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“It's so good to see you!” She wraps her arms around him and stands on her toes to press a kiss to his cheek. Newt is still holding his suitcase in one hand, can only return the hug with one arm. For a second, he inhales the scent of her hair. It’s the familiar mix of shampoo and the hay she uses at the stables.
“Thank you for inviting me”, he replies, can feel Pickett’s body tickle against his collarbone. “Inviting us”, he corrects, and his mum laughs.
He puts the suitcase by the coat rack, “What do you want me to do with the notes on the table?”, his father's voice comes from the kitchen. Newt unbuttons his coat.
“Put them … Just put them somewhere else, please”, Newt's mother calls back before turning to her son again. “I’m working on new feeding rotas, you know how it is”, she says, only to wave the comment away. “And of course we’d invite you, I have got to take advantage of my sons being in the same country, don’t I?”
Newt wants to sigh and tell her that travelling is part of his job, but knows from experience that it wouldn't get them anywhere, so he only gives her a smile and follows her into the kitchen.

“Hello, my boy”, his father says and gives him one of his short strong hugs. Over the shoulder, Newt looks at the table. The nice plates with the golden rim, the good cutleryshe really missed him, and for a second, Newt wonders how long ago he’d last visited his parents, properly visited them. There had been a cream tea invitation before he’d gone to Scotland to help out with the kelpie preservation programme, but that had only been one afternoon. The last proper visit … Months ago, shortly before he’d travelled to America to bring his thunderbird home. Maybe he should have booked an earlier portkey to have a bit more time with his parents. Next time, he promises himself.
“Pumpkin juice?”, his mum asks, and before Newton has even nodded, there’s a jug on the table.
“Theseus is coming, isn’t he?”, he asks, suppresses a yawn. Portkeys had never been his favourite mode of transport, and international journeys are even worse than intercontinental ones. When he’d started his travels, he’d always planned an extra day for recovery, and although he doesn’t need that anymore, the time difference and distance still leave him tired.
“If he isn't stuck in one of his endless meetings or the Ministry has started a war since the owl he’d sent this morning, yes”, his father replies, ignores the disapproving glance from his wife. Before Newt can react, there is a knock on the front door, and his dad disappears into the hallway.
“Right on time”, Newt can hear him say to the sound of the door opening, and then there’s Theseus’s voice: “Well, we did say half twelve, didn’t we? I need to be at the office by two.” He comes into the kitchen, and just like Newt earlier, he gets a hug and a kiss from their mother. Theseus reciprocates his brother’s smile over her head, then his hand is on Newt’s arm for a few seconds. “It’s good to see you.”
“Yeah”, Newt answers. He tries to remember when they’d last met. Christmas probably. “It’s nice that you made time in your schedule for lunch.” Food appears on the table, and Theseus pulls out a chair for their mother. Newt moves the napkin from his plate to the side.

The conversation topics are the same as always. The hippogriffs, the garden and the soil fertility potions their father has tried to develop. It doesn’t take too long until they’re talking about work, and Newt tells his family about the amount of letters he's received since the publication of Fantastic Beasts and about the ridiculous amounts of money he's been offered for the simplest magizoology jobs just because people know his name now.
“And now you’re going to Hogwarts to make sure there’s a next generation of magizoologists?”, Theseus asks, and Newt laughs. He’s not sure about what he’ll do at Hogwarts, or how much influence his lecture will have.
“Well, Dippet invited me, asked if I might be interested in talking about magizoology to a younger audience, and I thought that might be a nice thing to do. Besides, it’s been too long since I’ve been here.” He smiles at his mother, can feel Pickett crawl into his curls.
“You could come by more often”, she says, smiling back at him. “Devon to London is not the world, you know.”
Newt takes a sip from his pumpkin juice, clears his throat. It’s as good a moment as any, and he’s promised himself that he’d tell them before going to Hogwarts. “I actually came from New York”, he tells her. “I’ve been staying there for a month now, and I might …” He lets the sentence trail off into nothing because he's not sure what he'd want to say. Might stay a little longer? Might give up the flat in London and move there? Newt places the fork on the side, fiddles with the sleeve of his linen shirt.
“You're living in the US? But they don't even have got proper tea, and we all know you couldn't go a day without it.” His dad smiles at him, laughter lines wrinkling around his eyes.
“Ah”, Theseus pours himself some water, grins at Newt, “have you been using the emergency tea supply I gave you? I knew it would be a useful present.”
“In case you're running low on tea bags, there's Tetley's in the cupboard, you can take as much as you want, dear. Or as much as border control lets you take with you”, his mum adds, and Theseus laughs.
“I don't think there are restrictions on how much tea Newt can import into the states, mum, especially not if he transports it in a suitcase full of potentially illegal creatures which he doesn't tell anyone about anyway”, Theseus says, grins at him.
“I have got permits, you know!”, he protests.
“Of course you do. I said 'potentially’, didn't I?”, his brother defends himself immediately.
Newt sighs. He takes a piece of bread to soak up the gravy, and wonders why he let everyone else take over the conversation when he was the one with the important news.
“Pass me your plates, please?”, his father asks because it’s a little bit nicer for the house elves down in the kitchen when they get one large pile. Newt takes a deep breath.
He pushes his plate towards his father. “I found my soulmate”, he says, one hand already on the buttons of his sleeve just in case one of them asks about his mark. But there is no question. His parents are staring at him as if they’d not quite understood the sentence, and Theseus just blinks. Newt refills his glass. “In New York”, he adds, just to fill the silence. “We live together, and it’s great, and I … just wanted to tell you, I guess.” For a second, Newt thinks about the flat in New York, where he doesn’t have an office and still sleeps in the guest room … But these are just minor details, he’ll discuss them with Percival when he’s back in the States.

His mum is the first one to react. She reaches over the table and takes his hand, lets go again after one squeeze. “Is it that nice girl you met last year?”, she asks, “The one that you’ve been exchanging letters with?”
“Tina”, Newt replies automatically before he realises that she might take that as confirmation. “She’s just a friend, mum. My soulmate’s called Percival. He works at the American Ministry.” He smiles at his brother, and he can pinpoint the second when the knut drops.
“Graves?”, Theseus asks disbelievingly. “You’re joking, right?”
For a second, Newt enjoys the look of confusion on his brother’s face before he answers. “Yes”, he says. “I mean no. Both: No, I’m not joking, and yes it’s Graves.”
The plates have disappeared from the table, and a tea set has appeared instead, complete with sugar bowl and little milk jug. “You own a suitcase full of dangerous creatures and your soulmate works in magical security?”, their dad asks, pours a first cup and hands it to his wife. “Well, opposites attract, I guess. We’d know, wouldn’t we, love?” He smiles, and she pushes a strand of hair behind her ear. Newt knows that’s where they have their soulmark spot.
“I do hope”, she says, still eyeing her husband, “that your Percival has more talent for your creatures than Xanthos has for hippogriffs.” She laughs, along with her children, while their father sighs into his tea.
Newt reaches for a biscuit and remembers the few times his soulmate had been in the suitcase with him, curious about the creatures, content with any job Newt had delegated to him. “None of my creatures have broken any of his bones yet”, he says, grins at his father. “Then again, I don’t have any hippogriffs or thunderbirds in the case at the moment.” He accepts the tea that his brother hands him.
“If Graves wants to learn hippogriff etiquette, you should bring him here”, Theseus says. “I can always arrange a portkey on short notice. There are worse things to write on a formular than ‘introducing a soulmate to a family’.”
“Thank you”, Newt says. Surely, Percival won't say no to a trip to England. “I’m just not sure when I’ll … When we will have got enough time”. On his own, he’d always manage to find a free weekend, or to reschedule a few appointments, but with another person in tow that’s simply not possible. They’d need to check dates and schedules, and as much as he’d like to, he really can’t promise anything before he’s talked to Percival about this. “I’ll owl you, okay?”
“Don’t forget about owling mum so she can spend far too much time worrying about what kind of food to serve. Right, mum?” Theseus laughs at the look their mother gives him.
“Don’t you have an important ministry job to go to?”, she asks back, contradicting her words by pushing the plate of biscuits towards him. Before Theseus has stretched out a hand, Newt takes the last ginger one and dunks it into his tea.

Her hug is a tight as the one she had greeted him with, and Pickett makes a noise to let everyone know he doesn’t want to be squished. Newt only laughs about it, kisses his mum’s cheek. “Thank you for lunch”, he says.
“Thanks for stopping by”, she replies. “I’d offer you another meal on your way back, but I know the Hogwarts elves won’t let you leave hungry. Besides, you will probably want to return to America as quickly as possible.”
“Well”, Newt begins, lets the word hang in the air. He does want to go back to New York as soon as possible, but not only because of Percival. There’s a half-finished article on the effect of added protein in a murtlap diet on the colour of the tentacles, and if he remembers correctly, he still needs to read and answer at least two letters.
“Please tell him that we’re all very happy for you two, and that we’re looking forward to meeting him”, his mother interrupts his thoughts, and it takes Newt a moment to understand that she’s talking about Percival. “Have fun at Hogwarts, and take care of yourself, and do come visit us soon!” Although he wouldn’t call the visit to Hogwarts ‘fun’, Newt nods dutifully, doesn’t protest when his mother straightens the collar of his jacket. Theseus is the one who tells them they really need to get going now, if Newt still wants to be able to catch the portkey that is waiting for him at the Ministry.

He lets the portkey slide into the pocket of his coat and draws his wand to cast both a warming and an umbrella spell. When he'd decided to walk to the castle, he hadn't thought about the grim Scottish weather, and he doesn't want to disappear into his suitcase in the middle of the street to get his broom. He can feel Pickett crawl around somewhere between his collar and his scarf. “Are you warm enough?” The chirping that comes muffled from under layers of fabric is enough of an answer. “Okay, let’s go”, Newt says, and does his best not to glance at the shop windows. He’d promised to be in time for dinner.

Standing in front of the large entrance gate, he wonders if he should ask Iris to send a note to one of the teachers, but before Newt can put his suitcase down, the gate opens. The first step onto Hogwarts grounds feels special, as if the magic of the place were tangible. Newt looks around. There’s the quidditch stadium that he never got to play in because he might have been a decent chaser, but never good enough to make it into Hufflepuff’s team. On the other side of the path, there’s the Dark Forest. It had been a bit gloomy sometimes, especially during autumn, but with sunshine breaking through the leaves and branches, the forest had been peaceful, calmingand full of creatures. One of the many clearings had quickly become his favourite spot, and he’d often taken pencil and paper with him to draw whatever he could get a glimpse of, from spider to unicorn. People had talked about the amount of time Newt spent in the forest, especially after the jarvey incident. There had been all sorts of rumors that he pretended not to hear. At first, Theseus had been angry with him for refusing to speak up for himself, and after a while, he'd resorted to offering defence lessons. An hour on Wednesday afternoon in an unused classroom on the second floor. The extra practice had made Newt feel more confident and had come in rather useful in his finals. The time in the forest, the evenings with Theseus, are among the nice Hogwarts memories. Pickett is chirping into his ear, complaining about the cold. Newt casts a stronger warming charm and tears his gaze away from the forest.

A Lumos is coming down the path from the castle, and it takes a few steps until Newt recognises Professor Beery as owner of the wand.
“Mister Scamander”, his old Head of House says, his handshake firm,“it’s good to see you. I hope the dreadful weather didn't ruin your journey?
“I took a portkey from London, and the walk from Hogsmeade wasn't too bad. I'm more worried about tomorrow, to be honest. I've planned for a presentation outside.”
“The forecast looks promising.” Beery waves his wand, and the castle's door opens. “And if it's pouring down, you simply help me move a few plant pots and use the large greenhouse, as long as you promise not to bring anything in there that's larger than a kneazle.”
Newt frowns. Pickett isn't even worth mentioning with his tiny stick-body. Dougal however ... A demiguise would probably feel right at home in the humidity of a greenhouse. Demiguises are larger than kneazles, though. Well, he can still discuss that tomorrow, should the weather be as bad as today. “Thank you”, he says before they are stepping into the entrance hall with its tall ceiling and the moving staircases. Nothing has changed since the day Newt had graduated, even the paintings are the same, and he has to remind himself for a second that he’s not here to join Hufflepuff again.
“Let me show you the guest room”, Beery says, gesturing towards the stairs.

The Great Hall is already buzzing with noise; it seems like everyone has been waiting for him. He glances at the Hufflepuff table with its yellow and black scarves and badges. That's where he used to sit, on the edge of the last bench, always among the first ones out the door again. He sees people look at him, and he can hear a few of them whisper his name. Some of them smile at him, and he smiles back. He’d probably feel most comfortable at his house table, but being an adult and a guest, he gets to sit with the staff. Headmaster Dippet asks for a moment of silence, and it takes until Newt has reached his seat for the chatter to fade. “I'd like to give a warm welcome to Mister Scamander. As author of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them , he has accepted my invitation and has come to Hogwarts to tell us all a bit more about magizoology. Please remember that you're expected to either attend the lecture or your class, depending on the choice you made last week. If you've changed your mind, please talk to your Head of House after dinner. Mister Scamander, would you like to say a few words?”

He should have expected this, he should have known that guests do not get to sit down without introducing themselves. They are looking at him, teachers as much as pupils, and Newt swallows, forces himself to smile. “Thank you for the introduction, Headmaster, and thank you for having me.” He pauses for a second. “I’ll make it short: If you want learn something about creatures, I’m looking forward to seeing you at my lecture. I’ll try my best not to make it boring. Of course you could also go to your normal lessons instead, but even if you don’t care about creatures at allthe lecture makes for a very convincing argument to skip classes. Enjoy your dinner.” A few people start to cheer, and the teacher next to Newt chuckles.
“Nobody will show up for class tomorrow”, he says, not sounding bothered at all. “Keep up the good work, Mister Scamander, it's crucial to my research.” He fills his own glass with pumpkin juice and then offers to pour some for Newt.
“Professor Slughorn teaches Potions”, Beery supplies before Newt has the chance to ask. “You and I are valuable distributors of ingredients.”
“Oh, I'm really not the right person to ask for anything. I sell to the apothecary in Diagon Alley.
“A pity”, Slughorn says. “I had hoped to get a good price for Billywig stings.”
Beery laughs, and Newt takes a piece of bread. “I read about a first attempt to use them in potions a while ago”, he says, faintly remembering an short article in a newspaper. “Has that been successful?”
Slughorn looks as happy as Newt feels when somebody asks him to elaborate on magizoology. “You must not have picked up a potions magazine for months, Mister Scamander. Billywig is the most fascinating ingredient since the discovery of the effects of Mandrake skin in 1923! Up until now, we have mostly used crushed sting, and I'm convinced that a different consistency can lead to better results. If we could extract the agent … Do you think that's possible? Extracting their poison in the same way you’d milk a snake for its venom?”
“Well …” Newt cuts the meat into smaller pieces and pours a generous amount of gravy over the mashed potatoes. He thinks of the billywig that live in his case, hiding inside the little group of Australian bushes near the bowtruckle tree. Finding and catching the creature was difficult enough, working with it would definitely be a challenge. Next to him, Slughorn is clearing his throat, and Newt realises that the professor is still waiting for an answer. “In theory, it should be possible”, he says, takes a sip of his pumpkin juice, and begins a longer explanation.

