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Where I Belong

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Newton Artemis Fido Scamander had never been quite like the other merfolk in his shoal.

 

It wasn’t something he could hide. Even his personality wasn’t quite the same; all of his siblings and shoalmates tended to be outgoing and brazen, while he was more quiet. Timid. He was the kind of hatchling that the adults shook their heads at and muttered ‘that one won’t make it a year’, because the sea was a dangerous place even for the bold.

 

But no one actually said that about Newt, because they all knew his personality wasn’t the only difference in him. They knew, they whispered about it, and they thought he didn’t notice, but he did. He always noticed, always felt their eyes on him like they thought he was hiding something.

 

He wasn’t, and he was. It was…complicated.

 

The redhead gave a powerful kick of his tail fin, the vibrant, deep blue scales catching the dim light that filtered down from the surface of the water. The darker, barbed side-fins twitched and adjusted slightly for the gentle currents, the movements almost unnoticeable, done entirely by instinct. He was in a hurry, and it showed in the way he swam quickly past the colorful flying seahorses rather than stopping to feed them kelp from his bag like he would normally do.

 

“Theseus!” he called out as he saw a flash of dark green in the coral. A head poked up from behind the formation, the hair a darker red than Newt’s, the skin less freckled, but the features still similar enough to pinpoint the two as brothers. Newt swung his fin down and spread his side fins wide to slow himself as he reached the coral, and his brother swam upward to join him- though when he saw what was in his brother’s hands, he recoiled.

 

“Is that what I think it is?” he asked, and Newt cradled the tiny creature closer, cooing at it as it whined at the arrival of Newt’s brother.

 

“It’s alright. I’ll watch over you,” Newt reassured the beast before turning his attention back to Theseus. “Yes, it is. And she’s hurt. Do you have any of that jellyfish paste left over?”

 

Theseus scoffed. “Do you know what father will say if he sees you carrying around a baby Kelpie, Newt?” he asked, the gills on his neck and his bright ear fins flaring with irritation, and Newt fidgeted and averted his gaze with a halfhearted shrug.

 

“I know what he would say. But she’s hurt, and she’s just a baby. She’s harmless, you know that.”

 

“She won’t be harmless forever.”

 

“Well, she hasn’t done anything wrong yet, so I’m not going to hold her future decisions against her!”

 

“It’s a water demon, Newt!”

 

Newt shot Theseus a glare, and the Kelpie clung closer to his bare chest, tendrils of smoky appendages curling around the patches of scales on his shoulders and back. Theseus stared at the small beast with disdain for a few moments, but upon meeting Newt’s gaze again, he sighed heavily.

 

“Come on, I have some left,” he muttered, and he turned and swam toward the nearby cliffs. “I can’t believe you drag me into these things. One of these days you’re going to get eaten by a moody teenage sea serpent, and you’ll have no one to blame but yourself.”

 

“When that day comes, you can freely say ‘I told you so’,” Newt said, though there was relief in his voice as he followed his brother closely. Theseus ducked into a cave in the cliff side and Newt followed him in, the glowing fungi on the walls giving the dwelling light that would otherwise not reach it from the sun. The bed of white anemones swayed gently in the light current, and Theseus immediately went to a stone box by the bed and opened it up.

 

“Where did you find it, anyway?” he asked, pushing aside trinkets and small knives and instead taking out a bag made of woven kelp. When he got no immediate answer, he turned to find Newt fidgeting again, looking anywhere but at him; he held out the bag, but gave Newt a look. “Newt. Tell me.”

 

“I found her in the bay,” Newt said, plenty of emphasis on the word ‘her’, even if he knew it was useless to try and correct his brother.

 

“You mean the bay you’ve been told not to go to about fifty times before? That bay?”

 

“I heard her crying. I couldn’t just leave,” Newt protested as he let himself sink to the stone floor, his tail curled underneath him and the Kelpie in his lap. He opened the bag and with webbed fingers scooped out some of the paste, starting to smear it on the Kelpie’s injured leg.

 

“What happened to her? Are those net marks? Damn it all, Newt, you went in the bay when the humans had the fishing nets out?” Theseus snapped, and Newt huffed out a frustrated surge of water through his gills.

 

“They would have caught her.”

 

“That’s the wizards’ problem, not ours. How did you even get her out?”

 

The silence that followed the question was enough to tell Theseus exactly how Newt had done it. He pressed a hand to his face, obviously trying to reign in his temper, and Newt shifted nervously.

 

“I didn’t have a choice.”

 

“You always have a choice!” Theseus practically yelled, and he lowered his hand to gesture in the direction of the bay. “What if they’d seen you? What if a wizard had seen you? Do you know what they would do to a merperson who can use magic?”

 

“What good is it if I never use it?” Newt asked as he set the bag aside and pulled the Kelpie in close. The tiny creature was holding onto him tightly, its face buried against his chest, seemingly trying to hide from the argument.

 

“It’s not a gift, Newt, it’s a curse. You’re not meant to use it at all. Nothing good comes of magic,” Theseus said, his voice low. “We’ve come so far to keep you safe and to make sure that wizard can’t find you. I can’t believe you just keep throwing it back in our faces like this.”

 

“I don’t mean to,” Newt said, but all the fight was gone from his voice, his ear fins pressed tightly against the sides of his head and his clawed fingers trailing gently through the Kelpie’s thick mane, seemingly more to comfort himself than the creature. He looked so worn down that Theseus felt the anger draining away, and he shook his head and sank down to the floor next to his brother.

 

“You know we only worry because we want to keep you safe,” he said, and he tried to catch Newt’s eye, but Newt kept his gaze locked on the Kelpie in his arms. He didn’t answer Theseus, either; he didn’t need to. He’d heard this lecture a thousand times before, and it wouldn’t be the last time he heard it, either.

 

But he would do the same thing, if he had to go back. He would do it every time, if it meant saving the life of a helpless creature.

 

Like him, they hadn’t asked to be saddled with the constant threat of danger.

 

Theseus took the bag back without a word, and moved to stow it back in the stone box. “Just…take it back wherever it came from before father sees it. And stay away from the bay,” he muttered, frustration heavy in his words, and then he chuckled humorlessly. “Why am I even bothering? You never listen anyway.”

 

Newt pushed off the stone floor with one thrust of his tail, and he made for the cave exit, the blue light of the glowing fungi flicking across his pale skin. He paused in the cave entrance, and looked over his shoulder.

 

“I don’t do it to hurt you, or to worry you,” he said softly. “I just…I feel like if I make something good out of it, I can make up for some of the suffering I’ve caused you. It doesn’t have to be a curse.”

 

“Just…just go, Newt. I’m not going to argue with you about it right now.”

 

Newt hesitated, swallowed a burst of water through his gills, and then swam out over the coral. He had to get the Kelpie back to her nest, or the mother might return to find her gone- and the only situation worse than his father finding him with a baby Kelpie was the baby’s mother finding him with her.

 

He swam back toward the bay, where the Kelpie nest sat just outside of the shallows. Technically he wouldn’t be back in the bay, so he wouldn’t be breaking the supposed rule again; but it was getting dark, and even for the fastest of swimmers, the ocean got more dangerous at night. He found the nest, thankfully with the mother evidently still out hunting, and he put the baby Kelpie back into the bed of tangled plant life.

 

“No more exploration, alright? Don’t take my example on this. I’m an awful role model,” he said to the Kelpie as he gently pried her grip off his arms. She whinnied softly, still struggling to hold a somewhat equine form, and Newt smiled and petted her one last time before he turned and started to swim away.

 

The last light of the sun was barely penetrating the water above, leaving nothing but inky blackness below him. His eyes easily adjusted; though merfolk didn’t have the best of night vision, between that and chirps of echolocation, it was easy enough to get around without much trouble. Newt didn’t like the night as well, though; the colors of the coral were washed out to grays, and the fish settled in their hiding spots, wary of the predators that came in the night. He stuck close to the surface to enjoy the warmth that still clung to the shallowest parts of the water, but soon that too would be gone.

 

Then he heard it; a high-pitched wail, a sound unlike any he had heard before. He swung his tail down and flared his side fins, stopping in the water to spread his ear fins and try and pinpoint where the noise came from.

 

It happened again, and he realized with a sinking feeling in his stomach that it was coming from the bay.

 

I shouldn’t, he thought, biting his lip carefully with one sharp fang. It was getting too dark, and there was no telling if the humans were still in the bay or not; it was more dangerous circumstances than any of his previous excursions. Theseus would be expecting him back soon, and if he wasn’t back by true nightfall, his father would be furious.

 

 

That same sound again, a cry full of fear. It didn’t sound like any animal Newt had heard before, but that somehow made it even more tempting; the idea of finding something new, possibly saving something endangered.

 

He shouldn’t. He really shouldn’t

 

He looked back toward home, and then with a frustrated rush of water through his gills, he thrust his tail fin and swam toward the mysterious sound.

 

The bay was dangerous even when the humans weren’t in it. The bottom was covered in sharp rocks, and there was debris from the things the humans called ‘boats’; he found it funny that they were such clumsy swimmers that they had to take ground with them when they ventured into the sea. At least it meant they couldn’t sneak up on merfolk; they were too loud and clumsy in the water.

 

But he was going into their territory now. He didn’t have nearly as much room to maneuver in the shallows of the bay.

 

The sound happened again, louder now as he drew closer. It seemed to be coming from near one of the boats tied to the wooden ground built over the water; had the humans caught something?

 

He could practically hear Theseus’s furious scolding in his mind as he pressed forward, unwilling to leave a life to chance.

 

But when he reached the sound, he stopped dead in the water and stared in confusion; it seemed to be coming from a small, shiny cylindrical object about the size of his hand, half submerged in the water. He tilted his head curiously as the sound came from the shiny object again, though the pitch fell this time, as if the not-creature was dying.

 

Not a creature.

 

He realized his mistake a moment too late.

 

A heavy net dropped over him, the weights on the end falling around his tail fin and twisting there, and he thrashed as he tried to claw the net open. It was no use; the net was too heavy. He resorted to his magic in a panic, lashing out, but the net lit up bright white in response to the spell before fading back to black.

 

This wasn’t a normal human net.

 

“Got it! This is the one! It worked!” he heard someone shout from above, their voice muddied through the water’s surface, and he fought harder against the net but only managing to entangle himself further. There was suddenly a yank on the net, and Newt found himself pulled up through the water and straight into the cold night air.

 

The transition was never easy. It was why merfolk rarely ventured past the water surface, even though they technically could. His gills slammed shut instinctually in response to the air around him, and he twitched as he painfully coughed up water. His vision spotted with light as he dragged the first breath of air into his aching lungs, his body begrudgingly shifting its method of breathing even as he tried to break out of the net.

 

“Definitely the right one. Tried to use magic to break the net, you saw it. No wand or nothin’,” another voice said, and Newt twisted in the bindings to try and see who was speaking. Three humans stood on the boat beside him, and he looked up to find a wooden arm off the side of the boat was holding his net out of the water.

 

He immediately tried to aim a blast of magic past the net at the wooden arm, but the spell just bounced off the net and scattered painfully. One of the humans stepped back in surprise, while one of the other ones laughed.

 

“He said it was a mermaid that could use magic. Looks like that bounty is ours, fellas,” he said, and Newt didn’t know what a ‘bounty’ was- human slang had so many different, strange words- but he had the feeling it wasn’t good.

 

“Please,” he pleaded, his voice raw from adjusting to breathing oxygen instead of water. It sounded odd in the open air. “Please, let me go.”

 

His plea didn’t seem to move the men at all. Two of them ignored him and instead moved to other parts of the boat, while the third stepped closer with a cruel smile on his face.

 

“You are gonna make us a whole lot of money, you overgrown fish,” the man said. “But for now, you’re just gonna take a little nap. We’ve got a long trip ahead of us.”

 

The last thing Newt remembered seeing was the man pulling a shiny thing that looked like a miniature anemone quill out of his pocket, and then plunge it through the net into his side.

 

* ~~~~~~ *

 

If Percival Graves read the name ‘Grindelwald’ one more time, he was fairly certain he was going to lose his mind.

 

The whole wizarding world was obsessed. Not that it wasn’t a pressing matter for Percival, or that it wasn’t worth his attention- but he was just so tired of it. And he doubted that Grindelwald had any interest in trying to extend his reach to America before he even had a true foothold in Europe. He was a man on the run, and that did not carry much advantage.

 

He closed the report on his desk with a subdued sigh, never one to be very demonstrative of his feelings, even in private. He needed to get out of these four walls, just for a while. He’d become an auror to do his part protecting his people, and spending all day staring at reports of what others had done was not his idea of making progress. It was all he’d done since he got to work an hour ago.

 

He stood and picked up his coat, draping the garment over his arm as he walked out the door of his office and closed it behind him. With the anti-apparition wards in place, he would need to actually walk to the exit, but hopefully he wouldn’t be bothered before he got there.

 

It was too much to ask, evidently.

 

“Mr. Graves,” a voice said from behind him, and he turned to find Seraphina Picquery standing in the hall. She gestured to the investigation room with only a nod, but it was enough to get her point across; he followed her in, and the door swung shut behind him with a simple twitch of his fingers.

 

Some might call him a show off for the mundane uses he had for wandless magic. He called it expedient, and staying in good practice for using it when it was desperately needed.

 

“We have a situation at the docks,” Picquery said, tapping a couple of moving photos on the desk. Percival went to her side and looked down at the photos; the first showed a boat pulling up to the dock in the dead of night, and the second showed three wizards moving a large crate from the boat toward one of the warehouses, barely able to keep the crate floating and steady between the three of them. The crate glowed softly with magic; it was obviously sealed carefully, either to keep the contents safe from the outside- or to keep the outside safe from the contents.

 

It practically screamed ‘up to no good’, but it didn’t seem to be something that required his personal attention. He raised an eyebrow at Picquery. “So, send a couple of junior aurors out,” he said, and she chuckled.

 

“If only it were that simple,” she said. “No, I need you to go on this one, personally.”

 

“…Why?”

 

Picquery moved the two photos aside to reveal a third. In this one, the men were still struggling to transport the crate to the warehouse, but when they were almost to the door, there was a burst of light from inside the crate that nearly sent the whole thing to the ground.

 

“Whatever or whoever is in that crate, it’s not happy and it’s strong enough to nearly break through a three-wizard seal,” Picquery explained. “Go find out what it is, and if necessary, eliminate it or bring it back here.”

 

Percival nodded, beginning to feel that rush in his blood that came along with the mystery of a new, unknown danger. This was why he became an auror- to confront what others wouldn’t or couldn’t, and to be trusted to make the right decision for the wizarding community as a whole.

 

“I’ll take care of it, Madame President,” he said with a nod, and then he turned on his heel and headed for the door.

 

He needed to get to the docks before those three idiot men lost control of whatever they were dragging around in that box.

Chapter Text

Newt lost track of time, trapped in relentless dark.

 

At least he was in water, but it was a small mercy compared to the rest of his circumstances. The container they had him in was cramped, the bottom of his tail fin curled up uncomfortably in order to fit. He was hungry, so very hungry, but it seemed they had no plans to feed him until they got to wherever they were going. Either to keep him weak and less prone to fighting back, or just because they didn’t know what he ate; either way, it was a kindness they didn’t feel the need to dispense with.

 

He tried to break out of the container, but whatever it was, it was reinforced by magic. His spells and claws alike were repelled by the wooden material, which didn’t even gouge when he dragged his sharp nails across the surface.

 

For what seemed like days, all he knew was the rumble of the boat beneath him, and the muffled, distant conversation of his kidnappers. He didn’t want to cry, but he couldn’t help it; strangely enough, he was more worried about his family than his own fate.

 

They’d tried so hard to protect him, and now he would likely never see them again. Human boats were fast; days of travel could means he was months of swimming away from where he’d started.

 

His family would think him dead by then. Eaten, or worse.

 

He wasn’t yet sure he didn’t prefer just having been eaten to what he was going through now.

 

With nothing else to focus on, the cramping pain of his stomach became more and more torturous as time went on. He was stiff and aching all over from not being able to move or stretch, and he couldn’t even begin to guess where his journey would end. He’d thought that if random wizards found him, he would be killed; wizards didn’t like ‘beasts’ to have access to magic.

 

There was only one wizard he would have been truly worried about, and though he’d never met that wizard, he knew none of these men were him. He’d heard enough about the wizard that kept his family on the run that he was sure he would know him the moment he met him.

 

He only began to come out of his starvation-induced daze when he felt the boat shudder to a stop. He opened his eyes, but saw only the persistent blackness that had plagued him for days. The water was stale by now, and it tasted wrong in his gills.

 

Then, the box began to move.

 

That could only mean that they were probably at their destination, or nearly there. He needed to try and get away, even if his body felt like it couldn’t handle even the simplest of movements. He had to at least try.

 

As the box wobbled in the air, Newt focused inward, pulling at the magic he felt entwined with his soul. It wasn’t as weak as the rest of him- his magic had always seemed to be stronger than him, more than him- and he fought the exhaustion and pain to draw from its strength.

 

In one last effort, he released the strongest burst of magic he could manage.

 

It bounced off the walls of the box and he gasped at the pain of the spell backfiring. The box tipped, nearly fell- but then it righted again, and Newt wanted to sob. He had nothing left to try.

 

There was a thud on the outside of the box, and a muffled voice said, “Knock it off!” Not that the man really needed to say it. Newt was drifting in and out of consciousness from the effort, his magic practically boiling like a deep-sea vent within him, agitated and angry. But while the magic was still strong, its vessel was not, and Newt let his eyes fall closed again.

 

* ~~~~~~ *

 

Percival arrived at the docks mere minutes after being sent. The docks were alive with activity now, and he stepped out of the narrow alley where he’d apparated to, dodging a man pushing a cart full of fish.

 

He was already drawing some attention just by being here at all. All the people down here were dockworkers, dressed in rough and worn fabrics; his immaculately pressed suit made him stand out more than he’d like. He needed to get to the warehouse in question, which was just around the corner.

 

When he got there, he could sense the presence of magic already, a spell on the door that would leave the No-Majs’ eyes drawn away from it, as if it didn’t even exist. The spell didn’t even phase Percival; he took in a steadying breath, took his wand in hand under his jacket, and then he slipped inside.

 

He found himself behind a stack of crates in a sort of makeshift hallway leading to the open space of the warehouse. It was a stroke of luck; he could hear movement and voices beyond, and he stopped behind the crates, pinpointing two different voices as he eavesdropped.

 

“How long is it gonna take him? This thing gives me the creeps,” one voice said, and there was laughter from the other.

 

“It’s not gonna be quick, remember? For all we know, the guy isn’t even in the states. The contact wouldn’t even tell us if he was. Don’t trust us that much.”

 

“We went through hell to catch this thing. I’m tired of sleepin’ with one eye open thinkin’ its gonna get mad and blow a hole in the deck.”

 

“Stop whinin’, I’m sick of listenin’ to you.”

 

So it was definitely an ‘it’, and not a ‘who’. That was at least a relief; they were just trafficking some kind of beast with mysterious powers and not kidnapping some poor wizard. But trafficking and selling of beasts was still very much illegal- especially a beast that could possibly escape and cause havoc.

 

Percival peered past the crates and saw the two men sitting at a low table, cigarettes in hand, one flipping through the newspaper. Not far from them sat the mysterious box, still sealed, and…dripping water?

 

Well. That was unexpected. He couldn’t think of any water creatures that small that would hold that much power. But that was a question for later. The men had fallen silent; he wasn’t going to learn anything more by listening. It was time to act.

 

He stepped out from behind the crates, and with only a wordless flick of his wand, both men were yanked out of their chairs and pulled to their knees, hands locked behind their back. They began to cry out in protest, but Percival hushed them, moving to stand in front of them with a stern look.

 

“Let’s not play games,” he said, voice smooth and calm. “What’s in the box?”

 

“Nothin’ that concerns you!” one of the men snapped, and Percival smirked.

 

“I might want to introduce myself, then,” he said, and then he squatted down to get on eye level with the kneeling men. “Percival Graves, Director of Magical Security for the Magical Congress of the United States of America. And whatever you have in that box very much concerns me.”

 

“Shit,” one of the men muttered; obviously they hadn’t expected that in the least. But they didn’t answer, either. It seemed they were still clinging to the useless hope that he wouldn’t pursue this further.

 

“Fine. If you won’t tell me, I’ll have a look for myself,” he said, and the men sputtered in protest as he stood up.

 

“You don’t wanna do that!” one of them shouted. “It’s fierce! It’ll claw your eyes out!”

 

Percival snorted and walked to where the box sat on the floor, and he began to inspect the seal they had on it. “I’m hardly worried about some beast,” he said. The seal looked like it had been reinforced over several days by the three men; evidently they really didn’t want their captive getting out.

 

“I’ll give you one last chance to tell me what’s in here. It will be a small mercy for you at your trial if you cooperate,” he offered, but the men stayed stubborn, just looking on anxiously as Percival raised his wand.

 

Percival banished the seal entirely, and water poured out of the cracks in the wood. Judging by the way the men didn’t protest, the beast inside didn’t require the water to stay alive, at least for long enough to open this up and see what he was dealing with. He kept his wand raised, and with the other hand, he pushed the lid off the box and let it clatter to the ground.


Of all the things he expected to see when he opened the box, this was not it.

 

Inside the box lie a merman, but not the kind Percival was accustomed to hearing about. Not the monstrous kind that lived in the bays and lakes of the British Isles. This was more like the rare Mediterranean species he’d heard about but never seen for himself. The young merman inside was seemingly unconscious, his long tail fin curled up against the bottom of the box. The scales on his fins, back, and shoulders were a beautiful, iridescent dark blue, and he seemed to have small flared fins where a human would have ears.

 

Percival jerked in surprise as the merman suddenly twitched and coughed up water, and he watched in fascination as the creature’s gills seemed to slam shut against the sides of his neck, immediately followed by him taking in a shaky gasp of air.

 

He knew that merpeople could breathe air- but he also knew they needed to have access to water frequently or their fin would dry out, which could lead to all sorts of painful complications.

 

“Either of you care to tell me what’s going on here?” he asked as he reluctantly looked away from the creature in the box and turned back to the nervous looking men. It seemed that the pressure finally got to one of them, the more heavyset one.

 

“We don’t know nothin’ about it, alright?” he said as he fidgeted in his magical bonds. “There’s a bounty for anybody who could find a mermaid that can use magic. A big bounty. We were just cashin’ in.”

 

“And who’s offering this bounty?”

 

“Mikel was the one who knew the contact. He didn’t tell us who it was. Said he couldn’t.”

 

“Who’s Mikel?”

 

The man fell silent and glanced toward his equally quiet partner, and Percival sighed. This had become more complicated than it had to be. He’d planned to just kill the beast, take the men to MACUSA, and be done with it- but this wasn’t a normal beast. Merpeople were sentient, and the fact that this one could evidently use magic was alarming.

 

Though it didn’t seem to be in the best of health.

 

“How long has it been in there?” he asked the men, and the skinnier one shrugged.

 

“Few days. Maybe a week.”

 

“Have you fed it at all?”

 

The silence answered his question. He sighed again and ran his fingers through his hair; a week without food was rough on any living creature. It was probably near death.

 

But he needed to keep it alive long enough to figure out how it was able to use magic. He turned around and looked down at the unconscious creature, at the pale scarred skin that gave way to beautiful scales and barbed fins, and at the red hair that seemed to be going even wavier as it dried.

 

He came to a decision, and with a wave of his wand, he reinforced the bindings on the two men. Then, he pulled a small notebook from the inside pocket of his jacket, along with a pen clipped to it.

 

He wrote two messages- one on the plain white paper near the front, and another on the grey paper near the back. It was a way of communicating quickly among aurors- the first message would alert the department to the need for a pick up here, their own notebooks growing warm as the message came through.

 

The second message would go only to the auror named at the top of the page- in this case, Tina Goldstein. She’d always been a bit of a rebellious spirit; if anyone would help him with this strange endeavor, it was her.

 

“One of my associates will be here to pick you up soon. I recommend not trying to move; that spell will cause immense pain if you try to break it,” he said to the men as he pocketed the notebook and his wand, knelt down, and gathered the merman into his arms. The creature didn’t stir as he lifted it, a testament to how far gone it was. It was awkward trying to balance it and keep its tail off the floor, but he managed it and straightened up; the scales felt hard and almost rubbery against his skin, and he was glad the creature wasn’t awake to struggle and flare those barbed fins, because they looked painful.

 

“Hey, wait, you can’t-“

 

He didn’t give the man a chance to finish. He apparated with the creature in his arms, and found himself standing in his apartment’s living room. Luckily his living quarters were rather spacious, so getting down the hall to the bathroom wasn’t too much of a task, even while carrying an unconscious merman.

 

And sure, bringing a possibly dangerous, injured creature to his apartment probably wasn’t the best of ideas, but he couldn’t take it back to MACUSA. He knew that Picquery would order him to immediately kill the creature, and he couldn’t bring himself to do it when there was such an intriguing mystery at hand.

 

How could the merman use magic? And why was there a bounty on its capture?

 

He reached the bathroom and cast one quick spell to increase the size of the bathtub as much as was practical, and another to draw water quickly through the pipes and fill the tub with warm water. He knew it wasn’t good for these creatures to be out of the water for too long, and it had been through enough suffering in the past week. He carefully set it into the tub, the scales seeming to gleam a bit brighter under the surface of the water.

 

The water seemed to stir the creature from unconsciousness; Percival held its head up with one hand, keeping it off the hard edge of the tub as green eyes fluttered open.

 

He had to remind himself that however human it seemed, this creature was anything but; a glance at the waist down, or even at those distinctive fins on the sides of its head would prove that much.

 

But he could already see the very human panic beginning to set in as the merman became aware of his surroundings. “Ssh,” he hushed, because the last thing he needed was an injured creatures tossing around magic in his apartment. “Stay calm. You’re safe here. You…can understand me, right?”

 

He knew that many of the sentient creatures spoke the same language as the humans in their territory, but ocean creatures were different; not many bothered with normal languages. Still, he had to try. The merman blinked a few times; he looked dazed and only half aware, clawed hands trying to grab at the edges of the tub and slipping on the slick porcelain instead.

 

“I…w-where…” the merman started to say, but his voice was rough, raw, probably from breathing air instead of water, Percival imagined. But the stutter was enough to get the point across- the creature could understand English.

 

“I got you away from those idiots. You’re at my home,” he explained, keeping his voice on that same smooth, soothing tone that he often used to give a prisoner a false sense of security; this time, though, it wasn’t a farce. “I have someone bringing food for you, alright? Just relax.”

 

The little things about the merman were fascinating. The way he dodged eye contact at all costs, the way his ear-fins flattened to his head defensively, the way the barbed fins down the sides of his tail fin flared and twitched every time he shifted; Percival had never seen a creature like this, certainly not this close up.

 

The merman met Percival’s gaze, if only for a moment, his expression confused and…well, lost. Which was understandable.

 

“Who are y-you?” it asked him with the hints of a British accent clinging to it’s voice- it, he really needed to stop using ‘he’ when thinking about a creature, honestly.

 

“Percival Graves. I’m a wizard, I work in law enforcement,” he explained, going with the simple explanation for now. It didn’t seem like the merman reacted well to the word ‘wizard’, though, and Percival was momentarily glad that the creature was so weak. “Do you have a name?” he asked, and the merman managed to give him a somewhat incredulous- and very human- look.

 

“Of c-course,” it muttered with a shiver, averting its eyes again. It seemed to already be starting to drift off again, which was no surprise. “Newt.”

 

It was a very human name. Percival really needed to stop keeping a tally of all the things surprisingly human about the merman.

 

“Newt, then,” Percival said, keeping his voice quiet. “Try to rest some more; I’ll wake you when your food gets here.”

 

He needn’t have even said anything, really; the merman was already drifting off again. But as he did, he pulled away from Percival’s hand and slid down entirely into the water, and Percival watched with fascination as the gills on his neck seemed to open back up to let a rush of water go through. In moments the merman was unconscious again, curled up under the water in the spacious tub, gills gently moving as water got pumped through them.

 

He only realized he was staring when he heard a knock at the front door, and he quietly stood and left the bathroom to head for the living room. He realized he had to look a bit odd- his clothes were soaked from carrying around a half-fish creature- but he didn’t bother with a spell to dry them yet. After all, the person at the door would surely already know something wasn’t quite right.

 

Sure enough, when he opened the door for Tina Goldstein, she already looked equal parts baffled and irritated, and in her hands she clutched a box that smelled strongly of fish.

 

“You know, I asked the guys five times if anyone had sent me a prank using the charmed paper,” she said as he stepped aside to let her in. She hesitated before she crossed the threshold, and he closed the door behind her.

 

“I apologize for the strange request. I was in a bit of a hurry,” he said, and she snorted and handed the box to him, eyeing his wet clothes with a raised eyebrow.

 

“’Strange request’ is putting it mildly. When was the last time one of the other aurors asked you to bring a box of fresh raw fish to their house?” she asked, obviously not expecting an answer. “What’s it for, anyway?”

 

Percival hesitated, considering his options; eventually, though, he decided it would be a whole lot easier to show her than to try and explain what had happened. “This way,” he said as he tucked the box under his arm and led the way down the hall. Normally he would hate to have any coworkers in what he considered private, personal space, but this was obviously an exception.

