"So…you're not going to tell me about that boy, hm?"
"In your dream!..."
With a flick of the wand, everything was quiet again. Percival Graves sighed. He had never expected this investigation to become this chaotic and slipshod, it's very against his nature. Percival, or 'Mr. Graves' - as his co-workers and subordinates called him, sighed and proceeded to stand in front of the suspect who was silent from his Silencing Charm.
"I will let you answer again, this time please try harder," Percival talked slowly. His voice was smooth but cold. Mr. Graves was naturally a patient man – one of the most patient alpha Aurors MACUSA ever had, but he did have his limits, just liked everyone else.
With a subtle gesture of his left hand, a middle aged beta male tied to the chair was able to make a sound again. He gasped, staring at Percival, but no sound was made.
"So…?" Percival raised his eyebrows. He didn't want anything to get messier than it already was, but he wouldn't hesitate to make something explode so this man would start talking.
"The…The omega boy…" the man stuttered, his left hand moved to cradle his heavily injured right arm. Percival had intendedly relocated and reshaped the bones of that arm, resulting in the tearing and unnaturally twisting of the muscles and ligaments. "The boy…is in…some kind of chapel…"
"Where is that chapel?" Percival kept his voice smooth while his mind was screaming in joy that he finally had something to work on. Behind him, his subordinates shifted slightly, ready to take care of the rest as soon as Percival had the information they needed.
"Not… not…not far away…Ahhhh!"
"Mr. Harris, where is that chapel?" Percival asked again after he had relocated another bone of the beta; his patience was running real low. "You know, my men are not expert in putting relocated bones back to their places, so you better tell me where the church is before the damages will be beyond repair."
Mr. Harris didn't seem convinced, so Percival sighed and reshaped the man's left radial bone. The scream was too loud for his liking. And as Percival was thinking about reshaping the man's left tibia too, Mr. Harris had decided to give in.
Two hours later, Percival was in the forest near a small town called 'Salem'. This town looked peaceful, but there were some No-Majs forming a No-Maj anti-witchcraft group. This group was called 'the New Salem Philanthropic Society' or 'NSPS' for short. Well, Percival didn't care about them anyway, even when he was about to walk into their chapel.
"Credence, what are you doing?"
A sharp voice, a voice of a woman who held no love for him, a voice Credence found himself desired to hear less and less.
He mumbled, hand gripping hard on the staircase.
"Credence. Do not lie to mother."
Chastity, his older sibling spoke from where she was arranging the paper. Her voice was cold and hard. She always knew when he was trying to hide something.
"I… I didn't…" he stumbled. He didn't lie, it's nothing. "There…there is nothing… I just sore…"
Ma walked toward him. She hadn't demanded for his belt yet, but she would want it eventually. He had learnt all her silent command since his early years, a flick of the wrist; a small gesture for his obedience.
Her voice was so sharp Credence almost moved away, but he remembered that his mother didn't like it when he moved while she was talking. Credence kept his head down as he answered.
"Which part exactly?"
Her voice was sharper, and Credence's voice was shaking as he answered.
"My lower back"
He replied, and then Chastity's hands were on the back of his thigh, pulling the fabric of his loose pants to see if there was something wrong. Something evil.
"He's not leaking yet," she let go of his pants as soon she was satisfied, as if he was a disgusting insect. She didn't want to touch him, but she couldn't let Ma touch something so evil and disgusting liked him either.
In the corner of his eyes, Credence saw his mother's posture slightly relaxed, but she was still as sharp as ever. "Very well," she said, "go to your room, no dinner for you today."
Credence did as he was told. His room was the furthest room from stairs, next from his room was a storeroom they used for storing clothes, after that it was Chastity's room, then Ma's, and then Modesty's. The children under their care slept in the other building behind the chapel. Sometimes Credence hoped that he could join them. At least their building had a view of a small but comfy street behind the building while the only window of his room showed him the view of a dirty alley no one bother to look twice.
