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Save Me Once

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Graves stopped expecting help at three months. 

Or, at least he thinks three months. He'd come to think Grindelwald's appearance had been the marking of a week, but he has no way to know, no way to be sure. When he lost the duel, when he hit the pavement and the world went black, when he woke up in a room barely any brighter, he fought back. Of course he did; he's Percival Graves, director of magical security — not a coward. That ended quickly, though. A man can only endure the Cruciatus Curse so many times. Five times, to be specific. Five times, five visits, five excruciating days of wishing for anything else. 

After the fifth, he gave in. Grindelwald didn't look surprised, or even excited; he just defeated the director or magical security and the president's right-hand man and barely gave it a second thought. "Now that we're cooperating, why don't you tell me everything?" He had purred as Graves was sniveling on his knees. Just as Grindelwald requested, Graves told him everything; and he's had plenty of time to reflect on it. Everything meant everything, from the deepest secrets of the Magical Congress to how he takes his coffee, and it was quite disconcerting considering whatever Grindelwald would use that knowledge for. 

His magic was gone the moment he woke up, but he knows its still there. Occasionally, after he wakes from a particularly long sleep, he can feel the tingling pricks of magic at his fingers — there but not obtainable. If you ask him, that's worse than just ripping it away completely. He's spent entire weeks — again, what he supposes are weeks — trying to break through what feels like a thin piece of paper between him and his magic, but the more he presses, the more the ringing in his ears and the aching in his bones does the same. The pain will never go away, he knows this, as the Cruciatus Curse is very much permanent, but he hates the thought of making it worse through fruitless struggling. 

Despite being the one who kidnapped and tortured him, Grindelwald was quite hospitable. If anyone else but him had been the one to take Graves, he would probably have been killed by now, seen as too much of a hassle to keep alive — but not Grindelwald. He knows this is a trick, some sick attempt to gain sympathy, but it's nice; nice to have another human to look at, nice to know that he's not completely alone. After all, once Graves began to listen to Grindelwald and answer his questions, he became more gentle. At first, Graves wouldn't allow him more than a yard near him, but slowly, slowly, the distance decreased, and Graves felt his opposition do the same. By the tenth visit, Grindelwald put a hand on his shoulder, and Graves didn't stop him. It didn't feel pleasant, not at all, but human contact... even for such a stand-offish man like Graves, it gets to the point where you need to feel another person, to know everything around you is real, even if you don't want it to be. It never passed a shoulder grab, and looking in Grindelwald's eyes he's happy the man at least had some restraint.

Grindelwald would talk to Graves sometimes, mostly of small anecdotes from the week. In the beginning, it would be mocking, with him telling Graves of all he did with the man's face. Graves was angry, at first, but began to stop caring about what the man did quite quickly. He can do what he wants with Graves' face, as long as Graves knows he'd never do what Grindelwald was doing, that's all that mattered. Of course, it didn't improve his mood, knowing that Grindelwald did all these things with Graves appearance and yet not a single one of his Aurors noticed. Then again, maybe they do know Graves is missing, and are working secretly behind Grindelwald's back. That has to be it, because if not, Graves had no idea what he'd do.

By the twelfth visit, he realizes that he may need to start thinking about what he would do. 

His team has no idea that he's been replaced, its obvious. Either Grindelwald's a great actor, or Graves was a bad boss. Whether one or the other, when he comes to terms with the fact that no one's coming to help him, his chest feels like a thousand pounds of bricks were dropped on it. No one's coming, no one will save him, which means he'll be stuck with the white-haired psychopath for the rest of his life — no matter how short. 

His mind is still reeling with last minute suicidal attempts at escape when he hears a door slam open and shut. He can't see more than a handful of feet in front of himself, but he can hear the brisk steps of Grindelwald approach, and Grave's muscles tighten on instinct. He hasn't been hurt by the man for a while, but then again, you can never trust a man that wears your own face. 

And speaking of which, Grindelwald very much has Grave's face — and it was not appropriate. Watching himself is enough, but seeing at a pissed off version of himself with a wand raised and coat being torn off in a blaze, well, he understands why his subordinates would take him so seriously when he was angry now. "What's—" he tries, but Grindelwald interrupts. 

"Silencio!" he shouts, causing Graves to jump from where he's sitting against a wall and — well — shut up. Normally Graves would do something to save himself from the impending wrath of the wizard, but currently, he's frozen in place — body and mind. He's never seen Grindelwald this angry, and he's beginning to wonder what'll be worse: being tortured by someone who's indifferent or someone who very much wants you to hurt. He decides on the latter.

He tries to open his mouth and say something, anything, to calm, or at least slow, Grindelwald, but the spell is still in effect and nothing comes out from his throat. Panic blossoms in his stomach as Grindelwald strides over and kneels in front of him. Graves tries to scoot away, kicking his feet, but Grindelwald isn't having it and growls "Incarcerous" while he puts a steel grip on Graves' arm. His body is thin, now, no longer filled out by a slim muscle like it used to. Being kept alive on a nutrient spell does horrors to the body, and Grindelwald's hand easily wraps around his bicep while, with his other hand, he tosses his wand aside. He can feel the spell take effect as a tight and slim presence begins to pass along his body. Rope, clearly, and not a very soft one. It rubs his skin raw as it passes over him and ties his legs together and arms in front of him.

Graves is shaking now, no need to try to maintain his honor; he's scared. He's scared of Grindelwald and he's scared of what the man will — what the man wants — to do. He squeezes his eyes shut, not wanting to have to watch his own face looking down at him like... like that.

"Diffindo," he hears and he can immediately feel the seams of his dress shirt break, and now he's terrified. His stomach is being clenched in a fist and his throat is trying to get rid of food he hasn't eaten, so he swallows it down and tries to whimper — to scream — but the spell is still on him and his words don't come out. 

Maybe he'd be less scared if Grindelwald was talking; whenever the man isn't flaunting, something bad is definitely going to happen. Strong hands grab at his shoulders and shove his back to the ground so he's laying flat, his head cracking against the floor as he does so. Grindelwald's control slips for a moment, and words form again in Graves' mouth. "Stop! Why—" but the spell is cast again, wordlessly, as Grindelwald gets to work on peeling the unsewed scraps of fabric that used to be his shirt off of him. 

Graves has had worse, he keeps trying to remind himself as he curls in on himself and stops fighting back. The Cruciatus Curse is ten times worse than anything Grindelwald can do to him — he knows it's a fact — but that doesn't mean it won't hurt like hell. 

Grindelwald tugs his and Graves' pants down with little ceremony and lines himself up with the blubbering man. Stop stop stop, Graves screams inwardly as he waits, ending with a crescendo in his head that's so loud, he wonders if Grindelwald could hear him through his mind when Grindelwald enters him. He uses no pleasantries and slams his hips against Graves, whose mouth is open in a silent plea for help.

Graves eyes are screwed shut when Grindelwald tugs at the lids and pries them open, forcing the man to star at the reflection of the old him, the him from before Grindelwald, from when his biggest worry was whether or not he should eat breakfast, and liquid pools in his eyes and begin to fall before he can register it, but this only seems to spur Grindelwald on as his thrust become heavier and more frequent and Graves can feel the silencing spell lift, and this time its on purpose as Grindelwald wants to hear those sweet, sweet screams, split only by broken sobs. 

But it isn't enough, and Graves wishes he knew what would be enough, and Grindelwald brings his hands to Graves' neck and squeezes. Just when Graves' body begins to convulse more than it already is, and his vision becomes ebbed with black, Grindelwald releases.