The corridor to the Hufflepuff rooms hasn't changed. Some of the paintings on the wall recognise Newt, tell him they've heard of his book, ask if he might be interested in writing about the history of magical painting. He declines as politely as possible, smiles at a few pupils who have gathered in front of the kitchens, and disappears into the guest room.
It's not too different from the common room he'd been so used to as a student. Warm colours, dark wood, plants on a chest of drawers. There is a tray with a steaming teapot, and a few biscuits. Newt considers the sofa for a second, decides against it. He's so used to sitting on the meadow in his suitcase, or on the wooden floor in Percival's living room. The rug is comfortable enough. He spreads his notes on the table, pours himself a cup of tea. It feels a bit like the last studying session before his finals.
Pickett seems to like the guest room. The dark wood probably reminds him of his home tree. He chirps excitedly, climbs into a flower pot, but Newt only listens with one ear. The bowtruckle has been adventurous enough to leave Newt's shoulder, is wandering around on the table, and on the lecture notes. “Don't go near my tea, it's too hot. And would you mind stepping off my parchments? At least let me have the first one.” Pickett makes a sound of protest, moves slower than he could. For a second, Newt considers simply picking him up, putting him to the side, but that wouldn’t be polite. The last thing he needs is a stressed or offended bowtruckle. Suppressing a yawn, he glances at the clock on the mantelpiece. As guest, he won't be able to skip breakfast. Headmaster Dippet expects him at the staff table between seven and half past, and if Newt wants to look somewhat rested, he should probably move from the floor to the bed soon. He closes his eyes for a second, and when he opens them again, he can feel Pickett in his hair. Newt dunks a first biscuit into his tea. Just one final look at his parchments, then he'll be done for the day.

Dougal is clinging to him like a baby demiguise to their mother. “I know you want to help me feel calmer, and I appreciate it, but I can’t take you with me into the Great Hall.” Newt pats the demiguise’s head, takes the front legs and lets them grab onto a branch. The creature blinks at him, and Newt wishes he could stay longer. He’s expected to show up at the staff table, to make polite conversation with whoever sits next to him. “I’ll come back after breakfast, I promise”, Newt says, feeds Dougal the last few grapes from his hand and leaves the suitcase. He already knows that he’ll take Pickett with him to the lecture, but maybe bringing Dougal along is not a bad idea. A demiguise is definitely more impressive than a bowtruckle, and it might be easier to explain things when he has a living example at hand.
The heavy wooden doors open after a wave with his wand. Although the enchanted ceiling in the Great Hall had promised good weather during breakfast, the sun's power comes as a surprise. Newt breathes the clear air of the early spring morning. Rows of chairs have been set up near the border to the Dark Forest, and as far as he can see from his spot at the castle's main entrance, every single seat is taken. There's a desk at the front, and one of the higher, more comfortable chairs the professors use. Newt takes a first step down the stairs. Somewhere above his ear, Pickett chirps in encouragement, and Dougal’s weight on his back is calming as well. “You're probably right, I can do this.” With that, he grips the suitcase's handle a bit tighter and marches over to the crowd that's waiting for him.
Apparently, carrying a demiguise around is an efficient way of keeping a lot of people very quiet. Newt can feel their gazes on himself while he puts the suitcase on the table and sits down next to it. The chair was a nice idea, but Newt is not a teacher, and he doesn't want to look like one either. The tabletop is comfortable enough, and it's not like he could lean back anyway. There's tea next to him, and the house elves have even thought of the pieces of fruit for Dougal.
Newt blinks, notices a journalist in the first row. A handful of teachers sits scattered throughout the audience; he doesn’t recognise all of them. There’s Beery, wearing a rather festive set of Hufflepuff robes. Slughorn has a book lying in his lap, and Newt realises that he didn’t bring ink and quill to take notes or to write down thoughts that might come up. In the back row, he discovers the headmaster next to Professor Dumbledore, the teacher who’d helped sort out the incidence with Leta. Both teachers are looking at the front, at him. Everybody is looking at him, and if he spends any more time thinking about that, he'll only get more nervous.

“Good morning”, he starts. “I’m Newt Scamander, this is Dougal. I thought it might be nice to bring a creature along, demiguises are very peaceful, and this one is a bit clingy today. I also have a bowtruckle, Pickett. He’s hiding in my hair or in the sleeve of my shirt, and he's very shy, so you might not even get to see him. Anyway, you all know I’ll talk about magizoology. At the moment, the study of magical creatures is far from being as popular as say transfiguration or potions. Hogwarts doesn't offer classes, the department in the Ministry is rather small, and a lot of people insist that the job is so easy it doesn’t even require any N.E.W.T.s.” Somewhere in the audience a few people start applauding, Newt laughs, and some of the teachers are shaking their heads.
One quick grip to adjust Dougal on his back, and then it’s quiet again. “There are magical creatures in our wands, in our potions, and if you grew up in a wizarding household, you might have had a creature as a pet, a house elf to prepare your dinner or an annoying group of gnomes in the garden. Because creatures are everywhere, it's a good idea to try and understand how they work, how to treat them best, and how to to benefit from them without hurting them.” He breathes out, looks around and takes a sip of the tea the house elves have prepared for him. Dougal is still hanging on his back. Newt carefully loosens the claws that are digging into his shoulders, puts an arm around the creature and pulls him into his lap. Dougal only blinks and accepts the grape he is offered.
“Take this demiguise, for instance. His fur is among the most valuable materials that magical creatures have to offer: it's what invisibility cloaks are made of. Now let’s say we want to weave an invisibility cloak. The very obvious solution: kill Dougal, and find us forty-nine other demiguises to kill so we have enough fur. Problem: demiguises turn invisible when they feel threatened. So instead of spending years running around in Asian rainforests, we could try to befriend demiguises and cut their fur now and then. Much quicker for us, and nice for the creatures because when the hair gets too long, it becomes matted, heavy, they might get rashes. Dougal here profits from me cutting his fur now and then, and I’ve calculated that, going at this rate, I only need to make it to 120 to be able to wear a cloak that is long enough to cover me head to toe.” He offers Dougal another grape and looks at his audience. Professor Dumbledore gives him an encouraging smile.
“So in my example, Dougal and I live in peaceful coexistence. You might say: That sounds all very nice in theory, but demiguises are peaceful creatures that hang on trees and eat fruit all day. Surely, befriending wouldn't work with something more dangerous like a dragon? It doesn't, but trust me: trying to kill them doesn't work either, and you don't want to face an angry dragon. So how do we get our dragon skin clothes and our potion ingredients? By learning to interpret a dragon's behaviour, by understand where and how they live. Once we know where to look and which signs to watch out for, it's not too difficult to find dead dragons that we can use every single part of without getting ourselves into unnecessary danger. It's simple, really: as long as we want to continue to benefit from magical creatures, we need people who make sure that the creatures don't go extinct and who know how to handle them.” Pickett is tingling underneath the shirt, and Newt has to resist the urge to scratch his neck. He smiles at all the people that are looking at him. There are countless stories he could tell, he could cover creatures and areas from Argentina to Greenland. Instead, he settles for talking about the preservation of creatures, about what exactly the department in the Ministry of Magic does and about his own path from the boy who helped his mother feed her hippogriffs to the magizoologist he is now.

Two cups of the strong builder's tea and a shortbread later, Newt is in the middle of explaining how to get started in the field of magizoology and the tickling has reached his elbow. One wrong movement, and he could crush the bowtruckle … Newt unbuttons his cufflinks and starts to roll up the sleeves. Eventually, Pickett will emerge from under the linen. “Herbology is probably the most important subject”, he continues once he's managed a decent first fold. “Defence against the Dark Arts is a good choice, especially for working with the more dangerous creatures. You should – ah, there you are!”
Pickett is peeking out from under the fabric, blinks into the light and then up at the finger that is offered to him. He hesitates a bit longer than usual, the amount of people seems to overwhelm him, but eventually allows to be placed on his usual spot on the shoulder. Newt looks up at his audience again. They are all staring at him, even the professors, and he can hear the clicking of the photographer’s camera. Has nobody here ever seen a bowtruckle? That's almost impossible, the willow near the lake had been home to a small family of them during Newt's own time at school. “It's a bowtruckle, not a ghost”, he jokes, offers Pickett a shortbread crumb on his thumb, and then he realises: his wand arm isn’t covered anymore.The large wampus paw isn’t covered anymore.
“Your soulmark?”, the journalist asks, but they all know it's a statement disguised as a question.
Grindelwald had only it seen because of the rolled-up sleeves, and now Hogwarts knows, the press knows. The whole country will know. Thank Merlin he'd told his family already. It will probably be the newspaper’s headline. They will call him a hero again, although he’s really not, and will wonder if he’s found his soulmate yet, and who it could be.
Soulmate. The word has more meaning now that they’ve found each other. Percival is part of his life, and that’s both wonderful and confusing. It’s funny how he can easily build relationships with the most dangerous creatures, while being around his soulmate makes him nervous; a good kind of nervous, but still … Newt rubs his hand over the wampus paw; it's almost a natural reaction by now. “Well”, he says, “that’s where it happens to be.” He tugs at the fabric until it's covering his skin again and closes the cufflinks with a flick of his wand. On his shoulder, Pickett is muttering calming nonsense.
“Anyway, we were talking about what you need to become a magizoologist and I suggested Defence against the Dark Arts. I'd also recommend good grades in Charms and Potions. Part of the skills and knowledge you'd need for the job are an extension of what you bring from Hogwarts, the rest is learned by experience through working with various creatures. You’d begin your training assisting one colleague, and once you have acquired the basic knowledge, you'll get your own cases on the table, your own research project or your own creature to look after, depending on where or which field you work in. And if you now think you might be interested in magizoology, but you’re not quite sure yet – the Ministry offers internships. That’s it from me, you can ask questions now. I will be around until after lunch; don’t hesitate to approach me if you want to talk to me. Thank you.” Newt lets his fingers run through Dougal’s fur and breathes out. He’s done it. Now he only has to survive the questions.

It takes a while until the applause starts to fade. Some of his old teachers smile at him, Headmaster Dippet gives an appreciating nod. Newt refills his teacup once more. The demiguise is asleep in his lap, and Pickett has climbed up into his curls. The pupils are talking amongst themselves, and then, suddenly, there is a half-raised hand in the audience.
The boy is one of the older pupils, probably in his fifth or sixth year. “Do you have any advice for people who might consider working with dragons?”
Newt nods. It’s a good question, and if he had the time, he could give a full lecture on dragonology alone. He has to stick to his time frame, though. People have classes to go to, and he has a meeting with Headmaster Dippet where they will probably discuss the possibility of Magizoology as a subject … “Dragons are fascinating creatures”, he begins. “If they want to, they can be surprisingly gentle, even towards humans, and they have incredibly good memory. If they don’t want to be friendly, you have lots of opportunities to perfect your shielding charms, or to put everything you’ve ever read about healing severe burns to the test.”
He remembers the Ukrainian Ironbellies they’d trained at the Eastern Front, the transfer from London’s Ministry to the Welsh Dragon Research Centre and the friendship he’d formed with Dafydd between feeding rounds and long nights spent waiting in the hatching room. It’s impossible to do dragons justice in just a few words. “You could definitely choose a less dangerous and less demanding field within magizoology, but I can’t say I don’t understand the appeal of working with dragons. Some of my colleagues say that dragonology is the most difficult discipline. I’m not sure if I’d agree with that, but it certainly is one of the most difficult fields to get into. You need to have completed the basic magizoology training and have at least one year experience before you have the slightest chance of being invited into one of the research centres or sanctuaries. So my advice would be: work hard, and don’t give up after the first rejection letter. I received three of them before I was accepted into the training programme.”
After the experiences made during the Great War, dragonology had been the only option for him. He’d ignored his father’s suggestion to work at the Ministry and his mum’s offer to employ him on the hippogriff farm. He’d even applied overseas, in South America and Australia, and now he is sitting on a table in Hogwarts giving advice on how to pursue a career …
Dougal turns in his sleep, snuggles into his arms, and the boy who’d asked about dragons says thanks for the information, and it seems that this first question broke the icethree new hands shoot up in the audience.

Newt watches the pupils split into groups and walk back towards the castle. He breathes out, lets his hands run through Dougal’s fur.
"That was really nice, Mister Scamander”, Headmaster Dippet says next to him, smiling. “Are you sure I can't interest you in a teaching position?” Newt shakes his head. He’d already declined the offer via letter, and he hasn’t changed his mind. Of course people should learn about creatures, just not from him. It is an honour to be offered the position, of course Newt knows that. But he has a suitcase to tend to and there are far too many countries he’s not visited yet. Maybe he’ll publish a second book one day, maybe he’ll come back to Hogwarts for a day or two … Newt nods at Professor Dumbledore, who has made his way to the front, before focusing on Dippet again. “You should owl William Morris at the Ministry's Creature Department, he will know someone for the job. And once you’ve found a teacher, I could help with the curriculum.” He’s repeating the exact same thing he’d already put into his letter, and they both know it.
The headmaster nods, pulls a pocket watch out of his robes and offers his hand. “I’ve got some business to attend to, but I trust I will see you at lunch before you take the portkey back to London?”
“Of course, Headmaster”, Newt promises. “Thank you.” A quick handshake, later he is left with a sleeping demiguise clinging to his neck, a bowtruckle in his hair, and Dumbledore looking at him over the rim of his glasses. Newt gives him a quick smile and summons his suitcase. He should put Dougal back into his habitat, see how the little mooncalf is doing, say hello to the house elves in the kitchens.

“Would you care for a cup of tea, Mister Scamander?”, Dumbledore asks so suddenly that Newt grips his wand a bit tighter. Tea is not too high on the list of priorities at the moment, but it would be terribly impolite to say no. Newt is still trying to decide how to tell the professor that he doesn’t have the time, but Dumbledore is already talking again: “A friend of mine recently sent me a selection of teas from China, excellent quality.” Newt can’t think of an answer to that. He supports Dougal’s weight with one hand. Dumbledore watches him adjust the creature on his hip, and looks towards the castle. “I think I’ve even got a few slices of lemon cake, in case you’re feeling a bit peckish.” With that, he turns around, and Newt stands frozen for a few seconds trying to decide what to make of the situation.
The desk is covered in books and parchments that stack themselves into piles when Dumbledore waves his hand. “I really enjoyed your lecture”, he says, already pouring tea into a cup. “Cake?”
“Thank you”, Newt replies, realises too late that Dumbledore could take that as both politeness and a yes. He accepts both the tea and the piece of cake he wouldn't necessarily have needed an hour before lunch. He warns his hands on the cup of tea. It's a green blend, reminds Newt of the months he'd spent in Asia. He'd always sweetened the slightly bitter taste with rice syrup, but doubts that he could get that here at Hogwarts.
Across from him, Dumbledore folds his hands and adjusts his glasses. “I would have sent a letter, but talking to you in person is much safer.”
“Too many people send me too many letters, you might not even have received an answer by now”, Newt says, and the professor only nods. It's quiet again. Dumbledore has taken a first bite of the lemon cake and is dividing the whole slice into little pieces.
“What did you want to talk about, Professor?”
Dumbledore looks up, sips on his tea. “I’d hoped we could discuss Grindelwald”, he says and makes it sound like dark wizards are the most natural conversation topic to come with tea and cake. “I don’t think I have to ask if you remember him.” They look at each other, and Dumbledore’s piercing glance makes uneasiness creep up in Newt. He swallows.
“As far as I know, Grindelwald is imprisoned.” At least that was what Theseus had told him, and what the newspapers had said. Had he been tried under American law, it would have been death penalty. Instead, Grindelwald now spent his time in a prison somewhere in the Soviet Union, highest security, guarded round the clock. Suddenly, he wonders if Percival receives updates on the man who’d kept him locked up for weeks. He pushes the thought away. The teacups refill themselves.

