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take a deep breath (and let it go)

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principium

 

part one: newt

 

*

 

One of the first things that Newt remembers clearly is the thin vine that winds around his mother’s wrist like a bracelet.

It sprouts colourful flowers during special occasions, as his mother used to call them, like the time when his father came home early after a long work trip or the time when his older brother received his prefect badge along with his book list. When he was much younger, Newt used to love watching the way that those tiny petals would unfurl, waving gently as if being blown by some phantom breeze.

His father, in turn, has a dragon across his wrist, one that four year old Newt proudly identifies as the Swedish Short-Snout after a full day of pouring over dragon breeds in their little library. Its scales shimmer a silvery-blue no matter how temperamental the weather is outside. 

“The first time I saw my ink, I knew that your mother was going to be a real fire-cracker of a woman,” his father tells both him and his brother once during a rare lazy summer day. The boys are swinging their legs idly beneath the table even though only Newt is too small to be able to reach the ground seated. 

His father taps his finger against his inked wrist and smiles, loving and fond. “They say that your ink represents the soul of your other half, an unbreakable bond between you and the one you’re destined to be with.” 

 

*

 

Newt’s ten and just as he’s starting to think that perhaps both he and Theseus just weren’t meant to have these so called soulmates, his ink starts to show. 

It appears slowly - a barely inked line here, a subtle curve there, dark imprints that seemingly begin to creep across the pale expanse of his skin, sketching out some unfathomable picture, day after day. 

It’s not until he’s sixteen, when he’s all coltish limbs and freckled skin, that he glances down one day to see a thunderbird inked across his wrist, wings unfurled wide enough to almost curve around the sides. 

“Oh,” he says and strokes a thumb gently across his wrist. 

The thunderbird glares at him, almost as if displeased, and Newt can’t help but smile as its tiny wings flutter to the unsteady beat of his heart. 

“Thunderbirds are strong-willed, independent and untameable,” his mother tells him when he shyly shows her his wrist that year when he comes home for winter break. 

“But once they give you their trust, it’s yours forever.” She smiles at him distantly, vague but proud as always, and turns his hand over, patting the back gently as she rises. 

Theseus makes it home just in time for Christmas eve with his family that year, apparating into the entrance hallway with a muted clatter of boots on tile. He's still at least a head taller than Newt despite the latter's growth spurt over the past year but without any hint of the gangly awkwardness that still characterised Newt's every move.  

“I knew you’d be the special one in the family,” he tells Newt, a proud older brother as always, ruffling his hair fondly. His smile makes the corners of his eyes and mouth crinkle, emphasising his unseasonably tanned skin that, despite the bronzed glow hinting of exotic locations and faraway lands, is still unfortunately splattered with freckles. Newt’s eyes are drawn, as always, to the blankness of Theseus’ wrist, which seems extra pale and empty now, next to Newt’s own. 

For as long as he can remember, Theseus has never worn a cuff, at school or afterwards, when he was recruited to the Ministry, uncaring of how his wrist sits bare, devoid of any ink. In this, Newt's older brother differs from the vast majority of others who are uninked - most choosing to hide their lack of ink behind an embellished cuff which, ironically, is also worn by people who do not want to have their ink exposed for everyone else to see, reserving it for the privacy of their own homes and family.

Theseus, the same then as he was now, had merely shrugged the one and only time that Newt had asked him, back before his ink started to show, if it ever bothered Theseus to have no ink at all.

“It’s a boon actually, especially in my line of work,” Theseus had told him then, tilting his wrist upwards in emphasis and to a younger Newt, even just looking at the blankness of the skin there had made a tiny shiver prickle at the back of his neck. 

“Just one less attachment to have in my life, little brother.” 

 

*

 

Newt meets Leta on their first trip to Hogwarts. The two of them are almost the only ones to not have any friends or relatives attending Hogwarts already and so obviously, they end up sitting opposite each other in the last empty carriage on the Express. Newt's doing his best to avoid eye contact and ignoring the growing awkwardness, leaning against the side of the carriage with the window and staring unseeingly out into the landscape rushing past. 

It’s Leta who makes the first move, a couple of hours in, walking over from the other side and sitting next to him instead.

“Leta,” she says and holds out a hand to him when he turns to face her, startled. She has dimples at the corners of her lips and there's the beginnings of mischief in the glint of her eyes. 

He manages to get his name out in an even tone without any sort of embarrassing squeak due to his breaking voice. “Newt.” 

And somehow, it's the start of a beautiful friendship.

Newt turns sixteen with a thunderbird across his wrist and a best friend in Leta. 

Sometimes, when he lies awake in bed at night unable to sleep again, he wishes that his ink belonged to Leta with her dark hair and darker eyes, and that devastatingly slow smile of hers curling secretively across her lips. 

He touches her once, the day after his ink shows fully. It's a furtive, a fleeting brush of his bare fingers against the softness of her cheek as he tucks a stray strand of her hair back behind her ear. It’s an innocent touch despite how close they sit and the way she tilts her face towards his. The ink across his wrist remains as dark as night and maybe she sees the flash of disappointment that he can’t help but feel. She says nothing though, tucking her head against his shoulder like she always does. 

“I never believed in them, you know,” she whispers in the space next to his ear before she leaves him alone in the library that night. Her eyes are so dark when he looks up at her standing before him and her smile sits strangely on her delicate features. 

“Why should anyone let a tiny piece of ink on their wrist dictate their life?” she asks. 

He says nothing in reply, merely watching her sling her bag across her shoulder and walk out, footsteps falling silently against the floorboards. He so desperately wants to believe her, to believe in them. 

There’s still a tiny part of him that believes even as he sits, ramrod straight, in the headmaster’s office a year later and lies, words brazen, almost desperate, to protect her. 

It was all my fault, he says, head bowed, shoulders hunched and doesn’t make a single attempt to defend himself. 

“I hope you don’t come to regret this, my boy,” Dumbledore says to him later, utterly solemn in the way he rarely is. 

The weather that night is a gentle, soft snowfall that tickles softly against his hair and melts against his cheeks. 

Newt says nothing, only lifts a shoulder to shrug halfheartedly. He scuffs his shoe against the side of the single piece of luggage and only ends up kicking some snow turned mud onto the worn leather. 

“There will always be a place for you here, Newton,” Dumbledore tells him, just before he leaves Hogwarts for what he thinks will be the final time. “We’ll see each other again.”

 

*

 

“I’ve been corresponding with an American wizard recently,” Theseus says one morning, over a mostly unburnt breakfast of eggs and toast. It’s one of the few things that both of them can manage passably almost 100% of the time. 

Newt is just on the cusp of turning twenty-one and he lives with his older brother in London where they both work for the Ministry. 

Unfortunately, that’s about where the similarities end - while Theseus is a powerful and highly regarded Auror, Newt himself is still only a lowly employee for the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures. 

Newt manages a noncommittal noise and forces down another two swallows of too-hot tea, waiting for his groggy mind to wake up fully to try and understand where exactly Theseus is going with this line of conversation. 

Theseus also takes a drink from his mug, which is full of dark roast coffee - milk with two sugars - something he had picked up the taste for on one of his overseas jaunts for the Ministry and Newt still couldn’t stand. 

“I also heard that Worme is offering you a chance to write that book you’ve wanted to since you were a kid.” 

Newt nods, Augustus Worme had written him a letter of recommendation the previous week to the Resources Department to help him obtain funding for research into such a book, a magical bestiary to catalogue all creatures big and small that no one else had attempted before. 

It’s something that he desperately wants to do, even as he’s uncertain of how he’ll fare by himself truly alone out in the world. 

Theseus knocks him gently on the forehead, an action reminiscent of a time when they were both still just boys, running and tussling like all brothers do and it works to bring him out of his worried daze. 

“My American friend," he says, casually dropping the words over his shoulder. "tells me that there are many magical creatures that are unique to the Americas.” There's a gentle clatter as Theseus places his dishes into the sink. 

Newt looks over at him, eyes widening. 

“As they say, fortune favours the brave,” Theseus grins, expression still as fond as ever no matter how many years pass. “Your thunderbird is waiting, little brother.”

 

*

 

He travels across almost all the great continents, and hundreds of different countries - collecting information, drawings and sometimes even the stray creature who goes to live happily inside his ever-expanding case.

Newt spends three months in Scandinavia, sledding through Sweden and Finland, hunting down an elusive sighting of a Norse bridge troll. That's followed by several months that he spends on a ship, skimming the coast along the Black Sea, from Romania to Ukraine and Georgia, trying to catch a glimpse of the legendary kraken. Then there's almost two years in South-East Asia, where some of the rarest magical creatures were said to still live on the top of mountains and in the deepest parts of forgotten forests.

Almost seven years after he left England, Newt stumbles off a train, legs half asleep from a long train ride, brown case in hand, and has to immediately squint due to the too-bright afternoon sun. 

His current presence in Egypt is an unexpected and definitely unplanned side trip. It says much about Newt’s poor command of Mandarin that he ended up with a one way ticket to Cairo instead of St Petersburg. 

It’s almost evening when he finally manages to secure some lodgings in the local wizarding quarter with a sigh of relief. Newt had stayed amongst muggles before, both as a choice and when the local wizarding bar had run out of rooms, but he had to always be extra vigilant when doing even the smallest hint of magic. 

Tonight though, he’s too exhausted to do much more than mutter a cleaning charm halfheartedly over his clothes before he falls gracelessly into bed. Even a magical express cutting straight across the continents took more than a couple of days to travel the long distance between Shanghai and Cairo, doubly so from economy class, wedged into a tiny seat next to a window for basically the entire trip. 

He wanders aimlessly for the next few days, having discovered that the next train out to Russia isn’t for another week and a half. He spends most of his time doing a bit of sightseeing, peering at the pyramids and admiring the charm work that curled around each and every hewn stone. He also tries out his admittedly dismal Arabic at the local magical pawn markets and street food vendors. There’s a little bit of everything here, from dubious cursed artifacts to tiny crystal vials of Re’em blood, ready to be bought and sold for a price. 

It’s on the seventh day, close to sunset, when he ends up slightly lost far outside the boundaries of the busy trade quarter. Newt tries to follow the sun for a little while, vaguely remembering that his temporary quarters were towards the west, but if anything it, he seems to be heading out farther into the desert proper. 

The wind’s picking up and night is almost fully upon him when Newt blindly stumbles across a rather large tent, big enough for two large hippogriffs with room to spare, with nothing but sand dunes surrounding it as far as he can see. 

The tent is battered, weathered by both sand and wind but there’s something that draws him to it nevertheless, even beyond the fact it’s picketed in the middle of nowhere. He lifts the flap and murmurs a quiet lumos

Only the light from his wand stops him from tripping over a muddy mound spread all across the sandy floor. It takes him an extra couple of heartbeats to realise that the giant muddy mound is a creature. It raises its head as Newt approaches and clacks its beak at him half-heartedly, obviously too sick or tired to do much more. 

As he moves closer, Newt can see the bent and broken feathers that quiver with each too-fast breath it takes but it’s not until the creature stands, stumbling to its feet when he reaches out a hand, that he realises it for what it is - a thunderbird. 

The thunderbird’s eyes flash gold with defiance as it attempts to rear upwards but the iron shackles around its feet and neck force it back down with a loud clang of metal. The ink across his wrist thrums with the echo of his heartbeat when he places his hand gently across a feathered side. 

“Hey,” he murmurs softly, pitching his voice low to be as soothing as he can as the thunderbird stills under his touch, one slitted, golden eye staring him down.

“Don’t be afraid,” he says and leans in to place his left hand carefully on the crown of the thunderbird’s head, meeting that wary gaze head on and Newt knows exactly what he needs to do. 

“I’m going to take you home.”

 

*

 

tbc

Chapter Text

principium

 

part ii: tina

 

*

 

Tina wakens on her sixteenth birthday to her younger sister Queenie sitting on her bed with a tiny little lopsided cake balanced on a teacup saucer.

“Happy birthday, Teen,” Queenie says, green eyes sparkling as she places her precious load onto Tina’s bedside table, lighting the single pink candle with a gentle wave of her hand.

Tina tries to smile, to pretend she’s happy that she’s finally sixteen, but it’s no use with a sister as empathetic and talented at Legilimens as Queenie is.

“You could be a late-bloomer,” Queenie offers, soft, knowing Tina’s innermost despair. Even at just fourteen, she’s already much more mature and considerate than her doe eyes and angelic looks suggest. “There’s plenty of records of inks appearing later on in life, it doesn’t always show at sixteen -”

But Tina knows, somehow deep in her heart, staring down at her bare, empty wrist, void of any hint of black, that she will not be one of those rare few blessed with an ink later on in life. She’s suddenly bitterly jealous of Queenie, who’s ink was already starting to show in tiny patches.

She’s enveloped with a fierce hug, Queenie knowing exactly how she feels and doing her best to remind her of the good things. She throws her arms around her, fingers holding tight to the cotton of Tina’s sleeping gown.

“It doesn’t have to matter,” she tells Tina, soft but sure. “Nothing matters, as long as we stay together.”

 

*

 

She studies harder than ever, throwing all her effort and concentration into her final assessments and exams. It all pays off when she receives her final results and graduation letter from Ilvermorny.

“Top of your class,” Queenie claps her hands together excitedly, folding herself down next to Tina on the couch. “You’re amazing, Teen! I knew you could do it.”

“So, what next? With marks like that you could choose any job, anywhere. I’m sure you’ve -” Queenie’s stream of words stops abruptly and her eyes are wide when she stares at Tina.

Tina looks away, knowing exactly what her younger sister has just picked up from her.

“Auror training?” Queenie asks quietly. “Out of all the careers in the world, why would you pick such a dangerous one?”

Tina unconsciously touches the fingers of her right hand to her left wrist, rubbing at the skin, a habit she’s gotten into when she was nervous or uneasy.

“Do you really think that? That it doesn’t matter just because you have no ink?” Queenie reaches over and places her hand over Tina’s, stilling her hand’s movement. She sounds young and devastated. “Didn’t you promise me, Teen? Back when our parents died, you promised that no matter what, we’d always have each other.”

There’s nothing else she can do then, except hold on tight to her younger sister and whisper an endless litany of I’m sorry’s.

 

*

 

Despite her misgivings and initial hesitance, Tina takes to auror training almost like a duck to water.

Almost, because her assigned mentor seems destined to aggravate her at every opportunity.

His name is Percival Graves, he’s almost a decade her senior and one of the most powerful aurors at MACUSA.

“Consider it an honour,” President Picquery tells her on her first day, personally taking charge of assignments for all new MACUSA staff as she wont to do. It’s also the only time so far that Tina’s seen her in person.

There’s a hint of laughter in her tone when she continues, although her expression is perfectly smooth, even as Graves exhales in what could possibly be considered a sigh. “Mr. Graves here is the best of the best. Any trainee who survives his training end up as an extremely capable member of our team.”

With that vaguely ominous remark, Picquery leaves them as suddenly as she arrived, heels clicking purposefully across the tiled floor, leaving only the scent of jasmine and Graves and Tina staring each other down.

Graves raises his eyebrows, something almost mocking curling at the edge of his mouth when she fails to drop her gaze. He places the folder in his hand onto the table before her.

Tina flips it open to find her academic transcripts as well as her final thesis and all the glowing recommendations from her Ilvermorny instructors.

“This shows that you have the potential, in theory,” Graves drawls. He smirks at her, pushing his hands into the pockets of his dark overcoat. “Only time will tell if you have any of that potential in practice.” His tone says all too clearly that he expects her to fail.

She flushes then, from anger or embarrassment she can’t even tell, but she manages to make it to the end of her first week without incident and also without hexing Graves in his overly smug face.

She is nowhere near deluded enough to think that she, in her inexperience, could take him on in a duel, but a girl has to dream somehow. It merely makes her extra determined to succeed, to prove him wrong.

“He’s terrible,” Tina rants to Queenie one night after over six month’s worth of training. Her younger sister is staying with her for a rare weekend visit before classes start again. “He made me triple check my report for the department head and then made me re-write it all anyway because of one tiny form error.”

“But you think he’s attractive,” Queenie laughs delightedly from where she’s cooking dinner for the both of them, obviously having fished this tidbit from Tina’s thoughts.

“Insufferable,” Tina corrects her grumpily but doesn’t try to argue with fact. “Every time we go to another department, everyone wants his attention for some small trifle or another. And he knows it!”

“To me, it sounds like you’re getting along splendidly,” Queenie tells her airily, setting the table with a wave of one hand, the food floating past her golden curls to arrange itself appealingly across the plates.

She reaches over, across the table and squeezes Tina’s hand gently. “I’m really glad that it’s all working out for you, Teen.”

Tina pats Queenie’s hand and smiles, small but bright. “Me too.”