They continue in silence for what feels like hours, the only noise being Graves' broken calls for help until Grindelwald stops, leans back, and runs a hand through his sweaty hair. "It's not enough, Percy," he sighs, eyeing Graves as if he's supposed to have an answer, but Graves' thoughts are long gone and his consciousness is too far to pick up his words. "Percy," he sings, "Dear, I suppose I have to get your attention then, hmm?" And ignoring Graves' plea of "Please, I'm sorry, stop," he puts a hand to the side of Graves' face and murmurs into Graves' ear, "Crucio," and the immediate screams of Graves put a shiver down his spine. 

Graves is clenching on him while trying to squirm away and it only makes the whole ordeal more gratifying for Grindelwald as he throws his head back in a moan while Graves lets out a particularly blood-curdling screech. "Oh, Percy, you're so good!" He keens, and lets loose inside Graves with two, long thrusts. Graves gapes in silence, his legs spread, as Grindelwald pulls out. The curse is still active, but Graves shows no acknowledgment. "Percy, don't tell me you've gone and short-circuited on me, now," he chuckles, standing up and pulling his — Graves' — clothes back on. Graves still doesn't reply, but he begins to flinch more often as his nerves regain themselves. "A few more hours, okay sweet? And then we’ll remove that pesky little curse," he casts a quick cleaning spell and pulls Graves' pants back over his body at the same time. "Can't have you looking indecent, what if we have guests?" And with no response, he swishes out from the doorway. True to his word, Graves is left with the Cruciatus Curse for four more hours until he comes back to his senses.

No ones coming for him, and if they do, there's nothing left for them to save. The curse might as well be permanent now; even though it has ended, he can feel the echo of pain, the full turmoil lying just below the surface, waiting to rear its head. 

If no one's coming for him, then what should he do? Graves curls into a fetal position and presses his arms against his eyes. If no ones coming for him, he'd rather die than be stuck here.

Chapter Text

The thirteenth visit went the same as the last, with Graves' face pressed against the floor and Grindelwald rutting into him. This time he's in a better mood, and he wears Graves' face whilst he whispers to him "Oh, Percy, if only someone was coming for you," as the Cruciatus Curse racks its way through Graves. "Do you know how good you feel, Percy? Oh, I wonder if you've ever been used like this. Have you?" He grabs Graves' jaw and forces his neck to crane and face him, "Hmm? Answer me, Percy."

Graves wants to twist his face away from Grindelwald and go back to facing the floor, but the pain coursing through his body along with the thought of something worse being done to him tears away any desire to fight back. "No," He hisses. A simple answer, yes, but he couldn't say more than that if he wanted to; the curse making the formation of words too difficult to bear.

"I suppose you do feel tight," Grindelwald purrs with a particularly rough thrust, earning a loud yelp from the ever-suffering Graves. "Makes me regret not ravishing you earlier," and with no reply from Graves except the usual yowls and cries, he sighs, "We've only done this once, yet I'm already tired of this," And Graves tries not to hold his breath out of hope that the man would finally let Graves go; in whatever way he likes. Of course, hope does nothing for Graves as Grindelwald takes his wand from his coat pocket and points it at Graves. He tries to skirt away from its aim, but Grindelwald's other hand holds him steady as he ponders. "I've been wanting to cast this one for a while," he says, "but I wasn't sure just when. I've found, actually, that despite the pain being less; seeing the blood, it makes it far worse." Gaves feels his muscles tighten in morbid anticipation for the inevitable and Grindelwald chuckles, "Aww, Percy, don't get too excited," and Graves' muscles begin to loosen against his will as Grindelwald casts a wordless spell; and then he feels it.

Graves' skin is splitting and he can feel red warmth spread across his chest that he knows is blood and he shrieks out "Stop!" as the pain grows and the blood feels as if it's pouring buckets out of him, and Grindelwald begins to thrust again despite Graves' protests and how Graves twists and turns on the ground, only spurring on the flow of blood.

Grindelwald lets out a small sound of appreciation when he flips Graves onto his back. "Dear, Percy, you've lost a lot of blood," He hums and lowers his face to Graves' chest to lap at the liquid. Graves chokes, the mixture of Cruciatus and Sectumsempra are too much and his consciousness is ebbing; from pain or blood loss, he doesn't know. "Percy?" Grindelwald attempts to get his attention, and if Graves didn't know any better, he'd think there was concern in his voice, but he doesn't have time to ponder as the black takes over his vision and everything gets further away until he's lost in sleep.


 

When Graves wakes up, the first thing he notices is that the cuts on his body from before are still there — cleaned and bandaged, but still there. Next, he notices the fact that the Cruciatus Curse is still buzzing under his skin despite it being withdrawn. It's been like that for a while, now, but it's closer to the surface than ever before, and it scares him. Lastly, he notices the three faces all crowded around him. His first reaction is to jump back, and he does just that, mentally slapping himself for being such a coward immediately after.

He notices two of the three faces; his Aurors: Tina Goldstein and Billy Lowe. The third face, however, Graves has no idea the name of, and he'd recognize that orange hair if he had seen it before. He stares holes into the man's face, furrowing his brow in as threatening a way he can. Even if the man means no harm, he doesn't know him, and therefore he doesn't trust him. 

"Oh, Newt," Tina says, and the orange-haired man turns his head towards her. She whispers into Newt's ear something anyone else wouldn't have been able to hear, but Graves has lived in silence for so long that he can hear the tiniest of sounds. "Could you go wait outside? I'm sorry, but the director might not want to see any new faces," she had said, and Newt listened, walking further to the end of the room and then exiting. Goldstein is casting a Lumos Charm, and he can finally see the entire room. It's exactly as he expected; empty and water-damaged. He shakes himself and tries to stand, but as soon as he tightens the muscles on his legs, they scream in pain with a likeness to the Cruciatus Curse. He hisses and slides down the wall, and Goldstein and Lowe both grab him on either arm to hold him steady.

He hates being babied like this, but he can barely open his mouth to speak out his disapproval. He's been sleeping most hours of most days, yet seeing a face that isn't Grindelwald makes his limbs sag with exhaustion he shouldn't feel. "Director?" Lowe asks, and what does he expect for Graves to respond with? 'Oh, thank you so much for finding me after months of torture that you didn't bother to help me from, you really are my savior.' He supposes he shouldn't be angry with them; they did save him after all, but they took too long. Everything Grindelwald could've done to him, he has, and there's nothing left for Graves.

"How?" He grunts out, and the sound of his own voice is enough to give him a headache. He sounds broken; he knows that may be the case, but he refuses to let anyone but himself discern that.

"Director, please, leave everything to us. We can explain once you've rested," Goldstein says in a low voice; she must've picked up on Graves' reaction to his own loud voice. She retreats from Graves' body and Lowe does the same. Grabbing her wand, she points it at him, most likely out of a desire to levitate him out of whatever building they're in, but when Graves immediately flinches and tries to move out of range of the wand, she quickly returns it to her pocket and kneels back down in front of him. She tries to smile but Graves knows its just an attempt to hide a grimace, "How would you suggest we leave here, Sir?"

Its strange, having his own feelings be taken into consideration, and Graves has to ponder his reply for more than a moment. "Apparition." It'd be the easiest, he thinks. No need to walk through the house, or really walk in general. If anything, it'd make it less likely for Grindelwald to pop out of the corner and kill them all; that is that this isn't just some elaborate trick to break Graves' last strand of hope. Grindelwald hasn't done anything like that before, though, and Graves isn't sure if that should be reassuring or the opposite. It was a trick, he supposes, then Grindelwald would only use familiar faces, not that of the man — Newt, was his name, and that is certainly a comforting thought.

Goldstein nods curtly and extends her hand to Graves, placing it on his shoulder. "Take Newt back for me, will you?" She requests from Lowe, and he rips his eyes from Graves to bob his head and speed towards the door that Newt had left from. Lowe always had his head in the clouds, and Graves would grin if he had the will — at least some things don't change. "Let's go, Director," and Graves can feel the twist of his stomach and the pulling of his limbs.

