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Shadow Dreams (against my skin)

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A crack like a whip echoes through the empty alley as Percival apparates into existence. The rain is pouring down, but an impervious charm keeps him dry without attracting no-maj eyes.

He stands in the shadow of a nearby wall, allowing him to see without being seen. Passersby keep their heads down against the rain, but he doesn’t relax his posture.

He shouldn’t be here. He knows he shouldn’t. He’s flaunting the very law he’s sworn to uphold, but since his return from Europe, some reckless urge has overtaken him. When he came back from perusing Grindelwald, it was as though he no longer knew what he was working towards.

This-- his flagrant breaking of the statute of secrecy-- has become the highlight of his weeks.

Percival checks his pocket watch and finds it’s nearly ten minutes past their usual meeting time. In his job, he would never wait around for someone who was this late for a meeting, but now, he resolves that he’ll leave if twenty more minutes pass without a sign of the boy.

It’s always possible that he decided meeting Percival wasn’t worth braving the downpour or, more likely, that his harridan of a mother has done something to stop him. The latter option sends a spike of inexplicable fear through him. He’s grown protective of Credence over the past months.

More than protective, but he tries not to think about that.

His fingers drum against his side in an uncharacteristic show of nerves. He decides that if the boy doesn’t come, he’ll check the house tonight to make sure he’s okay. It’s unlike him to be late, much less miss a meeting entirely.

The hurried tip tap of running feet echoes from the other end of the alley, and Graves spins, hand closing around the wand in his coat pocket.

“I’m so sorry I’m late, Mr. Graves,” Credence says breathlessly. “Ma made me pick up the flyers from the printer first.”

“Quite alright, Credence,” Percival says. He’s not unaware of the blatant affection in his voice, but he’s damned if he can figure out how to help it.

Credence’s eyes light up as they always do when Percival says his name.

Percival isn’t blind. He knows how the boy feels towards him. He also has a pretty good idea of how much those feelings eat him from the inside, how every flash of happiness at Percival’s touch is followed by an even stronger expression of guilt.

Percival wishes he could do something to take that weight off his shoulders, but he fears anything he could do or say would frighten the boy away.

“Nothing-- nothing unusual happened this week,” Credence says.

“Good, good,” Percival says, nodding. “Any absences in the usual group of people surrounding the church?”

“No, sir.”

“It’s possible that the person is young-- under eleven,” Percival says, thinking aloud. “They could be a child not yet old enough to control their magic. Most wizarding children of no-maj families have no idea of the power they possess until their Ilvermorny letter arrives.”

Unusual incidents have plagued the Second Salem Church for the past three months-- busted windows, upturned furniture, small things. No one has been hurt yet, and the incidents are far below the notice of an auror with Percival’s skill. If the church wasn’t built on holy ground, he’d suspect a poltergeist. As is, he’s fairly certain it’s a child distraught by the church’s message or vandals causing trouble for the group responsible for the elevated tension within the wizarding community.

Truth be told, these meetings with Credence haven’t been about the incidents in a long time.

Percival can’t explain his obsession with this boy.

“I’m sorry I couldn’t help,” Credence says, looking down at his shoes.

“There’s no need to apologize. You’ve done more than enough already,” Percival says. He grips Credence’s shoulder reassuringly and finds the worn fabric under his hand soaked through. “Merlin’s beard, you’re drenched,” he says in shock.

“I’m fine,” Credence says.

Percival doesn’t believe him for a moment. It’s mid-November, and the winter chill is already settling into the city. The boy doesn’t even have a proper coat. He’s offered to buy him one, but Credence refused, saying his ma would be suspicious.

“When does your mother expect you back?”

“Not until sundown,” Credence says. Heat rises in his pale cheeks. “I-- I told her that I had a meeting with someone interested in the cause.”

Graves snorts inelegantly. “That’s one way of putting it, I suppose.”

He wraps one arm around the boy’s slim shoulders, pulling him close.

“What--?” Credence starts.

“Hold on. This can be jarring,” Percival says. It’s more contact that strictly necessary for side-along apparition, but he tells himself that it’s for Credence’s safety. He’s never seen someone stay on their feet their first time.

He envisions the living room of his townhouse and spins on his heel. The world tilts, compresses, then solidifies with a pop.

Credence staggers, his weight pressing against Percival’s chest. He gasps for breath, eyes clenched shut. Percival wraps both arms around him, more a comforting embrace than the support he intends.

Not for the first time, Percival wonders what power this ordinary boy has over him. He’s never been a cradle robber, and Merlin’s saggy left buttocks, Credence is barely of age.

He knows better than this, he really does. It would be taking advantage to act on his attraction, no matter what the boy’s feelings towards him. Credence suffers a pitiless life and has likely just fixated on Percival as his only source of compassion.

At least, that’s what Percival insists to himself.

He releases Credence, taking a step back. “That’s apparition,” he says, for something to fill the silence.

“How do you always keep walking after that?” Credence asks.

“Twenty years of practice.”

Credence shivers, and Percival abruptly remembers why he bought Credence to his home in the first place. He draws his wand, flicking it at the fireplace. Flames crackle to life in the grate as though they’ve been there all day.

“I can dry your clothes with magic, but we need to get the chill off your bones before you catch your death,” Percival says. He doubts the boy has a good immune system, as malnourished as he is. “Strip.”