He sat down on the bed and cradled his head in his hands. Ma had said that he was born to be the caller of a tool of Satan. She said that he must be locked away as soon as he started 'leaking'. She said that he would eventually leak the cursed fluid from his body, the fluid that would lure good people to the Satan. Credence remembered the hushed voices of Chastity and Ma talking that they should have a few more years before he started to do the job he was born to do; to make people committed sin. It was a matter of time before he would be locked up in the basement.
Credence bit his lower lip. He should be delighted that he still had times left, and he should celebrate by trying to get some sleep. His lower back still arched and prevented him from laying on his back, so he had to stay on his side.
Sometimes, in a very rare occasion, he would have a nice dream. A dream where he was free, free from his family, free from everything. In those dreams he was flying with the birds in the sky, travelled far and far away from the chapel and would never come back. And tonight was one of those rare night that he dreamed.
But no matter how brilliant the dream was, he would always wake up to the same old bed. Sometimes he cried that the dream had ended, and sometimes he wished that he could stay in the dream forever.
Credence woke up before sunrise. He spent several minutes to get up from the bed. He was used to not having dinner by now. Since he had reached puberty, his punishments were mostly divided between 'give me the belt' or 'no dinner for you today'.
He washed his face, made sure to scrub every trace of tears away. Then he slowly and silently made his way to the kitchen. There, Credence started cooking breakfast for twenty children and his family.
Today was Tuesday, that meant the meeting and it would start at 7:15 pm. He had to prepare dinner before then, after that he would spend his time standing still at the corner of the room, waiting for his mother's or Chastity's orders.
He turned at the voice of his younger sister. Modesty. The girl was smiling as she hopped down stairs and ran toward him. Credence didn't smile back, but he felt warm as the girl took his scarred hand in hers.
"Credence," Modesty gave him a mischief grin as she leaned up to whisper into his ears. "Yesterday I threw those leaflets away so I had more time to walk around the town. You should try, throwing them all away."
"I can't." Credence offered her a simple reply. Oh, how much he wanted to do just that, but Ma and Chastity always knew when he did something wrong. He was used to punishment, but it didn't mean that he wouldn't feel pain when receiving one.
"Credence…" Modesty pouted, a behaviour she dared to show when their mother and older sister hadn't awaked yet.
Credence wanted to smile for her, but he looked at the clock and knew that they had around a minute or two before Chastity woke up, so he gently pushed Modesty's shoulder, telling her that she should get herself ready for school.
Modesty sighed but ran back upstairs, just in time before Chastity emerged from her room.
The day went by. Credence and his family ate breakfast before Chastity would call in the orphans. After that the orphans would 'go to school' which was one of the room of the chapel. Chastity, Ma, along with several volunteers, would tutor them. Credence would go to a grocery store to get ingredients for cooking lunch and dinner.
The trip to the grocery store was the period of the day he enjoyed the most. Away from his mother and older sister. All he had to do was walking and admiring the beautiful scenery.
Once he reached the grocery store, Credence schooled his expression and his thought back to the task at hand. He picked each items up without much thought, it's a kind of muscle reflex since he had done this thousands of time already.
Credence balanced every item in one arm as he walked along the shelves. There were two more items he had to get before heading back...
Then, he rounded the corner and walked right into another man.
"Hey, are you alright?"
The man stood still while Credence was on the ground. He ignored the sharp pain from his old wound as he tried to gather his things; he also ignored the hand offered to help him up.
The man seemed to get the impression that Credence was worrying about his stuffs, not the he was being rude because he was afraid to interact. Ma had forbidden him from talking to any stranger unless they're asking about the New Salem Philanthropic Society. Nevertheless, the stranger helped Credence picked up his items and handed it back to him. Credence noted that the man's hand was big, callous, and warm.
Credence kept his eyes trained to the floor as he nodded his gratitude. "Th-thank you," he said. Ma wasn't here, so he guessed that a simple 'thank you' was okay.