 

*

 

Tina figures that Graves, like her and a fair portion of aurors on active duty, is not inked. It’s true that over the past two years of working closely with him, first from a trainee and then from a junior auror’s perspective, she’s actually hasn’t had a single opportunity to observe his ink or lack thereof with her own eyes. Her fellow employees, both aurors and not, don’t seem to care that no one has actually seen his bare wrist. They all unanimously agree that Graves is too much of a hardass to have something so fanciful like a soulmate.

They’re working overtime on an important case one night, it’s well past midnight and into the wee hours of the morning but the temperature is still fairly high. Especially as this part of the records archive was undergoing maintenance and the industrial strength cooling charms had yet to be reapplied, leaving the room humid, muggy and thoroughly uncomfortable.

Tina had foregone her customary blazer hours ago and she’s amused to note that even the usually impeccably dressed Graves had grudgingly conceded a minor victory to nature. Although he was still firmly buttoned into his vest, his suit jacket had been shrugged off and slung across a spare chair behind him.

Afterwards, she reflects that it must have been sheer coincidence of perfect circumstances between the case and the heat and the late night exhaustion that results in her seeing his ink for the first time.

It happens as he’s reaching across the table absently for one of the files she has spread open before her, his shirtsleeves pull up and Tina can’t help the startled sound that escapes from her mouth when she catches the barest glimpse of a dramatic curve of ink sketched against his wrist in a graceful, sinuous line.

He looks up at her, realisation dawning as his eyes snap down to his own hands. There’s a half bitten off curse that Tina doesn’t quite catch before he’s sitting up perfectly straight, pulling his cuffs down firmly.

“We’re done for the night,” he says into the ensuing silence, packing up all their material, evidence and half-written reports alike with a single, sharp gesture.

Despite wanting to protest instinctively, Tina finds herself inclining her head in agreement instead. She’s feeling a little off balance, lightheaded even, and attributes it mostly to the long day of work and the heat. There’s also a tiny part of her that’s internally gibbering at the information that Percival Graves, auror extraordinaire, is actually inked.

They walk out side by side, into MACUSA’s marble foyer, their footsteps echoing dully back at them with each step taken. The silence stays, along with a sense of wary stiffness between them that hasn’t existed since the very first months of their mentorship.

Tina feels the need to say something, anything, knowing that she needs to fix this somehow. She wanted to go back to the status quo that she had worked so hard to get to with him.

“Mr. Graves,” she blurts out, just as they’re about to go their own way. There’s gentle chirps of early birds already rising into the air, it must be later, or earlier, than either of them thought.

He stares at her, eyes almost black in the pre-dawn light, filtering through the glass door, as if daring her to make a comment.

“You can trust me to keep your secret,” Tina says, gesturing vaguely to his wrist. “You never have to worry about anyone hearing about it from me.”

Graves keeps his stare pinned on her for a moment longer, considering. The ensuring smile, if the tiny twitch of his lips could be called as such, is very much unexpected.

“Indeed,” he says, soft. “Thank you for your discretion, Ms. Goldstein.”

She blinks and waves her hands. “Oh, just Tina. Tina would be fine.”

Nothing seems to outwardly change, but somehow the tension between them eases and there might even be the smallest hint of amusement in Graves’ tone as he takes his leave. “I’ll still expect you back at the office first thing though.”

“Of course, sir.” she replies, already mentally calculating how many hours of sleep she’d be able to wring out and how much coffee she’d need to replace those precious lost hours.

He lifts a hand in farewell. “Then goodnight for now, Tina.”

 

*

 

After Tina’s declaration that she won't out his closely guarded secret to anyone else, it almost feels like Graves starts to genuinely let his guard down more and more around her.

Even so it’s not until maybe a year or more after that particular night that Tina finally sees the full imprint of Graves’ ink.

“It’s beautiful,” she tells Queenie afterwards, words almost hushed. They’re huddled together on the couch, cocooned in blankets. There’s two steaming cups of hot cocoa on the table before them to combat the winter chill, an old childhood memory that neither have been able to let go of even after all these years.

The old hollow feeling still bubbles up within Tina from time to time, an ache for something that she will never have. But, ultimately, between Queenie and her work it’s become a pale echo of the emotion she had felt when she had woken up on her sixteenth birthday.

Queenie sighs softly, picking out the image of the ink from Tina’s mind with ease. “It is, Teen. But, are you sure you should be telling me all this, sister dear?”

She tilts her head up from where she’s burrowed into Tina’s side, green eyes wide. “I join you at the Ministry soon and it’s more than likely that my paths will cross with the infamous Mr. Graves. You did promise him that you’d never tell another soul.”

“You’re not just any old soul,” Tina says, emphasising her point with a spoon that she then promptly uses to stir her cocoa with. She pets Queenie’s hair absently with her free hand. “Don’t forget, you’re my sister and the most important person in my life.”

Queenie’s answering smile is brilliant.

 

*

 

tbc

Chapter Text

interlude i

 

*

 

Credence would say that it starts with that one man, the one with the silky voice and white-gold hair, who whispers temptations into his ear and leaves him feeling queasy - with revulsion yes, but also with a sense of desperate want.

In truth, it starts well before that moment - when his real parents abandon him to the orphanage, when he’s adopted by smiling lady who leads him back to his new home by the hand. He doesn’t notice until it’s much too late that the small, brittle smile she has never quite reaches her flint-hard eyes.

He cannot sleep through the night lately, waking up feeling so terribly cold, shivering beneath his thin pile of blankets and feeling his skin crawl from phantom touches. There's so much anger in his mind, barely tempered by the faint memories of kindness, of hope.

It results in him being exhausted during the day, standing on the streets offering fliers to disinterested passerbys. New York is as busy as ever and no one has the time or inclination to care for the words of a slightly delusional woman and her rag-tag group of orphans.

If magic was real, Credence thinks bitterly, as a man sneers at him and spits deliberately in his direction while walking past, then the world would surely be a better place.

He stares unseeingly at the floor, shuffling back into a dirty alleyway to be out of sight, hands holding the fliers to his chest like a shield against the outside world. He’s so lost in his own thoughts that It takes him one long moment to realise that someone’s come to a stop directly in front of him.

He looks up slowly. The man standing before him is about his height with eyes a light grey and hair a gold-silver shade that Credence has never seen before. He’s smiling, and the expression on his face could almost be called kindly, except for the frozen, empty look to his eyes.

Credence knows that his man is danger, with instincts honed by years of living with a woman who dictates his life at her temperamental whim. He shifts his weight to the heels of his feet just to remain as far away from this man as he can physically without stepping back.

There’s something cruel about the curl of the stranger’s lips when Credence does this and that tiny hint of expression only grows when the hand he reaches out is met with a reactive flinch.

“Darling boy,” the man croons softly, the leather of his gloves curling warm against Credence’s chilled skin, making him shiver and feel nothing more than like cornered prey. “Weren’t you just thinking about how magic could help you change the world?”

He raises his other gloved hand and clicks his fingers once. A tiny wisp of flame flares suddenly in his hand at the click, flickering gently above his palm.

“I can give you this power,” the man continues, voice low, almost hypnotic in its tone. “It would be yours to keep, yours to control.”

He throws the little flame up into the air and Credence can’t help the gasp that escapes from his lips when it expands, flaring into a ring of fire that burns hot and real enough around them that he can even feel the warmth slowly seeping through his clothes.

The man steps forward, and beneath the glow of the flames his eyes reflect gold. There’s something hungry, predatory about the way he watches Credence, reaching out again to press his gloved fingers against Credence’s bare, empty wrist.

“With this power you could have anything you wanted,” he says. “You could leave that cruel woman and have the perfect, happy family you’ve always dreamed of.”

Credence can almost see that family - his mother in a red dress laughing while his father puts his arm around her and him both, the splash of ink against his own wrist and -

The click of fingers in the frigid air is startling loud, echoing through the alley.

“Call for me when you’re ready, darling boy,” the stranger says, brushing his fingers against Credence’s cheek gently and the touch makes him close his eyes, shivering in disgust.

Between one breath and the next, the man’s gone and Credence is left standing alone, surrounded by the dark outline of where the flames burnt through the dirty, muddy snow around him in a perfect circle.

The temptation is great - Credence can feel the seductive whisper of power slink through his thoughts, beckoning. He licks his at his dry lips, tasting blood from where they’ve cracked, and he knows what he has to do.

 

*

 

interlude ii

 

*

 

There’s something ever so slightly off about this place.

It’s different from the usual moment of dissonance when Newt arrives in a completely new country, surrounded by unfamiliar faces, doing his best to be prepared for all and anything unexpected. That feeling is a now familiar one, usually dissipating after a day or two, a week at maximum if he’s really suffering from a particularly acute case of culture shock.

But when Newt first arrives in America, the instant he steps off the steamboat with his case clutched tight in his hand, he feels it. There’s a subtle sense of wrongness - like when a framed picture hangs just a centimeter off level or squinting past a dirty, streaked window to the outside world. It throws everything into a curiously distorted state, like a recurring nightmare where everything is exactly the same as it is in real life, except one minor thing. The unconsciousness recognises this, sending a warning shiver up the spine or tickling the back of the neck. In Newt's case, he feels the sharp prickle of discomfort creeping across his skin, making him more frazzled and much more jittery than usual.

Both his thunderbirds seem to feel it as well. They both got more and more agitated the closer the steamboat got to America.

The flesh and blood one he’s taken to calling Frank is uneasy, even safe within Newt’s case, unwilling to land for long periods of time, golden eyes wilder than usual whenever Newt comes close enough to touch. His ink, also, has never been more restless - wings flaring every second moment or lurking around the edges of Newt’s wrist instead of the underside as it usually did. Running his fingers across the ink does little to settle it now, although it has worked like a charm all those previous times. This forces Newt to pull his shirtsleeves down more firmly as he moves through New York's bustling streets, cuffs buttoned tightly against skin to prevent any muggle from catching a stray glimpse of a moving inkmark.

He just needs to keep under the radar, keep his head down for just a few weeks, Newt thinks to himself, glancing down at his battered leather case. Plenty of time for him to travel to Arizona and back, including any unplanned detours that pop up, which usually consists of the chance to see and document another unique magical species in the wild.

However, Newt forgets that he has terrible luck, the type that have people shaking their heads in sympathy and muttering the saying, when it rains, it pours.

The first problem he has is and always has been his incurable soft spot for magical animals. Newt admits that yes, it is partially his fault when he has to apparate both him and his new muggle acquaintance out of a muggle bank in front of multiple muggle witnesses due to his niffler being well, a niffler. But it’s really what happens afterwards that succeeds in turning his luck from merely bad to terrible as he runs into his second problem on this particular leg of his journey: Tina.

“You need to come with me,” she says, and it’s literally the first thing she ever says to him.

The second is to flash her credentials at him (“Porpentina Goldstein, Auror, MACUSA. You can call me Tina.”) and the third is to basically pronounce him under arrest. She takes his arm firmly, without any hesitation at all, and apparates them right to the doorstep of MACUSA headquarters.

He’s not terribly fond of persons of authority, having had many too-close scrapes with the law in the seven odd years he’s been travelling for his book. So now, standing in the apex of magical governance in America, to say that Newt feels quite uncomfortable is probably a huge understatement. He shifts his weight awkwardly from one foot to the other, right hand curled around his inked wrist and his left clutching his case like a lifeline, as Tina drags him along through a maze of almost identical corridors, one arm hooked firmly through his to prevent him from retreating.

She elbows open a heavy wooden door with plenty of force to slam it open. The echo of that sound rings loudly enough in the chamber to make Newt want to cringe a little. There are three people in the room, all of whom turn to face the two of them.

“Madam President,” Tina starts, looking straight at the only lady at the table. The President of MACUSA raises a stately brow but it’s the man sitting directly to her right who rises, stepping forward to meet them.

He’s tall, even taller than Newt’s gangly height by an easy half head, and definitely much broader at the shoulder. His dark gaze sweeps over Newt almost disinterestedly before fixing on Tina, visibly dismissing him.

“Miss Goldstein,” he says, voice pitched at a low, displeased rumble that results in Newt ducking his head and hunching his shoulders down instinctively.

Tina, on the other hand, merely tilts her chin up, bold and defiant. “I’m sorry, Mr. Graves, but I didn’t think this could wait.”

Graves seems to consider this briefly, gaze flickering contemplatively between Tina and Newt, before he turns back to incline his head politely at the President. “If you could excuse us, madam?”

The President waves a thin-boned hand carelessly, flicking her fingers in an easy dismissal. “This can wait until you’re free again, Graves,” she says, voice light. She looks over at Tina, pinning her down with a steely glint in her eyes. “And Miss Goldstein, do remember to knock next time. Manners.”

Tina looks suitably chastened at this, lowering her eyes respectfully. “My apologies, madam.”

Graves tilts his head meaningfully at the door, eyebrows rising slightly. “Shall we, then?”

He steps past them, so close that the thick winter coat he’s wearing brushes casually across Newt’s arm. There’s a jolt of static that accompanies it, zapping across the back of Newt’s hand lightning fast, but it's not just the shock that makes him inhale sharply. There's a ghost of a sensation that leaves behind little but a subtle prickling feeling, reaching all the way from his wrist down to his now warm, tingling fingertips.

Newt swallows hard and shakes his head at Tina when she glances at him curiously. He forces his shaking fingers to close around the familiar grip of his case and follows at a shuffle, eyes focused downwards.

Not content to be merely arrested after less than three hours in America, Newt is also now very sure that he has a Very Big Problem.

 

*

 

tbc

Chapter Text

interlude iii

 

*

 

Even while Queenie was growing up and into her Legilimens gift, there’s always been expectations placed around her. She was always aware, due to her talent, of how people perceived her.

She had asked Tina once, when she had received her ink at sixteen, if having an immobile inkmark (like a no-maj, people used to murmur when they thought she was out of earshot) meant that something was wrong with her.

Tina had stroked her hair then, like back when they were younger and more alone in the world, fingers gentle but eyes fierce, as if she would take on the entire world to protect her, no questions asked.

“There’s nothing wrong with you, Queenie,” she had said. “Remember when you were the one telling me that there is no usual when it comes to inkmarks? You just need to believe, in yourself and also in it.”

Queenie is twenty-two now, golden curls artfully arranged and lips painted a pouting red, grown up and self-assured in a manner that she never would’ve believed in before.

“I don’t care what anyone says,” she tells her ink, still putting her trust fully in her sister’s words and her unwavering belief that things will always work out for the best. She taps the little round sparrow gently on the head. “Besides, you’re cute and special and all mine.”

Tina’s always had this habit of bringing home strays. Queenie remembers the long parade of them - scruffy dogs and wary cats and even a chicken that one memorable time who seemed to enjoy pecking at human fingers more than corn - that Tina had rescued, nursed back to health and made sure that they ended up in a good home.

She’s not even a little bit surprised that a decade on, Tina’s moved from stray animals to stray humans.

“Hi,” the taller of the two says, ducking his head shyly. His voice has a lovely lilt that announces him as English and his mind, when she reaches out with her gift - just gently brushing by as was her norm to check for any unsavoury attention - is framed by an impenetrable wall. She pulls back, not wanting to be intrusive, and he jerks his head up briefly to glance at her, looking vaguely disconcerted. Queenie surmises that he’s a wizard, and quite a well taught one at that.

Comparatively, the second one is like an open book being read aloud. Jacob Kowalski, a no-maj sure, but also a man with very little or no artifice at all.

“This is really wonderful,” he says out loud, eyes wide and almost shining with awe at the show of simple magic that all witches and wizards seemingly took for granted. Inside his mind, Queenie can see a kaleidoscope of shapes painted with bright, ever-changing colours, flickering, echoing his pure joy.

It’s been a long time since she’s met someone with a mind so bright, so pure. His wonder and giddy glee is almost infectious when he turns his warm brown eyes to her and grins wide and unfettered.

“Oh honey, won’t you stay for dinner?” she laughs, unable to help it, echoing his happiness.

The other man - the tall, worried one that she still can’t even read a name from - fidgets, tapping his case against his leg.

“I’m afraid we cannot, ma’am.” His voice is soft, enough that the words trip a little over one another in the hasty way he speaks. But there is genuine remorse echoed in his tone when he glances at her again, a quick dart of a look that’s gone almost before she can really register it. “We have an important task entrusted to us at hand.”

Queenie smiles vaguely at him, much more drawn by the warmth from Jacob’s emotions. She sits right down by his side and leans over to touch his hand. “You don’t mind staying, do you, honey?”

It’s instantaneous - one moment her ink is nothing more than a cheerful round sparrow, pretty yes, but two-dimensional and flat, then the next, for the first time since she turned sixteen, it flutters to life. She watches as the pattern of the feathers fill in, first just a detailed outline, but then shaded in so many subtle shades of brown, its beak opening as if to chirp a welcoming song.