 

“Try to stay quiet. It’s sleeping,” he said, and her eyebrows flew up toward her hairline.

 

It?”

 

Percival didn’t answer her- instead, he pushed the bathroom door open, and she took one step inside before she saw what was in the tub and her eyes went wide. She looked between the tub and Percival a few times, as if she were waiting for the punch line of a joke she wasn’t in on.

 

“You have a mermaid in your bathtub.”

 

“I’m well aware of that, Ms. Goldstein.”

 

“Are you sure? Because you’re acting really calm for a guy who has a mermaid in his bathtub!”

 

Percival hushed her again, and then checked to make sure she hadn’t awakened the creature in his tub before he tugged Tina back into the hall and closed the door again. “Traffickers were trying to smuggle him into the city. I had them picked up.”

 

“And you took the mermaid home instead of to MACUSA?” she asked, incredulity in her tone.

 

“It can use magic. The men said there’s some kind of bounty on it,” Percival explained. “Picquery would order it killed, but…I have the feeling that there’s more to this. I’m going to look into it.”

 

Tina crossed her arms across her chest in blatant disapproval. “And you’re going to keep the mermaid in your bathtub? The whole time?” she asked, and Percival scoffed.

 

“Of course not. That’s why you’re here.”

 

“Oh, no, you’re not dragging me into this circus-“

 

“I need you to find a spell that can make it appear human.”

 

Tina just stared at him for a few long moments, and then she blinked and sputtered. “You want to what?”

 

“If it looks human, it’ll be safe from both bounty hunters and MACUSA until I figure out what’s going on here,” Percival said. “I realize that what I’m asking you to do…isn’t exactly according to MACUSA policy, but it’s not technically breaking it either, since the creature was never officially in MACUSA custody. So if this goes bad, it falls to me and not you, Goldstein.”

 

He couldn’t blame Tina for the shocked look on her face. It had to be the first time he remembered encouraging someone to take advantage of a technicality, a loophole, to circumvent due process. It wasn’t like him.

 

But this mystery was just too interesting to pass up.

 

“Fine. But I don’t know if a spell like that even exists,” she said with a huff. “And you owe me, big time.”

 

“Duly noted,” Percival said, and then he tapped the box under his arm. “I need to get him- it- to eat something. They didn’t feed it for days. Just…keep me informed on your progress.”

 

Tina took in a deep breath and nodded before apparating away, and Percival mirrored her, taking in a deep breath of his own.

 

It was time to do the strangest round of questioning he’d done in his entire career, and he had the feeling he would need a hell of a lot of patience.

Chapter Text

Newt would have assumed that his first, brief waking moments had been some kind of ridiculous dream or hallucination, had he not woken up again to find himself in that strange white container with no lid. At least the water was warm and comfortable, unlike the water he’d been in before.

 

He heard a clicking sound, and he opened up his eyes and blinked a few times to clear his fuzzy vision. He still felt weak, famished, like if he tried to swim that his tail fin would give out, but he pushed himself up anyway; he needed to see if the human was still there.

 

Not just any human- the wizard who’d saved him, for some reason. Percival, his name was, Newt remembered that much.

 

His head broke through the water surface to air, and since he was expecting the transition this time, it went a whole lot smoother. His gills flattened down and he coughed up water, but in a few seconds he’d made the switch over to breathing oxygen- and he immediately smelled the strong scent of fish. The human seemed to have just come into the room with a box in hand, and Newt glanced at him warily as the man caught his eye.

 

“Lunch,” he said, tapping the box as he moved to sit on the edge of the strange white chair-thing next to the tub. He took the lid off the box and set it on the edge of the tub, and Newt eyed him warily for a moment before peering inside.

 

Sure enough, there were quite a few species of fish in the box, lying on bags of ice. Normally Newt preferred to catch his dinner live, but right now he wasn’t going to complain, considering the fact that he was hungry enough to eat sea slugs. And he hated sea slugs.

 

He reached in the box and took out one of the smaller fish with one webbed hand, knowing that he needed to start small. He gave Percival one more uncertain look, but the man just nodded to him.

 

He was…quite attractive, for a human. Not many merfolk had dark hair and dark eyes. It certainly wasn’t unappealing.

 

You’re delirious from hunger, he thought, and he turned his attention to the fish in his hand. He used one claw to slice the fish’s belly open, and made quick work of eating the guts out of it- not his favorite part, but they were the healthiest part of it, as his father would always point out.

 

He paused, though, when he realized that Percival looked a little…ill. “…Are you alright?” he asked, which was a bit ridiculous- he was starving half to death, and he was asking the human if he was alright. Percival looked away for a moment, and Newt saw his throat bob once.

 

“Fine, I’m fine. Go ahead, eat,” the human said, waving a hand toward the fish without actually looking at it. “You need your strength.”

 

Well. Newt wasn’t about to argue with him on that. With the innards of the fish properly taken care of, he used the edge of one claw to skim the scales off the meat, and then worked carefully around the bones as he finished it off. There was hardly more than a skeleton left by the time he finished, and he carefully licked the traces of it off his claws, already feeling somewhat better with a bit of food in his stomach. He laid the bones back in the box before he realized he was being watched again.

 

“You really don’t let anything go to waste, do you?” Percival asked with amusement, and Newt felt his cheeks redden as he studied the skeleton.

 

“Normally I give the scales to the younger merfolk in the shoal. They like them a lot,” he pointed out with a halfhearted shrug; thinking of that made him miss home, miss the brightly colored coral reefs, even miss having to dodge the hatchlings as they raced through the caves.

 

“And the skeleton?” Percival asked with a nod, dragging him back to the moment.

 

“Jewelry, from the small ones like these. Weapons and tools from the bigger ones,” he explained with a weak smile, and then he glanced up at Percival again, uncertainty in his green eyes. “Why…why did you save me?”

 

“Law enforcement, remember?” Percival said, and Newt had to look away again, because the man’s gaze was intense. Focused. “It’s illegal to traffic in…non-human creatures.”

 

Newt caught the hesitation there, the way Percival chose his words so very carefully, but he honestly wasn’t insulted by the terminology. He knew what humans thought of them, what humans called them. “Are you…going to take me home?” he asked, the words coming out in a stutter as he looked up at Percival with wide eyes.

 

For a moment, the words hung in the air unanswered as Percival looked at him with an unreadable expression. Fascination, and something else, something Newt couldn’t quite name; then, the man sighed and ran his hand down his face, as if snapping out of a trance.

 

“I can’t. Not yet,” he said, and Newt’s face fell with disappointment.

 

“I see,” he said, already feeling the weight of his situation pressing down on him. So far from home, and no telling how far from the ocean, completely dependent on a human wizard who was a total stranger. Seemingly kindhearted, but still a stranger.

 

“I would like to, Newt, but…there’s a problem,” Percival continued, leaning forward with his elbows balanced on his…knees? That’s what they were called, right? “You see, those men told me something very, very troubling. They said that there’s a bounty on your capture- and that you can use magic.”

 

“What’s a bounty?” Newt asked, not bothering to deny the second part. There was no point; why else would wizards kidnap a random merperson?

 

“A bounty means that someone is offering a lot of money to have you brought to them,” Percival explained patiently, and it took a moment for Newt to remember someone explaining the concept of money to him. Merfolk worked entirely on trade, not ‘currency’, but he knew the basics of the system; work for money, then use to money to purchase things. “I need you to tell me, Newt; why would a wizard be offering a bounty on you?”

 

“Isn’t is obvious?” Newt asked, fidgeting nervously in the water. “Because I can use magic.”

 

“And how can you use magic?”

 

That was the question Newt didn’t want to answer. He hesitated and looked anywhere but at the dark haired human, at war with himself; on the one hand, his family had warned him never to tell anyone, for any reason. On the other, this wizard had saved his life, and was the only person standing between him and those who would surely take advantage of the ‘bounty’.

 

And Newt had no doubt as to who was at the other end of that bounty.

 

“Newt,” Percival said, and while his voice was serious, his expression held a hint of kindness. It was obvious the man was restrained, very controlled in his emotions, but Newt had always been good at reading people. “I want to help you. I do. But I can’t do that unless I know the whole story. I know merpeople can’t be born with magic, so you had to have gotten it from somewhere.”

 

“It…it wasn’t my fault. I didn’t want it,” Newt sputtered out, looking down at his claws, at the thin webs between his fingers. He hesitated again and swallowed hard; they’d kept this secret for so long, and telling someone now felt like betrayal, even if he knew it was his best option.

 

“It’s alright. I’m not blaming you for any of this,” Percival said, his voice low and smooth, much like Newt had used when trying to calm the baby Kelpie caught in the net. “Just start from the beginning, and tell me what happened. I’ll help you, I swear it.”

 

Newt glanced at Percival long enough to see the sincere look on his face- mixed with an understandable amount of curiosity- and he looked back down at the water and nodded.

 

“Humans spilled some kind of chemical into our reef. It was an accident, but…it was making the hatchlings sick, poisoning the coral. Burning the adults. The whole shoal would have had to move, but so many were ill…”

 

He trailed off for a moment, and Percival nodded encouragingly. Newt took in a deep breath before continuing.

 

“A young wizard offered to help. He said he could cleanse the waters and heal those who were sick and dying. All he wanted in return was to take one of the youngest unhatched eggs for one night. My mother and father, they…they were the elders of the shoal then. They felt it only right that they take the risk.”

 

Percival’s expression had turned into a frown by then. “That was your egg,” he said, and Newt nodded once.

 

“The wizard took the egg for one night, and when he returned it the next morning, it looked…different. It was glowing,” he explained. “He said he would come back when the hatchling was grown to take his full ‘payment’ for his services. He did heal everyone, and cleansed the water, as he said he would.”

 

Percival looked a lot more concerned now. He straightened up, running his fingers through his hair. “He infused your egg with magic,” he said, as if putting the pieces together in his mind. “How long does one of your eggs take to hatch?”

 

“Three full moons, usually,” Newt said, not sure he was following the importance of

that. “Why?”

 

“Three months,” Percival said, deep in thought. “You basically developed in a chemical solution infused with concentrated magical power. No wonder this wizard wants to find you.”

 

Newt could feel his heart beginning to beat faster in his chest. “Why? Just because I can use magic?” he asked, and Percival laughed.

 

“You can’t just use magic, Newt. You’re a living font of concentrated magical energy. He wants to use you as a weapon. He left you alone for so long so the concentrated magic in you would strengthen over time as your body adjusted to it.”

 

Newt didn’t need a reflection to know that he’d gone pale. A weapon? This wizard helped them all those years ago just so he could come back and steal him away to use him to kill and harm? He’d always wondered, always tried to guess why the wizard had done this to him, but of all things, he hadn’t even considered that as a possibility. “But I’m not that strong,” he blurted out. He hadn’t even been able to use his magic to fight back against his kidnappers, or break free of the box. He hardly seemed strong enough to use as a weapon of any kind.

 

“You haven’t used your magic much, have you?” Percival asked, and Newt reluctantly shook his head. “You don’t know how to control it, how to focus it. It’s there, and if you’ve used it occasionally then it’s had enough of an outlet to not harm you from being bottled up, but without any kind of instruction you can’t harness its full capacity.”

 

Newt’s eyes went wide. “It…would have harmed me if I’d never used it?” he asked, and Percival nodded.

 

“You wouldn’t have lived past childhood if you tried to go without using it at all.”

Well. For once, Newt’s gut instinct had been better for him than his family’s worry; he always felt like he needed to use his magic, and he got antsy if he hadn’t used it in a while. If his father and brother had their way, he would never have used it once.

 

“How long ago was this, Newt? Did anyone tell you what this wizard looked like?” Percival pressed, and Newt frowned and shook his head.

 

“Only that he was young, and that he was…strange. It didn’t seem right that he wanted to help them,” he said. “I was born about…24 winters ago, so…”

 

“24 years,” Percival said, obviously translating to a term that made more sense to him. “I’m surprised you’ve made it this long without destroying anything.”

 

“I…turned my brother’s hair purple on accident once.”

 

“…that hardly qualifies, Newt.”

 

Well, it had certainly qualified to Theseus, especially when they realized Newt didn’t know how to change his hair back to red. It took a full turn of seasons before the purple grew out of it. But that was beside the point.

 

Newt was beginning to realize that he’d been born to be a weapon, and he’d never even known it.

 

He’d spent his whole life trying to help people, trying to make up for the fact that his family was constantly on the run- make up for the fact that mother being gone was his fault in many ways- and now he was beginning to wonder if they simply should have destroyed him when he was still an egg. Before any of this could happen. Before he could fall into the wrong hands.

 

The wizard couldn’t force him to use his magic, could he?

 

He didn’t know. He didn’t know anything about magic, and seeing as how it was such a big part of himself, that was more than a bit terrifying.

 

“Hey, stay calm,” Percival said, and Newt realized he’d been lost in thought, and was faintly trembling now. “I’m going to help you. I promised, didn’t I?”

 

“But how?” Newt asked, and desperate green eyes met brown once again, if only for a few moments. “I can’t go back home, but I obviously can’t stay here in this…what is this, by the way?”

 

Percival snorted. “It’s a bathtub. We fill it with water to clean ourselves.”

 

“You don’t have an animal that does it for you?” Newt asked, and Percival stared for a moment, and then tilted his head.

 

“You…what?”

 

“We sleep on anemones. They clean us off while we sleep.”

 

“That…sounds a bit disturbing, actually.”

 

“Well, I find it a bit disturbing that you humans swim like a seal with a bitten off tail, to be honest.”

 

Percival laughed at that, and Newt felt a warm, fuzzy feeling in his chest, not one he was familiar with; he found that he really wanted to hear that sound more often. Though with the stoic approach Percival seemed to have to most things, that might be easier said than done.

 

It was just the novelty of it, he told himself. It was because he’d never met a human before, not really, and it was fascinating, like discovering a brand new creature. He realized he’d been looking maybe a moment too long, and his ear fins fluttered with embarrassment as he looked back down at his tail fin.

 

“I do have a plan,” Percival said, the smirk fading a bit from his face. “But it’s…never been done, not that I know of. And I will need you to trust me, Newt.”

 

“Well, you did save me once already,” Newt pointed out, stretching his side-fins for a moment. He needed to swim; he still felt cramped up from being still for far too long. “And I don’t see that I have much of a choice right now, given the circumstances.”

 

“Well, I could drop you in the nearest ocean, if that’s what you want,” Percival said, but then he smiled smugly. “But judging by how long they had you, you’re about three thousand miles from home.”

 

Newt winced. “That sounds far.”

 

“About a week by boat. I don’t know how fast you can swim, but I imagine it’s not that fast. Plus, a boat doesn’t need sleep.”

 

“Point taken,” Newt said, and then he sighed. “So, what’s this plan?”

 

“I have a friend tracking down a spell that will make you temporarily human.”

 

Newt was sure he hadn’t heard that right. “S-Sorry, come again?”

 

“You heard me,” Percival said. “The bounty hunters and the wizard who hired them are looking for a merman who can use magic. Not a wizard. If you look like a human and I hand you a wand, you’ll be safe from them until we can track down this wizard.”

 

Newt was speechless. Of course it made logical sense, but at the same time, the idea was preposterous- him, as a human? He didn’t know anything about being human. Walking looked difficult to manage- honestly, what greater power had designed humans so clumsily? Standing on two feet, balancing at all hours of the day simply to get around?

 

But…Percival was right. The men searching for him were looking for a merman. If he didn’t look like one, he might well be able to evade them until Percival could find the wizard who was hunting him.

 

“And…when we find him, when you’ve arrested him…I can go home, then?” Newt asked softly, and Percival’s expression turned to one of sympathy. Compassion. But only for a moment, and quick as that, he was back to business.

 

“Yes. You have my word, I’ll get you home.”

 

Newt knew he shouldn’t believe such words from a wizard. If he was so powerful that he could be used as a weapon, why would a wizard let him leave, let him go back to his family?

 

And yet…something told him that he could trust this man. That he was telling the truth. He took in a deep breath and then nodded, pushing his rapidly drying hair back from his face.

 

“Alright,” he said with obvious reluctance. “Alright, but…I don’t know the first thing about being human.”

 

“I’ll help you,” Percival said. “Just stay with me, and I’ll make sure nothing happens to you.”

 

This was the moment when Newt could practically feel the pressure from Theseus and his father to swim the other way as quickly as possible. Wizards couldn’t be trusted, shouldn’t be trusted, especially not with his life. A wizard was the whole reason he was in this mess in the first place.

 

But he’d always had good instincts with both merfolk and animals alike, and he liked to think that those instincts extended to humans as well. He could trust this one, he knew it- and really, he needed to trust him.

 

Without Percival’s help, he wasn’t getting out of this. He would end up either dead or in that awful wizard’s clutches.

 

“I trust you,” he said softly, his eyes meeting Percival’s again, and he managed a smile. Percival’s breath seemed to catch in his throat, much like Newt’s gills would flare when he got caught off guard by something, but it only lasted for a second before the human nodded and looked away.

 

“Eat a bit more. You’ll need your strength if we’re going to be trying this soon,” he said, and then he stood, looking graceful despite the fact that he was…well, human. And humans always seemed a little ridiculous in comparison to other animals. The multiple layers of clothing didn’t help. Merfolk just grew in more scales when the waters got colder; humans had to add more layers of cloth on their skin. It was terribly inefficient.

 

“Percival,” he said as the human started to leave, and Percival stopped in the doorway and looked over his shoulder. Newt’s gaze fell back to the fish, and he fidgeted a bit.

 

“Thank you. For…all of this,” he finally said, and Percival nodded once, the barest hint of a smile on his face.

 

“Don’t thank me yet. We have a lot of work ahead of us,” he said. “But…you’re welcome.”

 

He stepped out the door and pulled it shut behind him, and Newt sighed heavily as he grabbed another fish from the box. He was still hungry, after all, and he needed to eat familiar food while he could; he had the feeling from Percival’s reaction that humans wouldn’t take well to a fellow human eating raw fish.

Chapter Text

Percival closed the door to the bathroom behind him and immediately let out a breath that he hadn’t realized he’d been holding. He wanted to kick himself.

 

Why did he make promises that he didn’t know if he’d be able to keep?

 

He knew full well that the likelihood of Newt being able to go back to his family was slim to none. Even after they found this wizard, the idea of letting a merman who was basically a time bomb just go free was preposterous.

 

He’d bent the rules for this creature already, but that would be criminal. Newt still had no idea the kind of power that was tied up in him- and the fact that Percival hadn’t even sensed it meant that the bulk of it was buried deep. Untouched.

 

If that creature ever lost control, he could level a city.

 

It. It.

 

He didn’t know why he’d said it. Maybe it was because Newt had been through so much already, that telling him how bleak his future looked would simply be cruel. Maybe it was that look the merman had given him when it asked him. Either way, the damage was done; he would just have to keep going, make sure this wizard was found and arrested, and then he would have to break the bad news.

 

But what then?

 

Percival walked to the kitchen and with a wave of his wand a glass set down on the counter and a bottle of whiskey floated over, filling the glass generously. He picked it up and took a swig, his mind still racing.

 

Because he had no idea what they would do with Newt after all was said and done.

 

He couldn’t go home, but he couldn’t stay here. The second Picquery found out about his existence, she would order him destroyed. Normally, Percival would have no qualms about that.

 

But even in the brief conversation he’d had with Newt, he’d come to realize that the creature was closer to human than he’d ever imagined. More than he’d ever be comfortable with, were the President to order him to execute Newt.

 

He slammed the glass back down on the counter with more force than was strictly necessary, just as there was a light knock on the door. He sighed and went to open it, surprised to find Tina on the other side.

 

“You’ve been gone a half hour,” he said with a healthy amount of skepticism; there was no way she’d found what they needed in that short of time.

 

“Yes, and do you know what kind of creepy fairy tales you run into when you’re looking for this stuff? At least we don’t have to worry about him turning to sea foam,” Tina said as she stepped past Percival and into the apartment proper. Percival took a deep breath, reminded himself that she was helping him despite the possible trouble it could bring, and then he closed the door.

 

“So you found something?” he asked, and she held out a book with a page marked.

 

“There’s a precedent. A wizard who fell in love with a mermaid and tried to turn her human, about a hundred years ago,” she said. “But it’s not that simple.”

 

Percival opened the book and skimmed over the spell; it looked rather simple. “What’s the catch?” he asked; he didn’t want to read this entire historical report if she could just sum it up for him.

 

“He couldn’t make the spell completely effective. Every time she got wet, she changed back. Eventually happened in the middle of a muggle marketplace; the muggles killed her, they all had to be obliviated, it was a mess,” she explained. “So the spell was criminalized in Europe.”

 

“But not here?”

 

Tina shrugged. “There are no mermaids like that in American waters. There was never an incentive to create a law against it.”

 

That suited Percival just fine. He went over the spell again, memorizing it before handing the book back to Tina. “So all we have to do is make sure he doesn’t get caught in the rain,” he said, and she looked at him in disbelief.

 

“You’re still planning to do this?”

 

“We can’t allow traffickers to find him again. I’ve spoken with him; he’s got a huge amount of magic in him, and he doesn’t even know it. And he’s got a bounty on his head. If he falls into the wrong hands, it could be a massive security issue.”

 

Tina didn’t look pleased in the least. “How did it even get magic, anyway?”

 

“Long story short, a wizard imbued him with magic when he was still an egg. This ‘creature’ was soaked in magic throughout his entire development,” Percival explained, leaving out the unnecessary details. “And now, whoever that wizard is, they want him back. For obvious reasons.”

 

Tina sighed and shook her head. “They have the two men from the warehouse in custody. Do you want me to question them?” she asked, and Percival nodded.

 

“I’ll get Newt taken care of here. You let me know if they tell you anything we don’t know yet.”

 

“…Newt?”

 

Percival hesitated, for once feeling a little flustered. “The merman. His name is Newt. We can’t very well blow our cover by calling another wizard ‘it’, can we?”

 

And really, he thought that was a pretty genius save on his part, but it was also very true. They would need to treat Newt as they would any other human- without forgetting that he wasn’t human at all.

 

This wasn’t going to be easy.

 

“I’ll go interrogate them,” Tina agreed, though she didn’t look thrilled about it. “Good luck getting him to pass as human.”

 

“I can handle it,” Percival said, and she gave him a look that almost seemed amused before she stepped out the door again, leaving the book on the table by the door. Percival turned back toward the bathroom and took a deep breath, readying himself for the trial ahead.

 

No sense in putting it off. The quicker they performed this spell, the more time they would have to teach Newt how to pass as a human. As Tina had inferred, it was one thing to give the half-fish legs, but another thing to teach him how to act.

 

But first things first: he stopped in his bedroom and picked out some black pants and a button up shirt for the merman to wear once he’d made the change. He was skinnier than Percival, but these would have to do until they had him fitted for something his own size.

 

He went back to the bathroom and opened the door slowly so as not to startle the merman, who seemed to be finishing off his second fish. Percival was kind of glad he’d missed the rest of this particular meal; the first time Newt ate he certainly hadn’t expected the disgusting demonstration involved.

 

He’s not human. Can’t expect him to eat like one, either, he thought as he stepped through and closed the door behind him. Newt looked toward him and managed a weak smile, ear fins fluttering before settling down again.

 

Some of the body language with the fins was easily understandable, but not so much the subtle details. On the one hand, it would probably be easier to read Newt once he was constrained to strictly human communication- on the other hand, it was a bit of a shame that Percival would never get the chance to understand and catalogue all his native body language and habits.

 

But it wasn’t like he had a pool in his apartment. No, this was the best bet they had.

 

“You ready to try this?” he asked, and the merman’s face fell a bit, that shy smile weakening.

 

“Already? I…”

 

Percival set the clothes on the sink, and then went to the bathtub and reached in to pull the drain plug, making Newt jump in surprise. The creature swallowed nervously as the water level started going down, and Percival gave him what he hoped was a reassuring look.

 

“Hey, don’t worry. I said I would look after you, didn’t I?” he said, and then he grabbed a towel from the small bathroom closet. He nodded toward Newt’s fin and raised an eyebrow. “You’re going to have to dry off for this to work. Mind if I…?”

 

Newt looked between the towel and his tail fin, the side fins along it flaring and twitching before settling again as the water drained away. He fidgeted, and then nodded shakily.

 

“I…I suppose. I mean, it must be done, so…”

 

Percival took that for the halfhearted permission it was, and he took off his black jacket, rolled up his sleeves, and sat down on the edge of the tub. It seemed…overly personal, touching the merman’s tail fin like this, but he’d already carried the creature once. He reached in and started patting the scales dry, fingertips occasionally brushing against the hard, rubbery scales.

 

“Watch for the barbs. They are…very sharp,” Newt said, and when Percival looked up he found that the merman’s cheeks were tinted red, his eyes looking anywhere but at what Percival was doing. Percival nodded, careful as he dried off the side fins; the last thing he wanted was to get some strange disease from being cut by a fin.

 

“What happens if your fin stays dry for too long?” Percival asked him, more to fill the awkward silence and try to put Newt at ease. Newt hesitated, still not making eye contact.

 

“It’s…intensely uncomfortable. It feels like your skin and scales are much too tight, like they’ll crack if you move,” he explained. “More than a few hours and you’ll start to become ill. You get so cold, so tired, and…well, too long of that, and you…fade away.”

 

Percival raised an eyebrow as he carefully dried one side fin. “You sound as if you’re talking from experience,” he said, and Newt shrugged with one shoulder.

 

“I was trying to rescue a young sea serpent that got stranded at low tide. I thought I could make it back, but…he was so far from the water,” he explained. “I was there from sunrise until the sun was highest in the sky. The sun was hot, the rocks were practically hot enough to burn me, but…I still felt as if I were lying on ice. By the time the tide came back in, I could barely swim back to the drop off.”

 

“And the sea serpent?”

 

It was the wrong question to ask. Newt’s eyes went a bit distant, and he stuttered for a moment, webbed hands tightening into fists. “Didn’t make it,” he said, and Percival looked back down at Newt’s tail fin.

 

“I’m sorry,” he said as he began to dry the very end of Newt’s tail, though the merman jerked a little, baring sharp, short fangs that Percival hadn’t noticed till now, and then blushed again.

 

“Sorry. It’s…a little ticklish,” he admitted, and though Percival was a bit amused by that, he kept it to himself.

 

He tossed the towel aside, looking over his handiwork and resisting the urge to touch those scales again. “Alright. That’s about as close as we’re going to get, I think,” he said, and then he tugged his wand from the holder on his belt. “Are you ready?”

 

Newt looked up at him, unable to hide the fear in his eyes. “As I’ll ever be, I suppose,” he said, gaze flickering from Percival’s face to the wand in his hand.

 

Percival didn’t put it off any longer. He took in a steadying breath, lifted his wand, and then gestured with it in a circle toward Newt’s fin. “Ambulaveris Nobiscum!” he said firmly, and there was a flash of blinding light.

 

When it faded, Percival had a very human- and very naked- Newt sprawled in his bathtub. All hints of his actual species were gone- his fingers weren’t webbed and ended in dull nails instead of sharp claws, his ear fins had been replaced with very normal ears, there was no hint of scales on his shoulders or back, and of course, the tail fin was replaced with a pair of long, lanky legs.

 

“Well, no wonder.”

 

Of all the things Percival expected to hear from Newt after the change, that was not it. He frowned at the merman, who was looking down at his new set of legs, seemingly unconcerned by his state of undress.

 

“No wonder what?” Percival asked as he stowed his wand and grabbed for the clothes he left on the sink.

 

“No wonder you wear clothes. Your genitalia aren’t even retractable,” Newt said, and then he lifted one leg and wiggled his toes like it was a novel thing. And to him, it probably was. “Honestly, you have the most inefficient, inconvenient physiology of any species. It’s like…there, like that? All the time?”

 

“Newt. I’ll teach you something extremely valuable about humans right now,” Percival said, praying to any higher power to give him extra patience for the days to come. “We don’t talk about our genitalia with other people unless we’re planning to be intimate with them.”

 

“I wouldn’t want to talk about it either.”

 

Newt.”

 

“Alright, alright,” Newt said with a huff, looking up at Percival and eyeing the clothes in his hands. “I suppose I have to wear those.”

 

“At all times. Yes,” Percival said, and he set down the clothes on the toilet seat and reached into the tub. He wasn’t about to ask the merman to try to step out of it, so instead he scooped him up and carefully set him down on the floor.

 

The very first thing Newt did was lose his balance and stumble forward into Percival, slamming them both into the wall, noses nearly touching. Newt’s legs were trembling like a newborn foal, and Percival took in a deep breath.

 

“S-Sorry,” Newt said, and Percival just shook his head.

 

“Don’t apologize. Let’s just get you into these clothes, and then I’ll teach you how to walk,” he muttered, and then he grabbed the shirt and wrapped it around Newt’s shoulders. He maneuvered the merman’s arms into the sleeves, and then buttoned it most of the way up.

 

It was a mistake. Because he hadn’t realized until this moment the picture that Newt would make, naked except for one of his own shirts, hair damp and messy, clinging to Percival as if he would fall straightaway without him.

 

It was a picture that he would probably never get out of his head.

 

He cleared his throat and took Newt by the arms, guiding him back a bit to sit on the edge of the tub. He worked as quickly as he could without looking as if he were actually in a rush, pulling the pants onto Newt and then pulling him back to his feet, holding him steady.