“Have you ever been to Paris, Mister Scamander?”, Dumbledore asks, and Newt blinks in confusion. Before he can ask why they have changed the topic, the professor is talking again: “For research, maybe, or just to visit the city?”
“I …” Newt hesitates, tries to remember the time he’s spent on the continent. All in all, France is not very interesting, at least not for him. They have excellent wine, but no creatures that can’t be found in other parts of Europe. He has been to a few places in Brittany, and he once spent a few days hiking around in the Pyrenees, but that might have been on the Spanish side, he’d have to look that up in his old travel diaries. “I’ve been to France, never to Paris”, he eventually says. “Why?”
“There are rumours, Mister Scamander, that Paris is where Grindelwald’s followers are gathering. We should act before Grindelwald has found a way to get messages to them or before he’s managed to escape. We should act soon. You’ve played a crucial part in his defeat last year already..”
Newt balances the teacup between his fingers. “I’m not sure I understand, Professor?”, he asks. “I did not help defeat Grindelwald. Or yes, maybe I did, but it was a coincidence. I was in America because of creatures, I stayed in New York because of creatures, and I was simply the first person to cast a Revelio.”
“The obscurus, the Director of Magical Security trying to get rid of you, the damage at that Muggle eventyou were the first person who drew the right conclusions.” Dumbledore is quiet for a few seconds, then he leans forward. “You could be of great help in Paris.”
“I doubt that”, Newt says. “I’m a magizoologist, I take care of creatures.”
Dumbledore nods, shows the hint of a smile. “I know that, but
“You should contact my brother and his colleagues, Professor”, Newt interrupts. “I know people think I’m a hero, but all I did last year was casting a Revelio, and I can’t even tell you what made me think of that. The American aurors are the ones who actually did the job.” He remembers President Picquery pointing her wand at Grindelwald, Tina and her colleagues surrounding him. He shakes his head to push the memory out of his mind.
“Grindelwald needs to be stopped”, Dumbledore insists. “Someone needs to infiltrate his followers, and should he manage to escape, he needs to be killed. It is the only way we can put an end to this madness.”
Newt swallows. He doesn’t think he could kill a person, even if he wanted to. He holds the professor’s gaze. “Why don’t you go to Paris?”, he asks. “If you have a plan already, why involve me? We both know I’m the less talented wizard.”
“I cannot move against Grindelwald.” Dumbledore sighs, and for a second, he looks down at his hands. “I need someone else to do it for me.”
What is that supposed to mean? If anyone should be able to face Grindelwald then it’s Dumbledore. Newt can’t think of anyone else who is powerful enough, not even Percival or the aurors at the Ministry. “But why can’t you do it?”, he asks.
Dumbledore ignores the question, takes a sip from his tea. “If we don’t stop him, there will be a war”, he says. “You wouldn’t want that, Mister Scamander, would you? You need to pick a side.”
“Of course I don’t want a war”, Newt says. “But with all due respect, Professor, I don’t see why I should be the one to go to Paris. I don’t want to choose a side. I don’t want to fight. Of all the people involved in the incident in New York, I am the least qualified one. Why don’t you talk to the Ministry?”
Dumbledore sighs. “The Ministry …”, he begins, but doesn’t finish the sentence. Instead, he takes out his pocket watch. “Ah”, he says and smiles. “It’s almost time for lunch. I think it’s roast beef today.” With that, he gets up from his chair, arranges his robes. It takes a few seconds until Newt understands that this was the professor’s way of telling him they are leaving the office now, and he hastily gets up, almost bumps into the table. Pickett chirps in protest and hold on to Newt’s hair, Dumbledore only smiles patiently. “I enjoyed your lecture, by the way”, he says, holding the door open for Newt, and Newt is not not sure what to make of the sudden changes of topic. He gives Dumbledore a nod and a smile, hope that it is enough. It’s not until they are walking down the stairs leading to the entrance of the Great Hall that he realises he he’d forgotten to try the lemon cake.

Chapter Text

2

 

“Is that already your third coffee, Director?”, Marshall asks when she sees him standing in the kitchen. Graves looks at the mug he’s holding, then blinks up at her. “I had one at home as well, so this is actually my fourth”, he says.
“I would have died from a caffeine overdose by now”, Marshall jokes, checks her watch. It’s not even noon yet. “Did you have a rough night?” It only takes her a second to realise that it might not be her business how much or little sleep her boss gets, and he can see her swallow. His team knows that he prefers to keep things on a professional level, but he can’t blame her for asking - if he looks half as bad as he did in the bathroom this morning, it’s almost her duty to ask. They are not supposed to turn up sick, not even Graves. While he tries to think of an answer, Marshall stands her ground; she doesn’t blink, doesn’t look away. Persistence is a good trait in aurors.
He suppresses a yawn. “I stayed up too late”, he lies. “But it’s okay, I can catch up on sleep  soon.” That is all she is going to get from him. She doesn’t need to know that Grindelwald had visited Graves’s dreams two nights in a row, had mocked him, locked him away … He raises his mug. “If you could get me the finished report on the exploding cauldrons until Thursday morning at the latest? I have Friday until Sunday off.”
Marshall blinks. “Not Sunday until Tuesday?”, she asks.
“I swapped with Rosenberg”, he answers, wonders for a second if she knows the team schedule by heart. “Do you think you’ll manage to have the paperwork finished before the weekend?”
She grimaces, stirs  milk into her coffee. “It’s not the only project on my desk, but I’m working on it, Director.” He gives her one last nod, then he is on his way back to the office again.

Percival unfolds the Time-Turner and sighs. They have turned two malfunctioning wands and three exploded cauldrons that are in no way connected to each other into the headline A Threat from Within!? . The article makes it sound like danger is right around the corner, which is not at all what MACUSA’s report had said. At least the newspaper mentions that it might be worth checking magical equipment for damage. Rosenberg and Goldstein had spent the last few days talking to the shop owners on Cross Road, and they have promised to report back to MACUSA.
The section on international politics contains a short article about an attack in France that could be attributed to Grindelwald’s followers. Percival makes a note on a parchment he keeps locked in one of the drawers, underneath the one from three days ago. He wonders if he should write to Petrow and ask just how secure their prisons are, to make sure that Grindelwald doesn’t keep in touch with the outside world. He pushes the thought away. Grindelwald is in good hands. The aurors from the Soviet Union will guard their cells well enough. He then flips the pages again.
Quodpod tables, an interview with a wandmaker who's just opened up a shop in California. Nothing that sounds like he’d have to keep an eye on it. Percival folds the newspaper. The house elves will take it down to the archives. He's going over a piece of parchment Jackson had left for him before his holiday when somebody knocks on the office door. Percival adjusts his cufflinks with practiced movements. “Yes?”, he asks.

It's the Director of Magical Transportation, a witch who'd already been in office when Graves had joined MACUSA as a young auror.
“A minute to discuss the documents you sent to my office?”, she asks, already closing the door behind herself. “The new regulations, are they really necessary? Didn’t we have changes just a few months ago?”
Graves folds the newspaper and puts it aside. The house elves will take it down into the archive. “Well yes”, he admits, “but that was only a first step. We talked about adopting the Canadian model at least a month ago, and last week, we implemented it.”
She only blinks at him, and for a moment Graves wonders if he would have accepted the position as Head of Department if he’d known that people hardly ever read everything they were supposed to read and then barged into his office and claimed never to have seen documents he’d sent to them. Sometimes he wishes he could go back to being an ordinary auror and spend most of his time out in the streets, unbothered by the madness of bureaucracy. “I could give you another summary of the Canadian model, if you’d like?”, he suggests, opens one of the drawers and pulls out a copy. “It should answer all your questions, but don’t hesitate to come back if you need more details.”
“That’s exactly what I needed, thank you.” She takes the parchments that she should have read weeks ago and disappears again without closing the door. Percival sighs, wishes he could transfigure his chair into a sofa and just curl up, fall asleep. The noises coming from outside, the scratching of quills on parchment, Fayden and Burns talking to each other, might help keep the nightmares away. His own flat is quiet when he tries to fall asleep and just as quiet when he startles awake. He can’t even use the thought of his soulmate sleeping a few steps away in the guest room because Newton had only spent three days in New York before disappearing again, to California this time. “I’ll be back by Thursday”, he’d mumbled through his striped scarf and their goodbye hug, and that is what keeps Percival going; the thought that in just a few days, there won’t be space for Grindelwald in his mind anymore.
It’s almost closing time and the library is quiet when Percival pushes the heavy wooden door open. Matilda is busy scribbling on a piece of parchment but puts her quill down when she sees him. “Director Graves, I just put your name on the list of people who need a reminder.”
“I wanted to come by earlier, but you know how it is”, he says apologetically, pulls book after book out of the bag he'd packed in the morning. “And I know that it's late, but if I could have a quick look around?”
She glances at a clock on the wall. “You have ten minutes.”
Percival nods and disappears between the shelves. He walks past a house elf who is sorting through a stack of books, and nods at a witch standing in front of a reading desk. Standing between the shelves, he starts to scan the titles for something he can’t find in his own living room.
A younger witch mumbles an apology, looks at a piece of parchments in her hands before pulling a large book from the shelves. Once she’s left, Percival is alone again. If he doesn’t want Matilda to work overtime just because he takes too long to decide, he should probably choose something … He lets his hand linger on a book spine. Tales of Transfigurations is a title that doesn’t give too much away, but it definitely has enough pages to keep him busy for at least three weeks. Right next to it, he finds a rather small volume called Native American Spells Through The Centuries. The table of contents looks like he will have to focus on every single sentence to understand even the basics of the topic. It’s just what he needs when he can’t sleep anymore or wants to be too tired to dream. He shakes the thoughts away, and makes his way back to Matilda’s desk.

Although he’d only taken a quick detour to get bread and a few vegetables, Percival feels exhausted. He peels out of his coat and suit jacket, unties his shoes, closes his eyes for a second. Two shifts before he has a few days off. Two shifts before Newton is back. If he can get the nightmares under control by then, he might be able to actually catch up on some sleep during the weekend. He drags himself to the kitchen, puts a heating charm on the kettle and searches the cupboards for the largest mug he owns. Brewing the calming tea they had prescribed him at the hospital has become part of his evening routine, and he watches the hot water turn a greenish brown. The warming charm he’d cast around himself is beginning to wear off. He should start a fire in the living room, fix himself something to eat and try to take his mind off things. A quick hand movement makes the Lumos in the kitchen glow a bit stronger, and Percival tries his best to ignore the door to the spare room that is right next to his bedroom. He hasn’t set foot inside it since the day he’d been dismissed from hospital. He never wants to look at the white walls again, at the dark curtains and the floor that he spent two months of his life lying on, yet he can’t bring himself to vanish the door. He’d thought about it for a while, but then decided against it, just like he’s decided against taking sleeping potions or having his memories changed. It would feel like letting the past win. Percival swallows and starts to unbutton his shirt. Maybe he should sleep in the living room, in front of the fire.

The combination of a crackling fire, a new book and the tea really does seem to help. Percival feels comfortably warm, and Tales of Transfiguration has turned out to be a surprisingly good read. If it were his own book, he would have summoned a quill to underline a few words or to write his thoughts into the margins. Maybe he should buy an edition next time he goes to the wizarding bookstore on Cross Road, it would make a nice addition to his collection. Suppressing a yawn, he decides against looking into the next chapter. He should try to get some sleep.
The fire keeps on dancing behind his closed eyes. Percival wraps the duvet around himself, breathes and thinks of all the transfiguration spells he’s just read about until he can’t focus anymore and falls asleep.

At first he’d thought he’d dreamed it, but the knocking doesn’t stop. Is it Grindelwald? No, it can’t be, Grindelwald never knocks, that would be far too polite. He prefers to barge into the spare room unannounced, to remind Graves of the fact that he as prisoners doesn’t have a say in anything Grindelwald does. Graves doesn’t open his eyes although he probably should. Being ignored angers Grindelwald. The noise really is rather persistent. Maybe it’s a new kind of torture, one of Grindelwald’s ideas that are meant to make the isolation even more unbearable. Percival bites the inside of his lip and blinks. It takes him a second to take in his surroundings. The remains of the wood he’d burned in the fireplace, the light grey mist that’s swirling outside the large living room windows, and Rupert whose beak is knocking against the window. Percival breathes out. It’s just his owl. He sits up, buries his naked feet into the carpet and yawns. His watch is on the nightstand in the bedroom, and the easiest way to let the bird into the house is via the terrace door. Rupert knocks again, and Percival nods. “I’ll get up”, he mumbles, “just give me a second.” He covers the floor with a warming charm.
“It’s four in the morning”, he says. “Why are you not busy hunting? I really could use the sleep, you know.”
Rupert doesn’t look like he cares that he pulled his owner out of the first peaceful night of the week, watches him fill the water bowl for him.  The owl hops onto the counter, rubs his feathers against the sleeve of the pyjama. “Did you come here for a treat?”, Percival asks, careful not to ruffle the feathers. He pours a glass of water for himself, opens the cupboard he keeps the owl food in and finds an unopened bag of Favourite Flavours Mix. “I’m sure Newton will bring more of them when he comes back”, he tells his bird and offers something that looks like a large grain biscuit. Rupert takes it in his beak and one claw and begins to scatter crumbs all over the counter. Percival only yawns, pours a glass of water for himself. He can clean up later, now he just wants to curl up under the duvet again and get a few more hours of sleep.