“Well,” the nameless man says, leaning over briefly to peer at Jacob’s wrist before standing back and blinking at the two of them, bemused. “This changes things.”

“It’s moving,” Jacob whispers, eyes widening even further where they stare down at his ink. He looks at her, at the sparrow hopping about freely on her wrist and then back at his own, where a mostly white cat with gold fur brushed across its face, paws and tail, daintily licks at a paw.

Queenie reaches out one shaking hand for Tina, who had come back into the room from where she had been preparing the spare beds for the two men at the commotion. Her other hand is tucked into Jacob’s, his much bigger hand almost fully enveloping hers.

“Teen,” Queenie says, voice wavering on a gentle sob that’s full of happiness. “I’ve finally found my soulmate.”

  

*

 

interlude iv

 

*

 

Tina never expected that she would be the one to lead Queenie’s soulmate to her.

“We should leave,” she says to Newt, glancing meaningfully at where her sister and her soulmate were sitting together, hands wrapped around each other’s. The bright eyed look of new love between them is potent enough to almost cause that old ache to start again.

It’s only almost because Tina pushes it down ruthlessly, refusing to let it taint her precious sister’s moment. She shoves it back to the dark recess of her mind where it had been lurking, long forgotten.

“You and I can do the search tonight, they should have this opportunity to get to know each other,” she tells him briskly.

Newt doesn’t argue at all, merely picking up his case and following her out instead, manner almost meek in a way.

She can’t help but sneak glances at him out of the corner of her eye.

Out in the winter night, away from the enclosed space she called home, Newt seems to brighten a little, actually looking up and away from his feet and out into the night. His hair seems shades darker than the fiery red it actually is under the dimly lit street lamps, breath fogging in the cold almost sub-zero temperatures.

“Where do we start?” Tina asks, after a long moment of silence. “We can’t stay out too long tonight either, there’s a snowstorm warning for before midnight.”

Originally, when she had brought Newt in to MACUSA, she had thought that maybe he had been the one responsible for the creature that was lurking loose on New York’s streets. He was, after all, not only unregistered with the local magical authorities but also had not been issued with either a wand permit, or an enchanted item permit for his leather case.

She had realised her error almost immediately when they began questioning him. Firstly, Newt was much too artless and well-meaning to have deliberately set something magical loose to wreak havoc. Secondly, his passport showed that he had literally only been in the country for less than a day. The creature that stalked the city had been around for at least a month, slowly terrorising the local no-maj population.

Newt had, however, appeared to have misplaced several magical creatures picked up over the course of his travels, (just a few, and totally harmless, Newt had promised them, voice completely earnest) when he and Jacob’s cases had been accidentally switched.

Newt pauses at her question, tilting his head to one side as if thinking about something.

“She couldn’t have gone very far,” he mutters to himself before spinning around on his heel to face her. “Is there a zoo in around here?”

Instead of answering out loud, Tina grabs him by the hand, cheeks flushing at the daringness of this gesture even as she tries to convince herself that it’s necessary, and apparates them both directly to the entrance of Central Park Zoo.

“What are we looking for?” she asks him, eyeing the wand he has out warily, already knowing that she was not going to like the answer.

She's proven right. Two hours later, they’re leaning on each other to keep themselves somewhat upright, sprawled side by side on the iced over lake in Central Park. The creature, an erumpent, is safely ensconced back in his case once more.

“I,” Tina begins, having to force each word out through a wheezing gasp of breath, “am never going to trust a single word out of your mouth again.”

Newt laughs then, a soft chuckle that does little to conceal his own lack of breath.

After a moment, when their heart rates settle and the adrenaline slowly drains from their bodies, Newt picks himself up and offers her a hand, the first time he’s initiated contact in her presence.

“Can I ask you something?” he says after he’s pulled her up and they’ve both dusted as much snow off themselves as possible, drying their clothes with a simple drying charm. It’s by an unspoken mutual decision to walk back to her place instead of apparating directly into it, just in case.

“I was wondering.” He glances at her and looks away again just as fast, something hesitant about both his tone and body language, head lowered once more and fingers curled tightly around his case. “Is it a requirement for all American aurors to not have an inkmark?”

“It’s true that a fair portion of us don’t,” she replies slowly, after a heartbeat of silence. “But there’s also just as many that do have ink. Why?”

Newt shrugs a shoulder. “My brother once told me that it was easier to be an auror without it, one less attachment. I was curious if it was the same for you here in America as well.”

His words aren’t exactly a lie, Tina can tell, but they’re also don’t ring like the full truth either.

“The man we met today, your boss,” he asks carefully. “Do you know if he -?” Newt lets the question trail off, but the intent is clear as day.

Tina’s first instinct is to tell him that it’s none of his business, because well, it really isn’t. He’s an outsider, an interloper into their territory. She spends an extra few seconds, though, to pause and take stock of the situation, an instinct that’s served her well many times in the field.

There’s something about the way that Newt’s eyes look in this moment - guarded but hopeful, filled with an intensity that almost makes her want to tell the truth for some reason. But, then again, Tina had made a promise years ago, to her mentor and friend, and she wouldn’t break that for the world.

“No,” she says, finally, and the undefinable something in Newt’s eyes crumbles as if this information was important to him somehow, though she cannot for the life of her fathom why.

“No,” Tina repeats, more firmly this time, looking away from him and feeling the weight of the lie pressing down uncomfortably against her shoulders. “To my knowledge, Mr. Graves has no ink.”

 

*


tbc

Chapter Text

medius

 

part five: queenie

 

*

 

Newt and Jacob aren’t the first human strays that Tina’s picked up.

Queenie remembers the first one, the young terrified boy who couldn’t look her in the eye. He must be at least twelve or thirteen by his height alone, but the tremble that shivers across his body and the way he hunches in on himself protectively makes him seem so much younger.

“This is Credence,” Tina murmurs softly to her the day she brings him over for the first time. She doesn’t need to spell out what’s happened to him either, Queenie can pick it up as clear as day from Credence himself, the images still sharp and painful in his mind.

He’s got a bruise on his cheek and even from where she stands, Queenie can see that there are welts all across his palms and up his wrists and he holds them away from his body, still obviously in pain. Queenie’s heart shatters a little at all the suffering he’s gone through in his short life, and from the hand of his own mother at that.

“She adopted me, when I was much younger,” Credence says, voice never really rising above a whisper, when he eventually consents to sit and let them have a look at his wounds.

Tina’s dabbing a healing salve onto the worst of the welts, mouth pressed firmly into a thin, tight line. They’re deliberately not using any magic overtly. He’s a no-maj after all and Tina was an auror.

Queenie can hear her raging internally though, between casting non-verbal healing charms as best as she could, spitting curses at someone named Mary Lou, who she assumes correctly to be Credence’s adoptive mother.

“Oh honey, that still doesn’t give her the right to do that to you,” Queenie says and she so desperately wants to reach out to him, to show him that there’s still the possibility of kindness when someone else touches you. She knows though, that she’ll do more harm than good right now, with Credence so terribly brittle.

She settles on giving him the warmest smile she can muster even as Tina rises, packing up their little medi-kit and striding back into the bathroom. Her sister will need a moment to compose herself, Queenie knows, both of them have always been a soft touch for strays, especially one that tugged at the heartstrings like Credence.

Credence hunches into the chair, eyes glancing between her and the bathroom door every couple of seconds, as if trying to make sure that no one was or could sneak up on him.

“Stay with us for dinner at least,” Queenie says to him, voice as soothingly gentle as she could make it. “I promise you’ll like my cooking.”

He watches her, warier than any stray animal she’s seen. “I-I don’t know -” he hedges and Queenie realises he’s on the verge of bolting, right out from their apartment and back onto the streets.

Tina saves the day as usual with her impeccable timing. When she sits down next to Credence on the sofa, just far away enough to not intrude into his personal space, he visibly relaxes. He obviously trusts her more than Queenie.

“Please stay,” Tina asks him softly and Credence wavers.

She doesn’t take it personally - her sister was the one who had helped him after all and Queenie was currently nothing more than a stranger to him, no matter what her relationship with Tina is. She is, however, determined to change his view of her and plans to start by giving him a feast that he’s well overdue for. She rises, dusting off her hands and heading to the kitchen.

“Just stay,” she tells him simply, slipping into her apron. “I won’t disappoint you.”

To her surprise and delight, when she comes out moments later laden with dishes, he stays.

“What will happen to him?” she asks Tina later on, when they’ve had to reluctantly send him back home to his adoptive mother. “He’s only a child, we can’t just watch him -”

Tina looks conflicted. “He’s a no-maj, Queenie. I’ve already bent the rules heavily just by bringing him back here today, but I couldn’t stand seeing him like that, huddling by himself in an abandoned shop doorway.”

“Does Mr. Graves know?”

Tina sighs and there’s a tinge of both fondness and exasperation in her tone now.

“There’s not much that Mr. Graves doesn’t know,” she says tartly, just a flicker of humour before it dies out again. “He’s turned a blind eye for the moment, since Credence has been useful in the past, providing tidbits of information that’s turned out to be solid leads in cases.”

Queenie gasps. “You’re using him? Teen, he’s already hurting, you can’t use him and throw him away like that.”

“I know that,” Tina snaps. “But the laws are in place for a reason.”

After a moment, she softens her voice, placing a hand apologetically on Queenie’s shoulder. “I’ll do what I can. But as an auror, there’s only so much I can do for one no-maj child, even one hurting as badly as him.”

Queenie covers that hand with her own, unable to help the tremble of teardrops at the corners of her eyes.

 

*

 

There’s something about the way that Tina watches Newt.

Queenie’s had some time to get to know both Newt and Jacob better over the past few weeks and she’s grown very fond of the shy Englishman, with his bashful air of utter sincerity and the almost permanent curl of a smile tugging at his lips. His genuine love for every single one of his magical menagerie is so transparent - a happy, glowing existence that Queenie can feel despite the fact she still cannot touch his thoughts and it never ceases to make her smile whenever she’s around him.  

He still ducks away from extended periods of eye contact though, despite days and weeks of time spent together, even from Jacob who is just the sweetest man that Queenie’s ever met, though she might be the tiniest bit biased.

Both she and Jacob, her beautiful charming soulmate, adore Newt as one of their own. Tina does too, Queenie’s starting to realise, except maybe in a way that’s slightly different from them.

“Honey, do you think Tina is a touch fond of Newt?” she asks Jacob one night, curled in his lap, his fingers combing gently through her hair.

Tina has gone and dragged Newt out to locate one of the few remaining escapees from his enchanted case that’s still on the loose. She knows that the two of them, Tina and Newt, are also giving her and Jacob the space they needed to be better acquainted alone, to catch up on each other’s life stories and share their hopes and dreams - building the foundations of a bond sturdy enough to last a lifetime.

“Hmm?” Jacob glances down at her from the book he’s reading, held firmly with his free hand, and his gaze is full of such deep love just for her that they lose themselves to that for one long minute, simply gazing into each other’s eyes.

“My sister,” Queenie says, snuggling into his warmth. “Do you think she like likes Newt?”

He slides a slip of paper to mark his page and puts the book to the side gently, out of the way. His brow furrows a little in thought and she just wants to press endless, tiny kisses to the creases there.

“Oh. I don’t know for sure, dear heart,” he says after a moment of contemplation, “but I think you might be right.”

“That’s so cute,” Queenie sighs softly. “It would be delightful if they could fall in love, then the four of us wouldl be able to be together all the time.”

Jacob’s much more hesitant about this train of reasoning though and Queenie picks up on his uncertainty readily. “Oh. He has an inkmark? I never knew.”

“Yeah, a strange looking bird with two pairs of wings and a long thin tail,” Jacob tells her, smoothing her fringe back from her forehead and tapping her on the nose. Queenie giggles, unable to help the bubble of laughter. “Your type of creature, I think, as I’ve never seen the like before.”

She sits up a little. “Oh, a thunderbird,” she says, a little awestruck, picking the image cleanly out of Jacob’s thoughts. “It’s lovely, and a very rare mark even in our community.”

“Well, he doesn’t seem to be actively looking for his soulmate,” Queenie says, but she’s a little less enthused about her little idea now that she knows Newt carries ink on his wrist.

She can’t imagine being with anyone else apart from Jacob, now that she’s met him, and she thinks that Newt will be the same, even if he does fall in love with Tina first. There’s a reason that ink-marked bonds are sacred after all and the last thing Queenie ever wants is for her sister to break her heart.

 

*

 

Now that Queenie’s watching Newt more closely than ever, looking for a sign, any sign that he realises Tina’s fondness of him and perhaps reciprocates it, she seems doubly aware of the little odd things that he does.

For one, Newt is definitely wary of physical contact, choosing to nod or offer a quick dart of a smile over a handshake or a hug every single time. The exception to this is her sister. He seems willing to let her drag him by the sleeve when he’s lagging behind and allows her to touch his arm or shoulder to grab his attention when she needs it.

Queenie’s seen him physically shy away from another auror who had reached out a hand to help him with his ever-present luggage case one time. She’s not too certain if the action had been borne from his unwillingness to hand over his precious case or to be touched by a stranger, either or a combination of both are likely, but it does put her sister in hallowed company, namely Jacob and herself.

She assumes he allows their touches as they’re ink-marked for each other and therefore safe. However, she can’t tell if his skittishness with other people who are not them is a result of not wanting to find his soulmate or just general discomfort with strangers.

Then there’s his issue with eye contact. Not even Tina can get him to meet her eyes for longer than a couple of seconds at a time. The only time he’ll actively search out your gaze is when he’s introducing you to one of his special creatures or if he’s talking with you about them. At all other times, though, it seems like he’s making a point to not make eye contact.

She could read him, she supposes - she’s getting enough exposure to him and his way of speaking that just skimming the uppermost thoughts wouldn’t be an issue. But she knows that he’s got strong mental shields in place for a reason and he probably wouldn’t appreciate her trying to poke her nose into his business where it didn’t belong. It doesn’t mean that she’s not dying of curiosity though.

Queenie’s thought about asking him outright to declare his intentions, but she thinks, and Jacob agrees, that it’s more likely to scare him away from Tina if that’s how the wind is blowing at that point.

Her subtle investigation into Newt, his oddities and his ink, however ends up being partially diverted by Percival Graves, Tina’s direct boss and a man counted as one of the most powerful and influential amongst American wizards.

She’s had very few chances to interact with him prior to Newt and Jacob tumbling into her life, but since then, she’s seen him around more times than she could count on one hand, all in the span of two weeks.

At first, she had assumed that he was around to do spot checks on Jacob, to make sure that he was keeping to his sworn oath not to tell a soul about magical society. After a while, though, she realises that Graves was keeping a closer eye on Newt rather than Jacob.

Graves has always been one of the few that Queenie’s never been able to get a read on at all. He’s very well practiced in Occlumency and had once, at the very beginning when she began her work at MACUSA, asked that she try not to delve into his thoughts, polite as you please.

There’s a strange sort of intensity in his gaze when he watches Newt when he’s around, and she’s noticed that he only does it when he’s certain that no one is watching him. However, unfortunately for him, Queenie’s mastered the art of appearing oblivious when she wants to be, both as a side effect of her Legilimency and from her deliberately projected aura of air-headedness.

Queenie knows, from all the stories that Tina’s told her over the years, and from her own very limited experiences with the man, that Graves doesn’t do anything without a good reason.

But, as she sits and unobtrusively watches Graves who in turn watches Tina and Newt having a rather spirited discussion over a magical map with narrowed eyes instead of being immersed in his paperwork as he was wont to be, she can’t quite seem to pin down what on earth that reason might be.

The map spread over the meeting room table marks all the areas they’ve checked and highlighting the ones that they’ve yet to visit. When Newt, who had been standing half a meter off to the side, steps in closer to point at something over Tina’s shoulder, bringing their hands into contact, there’s a loud snap that resounds through the room.

Everyone turns to look at Graves, who’s staring at the quill that lies on the table, broken cleanly in half, and leaking ink all over his hand and reports. He stands abruptly, shoving his chair back. A quick wave of his hand takes care of the mess of ink and sends the paperwork flying out of the room, presumably back to his own office.

“My apologies,” he says, deep voice as calm as always. “I’m afraid I have an urgent summons to attend to.”

He strides towards the door, which slides open silently as he approaches. “Miss Goldstein, update me at your earliest opportunity when you’re done here,” he says, and then he’s gone.

Queenie is the first to look away from the door, which is the only reason she ends up seeing the quick flash of expression across Newt’s face. By the time Tina’s facing him again a heartbeat later, he’s back to his usual smiling self, ducking his head at whatever she’s saying to him.