It ends as fast as it starts, and when Graves gets a hold of his bearings, he immediately feels a pinch of rage. Despite the fact that he's still on the floor, he finds a way to show this anger and looks directly at Seraphina, who was standing behind her desk stiffly. "Sera," he snarls. He stands on his feet despite the fervorous pain that strikes him. He takes a few stumbling strides until he's right in front of Seraphina, the only thing between them being her desk. Goldstein's face contorts and she seems to consider stepping between them, but Seraphina puts her hand up slightly to calm her. Her shoulders drop slightly, but her expression doesn't change. "What the hell are you thinking?" He shouts, or at least tries, as his voice is hoarse from the months of screaming, but Seraphina doesn't budge. "Why were we able to Apparate into your office? Do you know how dangerous that is?" His voice is cracking now, and he can feel himself shake out of fear for Seraphina's safety, but also rage for her disregard for it.

"Goldstein, you can go. I'll call you in later for a briefing." Seraphina says without moving her eyes from Graves. Goldstein nods and speeds out of the room. As soon as she leaves, Seraphina's shoulders drop even more and she seems to age three years right before Graves. She flicks her wand in a silent Muffliato as she skirts around her desk towards Graves. Despite her posture, her expression hasn't changed, and Graves tightens his muscles and stands even more straight despite the pain. When she reaches him, she raises her hand and hovers it over his arm, hesitating for a moment before placing it on his bicep. As soon as she makes contact, she tightens her grip and pulls him towards her, wrapping her arms around him and burying her face in his shoulder. "Oh, Percival," She sighs into him, "I'm so sorry," She squeezes him even harder, "God, Percival, this is all my fault," and Graves raises his arms to return the hug, feeling his posture fall and muscles relax. It is her fault, they both know this, but Graves doesn't know the details, and he's not about to place any anger on her just yet.

"It's okay, Sera," he chokes, and when he feels tears bleed through the bandages on his bare chest, he feels his throat tighten as well.

"It's not okay. I should've noticed, I—"

"Sera, please," Graves tries. He can't hear this now; if he has to, then he'll cry as well.

She pulls away as soon as he speaks and rubs at her eyes. She casts a wandless spell to remove the red blotches on her face away and takes a deep breath. Personal Sera is gone and Professional Sera is back. "Of course, I'm— yes, of course." Graves' brow raises but he says nothing. "I—" she clears her throat and Professional Sera completely takes over. Graves takes her lead and returns to his previous posture, though slightly less stiff than before. "I'll tell you the details when you think you're ready, and you can do the same for me. Until then, you're going to be on mandatory leave for the next month."

Graves grunts, "Leave? Are you saying I'll be returning?"

She smiles, and its Personal Sera this time. "I never once thought to replace you, Percival." She walks back over to behind her desk and rummages through a drawer before drawing Graves' wand from it. He takes it quickly as soon as she holds it out to him, and he relishes in the feeling of magic flowing through his body again. Grindelwald had taken away his wandless magic, but that doesn't mean he has no hope. 

"Comforting," he grins, and waits for her to say more.

She clenches her jaw. "Your apartment is clear," she says, and pauses as if choosing her next words carefully. "You can return whenever you wish, though I'd appreciate if you would send a daily report. Not required."

"Not required," Graves repeats, his grin still playing on his face, despite how exhausted he feels after Sera says the word 'apartment.' He feels like he could sleep for years.

She sighs, "For me, please," and Graves nods and gives her a final smile before spinning on his heel and having it immediately fall off his face. "And stop by the infirmary on your way out," she adds.

"Required?" He asks, not turning around.

"Very much so."

Chapter Text

Graves nods and walks out of the door without a backward glance, and as soon as he exits, he's greeted by two of the three faces from before. He closes the door before anything else and sighs, glancing at the floor to rub at his eyes and back at them once he's finished. "Yes?" he questions, and Goldstein takes charge, pushing Newt forward with her.

"We noticed your... lack of shirt. I was thinking..." She doesn't have to finish the sentence for Graves to get the idea. Newt is holding a white button-up not too different from what the man is currently wearing. In a normal situation, he might've gotten embarrassed about being half nude in front of an employee and stranger, but he's gone through enough now to no longer care for little things like that. Newt, however, is flaring a bright red and has his eyes glued to the floor.

"Thank you, Miss Goldstein, but I think I'll be fine."

His focus is on Goldstein while he speaks, so when Newt clears his throat it causes Graves to jump in surprise. "Oh—oh, sorry, I—I'm sorry," he rushes, his face growing even redder than it was before.

"That's quite alright," Graves' lip twitches; Newt's reaction is definitely appreciated, it shows that Newt at the very least cares for his wellbeing. That, or he's terrified of making Graves mad. "What is it, Mister...?"

"Newt!" He squawks, "Er—Scamander. Newt Scamander. I, uhm, I was — I insist. Please."

"Mister Scamander," Graves affirms, "Please, I'll be alright." But Goldstein is not having it.

"Sir, insist."

He rubs at his eyes and sighs for a second time. He really just wants to go home, and if that means taking Newt's shirt, then so be it. He holds out his hand. "Right, then, I must thank you. I'll certainly return it." Newt places the shirt in his hand, and Graves notices how the man avoids making their hands touch. He can sympathize; he wouldn't want to make contact with himself either, if he could help it; Grindelwald has certainly tainted him in more ways than one.

"N—no need," Newt stammers, and Graves shakes his head.

"It's fine, Mister Scamander. I'm the one imposing."

"He's staying in Queenie and mine's apartment," Goldstein interjects before Newt can make a fool of himself.

Graves dips his head. "I'll be leaving first, then," he says, and he makes his way towards the infirmary. He can hear Goldstein and Newt whisper under hushed tones as soon as they think he's out of earshot, and he is, technically, as he can't make out a single word. He decides to ignore it and focus on pulling on Newt's shirt. It's slightly too big, but Graves chalks it up to the height difference. 

As soon as he enters the infirmary, Carol Williams hounds over him. "Oh, Mister Graves, thank goodness you've come. I was beginning to think I was going to have to hunt you down," she laughs. Shes quite peppy for such an old lady, but Graves doesn't mind it. The woman's practically made of wrinkles and he respects her for having the physical ability of a twenty-year-old. Normally he would find a way to get out of medical attention (he'd rather do it himself) but always saw Carol as something of an aunt, and he's craving the attention of someone who doesn't look at him with such pitiful gazes.

Carol pushes him towards one of the cots, and he falls back onto it when the back of his knees hit the mattress. She spins around, her gray curls bouncing, and begins to rustle through a drawer on the far side of the room. "Be a dear and take that shirt off, will you?" she calls over her shoulder, and he does so.

When she returns to him, his shirt is unbuttoned and his bandages are on display. She hums and flicks her wand. The bandages fall and she runs a finger over the scabs on his chest. They sting on contact and he hisses, but Carol doesn't pull back. "Sectumsempra?" she asks, and when he nods she makes a ticking sound with her tongue. "I would give you Wiggenweld," She speaks, knowing that Graves likes to know her thought process while she treats him. "But you seem tired. I'm thinking Murtlap Essence. Does that work?"

Graves raises his brow. "You're in charge, Ma'am," he says, and Carol chuckles. She'd always need permission to do anything in the past, out of Graves' fear that she'd give him something that would put him out of commission.

"Murtlap Essence it is, then. Blood-Replenishing Potion as well, I think. You look quite low on that," she winks at him while turning back around with two vials in hand. One a deep red and the other a strange royal blue. She places the red glass on a small table next to him and grabs a new bandage with the now empty hand. She uncorks the blue vial and dumps the liquid onto the dressing. "Take the rest of the shirt off, if you will," he does so, "Good, good. Here you are, then," she praises and uses a spell to wrap the bandage around him. The liquid feels freezing against his skin, but it's nice in contrast with the burning cuts. He sighs into the gauze, and places the now empty vial onto the table she got the bandage from. "Drink," she holds the vial out to him and he takes it. He sloshes it in the glass, shrugs, and raises it to his lips. Tossing it back, the liquid is thick and taste like a mouthful of pennies. He gags and she grabs the vial from his hand before he can drop it onto the floor. "And that should do it... unless there's anything else?" She prompts, "I noticed a limp?"