 

The pants just barely stayed up on him, hanging loosely on boney hips, but at least he was covered now.

 

“This is uncomfortable,” Newt complained softly, tugging at the fabric- and then he blinked and looked at his hands in surprise, as if just realizing how different they were. “What do you fight with? You’ve nothing sharp, no venom…”

 

Percival was trying not to laugh at how chatty the merman got when he was fascinated with something. “Wizards use magic. Humans use weapons; guns, knives, that kind of thing,” he explained. “Come on. Let’s get you where there’s more space to work.”

 

He pushed open the bathroom door and then offered his hands to the merman, and Newt looked at him with uncertainty before taking hold of Percival’s hands.

 

“We’ll go slow. One step at a time. Roll your foot, heel to toe. Back to front,” he explained, and Newt nodded. Percival took a step back, and he looked down at Newt’s bare feet as the merman took his first real steps. They were shaky at first, uncertain, but Percival was patient and walked backwards slow enough to give him a chance to adjust.

 

“I don’t know how you’re doing this backwards,” Newt muttered after he’d stubbed his toe for a second time, and Percival chuckled.

 

“Over thirty years of practice definitely helps,” he pointed out dryly.

 

They made it to the living room slowly but surely, and then Newt’s attention was suddenly off walking and more focused on the objects around him. His eyes went wide with a childlike wonder, and Percival felt his heart skip a beat as Newt tugged his hands away and turned to brace a hand on the counter that separated the half kitchen from the living space.

 

“I always wondered what human caves looked like,” he breathed out, and then he picked up a glass cup off the counter, inspecting it as if it were some precious jewel. He set that down and picked up the bottle of whiskey that Percival had left out- and luckily it was shut tight, as Newt turned it over in his hands to study the way the liquid sloshed inside.

 

“What is it?” he asked, and Percival smirked.

 

“It’s alcohol. We drink it,” he explained. He made a small gesture with one hand to right the bottle and unscrew the lid. “Try a sip.”

 

Okay, so maybe this was a bit cruel, but he deserved a little levity after the day he’d had. Newt sniffed at it and wrinkled his nose, but after a moment, he took a sip from the bottle- and immediately started to cough. Percival laughed, taking the bottle back before he could drop it.

 

“You drink that? On purpose?” Newt asked with an almost betrayed look.

 

“Frequently,” Percival pointed out, capping the bottle and setting it aside. “Though I’ll probably have you stick to water. I have no idea how your system will take to human food.”

 

“Humans eat fish though, right?”

 

“We cook it first.”

 

“Right. On a…fire? Is that what it’s called?” Newt asked, and for once he readily met Percival’s gaze, eyes glowing with curiosity. “I’ve never seen one.”

 

Percival extended his hand toward the neglected fireplace, and a fire roared to life in it. “That’s a fire,” he said, and Newt slowly made his way over to it, though Graves had to grab his elbow when he stumbled. Newt got to his knees in front of the fire, and Percival knelt next to him and lost himself for a moment, just watching the way the light of the flames danced across freckled skin.

 

“It feels like one of the smokers in the sea canyons,” Newt said, reaching a hand out toward it; Percival grabbed hold of his hand before it could get too close, though.

 

“Be careful. You’ll burn yourself,” he said, and there was a moment when they both fell silent, brown eyes meeting green, and Percival unthinkingly rubbed his thumb across Newt’s knuckles before he cleared his throat and pulled away.

 

“Come on. Let’s get you some more practice in walking,” he said, standing up and offering Newt a hand up. “We need to get you some clothes of your own. And a wand.”

 

“A wand?” Newt asked, and he took Percival’s hand and stood, swaying on his feet. Percival took hold of his arm until he was steady again, and then he let go and nodded.

 

“You won’t pass as a wizard unless you have a wand,” he said. “And I know that up until now you’ve just done your magic without, but you can’t do that here.”

 

You do it,” Newt pointed out, and Percival smirked.

 

“I’m the Director of Magical Security for the Magical Congress of the United States of America. I’m the exception to that, not the rule. The average wizard rarely if ever uses wandless magic,” Percival explained, and then he took hold of Newt’s hands again. “Come on, try again. This time don’t lean on me so much. Try to keep your back straight.”

 

Newt didn’t quite straighten up- much like his posture as a merman, he seemed to still try to make himself smaller, shoulders a bit hunched, but he was improving. In minutes he was barely using Percival’s support, and though his walk was still slow and awkward, he was staying upright without mishap for longer and longer. He was a quick learner, more clever than Percival had given him credit for.

 

He couldn’t quite believe the man in front of him was real. Living so long with all this magic, all this power tied up inside him, and rather than letting it drive him insane, it only seemed to drive him to help things.

 

If more wizards were like this supposed ‘creature’, Percival’s job would be a whole lot less necessary.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Newt could only assume that humans found clothes to be very, very important, because the second he was able to walk without ‘looking like a drunk’, as Percival put it, the first order of business was to go get him some clothes that fit.

 

Newt didn’t feel ready at all, but he had the feeling he never would. And he trusted Percival, as ill-advised as his family would say that trust was.

 

Of course, the second that Percival put ‘shoes’ on Newt’s feet, a whole new lesson was necessary, consisting of how to walk with his feet shoved in these awkward leather things.

 

The second Percival pulled him outside, though, Newt forgot about any disdain he had for human clothing. He’d never been out of the water like this, not without the immediate panic that came along with being stranded out of the ocean; now, though, he could take in the chill of the wind and the warmth of the sun without fear. Well, without fear of slow, agonizing death, at least.

 

“Come on. It’s a short walk,” Percival said, taking Newt by the elbow and leading him away from the door. Newt practically whined, because there was so much to take in that he felt like he could take hours just looking.

 

“What in Neptune’s name is that?” he asked, eyeing a person going by in a box on wheels, and Percival snorted.

 

“It’s an automobile. No-Maj’s use them for travel.”

 

“No-Maj?”

 

“Non-wizards.”

 

“It’s not run by magic?” Newt asked, reluctantly pulling his gaze from the ‘automobile’ and looking back at Percival. Percival was trying to keep Newt moving forward, and only half succeeding.

 

“Nothing you see out here is run by magic, Newt,” he said patiently. “Non-wizards don’t know that magic exists, and we aim to keep it that way. We’ve been hunted down in the past, when they knew too much.”

 

Newt bit his lip, hesitating a moment when he didn’t feel the sharp edge of a fang. “I knew they don’t know about magical beasts, but…nothing about magic? At all?”

 

“It’s safer that way,” Percival muttered, and though Newt often missed the social cues that everyone else seemed to pick up on, he recognized that tone as one that clearly said the subject was being dropped. Even he could tell that it was a sore subject.

 

They made it only a few more paces before two men on horseback turned the corner- two men with shiny metal badges on their chests- and the second the horses saw Newt, it seemed they recognized a kindred spirit. One whinnied and the other pulled against the reins, and soon it was butting its head up against Newt’s chest, demanding attention. Newt could feel its spirit, feel its happiness at finding someone who so obviously was closer to them in soul than humans.

 

“Hey there, girl,” Newt said with a smile, rubbing the horse’s nose even as the rider sputtered in indignation and disbelief. Newt had never seen a horse up close like this; the fur was softer under his hand than he imagined, and the horse snorted out a warm breath against him, ears twitching happily.

 

“I’m sorry, officer, he’s, uh…not from around here,” Percival said, tugging Newt away from the horse. “Newt, the animal is working. Let’s go.”

 

“Working?” Newt repeated with a frown of concern.

 

“Those were police officers. They’re patrolling to keep the peace,” Newt hissed as they got far enough away to not be overheard. “What are you, an animal magnet?”

 

“I don’t know what that means,” Newt pointed out, stumbling over a loose brick on the sidewalk, only to have Percival easily catch him before he fell. “She could sense me, that’s all.”

 

Pervical gave him a suspicious look. “She could sense you?”

 

“Well, you can sense other wizards, can’t you?”

 

That seemed to get his point across. Percival fell silent again and kept moving forward, though more than once he had to direct Newt back in the right direction when he stopped or slowed to admire the buildings around him or the strange clothes on the people.

 

The humans at sea wore much the same clothing as each other, but the same didn’t seem true of the people who weren’t on boats. They wore different clothes, had entirely different body language; Newt watched them greet each other and converse in a fascination usually reserved for watching a new species of fish.

 

He couldn’t help but notice that none of them were quite as attractive as Percival. Though maybe he was biased, considering the man had saved his life.

 

“This is it,” Percival said, pulling Newt to a stop in front of what looked like a plain brick wall. Percival took a quick glance around before he knocked on it three times in a strange rhythm, and then the bricks faded into a wooden door. Newt’s eyes widened- sure, he could use magic, but most of his efforts were unfocused, simply blasts of energy that he struggled to even aim. Nothing beautiful like this.

 

Percival led the way inside- catching Newt by the elbow when he nearly tripped in the doorway- and the door fell shut behind them with a ringing sound. Inside there was a counter and some chairs, and further in Newt could see racks of human clothing hanging against the walls.

 

A small, older wizard with thick glasses sat behind the counter, and when he looked up, he immediately frowned at the two of them. “Mr. Graves,” he said, eyeing Newt with disdain as he stepped out from behind the counter. “This is unexpected.”

 

“For both of us,” Percival muttered, and then he gestured to Newt. “This is my…colleague, Newt-“

 

He paused, and Newt remembered passing the humans doing introductions like this on the street- and they did the hand thing, he remembered that much. “Newton Scamander,” he said, and he held out his hand just like the first human had, though he couldn’t manage the same steadiness of eye contact. He’d never been good at that. It felt too…overwhelming. Like people could see into him if he held their gaze too long.

 

The old wizard looked him up and down with obvious disdain. “Jack Billoughs,” he said, and though he did return the handshake, it seemed reluctant.

 

But when Newt stole a glance at Percival, the man looked almost…proud. That was enough to tell him he’d done the right thing this time.

 

“Mr. Billoughs, Mr. Scamander is visiting from England, but the dockworkers misplaced his luggage,” Percival said, the lie sounding as smooth as a calm ocean coming from him. “I was wondering if you might throw together a couple of outfits for him, work appropriate. You can apply the charges to my usual account.”

 

That seemed to cheer the aged wizard up immensely. The idea of taking what was essentially a blank slate and turning them respectable was obviously too tempting for him to pass up. “Certainly,” he said, and then he took Newt by the elbow and guided him toward the mirrors in the back. Newt stumbled but caught himself, and he looked at Percival a little helplessly, but Percival gestured for him to go along with it.

 

“Stand here,” Billoughs said as he positioned Newt in full view of the three mirrors, and luckily he left for a moment to get fabric and supplies- because when Newt looked in the mirror, time seemed to stop.

 

He almost didn’t recognize himself. Granted, he didn’t spend much time seeking out his reflection in the ocean, so he couldn’t say he’d ever really studied himself in detail, but the lack of fins was…startling. He reached his hand up to the side of his head where he would normally find dark blue ear fins that splayed and twitched with his moods- but instead, he found a very human ear there. He trailed his fingertips across the curve of it and found it to be more sensitive than he’d expected, and he shivered. Even his hair looked incredibly different now that it was dry; it was wavy, and lighter red than it ever seemed in the water, like the sun had lightened it.

 

“A little different than what you’re used to, isn’t it?” Percival said, stepping into view behind him, and Newt swallowed hard and nodded.

 

“I…I never thought…” Newt started, but he didn’t get a chance to finish before the old wizard returned, rolling a cart of supplies. He stopped to stand in front of Newt, studying him so closely that Newt began to worry the man could see right through the spell on him.

 

“Brown. You will look excellent in shades of russet brown. It will compliment both the red hair and the green eyes,” the man said, and then he pulled his wand and flourished it in Newt’s direction as he grabbed a ream of brown fabric from the cart.

 

There was no changing necessary; the cloth on him changed, the textures shifting, thread floating into place and sewing the fabrics carefully. In a few moments, Newt was wearing a white button-up shirt that was much better fitting, along with dark brown pants that were a slightly rougher, more hewn texture.

 

And tighter. Significantly so. Newt heard Percival clear his throat from behind him, and when he looked at the man in the mirror, Percival was looking anywhere but at him, and his cheeks seemed a little…red.

 

Newt didn’t have time to think on it, as Jack was back at work. “Yellow for the vest. It will draw out the lighter tones in your hair. And a bow tie and suit jacket to match the pants,” he narrated as he shifted fabrics and sewed them in midair. The yellow vest was added, then the bowtie and suit jacket, and Newt realized then how much he looked like the people he’d seen on the street.

 

Well, not entirely. He still felt he wouldn’t quite fit in, but it was a start.

 

“You need shoes to match,” Jack muttered, and with a flurry of magic, the black shoes became brown boots more closely like what he would see humans wearing near the docks.

 

They felt a bit better, but still altogether ridiculous.

 

“Well, how is it?” Jack asked, and Newt stuttered for a moment, turning to study himself head to toe in the mirrors.

 

“It’s…well…”

 

“It’s perfect, Jack. He’ll be more than presentable for the meetings,” Percival interrupted, and Newt could have cried with relief. He didn’t know what to say; it looked…nice? It was hard to judge when he’d barely seen a sliver of what humans tended to wear.

 

Percival circled around him and looked him up and down, any awkwardness on his part completely gone. “He’ll need a coat. It’s getting rather cold,” he said, and Jack nodded.

 

“Your style wouldn’t suit him,” the old man said. “I think he needs a bit of color.”

 

New didn’t point out how the shade of blue in the coat Jack made nearly perfectly matched the blue of his tail fin.

