newt sways in for another kiss and his need to see Newt bare as soon as possible, in the next moment Newt is stripped abruptly to the waist with several buttons skittering across the floor. He pulls back to blink slowly down at himself, then up at Percival.

"Hush," growls Percival, swallowing Newt's resultant laugh in another kiss. "I'll fix it later."

Newt hums against his mouth, letting Percival steer him towards the bed and dropping easily onto the mattress when Percival nudges him gently down. He makes quick work of the rest of Newt's clothes, boots and all, then gets them arranged somewhat the right way along the bed, stretching himself out over the pale acres of Newt's bare skin.

"Mm," says Newt, hitching his long legs around Percival's thighs. Percival bites the hinge of Newt's jaw and grinds down into the willing cradle of his hips. "Oh! Yes, that's— like that. Just— inside me, please."

Percival pulls back to stare at him.

"What?" says Newt, a hint of uncertainty flickering across his face.

Percival shakes his head. "You are indecent," he growls, nipping at Newt's bottom lip.

"Really?" says Newt, chasing the sting absently with his tongue. "I was trying to be polite."

"You—" Percival stares for another moment and then laughs incredulously, dipping in to press his smile to Newt's mouth, kiss him sloppy and sweet, urgency held at bay for just a moment by stupid, giddy delight.

It lasts only as long as it takes for Newt to start canting his hips, little wanting noises escaping into the muffled breaths between kisses. He's tugging impatiently at Percival's shirt, fingertips teasing the waistband of his trousers, and when he can't stand it anymore, when their kisses have turned to lewd, luscious things, Percival pulls back, breathless, hair falling into his eyes, and says, "Alright. Are you sure?"

Newt looks up at him, nodding fast. "Yes," he says. "I'm— yes. Please." He swallows, and Percival kisses his mouth, his chin, the rolling stretch of his throat.

"Alright," he says again. He sits up on his knees, waving a hand so his shirt buttons deal with themselves while he reaches for his belt.

"Efficient," murmurs Newt, eyes creasing up with his smile. He skates his hands up Percival's chest, pushing his shirt apart. "Oh," he adds, hushed, as Percival shrugs the shirt off his shoulders, flinging it off the side of the bed. "You— you're just—"

"Just—" prompts Percival, smirking, when Newt fails to continue.

"Beautiful," says Newt, biting his lip. He flattens his palms beneath Percival's pectorals, thumbs stroking gently. Percival feels the smirk fall into something soft and open-mouthed, almost disbelieving, and he gives himself a moment to just— just catch his breath, because Newt is so thoroughly, unrelentingly perfect, and he doesn't even know it.

The thought makes something tip inside Percival, something light up and flare bright, and he shoves his pants and underwear down inelegantly so he can stretch out over Newt again, bracketing his head with his folded arms and kissing him, deep and hungry.

They're touching everywhere, now, skin on skin. Percival can feel Newt, the hard length of him, the soft skin already so wet. He rolls his hips, sends the pleasure of friction skittering through both of them, making Newt shiver and Percival groan lowly.

"Closer," gasps Newt, "But not— not quite there, I need— you can—"

"Impatient?" murmurs Percival, tangling his fingers in Newt's hair and tugging his head back gently, mouthing down the taut column of his neck. "You don't like this?"

"I— I do, of course I do, just— oh," says Newt, twitching when Percival bites down.

"I want," says Percival, and fits his mouth over Newt's collarbone, sucking lightly, "To kiss you—" He moves down to Newt's chest, drawing his tongue around a nipple. "All over." He detours across Newt's chest, kisses a mole to the left of his sternum. "Every inch."

"Merlin," says Newt, choked. He cards a hand restlessly through Percival's hair. "I can't—"

"But," says Percival against Newt's navel, the muscles in his stomach clenching beneath his mouth, "I suppose we have all night. And I know where I want to start."

He moves further down Newt's body, eyeing his flushed, shiny-wet cock appreciatively but bypassing it with nothing more than a teasing breath. Newt says, "Oh, Merlin," hips jerking upwards, and Percival takes hold of his thighs to still him, easing his legs back and a little wider apart, angling him so Percival can get his mouth right there, licking a broad stripe over his hole.