"Ah," is all he says as he regains his composure from the potion. His face blares up and Carol gasps.

"Oh, dear. I had suspected, but I never thought—"

"I'm fine, Ma'am. I can take care of it," he insists, but she shakes her head vigorously and rubs a hand on her face.

"Healing spell. Please, Mister Graves. I won't feel that I've done my job without it," she begs and the pitying look is on her face now, too.

"If you don't mind, I'd like to cast it," he asks, and Carol agrees. He raises his wand and casts a healing spell wordlessly; the magic flows through him as if it never was capped in the first place. He sighs, mostly out of relief, as Grindelwald seems to have already cast healing spells on him there; though most likely only so that he doesn't contract a disease from Graves. Still, the spell takes less magic than it probably should've, and Graves is feeling fortunate for that. Speaking of which, "What happened to Grindelwald?" He asks Carol after she seems satisfied with the healing spell.

"Oh, I don't know the specifics, but I suppose he's been transferred to England," she says, and honestly, it's a comfort. Knowing that an entire ocean is separating him and Grindelwald. It's safer for both of them that way, and he's just feeling better and better.

"Right," he says as he begins towards the door, but Carol puts a hand on his arm to stop him.

"The limp's still there, Mister Graves."

He turns to face her and rubs a hand in his hair; it's still cut short despite how long he's been in containment. He guesses he has Grindelwald to thank for that as well. "Cruciatus. I've been lead to believe it's common after long exposure."

"Mister Graves!" She exclaims, squeezing his arm tightly enough for it to hurt despite how frail her hand looks. "The Cruciatus Curse is not something to take lightly by any account!"

He huffs. "Yes, I know. There's no cure, though," It's not a question, he knows it as fact, and she knows it as well, "So why bother?"

Carol sighs and rubs her hands together. "Just take care, Mister Graves. Try to stretch out the muscles, don't feel ashamed of taking some pain relieving potions." Graves nods and moves to walk out the door a second time, after Carol removes her hand, but she calls out behind him, "And Mister Graves. I know what happened is not just physical. You can pretend it is, but... Healing comes in many forms, yes?" Graves is tuning her out by now. Not that she isn't right; to tell the truth, he wants to curl onto the floor and cry for an eternity, but he refuses to let anyone know that. Carol seems to catch on, sighing, she causes Graves to turn his head and she locks their eyes. "Just... try. Okay?"

He gives her a reassuring smile. "Of course, Ma'am." It's nice, he thinks, having someone worry and not pity. Although he's only seen a handful of people since he's been back, they've all had the same look except her. Maybe that Newt fellow as well, but he can't read anything from him other than the constantly reddening face. He pauses right before passing through the doorway, and when he looks back, Carol has gotten to work cleaning and replenishing the vials they just used. "Actually," he starts and she looks up at him, brow raised, "Do you think you could catch me up?"

Chapter Text

Three and a half months. He was right, and he's really not happy about it. It is over, he supposes, but still. Three months and no one came for him. Carol said Grindelwald was a good actor, but that's not a good enough excuse. It took Grindelwald over a month to pry the detailed information about his behavior out of him; that gave them over a month to realize he was gone. Either none of them really cared enough to find out why he was acting different, or he and Grindelwald are too similar for comfort.

He's standing outside the infirmary, leaning against the wall and pondering what she'd told him, but he knows that it's not a good location to do so. He straightens up and finds a place he can Apparate from. He stands there and focuses on his home, popping in with a soft crack.

"Rags?" He calls out, and when there's no purr or meow in response he sets to tearing the apartment apart. Nothing, nowhere. "Shit," he sighs and falls onto the small black sofa positioned at the center of his living room. Rags is gone. It's better that way, though. At least now there's no possibility she starved whilst locked in his apartment. He wants to go out searching for her, but now that he's home, now that he's sitting on the plush couch, he can't think of anything but sleep.

He moves himself parallel on the couch and closes his eyes. He misses his bed, yes, but standing up will be too difficult so he opts to stay on the leather and sleep there.

He dreams for the first time since Grindelwald, that night. Except, it's not a dream. It's a nightmare — or perhaps the word memory is better suited.

Grindelwald is kneeling over him and he's on his back. It feels real; the cold ground and warm breath of Grindelwald while he presses a mock of a kiss against his throat. The room is darker than before, he can barely see a few inches; just enough for him to see Grindelwald and nothing else. He's scared. He's scared but he knows that he's not there anymore. Deep in his bones, he knows he's in his apartment, but what if he's not? What if Grindelwald came back and took him in his sleep? He looks down at himself as Grindelwald makes mince of his neck. He's still wearing Newts shirt — not a good sign.

He raises his hands and pushes at Grindelwald's chest, but the man holds firm. He opens his mouth to scream, but the familiar feel of the silencing spell tightens his throat and he can't get a sound out. Moving his hands from the man's chest, he tries pulling at Grindelwald's well-manicured hair.

As soon as he makes contact, or would've made contact, Grindelwald disappears. Graves freezes and whips his head left and right. Grindelwald's nowhere to be seen and the room is beginning to lighten. It's no brighter than it was originally, but his eyes were adjusted to the dark, and now it seems far brighter than it really is. He sits up and tries to stand, but his legs don't move under him, and when he looks back down at his chest, it's covered in a deep red. 

He hisses and presses a hand against Newt's shirt and when he pulls back, his hand is completely red. His panic is only ebbed on by the fact that he feels no pain other than the constant ebbing that he's gotten used to. The blood keeps pouring from his chest and he tries to press both his hands into the cuts to stop the bleeding, but the red keeps seeping through his fingers. There's more blood on the floor than there is in his body, and the level keeps rising. 

When the blood is up to his shoulders, it stops, and Graves tries to even out his breathing. He whimpers when the liquid starts to tighten around him until it squeezes enough to be painful. He opens his mouth to scream again, and this time there's nothing stopping the embarrassingly high pitched noise. 

The blood ripples from the direction of the door, and he looks up. The liquid drains, leaving Graves soaked and red, and there stands everyone he's seen that day, all of them completely dry. Goldstein and Lowe are looking at him in the distance, noses scrunched in disappointment. Next to them are Sera and Carol. Carol looks at him in pity and seems to be debating whether to walk up to him or go find some healing balms. Sera, on the other hand, looks completely unphased. She stares at him down the tip of her nose as if saying 'Stand up or leave my sight.' Newt is furthest back in the room, and unlike the others, there's no judgment or pity in his expression. In fact, he has no expression; he's simply peering at his own feet with a blank look on his face.

"Sera," Graves starts, but he has no idea what to say. He closes his mouth and looks down. When he looks back up, they're all gone, and Grindelwald is standing where Sera was. "No—"

"Avada Keda—"

And Graves wakes up.

The apartment is pitch black, the natural light from the window gone for the night. There's a cold sweat covering him, and he peels Newts shirt off of him. It's soaked, but in sweat rather than blood. His entire body is shaking and it's difficult to undo the buttons, but he does so after much trial and error.

His bandages feel uncomfortable, but he knows better than to take them off. He stands back up, and his legs are weak under him, but he succeeds. On his way up, he grabs his wand from the floor and casts a charm on the bandages to keep them dry. He walks towards his bathroom and slides his slacks off while he moves. Closing the door behind him, he takes his boxers off as well and twists the dial to the shower. He doesn't wait for the water to heat up before he steps in. While the freezing water pours over him, he tries to pull his mind off the dream, but its difficult. He knows to try to make sense of the dream would only send him down a deeper spiral, but he can't help it.