 

* ~~~~~~ *

 

Two more outfits later, and Newt and Percival left the tiny shop. Newt felt more comfortable in some ways and less in others; wearing clothes still felt strange to him, constraining, but at the same time he wasn’t getting nearly as many strange looks now that he was wearing clothes that fit him.

 

“If anyone asks, your cover story is that you’re a consultant here from the Ministry of Magic in England, and that you specialize in magical creatures,” Percival told him as they stepped away from the shop. “That should cover most…eccentricities that you might show.”

 

“Where are we going now?” Newt asked as Percival led the way further from ‘home’. Not that he was opposed to the outing- no, he was quite eager to see more of this human world.

 

“We’re going to get you a wand,” Percival said. “And then I’m going to start teaching you how to use it, so you can control that magic.”

 

“If I learn to control it…does that mean the wizard after me won’t be able to use it how he likes?” Newt asked, and Percival hesitated, just barely.

 

“Possibly,” he finally said, his frown deepening a little. “I can’t make you any guarantees, Newt. There isn’t a precedence for this. All I can do it prepare you as best I know how.”

 

“Promise me one thing,” Newt said, and he grabbed Percival’s sleeve to bring him to a stop- and for once, he had no trouble looking the man in the eye, because this was important, so important. “Promise me you won’t let him use me to harm anyone. No matter what you have to do, no matter what happens to me.”

 

Percival seemed to search Newt’s eyes, his expression softening as silence fell between them. “It won’t come to that,” he finally said, his voice low and reassuring. “But all the same, I promise you, I will not let any harm come to you, or anyone else. Not while I still live and breathe.”

 

It was enough, Newt supposed. It would have to be. He nodded and looked away, trying to push his hair back from his eyes and failing almost entirely. “Right,” he said, biting back a sigh. “Well then…let’s get this ‘wand’, shall we?”

 

The wand shop was evidently a bit further than Percival wanted to walk; he tugged Newt into a nearby alley, and then got a firm grip on his arm. “Try not to get sick,” he said, and then there was a firm pull that felt like it came from inside him, a blur of motion, a nearly painful pressure all over his body-

 

-and Newt was standing in an entirely different place.

 

He stumbled and would have fallen had Percival not grabbed him by the waist and held firm. Newt lifted his head to thank him, and found that he was close, too close, close enough that they nearly bumped noses.

 

“S-So sorry,” he managed, pulling back a bit, and Percival smiled wryly.

 

“It’s fine. That’s called apparition,” he said. “And you handled it better than most.”

 

Percival stepped out of the alley they’d appeared in, and Newt took a deep breath before he followed, feeling even more unsteady on his feet than before. He found himself on another busy street, humans walking in all directions, and shops lining the street on both sides. There were less cars here, the streets narrower, but a horse carriage was stopped nearby; the horses lifted their heads and nickered when Newt walked by.

 

“Over here,” Percival said, and he led Newt to what looked like a bookshop- Newt recognized books, he’d seen humans reading them, though he knew none of the written language himself. But when Percival took hold of the doorknob, instead of turning it like the last one, he pushed inward on it.

 

The door swung open to reveal an entirely different shop from the one he’d seen through the windows, this one with a long counter and seemingly endless shelves of long, small boxes. Newt looked up in wonder, amazed at how much bigger the store was than it appeared from the outside.

 

“Johannes?” Percival called out, and there were footsteps followed by a short, balding man with rumpled clothing stepping out from a back room.

 

“Percival Graves!” the man said with a grin, and he went around the counter to take hold of Percival by the shoulders. “It’s been so long! How you’ve grown!”

 

“Yes, yes,” Percival said, wiggling out of the man’s hold. “It’s good to see you too.”

 

If Newt wasn’t mistaken, that wasn’t a sincere phrase- but if it wasn’t, Johannes didn’t notice. He’d focused on Newt, his eyes going wide.

 

“Wow. Oh, wow. Who have you brought me? Why, he’s practically glowing!”

 

Newt’s eyes darted to Percival nervously. “I’m…I’m what now?”

 

“Such magic in you. Such strong magic,” the wand maker said, and he came closer to Newt and held out his hand. “Here, come here. Let me see you.”

 

“He needs a new wand, Johannes,” Percival explained. “His was destroyed in a…work related incident on his travels here.”

 

Newt hadn’t even had a chance to back away before the wand maker took him by the hand, studying his palm and then his fingers with great scrutiny. “I would be honored. I feel it, his magic. It calls out for a guide. It’s…surprisingly chaotic, for his age,” the man said, and then he let go of Newt’s hand and looked to the shelves.

 

“No, no. None of these will do. He requires something…different,” Johannes continued, and then he went to a case behind the counter, flipped the latch, and opened it up. Newt gave Percival a nervous look, but Percival just nodded to him.

 

“Johannes will find the right wand for you. Don’t worry,” he said, and Newt nodded once, though he was still anxious. That man had been able to tell a lot about him without a single word spoken.

 

Johannes, meanwhile, was digging through the boxes in the case until he came to one near the back. He pulled it out, admiring the green box for a moment. “I made this one in a fit of fancy. Never thought I would find a wizard quite right for it; it’s a finicky wand, you see. Made of ash and lime, with a bone and shell core. One of a kind, might be unpredictable,” he explained, and then he turned and set the box on the counter. “But I think I might have found the right wizard, strangely enough.”

 

He opened the box and unfolded the silk from the top of the wand. It looked nothing like the sleek, black elegance of Percival’s wand; it looked like it had been carefully whittled out of wood, the imperfections not marring the beauty of it, and the gleaming white of pearl and bone stood out in the hollow end.

 

Newt glanced again at Percival, who just motioned him forward.

 

“Well, come on then. Let’s see if it likes you as well as your last,” Johannes said, and he picked up the wand and held it out to Newt. Newt hesitated again, somehow able to feel that this was something of great importance, and then he took the wand in hand.

 

It was like someone lit a fire in him. He felt a rush of warmth, and there was a burst of light that curled and pulsed around him, bright enough that both Johannes and Percival stepped back in surprise.

 

When it settled, Newt didn’t feel nervous anymore. In fact, he felt more…centered. Like he’d found a small piece of himself that had always been missing. And then he realized that the wand’s reaction to him had knocked every wand box in a five-foot radius around him off the shelves.

 

“Oh, I…I’m terribly sorry, I didn’t mean…” he started, but Johannes grinned widely.

 

“Don’t apologize! That was fantastic!” he said brightly. “I’ve never seen a wand take to someone so well! What a display!”

Newt looked past the ecstatic man to Percival, who was watching Newt with a strange expression- curiosity, admiration, and something else that Newt couldn’t quite make out.

 

It was like time slowed for the second time that day.

 

But the moment didn’t last. Percival suddenly went stiff and reached in his pocket, and he pulled out a small pad of parchment and flipped it open. He read what was on it with a frown, and then he pulled some coins out of his other pocket and pushed them into Johannes’ hand.

 

“We have to go. It’s an emergency,” he said, stepping between Johannes and Newt. “But thank you for your help. I’m glad you had one that works for him.”

 

He started to turn, but Johannes took hold of him, his expression serious. “I don’t know what you two are wrapped up in, but the magic around the pair of you is downright overwhelming,” he said, his voice uncharacteristically stern. “Be careful.”

 

“I always am,” Percival said with a nod, and then he grabbed Newt by the arm, and there was that sensation of pressure and a pull again- and then they were standing across the street from a towering white building.

 

“What’s this place?” Newt asked, craning his neck to see how high it went. Percival tugged Newt’s coat back a bit and nodded to the left side of his pants just at the waist.

 

“Your wand pocket is there. Keep it in there unless you plan to use it, but the lessons will have to wait,” he said. “We need to speak with my colleague.”

 

“Why? What’s happened?”

 

Percival met Newt’s gaze, and his eyes were dark and worried.

 

“She tracked down the third trafficker that wasn’t at the docks. He said he already told the wizard offering the bounty that you’re in the city.”

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Graves knew it probably wasn’t the best idea, taking Newt right into MACUSA headquarters with him; but at the same time, he felt like he didn’t have a choice. Leaving Newt alone was out of the question, not when he was still baffled and fascinated by everything they passed on the street.

 

It was too much of a risk. Especially with all the power pent up in him which, judging by the reaction to the wand, was just itching for an outlet.

 

“Follow my lead. Leave most of the talking to me,” he said to the merman-turned-human, and he made sure Newt had his wand tucked away before he led them across the street to the building.

 

“What are we going to do?” Newt asked, finally tearing his gaze away from the height of the stark white building.

 

“We’re going to see if my colleague found out anything about the wizard offering the bounty,” Percival replied. “But if she couldn’t get the man to talk, then I will.”

 

Percival nodded to the guard at the door, who was dressed as an inconspicuous No-Maj bellhop, but the man gave Newt an odd look. ”He’s with me,” Percival said, which was all he needed to say for the man to push the door open and allow them passage inside. Of course, they didn’t get far; the moment they were through the door Newt skidded to a stop, looking up wide-eyed in wonder.

 

Percival rarely paid any mind to the things going on in MACUSA, unless they were abnormal in some way. But seeing Newt’s reaction brought him back to the first time he’d stepped foot in here, so many years ago; he remembered looking up to see the endless clouds above, and watching as the dial moved on the alert clocks. He remembered awkwardly avoiding the enchanted brooms as they did their cleaning, and feeling so overwhelmed, so out of place among the grand hall full of people going about their day.

 

It had to feel even more alienating- and exciting- to Newt, who was seeing magic used like this for the first time.

 

“What is this place…?” Newt asked, reaching out to touch one of the brooms as it swept by. In response to his touch the broom began cleaning at an almost frantic pace, as if a surge of magic went through it.

 

“This is MACUSA. This is where I work,” Percival said, and Newt looked to him in shock.

 

“You work here?” he asked, as if the idea of going to such a magical place every day was simply absurd. Percival hesitated and shrugged.

 

“You get used to it, after a while,” he said, and Newt laughed with a note of disbelief.

 

“I don’t know that I could.”

 

Percival smiled, just a bit, and a passing researcher did a double-take. After all, it wasn’t exactly normal to see Percival Graves smiling when going about his daily routine. “Come on,” Percival said, and he took Newt by the elbow and led him toward the elevator.

 

“Heya, Mr. Graves,” the house elf said as he opened the elevator doors for the pair. “President wants to see ya, when ya got the chance.”

 

Percival barely bit back a curse. That was the last thing he needed; to try and explain Newt to Picquery. Telling her the truth risked Newt’s life; but lying to her and getting caught was an unthinkable offense.

 

“Thank you. I’ll do so immediately,” he answered, trying to hide his unusual distaste for the idea. “Take us to her office level.”

 

The house elf nodded and closed the elevator, and the moment it started to move, Newt jerked in surprise and grabbed onto Percival’s arm tightly. Percival gave him a bemused look, even as the house elf looked at the man oddly. Percival didn’t bother offering up an excuse; after all, it was just a house elf. He didn’t really care what the creature thought.

 

“Who is-“ Newt started to ask, but Percival shot him a look.

 

“I’ll explain everything in a moment,” he muttered, definitely not having this conversation within earshot of one of the biggest gossip-spreaders in the building. As soon as they stepped off the elevator into the ornate hallway and the doors closed behind them, though, Percival stopped and turned to Newt, taking a moment to straighten the man’s bow tie.

 

“Newt. You trust me, right?” he asked, and a look of worry came over Newt’s innocent features; Percival hated to be the one to put that worry there.

 

“I…yes. Why?” Newt asked, already shifting his weight nervously, fidgeting. He still rarely met Percival’s gaze, and Percival had the feeling that particular habit of Newt’s might not work in his favor in this meeting.

 

“Because I’m about to introduce you to the woman who makes all of the decisions for wizards as a whole in the United States, and she is decidedly not fond of creatures; especially those with the potential to cause trouble,” Percival explained, deciding to lay it all out for Newt instead of trying to sugar coat the reality of the situation. “If asked, I’m going to have to explain to her what’s going on and what- who- you are. And she might not respond well to that.”

 

“What can I do?”

 

Percival nodded down at where Newt’s wand was tucked away. “Keep that hidden. If she asks about your magic, we’ll downplay it,” he said. “Let me do most of the talking. If she asks you anything, be honest if it seems safe to, but tell her the bare minimum.”

 

Newt nodded, though Percival could see the nervousness in his eyes. He reached up and clapped a hand firmly on Newt’s shoulder, and ducked his head to try and catch the man’s eye. “Hey. I promised I would protect you, and I intend to do just that,” he said, and Newt managed a weak smile.

 

“I know. I believe you,” he said softly, and Percival took in a deep breath, letting go of the merman.

 

He didn’t want to think about what he would do if Picquery ordered Newt executed. He didn’t think he could do it, and the idea of flatly turning down an order…well, that would put his very job security in question.

 

The fact that he was considering risking his job over someone he just met wasn’t something he was about to examine closely.

 

“Let’s get this over with, then,” he said, and he led the way a short distance down the hall to a large set of doors. He knocked, and after a beat of silence, the doors swung open.

 

Picquery’s office was as ornate as the rest of the building, the walls and doorways made of rich mahogany wood trimmed in flourishes of gold, and there was a fire crackling in the fireplace. Picquery stood by her desk- and next to her stood Tina. Percival couldn’t help the smug feeling that came over him when Tina glanced past him and saw Newt, looking as human as anyone else in the building, and a shocked look came over her.

 

Obviously she hadn’t expected him to pass so well, so quickly. Newt was turning out to be a very fast learner, faster than even Percival expected.

 

“Mr. Graves,” Picquery said with a nod, and then her brow furrowed as she noticed that he wasn’t alone. “Who is this?”

 

“Madam President, this is Newt Scamander. He’s…involved in the case I’m currently working,” Percival explained, though ‘involved’ was putting it lightly, to say the least. And Picquery didn’t exactly look thrilled about the stranger in the room.

 

“The trafficking case. Which is why you are here,” she said, ignoring Newt for now. “Where’s the creature?”

 

Percival gave Tina a look, and she shrugged in helpless apology. Evidently her hand had been forced; he probably couldn’t blame her for this. Not entirely. Not that he wouldn’t try.

 

“When I said he’s ‘involved’, I meant…he is the case, essentially,” Percival clarified, and Picquery’s eyes went wide as she turned her full attention back on the nervous looking redhead. Percival wanted desperately to comfort him- he looked slightly terrified, being under the scrutiny of this very powerful woman- but he resisted the urge. He had to remain professional, and he had to let Newt look at least somewhat competent, and not in need of his constant support.

 

“You can’t be serious,” she scoffed.

 

“I’m completely serious. Those traffickers are looking for a merman; with him occupying this form instead, it keeps him safe while we track down the wizard looking for him.”

 

“That wizard is on his way to the city, if he’s not already here, I’m sure,” Tina said softly. “The man I found was the one who made sure the message got delivered.”

 

Picquery’s attention was solely on Newt. She moved away from the desk and walked over to him, circling him with her hands clasped behind her and studying him head to toe like some strange work of art she was trying to interpret. “And why is this wizard so desperate to find you?” she asked, and Percival recognized it for the test it was. He clenched his fists slightly and took a slow, deep breath to keep himself from interfering; if he kept speaking on behalf of Newt, she would be convinced they were hiding something from her.

 

“I…seem to have a small amount of magical ability,” Newt said, green eyes focused past Picquery instead of on her. “He seems to think he would be able to use that somehow.”

 

It was as good an answer as he could have given, really, given their situation. Picquery stopped in front of Newt and stared for long enough that Newt made eye contact with her for only a moment before he diverted his gaze back toward the floor, shoulders hunched in a way that made him look smaller than he actually was.

 

Percival realized how perfect it was, even if unintentional. Newt didn’t look dangerous at all like this; there was nothing to hint to Picquery that something bigger was at play here. Percival was also pointedly ignoring the look Tina was giving him; he didn’t really care if she was disapproving of him allowing Newt to fib about the extent of his magic.

 

“And just how did you get this ‘small amount of magical ability?” Picquery asked, her eyes calculating as she studied Newt. Newt hesitated, shifting his weight, his hair falling over his eyes like a makeshift shield.

 

“I…I don’t know.”

 

Percival winced, just slightly, and was glad that Picquery wasn’t looking at him to see it. Others may have missed it, but she was perceptive, especially when it came to her subordinates.

 

“A creature acquires magical abilities normally reserved for wizards…and you don’t know how it happened?” she asked, her tone one of near mocking disbelief, and Percival was seconds from stepping in when there was a sudden, high pitched squeaking noise that broke the tension. It was coming from a box on the desk, and Newt’s eyes went wide.

 

“You’re keeping him in a box?” he suddenly said, and then he walked past Picquery to her desk, and Percival’s heart leapt into his throat. Picquery immediately reached for her wand, but Percival took a massive risk- he got between her and the distracted merman, holding a hand up in defense of him.

 

“Wait, please,” he said, and he looked over his shoulder to see Newt taking the lid off a wooden box on the desk to reveal a small, stick like insect. It clung to Newt’s hand, and he lifted it to eye level.

 

“Hey, it’s okay. It’s alright,” he cooed, and Percival was momentarily stunned at the change that came over the redhead. Suddenly he was secure, confident, and smiling like he wasn’t on the verge of possibly being confined or worse. “They didn’t know better.”

 

The creature made more squeaking noises, and it sounded both indignant and relieved to Percival’s ears- but of course, he didn’t speak stick insect, or whatever that was. He looked back to Picquery, and she looked as if she didn’t know whether to be angry or intrigued.

 

“You can understand it?” she asked incredulously, and Newt glanced at her before looking back to the insect.

 

“Not in the way you’re thinking. I can’t ‘translate’ what he’s saying,” Newt explained. “But I can sort of…sense why he’s unhappy. I can feel what he’s trying to convey. He went from one box to another box, and he really doesn’t like boxes.”

 

“It’s a Bowtruckle,” Tina said. “I found it on the third trafficker.”         

 

The ‘Bowtruckle’ climbed its way up Newt’s sleeve to cower under the collar of his coat, and Newt cupped a hand over him protectively. “You won’t hurt him, will you? He’s harmless,” he asked, finally making eye contact with Picquery, who was unmoved by the display. She sighed and looked to Tina.

 

“Tina, take him into the hall. I need to speak with Mr. Graves privately.”

 

Tina nodded and motioned for Newt to follow her, and Newt cast a glance at Percival for confirmation; Percival urged him out; as much as he dreaded this conversation, it was safer for Newt to be outside the room for it.

 

As soon as the doors closed, Picquery’s eyes were on Percival. “I should have you brought up on charges,” she said, the very picture of an angry woman. “Absconding with a dangerous creature instead of bringing it to MACUSA, neglecting to enter a detailed report on what I imagine is a very illegal situation- do you have any excuse for all of this?”

 

Pervical snorted. “Madam President, you once told me you trusted my judgment above all others,” he said, one of the only people who wouldn’t be terrified by her words and implicit threat therein. “I think this situation bears looking into, but that merman staying in his creature based form and being held here is the opposite of what we need.”

 

Picquery crossed her arms. “You have my attention- for the moment.”

 

“Don’t you see?” Percival asked, gesturing to the door. “If we imprison him, we lose the motive for that wizard to come here. He won’t break into MACUSA for one creature. If he knows he’s- it’s- here, he’ll flee and we’ll never find him or discover what he has planned. Same thing if we execute the creature. We need it alive and need it at least somewhat in the open, as bait.”

 

Something in him twisted uncomfortably at using the word ‘it’ to describe Newt, despite the fact that less than 24 hours ago he’d been doing so with no second thoughts. It was even worse, describing him as bait for this wizard, however true the term might be.


“So you want me to allow you to keep dragging a possibly dangerous creature all over the city trying to tempt a wizard out of hiding?” Picquery said, and Percival chuckled.

 

“Well, when you put it that way, it does sound a bit…crazy. But yes,” he said firmly, pushing loose strands of hair back from his face. “That is exactly what I want you to allow me to do. Trust that I know what I’m doing, and that I can handle this.”

 

Picquery fell quiet for a few long, tense moments, and then she exhaled heavily. “Taking into account that this is the first time you’ve broken these rules, and your history in this position, I’m inclined to be lenient,” she finally said, and Percival felt relief flood through him. “However, I expect regular updates. As in daily, at the least. And if that creature causes any property damage or bodily harm, he is to be brought here and locked up for the remainder of the investigation. Am I understood?”

 

Percival nodded once. “Understood,” he said, deliberately trying not the think about the ransacked shelves at the wand shop just from Newt finally taking a focused outlet for his magic in hand.

 

Property damage would undoubtedly occur.

 

“Good,” Picquery said. “Go speak with Tina about the information she got from our prisoners. And make sure no one finds out you’ve got a creature in disguise tagging along with you; I don’t want to deal with the complaints.”

 

“Yes, Madam President.”

 

Percival took his leave as quickly as was polite, and when he got into the hall he found Tina and Newt standing side by side against the far wall. Both looked up nervously when he emerged and the doors shut behind him.

 

“What happened?” Tina asked, and Percival sighed again.

 

“We have permission to continue the case as planned- so long as Newt doesn’t cause any trouble, such as running off to rescue creatures in a room full of suspicious wizards,” he said, and Newt had the sense to look a little sheepish, even with the Bowtruckle peering out from under his collar. 

 

“Sorry,” Newt said. “He just sounded so panicked, I couldn’t just leave him.”

 

“I couldn’t get much out of the traffickers, sir. They don’t know anything of use,” Tina said, shoulders tense with frustration. “They just know there’s a big bounty on this crea-….on Newt, that is, and the third trafficker passed the message along to another party who will make sure our mystery wizard gets it.”

 

“But they don’t know we’re onto them,” Percival said, pacing a bit as he thought. “We need to find out where they were planning to turn Newt over.”

 

Tina winced. “Please don’t tell me you’re thinking what I think you’re thinking,” she said, and Percival smirked.

 

“We’re going undercover, Ms. Goldstein. We’re going to bring down everyone involved in the next leg of this operation, all at once, so there’s no opportunity for word to get back to our mystery wizard that they’ve been compromised,” he said, and then he looked to Newt with significantly more sympathy. “Are you up for this? You’ll have to be back in your original form for this to work.”

 

Newt bit his lip for a moment before looking up at Percival. “If this is what we have to do to catch this wizard…I’ll do it,” he said softly. “He’s taken enough from my family. It’s time I stopped running.”

 

Tina gave them a curious look, but Percival ignored her; there was undoubtedly more to the story, and he knew some of it, but now wasn’t the time or the place to elaborate.

 

“Good. Let’s get started then,” he said. “Tina, go find out where they were planning to make the transfer. I’m going to come up with a plan, and I’ve got something to take care of at home; we should have at least a day to work with. Come by my apartment when you have the time and location.”

 

“Yes sir,” Tina said, and she cast one more hesitant glance at Newt before she walked away- leaving the Bowtruckle behind with them.

 

It seemed she didn’t have the heart to separate them, and some little stick insect was the last of Percival’s worries right now, so he wasn’t about to mention it.

 

“What are we going to do at your…apartment?” Newt asked, the word sounding uncomfortable in his mouth, like it was the first time he’d ever said it. And come to think of it, it probably was. Merpeople probably didn’t have ‘apartments’, he imagined.

 

Percival started to lead the way toward the elevator. “We’re going to teach you how to focus and use your magic for self defense. I’m not taking you in there helpless.”

 

Newt seemed to brighten considerably at that, though Percival couldn’t deny the anxiety he felt- he had the feeling teaching Newt how to control and direct his magic would not be an easy task in the least.     

 

In fact, he was pretty certain he was about to break that ‘property damage’ rule Picquery had set.

 

Chapter Text

Newt wasn’t sure if he wanted to leave MACUSA. He was curious about everything he saw, from the strange metal contraption that hovered in the middle of the grand hall, to the house elf polishing wands for waiting wizards, to the papers with moving pictures that many of the wizards were reading. But at the same time, he knew that the President had not been happy about him being there- about his existence at all, really- and he also knew that their overlooking of the poor Bowtruckle might not continue if he overstayed his welcome.

 

So he followed Percival downstairs, and when they exited the building, he stopped Percival with a gentle grip on his sleeve.

 

“Percival?” he said, and then he hesitated, the cold wind making a shiver run through him. “I wanted to thank you.”

Percival arched an eyebrow. “For what?” he asked, and Newt laughed nervously.

 

“For…standing up for me in there,” he elaborated. He hadn’t missed how hard Percival had fought for him, despite the fact that this was evidently a very important woman, and his boss no doubt. And he hadn’t missed how when he’d turned around from rescuing the Bowtruckle, he found the President with one hand on her wand, and Percival standing between them.

 

“I said I would, didn’t I?” Percival pointed out. “It’s nothing, really. Come on, let’s go start your lessons.”

 

Newt didn’t want to let him brush it off like that, because it wasn’t nothing. It was far from nothing. But he let it go for now, as Percival’s hand took hold of him and they apparated back into the man’s apartment.

 

He had to admit, he did feel more comfortable not being around so many humans. He felt like he didn’t have to be so careful here, didn’t have to pay attention to every step, didn’t have to watch his words so he didn’t say something too strange, too suspicious. He let the Bowtruckle climb onto the kitchen table where the creature promptly sat on the edge, and then he removed his coat and laid it across the back of the couch.

 

Percival eyed the Bowtruckle for a moment, but he sighed and didn’t say anything; Newt took that as permission to keep the poor thing, at least for now. The Bowtruckle probably wanted to go home, but it might be a while before Newt would be able to make that happen.

 

Percival took off his coat as well, and then he carefully rolled up the sleeves of his shirt, and Newt found himself staring. Percival seemed so…put together, so formal all the time, that even these brief hints of casual moments were enough to make him wonder if the man ever just…relaxed. Even in all the mayhem and chaos since Newt had woken up here, Percival seemed unflappable.

 

Newt was curious to see the man with his guard down, though that seemed unlikely at best.

 

“Alright,” Percival said, and he pulled his own wand out, an elegant black one with a silver bit on the handle. It was nothing like Newt’s, and yet it had its own beauty to it; it fit Percival perfectly. “Take out your wand and I’ll teach you some simple spells. I know they’re going to seem too easy, but they’re meant for you to practice control.”

 

Newt nodded and drew his wand, and he felt the same surge of warmth and energy through him- though at least he didn’t cause any damage this time. Percival just watched him for a moment, seeming to judge the way Newt held it, and then he nodded.

 

“Accio is a useful spell. Extremely useful. It’s meant to bring an object to you. You probably will not need a wand to do this one, given your natural abilities, but I want you to practice with one all the same,” he explained. “There needs to be thought behind it. You need to have the object clear in your mind when you summon it. “

 

“Can I summon anything?” Newt asked, and Percival chuckled.

 

“Not anything. The further away an object is, the harder it is to summon it. And it doesn’t work on most living creatures,” he said, and then he extended his wand toward the nearby bookshelf. In a flash of movement, a book flew off the shelf and into Percival’s free hand.

 

“You probably won’t need to use the incantation,” he said, and then he nodded toward the shelf. “Give it a try.”

 

Newt nodded and took in a deep breath, resisting the urge to just keep staring- he really needed to stop this weird fascination with Percival. It was just because the man had saved him, because he was the first human Newt had really gotten to know, that was all.

 

That was all. Really.

 

He lifted his wand and pointed it toward the bookcase in question, just like Graves had done, and he tried to focus. Tried to clear his mind, and just think of the book, tried to imagine it floating over just as it had done for Percival.

 

There was a creaking noise, and then a horrific scrape as the whole bookshelf yanked away from the wall. Newt went stiff in surprise, but then something hit him from the side, knocking him away and to the floor just as the bookshelf slid by and then slammed into the wall behind where Newt had been.

 

Newt found himself on the floor with Percival braced on top of him, his elbow and hip aching from the impact, and he felt his face go red.

 

“S-Sorry!” he managed, and Percival just smiled tiredly and shook his head.

 

“It’s alright. I expected some…mishaps,” he said as he stood and offered Newt a hand up. Newt took hold of his hand and stood- and promptly stumbled and fell into Percival again, who stumbled back against the kitchen table.

 

The Bowtruckle made a noise of amusement, and Newt resisted the urge to glare at it.

 

“Careful,” Percival said, and Newt could have sworn the man’s face was a bit red, but Percival was already steadying him and moving away. He lifted his wandless hand toward the bookshelf, and it slid silently back into place against the far wall, all the misplaced books floating to their proper spots on the shelves.

 

It was beautiful, the mastery he had over his magic. The most subtle twitch of his fingers, and the objects moved according to his will.

 

“Alright. Try again,” he said, and Newt did a double take, having been…well, distracted.

 

“…what?”

 

Percival nodded toward the bookshelf. “Try again,” he said expectantly, and Newt swallowed hard- if he’d had his fins, he knew his ear fins would be pressed tight to the sides of his head right about now.

 

“But…I almost…”

 

“Newt, when I was first learning the spell to summon water, I flooded an entire floor at the school,” Percival said with a smirk. “I’m hardly put off by a bit of property damage. This is exactly how you learn.”

 

Newt wasn’t really convinced- the last thing he wanted to do was accidentally hurt anyone- but he raised his wand all the same. Just focus, he thought, pouring all his thoughts into making this happen. One book. Keep control. Focus.

 

He got his wish- one book flew off the shelf, but Newt had to duck as it careened past him and went through the wall behind him, leaving a gaping hole in the wood.

 

Silence hung in the air for a few moments, and then Percival sighed softly.

 

“Well. It was only one book this time. So, an improvement,” he said, and Newt gave him an incredulous look.

 

“I turned it into a deadly weapon.”

 

“Could come in handy someday. Who knows when you’ll get cornered in a library,” Percival pointed out, and it took the hint of a smirk on the man’s face before Newt realized he’d been joking.

 

“Did you just…make a joke? I didn’t know that was possible,” he teased, and Percival chuckled.

 

“It’s a rare event indeed, but it does happen. Now, try again.”

 

And so it went- for the next couple of hours, Newt practiced simple spells. Accio was still unpredictable; sometimes he could catch the things that he summoned to himself, and other times they ended up putting a hole in the wall or narrowly missing his head as they flew by. Alohomora was equally shaky- most of the time instead of just unlocking the door, his spell outright shattered the lock. Which, to be fair, gave the same result, but in a much louder and messier fashion.

 

To put it lightly, Percival was getting a lot of use out of his spell to repair things. Otherwise, half his apartment might have been destroyed before the evening was through.

 

They were about halfway through the lesson on Wingardium Leviosa- and three holes in the ceiling- when Tina knocked on the door. She paused when she stepped inside and saw Percival carefully repairing the holes with decisive flicks of his wand.

 

“Do I want to know…?” she asked, but Percival just finished the repairs and turned to her, ignoring the question.

 

“What did you find out?”

 

She sighed. “Tomorrow evening, at the docks. Sundown.”

 

Percival nodded. “Then we’ll plan on being there. We’ll meet you outside MACUSA around six o’clock. Wear a disguise and be ready,” he said. “If things go poorly, we’ll need to subdue them rather quickly, or the whole operation could be at risk.”

 

“Yes, sir.”

 

She hesitated and gave Percival an odd look, glancing between him and Newt, but one hand motion from him toward the door was enough to have her stepping out and closing the door behind her without another word. He sighed and ran his fingers through his hair, though pieces of it fell right back to where they’d been on his forehead. “One day. Doesn’t give us much time to prepare, but we’ll have to make do.”

 

Newt took advantage of the moment to rest- it turned out that trying to keep control over his magic was even more exhausting than just trying to lash out with it. Though the wand did help. “What else do we need to do?”

 

“I’m going to teach you how to break a shield, like the one that was on the box you were in,” Percival said. “And I’m going to teach you how to incapacitate someone with a spell. But not tonight; you need sleep.”

 

“And you don’t?”

 

“I’ll get there eventually. I’ve got some work to do first,” Percival said, and then he motioned for Newt to follow; the Bowtruckle hopped onto Newt’s arm and climbed up to his shoulder, not wanting to be left behind. Percival led him to a room down the hall, one that looked as if it was rarely used; it was bare in a way that most human rooms weren’t, with what Newt recognized as a bed and dresser inside, and little else of note. There seemed to be few personal belongings other than some books.

 

The idea that Percival’s bedroom seemed to see so little use was a bit concerning, and a little sad. He imagined Percival to be like Theseus in some ways, falling asleep wherever he’d happened to run out of energy whilst working.

 

“You can use my bed for tonight,” Percival continued to say as he walked to the dresser. He got out a simple pair of pants and a shirt and held them out to Newt. “We don’t sleep in day clothes. Put these on and get some sleep, alright?”

 