Shock flits across Credence’s face, and Percival pushes down a wave of unwarranted guilt. Goddamnit, he’s not getting off on this. He only wants to keep Credence from getting sick, because Merlin knows his mother won’t do anything for him if he does.

Credence doesn’t question his order, though. His fingers fumble with the buttons of his vest, numb from the cold. They slip from his grasp over and over until Graves covers his hands with his own. Credence’s fingers are like ice under his palm.

“If I may?” Graves asks.

Credence swallows hard and nods, not quite looking at him.

Percival deftly unbutton first his vest then his shirt. His fingers brush chilled skin, making a shiver runs through Credence that Percival doubts has anything to do with the cold. He resolutely ignores the implications in favor of pushing the fabric from Credence’s shoulders, letting it fall to the floor.

Percival turns away to take a blanket from the back of a nearby chair. He unfolds it, holding it open to Credence. Understanding, Credence toes off his shoes before unbuttoning his pants with unsteady fingers.

He hesitates short of pulling them down. “How much should I…?” He trails off, face painfully red.

“Everything,” Percival says, voice tight.

Credence makes to shuck off his trousers and underwear, and Percival averts his eyes, raising the open blanket higher to preserve the boy’s modesty. No matter what his feelings towards him, Percival has no intention of adding himself to the list of people who have abused his trust.

“Turn around,” Percival says when Credence straightens, eyes still fixed well above his head.

Credence hesitates far longer than when Percival told him to take off his clothes. He bites his lip, something nervous in his eyes.

“Credence?” Percival asks, glancing at him out of the corner of his eye.

Credence doesn’t answer. Instead, he turns his back to Percival.

Only years of honed self-control keeps Percival from gasping. Dozens of scars crisscross Credence’s back. Most are shallow, but some are desperately deep, stretched with age.

Percival feels himself shaking with anger, and he’s relieved Credence has his back to him. He tries not to stare, aware of the boy’s obvious self-consciousness at the state of his body. He wants to touch, to comfort, to hold, but he knows he can do none of that without spooking the fragile creature before him.

Percival drapes the blanket around Credence’s shoulders, allowing his hands to linger for a brief moment. “Come, sit by the fire,” he says, voice hoarse.

Before he has a chance to move a chair closer to the flames, Credence seats himself on the hearth rug, pulling his knees to his chest. He looks so small, so vulnerable, that Percival’s mind begins racing through ways he can keep from sending him back to that godforsaken church.

All of them are unrealistic, he knows. They could cost him his job and Credence some of the only memories of kindness he has.

“I’ll be back in a moment,” Percival says. He strides quickly into the kitchen before Credence has a chance to see the rage threatening to overtake him.

He waves his wand to summon the ingredients for hot chocolate. They begin mixing themselves into a mug without much attention from him, giving him time to think.

He draws a steadying breath, hands gripping the counter with white knuckles. He’d known Credence’s situation was bad, but he hadn’t realized it was this bad. Those scars go far beyond corporal punishment and right into the terrain of child abuse. From the age of some of them, this has been going on for years.

The mug nudges against his fingers insistently, and he takes it, sighing. He runs a tired hand over his eyes; Merlin, he never should have agreed to Goldstein’s request for him to look into the boy. It’s been nearly a decade since he was so invested in another person.

Toeing off his shoes, he loosens his tie before deciding to hell with it all and taking the thing off completely. He works open the buttons of his waistcoat until he can shrug it off to drape along with his tie over the back of a kitchen chair. He feels exposed with only his bracers and dress shirt, but perhaps it will help even things out.

Darkness is rapidly approaching, but Percival resolves that he’ll keep Credence as long as he needs, even if it means modifying the memories of the entire Barebone family.

He pauses in the doorway to the living room. He hadn’t taken the time to light any other lights in the room, and in the growing dark, the crackling is fire only thing illuminating Credence. The blanket has slipped to one side to reveal a boney shoulder, the delicate pale skin almost glowing in the firelight.

Percival slowly lowers himself to the carpet beside him, knees popping. “Here,” he says.

Credence takes the proffered mug. “Thank you. What-- what is it?”

“Hot chocolate,” Percival answers.

A look of awe crosses Credence’s face. “I’ve never had it before. Are you sure it’s okay? The cost--”

A small smile touches Percival’s lips. “Drink and enjoy, my boy.”

Credence raises the mug to his lips, and his eyes close as he takes the first sip, an expression of sheer bliss on his face. “That’s amazing,” he says.

Entirely without his permission, Percival’s hand moves up to stroke Credence’s uneven hair. Credence glances at him, that look of guilt back on his face, and Percival takes his hand back with a suppressed sigh.

“May I see your back?” he asks as gently as he can manage.

Still, Credence tenses. “I-- you shouldn’t. It’s not nice to look at.”

“I don’t care,” Graves says. “I don’t have the skill to do anything for the scars, but I can heal the more recent wounds.”

Credence’s shoulders hunch, but he nods, just once.

Movements slow so as not to startle, Percival lowers the blanket until it pools around Credence’s bare waist. He starts with the most recent mark, still angry-red and scabbed. His thumb brushes it, pushing magic towards the cut until it heals over with unblemished skin.