It’s almost five o’clock, and he still hasn’t managed to fall asleep again. Percival turns his back to the window where daylight is slowly creeping up and closes his eyes. The fact that he’s actually had a decent night of sleep has lead to thinking about all the other nights he's spent lying awake, and now he is thinking about Grindelwald, although he really doesn’t want to. He doesn’t want to remember how helpless he’d been, how cold the floor had felt, that he’d been unable to perform even the simplest of spells. He hasn’t told Newton, and he doesn’t know if he ever will, but the soulmark on his arm had been the one thing that had kept him from going insane in the quiet isolation of the spare room, even more than the hope that his auror colleagues might discover the truth about Grindelwald’s disguise.
Percival casts a small ball of Lumos, lets it float above his head. He pushes up the sleeves of his pyjama shirt and turns his arm to look at the large wampus cat. Tracing the outline is just as comforting as it used to be during his time in the spare room. It had been nothing compared to the warmth that had come along with Newton's first tentative touch, but it had been enough to keep him from giving up, and it's enough now.  Thinking of his soulmate makes him feel calm, and he remembers moments they’ve spent together. The first meeting in his office. The evening in a secluded corner of a New York City rooftop. The first walk through Newton’s case that he refuses to replace with a better one, just like he refuses to wear a more modern scarf than the old striped one that used to be part of his school uniform. Closing his eyes, Percival can imagine his soulmate sitting on the living room floor, drawings and notes scattered around him, bowtruckle friend on his shoulder. Percival will probably never be able to understand the connection between Newton and his creature, or his ability to stay calm when Percival gets too lost in his memories of Grindelwald, or the frequent complaints about America's lack of what his soulmate calls 'proper tea’. He wouldn’t want it any other way. Feeling much calmer now, Percival rolls to his side, pulls the duvet closer. He feels like he is sinking into the sofa, feels like he could fall asleep again. One more hour until he has to get up.

“Director Graves”, Leblanc greets him, “thank you so much for coming here.”
“Thank you for inviting me”, Percival replies, and he means it. Being a guest is always nicer than being the host. His team knows that he will be away for most of the day, responsibilities in New York lie with Jackson. They have scheduled a quick fire call, and the Canadian Portkey Office has promised to keep an emergency portkey on hold until the meeting with Director Leblanc is over.
“Would you like some coffee first?”, Leblanc ask, already nodding at a house elf before Graves has the chance to say yes. They walk through a long corridor, past the Canadian flag and a map of the country’s provinces. Percival looks down at his polished shoes on the equally polished floor while Leblanc unlocks his office door.
Where his own office is modern and elegant, the Canadian one looks like it could be someone’s living room. Large bookshelves, dark wood, cushioned chairs. Candles are casting their flickering light against the rain outside, and a tray turns up on a table, complete with milk, sugar and biscuit.
“You know, Director”, Leblanc says, offers to pour coffee for both of them, “I am very glad that negotiations between our countries are going so well. Better than the international meetings will go in London, I assume.”
Graves could reply, could joke about the way one or two of their colleagues like to prolong meetings with unnecessary questions. He decides to let the opportunity pass. They both know that contracts between their countries aren’t necessarily affected by whatever results the conference on international security will bring. “In your owl, you wrote you wanted to discuss trading regulations?”, he asks. Leblanc nods, and Graves only smiles at the obvious disappointment that they are skipping the smalltalk today.

Percival folds the letter, puts it into the envelope with Newton’s name on it, and takes the sealing wax out of the drawer. He warms it with a quick spell, watches the drops fall down and presses the stamp down, leaves it on the table to dry while he sorts through the small tack of documents, signs Fayden’s request for a new uniform, and sends it to the right desk. He makes sure all drawers in his office are locked, takes parchment and letter in one hand, his bag into the other and closes the door behind himself.

“I’ll be going now”, he tells Rosenberg and Goldstein, who are starting their afternoon shift by eating sandwiches. “Have a quiet shift.”
“Have a good weekend, Director”, Goldstein says, smiles at him, and for Percival wonders if she knows that Newton will arrive in New York tonight. Rosenberg, still chewing, raises his coffee.
Percival peeks into the other offices, but everyone seems to be out and about somewhere. He takes the lift downstairs, drops by at the portkey arrival rooms and makes the wizard in charge promise that Newton will receive the envelope the moment he’s arrived. A glance at his watch. There is plenty of time to clean the flat and do some laundry.

The front door closes. “Percival?”.
“Yes”, he calls back, blinks at his blurry outline in the fogged mirror, then down at the soulmark. Opening the door, he almost stubs his toe on the suitcase that’s standing on the ground.
“Careful”, Newton mumbles, puts one hand on Percival’s arm. The hand is so cold that Percival flinches. “Sorry.” Newton blinks, but doesn’t remove his fingers.
There are a few seconds of silence in which neither of them moves before Percival begins to unwrap the scarf that’s covering his soulmate from neck to nose. “Hi”, he says, and Newton smiles.
“Hi”, he echoes. “Did you switch your free days around? I know I sent the letter at short notice.”
Percival steps around the suitcase so he’s standing right in front of his soulmate. Newton rubs his hands together, and Percival casts a warming charm. “I did, was no problem at all.” He folds the scarf over his arm, casts a cleaning charm at the blue coat, his hands already on the buttons.
“What’s the minty smell?”, Newton asks, and it takes Percival a second to understand what he’s talking about.
“Shaving cream”, he says, puts both coat and scarf on the coat rack. Percival breathes in. He’s shaved just minutes ago, and Newton is right, it’s definitely not the most subtle smell. “Is it too strong? I could use a different one else instead.”
Newton shakes his head, leans in until they are almost touching. “Don’t, I like it”, he whispers, and Percival turns his head so Newton’s lips are not brushing against his cheeks but against his own mouth. He lets his hands slide over his soulmate’s back and into the curls. The tip of Newton’s nose is cold against his face, but if they stay like this for just a bit longer, with Newton’s bottom lip not quite caught between his own lips, it might warm up. Then, suddenly, Newton’s mouth is gone and Percival blinks. He lets one finger run over a few of the many freckles in Newton’s face that will look lovely once they’ve seen more sun than the early spring can offer.
Before Percival can go in for another kiss, however, his soulmate has taken a step back. “I’ve got time to shower before dinner, don’t I?”, he asks. “I promise I’ll be quick.” Newton smiles at him, walks past him into the bathroom. Percival nods.
“Of course”, he says, rubs one hand over his soulmark, watches Newon mirror the action and steps out into the hallway. Before the bathroom door closes, he looks at his soulmate one last time. “It’s nice to have you back.”

Dinner had been nice. Newton had told him about the meeting with the editor of a magizoology magazine in San Francisco, about possible topics for articles. Percival had listened, touched Newton’s foot with his own under the table and only shaken his head when his soulmate had apologised for talking about nothing but creatures. Creatures were a safe topic, and listening to Newton talk meant he didn’t have to think about the last few days, the restless nights, the way he broke out into cold sweat at the memory of yet another nightmare. Even now that they’ve moved from the dining table to the living room, he doesn’t want to talk about it. Instead, he focuses on Newton next to him, and on the table in front of them.
There’s a woodlouse lying on the stack of books. Newton’s bowtruckle is constantly chirping, slowly making his way to the top to reach the snack. The long fingers are clinging to pages and book covers, and Percival thinks that every auror should carry one of these creatures with them. They’d certainly be useful sometimes.
“He says he doesn’t like your living room”, Newton says, and together they watch the bowtruckle take a first bite out of the woodlouse. “Not enough plants. A big palm would be nice, or maybe several smaller ones so Pickett can choose which one he likes best.”
Percival laughs. He’s tried keeping herbs on the windowsill in the kitchen, and it hadn’t taken long until they had died. “I’m not good with plants”, he says, tracing one of the curls lying on his thigh with a finger.
Newton adjusts the pillow underneath his head, draws the blanket closer around himself and smiles up at him. “You’re not too bad with creatures, and that’s much more difficult than pouring water into a pot now and then. Besides, there are lots of gardening spells.”
Percival only hums in reply. The bowtruckle doesn’t even like him, he doubts that a bit of greenery will change that. Next to him, his soulmate yawns into the blanket.
“Pickett, I think I’ll go to bed soon. Do you want to spend the night on your tree?”, Newton asks, stretches out his hand. The bowtruckle looks at him, swallows the last piece of his snack. “I’ll be right back. Do you want to put the kettle on? A cuppa before bed?” He sits up, presses a quick kiss to Percival’s cheek and holds his hand straight so the bowtruckle can sit on it. “Do you think I should buy a plant for the corner at the window?”, he asks Pickett, glances at Percival. “Like the ones back home in England? That would be nice, wouldn’t it?” The bowtruckle chirps, and Newton gets up. “I don’t think we could turn the living room into a forest, no. You can have a few more trees in the suitcase, if you want.” He walks away, Percival can hear his laughter from the kitchen, and a few seconds later the door to the guest room closes.

Newton sits down so close to him that their legs are touching. He lifts the cup of tea Percival had prepared for him. “Cheers”, he says, tries the tea and smiles. “Almost”, he says. “Just a little less milk next time and it’s the perfect tea.”
Percival laughs. One day, he’ll get the amount of milk right. He raises his own mug in answer. It’s still too hot for him to drink, and he places it on the table. He closes his eyes for a second, opens them again when he feels Newton’s fingers on his hand.
“Are you alright?”, Newton asks. “You look”, he’s quiet for a second before he finishes the sentence. “You look exhausted.”
Percival suppresses a yawn, blinks. He grabs his tea, takes a first careful sip. “I am”, he says, leaves it to Newton to figure out which of his sentences he’s reacting to. It’s both, in a way. He is exhausted, there is no point in denying it. He’s also doing okay, though. His soulmate is next to him, so close Percival can smell the shampoo he’d used before dinner. The fire warms the living room, the tea warms him from within. For a second, he wonders if this feeling will be replaced by cold sweat and a nightmare once he’s in bed, then he pushes that thought away. He shouldn’t even be thinking about it.
“Percival?”, Newton asks.
“Just tired”, he says, hopes his smile is convincing enough. “I worked too much, I really need the time off.”
Newton only blinks, tilts his head like he always does when he’s thinking about something but is not quite convinced yet. “I’m sorry I talked so much during dinner”, he eventually says. “You don’t need to sit here with me either, if you’d rather go to bed.”
Come to bed with me, Percival wants to say, imagines Newton breathing next to him during the night, their hands touching. That would already be enough to keep the nightmares at bay, but now that he’s thinking about it, he wonders what Newton’s hands might feel like in the dark or the light of a Lumos. Newton’s hands, maybe even his lips, somewhere on his body. Percival shakes his head, swallows too much of his tea and burns his tongue. It brings him back into reality again, and he wraps both hands around the mug. “Let’s just sit here”, he says, watches Newton casting a warming spell on the tea that hasn’t even had time to cool down yet.

Chapter Text

3

The little one is hiding behind her mother when Newton steps into the enclosure. “Don’t be shy”, he says, pushes an especially curious mooncalf away before they can stick their head into the bucket he’s carrying. He begins to scatter the pellets around, keeps some of them and lets the mother calf eat from his hand. “Are you going to let me check up on your baby?”, he asks, kneels down near the young mooncalf. Now he only has to wait until curiosity has taken over. It does not take too long until the baby is coming closer, still a bit insecure on her wobbly legs. Newt starts by letting her sniff on his fingers before patting her head. “This won’t hurt, remember?”, he mumbles and lets his hand slide over the legs to feel the joints, looks into nostrils, eyes and ears. At this point, the young mooncalf decides that it’s enough, and shakes her head out of Newt’s grip. “Just the ears again, please?”, he asks, but the calf refuses to stay still. The mother nudges his shoulder, and Newt stumbles backwards. He laughs, fishes a few treats out of his pocket. “You’re being a very good and protective mum, I know.” The pellets distract her enough and he quickly finishes his examination. He lets the baby mooncalf chew on his fingers for a few seconds before he pats her gently on the back and scratches the mother behind the ears. “I’ll see you tonight at feeding time.” They only blink up at him.

Newt is still busy cleaning the habitats when the squeaking of hinges makes him look up. He turns around, sees his soulmate stand in the shed’s door. “Is it okay for me to come down here?” The fact that he’s so considerate to ask makes Newt smile.
“Of course”, he calls back. “Just don’t step on any of the beetles.” Newt scatters maggots and grain for the diricawls that are clucking excitedly, puts the bucket away. Only the occamies left now. Using his wand to direct the wheelbarrow with all the containers in it towards the pantry. They meets in front of the nest. “Hi”, Newt says, unsure if he should take Percival’s hand or the box with the occamy food. He goes for the box. “Do you want to feed them?” He looks at Percival who in turn looks at the frozen mice. “You just pick them up, cast a warming spell, but not too warm, and then …” He takes his wand, lets a first mouse float towards the nest. The occamies are stretching their necks, and one is just a second quicker than their siblings. “See? Easy.” Newt turns towards Percival, who only nods. “So, do you want to try?”
“It’s dead mice”,  Percival says, and Newt bites back a laugh. He remembers the day he’d shown his soulmate around the case for the first time, and the way he’d reacted when he’d found out about the brains Newt sometimes feeds the swooping evil.
“Well, yes”, he says, “it’s just what they eat.” The occamies can’t wait until Percival has decided if he approves of their diet, so Newt defrosts a second mouse, directs it towards the creatures. “They can get really jealous about food, which is why it’s so important to feed them quickly. And you always need to make sure that every occamy gets roughly the same amount of food. I’ve been trying to use living mice, but they are too small to hunt yet. Well, sometimes they catch insects, but nothing bigger yet. That’s okay, though, they’re really just babies. At the moment, it’s all about sleeping and playing and understanding when to grow bigger and when to remain small. They’ve got time to learn how to catch bigger prey, and then once they are managing on their own, I’ll bring them back to Korea.” In the nest, two occamies are fighting over a mouse. They are both making themselves bigger than they actually are, hissing at one another and sinking their beaks into their breakfast until they’ve torn the mouse apart. “There’s enough for both of you”, Newt says, “No need to get all aggressive this early in the day. Try to be a bit more civil with the rest of your food.” He points his wand towards the nest one last time, directing the last four mice at once. The occamies follow the movement with their eyes, and Newt smiles when he sees the smallest one succeed before their larger siblings. “Is everyone full now? Is everyone happy?” The occamies don't react to his questions, too busy with their food. He can hear his soulmate laugh next to him, and looks up.
“It’s nice”, Percival says before Newt can react. “The way you talk to your creatures, I mean. It’s very …” He pauses to think, and Newt can feel himself getting nervous, begins to stack the empty containers on top of each other. It’s very quirky, it’s very unusual, it’s very crazy - he’s heard it all before. “It’s very you”, is the sentence Percival eventually settles upon, and Newt isn’t sure what to make of that until his soulmate smiles at him. “Very kind.”