Why did he dream of Grindelwald biting on his neck? He rubs where Grindelwald's teeth made contact, knowing nothing will be there, but still curious. Was it something he wanted? No way, not possible. But why would he dream of it? He didn't particularly hate the action of it, but the thought of Grindelwald being the one doing it... he feels bile rise in his throat and at the same time his stomach clenches in pain whilst it growls loudly.

Hunger clouds his thoughts and he can't keep his focus on the dream any longer. He rests his head on the shower wall, letting the water drip down his face off his chin. His stomach feels as if someone had driven a sword through it, and despite the complete absence of food in him, he feels a rise in his throat. When he feels less sticky, he turns off the water and steps out, toweling down and walking into his room. There's light coming into the room, now, and it's the same as he left it all those months ago. He wastes no time with grabbing a new button-up and pair of slacks. 

The clothes feel strangely loose as he puts them on, and he rolls his shoulders in them. On the back of the door is his trench coat, and he slips it on. His clothes are too baggy, but he ignores it and simply cinches his coat more than he would've in the past. 

On his way out the door, his eyes catch on Newt's shirt. He sighs, casts a cleaning charm onto the cloth, and puts it in his pocket. "S'pose I'll return it, then."

Chapter Text

Breakfast goes very different from how he was expecting.

Graves thought he was going to a popular bakery among witches and wizards (he'd be able to notice the multitude of long coats trademarked by wizards anywhere) and that he'd eat a pastry or two in lonely silence for an hour. That very much didn't happen.

Opening the door to the bakery, he's put on blast by an overwhelmingly sweet smell that makes his mouth water for the first time in months. Walking further into the establishment only makes the smell stronger, and the scent of berries permeates through. It takes all of Graves' willpower to stop his stomach from growling, and his eyes roam over the differently shaped pastries. Each was made to resemble a different mythical beast. There was a display case filled with niffler-shaped cakes, the creatures are sat on their rears and holding a gold coin to the air that is most likely shaped from frosting of some kind. Next to the nifflers are some diricawls which seem to have been made in the same way as the nifflers, but instead of a golden coin, they're covered in a misty glaze. They aren't the only creatures-turned-desserts there, though. Others that he can name are mooncalves and occamies, not to mention those he can't. 

He steps in line to order, but as soon as he takes a step he hears a gasp from behind him. He turns around quickly and is face to face with Queenie Goldstein and Newt Scamander. 

"Fancy seeing you here, Mister Graves," Queenie greets, and Graves returns the smile slightly.

"Oh, Queenie!" The shop owner, a short, stubby man, says from behind the counter. Queenie lights up and cuts in front of Graves to talk with the man, leaving Graves alone with Newt. 

"Erm, hello," Newt nods, eyes glued to the floor yet again, and Graves nods back.

"Good morning, Mister Scamander,"  he responds stiffly. It's not that he doesn't like Queenie and Newt, it's simply that he was hoping for a quiet, melancholic morning that he could spend wallowing. Technically, it's a good thing they disrupted his plans if they were really that bleak, but that doesn't mean he can't be selfish and wish they hadn't. "And what brings you two here?" He questions Newt. It seems like an obvious answer, but if Tina's speeches hold any truth, Queenie can make a five-course meal fit for the president from a pile of trash.

"Yes, well, Queenie and Jacob" Newt's silence is sudden and Graves look around, thinking that Newt saw someone or something that caught his attention. When he sees nothing, he looks back to Newt and the man looks like he just told Graves someone's deepest secret. 

Then Graves got it. The magical creature shaped foods, the popularity with the wizarding crowd, the familiarity between Queenie and the owner, it all makes sense now. 

"Ah, I understand," Graves muses and Newt looks terrified, "Oh, don't worry, I wouldn't think to report it," he says quickly and Newt's face moves from fear to relief. The man was impossible to read in his dream, but in real life, he wears his heart on his sleeve. "I'm shocked that Tina would allow you to protect him from being obliviated. Speaking of which, it was your thunderbird I have to thank for that, isn't it?"

Newt shakes his head. "No, er, well, yes. It was Frank, who helped with the obliviation, but we didn't stop Jacob from being obliviated," he tries to explain. Graves understands the base of what Newt is saying, but he doesn't follow how this Jacob fellow could've been obliviated but still remember. 

"And how does that work, then?" 

"Oh, I have no clue," Newt sighs, "Wish I did, but..." and just as the conversation ends Queenie pokes her head between them.

"What do you two dears want? On me, of course," she adds.

"I couldn't," Graves shows his palms, but Queenie takes a firmer stance and crosses her arms.

"Mister Graves, I want to get you both something. Now, what would you like?" Graves itches to object again, but he knows that Queenie and Tina are of the same breed and there's no changing their mind no matter how hard he tries.

"Yes, alright. I'll have one of the nifflers, then," Graves requests. He doesn't have a particular affinity for any specific dish, so he supposes hell go with the first thing to catch his eye.

"I'll have an occamy egg," says Newt, and Graves turns his gaze back to him.

"Occamy egg?" He asks him with a breath akin to a laugh, and Newt nods.

"That one, right there," he points at an egg-shaped pastry covered in a thick, white glaze. "It's made to look like an occamy egg, you see. Their eggs are made of pure silver, that's why the glaze is so white."

Queenie smiles fondly and nods to them both. "Egg and niffler, coming up," she asserts, "Grab us a seat, won't you two?"

Graves is, again, put off by the thought of spending even more time with people, but decides to just go with it.  He and Newt both walk back to the front of the bakery where there are a few tables, each sporting a pair of chairs. Newt hums in apprehension and Graves surveys the room. The place isn't empty by any account, but the majority of the tables are empty as most people were eating their food in the parks. It is a nice day out, Graves has to admit; there are nearly no clouds in the sky and the temperature is pleasant as well, but he would rather not have to be out in public. He decides it won't cause a ruckus, and so he pulls a chair out from another table and puts it up against the one he chooses for the trio. 

Newt grunts and Graves reassures him, "It's fine, most of the tables are empty anyway." 

Newt seems slightly comforted by this and nods before sitting down; Graves follows and sits across from him. They both stare down at their hands in silence until Queenie arrives with two dishes in hand and Jacob on her heel with a third. She places Newt's and Graves' plates in front of them respectively and Jacob places a bowtruckle treat at the empty seat. It seems to be made of the same dough as his and Newt's, but it's a darker color and looks more brittle than theirs. 

Queenie sits down, blows a kiss at Jacob, and turns to the bowtruckle dessert. She snaps an arm off of it and brings it to her mouth, and Newt flinches. He brings his hand to his coat pocket and presses his palm against it. Queenie reddens. "Dear, sorry, I hadn't thought... oh, I always thought Pickett was just so cute," she explains, though she loses Graves at 'Pickett'.

"And who exactly is Pickett?" He asks her, and when she looks to Newt Graves' gaze follows. Newt looks down at his pocket and Graves laughs for the first time in a while, though it was short and quick it still felt good. "You have a bowtruckle in your pocket, don't you?" And its Newt's turn to redden as he bites his lip and nods.

"Yes, I do, actually," he responds and doesn't seem to feel the need to actually show the creature to Graves. In time, he thinks as Newt takes a knife to his egg. When he breaks the crumbly exterior of hardened glaze and the first half of the dough, he opens it up to a red, gooey inside. As Graves raises his brow, Newt supplies him with a simple: "Strawberry." 

