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Wicked Boys

Chapter Text

Credence had lost count around the seventh or eighth stroke and Ma had started again. The buckle whipped around his ribs and cut into the skin below his right armpit, and he cried out, trying desperately to turn it into a three. He wasn’t sure he would be able to make it to ten if he couldn’t take his rightful punishment.

“Four,” he whimpered as the belt lashed around his waist.

The world started to narrow down to the starbursts of pain while everything else blurred and his ears rang. He tried to concentrate on swallowing down the devil inside him. He was in enough trouble for making eyes at the beautiful man outside the church, for smiling at him - if the demon got out too, Ma would see how truly irredeemable he was. She would have to kill him, and, selfish creature, he wanted to live.

He was dizzy, trying to hold himself up, count the blows, let his perversion be lashed out of him while keeping the demon locked safely away. When the shout came, the blast, he thought he’d failed, and he sank to the floor.


He came round to pain, but that was nothing new. There were also gentle fingers in his hair, a cool sensation on his back, a low, urgent voice. Then a new one, a man’s voice calling someone’s name, and the person near him moved.

“She was killing him, Mr Graves! Look at the kid…oh, Salem, and I attacked her, and—but she was going to kill him, I couldn’t let her, Graves, I couldn’t.”

Footsteps approached, and a shape intake of breath. “Mercy Lewis. She did this? With a belt?”

“Yeah. You’re better than me at healing, Mr Graves, c’mon. Please.”

“S-sure, OK.”

The cool feeling intensified, and felt so blissful on his aching back he choked out a groan.

“Shh, it’s OK, Credence, it’ll be over in a moment. I got you, buddy.”

“I’m gonna go obliviate that…that woman.”

“And then what?” the man asked. Whatever he was doing to Credence’s back was nearly finished, and he felt like he was floating. When the man’s strong fingers scratched Credence’s scalp gently he knew he must surely be dreaming. He sighed. He’d wake up soon, and he’d have lost count, and Ma would have to start again.

“We can’t leave him here,” the man said.

The woman sighed, the sound getting closer as if she slumped down next to him. “He’s a no-maj, Graves. We have to obliviate him too.” She brushed a bit of dust off his cheek, and he pressed his eyes shut. He didn’t want to wake up from this dream. “I’ll just have to keep a closer eye on him, that’s all.”

“You know that won’t be enough. You can’t be here all the time.”

“What do you want me to say, Graves? You know MACUSA will have my wand for doing even this much!”

“Our wands, now you’ve dragged me into it, thank you very much. Honestly, blasting a no-maj clear across the room? I thought I’d trained you better than that, Goldstein.”

“You’d have done the same if you’d seen her beat him,” she said, iron in her voice.

“She’ll kill him next time, Tina.”

The woman was silent.

“You know it’s true. And how long before she starts on the little girl? The older one doesn’t live here any more, does she?”

“What can we do, though?”

Credence let himself drift while they crouched by him, his dream angels, keeping him safe from the real world. He wished they were true.

“We could…do a heavier obliviate,” said the man.

“What are you saying?”

“I’m saying a woman like this shouldn’t be anywhere near children,” he said, his voice low and fierce. “I’m saying we make her forget she ever had any children, and we make sure she never gets any more. We make these poor kids forget they ever knew her and we get them out of here.”

“Graves, we can’t! What are we going to do with two no-maj kids?”

“I don’t know, Tina, but we can’t…you can’t just do half a job! You can’t step in like this and rescue him, and then leave him to deal with it the next time.”

“I can’t…”

“Tina. What were you expecting when you sent me that patronus? What did you think I was gonna do? Just patch the kid up and send him back into war? We are aurors!”

“Yes, and that means we have to uphold the law!”

“Fuck the law!”

For a moment the tension crackled around them, and Credence shifted. The dream was becoming a lot less peaceful all of a sudden.

“Why did you become an auror?”

“You know why, Graves.”

“Yeah, damn right I know. I want to make sure you know. Why did you become an auror?”

“To protect people, OK? Are you happy now?”

“And why,” he said, a triumphant smile creeping into his voice, “would you not want to protect these people?”

She sighed. “Because they’re not under our jurisdiction.”

“That’s bullshit and you know it, Goldstein. You didn’t believe that when you sent a stupefy flying at a no-maj, and you don’t believe it now.”

She forced a sharp breath out her nose. “You know if anyone ever finds out we’re going down so hard for this.”

“That’s my girl.” He stood, his fingers leaving Credence’s hair, and Credence squirmed involuntarily, wanting the sensation back. “You get the woman, I’ll get the little girl.”

Credence frowned. The floorboards under his head vibrated with footsteps, heavy boots heading towards Modesty’s room. He didn’t like this dream any more. The demon twisted in his chest, stirred by his fear, his anger. Even in a dream no-one was allowed to touch Modesty. Doors were opening down the hallway, getting closer and closer to little boot room at the end where Modesty always felt safest. He pulled at his eyelids, hauling himself out of sleep.

“I’ve found her,” the man’s voice called, and Credence’s eyes snapped open.

Chapter Text

Credence woke to muted light and soft sheets, a warm spice smell and a man sitting on a chair by the bed. The man who’d tried to hurt Modesty.

He sat up too quickly and flopped against the wall. “Easy there,” said the man, holding out both hands. No wand. But he was still a witch, he thought, and he hunched back, the bedclothes pooling at his feet.


“Modesty? That’s your sister, right?”

Credence nodded.

“She’s fine, I swear. I didn’t hurt her. I wouldn’t. I can take you to see her if you like? Later?”

Credence relaxed in increments and the man let out a breath and sat back down. “What’s your name?” he asked.


“Nice to meet you, Credence. Are you feeling OK?”

He nodded.

“Great. That’s good.” He chuckled. “Don’t want you going all smoke-cloud again, do we?” His lips twitched awkwardly.

Credence frowned. “Smoke-cloud?”

“Uh. What do you remember?”

“I… I remember a lady. A witch. She did something to Ma…”

The man’s face darkened. “You never have to worry about her again, you hear? You never have to go back to your Ma if you don’t want to.”

Credence blinked. The concept was too surreal, so he returned to the original question. “I remember you… did you heal me?”

“With pleasure. I’m only sorry I couldn’t do anything about those scars.”

Credence looked down at his hands, clear of red marks, only scar tissue on the palms. He had deserved the beatings. He still did, the way his heart was fluttering faced with this beautiful, elegant man. But then he frowned. “I remember you pointing a wand at my sister.”

“Uh, yeah. OK, so here’s the thing, it’s illegal for no-majes - non-magical people like your mother and sisters - to know about us, but I swear, all I was going to do was change her memory, it wouldn’t have harmed her, I swear.”

