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A Proper Education

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By the time Percival arrived on the scene, the fight was over. Parts of the Atria were mildly scorched, the floating ferns huddling away from the walkways, the glass butterflies watching cautiously from the branches of the singing trees, their silver clapper-like leaves hanging fearfully silent. Seraphina glowered at him as he approached. Horned Serpent’s Head Prefect and Thunderbird’s had traditionally shared a neutral-to-friendly animosity, and as such, Percival smiled back at her, thin-lipped.

“We can sort this here,” she said briskly, as he got closer, jerking her thumb behind her, “or we can go to Headmistress Matoskah.”

Percival managed not to grimace, but Seraphina’s eyes narrowed. Behind her were two groups of Fifths: a pack of three gangly Serpent boys whom Percival knew as pranksters, and a fourth whom he didn’t recognise, a pretty boy with a Thunderbird badge. The kid was gangly and tall, though hunched in on himself, freckled, with unruly ginger hair, and he was staring at his feet, as though resigned to his fate.

“What happened?” Percival inquired carefully.

“A stupid Fifth prank.” Seraphina supplied. “On the new Thunderbird transfer. Out of Hogwarts?” she elaborated, when Percival raised his eyebrows.

Ah yes, that’s right. Thunderbird’s Head, Kara Miranda, had mentioned something along those lines as a footnote in his last briefing. “What kind of prank?”

Seraphina’s lip curled. “Does it matter?”

“It matters to me,” Percival shot back evenly. Behind her, the Serpent kids were shuffling back, as though trying to edge out of range.

Seraphina took in a deep breath, but before she could say anything, the new kid piped up. “Ah. If I may?” He had a plummy British accent, all crisp vowels. “I’m very sorry about what happened. It was a misunderstanding. I’ll repair the damage.” He tried a smile that faded quickly when Percival frowned at him.

“There,” Seraphina said frostily. “It was a misunderstanding.”

Percival very much doubted that, but he had to content himself with eyeballing the Serpent Fifths, trying to silently convey that he would personally hang them by the balls over their House’s statue should he ever catch them red-handed. They shuffled quickly behind their Prefect, who folded her arms, belligerent. “Fine,” Percival said, as disdainfully as he could. “A goddamned misunderstanding it is.”

The kid waited for Seraphina and the others to leave, then he drew his wand, stepping over to the Atria. He had refined wandwork, and was clearly a deft hand at Reparo, at the very least. When the scorch marks were gone, the kid turned, and seemed visibly startled to realize that Percival was still there.

“Ah… I’m sorry for all the trouble, I truly am.”

“We weren’t introduced,” Percival said briskly, holding out a hand. It took the boy a few moments before he cautiously reached out, and his handshake was limp. “I’m Percival Graves, Head Prefect of Thunderbird, a Seventh. You’re the new Fifth…” Percival trailed off, trying to dredge his memory. “Newton… Scamander?”

“Newt. I mean, ‘Newton’ is fine too, but, nobody calls me that, other than my mother, but, uh, you’re not my mother, and—” Newt cut himself off with a nervous laugh.

“Walk with me,” Percival said curtly, and stepped up onto the walkway. It took a few moments before Newt obeyed, scurrying to his side. “So. What happened here, precisely?”

“Nothing. It was my fault. A misunderstanding.”

“Scamander, I know those boys. Earlier this year, they managed to half-drown one of the Pukwudgie Thirds in this very spot,” Percival nodded over at the Möbius ribbon of water that threaded around the singing trees at chest level, tiny red and blue fish darting past. “It was also a ‘misunderstanding’, albeit one with fewer scorch marks.”

“I don’t want to cause any trouble,” Newt said, a little desperately. “Ilvermorny was kind enough to take me in as it is.”

“You’re a transfer from Hogwarts, aren’t you?” Newt nodded, and seemed to brace himself for an inevitable question. “That doesn’t give those boys the right to bully you. Though I’m guessing that they probably found you rather more difficult to push around than that Third.”

Newt said nothing, staring at his feet again. Sighing, Percival tried again. “You’re working with Professor Zhang, yes? In the zoo?”

“He prefers the word ‘Habitarium’,” Newt mumbled, though he smiled faintly for a moment, then froze up. “You’re… are you going to tell him? About this?”

