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Souls of Gold

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The library is one of Credence’s places in  Nurmengard . Maybe it’s that it’s quiet. Maybe it’s that it’s warm. The castle is, mostly, cold and draughty, warmth never quite settling into the old stones, no matter how many fireplaces are lit. Or maybe it’s the books. He looks at them with such furtive curiosity, as if they were forbidden treasures. They are not forbidden to him. He was advised caution, that is all.  

Gellert likes to watch him, and he is not ashamed of that. He lingers in the doorway, silent, and watches his boy scan the shelves. The hunger on his face, the awe when he runs a finger over aged leather spines, is beautiful.   

And yet he looks lost. Gellert calls out to him, then, shattering the silence. “Have you found what you are looking for?”  

Credence jumps, guilty, as though caught at something he should not be doing. “ Mr  Grindelwald! I... I thought you had gone out.”  

Gellert smiles. “I had not. It’s all right, my boy. I thought I might come looking for something to read, that’s all, but I see you’ve had the same idea.” He licks his lips. “I could... I might read to you, if you’d like?” He does love to guide Credence’s education. Broaden the boy’s mind, his upbringing had left him so ignorant. It was a disgrace, really.   

Credence’s pale cheeks turn faintly pink, as any affection tends to make them do. “Yes!”   

Gellert selects a heavy volume from off one of the shelves, and settles down in an armchair by a fireplace, in the island of warmth the fire throws. “Well, come and sit with me, then.”  

Credence takes the armchair besides Gellert, but sits in it stiff, at the edge, not sprawling out as such a deep and soft chair – or Credence’s long legs – might seem to demand.   

Gellert blows dust off the heavy book on his lap, and  leafs  through thin pages to find the place he wants, marked by a thin dark blue ribbon. “I don’t suppose you have much familiarity with the wisdom of the Ancients.”  

“No, sir.” Credence sounds ashamed of himself.  Of course  he does. Gellert hates that tone, but he hears it all too often. It doesn’t suit his boy at all, he thinks. A face so alabaster-fine as his should lend itself to haughtiness, rather than its opposite.   

“I didn’t suppose  that woman  would have taught you. It’s no matter. Plenty of time left to learn.”  He smiles, but it’s tight. He doesn’t mean it, the anger that lurks behind his lips. Oh, he does, rather, but not at Credence. Who shrinks under it nonetheless, looking  chided.  So Gellert leans back in his chair, opens his posture, his legs crossed languidly at the ankles, and begins to read.   

It takes no more than a few verses of Plato’s  Symposium  for Credence’s eyes to fall half-closed, heavy, made sleepy by restless nights and the warmth of the fire and the soothing evenness of Gellert’s voice.   

Gellert pauses a moment, watching him. Waiting for him to wake. The boy does not stir, stays still, bent over the arm of his chair, cheek pressed against the crook of his elbow. Not quite asleep, a sliver of his dark eyes still visible under his eyelashes, but dazed and distant.   

Amusement making his lips curl, Gellert leans over and tugs – gently – at Credence’s hair.   

Credence shudders awake with a gasp, his eyes suddenly wide, staring up at Gellert, something expectant, waiting, in his gaze.  

“You’ll want to be listening for this next part, my dear. I think you may find it... interesting.”  

“I was listening.” He sounds wounded. “It was a beautiful story.”  

Aristophanes’s ? It is beautiful, isn’t it. The idea of someone out there having half your soul, half your body.” Gellert’s mismatched eyes turn misty, staring past Credence, at some image in his mind only he can see. Not for the first time, Credence wishes for the gift of Legilimency, to see what secrets occupy his lover. But Gellert shakes himself out of it, just as quickly. “If, of course, you take it that he was speaking seriously, rather than sarcastically.”  

“What do you mean?”  

“Well, he  was  a comic playwright, after all. One of the greats, at that. It might be that he’s mocking the idea of soulmates, or the seriousness with which Pausanius takes the idea of love...”  

“I don’t like  Er-Eryximachus's ?” -- Credence seems unsure on the name  -- “ idea of love.” He speaks softly, hesitantly, fearing critique for his opinion.  

“Why not?”  

“That love is only between the good people... it doesn’t seem right, that’s all.”  

“Because of us? Are we not good people, my boy?”  

Credence turns pink. “That’s not...”  

Gellert only smiles, wickedly, and  continues on . “But what did you think of  Pausanius’s  idea of love? Heavenly Love between an older and a younger man?”  

Credence’s flush deepens. “I... I liked that one better.”  

“I’m sure you did.” Gellert shifts in his chair, uncrossing his legs, and opens his arms, setting the book aside for a moment. “Here. Come and sit with me. The best part is coming now.”  

Credence complies, almost too eagerly, stumbling over himself to climb into Gellert’s lap and nestle against his chest.  

“Good boy.” Gellert praises. “Now listen.”  

The heat rises higher in Credence’s cheeks as the text moves on to describe Alcibiades’s drunken entrance, and his advances towards Socrates. Gellert can feel the heat of Credence’s face through his shirt, and mentally thanks himself for eschewing a waistcoat for the afternoon and going about his home in shirtsleeves.   

Credence is shifting about in his lap, pleased squirming. Never able to stay still when emotional, for better or for worse, Gellert has noticed it before. He rubs a hand up and down Credence’s back. “What are you thinking?”  

“He loves him.” Credence’s voice sounds choked, and when Gellert looks down, he sees tears glistening in his eyes. “They were... they were  allowed .” The last word is barely a whisper.  

Gellert takes in a breath, sighs, and it shudders more than he meant. “They were. And  we  will be. That’s it, Credence. That’s what I’m fighting for, understand?” He leans down then, and presses their lips together, swallowing any response Credence might have had.