He looked nervous - nervous of Credence, he realised, but why would a powerful man like that be afraid of a teenage boy? “Why haven’t you taken my memory?” he whispered.

“Because you’re one of us.”

“What? How can I…”

The man ran his hand over his slicked back hair, forehead crinkling up. “When I pointed my wand at your sister, you just… erupted. Smoke coming out of your skin, eyes all white - you damn near tore the building down around us until Tina threw my wand down and convinced you we wouldn’t harm her.”

“I don’t… I don’t remember…” Credence whispered. But there were flashes, a fury, a power screaming through his veins, a voice whispering in his ears to take a step back, let the power handle it, let it destroy.

Credence put his hand over his mouth and his vision blurred with tears. “What am I?”

“Well, we don’t know,” said the man apologetically. “We’re trying to find out, but we have to do so quietly. There’s no precedence for someone like you - your magic should have been spotted years ago and you’d have been placed with a wizarding family, not left in that… that hellhole.” He shook his head. “No-one should be left there, wizard or not. We were gonna find you somewhere else to be safe. We’ve already found a place for your sisters, and the no-maj police have had an anonymous tip-off about your Mom. She won’t be able to hurt anyone else, not if we can help it.”


“Oh! Me and Tina. I’m Graves. Well, Percival Graves, only I’m really not too keen on the Percival, so leave it out, if you don’t mind.” He held out his hand to shake.

“What’s gonna happen to me?”

Mr Graves rubbed both hands down his face. “That’s the dilemma. Because all this we’ve done so far is some real vigilante shit, wizards aren’t meant to get involved in no-maj issues in any way. If MACUSA found out what we’ve done we’d be fired at best. More likely imprisoned.”


“Uh, like wizard... cops? Tina and I work there. I’m her boss, actually. Anyway, we don’t know what they’d do about you. Because your name isn’t appearing on any magical register, but you are clearly not a no-maj. We just… we don’t want to risk taking you in when we don’t know… well…what you are. Excuse the expression.”

Credence was silent for a long time, his head spinning with all this new information, all the uncertainty. He was used to not knowing where the next meal and punishment would come from, but not even knowing what he was?

Mr Graves stood and smiled sympathetically at him. “You look like you could use some dinner, kid. Chicken soup OK?”

“Y-yes, sir,” he said, scrambling out of bed. “I don’t know if I can make it very well, but I’ll do my best.”

“Hey, no, that’s not what I meant.” Mr Graves put his hand on Credence’s shoulder and he flinched. “Sorry, shit, sorry. No, come on, you’re not doing the cooking. You’re my guest.”

“Your guest?”

“Yeah. Tina couldn’t take you in, as much as she wanted to take care of you. Her lodgings are women only. So you’re stuck with Casa del Graves. My cooking’s nowhere near Queenie’s level - she’s Tina’s sister - and it’s not as homey but—“

“It’s wonderful,” said Credence, startling himself with his cheek, interrupting the man. “Thank you Mr Graves. I know I’m an awful bother, and I don’t deserve such kindness, but—“

“Aw, kid, no.” Mr Graves turned to face him, stopping dead in the living area of his lovely apartment. He had his hands raised, and pulled them back, eyes soft and sad. “Can I touch your shoulder or something? You’re breaking my heart here, I just want to give you a hug.”

Credence stared at him open mouthed and only just had the presence of mind to nod violently. Mr Graves gave him a little half smile and lowered both hands slowly to his shoulders. Credence almost gasped at the contact, the warmth that spread from the skin under those strong palms right down to his heart.

“You do deserve this, Credence. Hell, you deserve so much more than whatever half-assed comfort I can give, and I’m sure I’m gonna mess things up, but Tina and I, we’re going to find somewhere you can be safe and free. OK? And enough of the mister,” he grinned. “You’ll make me feel old.”

He ducked his head slightly, squeezing Credence’s shoulders, and Credence looked up through his lashes to meet the gentle gaze. How did this happen? How did a wicked boy like him get such kindness and effort, why were these incredible people risking so much for him? He nodded just so that Mr Graves would smile and turn away, leading him towards the kitchen, and giving Credence space to wipe the tears away with shaking hands.

Chapter Text

The weeks that followed were an odd combination of overwhelming new information, and oppressive silence whenever Mr Graves had to go into work. Credence would wander around the warm brownstone apartment, afraid to touch anything in case it inconvenienced or annoyed Mr Graves to find it out of place. He would perch anxiously on the edge of the leather couch and feel the quiet pressing down on him, the heat of an early New York summer leeching in through the heavy curtains. He spent all day desperate for the sound of Mr Graves’ wards clicking aside, and when he heard them, his heart would hammer desperately, and he’d look around, frantic, in case he’d done something to mess the place up somehow. But Mr Graves would always look up and smile at him, the skin by his eyes crinkling, and call out cheerful greetings, ask what he fancied for dinner, and Credence’s chest would warm from the inside, his fears of the day melting in the face of Mr Graves’ kindness and beauty.

After a while he started taking out books for Credence to read. He’d long ago offered him the bookcase, but Credence hadn’t known where to start. Mr Graves pursed his lips one day and handed him a thick volume. “I was thinking about this story the other day, thought you’d like it.” He frowned for a moment. “You, um… you read OK, don’t you?”

“Yes, sir,” he said, surprised. “I went to school - I did pretty well, actually.” He frowned. He missed learning.

Mr Graves bit his lip. “I’m sorry we couldn’t let you go back,” he said.

“Oh! No, that’s… that’s not your fault.” He took the book before Mr Graves could feel anything approaching guilt on Credence’s account. “Jane Eyre,” he said, stroking the leather cover.

Mr Graves smiled and nodded. “Yeah. I think you’ll like Jane. She’s a kid who’s been through some hard times too. But she’s got a core of steel. Just like you. You’re survivors.”

Credence blushed and ducked his head. He didn’t have a core of steel. Mr Graves thought too kindly of him. He had a core of violence and smoke, if that. The only reason he survived was by cowardice.

He read the book the next day. And the day after, so engrossed in Jane’s story that he found himself curling into the couch, his feet tucked under him. As he read her confrontation with StJohn, his heart thumping, he felt fingers ruffle into his hair and jumped violently.

“Sorry!” Mr Graves stepped back, hands up. “I’m sorry, I just… you looked so sweet there.” He laughed and gripped the back of his own neck. “God, sorry.”

Credence blushed and felt his lips twist into a half grimace, half smile. “I looked sweet?

Mr Graves laughed again. “Yeah, not what a teenage boy wants to hear, I’m sure, but you were all scrunched up in the corner of the couch, completely engrossed - it was adorable.”

Credence laughed as well, shaking his head, and something between them, some tension in his belly, seemed to uncurl and relax.