“That depends,” Percival said mildly, “on whether I feel that you’re protecting known troublemakers who will someday gang up on another kid, someone who’s less likely to be able to protect themselves. Look,” he added, less kindly, when Newt grew visibly agitated, then he paused. “The hell is that?”

From under Newt’s Ilvermorny robes, some sort of furry… black… duck bear thing peeked out. It had beady black eyes and sharp-clawed paws, and it stared at Percival with unabashed curiosity. Ignoring Newt’s startled yelp and grab, it wormed out onto his shoulder, a pudgy creature with a narrow tail. It was also extremely, depressingly familiar.

“N-nothing!” Newt tried to push the creature back into his robe.

“I’ve already seen it,” Percival said, with forced patience. “And you can’t wind back time. So. What is it?”

“It’s a Niffler,” Newt mumbled, settling for holding on tightly to the squirming beast. “It got loose from its pen at the Habitarium and got into the Horned Serpent quarters, um, The Nest. I managed to track it down before it stole anything, but those boys found it too, and chased it here. They were taking shots at it,” Newt said fiercely. “I had to stop them.”

“And did you?”

“Did I what?” Newt blinked, as though awkwardly realising that he’d said too much.

“Stop them. By yourself.”

“I didn’t hurt them,” Newt said quickly, which was probably a ‘yes’.

Percival whistled. “Three on one, and you beat them? If you think that shielding them from the consequences will make them feel kindly to you after that, you’re mistaken.”

“I can handle it.” There was a brittle edge to Newt’s tone, like that of a war-weary veteran. “It’ll just be more of the same.”

“This isn’t Hogwarts,” Percival said curtly. “We do things differently here, at least where I’m concerned. I’ll assign someone to watch you. You should be fine in the zoo and during classes, but in between, someone will make sure there isn’t any trouble.”

Newt seemed startled, enough that he was silent as they finished their circuit of the walkways and came back to where they started. “Thank you…?” he said cautiously, as Percival started to walk them towards the zoo.

“Don’t be. You’re hardly fully innocent in this affray,” Percival said, nodding at the squirming Niffler. “Using spells on other students under unsupervised conditions is prohibited. If they weren’t smarting over losing to you, those boys could’ve gotten you into a whole lot more trouble than you’re in.”

“Thanks all the same,” Newt said wryly, and smiled nervously when Percival frowned at him. “I haven’t, well, met someone who was remotely interested in defending my well-being before. Who wasn’t, um, related to me.”

“Really? Hogwarts sounds like some sort of lawless hellhole, then.”

“It wasn’t so bad,” Newt said, startled, then he grinned tentatively when Percival smirked at him, some of his nervousness fading. Percival had managed to ease out a few details about Newt’s life in Hogwarts by the time they reached the great cube of the Habitarium, where he found Professor Zhang anxiously waiting by the ironwrought door.

Zhang turned his milky eyes towards them at the sound of their approach. With his black hair shaved down nearly to his scalp, Professor Hao Zhang was austere in his blue staff robes, leaning on his white staff. He smiled as they approached, looking relieved as the Niffler squeaked. “You found Paulie! Was he any trouble?”

Newt glanced at Percival, who shrugged. “No trouble,” Newt said quickly.

“Professor Zhang,” Percival said respectfully. “Good afternoon.”

“Ah, Prefect Graves. It’s very kind of you to walk Newt back here.” Zhang smiled faintly, with open mischief. “I trust there was indeed ‘no trouble’?”

“Not to me,” Percival said, unwilling to lie outright to a Professor.

“Very good. Now. Newt, if you could restore Paulie to his nest?”

“Yes! Ah. It was. Nice? Meeting you? Prefect Graves,” Newt said, a little jerkily, and fled. Zhang tilted his head, waiting for the creak of the inner security door, then he sighed.

“Professor Dumbledore asked me for a favour, to sponsor Newt’s transfer to Ilvermorny,” Zhang said. “I told him, no promises. A House would have to select him, even if I could sponsor his entry to the test. And I have to confess, I’m surprised that he was selected at all, let alone by Thunderbird.”

“Yes sir.” Percival said neutrally. Thunderbird often had a small intake: its guardian was notoriously fussy of late.