Both Queenie and Newt had gotten to eating, so Graves supposes he'd do the same. He plucks the coin out from the niffler's hands, looks at it judgingly, and bites into it. He's surprised at the white chocolate flavor that greets him, half expecting it to have been hardened icing but definitely not disappointed. He pops the rest of the chocolate into his mouth and picks up the pastry, readying himself to take a bite, though pausing slightly at the uncanny resemblance it has to an actual niffler. He steels himself and bites down, groaning softly at the flavor. The breading has a slightly flakey texture, and, looking down at what is left of the pastry, he sees a creamy white ooze out from the center. He got a bit of it in his bite, and he identifies it as something akin to vanilla pudding. 

His groan had earned a chuckle from Queenie and a choking sound from Newt, and when he opens his eyes again Queenie and Newt are sharing a look he can't quite decipher and Newt's face is a bright red. That amount of blushing cannot be good for his health. Graves offers them both an innocent smile and Newt quickly whips his head to look away from him. Graves feels a slight pang in his heart from the dismissal but tries to move past it. He does, after some justifying that Newt meant no harm from it, and raises the pastry to his mouth yet again.

There's idle conversation between them all about the weather, economy, and other small talk with Newt avoiding eye contact with Graves, Graves attempting to seem like he's paying attention, and Queenie desperately trying to keep the conversation alive. 

Once everyone has finished their plates, Graves stands and prepares to thank Queenie and excuse himself, but Queenie grabs his wrist and stands up with him, leaving Newt alone sitting. 

"Mister Graves," she starts as if testing the waters, and Newt seems to deem it appropriate to stand as well. "Won't you come with us to Tina and mine's apartment?"

Graves isn't sure how to reply to that. He'd rather not have to be social any longer and his mind runs with excuses. "I'm sorry, Miss Goldstein, but I have quite a few forms I need to complete for the president," he grimaces at how stupid the excuse seems, but Queenie nods nonetheless.

"Oh, of course, that's fine," she says, sounding slightly dejected, "Perhaps another time?"

Graves feigns a smile. "Yes, I have nearly a month off, I'm sure I could find time."

Queenie beams, thanks him, and waves as he walks out from the bakery. As soon as Graves is out of sight from the two, his shoulders drop and he sighs into his hands. 

Talking with Queenie and Newt was refreshing, but getting out of the house was painful, and talking and smiling for an extended amount of time was excruciating. 

He needs to get back to his apartment. He needs the dark. He needs to be alone. 

Chapter Text

He's surrounded in blood again, except this time, it doesn't stop at his chin. 

It keeps rising.

Inch by inch, centimeter by centimeter. It's unbearably slow and all he can do is wait for it to consume him. He tried to swim up, at first. He tried to fight it. But he can't. He knows he can't. His body isn't following his mind and all his mind can do is sit in his skull and scream without words and claw without fingers. 

His knees are glued to the floor, preventing him from floating to the surface. Forcing him to let the liquid cover his mouth, and then his nose. He can't breathe, but the lack of air doesn't affect him. But when the blood covers his eyes, when he's completely submerged; it does. 

God damn it, it does.

The cat that had his tongue until now releases and he screams. He screams like someone could hear him ― like someone would save him. 

His mouth is open, and despite the air pushing from his mouth, the thick substance is shoving down his throat and into his lungs. He feels it ― coiling tendrils wiggling their way through his body from the inside, looking for somewhere to escape. 

He hates it because it doesn't hurt.

It doesn't hurt and there's no reason to be afraid because it's not real. It's a damned dream and he's afraid. And when he closes his mouth and bites down at the coil, the blood is gone.

And for a moment, he hears meowing.

And he wakes up. 

He knows he's in his bedroom. The familiar too-soft mattress and silk sheets and heavy presence of the comforter on top of him ― it's familiar, it's his, but it's still not enough. Not enough to soothe his trembling fingers or ease his tumultuous mind, so he peels the sweat-soaked sheets off his half-naked body and pads over to the single window parallel to his bed. He pulls back the curtains and ― just as he thought ― it's still dark. Unless he slept an entire day, then he's only been asleep a few hours, and he can't keep ignoring the rumble in his stomach for much longer. 

He hadn't eaten since meeting with Newt and Queenie; not that he was very hungry after that. He had spent the rest of the day wallowing in his own self-pity and he despises himself for it, but it's done and he swears to himself he won't do it again. But he can make up for it ― he can be progressive. 

He treads back to his bed and grabs his wand from under his pillow, flicking his wrist in a silent Lumos Charm. He places the lit-up wand onto his drawer and rustles through it to come bearing folded, black slacks and a similarly colored button-up. He doesn't use magic to help him dress. He could, he knows he could, and he enjoys the knowledge that he could, but he doesn't. There's something comforting in the simple action of buttoning each button of the shirt, starting at the top and slowly descending downwards until he's at the hem and leaving it untucked and disheveled-looking. 

His apartment is cold, and so the night will be too. He takes his coat and opts out of putting his arms through the sleeves, deciding to instead drape the trailing article on his shoulders like a blanket. It's childish, but the solace of it out-strengths the shame and he swings open his door into the dark. 

He knows what he's going to do. He's going to find Rags. He heard the kneazle in his dream, and even though he doesn't believe in a god, he's more than happy to take it as a divine sign. He needs a reason, a basis for his unfounded belief that Rags is alive, because if he doesn't have one, he doesn't have Rags. And if he doesn't have Rags, he doesn't have comfort, a reason to be here, on this world. He needs something to depend on him, something to wait for him to come home every night, and wave him goodbye every morning. The kneazle can't wave, he knows, but she'll have to do. 

The cold of the streets aren't too different from the cold of his apartment, but he still gets goosebumps from the change in temperature. He checks the alleys on either side of his apartment first and is greeted with overflowing dumpsters and abandoned clothing, long forgotten and beginning to rot and mold over. In the next alley, he finds a cat, the feral creature tearing savagely at a hunk of decaying meat, the category of the cut long forgotten and unidentifiable. Time eats away at everything; the cat, the meat, him ― he prays that Rags hasn't become a victim to the clock that he has. 

The fourth alley is as eventful as the first few. And the fifth. And the sixth. By the time he's scouted the entire block, the sun is rising and the chill that was on his skin is knawing at his bones. He can feel the tickle of excess blood on his cheeks and filling his ears in a futile attempt at keeping him warm, and his fingers are a dull numb.

There's a bar at the end of the block. He's been there before, only a few times, but enough for him to be familiar with it. And so he trusts it, and so he enters. Despite the too early hour, there is a light dusting of patrons. Most passed out at the bar or their table, some looking gloomily down at the bottom of their drinks. Graves wonders which he'll end up being once the sun is at its peak. 

He takes a seat at an empty barstool and the heat of the building affects him quickly. His ears and fingers burn and he sneezes at the itch the rush of blood causes in his nose. A bartender approaches him, a friendly smile on her mouth and an open expression on her face. "Tough night?" She asks him, but her tone doesn't request an answer.

"Something like that," he replies, keeping the answer vague. He's not tired from the search, but he is frustrated, and he wants a drink. He ponders for a moment before questioning her, "What do you have with whiskey?"

She hums and recites, "Manhattan, Highball, Pickleback ― you name it and we probably have it."

There's probably something he has stored in memory that he could request, but he prefers not to revel in memories. "Highball, then," he orders and provides a butcher of a smile. He props his elbows on the bar and his chin in his hands and the bartender gets to preparing his drink.

A few seconds and he can sense eyes on him. A few more and a body occupies the seat beside him. Graves cocks his head to observe the presence. It's a man, around his age, with lightly tanned skin and shortly cut dark-brown hair. The skin around his eyes is lightly wrinkled and there's a mole on his upper lip, but despite the obvious age on his face, Graves can tell by the formfitting suit he wears that the man is certainly in shape.

"Come here often?" His voice is lower than Graves' ― lurid. He chuckles and continues, "Because I certainly don't."

Graves would rather do anything but talk, but he picks up the conversation anyway. "Not from here?" He prarries.

