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Attritional Forces

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Located two levels above the detention cells in the heart of MACUSA were a set of rooms that had been magically altered so they could be extended to the very limits of magical space. Within these rooms — a dozen so far but there would be another room by the end of the decade for sure — a single lone wizard could be located.

He was hardly impressive to look at, with a portly belly and bushy eyebrows of silvery-grey that matched the hair on his head and his chin. If anything, he looked plain and so normal to be instantly dismissed.

The kind of opponent that would be automatically underestimated.

That was the plan.

Argus walked between the tall shelves of stacked boxes and magically contained objects, the purpose of his visit hidden in a paper bag that had more charms and wards on it than most safehouses.

“Wisaka.” Argus greeted the thin, long-haired man who looked up from his newspaper to give him a polite nod. “Have something to put in the archives.”

Wisaka nodded, folding his newspaper up in a perfect half, the only crease the paper had. Leaving it on his desk, Wisaka rose slowly, revealing that he was easily six foot tall if not taller. Argus had had years to get used to Wisaka’s immense stature but it still took him by surprise sometimes.

“Auror Graves has ordered for this to be put in the secure sector of the archive, Wisaka,” Argus explained when Wisaka looked at him expectantly.

Wisaka frowned.

“It's a dark object of unknown origin but what is known is that it's very dangerous, hence the secure sector.” He elaborated, already aware of what Wisaka’s reaction would be.

Frown darkening his features into a thunderstorm of discontent, Wisaka turned away from Argus and began walking. Argus hurried to keep up with Wisaka’s strides, gripping the container for the object so hard that his hand was starting to go numb.

After what felt like a lifetime of being led through the rows of shelves easily double Wisaka’s height, Argus came to an abrupt halt when Wisaka stopped outside a pitch-black door with a silver handle carved with runes and other scripts that Argus couldn't identify.

Wisaka turned slowly and looked Argus, something reflected in the tall man’s dark eyes that had Argus shiver inside.

“I'll only be a minute,” he said, shaking off that strange sensation, the feeling of loss that had no cause. “It's the paperwork that takes forever.”

Wisaka didn't smile at the joke. He didn't even tilt his head to acknowledge Argus’s attempt at humour.

Something wasn't right and Wisaka knew it too. The item was within a sealed unit, one that was immune to even their most advanced and powerful spells for unlocking items. Argus himself had cast a fair number of them, and Graves too, but the thing hadn't budged.

It didn't look like it even had a seam like most containers, instead it was more like an egg in that it was completely sealed with a pebbled sort of surface to it that looked smooth but when touched was revealed to be textured.

The dark magic emanating from the container was strong — even buried and contained within dozens of binding spells — that the longer Argus was near it, the more nauseous he felt.

He genuinely couldn't wait to shove it on a shelf and leave it behind when he left the damned archives. Let the thing gather dust and be forgotten about by the world.

Argus had a feeling that such a fate for the container would be in the best interests of everyone and everything. Unfortunately, the gut instinct he had honed and trusted his entire adult life as an Auror was warning that the container being forgotten about was not going to happen.

Not when there had been items around it, things that the occultists had figured were part of a ritual — what kind, they hadn't been able to figure out, only that it wasn't a good one and they highly recommended not letting it be carried out. Argus strongly agreed with their assessment of the situation, especially considering the fact that Scamander’s statement hadn't mentioned the container at all; the magizoologist had only seen the cauldron and the Hieracosphinx that had protected him from the blast he'd purposefully caused.

That the wizard had survived at all, let alone with minor injuries, amazed Argus. Amazed and unnerved him. Scamander insisted it had been the Hieracosphinx that had saved him, that it had erected a shield strong enough that the poison of the Lionfish quills in the potion hadn't been able to fully destroy it but…

The revelation spell Argus had cast after the beast had been taken down, however, said different. Not completely, no, but it suggested that Scamander had also cast a shield or augmented the Hieracosphinx’s with his own magic or-

Or he had used the Hieracosphinx’s raw magic and channelled it with his own to create the shield.

Argus placed the object on the shelf in front of him, carefully nudging two other magical containment units so he could place it on the shelf. He stepped back, drew his wand and aimed it at the shelf.

Semper clausus.”

A glowing shine flared on the shelf, quickly surrounding the object until it was no longer visible. Argus waited until the light died down and revealed the the object was now encased in a mostly clear box with shimmering edges like the other items on the shelf.

The darkness that had emanated from the container was absent so suddenly that Argus felt lightheaded. He took a shaky step back, recognising the signs of shock immediately.

A hand gently cupped his elbow and Argus turned bodily, feet catching on the ground, body trembling as he looked up into the calm face of Wisaka.

The record-keeper slowly guided Argus back down the aisles, heading towards a door that Argus had never noticed before. The trembling in his limbs was growing worse and he gritted his teeth, fighting his body's response to a sudden lack of a stressor. He focused on not tripping over his own feet and eventually found himself being steered through the door and pushed down into a wooden chair.

A warm cup of what Argus’s mind registered was tea appeared on the table in front of him. The chair was beside the table and he was sat in the chair. Someone — Wisaka, it was Wisaka — wrapped his fingers around the cup and Argus felt the warmth course through his fingertips, jolting him.

Blinking profusely, Argus forced his mind to focus as he carefully drank the tea, hands slowly ceasing to tremble the longer the warmth seeped into them.

This wasn't just shock…

Argus hissed through his teeth, realising with a sharp wrenching in his stomach what had happened.

That damned thing had been draining his magic! Shit!

“You will regain what has been taken in time.”

The deep voice shocked Argus into sitting upright, head snapping up as he stared at the source of the statement that felt more like a fact than a platitude.

Wisaka stared back at him, calm and composed and Argus blinked dumbly at him.

“I thought you couldn't speak?” He asked stupidly.

Wisaka tilted his head. “Within this room, I have a voice,” Wisaka replied. “Beyond it, I am voiceless.”

Why?”

Wisaka smiled.

Argus couldn't believe what he was seeing. Wisaka never smiled. Argus had been an Auror for decades and he'd not once seen the record-keeper smile. Not. Once.

“For many reasons,” Wisaka answered cryptically. “Reasons I cannot share even if I wished to.”

“Were you cursed?” Argus pressed, the tremors still running through his body slowly subsiding as his attention shifted away from them onto the enigma before him.

Wisaka hummed. “In a sense,” he said after a moment, tilting his head to the side. “But I know no counter to that which I bear.”

Argus stared at the other man. “Have you seen the healers?”

Wisaka laughed.

“They can do nothing for me Auror Argus, just as you can do nothing for me even though you wish to.”

“How do you know that?” Argus challenged. “You don't know me.”

The humour on Wisaka’s face died, a closed look replacing it.

“I know your blood and your kin, your history and your present,” Wisaka intoned, voice like rumbling thunder in the distance. “I know your strengths and your weaknesses, your hope and dreams, your bravery and your fear. You can do nothing for me, Argus, because you are not my kin just as I am not yours and what I bear is not for you or yours to understand or undo.”

Whatever warmth that had spread through Argus’s body from the cup of tea was snapped away by the icy fear that shot down his spine as he stared at Wisaka.

Wisaka’s dark eyes, always a strange blend of brown and black with glittering gold, sparked darkly like sparks from a wildfire thirsting for more fuel to burn. Argus had never really looked at those eyes and hadn't even realised that Wisaka never made eye contact; only the illusion of it.

Maintaining eye contact with him, feeling like he dare not look away lest he be devoured by some hungry animal, Argus quickly stumbled away from the stable towards the door he could see out of the corner of his eye to his right.

Wisaka made no move to stop him, he didn't even rise from where he was sat in another chair on the opposite side of the table.

Instead he stared.

The door handle opened silently after a moment  and Argus didn't waste a moment or any breath on wishing Wisaka goodbye.

Hurrying out of the archives towards the lift that would take him back up to the regular MACUSA levels, Argus wiped away the cold sweat that had broken out on his brow with a handkerchief.

“To Morgana’s dungeons with this, I'm assigning this part of my job to a greenie!” He muttered, stepping into the lift, not even bothering to inform the goblin of what floor he wanted. Darhook would stop at the foyer like he always did for Argus since that was where he preferred to get off the lift.

Leaning back against the wall of the lift, Argus shivered as he thought back on the expression on Wisaka’s face as he had spoken. It reminded him of the expression on Scamander’s face when he'd come out of that little visit to Grindelwald. Goldstein hadn't seen it since Scamander had hidden behind a polite exterior, but Argus had gone down to the prison level on Percival’s politely worded command and had seen what Scamander hid daily.

Just like Wisaka, there was something very dangerous about Scamander, something he hid away from view of everyone, but sometimes… Sometimes it showed through cracks when he was in a duel or defending a creature.

Argus resolved to watch Scamander closely, especially with the way he affected Graves. The loyalty Argus felt towards his boss was absolute and unshakeable. He'd fight Scamander himself to protect Graves if he had to.

A Horned Serpent was a protective and loyal individual, no matter if the one they chose to be loyal to had been a member of an opposing house.

 

* * *

 

“Could you please explain to me why you defended Mister Scamander so… dramatically, Auror Graves?”

Seraphina didn't look at Percival, staring at the fire in her office, a glass of dark liquor in her right hand. She took a slow sip of it, the back of her throat burning at the feel of the bitter liquid, before she turned her head to glance at Percival.

Stood near the windows behind her desk, Percival stared out at the city that sprawled across the land, his mind dark and bitter.

“It was reactionary,” he finally admitted, not turning to look at her. The expression she had was visible in the glass, reflected in a ghostly echo of the woman behind him. “Instinctive.”

Seraphina rose gracefully from her seat, placing the glass down on the desk with a quiet thud as she moved to stand beside him.

“It's been a long time since you cast instinctively, Percival,” she said quietly, softly, using the window to look him in the eye. “Is Mister Scamander aware of how fortunate he is?”

Percival’s lips twisted in an ugly smile, bitter and sad. “I doubt that, Madam President. I killed a beast in front of a man who’s entire existence is predicated on their protection.” He shook his head. “Scamander cares only that I killed the creature in front him. Something he insists I did not need to do.”