“But I suppose it worked out well,” Zhang said lightly. “For I hear Thunderbird’s current protector is as ferocious as its namesake.”

“I wouldn’t know about that, sir.”

“He’s a wounded child,” Zhang continued, ignoring Percival, “betrayed, and made unused to allies. Be patient, if you may.”

“Yes sir,” Percival said, a little uncomfortably.

“Go, go,” Zhang said blandly, turning towards the iron door with ease of habit. He paused when his hand was on the handle. “I heard that you managed the Patronus Charm. Congratulations.”

Percival grimaced. So had Seraphina Picquery, the only other Seventh who had successfully cast a Patronus. She had managed to manifest a lioness, of all goddamned things. Couldn’t her Patronus have been a cockroach, or something closer to her character? “Thank you, sir.”

“At least you now know the name of your spirit,” Zhang said, and chuckled even as Percival stiffened.

Fuck.

#

Life in Ilvermorny was… looser. Newt didn’t have any other word to describe it. As the only School that had been founded with a muggle, maybe that was the reason. The Houses weren’t pitted against each other with an often arbitrary points system, the rivalry was more friendly than fierce, and, more curiously, many of the infractions committed between students were resolved by the students themselves.

“Never going to get used to that,” Newt murmured. In a corner of the Tan, aka the large rugby field behind Ilvermorny Castle, the Head Prefects of Wampus and Thunderbird were discussing something quietly.

Beside him, his designated minder followed his stare and smiled. Porpentina ‘Tina’ Goldstein was a skinny girl with a short bob of dark hair, with a resting face that seemed to settle on faint anxiety. She was also a Fifth, one of the two chosen Prefects in their year, and like all the other Thunderbird Prefects Newt had met so far, seemed to take her role exceedingly seriously.

“What happens in Hogwarts?”

“The disciplinary actions involve professors.” Even several floors down, Percival cut a striking figure. Newt looked away before he could blush.

“That sounds rather…” Tina trailed off, diplomatically searching for another word. “Unnecessary?”

“I don’t know,” Newt said, a little pointedly. “Prefect Graves said that a Third nearly drowned?”

“Oh, that.” Tina pulled a face, and shot Newt an accusing glance. “Us prefects can’t do much if nobody’s willing to give a statement.”

“You sound like an Auror,” Newt said, unthinkingly, then added quickly, “that is, it was a joke, my brother’s a junior Auror, and—”

Tina laughed, cutting him off. “Don’t worry about it. It’s a compliment! Only the very best graduates get to be Aurors here in America. I’m working hard.”

“Ah, then, in that case, I don’t think you’d have any trouble,” Newt said warmly. “You’re very good in Potions, and Herbology, um, History of Magic, and—”

“You’re very good at Defence,” Tina cut in, with a grin. “And Care of Magical Creatures, though I guess that one’s rather to be expected.”

“Well, I am repeating a year,” Newt said wryly, and Tina sobered up quickly.

“Sorry. I didn’t mean to… bring that up.”

“Not at all.” They were past the view of the Tan, now, on their way to Arithmancy. Newt felt a little regretful. “I’m enjoying Ilvermorny so far,” he said cautiously. “More than I thought that I would, to be honest.”

“Must be hard,” Tina said sympathetically. “Being away like this, in a totally different country.”

“It was, at first. But I think I’m getting used to it. Being able to assist Professor Zhang really helps.”

“You’re the first person I’ve met who actually enjoys that,” Tina said dryly. “Usually, students get assigned to the zoo as punishment. By the Prefects.”

“Surely not,” Newt said, aghast. “It’s beautifully kept. As well as Hogwarts', in its own way.”

“Mucking out the animals, brushing them down, risking injury?”

“I grew up helping out around my mother’s hippogriffs. As long as you respect magical beasts, they aren’t usually malicious. Unlike people,” Newt muttered, as they started to cross one of the high, arched bridges towards the eastern tower. Beyond, the mountains rose in an arched spine, like a curled giant, the great gleaming cube of the Habitarium below, nestled between ivory spires.

“I’ll agree with you there,” Tina started to say, then she came to an abrupt stop, gripping Newt by the wrist. Blocking their path were a familiar group of boys. Newt turned, to see more Serpent boys blocking that route.