His fingers track over mark after mark, able to do very little for most of them. In the end, he simply traces the older scars, perhaps more a comfort to himself than to Credence, who shivers under his touch. His head bows self-consciously, and he hitches the blanket tighter around his hips.

“I swear to you, Credence,” Percival says, voice rough. “I’ll find a way to get you out of there.”

“Don’t,” Credence says sadly. “I know what it would cost you. You-- you’re not even supposed to be talking to me.”

“I don’t care,” Percival says and finds that he means it.

His world has felt empty, meaningless since his return from Europe a year ago. He walks through each day shrouded in an impenetrable cloak of apathy. Most nights the nightmares come, reminding him of the travesties of the dark wizard he was unable to stop. They’ve waned in recent months, slowly replaced by dreams of dark hair and pale skin.

Credence reminds him of what he fought to protect, what made the searing pain and the screaming nightmares worth it. He thinks he’d do it all over again for this young man.

In that moment, it feels like the most natural thing in the world to lean forward until he can press a dry kiss to Credence’s exposed shoulder.

“Mr-- Mr. Graves?”

Percival pulls back, startled by his sudden lapse in control. “Forgive me. That was terribly inappropriate,” he says.

Credence turns to look at him, and Percival isn’t quite shocked to see that his pupils are blown wide.

“Why did you do that?” Credence asks weakly.

“Because you’re beautiful,” Percival says, even as his higher thought process screams at him to shut his mouth. “You have so much good in you, and you deserve so much better than the hand you’ve been dealt.”

“You think I’m beautiful?” Credence swallows hard, a look of awed disbelief on his face. And oh, Percival knows this is going down a dangerous road, but he can’t seem to do anything to stop it. “Are-- are-- Mr. Graves, are you-- do you--”

“Like men?” Percival says, sparing Credence the effort of finding words. He resists the urge to cup Credence’s cheek. “Yes. Does that make you uncomfortable?”

“No. Yes-- wait, no,” Credence stammers. He turns away again, hugging his knees closer to his chest, visibly uncomfortable.

Something sharp aches in Percival’s chest. “I won’t try anything, I promise. I can take you home any time you wish and make it as if you never left,” he says.

“No, no! It’s not that,” Credence says, the words tumbling over each other. “I trust you. It’s just, I’ve never met anyone that way before. You’re nothing like Ma said you’d be.”

“I highly doubt I’m the first, though I suspect the others didn't exactly advertised it,” Percival says, relaxing. He stretches his legs towards the fire, crossing them at the ankles. “As for your mother, I thought you’d have realized by now that she’s wrong about a good many things.”

“I know,” Credence says. “Really, I know that. You just-- you’re such a good person.”

Percival keeps his doubts on that front to himself. If he were a good person, he wouldn’t be sitting here, letting himself be drawn ever more into the orbit of this young man. Instead, he says, “Being a homosexual doesn’t make someone a bad person.”

Credence doesn’t answer, merely clutches the fabric of the blanket with bloodless fingers.

Percival knows this conversation is no longer about him. He covers Credence’s hand with his own, squeezing lightly. “Being a homosexual no more makes someone a bad person than being a wizard does.”

When Credence looks at him, his eyes shine too much in the firelight. “Is that a common opinion among wizards?”

“It’s not uncommon. Our world has a somewhat more lenient outlook on the subject than yours,” Percival says. They’re so close together, and he wonders when that happened. “A person can no more help their attractions than they can help having magic. Repressing either only leads to misery.”

Percival takes his hand, turning Credence’s thin-boned wrist over experimentally. A spider web of blue veins is clearly visible through his delicate skin, and he can’t help brushing his thumb across. He doesn’t mean it to be seductive, but Credence trembles under his touch.

Before he has a chance to regret the small intimacy, Credence surges forward to press his lips to Percival’s in an unpracticed kiss. He kisses like he’s never even seen it done, has only ever been told the mechanics of it. His lips are dry and tense, and his eyes are still open, alight with nervous energy.

Percival gives in and allows himself to kiss back for one short instant. He tilts his head until the angle is better and draws the kiss into something more refined.

He forces himself pull away, watching Credence’s face as it falls. “I’m sorry. I thought-- but, I’m sorry,” the younger man stammers. He ducks his head.

Percival tilts Credence’s face back up with careful fingers. His lips are impossibly red, more beautiful than any Percival has seen on a man before. “My boy, can you honestly say you want this with me and that you’re not simply kissing me because I’ve been kind to you?”

“I-- I’ve thought about doing that ever since I met you,” Credence says, breathless. Even by the dim light, a deep flush is visible on his cheeks. “That and-- and other things.”

And heavens above, Percival wants to find out what those other things are.

“I shouldn’t have assumed--” Credence starts. “Just because you like men doesn’t mean you’d be interested in--”

Percival decided that he’s met his quota for self-restraint for the day. He captures Credence’s lips in a real kiss, one hand coming up to cup the side of his neck while the other tangles in his short hair.

Credence’s hands clench Percival’s lapels, more holding himself steady than the other man. He gasps into the kiss, and Percival takes the opportunity to traces his tongue over his lower lip. He coaxes the kiss deeper, feeling Credence’s inexperience broadcast in every nervous yet eager response.

Credence’s tongue darts out to brush against his before disappearing again, as though he’s not sure if that’s what Percival wants. Perceval follows its retreat, coaxing the younger man’s mouth open further. Their tongues tangle, and he can feel the heat coming off Credence’s face.