Percival shook his head. “It was unnecessarily cruel, he’s entirely correct about that,” he said.

Seraphina hit him.

It was only on the arm, barely any force behind it, but it still had Percival reeling.

“Did you just-”

“Enough of the shame and guilt, Percival!” Seraphina threw him a sharp look. “Scamander is not a fool, even if he often acts like one. If he cannot recognise that you did not choose to kill that beast, then he is not quite as skilled as others believe.”

Percival bristled slightly. Even if what Seraphina said was true, Scamander was still an exceptionally capable wizard; something that was impossible for anyone to deny after Grindelwald's farce of a trial.

He opened his mouth, fire sparking in his eyes but Seraphina cut him off.

“The man know that Hieracosphinx cannot remain sane without a mate,” she said, not allowing Percival a word edgewise. “The beast was mad with grief at the death of its bonded mate, he couldn't save it from itself. You committed an act of mercy for it, Scamander knows that otherwise he'd have likely struck you down before you could recover from the shock of instinctual casting.”

“You don’t know that, Seraphina,” Percy countered, glancing away from Seraphina. His gaze found the painting on the wall opposite the fireplace. The individuals in it were all listening with rapt attention. “You’re no Legilimens.

“No, I’m not,” Seraphina agreed and Percy's shoulders tensed. “But Theseus Scamander knows his brother and those are his words on the matter, not mine, Percival.”

Seraphina’s expression softened. A gentle hand was placed on Percy's arm.

“Percival, he does not hate you for what you did,” she said softly, “I think he hates that it had to be you who did what he could not.”

Percy shook his head. “He compared me to Grindelwald,” he confessed. “And he was right to do so, I am like him in many ways.”

If Percy had looked up at Seraphina, he would have seen the murderous look on her face. Her voice, however, when she spoke, gave away nothing of her anger at Scamander.

“You are a strong man with great magical strength,” she said firmly, belief coating her words. “You can be harsh and cold, but so can I. We have to be because of our positions in our government. But you are not cruel, Percival,” Seraphina stressed. “I have never known you to be cruel, no matter what the situation. Grindelwald is a cruel man who hides that cruelty behind false flattery and cunning plans.”

Seraphina paused. Percy looked up at her.

“You’re not like Grindelwald, Percival,” she said quietly. “Scamander, however, reminds me of him.”

“What?” Percy exclaimed, his own self-loathing forgotten as he stared at Seraphina in shock and a rising anger swelling like his magic had back in that room. “That's not- Seraphina! They are nothing alike!”

She shook her head.

“He hides far too much of himself from others, Percival,” she said, turning away from him, her hand falling from his arm. “There is something cruel in Scamander just like there is something cruel in Grindelwald.”

Trollshit!”

Seraphina drew her wand and flicked it in the direction of her desk. A pensieve appeared, shimmering into being on the dark wood, it's silvery stone a stark contrast.

“Watch his visit with Grindelwald,” she instructed, opening a drawer, pulling out a small glass vial with a silver memory floating within. “He differs from Grindelwald only in his beliefs and the fear he has of himself, Percival. The things he said weren’t meant for you.”

Without another word, Seraphina strode out of the office, leaving Percy alone with the pensieve and the memory. He stared at it for a long time, thoughts mixed up and piled on top of one another.

Eventually he moved.

He didn't disbelieve Seraphina, not when he had seen how Scamander shed his demure personality like a snake shedding its skin, but the idea that Scamander was comparable to Grindelwald…

Percy knew that Grindelwald's impersonation of him had worked so well because Grindelwald and he behaved alike. They had the same distance, the same disdain for others, and a general dislike of socialising. But the harsher actions of Grindelwald had been what had revealed him in the end, though it had been Goldstein who had figured it out.

The idea of Grindelwald ever managing to impersonate Scamander like he had Percy was impossible! Grindelwald could not be so kind as Scamander, not as caring with beasts and people alike.

No.

They were nothing alike.

This memory wouldn't change that fact, not even if it revealed that Scamander was related to Grindelwald. The disgust he'd worn when the Aurors had discussed Grindelwald's philosophy had been obvious and real. As had the hate in his eyes for anyone who agreed with such a rhetoric.

Percy took a breath, uncorked the vial and upended it over the pensieve in a single, smooth movement. The memory poured into the pensieve like a slowly moving fog, gently dragged down by gravity, disintegrating upon contact with the wispy magic within.

Not allowing himself a moment to doubt, Percy dunked his head into the pensieve, the sensation of being sucked down into a small space as strange as ever.

This memory wouldn't change what Percy knew to be true about Scamander. It couldn't.

Could it?

 

* * *

 

Newt recognised that he was avoiding dealing with things; well, not really, he really did need to spend some time with his creatures. But he was self-aware enough to accept that he was avoiding the issue with Graves and the Hieracosphinx he hadn’t even been able to give a name to before she’d died.

He wanted to hate Graves. He really did. He’d attacked a creature that was wounded, had exhausted what little of its sanity it’d had left to protect Newt, and in return it had been murdered.

It was unforgivable.

It had been necessary.

A mercy.

The look Theseus had given him in the cab after he’d left the hospital laden down with a dozen vials of potions he didn’t need, had told him that his brother was more than aware of the reality of the situation and was merely giving Newt the time he needed to calm down and approach it rationally.

There had also been a hint of reproach in his brother’s expression that had made Newt look away too quickly.

“I was unfair to him, wasn’t I, Dougal?”

The Demiguise stared at Newt, his large eyes expressing more than they rightly should for a so-called beast.

Newt sighed.

“I know,” he said softly, “I shouldn’t have said what I did to him, it was very mean.” He reached out a hand and gently stroked Dougal’s hair making the Demiguise rumble in appreciation.

A soft clinking sound had Newt looking up at the rafters above his head. They were there mostly due to some quirk of Newt’s magic when he’d created the extended space within the case, but he’d found a use for them over time. Now they supported a variety of spaces for the more agile of his creatures to nestle in when they needed some alone time.

Ironically, the Niffler had a great fondness for them even though there wasn’t a single bit of shininess on them.

“And what have you got there?” Newt asked, smiling at the Niffler that hung by an arm above him. In its free paw it clutched something tightly to its chest, staring down at Newt.

Newt frowned. “Don’t you dare jum-”

The Niffler dropped down heavily into Newt’s lap causing Newt to curse at the impact. Dougal danced back and watched attentively as the Niffler stared up at Newt innocently.

He sighed again.

“Honestly,” Newt murmured, reaching out to tickle the Niffler’s chin. One of its back legs kicked out in pleasure and Newt laughed. “You are a trial.”

Dougal made a curious sound and Newt looked at him.

“I found out he adores his chin being tickled back when he was a pup,” Newt explained to the Demiguise. “It’s one of the best ways to get him to sleep.”

The look the Demiguise gave the Niffler was, if anything, fond and Newt smiled, careful to keep his teeth covered. Merlin, but he loved his creatures.

After a while, the Niffler shifted, swatting at Newt’s hand to stop him from tickling its chin anymore and scrambled in Newt’s lap until it was sitting up, neck stretched up so it could stare at Newt with its dark eyes.

“What is it?” Newt asked.

The Niffler sniffled and held out its paw, the one it had kept tucked against its chest the entire time. Newt looked down at the paw and blinked in surprise as he realised what the Niffler was doing.

“And what am I to do with this, exactly?” He asked, not moving to take the gift the Niffler was offering.

As sweet and generally innocent as Niffler’s could be, Newt knew better than to take what was offered by one without being clear on the reason behind the gift. They defended their treasure fiercely and even a Niffler raised by Newt was not one to try and take anything from without being very, very careful.

The Niffler stretched up further until its bill almost touched Newt’s chin. It stared at him and Newt stared right back, not breaking eye contact with the creature as he saw its paw move out of the corner of his eye.

The paw pressed against Newt’s chest, directly over his heart, and the Niffler let out a gentle trill, tilting its head at Newt.

“For someone who has my heart?” Newt guessed, frowning slightly. The Niffler nodded. “I don’t think anyone does, unfortunately.”

The Niffler hissed. Newt started.

“I think I’d know if someone loved me-” Newt broke off, wide eyed.

Dougal left out a self-satisfied sigh, clicking at the Niffler who looked away from Newt to the Demiguise. The Demiguise nodded and the Niffler immediately jumped off of Newt, scrambling over to Dougal, the gift it had given Newt falling into the magizoologist’s lap.

Newt looked down at the gift.

He blinked.

Then his head snapped up.

“How did you get this!” Newt asked, voice rising in surprise and no little amount of concern. “This is- this- Did you steal it?”

The Niffler made a displeased noise, perched on the Dougal’s shoulder as the Demiguise signed at Newt using the gestures they had to devised to speak. It wasn’t perfect and relied heavily on Newt’s own magical ability to recognise the feeling behind each sign — something he had always struggled with unless he concentrated, but now it was as easy to Newt as breathing.

“A gift? From Qīnglóng?” Newt asked disbelievingly. “Why would-” Dougal signed rapidly, cutting Newt off with a rumbling sound accompanying the signing.

The Niffler chuffed and then chittered at Newt, tilting its head one way then the other.

“To bring me wisdom and a wish come true?” Newt asked, attempting to clarify Dougal’s signing and emotions. The emphatic nod he received from both creatures made Newt shake his head. “That is… I’m not sure what to say about that.”

The very idea that Qīnglóng had willingly parted with one of their hard-won pearls… in all the years that the dragon had been part of Newt’s creature family he had never once known the dragon to even contemplate allowing others to see the pearls they guarded so fiercely. Not after the poachers had tried to take them and Qīnglóng’s scales along as well.

“I wish I could thank Qīnglóng for the gift,” Newt said eventually, carefully picking up the pearl and placing it in the breast-pocket of his waistcoat. He’d spelled his pockets to not tear back when he’d first set up his case and had only added more and more charms to his clothing over the years; the charm that prevented things from falling out of his pockets had saved his life more than once — especially when it meant his wand didn’t meet its demise every time he was sent flying off a building or a cliff.