But for Queenie, that split second’s worth of expression from him is enough - she had seen the desolate but wistful longing in his eyes, watching Graves walk out without a backwards glance.

She looks at where he stands with Tina now, hands tucked into his pockets, chin tilted down and she suddenly knows, with certainty, that he’ll never even have the slightest interest in Tina in the way that she had originally hoped. Instead, it appears that he’s set his eyes on someone unobtainable - someone who also has an inkmark across his wrist and a soulmate waiting out there somewhere.

Queenies sighs, soft, and wonders when her life suddenly became so complicated.

 

*


tbc

Chapter Text

medius

 

part six: percival

 

*

 

There’s no particular emotion that overwhelms him when he turns sixteen with a blank wrist. He supposes he should feel regret perhaps, he’s seen at least three of his yearmates burst into disappointed tears on the morning of their sixteenth birthday, but for him there’s only a vague sense of relief. He knows that having no inkmark is one of the things that grants you priority when applying for auror traineeships with MACUSA.

It’s not a discriminatory thing, Percival knows, because having a complete, coloured inkmark is also one of those priority criterias. It’s more the potential of the unknown - meeting your soulmate at the most inconvenient, and sometimes dangerous, of times and places, or meeting your soulmate and finding that they were someone with whom you have a conflict of interest with. It’s all happened before. He’s heard it both from his relatives who work within the Congress and from older, historical information gleaned from the archives that he’s not technically allowed to have access to yet.

“Sorry about your ink, Graves,” one of his dorm mates says as they go down to the breakfast hall, having seen his empty wrist.

Percival lifts one shoulder lightly in a careless shrug, mind already on other, more important things. “Just one less thing to worry about, really.”

His dorm mate smiles wryly, running a hand through his messy hair. “You’re definitely something else,” he sighs, shaking his head in either admiration or pity, but they speak no more of it from then on. And that, as they say, is that.

 

*

 

Picquery is a figure he remembers vaguely from her time at Ilvermorny - they were in different houses and in different year levels, his first to her sixth, but her reputation always seemed to precede her, even after she graduated. It makes him wonder why she’s chosen to approach him now. He’s a month from final exams and still frantically in the middle of preparing his applications for several of MACUSA’s graduate traineeship roles.

The place she’s picked for their meeting is a cafe downtown. It’s in a trendy area that Percival avoids like the plague whenever he’s in New York since it’s a popular area for no-majs to congregate. He’s got nothing against no-maj’s personally, but the rules are in places for a reason.

Picquery is a naturally elegant woman, short of stature but with an imposing personality that makes her bigger than life almost. She beckons him over with measured poise when she spots him entering the establishment. He takes a seat opposite her, smoothing down the sleeves of his grey sweater and nods a greeting.

She slides a bangle from her wrist and places it onto the center of the table with a gentle click of metal on glass and the murmur of background chatter immediately mutes. He notes the tiny runes engraved into the metal and is impressed by the ingenuity of the charm work on it.

“You’re probably wondering why I asked you to meet me,” she says, pouring him a cup of tea from the pot already steeping on the table.

“I’ll admit that I’m curious.” He runs his thumb across the fine porcelain of his cup and murmurs a soft incantation. Finely brewed coffee replaces the tea, the bitter aroma wafting into the air as he adds just a touch of milk, stirring it in gently.

“I’ve been offered the position of Director of Magical Security,” she tells him after a sip of her tea, eyes glinting with muted amusement at his transfiguration.

She doesn’t bother with any small talk at all and Percival can appreciate her candour, inclining his head. “Congratulations.”

Picquery waves it off, dark eyes fixed on his. “I know you have intentions of applying to MACUSA, with a special interest in the Department of Magical Law enforcement. I was wondering if I could make you an offer.”

Percival tilts his head, holding his coffee up before his lips, and considers her through the steamy haze rising from the cup. “You have your eye on the top job,” he says slowly. “And you want me to help you get there.”

He blinks at her then, taking a long sip before lowering his cup down into its saucer. “I haven’t even graduated yet,” he points out. “I don’t know how I can help you further your ambitions.”

She leans her elbows onto the table, lacing her fingers together. “You’re descended from a highly respected family, your kinsman was one of the Original Twelve,” she says matter of factly. “I’ve seen your exam marks and your thesis draft, you definitely have the raw talent to succeed.”

“I want to sponsor you to MACUSA, into my department specifically.” Picquery is direct and to the point, and Percival respects that she doesn’t bother to hide her real agenda. “You have the potential to be a very powerful influence once you grow into your own. I’ll see to it that you get all the training and opportunities that you’ll need.”

He’s never been slow on the uptake and he gets it immediately. He leans forward, steepling his fingers, mirroring her position opposite. “And in return, you want me to back you when the time comes and President LaRouche steps down.”

She smiles slightly but says nothing more. They sit in companionable silence, each focused on their own drink, lost to their own thoughts.

“I’ll consider it,” he says eventually, when all that’s left in his cup is a thin layer of coffee grounds and he’s standing, ready to take his leave.

“That’s all I ask of you, Mr. Graves,” Picquery says and holds out a hand. Her handshake is firm but warm, just like her gaze when she looks up to meet his gaze. “It was a pleasure to meet you at last.”

He inclines his head. “Likewise.”

 

*

 

Percival passes the full auror certification exam with flying colours almost two years ahead of all the other trainees from his intake. He’s twenty-one and assigned directly as the personal assistant to the Director of Magical Security, Seraphina Picquery.

“There’s no need for formalities,” she had told him, way back on his first day on the job. “Call me Seraphina.”

They’ve grown close over the years, his rapid advancement is, in fact, partially thanks to her personal mentoring. They’ve reached the point where Percival would not hesitate to call Seraphina a friend if asked.

Theirs is a relationship build on the basis of trust, there’s no secrecy or hidden agendas between them - she tells him everything, from her meticulous plans for the future of the department, to her latest beau. Percival would rather not hear about the latter, but he supposes that this is something that friends do for each other and does his best to put up with it in good grace.

Seraphina’s ink is a hooded serpent, scales flashing black and gold, tiny pink tongue darting out as if tasting the air. It usually sits looped lazily around her wrist, but when she’s angry, it’ll flare its hood and bare fangs, echoing her mood. The colour of her ink denotes that she has met her soulmate but she has never spoken of them, not even in passing.

“It’s a long story,” she says softly, the only time he queries her on it. “But the short of it is that she decided that she wasn’t cut out to be part of my life and she left.”

It’s at the end of a long day and they sit side by side in her office, nursing glasses of mellow firewhiskey. The rest of the office has long gone home to be with family or lovers, leaving just the two of them admiring the sunset from the large enchanted window behind her desk.

“You don’t want her back?” Percival asks. Even though he doesn’t have any ink and doesn’t really believe in destiny, he can’t help the purely human curiosity about it.

Seraphina shrugs and it’s a startlingly casual motion from her usually perfectly measured body language. “She’s her own person, Percival. Even though we’re ‘destined’ soulmates, it doesn’t mean we have to end up together. We all still have the freedom to choose .”

It’s this sort of frankness and raw honesty that makes Percival appreciate and trust her on a level he’s rarely been able to before.

It’s also why, on the morning when he wakes up with an inkmark, the first thing he does is to apparate directly into her office, not bothering to hide the panic writ plain over his features.

“This is wrong,” he tells her, eyes wide, fingers clamped tightly over his wrist. “It must be a mistake.”

It takes Seraphina almost five minutes to coax his fingers open. They both take a moment to stare down at the lithe unicorn, hooves pawing at the skin of his wrist, tossing its mane back every now and again with a regal flick of its head.

“A rare mark,” she tells him quietly. “It means that they’re completely pure of heart and of soul. They are someone who will bring great change to your life, for the better.”

He apparates back to his apartment, body on autopilot as he prepares himself for the work day ahead. Internally, he’s still numb, mind replaying her words over and over.

“It’s not unheard of for your mark to appear this late, but it is likely that they have just turned sixteen,” Seraphina had said, dark eyes serious. “It’s a sign of a deep and powerful connection that you have only received your mark on the day they got theirs.”

“My career -”

“Percival.” She had taken hold of his shoulders and forced him to look her in the eye. “I told you before, an inkmark only defines you when you choose to let it define you. You can look at it as a potential avenue of opportunity that will arise sometime in the future, or you can to let it consume you. But the choice is yours .”

He stares at himself in the mirror, gripping the sink tightly until the panic recedes. “The choice is mine,” he repeats to himself silently until he knows it to be true.

Seraphina is waiting patiently in her office when he arrives for the morning proper, using the door this time. She rises from her desk and waits until he’s standing just before her.

“Are you ready then, Mr. Graves?” The unspoken question echoes between them, is he going to let this define him or not?

He is purely his own person and will forge his own path, and this is his choice, regardless of if he has an inkmark or not. Percival inclines his head to her, his answer clear to the both of them.

“I am indeed, madam.”

 

*

 

Percival is promoted to the head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement at twenty-seven, the youngest ever to do so, as Seraphina ascended to the office of President.

“You deserve this promotion,” she tells him, perched on the very edge of his new desk. He has his own private office now, complete with his own personal assistant and it’s all very surreal somehow.

He knows he does deserve this - the case closure rate under Seraphina’s three year stint as Director of Magical Security was the highest on record. Wizards and witches ranked her as one of the best directors in history and she was unanimously chosen for the position of president when LaRouche stepped down. Without feeling like he was boasting, Percival can say that he was integral to the success of her multiple campaigns in shutting down any potential security breaches before they were even an issue. As a result of their combined effort, there has not been any large scale emergencies since he joined her in the department.

Unfortunately, with his promotion comes several extra layers of responsibility that he had not considered previously. Percival isn’t a stranger to taking charge and weathering the consequences no matter what they may be, but having to mentor a bunch of new aurors from each year’s intake is a task that he feels like he’s ill suited to.

“You’ll be fine,” Seraphina says, patting the small stack of personnel files filled with information about the candidates that she’s brought for him to peruse. “You’ll learn a lot from the experience.”

As it happens, Seraphina turns out to be correct in this as well, Percival will grudgingly admit. Porpentina Goldstein is the latest in a long line of assigned trainees and she, like the many who came before her, is indeed an unexpected boon.

She’s a quick witted, bright young witch with an admirable work ethic that could possibly rival his own. Despite his initial doubts, she’s able to think extremely fast on her feet and ends up being his best agent for field work within the first year. Percival even learns to unbend enough, over the next couple, to somewhat appreciate her other qualities, including her unending curiosity about everything.

It is an unforeseen error on his part that enables Tina to find out about his inkmark, a secret that he’s kept for years, with Seraphina being the only one to truly know . But nevertheless, he appreciates her discretion about it in all the years afterwards and it ends up being one of the things that brings them closer together. For the second time in his life, Percival finds himself leaning more towards the friends end of the spectrum than a mere mentor-mentee relationship.

She’s uncharacteristically quiet, the night that she finds out, and he worries a little that his ink might change her perception of him in some negative way. Her attitude towards him never ends up changing though, she’s still as hardworking as ever, rising to every challenge he presents to her and excelling.

“I was jealous, you know,” she mumbles to him years later, thoroughly drunk from an office party thrown by Seraphina to celebrate Percival’s promotion to Director of Magical Security.

He blinks down, bemused, to where she’s leaning her chin heavily on her right hand, elbow on the bar. “What?”

“When I saw that you had ink,” she elaborates when it’s clear he has no idea what she’s talking about. “I was jealous because you know.” She waves her blank wrist around erratically before Percival sighs and catches it in his, pressing it back down against the bar.

He doesn’t quite know how to explain that there’s no need for her to be jealous of anything, that the possibility of him finding his so called soulmate was so minute that she quite possibly would find a partner for life before he did.

“Seraphina told me once that it’s all about choice,” is what he settles on in the end, voice neutral. “And it’s my choice to not indulge in society’s romantic fantasy about soulmates.”

Tina stares at him then, seeming strangely sober in that one moment. “You might choose to not care now,” she says, the barest hint of a slur marring her words. “But in the end, when it actually happens, I believe that you won’t have a choice but to follow your heart and soul.” After imparting that particular piece of wisdom, Tina promptly falls asleep, right there at the bar.

Percival looks down at her, snoring gently with her arms pillowed underneath her head, feeling oddly off-balance from her words.

“No choice but to follow my heart and soul, huh,” he says softly, gaze flickering unwittingly down to his well covered ink, rubbing his fingers absently against the smooth cuff of his dress shirt.

“I guess we’ll see about that.”

 

*


tbc

Chapter Text

penultimus

 

part seven: newt

 

*

 

“I need you to come with me, right now,” Tina says, not even bothering to wait for him to reply before snagging his sleeve and apparating them out.

“My case!” Newt makes a valiant effort to try and grab it before they’re gone, but it remains sadly just out of arm’s reach.

Tina pockets her wand and rolls her eyes. “It’s safer there than out here,” she points out and logically, Newt knows that she’s right - there is no safer place both for his magical creatures and the general population, muggle or not, than in the Department of Magical Security. But there’s always going to be tiny flashes of anxiety he can’t help but feel whenever he’s apart from his precious creatures.

Tina strides before him, glancing quickly into each small side street as they pass. Newt follows after her easily, looking around their surroundings with interest. They’re still somewhere in New York, just further towards the docks than usual.

“What are you looking for?” he asks her quizzically after a few minutes, turning his head to also peer into a couple after she’s already passed them.

“Someone who needs our help,” she tells him, briskly. “Queenie said - Oh. There she is.”

Queenie is indeed just ahead, standing near the entrance to yet another side street, frowning worriedly into it.

“Teen,” she says when she spots them, obviously relieved. “I could feel him from across the city. He’s in so much despair.” Her eyes are glinting with tears and Tina gives her a brief hug. “He needs all the reassurance we can give him.”

“I need just you to be your compassionate self,” Tina says to Newt softly, after she pulls away from Queenie. She’s then moving forward and crouching next to the dark haired boy, obviously relying on Queenie’s instinctive knowledge of how to handle people’s emotions and Newt’s utterly harmless presence to reassure the boy.

Newt figures that it’s worked well enough on plenty of actually wild creatures that it’s not a far out assumption that it works on humans too. The boy, Credence, is seemingly already half-wild, despite the neat, pressed clothing.

“It’s real,” Credence gasps and he’s leaning towards hysterical, hands clawing at his face, dark hair a mess that makes it obvious he’s been clutching it with his tightened fingers recently.

“Queenie,” Tina murmurs, biting at her lower lip in worry even as her sister joins her, next to Credence, kneeling down on the muddy floor, uncaring of the muck that is already slowly starting to soak into her pretty pink skirt.

“Credence, honey.” Queenie slides an arm gently around his shoulders, cradling him close. “Tell me what’s wrong. We all want to help you.”

The boy glances up at them and his eyes are bloodshot, dark circles like bruises beneath his eyes. “M-magic,” he says and the words stumble out of him, jerky and frantic. “I-it’s real. He showed it to m-me and he told me I could have everything I wanted, if I w-would just help him.”

Tina stiffens next to him at the mention of magic and Newt places a hand on her shoulder in a gentle reminder to keep calm.

“Who, Credence?” Tina asks, voice surprising level. “Who showed you?”

“The man, the one with the cold eyes and silver hair.” Credence curls into himself against the brickwork of the building behind his back, fingers wound together so tight that they’ve gone almost white from the lack of blood flow.

“Grindelwald,” Queenie whispers, obviously picking up the image from Credence’s mind, and when she looks up at Newt, her eyes are horrified.

Tina muffles a gasp against her fist and even Newt feels the shiver of unease that snakes up his back at that name.

“Please,” the boy sobs, “Just make it stop. I don’t care what you do, please. Help me.” His voice breaks on the last two words and Newt can almost feel Tina’s resolve to not interfere wavering.

She brushes herself off and stands, tugging him aside and leaving Queenie to deal with Credence for a moment.

“I need you to get Mr. Graves,” she says to him, quiet, one eye still on her sister.

Newt opens his mouth to argue, because the last thing he wants to do right now is to be anywhere near the man who feels so much like his ink-marked, but doesn’t carry any ink.

Tina shakes him gently by the arm, forestalling his excuse. “No, listen. I can’t leave Queenie here by herself in case Grindelwald is indeed stalking Credence. But we do need discrete backup and Mr. Graves is someone I’d trust with my own life.” Her eyes turn pleading. “Please, Newt?”

He sighs, and knows he’ll do as he’s asked, unable to just stand by when he could be doing something to help. “Fine, I’m picking up my case along the way though,” he threatens lightly, hoping it’ll make Tina smile at least.

Her hand slides down his sleeve until she’s clutching at his hands, squeezing them tightly. “Thank you,” she says, heartfelt.

