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He hears the furious exclamation on his way to work.

"She brought this on herself!"

In a coffee shop, two No-Maj middle-aged ladies are gossiping. He doesn't know why it makes him stop in his tracks.

"Living alone, no close friends to speak of, working late all the time!" The other lady agrees. "No wonder she was--"

He apparates right then and there, uncaring if anyone sees.

An empty house. Years of keeping people at bay. Unrivaled dedication to his work that leads to habitually going home in the middle of the night.

He shakily hands in his sloppily written resignation letter to Picquery thirty minutes later. He turns to leave, but Picquery stops him with a hand on his arm.

"Percival. Please, sit down for a moment," she murmurs. Percival sits. Picquery waves her wand and the door locks itself. A flick, and a bottle of firewhiskey and two shot glasses place themselves on her desk.

She pours him a generous glass. He drains it in a matter of seconds.

"I wish it didn't come to this, you know," Picquery says. "I wish I had the right words. Just know I care. And I'm sorry to have failed you."

Percival just nods, because he doesn't have the right words either. He doesn't want to lie.

He drinks another shot of firewhiskey before he leaves.

- -

In the aftermath of Grindelwald, there is numbness and dull pain. He should be grateful to be alive, but he feels nothing.

No relief. No joy.

Without his job, he loses what feels like his last tether. He's adrift and directionless like he's never been before. There's always been something to look forward to. But now... Now he only has this wretched existence.

He couldn't live with his job anymore, but it feels like he couldn't live without it either. He wants to laugh at his stupidity. He wants to cry. He does neither.

He's somehow managed to put all his experiences from Grindelwald behind a very flimsy wall in his wind. If he gives in to his emotions, he'll break and he doesn't think he'll ever be able to put the pieces back together. He doesn't think he'll want to put the pieces back together.

... But he is a fighter. Right now he may not know what he's fighting for, but he'll fight for it all the same. He hangs on to sanity by the tips of his fingers.

He eats. He showers. He washes his clothes. He cleans his house. He buys groceries. He doesn't go anywhere.

Everything he puts in his mouth tastes bland. He keeps eating by sheer force of will, like clock work.

- -

One day, he wakes up disoriented. He doesn't know how much time has passed since he resigned. He gets up and washes his face in the bathroom sink.

He stares at the face in the mirror.

It's not just his face anymore.

There's a surge of emotions, and an even larger surge of raw magic. He tamps it down through sheer stubbornness.

When he opens his eyes again, the mirror is in pieces. His hand is bleeding. Mirror shards are embedded in his skin.

He still has control of his magic, at least.

- -

He tries to start a tab at the nearest bar. Only, it's a No-Maj bar, and they have a prohibition on alcohol for some inane reason.

He wants to scream.

He personally visits one of his shadier contacts, and tells Margot to get him enough alcohol to fill a bathtub.

"I'm planning on opening a bar," he grunts.

Margot just raises an eyebrow. They both know he's not planning on doing anything of the sort.

Margot still has several crates delivered to him two days later. So nice to see you getting back to your Irish roots! is written on a card stuck on one of the crates.

- -

He passes by a No-Maj jewelry store on his way home from buying groceries. His reflection on the glass is distorted and see-through.

He doesn't do anything to the glass and it's a small victory.

- -

In the haze of drunkenness, he thinks, what if?

What if he hadn't been alone when he was attacked? What if he had a close friend who had noticed something was off? What if he had been strong enough to beat Grindelwald?

He takes another swig of whiskey straight from the bottle, finds it empty, and throws it to the opposite wall. It doesn't shatter. More's the pity.

- -

He doesn't know when he last ate. Or even got up from his couch, really. Surely he must have at least gone to the bathroom to pee?

It doesn't matter.

- -

"Mister Graves. Percival. Percival."

There's a hand that's trying to take his booze away. It's not his own hand, he doesn't have freckles.

He squints his eyes, trying to focus, hoping it'll make the spinning of the world stop. It doesn't.

There's a hand stroking his hair. He leans into it. His booze gets taken away, but as long as the hair-stroking continues, he doesn't mind.

His eyelids slide shut and he welcomes unconsciousness.

- -

He wakes to the scent of wilderness. Fresh grass and earth and trees and more that he can't name. There's a hand stroking his back in slow, even gestures. It's very soothing. He falls back to sleep.

- -

"-- Don't know if you'll recognize me, really, since you haven't been coherent the last few times, but I'm Newt. Theseus Scamander's younger brother. You are in my case. You've been here for two weeks, nearly three. You are safe."

He swims to consciousness with great effort. Freckled hands gently holding Percival's own come into focus slowly, although he realizes that his eyes have been open for a while. He's in a sitting position already.

"Scamander..." Percival grates out, sounding like he's been gargling gravel in his free time. "Newt...? Why... a reptile...?"

Newt laughs. Percival still can't get the energy to raise his head to look at him.

"It's Newton, but no one calls me that, thank Merlin."

- -

He stays awake for longer and longer amounts of time after that.

