It's easy, is the thing.
It's really, very, frighteningly, delightfully easy.
He has been in New York for a year when he first sees the boy. He sees the way he carries himself around the woman he lives with, the fear, the sharp, darting looks and the smell of magical ancestry radiating like light that only he can see. He sees it all and takes it within himself, a shudder, a frisson of knowing .
This is someone he can use.
And a good thing too, because he has Seen so much revolving around the Second Salemers, the woman’s face clear and clearer, and always, that boy. Cowering and wide-eyed. Useful, in this case, at least. A Squib, but that too can be used, the glimmer that the boy knows things aren’t quite as they should be. That his mother’s words hit too close to home, that he is better, even as he is, than the rest of them.
He can’t scare the boy. Not when he’s so close to the Obscurial that Gellert has foreseen. Besides, what good does breaking his cover for some Squib do? None. This is nothing that Gellert himself must concern himself, and so Grindelwald continues to wait.
Percival Graves opens his eyes, settling into himself.
A small moment of kindness.
It should take nothing more.
He begins small. Hanging around the meetings under the professional guise of determining the Second Salemer’s threat to the Wizarding Community, always there within easy sight of the boy, Credence. Credence, whose eyes dart along the crowd like they’re too nervous to settle any one place for long, notices him once, twice, thrice, startled more and more each time to find Percival already looking back at him.
Not at his mother, braying like a mule as she treads over the same, tired ground.
At him. Calm, direct.
The observation makes the blood rise in his skin, but the more Percival is there, the more Credence looks for him. Iron drawn to a magnet. A snake drawn to its charmer, and Percival plays the sweetest tune. Looks turn to nods, to lifted hands in greeting, acknowledgement of their unspoken connection, and with the wariness of a skittish forest creature, Credence slowly comes ever closer.
His moment comes when he’s not even expecting it, which makes it even sweeter.
Someone, and Percival doesn’t really see who, knocks into Credence, sending all of the flyers he has to the ground. The movement, sudden and fluttering and white, catches Percival’s eyes, drawing him down to the thin, dark figure before them. For a long moment, Credence only closes his hands into fists, trembling visibly even from this distance before he gets on his knees and begins to gather the papers again.
Swiftly, Percival strides across the pavement and kneels next to Credence, picking up the flyers that were knocked from his hands. Credence, startled, stills for a bare moment before resuming picking them up even quicker. It’s no time at all before the papers are gathered, dirty, slightly crumpled, but all there. Credence holds his hand out for Percival’s stack, then blinks.
“Thank you, Mister…” Credence says, trailing off.
“Graves. Percival Graves.”
Credence’s lips form the name soundlessly before he nods, more to himself than anything else. “Thank you, Mister Graves.”
“Not at all, Credence,” he says, passing the papers over.
Their fingers brush.
The brief touch of their hands is electric.
And Percival stands, gives Credence a small smile, and strides off into the crowd. Credence looks after him long after he is gone.
(Percival only knows this because he watches too, from high atop a roof, staring down before he heads back to the office. Some things are just too sweet to not be seen.)
That single moment of kindness is all it takes.
After that, Credence greets him at their meetings, begins to look for him when he leaves his house, when he’s walking the streets, searching every face until he finds Percival’s. And when he finally sees it, he lights up, every fiber of his being aligned along whichever axis Percival is on. The clear adoration is heady, honestly, and perhaps Percival indulges a bit too much, keeps him longer, finds him food and warm things to have, all for the gratitude and adulation he receives.
Until one day, Credence sees him, and pales, and shies away.
Percival narrows his eyes.
Credence doesn’t notice that he’s being followed until it’s too late and Percival already has him cornered. He looks to the left, right, for any escape, but there’s none. It’s far, far too late for that. His arms are pressed against his skin, like holding himself will relieve the pain, like he does not radiate hurt like a bruise, and Percival holds his hand out for Credence.
“Show me,” he murmurs, and Credence only curls into himself.
Percival tuts, a click of his tongue, and reaches out anyway, dragging the contact from his elbows to his wrists as he lays Credence’s hands bare. All the cuts and bruises on them readily apparent, and the hissing breath that Percival draws in is only half-feigned.
