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First Impressions and How to Fail Them

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Now, you see, when Percival Graves was imprisonned by Gellert Grindelwald, he had expected to be rescued in the week that followed. It seemed a fair assumption considering that, even when wearing his face, the dark wizard couldn't stop himself from sprouting his Nomaj-hating rhetoric and, if he did it even half as often when in front of his Aurors, he would be immediately found out.

However, it seemed that either his agents were stupider than he gave them credit for, which was a very valid possibility, or that him being a Grindelwald fanatic wasn't so out of character as he had thought because, nearly a month later, he was still sitting in his basement, his hands bound and his magic suppressed.

Really, was it that hard to figure out that the most powerful wizard in their time had taken his place? Once he got out of there, he would have to seriously train his Aurors in detecting suspicious behaviour from their close ones and colleagues. A bit of paranoia was always useful when working a job like theirs.

 

Still, despite a month spent being regularly "interrogated" by a maniac, Percival wasn't the kind of person who broke down easily. The fact was that, even with both of his legs broken and his head spinning from the repeated attempts at breaking into his mind, he was still very much confident that, soon, his Aurors would rush into his cell and come to rescue him. He could see it, one of his Seniors leading the charge, maybe Goldstein, maybe Rivers, taking a look at him and starting to panick and him, calm as ever, ordering them to get a grip and get him to a healer.

In his mind, there was no other way this could play out, no other possibility for him getting out, or even not getting out. He had spent years training his agents, making them ready for every situation. He had made sure all of them could cast every single spell wordlessly, had trained them in wandlessly summoning their wand if they were ever separated from it. He had given them basic Occlumency lessons. His Aurors were his pride, his finest work, the results of decades of trying to form the perfect team around, and, later, under, him. They had to find him, if they didn't, it meant that all their training, all this time spent on them, had been wasted.

He was so confident in his own ability to have formed the best of the best that, when the door of his cell swung open, he had absoluty no doubt that the face he would see would be the one of a wizard of witch he had worked with before.

Understandably, when a red headed stranger with a long blue coat that was most definitely not an Auror uniform stepped into the cell, he was both astonished and extremely disappointed.

 

"Who the fuck are you?" he blurted out, ruining years of maintaining a professionnal and polished image in a single second.

The man opened his mouth to answer, frowned and then looked at him up and down, taking in the unnatural way his legs were bent, the metal chains around his arms, forcing him to uncomfortably arc his back as to not hurt his wrists and probably every other way his body looked like it had been tortured by a mad man. Then, instead of answering his question and properly introducing himself, he opened his mouth and let out something that sounded just as impulsive and stupid than what Percival had just said.

"That looks like it really hurts."

Now, when faced with such a remark in a situation like this, Percival would either answer in one of two ways. Either he would deny that he had been hurt because, quite honestly, there was no time for going to the hospital when you were the Head of Magical Security, or he would answer as sarcastically as it was possible because, honestly Goldstein, his arm had almost been blown off. Of course it fucking hurt.

But then, the man (who was british, going by his accent), was someone he had never spoken to or even met before and, even with his head swimming from exhaustion and the pain he was now more than used to, Percival was not stupid enough not to recognize his marked works.

Needless to say that, out of all the possible ways to meet his soulmate he had ever though of, this one was by far one of the worst. And, judging by his face, the stranger (his bonded), was thinking the exact same thing.

 

"Are you...?" the brit started, stopping in the middle of his sentence, Percival's sour expression having apparently been enough for him to make his own deductions.

They stared at each other in silence for a few seconds before the Director, whose brain to mouth filter had been apparently obliterated during his little torture-themed holiday, let out :

"Well ... this is awkward."

Before he could see the other wizard's reaction to his lack of tact, his body, which had decided to be utterly useless to the very end, fainted on him, leaving him to sag against his chains and lose himself into a black, dark void in which the surprised exclamation his soulmate let out when he lost consciousness repeated itself a few times before disappearing entirely.

What a great first impression, really.

 

oOo

 

Newt Scamander's soulmark was unusual, to say the least.