It’s been so long since Percival has kissed someone like this. Even when he’s cared enough to find a partner for the evening, he hasn’t felt this kind of magnetic pull in years.

He breaks the kiss to trace his lips down the exposed column of Credence’s neck, peppering light kisses as he goes.

“Mr. Graves,” Credence gasps.

“Percival, please. No more formalities,” Percival murmurs against his skin.

“Percival,” Credence repeats as though trying the name out in his mouth. He reaches up to tentatively run his fingers over the curve of the older man’s ear to the five o’clock shadow peppering his jaw.

Percival moves back enough to hold Credence’s eyes gaze as he slowly runs his hands over the sharp jut of his shoulders, watching for any sign that he’s moving too fast. Credence’s breath stutters when roughened hands meet his skin, but he meets Percival’s gaze unflinchingly.

A tent in the blanket is growing conspicuously visible, and Credence pulls his knees snug against his chest once again, self-conscious.

“We can stop,” Percival says, worried he pushed too far, let his desire get the better of him.

“No, it’s--” Credence swallows hard. “I’m not supposed to-- It’s wrong.”

Percival represses a sigh. “There’s nothing wrong about it, Credence. It’s perfectly natural.”

“It’s a sin,” Credence says softly.

“Like kissing me is a sin?” Percival challenges. If Credence is going to stew in religious turmoil over their actions come tomorrow, he resolves not to take this further. He wants this, he really does, but not at the expense of Credence’s mental wellbeing.

“It’s supposed to be, but-- but it feels so right. It doesn’t feel like something dirty or wrong.” Credence looks at him with conflicted eyes. “I don’t see how kissing someone I care for could be a sin.”

Graves smiles, secretly proud that Credence came to that conclusion on his own. “Being aroused by someone is hardly a sin, and the same goes for touching them or being touched by them.”

“But the Bible says…” Credence trails. He can’t quite meet Percival’s eye as he says, “It says inversion is a sin.”

“I am no authority on the Word of the Christian God, but I daresay it’s not the worst crime,” Percival says. “Your soul will be okay. No god worth following could possibly look at you and judge otherwise.”

He doesn’t intend the words to sound like a benediction, but somehow, they do. He wants to relieve the guilt that weighs on Credence’s shoulders, bowing them. No matter what happens tonight, he never wants Credence to feel that there’s something innately wrong with him, that there’s a flaw in his design.

Percival sucks in a sharp breath when Credence’s fingers tentatively brush the bulge in his suit pants.

“Can I?” Credence asks.

Percival nods, unable to form words. A warm palm cups his half-hard cock through the wool, barely-there pressure. Credence traces its outline with trembling fingers, and Percival can’t help but stare. Credence’s fingers are long, pale and thin and oh-so-delicate.

But that’s ridiculous, Percival realizes. If Credence has survived for so long in such an unforgiving world, he mustn’t be as delicate as he seems.

He leans forward, pressing his mouth to Credence’s sharp collarbone. He nips lightly at the skin and gets a breathy gasp in response.

“Oh,” Credence says, breathless.

Percival lifts his head to rest his lips against the younger man’s temple. “Is that a good ‘oh’ or a bad ‘oh’?” he asks, words muffled by dark hair.

“Good,” Credence says. “Very good.”

Percival smiles against his skin. No matter how much he’s enjoying this, he thinks that his greatest pleasure might be the look of wondrous discovery on Credence’s face. Percival trails kisses down his jaw, his neck, feeling every stutter in his breathing. His lips ghost over the impossibly smooth skin of his shoulders and he can’t quite resist the urge to suck, to mark.

Credence moans only to cut himself off with a hand clapped firmly over his mouth. He looks ashamed, and Percival thinks that they can’t have that. He pries Credence’s hand away with gentle touches. “It’s alright. Let me hear you. Only me around to hear, I promise.”

He resumes his exploration with biting kisses to Credence’s chest. His mouth covers one pink nipple, tongue whirling the bud as he sucks, and Credence lets out a desperate noise, back arching.

The sound makes Percival want to do reckless things, makes him want to lay the boy out and spread him open, teach him all the ways his body can come alive.

He pulls back before his desires get the better of him.

“What do you want?” he asks.

“You,” Credence says. “Just you.”

Percival presses forehead to Credence’s shoulder until he can regain his composure, because galloping gargoyles, this boy doesn’t even know how much of a temptation he is.

“What do you want to do?” he clarifies, once words are back within his reach.

“I-- I don’t know,” Credence says. Embarrassment flickers across his face. “I don’t even know what-- what men do together.”

And that, that right there, should be the sign for Percival to stop, but Credence is looking at him with wide, innocent eyes, and hell if he knows how.

So Percival tries again. “I need to know what you’re okay with,” he says.

“Anything, if it’s with you.”

“You can’t just tell a person that,” Percival bursts. “Someone could take advantage of you.”

“You won’t, though,” Credence says, like it’s an indelible fact of life. “I may not know what men do, but I-- I want you to teach me.”

Percival stares at him, stunned. Credence’s expression is perfectly earnest, shy but resolved, and Percival decided that who is he to deny such a heartfelt request. Still, he says, “Tell me to stop, and I’ll stop. Understand?”

Credence nods once, then says, “Just-- one thing, please. Can I--? I want to see you.”