Newt exhales the tension that had begun to build in him, quickly cleans the empty containers with an Aguamenti and a drying spell. “I’m sorry the round takes a little bit longer now because of the little mooncalf.” While Percival watches the occamies curl up around each other, Newt brings the wheelbarrow and the empty containers back to the pantry, locks the door with his wand. They meet in front of the shed. Newt fishes an old owl biscuit out of his pocket, throws it to the fwooper sitting on the banister.
“Is Pickett not coming?”, Percival asks behind him.
“Doesn’t want to come”, Newt says, shrugs. Maybe the bowtruckle wants to enjoy the time until he has to share the tree with others again, maybe he doesn’t want to spend time upstairs in the flat until there’s not at least one plant for him to hide in. “It’s good for him to spend some time on his own so he doesn’t forget I’m not actually his home tree.” He laughs.
Percival only hums in reply, closes the shed’s door behind them. “I already made your tea”, he says. “I’m still not sure if I put enough milk in, though.”
“As long as you didn’t forget to remove the bag”, Newt says, stops abruptly on the ladder. It’s not the most convenient place to turn around, but he does it anyway. His soulmate only blinks at him, and Newt can see amusement sparkle in his eyes.
“Even Americans are capable of fishing a teabag out of a mug after two and a half minutes, Newton.”
“Two and a half?”, Newt echoes, and he sounds more outraged than he’d meant to, and he can see Percival bite back a grin. He’ll have to make a new cuppa because using a new tea bag to make it stronger usually doesn’t work, it only makes the tea taste weird.
His soulmate laughs. “Just kidding”, he says, one hand touching the back of Newt’s leg. “I left it in for four.” Newt wants to come up with a good reply, but he can’t find one, and as soon as they’re standing in the guest room and he takes in the smell of breakfast, it’s become irrelevant anyways.

He is finishing his toast and sorting through the bundle of letters that had arrived in the morning post  when Percival looks up from his newspaper. “Would you like to fight me?”, he ask casually. “I booked a room.”
Newt blinks. He isn’t sure what to make of either of those sentences. “Um …”  He sips on his tea just to pass a few seconds.
Percival feeds Rupert a piece of bacon, begins to explain before Newt can ask a question. “Well, I don’t mean actual fighting, of course”, he says. “Duelling. I booked one of MACUSA’s auror training rooms for this afternoon. Everyone in the department has to complete a least one session per month, and … Well, training with my colleagues can be a bit repetitive, so I thought it might be nice to have you as my duelling partner.”
Newt takes another sip of tea, remembers that Tina had once cancelled dinner plans because of what she’d called self-defence training. “Maybe”, he says hesitantly. Of course Newt can defend himself, can hold a decent Shield Charm, but he’s certainly not as good as a trained auror. “I’m not the best duellist to begin with, and with you as opponent … I’m not sure I would be of much use.”
Percival only shrugs. “I’ll go easy on you, then. Not being good at duelling just means you have to practice more. You can never be too good at it, really.” That sounds so much like something Theseus might say that it makes Newt laugh.
“The room is booked from four to eight, we can take our time. We could go out for dinner afterwards, if you want.” Percival begins to direct their empty dishes to the sink, folds his newspaper.
Newt remembers the first time they’d gone to a restaurant together, back when the idea of Director Graves being his soulmate had been nothing but a vague idea. He’d spent the entire meal waiting for some kind of revelation that hadn’t come, and half the night staring at his soulmark, trying to figure out if anything had changed. “Dinner sounds lovely”, he says.

It’s dark and quiet, wherever they have landed. As soon as Percival moves, withdrawing his arm from around Newt’s wait, the corridor lights up. Newt blinks into the Lumos, looks around. No windows. They are somewhere under ground, then. He remembers the last time he’d been taken to one of MACUSA’s lower levels, shudders at the memory of the aisle with the many cells, and at the memory of Grindelwald in one of them.
“Welcome to the Auror Aisle. It’s really just us down here, well, and whoever decides to attend MACUSA’s general duelling lessons, of course. We’ve got everything down here: the training rooms, showers, a small kitchen, an infirmary”, Percival says next to him, and begins to pull him into a direction. The walk around a corner, stop in front of a door with the inscription Auror Training Room 28 on a brass plate beside it. Percival takes a slip of paper out of his coat, presses it against the doorframe, and pushes the handle down. “After you.”
The room looks just like the ones at the Ministry of Magic back home in England, spacious, empty, padded. Newt lets his hand slide into the inside his coat pocket, twists his wand between his  fingers. Behind them, the door snaps shut. Percival unwraps his scarf. “No need to draw just yet”, he says, sounds amused. “At least give me your coat before you attack me. Maybe your scarf, too.” One tip with his own wand, and part of the padded wall swings back, revealing a wardrobe.
While Percival has already shrugged out of and folded his own coat, Newt wonders if he should also take off his shoes. He decides against asking, and against taking them off. Instead, he only hands his coat and scarf to his soulmate, twists his wand between his fingers. Before he can ask how exactly they are going to do this, Percival has already pointed his wand at him. Newt blinks, casts a shield charm, and the blue sparks his soulmate had sent his way fall down to the ground and disappear.
“Not bad.” Percival smiles. “What’s easier for you, defending or attacking?”
Newt laughs. “Isn’t that obvious?” He doesn’t lower his wand. “So you'll just send sparks my way? That's very nice of you.”
“That was just a warm-up exercise. Let's  see if I can get you into one of the corners. Are you ready?”
Newt thinks about pointing out that no attacker would ever be so polite to ask that. Instead, he only nods.

If he wanted to, Percival could probably take him down within seconds. He doesn't have to tell Newt which spell he's going to use, and he could simply use wandless magic the way he does around the house. Newt appreciates that he doesn't. Percival takes one step forward, Newt takes one back. Always maintain space between the attacker and yourself, that had been one of his defence teacher's mantras.
“Watch your feet”, his soulmate says, and Newt widens his stance, but Percival's already muttered the binding spell. A thin rope shoots out of the wand, ties around Newt's ankles and brings his legs together so abruptly that he falls down onto his side.
“It was a good idea to place your feet a bit further apart”, Percival says, while the rope disappears again and he offers one hand to Newt to pull him up again.
Newt grimaces. “Didn't help me, did it?”, he asks, and Percival drops his arm again, takes a step back. This time, Newt makes sure to cast his shield from head to toe.
Firing spell after spell after spell is exhausting, but it's the only chance Newt's got. He's already managed to force Percival to take one step back, and it's only three more until they've reached one of the walls. Newt tries to remember which kind of spell used to surprise Theseus the most during their training sessions together, but it's difficult to focus on memories while trying to make sure that Percival doesn't get to feel too safe. He uses a few of the easy spells he'd learned during his first year at Hogwarts, and Percival laughs. Newt grins back. “It was worth a try”, he says, casts a jelly legs hex and steps aside when it comes bouncing back.

“If you cast more broadly, you might find the weak point in my shield.” Percival sounds patient, but also like he's enjoying this far too much. It's on Percival's left shoulder, the spot that allows the spell to pass the shield and that makes his soulmate take a step to the side, but also a tiny bit closer to the wall. “Again.” Percival smiles, and Newt doesn't even have to ask to know that the weak spot has moved. He keeps casting as broadly as possible, moving his arms more than he usually would, and then t doesn't take too long until his stinging hex has hit Percival's side.
“Are you alright?” Stinging hexes can really be quite nasty, and he hadn't exactly held back.
Percival laughs, hand still on his ribs. “Never better.”

Newt puts his wand into his pocket and his hand on his soulmate's. “Sorry I was not a particularly challenging opponent”, he says, and for a second he thinks about Grindelwald, about all the newspapers calling him a hero.
“You will become one, you just need a bit of training”, Percival replies. “If we do this every weekend …”
“No thanks”, Newt cuts in and that comes out so quickly that it makes both of them laugh.
“Every other weekend?”, Percival tries again, and their noses bump against each other. Newt wonders if they could agree on one training session per month. It would certainly be enough for him. “There's not much you need to work on anyway. Just the usual things everybody forgets about when they take a break from training, feet and arms.”
Newt laughs. He doubts that Percival or his aurors would have to relearn the movements. “Well, you're right, it's been a while since I duelled someone. The last time–”. He shrugs, looks at his soulmate.. The last time he'd fought, it had been against Grindelwald. Newt clears his throat just to fill the silence, and lets his fingers run over Percival's soulmark. He wishes he could think of something to say, something that might make the unfinished sentence disappear that hangs between them.
“Percival”, he eventually begins a sentence because it might be a good idea to stress the fact that it's his soulmate standing here with him, that Grindelwald is gone, and that there are no grudges because of what happened. “It's okay. You'll be okay.” He receives a half-hearted smile from his soulmate, and in reaction he presses his whole palm against the wampus paw on Percival's arm and leans in for a kiss.

It turns out that kissing Percival is the easiest way to make him drop his wand and lose his balance. He'd put one hand on Newt's back, had pulled him closer, and together they'd stumbled into the wall. Newt can feel Percival smile against his lips, a hand on his waist. He thinks about moving his own hand away from the soulmark, but he’s not sure where to. He pulls back, and Percival blinks at him. He looks like he wants to say something, but only takes a deep breath and lets his forehead fall against Newt’s shoulder. There are a few grey strands in his dark hair. Newt lets his fingers run through them, smiles about Percival’s sigh.
“Enough duelling for today?”, Newt asks, and his soulmate looks up at him.
“Enough for you, you mean.” Percival ends their hug and for a second Newt is convinced that he'll draw his wand and start another attack. “How about we take a break, have one more round, and then we'll go for dinner? I'm sure we can find something to drink in the kitchen.” Not waiting for an answer he takes Newt's hand and drags him out into the hallway.
They've walked around a few corners, and Newt is not sure if he'd find the way back on his own. If he'd paid more attention to the room numbers, maybe. The plate on the door in front of them does not even have a number, it only says kitchen , and it a bell chimes on the room as soon as Newt pushes down the handle.

The room looks more like a small common room than like a kitchen. There is not even a sink. Instead, there are a few armchairs and sofas around a small table, a fire in one of the corners. He stops in the doorway.
“Oh”, says Tina and lifts her coffee in greeting. “Hi Newt.”
“And Percival”, adds Percival from behind Newt, puts his hand on his soulmate's back to gently push him into the room
“You're Newt? I’ve heard lots about you.”, says the man next to Tina. He smiles, gets up. "I'm Rangi." He gets up from the sofa, offers his hands, and Newt doesn’t think he’s heard the name before.
Tina clears her throat. “My soulmate”, she supplies helpfully from her spot on the sofa.
“The one from New Zealand?”, Newt asks back and as soon as he’s said that he realises how stupid it sounds. As if Tina had told him about a whole group of soulmates.
Thankfully, the soulmate only laughs. “That’s right, I’m the kiwi.” His handshake is firm, and Newt bites his tongue so he doesn’t say anything about the flightless birds he’s read a few articles about. He rubs his soulmark, and stops when he realises that both Tina and Rangi are looking at his arm. It’s not exactly common to leave a soulmark uncovered out in public, and the fact that there’s no sleeve he could cover the mark with makes him feel slightly uneasy. Percival’s hand on his shoulder takes a bit of the unease away, though. At least he’s not the only one in a t-shirt, and Tina was bound to see the soulmark at some point anyway.   
“I’m Percival”, Percival says from behind Newt. “And I think we should all sit down. Goldstein, if you call me Director during a casual meeting like this one, I’ll have to think about consequences.” He almost sounds serious, but Tina looks unimpressed, sips on her coffee.
“The house elves said they’d bring chocolate cookies”, she says eventually. “I’m sure there’ll be enough for all four of us.”
Newt winces when he sits down and folds his legs. He always forgets how exhausting duelling is. “Do they also have Pepper-Up potion?”, he asks.
Percival laughs next to him. “We’ve got a stash in the medicine cupboard if it’s really that bad”, he says, “but I’m sure the house elves can bring you a cup of tea. With milk. That might already make things better.”
“Only if it’s decent tea”, Newt jokes and blinks when a cup on a silver tray appears on the table in front of him. He looks at Percival, then at the other two. “So that’s how aurors spend their free time, duelling?”
“Well, I spend some of it with you”, Percival argues, sips on his coffee.
“Duelling”, Newt repeats, and Tina laughs.
“Well, Percival is a good partner”, she says, “and you never know, maybe you’ll be out looking for creatures somewhere and you’ll suddenly need to duel someone. Or something.”
“What, duelling a beast?”, her soulmate asks, frowning. “That sounds a bit unrealistic, doesn’t it?”
Newt stays quiet for a moment, turns the warm mug between his fingers. “You could duel vampires, I guess”, he eventually says. “They use wands sometimes.”
“Well, if that’s not a good reason to practice duelling …”, Percival mumbles, and Newt thinks about the trips to Romania that he’d made as a dragonologist. Searching the Carpathians for dragons, he’d also encountered a few vampires. And there’d been a rumour about a colleague at the Ministry just because he didn’t like sunlight and was allergic to garlic.
“Oh, vampires are not too bad, actually”, Newt says. “They like to keep to themselves and mostly can’t be bothered with meeting strangers. So as long as you keep to yourself or don’t anger them by telling them you think they should all die, they should be okay to deal with. Assuming you don’t have an open wound of course, that might get you into trouble.” Tina, Percival and Rangi stare at him as if they are not quite sure they understood him correctly. Newt rubs a tea stain from the mug’s white porcelain. “Because of the blood”, he eventually adds. “Vampires … live on blood.”
“You said they are not too bad”, Rangi says and laughs. “I’ve met vampires, and I was terrified. What did you meet, a nice, domesticated version? Or was it just bad luck on my side and Indonesian vampires are a particularly terrifying … type, or whatever you’d call it?”
“There are vampires in Indonesia?”, Newt asks back. “Must have been a creature related to common vampires because there’s no way you’d get them to live in the heat. What did they look like?” He wishes he had one of his notebooks, or even a tiny scrap of paper to make a few notes. He catches Tina grinning at him, and when he looks at Percival, he sees his soulmate smile as well. In a different environment, he might apologise for asking and feel bad about curiosity, but all he does now is lean back into the sofa and casts a warming charm on his tea.

“Do you think you’ll be off to Asia soon to try and find a few of those vampire creatures?”, Percival asks as he closes the door of the training room behind them.
Newt shrugs. “I might put it on my list, but for now I’ve got other priorities. Like lasting longer than two minutes when you attack me.” He grins and Percival laughs.
“Ready when you are”, he says.
Newt takes a deep breath, makes sure he’s standing comfortably and draws his wand. They smile at each other. “Ready”, Newt says and casts a shield charm.

Chapter Text

4

Percival casts a warming charm on the kitchen floor and butters a slice of bread. Picquery had cancelled the morning meeting for today, and now he’s got enough time for breakfast at home. Newton seems to be busy in his case, there had been no reaction to Percival's knocking on the guest room door. Balancing his coffee to the table, he wonders if he should prepare tea for his soulmate, but decides against it. He knows that Newton is very particular about his tea, and placing the mug under a warming charm might affect the taste. Percival yawns, reaches for the newspaper and letters Rupert had left on the table for him. He recognises his mother’s handwriting on one of the envelopes, uses the bread knife to open it. My dearest Percival, I haven't heard from you in so long , the first sentence begins, and he sighs. She's right, of course. He's not the best at keeping in touch, hardly finds the time to sit down to write a letter, and he doesn't like floo calls enough to schedule them in advance. You'll come to your father's birthday, won't you? You've already missed Christmas, and it would mean so much to him to see you, and to meet your soulmate. You can stay the weekend, get away from work and from the city . Percival yawns, takes a sip of his coffee. The birthday is not too far away, he realises, three weeks at most.  If he doesn't want to hear the same old sermon about the challenges of managing the team calendar, he'll have to make sure to let Burns know about the few days off in time. He summons his briefcase from his office, makes a note in his diary and looks up when he hears footsteps. Newton is coming in, a woollen blanket wrapped around himself and an owl on his shoulder.
"Morning", he says. "I brought Iris, I hope you don't mind. Is there any tea?"
"I didn't make any", Percival replies, puts his mother's letter to the side. "Sorry."
"No worries." Newton has already put the kettle on, and pulls a pan from the shelf. He opens a few cupboards until he's found the oats. "You do want porridge, don't you?", he asks, grabs the milk from the table.
Percival watches him struggle with keeping the blanket on his shoulders and opening the bottle at the same tone. "I've got bread, thank you", he eventually says when he remembers that he'd been asked a question.
"Sorry?", Newton says, and for a second he looks confused before he smiles. "Oh, I was talking to Iris. And it was more of a rhetorical question anyway, she always likes porridge. Don't you, girl?" The owl on Newton's shoulder only blinks and shifts from one foot to the other, and Percival wonders if the claws don't tear the fabrics and the skin underneath. There's probably some sort of padding charm on the blanket.