In this time and age, most people were careful of how they behaved around people they didn't know and who could, hypothetically, be their soulmate. This meant that, thanks to this intercultural phenomenon, most marks were filled with compliments and flirting lines. The "Hi" and "Hello" that had once been the most common words to find on one's wrist were now quite unusual as, before saluting a stranger, everyone took great care to say how nice their hair was or how good they looked in their new shirt. Newt, who had been raised thinking this was the right way to behave amongst strangers and that his kindness would be rewarded with a nice, sweet soulmark, was understandably quite distraught when, at ten, he finally recieved his words.

Instead of telling him that his red hair looked beautiful or that his eyes were charming, the mark stated, in a very nice handwriting : [Who the fuck are you?]

Despite being ten, Newt knew what 'fuck' was. It was a bad word, one that would force you to put a Knut in the swear jar if you ever said it in front of a grown up. That his soulmate was such a rude person shook him to his core. He was so disturbed by it that he didn't even tell his family he had finally gotten his mark until two weeks later when he ripped his shirt's sleeve and could not hide it anymore.

His father's eyes filled with tears when he glanced upon the cruel, harsh words and his brother's filled with fire and rage. His mother, however, did not look that disturbed by the words, despite the fact that her own (now colored red ever since she had met her bonded) were a very usual sweet and nice line. Instead of cursing at his soulmate like Theseus had, she laughed and told him that, at least, it wouldn't be hard to find his bonded if they introduced themselves liked this.

 

At first, he didn't agree with her, spending hours crying in his room and listening with a heavy heart to all that Theseus would do to his soulmate once he met them to avenge his younger brother but, as time passed and as he grew up, he realized that, maybe, his mark wasn't such a bad thing.

Sure, it was embarrassing to have a swear word written on his wrist where everyone could see it, but it did made things easier for him. He didn't have to sort through hundreds of "You're very handsome" like Theseus and didn't have to be constantly on the look out for other people's handwriting. His words were so unique that, surely, he wouldn't even have to wait until his mark had turned red to figure out who his soulmate was.

 

Of course, with him being raised in a traditional wizarding family, both of his parents expected him not to follow his bonded's example and try to be polite and nice to everyone he met, as to not inflict what he was living through to his own soulmate. Even Thesesus, who usually never stopped telling him about how he would kick his bonded's arse, actively encouraged him to conform to the traditions.

"You can't keep comparing people to creatures," he had told him, the night before Newt boarded the Hogwarts Express for the first time. "People will think you're odd."

He didn't know what was wrong with telling strangers they looked as fierce as an Hyppogriff or that their eyes shined like a Niffler's burrow but he still accepted his older brother's gift, a book on how to greet people and act like a good bonded. Inside of it were hundreds of lines one could use to introduce themselves and Newt, who had never been the best at talking with kids he didn't know, felt immensely reassured by it. If Theseus thought this book would be useful, then he trusted him.

The very next morning, he entered a compartiment where a black-haired girl was already sitting and he used the book for the very first time, smiling awkwardly and telling her :

"Are you a banana? Because I find you a-peeling."

The girl stared at him silently and Newt was starting to think that, maybe, he had made a mistake by following the book's advice when she burst out laughing.

"You're funny." She told him and, even if those weren't his words, he felt his heart start to beat faster in his chest, a smile spreading on his face. The book really did work and, for the first time since he had attempted it, he had managed to make another child laugh voluntarily. The girl thought he was funny!

His brother's gift truly was the most useful thing he had ever been given. From this day forward, he swore to never abandon it and to stay true to its advice. Surely, his soulmate would think he was an extremely polite individual and would regret being so rude when they finally met. He couldn't wait for that day!

 

oOo

 

"Are you a bank loan? Because you’ve got my interest." Newt distractedly asked the Muggle man he just sat next to, trying his best to find his Niffler in the flurry of activity around him.

"Thanks, I think you look very fine too." The man replied.

Not his words, once again, but, by now, Newt had been expecting it. It had been years since he had given up all attempts to actively search for his soulmate. He had other things he would rather do with his life, forcing destiny wasn't that important to him, at least not as important than saving and taking care of the magical creatures living in his suitcase. If he was fated to meet someone and find love with them, then he would wait for the day it was supposed to happen. He wanted let fate happen as it was supposed to and not do like many people did and try to force it by going around and talking to as many people as he could.

"So what are you here for?" the Muggle asked him, his voice trembling with barely restrained anxiety.