“Tina…”

Tina was murmuring something under her breath, her wand flicking, even as the first boy Newt had bound with a Full-Body Bind stepped onto the bridge, twirling his wand. “Hello, Porpy.”

“Richie.” Tina growled. “Out of the way, please. We’re going to be late for class.”

“Aww. That isn’t so friendly.” Richie drawled. “Just like the freckled kid hiding behind you. Newt, yes? The transfer kid?”

“Out of the way. You’d be crazy to start something right now. It’s in the middle of the day.”

“Start something?” Richie smirked. “Seems like we were witnesses. Very sad. A couple of Fifths slipped off this dangerous bridge. They really should install a safety rail.” His wand snapped out, but even as Newt would shout a warning, the floor beneath them grew abruptly slippery.

The world skewed, upending towards the sky, Newt’s mouth opening, his cry swallowed into nothing for a second, then abruptly, his arm felt like it was being jarred out of its socket, and he was swung back against the smooth stone flank of the bridge. Above, Tina’s pale face stared down at him, even as her wand fell past, spinning towards the distant ground. Her free hand was clawed into the edge of the bridge, her other, tight around his wrist.

They were both starting to slip. Newt squeezed his eyes shut. “Let me go.”

“Shut up!”

“It’s not that far a drop.”

“Shut up!”

“Or we’ll both fall—”

“Shut up!”

There was laughter, from the left. Newt glanced up. Richie was coming, readying another spell. Did he really intend to kill them? Just because Newt had bested him in the Atria? Newt took in a deep breath, pale, wondering whether it was worth it to beg—and then something flashed between them, a silvery ghost of a… Niffler?

Whatever spell Richie had cast rebounded. He yelped, falling back, clutching at his arm. Shouts. The boys were retreating. Someone with an impressively puffy head of tawny hair peered over the edge anxiously—the Head Prefect of Wampus—and ducked away, pointing. Then Percival was there, kneeling by the edge, grim-faced. Between him and the Wampus Prefect, they hauled Tina up onto the ledge, then Newt, who lay on the warm stone, gasping.

“Sorry,” Tina was saying shakily, somewhere above him. “Should’ve seen that coming. Sorry.”

“What are you sorry for?” Percival said curtly. “They’ve gone too far. I’m going to talk to Matoskah.”

Cold fright woke Newt out of his shock. “Don’t. Please don’t.”

“Excuse me?” Percival scowled. “They fucking tried to kill the two of you. And besides. Amelie here saw everything as well.”

“We wouldn’t have died. Just. Broken a few bones, and. I cast. On them, in the Atria, you know.” Newt said miserably, desperately afraid. He couldn’t bear to be expelled again, he couldn’t. He’d started to like it here. “Please. Please.”

Tina glanced at him, then at Amelie, who shrugged, and looked to Percival. “Your call.”

“Fuck.” Percival muttered, clearly furious. “Amelie. Thanks for your help.”

“Not a problem.” Amelie patted Newt sympathetically on the shoulder, and got to her feet.

Percival hauled them both to their feet. “You’d better go fetch your wand,” he told Tina briskly. “I’ll tell Professor Elian that you’ll be late. Fine heading down by yourself?”

“I’ll go with her,” Amelie volunteered. Percival waited until they left, then he cast a quick Reparo on the slippery surface, beckoning sharply when Newt didn’t move.

“Sorry,” Newt mumbled, as they headed over the bridge.

“Don’t. You’re just going to piss me off. Even more. If Tina hadn’t called for me…”

“I don’t want to cause any trouble.”

“You’re not the only one who could’ve gotten seriously hurt.”

“I told her to let me go.”

“Oh you did, did you?” Percival grit out. “Good fucking God.”

“But—” Newt began, even as they entered the tower. Class wasn’t in session yet, since Elian wasn't around: several students were still loitering outside the Arithmancy theatre, including Richie and his friends. They avoided Newt’s eyes, then stiffened up as Percival made a bee line towards them.

Richie smiled unevenly. “Prefect Graves.”

Percival didn’t bother to answer, at least not verbally. He swung, instead, a sharp and precise uppercut that knocked Richie sprawling, a boneless doll, instantly unconscious. There was a gasp that whispered around them, even as Newt’s hand jumped to his mouth.