“How dare she hurt a wonderful young man like you,” he murmurs. “I can’t believe it. You deserve so much better, especially given…”
Credence, darting eyes searching, looks at him as Percival allows the silence to hang.
“Given?” Credence asks finally, his voice rough.
The bait taken, Percival smiles, pitches his voice concerned and soft as he meets Credence’s eyes. “Can’t you sense it, Credence? You have magic within your veins.”
The announcement seems to both intrigue and terrify him, his breath coming faster and faster, and Percival tilts his head to keep their eyes connected. Like calming a frightened horse, Percival reaches out, and without hesitation, Credence cowers, expecting the blow. Not a large movement, really. Just hunching his shoulders, turning away, bending as far from the touch as he can without drawing too much attention. The manner of someone who has experienced far more of the stick than the carrot, assuming there was ever even a carrot there at all. The sight alone makes Percival’s pulse jump, and it is with no small amount of satisfaction that he gentles his hand and slowly lowers it to brush Credence’s neck.
And just like the final wand movement that shivers magic into order, the touch of their skin finishes everything Percival began.
Credence sags into the contact, greedily, gratefully, once he figures out that it is kind. Once it does not turn into anything other than that one, single hand, firm, on his neck. Percival struggles to keep his breathing even as heat floods him, a dangerous headrush of his plans progressing as he wills them to, even as Credence’s eyes flutter open, and he stares at Percival with eyes blown dark and wide.
The way he looks up at Percival….
It’s enough to make a man want to take over the world. More than he already did, anyway, and he has to struggle to keep the smile on his lips kind instead of cruel.
“There’s a good boy,” he murmurs, and he can feel, under his hand, the quickening of Credence’s pulse. “Now listen to me, Credence. I’ve been meaning to talk to you about this. I know you have magic within you. I want to teach you, but there are rules for entering the magical sphere with other wizards, and it’s just not safe, unless you do something for me first. I need your help.”
“M-my …?” he stammers wonderingly.
Oh, dear boy. Percival nods, keeping up the eye contact. “Yes. You’re the only one who can help me, Credence.”
“I don’t-” Credence begins. He tries to takes a single step back, but Percival’s hand on his neck brings him up short, and his gasp is raspy and audible and delicious as Percival moves forward, firm against him. As he lowers his voice, intimate.
“You will help me, won’t you, Credence? I can’t trust anyone but you.”
That does it.
Whatever other doubts Credence might have had visibly leave his mind. He nods, at first slowly, but gaining speed.
“I will, Mister Graves. I will.”
His lips curve into a smile that is no longer kind, but Credence, swaying beneath his palm, does not see it for what it is, and Percival leans in, brushes a kiss against the sensitive, trembling skin of his neck. Credence jolts, stares at him wide-eyed and flushing a remarkably pretty red, but does not pull away when Percival urges his head back, resting its weight, trustingly in his hand. He does not pull away when Percival bites on the exposed tendon there, devouring and hungry. He only whimpers and his shaking hands fist in Percival’s coat.
Percival could just eat him alive.
Moment of indulgence over, Percival draws back, leaving only the pink indent of teeth behind. Credence lists after him, trails him like smoke from a fire, but Percival doesn’t go far before he crowds his boy again, hand still on the delicate, vulnerable curve of Credence’s skull and neck.
“We’ll meet later to talk more about it, but you’ve made me so proud right now. If you can do this one thing for me,” he says, lips brushing the sensitive shell of Credence’s ear, “you will enter the world of wizards a hero.”
Finally, he lets go. Credence, the sweet thing, still follows after his touch, seeking it long after it’s gone
And as he leaves, he allows himself one glance back, catching the caught, wondering expression on Credence’s face, and something warm flashes through him. Nothing so soft and useless as love, but better. Possession, perhaps. A kind of ownership. The steadying influence of his hand on something so desperate for it that it will bare its stomach in wanting of the knife.
And Percival Graves, deep all the way to Gellert, smiles before Disapparating.
After all, he always gets what he wants.