"Same as you," he answered, focused on his Niffler and not on the discussion.

The rest of the exchange ended soon, Newt having to go run after Caesar, the little rascal, and only seeing the Muggle again when they both ended up in the bank's only vault. Non wizarding banks were surprisingly badly protected from thievery, he thought, while trying to empty the Niffler's pocket, maybe they should ask goblins for advice on how to manage money.

A hit in the face and a forced apparition later, he ended up in a back alley, facing a strange woman and feeling very lost indeed.

"Are you a criminal?" the witch hissed, "Because I really want to lock you up."

Once again, this was very far from the [Who the fuck are you?] that he had hidden beneath his coat and it was a bit more agressive than the usual greeting between stranger but Newt, ever the polite wizard whenever he could, still answered, trying to keep his tone as panick-free as possible :

"Hello, I'm a thief, and I'm here to steal your heart. "

This was probably not the best line to choose since the woman's grip tightened around his arm and he was soon dragged forcibly into the American equivalent of the Ministry of Magic. The place was just as grandiose as the one he had already visited in London, if a bit taller. He could not, however, focus much on what was happening around him, a bit worried as to where the witch was leading him. He could only hope that she would not insist on visiting his case, there were quite a few creatures he had not been able to get permits for, his Nundu first of all.

An uncomfortable lift ride later, he was pushed into a room full of strangers, all of them dressed nicely and looking very important indeed. Without thinking and reverting to his book's chapter on how to greet several people at a time, he blurted out :

"I feel like I've walked into a room full of stars, 'cause you're all so bright."

Next to him, the woman groaned and quite a few of the American wizards (Aurors) in front of him stared at him strangely, though a few of them instinctively answered with a muttered compliment. One of those who had not bothered with a such a thing was a dark-haired man who was now looking at the witch he was with in a very disapproving way indeed.

"Goldstein." He said, his voice cold and dripping with annoyance.

Clearly, this was not the first time the strange woman had burst in in the middle of one of his meetings and, judging by the anger in his tone, he was getting quite sick of it. He would have gladly supported Goldstein, had she not manhandled him into this unfamiliar place.

Then, he discovered that his case had been switched with the muggle's and he knew that he could not stay here much longer. His creatures needed him and the more time he wasted in this place, the more he risked one of them to escape in the streets of New York. In such an hostile environnement, their survival was more than unlikely.

Now, if only the woman he was with could understand that...

 

oOo

 

Once Grindelwald arrested, the entire Departement of Magical Security shifted its focus to finding and rescuing its Director and Newt, who had a case full of potentially useful creatures ended up right in the middle of it all. His Niffler was made to chase down every single piece of jewelry that had once belonged to Percival Graves, hoping that the man might still have one on him, and a few Kneazles were dispatched to track his magical signature but, in the end, it was Newt himself who found the man.

Illusions and especially illusionary walls and imageries were his speciality, it was a technique he used often to recreate the natural habitats of the creatures in his case ; he had picked up the technique somewhere in India and had kept refining it ever since. This meant that, when he suddenly ended up in front of an illusionary wall, tucked deep in the Director's house, in a room that the Aurors had already searched, he did not have to think twice about what was in front of him and about how to get rid of it.

To someone less trained, the wall would have looked completely ordinary but, to Newt, it was a shoddy attemp at hiding something and, after a few wand movements, it was gone, revealing a staircase that went down into the ground, to what he assumed must be a basement of some sort. Without hesitation, he walked into it, casting a wordless Lumos to light the steps in front of it.

 

The place the stairs led to was indeed a basement, and a very large one at that. The first room Newt entered had been repurposed in what seemed to be a slightly illegal potion lab, hundreds of ingredients hanging from the walls, some of them having been clearly obtained by killing an innocent creature. He had to breathe deeply in and out to keep going without doing anything he might regret later. Grindelwald was not a dark wizard for nothing, you had to be incredibly cruel to mistreat beautiful beings in that way only to get potion ingredients.

He carefully stepped past a large pentagram and walked into another room, full of artefacts and ancient looking heirlooms. As he walked in front of it, a mirror tried to grab his hand, his reflection dark and twisted on the polished surface, its hand still extended when he turned to stare at it. A bit shaken, he hurried his pace until he came upon a closed door.