“Looks like Richard Fontaine’s had a bit of a fainting fit,” Percival said flatly, rubbing his knuckles. “How unfortunate. Someone take him to the infirmary.” When there was only a stunned silence, he snapped, “Now,” and Richie’s friends were jolted into action, hastily hauling up Richie by his arms and dragging him to the exit. Percival glared at the other students still in the vicinity, and they hastily shuffled into the theatre, though Newt noticed a couple of Thunderbird students grinning.

“Jesus. He had a tough jaw.” Percival muttered, and frowned as Newt took his hand. A quick healing spell took care of the reddened marks. “Thanks,” Percival said gruffly, “but I could’ve done that myself.”

“Think of it as a bit of a thank-you then. Or an apology.”

Percival glowered at him, but Newt held his stare, even as he started to blush. He couldn’t help it. This close, Percival was startlingly handsome, with his sculpted jaw, his arrestingly dark eyes, even that fierce brow. “I get it, all right?” Percival said quietly. “You’re afraid of being expelled again.”

“That’s an understatement. But. I’m really sorry that Tina got caught up in it. You don’t have to ask her to keep me company. I can manage.”

“You’re right,” Percival said, after a pause, and Newt’s heart sank a little, despite having been braced for it. “Now that I know what those boys are capable of, I really should watch you myself.”

Newt blinked. “Wait. But… but—”

“It’s going to be a real pain getting my schedule to work with a Fifth’s,” Percival said briskly, “but I get leeway as a Head Prefect. I’ll try talking to Picquery as well, see if she can talk sense into those brats. Next time, I’m not going to just stop at punching out one of them.”

“I really don’t want to trouble anyone,” Newt said weakly.

“It’s no trouble. Get to class.”

Percival started to go. “Wait,” Newt said quickly, then tensed up, surprised that he’d even spoken.

“What now?”

“Uh… that was a Patronus charm, wasn’t it? Was it yours?”

Percival sighed loudly. “What about it?”

“It’s really incredible that—”

“Yes, yes. Anything else?”

“It’s a Niffler,” Newt said, unable to hide his excitement even if he’d tried, and Percival stiffened.

“So it seems.”

Newt wilted slightly. “You don’t like Nifflers?”

“I don’t know anything about them,” Percival said curtly. Newt scooted quickly around, grasping his elbow earnestly.

“You could come by. To the Habitarium, when you’re free in the evenings. I’ll introduce you to the two pairs that we, uh, that the Professor has. They’re really lovely creatures. Highly intelligent. Fearless, too.”

Something of Percival’s reserve seemed to thaw. He glanced down at Newt’s hand, then back up. “All right,” Percival said neutrally. “If I have the time. In the meantime, I’ll see you after class. And stay out of trouble.”

Newt was smiling to himself through Arithmancy, even when Tina arrived late and sat beside him. During the break, she leaned up, frowning as she peered at him. “Are you all right? You seem like you’re in shock.”

“Something like that.”

#

The makeshift nest/incubator/contraption that Newt had constructed around the chimaera egg had buried it partly in sand, partly in grass, and in some sort of charmed lattice that kept it at a steady temperature. Professor Zhang had wandered around, poking at things with his stick, occasionally nudging more nesting material around the egg, then he’d left them to it, cheerfully reminding them not to get bitten/stung/scratched, because poison. Bastard.

Percival settled down on the bench he’d pulled up from the classroom section of the Habitarium, yawning. This was insane. He was meant to be studying for his uppers. Instead, he was sitting in a darkened menagerie, waiting for a dangerous animal to hatch. At least the other animals were mostly settling down to sleep, in their sectioned off habitats, marked off by charms, and the chimaera’s habitat was nicely warm, if built mostly of rocks.

“Thanks,” Newt said, when he’d put the finishing touches on the charms. He sat down beside Percival, a little shyly, then blushed prettily when Percival shifted closer. “You didn’t have to come.”

“I wouldn’t put it beyond certain assholes to come in here otherwise, knowing that you’d be here alone.”

“They wouldn’t dare. Besides, Professor Zhang would be really upset.”