Ms Goldstein - Tina, she insisted - came over from work one day with her sister Queenie, an angelic cloud of dimples and honey perfume who could read his mind and smiled tearfully at him embarrassingly often. Tina stood up after finishing her coffee. “Credence, I’ve got something to show you. May I?” She held out her arm for him to take, and the two of them snapped out of Mr Graves’ living room and into a quiet alley in the city. Credence gasped and staggered, leaning on one of the walls. “Sorry. That was apparition, are you OK?”

He nodded, and she gave him a half smile and jerked her head towards the street. She leaned on a plane tree and crossed her arms, gesturing towards a group of children in a big front yard outside a slightly run-down suburban house. And there was Modesty, splashing water at a red-haired boy her age, being picked up and spun around by a tall black girl, shrieking and laughing. A slim woman with a cascade of brown curls sat on the stoop with a toddler on her lap, smiling down at the children.

All the air left Credence’s lungs and he leaned against the tree as well, his eyes prickling. “She looks…”

“Yeah,” said Tina. “Rebekah’s been looking after foster children for years. They don’t have much money but she’s always had more than enough love to make up for it.” She cleared her throat. “She’s a squib.”

“Squib?” he asked, not taking his eyes off his sister.

“Yeah. Born to a wizarding family, but she has no magic. Many squibs choose to live as no-majes when they come of age, but if they do, they have to be obliviated.”

Credence had always thought Tina’s face looked sad, as if it was built for melancholy. Now even her soul looked sad. “You knew her?”

“She was my friend, when we were children. We had Pesach at her house every year until Rebekah decided to leave. Her parents moved to Israel after that.” She took a deep breath. “I’m not allowed to have any contact with her but… well, they can’t stop me keeping track and, uh, giving Modesty’s paperwork a little nudge in the right direction.”

They watched the children play for hours. Tina cast a disillusionment charm over them, she said it would look like nothing more than a heat haze, and Credence took advantage of the fact that they were invisible to each other to let the tears meander down his cheeks as Modesty squeezed the older girl around her waist, or tickled the little toddler who appeared, or smiled up at Rebekah when she came out with a jug of juice, curls bouncing around her face. When Tina reached out and touched his arm, patting the air a couple of times before she made contact properly, he was smiling through his tears.

“Thank you, Tina. I just… there aren’t words for how grateful I am, for all you guys have done for me. I wish I could repay you somehow, I just…”

“Hey, hey, Credence! We didn’t pull you out of there for any repayment. That’s not what this is. You don’t have to do anything, you don’t have to earn your keep or anything. Just… live. Live this life that you deserve, because you sure as hell didn’t deserve any of what you had before.”

He smiled, his chin wobbling again, and let her apparate back to Mr Graves’ house.


Queenie came by herself one day, her eyes lighting up when Credence stood, The Secret Garden dangling from his hand. “Hey, honey,” she said. “Mr Graves kindly said I could come over and do something with your hair.”

His hand flew up to his head and he tugged on the awful bowl cut. “Do something?”

She grinned. “You don’t have to let it grow out by itself any more, not with this here potion.” She waved a delicate glass vial, the liquid inside glimmering like pearl. “Now, is there a mirror we can use?”

They ended up taking one of the breakfast bar stools into the bathroom, and Queenie cast a charm on his shirt to make it smooth enough that water and strands of hair would just drift off. “You ready?”

He nodded, and Queenie poured the potion into her hands, rubbing her fingers through his hair and onto his scalp. He closed his eyes in bliss, then quickly snapped them open and blushed. Queenie giggled. “That’s OK, honey, you enjoy the feeling of having your head rubbed. You’re like a little cat, you are.”

He raised an eyebrow at her in the mirror and she laughed again. He was beginning to lose the battle against the smile that sound wanted to call forwards. “Don’t stop yourself smiling, honey,” she said. “Life gives us plenty enough excuses to be sad. No point fighting the ones that make you happy.”

It was stupid that such an unrelated thing made him think of Mr Graves, and how his very presence made Credence happy. But then, everything good made him think of Mr Graves, and a little smile brushed across his lips.

In horror he looked up at Queenie. Shit. Shit, she’d know, she’d know and then he’d be thrown out and he was evil and—

“Hey. Hey, Credence! Breathe. Just breathe, honey, you’re OK. Oh, honey, no. No, there’s no way we could ever think that of you!”

“But… but I’m…”

She smiled and shrugged. “You’ve got a crush. It’s nothing, honey, you wouldn’t be the first. Wouldn’t be the first to have a crush on Mr Graves, either.”

“But he’s a man… and I…”

She stared. “Oh, sweetheart, I’m sorry. I know some people can be a bit funny about same sex relationships, none of us round here cares one little bit. And that… that woman, she’s never going to get her hands on you again, you hear? She’ll have to go through me, and all the rest of us.”

He gaped at her in the mirror. “But… but it’s evil.”

She immediately wrapped her arms around his shoulders, her small hands clenched in his shirt, her hair pressed agains his ear. “Credence Barebone, you are not evil. You hear me? You couldn’t possibly be evil. There is so much good in you, sweetheart, so much kindness. You like who you like, male, female, both and neither and everyone in between, we’re all just the same when it comes to our hearts.”

He put his hands over hers and stared at her. Was this real? Did she truly believe he wasn’t going to go to hell for his perversion? His head was spinning, and she kept squeezing him tight every time a new thought flashed through his head. Ma had always said… but then Ma said that magic was the work of the devil, and yet these people, these witches, they were the kindest, most generous people he’d ever known. Was it possible she was wrong about… about everything?

He squeezed her hands and pressed a kiss to her arm. “Thank you,” he whispered.

She sniffled and hugged him tight again. “Look at the pair of us,” she said, standing up and wiping tears off her cheeks. “I think we need a cup of tea while that potion gets to work.”

She touched up her makeup while Credence boiled the kettle and poured the hot water into the mugs. “Is it really OK? How I feel about Mr Graves?”

She smiled and cupped his cheek. “Oh, sweetheart. I guess… it is and it isn’t. There isn’t a problem with you both being male, not for most civilised people. But he’s in his thirties and you’re, what, fifteen?”

He nodded. “Yeah. I didn’t… I would never think anything would come of it. I mean… why would he look at me?”

She didn’t answer, just looked at him with concern in every curve of her cheeks. He held out a cup of sweet tea and they sat next to each other on the couch. She still looked so sad. It wasn’t right for Queenie to be sad. She smiled up at him, and it didn’t reach her eyes. “We really are a pair,” she sighed. “You’ve got a crush on an older man, and I… I’m in love with a no-maj.”

Credence smiled. “That’s lovely, Queenie. He’s the luckiest man in the world.”

To his horror her lower lip trembled. “No, honey, no, he’s not. We’re not allowed to… to fraternise with no-majes. They can’t know anything about us. I thought I could keep it separate, I thought I could keep it a secret but he… he saw me doing magic.”