"Picked up on my lack of accent? Suppose you don't have one, either." The man smiles and mimics the position Graves' arms are in, but his posture remains immaculate and his chin remains high. He's a proud man. Graves used to be like that. 

"Wasn't raised here," he acknowledges.

"Ah," the man nods, "well, I'm not here to stay, personally. Business, you see." The man had gotten closer to Graves in the time they spent speaking, and their shoulders are nearly touching. Graves hates it.

But he rolls with it. The man certainly isn't lying; his well-tailored suit and slick, combed-back hair tell him that. "You're up pretty early to be here for work." The bartender returns with Graves' drink ― a circular ice-cube clinking against the walls of the glass, floating around in the light amber liquid. He rustles through his pocket to pull out a few bills, but the man beats him to it and hands her more than enough to cover the one drink. Proud, obviously, but rich, too. 

Graves opens his mouth to concur, but the man shakes his head. "On me." He pauses. "And I'm not here for work." A hand is on Graves' thigh and he starts, but the man assumes it's only in surprise and squeezes. Graves tugs his leg out from the foreboding presence. Graves isn't stupid, he's flirted with plenty of women, he knows what an invitation looks like. 

The man leans over one last time, respecting, not too close to be overbearing, but just close enough to have undertones. "You sure?" His breath caresses Graves' cheek as he speaks, and his eyes flicker down to his lips before returning to make contact. "You give me a... a vibe, so... are you sure?" 

Graves pauses.

He hates that he pauses.

He takes a breath, a swig from his drink, another breath from clenched teeth as the whiskey burns its way down his throat into his stomach, and he speaks; short, simple, specific. "I'm sure."

The man nods curtly and leans back. "That's okay. I get it. Have another drink ― on me." He puts another few notes onto the bar. 

"If you think money will change my mind..."

The man raises his hands and laughs. "No! No, no, I wouldn't think so lowly of you." He lowers his hands and looks down, his mask betraying him for a moment, showing the embarrassment the dismissal caused him, but only for a moment. "Think of it as an, ah, apology. For putting you in this situation." The man rises from his stool and turns to the table he was probably sitting at originally.

"There's no need to apologize," Graves says at the man's back, and he turns his head to provide a small smile.

"So you say. Keep it anyways. For me."

Graves nods ― if it's what the man wants, then it's no skin off his back. He takes another drink of his whiskey. 

Homosexuality isn't something Graves thought of much. He's met a few men and women who were attracted to the same sex, but he'd never thought it was something he should bother concerning himself over. It's not his problem, who people sleep with, and if a woman uses it as a reason not to sleep with him, then so be it. Now, he supposes, after Grindelwald, it is something he should definitely concern himself with now.

Not because Grindelwald likes men, but because Graves' pulse quickened when the man gave him the offer. 

Because he considered it. 

Because he, damn it all, he wanted it. 

Chapter Text

Graves' head is pounding by the time he gets home. The sun still isn't completely up, but it's enough for there to be rays peeking into his living room, illuminating specks of dust as they float aimlessly around Graves' apartment. He drops his coat to the floor as soon as he enters, disturbing even more dust as it clutters to the floor. the rays of light barely reach the living room from where they shine through the windows of the kitchen, but Graves doesn't mind, falling hard onto the couch.

His head is pounding. He's not drunk, it takes more than two drinks to get him any more than tipsy, but there's a sharp pressure pressing behind his eyes and a stabbing at his temple, and rubbing at either of them just makes it worse.

He considered the man's offer. 

He, Percival Graves, the man who would always approach women with the largest breasts, the plumpest lips, the thickest thighs, had considered the man with flat pecs, thin lips, and muscular legs. 

And maybe he regrets not having ordered a third drink.

The pressure in his head is agonizing and Graves rises from his couch to dig through a cabinet in his kitchen. He searches for the whiskey he keeps in the back that's purely for emergencies, as his crisis certainly is that, but when his hand connects with the glass, he pauses. He thinks for a moment. What will getting drunk get him? Certainly not clarity, and there's no confirmation that his buzzed mind won't just focus on that and nothing else ― won't torture him instead of relieve him. 

The headache is dripping below his temple, behind his ear, and down his neck. It's painful, and it's distracting. He pulls his hand back and closes the cupboard. There's no point in getting drunk, might as well be productive.

He walks back into the living room and enters the spare room next to the kitchen. Being the director of magical security, the pay is good, and so it was easy to find an affordable apartment within range of MACUSA and large enough for a work space. The extra room was probably supposed to be for a child, and he had thought that one day it might be. One day he may find a woman who loves him for more than his status, more than his money, more than his bloodline. She'd move into his apartment with him, bear a child for them both, and love him for who he is. And after the child grew, the apartment would be too small, and he'd be too old. They'd leave New York, they'd leave the crowded streets, the bright lights, the loud pedestrians, and he'd leave his job, and he'd live his life how he wanted. 

He's not sure what he wants, now.

The room's walls are lined with bookshelves, each overflowing with classic books by classic authors, some wizards and witches, some not. He did always find Shakespeare's works endearing. There's a desk against the far wall, a window to it's right, and he sits down in the wooden chair, plucking a pen from a small cup and pulling a small stack of empty papers from inside the desk. 

He knows what he needs to write. That doesn't mean he wants to write it.

Like the clothes, he could use magic, but he doesn't trust himself to keep the pen steady as he records.

He needs to write what happened, how it happened, and why it happened. As much as he hates revisiting it... better to write it than say it.

He starts with the date, then moves to the duel. Graves had stayed at his office for three days and only slept for the first. He didn't worry about Rags, he had a bowl set for her that was spelled to fill itself every morning and every night, but he still missed her. That's what he was thinking about when the white haired man approached him. Graves wasn't sure what to think of him at first. He knew he was a wizard, a powerful one, at that ― the magic practically permeating off of him gave it away easily, but he didn't recognize him. A man that powerful, that dominant ― Graves would've recognized him. Should've recognized him. 

The man was staring at him, blocking his path and grinning at him unnervingly. Graves was tired, that's his excuse. He was sleep deprived, hungry, and distracted. That's why he didn't notice the mismatched eyes, the ones that he was advised about, the ones on the animated photos that the wizards from England had sent them. 

It's also why he lost. 

Grindelwald hadn't said anything in warning, he just raised his wand and a red light erupted from it and Graves was fast enough to respond with his own spell, but he didn't have enough time to think what to cast, so he cast the spell closest to the surface of his mind: Expelliarmus. He caught Grindelwald's spell when it was already three-fourths of the way to Graves, and Graves was shocked by the strength of the man. 

Sure, he could sense the potency of the man's magic, but he still couldn't believe the raw vigor the man demonstrated ― it scared him. 

And Grindelwald could tell. The man laughed in his face and taunted him, his exact words lost to time but the effect still there. 

"Weak." 

"Pathetic."

"Useless." 

Graves was tired, that's why the words got to him, he keeps repeating to himself in a hope that he may convince himself of it. The two red lights ate away at each other and as Graves' mind grew heavy in fatigue he began to struggle to discern which light was his and which was the dark wizard's. Grindelwald had cackled that pet name he used for Graves ― "Percy" ― and, at that moment, he hated his name.

Even now, the thought of his forename in someone's mouth, not even the teasing version, but his given one, makes him feel sick. 

He moves the pen off the paper for a moment and rubs two fingers at his temple. His head is throbbing, now, and there's a slightly dull feeling in his ears and he tries to ignore it best he can to continue writing. 

It didn't take Grindelwald's spell much time to drain Graves' to its roots, and in an instant, everything was black.

Graves proceeds his writing. He recites the first time he woke up in that dark room, how he tried to fight against his bonds, how he tried desperately to use his magic but he couldn't catch the strings to cast a spell. He tells what information he had given Grindelwald, down to a T, after the Cruciatus Curse became too much, and when he begged for Grindelwald to just kill him, he wrote that down too. 