His fingers brush the buttons on Percival’s sheer dress shirt, and Percival smiles. “Be my guest.”

Credence’s fingers shake as he slips the delicate buttons loose. He breathes in sharp when the first glimpse of skin is revealed and only shakes harder.

“Are you afraid?” Percival asks, low, watching as Credence’s unsteady fingers work.

“Just nervous,” Credence says as he untucks the hem of Percival’s shirt so he can reach the last button. His palm presses flat against the exposed skin, and it’s breathtakingly evident how new all of this is for him.

Percival lowers his bracers so he can shrug off the shirt entirely. Credence’s eyes widen, and he tries not to feel a swell of pride. His suit does a fine job of hiding how years of auror training have shaped his body.

Credence’s hand follows the line of his neck all the way down to his forearms, feeling the muscles corded under the skin. He leans forward, pressing his cheek to Percival’s chest as though checking for a heartbeat.

“You’re so warm,” he says.

Percival runs the tips of his fingers down his curved back, feeling every pronounced bump of his spine. He presses a kiss to his dark hair, and it’s such a saccharinely sentimental gesture that he hardly recognizes it as his own. He moves his mouth further until he can nip at the tip of Credence’s ear. His hand brushes down the concave plane of his stomach.

“May I?” Percival asks, trailing two finger along the line where the blanket meets the soft skin of Credence’s waist.

Credence freezes, just for a moment, then nods against Percival’s chest.

“I need you to use words,” Percival coaxes. He needs to know that this is alright, that Credence isn’t simply giving him what he wants.

“Yes,” Credence says quietly. He pressed his forehead to Percival’s shoulder before adding, even softer, “Please.”

That’s all the confirmation Percival needs. He slips his hand lower, following the curve of Credence’s waist to the solid point of his hip bone. His thumb traces its curve, pressing into the indent he finds there before moving lower.

Percival twitches aside the blanket to expose Credence’s skin to the warm air, and the younger man squeezes his eyes shut, face twisting with shame. A noise like a pained whimper escapes him.

“Shh shh shh,” Percival shushes, running a hand along his jaw. “No need for embarrassment, my boy. Open your eyes.”

Slowly, Credence does. He looks up at Percival, holding his eyes as he resolutely avoids looking down at himself.

Percival decides that he can’t have that. He uses the hand on Credence’s jaw to tilt his gaze down before brushing his other palm against the reddened flesh of his cock. Percival wraps his had around his arousal, more a simple touch than real stimulation, and Credence’s breath hitches at the first touch, his eyes trained on the sight before him.

“That’s it,” Percival murmurs as his finger slide along the underside of Credence’s cock, “Nothing to be ashamed of.”

He strokes from root to tip, once, eyes watching for the ‘oh’ of pleasure Credence’s mouth forms. Percival knows, objectively, that this boy isn’t what most people would call attractive-- shoulders too hunched, hair too short, body too malnourished-- but he can’t help but consider him the most captivating creature he’s ever seen.

Even the underfed sharpness of Credence’s face isn’t completely able to hide the elegant slope of his cheekbones or the delicate plush of his lips. Percival finds himself wanting to keep him, to make sure he has three meals a day and a warm bed to sleep in.

“You are so beautiful,” Percival says, unable to keep his thoughts to himself.

“Don’t--” Credence says, turning his face away even as pleasure makes his breath stutter. “No lying, please. That-- that’s all I ask.”

“It’s true.” Percival tightens his grip, and he leans forward to nose at Credence’s ear. “You are so gorgeous, and you can’t even see it.”

A desperate noise escapes Credence, like he wants Percival to stop almost as much as he wants him to keep going. His fingers dig into Percival’s back, blunt nails not even long enough to break the skin.

“I can’t wait to see you after I’ve had time to take care of you,” Percival says. “After I’ve shown you what it feels like to be cared for.”

He doesn’t know where the words are coming from; he’s never been one for talking in the bedroom, especially nothing this-- well, sweet, but he can’t seem to stop the words falling from his mouth.

“I’ll do it, Credence. I will,” he insists, not wanting Credence to think he’s making empty promises in a moment of passion. There will be hell to pay in the morning when he has to figure out how to keep them, but he’ll find a way. “I’m going to get you away from her.”

Please,” Credence begs, and Percival can’t tell if it’s for sanctuary or for release.

Percival pulls his hand back, not yet ready for Credence’s pleasure to be over. A desperate noise escapes him, but he doesn’t protest. Percival leans up to capture his mouth once more in a searing kiss. This time, Credence doesn’t hesitate. He kisses him back with everything he has, tilting his head until he can bite Percival’s lower lip, almost hard enough to draw blood.

Something hot ignites in Percival’s chest, wild and desperate in a way he hasn’t been in years.

He breaks the kiss only to fix his lips on the impossibly tempting skin of Credence’s neck, pale and unmarked. He worries the spot with his tongue and teeth. He knows he’ll have to heal the mark later, but damn if he cares. He wants Credence to know what it feels like to be marked by pleasure, not spite.

Credence moans, voice cracking like the sound is new to him-- probably, Percival realizes, it is.

The thought is heady, and it makes him want to make the younger man’s body sing with all the pleasures he can bring him.

“Lay back,” Percival murmurs against his skin.