“Where will you sleep though?”

 

“Don’t worry about me,” Percival said, which was pretty silly, considering Newt was probably going to do nothing but worry about him instead of sleep.

 

But Percival was already closing the door to the bedroom behind him, and Newt was left alone- well, except for the Bowtruckle, who promptly hopped down Newt’s arm and onto the bed to make himself comfortable. Newt took in a deep breath and got changed into the ‘night clothes’- honestly, humans were so strange sometimes- and then he stepped over to the hanging cloth on the wall and pulled it aside.

 

There was a window behind it, looking out over the rooftops of the city, and Newt’s breath caught in his chest at the beauty of it. And sure, humans might not see it as beautiful, because they saw it every day, but Newt saw a sea of lights and flickers of activity unlike anything he would see beneath the ocean waves.

 

Homesickness struck him like a wave breaking in the shallows. He hadn’t had much time to think about it, not with everything that had gone on since he’d been taken, but now he couldn’t help but think about how worried Theseus and his father must be.

 

Had they given up yet? Assumed him dead? Sure, he’d disappeared before, but never for this long.

 

He missed the caves of home, the bright colors of the coral and anemones, the schooling fish and flying seahorses; he missed all of it. And yet…he found himself torn.

 

He didn’t want to leave Percival.

 

It seemed silly. He barely knew the man, and he was a human, on top of all that; his father would be furious with him were he to admit to befriending a human. But as prickly as Percival’s disposition could be, he was a good person. He was kind, protective, loyal- all the things that would be just as valued in merfolk.

 

All things that Theseus had told him to find in a bond-mate.

 

He shook his head before that thought got any further. He’d told Theseus so many times that he wouldn’t put any potential bond-mate in peril by actually pursuing something more, and he’d meant that. He was too…different. Too strange. Stuck between worlds. Too much ‘creature’ to find a place with wizards, and too much ‘wizard’ to make a true home for himself in his shoal.

 

The idea of anything more with anyone was…laughable, in a way that ached to think about.

 

Theseus always told him he would find someone that was willing to stick by him. Newt was certain, though, that Theseus hadn’t intended for that someone to be a wizard.

 

Newt made his way to the bed and dropped down on it, staring up at the ceiling, everything shades of grey in the pale light that made it in through the window. It was nothing like his ‘bed’ at home, but it wasn’t uncomfortable; all the same, he found it impossible to sleep. Not with all these thoughts swimming through his head. He checked to make sure the Bowtruckle was fast asleep, and then he got up and went to the hall, leaving the door cracked open behind him.

 

He found Percival in another room, working by a dim overhead light, his quill scratching across the page softly. Newt hesitated in the doorway, at first just taking the moment to admire the man, thinking that Percival hadn’t noticed him. He seemed focused on his writing, sleeves still rolled up, his hair falling out of the careful swept-back style it had been in all day. The white shirt was just barely taut enough over his skin to see the muscles work beneath as he paused in his writing and rolled his shoulder with a wince.

 

“Is everything alright?” Percival asked, and only then did he look up; it seemed that it was impossible to sneak up on the man.

 

“I just…I couldn’t sleep,” Newt admitted as he stepped into the room. “What are you working on?”

 

“Reports,” Percival said, and he leaned back in the chair and set the quill down, reaching up to rub the back of his neck. “Paperwork. Things you should be glad you don’t have to deal with.”

 

“I’d like to learn how to read,” Newt admitted, looking over Percival’s shoulder at the paper. Though Newt couldn’t read the writing there, it was beautiful handwriting, like a work of art rather than the minutiae of everyday work.

 

“I’m not sure we’ll have time, if we plan to get you home once all of this is over,” Percival pointed out, and Newt’s face fell into a frown.

 

He wanted to go home, but he didn’t.

 

“There’s so much I don’t know,” he said, and he picked up a book from the desk and flipped through it idly, eyes skimming the pages without comprehension.

 

“We all have things we don’t know. Things we’re not capable of.”

 

“Even you?” Newt said teasingly, and Percival smirked, though the expression was strained with tiredness.

 

“I can’t swim, you know.”

 

Newt stared. Blinked. Then stared some more.

 

“Well, humans are awful swimmers, making so much noise and…” he trailed off, and then he tilted his head. “You can’t mean…not at all? You can’t swim?”

 

Percival shrugged. “Sink like a rock. I never learned how,” he said, tendrils of his dark hair falling over his forehead.

 

The idea was absurd. Hatchlings could swim the moment they were born; Newt never imagined that swimming was something humans had to learn how to do. “Well,” he said, and his expression brightened a bit. “You teach me how to read, and I’ll teach you how to swim.”

 

“That’s really not necessary-“

 

“Please. It’s the least I can do,” Newt said, almost pleadingly. He wanted to do one thing for Percival, after everything the man had done for him. Percival took in a deep breath and let it out in a rush.

 

“Alright. Deal,” he said, and then he motioned Newt toward the door. “Now, go get some sleep. You’ll need your rest for tomorrow.”

 

Newt gave him a skeptical look. “And what about you?”

 

“I’m almost done here, then I’m going to get some rest too.”

 

“You promise?”

 

“…I promise.”

 

Newt paused for a few moments longer before he finally gave in and went to the door, where he hesitated again. “Goodnight, Percival,” he said softly, and he heard a grunt in reply, which was enough for him, given the late hour. He went back to the bedroom, where the Bowtruckle lifted his head long enough to give him an accusing look.

 

“Sorry. I had something to take care of,” Newt told the tiny creature as he sat down on the bed. “You need a name, you know.”

 

The Bowtruckle made a soft chirp-like noise as Newt considered. “How about Pickett?” he finally asked. “It seems to fit you.”

 

The Bowtruckle made a noise of agreement, and with that settled, Newt dropped back against the pillow. This time he found it easier to drift off into sleep, though apprehension about tomorrow made his dreams restless and uneasy.

Chapter Text

It took Percival a few moments to remember why he was waking up on the couch and not in his bed- or at his desk, as was often the case. When it all came rushing back to him, he had to convince himself all over again that this wasn’t some kind of bizarre dream.

 

He sat up and pushed his hair back from where it had fallen over his forehead again, and then he decided to check and make sure he wasn’t crazy. He got up and went down the hall to the bedroom, where he opened the door as quietly as he could.

 

Definitely not crazy. Newt was curled up on his bed, still fast asleep, the worry and anxiety gone from his face for the moment. It made Percival hesitate, seeing him so unguarded, so at ease compared to the stresses of the day before.

 

He looked younger. More peaceful.

 

Determined to get his clothes for the day without disturbing Newt, he stepped into the room and went to the dresser, picking out clothes that were a bit different than his usual. After all, he would have to at least somewhat blend in down at the docks, and while he hated to dress down, it was necessary this time.

 

He glanced back to make sure he hadn’t woken either Newt or the Bowtruckle sleeping on the pillow next to his head; he wanted to let Newt sleep for as long as he could.

 

He would need all the rest he could get for today.

 

Percival busied himself with his normal morning routine. He took a shower and got dressed in the clothes he’d chosen- black pants with black suspenders, a white button up with the sleeves rolled up and the top three buttons undone- and he resisted the urge to style his hair straight back, instead letting it stay a bit messy to match the disheveled look.                                          

 

That done, he went to the kitchen and hesitated. Normally he would just make coffee and read the paper, but….Newt needed to eat something. Needed to keep his strength up. And though his kitchen was rather bare, Percival did have what he needed to make eggs and toast, and he set to work doing so as the coffee brewed.

 

He didn’t cook the No-Maj way, though. That would be a bit much.

 

About the time he was finishing Newt finally emerged from the bedroom, still looking sleepy and with his hair even messier than usual, which was saying something indeed. The second he got to the doorway, though, he stopped and stared at Percival as if hit with a stun.

 

Percival frowned in concern. “Is everything alright?” he asked, and Newt opened his mouth to speak, seemed to change his mind, and then stuttered a bit.

 

“You, uh…changed,” he said, and Percival glanced down at his own outfit.

 

“I have to fit in at the docks,” he pointed out. “Nobody down there is going to be wearing a five piece suit, I assure you.”

 

“Right. I just…you, uh…I wasn’t expecting it.”

 

Percival honestly wasn’t sure what the big deal was. He shrugged it off and took another sip of his coffee, and then he set down the paper and used wandless magic to move the food from the stove to the plates on the table. “Come eat your breakfast,” he said, and Newt nodded numbly and made his way to the table. The Bowtruckle was still clinging to his shoulder, watching Percival with suspicion.

 

Newt, though, just sat down and looked at the food curiously. “What is it?” he asked as Percival took the seat across from him.

 

“Eggs and toast,” Percival said, and then he noticed Newt about to reach for the eggs with his hand. He cleared his throat, stopping the merman short, and then pointedly picked up his fork and used it to take a bite of the eggs.

 

Newt seemed to get the idea, thankfully. He picked up his own fork, and though his movements were a bit clumsy, he managed to get the hang of using silverware rather quickly.

 

All the better. That wasn’t a lesson Percival wanted to give in public.

 

That is staying here,” he added, pointing at the Bowtruckle with his fork, and Newt frowned.

 

“Why? He doesn’t like being alone.”

 

“He’ll like it even less when you go all fins and there’s nowhere to hide on you. And it will be too dangerous. Too much risk of him- it- being seen and taken.”

 

Newt didn’t look happy, but he also didn’t argue. The Bowtruckle just made a rude noise at Percival

 

“He doesn’t like being called ‘it’, you know,” Newt said softly after a few moments of silence, his gaze locked on his plate. Percival shrugged.

 

“Sorry. I don’t see Bowtruckle pronouns as a priority when we’re trying to hunt down a dark wizard.”

 

“You don’t call me ‘it’.”

 

“You’re different.”

 

“Because I can use magic?”

 

Percival looked up to actually find Newt looking at him for once, apprehension and a shade of hurt in his eyes. All at once Percival realized there was no safe way for him to answer that question; no, it wasn’t just because he could use magic, but…

 

He couldn’t get into the ‘why’ here and now. It was too complicated, even for his own mind.

 

“Is now really the time for this?” he settled for, and Newt flinched, just barely.

 

“…no, I guess it isn’t,” he muttered, and Percival sighed. Good job; now you’ve gone and made a mess of things, he thought as he pushed his plate away.

 

“Newt, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean-“

 

“No, I understand,” Newt cut him off, his shoulders even more slumped than usual as he did everything in his power to avoid looking at Percival. “We have to catch the wizard, then you’re going to take me home. ‘Pronouns’ aren’t important for that.”

 

“Newt-“

 

“Weren’t you going to teach me spells for today?”

 

The silence that came after that was awkward, uncomfortable, the kind that hung in the air like a heavy blanket. Percival knew he’d said exactly the wrong things, knew he’d upset Newt- but he also didn’t know if he had the words to make it right.

 

Even if he did, it felt like baring his soul in a way he’d never done, admitting things that he hadn’t even truly admitted to himself yet.

 

“Let’s get started, then,” he said, and he stood and drank the last of his coffee. “You’ll need to get dressed. We’re going outside for this.”

 

Once Newt was dressed- and once the Bowtruckle was convinced to stay behind, safe in the apartment- Percival apparated himself and Newt to the depths of Central Park. He immediately put up wards to keep No-Maj’s away as Newt watched with insatiable curiosity.

 

“What are you doing?” the merman asked, watching as Percival aimed his wand at the edges of the clearing, strengthening the wards.

 

“Making sure that No-Maj’s aren’t going to wander this way,” he explained as he finished. “Not a kind of spell you need to worry about for a long time. We’re going to start with creating and breaking a shield.”

 

Percival stood a decent distance away from Newt in the clearing, and with a flourish of his wand he created a shield in front of himself, much like the one that had been around the box Newt was kept in. “This is Protego, a charm to create a shield to deflect spells. It’s normally invisible; I’m making it visible so you have a better idea of what you’re creating.”

 

Newt stepped up to the shield and pressed his hand against it, and Percival gasped as magic surged through him like a flood. His shield crackled and magic hummed across his skin like electricity, and he had to drop the shield to regain his bearings.

 

“Sorry!” Newt said, and Percival shook his head.

 

“It’s alright. You just have…a lot of magic pent up in you. It’s taking any outlet it can find,” he explained. “Try it. Hold out your wand where you want the shield to be, picture it in your mind, and imagine its strength.”

 

Newt took a deep breath and nodded, and then he held up his wand. It was only a few moments before a shield sprang to life- one so strong that it was visible, sparks shooting across its surface, and the grass bending at the base of it. Percival laughed.

 

“Now see? Overpowered magic isn’t always a bad thing. You’re a natural at protective spells,” he pointed out, and Newt let the shield dissipate, a proud smile on his face.

 

Percival could really get used to seeing that smile.

 

“Let’s move on to the next thing- breaking a shield,” he said, and he created a shield again. “I know you can use your magic offensively. All you need to do is focus your attack at one point in the middle of the shield. The more pressure you put on one point, the more likely it is to break.”

 

Newt wasn’t going to have it so easy this time. Percival didn’t get where he was by making shields that broke easily.

 

They worked on shield breaking for the better part of a few hours with a few stops to rest here and there, and by the end of it, Newt was reliably getting Percival’s shields to crack in the first three blows. It was more progress than most junior aurors made in a month; it was definitely something to be proud of, and Newt seemed happy with the progress.

 

He seemed to come alive when he was learning. He’d been repressing this part of himself for so long that Percival could see and feel the happiness in him at learning how to actually use his magic.

 

He wanted to teach Newt everything. He wanted to see how far this font of magical energy could take the merman- hell, any prospective auror with this kind of skill would be snapped up by MACUSA in an instant.

 

But Newt wasn’t a prospective auror. And there was still the very real possibility of him losing control of some aspect of this magic- and if that happened, it could be disastrous.

 

After a break for lunch, they were on to the next spell- Stupefy. And this was where Percival had to be careful; he created magical dummies for Newt to practice on, because if Newt slipped up and actually hit Percival, that kind of magic could do far more damage than intended by the spell.

 

That fact was highlighted when the first magical dummy had its arm blown off by a rather basic Stupefy spell. Even Newt looked a little shell-shocked as Percival stared at the damage in surprise.

 

They met Tina outside MACUSA right on time that evening; she was dressed much like a dockworker would be, enough to pass, at least. She apparated them to near the meeting point, where the wooden transport box sat waiting; Percival couldn’t help but notice the nervous look Newt had on his face when he noticed it.

 

“Alright. We’ll go set up for the transfer; as soon as they arrive, we’ll subdue and restrain them,” Percival said, confident that he and Tina could handle a couple of lackeys for a dark wizard. He took in a deep breath, and then lifted the lid off the wooden box; with a quick wave of his wand, a shield formed around it and it filled with water.

 

“How do I change back?” Newt asked, eyeing the box with trepidation.

 

“All you have to do is get wet and you’ll change right back,” Percival explained. “You’ll, uh…want to take off those clothes first. We’ll give you some privacy.”

 

He took Tina by the elbow and led her a short distance away, facing away from Newt so he could change. Tina looked a bit nervous, toying with the edge of her sleeve.

 

“Are you sure about this, sir? Having him in his original form could put him at risk,” she said softly.

 

“I’m sure,” Percival said without a moment of hesitation. “This has to look legitimate. I’ll protect him. If all goes well, there won’t even be a struggle.”

 

He heard a splash and turned to see Newt sitting in the open box, clothes and wand left on the ground beside it; Percival had forgotten how strangely beautiful his fins were, the scales shining in the evening light, and the fins on either side of his head pressed tightly back. It was obvious he was nervous, his webbed hands gripping the edges of the box tightly.

 

“I’m sorry about this,” he said to Newt as he made his way back to the side of the box. “I’ll make sure nothing happens to you. Alright?”

 

And for all the bickering they’d been through that day, the trust was still there. Newt bit his lip with one sharp looking fang and nodded, and Tina gathered up the extra clothes and wand and put them in her own bag.

 

“Okay. Let’s get the lid on this and move it out to the docks,” Percival said, and Newt reluctantly slid down so he was completely under the water. Percival moved the lid back into place and reinforced the shield- it looked strong from the outside, but he knew from their earlier lessons that Newt could break it if need be.

 

Between himself and Tina, they got the box moved out to the deserted docks just before sundown. Just in case, Percival put up a ward around the area that would keep No-Maj’s from seeing what was going on or from accidentally wandering in. That was the last thing he needed to deal with on top of the case at hand.

 

They didn’t have long to wait. As soon as the sun set, there was a swirl of apparition- and immediately Percival knew that something had gone horribly wrong.

 

Seven total. Seven wizards appeared, and when Percival saw who was in the middle of them, he drew his wand. The game was up; there was no point in pretending, or in trying to do a surprise restraint spell.

 

The wizard standing in the middle of the other six was none other than Gellert Grindelwald. His very presence was like a shroud of dark magic hanging in the air, and Percival heard Tina’s sharp intake of breath beside him, and from the corner of his eye he saw her draw her own wand.

 

“How quaint. It was a very nice idea, trying to trick my men,” Grindelwald said with a smug smirk. “But I dare say I’m a bit more clever than you, Percival Graves. And you have something that I very much want.”

 

“You can’t force him to cooperate with you,” Percival pointed out, his wand at the ready despite the fact that it was seven against two. “You know he won’t.”

 

Grindelwald laughed. “Oh, I think he will, once I’m done with him; I have my ways, and he has his weaknesses. And once I’ve gotten you out of the way, too. You’ve been quite a pest; it’s unfortunate you’re such a stickler for law, or you could have been a great asset to me.”

 

Percival tried to shove down the wave of revulsion he had at the thought. He needed to think. It was Percival and Tina versus Grindelwald and six of his men. There was no way they were getting out of this alive. Unless…

 

He glanced down, just for a moment. They were standing on an expanse of dock directly between the supports, which were far enough apart to do as he planned. If it worked, Tina would have an opportunity to get Newt away from here.

 

If it worked, Percival would also have a very big problem on his hands, and normally the risk wouldn’t be acceptable. But the alternative was for Newt to fall into Grindelwald’s hands, and that wasn’t something he could accept.

 

“I’m not sure you’re quite as clever as you think, Grindelwald,” he said.

 

He turned and fired off a spell to break the shield on Newt’s box, and it broke the box as well, and the merman spilled onto the dock with a choked yelp of surprise as he gasped in air.

 

“Tina, apparate him to safety,” he ordered, and Tina started to object, but Percival sent her flying back to Newt’s side with a flick of his wrist.

 

“Oh no you don’t,” Grindelwald said, starting to raise his wand, and Percival knew he had to make his move now. He aimed his wand down, and the dock beneath them exploded into shards.

 

It was enough force to catch their enemies off guard and send them all into the water below; even Grindelwald stumbled and started to fall. But the dock splintered outward further, and Percival felt it give beneath his feet, and he stumbled off balance, knowing it was too late to make a break for safety. He’d known it might happen, and he prepared his wand to do an underwater breathing spell, at the least-

 

-when a painful spell from Grindelwald’s wand seared into his chest at the last moment, making him lose his grip on his wand just as he hit the freezing cold water.

 

It was like being dropped into a trench full of knives. The cold water seared at his skin and made every muscle tense as he tried to hold his breath. He kicked his feet and tried to make for the surface, but there was debris all around him, and he couldn’t figure out which way was up. Everything was dark and pain, his chest felt like something had been driven through it, and now his lungs were screaming for air, as he hadn’t gotten a chance to take a decent breath before he went under.

 

Apparate, shield, do something! He thought frantically, but when he tried to cast a spell, he found that the pain and panic were too much. He couldn’t concentrate enough to pull one wandless spell together.

 

It would have been funny, if he’d been able to think- just last night, Newt had offered to teach him how to swim. It seemed it might not be necessary after all.

 

He couldn’t hold his breath any longer. He gasped for air and all he got was water, freezing water that made his world explode into a whole new kind of pain. His head was throbbing, his chest was on fire, and he couldn’t even make feeble attempts at swimming.

 

He could only hope, as his body seized and his vision went dark, that Tina had gotten Newt to safety.

 

Chapter Text

Newt knew something had gone horribly wrong when he felt the presence of a magic he’d never felt before. Dark, almost suffocating, and somehow, he already knew who it was. Knew that the wizard had come for him, rather than just sending others to collect him. He wished he could hear what was going on, but the voices were too muffled by the shield and the water.

 

So when the box suddenly burst open and he fell onto the wooden dock, he wasn’t prepared for it in the least, nor did he have much time to react as Percival used his magic to practically throw Tina back at him.

 

“Percival-“ he started to say in confusion and panic, but then all hell broke loose.

 

The dock shattered and splintered between the two groups in a burst of magic from Percival’s wand, and six of the wizards went into the water immediately. Newt saw Tina pull her wand, step forward-

 

-but then the dark wizard tossed two spells their way, and disapparated away just before the dock collapsed under him. Percival stumbled back, and Newt felt his heart stop as the wizard fell into the icy waters below.

 

He can’t swim. He can’t swim, was all Newt could think, and then there was the sound of someone apparating behind them, and Newt did the only thing he could think of to do, despite the fact that he didn’t have his wand. He focused all his energy into a shield around himself and Tina, and it sprang to life like thick, electric glass just as the dark wizard raised his wand at them.

 

“So he has been teaching you,” the man murmured, and then he smirked and lowered his wand. “I’ll be seeing you soon. And next time, it seems your protector won’t be there to defend you.”

 

The wizard disapparated with a loud popping noise, and Newt dropped the shield, his heart racing and his mind in no better shape. How long had Percival been in the water? How long could a human hold their breath? He didn’t have the slightest idea, but he knew it couldn’t be long, and every moment mattered.

 

“Throw me in!” he said to Tina desperately, knowing that crawling to the shattered edge of the dock would take time they didn’t have. Wide-eyed, she nodded and grabbed him under the arms, and dragged him over to the side and shoved him in.

 

The water was freezing, even for him. His gills flared and he drew a rush of water into them to help himself warm up quicker, though he didn’t have his winter scales; it would only help so much to try and equalize his temperature. The smell of blood was thick enough in the water that it was near overwhelming, even for him.

 

Nonetheless, he pushed through the debris as quickly as his hands would move, kicking his fin to clear the water some around him until he saw something that wasn’t wooden debris in the water. White and black cloth, dark hair- it was Percival, and he wasn’t moving.

 

Newt pushed forward through the debris and nearly reached Percival when something suddenly grabbed onto his arm, and he twisted to find one of the other wizards holding onto him. He hissed in fury, and for once he didn’t need magic to defend himself; he flattened his side fins and swung his tail fin, and it smacked the wizard right in the head, knocking him out cold.

 

Newt swam on to Percival and pulled him upright; his eyes were closed and his lips were nearly blue from the lack of air, and his shirt was stained dark red on the right side of his chest. Newt did the only thing he could think to do, the same thing he would do if one of his shoalmates suffered a gill injury in deep water; he took in a surge of water through his gills, his body filtering out the oxygen naturally, and then he pinched Percival’s nose shut and pressed his mouth to the wizard’s and breathed into him. He kicked upward in the water, pausing twice more to give Percival breaths of air, despite how awkward it was to try and use his lungs like this when his gills were working, too. It was the only way to save a merperson who lost the use of their gills suddenly or traumatically, and he could only assume- hope, really- that it would work on humans, too.

 

He finally broke the surface, all his fins flaring to keep him in place as he looked for Tina. She was kneeling at the edge of the dock, Percival’s wand in hand with her own- she must have summoned it- and she immediately reached down to him.

 

“Grab my hand and hold onto him as tight as you can!” she said, and Newt reached up with one arm and grabbed onto her hand- probably drawing blood with his claws, but he wasn’t about to possibly lose his grip- and then he felt the familiar sensation of being pulled elsewhere.      

 

He dropped to a hard wooden floor in a dark room, and Percival hit the floor next to him. He immediately sat up and rolled the man onto his back to check to see if he was breathing, if the air he’d given him had done any good.

 

“Was I t-too late?” he asked breathlessly as Tina dropped down beside them, leaning down and putting her ear close to Percival’s face. There was a moment of tense silence, and then she smiled with relief.

 

“He’s breathing,” she said, and Newt breathed a sigh of relief, all his fins relaxing. Tina didn’t pause for long, though; she tugged Percival’s shirt aside enough to see the wound on his chest, and Newt winced.

 

“Did that wizard…?” he started, and she nodded.

 

“Yeah. It’s not bad, though. I’ve got something that can help,” she said, and she stood up and left the room. Newt couldn’t see much from where he lay on the floor- a couch, a table, other normal human furniture, but the home didn’t look all that…lived in.

 

He didn’t particularly care at the moment, as long as they were safe. He took in a slow, calming breath as he looked back down at Percival, just beginning to take in everything that had happened.

 

Percival had ordered Tina to take Newt to safety. The idiot wizard was going to stall them on his own so Newt and Tina could escape.

 

If Newt had had any doubts about things after their breakfast conversation, those doubts were settled now. Guilt settled in him, guilt at having questioned Percival so harshly that morning, for assuming the worst of him.

 

Tina returned, and though she quickly set to work applying some kind of ointment to Percival’s wound, Newt could feel her eyes on him more than once. Curiosity, it seemed; she couldn’t seem to keep her eyes from lingering on his fins, his claws, all the things that made him…not human.

 

Percival seemed to look at him differently, somehow, now that he thought about it.

 

She hadn’t lied when she said the ointment would help. Percival’s wound closed up and scarred over like it had been weeks ago instead of minutes. She waved her wnad over him and his clothes dried, though he was still pale and shivering, and she looked between him and the nearby couch with indecision.

 

“Let me dry off and change me back to human and I’ll help you move him,” he offered, not sure if he could reliably replicate the spell he’d heard Percival use on him that first day, and she hesitated as if she weren’t sure if it was a good idea or not. Newt gave her a pleading look. “Please. I can’t help like this.”

 

Not to mention he would probably die if he stayed like this. The winter air was so dry; he would dry out painfully in no time like this.

 

She sighed and stood, and then she shrugged the bag off her back that she’d brought with her that day and set it on the floor next to Newt. “Your clothes and wand are in there. I’ll go get you a towel,” she said, and then she left the room again. Newt carefully opened the bag, trying not to tear the cloth with his claws as he did so. The second he had his wand back in hand he felt better, like the magic in him had calmed after that panicked shield he’d built.

 

Tina returned with a towel and awkwardly handed it over to him; she seemed to be making an effort to keep out of reach of his barbed fins, even though she had to know he wouldn’t hurt her on purpose. He tried not to be hurt by it, instead focusing on getting his fins dry so the spell would work.

 

“Ready?” she asked once he set the towel aside, and he nodded, stretching his fin out on the floor. She aimed her wand at it and took a breath.

 

Ambulaveris Nobiscum!”

 

It was the same as before- a blinding flash, and a rush of numbness followed by tingling through all his fins. When the light faded he had legs again, and Tina was covering her eyes.

 

“Just tell me when you’re, uh…decent,” she said, and Newt took that as to mean ‘clothed’; he made quick work of pulling on the pants and the button up shirt, but didn’t bother with anything else right now, other than sheathing his wand at his belt.

 

“You can look,” he said as he carefully stood, adjusting to the strange balance that he’d had to learn in the past two days. Tina uncovered her eyes and looked surprised again when she saw him, just like the first time, as if she expected some hint of his actual species even in this form.

 

“Alright. Let’s get him onto the couch,” she said with a nod, and though he struggled to keep his balance while helping to carry another human being, they managed to get the unconscious wizard onto the couch. Newt pulled a nearby chair up close and stubbornly sat down next to the couch, unwilling to leave Percival’s side.

 

“Where are we?” he asked Tina as she walked around lighting lanterns with her wand. Once the room was lit, she grabbed a couple of blankets and handed them to Newt, and he set to work covering Percival up to warm him.

 

“A MACUSA safe house. We can only assume that our homes might be under surveillance,” Tina explained with a sigh as she lit a fire in the fireplace across from the couch.

 

“You…know the wizard who did all this?”

 

Tina fell silent, her frown deepening, though she avoided looking at Newt. “…Yes. We both know him,” she said, and Newt just watched her expectantly, waiting on her to elaborate. It took a few moments, but she finally started to speak again. “His name is Gellert Grindelwald. He’s the one behind a slew of attacks in Europe. He wants to create a war between wizards and humans.”

 

“Why?”

 

“Because he thinks himself better than them. He’s…tired of hiding,” she explained, and in a way, Newt could sympathize. He hated having to run and hide all the time, hated the secrecy.

 

But obviously triggering a war was the wrong way to go about fixing that.

 

It took a few moments, but when the realization hit him, his eyes widened and he looked up at Tina. “He wants to use me to help trigger this war, doesn’t he?” he asked, and she looked at him with sympathy in her eyes.

 

“Yes,” she said softly. “He would probably use you to try and expose more of the wizarding world to humans. How, I don’t know, but…he certainly has a plan, and we can’t allow it to happen.”

 

Newt had never imagined that he’d spent his whole life running from something this…big. He never thought it went beyond himself and one wizard, and he never could have imagined why that wizard wanted to capture him, after all this time.

 

To find out that he was some kind of weapon, that this had been planned all along- it wasn’t easy to accept.            

 

Percival suddenly shifted and groaned, and Newt turned his attention back to his friend, features lines with concern as Percival opened his eyes. He looked a bit confused, a bit dazed at first, but then he seemed to remember what had happened.

 

“Grindelwald-“ he choked out, and he started to try to sit up, but Newt pushed him back down to the cushions.

 

“Stay still. You drowned, you shouldn’t try to move around yet.”          

 

“What happened?” Percival asked weakly, and Tina stepped around to sit on the edge of the couch and handed Percival his wand back.

 

“Whatever you did, it caught them off guard. Grindelwald tried to come for Newt, but he…”

 

She hesitated and looked at Newt, and Percival’s frown deepened. “He what?”

 

“I created a shield. Just like you showed me,” Newt said a bit sheepishly.

 

“Without your wand?”

 

“I, uh…didn’t need it.”                                          

 

Percival actually laughed then, though it quickly turned into a cough. “Grindelwald is probably furious,” he said with a weak smirk once he’d recovered from the coughing fit. “Bested by a merman with no wand.”

 

He sounded proud, and the idea made Newt smile. For once, he felt like he’d done something right with his magic, as opposed to the guilty feeling he always had when he used it before. Now, he could control it somewhat.

 

If only he could convince Theseus and his father that it was a good thing.

 

“I apparated us to the safe house outside of town. I don’t know if our homes are safe,” Tina pointed out, and Percival nodded, rubbing at his chest where he’d been hit.                              

 

“My apartment will be safe for a while yet. He can’t get past those wards that quickly,” he said, and then he fought to sit up, despite the glare Newt shot him for doing so. “Tina, I need you to do something for me.”

 

Tina nodded. “Anything,” she said, and Newt agreed; after what Percival had done for them, he was ready to follow this man into anything.

 

“In my home, there’s a brown suitcase in the bedroom closet. I need you to bring it here; you’ll know if the wards are broken, so if they are, leave immediately,” Percival explained. “And…bring the Bowtruckle here, too.”

 

“The Bowtruckle?” she repeated skeptically, and Percival cleared his throat.

 

“It…he doesn’t like being alone,” he said, and Newt felt a rush of warmth go through him, like diving into warm tropical water.

 

It was then that he realized how hopelessly far gone he was on this man- and he couldn’t bring himself to care about how bad of an idea it was.

 

Tina didn’t look thrilled, but she nodded and stood up. “Should I report to the President, sir?” she asked, and Percival fell silent for a few moments, thinking it over.

 

“Yes,” he finally said. “But tell her I’m going off grid to keep Grindelwald away from Newt until we figure this out. She’ll want him to come in, and it’s not a good idea. Using him as bait was one thing when we thought these were normal wizards, but it’s too risky against Grindelwald. We’ll think of something else.”

 

“And if she orders you to bring him in?”

 

Percival looked up at her, his dark eyes determined. “Then tell her that I respectfully refuse the order in the interest of keeping Grindelwald’s hands off my friend.”

 

Tina sighed. “I don’t know how you managed to drag me into this mess, but I sure hope you figure out a way out of it before Picquery blows her lid,” she said, and then she disapparated and was gone.

 