She started sobbing for real, and Credence quickly took her cup away, placing it on the table so he could wrap his arms around her and rock her, hushing gently.

“I thought I would have to obliviate him… I’d been preparing for it, and it would have broken my heart but… but his eyes just lit up! He… he was so happy about it, said he always knew there was something magical about me and I just… I couldn’t. I was so selfish but, Credence, I love him so, so much and… and he loves me too. I know, and it blows my mind every time I see how much he loves me. I just… I can’t give it up. And it’s going to get us into so much trouble. He’ll be obliviated, I’ll be thrown in jail… maybe even Teenie too, because she knows, and all because… because I’m so very selfish.”

Credence held her tight and pressed her head close to his shoulder, wishing he could take all the pain away, keep her safe, where she could be as happy and loved and loving as she deserved.

Chapter Text

Mr Graves looked slightly manic when he arrived home one Wednesday night. “I’ve got a present for you,” he said, bouncing on the balls of his feet.

Credence’s chest warmed through. “You didn’t have to, Mr Graves,” he said, his now long curls falling over his face and hiding the blush.

“Well,” he said, tilting his head from side to side. “It’s not really a very good present. I mean, I didn’t buy it for you or anything. It’s just…” he huffed and brought out a plain brown wand. “This has been sitting in lost and found for months. And I thought… well, you’ve never tried to use one before, have you? But we know you’ve got magic, and lots of it, so… why not?”

Credence’s breath caught in his throat and his hands shook as he reached for the wand. If this worked, he might be able to join wizarding society for real one day, as more than just the squib relative no-one had ever heard of. He might be able to do real magic himself, rather than just staring in wonder as Mr Graves and Queenie and Tina made graceful arcs with their wands, conjuring things into being, turning something into something else, performing miracles with an ease and nonchalance he couldn’t even imagine.

The wood felt warm from Mr Graves’ hand, and as he touched it he could almost feel the power in it trembling to spring free. Maybe he could be a wizard, rather than a secret unknown creature, a risk to his saviours. He might even be able to go back to school.

Mr Graves grinned at him. “You ready? Now, if we were going to shop for a wand just for you, you’d know just by touching it that it was going to work for you. But this wand’s been bonded to someone else, so, just to warn you, it might take a little bit of effort for this to work. Sometimes wands just don’t suit a person. And some wands don’t like to change hands either. But…” he shrugged. “Shall we give it a go?”

Credence nodded vigorously, still unable to tear his eyes away from the wand.

“Great,” he said. “OK.” He took a deep breath and took his own wand out of its holster up his sleeve. “Right, now, let’s try to make that book levitate. You need to swish and flick, and at the same time, call out wingardium leviosa. You’ve got to have the intent there, as well, let the energy flow down your arm and into the wand. Really concentrate on the book levitating. OK?”

“Swish and flick, wingardium leviosa, book levitating. Got it.” He narrowed his eyes at the book and held his (his!) wand out in front of him. Took a deep breath and imagined power from inside his chest flowing into his arm, out of the pleasantly grained wood in his hand. “Wingardium leviosa!” he shouted.

The wand exploded in a cloud of black smoke. Splinters hurled across the room with a spark and a crack, and Credence cried out in pain.


Mr Graves was murmuring softly, his wand no longer in his hand. Had he lost it? Credence could barely see through the thick black smoke, couldn’t hear quite what Mr Graves was saying. Why couldn’t he hear? He could feel blood dripping down his wrist, taste metal on his tongue. His head felt funny, all thick and hazy, like the fog or smoke was inside him as well as out.

And then it was clearing, sinking away. Mr Graves must have done something, cast a spell to make the smoke disappear. But it looked like it was whirling around Credence, making him dizzy, making his chest feel cold. He pressed his uninjured hand to his ribs and groaned.

“Credence, speak to me. Are you OK?”

Mr Graves was bent over him, one arm around his shoulder holding him up where he was slumped, the other hand stroking Credence’s cheek, and he couldn’t help leaning into the touch. “M’fine.”

“Oh, thank Merlin,” he gasped. “Kid, I’m so sorry.”

“I’m not a kid,” he muttered.

“No, no, you’re not, Credence, I’m so sorry. Are you OK?”

He blinked up at him, trying to focus properly. “You’re hurt.”

He frowned. “No, I’m fine. Let’s take a look at that hand, yeah?”

But he wasn’t fine. He had cuts all over one side of his face, holes in his dress shirt with blood trailing down his chest. “I did this.”

“No, no, Credence, it’s fine. Let me see that hand.” He winced and started casting quiet spells to pull the splinters of wood out of Credence’s skin, healing the wounds and rubbing his hand when he was done. “All done. OK?”

Credence couldn’t return his smile. He’d hurt Mr Graves. Mr Graves had brought him such a precious gift, and he’d repaid him by hurting him. He reached up and brushed his fingers along one deep cut on his chin. If this had been just a little lower…

Mr Graves inhaled and gently took Credence’s hand away. “Hey. Don’t worry about it. We’ll figure something out, OK?”

But it wasn’t OK.


Credence could hardly even bear to look at Mr Graves for days afterwards. How could he still treat him with kindness after everything he’d done? All he ever brought the man was pain and danger, but if anything Mr Graves was looking at him with even more concern, even fondness, his glance lingering even as Credence turned away. It made guilt pulse in Credence’s chest with every beat of his heart.

They shared another almost silent dinner that weekend, the shame pressing down on Credence’s shoulders so he was almost hunched over his food. Mr Graves put his coffee cup down so it rattled. “Right. That’s it.”

Credence startled and stared up at him, wide eyed. Mr Graves did a double take and put both hands on Credence’s shoulders. “Oh. No, it’s nothing bad, Credence. I just…” he sighed. “You’ve been really down ever since the fiasco with the wand and I’m worried about you.”

He smiled slightly and looked down. “You don’t have to worry about me, Mr Graves.”

“Of course I do,” he said, and something echoed in his voice that made Credence look back up into serious brown eyes. “I’ll always worry about you, Credence.”

He stared at him, wishing, wishing, until Mr Graves stood in one quick motion, flicking his wand at the lamps so that they split into hundreds of points of light and fluttered around the room like butterflies or stars. The couch, armchair and coffee table retreated back against the wall, and jaunty piano music started playing. Mr Graves turned back with a grin as a soft-voiced man started singing. “C’mon, Credence. We both need to loosen up. Let’s dance.”

Credence startled a laugh. “You’re joking.”

“Absolutely not,” he said, doing a ridiculous two step move, then kicking one heel up and snapping his fingers. “Come on. Music is a magic even no-majes can enjoy, so I’d say a young man with a cloud of smoke in his chest is no exception.”