Percival made a noncommittal sound. Zhang had always struck him as someone who was far more invested in the various intricacies of his little collection of monsters than in the welfare of any of his occasional assistants. He lit the tip of his wand with Lumos, and pulled a book from his bag.

“Magical history?” Newt guessed.

Percival nodded absently. “I’m a Seventh. We have uppers at the end of the year. Upper Examinations,” he elaborated, when Newt looked blank. “You take one set of examinations in fifth year, which is compulsory, and if you do well, and wish to, you move on to do two more years, and take a second set in your seventh.”

“Ahh. Yes. Hogwarts has something similar.”

“I’ve heard. Your version of uppers is called ’N.E.W.T.’, isn’t it?” Percival smirked.

“Don’t start, please. I’ve heard every joke possible about it,” Newt said wryly, and looked away, back at the egg, as though pained.

“Was Hogwarts that bad?” Percival inquired quietly. When Newt glanced sharply at him, he continued, “School’s meant to be fun, Newt. Granted, some of us come out of it mildly traumatised. But you, you act a little like you’ve come out of a war zone.”

“Oh, it’s certainly not that bad,” Newt said uncomfortably. “And it’s a great school. Great tutors. But I suppose I never really fit in, and. It never got better.”

“What happened?” Percival asked, as gently as he could. When Newt said nothing, he added, “You don’t have to tell me. I won’t be offended.”

“No, I…” Newt exhaled. “You’ve been very kind to me all these weeks. You, and Tina, the others in Thunderbird… I’ve never actually had, well.”

“Friends?”

“I had one among the other students,” Newt said, brutally frank. “Or I thought I did. There was an accident, and she endangered the life of another student. I was good friends with Professor Dumbledore, and she was deathly afraid of her family’s ire, so. I said it was my fault. As it turned out, it was a lie that she wanted to be true, so she acted as though it were. Even when we were alone. And to Ilvermorny I went.”

“Newt—”

“I don’t regret it,” Newt said quickly. “I did, before… but I like it here now. Nobody in Ilvermorny really cares whether you’re muggle-born, or from an average family, or one of the Sacred Twenty-Eight. I got to meet Tina and the others. And you.” Newt smiled up at him, a wavering smile, and he took in a stuttered, soft breath as Percival leaned a little closer.

“I’m not really here because you might get jumped in the zoo,” Percival admitted softly.

“I… I hoped that you weren’t,” Newt whispered. “Professor Zhang has been dropping rather pointed hints for a week, but I very badly didn’t want to be disappointed.”

“The Professor…? Nevermind. Don’t tell me.”

It was easier to kiss. Newt made a stifled sound, a low gasp, then he kissed Percival back, clumsily, hands clenched in Percival’s robes. Percival hauled him over, balancing Newt over his knees, his book tipping off the bench, and Newt made a wounded little noise, lips parted…

Percival stifled a yelp as something clawed up between them, and had to grab Newt hastily as he shifted back instinctively in shock and nearly overbalanced. A Niffler glanced up, beady-eyed, then abruptly twisted onto its flank, stretching luxuriously.

Charity,” Newt hissed, grabbing the little monster under its arms and lifting it up. “I’ll go put her back in her nest.”

“You do that,” Percival said, and patted Newt’s ass, just to make him blush furiously. When Newt scurried off, Percival stretched, leaning down to pick up the fallen book, then he sighed as another Niffler climbed up his knees to flop over his lap. Percival grabbed it, holding it at eye level. “This is why I don’t come in here that often,” he told it, as it squirmed. “Just because my Patronus looks like you doesn’t mean that I like you. Goddamned thieves.”

He glanced around, in case Newt was watching, then he set the little monster on his lap, digging a shiny silver button out of his pocket. The Niffler squeaked, accepting the button greedily, sucking it into its stomach. Percival prodded its belly, reluctantly fascinated, though by the time Newt returned, he was curled awkwardly against the bench, twisting over to read his book, while the Niffler made little bubbly snores over his knees.

“There he is.” Newt murmured, grinning. He sat beside Percival, and after a moment’s hesitation, put his arm around Percival’s back, leaning his head against a shoulder. “You both look comfortable.”

“This little demon’s comfortable. Me, not so much,” Percival told him, prodding the Niffler’s belly again. It clawed sleepily at the air and rolled over, but didn’t wake.