Dougal let out a sad sound, the Niffler echoing him. Qīnglóng had been released six months ago on Newt’s brief trip to Jiangxi province in China. The damage to Qīnglóng’s legs had finally fully healed back during the Grindelwald fiasco — the first one — and Newt had planned to head straight to China after releasing Frank, but, of course, that plan had been derailed quite spectacularly and so Qīnglóng had spent a further three months stuck in Newt’s case, growing more and more frustrated with the confinement.

But the sheer joy that Newt had witnessed from Qīnglóng when he’d released the dragon had been… even now, Newt had no way to describe it. To see a mighty, powerful being like Qīnglóng finally take to the skies again… it was a joy and wonderment that Newt could never hope to share with others, there was nothing humanly comparable to it.

Newt smiled sadly at the memory of the mighty Azure Dragon, barely a year old when Newt had come across him and the poachers. Gods but he missed the dragon as surely as he did Frank and all the other creatures he’d rescued and released over the years.

It never got any easier to say goodbye but knowing they were safe and happy and free… it helped ease the ache of loss in Newt’s heart. But the pain would never go away, especially the pain of losing creatures too soon because of human cruelty.

Newt’s attack on Graves had been driven by the pain of failure. The pain that Newt battled back daily and used to fuel his determination and stubborn will to protect creatures the world over. Watching the Hieracosphinx die before him — feeling it — had pushed Newt past his own limits and he had lashed out at Graves in a cruel and undeserving manner.

Newt recognised instinctive casting when he felt it. His heart simply hadn’t wanted to accept that the Hieracosphinx had been beyond saving. That she had wanted to die.

“I owe him an apology, don’t I?” Newt said softly.

The Niffler snickered.

“I can’t go to his office and apologise to him right this second,” Newt replied, shaking his head. “I don’t think any of the Aurors will let me anywhere near him to be honest. I know at least one of them heard what I said.”

Newt sighed.

“No,” he said, “I’ll have to speak with him without an audience that might try and string me up for being a right bastard.” He looked at Dougal and the Niffler. “Do you think Queenie and Tina would be willing to help me?”

The creatures nodded.

Newt smiled.

“Well then, maybe there’s a chance after all.”

 

* * *

 

“Newt!” Theseus called, ducking down to peer into the part of the case where the enclosures were. “Newt! Are you in here still?”

“With Thema!” A voice called back, slightly distant but still close enough to be loud. “Be careful, she’s just had a bath and isn’t very happy with anyone right now!”

Theseus sighed, shucking off his coat and dropping it on the wall near the ladder after he clambered down. Making his way towards Thema’s enclosure, he calmly rolled up the sleeves of his shirt to his elbows and unbuttoned his waistcoat.

If Newt had managed to wash Thema then Theseus was well aware that she’d avoid his brother and all but latch onto him until she decided Newt was forgiven for bathing her.

Newt still had the scars from the first time he’d washed her; he’d been so proud when showing them to their mother that Theseus had questioned his brother’s sanity.

Their mother had been delighted of course and had insisted on meeting the little terror that was now a very big terror and curled up on her favourite rock, drying out under the artificial sunlight that shone.

Theseus smirked.

“Don’t just stand there Thee!” Newt said, jumping down from where he’d been sat, trying to dry himself with a towel. “Go and coddle her and reassure her that I’m horrible and mean like I know you want to!”

Theseus laughed.

Thema’s head snapped up, ears pricked as she shifted to look at the source of the laughter. When she recognised who he was, Theseus prepared himself for 200 pounds of muscle slamming into him for pets.

He wasn’t disappointed.

Newt barked out a laugh as he watched the Nundu bowl Theseus over, rolling around on top of his brother as Theseus continued to laugh and stroke the wiggling, still damp, Nundu.

If other wizards could witness this, Newt knew they’d think they were hallucinating. A Nundu acting like a kitten. Tina’s reaction alone would be worth any jinx Thee hit him with.

“So, what brings you into the case, brother?” Newt asked as he strolled over to his brother and Thema, now curled up on Theseus’s lap and pinning him to the ground. Unsurprisingly, his brother didn’t look one iota concerned with his predicament.

Theseus looked up at his brother, idly stroking Thema’s head making her purr. “I actually came down to tell you that Goldstein and her sister have invited us for dinner tomorrow,” he said, “but seeing this darling girl is a good reason too.”

Newt raised an eyebrow at his brother. “You do realise that I can tell when you’re lying, right?”

Theseus smirked.

“Only you though,” Theseus admitted. “Still don’t know how you always know but,” he shook his head, “I’ve been ordered back to the Ministry.”

Newt didn’t react outwardly but Theseus knew his brother. He saw the slightest twitch of his brother’s fingers, the way he tensed from his toes right up to his head, and the shuttered look that came across his face.

“I’ll be leaving the day after tomorrow,” he said, “that’s part of the reason for dinner tomorrow.”

Newt nodded. “I see,” he said, “I guess I’ll see you at Christmas then?”

Theseus shrugged. “I don’t know why they want me back, Newt,” he replied. “It could be as simple as a report or something as stupid as an annual review that they didn’t tell us about.” He sighed. “Either way, I plan on coming back as soon as I can. I know you’re sticking around for a while until Grindelwald gets locked up or put down, and, honestly, I’d like to be here when that happens.”

Newt grimaced. “For Ariana.”

“Yes.” Theseus nodded. “And for you,” he added. “But mostly for Ariana.”

Silence fell between the two brothers, broken only by the sound of Thema’s purring in Theseus’s lap.

“Newt.” Theseus said suddenly.

Newt looked at his brother. “Yes, Thee?”

Theseus smirked.

“Try not to get kidnapped again, hmm?” He said.

Newt threw his towel at his face and Theseus laughed.

Chapter Text

Albus leaned back in his chair, hands behind his head as he stretched stiff muscles. The essays didn’t mark themselves but it was an exhausting affair, sitting at his desk for several hours reading essays from students that either didn’t care or cared too much. Some of them cared in all the wrong ways and others didn’t have the ability to care in the slightest.

Albus sighed.

He shouldn't judge them. They were young. They didn’t know the cost of not caring. Or of caring too much.

I’m awfully maudlin this evening,’ he thought dryly, moving to pick the quill he’d deposited on the desk back up. ‘Perhaps I should find myself a hobby that doesn’t involve politics in some way?’

“Darning socks, perhaps.” Albus said aloud, chuckling in amusement. He placed the quill back in its holder beside the ever-refilling inkwell he’d been gifted by Headmaster Dippet upon his employment, and stood up. “But now, to bed I think.”

The Castle was quiet, deathly so in fact, but Albus found the silence relaxing as he walked through the halls of one place he could never grow tired of. The magic of Hogwarts seeped into his bones as he moved, making his skin tingle and hair stand on end. It had never ceased to amaze him, the sheer amount of magic concentrated in the Castle; the result of generations of magical students learning and sharing magic in these very halls.

The Founders had chosen a brilliant location for the foundations of the first magical school in Briton.

Albus paused, shifting his weight as he felt a tug on his magic. Something wanted his attention.

Following the sensation, almost like something was holding the metaphorical hand of his magic, guiding him, Albus noted idly that he was traversing the same corridor several times. How odd.

What could be drawing his attention?

“Oh. Isn’t that interesting?”

Albus came to a sudden stop in front of a door that hadn’t existed up until that very moment. He drew his wand and stepped forward to open the door.

The room beyond was large and lit by moonlight and nothing else. Yet Albus was aware that it was a cloudy night and thus the moonlight shouldn’t be illuminating the room at all. How strange.

He carefully moved into the room, the sound of his shoes hitting the stone floor echoing loudly in the space. It seemed more like the chamber one would find attached to a church rather than like the rest of the Castle’s rooms.

It also appeared to be empty.

“Now why would I be drawn to a room with nothing inside it?” Albus wondered, tapping his wand against his lips in thought. “Perhaps…”

He flicked his wand.

Nothing happened.

Frowning a little, Albus slowly turned in a circle on the spot, wand trailing a white thread of shining light.

It dissipated after thirty seconds.

“Ah,” Albus said, “a challenge then.”

Thinking deeply, Albus drew his wand up to his head, resting the tip on the skin of his temple beside his right eye. He murmured softly a spell of his own making, curious as to whether it would work in this situation.

Occulta Mysteria Revelare.”

Nothing changed in the room before him. Albus lowered his wand, humming in thought. ‘Curious,’ he thought, the tiredness from marking essays forgotten in the face of a challenge to his intellect. “Is this a gift dear Hogwarts?” He asked, looking up at the ceiling of the chamber.

If it was, then it was very appreciated.

Checking his watch, Albus sighed. It was far too late for him to remain here any longer. Not with a class of sixth years first thing in the morning.

“Another night, I think.”

Dismissing the slight displeasure he felt, Albus turned away from the rest of the chamber and paused mid-step towards the door.

There, nestled in a corner out of easy view, stood a large object covered with a white dust sheet.

Now what is this?’ Albus moved over to the object, flicking his wand idly to remove the sheet only to frown when it didn’t move. ‘I suppose I’ll have to find out the old-fashioned way then.’

Reaching out, Albus gripped the fabric of the sheet, took a breath, and pulled.

The sheet fluttered to the ground in a near silent swoosh of moving fabric, revealing a gilded frame carved with intricate leaf patterns surrounding a smooth, silver surface.

“A mirror.” Albus raised an eyebrow. “That is a surprise.”

Moving forward, Albus expected the mirror to do something, to react to his presence. Yet it did nothing except show his reflection as he came to stand in the middle of its frame. His reflected self mirrored his movements as Albus raised his wand, aiming it at the frame of the mirror with the tip illuminated.

There was some sort of stylised text on it:

 

ERISED STRA EHRU  OYT UBE CAFRU OYT ON WOHSI

 

“How strange,” he murmured, tilting his head. “I show… not your… face… but your… oh, I show not your face but your heart’s desire!” Albus read, realising the inscribed text was backwards. “Now what could that mean?”