The piano played a flickering scale and he did a little spin, making Credence laugh out loud and shake his head. “I’m not taking no for an answer, Credence. Come and dance.”

His smile was so wide it squeezed his eyes almost shut, and he looked up at the beautiful man who’d helped to save his life and then made it so much more than just the pathetic existence it had been. He knew if he really refused that Mr Graves would take no for an answer. He would carry on dancing himself and leave Credence to watch and smile all evening, but he found his legs lifting him.

“That’s the way, Credence!” He reached out with both hands and grabbed his fingers, spinning him around and clapping in time to the music, flinging his arms and legs in all directions with more enthusiasm than was decent for a highly respected auror. Credence tipped his head back and laughed open mouthed, and danced.

One song turned into another, and Mr Graves laughed and twirled and spun Credence under his arm, and they kicked their legs up with no thought for how ridiculous they looked in the living room of a New York brownstone, dancing to songs about love and loss and being late for everything.

And then, as they chucked breathlessly at the end of one song, another started up, slow and melancholy, the piano pulling all the hurt out of Credence’s chest so inexorably that he felt his eyes prickling, even though the words meant nothing to him. Mr Graves was right there, his breath still coming fast, his eyes wide and clouded with something.

He lifted Credence’s hand, linked their fingers, then placed his other hand on his waist. Credence put his own on Mr Graves’ shoulder like he’d seen in pictures, his mind finally silent and waiting. And they danced around the carpet as the music rose, their eyes locked on to one another, and not a word was said.

As the song faded away, they slowed, and they could have been dancing in the night sky for all Credence saw of the world around him. Mr Graves quirked a soft smile at him and the hand that rested on his waist came up and cupped his cheek. He couldn’t stop himself from leaning into it. “Goodnight, kid,” he said, and he was gone, taking all the heat and all the air in the room with him.

Chapter Text

Credence had been with Mr Graves for almost six weeks in total, and only now had the smiles faded. Now he caught Mr Graves looking at him in sadness, almost horror in his eyes when he turned away. It broke Credence’s heart. He knew his crush had been wrong, but, wicked boy that he was, he’d hoped to keep admiring the man without any consequences. But obviously he’d ruined everything once again.

So when Tina came around one day leading a red haired English man who said he might know what Credence was, and how to remove the parasite that fed on his magic, he was almost relieved. He’d brought too much trouble to Mr Graves’ life already.

“I’ve spoken to the headmaster of Hogwarts,” said Mr Scamander. “I’m due to start as the Care of Magical Creatures professor while the current teachers is… uh, on assignment in France. He said he’d be delighted to welcome you to fifth year, if we can remove the obscurus, and if you can use magic after that.”

“And if I can’t?”

“Well,” said Queenie with a shy smile, “perhaps you’d like to live with me and Jacob?”

“You…?” Credence’s voice failed him. The idea that he might go back to being a no-maj had been too much to bear, especially if… if they dumped him back with Ma. But to live with Queenie and her sweet smile and happy laugh? That was magic itself.

Queenie giggled. “You are such a sweetie.”

“So if I can’t use magic I’ll just come back to New York?” He couldn’t stop his eyes drifting over to Mr Graves.

Queenie’s eyes softened and her smile became sad. “I’m afraid not, honey. We’re moving to England too. The laws about relationships between wixen and no-majes are so much more permissive there.”

“I still think you’re rushing into this,” snapped Tina, her arms crossed and a line deep between her eyebrows.

Queenie held her by her upper arms. “I’ll miss you too, Teenie. So, so much. But this is… I know he’s it for me, honey, and I couldn’t bear the thought of his memories being taken. He’s right for me.”

Tina slumped her shoulders and glanced at Mr Scamander a moment before shuffling closer to her sister and squeezing her tight.

“Credence,” said Mr Scamander. “Before you make your decision, you should know that there are risks involved in trying to remove the obscurus. You’re unique, no-one’s ever met an obscurial older than ten and it’s… it’s quite possible you could die.”

“What?” snapped Mr Graves, who’d been silent for so long. “Nobody told me — you never said this was a risk, you said you could help him!”

“I’m sure I can, Mr Graves,” he said, his hands up. “But there’s so much we don’t know.”

“Well, then why are we even considering this? Credence,” he said, turning to him with fevered eyes. “I know it’s no life for a young man, trapped in this house with me, but we can figure something else out, we can… we can—“

“But I’m a danger, Mr Graves,” said Credence, his voice barely above a whisper.

“And not just that,” Mr Scamander added gently. “As Credence grows, the obscurus will too. And if his magic isn’t enough to feed it, it might go after his life force. It could kill him - no, eventually it will kill him. It’s a miracle it hasn’t done so already.”

Mr Graves made a sound like the air had been punched out of him, and he put a hand over his mouth. Credence’s head spun, more from seeing Mr Graves’ reaction than hearing his own fate. He never expected to live long anyway. But the way Mr Graves was acting… he must actually care for Credence.

Queenie put her hand on Mr Graves’ shoulder and patted him tentatively, looking between him and Credence as if she wasn’t sure which broke her heart more. Even Tina looked distraught, and Credence’s mind was short circuiting. All these people really cared about him.

“It’s your choice,” Mr Scamander continued, holding Credence’s gaze for once. “What do you want to do, Credence?”

He’d never had such control over any aspect of his life, and for a moment he floundered, panicking. What if he chose wrong? What if someone was angry with his choice? What if it insulted or hurt one of them, these people who cared so mind-blowingly much about him?

“It’s OK,” said Queenie softly. “Don’t think about us. What feels like the right thing to do?”

He closed his eyes and thought, following the two possible paths in his mind and allowing himself to selfishly ignore everyone else. In the end there was really only one answer. “If I go with Mr Scamander,” he said, “then at least there’s a chance. If I stay, then I know I’m just a ticking clock.”


Jacob looked like a man made to smile, and Credence liked him immediately. He arrived clutching Queenie’s hand, his eyes sparkling with wonder as he watched Mr Graves set the kettle boiling and mugs filling themselves with instant coffee. “I swear I’ll never get bored of watching magic happen,” he murmured to Credence as Mr Scamander and Queenie went through a last minute inventory. He had a khaki army knapsack which he shifted off his shoulders with a grunt. “Been a long time since I had to carry that around. So. I hear you’re an obscurial, is it?”

Credence nodded. “So they say. I didn’t know until six or seven weeks ago.”

“Tough break,” he said, nodding. “You OK with this whole thing?”

“I have to be.”

Jacob nodded and patted him on the shoulder.

Mr Graves was monosyllabic. He’d been in a bad mood for the whole week, and Credence wished he could make it right. He hoped once he was gone Mr Graves could relax a little bit. He must have been getting irritated with him taking up so much space all the time. The apartment was a good size, but Mr Graves hadn’t really been able to get away for the last couple of months, after all.

