The incident with the flying hedgehogs was finally over, and Percival pulled the study room door closed after him as quietly as he could. The Winston files were waiting for him there in the office, brought there by Miss Littlemore as requested, and he took his seat at the desk, opened the topmost file and – after putting on the reading glasses he kept in the case in the inside pocket of his suit jacket – began to read.
The chair was uncomfortable, and that was why he had chosen it. The backrest was a tad too low for anyone to sit on the chair comfortably, and the narrow seat had a slight incline to it which caused anyone sitting on it to be in a constant state of sliding forward, just slightly enough for it to not be obvious but nonetheless enough to be a bothersome inconvenience.
When Percival had chosen this particular chair to be the guest chair in his office, he had hoped the discomfort – caused by the chair as well as of his glower – would keep unwanted visitors away (he had a sofa in the study of his office and that was where he invited the welcome guests – so far three people had sat on that sofa, if he counted in himself and Pickett). For the most part, his plan had worked, and most people agreed to talk to him at scheduled meetings in one of the conference rooms – which existed for this exact purpose – instead of popping into his office to disturb his work. He wasn’t anti-social, exactly, but there were many who would “have a moment of your time, please, sir,” or “your professional opinion, please, it’ll only take a moment” and had he allowed them all into his office, he never would have gotten any work done.
After complaining about the guest chair several times in vain, even Seraphina had taken to avoiding his office which he considered quite an achievement.
With all this in mind, Percival now studied the lady sitting on the guest chair, not even attempting to hide his exasperation. Her skeleton-like features never flinched as she looked right back at him with eyes that might’ve looked good on an owl, but seemed far too big on her narrow face, and he almost regretted making an exception to his do-not-disturb-my-work office policy – that was to say, giving Miss Littlemore the strict order to “see Newt Scamander and all his relatives immediately in” happened they come by.
To make the matters worse, the thin lips were turned up into a smile. She was amused, or at least wanted him to believe so, even as she shifted on the chair as if finding it just as uncomfortable as it was intended to be.
Capping his pen with a sigh, resigning himself to the fact that the situation wouldn’t be solved in a matter of seconds, Percival broke eye contact to gaze down at the Winston files. His thumb caressed the topmost file with absent-minded longing, and he gave the witch a sour look from under his furrowed brows.
“I can’t decide whether I should pour coffee for you or on you.”
A familiar, unusually long wand appeared in a hand wrinkled with age, and a spell was murmured. One of the two pen holders on Percival’s desk turned into a porcelain cup with the pens turning into a tea spoon, much to his further annoyance, and the other hand – scattered with lines and sun spots – reached for it with determination unexpected from such a frail-looking lady.
“Tea, my dear, as is fitting for an English witch,” came the thin, almost nasal voice, and Percival – pinching the bridge of his nose – was so appalled he didn’t know what to do with himself, let alone with his guest.
Theseus Scamander was, in a word, a nuisance.
“And I must say, if you have biscuits, I wouldn’t mind-”
“I am here to work,” Percival cut him off through gritted teeth. “To work, not to entertain you, Scamander. At least lose the disguise.”
Even disguised as an old witch, something of Theseus Scamander’s wolfish grin came through as he flashed his teeth at Percival.
“Aww, Percy dear, you recognized me already?” The tone was playful, but it had Percival grinding his teeth nonetheless. “This is all for you, my friend. I’m trying to cheer you up, miserable as you always are! Seeing me as my Great Aunt Rachelina (may she rest in peace, a ghost or not) was supposed to make you burst out laughing. But,” the big eyes squinted at him quizzically, “even though I clearly failed at making you piss your pants, at least I can take some consolation in the fact that this look should make you feel comfortable, seeing as you’ve got the humor of my Great Aunt Rachelina – now we can talk humorless great-aunt to humorless great-aunt. If you like, we can even knit over our natter, my dear.”
A mumble of a spell and a wave of the wand had the capped pen in Percival’s hand turn into a knitting needle. Percival was quick to transform it back to its original state because it was his third favorite pen and he would not let Theseus fucking Scamander turn his third favorite pens into knitting needles.
He was satisfied to see Theseus shift on the chair, clearly trying to not slide forward.
“Without a permit signed by either me or the president, it’s a crime to lie about your identity to my staff,” Percival said, calmer than he felt. “It applies even to undercover aurors, let alone to a visiting British citizen such as yourself. You must be aware of this which means you couldn’t have lied about your identity to my secretary to get her to grant you entrance.”
“Of course I didn’t lie to the lovely Miss Littlemore,” Theseus said, cheerfully.
“Since you didn’t lie to her,” Percival went on as if Theseus hadn’t spoken, “it means you must’ve been able to give her proof of your real identity, otherwise she wouldn’t have let you in. I won’t insult you – even though you may deserve it – by even suggesting you would’ve convinced her by illegal ways to let you into my office, which leads me to believe you had with you a valid Permit for Changing Physical Appearance in a Governmental Building, one you could present to her. Since I didn’t sign that permit for you, you must’ve been to see President Picquery, whom you must’ve convinced to get in on your idea of a…” Percival couldn’t help his grimace and finished with a flinch, “’prank’.”
“Logical deductions,” Theseus sounded impressed. “I suppose there’s a reason why they made you the head of this quiet little tomb of yours.”
As if to imply it was so quiet at the MACUSA dust was collecting on the director’s desk, Theseus swiped a finger across the gleaming mahogany surface and tsked at the nonexistence layer of dust on it, studying his dustless finger with a disapproving shake of his head.