A flash of blonde in the mirror had Albus’s attention shift to the reflective surface. He frowned, bringing wand down to illuminate the mirrors surface fully.

Albus gasped.

A blonde-haired man stood just on Albus’s right. A teenaged girl stood in front of him and a man who looked like Albus stood on Albus’s left. All three were smiling.

The blonde-haired man’s mismatched eyes twinkled as he mouthed something. The girl looked up at the blonde-haired man and hugged him. The other man, with hair a mousy sort of auburn, rolled his eyes but his expression was soft.

Albus’s reflection smiled.

“This is…” Albus swallowed thickly. He tore his eyes away from the mirror, staring down at the stone floor. “Heart’s desire…” he repeated to himself. “This is… my heart’s desire.”

A drop of water landed on the stone floor, discolouring it. A moment later another drop joined it.

Albus blinked.

He raised a shaking hand up to his face, surprised when his fingers encountered wet cheeks.

“This…” Albus said shakily, “this can never be.”

Turning sharply on his heel, Albus refused to look at the mirror again. He flicked his wand. The sheet draped itself across the mirror, obscuring from view the image that burned Albus’s heart.

Somehow he found his way back to his chambers. Sat on his bed with a glass of firewhiskey in his hand, wand discarded on the bedside table, Albus stared at the glass from a broken bottle piled at the bottom of the wall opposite him, a large stain of firewhiskey trailing down the stone wall.

Dreams and wishes,’ Albus thought, wiping the tears that still streamed down his face, though they had died down after his fourth glass. ‘I don’t deserve either.’

 

* * *

 

Percy watched the memory version of Scamander enter the interrogation room, more interested in the way Scamander moved than what the Dark Wizard was saying. He purposefully ignored Grindelwald for his own sake, but eventually, the Dark Wizard said something that truly drew Percy’s attention.

I always thought your last name was the same as Albus’s.”

Albus? As in Albus Dumbledore? Did- was- Was Scamander related to Dumbledore?

Percy blinked, mouth open in surprise.

Obviously I should have stopped to learn more about you, but I’ll confess I was preoccupied at that time in my life. An oversight on my part, I wouldn’t have underestimated you had I realised who you were when we met.”

Percy shivered at the conversational tone from Grindelwald as Scamander turned to look at the Dark Wizard.

Would it have made any difference in the tunnel?”

The coldness of Scamander’s voice had Percy staring at the magizoologist in disbelief. That his voice was soft and quiet somehow just made the coldness all the more unnerving.

If you had realised who I was, who I am related to, you would have stopped at nothing to try and turn me to your side, to make up for your failure with Albus. For the pain you've caused him in this mad pursuit of power.”

If the coldness of Scamander’s voice had unnerved Percy, the response from Grindelwald had him shaking his head in horror. “This is…”

You’re so certain of your own goodness, Newton, but we both know you’re not as good a person as you lead others to think. The Hufflepuff who everyone dismisses for his Gryffindor brother. They don’t realise you’re the deadlier of the two; just like everyone thought Albus so good and noble.”

What Percy knew of Albus Dumbledore was little; in fact, most of what he knew of the transfiguration professor came from Theseus and his brother with little memo’s mentioning the name in political circles. If the man was… was dangerous…

What was he thinking! Believing the word of a Dark Wizard! Madness.

I know ruthless when I see it Newton.” Grindelwald whispered and Percy grimaced at the look of fascination on the Dark Wizard’s face as he stared at Scamander. “And you are as ruthless as they come little Scamander.”

“Go fuck yourself,” Percy muttered darkly, glaring at the memory version of Grindelwald. “Fucking bastard.”

Scamander smiled. “Maybe.”

Percy stared.

But at least I’m ruthless against people like you who try to hurt others for the own ends. Personal gain, greed; it’s all that drives you, Gellert. Like a child who wants the toy he’s been denied and throws a tantrum over it, that’s what you are. A spoilt child hating the world because it keeps telling you ‘no’.”

That- that was- wow.

Percy was so distracted by the sheer harshness that Scamander exuded that he didn’t realise the magizoologist laughed in the memory. He thought it was Grindelwald until he looked at them both.

Percy’s insides went cold.

It was nice to see you Gellert, but I’m afraid this will be the last time we speak to each other ever again.”

Percy stared after the memory Scamander as the magizoologist left the interrogation room, mind numb with shock. Scamander was- this- what-

Percy was so surprised and disturbed by what he’d just witnessed that he didn’t register the quiet promise the Dark Wizard made: “We’ll speak again, Newt. I promise you that.”

The memory turned hazy, colours leaching out of it and Percy was suddenly deposited back in Seraphina’s office. The jarring experience of being ejected from a memory jolted Percy’s mind back into action and he blinked owlishly around the office.

I need… to speak to him,’ Percy thought. ‘But… maybe it would be better to talk to Theseus instead?’

Percy doubted that Theseus was unaware of whatever it was that existed between his brother and Grindelwald, and if it was the case that the brothers were related to Albus Dumbledore… Who was also known by Grindelwald…

Percy steeled himself, sweeping out of Seraphina’s office and made his way unerringly to the Atrium of the Woolworth building. He had an elder Scamander to go interrogate.

But even as he focused on his mission, Percy's mind burned as he thought about the Scamanders, Grindelwald, what the connection was, and a question rose up: had they known Grindelwald had targeted him in his plan to infiltrate MACUSA?

 

* * *

 

“So, besides the fact that those other places that were raided contained a load of creatures, and Scamander’s case, was there anything else in them?” Tina asked the assembled Aurors. Graves had left her to wrangle the department meeting -- and she really did mean ‘wrangle’ not ‘lead’. The fact that the meetings always ended up being pissing matches between two specific Aurors unless Graves put a foot down frustrated Tina no-end.

One of those two Aurors was slouched back in his chair, the other shooting him death glares. Tina sighed. ‘They should just get together already,’ she thought dryly, ‘gods know but they obsess over each other enough.’

Tina blinked. Where had that thought come from?

“Not really, second-boss,” Valents answered, crackling a grin at the confused look on Tina’s face. “Just some paperwork that we’ve already got some accountants looking over -- everything’s in code though so it’ll probably take a while to crack.”

Tina sighed. “Of course,” she muttered and several of the Aurors at the table cracked smiles at the disgust in her voice. Morgana, but did they understand that feeling of frustration when a case turned out to have some stupid coded information.

“What about the smuggling ring?” She asked, glancing down at the clipboard she held. She scribbled down a note to go mither the accountants about those coded documents. “As far as I know, everyone involved in the actual smuggling is dead or detained.”

“There were three unaccounted for before lunch but they’ve all mysteriously showed up, wands encased in some sort of charm that prevents any of us actually casting with them, and babbling on about turning themselves in because they, and I quote, ‘realised the error of their ways,’ Petrich piped up, grinning fiercely. “My guess is they’re terrified of someone or something and figured we were the nicer of two evils.”

Tina’s lip quirked. Yes, she could imagine that compared to a certain someone the Aurors department were the best option for creature smugglers.

The Aurors in the room all smirked.

“Okay then,” Tina said, nodding. She made a note to go check on Newt and bring him some gifts for the creatures as a thank you. “Other active cases? I know we have the Starrow theft case and another case involving No-Maj being jinxed -- Evans, you’re the lead on that, how’s it going?”

Evans shrugged. “Not too sure,” he admitted. “Siegel and I have asked around but if anyone knows anything, they’re not talking and the No-Maj have all been obliterated so we can’t even question them any further.”

Tina sighed. “Keep it marked active and move on to something else, come back to it when you can,” she ordered. Evans nodded.

“The Starrow theft case,” Tina continued, “Argus, you’re in charge of the task force for that right?”

Argus nodded slowly. “Aye,” he agreed. “As far as we can tell, there’s at least two working together: one to distract the owner, the other to do the actual stealing. We’ve got some possible leads but nothing we can really move forward with.”

“If you can get an essence trace of their wands, maybe call down to the WPO and check the annual permits?” Tina suggested. Argus frowned. “Madame President had them update it so it can now detect what wand cast a spell if there’s a sufficient essence trace to analyse.”

All of the Aurors in the room perked up at that.

“That’s going to make cases a lot easier!” Danvers exclaimed.

Tina smirked. “It would,” she agreed, “if WPO is willing to do the work required to trace wands for you.” She raised an amused eyebrow at the groan the Aurors let out. “Asking them nicely is a good start.”

Valents sighed. “Yes second-boss.”

Several Aurors chuckled.

“Uhm, ma’am,” Tina looked up at the Auror who had spoken. They were relatively new, a greenie with little experience in the field. Tina recognised them as one of the relief Aurors that had shown up at the mill.

“Yes, Carrow?”

Carrow shifted awkwardly. “Uh, I just was wondering how Mister Scamander is doing?” they asked timidly.

All the Aurors looked at Tina simultaneously. She swallowed.

“He’s okay,” she said, “still recovering from the head wound he received from the explosion and his creatures are very happy that he’s back, but he won’t be back in the office until next week at the earliest.” A sliver of steel entered her voice. “So, none of you better go bothering him about your cases.”

Valents threw out a hand, mock offended. “Would we really do that?” he asked.

“Yes.” Three separate Aurors answered and the room erupted in quiet laughter.

Tina smiled.

“That’s all there is on the agenda,” she said when the laughter died down. “So, get out and let me get this paperwork started!”

The Aurors all laughed again, obeying her order with expressions of fond amusement and warmth. Even the Aurors who had disliked her for her demotion during the Grindelwald Incident were more accepting of her position now as Graves’s second.

The paperwork could go to hell, though.

 

* * *

 

“To what do I owe the pleasure of your face at this hour of the evening?” Theseus asked the moment he opened the door to Percy. The British Auror smirked.

Percy didn’t smirk back.

“Perce?”

Theseus frowned. His friend didn’t look at all well. A light sheen of sweat on his brow, something in his eyes that was wild and panicked but sluggish and shocked at the same moment.