Newt yelps, body jerking hard.

Percival grins and looks up to find Newt staring at him, eyes wide and shocked, hands fisted in the sheets.

"Do you want me to stop?" he says, licking his lips.

"I—" Newt blinks, bites his lip. "I— you don't have to—"

"Trust me, sweetheart," says Percival, "I want to."

"Oh," says Newt quietly. "Then— yes, if you— please."

Percival goes at him gladly, licks at the tight muscle until it's relaxed and wet, until Newt is writhing and gasping, thrusting his hips mindlessly, and then he licks in.

Newt lets out a long, shaky breath, drawing it in again with a damp hitch, quivering around Percival's tongue. "Oh," he breathes. "Oh, that's— Percival—"

Percival hums, flexing his fingers on Newt's thighs, digging his thumbs in to spread him wider. Newt's blatant pleasure is like a breath to the ember of heated want burning low in Percival's belly, making his skin itch and sweat drip into his eyes. He revels in the way his jaw aches, in Newt's taste, his sounds, his body moving beneath Percival— every last, lovely thing about him.

He's balancing on a knife-edge of control when he pushes one slick finger into Newt, twisting and pressing. Newt hisses, "Yes, yes, oh—" and Percival is maybe too quick with the second finger, but Newt just gasps and bows his back beautifully, says, "Yes," one more time.

"Indecent," mutters Percival, watching where his fingers disappear into Newt with helpless longing. Newt lets out a little breath of a laugh and spreads his legs wider, asking without words.

"One more, okay, sweetheart?" says Percival softly, brushing his thumb around the rim of Newt's hole.

Newt groans, hips rolling and circling in little wave-like ripples, fucking himself mindlessly on Percival's fingers, but he grits out, "No," surprisingly forcefully for his previous incoherence, like he's come suddenly awake from a deep sleep. "No, I don't need another. I want— I want to feel it, ah, I want to— feel you tomorrow."

Percival groans in turn, reaching down to close a fist almost painfully around his cock. "I can arrange for you to feel it tomorrow, regardless," he says, and Newt laughs, breathless.

"What about both?" he says, looking up at Percival, mouth curling up.

"Well," says Percival, "I suppose I can manage that compromise." He presses closer to Newt, rubbing his cock into the crease between his legs. "Are you sure?"

"Ah, I'm— yes," says Newt. "I was sure before we began, I want—"

Percival lets out a strangled laugh. "Alright, alright," he says. He braces Newt with a hand on one thigh, reaching out to push his sweaty hair from his forehead with the other. "If you knew how much I want you," he adds quietly, marvelling at the picture Newt makes spread beneath him, for him.

Newt makes a cut-off little noise and surges up, barely catching Percival's mouth in a sloppy, messy kiss as he knocks him off-balance.

"Sorry," he says when he pulls back, breathing hard. "Now I'm ready."

Percival kisses him one more time, utterly beyond his control, before he pushes Newt gently down again.

"Do you want to turn over?" he asks.

"No," says Newt simply. "I want to see your face."

Percival closes his eyes. "You will be the death of me," he mutters, but he knees his way into position and lines himself up against Newt's entrance, bracing himself.

"Please don't make me wait," says Newt, a rough thread of desperation humming beneath the words.

"I won't," says Percival. "I couldn't."

He presses inside slowly, jaw clenched, entire body strung bow-tight.

Newt throws his head back, eyes squeezed shut. "Oh, oh," he groans. "Yes, that's— more, you can— just— oh. Next time— I want to—"

"Next time?" prompts Percival through gritted teeth, still working his way in, inch by careful inch.

"I want to ride you," says Newt. "Just— just sink right down onto you, just—"

"Stop talking," says Percival. "Just— for the love of Mercy."

Newt moans agreeably as Percival bottoms out, scrabbling at Percival's shoulders until he drops down onto his elbows, dipping in to kiss Newt's open mouth.