"My mother sent a letter", Percival says, and because he remembers how his soulmate had reacted to Burns's invitation a while ago, he tries to sound as casual as possible. "We're invited to my father's birthday, it's in a month. Well, three weeks."
Newton looks up from his mug. "They know about me?", he asks, sounds so surprised that Percival wonders if Newton's parents know about their son having found his soulmate.
"Yes", he says. "Why wouldn't they know about you? I mean, of course I told them."
"Good", Newton replies, sounds relieved. "I told my family, too, by the way, and we're also invited to their place. It's nicest in summer, June or July." He fills his porridge from the pan into a bowl, throws a handful of raisins on top and places it on the table before adjusting the blanket around himself.
"So first we visit New England and then we visit actual England?", Percival asks.
Newton laughs. "Good old England, yes …" He eats a few spoonfuls of porridge and instead of licking his lips, he turns his head, lets his owl do the cleaning.
Percival watches with furrowed brows while Newton and Iris share their breakfast. He pulls a face when the owl picks a raisin out of the corner of his soulmate’s mouth.
“Bonding time”, Newton says, smiles when Iris rubs her head against his cheek. He sits up a bit straighter, takes a sip of his tea. “I’ve been wondering”, he begins a new sentence, eats another spoonful of porridge. “Your spare room, you said you don’t use it, right?”
Percival swallows, closes both hands around the warm coffee mug. “Right.” He resists the urge to turn around and look at the door. There had been large shelves in it, full of notes and books which didn’t fit into the office, until Grindelwald had cleaned out the room to turn it into a prison. When he had come home from the hospital, Percival had found his old books and notebooks everywhere in the flat. He had shrunk them, put them into boxes on top of the bookshelf in the living room. And the door had become invisible to
“You don’t need the room at all?”, Newton interrupts Percival’s thoughts, takes a sip of tea and ruffles Iris’s feathers. “So you wouldn’t mind if I turned it into an office? I only use the one in my suitcase when I travel, and your guest room is lovely, but I can’t work and sleep in the same room.”
Percival remembers that he considered vanishing the door, that he promised himself never to go into that room again, but he can’t tell Newton that. It’s just a room, he should know better than to be scared of it. The coffee washes away the bitter taste in his mouth. “I don’t mind at all. The room is all yours”, he shrugs. He will make it work, will just have to take a deep breath before entering the spare room., Newton smiles so broadly that Percival can’t help but smile back. He glances at the clock on the wall. There is enough time for one more piece of toast before work.

“We had a busy shift”, Jackson says and suppresses a yawn. “A group of underage wizards started a duel in the streets, we were called in by a shopkeeper. No NoMajs around of course, but they damaged a few windows. The duellers are down in the cells. One said the other attacked him, and that he only defended himself. The alleged attacker claims it was only a tickling charm”
“You’ve contacted the parents?”, Rosenberg asks.
Goldstein shakes her head. “At first nobody wanted to tell us their names, and I had to get someone from the wand registry office to come in to match wand to owner. They are all sixteen, by the way, one of them two weeks short from turning seventeen. Parents–well I tried the home addresses, but unsuccessfully. Everyone’s at work, I guess, but I didn't have the time or the nerve to sit down or talk to the young men downstairs yet. So names and age, yes, parents no."
Percival makes a note. They will be expelled, of course. Duelling is dangerous enough when skilled wizards do it, but being underage and deciding to duel each other for fun in the middle of the street, that's just stupidity. "Right, we'll take care of that. Anything else?"
"We also dealt with a marital row in the bookstore on Cross Road, and an alleged break-in that turned out to be the shopkeeper's brother who had written permission to retrieve something as well as a key. There was also a noise complaint , and we went to check, but when we turned up everything was quiet."
"I hope it stays that way", Marshall says from behind her coffee, and peels a layer off her croissant, rolls it into a ball and eats it. She catches Percival’s gaze and wipes her hands on a napkin.
"It never does", Burns shakes his head. He is right, of course. There’s hardly a shift during which everyone can just do their paperwork in peace without being interrupted.
Jackson closes his notebook, and Percival gives him a quick nod. “Thank you everybody. Enjoy the rest of your day, and let’s get to work.” They all shuffle around, pushing their chairs back, and Marshall stuffs what’s left of her croissant into her mouth. She grins at Percival and shrugs. He sighs.
“So he’s the one who drew the wand and started the duel or cast a tickling charm or whatever it was?” , Rosenberg asks and lets Graves step out the elevator fist.
“Yes”, Percival confirms, glances at the parchment with the information Goldstein had put together during her shift. He swallows when he reads the cell number. Together, they walk through the dimly lit corridor until they've reached the cell. 1908–its where they had kept Grindelwald. Percival can feel uneasiness creep up inside himself when the door closes behind them although he knows that he can open them with a snip of his fingers. He keeps close to the exit, looks around.

The cell still looks the same, of course it does, and with their perpetrator lying on the mattress face turned away from them and only a mop of dirty blond hair peeking out from underneath a blanket, it reminds Percival so much of Grindelwald that it takes him a few seconds of blinking to push the memories into the back of his mind. Rosenberg is much more hands-on, goes and shakes the boy's shoulder.
"Hey, are you awake?", he asks. "We've come to talk to you."
"I'm not talking to anyone." The boy doesn't even turn around.
“You know that talking would make everybody’s life a bit easier, right?”, Rosenberg asks. “Yours because you can leave this cell quicker, and ours because you make our work easier.
Rosenberg gets up from the floor again, turns to Graves and shrugs. They both know it’s impossible to work with people who refuse to talk, no matter if suspect or victim. Graves looks at the document in his hands. Maybe the boy will react to a different approach. 
"We've checked your wand”, he says. “You last used it for an Oppugno Jinx. It's not a spell I'd use in a harmless duel between friends-all those flying objects caused quite a commotion on Cross Road." No reaction, and Graves takes a breath. “You’re not eighteen yet, so we will have to inform your parents”, he tries again, but doesn’t receive an answer. “Still no talking? Okay … We will leave you alone for now. We'll be back later, just in case you change your mind about talking”, Percival looks at his colleague and nods towards the door. The lock clicks audibly, and the heavy door opens. Rosenberg leaves the room before him; Graves takes one last look at the young man in the corner before he leaves the room. They lock the door with a few simple spells, and Graves breathes out. Only four more people to interrogate.

Back in the old days, it was common to have suspects drink some water mixed with veritaserum to figure out who was telling the truth. Graves wishes he could have the old days and its morally questionable methods back. Instead, he sends letters to Ilvermorny, explains to angry parents that no, he can't make an exception from the punishments for using underage magic and that he doesn't have a say in the school's expelling policy anyway. One father tells him that he's got important friends in MACUSA, and Graves almost asks back who could be more important than him. He can't think of anyone, apart from Picquery of course. In the background, Rosenberg clears his throat. Percival stays patient, repeats everything he's told them before–that their son would have the chance to speak for himself in front of a committee, that there'd be a vote–and that they were free to collect their child from the cells but that MACUSA would have to keep the wand until after the hearing. He pulls out the documents they need to sign, gives them a few minutes and a quill.

“The junior aurors start next week”, Percival says, hands her the list of names. “Same as every year: We’ll have the introductory ceremony here at eleven, tour of the building, lunch. We only need your presence and your speech, but I guess you’ve already got it written.”
“As every year”, the President echoes, puts the list into one of her folders without so much as glancing at it. “I take it you’ll be out in New Jersey some days once they start their training.”
“Not too often, I hope”, Graves answers. Sometimes aurors visit the training centre to give lectures, but the main work lies with the teachers. “I will definitely have enough time for our weekly meetings”, he adds. Picquery nods, gives him the hint of a smile.
“That’s good to hear”, she says. “I know I wanted this to be done with already, but it had to be postponedwe still haven’t come to a decision regarding the treatment of magical creatures. Collins has sent so many paper mice since our last meeting, I could start my own little zoo … We’ll have to check how quick we can get the topic on the assembly’s agenda, but I hope we can cast a vote soon. If I remember correctly, you said you’d collect information on the way the British are handling their beasts?”
Percival holds back a sigh. “That’s correct”, he says. “The British Ministry has kindly sent me some information about their laws.” The letter Theseus Scamander had sent in reply to his request lies in Percival’s office at home. He hasn’t made it past the cover letter, but can’t let Picquery know that. “We’d have to adapt them of course, but I’m sure we could find a way to at least relax the rules, if the assembly voted in favour of a change to our current system.” Maybe he should just ask Newton for helphe’d probably write a detailed outline on how to protect every single creature America has to offer, from billywig to thunderbird.
“So you’d be willing to present the case in front of the assembly in your function as Director of Magical Security?”, Picquery asks as if he had a choice. Given the involvement of creatures in their daily work, it makes sense that the Department of Magical Security supports a change of the laws.
“Of course,” Percival says, watches the quill that had written down his answer put a full stop behind the word and drop down on the parchment. Their meeting is over. Percival collects his diary and quill from the table. “Thank you, Madame President,” he says.
“Thank you, Director." Picquery's handshake is firm, they both get up. Percival holds the door of the meeting room open for her. "One last question," the President says when they are already out of the door, "I haven't had a good duel in month. I was wondering if you'd like to have a session with me soon."
Percival agrees without having to think twice. They are a good match when it comes to fighting. He remembers the training session he'd had with Newton a while ago. The one with Picquery will be different, that's for sure. He will actually have to make an effort to block attacks, and he will probably feel his muscles for days afterwards. "I'm looking forward to it", he says. They smile at each other and Percival is dismissed with a nod.

There is a stack of letters on the nice rug in his living room, ink pot and quill next to it, a few pieces of parchment scattered around. In the middle of it all is Newton, fingers on the pages of a book. He looks up and then at the watch next to him. "Oh hello," he says, "You're early today."
"Why are you always lying on the floor when we’ve got a perfectly good sofa?”, Percival asks while he's opening his shirt's collar and removing his cufflinks.
Newton shrugs. "It's comfortable. Sorry for the mess”, he grabs his wand the pieces of parchment that are scattered around everywhere sort themselves into a pile. “Look, now there’s even enough space for you.”
Percival shakes his head, laughs. "I prefer the sofa, thanks very much”, he says, already on his way back to the kitchen. “Can I bring you a cup of tea?"
“And a biscuit, please”, Newton calls after him. That actually means something between two and four biscuits, Percival knows that by now.

The file On the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures comes with a letter by a William Morris, Director of the Beast Division, who thanks Percival for his interest in the subject and offers to answer any further questions. Percival puts the letter aside and begins to read the document’s preface. It doesn’t take too long until he stumbles over the first sentence he doesn’t fully understand. He looks up. Newton is still lying on the rug reading his book, the half-empty tea cup next to him. Percival clears his throat. No reaction.
“Hey Newton?”, he asks, stretches his foot to try and touch Newton’s calf, but can’t quite reach it.
“Hm?”
“I’ve got a text on the British beast laws, and I’ve got a few questions, if you don’t mind.” Newton blinks up at him now. “You’re reading up on that?”, he asks back, and before Percival can react, his soulmate has sat up. “Is this about changing the American creature laws? Are you voting?”
Percival hesitates. "You know I can't talk to you about work."
"So you're voting", Newton deducts and now he's smiling broadly.
"Maybe I just want to read up on creature laws because I'd like to know more about them", Percival tries, and grins when Newton rolls his eyes. "Anyway, it says that 'Categorising magical creatures into Beasts, Beings and Spirit, the Ministry of Magic’s Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures and its various sub-departments strive to establish peaceful co-existence of all magical creatures in  Great Britain and Ireland.' Why are there three categories? We only have two, I think.”
Newton sits up, finger still in between the pages of his book. "What are your two categories? Beasts, I guess, and …?" 
"Well, humans of course", Percival says, and his soulmate only stares at him.
“Right”, he says slowly, shakes his head. “That’s the system the British had about a hundred years ago until we realised that it didn’t make sense. Not every creature you’d classify as beast is on the same.” Newton takes a sip of his tea before he comes to the sofa, sits down with a sigh. He folds his legs and Percival puts ahand on Newton’s knee that has bumped into his thigh. They share a smile, and then Newton compares goblins, which the British would classify as Beings, and nifflers, which are Beasts. The way he explains it, that understanding that one is part of the magical community and one’s place in it decides which category a creature belongs to, the system seems to make sense. Percival could build an argument for the assembly out of thiseven those who’ve got nothing to do with creatures whatsoever should be able to grasp the concept. Newton is still talking, about the way the British equivalent to MACUSA’s Beast Department makes sure the classifications are up to date and justified, about creatures that decline the offered status and choose one they think more fitting, about clause 73 of the International Statute of Secrecy, which contains a clause that explicitly mentions that magical creatures are to be cared for by the wizarding population.
Percival is trying to listen, but at the same time he's observing the way Newton rolls the quill in his fingers, and how his eyes seem particularly green in the evening sun. He watches the light shimmer for a second before he leans over and presses a first kiss on Newton's cheek, a second one right on his mouth before he pulls back again. "You just look really handsome like that", he says, and Newton blinks. 
He rubs his hand over his neck and tucks one of his stray curls behind his ear, and Percival can't decide if his soulmate is uncomfortable because Percival said something nice about his appearance or because he is not used to compliments. . 
"Your spare room is locked", Newton eventually breaks the silence that hung between them. "I wanted to see what my office could look like, but Alohomora didn't do the trick. You must have used some other kind of spell to keep the room permanently locked." 
Percival tries to remember the day he came home from the hospital, but he's only got a very blurred memory of casting several cleaning charms and rearranging all his furniture." I must have ", he mumbles." It was a while ago."

In the end, it doesn't take Percival more than two minutes to open the lock. He's tried a few simple spells, and one of them had worked. Newton walks into the room, while Percival stays in the door. There's the window that he was never allowed to look out of, this is where he used to lie, back against the wall. Percival touches his soulmark under his shirt and watches Newton turn around and look up at the ceiling. He's wearing one of his many linen shirts, a dark blue one. A step to the side makes one of the floorboards creak.
"Would you mind if I used an extension charm for the room?", Newton asks. "I'd need just a little bit more space." 
"Of course I don't mind", Percival says and turns around so he can breathe again and to start on dinner. Behind him he can hear Newton say something about bookshelves and plants and where best to put a desk. It's his room now, and Percival needs to find a new space for the bad memories. 