He reached out and placed a hand on Percy’s arm. “Percy are you okay?”

The American Auror blinked. He looked down at his arm.

Theseus bit his lip. Was this- was Percy have an episode? Had something reminded him of Grindelwald? The war? The British Auror swallowed.

Shit, where’s Newt when I need him?’

“Come inside Perce,” Theseus said softly. “Come on, come inside.”

Guiding Percy into his room, Theseus carefully watched his friend’s expression for any sort of reaction. There was none. It was as though his friend had disappeared into his own mind – heck, maybe he had. The war had done a lot of damage to folks, magical and muggle, and Theseus had seen enough muggles who had seen too much and sometimes, even years later, would end up acting like Percy; non-responsive, requiring someone to guide them. The muggles called it Shellshock, at least, Theseus thought they did.

The magical population that had fought in the war, or had been caught up in it by chance or bad luck, at least had the benefit of more effective treatments than the muggles, but even wizards weren’t immune to psychological harm – Theseus and Newt were examples of that. The therapy Theseus knew Percy was still undertaking more than spoke to the reality that wizards and muggles differed very little in their responses to trauma – wizards could counter trauma with magic or make it even worse, but then… so too could muggles.

What did that healer always say to me?’ Theseus frowned. ‘Something about sugar…’ “Oh I hope it was sugar,” he muttered, drawing his wand and flicking it in the direction of the kitchenette. “Tea with heaps of sugar… that’s what he said, I’m sure.”

Theseus looked at Percy. “Well, let’s see if you really hate tea as much as you’ve always insisted,” he said, gently pushing his still unresponsive friend into an armchair. “Don’t kill me for making you drink it if you do though,” he added under his breath.

Theseus sighed. He ran a hand through his hair. “Gods but where the fuck is Newt?”

The kettle in the kitchenette whistled from where Theseus’ spell had stuck it on the stove – the whistle high-pitched. Wincing a little, Theseus hurried over to the kettle, turned the stove off and grabbed the oven glove on the countertop. He set the kettle down on the countertop with one hand and plucked a mug from the drainer with his other hand.

“Tea bags,” he muttered, fishing one out of the tea-caddy and dropping it in the mug. “Sugar after the water… because this kettle is too fucking hot, holy crap!” He hissed, pouring the water from the kettle as quickly as possible before depositing it with a clang in the sink.

“Some oven glove,” he snarled, tossing the useless thing on the countertop. Sugar from the sugar-caddy was quickly lumped into the steaming mug, binding and dissolving. It was probably far too much sugar to make the tea anything but disgustingly sweet and overshadowed by the sugar, but Theseus honestly didn’t care. He just needed to get Percy back to the land of alertness, travesty of tea be damned.

The things I do,’ he thought, turning away from the kitchenette, mug of sugared-nightmare-tea in-hand. “Okay, Perce,” he said, looking up from the mug to the armchair. “Time to get a respon–”

Percy was stood, wand drawn, facing Theseus with a guarded expression on his face. The man of only moments ago who hadn’t responded to any of Theseus’s words was gone, the Auror who could and did hold his own against a dozen criminals, who had challenged some of the best and toughest Auror examiners on both sides of the Atlantic and beyond, stood facing Theseus Scamander.

This was not Percy. This was Auror Graves.

“Guess I just wasted a teabag then, didn’t I?” Theseus said eventually. He sighed. “You mind if I put this down before you try and accuse me of whatever it is that’s got you looking like that?”

Percy stared at him. “How are you related to Albus Dumbledore and why is Grindelwald so obsessed with him that he’d fixate on your brother?”

Theseus started. “On second thought, think I’m going to just… drink this myself…. Yep,” he said weakly, taking a large, fortifying gulp of the treacle-like tea.

He sat down suddenly. Well, fell down. There was no chair behind him, only the wall to his left that he sort of slid down.

“How –” Theseus laughed hollowly, “how do you know about Albus?” The phrasing of Percy– no, Auror Graves’s question foreclosed any possibility that Theseus could write Albus off as a friend, colleague or respected professor of his school. ‘How are you related’, not ‘what is your relation’ – the difference was clear.

“All interactions with prisoners are recorded, especially one’s with international terrorists,” Percy answered. “Now, tell me.”

Theseus’s lips twisted. ‘Of course,’ he thought darkly, ‘Grindelwald said something to Newt, fucking damn it!’

“He didn’t tell me,” he muttered. “He didn’t fucking tell me!”

Theseus looked up at Graves. “Did you obsess over this so much that you went and shut down? Is this your way of coping? Ignoring what you’re feeling to be the big, scary Auror?” He asked snidely.

Theseus shook his head and let out a laugh. “You and Newt are made for each other.”

If it was at all possible, Graves’s expression became even more closed-off. Colder.

“Albus is my cousin on my mother’s side,” Theseus eventually said, staring down at the mug in his hands. He’d wrapped his fingers around it, threaded them through the handle, letting the heat seep into his skin. It was easier to focus on the warmth than to continue looking at Graves. “He was eleven when I was born, just going to Hogwarts. Oldest of three – Albus, then Aberforth two years younger and –” Theseus swallowed thickly, “and Ariana. Three years younger than Albus, seven older than me.”

“She – she was always so patient with me. After she was – after what those boys did to her she was never the same but… she was always happy to see Newt,” he said softly, voice barely above a whisper.

There was so much pain in his voice. The mask of Auror Graves slipped.

“Not that we saw her often after that, Aunt Kendra feared what the Ministry would do if anyone found out about her condition.”

“Theseus.” Percy said. Theseus didn’t hear him.

“It was hard for us, especially Newt to accept what had happened, even harder after Aunt Kendra died,” Theseus continued, tone almost conversational. The deep note of pain made his words sound forcibly calm. The mug in his hands creaked. “Albus had to take care of her and Aberforth after that, something he honestly hated having to do. Mother used to send so many letters to him, asking if he wanted us to take care of them but he always refused.”

Theseus shook his head. “It’d have been better if he’d just accepted the fucking help mother was offering,” he spat. “Too stubborn and proud by far. A family trait, I guess.”

“Theseus.” Percy said again. He knelt down in front of the British Auror, wand tucked back in his sleeve. “Theseus, I’m sorry.”

Theseus shook his head. He laughed.

“You asked, Percy!” He said. “I’m giving you your answers. Not my problem you don’t want them anymore.” He shook his head again.

“Albus made a friend in Godric’s Hollow.” Theseus tilted his head back against the wall. “Mother thought it was a good thing; everyone needs a support system, she said.” He looked Percy dead in the eye. “Shame that friend was a fucking lunatic.”

The mug shattered.

“Shit!” Percy exclaimed, snatching up Theseus’s hands as the British wizard stared down at his hands in dull surprise. Percy drew his wand again. “Episkey!”

The skin on the palms of Theseus’s hands healed before their eyes, bits of ceramic dissolving away with a non-verbal spell from Percy. The blood stains disappeared next as Percy waved his wand over Theseus’s hands.

“You can tell me the rest another time,” Percy said firmly, guilt clear to read on his face. His eyes shone with an apology.

Theseus shook his head. “I’m almost done anyway,” he reasoned, clenching his hands to test the dexterity of his fingers. “Might as well get it over and done with, then you can apologise for being a prick and we can get pissed over our Grindelwald-related traumas.”

Percy snorted despite himself. Theseus flashed a weak grin.

“Gellert was pretty okay to deal with for short bursts, you know,” Theseus explained. “He didn’t start off his introduction to mother with his rhetoric about magical superiority, but the longer we spent around him… well, it was implied a lot with some of the stuff he’d say about muggles.”

Percy nodded. “He wanted to make a good impression,” he said.

Theseus snorted. “Of course, he did,” he replied. “He was Albus’s beau and mother is the closest thing Albus has to a parental figure anymore.”

Percy’s jaw dropped.

What?”

Theseus laughed. “Oh yeah,” he said, lips twisted in a grimace. “It was all sunshine and Hippogriff respect for a while,” he continued. “Albus allowed Newt and I to visit, Ariana was always so happy to see us even on bad days. Aberforth didn’t want us to go most of the time – Albus was a model brother when mother was around which annoyed him, but Gellert didn’t say a damned thing about magical superiority either.”

Theseus paused. “Might also have been that Aberforth wasn’t left with the pair of them being lunatics together, leaving him to look after Ariana during the holidays. I don’t think he trusted Albus to take care of Ariana properly with Gellert around,” he admitted. “He was right to.”

Percy’s expression twisted. “Did he –”

“No, he didn’t touch her like that,” Theseus corrected Percy’s thought process before it go down that dark, dark road. “No. Albus sent mother a letter just before – just before it happened. He went on about the possibility of curing Ariana, of directing her magic and helping her and everyone else by extension.” Theseus snorted bitterly. “Aberforth hit the fucking roof when he found out what they’d been planning. And then he found out that it was Gellert’s idea in the first place!”

“That was the reason for the fight.” He said quietly and fell silent.

Percy grimaced. “What fight?” He asked eventually, breaking the silence of the room.

“The one that killed her,” Theseus explained. “Ariana.” He shrugged. “None of us are sure who killed her.”

“Gods…” Percy breathed. “Gods all.”

“I don’t think it was Aberforth, Newt doesn’t either.” Theseus continued, a smile on his face that wasn’t sad but certainly wasn’t happy either. It was… if Percy had to describe it, then he’d probably call it melancholic. “And I don’t think either of us like to think about Albus being the one who did it which leaves Gellert.”

He shook his head. “In the end, it doesn’t really matter that much in the scheme of it, not when it was Gellert’s ideas and straight-up manipulation that led to Ariana dying.”

“I’m not sure what happened between them after that but Albus and Gellert broke up, Aberforth won’t have anything to do with Albus – doesn’t even call him his brother most of the time – and none of us mention Ariana that much anymore,” Theseus finished softly. “I think it hurts mother to talk about her; she feels responsible I guess. Newt is just angry about it.”

“And you?” Percy asked.