“Newt,” Percival said after a few moments of silence, his expression softening as he focused on the redhead, who was fidgeting nervously in his chair. “I suppose I have you to thank for not being dead in the water?”

 

Newt shrugged awkwardly. “I couldn’t let you die,” he said, his voice soft as he dodged Percival’s gaze. These moments, the times when Percival’s attention was solely on him, never failed to be a bit overwhelming. He swallowed hard, then, trying not to remember those moments in the debris. “I…killed someone.”

 

Percival raised an eyebrow. “I find that hard to believe,” he said, and Newt hesitated and bit his lip nervously.

 

“In the water, when I was trying to find you…one of those wizards grabbed onto me. I hit him with my tail, I knocked him out, and…and if I’d stopped to help him, you might have died, and I just…”

 

“Hey,” Percival said, and he reached over to take hold of one of Newt’s hands- Newt hadn’t realized he was trembling until he felt Percival’s grip steadying him. “You should never feel bad about doing what you have to do to protect yourself. I’ve had lots of situations go bad, had people die on my watch because I couldn’t be in two places at once. It’s not easy to swallow, but you can’t let it wreck you.”

 

“I never wanted anyone to get hurt.”

 

“They chose their own path, Newt. And the one they chose will probably lead them there anyway.”

 

Newt looked up at Percival, his eyes shining with tears that he was still trying to hold back. He hated crying, hated seeming weaker than people already thought he was; but Percival was right, of course. This wasn’t a fairy tale. People were going to die- and he was going to have to make some tough decisions if he wanted to protect himself and the people he loved.

 

Looking at Percival, he knew he’d made the right decision this time.

 

He looked back down at his hands, but only for a moment before he felt Percival’s other hand pushing his damp hair back away from his face, and his breath caught in his throat as he looked up in surprise. The silence was near deafening, and Newt’s heart was beating so hard against his ribs that he was sure Percival could probably hear it, or feel his pulse in his hand.

 

“Percival…” he started, but he couldn’t finish the sentence, couldn’t even begin to come up with the words. And he didn’t need to, because in the next moment Percival leaned forward and kissed him, cupping his face gently in one hand.

 

He stopped breathing, stopped thinking, and found himself easily relaxing into it as he returned the kiss. He’d always thought it would be strange or awkward, especially with his nervous tendencies, but this just felt right in a way that nothing else ever had. It was the same rush through him as he’d gotten with his wand, except this was on every level, not just magical.

 

He leaned forward with a soft noise of displeasure when Percival pulled away, and he opened his eyes when he heard Percival chuckle. Percival’s hand slid up into his hair in a gesture that sent a shiver down his spine, and he let out a shaky breath.

 

“If MACUSA or Grindelwald try to lay a hand on you, they’re going to regret it more than they think possible,” Percival said, and Newt believed him.

 

Then again, he had the feeling he would have believed anything Percival said right then. His brain was a bit addled, to say the least.

 

And he was completely okay with that.

 

Chapter Text

Percival had always convinced himself that he would never ‘need’ anyone. That he would be perfectly, completely capable of functioning at his best without any one particular person in his life. He considered it a weakness to be so dependent on someone for your mental well-being, and a strength to not have those attachments to worry about. He was ‘married to his work’, so to speak.

 

But seeing the way Newt’s skin flushed pink, the way his eyes took on that dazed look just from one kiss- well, he might be rethinking that whole philosophy. Just a bit. Maybe.

 

He didn’t get a chance to overthink it, because there was a sudden pop, and Tina apparated into the middle of the room. Percival pulled his hand back from Newt’s face, but really, the damage was done; between their close proximity and the way Newt’s cheeks turned bright red, it was fairly obvious they’d been closer than was strictly necessary.

 

Luckily for Tina, she had good survival instincts; she raised an eyebrow, but she didn’t say a word about it. She set the brown suitcase down by the couch, and the Bowtruckle leapt from her hand onto Newt’s sleeve, promptly crawling up under the collar of his shirt and hiding there.

 

“I hope you know how much convincing it took to get that thing to come with me,” Tina said with a huff of frustration. “I moved as quickly as I could. Your wards are still in place.”

 

“Good,” Percival said with a sigh of relief. Perhaps Grindelwald would rightly assume they were too smart to try and stay at their homes for any length of time; he really didn’t want to deal with the awful curses a dark wizard could leave on his apartment. “What did the President say?”

 

“Well, she’s not happy, if that’s what you’re wondering.”

 

“…If she were happy about any part of this, I would seriously question her sanity. Get to the point, Goldstein.”

 

Tina nodded and took in a deep breath. “She says she’s giving this 24 hours before she orders you back in,” she explained. “In the meantime, I’m reporting back in to lead the aurors in the search for Grindelwald.”

 

Percival shook his head. “I’m not taking Newt back to MACUSA while Grindelwald is on the loose. He expects that, for us to take him to where we think is most safe,” he said, shooting Newt a look.

 

The redhead looked like the guilt was weighing down on him already. His eyes were downcast, features drawn in a frown, hands clasped to the hem of his shirt and fidgeting with it nervously as he sat in tense silence.

 

“I figured that’s what you’d say, but I didn’t tell her that. She’s losing patience, Mr. Graves,” Tina said softly. “I’ll cover for you for as long as I can, but I can only do so much.”

 

Percival knew she was trying, he did. And he appreciated it. Sometimes he wished he could show or articulate that appreciation a bit more effectively, but…well, he’d never been good at feelings. “I know. Thank you, Tina,” he said, the name coming out a bit awkward, but it seemed to have the intended effect. Tina’s shoulders relaxed the slightest bit, and she nodded.

 

“Are you going to stay here?” she asked, and Percival considered the question for a moment, looking around the dimly lit room.

 

“For as long as it’s safe,” he finally answered. “If we have to leave here, we’ll hit the safehouses in the Thunderbird formation, in order.”

 

“I’ll try and keep his attention off you,” Tina said with a weak smile. “Good luck, you two. I’ll check in.”

 

With that, she disapparated with a loud pop, and the room fell into silence again. Percival immediately focused on Newt, giving him what he hoped was a reassuring look. “We’ve got the best aurors in the country working on this, Newt. We’ll catch him,” he insisted, and Newt glanced up at him, and then over to the fire.

 

“What if he catches me?” he asked softly.

 

“It won’t come to that.”

 

“You can’t promise that.”

 

“You trust me, don’t you?”

 

Newt looked back at Percival again, this time meeting his eyes almost readily, the green made more vibrant by the flickering firelight. “Of course.”

 

The Bowtruckle made a rude noise from under his shirt collar, and Newt gasped softly. “That was incredibly impolite,” he scolded, and Percival couldn’t help but laugh. The whole situation felt strange and ridiculous, and having a pet along didn’t help that feeling of ‘what the hell has my life turned into’.

 

He looked up again to find Newt smiling at him gently, fondly, looking at him in a way that no one else had ever looked at him before.

 

It was both thrilling and terrifying to know that he’d gotten so deep in this, so quickly.

 

“Why did you have her bring the suitcase?” Newt suddenly asked, breaking through Percival’s thoughts. Percival followed Newt’s gaze to the battered brown suitcase sitting on the floor by the couch. It had been sitting in his closet for nearly a decade now, untouched; he’d never planned to use it, never thought he would have need of it. But here he was, in need of an escape that he would have called ‘cowardly’ only days ago.

 

“It’s…a family heirloom,” he explained, though that wasn’t exactly…right. “It will make more sense if I just show you.”

 

He pushed himself up off the couch, though his chest still ached and his head was still throbbing; he could only wonder how long he’d been in the water before Newt pulled him out. He set the suitcase flat on the floor, and then said a quick spell over it with his wand before he opened it up.

 

“Follow me,” he said, and Newt got a bewildered look on his face.

 

“Follow…?” he said with uncertainty, but Percival had already turned and started to step down into the suitcase. His feet hit the floor in the tiny shack that served as a ‘staging area’ to any other magical rooms or habitats created, and he waited for the inevitable moment when Newt slipped on the way down the ladder, ready to catch him and get his feet set on the floor properly.

 

“S-Sorry,” Newt apologized, ducking away from the eye contact bashfully, and Percival snorted.

 

“Don’t apologize. You’ve only been walking for two days,” he pointed out. He hardly expected Newt to have already mastered things like ladders. He let go of the redhead, and Newt looked around the room in wonder.

 

“There’s a whole room in here…” he asked, and Percival smirked.

 

“There’s more than a room,” he pointed out, and then he opened the door of the shack and stepped outside.

 

He hadn’t had much strength to spare for this, so outside the room was just one new ‘addition’- a small salt water lake, and a pristine beach around the edges of it. The water was a vibrant clear blue, and at the bottom there was coral and rock overhangs. Above the miniature sea was a sky full of stars, looking for all the world like the open, natural night sky- if you ignored the artificial walls of the habitat with mere illusions of the sea beyond on it.

 

Newt stepped out beside him and Percival heard him take in a sharp breath, and at first, he was afraid he’d crossed some sort of line, that he’d made Newt’s homesickness worse. “This is a safe place to go when we think our position might be compromised,” he explained almost hastily, trying to downplay it. “I’m sorry I couldn’t do much with it. I can add more habitats later, when I have my strength back; it can theoretically be endlessly expanded, but it just takes time to-“

 

He didn’t get to finish the sentence. Newt slid a hand around the back of his neck and tugged him into a kiss, and it took Percival a surprised moment before he returned it.

 

When they finally broke apart, Newt was actually blushing, looking more bashful than anything else. “My apologies,” he said, the words coming out in a breathless rush. “I just…this is wonderful. You have no idea how much I appreciate this.”

 

“I know it’s nothing like home.”

 

“It’s more than enough.”

 

There was a sudden chittering noise from under Newt’s shirt collar, and the Bowtruckle peered out, looking around the ‘beach’. It didn’t seem to approve; at the sight of so much water, it ducked back under Newt’s shirt collar with a disgruntled noise.

 

Newt hesitated and bit his lip nervously before looking back up at Percival, for only a moment. “Do you think we could make a tree for Pickett?”

 

“Pickett?” Percival repeated with a raised eyebrow, and Newt fidgeted in place.

 

“That’s his name.”

 

Percival was tempted to say that ‘Pickett’ was an illegally smuggled creature that was technically meant to be in MACUSA custody, but he managed to bite back the words. It wouldn’t do any good to have Newt thinking he was going to lose one of his only ‘friends’.

 

“Crafting something out of the magic in the case is…tiring at best. I can show you how, if you want to try,” Percival offered, and Newt looked up at him with such hope in his eyes that Percival wouldn’t have been able to say no, even if he’d wanted to. He walked to a more open spot on the beach and gestured for Newt to follow.

 

“Normally trees wouldn’t grow in sand, but we aren’t bound by the usual rules in here,” he said, and then he nodded toward Newt’s wand. “Get your wand ready. I don’t think you’ll need an incantation for this, but if you start to get dizzy, stop.”

 

Newt nodded, holding his wand as naturally as if he’d had one his whole life. “Okay. What do I do?”

 

“Focus on what you want to grow. Put every ounce of thought into it, picture it exactly how you want it to be. Breathe life into it.”

Newt nodded and looked toward the sand, and then held his wand out over it and closed his eyes. At first nothing happened, but then, slowly, a sapling began to sprout from the sand, green leaves unfurling,

 

Percival had never met anyone so naturally gifted with magic in his entire life. It was fascinating, watching the energy just bend to his whim, creating something beautiful where there had been only sand before. In no time, there was a small tree standing in the sand, the leaves full and bright.

 

Percival just barely noticed Newt swaying in time to grab him and keep him upright. “Newt!” he snapped, and the merman opened his eyes, blinking in confusion.

 

“Sorry, I got...carried away,” he said with a sheepish smile, leaning heavily on Percival as he looked up at the tree. “It worked, though.”

 

“It did, but be more careful next time,” Percival scolded, but Newt was already stepping away toward the tree, one hand going for Pickett at his collar. He held the little insect creature out toward the tree, and it grabbed at the leaves and climbed in. It seemed to have its heart set on exploring, and Newt smiled as he watched on.

 

It was a genuine smile, no nervousness or awkwardness to it, and Percival found himself staring again. Newt was beautiful like this, with his mind completely caught up in something to the point of losing all that shyness, all that awkwardness.

 

Maybe someday, Newt would be able to leave all that behind when he was with Percival.

 

Percival immediately scolded himself for thinking like that. This whole thing was ill advised, getting this attached, this hopeful. Newt couldn’t stay here, when all was said and done.

 

He would have to go home before MACUSA could make a different decision. Staying with Percival would literally be the death of him.

 

“Are you alright?” Newt suddenly asked, and Percival realized he’d been frowning, lost in thought.

 

“I’m fine,” he started, but then he hesitated when he heard a sound from above, from outside the suitcase. Tina wouldn’t be back already, would she? She had to get the group of aurors together, brief them, begin a search- she couldn’t be done already.

 

Not unless something had gone wrong, and she needed him.

 

“Stay here. I’ll go see what’s going on,” he said to Newt, and he ignored the inevitable protests and headed for the shack to climb back up. When he got to the top of the ladder, the room was just as dark and still as it had been, and he immediately closed the suitcase and pulled out his wand.

 

Something wasn’t right. He could feel it.

 

He was prepared for it when a hex fired out of the darkness of the next room, and he reflected it back at his attacker and heard a cry of pain. From there, the darkness lit up with spells, and Percival easily slipped into a battle stance to deflect and nullify the spells being tossed his way.

 

He found himself quickly becoming overwhelmed, though. He could see flashes in the dark of his assailants, at least three of them, and he knew he couldn’t keep this up forever. A spell struck him on the arm and he flinched- and just then, Newt stepped up beside him, wand at the ready, his expression determined.

 

“Newt-“ he started, but the merman had already tossed two spells, and there was a shriek of pain from the darkness- and then Newt jerked with a gasp, and Percival smelled the distinct scent of burning flesh.

 

They were too weakened from the day, and this was not going in their favor. Percival took a risk; he dropped his guard, grabbed the suitcase in one hand, Newt’s arm in the other, and he apparated away.

 

The safehouse they landed in was one he was familiar with; a townhouse on a quiet side street, hidden from No-Maj’s. The interior was just like any muggle home would be; a sitting area, a table for meals, cabinets, and a fireplace. He let go of Newt and the suitcase, his mind racing as he silently set to work putting up the strongest wards he could manage, despite the fact that his wand hand was already trembling from his efforts.

 

“There’s only one way they found us so quickly,” he said to Newt, who was cradling his left arm with a grimace. “It’s your magic.”

 

Newt looked up, wide-eyed. “My magic?”

 

Percival finished the last ward and leaned against the table for a moment to catch his breath. “The basis of your magic came from Grindelwald,” he said, looking at Newt and trying to mask any fear that might be in his expression. “Tell me, would a merperson always recognize the call of their own child?”

 

“I…of course, but I…”

 

Newt’s voice trailed off as the realization hit him, and he went several shades more pale, his shoulders hunching even more. “He can…track my magic?” he asked in a near whisper, and Percival winced at the honest terror in Newt’s face.

 

“Yes. Especially now that he’s felt it, and now that you’re so close to him physically,” he said, and then he went to where Newt stood shock still, and he gently took hold of his injured arm. The sleeve was burned through, and the flesh beneath was burned and blistering. “I’m sure we have something to treat this. Hold on.”

 

He started to turn away, but Newt grabbed onto him and looked him in the eye in desperation. “You can’t stay here,” he said pleadingly. “If Grindelwald can track me now, he’ll just follow me anywhere. You’ll be killed.”

 

“Newt. Calm down,” Percival said, keeping his voice low and calm. “I put up wards to mask your presence. They’ll last at least a few hours before we’ll need to move again. There’s no need to panic.”

 

“I won’t have you hurt again because of me!”

 

There was such passion in his voice that it brought Percival up short, and he pulled Newt in close, cupping the redhead’s face in both hands. “I’m not leaving,” he said sternly. “If a little danger scared me off, I would have left my job a long time ago. I’m going to see this through, so there’s no point in arguing. Okay?”

 

Newt took in a shaky breath. “Why do you have to be so stubborn?” he asked, and Percival smirked.

 

“Sorry. It’s part of the package,” he said, and then he kissed Newt lightly and stepped away. “Now, let’s get that wound treated.”

 

“And yours too?” Newt asked with a pointed look at Percival’s bloodstained sleeve, and Percival just chuckled as he walked to the cabinet where he knew there was an emergency supply of potions and remedies.

 

He set to work treating both of them for the few wounds they had, and for a while, they were both quiet. It was a tense silence, one that spoke volumes of how precarious their situation currently was. Newt was the first to break the silence as he finished wrapping a bandage around Percival’s arm.

 

“Should we let Tina know what happened?” he asked, and Percival shook his head.

 

“No. To do any kind of communication out, I would have to weaken the wards. We can’t risk it,” he said. “We’ll just have to hope they can get on the trail quickly. Cut the head off the serpent, so to speak. Grindelwald is almost certainly sending out his henchmen to wear us down for when he decides to show up himself.”

 

“So…what do we do?”

 

Percival met Newt’s gaze, those green eyes troubled, looking to Percival for reassurance that he wasn’t sure he could give. The two of them up against the most powerful dark wizard of their time? It seemed folly, almost.

 

But Percival had been accused of not knowing his limits before, and if he had a feeling about them now, the urge to protect Newt was far too much to back down from.

 

“We stay until the wards start to weaken, then I’ll apparate us to the next safe house and put up new ones,” he said. “That’s all we can do, for now.”

 

Right now, their lives were in Tina Goldstein’s hands- and if there was ever a situation he never thought he would find himself in, this was it.

 

He could only hope Tina was as good of an auror as he’d thought when he took her under his wing.

 

Chapter Text

Newt could tell that Percival was tired. They had to move every three or four hours, and Percival would dutifully put up a new set of wards to block their presence; Newt offered to help, but the idea fell flat when he realized using his own magic to block his magic was an idiotic idea.

 

He felt helpless. Useless.

 

The best he could do was offer to keep watch while Percival slept. The man managed to get in a few hours, and then a couple of more after they moved again, and then it was Newt’s turn to sleep. That seemed to help- at least they weren’t on the run and exhausted as well.

 

Eventually, though, Newt needed to get away from it all for a few moments, at least. He found himself wandering back down into the suitcase, back to the paradise Percival had created. He stood by the water, the waves lapping gently at the shore, and he took in a deep breath of the salty air and closed his eyes.

 

Were he not standing on very human feet, he could have imagined he was sitting on a rock outcropping above his ocean home.

 

He missed it. He missed his brother, even missed his strict, stand-off-ish father, missed the coral reefs and the brightly colored fish. That was all he’d ever known till now, and while the thrill of new discoveries was fulfilling in an entirely different way, he couldn’t help but worry about his family.

 

They’d already lost his mother to humans, to wizards, when they stayed in one place for too long. Newt was only alive and uncaptured- till now- because his mother had sacrificed herself to give himself and Theseus time to escape.

 

Now it might all be for nothing, if Newt didn’t make it through this alive.

 

He opened his eyes and began to strip off his clothes, setting each piece carefully to the side until he was entirely naked. Then, with one last deep breath of air, he dove into the water. The effect was immediate; the spell keeping him human unraveled, and he felt his legs fuse together, felt the tingle of fins sprouting from his head and his tail fin. His gills formed and flared, and he let a rush of water go through them, relishing the feeling of the clean, clear water. The last things to make the switch were his canine teeth sharpening to fanged points, and his hands growing back the claws, and the webbed membranes between his fingers.

 

The small lake was just big enough for him to kick his tail fin and swim as fast as he could for a few moments before turning abruptly to miss the rocks that made up the sides. He twisted and turned through the coral and the rock caves, just like he would if he were racing his brother. It was an exercise in futility, really- Theseus had always been faster than him. Better than him at most things, really.

 

But that was okay. Newt didn’t want to be extraordinary.

 

He heard the sound of a voice above him, filtered strangely through the water, and he broke the surface and smiled when he saw Percival at the shore. Percival was standing a respectable distance from the water, and Newt didn’t miss the way he glanced down at the water with what seemed like trepidation.

 

“Sorry,” Newt said a bit sheepishly. “I should have told you I was coming down here.”

 

“It’s alright. I figured this was where you would be,” Percival replied, and then he sat down on the sand of the shore. “I refreshed the wards. We can stay here a few hours longer.”

 

Newt kicked his fin and swam to the shore, building up enough speed to slide onto the sand nearly next to Percival, much like one of the predator whales would try to reach a seal on land. Once his gills had closed and he’d taken a couple breaths of air, he turned over and sat up, then scooted back on the sand until he was next to the human.

 

Percival reached out toward Newt’s hand but hesitated, and he looked up at Newt’s face. “May I?” he asked, and Newt realized what he was asking; in answer, he gently set his hand in Percival’s, careful to mind his claws.

 

The differences were striking. Where Percival’s fingers were completely separate, Newt’s were webbed together up nearly to the tips. The membrane between darkened to a translucent blue that matched his tail; the membrane wasn’t delicate, but tougher than normal skin. It had to be, with how much merfolk used their hands. The claws were a dark blue, ending in dangerous sharp points, made for preparing food and for self-defense.

 

“You’re amazing,” Percival said as he trailed his fingers across the back of Newt’s hand, lightly touching the webbing between his thumb and index finger before sliding a fingertip down one claw. Newt shivered.

 

“I’m nothing special,” he said softly in reply, and Percival snorted.

 

“Nothing special. Right,” he repeated dryly. “Just a merman who can use wandless magic that makes a dark wizard pause in his steps.”

 

Newt didn’t feel special, that was for sure. After living his whole life being told that he was cursed, that he was destined for a life of running away, he’d never thought of himself as much more than a burden. Perhaps that was why he was constantly getting into trouble trying to help other creatures; maybe not just to win his family’s approval, but to convince himself that he wasn’t just a curse, not just a burden. That he could be something useful, something to be proud of.

 

“Newt,” Percival said, pulling Newt from his thoughts. He felt Percival’s hand on the side of his head, tugging him up to meet his eye, until his fingers touched Newt’s ear fin. Both of Newt’s ear fins twitched, sensitive to the touch, and Percival laughed softly.

 

“Tell me about your home,” he asked, and Newt smiled and looked back down at his hands.

 

“I’ve had a lot of them,” he admitted. “We had to keep moving. We knew that wizard would be coming back for me.”

 

“We?”

 

“Me, my brother, my father, and…” Newt trailed off and swallowed hard, the smile fading a bit as he continued. “And my mother. But she’s been gone a long time now.”

 

Percival didn’t push on that, and Newt appreciated it. He didn’t want to talk about it, wasn’t ready to. So instead he told Percival about his brother, his closest friend; their races through the coral reefs, his constant worried scolding, his way of seeming cool and confident no matter the situation.

 

“It sounds like you really miss him,” Percival finally said when Newt had finished, and Newt couldn’t help but be surprised how easily this was coming to him; normally he would only talk so freely around Theseus.

 

“I do. I…I’m worried about them. They don’t know where I’ve gone,” he said, staring out at the water. “They must think me dead by now.”

 

“If Theseus is anything like you’ve described, he won’t give up that easily.”

 

Newt ducked his head a bit and smiled. “You would get along with him, I think. If…if he liked wizards, that is.”

 

“You changed your mind about them rather quickly,” Percival pointed out, and Newt laughed softly.

 

“I think a certain wizard saving my life had something to do with that,” he said, and then Percival was kissing him again, slowly, deeply, and it made a warm feeling settle in Newt all over again. He was mindful of his fangs as he returned the kiss, not wanting to accidentally hurt Percival; when they broke apart, he laughed again, and Percival raised an eyebrow.

 

“What’s so funny?” he asked, and Newt shook his head and looked away.

 

“Just…if Theseus knew I had a human as a potential, I can only imagine the fit he would be throwing,” he said, and Percival frowned in confusion.

 

“A…potential?” he asked, and Newt felt his cheeks redden.

 

“Oh. I suppose you call it something different, don’t you?” he asked. “A potential is…well, it’s difficult to explain. What do humans call someone who you aren’t…committed to, but interested in?”

 

Percival seemed amused by how flustered Newt was getting, dodging the wizard’s gaze and fidgeting with his claws. “We usually just say we’re ‘dating’,” he said, which made no sense whatsoever to Newt, but human slang rarely made much sense.

 

Like the first time he overheard someone say ‘you slay me!’ and discovered they weren’t, in fact, in fear of being murdered.

 

“Right. So, um…a potential is someone you’re sort of ‘dating’,” Newt said, and he could practically feel himself blushing even more. “Not that we’re dating or anything. Officially, I mean. That’s, uh…probably something you need to mutually decide, I would imagine. There are social intricacies on both sides, of course, and I’m sure the etymology is a bit different, and there’s the physiological changes as well, which I believe are dissimilar…”

 

“Wait, physiological changes?” Percival asked, interrupting Newt’s nervous rambling. Newt gave him an incredulous look.

 

“The bonding. You have it, don’t you?”

 

“We have marriage, but it’s a ceremony. There’s nothing physiological about it,” Percival said, and Newt blinked in surprise. This only seemed to make Percival more curious. “What do you mean, the bonding?” he asked.

 

“When you have a potential, when you spend time with them, it’s to make sure you’re a compatible match for bonding. You gain a connection with them, a sort of…sixth sense. Even from a long distance, you can feel their emotions, and you can tell when they’re in pain,” Newt explained, completely baffled that humans- and wizards- didn’t have that at all. “If that connection doesn’t form, you know the potential isn’t meant to be a bond-mate.”

 

“And how long does this ‘connection’ take to form?”

 

Newt shrugged. “It depends on the strength of the potential bond. Sometimes days, usually weeks,” he said, and Percival took in a deep breath.

 

“I had no idea it was so complicated for you,” he said, and Newt felt his heart beat faster. How would a wizard know if they had a compatible bond-mate if they didn’t have any physiological connection? Did they sense it in a different way? Did they just go with whomever they wanted, and hope they were destined? Of course there had been merfolk who claimed a failed potential as their bond-mate, and even a few who were happy that way, but those were the exception, not the rule.

 

His stomach twisted uncomfortably as he wondered if Percival could even form that connection with him- he couldn’t deny there was attraction here, but with no bond connection…

 

“Newt. You’re thinking too much,” Percival said, taking hold of Newt’s hand again. Newt looked down at their joined hands, blue against paler skin, and he tightened his grip carefully.

 

“I suppose I am. Now isn’t the time for it, anyway,” he said softly, trying to put the thoughts to the back of his mind. No, they needed to focus on the danger at hand, not on problems that weren’t even problems yet.

 

He found that Percival kissing him again was an excellent distraction, anyway. The first time, and all the subsequent times, until he couldn’t even begin to tell when one kiss ended and the next began. When he finally pulled away he was breathless and his heart was fluttering like a seahorse’s fins.

 

“Sorry,” he managed, his voice a bit…well, wrecked. “Getting a bit dry.”

 

“You’re welcome to go back in the water. Or,” Percival started, his eyes seeming darker than usual, his grip on Newt just a bit tighter. “Or I could change you to human.”

 

It wasn’t a simple question. There was a hint there, a promise, and it wasn’t hard to tell what was actually meant by it. But most importantly, Percival had given him the option- he’d offered to let Newt halt the situation if he felt too uncomfortable, without asking him outright, which would no doubt leave him more of a flustered mess.

 

It made him even fonder of the wizard sitting beside him, and he gathered his courage, so close to Percival that they were breathing the same air, their noses nearly touching.

 

“I want to be with you.”

 

Percival didn’t hesitate. Newt suddenly found himself being lifted up in the man’s arms, and he yelped in surprise and wrapped his arms around Percival’s neck just as the man apparated them away. Newt was beginning to get used to the feeling, but it still took a moment to regain his bearings, and by then Percival was laying him down on a bed.

 

The safe house they were currently in was downtown, high up in a human ‘apartment building’, with a view of the city lights much like Percival’s own apartment. The bedroom was mostly taken up by a large four-post bed, which was what Percival had set him down on. The wizard didn’t need his wand this time to perform the necessary spell, and luckily Newt was dry enough that he immediately began to change back to human.

 

This time Percival didn’t bother averting his eyes, and Newt took in a sharp breath and blushed at the hungry look in the man’s eyes. Percival crawled over him, and then used one hand to brush Newt’s hair back from his face; the eye contact was nearly overwhelming, though Newt found it equally difficult to avert his gaze.

 

“You tell me if you want me to stop,” Percival said, his voice low as he leaned in to kiss Newt again. His hand moved to slide down Newt’s bare side, and he gasped and arched into the contact, his hands grabbing and tugging at Percival’s shirt insistently. Eventually he managed to find the buttons on the front, and he fumbled trying to undo them, still somewhat unfamiliar with how they worked.

 

Somehow, they managed to get Percival’s clothes off without him having to leave his position on top of Newt. From there, yes, it was awkward, especially at the start; Newt wasn’t entirely sure how this was supposed to work for humans, wasn’t sure if what he was feeling was normal. His whole body hummed with pleasure as Percival explored him with gentle touches and light kisses, and soon he found himself giving in to what felt right, clinging to Percival and drinking in every little touch, every sound. And Percival was perfect, beyond perfect, every movement slow and careful, caresses turning into something more as he gained confidence that Newt wasn’t going to object to what he was doing.

 

Newt was the furthest thing from objecting. He wanted this, wanted to be as close to Percival as he could be, even if just for tonight.

 

He wasn’t prepared for the intensity of it when Percival slipped one, then two slick fingers into him, quickly finding a spot that made Newt moan with abandon when he pressed against it. It was enough to distract from any pain from the stretch of it, and by the time Percival pulled his hand back Newt was a trembling, panting mess, pupils blown with want and need.

 

That had been nothing compared to having Percival inside him, though. Their bodies fit together like they’d been designed to end up like this, the weight of the wizard on him keeping Newt grounded and steady, even as he wrapped his legs around Percival’s waist to try and pull him in even closer. Even without claws, his nails were probably drawing blood with how tightly he was clutching Percival to him, his thoughts a desperate mess of more, please, Percival, please- and he must have said some of it aloud, because Percival gave him more, faster, even as he sucked a mark into the pale skin of Newt’s throat.

 

Newt felt as if he was on the edge of a precipice, and he wasn’t sure if he could handle the fall. He would break apart, fall apart, it would be too much, somehow, and yet he wanted it so badly. For the first time, he wanted to fall apart. “I…I c-can’t, Percival-“ he managed to choke out, not even sure if he was asking for less or more, and he felt Percival’s hand tighten its hold on his hip.

 

“You can,” Percival nearly growled, lifting his head to kiss Newt breathlessly. “It’s okay. Let go.”

 

And that was all it took, just those words, and Newt fell. He couldn’t think, couldn’t do anything but drown in the rush of pleasure that flooded him from head to toe, and he heard himself breathe out Percival’s name like a prayer. Just when he thought he couldn’t take any more, Percival groaned and stilled, his grip tightening painfully on Newt.

 

Despite the fact that they were both a sticky mess, Percival shifted to lie beside Newt and pulled him close as they caught their breath. Newt was too much of a mess to do anything but bask in the moment, nuzzling in close to Percival’s chest, savoring the closeness while he could.

 

If this was the only time he had this with Percival, this quiet moment, this one night, then he wanted to remember every second of it after…

 

…After he’d gone home.

 

He banished the thought for now and focused on the feel of being wrapped up in Percival’s arms- though he couldn’t deny that a part of him was already convinced that he would never find anything closer to perfect than this.

 

He fell asleep with the thought that if Percival wasn’t his bond-mate, he wasn’t sure he wanted one at all.

 

When he woke he was curled up in the blankets, the light of the sun through the window warming his skin. He took in a deep breath and stretched- and when he did, he quickly realized something was amiss. He he opened his eyes, and it only confirmed what he feared.

 

Percival was gone.

 

 

Chapter Text

Percival woke before Newt, and found himself holding his breath at the sight that greeted him.

 

Newt lay tangled in the white blanket on the bed, the sun barely kissing his shoulders and hair where he still slept on peacefully. Any anxiety or nervousness was completely gone from his features, and he looked almost…angelic.

 

He didn’t know what had come over him. Sleeping with Newt had been a bad idea, he wasn’t blind to that- not because he didn’t want to, but because he did. And he didn’t want this to be the only time, but logically, he knew that part of him had gone through with this because he knew it might be his only chance.

 