"Also," says Percival, biting Newt's lip gently but holding otherwise still, letting Newt adjust, "Next time? We've barely even begun this time. I hope you're not— disappointed, already."

"No," breathes Newt. "Not— no. Just— want more, already."

"Well," says Percival, feeling the fine tremors in his muscles, the sweat dripping into his eyes from the desperate need to move, "Why don't we try for more now? I'm going to move, okay?"

"Please," says Newt, wet against Percival's mouth.

Percival draws his hips back and pushes back in, slow but firm. The noise it punches out of Newt is like nothing he's ever heard, cracked and keening, and he sets a rhythm to the promise of more, chasing his pleasure and Newt's in tandem.

Newt is so beautifully responsive, as Percival fucks him, getting his legs around Percival's waist and using him as leverage to arch into the thrusts, flushed all the way down his chest, eyes glassy.

"Tell me," murmurs Percival against his cheek, shifting a knee to change the angle, thrust in just a little bit deeper. "Tell me, are you—"

"Oh, you— yes, right there, right there, that's— don't stop," gasps Newt, hooking his arms tight around Percival's neck and drawing him into a slick, biting smear of a kiss.

Percival breathes out a silent moan into Newt's mouth and lets his control loosen a little, now he's found the right angle, now that every thrust makes Newt cry out and his hands clench.

"There you go," says Percival, low. "There you go, sweetheart, that's so good."

"Y-yes," chokes Newt, clenching down hard. Percival bites his own lip so hard it hurts. He's close, so close; he can feel the hot shudder of oncoming relief building beneath his skin.

"Are you close?" he whispers. "I want to feel you let go, I want to see it—"

"Yes," says Newt again, nails stinging into the nape of Percival's neck. "Yes, I'm—"

"Do it," says Percival, nudging his nose alongside Newt's, pressing their damp foreheads together. "You're so lovely, sweetheart, let me— here." He slides a hand down to close around Newt's cock, bringing him off hard as he speeds up his thrusts just a little, just enough.

Newt shakes and arches and tightens his limbs all in one gorgeous movement, letting out a long, hoarse cry as he comes.

"Yes, yes, fuck," hisses Percival, his voice like gravel. The pressure around his cock is so impossibly tight he feels it in his teeth, and his hand is wet with Newt's come, Newt's face so pretty and pink and sated as he goes pliant beneath Percival, shuddering with aftershocks. It's too much, too good, and Percival falls silently into a blinding surge of pleasure, mouth pressed to Newt's jaw, muscles shaking.

"Oh," says Newt softly, settling a hand in Percival's hair. "That's— that's perfect, that's— you feel—" He trails off, dazed, and Percival hums in agreement, completely unable to muster anything further.

Newt's fingers stroke absently across his scalp, and after a long moment of slowing breaths and heartbeats, Percival gathers the wherewithal to say, "Sorry. I'll move in a moment."

"You don't have to," says Newt. "I mean, yes, eventually, but I— I like this. Feeling it. Um. After."

Percival does rouse himself at that, enough to lift his head and stare at Newt, whose receding flush returns in full force.

"What on earth am I going to do with you?" says Percival weakly, drawing a thumb over the warm smudge of freckles painting Newt's cheek.

"Well," says Newt, turning his face into Percival's palm, "That? Again?"

Percival laughs, delighted. "Repeatedly," he promises.

Newt smiles against Percival's hand. "I'd like that," he says.

"Very much," says Percival, mouth twitching. Newt laughs, and Percival swallows the sound with a kiss, shifting just enough to slip free from Newt's body, soothing Newt's bereft little noise and letting a hand drift down to touch his hole, the wetness leaking from it, slicking up the space between his legs.

"Oh, oh, that's— yes," breathes Newt, pressing into the touch.

Percival hums, eyeing the mottled marks dotting Newt's skin, his kiss-bruised mouth, the loose, lazy curls drooping over his forehead. They have all night, he thinks, and more besides, so he sets to mapping Newt's body, as promised, determined to learn him entirely.