Newt manages a smile for her before he steps back, further into the alleyway to be completely out of view of any nosey muggles glancing in their direction and also away from Credence’s line of sight before he apparates away.

 

*

 

The grandiose foyer of the Congress building is as busy as ever, endless streams of wizards and witches bustling in and out despite the fact it was closing in on six in the evening.

Newt chooses to take the stairs going down instead of the elevator, footsteps clattering light and quick along tiled stairs. He makes a point of swinging by Tina’s desk to pick up his case before he makes his way over to Percival’s private office, hesitating outside the firmly closed door. He breathes in, staring at the gold hued nameplate set across the wood, and takes a second to try and calm his erratic heartbeat before giving it up as a lost cause.

The door swings open silently on its own volition and Newt startles a little.

“Are you going to stand there all afternoon?” Percival asks, not even looking up from where he’s scrawling his signature onto a scroll, strokes sharp and bold not unlike his personality. He’s seated behind the monstrosity that’s apparently his desk, backlit by the slowing setting sun. The fierce red-gold sun glints through his dark hair, burnishing it with hints of bronze.

Newt’s struck speechless for a moment. Objectively, he’s always known that Percival is handsome, with his high cheekbones and the sharp, aristocratic cut of his jaw. There’s the way he moves likes a predator, all understated grace and power, unlike Newt’s awkward half-stumble. But in this moment, with the light that spills across his skin and hair, his almost relaxed lounge against his chair, he’s literally breathtaking.

“Well, Mr. Scamander?” Percival’s cool voice cuts his wide-eyed gawk short. The curt, impersonal way he says Newt’s surname is like a bucket of cold water and Newt swallows hard, ignoring the sharp bite of hurt.

“I need your help,” Newt manages to say in something that’s not a mumble and then winces at the abruptness of his words.

It does make Percival look up at him though, eyebrows raised slightly. He leans back slightly in his chair, setting aside his quill and steepling his fingers. “Well, then,” he drawls. “How can I help you?”

“There’s a boy and he’s in trouble,” Newt starts, but doesn’t know how to continue on to describe Credence exactly, somewhat distracted by the snowy white cuffs of Percival’s shirt contrasting against the tanned skin of his hands. Besides, there’s something strange about Credence as well, something familiar and yet unfamiliar at the same time, tugging on Newt’s subconsciousness.

He hesitates before just settling on, “Tina says you she needs you there, as soon as you can.”

“Of course,” Percival sighs but rises from his seat nevertheless, sliding into his coat and summoning his wand. He rounds the desk with a couple of smooth strides until he’s standing right next to Newt, pulling on his leather gloves.

He holds out his arm and looks at Newt, who takes it after a blank second of puzzled staring, before it suddenly occurs to him that they actually need to be in contact so they can apparate together. He can almost feel his thunderbird’s wings flutter against his pulse point and his fingers tighten for an instant against Percival’s sleeve. Newt’s certain that Percival says something to him but the loud rush of wind in his ears as they apparate drowns it out.

His shoes crunch on gravel again as he reappears in the same spot that he left from. He points over to where Tina and Queenie still are, sitting and kneeling respectively next to Credence.
“Tina will explain much better,” Newt tells him, turning back just enough to catch the contemplative look that crosses Percival’s expression.

“Is there something wrong?”

Percival frowns, gaze moving from Newt to Tina and co, as they make their way over to them. “I thought -” he cuts himself off before he can finish the thought. “Nevermind.”

Instead, his eyes focus on Credence and his brows draw down even further, beckoning Tina over when she looks up and spots them approaching.

“Isn’t this the boy from before?” he asks her, no nonsense and straight to the point. “The no-maj child you almost got written up for because you interfered with his mother?” Percival’s tone might make his question more of a demand, but Newt doesn’t fail to notice how he’s keeping his voice low, pitched down enough to not sound threatening at all.

“Mr. Graves, I can explain -”

Percival waves off her explanation brusquely, dark eyes fixed on Credence. “You never bothered to mention that he was born to magical parents.”

Tina blinks, completely caught off guard. “I’m sorry. He’s what?”

“You didn’t know.” Percival closes his eyes, reaching out a hand in Credence’s general direction. “There’s the faintest trace of magical potential that hovers around him, but if he’s been able to blend in with no-maj’s his entire life without trouble, then he’s not likely to have any actual magical talent.”

“A squib.”

“Indeed.” He drops his hand and looks at Tina expectantly. “There’s something else though, isn’t there? Otherwise you wouldn’t have called me out here.”

Haltingly, Tina explains everything she knows - from Credence’s silent appeal for help, to Queenie’s discovery of a memory of Grindelwald approaching Credence.

“What does he want with a squib child?” Percival muses, rubbing at his chin thoughtfully. “I’m not doubting you or your sister, but I can’t think of why . That bastard never does anything without reason.”

As they’re talking, arguing about Grindelwald's potential motives when something occurs to Newt, his mind finally joining the dots as his eyes widen. He thinks about the sealed section of his case, the frozen tundra with nothing but ice and snow and the remnants of a young girl’s pain and anguish. It’s the echo of that particular feeling that emanates from Credence and tickles at Newt’s subconsciousness.

He steps forward, focusing both Tina and Percival’s attentions onto him.

“I might have an idea,” he tells them both and brandishes his case. “I think you both should take a trip with me.”

 

*

 

A week or two later after the incident with Credence and the subsequent reveal that he was burdened with the powers of an Obscurial, Newt is finally back at MACUSA again, making his way towards Tina’s office. He’s done his best to stay out of the way in the ensuing flurry of activity after Grindelwald was revealed to have most likely made his way to America. All aurors, inclusive of Tina, and of course Percival, have been basically run ragged in recent weeks, working overtime on trying to pin down a location on him.

Newt himself has used most of the last few weeks of time with Credence, Jacob usually around as well more often than not, since Queenie has been tasked with something top secret by President Picquery. They’ve been trying to lure the boy out from his shell and Newt has been teaching him the very basics to harness his wild magic. Between Jacob’s treats and Newt’s creatures, and the slowly loosening fear across Credence’s shoulders, he thinks they’re doing an acceptable job.

On paper, Queenie’s extended absences are due to merely helping with processing extra paperwork in one of the classified areas of Congress. Personally though, Newt suspects that she’s spending a lot of time actually down in less law-abiding sections of the city, sourcing their raw intelligence, a suspicion that Tina won’t confirm or deny. But whatever his doubts, he makes sure to make no mention of it to her soulmate who he knows would just endlessly worry.  

Tonight, however, when he peers down the familiar hallway that leads to the Department of Magical Security, it seems like the hour is late enough that even the most hardworking of staff have left for the night. If he had been stopped and asked, Newt had prepared a rough explanation telling them that he’s here for Tina, as he needs her help on some small, trifling matter.  It’s all an elaborate excuse though, he knows, as his eyes slide to the closed office door further back, because his intentions in the end are all indeed just selfish.

“I’m not sure if you’re aware that office hours are over,” someone says, voice very familiar, from just behind him.

Newt spins around, startled, barely managing to catch himself from tripping over his own feet. Percival stands behind him, hands tucked into his trouser pockets, shoulders loose. The man moves like a cat, he thinks. Newt didn’t even heard a single approaching footstep to announce his presence.

“I’m looking for Tina,” Newt tells him, just as he had practiced in the mirror all week, and Percival looks less than impressed at this, arms coming up to cross against his chest.

“I would tell you that this building is here for more important purposes other than to house your little rendezvous with Miss Goldstein, but I figure you’ll just ignore me.”

Newt knows that he really should be paying attention to Percival’s words, especially one that sounds like an obvious reprimand, but the other man is standing there - sans both jacket and tie, top button undone casual as you please, and he just looks so approachable in that one moment that Newt almost forgets himself and reaches out for him, all and any consequences be damned.

Percival sighs. “You’re not even listening to me right now, are you?” And it must be Newt’s imagination, as he snaps back to attention, moment broken, but those words sound almost fond.

“Since she’s not here, I’ll see myself out,” Newt says, picking up his case and making towards the stairs back up to the foyer.

Percival stops him with a look. “Since you’re here already, you might as well come along.” He beckons Newt to follow, moving towards his office through the maze of desks without looking back once, as if confident in the knowledge that Newt would follow without hesitation.

Newt wonders briefly if he’s about to be told to leave, the office, MACUSA, America, for once and for all and the mere thought is terrifying enough that he feels a little unwell, steps stumbling. Logically, he knows that the best thing to really do right now is to actually leave, to go and never come back until his heart mends a little. But, at the same time, there’s also a tiny part of him (the Hufflepuff part maybe) that wants to stay, even if it’s just as nothing more than an acquaintance to Percival, another familiar face in the crowd. He thinks he could, with enough time, learn to be content just by being allowed to remain on the outskirts of his life.

Once they’re in his office though, Percival doesn’t say anything immediately, nor does he close the door after Newt comes through. Instead, he heads straight towards to a smaller table set near his floor-to-ceiling bookshelves.

A wave of his hand sets two of the glasses on top of it upright. Another motion has the decanter next to them pouring, the rich aroma of coffee filling the air. Percival looks at him briefly, contemplative, before a crook of a finger has two spoonfuls of sugar tip themselves into a steaming mug, along with a generous dash of milk. The other he leaves sugarless, mixing in just a drop of milk.

“You look like you’re in desperate need of a drink,” Percival says, gesturing for him to pick up the first mug without looking him directly in the eye.

Newt takes the sweetened coffee with a murmur of thanks, shuffling forward just enough to curl both of his hands around the warm mug before he steps back again, well out of reach of temptation. He closes his eyes, taking a moment to savour the earthy scent from the cup before he actually takes a sip. When the taste of the coffee hits his tongue, he can’t help but glance up in surprise.

As an Englishman, Newt obviously prefers tea, but if he ever had a preference for coffee, then this cup would be it - it’s just sweet enough to take the edge off from the coffee’s natural bitterness, with just the right amount of milk smoothing the rich taste into something that’s actually quite delicious.

Percival watches him for a moment, and Newt fancies that he can see the barest curve of a smile on the corner of his lips before he raises his own coffee up. It’s gone in the next moment, when he sets the cup back down onto the small table with a gentle clink of glass against wood.

Pickett, who has chosen to ride in Newt’s jacket pocket today, pokes his head out and chirps happily, probably having smelt the scent of something delicious in the air. He jumps out of where he’s safe in a jacket pocket, scampering over Newt’s arm all the way across to inspect the contents of the cup instead.

“Pickett, no,” Newt says, scrambling to try and put down his drink without spilling it and keep Pickett from taking an unadvised dip in coffee at the same time and not quite succeeding at either.

As disaster looms imminent - he’s perhaps five seconds from dropping either his cup or Pickett or both - soft footsteps approach and in the next moment, Percival’s lifting Pickett gently from Newt’s sleeve, holding him in his open palm, giving Newt and opportunity to finally set his cup down.

“I would say I’m surprised, but I would be lying,” Percival says and this time Newt isn’t imagining it, there’s definitely a glimmer of humour in those dark eyes as he studies the bowtruckle balanced in his hand.

Pickett, in turn, also seems to be looking at Percival with great interest. He chirps again, hopping up and over his palm, following Percival’s shirtsleeve up all the way to the shoulder, then sliding down little by little until he’s tucked securely in the chest pocket of his shirt.

Newt clutches his mug to his face and just watches them discreetly for a moment.

Percival leans his hip back against his desk with Pickett and just seems content to wait calmly for Newt to finish his cup, as if standing around with a bowtruckle in his pocket is an everyday occurrence. Not wanting him to wait needlessly, Newt downs the rest of the hot liquid in a couple of unadvised quick gulps that he regrets as soon as he feels the burning slide down his throat.

He licks at his lips and runs his thumb across his lower lip, making sure he hasn’t made a mess. All the while, Percival stands just out of reach, watching Newt intently, something subtle flaring hot in his dark eyes for a brief instant before it slides back into his customary mask of disinterest.

Pickett chirps loudly, waving tiny little twig arms, from where he is, obviously feeling left out at not being the center of attention anymore.

Percival’s eyes flicker down to him. “You’re just as strange as your owner is,” he murmurs, and Newt doesn’t think Percival meant for it to be loud enough for him to overhear, especially with that strangely soft note in his voice.

Pickett uses this as an excuse to blow a loud raspberry, launching himself up onto Percival’s shoulder to give him a thorough piece of his mind, chittering shrilly. Newt just wants to bury his face in his hands. His creatures are uncontrollable, he knows this better than anyone, but he really wishes that they’ll just be a little more well behaved in front of someone he lo- someone like Percival.

Oblivious to Newt’s thoughts, Percival raises his brows, looking over at him. “What do you even teach them inside that case of yours? Not manners that’s for sure.”

“Pickett’s still young,” Newt defends on autopilot, reaching out a hand for Pickett to jump back onto, which the bowtruckle does, still chattering away. “He’ll grow into a mature, gracious bowtruckle.”

He tilts his head at his small friend. “Won’t you, Pickett?”

Pickett decides that, obviously, this is now the perfect time to embarrass Newt even more, sticking out his little tongue and turns his back on Newt in a show of disobedience.

Newt doesn’t know what his exact expression looks like, but he suspects that it’s not the most flattering of looks - completely dumbfounded maybe, or perhaps utterly nonplussed. Whatever it is though, it’s enough to make Percival look away.

At first, Newt thinks that he’s being polite and pretending that he wasn’t hearing or seeing anything, but when Percival glances over, there’s the beginnings of a smile on the upturned corners of his mouth.

The smile, as small as it is, is still the first one that Newt’s seen, the first that he’s been the direct cause of. The slow curve of his lips also softens Percival’s eyes, and there are tiny crinkles that form at the corners. Newt’s knees feel a little weak and this - the hum of something close to contentment hovering between them in addition to that devastating smile is just another stark reminder of everything that he cannot have. He feels utterly shattered all of a sudden.

“I need to go,” Newt says, abrupt, stuttering out the first excuse that comes to mind and flees, without giving Percival the opportunity to stop him and knowing he’ll most likely regret it come next morning. He does feel Percival’s eyes on him though, gaze almost burning against the back of his neck, as he half-stumbles out, clutching his case tightly to his chest, Pickett clinging to his collar, silent now.

As soon as he is able to, which is close to four flights of stairs and numerous anonymous corridors later, Newt’s hands finally steadies enough to allow him to apparate. He does so directly into the tiny room he currently calls home. He drops his case to the floor, gently as to not disturb his creatures, before he finally allows himself to collapse down into a barely seated position on his bed, head bowed, exhausted even.

Pickett pops his head up from where he’s remained beneath Newt’s collar, chirps sounding almost scolding. Newt rolls up his sleeve and looks at his thunderbird, the ink still black as night, rearing up on its hind legs, wings flared to full wingspan. Its beak is open, and he somehow knows if it had a voice, it would be shrieking its displeasure as well.

He thinks about leaving again, of just picking up his case and walking away. He could do it - catch the first ship out tomorrow morning, head downwards and see South America in person, with its long history of wizardkind walking the lands and doubtlessly unique collection of magical creatures. But he knows he can’t bring himself to, not with the echo of Percival’s smile still so fresh in his mind.

“Merlin,” Newt says, hands covering his face. “I’m a complete mess.”

 

*

 

tbc

Chapter Text

penultimus

 

part eight: percival

 

*

 

From the moment Percival sets eyes on him, some instinctive part of him knows that he’s the one . It isn’t how he looks, or it shouldn’t be anyway, with the way he has to be physically manhandled into the room by Tina.

Percival remembers watching him shuffle reluctantly into the center of the chamber, still dusty from travelling, with a large mud stain on the sleeve of his coat and the white shirt beneath his vest horrendously crinkled from possibly being slept in for multiple days. His hair is a riotous mess of bright curls, far beyond windswept and there are dark smudges beneath his eyes from long nights of little or no real rest. But despite, or maybe in spite of this, Percival can’t help the way he’s drawn to him, stepping forward before he’s even aware of what he’s doing.

“Newton Scamander, at your service.” His voice is a clear tenor, and coupled with the unfamiliar lilt of his English accent it would have make his speech rather charming except for the way he almost always speaks a tick too fast, words tripping over each other in their haste.

There’s a heartbeat of silence. “But I prefer Newt.”

“Newt,” Percival echoes softly, testing the weight of the word against his tongue. It falls from his lips like the first drops of summer rain, cool and refreshing - hinting at the change to come.

He’s even paler under the cold light of the interrogation room, and the freckles spread across his cheeks seem darker by comparison. There’s a wary sort of hesitance about him, unable to sit still, fidgeting in his seat, his fingers tapping odd beats against the table as he answers their questions.