When Credence hesitates, he guides him back with a palm to his chest, gentle yet insistent. He doesn’t know what he’s thinking; there’s a perfectly serviceable bed upstairs. But then, maybe that would make all of this too real, too premeditated. If he stops long enough to move them, he suspects he’ll come to his senses and remember all the very good reasons why this is an awful idea.

Now, though, Percival can’t help looking down at the young man spread out before him.

Like this, it’s clear just how tall Credence is, all long limbs and coltish allure. Cast in firelight and protected by shadows, he looks like an oil painting. A blush spreads from his cheeks down his chest under Percival’s gaze.

Percival straddles his skinny legs, careful to keep his weight for bearing down into him. Even through his trousers he can feel heat radiating off Credence in wave. He runs his hands down his sides, feeling ever too sharp bump of his ribs.

Percival braces himself above him on hands and knees and wonders if he’ll come to regret deciding against the bed as his knee gives a twinge of protest.

He trails kisses down Credence’s stomach, marveling at the small sounds he gets in reward. He’s never heard someone so responsive, not for show but out of sheer pleasure.

He kissed lower, feeling the brush of coarse hair against his lips and the insistent nudge of a cock against his jaw. For the time being, he ignores it in favor of pressing open mouthed kisses to Credence’s inner thigh.

A desperate mewl sounds from above him, and he can’t help a smile. Credence’s scent is heady, overwhelming-- arousal and masculinity and something so distinctly Credence.

Another breathless pant, and Percival decides he’s teased the younger man long enough.

He lets his nose bump once, twice against Credence’s cock before running his lips up it’s length. Credence’s startled grunt quickly morphs into an equally startled moan when Percival takes him into his mouth.

Percival flattens his tongue against the smooth head, taking in the taste of sweat and precome. This isn’t one of his favorite things to do, but the awed pleasure twisting Credence’s face is more than worth it.

Credence props himself up on one elbow, trying to look at Percival as his chest heaves. “S-stop, no,” he pants.

Instantly, Percival pulls off. He look at Credence, startles and concerned. “What’s wrong?”

“It’s--” Credence starts before biting his knuckle.

“Hey, it’s okay,” Percival says. “I just need you to tell me what’s the matter.”

Credence looks towards the fire. “It’s demeaning.”

Percival blinks. “You’re going to have to explain,” he says slowly.

“It’s-- You shouldn’t be doing something like that,” Credence says stiffly. “It’s degrading, and you deserve better.”

It takes several moments for what Credence is saying to click into place.

Percival places a hand on his sharp hip, comforting, before saying, “It’s not like that. There is nothing demeaning about it when it's between lovers.”

“I know people who’ve been offered money or food to-- to--” Credence swallows hard. “I’ve seen it before, in alleys. It always looks so horrible for the person--” He makes an aborted gesture towards Percival. “--sucking.”

“Oh, my boy,” Percival says, unable to keep the smallest tinge of pity from his voice. “It isn’t always like that. In fact, I find that I quite like doing this for you.”

“What could you possibly like about-- about--?”

“About having your cock in my mouth?” Percival asks, voice low.

The blush on Credence’s face darkens even more, and he nods.

“I like seeing you come undone,” Percival says. “I like knowing that I’m the one bringing you pleasure. I like seeing you shake and feeling every muscle in your body coil because of me.”

Credence looks down at him, lips parted and eyes huge.

“I want to do this for you, Credence. May I?” Percival asks.

Silently, Credence nods.

Percival leans back down slowly, holding Credence’s eyes and giving him time to protest. His breath ghosts over his straining cock, and a shudder runs through the younger man.

Slowly, oh so slowly, he takes Credence back into his mouth. He pushes himself as far down as he can go before coming back up at the same maddening rate. He repeats the motion again and again until he’s amazed at Credence’s self-control. Any of his previous lovers would have done something, anything for him to pick up the pace, but Credence remains perfectly still, not bucking into Percival’s mouth or showing any sign of impatience other than his fists balled into blanket under him.

Percival takes the hand not propping him up and guides it to his hair. Credence’s fingers tangle in there, but to pull him closer or push him further away, he doubts the boy even knows. He’s impossibly polite, simply following Percival’s movements.

Percival decided that he can’t have that.

He pulls off with a pop to says, “Do what you want. You’re not going to hurt me, I swear it,” before descending back down.

To emphasize his point, he slips one hand under Credence’s bare ass, pulling his hips up until his cock presses further down Percival’s throat.

Credence gaps. Carefully, he tilts his hips in a series of shallow thrusts that Percival takes with ease. He rests his hand on Credence’s in his hair, applying the barest pressure until Credence understands what he means.

Credence visibly swallows before be tightens his grip and begins moving Percival’s head in time with his thrusts.

It’s sloppy and uncoordinated, and Percival swears he’s never seen something so beautiful in his entire life. To see Credence learning to take pleasure at his hands is heady, breathtaking. Credence looks lost, like Percival is the only thing anchoring him to this world and if he lets go for even a second, they’ll both float away.

Percival thinks he must be just as lost, because his fingers move without his permission, tracing skin he knows Credence has never touched.

Credence moans broken and high at the first press of fingers to his hole, but he doesn’t tell Percival to stop.