His head hurts, his legs are tingling  and Percival feels nauseous. He blinks carefully. There is a lumos in the dark, swaying slightly as if cast carelessly. 
"Hello Director", a voice comes out of the darkness, and Percival moves his head so abruptly that his neck protests in pain.
“I hadn’t expected this to be so easy. I thought as Director of Magical Security you’d have better duelling skills, I’m almost disappointed.” Grindelwald lets the light shine on his pale face and dirty blond hair. He smiles, and there's a glint in his eye that makes nausea rise in Percival. One wrong word and he will be dead, he is sure of that. Grindelwald makes the lumos shine brighter, and Percival thinks they might be in his spare room. The wooden floor has got lighter patches on them where the bookshelves used to stand. Percival wonders what happened to all his possessions. Did Grindelwald move them somewhere else? Did he burn them? All his books and the notes from his auror training days … There are more important things to worry about, Percival tells himself. He will have to find a way out of here.
Grindelwald pulls a vial out of his pocket, holds it up into the light. “I took the liberty of using hair from the brush in the bathroom. You don’t mind, do you?”, he says, uncorks the vial and swallows the liquid. It's Polyjuice Potion, Percival realises before anything in Grindelwald's face has changed. Percival tries to move his at the changing face in front of him. The hair turns black, the nose shortens, the eyes change colour. He wants to look away, but can’t.
“Now, Director”, Grindelwald says in a voice that almost sounds like Percival's, a voice that has the same danger in it as Grindelwald's eyes. “What do you think is the easiest way to take over MACUSA?”

Percival blinks into the darkness, and it takes him a few seconds until he's realised he's lying in bed, he's safe. Grindelwald's voice is still ringing in his ears, and the dream have brought up memories he'd already forgotten. Grindelwald had turned the office into a laboratory to make sure he wouldn't run out of polyjuice potion, he'd come into the spare room just to make Percival watch him eat or to tell Percival who at MACUSA deserved death the most. Percival breathes in and out, but the bitter taste in his mouth doesn't disappear. He carefully moves one leg, then the other. Folding back the blanket, he shivers for a second before stretching out a hand and searching for his wand on the nightstand. He casts a Lumos, carefully sits up, takes another breath and stumbles towards the door.
The door to the spare room is wide open, and Percival feels panic grip him. He turns away, leans against the counter and avoids the look of reproach his reflection gives him from the dark window. It was just a nightmare. He takes a glass from the kitchen cabinet and a deep breath. Then there's a noise behind him, a floorboard creaking, and Percival jumps and drops the glass to the floor where it shatters. Percival is pressing his fingers against his temples, is still trying to get his heart to slow down again when he hears Newton's voice.

"Are you alright? You didn't hurt yourself, did you? Here, I'll fix the glass for you." Newton is standing in the door of the spare room, in a t-shirt and pyjama bottoms, and Percival breathes out. Grindelwald is gone, and the spare room is going to be turned into his soulmate's office.There's nothing to worry about, nothing to fear. Newton casts a Reparo, the glass sits on the counter again, and then his soulmate is standing in front of him. "Can I check your hands for splinters, please?", he asks, his fingers already warm on Percival's wrist.
Percival watches his own hand being examined, watches his thumb carefully run over the palm of his hand. "Nothing happened", he mumbles, suddenly feeling exhausted. "Just a nightmare."
Newton, still so close to him that Percival could let his head fall against his shoulder, furrows his brows. "I wouldn't say that's nothing, Percy", he whispers back, fingers now on the sleeve of the pyjama, right over the soulmate. Percival wants to say that his name isn't Percy, that nobody calls him Percy, but he's too tired, and Newton is already talking again anyway, asks if water is enough or if he should make a cup of tea. 
"Just water", Percival says, and Newton fills the glass for him without moving away from him. He casts a cleaning charm at the floor, and another one at Percival's pyjamas.
Two more glasses of water, and Newton still hasn't moved. "Do you want me to stay up with you? We could sit in the living room together."
"I'd rather go back to bed." 
"Of course", Newton says, squeezes his hand but doesn't let go. Instead they are walking together and Percival finds that he doesn't really mind. Newton casts a Lumos which he attaches to the wall, and a cleaning charm at the bed.
Percival sinks into the mattress, and Newton spreads the duvet over him. "Are you okay like this, Percy?", he asks. 

Percival breathes in. "Yes", he mumbles, doesn't bother correcting the name. "Just–." He swallows, isn't quite sure what to say. "Thank you." 
Newton smiles down at him, twists his wand between his fingers. "No problem at all. Give me a second, yeah?" He disappears, but leaves the door open, and while Percival is still wonders what his soulmate could need a second for, he's come back with his own pillow and duvet. Percival watches Newton take the left side of the bed as if he'd done that countless times before. It's only when Newton is quiet until he's finally under the covers and lying still. 
"I didn't ask", he mumbles more to himself before looking at Percival. "Sorry, I just thought I'd stay with you in case … I can go back to my bed, of course, if you want me to. If you're uncomfortable or want to be alone or–"
"Newt", Percival interrupts him, watches his soulmate through half closed eyes. "Please stay." He snips his fingers to make the Lumos disappear, lets his arm fall back onto the duvet.
Dozing off, Percival can feel Newt’s fingers warm and calming on top of his hand.

Chapter Text

5

 

Dear Newt, 

I hope this letter finds you well. 

I am writing to you because you helped the Scottish authorities with their kelpie in Loch Ness a while ago. They have now contacted us to tell us that another one of their kelpies has mated and given birth to four foals. She's accepted three of them and rejected the smallest one, a girl, we don't know why. We have tried to find a loch for her somewhere in the UK and even in Ireland, but the kelpie families we tried to put her with have refused to accept her. We put her into an uninhabited loch, but would feel more comfortable if she could be in an environment where a magizoologist can monitor her development. You are the only person we could think of who might be able to help. Do you have a habitat in your case that you could keep a kelpie in?

You can reach me via fire call during the usual office hours. 

Thank you, 
Janet

Newt empties his tea and moves a few documents on the desk aside until he's found the suitcase's map. He unfolds it and stares at it for a few seconds. There's a smaller unused habitat near the mooncalves that could be enough for a baby kelpie. It is next to the Nundu, however, and Newt isn't sure if putting two creatures with such a high level of magic right next to each other would be a good idea. There's also Frank's old habitat, of course. Newt stares at the enclosure on the plan. He'll have to create a solid border between it and the meadow so Harold doesn't accidentally wander off and ends up in the wateror worse. A kelpie probably wouldn't hesitate to have a niffler for dessert. Newt takes Fantastic Beasts from the shelf and goes through the pages until he's found the entry. He reads the information he'd compiled during his time in Scotland, and then he takes a quill, traces the line between the two habitats. Touching the parchment with his wand makes the word Thunderbird disappear. He writes Kelpie instead.
"Pickett?" A swish of his wand makes a few documents fly from his desk into the suitcase. Newt looks around, collects the bowtruckle from one of the plants on the windowsill."It's time to travel again."

In order to be able to travel via portkey, the office at the location of departure and the one at the place of arrival have to work together. They need to find a free time slot, have to pick a portkey and give it a test run, have to exchange information regarding the traveller.
"The whole process takes at least two weeks", explains the wizard in the portkey office. Newt can't decipher the name tag."It can be sped up when it's about intracontinental travel, but not for international journeys."
"I understand that it's a lot of paperwork", Newt says, "but what about emergency port keys? Surely there is a way to get to the United Kingdom today. Just anywhere in the UK, I'll take whatever portkey you've got."
The wizard nods slowly. He opens a large notebook, flips through the pages. "Well, you'd need a very good reason for emergency travel to be approved. I can't make promises." He traces lines of what appears to be a table with his finger. "Later this week could work, if you hand in the paperwork before noon today. I've got a portkey scheduled for Friday, going straight to L-lang… I can't pronounce the place, but it appears to be in the UK."
" I can't pronounce it either, it's Welsh ", Newt replies and for a second he thinks of Daffyd's attempt to teach him a few phrases on the long evenings they'd spent in front of the dragon eggs, waiting for one of them to crack." Friday?", he asks when he's managed to focus on his current problem again. "That's too late. I always thought emergency portkeys were supposed to bring you somewhere within a few hours." 
"Well …" The wizards hesitates. "There are emergency portkeys for MACUSA employees, of course. But you'd need written approval, and the journey would have to be Ministry-related."
Newt sighs. He could argue that the trip is Ministry-related, well, to the British Ministry anyway. He's even got the official letter to prove it. Before he can say anything or get Janet's letter from the pocket, the MACUSA employee has given him a few pieces of parchment. 
"This is the form you need to hand in before noon today in order to get the portkey on Friday. You've got…", he glances at the clock on the wall, "about two hours."
"Thank you", Newt mumbles, takes the form that he probably won't fill in, and makes his way from the portkey office to the entrance hall.

"I'm sorry, Sir, but I can't give you access to the auror department without an appointment." The witch at the entrance desk pulls out a piece of paper and a feather. "You can leave a note for the Director, if that helps."
"It's an emergency", Newt repeats what he'd already told her and wonders if Americans have a slightly different definition of the word. Maybe emergencies can wait in this country. "I need to speak to Director Graves, it's urgent. Can't you make an exception?" 
"I can give you a visitor's pass for the building, Sir, and I'll send a note to the Director that you're coming upstairs. What's your name?" 
"Newt Scamander. Newt like the animal and Scamander with a c." He watches her scribble his name and the words emergency for Director Graves, sent to Autor department on a piece of paper that folds itself into a tiny bird and flies off. Then she hands a piece of parchment to Newt." You take one of the elevators to the seventh floor, someone will come and help you."
Newt mumbles his thanks and wishes he'd been mistaken for Theseus like the first time he'd visited Percy's office. He'd be taking a portkey by now. He folds his day pass between his fingers, queues in front of the lifts.

"Is the creature hurt?", Queenie suddenly asks behind him and Newt almost drops his suitcase. She smiles at him while she gestures that she should enter the lift before him. "I said your name twice", she says apologetically and asks the goblin to bring them to the Auror floor before turning to Newt again, "but you didn't react because you were busy thinking about that beast."
"It's a baby, that's all I know at the moment", Newt explains and wonders what the correct term for a little kelpie is. Foal, he thinks, just as for unicorns and horses. He'd have to look it up. "I'd have to look at it to see if it's sick. It might be. Weaker immune system than a grown one."
"Poor thing", Queenie sighs as if it's already been decided that the kelpie has got at least a cold. Newt only hums in reply and steps aside to let her step out of the lift first. The last time he'd come to Percy's office unannounced he'd walked through the door without any problems. It wasn't even important back then, he'd only wanted to pass on a book. Now that there's a creature to save he's stuck outside of the auror department until someone decides to open the door for him. He looks around. It's all polished stone, they don't even have a bell.
Queenie has drawn her wand and pressed it against the door frame. The lock opens with a clicking sound and she smiles at him. "Come on in", she says. "I'm sure I am allowed to grant access in case of emergency."

The heavy door closes behind them, and Newt thinks he could find the way to Percy's office on his own. There are aurors standing outside of their offices, some with coffee cups in their hands, and they are all looking at Queenie and him.
"Mister Scamander", one auror says. Newt knows it's the deputy, the one who was so eager to call him a hero after the Grindelwald incident. He can't quite remember the name. Something with a J that ended in son. Johnson? "What brings you to the auror floor?"
"I need to talk to Graves", Newt explains and as soon as the sentence is out he realises that he should have referred to Percy as the Director.
Johnson, if that's his name, seems to think so, too. "The Director", he replies stressing the title, "is busy at the moment. Either of us here would be happy to help. My office is just this way."
Newt doesn't move. He really doesn't want to cause difficulties, but the thought alone of having to tell Johnson that he needs a portkey so he can relocate a kelpie from a Scottish Loch to his suitcase is ridiculous. He wouldn't understand." Thank you, but I really need to speak to Director Graves", he declines. He wonders how long it could possibly take to send a paper bird from the entrance hall to Percy's office. "It's urgent", he adds. 
Johnson sighs. "Mister Scamander", he says, and he doesn't even make an effort not to sound annoyed. "You can't just walk in here and demand to see Director Graves, no matter how urgent. He's not available at the moment." 
Newt hesitates. Maybe Johnson is right and Percy really doesn't have the time to help him with something as boring as booking a portkey. He knows how packed his soulmate's diary can be, how long his days in the office usually are. But he also remembers that Percy had once told him he'd always be welcome in his office. Maybe he should just walk past Johnson and knock on the office door. If they stand around for much longer, he might as well take the portkey on Friday. Before Newt can decide if Johnson could arrest him for disobeying an order, a door at the end of the corridor opens.
Percy comes out of his office, a slip of parchment in his hand. “Is this a meeting I was not aware of?", he asks. "Jackson?"
Jackson, whom Newt had been thinking of as Johnson for the past five minutes, clears his throat. "Mister Scamander here came to see you, Director", he says and steps aside.
"Yes, thank you, I received the note from downstairs. Mister Scamander, shall we?" He turns towards his office and Newt nods.

"So you need the portkey to get to this … water creature that you want to raise in your suitcase." 
"A kelpie", Newt says, folds Janet's letter and slides it in his coat pocket. 
"And they didn't offer you an emergency portkey?", Percival asks. "We actually have several for visitors." 
Newt only looks at him, shakes his head, and Percival sighs. "Come on", he says, draining his cup of coffee, "let's get you to England. Or Scotland?"
"England", Newt replies. "England is fine."

The lift's doors close behind them, the goblin presses the button for the ground floor and Newt checks his watch. It's afternoon in London now. If the portkey doesn't take too long, he could go up to Scotland and see the kelpie before nightfall, just to get a first look.
"It's not a dangerous creature, is it?", Percy asks, and Newt laughs. That's always the first question asked by people who are not magizoologists. 
"Well", he begins, hesitates. Very few creatures are really dangerous if you know how to handle them, and Newt does. Mostly. "Not really, no", he ends up saying, smiles. "I mean, they try to lure humans underwater so they can eat them, but once you've managed to bridle them, they are like overgrown horses."
"They eat humans?", Percival asks, brows furrowed, and Newt sighs. He should have known his soulmate would pick this as the most important bit of information.
"Not if you bridle them", Newt repeats patiently. "And not in my suitcase. I'll feed her chicken. It's supposed to taste like human, and she won't know the difference anyway because she's just a baby." 
Percy only shakes his head. "Supposed to taste like human …", he mumbles and Newt would really like to kiss him. Instead, he follows his soulmate out of the lift and down the busy corridor. They walk around a few corners until they are standing in front of the portkey office.
"You'll probably be on your way in a few minutes", Percy says, stands close enough to touch Newt. "So … Take care. And come back in one piece, okay?" 
Newt laughs quietly. "I'll try my best. You take care of yourself, too." Newt lets his fingers run over his soulmate's hamd before Percy pulls his hand away and opens the door.