“I think it really would be best if the three of you stay in the suitcase until we arrive in England. I’ll take you out as soon as I can when we get to my hotel room in London, but it’ll still be the best part of a full day of travelling, once muggle customs and the wait in the airport are taken into consideration.”

“Why don’t you just take a long distance portkey?” Mr Graves asked, though it sounded more like a demand, with his arms crossed and his shoulders hunched.

“The undetectable extension charms are too unstable for magical travel,” he said. “I could probably apparate with them for a short distance but the spells on the case are quite complex, and I’d rather not risk it.”

Mr Graves just made a ‘hmpf’ noise and drank the rest of his coffee.

At last, Mr Scamander clapped his hands together. “Well, shall we make a move? The flight leaves in a few hours, and I imagine muggle traffic will take some navigating. Is everyone ready?”

Tina leaped down into the suitcase to help Jacob with the luggage, and Queenie followed, chattering to Mr Scamander. Credence turned to say his final thank you to Mr Graves.

“Credence,” he said, and Credence blinked, finding him closer than he’d been in weeks. He bit his lip, eyes focused on Credence’s shoulder, and dusted a piece of lint off his blazer. It was one of Mr Graves’, one he’d resized with magic to fit him.

“Mr Graves, I don’t know how to thank you,” he said.

Mr Graves chucked, but it didn’t sound happy at all. “I really hoped you’d have stopped with the mister by now, Credence. Really. Just Graves. Everyone else calls me that.” He sighed, and finally looked up, holding Credence’s gaze. His eyes were wide and sad. “Be safe, won’t you?”

Credence’s words had all deserted him. He nodded. Mr Graves… just Graves. He looked desperate for a moment, and he lifted his hand to cup Credence’s cheek. It was like a brand, burning into his heart, and he turned his face into the cradle of it, closing his eyes and absorbing its comfort, wishing, wishing. Neither of them said anything, and suddenly it was gone. Credence nearly staggered after the sensation, wanting more, and knowing he couldn’t have it.

He turned and made his way to the suitcase, climbing down the ladder into Mr Scamander’s little hut, his eyes prickling with tears. He had to clutch the rough wooden bench and lean on it, clenching his fingernails into the splinters and breathe carefully, holding the tears back, pressing them down inside him until he could see again and walk with his head up.


Mr Scamander’s suitcase was a wonderland, a magical Eden with a list of miracles a mile long. Credence and Jacob spent hours wandering around even after Mr Scamander - Newt, he said - had to leave for the airport. Tina had offered to accompany him, and Newt had flushed with pleasure and stuttered that she didn’t have to. It made Credence’s chest hurt. Thank God for Jacob, who’d dragged him back out into the habitats to make friends with the occamies. Now he was cuddled up with the snake-bird thing and the rocks in his throat felt like they might just be about to subside and let him smile again.

Queenie found them together half an hour later and sat between them, stroking Credence’s curls. “How you feeling, sweetie?”

He couldn’t, he just couldn’t talk about it. It hurt like a knife through his throat to think about Mr… about Graves, and he couldn’t bear it. He didn’t know what he was to him, what he ever could have been, and he just…

“OK, honey,” she whispered, kissing his cheek. She turned to Jacob, who was watching them with a sympathetically furrowed brow, and asked him to tell her all he’d learned about the creatures.

He expected to feel trapped in the suitcase, knowing there would be almost a full day ahead of them while Newt travelled from New York to London and settled into his hotel room, but when the lid of the case opened and Newt pushed the door of the hut out, Credence looked up in surprise. He’d been completely occupied by the mooncalves which were falling over themselves to get closer to him. He even had a smile on his face, which Newt matched as he approached. “Thank you for caring for my creatures so well, Credence."

“Oh, it’s… it’s no trouble, sir.”

“Newt, please, Credence. You will have to call me Professor Scamander at school, but I’d rather just be Newt.” The mooncalves leaned against his legs and his cheeks crinkled up into curved dimples as he rubbed behind their ears. “I’ve been working on the plane and I think I’ve developed a set of equations that should help us isolate the obscurus’ energy from yours. I’ll need a few supplies, so it might be a good idea to get your textbooks and school things at the same time, if you like? Diagon alley can be overwhelming, especially at this time of the year, but it’ll be a good introduction to magical Britain for you.”

Credence blinked at him. “But what if it doesn’t work? You’ll have spent all that money for no reason.”

Newt’s eyebrows shot up, and he opened his mouth to deny it. But he had to turn away. Credence concentrated on the soft feeling of a mooncalf’s ear between his fingers. “If you don’t mind, si- Newt, I’d rather not see the magical word until I know I’m going to be a part of it.”

He cast a glance at Newt out of the corner of his eye, worrying that he’d insulted him by refusing his offer, but Newt just smiled sadly. “Of course, Credence. I understand completely.”

Chapter Text

“Are you ready, Credence?”

Newt’s voice was soft and calm, but Credence was lying on his back on a transfigured hospital bed in a zoo inside a suitcase, and he was actually starting to freak out. He felt a hand squeeze his ankle and jumped.

“Hey,” said Queenie, her face tilted to one side. “It’ll be OK. Newt knows more about your obscurus than anyone else in the world. You’re in safe hands.”

Credence lay his head back and nodded, clenching his fists at his sides anyway. Newt smiled down at him upside down at the head of the bed. “You’re being very brave, Credence,” he said softly. It wasn’t reassuring. He took a deep breath and nodded anyway, closing his eyes.

“I’m going to have Queenie cast a set of stasis spells now,” Newt continued, his voice still calm, the way it was around the nundu. “You won’t be able to move your arms, head and legs at all, which I understand will feel very unnerving, but it’s important for me to know exactly where every part of you is at all times if I’m to extract the obscurus. Queenie will be able to hear you, but I’m afraid I don’t know how much you’ll be able to hear, Credence. So much of this is theoretical.”

“That’s OK,” he heard himself say. His own voice seemed to come from very far away, his skin vibrating with nerves. He took a few deep breaths and let them out slowly until he brought himself back into focus. “I’m ready.”

Newt smiled. “Excellent. Queenie, if you would?”

The stasis spells wrapped around him like a blanket, and Credence wondered if the caring, honey warmth of it was to do with Queenie’s magic, or whether it was the nature of the spell itself. As kind as it felt, Newt was right. It was very disconcerting. He felt like his entire body had been encased in something warm but very solid. As an experiment he tried to move his finger and found that he couldn’t. He could send the messages to his muscles, but they didn’t respond - the blanket of stillness wasn’t just over the top of him, but sent tendrils down through to his bones, holding him absolutely where he lay.