Theseus shrugged. “Somewhere between the two, I guess,” he sighed. Silence fell between them like a barrier built of grief and pain, loss and shame.

“Anyway,” Theseus said suddenly, holding up a hand.  “Time to get pissed.”

A bottle crashed out of a cabinet in the kitchenette, zooming across the room and smacking into Theseus’s outstretched hand.

“I’m sorry I pushed about this,” Percy said as Theseus took a long draught of the clear liquid in the bottle. It smelt strongly of turpentine. Percy wrinkled his nose.

Theseus shrugged and held out the bottle. “I’m not surprised to be honest, it was a shock to be asked but it’s something that could cause problems for Newt and me, if Gellert starts making insinuations,” he admitted, but he didn’t look at Percy. “All it takes is one person asking the wrong question and shit goes all over the place.”

Shifting, Percy sat against the wall, legs knocking against Theseus’s as they both stared at the door opposite them. He took a sip of the liquor, grimacing at the taste in the back of his throat. Whiskey was much more palatable.

“Seraphina is suspicious,” he said eventually, feeling Theseus tense beside him.

“Don’t go into detail, please.” Theseus’s voice was quiet but the plea was clear to hear. “Just enough for her to know this hatred of Grindelwald is very fucking personal for us.”

Percy nodded. “Only the facts, I swear.”

Theseus relaxed. “Thanks.”

Percy nodded again. “Yeah.” He took another draught of the liquor then passed the bottle back to Theseus.

The British Auror lifted the bottle to his lips and paused. “Prick,” he muttered, smirking, before taking a large swig. Then he sneezed.

Fuck!”

Percy laughed.

Chapter Text

The sound of footsteps along the corridor signalled the imminent arrival of Gellert’s evening meal. With a quiet sigh and more poise than he rightly should possess considering his circumstances, he sat up on the paltry excuse for a bed. It would only be a matter of moments before the door to his cell opened and his food deposited on the equally poor excuse for a table.

Unlike most other inmates, Gellert personally received his meals via the guards, not the House-Elves employed to service the Woolworth Building.

A mark of his notoriety.

The guards – expressionless thanks to their covered faces – nonetheless reeked of fear whenever the door opened. One particular guard always seemed to have an inexplicable attack of ‘the shakes’; so much so that Gellert had recommended the wizard “see a healer for that”.

He’d had his food halved for three days as ‘punishment’ for that.

Today’s guard differed in their gait from all the others that Gellert had come to know – if not by their faces, then by their magical signatures and body language. Hesitance and uncertainty revealed itself in the way the guard paused outside of Gellert’s cell, almost as though they were not sure if it was the correct cell or not.

He was almost tempted to call out and reassure them that, yes, this was the cell containing the greatest Dark Wizard of all time.

Then the door opened and in came the new guard carrying a grey tray with Gellert’s mediocre evening meal.

Gellert watched the guard – probably a young, newly-promoted wizard judging by the lingering magical trace attached to him – place the tray down with an exactness and speed that betrayed a skilled duellist. The fact that his only cup of tea didn’t even slosh with the movement reinforced that observation.

“My thanks,” Gellert said genially, curious as to the reaction of this guard. He didn’t usually speak to them when they brought his food, just stared at them.

Maybe speaking to them would unnerve them more than his mismatched gaze?

The full-bodied flinch from the guard certainly gave credence to that and Gellert bit back a smirk. He didn’t expect the guard to respond, standard procedure was to not speak to the prisoners unless it was for medical reasons.

He waited patiently for the guard to leave, all but scurrying out of the room as quickly as his feet could carry him, before standing and making his way over to the table with the tray on it.

As much as the food was subpar, Gellert knew the importance of feeding his body to maintain his magical core. Thus, the mediocre meal was dearly desired if not enjoyable.

Though he’d happily kill for a good cup of tea; Albus had unfortunately introduced him to a special blend – “a family secret,” he’d admitted with a spark in his eyes that had Gellert more interested in Albus rather than the tea – and it had forever ruined his ability to graciously accept tea made weakly or with far too much sugar and creamer.

Blinking away thoughts of Albus and a past Gellert could never recover, the dark wizard sat in the only chair available in his cell and pulled the tray towards himself. The cheap, heavily spelled cutlery was as cumbersome as ever, especially the spoon; they gave him only a fork and a spoon, no blade to cut the food they foisted upon him. ‘As though I’d use a butter-knife to try and escape,’ he snorted.

When he went to spear the poor excuse of a potato – honestly, they had House-Elves here, why did they insist on providing such awfully-made food? – Gellert started in surprise. Lifting his hand up, he stared at the potato on the end of what, only seconds before, had been a fork.

Reaching out with his other hand, Gellert prised the potato off and dropped it uncaringly on the tray, splashing some gravy on his clothes in the process. The mess was ignored, however, as the dark wizard stared in honest surprise at what he was holding.

His wand.

His. Wand.

I’ll have to thank that guard,’ he thought, smiling widely. ‘A reward worthy of such a gift.’

Calmly, Gellert tucked his wand into the sleeve of his right arm, making sure to secure it against the manacle on his wrist – a conveniently-placed support for his wand, how ironic – before using the spoon on his tray and eating his food.

He’d transfigure some of his leftovers into a fork to replace that which had been sacrificed for his freedom.

For now, though… well, Gellert was going to enjoy his meal for the first time since he’d been incarcerated in this farce of a cell. He had much on his mind and plans to put in place.

Even the mediocre food didn’t taste quite as bad as before now that he had the beginnings of freedom at his fingertips.

Quite literally.


* * *


Theseus slumped down on his bed after Percy finally left. The alcohol had really done a number on his balance – he’d have to get more of the horrid shit, it was brilliant – and the softness of the mattress was lulling him into a relaxed, sleepy state.

But he couldn’t sleep now. Not just yet.

Forcing himself up with a loud moan, Theseus stumbled and wobbled his way over to the writing desk near the window of the bedroom area. He flopped down into the chair and draped his upper-half across the top of the writing desk as he reached for a refilling quill his father had gifted him last Christmas. Then he riffled through a pile of loose parchment until he found one that was free of any ink and dragged it as close to his face as he possibly could without accidentally ingesting it.

The quill wobbled unevenly as Theseus painstakingly began to write. His handwriting was going to be atrocious, probably not even readable to the recipient, but the British Auror knew that if he didn’t write this now and send it then he’d probably never fucking send the thing.

This wound had been left to fester quite long enough.


* * *


Three days later, after a number of increasingly stressful classes filled with students who seemed not at all concerned with learning, Albus finally had a day to himself. A bank holiday – or as close to one in the Wizarding World, they didn’t exactly ascribe to the same holiday system as Muggles after all, not entirely.

He took advantage of the relative lull in castle life to spend some time in the Forbidden Forest, safe in the knowledge that there was nothing that could harm him. The Centaurs respected him for the way he respected them, never doing damage in the forest and steering clear of the areas saturated with Centaur-magic. None of the more ‘dangerous’ aspects of the forest were an issue either, especially since there were only a handful of wolves living in the forest with plenty of game to hunt instead of a lone wizard reeking of magic that made their muzzles itch uncomfortably.

That didn’t mean the staff encouraged students to enter the forest – Merlin no! But it was much better for the students to believe there lived all manner of dangerous beasts in the dark confines of the forest than to wonder about and get lost in over two-hundred-and-sixty square kilometres of woodland.

Better to ban students from wandering about in there than to spend three days looking for a trio – again – because they’d dared each other to find out if there “really were monsters in the forest!”

Scoffing lightly, Albus ducked beneath a low-hanging branch as he steadily made his way along the path well-trodden by his feet. There were, indeed, “monsters” out there, but they were not to be found in the forest. No, they could be found much further afield – a truth the students would come to learn in time.

A half hour into the forest and not a hint of castle life remained; no sound of students, the towers usually just visible through the foliage, the herb patch the potion professors maintained, passing the knowledge of it down from one to another.

Albus was, for all intents and purposes, completely alone in the depth of the forest.

It was refreshing.

Until the darned barn owl came screeching towards him, flying at such speed that Albus wondered if it was being hunted by a bird of prey.

It landed haphazardly on the forest floor in front of Albus and screeched demandingly at him. With raised eyebrows, Albus knelt down and carefully detached the letter the owl had obviously been tasked to deliver to him. The handwriting was somewhat familiar, but sloppy, rushed.

Albus frowned.

The owl screeched.

"Oh, all right then," he said, fishing out a treat for the owl – one of several he kept on his person in case spontaneous messages arrived for him and he wasn't in his office. "Enjoy."

Albus watched the owl take off with a soft hoot of thanks, still kneeling on the ground, until it disappeared.

Then he opened the letter.

"Oh…"

Albus bit the inside of his cheek in consternation as he read the contents of the letter from someone who rarely corresponded with him directly.

Theseus preferred official channels and Aunt Nafre when having to deal with Albus. That he'd sent a letter direct spoke volumes.

"I'll need to see Newt, ," he said to himself, absentmindedly standing and starting to walk back in the direction of the castle. "Perhaps during the upcoming term holiday?"

Leaving the castle mid-term would be a bad idea, not least because Headmaster Dippet would be displeased. Though, Albus had ways to counter that.

In truth, he could visit Newt by tomorrow afternoon. He was just afraid of doing so.

Seeing Newt would mean facing someone who he cared for, who was family just like Theseus, but who was more angry at the mistakes that Albus had made because of the cost they had extolled on them all. Newt didn't hate him, if anything Newt loved his cousin more than he could describe. But Albus knew that love and hate were very difficult things to keep apart, the line between the two easy to blur.

Going to America to see Newt would mean facing his past again. Not the loss of Ariana, that was always present in his mind, it impacted everything he did, every thought he had.

No.

The past he would have to face would be Gellert.

How could he look Newton in the eye without recalling that the man who had tortured his cousin, who had terrorised New York and tried to start a war, was the same man whom he had loved and still did?

Looking down at the letter from Theseus, Albus ruefully admitted that he didn't have much choice in the matter. The decision had been made for him, only the date remained in his control.