It's raining in Scotland, of course it is. Newt shivers and casts a warming charm. Next to him, Janet hides her fingers in her pockets. 
"She is in there", she says and nods towards a lake that would be nothing more than a puddle for a grown kelpie. "I think she's a bit scared. The mother attacked her, went for the neck before we could separate them. Nothing bad happened, but still… Or maybe she's just shy."
"Hmhm", Newt only hums in reply and steps onto a drier patch of grass. It will take hours to create a similar landscape in his suitcase, even with Janet's help. And he's got no idea where he'd put his wellingtons the last time he'd used them. The lake stays calm, and the raindrops form little rings on the surface. Newt will probably spend a few days standing here before anything happens. Well, at least he hasn't promised Percy that he will be back in New York for the weekend. "Right", he says, glances at Janet, "let's get to work, shall we?" She offers her arm and they are gone. 

The enclosure looks strange without the sandy desert and its rocks. It is no area for a thunderbird anymore, and Newt blinks the memories of Frank away. He's probably doing just fine in Arizona, chasing fennec foxes and whatever else he can find. Mice and snakes. He'd always liked the snakes Newt had fed him.
"Do you usually use a piece of their natural habitat?", Janet interrupts his thoughts, brushes a few sand grains off her trousers. "A bit of water from the lake, or a few plants?" 
"We should definitely use water from the lake. Might make it feel a bit more like home." He takes a step back, looks at the plain stretching out before him. Closing his eyes sometimes helps with transformation, and so Newt imagines the loch before him, deep and large enough for a young kelpie to hide in. Opening his eyes again, he casts the spell.
"Not bad", Janet comments from the side. "I probably would have needed the whole evening for that transformation alone." 
Newt shrugs. "Practice", he says, and together they cast an aguamenti.

"I'm beginning to feel a bit bored, you know", Newt says and yawns. It's been quiet ever since he'd told Janet that he'd manage this part on his own. The pieces of chicken breast he'd taken from the pantry in the suitcase a few hours ago are still floating on the water, the rope he wants to use instead of a bridle is still lying next to him. He lets it glide through his fingers, wonders if he should just give up for the day. Just a little while longer, he decides and looks at the loch's surface. "Are you even old enough to eat solid food yet?", he asks. "I hope you are. Bottle-feeding you would be quite an adventure, wouldn't it? I've bottle-fed dragons before, in the nursery at the research centre. Surely a kelpie can't be as bad a dragon. I mean, both species would eat me alive if they could, but at least you don't breathe fire." He blinks at the water. It's so dark that it all looks the same, the loch and the landscape. Then there's a noise and Newt sits frozen. He's almost sure it came from the lake in front of him. With his wand and the possibility of a Lumos right next to him, Newt blinks and stares and blinks until he thinks he can make out what could be a neck rising from the water. He breathes out.

There is a splashing sound and a shadow before it's quiet again. Using a Lumos now would mean long minutes without being able to see in the dark. Besides, Newt can't be sure how the kelpie would react to the show of magic. He gets up, takes a few steps until he's standing on the edge of the loch and counts. One of the pieces of chicken is gone. He sits down on the grass. It's uncomfortable and he can feel the mud and water wet his trousers. Drying that will have to wait until later, he doesn't want to scare the kelpie by using magic now. "Come on", Newt whispers. "I know you're hungry." He waits for what feels like an eternity before the kelpie sticks their head out of the water again, and this time, Newt is close enough to actually see it. The creature itself looks like a common sea serpent, a very young one. Maybe this form is easier than to keep than that of a horse. The kelpie must have chose one of the usual colours of their species, a dark blue, green or simply black, just so it would be more difficult for Newt to spot it. The kelpie bows down to fish another piece of chicken out of the water and comes even closer for the last one. When the kelpie decides to stretch their neck again, they are suddenly face to face. The kelpie's breath is a mixture of raw chicken and mud. They keep looking at each other and the kelpie blinks with its big round eyes. Newt isn't sure if blinking back is a good idea. He doesn't know enough about kelpies, he realises, had only covered the basics in his book and only helped with relocating creatures, a task that requires wand work more than knowledge on behavioural characteristics. He swallows, ignores the way his eyes burn. The kelpie sniffs a few times and makes a curious gurgling sound that could mean anything. Newt holds out his hand and for a second he's tempted to just touch the beast's neck. It's a baby, surely it doesn't know how to hunt yet.
"It's just for safety reasons", Newt whispers, and the kelpie watches him pick up the rope. “You will be much easier to handle you once you're wearing this and it is nicer than a bridle. Doesn't get in your way when you're eating. The creature only blinks when he slings the rope around the neck, jerks away a second too late. Newt slings the rope around a few more times, makes a knot and tips it with his wand to seal it. He lets two fingers slide under the rope and pulls on it to see if it is too tight. It seems to be fine, and apparently the kelpie thinks so, tooit pushes their head against his shoulder and Newt lands in the mud. "Okay, okay. That was enough touching, I understand", he says, wipes his hands on his trousers and by the time he's standing again, the rings on the water are the only sign of recent movement in the loch.

"You agree to the usual terms and conditions?", William asks, parchment rolled out before him"Of course", Newt says, takes another biscuit. The usual, that means that he will treat the kelpie according to the Ethical Code. He won't force unnatural behaviour on the creature, he won't use it for personal or financial gain, he will keep his colleagues at the Ministry informed about the kelpie's well-being and he will, once the time has come, release the creature into a natural habitat. He watches William sign and takes the quill from him to scribble his own name on the document. 
"Good luck", William says. "Let me know if you need assistance. You're doing us a favour after all."
Newt nods. He already knows that he will need their help with getting the kelpie back into the wild again. Maybe they can find a few other young ones that are not too attached to their mothers anymore and put the kelpie with them. That moment is at least a few weeks ago, though. For now Newt will have to read up on kelpies, maybe send a few letters to experts, and he will have to find out where to buy large amounts of chicken.

"Do you want to come into the case with me?”, Newt asks and clears his plate. "I could introduce you to Emma, if you want to.”
Percy laughs. “Emma?”, he repeats. “You called the kelpie Emma?”
Newt shrugs. It was the first name he’d come up with, and she hadn’t made any sounds of protest. “I can’t just call her ‘the kelpie’, can I?”
His soulmate cocks his head, blinks. “Good point”, he says, and Newt only smiles. Of course it’s a good point, and of course it makes sense to name a creature that will spend more than a few days in his suitcase. Referring to them by their species would be terribly rude.

Newt gets up, opens the door to his study and illuminates the room with a Lumos. “Let’s go.” He pulls the suitcase out from behind the door, undoes the belt wrapped around it and opens the latches. “I’ve got a spare pair of boots that you can borrow. Do you want to go first?” No reaction. Newt turns around. His soulmate is frozen in the doorway, looks around the room. “Percy? Have you changed your mind?”
“The walls are orange”, Percival says and blinks.
Newt laughs. Of course his soulmate would starehe’s never been in here since the spare room has become Newt’s office, and the rest of the flat is white. “Well, yes”, he says, “when I moved into my flat in London I painted my office yellow, and I thought I’d stick with the colour scheme.”
“Hm”, Percy hums, lets his hand run over the wallpaper and touches the curtains. They had been black when Newt had first unlocked the room. He watches his soulmate run his fingers over the curtains. “It’s just a charm. I can change it all back if it bothers you.”
Percival clears his throat, lets go of the beige fabric. “It used to be really dark in here”, he says. “The light couldn’t get through when the curtains were closed.” He takes a few steps and a deep breath, turns towards Newt. “This is where he kept me”, he says, and it takes Newt a second to realise who his soulmate is talking about. “On … on the floor. Here.”
Newt swallows. Percy had stayed in here while Grindelwald had taken over his body? He remembers how small the room had been before he’d put the extension charm on it, how plain and cold it had looked, with its white walls and black curtains. He doesn’t know if he should give Percival a hug. It’s never a good idea to pressure a distressed animal. He stays where he is, watches his soulmate look at the bookshelf, the sketches of creatures that Newt has stuck on the wallpaper behind his desk, the armchair that Newt had brought over from his London flat and squeezed into one of the corners.
Percy lets himself sink to the floor, leans against the wall. He looks up and swallows. “In my nightmares, I’m always here. Like this. Or on my side.”
Newt doesn’t know what to say. The only thing he can think of is “I’m sorry”, and that doesn’t sound right at all, not even in his head. He takes a few careful steps, and when Percy doesn’t flinch and doesn’t tell him to stop either, Newt sits down next to his soulmate, one hand placed between them. If it’s more to keep the distance or as an offer, Newt doesn’t know.
“He would keep it dark, always dark, curtains closed.” Percival doesn’t look at him, but he takes Newt’s hand, closes the distance between them, leans his head against Newt’s shoulder. “He would stand there and watch me, or take a chair”, he mumbles. “He would bring me food now and again, at irregular times. I didn’t think it would be so easy to lose sense of time.”
Newt hears Percival draw a shaky breath. He still doesn’t know what to say and he can’t put his arm around his soulmate without moving both of them. It’s uncomfortable on the floor, even after a few minutes.  How much time did Percival spend in recovery after the aurors had found him? Newt doesn’t know if he should ask, if maybe he is supposed to or allowed to or ask. He squeezes his soulmate’s hand. “If you want to talk about it … Or if you want me to move my stuff out of here, just tell me. I don’t need the walls orange either.”
“I’m glad this is your office now”, Percy says. “And I like the colours.” He takes a deep breath. "I got my soulmark in here, that's a good memory, at least." Before Newt can say anything, Percival gets up and offers his hand, pulls him up. “Can we still meet the kelpie?”, he asks. “If it’s not … I don’t know, past her bedtime or something like that.”
Newt laughs. “Nocturnal species”, he says. “It isn’t even close to her bedtime. She had her breakfast during the evening round. Sodo you want to go first?”

While Percival adjusts the size of Newt’s old boots, Newt slips into his wellies and his jumper. He takes a jacket from the hook on the door and hangs it over the back of the chair his soulmate is sitting on. “The nights are cold, and the warming charms wear off after a while.” He opens the door, makes an inviting gesture.
“We’re not taking a lamp?”, Percival asks and pushes the sleeves of the jacket up.
“I never take one if I don’t need it”, Newt says. “Besides, it’s better if the creatures are not too used to artificial light. Your eyes will get used to the moonlight.” He takes his soulmate’s hand and pulls him out the door.
Percival stays so close to him that he even matches the length of his steps. He turns his head a few times, points out noises that Newt has grown familiar with over the years: the curring of the diricawls that are huddled together at the edge of the meadow and the humming of the insects. “That’s just what the suitcase sounds like at night”, Newt says. He points out the larger roots on the path that they could trip over, but also the occamy nest, the bowtuckle tree and  the rock where Harold likes to sleep when the sun is shining. “We’re almost there, it’s in Frank’s old habitat.”
“Who is Frank?”, Percy asks.
“He lived in the habitat before Emma moved in”, Newt says, and realises that this explanation doesn’t make much sense. “A thunderbird. He’s back home in Arizona now.”
“You had a thunderbird in here?” When Newt glances at his soulmate, Percival looks like he’s got more questions, but then he only sighs. “I don't even want to know how many rules you broke with that.” He sounds so defeated that it makes Newt laugh. Percival almost stumbles.
“Are you okay?”, Newt asks, tightens his grip around his soulmate’s hand. Percival only hums in response. “Good”, Newt says. “Because we’re here. Look!” He takes a few more steps, until they are almost bumping into the habitat’s barrier.
It looks like Emma is balancing her head on the lake’s surface. She seems content, is chewing on something, maybe it’s seaweed or maybe she’s caught one of the fish Newt had released into the lake a few days ago. “Look, I brought Percy so you can meet each other.” She turns her head when she hears Newt’s voice. “Just say hello to her”, Newt says, and his soulmate is opening his mouth when Emma’s curiosity takes over. She comes to the lake’s shore and stretches her head until it is in front of Newt’s. She’d definitely been munching on seaweed.
“She is … enormous”, Percival whispers.
Newt laughs, untangles their fingers and leans against the barrier. “She’s a baby”, he says. “And she’s a small one.”
Percy looks at him, shakes his head. “I wouldn't call that gigantic lake horse creature small.” He is still whispering. Maybe Newt should tell him that kelpies have excellent hearing and that she can very well hear his hushed voice.
Newt rolls his eyes, puts an arm around his soulmate. “Okay, so maybe she's bigger than the usual pet. Still doesn’t mean that you can’t be polite and introduce yourself”, he insists.
“Right”, Percival mumbles and clears his throat. “Hello Emma”, he says, louder this time, sounding a bit hesitant, but overall normal. Most people think it silly to name a creature and to talk to them if they are not their pets. Most people wouldn't want to introduce themselves to anything larger than an owl, except for maybe a horse, and actually mean it. Newt has never understood why, and he realises he's relieved about the seriousness with which his soulmate approaches the situation. Emma seems curious as well, turns her head in his direction and stretches her neck a little bit further. Percival almost takes a step back, is only stopped by Newt's arm.
"It's alright, just stay still", Newt says. "She can't reach you anyway." He keeps his fingers buried in the jacket his soulmate is wearing.
Percival hums. “Okay … Is there anything else I should say?"
"Whatever you want. I talk to her about her food and the other creatures and such, but it really doesn't matter what you tell her, it's much more important that you use a calm and friendly tone of voice." Newt smiles when he thinks about all the nonsense he's told his creatures about. They had always been good listeners. His favourite hippogryff had kept all of Newt's childhood secrets to himself, just like Dougal and Harold had patiently heard to him ramble about his soulmark and the questions that had come with it. At least he'd had someone to talk to … He pushes the thought of Percy's time in the spare room away and leans a little closer.
"Okay", Percival says next to him, "I think I only want to say that it's nice to meet you, Emma. I’m sure Newt takes good care of you and you can go back home really soon.”
“When she's gained enough weight, right Emma?”, Newt interjects. “She needs to be a grow a bit stronger before I can release her again.”
“But not too big”, Pery says, leaning into Newt’s arm. “Or you won’t be able to get her out of the case again.” He laughs like he'd made a particularly good joke, but Newt only groans. His soulmate is right. Getting Emma out of the suitcase will certainly be not as easy as it had been with Frank. He'd destroyed half the shed with his size, but at least he'd been able to walk and fly on his own. Newt can't flaot the entire suitcase just so the kelpie can swim out of it into freedom. He'll have to think of something …
“Well”, Newt says, decides that he will cross that bridge when he comes to it. He smiles at Emma, who is busy burrying her muzzle in the mud that's surrounding the lake. She gurgles and snorts into the dirt before she disappears with a splash. Newt laughs about the noise of protest Percival makes while trying to duck. The shield charm comes just a second too late, and Newt isn't sure what annoys Percival morehat he's drenched in loch water or that he's been too slow. He takes out his wand, casts a drying charm at his soulmate and brushes his wet hair aside. "Like I said -", he shrugs, tries his best not to laugh, "She's a baby."