For the first time in his life he’d met someone that he could see himself falling for, and he knew it wasn’t meant to last. It was too dangerous for Newt to stay, and Percival obviously couldn’t go with him.

 

He never thought he would have such a gut-wrenching lesson in what the term ‘star crossed lovers’ really meant.

 

He reached out to lightly brush Newt’s hair back from his face, and the man shifted in sleep and nuzzled in closer to him in a way that made Percival’s heart stutter. He was beginning to drift off again when he felt something change- the presence of magic in the room, urgent magic, and when he realized what it was he slowly sat up and reached off the side of the bed for his coat where it had landed on the floor in their haste only hours before.

 

His notebook was almost painfully hot to the touch, the magic radiating off it in urgency. He opened it and a message began to appear in Tina’s scrawled penmanship.

 

Picked up Grindelwald’s trail. Ends at the empty warehouse on 23rd, strong shields up on the building. Can’t break through without alerting to our presence. Advise?

 

Percival bit back a curse of frustration. There was no way to tell if Grindelwald was in fact turtling there, or if it was a red herring meant to mislead them. But either way, they needed to get into that warehouse, and he was the best among the aurors at breaking through shields.

 

He looked at Newt again, who was still sleeping peacefully. He could probably leave, speak with Tina, bring down the shields, and be back before Newt even woke up, if he hurried. He had the brief thought of leaving a note, but then remembered that Newt couldn’t read; a note wouldn’t do much good.

 

He retrieved his pen from his pocket and wrote back a quick reply on Tina’s page- Coming to assist, don’t proceed until I reach you- and then he put the notebook and pen away in his coat pocket.

 

He carefully got out of the bed, moving slowly so as not to disturb Newt, and he made quick work of getting dressed and refreshing the wards on the safe house as strong as he could make them. Newt would be safe here for hours yet, with or without Percival here. He paused then, and took a moment to lean over and kiss Newt on the forehead with a feather light touch.

 

“I’ll be back soon,” he whispered, and then he reluctantly apparated away, to a spot about a block from the warehouse in question.

 

He started toward the warehouse, keeping an eye out for anything out of the ordinary; he was around the corner from it when he first felt the shields on the building. They were impressive, built of intricate spells that would intimidate most aurors, but Percival knew he could unravel them.

 

The question was, where was Tina and her team?

 

He circled the building at a safe distance, but there was no sign of her or any of his department. He began to wonder if they’d been discovered- if they’d been taken inside the shield. If so, they would be in grave danger right now, some of them possibly dead.

 

There was only one way to find out, and that was to get inside that shield.

 

He picked a side of the building where there was a narrow alleyway and no windows on the warehouse, and once there he pulled out his wand and set to work. It was time consuming and tiring, breaking through the shield without alerting to his presence, and he only did as much as it took to get through the shield and into the back door of the warehouse. Once inside he kept his wand drawn, his footfalls near silent on the wooden floor as he made his way down the dark hallway.

 

The silence was unsettling. If Grindelwald had captives here, he was keeping them quiet, one way or another. Percival could only hope he hadn’t arrived too late; his heart sped up a bit at the thought of arriving only to find his aurors dead at the hands of dark wizards. He would never forgive himself if he’d led them to their deaths, and hadn’t even been there to defend them.

 

He came to a door and listened for anything beyond, but only more silence greeted him. He turned the knob and pushed the door open, inch by inch- and then a spell hit him from behind, making him stumble forward into the large, empty expanse of the main room of the warehouse.

 

He spun around, gritting his teeth against the pain as he blocked the next two spells that followed. Grindelwald stepped into the room behind him, a smug smirk on his face, his wand out and at the ready.

 

Percival suddenly felt a stab of fear, seemingly out of nowhere- fear, concern, worry, which didn’t make any sense, considering he wasn’t scared of Grindelwald. But the feeling faded, leaving him facing the man one on one, and Grindelwald chuckled.

 

“That was all too easy,” he said, and Percival kept his wand up, ready for anything.

 

“Where are my aurors?” he asked, and Grindelwald shrugged, circling Percival slowly, like a predator preparing to attack.

 

“I don’t have the faintest idea where they are. My men ran them off hours ago from our stronghold on the south side of town,” he said, and then he pulled a familiar notebook from his coat. “The woman did drop this as she fled, though. Handy little thing. Smart. Your idea, I presume?”

 

Percival hoped his frustration didn’t show on his face; he’d been led into a trap. His aurors weren’t here, had never been here, and Tina hadn’t sent that message- which meant he was trapped here with Grindelwald, and no one knew he was here. It was quite possibly the worst position he could possibly be in- and it left Newt open to attack if he didn’t get away from here and get back before the wards started to weaken.

 

“What do you want?” he asked Grindelwald, ignoring the dark wizard’s pointless question, and Grindelwald smiled broadly.

 

“You’re going to tell me where my little fish is.”

 

“Like hell I am.”

 

Grindelwald’s smile turned into a cold smirk. “Oh, I’ll show you hell, Mr. Graves.”

 

Grindelwald was like a snake on the attack- he struck out suddenly, and with speed that rivaled even Percival’s skill with a wand, but he didn’t get this far to be bested by one dark wizard, however talented he might be. Percival blocked every one of Grindelwald’s spells, and dodged when the man used his free hand to send a stack of crates tumbling over nearly on top of him.

 

But Grindelwald had one advantage, and that was the fact that he was rested. Percival had been on the run, constantly creating and reinforcing the strongest wards he could manage, catching sleep when he could, and then unraveling the shields on this building. He was tired, while Grindelwald had likely been biding his time, sending out his men to do the hard work in the meantime.

 

Percival took a step back under the onslaught, and then Grindelwald aimed a spell at the wooden floor under his feet. When Percival stumbled, that was it; two spells landed and he gasped in pain and dropped to his knees, and then his wand hand got struck with another spell, sending his wand across the floor with a clatter.

 

Invisible bindings spun around his wrists and yanked his hands behind him, and he tried to pull free, but it was no use. Grindelwald walked up to him, and to Percival’s credit, the dark wizard looked winded and irritated; it seemed he’d expected the auror to be an easier opponent to defeat.

 

“I’ll give you a chance to do this the easy, painless way,” he said, adjusting his grip on his wand. “Where is Scamander?”

 

Percival knew what that slight adjustment meant. He knew exactly what would happen if he refused to answer the question.

 

He also didn’t care; he would never give Newt up like this.

 

“Somewhere safe from you. And it’s going to stay that way,” he growled.

 

The effect was immediate; Grindelwald lifted his wand, and with a burst of red light and an uttered “Crucio,” Percival’s world exploded into pain.

 

He’d been hit with the Cruciatus curse before, but it had always been briefly in the heat of battle, hot spikes of pain that were quickly interrupted when other aurors came to his aid. This time there was no such help, and it didn’t stop. It felt like every inch of him was being driven through on sharp blades, like his bones were on fire, and the scream it wrenched from him was unlike any sound he’d heard himself make before. He dropped to the floor on his side, trying to curl up, trying to fend off the pain, just trying to breathe-

 

It ended as quickly as it had begun. The room was spinning as he gasped for air, his whole body trembling, and Grindelwald stepped in closer.

 

“Tell me where he is, Graves.”

 

And oh, Percival didn’t want to go through it again; the promise of the pain returning was enough to make him wish for unconsciousness.

 

But then he thought of Newt lying beside him, the sunlight on his freckled skin, the peaceful look on his face- no, Grindelwald wouldn’t have that. Couldn’t.

 

He would die before he allowed it.

 

Obviously his silence wasn’t a satisfying answer. “Crucio!” Grindelwald snapped with a gesture of his wand, and pain flooded through Percival like fire through his veins, scorching him from the inside out. His ears were ringing, he could taste blood in his mouth, and even though Grindelwald had released him from the invisible bindings, the idea of retaliation was impossible as his nails dragged against the floor beneath him.

 

He wanted this to end. He wanted to die of this pain, to have relief from it, wanted to beg and plead despite the fact that it would do no good. Not when he wasn’t willing to give Grindelwald what he wanted.

 

The pain stopped again; that is, all of it except for his throbbing head and the tips of his fingers, scraped raw from where he’d clawed at the floor in agony. He let out a sob, unable to convince his muscles to make any move toward getting up.

 

“You’re a smart man, Percival. You have to know how this will end for you,” Grindelwald pointed out, though it took effort for Percival to focus on his voice through the ringing in his ears. “Tell me where Scamander is, and the pain will stop. You owe nothing to that creature; this is no business of yours.”

 

Percival fought to regain control of himself, anger taking over at Grindelwald’s words. “He’s not a c-creature,” he managed, his voice raw and shaking- and Grindelwald tilted his head curiously, and then knelt down in front of Percival.

 

“Don’t tell me,” he said with a hint of disbelief in his words, and then he touched Percival’s head, and a rush of memories played like frayed, flickering snapshots in his mind.

 

-Newt by the fireplace, the light from the flames flickering across his features-

 

-a golden rush of magic as Newt’s hand closed around his wand for the first time-

 

-green eyes full of wonder as Newt looked up into the false sky at MACUSA-

 

-blue shining scales, a clawed hand in his-

 

-Newt arching beneath him, nails digging into his skin as Newt’s body tightened around him, a gasp of Percival’s name-

 

Percival reeled and lashed out, forcing Grindelwald from his mind, but the damage was done. The wizard was laughing now as he stood and began to pace.

 

“Oh, this is just rich. You’re in love with him!” he crowed, and Percival flinched, the intrusion in his mind even more violating than any pain Grindelwald had inflicted.

 

“Stay out of m-my head,” he managed to growl as he tried to sit up- but then there was a flash of red light, and pain slammed into him like a runaway carriage. He fell back to the floor with a ragged scream, though the pain this time was short lived. Grindelwald seemed to be too amused to keep the spell going, for the moment.

 

‘The auror in love with a merman. I thought I had planned for every eventuality, but it seems that I was wrong,” he said, stepping around Percival’s trembling form. “It’s so beautifully tragic. But still.”

 

He knelt down in front of Percival again, and tightened his grip on his wand. “Love only goes so far when you can’t handle the pain anymore. You will break, one way or another.”

 

Percival twitched and groaned, fighting down the echoes of pain. “I’ll die before I l-let you have him,” he said, and Grindelwald clicked his tongue, as if he were disappointed.

 

“I suppose you will,” he said, and then he stood again. “Crucio.”

 

Pain was all Percival knew for what seemed like hours, but was probably only minutes. It became so overwhelming that it was difficult to remember his own name, difficult to remember what Grindelwald was asking him or why, and his own blood felt like searing hot poison flowing through his veins. He felt as if his body would simply break, crack open, like he would shatter as a glass vase would on the hard floor, leaving only shards.

 

The few moments that the pain did stop, when Grindelwald would ask him that same question all over again, Percival thought of beautiful green eyes and a shy smile. He thought of the trust that Newt had in him, of the utter surrender in Newt’s confidence in him.

 

-fear, something’s wrong, he’s in pain, I don’t understand, why is there so much pain-

 

He felt as if he were beginning to lose his mind. Some of his thoughts didn’t feel like his own anymore. He felt scattered to the winds, pulled back together only for the sake of Grindelwald inflicting another curse on him.

 

But even as his mind seemed to be falling apart, he didn’t give in. Grindelwald was becoming more and more frustrated, Percival could tell that much even without being able to think straight anymore. The blonde wizard was pacing, muttering, every Cruciatus curse more vicious than the last as he tried to force Percival to betray Newt’s trust.

 

For once, Percival wished that his wand was within reach not to fight back in a losing battle, but to kill himself to make the pain stop.

 

It was in between bouts of the Cruciatus curse when Grindelwald suddenly stopped in his pacing and straightened up, and then a slow, sly smile came across his face. Percival couldn’t even begin to think of what might be going on; his skin was burning, his head in a vice of painful pressure, and his whole body shaking from the effects of the torture. He tried to lift his head, and couldn’t even manage that much before curling up again on the floor with a groan of pain.

 

“I should thank you,” Grindelwald suddenly said, a look of triumph on his face, and his words completely devoid of the irritation he’d been building up until that point. “I had hoped to interrogate his location out of you, but it seems I didn’t even need to bother.”

 

Percival tried to make sense of the words. Didn’t need to interrogate? Thank him? He couldn’t connect the dots, not when the aftershocks of pain still coursed through him like sparks of electricity.

 

“I think love will be your downfall,” Grindelwald said, and then he reached down and grabbed Percival by the arm. “Come on, now. Your lover has practically lit a beacon; we shouldn’t keep him waiting.”

 

There was a rush of apparition, and Percival barely clung to consciousness as they landed in an alleyway, one he recognized as being just outside their safe house. Grindelwald shoved him to the ground, and Percival heard a gasp- and when he looked up, he found Newt standing a short distance away, wand out and creating a shield.

 

He’d left the wards and cast a spell to draw Grindelwald here- as if he somehow knew Percival was in danger.

 

But how?

 

“Did you know, Newt, that there is a spell that instantly kills?” Grindelwald said, his wand held at the ready, pointing at Percival. “It’s quite painless, considering how fast it works- unlike the spell I’ve been using on your lover all morning. That one is simply torturous.”

 

There were a few more pops of apparition, and Grindelwald’s wizards appeared in the alleyway behind Newt. Percival coughed and tried to sit up, but he fell back to the pavement as Newt dropped the shield he’d been holding and lowered his wand.

 

“That’s enough,” Newt said, his voice shaking, and Grindelwald raised an eyebrow.

 

“Give me a reason not to kill him, little fish,” he said, the words low and threatening, and Newt glanced at Percival with barely a hint of hesitation.

 

“I’ll go with you if you swear not to hurt him anymore.”

 

Percival tried to object, but it came out a whine of pain, every nerve ending still raw. Grindelwald smiled.

 

“Deal.”

Chapter Text

Newt got out of bed as soon as he realized Percival was missing, almost frantic in his hurry even though he hadn’t the slightest idea of what he was going to do- other than search the safe house, anyway. He went down into the suitcase to get his clothes, managing to slip and fall off the last rung of the ladder and land painfully on the floor. He found his clothes and quickly got dressed, and then searched the rest of the safe house.

 

But Percival was nowhere to be found.

 

Why would he just leave? Newt thought, wondering what could have drawn him out. Did he hear something outside? Did he go to see Tina? The wards were still firmly in place, Newt could sense that much.

 

He went back into the main room of the safe house and paced by the couch, worry and fear racing through him. Maybe Percival would be back soon- maybe he just had to go get something, or-

 

Newt suddenly stumbled and gasped as it felt like something icy clenched around his heart. Two realizations came to him in a rush- one, that Percival was in pain, a lot of pain, and two, that he knew Percival was in pain.

 

That could only mean one thing- they’d started to bond. And instead of being elated that it was possible, Newt could only feel dread at the echoes of pain he was feeling.

 

His father had always said that feeling your bond-mate in pain was like your world was crumbling down around you. Newt had never realized exactly what that meant, what that actually felt like, until this moment. He felt like he couldn’t quite get enough air into his lungs, like there was a pressure on his chest that felt wrong.

 

It let up, and then it hit him again, like the tail fin of a dolphin smacking him in the chest and knocking the water backward through his gills. Newt didn’t understand- something was horrifically wrong, the pain was too much even though he wasn’t the one feeling it, and it was making it hard for him to focus.

 

He needed to help. But how?

 

He had no idea where Percival went, and if he had to guess, he would put clams on the fact that it was probably Grindelwald causing this kind of pain. The pain wasn’t constant- it would start up, stop, and then start up again, with no more than a few seconds between.

 

-can’t breathe, make it stop, please, just make it stop-

 

Percival was being tortured, and the thought drew a strangled, helpless noise from Newt as he dropped down onto the nearby couch and tangled his hands in his hair in frustration. He had to do something; Percival would die if he didn’t. Surely no one could survive this kind of pain for long. The auror’s thoughts were already a confused string of pleas and curses as he tried to keep his head about him through the agony.

 

A burst of emotion from Percival- defiance- made it crystal clear to Newt just what was happening. Not just torture, but torture because Percival was refusing to give Newt up. If he died, it would be Newt’s fault; Newt was the reason Percival was in this whole mess in the first place.

 

He couldn’t live with the guilt if that happened. He’d already lost so much.

 

Then, he realized that there was one surefire way to take Grindelwald’s attention off Percival. The idea was repulsive, but the alternative was to listen to his bond-mate die, and that simply wasn’t an option. No, Newt would rather give Grindelwald what he wanted for now, so they could both live to fight another day.

 

He couldn’t do this without Percival.

 

Having made up his mind, he stood up and pulled his wand from his belt, and then he headed for the door of the safe house. He took the stairs down as quickly as he could, though he had to grab the railing a couple of times, still not used to using stairs at all. When he got to the door that led outside he closed his eyes, took in a deep breath, then opened his eyes and stepped outside. He could feel the tingling sensation across his skin as he stepped past the safety of the wards. He shut the door and adjusted his grip on his wand, and then he cast a shield around himself and waited.

 

He didn’t have to wait long. There was a loud pop of apparition a short distance down the alley, and Grindelwald appeared, holding Percival up by the arm. Newt took in a sharp breath as Grindelwald shoved the auror to the ground, and he had to fight to keep himself from going to Percival’s side; he didn’t want to jeopardize anything by making a wrong move.

 

“Did you know, Newt, that there is a spell that instantly kills?” Grindelwald asked him with a smirk, his wand pointed right at Percival, who only looked half conscious. “It’s quite painless, considering how fast it works- unlike the spell I’ve been using on your lover all morning. That one is simply torturous.”

 

Newt didn’t rise to the bait. He knew that Grindelwald was taunting him, trying to get him to lash out, and even though Newt wasn’t sure how Grindelwald found out how close they really were, he wasn’t about to fall for it. Not when Percival’s life depended on him keeping his cool.

 

He heard three more wizards apparate into the alley behind him, but he didn’t turn, didn’t take his eyes off Grindelwald. He let the shield fall away and lowered his wand; he’d only wanted to use it to draw Grindelwald here. It would be pointless to try to keep it up now, when he and Percival were heavily outnumbered.

 

“That’s enough,” he said, trying to keep his voice steady and failing. He wanted to sound firm, confident, but when he could still feel the waves of pain coming off his bond-mate, it was near impossible. Grindelwald arched an eyebrow at him.

 

“Give me a reason not to kill him, little fish,” he said, a threat implicit in his words, and Newt swallowed hard as he glanced down at Percival. When he looked back up at Grindelwald, his words came out stronger, more certain.

 

“I’ll go with you if you swear not to hurt him anymore,” he said, drawing a pained noise from Percival, probably one of protest. Newt’s eyes didn’t leave Grindelwald as the dark wizard’s look turned smug.

 

“Deal,” he said, and then he lifted his hand, and Newt’s wand was wrenched from his grip and flew into Grindelwald’s hand. The blonde stepped past Percival and walked to Newt, pocketing the wand as he walked.

 

“You come with me without a fight, and neither I nor my men will hurt him,” the man said, and though Newt didn’t trust a word he said, he didn’t have much choice, either. Grindelwald held out his hand, and Newt hesitated and looked past him at Percival, who seemed to be drifting in and out of consciousness.

 

“He’ll be fine. He’s resilient, if nothing else,” Grindelwald said, drawing Newt’s attention back to him. “Come on, Scamander. You’re the one who made the deal.”

 

Newt took a deep breath, and then set his hand in Grindelwald’s; the blonde wizard grinned, and then Newt felt the sickening lurch of apparition.

 

He ended up in a small, dimly lit room, and Grindelwald immediately pushed him down into a chair and set to work binding his wrists in front of him with what looked like simple rope that he picked up from the desk nearby. But as soon as the rope looped around once, Newt felt the magic coursing through it; it wouldn’t be able to be untied or severed with magic, he could tell that much.

 

“The plan went so smoothly until Graves got involved,” Grindelwald said as he pulled the rope almost painfully tight around Newt’s wrists and tied it. “But the end result will be the same, with or without the delays.”

 

“And what is the end result?” Newt asked without looking up. Grindelwald didn’t answer; instead, he took hold of Newt’s chin and forced him to look up, though Newt was obviously reluctant to make eye contact.

 

“I don’t blame him. You are rather pretty,” the man said, dragging his thumb across Newt’s lower lip. Newt tried to pull away, only to smack the back of his head against the wall behind him, and Grindelwald laughed. “Oh, don’t worry. I would make use of your body just for my own entertainment, but we really haven’t the time.”

 

Even the thought made Newt feel a bit nauseous, and relief took over when Grindelwald let go of him, letting him drop his gaze back to the floor. He didn’t speak as Grindelwald walked back to the desk and began to organize some papers.

 

“I consider it a stroke of genius, you know,” Grindelwald continued, obviously not bothered by the fact that Newt wasn’t bothering to reply to any of his questions or taunts. “The whole plot, beginning to end. I wish you could truly appreciate the scope of this; do you know how difficult it was to poison an entire bay without letting on that the contamination was magical to begin with?”

 

Newt felt like his heart came to a stop, and his head jerked up. “W-What?”

 

Grindelwald couldn’t be serious. He couldn’t be. All this time, and…

 

“The trick to ensuring cooperation is to make sure your target is desperate enough to hand over exactly what you want,” the wizard said, pride practically dripping from his words. “Poison the bay, pin it on the clueless humans and their messy machinery, and suddenly I had the local merfolk practically begging me to ‘fix it’. Which was easy, considering I started it in the first place.”

 

Newt’s breath was coming faster now, his mind reeling from the new information. His parents had always said there had been something wrong with the whole situation, but no one ever thought that the ‘kind’ wizard who offered to save them was the reason they were dying in the first place.

 

It had been a trap all along.

 

“And you…you turned out perfect,” Grindelwald continued, finally turning his attention back to Newt. “Just the right mix of innocent, pure intentions and a rebellious attitude. You suppressed your magic just enough to keep it bottled up, but not enough to kill you. You did so well, even when I made sure to test your limits.”

 

Stop it.”

 

“What, you thought that you ever truly lost me?”

 

“Stop!”

 

“I have to admit, I thought you might lose control of it when I had your mother skewered on a whaling harpoon, but you handled it so admirably.”

 

Newt went pale, his stomach twisting and his heart somewhere in his throat. He stared up at Grindelwald wide-eyed, at first not comprehending what he’d heard- but when he did grasp it, he felt the magic in him surge like high tide against a shore.

 

“No….no, no, no,” he moaned, squeezing his eyes shut and shaking his head as if it could block out the words, get rid of the knowledge he’d just gained, because he couldn’t take it. Couldn’t take knowing that all of the running he’d done his whole life had been for nothing, all the suffering his family had been through, all of it worthless.

 

“That’s it,” Grindelwald said, and Newt shuddered when he felt a hand stroke roughly through his hair. He felt sick, lost, completely beaten down, and his whole body wanted to reject Grindelwald’s touch. But the wizard didn’t let up, his words smooth and calm despite the instability of the situation. “That’s it, keep it controlled for now; those bindings should make it easy. You can let go soon, I promise, and it will all be over.”

 

Newt could feel what he meant. Much like the waves lapping at a dry underwater cave, the magic was pressing at the edges of him, unable to find an outlet. The rope on his hands was stifling it, and all he could do was fight to keep from losing his mind completely.

 

This is what he wants. He wants you to start to lose control. Fight it, he thought, trying to take in deep breaths, but all he could think about was his mother’s scream and the taste of blood in the water as Theseus dragged him away.

 

They hadn’t even had to tell their father what had happened. When they reached the caves, Newt had taken one look at the hollow, broken look on his father’s face, and he knew that the man knew his bond-mate was dead. His father never talked about what it was like, but another in the shoal told Newt that losing your bond-mate was like suddenly having the joy taken from your life. Like going from a world of color to a world of greys.

 

It was Newt’s fault. He was cursed from the beginning, and he’d brought it down on his family. Theseus had been right all along.

 

They would have been better off if Newt suppressed his magic enough to have killed himself a long time ago.

 

Grindelwald’s hand pulled away from him, and Newt opened his eyes again, though he found his vision blurred with tears. He felt like there was a storm inside him, a hurricane with no calm at the center, a torrent of shrieking magic that left him trembling.

 

Another wave of anxiety and worry hit him, but he could easily tell it wasn’t his own. Percival was worried about him, he could tell, and he tried to reach out to that steadying presence- but the bond just wasn’t strong enough yet. It took time to build, he knew that much, and technically theirs had taken hold much faster than usual as it was.

 

He needed to stay calm, stay in control- he couldn’t change the past, but he could still make sure his bond-mate stayed safe.

 

“I think you’re ready,” Grindelwald suddenly said, and Newt didn’t raise his head as the wizard pulled him to his feet. There was another violent tug of apparition, much more disorienting than when Percival did it, and when Newt looked up-

 

-he realized they were in the MACUSA lobby, at the top of the stairs.

 

Immediately a cry went up, but it seemed that Grindelwald had planned for this; a battle broke out and spells started to fly between the wizards of MACUSA and Grindelwald’s, who had evidently been waiting right under their noses. Grindelwald cast a shield to cover the two of them and most of his own men, and Newt felt his heart racing, thudding against his ribs so loud he could almost hear it.

 

“What are we doing here?” he asked in a stutter, even though he knew what it had to be, knew deep down just what Grindelwald planned to do.

 

Grindelwald turned to him, raised his wand-

 

Crucio!”

 

Newt went down as if struck with a fist. His hands were free now, but it hardly mattered as his body spasmed and shook with pain, pain unlike any he’d ever felt before. He’d once been stung by a rock fish, and he thought that was the worst pain possible, but this felt like the burn of a jellyfish sting a thousand times over, searing across every part of him, inside and out.

 

When it stopped he gasped for air, unable to stop himself from shaking; the magic inside him was like the sea in a storm, and he could barely focus on holding it back as Grindelwald knelt beside him with a smug look.

 

“Do you know what happens to magic that’s so bottled up when you trigger it through extreme trauma?” he asked, reaching out and grabbing a handful of Newt’s hair. “It reacts violently. Like a massive bomb. Enough to, say…take out everyone in this building, and at least a few city blocks.”

 

“I w-won’t,” Newt choked out, slowly pushing himself up despite the fact that his body wanted to give out on him. Grindelwald grinned, and then let go of Newt and reached into his jacket, pulling out a paper.

 

“I want you to see something, Scamander. You see, I had the feeling that pain alone might not be enough to shatter that careful control you have,” he said. “So I took the liberty of planning ahead.”

 

He turned the paper around to face Newt, and he found it to be one of those moving pictures like the ones on the newspapers humans read each day - except this one showed two wizards fighting to hold down a merman, a merman with a vibrant blue-green tail, one he immediately recognized.

 

And as he watched, one of the wizards pulled his wand and green magic fired from it, striking the merman, who jerked and then went deathly still, eyes staring upward blankly.

 

It was his father.

 

Grindelwald’s wizards had killed his father.

 

“Such a shame, too,” Grindelwald said, though Newt could barely hear him over the ringing in his ears, the choking feeling of the world pressing in on him and his magic pressing out. “He was only so close to the surface because he was searching for you.”

 

No, it can’t be, he’s lying, he’s got to be lying, Newt thought desperately, even though he knew it had to be true. The evidence was right there in front of him, replaying over and over, and he let out a broken sob as his control began to falter.

 

He couldn’t do this. He couldn’t. First his mother, then Percival being tortured, now his father dead, and all of it was his fault. Theseus would never forgive him. If he’d stayed home, stayed safe, if-

 

-if he’d just kept his magic entirely suppressed-

 

-if he’d just died-

 

A cracking sound split the air, and Newt realized that the stone floor underneath him was splintering like glass, and he tried to grab at the tenuous threads of control he had left. If he lost control, so many people would die, so many-

 

Grindelwald stood and tossed the picture to the floor next to Newt, and then aimed his wand.

 

Crucio!”

 

Newt broke.

 

 

Chapter Text

Percival would have given anything to be able to stop Newt from going with Grindelwald. But even as the wizard stepped past him, he couldn’t so much as lift his head; he felt weak, the pain still tore at him anytime he tried to move, and the edges of his vision were getting fuzzy.

 

There was a pop of apparition, and Percival knew without even looking that Grindelwald and Newt were gone; it was as if he could feel the distance between them. He shifted with a groan on the pavement- only to have it turn into a strangled cry of pain when someone’s foot slammed into his stomach.

 

“What do we do with him?” a voice said, and Percival forced himself to open his eyes and focus. The three henchmen were standing above him, wands in hand, and he felt a rush of fury go through him.

 

“Just kill him. Boss won’t care,” another said, and Percival laughed roughly, drawing their attention.

 

“What’s so funny?” the first one asked with a smirk. “You lose your mind already? Some auror you are.”

 

Percival gritted his teeth against the pain and summoned his strength. He wasn’t about to let some nameless wizards underestimate him, insult him, and he definitely wasn’t about to let them kill him. “What’s funny is t-that you think it’s so easy to kill me,” he growled, and then he reached out and used all of his strength to throw the nearby dumpster from one side of the alley to the other- crushing all three of the idiots against the far wall.

 

He collapsed after, coughing and trembling at the effort, spasms of pain still shooting through him at every movement. But he couldn’t afford to take the time to recover; Grindelwald had Newt, and Percival had to save him.

 

It wasn’t an option, not to him. He was going to save Newt, one way or another.

 

He needed two things; he needed his wand, and he needed backup. The question was, did he have enough strength to get either of those things? His wand was back in that warehouse, and he had no idea where Tina and her aurors might be. He didn’t dare try to apparate in his current condition; he would surely splinch himself beyond recognition.

 

He struggled to drag himself to the nearby brick wall and sit up against it, and then he spotted a leaflet on the ground near him. He grabbed at it and turned it over to the blank side, ignoring the prattle about ‘witches among us’ on the other side, and he took a slow, deep breath. He held his hand over the paper, and poured his will into casting the same spell that he’d once cast on the notebooks the aurors carried.

 

It made his head spin and the pain ten times worse to put so much energy into the spell, but when it was done, he was certain he’d succeeded. Now, he just needed to send a message- but he was running himself dry here. He grabbed at a shard of glass on the ground from a broken window nearby, and he sliced open the tip of one finger- it only worsened pain that was already there, after all, from having his fingertips scraped raw.

 

With careful movements, he used the blood to write ‘Tbird 6” on the page, a shorthand for Thunderbird six, or the sixth safe house in the Thunderbird formation. Tina obviously didn’t have her book, but the aurors with her surely had theirs. They would know immediately what he meant.

 

It was all he had the strength to do. He dropped his head back against the bricks and just tried to breathe through the pain, trying to cling to consciousness and not entirely succeeding. The only thing keeping him awake was his worry for Newt- worry that he was scared, or hurt, or-

 

He was hit was a sudden burst of sadness, so visceral that he took in a sharp breath and tried to lift his head. For the first time, he realized that the emotion hadn’t been his own- no, it had been Newt’s, he felt it for sure, all the way down to his bones. In moments, the pieces fell into place.

 

He’d been feeling emotions and hearing glimpses of thoughts that weren’t at all his.

 

Newt had known when Percival was in pain, on the verge of being killed.

 

And he remembered what Newt had said about the bonding, about how you could feel your bond-mate’s emotions, and could tell when they were in pain.

 

I’m his bond-mate, he thought, but the train of thought was cut short by the sound of apparition nearby.

 

“Percival!” he heard Tina yell, and he wanted to scold her for the familiarity, but he figured he could save it for when he wasn’t in enough pain to make him dizzy. He lifted his head as she knelt next to him in the alley, her hands hovering over him, as if she were afraid to touch him. Which she might be, all things considered. The two aurors with her stood by her sides, waiting for orders from either of their superiors.

 

“Grindelwald took Newt,” Percival managed, the words coming out tense.

 

“What did he do? Are you alright?” she asked, and Percival let out a breathless laugh that had no humor in it whatsoever.

 

“Cruciatus curse. A few times,” he admitted. Tina set to work quickly- an Episkey spell for the superficial wounds and a Ferula spell for the pain relief quickly made it easier for Percival to focus and breathe, and he sighed with relief.

 

“Calen, my wand is in the empty warehouse on 23rd. Go fetch it and bring it back here, quickly,” he ordered one of the aurors, and the man nodded and apparated away immediately.

 

“You’re in no condition to be going after him,” Tina protested, and Percival gave her a look.

 