Instantly panic raced through him and he felt his heart speeding up. A coffin came to mind, or a strait jacket, but he could hammer his fists or squirm and scream against those, while here he was entirely hidden, all his emotions and fears and desires. He probably looked like he was lying calmly on the bed, perfectly at peace, but inside he was ripping and tearing, trying to escape.

“Credence, sweetie, I can hear you. I know you don’t like it, I know honey. I’m sorry.” Queenie’s voice sounded like it was sinking in through layers of cotton wool over his ears, but it was there, and Credence would have closed his eyes in blessed relief if they’d been open. He took a deep breath and forced himself to relax into the constrictive body bind. It should have felt like he was leaning against the magic that encased him, but he couldn’t even move enough to do that. The distaste rose in him again, not enough to make him panic, but still.

Queenie’s soft laugh came through. “I know, honey. I wouldn’t be doing this unless I absolutely had to.”

I know, he thought, and felt his stomach unclench just that little more.

Newt’s voice now sounded closer to his ear. Almost as if it was buzzing against his skull. “Credence, I’m going to send my magic into yours now. Is that OK?”

He deliberately thought ‘OK’, and heard Queenie speaking softly to Newt, passing on his permission, and then a tendril touched his temple. He would have twitched if he’d been able to, and the strand of Newt’s magic approached delicately, like a wild cat exploring a new environment.

He felt the moment it sank into his head, past his skull and into his mind. It itched, though not unbearably. It felt wrong, like a pebble in his shoe, or the time he’d put his jeans on and realised there was a sock from the laundry trapped in one of the legs. He’d walked around feeling not quite right for a good half hour before he realised what it was and pulled it out, laughing.

Newt’s magic skittered over his mind, probing behind his eye, down his throat… and then it slowed. It approached his chest carefully, a predator stalking its prey, or a rabbit walking past a fox’s den. It squirmed under his ribs, and all of a sudden he felt a great whirlpool start up just under his solar plexus, a roiling mass of terror and pain and fury and he panicked again, thrashing against the bonds that refused to let him thrash, screaming against the spell that kept his voice contained and his face blankly calm. His mind howled and scrambled, hardly listening to Newt’s gentle voice, fighting the four other tendrils that joined the first, the alien magic invading his blood and pouncing, twisting themselves around the shield, the monster, the creature that burst from his skin like smoke.

The golden magic twisted and tightened, a wolf pack, a constrictor snake, a leopard clutching its prey. Every movement the obscurus made was matched and beaten by Newt’s spell, trapping the smoke-creature in a net of implacable strength.

And then it began to pull. Not hard, not violently. As much as Credence panicked and fought and screamed, it wasn’t tearing him to pieces. There was an unbearable pressure, a constant, consistent force, and then an unhooking. Credence could have sworn he heard a sound from inside his body, a stringed instrument twanging hard, on the edge of being broken, and something started to tingle through his stomach. Then another note, and another, like thorns plucked out of material, leaving holes but not tearing it further. And with each step that same feeling intensified. Credence felt like his entire body had pins and needles, like flakes of mica were being poured into his blood and pumped around his body, tingling in every tissue. It made him want to scream even more, fighting against the absolute perfect agony of it.

At last there was one last grating rip, a pop, and Credence swore he did scream aloud, because his body was torn apart with the fire and ice flooding through it. He screamed, and screamed, and opened his eyes to the air crackling with sparks of gunpowder.

“Credence! Credence, sweetie, come on, breathe. Breathe in, now, honey, you’re going to black out like that. Come on, Credence, you can do it.”

But he couldn’t, he couldn’t bear it, it hurt! It blazed in his blood and set fire to the air around him, burning out, taking all the oxygen from the air in his lungs and demanding more, now. His back arched, the top of his head pressed to the bed as his muscles contracted in rebellion now that they could.

Then there were strong arms around him, hauling him upright, slapping him between the shoulder blades. “Breathe, kid!” snapped a sharp voice, and the surprise made him gulp in air, and then more, because he’d been starved of it.

And then there was no more energy to scream again, nothing to make his back arch and his arms clench, and Credence slumped against the arms that held him. He pushed against them weakly, just to prove to himself that he wasn’t back in that hateful stasis spell again, and shuddered as someone shifted him with a grunt. “I got him,” Jacob’s voice said somewhere above him. “God, he’s drenched. Poor kid. You two OK?”

“Yeah,” said Queenie weakly, and the hospital bed moved as she sat down and rubbed his feet. He moved his toes under her fingers to acknowledge her and she pinched them gently. “Thanks, Jacob. He was gonna fall off there.”

“What happened?” Credence slurred, flickering his eyes open.

Newt bent down in front of him, pinching his eyes open and flicking a light from side to side to test his pupil reflexes. “It worked,” he said, his sweet smile curving his cheeks. “We removed the obscurus. Credence, you’ve got magic.”

“Yeah,” Queenie laughed. “Enough magic to throw Newt and I half way across the suitcase.”

Chapter Text

Credence took a deep breath and looked straight at the glowing ball full of whirling smoke. He didn’t know if it was his imagination or if it seemed to be stretching towards him, trying to get back in, to claw its way into his soul and feed of his magic again. He shuddered and looked away.

“Hello, Oliver,” said Newt with a smile, waving his wand towards the orb so that it followed him over to the trees. “Come and meet Dougal, that’s it. You’ll be safe here, now.”

“I can’t believe he called the obscurus Oliver,” chuckled Jacob sitting on the bench next to Credence. “Well, no, that’s not true. I can believe it. Newt’s got a thing for the more dangerous critters, hasn’t he?”

“I think that’s an understatement,” Credence said, watching him disappear into the jungle habitat with the swirling orb of death and destruction.

“So,” said Jacob, nudging him with his shoulder. “You feel magical then, kid?”

He smiled up at him. For some reason he didn’t hate it as much when Jacob called him kid. “I guess so,” he said. He rubbed his elbow. “I’m just… all those sparkles around me when Newt first took the obscurus out—“

“And the magical blast.”

“Yeah, that.” He hesitated. “What if… what if that’s all there was? What if it’s all gone now?”

Jacob scratched the back of his head. “Uh, I’m not exactly the right person for asking about magic, Credence. But I don’t think it works that way. I get the impression it’s like a sort of energy. You can refill the reservoirs. Newt and Queenie certainly didn’t seem worried, did they?”

“We’re not,” said Queenie, coming up behind him and kissing Credence’s cheek before wrapping her arms around Jacob’s shoulders and leaning on him. He put his hands over hers, a fond smile creeping across his cheeks. “Jacob’s right, magic is like any other kind of energy. You eat healthy, get some rest, your reservoirs will fill back up again. You might find you’re hungrier than usual though. Wixen metabolism is higher than no-majes, because we still have to do everything they do, and make magical energy as well.”