“I’m only visiting,” he says, gaze lifting for the briefest of moments to meet Percival’s own before they’re glancing away again, dark lashes fanning across his cheeks. Percival notes, distractedly, that Newt’s eyes are a smokey blue-grey in the artificial light, painfully guileless in the way of someone who always believes in the best of people.

Newt may be an idealist, Percival realises with slowly dawning horror as the night wears on, but he’s also terrifyingly stubborn when it comes to the things that matter, such as his luggage potentially full of magical creatures.

“There’s something stalking the people in this city, harming innocent civilians. We need any information you can provide,” Tina says, words half-plea, half-demand. Percival has almost lost count of how many times she’s had to rephrase this questions for Newt. Literally hours have passed since they sat down, but Newt has so far stubbornly denied any wrongdoing, by him or whatever else is lurking in his case.

Percival, who has been so far sitting back in his chair and letting Tina control the interview, finally steps in. It wouldn’t do to have one of his best aurors frustrated to the point of tears needlessly.

“Mr. Scamander,” he says, voice low and intent. He sits forward, hands on top of the table, and just waits patiently for Newt to look up, holding that wide-eyed gaze once he does. “Can you promise me that you are not the one responsible for whatever has been terrorising my city?”

To his surprise, Newt doesn’t even try to break eye contact, holding it unwaveringly.

“Mr. Graves,” he replies, just as solemn as if he has not just spent almost three hours studiously avoiding speaking about what exactly were the contents of his case - although Percival has his suspicions after the quiet discussion with Tina prior to stepping into this room. “I promise you that I am not the one you’re looking for.”

“There’s nothing dangerous about my case, I swear,” Newt adds, and he’s seemingly more animated just speaking about the case that most likely houses magical creatures that are breaking at least six different magical laws in the state of New York alone just by existing, than he was previously when the topic was on himself.

Percival looks over at Tina and shakes his head slightly, just enough for her to desist from any further questions she may have. They all deserve a break, especially Newt, who he suspects most likely has not had a chance for any sort of square meal or minute of rest since he had set foot on American soil.

“I think we’re done here,” he says, standing and summoning his coat from where it hung on a conveniently configured coatrack. “Miss Goldstein, a moment of your time outside, please.”

His hand is on the handle of the door when Newt’s quiet voice calls out his name. “Mr. Graves.”

He turns. Newt isn’t quite looking him in the eye anymore, seemingly having had enough direct eye contact for the night. But there’s a strange sort of determination that glitters in his eyes, even if it’s directed somewhere past Percival’s left ear. “Thank you,” he says and obviously doesn’t feel the need to explain exactly why he’s thanking Percival.

For his part, Percival merely lifts an eyebrow. “No need, Mr. Scamander. I’ll be seeing you again very soon, I’m sure.” And he definitely plans on making good on that claim.

He sweeps out of the room, Tina on his heels. The door to the room automatically closes as soon as they step outside.

“Make sure you arrange somewhere for him to stay tonight,” he instructs her as he pulls on his coat, tugging the collar and cuffs straight.

“Yes, sir,” she says, even as her eyes show her puzzlement.

“If he’s got as much experience in magical creatures as you suspect, then we may need his help. Besides, I’ll need you to keep an eye on him while he rounds up whatever else escaped from his case.” Percival huffs a little at the guilty look on her face, obviously having been caught out keeping that particular tidbit of information from him.

“Did you think I wouldn’t know?”

Tina twists her fingers together, fretting. “He promised that they were all harmless, and -” she trails off, looking down at her sensible shoes.

Percival glances back through the spelled window, back at Newt whose shoulders are slumped low, elbows on the table, hands together and head resting against them.

“Harmless they might be,” he murmurs and he’s not quite talking about Newt’s escaped critters anymore. “But I have a feeling that they can cause enough commotion if you let them run amok.”

It’s only later that night, reading the report Tina had obviously hastily put together about the recapture of an erumpent from Central Park Zoo, along with the subsequent damage report, that Percival realises just how right his words were. The very real threat that Newt poses to his lawful, orderly lifestyle is slowly starting to sink in.

He sits, slouched down in a way he rarely allows himself to be at work or in the public eye, jacket discarded along with his coat to the back of his chair. His legs are crossed at the ankle, stretched out beneath his desk, and he rolled up the sleeves of his shirt a couple of hours back. He has his long fingers curled around a snifter of the finest aged firewhiskey he could get his hands on, report on the table in front of him.

“He’s definitely going to be trouble,” Percival tells his inkmark, even as the unicorn on his wrist stamps its hooves, tossing its proud head, as if in agreement.  

 

*

 

The ink across his wrist feels almost electric when he stands near Newt, as if yearning to be just a step or two closer. Newt seems completely oblivious to it though, if he is truly actually marked for Percival. He’s still as uncomfortable as he was from the start around him, shuffling his feet and looking slightly to the side of Percival’s ear when he cannot avoid speaking with him.

In contrast, the moment Newt stands near Tina, or her sister Queenie and her no-maj soulmate, his entire person relaxes - shoulders loosening and donning that small, semi-permanent smile like a secret again. Every time this happens, there’s the taste of something sour sliding across his tongue and the back of his throat when he swallows. There’s even been a couple of times he’s physically had to leave the room lest he do something completely unlike his normally calm and collected self.

Percival knows that Newt is the one marked for him, he feels it with every beat of his pulse against his ink. But he also knows that, as Seraphina told him a long time ago, an inkmark can only define you when you choose to let it. If Newt’s choice is to live a life separate from what his inkmark intended, then Percival will respect that and not interfere. Newt is his own person after all, and they were both free to make their own choices, even if they end up diverging.

Or so he keeps telling himself, each and every time that he sees Newt - which is an awful lot since he seems to insist on being glued right to Tina’s side, the case that always starts a slow ticking migraine in Percival’s temple whenever he catches sight of it is never far from his hand.

Whenever Newt sees him though, he’ll duck his head away from Percival’s gaze but always greets him with a quiet, “Mr. Graves.”

He’s lost count of the times he’s imagined Newt using just his first name, about how sweet the lilt of his accent would sound curled over the vowels, falling over the consonants and rolling from his curved lips.

It’s always a struggle for Percival to nod politely back, to remain calm and collected, with nothing more to offer than the most impersonal of greetings in turn. “Mr. Scamander.”

He only allows himself this, the briefest brush past him as they pass and watching from the corner of his eye as Newt turns to face Tina, smile at the ready, even as Percival, in reality, wants so much more .

 

*

 

He doesn’t mention it ever, but for Percival, this is not the first time his path has crossed with a Scamander.

They’re unwilling penpals of a sorts in the start, him and Theseus - stuck together for an interschool cooperation project between Ilvermony and Hogwarts back towards the end of both their sixth years. In the start, Percival manages the one three inch long letter per month minimum but no more, keeping the topics fixed on school and impersonal topics such as the weather. Theseus does the same, one letter like clockwork every month on the sixteenth, always nothing more than a short greeting, a couple of sentences describing the weather and classes ( much too hot to sit on top of the Astronomy tower for half the night sketching constellations or the Great Lake has frozen over again this winter, wonder if we could do some ice skating without falling in this time ) and nothing else of real content, which is the way Percival prefers it.

Nothing really changes though, as it turns to autumn and the project officially finishes, dubbed a great success. However, Percival still finds himself scribbling a short note once a month, and Theseus still sends his replies, neither finding it strange that out of all the duos paired between Hogwarts and Ilvermony, they are the only two still in contact. They run out of weather and school topics fairly rapidly over the long summer break and Theseus is the first to start bringing more personal topics into their short written conversations. Soon, their monthly letters become twice a month, then weekly.

Do you ever feel like you’re the only one who understands how the world works sometimes , Theseus writes, somewhat out of the blue, halfway through October in their seventh year.

All the time , Percival replies that night, there’s a sort of tension in the air lately, as if they’re holding their breath waiting to see what their futures hold - both young and not a little bit reckless, it makes me wonder if I’m seeing too much, or if everyone else just doesn’t see enough .

They stay in touch even after Percival graduates and joins MACUSA, even as Theseus heads out into the Great War on the magical front, answering the call of duty without a backwards glance or a word of regret. Percival starts as the head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement even as Theseus limps home, battered and bruised and ever so world weary.

It’s only after he meets Newt that Percival really makes an effort to recall these things and he reflects, ruefully, that blood does indeed shine through even if Theseus and Newt are polar opposites at first glance.

There’s outgoing, charming Theseus with his cock-sure attitude and a slightly jaded outlook on the world after everything he’s been through. Then there’s quiet, soft-spoken Newt with his wide-eyed wonder at the world and a soft, bleeding heart for any creature great or small.

But Percival, after dealing with both, realises that they are more similar than anyone gives them credit for. Both Scamander brothers are fierce and loyal where it counts (their family, friends, loved ones), with a wildfire of passion that burns in their hearts and souls.

 

*

 

Seraphina is honed as sharp as a blade. It’s to no surprise to Percival at all that he returns to his office to find her perched in the chair behind his desk. It’s quite late in the evening, even for her, and he’s only returning to write up his report after seeing to it that Tina has the boy, Credence they had said his name was, safely under her wing. The boy could do with some mothering, and Tina could do with a distraction that isn’t Newt for once.

“Madam President,” he bows, movements quite deliberately exaggerated, voice just a shade below sarcastic. “To what do I owe this visit?”

Seraphina rolls her eyes, undaunted, slim fingers idly flipping through the stack of files on his folder. “It’s about Mr. Scamander, actually,” she drawls.

“What about him?” Percival’s not sure if his studied casualness passes Seraphina’s laser sharp sight - he doubts it, but a man has to try - and stops at his window, turning his back to the door, body slightly angled towards her even if he’s staring out into the snowy night. He’s exhausted, bone weary, with the phantom feel of Newt’s warmth still lingering against his side from the two times they apparated together.

She’s truly relentless when she’s on the case though, even when the case is something Percival would very much appreciate her not to be anywhere near.

“Am I to understand that your ink is for him?” It’s not a question per se, despite the phrasing. They both know that she knows , so it’s left up to Percival to see if he’ll up and admit it or not.

“It doesn’t change anything,” Percival tells her shortly, hands shoved deep within his pockets, gaze fixed on something further into the distance. “There might’ve been a possibility once. But it didn’t turn out right. The end.”

She touches his shoulder gently, standing up in a flare of silk and cashmere, and in this moment she is nothing more than a concerned friend, as they always were first before he became better known as her right hand man.

“Percival,” she says, and it’s fond and a little sad at the same time. “Understand this - you don’t have to be alone. Not everyone’s story has to end in a tragedy; not everyone’s story has to have an end.”

 

*

 

After that one evening in his office, where Newt had scrambled away from him with a hastily made up excuse, Percival had considered just leaving the man alone. He obviously didn’t want or need Percival’s stilted but genuine offer of friendship, and hadn’t that been a stab in the metaphorical chest at the time.

However, it’s Newt who also approaches him again, eyes down, mumbling apologies for his behaviour barely even a week later.

“I want to help,” he tells Percival then, voice quiet but earnest, fingers curling around his wrist in a gesture that seems to be a habit whenever his case isn’t at hand.

And Percival, he hasn’t quite learnt how to say no to that particular combination of Newt’s pleading eyes and sad disappointment writ so clearly across his expressive features and despite his best intentions, he can’t seem to stay away from Newt’s presence.

This combination results in him sending Newt a quick magical memo to request his help in checking out a few particularly promising tips from Queenie’s information network. Percival doesn’t expect it to be too strenuous or dangerous, mere footwork to do some basic scouting, but it’s far enough out from the crowded hustle and bustle of New York and he figures Newt might enjoy the change in scenery instead of being cooped up in that tiny little bedsit he’s renting or lurking around Tina’s desk at MACUSA.

Newt’s answer at the time was a quiet sort of agreement, accompanied by a small smile. He had almost looked bashful at the invitation which Percival put down to him still being embarrassed about the previous incident.

On the day, however, at the agreed time, Percival is left standing by himself, glancing down at his pocket watch for the fifth time in just as many minutes. He’s considering apparating back to MACUSA to find Tina and just delegate this back down to her instead of standing here waiting pointlessly for someone who can’t seem to keep the time very well at all. Newt probably wouldn’t stand her up, he thinks somewhat bitterly as a soft snow begins to fall around him.

“I’m so sorry.” As if the thought summoned the man, Percival turns to find that Newt’s finally managed to apparate himself into the alley, not only half an hour late, but looking extremely damp and somehow sans his overcoat despite the dreary weather.

“What on earth were you up to?” Percival asks, unable to keep the gruff exasperation from his tone. Ever since Newt, it feels like a permanent addition to his list of most felt emotions, along with sheer exhaustion and utter despair.

“C-cleaning,” Newt tells him and he almost sounds cheerful despite the fact his teeth are basically chattering every time he opens his mouth. “I fell into one of the p-ponds, the result of a harmless prank, really.”

“And you didn’t think a quick drying charm would help?”

Newt mumbles something under his breath.

Percival raises his eyebrows, pulling out the disapproving look that had apparently made lesser men quake in their shoes according to Seraphina. “I didn’t quite catch that.”

“They don’t really work too well for me,” Newt repeats, a fraction louder. Percival can see the tint of embarrassed red on the very tips of Newt’s ears and finds it reluctantly endearing. Newt glances up, from beneath his slightly too-long fringe, for just a moment as if to gauge Percival’s expression. “Even last time, Tina had to help.”

Percival doesn’t expect the sharp tug of jealousy, curling tight inside his throat as he silently incants the spell, watching with satisfaction as the steam rises steadily from Newt’s jacket and trousers, leaving them perfectly dry.

“Oh,” Newt says, rubbing the now dry material of a sleeve between his fingers, blue eyes wide and seemingly surprised by the gesture from him. “Thank you.”

Percival makes a noncommittal sound to cover his discomfort, turning slightly aside. They stand there, barely a couple of feet apart, and descend into silence. He keeps Newt in his peripheral vision though, frowning at the way his shivers still don’t abate despite his now dry clothes, possibly due to the temperature being close to freezing and the glaring lack of a warm coat.

“Y-you said you needed me,” Newt offers after a moment, when the silence apparently goes a little too long even for his comfort. “To help with the search.” His arms come up to wrap around himself in a poor attempt to retain some heat.

Percival sighs, a barely audible huff of breath, and loosens the scarf from around his own neck as Newt watches him bemusedly. His jacket is next, a quick couple of tugs at the shoulder and wrist later, he’s holding both draped over one arm.

“Hold still,” Percival warns him gruffly before he steps forward, draping the jacket over Newt’s thin shoulders, tucking the scarf loosely around the pale expanse of his neck. He’s careful to keep his fingers from brushing bare skin, just in case, ignoring the half-hearted protest that Newt puts up.

Everyone deserves to choose their own chance at happiness, he thinks as he smoothes the coat over Newt’s thin shoulders and straightens the lapels, letting his fingers linger for just one moment against the rough scratch of wool. And if Newt’s choice lies with Tina, then he isn’t going to selfishly take that away from them, no matter what direction his own, messed up, jumble of feelings points towards.

He drops his hands to his sides, feeling oddly empty and turns on his heel without a single glance back. “Come then. We still have work to do, Mr. Scamander.”

 

*

 

Of course nothing in Percival’s life can go right at all - their inconsequential lead puts them directly into the territory of an entire faction of Grindelwald’s fanatics. With only Newt by his side, Percival has no choice but to get them out, immediately.

After a brief tussle with the a couple of the more tenacious ones, they finally manage to apparate, out into an abandoned area of the docks that Percival deems safe enough for now. He sends a quick note of summons for his aurors, telling them to gear up and head towards the coordinates that he and Newt apparated from. He hopes that they’re still in time to capture a few before they most likely disband.

Only once he’s certain that they’re alone, having shaken off Grindelwald’s followers, Percival allows himself to check on the wound, received in the first few minutes of the very brief clash - a moment of distraction that could’ve been deadly.

He hisses as he undoes the cufflink holding his shirt cuffs in place, peeling back the sleeve to inspect the cut. It’s wet with blood and possibly making the entire shirt beyond salvage. It’s a long but thankfully shallow slice, starting near his elbow and curling around the side of his arm towards his wrist, obviously a wild slice that got lucky. It’s still sluggishly oozing blood but seems to be clean, no curses or poisoned blade this time.

Newt hovers around him, almost too close. He seems distressed, hands fluttering about like he wants to reach out and help. “I can take care of myself,” he says, voice uncharacteristically terse. “I didn’t need you to do that.”

Percival glances up briefly, brows furrowed in concentration as he ghosts his fingers over the wound, silently encouraging the blood to clot and skin to heal. It’s a handy piece of spellwork he picked up, extremely useful for emergency patch ups when there’s no time to go to medical.

“You’re not an auror,” Percival replies simply, as if there’s any alternate universe where he doesn’t step in front of that knife to protect him, auror or not.