Percival looks up at him to be sure, watching as pleasure contorts his face and confusion furrows his brow. Confusion, Percival is alright with; he wouldn’t expect Credence to know much in matters of it physical, given his upbringing. Likely, he only knows what he’s heard whispers of, and much like Percival’s mouth on his cock, he likely knows that he hasn’t heard the entire story.

Percival releases his cock long enough to lick his index finger. He could use his wand, should use it, but the temptation of real slick might be too much for his shattered self-control.

Instead, he presses one spit-slick finger to the puckered skin as he kisses back up the length of Credence’s cock. He simply rubs at first, getting Credence used to the sensation. He presses, slow and gentle, not forcing when the muscles refuse to give.

“Relax,” he murmurs against Credence’s cock. “I won’t hurt you, I promise. I’m never going to hurt you.”

Credence swallows hard but nods, visibly unable to form words.

Percival feels him trying to relax, trying not to fear his seeking touch. He takes Credence into his mouth once more, and the sensation must be enough to distract him, because Percival finds himself able to press forward into the impossible heat.

A startled sound escapes Credence, halfway between a cry and a moan.

Percival holds his hand still even as he bobs his head, knowing that the feeling has to be new and terrifying to the younger man. Slowly, steadily, he begins making small circular motions with his finger, trying to coax the muscles looser. He times each bob of his head in time with them, and Credence’s death grip on his hair tells him how close to the edge he is.

Percival pulls off one last time to suck the skin at the base of Credence’s cock and wrap his free hand around the rest. He curls his finger, searching, and he knows he’s found the right spot when Credence’s entire body shudders. His muscles clench rhythmically around Percival’s finger. Credence cries out in abandon as he comes hot and messy against Percival’s cheek and over his fingers.

Carefully, Percival withdraws his finger as Credence’s body goes slack, wiping it on the blanket.

Credence looks down at him like he’s something holy, something to be worshiped. He runs shaking fingers through the mess on Percival’s cheek, expression awed and disheleaving.

“Th-thank you,” Credence breathes.

Percival leans up to catch his lips with a chaste kiss. “This isn’t not something you say ‘thank you’ for. I did it because I wanted to.”

Credence bites his lip and nods. He’s so flustered, so innocent, that Percival is suddenly achingly aware of his own arousal. He’s desperate, nearly shaking with it in a way he hasn’t been for nearly two decades.

“Turn onto your side,” Percival instructs.

Credence tenses. Percival knows what Credence thinks he’s asking for, and he doesn’t correct the misapprehension, wondering what he’ll do.

Wordlessly, Credence rolls onto his side, lines of his shoulder tense but no fear in his eyes.

Something purrs inside Percival at the display of trust.

He stands long enough to shuck off his trousers and underwear before settling himself behind Credence.

“What-- what do I--?” Credence stammers. He half lifts one leg, awkward and unsure.

Percival presses a kiss to one scarred shoulder, feeling the tense curl of muscles under his lips. “We’re not doing that, not today,” he says, running a hand down the length of his body. “I promised I wouldn’t hurt you, and right now, that would probably hurt you.”

Credence relaxes ever so slightly, so subtle that Percival might not have noticed had his chest not been pressed to Credence’s back.

“You’re relieved,” he says, somewhat disappointed. “Credence, you can’t simply give me yourself because you think that’s what I want. You have to want it, too.”

“I do,” Credence says. Percival makes a skeptical noise, and he adds, “I’m just-- nervous. I’ve heard-- bad things. People say it hurts because-- because you’re not supposed to.”

Percival huffs a breath. “It can hurt, but not because you’re not supposed to. It hurts when you have a lover who doesn’t care of isn’t careful enough.”

“Oh,” Credence says, looking embarrassed.

Percival kisses the side of his neck. “Some people prefer it when it hurts or don’t mind it once they get used to it.”

“Have you ever…?” Credence trails off delicately, like he’s worried he'll offend Percival by finishing the question.

“Been on the receiving end?” Percival fills in, loving the way Credence squirms in embarrassment. “Oh yes, but not for some time.”

“Did you--” Credence clears his throat. “Did you like it?”

“Sometimes,” Percival answers. “I’m not particularly preferential to it, but some men are.”

He shifts to bring Credence closer, and his cock bumps the backs of Credence’s thighs.

Credence gasps in surprise, but pressed himself back against Percival, giving him almost enough friction. Percival thinks that this boy is the greatest temptation he’s ever met. Still, he tells himself to draw the line. Percival isn’t going to take him on the living room floor a mere hour after he confided his belief that his desire for Percival was a sin.

Another time, he decides. He’ll be the one to show Credence all the pleasures his body can offer, just not today. Today, he can’t risk sending Credence into an even darker place and breaking this delicate connection between them.

Far from being uncomfortable with Percival pressed so close to him, Credence presses ever closer, seeking touch and warmth until they’re pressed in one unbroken line. He turns his head until he can catch Percival’s mouth, apparently unbothered by the cock pressed to his lower back.

“Trust me?” Percival murmurs against his lips.

Credence nods, once. “Always.”

“Press your thighs together.” Percival reaches blindly behind him, pulling his wand from his trousers.

Credence does as instructed, untangling their ankles to he can press his thighs tight together. Percival twirls his wand in a small triangle, causing slick to cover his hand. He reaches between them to coat his cock, then press the remaining slick to the seam of Credence’s thighs.

A gasp escapes Credence at the first press of Percival’s cock.