For now.

Crossing the castle grounds at a quick stride, Albus carefully tucked the letter into his robes, intending on responding to his eldest cousin as soon as he arrived back in his chambers. He could use a school owl to deliver it and, hopefully, Theseus would receive Albus's response two days hence.

Hopefully.


* * *


"You're certain the relationship between Grindelwald and the Scamanders is not pertinent to the case?" Seraphina asked, looking at Percy expectantly. Her dark eyes were locked with Percy's own, watching his every reaction.

Percy nodded.

"Grindelwald was a friend of a member of their family – a cousin – but a tragedy occurred that led to the animosity between them," he explained as succinctly as he could without going into detail. "Theseus explained the situation but asked I not go into detail," he added, "it's a very painful thing for the family and personal."

Seraphina raised an eyebrow. "The Scamander family having a connection to an international terrorist is certainly not something they'd appreciate being common knowledge," she agreed, "not in the least because of their prestige and standing in Britain."

Percy inclined his head. "The sentiment I got from Theseus is that the family wholeheartedly despises Grindelwald, his brother especially."

"That would explain the interaction Scamander had with Grindelwald," Seraphina allowed, nodding slowly. "I doubt I would be capable of remaining so calm if I were tasked with looking at the man who caused my family immense pain."

"Nor I," Percy agreed quietly.

Seraphina was quiet for a long moment, sipping the coffee that had been delivered by her secretary. Percy had already finished his off, sleep-deprived and a chronic caffeine junkie, but Seraphina preferred to enjoy her coffee rather than guzzle it down like she was dying of thirst.

"Grindelwald will eventually go to trial," she said eventually, not looking at Percy, instead affixing her gaze to the cup in her hand. "When that happens, it is entirely possible that he may reveal the relation he has with the Scamanders."

Percy shook his head. "It's possible, yes," he agreed tacitly, "but I doubt it." At Seraphina's questioning look, he elaborated.

"For the last decade or so, Grindelwald has has the opportunity to reveal to the world that he knows the Scamander family and their immediate relatives in a more intimate manner than would be expected," he explained, avoiding too much detail while still providing enough for Seraphina to understand. "And yet, he hasn't told anyone. Not even in the initial interviews or subsequent questionings has he revealed anything about it. Not once."

Seraphina frowned. "He was waiting for the right time to use it as leverage?"

"Possibly." Percy waved a hand as he frowned. "But that doesn't feel right either. I don't doubt that he'd use any information he has to his own benefit," he agreed," but to reveal such a thing about the Scamanders would be, by association, revealing something personal about himself."

"And that is something Grindelwald goes to great lengths to avoid," Seraphina said, catching on. Her eyes gleamed.

Percy nodded. "Precisely."

"To maintain the sort of influence he has over such a large number of wizards from such a large variety of places and backgrounds, he has to be seen as mysterious and other-worldly," Seraphina continued, her voice revealing her excitement at the revelation. "To share something about himself as mundane as personal relationships would be to undermine his own image."

"In essence," Percy said, nodding. "I don't think he'll say anything officially about the Scamanders for his own sake, but if it can be used to sow doubt between us and the Scamanders? He'd imply it for his benefit and our deficit."

Seraphina tipped her head in acknowledgement of Percy's point.

"But not publicly," she countered.

"Not publicly, no."

"Then we must ensure that if this information comes to light in the investigation that it remains confidential," Seraphina ordered, giving Percy a intense look.

Percy pursed his lips, staring at his hand on the armchair in thought. "Auror-only knowledge," he said, rubbing his thumb and forefinger together slowly. "I can use some of the Silent Speakers spells to extract an oath from my department if its required, but I won't force it upon them or deny any of them the opportunity to forget the information instead of swearing to never speak of it."

Seraphina nodded. "Acceptable."

"I'll have Goldstein write up a preliminary document detailing what will be expected of my Auror's regarding the matter," Percy said decisively. "Good day, Madam President."

"Good day, Mister Graves."


* * *


Newt's plan to speak to Graves was simple: beg Queenie to give him the information he needed about where Mister Graves lived so he could go see him in a place where the Auror felt most comfortable and in control. Newt's experiences with creatures often suggested that it was best to approach them in locations where they were most at ease; something that translated for human beings into locations that were their homes or places of work and where they had total control.

Places where Newt would be a guest and unfamiliar and thus less likely to be aggressive.

Of course, with some creatures such a plan went horribly wrong but Newt was optimistic that Mister Graves would not be like those creatures.

Well, he hoped really.

"Queenie please," Newt begged, looking at the witch desperately.

Stood in the kitchen of the Goldstein's apartment, Newt and Queenie were at opposite sides of the room; Queenie by the sink, peeling potatoes for a stew, and Newt near the table that was in the process of cleaning itself.

"I can't do this without a good reason, sweetie," Queenie protested lightly. "Invading someone's privacy is a big thing for me."

"Queenie, you literally read minds," Newt countered disbelievingly.

"But that's different!" She exclaimed, dropping another peeled potato into the pot beside her. "I can't help doing that, and its only surface thoughts and feelings!"

She sighed, shoulders dropping.

"Listen, Newt, sweetie," she said, putting down the small knife she'd been used to peel potatoes as she turned to look at the magizoologist. "I love you, I really do, but if I give you personal information about Teenie's boss… it could go bad for all of us if your plan doesn't work."

Queenie smiled sadly at Newt. "God knows I'm a big believe in happy endings, hunnie, but this doesn't feel like it's the right way to go about it."

Newt sighed.

"I don't know what else to do," he admitted, dropping down into a chair. "I can't apologise to him on a case – if I'll even get called in anymore now. I definitely can't go into the Auror department and demand to speak to him since I know one of them heard me. He won't come anywhere near my hotel room or Thee's now and Thee is going back to England tomorrow so I won't be able to get him to help me with this and I just don't know-"

"Newt, sweetie, breathe."

Queenie's voice was as soft and soothing as her hands on Newt's face, stroking his hair back out of his eyes as he fought to breathe.

"In and out, darling, in and out," Queenie coached, voice still soft but firm, directing Newt's breathing to slowly return to its normal pace. "There we go."

"I'm sorry," Newt rasped, throat dry.

Queenie shook her head.

"Honestly, men," she sighed, "you'd think you all aren't allowed to have emotions sometimes, the way you all go about falling apart and apologising for it." Queenie smiled gently at Newt and he smiled back weakly.

"Let's get you a nice cup of tea to steady those nerves of yours," the younger Goldstein sister said, petting Newt's hair lightly as she rose back to her feet.

She'd been kneeling on the floor beside the chair Newt had collapsed into during his panic attack. Newt realised her dress was dotted with a light sheen of dust on the knees.

"Your dress-" he began but Queenie waved him off.

"Is something that can be cleaned real easy," she said airily," and isn't as important as making sure my friend is okay."

Newt smiled.

"I can't help you with finding out where Mister Graves lives," Queenie said conversationally as she prepared Newt a cup of steaming tea. "I don't think I'd tell you either, sweetie, for your sake as much as for his."

Newt nodded even though Queenie couldn't see him. "I know," he agreed, "it was wrong of me to ask, I'm sorry Queenie."

"Apology accepted and you're forgiven before you ask," Queenie replied, turning around with the cup of tea to give Newt a knowing look. "Your feelings are almost physical things right now hunnie."

Newt grimaced.

"I'm uh- I'm working on that," he said quietly, staring down at his feet. "They're um- I think they're being amplified by my magic."

"Because of that creature?" Queenie questioned, slipping the cup into Newt's hands.

He was grateful for the warmth the cup offered.

"Possibly," he said after a sip of the piping hot tea. It was good tea. "But it might have been the potion actually," he continued, looking at Queenie nervously. "I don't quite know how but- well, I learnt how to cast out my magic - to turn it into a sort of locator, I guess. I did that before the potion exploded so I knew where everyone and everything was- I think… maybe…"

"You think the potion has made that ability a permanent thing you can do now?" Queenie finished, surprise clear in her voice and on her face. "Newt that's-"

"A dangerous thing to be able to do," he cut her off. "If it was known I can do this and that it's something I learnt… people like Grindelwald would stop at nothing to be able to do the same." Newt stared down at his tea.

"But what about you?" Queenie pressed, her concern for Newt palpable. Newt bit back a wince. "Have you seen a healer about this? It could hurt you, Newt."

Newt shook his head.

"No, no," he said, "it's far too dangerous to see a healer about this, Queenie. They'd want to document it, study me, and that information? We both know that nothing stays secret if an organisation or institution knows about it in any way."

Queenie had to admit that Newt was correct about that but still… what if this ability he now had hurt him down the line?

Newt read the expression on Queenie's face – and her own feelings, but he wasn't going to admit that he could sense them as clearly as she could his – and correctly interpreted what she was concerned about.

"Dougal is capable of many things," he said softly. "Demiguise are hunted for their fur but they have a number of other abilities that make them very important and helpful in medical situations."

Newt pulled the sleeve of his left arm up enough to reveal his wrist. On it there was a thin band of cord, possibly leather or some sort of spun yarn. Queenie watched in fascination as Newt rotated his wrist and the band sparkled before disappearing entirely from sight.

"If I become sick from whatever this is, Dougal will know," Newt explained. "He may not be able to communicate with most wizards, but you and Tina are both legilimens – though Tina's is latent and needs to be consciously accessed. He'll be able to communicate with both of you through thoughts and feelings if I'm in danger from this."

"But what good will that do you, Newt if not one healer knows how to treat you?" Queenie exclaimed. "Just one healer, not affiliated with the hospitals or MACUSA, please. That's all I'm asking for, sweetie."

"And do you know anyone who fits that criteria, Queenie?" Newt snapped before he sighed. "I'm sorry, it's just… they'd have to agree to not share this information with anyone – willingly or otherwise – and they'd have to be easy to access as and when required. I… don't think there are many out there who meet all of those requirements."

Queenie pressed a soft kiss to Newt's brow.

"No, but that doesn't mean we can't look for one in the meantime, does it?"