He thinks about asking Newt to apparate himself back to MACUSA offices so that he can head back to their previous location to join in the investigation. Somehow, from what he knows of Newt, he doubts that the other man will agree.

As if hearing Percival's thoughts, Newt has his wand out now, seemingly determined to try and help in some way. He leans towards Percival’s arm to try and peer at the damage. “At least let me -” He stutters to a stop mid-sentence, lips apart, making a tiny ‘o’ shape in surprise.

“You’re ink-marked,” he blurts out, staring at where Percival’s sleeve is rolled up to the forearm, more than enough to show off his inked wrist. One of Newt’s hands reaches out, close enough to be just a hairsbreadth away from touching skin.

“Don’t,” Percival bites out, jerking his sleeve down and shoving his hand firmly into his pocket.

Newt has the gall to look injured at the sharp tone, seemingly shrinking back, tucking his wand back into his pocket. His eyes flick down and away from Percival, his right hand coming up to wrap tightly around his left wrist, and Percival finally recognises it for what it is, vulnerability.

“I’m sorry,” Newt says quietly and there’s something terribly despondent about him all of a sudden. He seems to hunch into himself a little as he continues. “I know that I’m not what you expected, that I don’t measure up to your standards maybe. But I thought that you might be able to give me a chance to at least try .”

There's a heartbeat of silence, then two, where Newt’s words seemingly echo through the air.

Newt ducks his head almost immediately though, seeming to regret the words as soon as they were out of his mouth. “I'm sorry. I didn't mean to -”

“You knew?” Percival cuts him off, staring at where Newt stands frozen in place, looking more and more uncomfortable by the second.

His incredulity quickly morphs into anger though. “You knew all this time and yet you can still stand here and tell me that you think I’m the one not willing to give this a chance?” Percival says, voice tight.

He moves closer, and with each deliberate step forward he takes, he forces Newt to shuffle one step back, until his back is pressed firmly against the wall.

Newt glances up, and this close, the blue of his wide eyes are a startling contrast against the reddish-gold tint of his hair. Percival’s fingers twitch with the urge to reach out and touch, to skim his thumb across the freckled expanse of Newt’s cheeks, and to bury his fingers in that fiery hair. He’s always admired the lean lines of Newt’s body, humming with a sort of wild wariness, weight balanced on his toes - almost as if he’s always ready to up and flee at any moment. But this moment, this was all up to Newt, he could not - would not - take this choice away from him.

It doesn’t mean that Percival can’t try to stack the deck in his favour though. He leans down close, one hand braced against the wall firmly to keep Newt in place, and tilts his head forward until his lips are right next to Newt’s ear.

“I’ve known from the moment when you walked through those doors that you were mine ,” he says, voice dropping until the last word is barely a whisper in the air. He holds out his left hand between them, palm up, the ink across his wrist bared for the entire world to see, and just waits .

Newt makes a soft, choked sound, and then finally, finally he’s reaching across and sliding his hand into Percival’s.

 

*


tbc  

Chapter Text

finis

 

part nine: newt

 

There’s the sharp buzz of something almost electric that trembles between them at the first touch of skin on skin.

“Oh,” Newt says, voice unsteady as he watches the ink across his wrist flicker from black to a warm golden-brown with every downstroke of his thunderbird’s wings. Percival’s hand feels smooth but calloused against his as he clasps Newt’s hand in his own, tight.

“Newt,” Percival says, and even his voice is a little hoarse in this moment. He’s looking at Newt like he’s never quite seen him before, dark eyes more intense than usual. “Can I kiss you?” he asks, gaze dropping low to Newt’s lips.

There’s a thrum of heat that curls through him at the look that Percival levels at him, even as he feels his cheeks burn and he just barely reigns in the urge to cover his face with his hands. Percival tugs at him, fingers ever so gentle around his wrist, and leans in close until they are almost nose to nose, foreheads touching. This close, Newt can see that Percival’s eyes aren’t just a plain brown like he previously thought - his iris is shot through with flecks of green and grey, and he can’t bring himself to look away.

“Please,” Percival murmurs, thumb brushing softly against the pulse of Newt’s thunderbird and Newt trembles a little beneath his fingers, unable to help the shiver of want that crawls up his spine and makes a flush warmth spread across his face and ears.

“I -”

Before Newt can even gather himself enough to reply, their moment is suddenly rudely interrupted by the unmistakable sound of three apparations, two louder cracks and one far more muted pop echoing off the crumbling brick walls somewhere further down.

“Newt? Mr. Graves?” Tina’s voice sounds in the still air, far away enough to be tinny in quality and Percival sighs softly, fingers tightening against Newt’s wrist briefly before he lets go entirely.

“Later,” he promises, eyes still soft and warm as he watches Newt. He reaches out a hand and lets his fingers sweep, feather light, over Newt’s cheek, thumb stroking down to the very corner of his mouth. “We’ll finish this later.”

Newt can only nod meekly, not trusting his voice at this moment, leaning into the caress for one long moment before Percival drops his hand entirely, straightening his back and expression smoothing down into the cool, unflappable mask he wears for work.

“Down here,” he calls calmly, voice not raised at all.

They seem to hear him fine though. Footsteps, three sets, approach at a rapid pace, and it isn’t long before Tina’s familiar form appears from behind a bunch of dusty crates, two more slightly older ladies, obviously fellow aurors, at her side. All three of them have their wands out, clearly prepared for the worst. The two aurors relax their stance when they set their eyes on Percival, but keep their wands lowered but at the ready still. Tina, though, tucks her wand away entirely, steps quickening as she spots them.

“Are you both okay?” she asks, a touch of anxiety in her voice, forehead crinkling in worry. Newt glances down at himself and notices that he still has Percival’s coat around his shoulder, scarf wound around his neck. He nods, looking down and away from her searching gaze.

Percival’s already stepped away from him, the sleeves of his shirt cuffs falling down on their own volition and clasping together once again with small, unnoticeable gesture of his hand. Newt misses his warm presence almost immediately.

The two aurors - Stevenson and Pryce, if Newt is recalling correctly - approach Percival after a curious glance at Newt, and start briefing him on what they’ve found, voices low but tone not very urgent. Tina hovers near him for a moment too, obviously noticing the blood on his sleeve, before Percival waves her off, a touch of irritation in his voice.

“I’m fine, Miss Goldstein,” he says shortly, shoving his hands into his trouser pockets, presumably to keep them out of sight. He glances at Newt, hesitates for just a second, lips twisting downwards for a moment before he nods briskly at him. “If you would please escort Mr. Scamander back to the office and have one of the juniors debrief him? I suspect he’s had quite enough excitement for the day.”

The gesture felt almost impersonal, Newt thinks faintly, and the use of his surname is almost like a splash of cold water against the feeling of warmth and intimacy that they had shared only moments before. Newt is left to just watch, from beneath lowered lashes, as Percival disapparates with Stevenson and Pryce without a second look back.

“They’ll be fine,” Tina says gently, taking his arm. Although Queenie was the Legilimens of the family, Tina was still empathic enough to obviously tell that he’s worried about something and is doing her best to comfort him. “Come on, let’s go as well.”

Newt lets her pull out her wand, still staring a little numbly at the spot that Percival had disapparated from.

“Newt?” Her voice is soft and concerned at whatever she’s reading from his face. “Are you okay?”

He glances up at her and tries for a smile. It sits a bit strangely on his face, but it reassures her enough that she smiles back at him, relieved.

“You have to tell me all that’s happened later,” she says, as they apparate directly into the familiar lobby of Congress.

Newt has to blink twice because the current crowd of people, many of them running to and fro beneath the threat level clock that was ringing a warning alarm like a foghorn every few seconds, was definitely unfamiliar to him. Newt had found that MACUSA staff always seemed to carry themselves with a sense of deportment obviously directly influenced by their president and senior directors such as Percival. Right now, however, he can see staff members rushing about, darting around each other, many carrying files or levitating boxes next to themselves. The cacophony of voices, loud footsteps combined with the blaring alarm made him want to apparate right back out immediately.

Tina has one hand firmly on his coat sleeve, Percival’s coat sleeve, which renders him unable to get away by himself, but there’s a hint of distraction surrounding her though, as she tugs him forward, eyes darting around the area, obviously trying to find someone in the chaos. It’s loud, hectic and to Newt’s relief, she doesn’t seem to notice when Newt doesn’t respond at all.

 

*

 

Jacob is the first one to find out.

Newt’s just rolled his sleeves up in preparation to feed Frank one night, Jacob keeping him company during his creatures’ dinner schedule as he has for the past few weeks, when Jacob makes a slight wheezing noise, hand darting out to rest on Newt’s forearm.

“Jacob?” Newt blinks at him, bemused, until he follows Jacob’s gaze to where his inkmark is exposed fully, the golden feathers of his thunderbird a perfect copy of Frank’s gorgeous colouring. “Oh.”

“When? Who? Are they treating you well?” Jacob asks, it would have been a demand from another person, but there’s nothing harsh or demanding about Jacob, a man who lives to laugh and beget joy from others. He seems genuinely happy for Newt, eyes wide in his round face.

It’s been days since he last saw Percival, before he had left with his auror team, leaving Newt without a backwards glance and an inkmark filled with colour.

To be fair, during this time Newt’s passed him at least thrice in the space between MACUSA’s lobby and Percival’s office, surrounded by at least two or three of his senior aurors at all times, often with a quick notes quill floating behind scribbling frantically on parchment. But even then, there’s been barely enough time for Newt to offer a smile, let alone a greeting before he’s gone again, rounding a corner or disappearing through a door.

Percival’s not avoiding him, or so Newt hopes. He keeps telling himself that there’s lots of work to be done, especially in the wake of Grindelwald’s apparent disappearance again. Queenie has her own bunch of informants out on the street now, trying to trace Grindelwald’s path through America, New York especially. Percival’s aurors are kept busy day and night combing through the potential spots, trying to find any sort of hint or clue that could lead them to the capture of the most wanted wizard in the world.

It doesn’t stop Newt from feeling like he’s been overlooked maybe, forgotten in the rush of Percival’s work. He knows that it’s selfish of him to want Percival’s attention, particularly at a time like this, but he feels the fledgling bond between them stretch with each day they go without speaking, without physical interaction - slowly tearing itself apart again, a constant pinprick of pain against his ink, against his chest.

“A little while back,” Newt says, keeping his voice light, not wanting to worry Jacob or Queenie by extension. He can’t help the tiny twist of his smile though, when he thinks of Percival walking away, of that gentle promise still yet to be fulfilled and he hopes desperately that he’s not wrong about this, about them.

“He’s everything to me,” Newt finishes softly, and he knows that Jacob will understand.

 

*

 

Percival doesn’t come to find him, at all.

Newt waits patiently, day after day, keeping himself out of the way during work hours, shadowing Tina when she’s in the office, which is more often than not.

“The thing is, I’m supposed to be heading one of the task forces out there,” she tells him with a frown late one night. Her sleeves are rucked up to her forearms and her short hair is sticking out a bit from her head in a manner that suggests she’s been running her fingers through it all night.

He sits quietly at the empty desk next to her, its owner left at least three hours ago, case by his side, close to hand as usual. The hovering clock on the far side of the office tells him that it’s past midnight already, they’re both exhausted, but neither of them are quite done with the day yet.

Tina sighs, stretching out her arms before her and arching her back, wincing when her spine crackles. She leans her elbows onto the stack of files before her on the table with a roll of her eyes. “Mr. Graves though, he thinks I’m best suited to sorting through Queenie’s information instead, since her shorthand is apparently a mystery to everyone else.”

Her lips pull wryly up into a smile. “I don’t mind it, really, since I’m out during the day with the search teams utilising the information that we find here, but -” she pauses here to eye Newt carefully.

“But, I think,” she continues softly. “He wants me around the office to keep you company.”

She’s watching him, eyes soft. He thinks that maybe she knows - knows that Newt’s ink belongs to Percival, knows the ache that flares within his heart, even if he’s not said a word.

“I think,” she says, “he doesn’t want you to be by yourself.”

Still, Newt looks away from her, and doesn’t know how to explain to her that he prefers just five minutes alone with Percival, just one tiny moment for only the two of them, even if it meant that he was alone for every single moment otherwise.

When Tina is not in the office, which is less common, but still happens for at least a couple of hours each day, he spends a lot of time standing just outside Percival’s office door, wanting to go inside but unable to bring himself to intrude into what was clearly Percival’s personal space. He spells himself quietly with a variation on a disillusionment charm during these times, to keep himself unobtrusive, but still visible on the rare occasion that someone needs him.

Sometimes though, when he can’t sleep, awake as his mind chases itself in circles trying to drown the self-doubt about him and Percival and it’s gone four or five in the morning, he resorts to sneaking into the Department and sitting with his knees pulled up to his chest, leather case by his hip, head pressed against the wall just for a few hours until sunrise, leaving before the earliest risers, including Percival, arrive for work. He always feels better the next day, even if he doesn’t sleep a wink at all.

It’s during one of those long, sleepless nights, maybe ten or twelve days after his inkmark filled with colour, that President Picquery finds him like that, leaning against the door, eyes closed. He’s preparing to leave, internal clock telling him that it was barely half an hour before sunrise, when Picquery glides around the corner.

Newt freezes and can’t help the guilty hunch of his shoulders when she just looks at him.

“I’m sorry,” he says eventually, when it appears that she’s content to wait him out, scrambling up from where he was sitting, folded against the wall. He starts inching past her, eyes lowered. “I’ll see myself out.”

She stops him in his tracks with a wave of her hand, using no magic except for the power of her presence alone. “Mr. Scamander, a word, please.” She moves past him, pushing open the door to Percival’s office without any hesitation and stepping inside, clearly expecting him to follow.

Newt does follow, but he pauses for a moment, swallowing hard as he crosses the threshold. The wards across the doorframe seem to recognise him and appear to let him past without an audible alarm.

The door closes behind him, but he barely notices, busy looking around and cataloguing any changes - the office is still as tidy as ever, the only real sign of the current crisis was the number of files stacked neatly in one corner of the room. He looks back to see Picquery watching him, eyes unreadable. He swallows again, and uneasily wonders if she’s here to evict him from here for good.

“Ma’am?” Newt ventures after another few moments of uncomfortable shifting under her gaze, hands clasping together, right hand over left wrist, as he wont to do when he’s feeling particularly out of his depth. He always feels steadier, calmer when he touches his inkmark.

“Why are you allowing him dictate this?” she asks. He must be looking as confused as he feels because she purses her lips, hands folding together in front of her and her eyes deliberately drift down to his wrist, lingering on the sliver of colour that shows between his fingers. “Why don’t you follow your ink?”

Newt doesn’t know if either someone, and it can only be Percival, has told her, or she’s found out by alternate means, but Picquery, standing there before him in her formal presidential attire, definitely knows .

He looks away from her eyes, fixing his gaze on the intricate golden embroidery along her sleeves, contrasting against the dark velvet of her cuffs. “I’ve already offered him everything I have,” he confesses, breathing out the words almost inaudibly and feeling his jaw tense and his voice become hoarse with the strain of keeping his emotions stifled against the back of his throat. “It’s all up to him to decide.”

“Men,” she mutters disdainfully after a moment of silence, almost seemingly speaking to herself. “Always thinking that they know what’s best.”

“I don’t think it’s going to work out,” Newt finds himself telling her a moment later, slowly as if the words are being dragged letter by letter out of him but unable to stop himself. It’s an admission that he doesn’t want to speak aloud really, because spelling things out loud made them seem terrifyingly true in a way that they weren’t before. Picquery knows Percival best though, arguably and in this moment, Newt feels as if there’s nowhere else left for him to turn.

For her part, Picquery merely raises an eyebrow, it’s an action that’s strangely reminiscent of Percival, Newt realises with an unsteady breath. Even just thinking about him still nudges his emotions into a whirlwind. She sits herself down on Percival’s chair, knees and ankles pressed together, angling her legs to one side and smooths down her skirt in a manner that’s almost prim. She swivels it to face him, her sharp eyes seem to stare at him and then through him.

“And why not?” she asks, as if things could actually be that simple and straightforward. Her eyes narrow at him then and there’s something steely about her expression, almost cold, implacable, even as her voice continues to be butter smooth, no particular inflection. “Can you not see a future together with him? Is he not worth the effort?”

“No,” Newt denies sharply, head jerking up to meet her eyes, needing her to understand because it has never been about how he feels about Percival and always more the other way around.

“No,” he repeats softer, breathing the word out on a sigh. The bone weary tiredness and self-doubt that he feels weighing himself down every single night creeps into his voice as he lets his gaze drop, hands clenching uselessly by his sides.

“I’m the one who doesn’t deserve a future with him,” he says.