And what came after, too. The last two visits, the way Grindelwald violated him those times, and how he begged him to stop. 

He writes it all down, and with each word, he's reminded again and again how much of a monster the man is. When he began, he hoped his account was enough to put him behind bars for life.

When he ends, he hopes it's enough to put him in Hell. 

Chapter Text

Graves had a nightmare again.

Had the nightmare again.

The blood, the screaming, the tendrils filling his lungs, the unmistakable sound of Rags' meow ― it was all there and it was all the same.

But this time, waking up, he didn't feel lost. He has a mission, something to do, to keep him busy, and he damn well plans to do it.

He stands from the bed and gets dressed again, the same outfit as yesterday but with a white shirt this morning as opposed to the black one, and layering it with a vest and his coat as well. He didn't eat yesterday. He isn't planning on eating today, even though his stomach is on its knees begging for something to digest.

He exits the apartment and makes his way with purpose. His head is less pained, only a dull throb, but still there. Sadly, where one problem is solved, another takes its place, as his torso and legs are burning the worst they have since his untimely rescue. It hurts to walk and he knows he's limping, but he wears the hurt with pride. Because he survived, and not only that, he lived. There's nothing controlling him, nothing changing him. He's very much the same man he was before this whole fiasco, and he'll show anyone who dares to look.

He strides into MACUSA, ignores the glances, and tosses open the door to Sera's office. 

"Good morning, Madam President," he greets sarcastically, and Sera bounces back from her initial shock quickly to smile at him.

"Welcome back, Percival," she greets back, standing from her desk and circling it to face him again. He holds out the papers, folded securely between a manilla folder. She raises her brow questioningly before reaching for the folder. She doesn't read it, doesn't even give it a second glance, because she already knows what it is. "You had a month," is all she says.

"I had a month," he echoes, "And I finished it in days."

"I suppose you want answers, then."

Graves nods, and she sighs. "Carol told me most of it, but I need to hear it from you."

She rubs at the bridge of her nose and slumps in one of the hard, wooden chairs in front of her desk. "What do you want to know?" Graves likes the openness, the seeming willingness to tell him anything he wishes. It makes him feel like he has some power in the situation.

"Why didn't you realize?" He doesn't need to be more specific, Sera will understand what he means.

"Sit down, Percival," she says. It's not an order, Graves knows what her tone sounds like when it is one; this isn't that. It's a request.

He doesn't take it. "Answer the question, Sera."

"It was a few weeks until you..." she pauses, unsure of her words, "you told him?"

"Sera..." It's both an answer and an order.

"We knew you weren't feeling well when you left. I suppose we thought you were feeling sick."

He barks a laugh without a smile. "Sick? Sick? Sera, it was weeks!" He doesn't want to sound angry, but his emotions betray him and he knows he crossed a line.

Sera's jaw tightens. "Percival. You are not an open book. Never were, never will be."

"We went to school together, Sera. We were—" lovers. No, that was a long time ago and there's a reason neither of them have mentioned it since they broke it off, a silent agreement that they'll remain friends and pretend none of what happened was real. "We are — dare I say it — friends."

"You know damn well that's not enough." The unspoken word was heard; Graves can tell it. "You kept things from me then, you keep them from me now."

Graves growls, strides over to the desk, and snatches the folder from it. Waving it in front of her face he snarls, "Read it. Tell me where I kept things from you." He slams the folder back to the desk and waits for her reply. Her face is stone, unreadable.

And then it crumbles like paper. "I love you, Percival." Her voice cracks with emotion and her face scrunches as she continues. "When I found out — when I realized — I..." She swallows and drops her face into her hands. She looks small, curled in on herself in the cramped chair; it almost makes Graves feel like a bully. "Everyone told me you were dead. They told me you were gone — dead and gone — and to move on. To replace you." Percival stands in silence. He respects her enough to let her talk, despite his rage at her for acting like the victim — or like his hero. "I couldn't. I sent Goldstein, I sent Lowe, I sent that Scamander character because I knew you were alive. I thought, your aurors would know you best and Scamander — he's a tracker. I saw it with his creatures, and I saw it again with you." The silence comes again and passes again. "I made the three of them swear to silence, I made Carol as well. I kept everything that happened to you secret for your sake. It would be so much simpler for me to let Lowe gossip, but I made sure he didn't." Graves is certainly thankful for that, gossip would hurt him like all hell. But it does make him wonder about the glances he got on his way here. Had someone found out? "Percival, they wanted to keep you here, under lock and key. They wanted to interrogate you like you were the villain — I made sure you went home." Her face is still buried in her hands and she takes a deep breath and looks at him, eyes wet but no tears. "There is not a day that goes by where I don't regret not noticing. That I don't blame myself for every day you were missing." She sniffs. "I am sorry. But this is all I can do."

She's done speaking, Graves can tell, and his head is pounding again. He wants to go home and drown himself in blankets and block out the sun for weeks, and it's because of Sera that he can even do that. He owes it all to her, and he hates himself for getting angry. "Sera..." he drawls, "I'm not... I'm sorry."

Sera stands and walks close to him, only a few inches between them. "Don't, Percival. This is on me. I failed, I deal with the burden."

Graves laughs hollowly. "It seems we both get a burden, whether we want it or not."

She closes the gap and wraps her arms around him again, similar to when he had first returned but softer, more comforting for the both of them as opposed to just her. "Damn it, Percival. This ruined us."

"It doesn't have to," he whispers against the side of her head.

"Doesn't it? What happened—"

"We can move past."

"I'm sorry," she chokes. "I'm sorry."

"This won't work," Graves says and pulls them apart. "No more apologies." She opens her mouth to retort, but he puts her hand over it, gently, soft enough for her to move it with no effort. "No more."

She picks up her hand and moves his before speaking again. "No more," she echoes.

"We're putting what happened behind us," he confirms. "And when you read that paper," he gestures towards the folder, "You don't read it as my friend. You read it as my boss. No emotions."

"You need to do something for me, then."

He hums. "Within reason."

"Find a good girl." It's like a punch to the gut. He wanted to find a good girl like no one could understand. Wanted. Now... now he doesn't know. But despite the desire to punch a wall and curl up, he nods, and he finds the strength to smile.

He excuses himself and walks to leave MACUSA. He should go home. He should go through these thoughts, his emotions, but he doesn't want to. He wants to speak more, and he curses his swinging emotions for thinking that. Just a day or two ago he hated the thought of seeing another person, now, now he starves for it.

And he supposed he should thank his stars for that.

"Mister Graves!"

Queenie approaches, hair bobbing, when he gets to the main door of MACUSA. Tina and Newt are behind her, both looking at him apologetically.

"What brings you here?" She asks him once she gets within arms range.

"A meeting," he answers vaguely, but she doesn't seem to pick up on his reluctance for the topic. Tina winces — she knows what Graves must've been there to talk to Sera about. Newt stays still, staring at his feet.

"Well, we were just coming to walk Tinie home," Queenie hums, gesturing to Newt. Graves isn't sure what to say to that, so he stays silent. Tina and Newt both look awkward in their positions and Graves feels for them. He tries his best to tell Queenie he wants to go with a look.

She doesn't catch on.

"You know, Mister Graves, you never took me up on my offer," she says delicately and Graves isn't sure if he wants to take her up or not. He does want to be around people, but these people... he's not sure. 

"Oh Queenie, I'm not sure the director wants—"

"Why not?" Graves interrupts as Tina tries to make up an excuse for him.

"What?" She asks, more in disbelief than actual wanting for an answer.

Graves rolls his shoulders. "Why not?" He repeats. "I could use some tea, and," he looks back to Queenie, "I've heard you're quite the cook."