Percival loops an arm around his waist, the other under his neck. His wand rolls away across the floor, but he can’t bring himself to care when Credence is against him, warm and responsive.

“I have you,” he whispers as he presses his hips slowly forward.

“Percival,” Credence breathes.

His name sounds so beautiful falling from Credence’s lips. His hips press flush against Credence’s, cock engulfed in the soft warmth of his thighs.

“Is this alright?” Percival asks, circling his hips to show what he means.

“Perfect,” Credence says. “So perfect. You’re so perfect, Mr. Graves-- Percival.”

Percival buries his face against Crednece’s neck and begins thrusting, slow and shallow. Like this, he can feel every stutter of Credence’s breath, every too-sharp poke of his bones, every scar on his back. He finds that he wants to hold oncoming Credence and never let go.

His thrusts speed, and the obscene sound of skin on skin fills the room.

Credence moves against him, all self-consciousness gone. He gasps and arches, head thrown back against Percival’s shoulder to reveal his perfect neck as a raw noise rends from his throat.

Percival thinks dazedly that he could fall in love with this beautiful boy, thinks it might already be too late.

He groans low and rough against his skin, thrusts turning erratic. He won’t last much longer, not with Credence arching into every touch like he’ll drown without them.

The pleasure builds, and he’s able to hold off until Credence breathes, “Please. Please, Percival.”

Percival doubt he even knows what he’s begging for, but it’s enough to send him tumbling over the edge. He thrusts through his climax, reveling in the feeling of his own release between Credence’s thighs.

His movements slow until he’s simply pressing himself against Credence, his heavy breaths siring his short hair. He lays there, softened cock still between Credence’s thighs, enjoying the sensation of holding his lover in his arms.

Percival presses opened mouthed kisses down the column of his neck.

Most men wouldn’t allow such affection, but Credence seems to have no such compunctions. He takes every touch and kiss like a man starved.

His eyes drift close, and a small smile curves his lips. Percival thinks it might be the most content expression he’s ever seen on him.

Then, Credence’s eyes open and his muscles tense, like he’s just remembered something.

“Should I--” Credence clears his throat. “Should I leave?”

Percival furrows his brow even as the arm around Credence’s waist tightens its hold. “What?”

“I’m not-- I’m not supposed to stay,” Credence says, more a question than a statement. “That’s how it's done, right?”

“I don’t give a damn what’s done,” Percival says, kissing the nape of his neck. “I’m in no hurry to move unless you are.”

Credence shakes his head, hair tickling Percival’s nose. “No, I-- I like this. I like being with you like this.”

Percival hugs him closer. “I like it, too,” he murmurs.

“I want to stay like this,” Credence admits.

“I’ll find a way,” Percival says. “I mean it, Credence. I don’t care what I have to do; I’m going to find a way.”

“It’s okay,” Credence says softly. “This is enough.”

Percival doesn’t know what to say to that. He can only hold Credence closer and wish that this night wouldn’t be over so soon. Soon enough he’ll have to ghost Credence back into his own bed and modify the Barebone family’s memories.

The mess between them has begun to cool uncomfortably, so Percival reaches for his wand only to find that it’s rolled even further away towards the fireplace.

“Pass me my wand, will you?” he asks.

Credence looks at him, shocked, before reaching for the wand with a shaking hand.

As soon as his slender fingers wrap around it, emerald green sparks erupt from the tip with a crackle.

Credence drops the wand, flinching. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to. I’m sorry,” he repeats, curling away from Percival like he’s been burned.

Percival pushes himself to sitting, only able to stare in wonder at Credence’s hand now balled into a fist.

“I’m so sorry,” Credence continues to say. His languid abandon is gone, replaced with the same nervous boy as earlier. He draws his knees to his chest again, wrapping his arms around them and rocking slightly.

Slowly, Percival picks up his wand. He turns it over in his hands as if expecting it to be different. It’s exactly the same as always, ebony with silver inlay.

Hope blooms in his chest, but he tries not to let it take over.

He puts a hand on Credence’s shoulder in order to calm him. “My boy, you have nothing at all to apologize for.”

“I didn’t mean to,” Credence insists.

“I know you didn’t, but perhaps you should.”

Credence looks up, eyes red-rimmed once more. “What?”

Instead of answering, Percival carefully pries open Credence clinched fist. He puts his wand into Credence’s hand, closing his thin fingers around it.

Credence holds the wand limply, like it’s a snake ready to strike if he so much as moves.

“It’s alright. There’s no need to be afraid,” Percival says. “No need to hide. Credence, I want you to flick the wand for me. Can you do that, my boy?”

Credence nods slowly, staring down at the wand in his grasp. He tightens his hold ever so slightly, grip adjusting to something more natural and shifting to find balance.

Then, he flicks.

Every candle in the room sputters to life.

An astonished breath stutters out of Percival.

He knew there was something about this young man, something that drew him irrevocably towards him like a moth to a flame. He’d assumed he was a squib; it wasn’t unheard of for them to show up at no-maj orphanages.

But Credence is no squib, not if the power arching off him like electricity is anything to go by.

Percival lets out a whooping laugh, something light taking flight in his chest. He grasps Credence’s shoulders, shaking him slightly with his enthusiasm.

Credence looks up at him with wide, confused eyes.

Percival can only grin. “Credence, you’re a wizard.”