 

*

 

tbc

 

Chapter Text

finis

 

part ten: percival  

 

“I made a mistake,” Newt says, he looks terribly sad and anxious, fingers twisting together in distress. “I’m sorry, but I can’t stay with you.”

Percival jerks awake, breathing fast, sweat beading his forehead, those words still echoing in his mind as he sits up. A quick check of the clock tells him it’s barely four in the morning - he’s had a little less than two hours of shut eye after coming home from work, and the sky outside is still stubbornly dark. He waves a hand for the lamp to light and reaches for the glass of water, spelled to remain cool on his bedside table.

The dreams are recurring, night after night, Newt telling him in endless ways that they can’t be together, that they don’t suit each other. He’s had ones where Newt’s ink isn’t for him, but for someone else, ones where Newt has no ink and still, he falls in love with him despite it all, again and again. He’s seen Newt smile at faceless strangers, turn away and leave him behind without a second glance. He mutters an oath beneath his breath but gives sleep for tonight up as a loss, downing the entire glass of water before putting it back on the table, kicking off his blankets and standing.

He looks down, even in the darkness, the unicorn across his wrist glows, mane and hooves shimmering gold and its coat a gleaming silver. He paws at him half-heartedly, almost as dispirited as he feels.

“If only I were a stronger man,” he murmurs to it quietly in the shadowed half-light of pre-dawn.

 

*

 

There’s a small charm on his office door. He’s had it there since the first time that Newt had stepped foot into his office, imprinting his presence into Percival’s space. It’s an innocuous spell that blends into the woodwork, hugging his wards - and it sends a soundless alert to him whenever Newt is within a couple of feet of his office door. In the days and weeks after the spell activates, he notes that Newt is around a lot, in his department at least but he never knocks, never attempts to reach out to Percival even though he’s just a few feet away, even after his ink fills with colour. Percival wonders if this is by deliberate choice - an unworded message meant for him to hear and understand, like his unending parade of dreams.

Instead, whenever Percival sees him, Newt is always barely half a step behind Tina, as quiet as always, but smiling. He seems to be happy enough with his life now, as it is, even after Percival’s upended it in a moment of his own selfishness.

Percival thinks that he can tell Newt that it’s okay, that he understands if Newt has changed his mind. They might be ink-marked for one another, but there’s no law that says they must remain together. What can he offer Newt, in the end? There’s money, sure, but Newt seems to care little for material wealth, distracted by other things that gold cannot buy. Percival thinks that Newt more than resembles one of his precious creatures - he will need love and encouragement, he will need someone who Percival feels like he cannot be. But whenever he opens his mouth, to try and speak the words, he finds that they don’t come, clogging in his throat and almost choking him instead until he swallows them back down.

Instead, he lets Newt smile at him, that tiny curl of his lips, and he hoards the expression for himself - letting it feed the blooming warmth of their fledgling bond and pretends that he’s not drowning slowly from guilt.

 

*

 

Newt slips into his office one night. It’s very late or very early, depending on if you were looking from a Thursday or Friday standpoint, but he doesn’t seem surprised to find Percival still there, instead looking like he expected it.

Percival can’t help the softening of his features when he sees him. Newt settles on a corner of his desk, and Percival notes that the dark smudges beneath his eyes have grown, almost like bruises now pressed against the skin. “You haven’t been sleeping well,” he notes, putting down his quill and reaching out and covering the back of Newt’s hand with his own, savouring the warmth of skin against skin.

Newt shrugs, a brief movement of one shoulder that says very little. “Just thinking about some things,” he murmurs.

Percival feels Newt’s fingers tremble when he says this though, the nervousness that thrums through his body when they’re this close. He hesitates and wonders if perhaps Newt preferred that he keep his distance after all, wonders if Newt’s been up late thinking about them and then unable to fall asleep.

“Will you come somewhere with me?” Newt asks somewhat abruptly, distracting him from his line of thought.

It’s already past dawn and Percival has three important meetings to prepare for before lunch and he’s not been back home to change or rest in about thirty hours. He finds himself saying yes anyway, unable to deny Newt anything.

Newt’s smile is sweet, hitting him like a stunning spell to the chest and he takes his hand, apparating them both from the warm office in New York out into the cold of somewhere that’s still barely lit by pre-dawn light. He glances down and notes that they’re perhaps several thousand feet off the ground, on a cliff face that’s surrounded by dense forest, the smell of pine strong even from where they stand.

“We’re in Arizona,” Newt says, leaning far too forward on the steep outcropping for Percival’s peace of mind. “Above the Grand Canyon.” He smiles at Percival again, lovely and bright, when Percival reaches out a hand to pull him back, just a few steps to safer ground.

Newt sets down his case, kneeling down to unbuckle the locks on either side and opening it wide. He looks up at Percival. “I promised Frank, you see. I’d release him back to the wild when the time came. And I -” He looks away for a moment, fingers picking over the edges of the leather case, before he glances back up. “I wanted you to be here with me.”

He’s so beautiful, in this moment especially, as the sun starts to rise - painting them both with golds and yellows and reds. The light glances off Newt’s hair, his eyes and he when he glances over, to share this moment with Percival, he looks so perfect and ethereally timeless in this one moment that Percival has to remind himself to breathe.

It’s a sharp reminder of why he can’t stay - Newt is too good, too pure for him. No matter what their inkmarks show, or how hard he tries, Percival knows that he will never be able to be the man that Newt deserves.

Newt’s whistle is sharp in the air, and there’s an answering screech of something very large from within the case. Newt steps back, curling his hand around Percival’s to tug him back as well, just as Newt’s thunderbird sweeps out from the case, shooting straight up into the sky.

Percival can’t deny the magnificent sight it makes, four majestic wings in the air, beating downwards twice before it lands just before Newt.

“You’re here,” he whispers softly, unflinching when the sharp beak swings by his ear. He raises a hand to pet the golden feathers, smoothing a couple of stray ones down, pressing a kiss goodbye to the wickedly curved beak. “Time to go home, Frank.”

He looks as wild and untamable as the thunderbird in that moment, with the wind blowing through his curls and look of utter joy on his face. Who was Percival to keep him chained to the earth and to a man like himself no less?

“I think,” he says, after Frank is gone and there’s just the two of them standing underneath the newly risen sun, watching it glint off the Colorado River snaking beneath them through the canyons. “That you and I should go our separate ways.”

He swallows, forcing himself to not look over at Newt but he still hears the sharp inhale of breath from beside him anyway. “Just because our ink says that we can be together, doesn’t mean that we should.”  

Newt doesn’t say anything, and he doesn’t dare to look over in case his willpower crumbles. He still hesitates though, one brief moment when he wants to take every single word he’s said back, to reach out for Newt’s hand and just stay beside him. But he steels his resolve, he knows that this will be better for Newt in the long run, because he’s doing this for Newt - to release him from any obligation he feels to Percival and for him to seek out his own happiness, on his own terms, not bound by their inkmarks. Percival steps away, from the edge, from the view and from Newt, leaving him there alone, silhouetted against the morning sky.

“Goodbye.”

He apparates back to his home, staring at the cool white walls and fastidiously clean floors, and suddenly the entire place seems to be emptier and colder than it ever has before. Percival wonders bleakly, chest too tight, each breath almost too hard to take, if he’s done the right thing, for the both of them.

 

*

 

Seraphina sweeps into his office the next day. He’s been half-expecting her all day after deciding, in a fit of rare petulance, to barricade himself in and not allowing any of his aurors, urgent request or not, in to see him all day. Newt hasn’t been anywhere near his office all day, and he feels nothing but regret, even as he continuously tells himself that it’s for the best.

She sweeps in late in the afternoon, closing the door shut behind her with a sharp wave of her hand, keeping them out of sight of the department’s aurors.

“Madam President,” he says, not bothering to rise. He doesn’t even look up from his stack of paperwork, hoping that she would take the hint and leave. He’s in no such luck though as Seraphina promptly rounds his desk, slamming the file he’s looking at shut, forcing him to look up at her.

“What do you think you’re doing?” she asks, pleasant enough, but Percival can hear the bite of fury buried deep, and he watches as her cobra slinks across her wrist in slow, predatory circles.

“Working, before you so kindly decided to intervene,” he drawls, sitting back in his chair and tilting his head up to face her properly. Immediately he stiffens a little, because he knows now that this isn’t about work - this is something personal and the only personal thing that she would step in for would be the case of Percival’s inkmark. He hasn’t told her much, but he knows that she’s grown fond of Newt in her own way, subtly pushing them together at every opportunity. He also knows that she’s hoping that he would get the ending that she never got the chance to have.

“Don’t play games with me, Percival,” she says, sharp and not a little bit angry. Percival may be the taller and broader of them two, but right now, he feels about two inches tall, almost bowing before the force of her temper. “You’ve never shied away from seizing what you’ve wanted before, you’ve never let any obstacle stand in your way once you’ve made a decision. Why are you hesitating now?”

But this is his choice, their choice, not hers and he feels his temper, already honed from yesterday, rise to meet hers.

“Because I don’t deserve him,” he snaps, finally, slamming his hands down on top of his desk and shoving out of his seat in one forceful move. His words hang between them for one long moment as they stare at each other.

Seraphina closes her eyes and breathes in, deep, as if calming herself. “You know, I’m not one to live in the past or second guess a decision.”

Percival forces himself to back down as well, nodding instead, cautious. He does not know where she’s going with this but they both clearly need to take a step back right now.

“I have dreams some nights,” she says, abrupt, seemingly a second change of topic within a minute. She stands now, slim manicured fingers curled tight against the wooden frame of his window, staring out into the street.

The storm clouds that roll through the sky shadow her features in a way that casts her expression into stone - cold, aloof and so terribly alone. “What if I wasn’t too proud back then, what if I wasn’t too afraid to be the one to reach out again and again and put my heart on the line. Would she still be with me today?"

She sighs. "This is something that I’ll never know and the one thing that I live in regret of.”

Now it’s Percival’s turn to look away, shifting his gaze from where Seraphina stands, outlined against the weak afternoon light. The rain that’s been threatening to fall all day finally does so, droplets pelting ceaselessly against his window and creating a lull of almost-peaceful silence.

“Go, Percival,” she says finally, never turning away from where she stands. He can see her reflection, but the window blurs it into one that Percival can’t make out clearly anymore. She sounds tired though, weary and old in a way that she’s never been before.

“Go find your heart, before he slips out from between your fingers forever.”

 

*

 

“He’s leaving today,” Seraphina tells him. “He has a ticket for Spain, the boat leaves in an hour.”

Percival doesn’t run, but it’s a close thing. He apparates to Newt’s apartment, just in time for Tina to tell him, expression closed, that Newt’s already left.

“If you hurt him,” she says when she catches his sleeve just before he turns to leave, and she’s furious in a way that Percival’s rarely seen, and never before directed at him. She doesn’t need to finish her sentence.

Percival nods at her, at Queenie and Jacob, her no-maj soulmate, a silent promise to them all, before he apparates again, this time to one of the streets that lead to the docks. He’s in luck this time, spotting the bright coat and leather case with ease. There’s barely anyone else on the streets, the rain too heavy for most people to want to venture outdoors.

“Newt,” Percival calls after him, each step falling along the wet pavement faster than the last, long-legged strides catching up even as Newt does, surprisingly, slow down. He comes to a stop several meters ahead and looks back towards Percival, expressionless and empty.

He stands there waiting, almost defiant in the way that his chin is lifted up to face Percival, fringe slicking against his forehead due to the rain that pours down around him, apparently not concerned enough about himself to even spell an umbrella, uncaring of how he’s utterly soaked.

“You’re a fool,” Percival says, striding towards him, feeling that helpless tug of ceaseless want with every single step forward until he also draws to a stop. He takes a second to draw Newt into an out of sight side street, with nothing but brick walls on either side, completely empty of people and out of sight of the main road once they step back far enough.

“I’m leaving,” Newt says blankly after they stop moving, as if the case in his hand and tickets sticking out of his pocket weren’t already enough of a clue. “Like you asked me to.”

“I didn’t ask you to leave,” Percival points out, frustrated, even as he tilts the umbrella in his hand forward enough that it covers Newt as well, shielding him from the rain. Somehow, he’s left feeling like it’s too little, too late maybe and he can’t help the panicked dread that is slowly bubbling up in his stomach, because he doesn’t want this to be their end. “Are you running away from us?”

This seems to jolt Newt out of whatever numb state he’s fallen into and his eyes blaze to life at those words. “You don’t get to do this,” he snaps, uncharacteristically fierce. He leans his case against a wall before he stalks forward, just a step or two, into Percival’s space and jabs him sharply against his chest with a pointed finger. “You don’t get to decide that we will never work out one moment, and then try and dictate my actions the next when I decide to continue living my own life, without you.”

“If you’ve already decided that I’m an unwanted interference with your perfect, orderly world, then having me out of the way would be best for both of us, don’t you think?” The fight in Newt seems to peter out with each word, his voice dropping in volume as well, lowering until it’s barely a murmur.

Percival swallows and knows that maybe, he only has one chance to set this right. He dispels the umbrella and slides his wand away, uncaring of how the rain now falls against the both of them. He reaches out his hands, letting his fingers hover just below Newt’s own, palms up, just waiting.

“No,” he tells Newt, voice just as quiet. “I thought that you would be better off without me. I’m the one that’s the interference in your life, the ink-marked that you didn’t expect and you deserve better really, you deserve to be happy with someone else of your own choosing.”

“But,” he says, looking directly at Newt, gaze never wavering, wanting him desperately to understand. “In the end, I still can’t let you walk away from me. Not like this.”

Newt lowers his hands a fraction, letting his fingertips brush against Percival’s but he shakes his head. “You don’t get to decide this for me,” he says quietly, an echo of Percival's own thoughts. “This is my choice to make.”

Percival takes this chance, perhaps his last, and clasps Newt’s fingers gently with his own and leans close, voice a hairsbreadth away from begging.

“I’ll take veritaserum if I have to,” he says, “I’ll spend the rest of my days convincing you if I must. But please, would you give me another chance and stay?”

There’s a long moment where there’s nothing but the sound of his breathing in the air, paired with the splatter of rain against the road and the roar of his heartbeat thundering in his ears. The rain continues to fall, and he watches as raindrops flicker, falling to land against Newt’s hair, his lashes, darkening them until they seem to be a shade of honey-brown. His eyes are ever-so-wide, staring at him, something almost hopeful swimming in the back of his gaze.

“Will you stay with me?” Percival repeats, not even trying to pretend that he hasn’t placed his heart on the line with this one simple question. He can feel his heartbeat pounding, pulse thrumming faster than a golden snidget’s wings against his wrist, even as his ink burns.

And then Newt, his breathtakingly beautiful soulmate, with his fiery hair and wide blue eyes, smiles, sweet and pure and just so happy, and he says, “Yes.”

 

*

 

conclusio

 

part eleven: percival & newt  

 

The sound of the steam boat’s horn is achingly loud, even amongst all the noise and bustle of the docks on a sunny, spring morning.

Percival makes his way unerringly to the large, disembarking crowd from the boat that’s just come in from London. He spots at least five or six witches and wizards, obvious even despite their no-maj attire and his eyes narrow at them, making a mental note for one of the junior aurors to do a sweep to check for the proper permits and papers later.

The thought is almost immediately relegated to the back of his mind, however, as his attention is caught and held fully the next moment by Newt, walking down the plankway set up between boat and docks. His hair is an inch or two longer than when he left, half a year back, and he’s wearing a new coat too, a fetching shade of green this time that only serves to highlight the pale flawlessness of his skin and the gleaming red-gold of his hair.

His face lights up the moment he spots Percival, standing waiting for him, just a little apart from the rest of the crowd. Percival finds himself smiling, unable to help but step forward as well, meeting Newt halfway. He murmurs a disillusionment charm for the both of them, after a quick glance around to make sure no one was paying any attention to either of them.

“Welcome back,” Percival says, finally allowing himself to reach out a hand to curl around Newt’s. Pickett, who obviously had been hitching a ride in Newt’s collar as usual, pops up, chattering gleefully, jumping from Newt’s shoulder to Percival’s unhesitatingly.

Percival glances down at the bowtruckle now tucked into his pocket and raises his brows slightly. “Yes, welcome back to you too.”

Newt huffs a gentle laugh, placing the case down, safely by their feet, and he offers that sunshine expression that still leaves Percival smitten every single time. He clutches back at Percival for one long moment, before he reaches up and curls both of his hands into the wool of Percival’s coat, letting Percival’s hands settle around his hips and pull him in, both of them ignoring the offended chitter of Pickett at the disturbance, before he ducks back into Percival’s pocket again, aggrieved.

“It’s good to be home,” Newt murmurs softly, and leans into the offered kiss.

 

*


end