A few diagnostic charms later, he quickly identified the kind of wards he was dealing with and, with a smirk, was once again reminded of Grindelwald's disdain towards Muggles. Back in the Ministry, a few days ago, this was what had allowed Jacob and Queenie to get his case back from the man's office. He was so lost in his ideology that he could not even consider someone using brute force and not magic to break into a place.

Too bad for him.

After years of tending creatures that were often more than twice as big as him, Newt had built up quite an ammount of physical strength and the door he was in front of had not been buit to keep people out of the room, it was a simple wooden pannel. With a well placed kick, he forced it open, stepping inside as soon as he could.

 

It was dark in the room and, for a dozen or so seconds, he could not see anything, the only indication that there was someone inside being the raspy breathing he could hear and the stench of blood that permeated the place. Just as his eyes were starting to adjust to the dim lighting, the other person, presumably the real Percival Graves, spoke :

"Who the fuck are you?"

The words did not immediately register in Newt's mind. His vision had finally adjusted and he could now see the other man. With a dawning horror, he looked down at the prisonner, at his legs, that had obviously been broken more than once, at his bleeding wrists, held up by dark, enchanted chains, at the blood on his shirt and, finally, at his eyes, exhausted but, more than that, truly astonished to see him here.

And, maybe, he should have realized what the man's word meant to him, maybe he should have done as he always did when he met someone new and used the book's advice. But the situation seemed so awful to him that he did not think. He just said :

"That looks like it really hurt."

Immediately after he had said the words, he winced. Of course it hurt, the man had obviously been tortured by a dark lord. What kind of idiot would say something like this? What was he even thinking? And why did Graves look so uncomfortable suddenly?

He replayed the short exchange in his head and froze when he remembered the first words the American had said to him.

"Are you...?" he stammered, barely hoping that, finally, this could be it.

The man's face was enough of an answer for him. Graves, despite looking close to collapsing, seemed quite embarrassed by the situation they had found themselves in. Not knowing what he was supposed to do exactly, Newt stared back at him, wondering how and why he had ended up with the least romantic soulmate meeting one could ever have.

 

"Well ..." the Director finally said, breaking the silence. "This is awkward."

Newt was about to laugh and tell him that it was fine, that he was used to it and, maybe, use one of the book's lines when, suddenly, the other man groaned painfully. With a start, he remembered where he was and why he was here and the smell of blood became even stronger.

He cursed and ran up to his bonded, crouching next to him and trying to assess the damage that had been done to his body, not sure if it was safe to move him just yet. It seemed like the simple act of speaking had been to much for the American, his eyes having drifted shut, body sagging against the chains. A diagnostic charm revealed that, in addition to his broken legs, a few of his ribs had been shattered and he had been subjected to a large quantity of mind invading spells, no doubt in an effort to discover some of MACUSA's secrets.

Percival Graves was in a terrible state of injury and weakness but he was not close to dying just yet and it meant that, for now, Newt could safely move him without endangering his life. He reached into his pocket and grabbed Pickett's arm, calmly asking him to free the other man.

He felt like screaming.

Someone must have noticed the stairs he had used because, as he was lowering the man to the floor, no less than half a dozen Aurors, including Tina, ran into the room, wands drawn. One of them detached herself from the group and tried to approach him. A surge of protectiveness rush through him and, before he knew what he was doing, he had pushed her away quite violently.

"Don't." He warned her, not feeling completely in control of his body.

He barely even noticed that the Aurors' wands were now pointed directly at him, didn't listen to the orders of backing away from the Director, didn't see Tina's pleading gaze when he picked up the limp body of his bonded. He didn't even glance at the Aurors before apparating away to the American magical hospital.

Later, he would recognize his behaviour as typical of someone who had just met his soulmate but, at the time, he couldn't care less. Finally, he had found the one whose words matched his mark and, unlike what he thought for all these years, the line had not been said to hurt him or be rude but out of geniune confusion. His bonded didn't hate him. He couldn't be happier.

 

 

A few hours later, when he explained to Tina what his words were and how he had found out that Director Graves was his soulmate, she burst out laughing, telling him that such a thing could only happen to them.

And, quite honestly, he tended to agree.