"No, I suppose it doesn't." Newt closed his eyes in defeat. Queenie wouldn't let this matter drop, no matter what, so it was easier to give in a little and let her look, but he knew there wouldn't be anyone that'd work.

He'd already looked.

"Great!" Queenie exclaimed brightly. "Well then, in that case, I guess I can help you out with your problem with Mister Graves."

Newt's eyes snapped open. "But I thought-" he began but trailed off when Queenie laughed.

"Not with going to his house, silly! No," she shook her head. "I can get you into his office before anyone else sees you tomorrow, before Theseus has to leave for England. I know you'll want to see your brother off, after all."

"But what about the Aurors?"

Queenie scoffed. "Teenie will deal with them!" She gave Newt a sharp smile, one that showed off all her teeth.

It was an aggressive smile.

Newt found himself responding in kind.

"I somehow pity them more than I thought I could," Newt commented dryly and Queenie laughed.

"You should," she said, "Teenie won't let them even come near you if they don't worship the ground you walk on Mister Scamander, Tamer of Beasts."

The two of them laughed and the sound echoed in the small kitchen of the Goldstein apartment.

Newt felt more at ease than he thought he would thanks to Queenie. He couldn't help but give her a fond smile.

He was blessed to have ever met these two amazing young witches.


* * *


Sitting awkwardly in a chair in Mister Graves's office, Newt's leg bounced vigorously as he waited for the Auror to get in. Queenie had informed him that Mister Graves arrived at work before 7:30 every morning without doubt. She'd also supplied him with the information necessary to slip into the office without triggering the wards of the Auror Department.

Namely: don't intend to cause harm or be a threat to the department or the general magical populace.

Newt had wondered at the simplicity of such warding but the feeling of them when he entered the Auror Department had dispelled any doubts he'd had. They felt alive.

It had been like being caressed by a gentle hand of a parent or a lover, soft and light but there had also been something behind it that spoke of the capacity to do great harm if needed.

Newt was thankful that it hadn't felt the need to draw on its less than friendly abilities when he’d snuck inside Mister Graves’s office. Although, the way it remained focused on his presence even as it returned to a more inert state was… unnerving to say the least.

By 7:26, Newt wasn’t far off turning into a nervous wreck of anxiety and paranoia over how Mister Graves would react to his presence. This had obviously been a bad idea and Queenie should never have facilitated Newt’s stupidly idiotic plan to corner a trained Auror in his own office!

He was just about to stand and attempt to flee the office, hopeful that he could at least reach the stairs before the lift door opened and the Aurors started to pour in, when the door opened and Percival Graves entered his own office.

I’m dead,’ Newt thought numbly as he stared at the Auror who had frozen in his own doorway.

Mister Graves blinked slowly, almost as though he were hoping Newt were a hallucination that would disappear by the time his eyelids retracted. Unfortunately, however, Newt was not a hallucination.

“I’m sorry!” The magizoologist blurted out.

Newt stared at the Auror as Mister Graves sighed suddenly, as though he had accepted that this was happening. And yes, Newt realised, this was happening.

“Don’t be,” Mister Graves said tiredly, closing the door of his own office behind him. “You were right.”

‘Oh no,’ Newt thought. He couldn’t have Mister Graves thinking like that.

“No, I wasn’t,” he pressed, standing awkwardly, knee bumping the edge of the arm on the right side causing him to stumble slightly. “I was angry and upset,” he explained harriedly, “about my own inability to do what I needed to. What was best for the Hieracosphinx.”

Mister Graves sighed again. “You were injured,” he said patiently, not really looking at Newt. “You weren’t in any fit state to do anything, Mister Scamander.”

Newt grimaced. “That’s really not an excuse, Mister Graves,” he responded. “I’ve been injured worse and still done what was best for the creatures in my care.”

Mister Graves looked at Newt sharply. “That is not a reassuring thing to hear, Mister Scamander,” he stared at Newt with a measured gaze. “But injury is an explanation, not an excuse for what you said.”

Newt shook his head, biting at his lower lip. “I was still wrong to have said it.”

Silence fell between them, awkward and heavy. The ticking of the clock on the mantle distracted Newt for a moment, a noise he was constantly aware of, using it to measure the degrees of Mister Graves’s reaction to him.

“I accept your apology, Mister Scamander.”

Newt looked up at Mister Graves, eyes wide. His gaze had fallen to the ground, mind counting the grooves in the tiles beneath his feet even as it had counted the seconds of the ticking clock. Mister Graves was staring at him.

“I-” Newt closed his mouth and ducked his head. He bit his lip. “Thank you.”

The silence between them was… lesser than before. Less heavy. Less thick. Less awkward. Less loaded with some meaning that neither seemed certain about naming.

“Mister Graves-” Newt began.

“You can call me by my given name, Mister Scamander.” Mister Graves – Percival – cut in, dark eyes warmer than they had been. The guarded expression hadn’t receeded from the Auror’s face, but Newt knew that trust was a fickle, hard-won thing, and as easy to break as it was difficult to rebuild.

He smiled. “Then I am, Newt, Mister- Percival.”

The smile from Percival made Newt’s own brighten in warm delight. The coil of tension that had existed within Newt since that confrontation at the mill finally began to loosen. Newt felt like he was able to breath easier for the first time in days.

It felt like euphoria.

“Not Percy or Perce?” He asked cheekily, humour dancing in his eyes that maintained their contact with Percival’s own. “I believe my brother is fond of the latter especially.”

Percival rolled his eyes. “Your brother is a scourge on my existence,” he said dryly and Newt snorted.

“Mine as well, I assure you,” he laughed quietly. The warmth in Percival’s eyes cheered Newt immensely.

But when Percival’s smile fell away, the warmth suddenly replaced with a wary… concern? the coil inside Newt that had been loosening the longer they had smiled and laughed tightened again.

“Newt,” Percival began, voice wary, “I spoke to your brother about Grindelwald–” Newt flinched at the name, something he knew Percival noticed “–about your family’s connection to him.”

“How–” Newt licked his lip and bit it “–how did you find out?”

He didn’t look at Percival, grew still where he stood in the middle of the Auror’s office near the fireplace.

The ticking of the clock was deafening.

“All interactions with inmates are recorded,” Percival explained, “even informal meetings.”

Newt swallowed thickly. “Who else-”

“Only myself and Madam Picquery are aware of the particulars,” Percival hurried to answer, a note in his voice that made Newt glance at him. There was a sympathetic measure to his expression. “Its already been agreed to remain need to know.”

Newt snorted silently. “That won’t stop it from being discussed,” he said darkly, “Aurors talk worse than students gossiping.” He dropped back into the armchair he’d been sat in before Percival had arrived, leg bouncing erratically.

He looked up at Percival suddenly, eyes wild with a desperation and fire that made the magizoologist look mildly unhinged. “Everyone will know,” he whispered, horrified.

No.” Percival moved across the distance between the two of them from where he’d been stood near his own desk. “The Silent Speakers Oath will prevent that,” he said firmly, no room for doubt in his voice, as he knelt down to look at Newt in the armchair.. “They’re like the Unspeakables of the British Ministry. The Oath they take is one that cannot be broken unless Madam Picquery herself allows it, though it can be modified to be used in a variety of circumstances.”

“Like when someone has a personal connection to an international terrorist who’s intent on causing a war between Muggles and Wizards?” Newt questioned derisively.

Percival nodded. “Yes.”

“Politics,” Newt said quietly, a layer of disgust in every letter of the word. Percival didn’t respond aloud but Newt noted the way the Auror’s hand clenched. “I don’t know how you and Thee handle it, dealing with it every day.”

Percival tilted his head. “I don’t know, Newt,” he said, voice lighter as he tried to draw the magizoologist from the dark thoughts he was obsessing over – it was obvious in the way Newt’s entire frame was tense, leg bouncing with energy unable to find any other release. “I think you’re just as capable as your brother and myself regarding politics.”

Newt snorted. “I might be capable of it,” he conceded, aware of Percival’s attempt at levity, “but I most certainly would be driven mad by it all.”

“Well,” Percival smiled slightly, “we wouldn’t want that now.”

The hand on the armchair beside Newt’s own shifted.

Percival’s smile widened.

“I think you’re mad enough for my liking, Newton Scamander,” the Auror admitted softly, a confession that had Newt’s mind stutter and the ticking clock forgotten.

“R- really?” Newt rasped, throat inexplicably dry.

The distance between them was small, the air warm from their breaths, and Newt noted all of it in the same way he did when observing a situation even as he was present in it; full of emotions and adrenaline, heart pounding faster than a Snidget flew, yet with a mind curiously detached from it all.

Percival’s eyes were much more expressive than he’d first thought back when he’d met the Auror all those weeks ago. There were wrinkles around them, laugh lines and lines caused by stress, that emphasised the deep brown shade flecked with hints of deep gold around the irises. His salt and pepper hair colour was present in his eyebrows, giving every twitch and raised brow a depth of meaning. Skin still mostly smooth, worn by time and stress of a difficult job, was warm, an olive tone almost but not quite.

It all gave the smile Percival directed at Newt a feeling of lo-

Newt’s mind paused.

The emotion every part of Percival’s face conveyed was one Newt never thought to see directed his way.

Was it-

Could it really be-

Newt leaned forward, distance between them disappearing as he did, mind and body in agreement, emotion bleeding into both in a frenzied manner he’d never experienced before.

Percival’s eyes were wide, open with expression as a hand rose in Newt’s peripheral, calloused and sun-kissed, moving to cup his cheek.

Lips closed the last distance between them just as the door opened and a loud voice called out:

“Grindelwald’s escaped!”

They froze, lips barely touching, before the words processed and they jumped apart. Newt scrambled upright. Percival stood so quickly he nearly stumbled.

They both stared at each other.

“Sir!” Tina stood in the doorway, eyes wide, panicked. “What do we do?” she asked, looking at them both.

Newt looked at her. Percival turned his head to fix her with a predator’s cold stare.

“We catch him,” he said, “or we kill him.”