“Damn,” said Jacob, patting his belly. “I’m gonna have to watch my portion sizes around you guys, aren’t I?”

She kissed his cheek and dimpled at him, and Credence smiled at the two of them. He couldn’t imagine a time when Queenie hadn’t been with Jacob. It must have looked wrong, like half of a picture missing. “Come on, you two. Time to explore Diagon Alley.”

Newt arrived back in time to join them, leading them down the strangely crooked stairs of the Leaky Cauldron pub and into the courtyard at the back. He tapped his wand on the brick wall and stepped back, and the whole thing creaked and shifted and drew aside, leaving Credence’s jaw to drop.

He thought watching Graves, Newt and the Goldsteins doing magic was a miracle, but this intense concentration of magic users in one place, shops crowding together that sold potions ingredients and brooms and cauldrons to the bustling crowd of wixen, was overwhelming. The cobbled street was crammed with parents and children in the muggy heat of late summer, families pushing past each other and shouting and arguing and haggling. Credence’s head spun with all the new sights and sounds, and he tugged at his hair, with no idea where to start.

Queenie’s hand slipped into the crook of his arm. “How about we take a look at that list Newt got from the headmaster, hmm?”

He nodded gratefully and Queenie said a quick spell that tugged it out of Newt’s pocket. He turned with his eyebrows raised and smiled as he saw the paper drifting over to her. “Right. Here’s your list of textbooks - well, we don’t need most of those, Newt says you can borrow his. Potions ingredients, this looks quite extensive, do they really need all this?”

“Oh, yes,” said Newt’s soft voice. “Professor Snape is said to be quite a harsh taskmaster, best to not scrimp on his requirements. The robes will also need to be made for you.”

“I really… I just can’t accept all this,” he said, almost breathless with horror. “You can’t possibly buy all of this for me.”

Newt smiled, flickering his gaze up at Credence, and absently stroking Picket as he crawled out from behind the lapel of that brilliant turquoise coat. “It’s no trouble at all, really. You’ll be having so many of these things from my own old school supplies, my mother insists on keeping everything. If it makes you feel better the removal and study of your obscurus will inform most of my next book.”

“Are you sure?”

“Absolutely. I can’t tell you how amazing it is to have the opportunity to understand a real obscurus, and one living freely at that!”

“It’s not as if I wanted to keep it,” he said weakly. “You saved my life and you’re thanking me for the privilege?”

“Yes,” he said with a grin. “I am. Now, I don’t believe you’ll be refusing the opportunity to get your very own wand, will you?”

Credence almost hyperventilated. This was it. This was the moment of truth, when he’d know whether he had any magical ability left at all, or whether the obscurus had drained it. Queenie’s arm tightened around his, but he was barely aware of anything beyond the beating of his own heart as they walked towards the ancient shop.

Jacob and Queenie excused themselves to wander the street and find supplies for their new life in England when they saw how cramped the wand seller’s front room was. Newt smiled and looked around at the dusty stacks of boxes. “I remember coming here at eleven to buy my first wand too,” he said, his voice soft to match the cushioned darkness of the shop.

“Newton Scamander,” said a dry voice from the shadows, and Credence whipped around to see a thin old man emerge, his piercing eyes fixed on Newt. “Yes, I remember. Ash and unicorn hair with a belemnite accent, thirteen inches exactly, somewhat flexible. And this,” he said, whipping his eyes to peer at Credence. “Hmm, a bit old for your first wand. Broken yours already, young man?”

“N-no, sir,” he stammered, thinking about the shattered lost property wand. That didn’t count, did it?”

“Credence here is coming for his first wand, Mr Ollivander,” said Newt. “He’s had a, uh, non-traditional upbringing.”

“Nice to meet you, sir,” said Credence. Anything to distract himself from the little tape measure that was currently wrapping itself around the middle knuckle of his right ring finger for some reason.

“American,” huffed Ollivander. “Not taking him to Jonkers, then, Mr Scamander?”

Newt smiled but didn’t reply, and Ollivander hummed some more. “Very well. Let’s try… ah, I know, elm and dragon heartstring, twelve inches, whippy.”

Credence took the wand, his heart beating harder again. It reminded him of the one Graves had brought for him, pretty grains running along it, and fit snugly in his hand. He smiled at it. Was this his?

“No,” Mr Ollivander said, whipping it out of his hand. Credence frowned up at him as he ran off to the back of the shop.

Newt laughed. “Don’t worry, Credence. You don’t get to choose the wand yourself. When you hold your wand for the first time it’ll do something, send out sparks or some sort of magic. Mr Ollivander had to search through at least thirty wands before he finally settled on this one, but it’s worth the wait.

Credence nodded and bit his lip. What if they got to thirty, and then forty, and there was still no response? When would Mr Ollivander and Newt realise that Credence wasn’t magical enough to have a wand? At least, he thought desperately, he’d have Queenie and Jacob. He wouldn’t be alone in his powerlessness. And they’d still get to see magic every day as Queenie made her incredible pies and pastries.

“Cedar and dragon heartstring, twelve and a half inches, rigid,” said Mr Ollivander, handing Credence a reddish wand with tactile knots on the handle. A hissing spark flew from the wand and landed on the counter, and Credence yelped.

“Newt! Look, did you see? It sparked! Was that —?“

But Ollivander snatched it back and raced off down the corridor. “But I did magic! Wasn’t that magic?” Credence asked, eyes wide as he gaped at Newt.

Newt laughed. “Yes, he does that sometimes. I don’t know what he looks for. One of the wands I tried produced a stream of glitter, but he shook his head and tutted and took it away. This one was very different, just a rushing wind and the smell of the sea. On the face of it, much less dramatic. But he clapped his hands and said it was right for me. And I can’t imagine any companion more perfect for me.”

Mr Ollivander came racing back to the front and handed Credence another wand, painted black this time. “Red oak and unicorn hair, nine and three quarter inches - no, no, definitely not.” He snatched it back before it had even touched Credence’s fingers. He was quite relieved, he hadn’t liked that one for some reason. “Here,” he said, holding out his other hand. “Larch and unicorn tail hair, eleven inches, flexible.”

He stared at Credence intently as he reached for it, a dark wood with warm swirling grains and a twisted helix pattern carved into the handle. As he touched it, smoke poured from the end, and for a horrifying moment he thought the obscurus had come back. But this smoke was silvery, almost glittery, and reminded him of the sparkling sensation that had flooded his veins as the obscurus was removed. He stared up at the twisting cloud around him, mouth open in wonder, and ran his thumb along the carving.

“Yes, yes, young man, this is the one for you,” said Mr Ollivander, his voice thick with satisfaction. “I believe it will serve you well. A faithful wand, which will bring out hidden talents and courage. And if I’m not much mistaken, you have plenty of both those things.”