"Are you alright?"
The man repeated, this time Credence was able to focus on the stranger's voice. It's low, a bit rough or it might be because the accent, but not unpleasant.
Since Ma wasn't here, maybe he could rebel a bit. Modesty had thrown those leaflets away yesterday; he wanted a rebellious story to tell her too.
"I-I'm okay," Credence hated that he still stuttered, but he managed to get the word out. His eyes were still glued to his shoes. Nevertheless, he still saw the stranger's shoes, black pants, the shirt and the coat. Credence almost saw the man's face.
"Are you sure?"
A hand touched his shoulder and Credence flinched. He didn't mean too, but he couldn't stop himself. Since he was a child, a sudden contact meant punishment. "I'm okay." He repeated, stepping back before turning away. Half of himself wanted to stay and talked more, but the other half screamed that he had to go or he would be caught.
Credence picked up the rest of the items on the way to the cashier and made a beeline home. His heart was still pounding so hard after that small encounter with a man he didn't even see his face. However, from the faint scent Credence managed to pick up he could tell that the stranger was an Alpha.
Credence got back to the chapel at his usual time. Luck was on his side because he had an hour and a half of cooking to calm his nerve before Chastity and Ma would come back. They didn't suspect a thing, they didn't even look at him as they ate lunch together. After that Credence washed the dishes and cleaned swept the floor. He had to tidy the place up before the meeting this evening.
He cooked after finished cleaning, half listening to the sound of children being gathered to help make the leaflets.
Chastity let the children out after they finished the job. Credence watched them ran out before he turned back to the stove. He knew Chastity was watching him. She had been watching him closely since last week, as if she was waiting for him to do something wrong.
The meeting started half an hour after dinner. Credence helped his sisters and mother carrying the drinks out for the members. After that, he would be at the front door, holding it open and hung the coats for their guests.
People slowly arrived, smiling when they saw Chastity but ignoring when they saw him. Credence kept his head low, no eye contact. There were always 40-50 people on Tuesday and Wednesday, nearly 80 people on Sunday. Credence was hanging the coat of the 45th guest when he heard a familiar voice.
"Good evening, is this the New Salem Philanthropic Society chapel?"
It's the voice of that stranger from the grocery store. Credence felt his heart skipped beat. He hadn't expected to meet him here, but why would he care? Credence really didn't understand himself.
"Yes sir, are you interesting in joining our community?"
Chastity's voice was sweet and soft, unlike when she talked to him.
"I'm not sure, but I was new here, and my friend suggest that I should visit this place. I think I'll give it a try."
Credence heard a footstep went upstairs, followed by the light familiar scent. It distracted him to the point that he didn't hear Chastity inviting him in with polite but lively voice. Credence knew he should keep his head down, but curiosity won the best of him. He wanted to see the alpha's face, so he looked up and was met with a pair of dispassionate dark brown eyes, strong jaw, and a slight grey on his temple. His hair was swept back neatly.
Credence immediately averted his eyes and held out his hands for the coat. The stranger handed it to him and their finger touched. Credence almost felt electricity shot though his body from the contact. But then the man pulled away and continued down the hall, heading toward the available seats.
Ten minutes later, the meeting started. Credence tried to be on his best behaviour because he had a feeling that Ma and Chastity were keeping close eyes on him. Nevertheless, he still sneaked a glance at the man as much as possible. The alpha sat on the middle row, eyes fixed on his Ma who was on the podium.
When it's nearly time for the break, Credence went to the kitchen to bring out the beverage and some snack they had prepared. He carried a plate full with glasses while Modesty and Chastity took care of the snack. That alpha was the last one who came to get the drink. Credence risked glancing up, and was met with the man's eyes. This time, the alpha seemed to be calculating something.
Credence felt himself slightly trembled as the alpha's gaze lingered, but then the man turned and went back to the crowd. Credence inhaled and quickly made his way back to his corner and waited to collect the glass after everyone was done.
