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Deception

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After weeks held in captivity, hidden away behind a tangle of magic charms, Percival hated being cooped up inside, hated it enough to use magic to conceal the extent of his injuries at the hands of Grindelwald. He winced at the ease of his deception, mostly because the same people had been duped by a version of him before and so they should have known better than to take anything at face value. A small part of him still wondered how none of them noticed he had been replaced by Grindelwald. He had spent half of his captivity making excuses for their lack of perception until eventually he had to admit he had always been emotionally standoffish and that could have been his downfall. He had never joined in on the team camaraderie, never encouraged them to know him outside of MACUSA, and yet he could not have been so bland, so unnoticeable that they did not recognize the imposter standing in his place.

He sank into his chair behind his desk, allowing himself a grimace of pain now he was out of view, but he could feel the four walls of his office closing in on him as if a shrinking charm had been placed upon them. Still he refused to make an excuse to leave work early, not even when Seraphina came to check on him. He fooled her again, and he thought she of all people should have known him better than this. Now he wondered if anyone truly knew another person.

An altercation beyond his office door drew his attention so he was prepared when the door opened abruptly without the customary and expected respectful knock. A man in a blue coat carrying a battered brown case entered with a couple of Percival's aurors hot on his heels.

"Mr Graves, you may not know me but-."

"Newt Scamander," Percival interrupted using the driest tone he could draw up. "Your notoriety has preceded you, Mr. Scamander. I thought you had been put on a ship leaving New York."

"I-I can't leave just yet."

The catch on the battered case clicked open and Scamander flicked it back with a guilty look. Seraphina had told him to repair the catch to avoid yet another Beast incident but the younger Scamander had obviously chosen to treat that as a request rather than an order. Percival sighed quietly on the outside but inside he felt the weight of his injuries dragging him down as he contemplated what obstacles could lie ahead of him.

"Please don't tell me you've lost another one of your creatures," Percival demanded dryly, glancing at the case.

He raised his hand slightly but resisted the urge to bring the case to him when he saw Scamander's eyes widen in fear, unaware the imposter had done something similar in the MACUSA high council chamber. Scamander's knuckles had whitened from gripping the case handle tightly but the whiteness began to fade when the case remained in his hand; he slowly relaxed his grip and placed the case on the ground by his feet.

"NO... No," Scamander replied, meeting his eyes fully for the first time before they sided away. "It's not one of mine... yet," he added almost coyly, flicking his gaze at Percival.

Percival raised an eyebrow and indicated for Scamander to continue.

"I heard it just after boarding. From the screech I believe it's a frightened Augurey."

"An Augurey? Here in New York?"

Magical beasts were not allowed in New York, though Percival was aware of the black market trade used by those wishing to acquire certain body parts for spells and potions. An Augurey was a distant cousin to the Phoenix, most often used to forecast rain, but its dull gray feathers were also sought after. Not as powerful as a Phoenix to be sure but useful in some of the spells and potions used in the darker arts.

Scamander chanced another glance in his direction and Percival found it slightly endearing. He had read all the reports but the dry script had not fully described the man standing before him who could be meek and unassuming one moment, and dangerous and courageous the next. He was also aware he had one of Scamander's beasts to thank for him being located so quickly following Grindelwald's arrest. Grindelwald was incarcerated many floors below and Percival had resisted the urge to confront the wizard who had bested him in combat and who would have stripped him of almost everything, if not for the man standing before Percival.

"An Augurey," he repeated, sighing again. "I found myself in your debt, Mr. Scamander, so I shall overlook your disregard for our President's orders and I will assist you in capturing this Augurey."

Scamander's eyes narrowed, his brow furrowing. "Are you certain you're... recovered? You look a little... peaky?"

Percival raised his eyebrows again, lips tightening as the two Aurors standing behind Scamander finally paid some attention to him, eyeing him carefully.

"I assure you I am fully recovered, so unless you would like me to escort you back to the port then I suggest you accept my offer of assistance without further questioning."

By the end of the day Percival almost wished Scamander "Please call me Newt" had never heard the Augurey screech. He was covered in dirt from head to toe and too exhausted to cast even a simple cleaning spell. Yet all of that seemed insignificant as he watched Newt calm the frightened creature, stroking its bloodied and broken feathers with such gentleness while making promises to heal, protect, and take the Augurey to his true home.

Percival followed Newt down into the battered case, trying to hide how much pain he felt with each rung of the ladder pulling on still healing ribs and knees. He could feel the deception spell cast over his features dissipating but was convinced Newt's attention was completely held by the Augurey. When he finally reached the bottom he turned around and found Newt staring at him with the same narrow-eyed, furrowed brow expression.

"Your deception charm is failing," he reported softly. "Sit down and I'll make you a special cup of tea once I have Basil cleaned up and in a soft nest."

"Basil?"

"He liked that name," Newt replied defensively.

No longer feeling strong enough to argue, Percival sank onto the nearby wooden stool and waved his hand to tell Newt to go ahead and see to his... Basil. He awoke with a start, feeling a cushioning spell holding him gently on the stool to prevent him falling and hurting himself further. The noise was the grinding of some potion ingredients using a stone mortar and pestle. He watched as Newt added the crushed ingredients to a cauldron hanging over a small fire. Newt glanced at him, smiling shyly as he gathered up more ingredients. The smell was neither pleasant nor unpleasant. It smelled medicinal, so Percival wasn't surprised when Newt dipped a cup into the bubbling liquid before holding it out to Percival.

"Just a restorative tea as promised."

Percival accepted it tentatively, sniffing it cautiously before taking a sip. He could taste a bitterness that lingered at the back of his mouth for a moment before a sweetness overpowered it. Instantly he felt a little better, a little stronger. He reached up and realized a salve had been applied to his healing face from where Grindelwald had broken his cheekbone. His eye socket felt less sore, and he knew must have been out cold for someone to get that close to him.

"How long have I been...?" It pained Percival to admit any kind of weakness.

"A few hours."

"And... Basil?"

"Oh, he's settling in very well. Already made friends with Dickory... my Fwooper," Newt added at Percival's questioning look.

Newt dipped a second cup into the cauldron and took a sip of it.

"You're not the only one who needs a restorative tea," he explained and let Percival see the bruises on his face from where they had fought off the smuggling ring holding the Augurey captive.

For the first time in weeks, possibly months, Percival felt a smile lift the corner of his lips, finally letting go of the final tendrils of the deception charm in front of this one unique person.

When Percival looked back many years later, after Grindelwald was finally locked away in Nurmengard with little hope of ever escaping his incarceration, he recognized this moment for its true importance. It was the moment he finally let down his guard and allowed another person to care for him. It was the moment he realized he was capable of loving and being loved in return, and although he had to deal with months apart while Newt traveled to study and help his beloved magical beasts, it meant the time they spent together was all the sweeter.

END