“Though I have to say you’re going to waste here,” he repeated what his letters had been saying for the past year. “All amusement and pranking aside, Percival, we could really use a wizard like you in Europe: Grindelwald and his fanatics are causing us quite a lot of problems there, and we would welcome a powerful ally like you – with open arms, I might add. That's why I was sent here, to convince you to join us. I mean, come on! Here you sit, the most powerful wizard in the continent, in your quiet office collecting dust while we’re working our arses off to keep that bastard and his followers even somewhat controlled!
Percival ignored his internal wince at the mention of Grindelwald. A year prior, the British authorities had let him escape, much to everyone’s anger and horror. Percival still bore signs of torture from his time in Grindelwald’s captivity three years ago, even if the scars were mostly mental by now, and while he managed to ignore his discomfort at hearing his torturer’s name, he couldn’t quite stifle the sting of betrayal at the thought of Theseus and Seraphina playing a prank like this on him.
He didn’t have a good sense of humor, that was true, but it wasn’t the fact that a prank had been played on his behalf that twisted his guts, no. Against the common belief, he didn’t mind being the butt of the occasional joke for as long as the joke was somewhat constructive and was used to build team spirits. This prank, however…
Grindelwald had come to him like this, disguised as Seraphina, and he hadn’t suspected a thing. Not a damn thing, until he had turned his back on her and had come back to his senses in magic-binding chains with Grindelwald grinning down at him from a few feet away. At least – if he wanted to see the useful side of it – he was now better at recognizing disguises than he had ever been before, thanks to Grindelwald often appearing to him in a disguise to have a familiar face torture him, to add to his torment. Tortured, both mentally and physically, Percival had gradually learnt to recognize a disguise when he saw one which was quite convenient to Director for Magical Security.
Now, three years later, Percival wasn’t bitter about it – had worked through such feelings – and he was by no means a sensitive man, but something in his gut still twisted at the thought of Theseus and Seraphina thinking a prank like this would be funny. Theseus could be thoughtless without meaning to and it was probable he had earnestly thought Percival would be cheered by his ridiculous façade, but frankly, this was even worse than the time Theseus had disguised himself as a toilet bowl – then, at least, it hadn’t been Percival who had been left feeling like shit, quite literally.
“I protect my own,” he now said, stiffly, putting the capped pen into the remaining pen holder. “I have my priorities. I offer you the support I can give from here, Theseus, but I will not come in person.”
“I hope to change your mind, sooner rather than later,” said Theseus after a pause, and didn’t add like so many others would have, ”I’d think you of all people would be determined to hunt down Grindelwald,” which restored some of Percival’s respect for him.
The very next instant any remaining respect was replaced by exasperation when Theseus changed the subject abruptly – as was typical of him – and went on to say,
“So, where are you hiding Newt, anyway? In your study, or? You two have gotten pretty close, haven’t you? Am I hearing wedding bells, or is that just the semen in your testicles desperate to burst out?”
At his best, Theseus Scamander was mildly irritating, and on his worst days outright infuriating, but sometimes – like today – it was impossible to have a scale with which to measure his character.
Indeed, Theseus Scamander was in two words a true nuisance, and that was what Percival told Newt two hours later when Newt – yawning and stretching after his nap on the sofa in Percival’s study – came into the office with Pickett chirping cheerfully from somewhere amongst his messy curls.
By now, Theseus had left, thankfully, after an argument which had resulted into a game of hex poker, which had resulted into another argument and then into some old-fashioned arm wrestling until Percival had called Theseus “unprofessional” and Theseus had thrown his arms up in a surrender and said he would leave, if Percival started throwing such insults around. They had shaken hands at the door and told each other to “fuck off” which meant there were no hard feelings between them.
But nonetheless, Theseus was a nuisance.
“I know,” was all Newt said to that. “I’m sorry.”
Percival sighed and pushed the plate of biscuits towards Newt.
“It shouldn’t be that any time I argue with Theseus it’s you who ends up apologizing.”
“I’m sorry,” was said again, and the grey-blue eyes blinked groggily at Percival from behind the tea cup he was yet to transform back into a pen holder.
Percival sighed again and ran a hand through his carefully combed hair.
“I’m sorry, too, Newt,” he said, suddenly tired, “for making you feel like you need to apologize for anything.”
Newt didn’t say anything to that, just drank his tea and ate the biscuits, and Percival went back to reading the Winston files. After Theseus’ interruption, he would have to work overtime today to catch up with his duties. He wasn’t particularly bothered about it – he would have likely worked overtime regardless.
Some time later, Newt got up from where he had been sitting on Percival’s desk, cross-legged. The cup was cleaned with a spell, and the biscuit plate and the teapot found their place in the cupboard in the corner by the study room door.
“Thank you for the tea and the biscuits,” said a soft voice. “And thank you for letting me nap here. I was exhausted after the… um, you know. The incident. With the flying hedgehogs.”
Percival dismissed the gratitude with a wave of his hand since it truly had been of no inconvenience to have Newt stay in his study for a few hours (it had been closer to pleasure, if anything).
Percival underlined the seventh suspect’s name – when suddenly Newt’s eyes appeared between him and the Winston file opened on his desk. The next thing he knew, there were lips against his, hands in his hair, and though the angle must have been uncomfortable for Newt, Percival was given a kiss, a proper kiss, not just a peck of lips, and there was the taste of vanilla and oats and strawberry and of Newt, and –
“Well, erm. I’ll see you tomorrow, then, okay?” was but a warm breath against his lips.
“Okay,” Percival managed, stunned, and Newt took his suitcase from where it had been leaning against the guest chair. With a shy smile sent in Percival’s way, he was out of the office and in the corridor, and Percival was left alone to stare at the closed door and to wonder what in the name of Mercy Lewis had just happened.
The Scamander brothers would be the death of him.