Credence didn't know why he was a bit sad when the meeting ended. Their guests stood up and prepared to leave. Credence immediately went to stand behind Ma and Chastity at the exit, eyes glued to his shoes. But even with afford to be uninterested in the alpha, Credence still noticed that the stranger he met at the grocery store today spent sometimes studying the architecture of the chapel before leaving.
After that he helped Ma and Chastity cleaned up the chapel. Ma said nothing as she walked upstairs, a signal that she would be retiring for the night now. Chastity followed suit, leaving Credence to wash the glasses.
Credence went on with his chore. He was thinking about tomorrow trip to the grocery store already. The winter was coming, and he wished to see snow soon. He wished that he would have a time to watch it painted the world to the perfect whiteness, pure and beautiful. Something he would never be; his mother had said that when she was teaching Modesty what snow was.
Then, out of nowhere, Credence heard the voice of that alpha. He jumped, dropping the glass back into the sink. He was lucky it didn't broke though, just splashed the water and wetted his apron.
Credence turned around and gasped when he saw the alpha from earlier standing at the threshold of the kitchen's door.
The alpha stepped in and looked around him. Credence felt his cheek heated up. He had never felt ashamed of their kitchen before, but with the alpha walking around, Credence suddenly felt ashamed of who he was and the place he lived. The alpha walked around elegantly, but still aware of his surroundings.
Even that Credence had seen this animal in books only, he was sure this man fitted the definition of 'like a panther cornering its prey'. And this alpha made him felt as if he was cornered without doing anything more than walking around the old and quite messy kitchen.
"I forgot my wallet," the alpha said. His voice was soft and smooth, as if he was trying not to startle Credence. "And I saw a light in here, so I…" he gestured to the door that connected the kitchen to the main hall of the chapel. "I'm sorry that I didn't knock. I just wished that perhaps you might have found it."
Credence gulped. He knew he should call for Ma, but he couldn't. He felt as if his voice was gone, and the alpha standing there with his eyes focused on Credence didn't help make it any better.
"I…" Credence tried, only to swallow and cower backward. He wanted to call for his mother, but the other part of him didn't want to. She would be angry, and when she was angry she punished him. "…I…" He tried again, now his voice was a bit louder than a whisper; he was making progress. "I…I can…help you look…" he winched at his own voice. It sounded liked he was croaking more than talking. Moreover, Credence hated himself for stuttering, but he just couldn't help it. He was nervous. However, beyond that feeling there were other feelings as well, and he didn't know what they were.
"Thank you," the alpha nodded, his eyes travelled up and down. Credence wondered if the alpha was regarding him. He hoped that he didn't look as terrible as he thought.
Credence slowly followed the alpha back to the main hall. They started looking for the alpha's wallet and eventually found it under the seat the man had occupied at the meeting.
"Thank you so much," the alpha said again, his voice was smooth and his eyes were glittering, or maybe it might be the light playing tricks with Credence. And he was too caught up in his own thought to notice that the alpha had taken a step closer. Now they're less than a meter away from each other.
"What's your name?" the alpha asked. His voice soft and made Credence's cheeks heated up again. "I'm Percival, Percival Graves. And you?"
It took Credence a moment to reply, "Credence," he said. "Credence…Credence Barebone."
"Credence," the alpha, Percival Graves nodded. They're almost at the same high, but the alpha's shoulders were boarder, and he was surely well-built. "Thank you for helping me, I guess I will see you tomorrow, right?"
"The next meeting is tomorrow at 6:15 pm, right?"
"Yes, yes," Credence quickly nodded, looking at anywhere but the alpha to avoid eyes contact because his cheeks were too hot right now. "See…see you tomorrow, sir."
"Goodnight," Mr. Percival Graves nodded and turned to leave. Credence watched until the double door was close that he immediately sat down on a nearby chair. He didn't understand why his heart was pounding so hard right now.