“I’m surprised that you didn’t take the Care of Magical Creatures elective. You’re really good with them.”

“I’m not dead yet, you mean.”

“Not really. Liluye loves you, and she doesn’t allow me to do anything but clean out her perch and feed her.”

Percival grunted. “Could do without that kind of love.” The Thunderbird chick that Zhang had been raising kept repeatedly trying to sit on Percival’s shoulder, even though the goddamned thing now came up to his waist. “Lots of baby animals in here.”

Newt nodded. “That’s Zhang’s specialty. Sometimes people find or rescue abandoned or stolen eggs and young, or a mother might reject her young from another collection. Usually the mortality rate is really high, but he has a big success rate.”

“Probably because of the inexhaustible source of free student labour?” Percival poked the sleeping Niffler again. “Besides, I think I’m getting a rather more advanced crash course in Care than I bargained for, from an excellent teacher.” He kissed Newt on the temple, and Newt laughed. “Go to sleep. I’ll take first watch.”

“Wake me if it hatches.”

“No, I’m going to keep the moment all to myself—I’m joking, Scamander, Jesus. Sleep.”

#

Sevenths got individual rooms, and as the Head Prefect, Percival had the largest room, with a window. It wasn’t actually that much: the room could fit a narrow cot, a wardrobe, a tiny desk, and a chair. Newt was pinned to the door, his hands clapped tightly over his mouth. Percival was on his knees, God, looking so very pleased with himself, Newt’s cock in hand, stroking lazily while he licked at the rest in teasing stripes. Newt couldn’t bear to watch: he was already embarrassingly close, balanced on the dizzy edge between too much and not nearly enough. Percival sucked in the fleshy tip, tucking his tongue curiously over folded foreskin, and Newt muffled a wail in his palms.

Under him, Percival purred, predatory, and slowed down as Newt’s cries stammered into whines. This was… this was quite possibly perverse, and yet Newt couldn’t quite come up with any objections. Percival was humming as he drank Newt down, inch by inch, stifling a moan once he had Newt pressed against the back of his throat, God, his lips obscenely stretched, cheeks flushed… he was enjoying this, Newt realized in his daze. Percival was savouring it, having his mouth full, like this. Then he drew back, just a fraction, and pressed down again, sucking loudly and Jesus surely everyone could hear, everyone, even with Newt’s cries pressed wetly into his palms. It was too much. Blindly, Newt pulled desperately at Percival’s shoulders with one groping hand, trying to warn him, but Percival merely muffled a chuckle and sucked harder, messily, until Newt was whimpering and bent over Percival, made blind and weak with ecstasy.

Dazed, he scarcely noticed Percival getting them both to the cot, though once he caught his breath, he managed to wrestle their positions around, Percival grinning as Newt pressed him to the bed, tipping Newt’s chin up for a kiss. “I want to try it,” Newt whispered breathlessly, panting between them.

“Mm? Try what?” Percival pressed Newt’s hand between them, under his robes.

“My mouth. On your…” Newt trailed off, blushing. When Percival went still, Newt said, defensively, “I know I’ve never done it before but I won’t exactly get better without practice and hmphgf—”

“Don’t have to,” Percival said gently, though his voice was strained when he broke the kiss.

“Let me,” Newt urged, and Percival leaned back, on his elbows, letting Newt do the work. His fingers were clumsier than usual, now that he’d actually screwed up the courage to get this far, and Newt ducked his head, embarrassed.

A hand landed on his head, stroking his curls. “You’re doing great, pet.”

“No I’m not. You have too many buttons.” Somehow, Newt managed to navigate robes and vests, and started on the drawstrings of Percival’s boxers.

“Says the person who had to be coaxed out of union suits and into saner underthings.”

“Ooh, don’t you start.” Newt finally tugged Percival’s boxers and trousers down, enough to get his cock free, and he stared, fascinated. Percival’s cock was thicker than his, appreciatively so, though it wasn’t longer, and when he spat in his palm and took hold of it, Percival let out a low, hungry purr.

“Don’t push yourself. Just…” Percival took in a shaky breath. “Just lick. First.”