"The healer said you'll make a full recovery, despite your best efforts to drown yourself in alcohol. Luckily they've developed a potion to counter alcohol dependence, although you were incoherent for two weeks after as your body adjusted. It's the psychosomatic addiction that we have to watch out for," Newt explains one afternoon. He's cradling a monkey with silvery fur. The monkey waves at him.

Demiguise, Percival remembers.

"...Healer? I haven't... seen anyone here except you," Percival states in confusion. Newt smiles sheepishly.

"Well. I'm no expert on humans, really. I'm a magizoologist, if you haven't figured that out yet. So during the first few days, yes, there was a healer who checked on you. By the second week, she didn't need to come anymore. You were recovering nicely, and I could keep an eye on you with no problem."

"Why did... How did you even know about... Who told you to come?" Percival asks.

"Oh, Theseus was worried about you. He said something must be wrong for you to quit your job, because you were always so passionate about it. He told me that you've written to each other before, but only a few times throughout the year and sporadically at that, so he didn't think to question why you didn't write to him," Newt replies. "And Tina, Tina Goldstein, do you remember her?"

Percival nods.

"She's been keeping an eye on you, after you resigned. She owled me, saying you haven't left your house for a long time," Newt adds. "She didn't think you'd appreciate her barging into your house, given the way you left MACUSA. She didn't exactly approve of me barging in here either, but I decided to take my chances."

"And... that's it? Just like that?"

This man is impossible to understand.

"Do I need a reason to help someone, Percival? I wanted to help you. I could help you, so I did. There's no ulterior motive," Newt insists.

Percival considers him for a few minutes.

Every inch of him wants to believe that Newt is sincere.

Percival nods, and Newt flashes him a brilliant smile.

"Come on. You can help me feed the occamies today," Newt declares. He stands and motions Percival to the door.

Percival is actually quite content with staying where he was, wherever it was. But... It couldn't hurt.

He trusts Newt. In just a few short weeks, more than two of which he wasn't even awake for, Newt Scamander has become his most trusted person.

Newt's his anchor. A safe harbor.

- -

He starts counting his days with Newt. Yesterday Newt had taught him about marmites and grindylows. The day before, they played with the baby graphorn.

Today...

"What did you say?" Percival blurts out.

"I said, let's have a practice duel. A spar. No major hexes or jinxes or curses allowed, ten-minute time limit," Newt repeats.

Percival's hand turns clammy with sweat. He wipes it on his pants.

"... Why?"

"I only survived Grindelwald because he was holding back."

"I don't believe that," Percival objects.

"You are one of the best duellists in MACUSA. You couldn't beat him, even though you fought him with everything you had. I believe that," Newt emphasizes. Percival can't deny it. "I need more experience. You're out of practice. There's a war in our future. We're likely to be targeted. We need to improve. We'll need to practice. Practicing alone is okay, but practicing together is better. Let's have a duel."

Percival looks around helplessly.

"Here?"

Newt blinks. "What? Oh, no. No, I was thinking, upstairs. In your house."

Percival gapes at him. "We're still in my house?"

He deliberately hasn't asked. It still surprises him how much he doesn't want to leave Newt's case.

Newt squints at him in confusion. "I thought you'd like it. I didn't want to leave so you'd be able to come back to your natural habitat once you've recovered."

Natural habitat...?

Percival runs his palm down his face exasperatedly.

"Newt," he mutters. "I hate to break it you, but I actually really don't want to go back. In fact, now that I'm thinking about it rationally, I should have sold that house as soon as I could. That man lived in that house and it. Gives. Me. The. Creeps."

Percival says the last part through gritted teeth. Newt laughs awkwardly, rubbing the back of his neck. "Ah. That... Yeah. You... Yeah."

"But, you know what, let's... Let's go have a duel. I think it's a great idea, now that I think about it," Percival announces cheerfully.

"Really?"

"If it happens to get thrashed during the duel, well. It's still my house. I can wreck it if I want."

- -

Percival doesn't purchase a new house after selling the old (severely damaged) one.

Newt gets a tip from his brother about a situation in Bern regarding a Kirin.

"It's really unlikely that it's a Kirin, but I still want to check it out," Newt admits.

"When are we leaving?" Percival asks. Newt's jaw drops. Percival raises an eyebrow.

"Tomorrow... afternoon...?" Newt offers weakly, sounding unsure. Percival takes it in stride and nods.

"Good."

"Uh... Good," Newt echoes. Percival furrows his brows and scowls at him.

"Unless you don't want me to come?"

"What? No! That's not what I... Are you... sure you want to...?" Newt splutters.

"Someone once told me I don't need a reason to help someone. Yes, I'm sure," Percival says with a small smile.

Newt returns it, blushing adorably for the rest of the day whenever he meets Percival's eyes.

- -

In the aftermath of the aftermath, Newt helps him pick up the pieces of his life. He feels hope. He thinks of the future. He sees endless possibilities, all with Newt Scamander in them. He moves on and doesn't look back, knowing Newt is beside him.