It didn’t taste as odd as Newt thought it would, and the musky scent was… different, at least. Masculine. Newt breathed deeply, and started to lick, tentatively at first, then with more confidence as knees locked against his shoulders. It was Percival’s turn to stifle his groans against a palm, though his free hand stayed against Newt’s head, his powerful fingers flexing and trembling. Newt stroked the flesh in his hand, the way he personally liked it, making a tight fist at the root and squeezing up, and Percival’s hips jerked into the pressure, straining.

“Like that?” Newt whispered, surprised by his own boldness.

“Fuck,” Percival growled in response, and Newt grinned, bending to lick at the very tip. This got a garbled oath from Percival and another jerk of his hips, and Newt chased the bitter taste, lapping harder, then finally sucking cautiously over what little he could fit into his mouth without choking. Absorbed, he ignored Percival’s anxious shoves at his shoulders, then he yelped and froze as fluid spilled over his tongue, against his throat. Instinctively, Newt swallowed, and then coughed, startled by the bitter taste.

“Sorry,” Percival groaned hoarsely. “Didn’t. Tried to warn you.”

“It’s not that bad,” Newt said seriously, swallowing again, then swiping up the spill with his fingers, and cautiously licking that clean. There was a strangled noise from Percival, and Newt was abruptly being pulled up into a demanding, biting kiss, Percival hauling him close, licking into his mouth.

#

Percival found Newt standing uncertainly near the Distaff Gate. No case of luggage, nothing. Newt smiled when he got closer, freckled cheeks reddened from the chill, his lips cold and yielding. Most of the others had already left, heading for the early train, and the rest were in the courtyard beyond the Gate, waiting for carriages.

“Not going home?” Percival inquired.

“I thought I might stay and help the Professor with his creatures.”

“You don’t really need to feel obligated to. He brings in extra staff during the holiday season.”

“I know. He told me.” Newt smiled, a little nervously. “I guess. My brother said I should buy a steamship ticket home, but I've left it rather late to book, so on the next available slot, by the time I get to London I’d just have to turn around and come back to America.”

“You’re going to take your uppers?”

“I don’t know,” Newt said honestly. “I’ve been thinking about it. Congratulations though.”

“Yes, yes. You’ve only said it a hundred times,” Percival said, trying not to feel pleased. Picquery had topped her classes, of course, even those that she shared with Percival, but he’d done well enough to qualify comfortably into the Auror program. “You should stay for your uppers. Tina is, and you’ve met the next Thunderbird Head Prefect. Aaliya’s competent. Besides, Richie and his friends stopped messing with you months ago.”

“Thanks to you. I’ll think about it,” Newt assured him. “It’s just that I don’t really need uppers for what I want to do.”

“Travelling the world, checking on magical beasts?” Percival chuckled, kissing Newt’s forehead. “It’s up to you, certainly.”

“I thought you’d ask me to stay.”

“In New York? Or even just here? Why? I don’t think that you’d be happy.” Percival brushed a kiss over the tip of Newt’s nose. “Besides, I’m very patient.”

Newt leaned back, staring up at at him searchingly, then he abruptly hugged Percival tightly, pressing his lips against Percival’s collar, his breathing going shaky. Percival stroked his back, nuzzling his temple, waiting for Newt to calm down. “You probably should go,” Newt said finally, thinly.

“I’m waiting for someone,” Percival said, a little playfully. “Newton Scamander, come home with me for the winter break.”

“You… really?” Newt tensed up. “Won’t your parents mind?”

“They like guests.” Percival kissed his cheek. “Come with me.”

“But the baby chimaera needs extra care and so does Liluye and…” Newt allowed Percival to tip him up for a kiss, and another, until he was calm again, his palms pressed to Percival’s cheeks. “I suppose,” Newt breathed, “that there really is going to be extra help over the holidays.”

“Mmhmm.”

“And the professor did tell me to take a break.”

“Good.” Percival pressed a kiss over the edge of that lush, red mouth.

“So I suppose…” Newt whispered against his mouth, “you could move into the Habitarium with me during the holiday season.”

Percival froze. “What.”

Newt laughed, the little minx, grinning even as Percival pretended to scowl at him. Arms curled over Percival’s shoulders as Newt pulled Percival back over, mirth and joy shaking through him in equal measure. “Of course I’ll go with you,” Newt said at last. “Anywhere.”