“I’m going,” he said, his tone leaving no room for argument. He shoved himself to his feet, bracing one hand on the wall and waiting for the pain to pass. Well, some of the pain, anyway. He couldn’t keep the wince off his face as he straightened up, and Tina looked at him skeptically.

 

“Are you sure?” she asked, and Percival was about to lecture her for questioning him, but then he felt like something cold dropped in his chest like a rock. He gasped and leaned back against the wall, at first confused by the sensation, which wasn’t exactly pain but was nearly as bad- like that feeling when your hands had gone numb from cold, and you put them too close to a fire, too fast. Only this was inside of him, settling in him like a heavy weight.

 

He didn’t know how, but he knew that meant that Newt was in pain. A lot of pain.

 

“Percival?” Tina asked, concerned, just as the other auror returned with Percival’s wand. Percival pushed past the incredibly uncomfortable feeling and took his wand in hand, much more comfortable now with his primary weapon back in his possession.

 

“We need to find him,” he said, and then as if summoned, he felt his notebook become almost painfully hot in his pocket. The other aurors were reaching for theirs too, and Percival flipped his open to find Picquery’s elegant handwriting forming on the page.

 

Situation at HQ. All aurors report in.

 

Well…it seemed they wouldn’t have to try to find Newt after all. There was no other ‘situation’ it could be.

 

“Let’s go,” Percival said, not giving Tina any time to argue about his condition before he steeled his will and apparated to the outside of MACUSA headquarters.

 

And it was definitely a ‘situation’. Percival nearly staggered at the sheer weight of the magic in the air, and when he looked at the building, his chest went tight. The ground outside and the façade of the building were cracking, waves of blue magic pulsing through the surfaces like ocean waves.

 

Picquery was at his side in a moment. “Grindelwald is inside with your creature,” she said, with a slightly accusing tone. “We’ve evacuated the building and the No-Maj’s as well, and we put up a concealment charm, but if this gets much worse there will be massive casualties and a severe security breach.”

 

Percival nodded, wincing as he felt another wave of burning cold slam through him, another sign of pain from Newt. “I’ll go take care of it,” he said, but he didn’t get two steps forward before Picquery grabbed his arm.

 

“Are you crazy? Do you see what’s happening here?” she asked. “You’ve got a dark wizard in there, and a creature that’s effectively a time bomb about to go off. You’ll be killed.”

 

Percival tugged his arm away. “Newt isn’t a creature,” he said. “And he won’t hurt me. I can handle Grindelwald. Goldstein, you and your team keep the area clear.”

 

He started toward the building, though he wasn’t sure that he could in fact handle Grindelwald on top of the overwhelming flow of magic through the air. But he had to try; he couldn’t let Newt do something he would never forgive himself for, if he even lived to regret it. This much magic reacting that violently would probably kill Newt as well.

 

He pushed his way through the doors, and when he looked up the grand staircase, fury took hold and pushed any thoughts of pain away. Grindelwald stood over Newt with his wand out, and Newt was curled up on the ground, shaking, his eyes squeezed shut.

 

And as Percival watched, Grindelwald cast yet another Cruciatus curse on Newt, and ice seemed to flood through his veins as Newt screamed and seized in agony.

 

He raised his wand as he went up the stairs and he tossed a curse just as Grindelwald noticed him. The blonde wizard barely managed to block it, and he glared at Percival, the first sign of true anger from him.

 

“Do you ever die? I basically left you gift wrapped for those idiots to finish off,” he snapped, and Percival got to the top of the stairs, wand at the ready.

 

“It seems that underestimating me will be your downfall,” Percival said, throwing Grindelwald’s words back in his face. He stumbled, though, as the floor cracked beneath him, and he had to move quickly to avoid falling as the stone crumbled.

 

“You know how all these stories end, Mr. Graves. Star crossed lovers? Honestly, the ‘forbidden romance’ angle was a nice touch. Couldn’t have written it better myself,” Grindelwald said with a sneer. “But we all know the lovers always die in the end.”

 

“You s-said you wouldn’t hurt him,” Newt said, every word a struggle, and Grindelwald snorted.

 

“You’re right. I did say that,” he said, and then he smirked, that smug smirk that Percival wanted to punch off his face. “And I won’t hurt him. You will.”

 

Grindelwald threw a spell at Percival, and as he dodged it the dark wizard pivoted and hit Newt with another vicious Cruciatus curse. The ceiling began to fracture, shards of stone and plaster falling to the ground, and before Percival could act, Grindelwald apparated away.

 

Newt let out a sob, shaking visibly where he was curled up on the ground, the stone floor around him practically a shallow crater from the intense magic surrounding him. Percival knew that at any moment he could suffer a full loss of control and take out everyone and everything around him- including him- and a lesser man might have apparated to safety, like Grindelwald.

 

Percival stepped forward without hesitation, and he dropped to his knees and carefully gathered the redhead into his arms, holding him off the cold floor and close to his body even as a nearby column ruptured and threatened to fall.

 

“Newt,” he said, pushing Newt’s hair back from his forehead in a comforting gesture. Newt opened his eyes, the pupils dilated dramatically, and though they glowed slightly with the immense fount of magic in him, Percival could see the terror there. And he could feel it, like an echo in his own soul.

 

He knew Newt was still fighting with everything he had. Of course he would; all Newt had ever done was try to do the right thing, even when it seemed that fate only wanted him to fail and suffer.

 

“I’m s-sorry,” Newt managed, and Percival brushed a tear off Newt’s cheek with his thumb, every move careful, gentle, despite the danger of what he was holding in his arms.

 

“It’s not your fault. None of this is your fault, you hear me?” he said, deliberately keeping his voice as calm as possible. “I need you to listen to me, okay? I need you to take deep breaths, and focus on me. Just on me.”

 

“I can’t-“

 

“You have to. I know it seems impossible, but I just need you to try, alright?”

 

Newt swallowed hard and a shudder of pain went through him. “Percival, please, just…just go, I can’t hurt you too, I…”

 

“No. I’m not going anywhere. I know you can do this,” Percival said stubbornly. The column gave an ominous creak, the cracks in the stone spiderwebbing out like broken glass, and he took in a deep breath.

 

Even if it meant he would die here too, he wouldn’t leave Newt to die alone.

 

“Forget whatever he told you, whatever he did. Focus on me,” he said, hoping that Newt couldn’t feel how his heart was racing. “Remember when we were practicing with the spells in my apartment? I know it hurts, but you’ve just got to focus on control. Same thing, bigger stage.”

 

“They’re dead and it’s my fault,” Newt said around a wrecked sob, and that was when Percival noticed the picture on the ground, and he winced. It didn’t take much thought to figure out just what had happened, what had set Newt off like this, when he saw the replaying scene of the two wizards brutally murdering a merman who looked similar to Newt, but quite a bit older. He kissed Newt on the forehead and held him close, even as the cracks in the floor expanded underneath them and more of the ceiling crumbled in.

 

“It’s not your fault,” he repeated, hoping that his belief of that fact was getting through the bond to Newt. “Stay with me. Just…don’t give up on me, Newt.”

 

Newt’s hand clenched in the fabric of Percival’s shirt and he nodded, just barely, but enough that Percival knew he was still fighting. He hadn’t given in yet, and that was what was most important. As long as Newt was still fighting, they still had a chance, no matter how the world might be falling apart around them.

 

“You were going to teach me how to swim, right?” he asked, trying to give Newt something to focus on other than the pain and the loss. “And I promised to teach you how to read.”

 

He could tell Newt was struggling, gradually losing the fight, and he really couldn’t have blamed him; Newt was just now learning how to control his magic for spells. He was in no way prepared to deal with this kind of power surging through him. So Percival did the only thing he could think of to do- he cast a shield over the two of them, the absolute strongest he could make.

 

“It’s okay,” he said even as Newt whimpered and trembled in his arms. With the shield up, if Newt were to lose control, the effect would be muffled- still devastating, but at least somewhat dampened. It would kill both of them, he knew that, but it was all he had left, the only trick up his sleeve.

 

The top half of the stairs completely collapsed mere feet away, and one of the columns tipped over with a crash that shook the whole room, but amidst it all, Percival’s grip on Newt didn’t waver.

 

“It’s alright. I love you,” he said in a whisper, and Newt opened his eyes-

 

-and Percival found that they were green, no sign of a glow in them.

 

The magic in the air suddenly collapsed, like the support beneath it had crumbled, and Newt gasped and clutched at Percival- and then, his eyes went distant, unfocused, just before they fluttered closed and he went limp in Percival’s arms.

 

“Newt!” Percival said in a panic, immediately dropping the shield and fumbling to feel for a pulse; it took a few moments, but he finally felt a weak, thready rhythm under his fingers. Newt was alive, barely, and it was a miracle after what he’d just managed to do. Getting that much magic under control, shutting down a storm of power like that…he’d never seen it done before. Certainly not by a novice wizard who’d just been tortured.

 

Percival let out the breath he’d been holding, and he pressed another kiss to Newt’s forehead; he needed to get Newt to the hospital. There was no telling what kind of damage the ordeal had done; Newt might be dying.

 

“Well, this is touching,” a voice said from behind him, and Percival stiffened. He carefully laid Newt down on the floor, taking his time as he stood up. When he turned around, Grindelwald was waiting, his expression one of anger- and irritation.

 

“You’ve failed, Grindelwald,” he growled, adjusting his grip on his wand. “Time for you to come to justice.”

 

Grindelwald laughed. “I must admit, you have been more of a thorn in my side than I thought possible,” he said, glancing at Newt and then back at Percival. “Both of you have. But I will rectify that right now, starting with you; once you’re gone, he will break so easily for me.”

 

Percival wondered at first where the other aurors were now that the primary danger was gone, but then he noticed the shimmering spell over the doorways and walls; Grindelwald was still blocking them off, trying to salvage the situation.

 

It was him versus Grindelwald once again, one on one, and Grindelwald had the logical advantage.

 

Unfortunately for Grindelwald, Percival had never been more pissed off in his life, and no amount of pain or exhaustion was going to keep him from standing between Grindelwald and Newt.

 

“A proper duel, then,” Percival said as he raised his wand, preparing for one hell of a fight. “But I will tell you right now that you are never going to touch him again.”

 

Grindelwald only smirked in response. “We shall see.”

 

 

Chapter Text

Percival didn’t want to give Grindelwald the chance to overwhelm him, so he struck out first.

 

The first blows traded were easily deflected, the two wizards sizing each other up, looking for weaknesses in both stance and spellcasting. Of course, this wasn’t like any average duel; this was the most fearsome dark wizard of their time up against the Director of Magical Law Enforcement for MACUSA, both men who the average wizard would balk at the idea of dueling.

 

Percival wasn’t allowing himself to be intimidated. There was too much at stake.

 

The first serious blow came from Grindelwald, though Percival managed to deflect the curse into the crumbling column, which started to lean just that much more dangerously toward the platform they were on. Percival struck back, blue light cutting through the air and narrowly missing Grindelwald, who dodged away from the missing stairs.

 

“This is useless, Graves!” Grindelwald called out, another curse flying from his wand, this one red- Cruciatus. Knowing that he couldn’t deflect an Unforgivable curse, Percival stepped out of the way, and then sent the column that fell earlier flying through the air toward Grindelwald, who shattered it before it reached him.

 

“What’s useless is your attempts to start a war for no better reason than pride,” Percival snapped, and Grindelwald laughed.

 

“It’s not about pride. It’s about freedom,” he said. Two more spells cast, two more deflected.

 

“Your version of freedom would cost millions of lives and end with you as the figurehead of a lawless society,” Percival growled, and Grindelwald’s eyes narrowed.

 

“I would do a fair sight better than your lot have,” he said, the tip of his wand glowing blue. “You see, you have a weakness.”

 

He struck out with another spell, but this one was aimed above Percival, missing him by too much for it to be an accident. Percival heard a crack behind him, and he turned just as the unstable column started to fall-

 

-right toward where Newt lay unconscious.

 

Percival didn’t stop to think. He raced over to Newt, and just as the column fell, he raised his wand and cast a shield over them. Thousands of pounds of stone slammed into the shield, and Percival grit his teeth as the shield splintered but didn’t break. It was a close thing, though, and he found that he was shaking as he fed more energy into the shield to keep the column from falling just those few more feet and crushing them both.

 

“See? Weakness. It would be admirable if it wasn’t so self sabotaging,” Grindelwald said, walking over to them and standing only feet away.

 

The tip of his wand began to glow again, this time with vibrant green magic, and Percival’s breath caught. He knew that spell, could already feel the beginnings of it, like all the air was being pulled from the room.

 

“I’m giving you one last chance to step aside, Graves,” Grindelwald said as he raised his wand, his words low, the threat implicit in them. “One last chance. If you stay, you die with him.”

 

Percival glanced down at Newt, Grindelwald’s offer not even granting a moment of consideration to him. He took in a deep breath, knowing that this was it- his last stand, his last chance to turn this around, and if it didn’t work, well-

 

This would be goodbye. He could only hope that if he failed, Tina would get Newt home.

 

He raised his head again to meet Grindelwald’s gaze, tightening his grip on his wand.

 

“Then I die with him.”

 

“So be it,” Grindelwald said with a sneer. “Avada Kedavra!”

 

There was a burst of green light that seemed to fill every corner of the room, and Percival threw all his weight into a flick of his wand, sending the column above them right at Grindelwald. Obviously the dark wizard hadn’t been expecting it; the killing curse rebounded off the solid stone and it exploded violently, blown apart into debris that went in every direction and cut into Percival’s clothes and skin as he threw himself over Newt to protect him from the blast.

 

As soon as the sound of falling debris settled, Percival struggled to his feet, his right leg almost giving out on him. Pain shot through him from his knee down, and he could feel the sticky warmth of blood on his leg, his right arm, and the side of his face. But he hadn’t taken the worst of it; Grindelwald lay nearby, groaning in pain, blood pooling around him.

 

Percival limped around the debris, and stopped only to pick up Newt’s wand, which had evidently fallen from Grindelwald’s coat when he fell to the ground. He raised his wand and aimed it at Grindelwald, who was still weakly clutching his own wand, clothes torn and bloody and one side of his face nearly unrecognizable.

 

Expelliarmus,” Percival snapped, and Grindelwald’s wand flew across the room, well out of reach. Percival followed it up by wandlessly summoning the wand to his own hand and tucking it safely away in his coat.

 

Grindelwald laughed. “Well done, Mr. Graves,” he choked out, blood trailing from the corner of his mouth as his shields around the room fell.

 

“Mr. Grindelwald, you are under arrest,” Percival said, his voice rough and exhausted, but his head held high as aurors spilled in from outside. Grindelwald laughed again, though it turned into a cough.

 

“I will have my war,” he said, but then aurors were apparating in on either side of him, restraining him as quickly as they could. Percival lowered his wand and stumbled, the rush of adrenaline fading.

 

“Percival! We saw the glow of the killing curse, is…is he-“ Tina started, eyes trailing over Percival’s wounds before focusing on Newt unmoving behind him.

 

“He’s alive. He needs to get to the hospital,” Percival insisted, putting away his wand and going to Newt’s side. Despite the pain shooting through him like fire, he lifted Newt up into his arms, and immediately apparated away before Picquery could arrive to protest.


He appeared in the middle of the hospital’s emergency department, stumbling but managing to catch his balance before he fell. This resulted in a frenzy of mediwizards and mediwitches around him, summoning a gurney for him to put Newt on.

 

“I’m fine, I’m fine,” he said, though he wasn’t entirely sure it was true; what he did know was that Newt desperately needed help, much more than he did himself. “Help him, please.”

 

A couple of the mediwitches tried to pull Percival away to be treated for his own wounds, but he shrugged them off. He wasn’t about to leave Newt’s side, not after all of that. He stayed with him into the treatment room, where the mediwizard in charge immediately began to run diagnostic spells and start ordering treatment spells and potions.

 

“Will he be alright?” Percival asked as soon as the wizard had a spare moment, and the man sighed.

 

“I can’t say for sure. I’ve never seen a case like this,” he said. “But we’ll do our best.”

 

Percival was about to demand more information, demand that the man work harder to get a more specific prediction, but there was a commotion in the hallway. He was fairly certain he knew what it was, and he took a deep breath and stepped out the door just as Picquery turned the corner, her entourage in tow.

 

“I’ve had enough of this, Mr. Graves,” she snapped. “That creature caused a citywide panic, dozens of injuries, nearly took out the heart of our government- it has no business outside of our prison cells. It should be put down.”

 

And really, that was more than Percival could take. He’d fought so hard to make sure Newt stayed safe, and he thought he’d finally- at least temporarily- removed the danger that Grindelwald presented. But here was his own boss, ordering Newt’s execution, and Percival couldn’t keep the fury, the protectiveness from taking hold.

 

For the first time, he drew his wand on his own President, his grip on it ironclad even if he looked like he’d been to hell and back.

 

“If you plan to harm him, you’ll have to go through me, Madam President,” he said, and there was a moment of tense panic in the hallway as Picquery stepped back in shock and her aurors drew their wands.

 

For a moment, Percival thought this might be his end. He thought he would die here in the hospital, defending his lover against his own people, after everything they’d gone through and survived.

 

“Wait! Stop!”

 

Tina’s voice stopped the moment from escalating, and she stepped between Percival and Picquery, holding her hands up to try and stall the conflict. Picquery shot her a glare that normally would have had her retreating with her tail between her legs, but this time, Tina held firm.

 

“Step aside, Goldstein. Mr. Graves has committed a serious crime-“

 

Look at him!”

 

The desperation in Tina’s voice caused any other conversation in the vicinity to fall utterly silent. She glanced back at Percival before turning her attention to Picquery again.

 

“He’s been chased down, tortured with the Cruciatus curse, had a duel with a dark wizard that would have killed anyone else in three blows, and he survived that same wizard attempting to use the killing curse on him,” she said, every word firm, confident, and Percival felt his heart swell with pride for her. She took in a deep breath and shook her head. “If any other auror came in from that kind of trauma, looking like this, defending their injured friend, would you hold them accountable for being defensive? Would you?”

 

A tense silence fell. On the one side, Percival still held his wand at the ready, prepared to defend Newt from every auror in that hallway if he had to. On the other side, Picquery stood staring them down, four aurors behind her with wands drawn, awaiting her orders. And in the middle, Tina gave the President a pleading look.

 

“At least wait until the injured have been treated before we go trying to be judge and jury for what’s happened,” she begged. “You know Percival would never put anyone in harm’s way if he could help it. Give him a chance to recover and explain what’s happened before you go giving orders you’ll regret.”

 

Another beat of silence, then Picquery’s eyes landed on Percival, studying the blood stains all over him and the tremble of his wand.

 

“…Fine,” she finally said. “Make sure all the injured are treated. That creature does not leave the hospital until I’ve met with Percival when he is…better composed. Goldstein, I want you supervising both of them. Keep this situation under control, or you’ll both find yourself in a cell.”

 

The aurors lowered their wands, and Percived followed suit, and almost immediately stumbled into the nearby wall, his leg a hot lance of sheer pain. Tina grabbed at him to hold him up and yelled for a mediwitch, though Percival continued to refuse treatment until they agreed to move an extra bed into Newt’s room and treat him there.

 

He wasn’t leaving anything to chance. Not now, not when they were so close to safe.

 

Even when the superficial wounds had been healed, the echo of the Cruciatus curse still settled in his bones, like a pain that would never quite fade away. He couldn’t imagine how Newt would feel when he woke up- when, not if- after not only suffering the Unforgivable curse, but also having to rein in that much magical energy.

 

He didn’t stay put in his bed. As soon as he was able, he pulled a chair up next to Newt’s bed and sat down in it, taking Newt’s hand in his.

 

It was hours later that Picquery returned. At first Percival stiffened, ready for some kind of fight, but as she closed the door behind her, he realized that she was alone. He straightened up with a wince, and considered letting go of Newt’s hand, but then decided against it; he may as well put all his cards on the table.

 

“Goldstein told me everything that happened,” Picquery said, the anger gone from her voice. In its place there was a calm concern, and something close to pity, and Percival knew what was coming.

 

“Newt is the most innocent party in all of this,” he said, getting right to the point. “If you choose to punish him in any way, I can’t in good conscience stand behind that decision.”

 

“And you’re not biased at all.

 

“Even if I had no affiliation with him, I would say the same of any wizard dragged into this kind of situation against their will.”

 

“But he’s not a wizard, is he?” Picquery said, and Percival bristled, ready to defend Newt- but the President held up her hand, cutting him off short. “Please. I’m not here to order his execution. I’m here to make you a deal.”

 

Percival’s grip tightened on Newt’s hand, just a bit. “I’m listening.”

 

“I value you as a coworker and a friend, Percival. I don’t want to lose your respect or your allegiance, but I cannot ignore the danger posed to the community here,” she said. “I’m willing to forego any formal punishment for either of you, provided that you ensure he gets back to where he came from once he wakes.”

 

Percival’s shoulders slumped. It was what he’d been afraid of all along; that moment when it became certain that they couldn’t stay together. He obviously couldn’t go with Newt, and Newt couldn’t stay here and risk Picquery’s wrath.

 

It was safer this way. Perhaps not better, but…safer.

 

“I’ll make sure he gets home,” he said softly, and Picquery nodded.

 

“Good. I’ll give you time off for recovery and for the trip,” she said, and then she turned and started to leave- but she paused in the doorway to look back at him. “Percival?”

 

“Yes, Madam President?” Percival said, his voice rough.

 

“I am truly sorry it has to be this way. Please know that.”

 

Percival didn’t answer, didn’t even turn to look at her. He heard her footsteps as she left, and then heard the door click shut behind her. He sighed and lifted Newt’s hand, kissing the back of it lightly.

 

“Just wake up. That’s all I ask,” he said softly. “I can live without you here if I know you’re alive and safe, even if you’re not with me.”

 

His words didn’t cause an instantaneous change- not that he expected them to. Newt was still soundly unconscious, though he was at least breathing steadily now, and some of his color had come back since Percival carried him in here. He looked for all the world as if he were only sleeping.

 

It was hours longer before Newt finally shifted and tried to open his eyes, though he looked dazed and disoriented. Percival had been dozing, but he snapped fully awake the moment he felt Newt’s hand tighten its grip on his.

 

“Newt…?” he said softly, prepared for anything after the ordeal- neurological damage, amnesia- really, anything could go wrong. Newt blinked a few times and swallowed hard before his eyes focused on Percival.

 

“P-Percival…you’re alright?” he asked, the words coming out raw and weak. Percival grinned, though, and leaned in to kiss Newt on the forehead.

 

“I thought I’d lost you,” he said with a relieved laugh. “I’m absolutely fine. Grindelwald’s been arrested.”

 

Newt seemed to relax at hearing that, though it was followed up by a wince. Percival knew exactly how he felt; after the Cruciatus curse, it felt as if your insides had been scrubbed with steel wool.

 

“Did I hurt anyone?” Newt asked nervously, obviously thinking about the way the building had been coming down around them.

 

“Not seriously. And any damage done can be repaired.”

 

It didn’t seem to help much, but it was the truth. Injuries were bound to happen in an accident like that, but no one had died- and that was truly incredible, given the power at play there. Percival reached up and pushed Newt’s hair back from his face, trying not to let his own sadness get to him, because surely Newt would feel it.

 

“I could tell he was hurting you,” he said, and Newt’s eyes widened.

 

“You can feel it…?”

 

Percival nodded, and Newt smiled broadly through the pain. “I was…worried it wouldn’t work the same, since you’re…”

 

“Human.”

 

“Well...yes,” Newt said, and then his smile turned shy. “But I’m glad. I’m happy that it’s you.”

 

Percival couldn’t help himself; he got up to lean in and kiss Newt, slow and gentle, and he was pleased at the breathy sigh it drew from Newt.

 

But he couldn’t put off delivering the bad news forever.

 

“Newt,” he said softly, pulling back from the kiss, though it hurt to look Newt in the eye and tell him what he needed to say- though Newt probably saw this coming just as clearly as Percival had. “President Picquery isn’t going to hold you accountable for anything that happened.”

 

It should have been good news, but as Newt studied the crestfallen look on Percival’s face, his own smile faded. “So…what’s the catch?” he asked, and Percival sighed, sitting down on the edge of the bed.

 

“She wants me to escort you home.”

 

Newt’s face fell and he looked away, down at his hands. “Oh,” he said, the word a bit choked. “Well, I mean…we knew it would be this way, right? I’m…it’s not entirely safe for me to stay here.”

 

“Newt-“

 

“I understand, Percival. I do. You don’t need to explain, and I know it’s not your choice,” Newt interrupted, and then he reached up and pulled Percival into a firmer, more desperate kiss, one that Percival readily returned.

 

“If I had my way, you would stay by my side,” Percival said, pressing his forehead to Newt’s, and the merman laughed- though it came out as nearly a sob.

 

“They say that…being separated from your bond-mate is like missing a part of your soul,” he said, one hand reaching up to wind around the back of Percival’s neck, keeping him close. “So I think it’s safe to say I’ll never forget you.”

 

Percival already felt like a part of his soul was breaking, cracking into pieces, just at the thought of having to say goodbye. It didn’t seem fair, that he’d finally found someone that made him happy, and he had to give it all up so that they could both be safe.

 

”No goodbyes yet. You still need to recover, and then it will take a bit of time to get you home,” he said, determined to look at some kind of silver lining for this. Newt nodded and pulled him into another kiss, and Percival went more than willingly.

 

If their time together was limited, they needed to make the most of it while they could.

Chapter Text

Newt had always taken comfort in the ocean, but today it felt like awaiting a punishment.

 

They’d been on this boat for days, and up until now he’d tried to enjoy the time. He was still recovering somewhat from his ordeal, still sore from the curses Grindelwald had used on him, but at least he wasn’t alone in that. Percival had suffered just as much as he had.

 

Not that the man would admit it. He was as stubborn as a turtle.

 

The boat was small, with only a few cabins with paper-thin walls, so they hadn’t had much time for privacy- but Newt enjoyed the time all the same. He was finally able to get to know Percival without the threat of a dark wizard hanging over their heads, and he found that the more he got to know him, the more he realized just how well they fit together.

 

It made him wonder what he’d done to make the Fates so angry with him, to give him this and then tear it away from him so quickly.

 

“You look like you’re thinking too hard,” Percival said as he sat down next to where Newt sat on the side of the boat. He was close to the front, where he could enjoy the ocean without worry of the spray off the water triggering a change. He’d already ruined one pair of pants that way.

 

He ducked his head shyly and shrugged. “I suppose I am,” he said, watching the water below, the waves illuminated by the rising sun. Last night had been his last night to spend with Percival, their last night sharing space; he had the feeling he would find it difficult to sleep from now on, after knowing what it was like to fall asleep in the embrace of his bond-mate.

 

“Percival?”

 

“Hmm?”

 

“Promise me something,” Newt said softly, and Percival looked at him again, his expression more serious now.

 

“Anything. You know that.”

 

The ghost of a smile touched Newt’s face, only for a moment. “Take care of Pickett? He’s terribly afraid he’ll be put back in a box somewhere when I’m gone, and…well, I can’t very well take him with me.”

 

Percival took in a deep breath and let it out slowly. “I’ll take care of him,” he promised, and Newt smiled, truly smiled this time, and tugged Percival into a light, lingering kiss. It was only a moment, though, before someone cleared their throat behind them, and Newt glanced over his shoulder to see Tina.

 

She’d insisted on coming along, since she didn’t believe the two of them were fully recovered, despite Percival’s objections. But Newt had found a friend in her, someone who didn’t mind his awkwardness, someone who wasn’t afraid of Percival like many other aurors were. And no matter what Percival might claim, Newt knew he had a soft spot for Tina as well. He’d been slipping up more and more lately, forgetting his self-imposed rule of calling Tina by her last name.

 

For the most part, though, she let them have their time together, spending most of her time studying up on international wizarding relations for some kind of trip she was planning.

 

“Captain says we’re almost there. Just a couple of minutes,” she said, the regret heavy in her words.

 

Now that Newt looked up, he recognized the shapes of the distant mountains on the shoreline, recognized the island to the east that was shaped vaguely like a sleeping dragon. It was all becoming too real, the fact that it was almost time to say goodbye.

 

“Thank you, Tina,” Percival said, but Newt couldn’t find the strength to speak. He looked down into the clear blue water, able to see the shadows of coral below.

 

“I’ll go and find my brother, make sure everything’s alright, and then I’ll come back up to…to say goodbye,” he said, though he knew that everything was far from alright. His father was dead, and deep inside him he feared that Theseus would hate him for it.

 

Newt hated himself for it evenstill sometimes, even with Percival and Tina trying to convince him that it hadn’t been his fault. He still saw that moving picture when he closed his eyes, still woke up in the grip of nightmares that Theseus was killed, too.

 

He refused to consider it. Surely Grindelwald would have taunted him with that, too, if he’d managed to have Theseus killed. His brother had to be safe.

 

“We’ll wait as long as you need,” Percival said, reaching over to take Newt’s hand in his and give it a comforting squeeze.

 

It seemed only moments later that the boat started to slow down. Newt took in a deep, shaky breath, and then started to strip off his clothing one last time, carefully setting it aside- Tina, of course, covered her eyes out of politeness, but Percival was used to this by now.

 

The only thing he didn’t remove was the thin leather strap around his waist that had a wand holster on the side; Percival made it for him, adjusting it so he could swim and maneuver without worry of losing his wand.

 

Once he was completely stripped down, he hopped off the side of the boat and landed in the water, not even getting the chance to kick his legs before they fused into a familiar tail fin. He felt the tingle of his side fins growing, his ear fins, the webs and claws on his hands, and his fangs, all as his gills formed. He didn’t breathe in water yet, though; he swam back to the surface with a swift kick of his tail fin, and back to the side of the boat, where Percival sat with his bare feet dangling off the edge.

 

“I’ll be back soon,” Newt promised, and Percival leaned over enough to kiss him firmly, one hand trailing along his ear fin until he couldn’t help but laugh into the kiss and playfully push Percival away. Reluctantly, he trailed his claws lightly through Percival’s hair, and then pushed away from the boat and started to dive.

 

The moment he got deep enough, he let out a burst of chirps, the kind of sound a hatchling would use to find their family; it was a sound unique to each of them, and any family nearby would recognize the sound. He heard no reply and dove a bit deeper before trying again- and this time, he heard a series of chirps in return, deeper than his own, and his ear fins twitched nervously.

 

That was definitely Theseus. And though he was relieved to hear his brother’s reply, he was also terrified of how his brother would respond to seeing him again.

 

He replied again, and heard Theseus in return, closer now, probably amidst the towers of coral- in fact, Newt didn’t even see him coming, really. He saw a blur of dark green, and then something struck him so hard he went spinning through the water with a gasp of surprise.

 

But it hadn’t been an attack- far from it. When they finally came to a stop in the water, he found that Theseus’ arms were wrapped firmly around him in a hug.

 

“I thought you were dead,” Theseus said, the words completely wrecked with sorrow, and Newt returned the hug despite the guilt that settled in his stomach like a stone.

 

“I’m sorry,” he whispered, clutching tightly to his brother, relief warring with guilt. “I’m so sorry, Theseus.”

 

Theseus pulled back from the hug a bit, but still gripped Newt by the shoulders, as if afraid to let go of him again. “What happened? You disappeared without a trace. We searched for you, and father, he…”

 

Theseus trailed off, as if he couldn’t bear to say the words, and Newt swallowed hard.

 

“I know about father,” he said softly. “It’s…it’s my fault. If I hadn’t-“

 

“Don’t you start,” Theseus snapped. “Don’t you dare blame yourself.”

 

“I was so afraid they’d gotten you, too,” Newt admitted, and Theseus actually laughed, startling Newt.

 

“They almost did,” he explained, a sad smile on his face. “Your kelpie freed me from their nets.”

 

“My kelpie…?” Newt said, and then he remembered the kelpie he’d saved the evening he was taken. Kelpies grew fast; by now, she was probably triple the size she had been when he left, and likely three times as vicious, too.

 

But it seemed she remembered him and Theseus, and the timing couldn’t have been better.

 

“She’s grown a lot in a few weeks,” Theseus said, and then his expression turned more serious. “Now. Tell me everything that happened.”

 

So Newt did. He started from the beginning and told Theseus everything- everything, that is, except for the fact that he’d found his bond-mate. He wasn’t sure why he avoided it, other than the fact that he didn’t want Theseus’ pity, seeing as how he and Percival would be saying goodbye in short order.

 

“…You’re not telling me everything,” Theseus said once Newt had finished, and Newt fidgeted with the leather strap around his waist anxiously.

 

It seemed that it wasn’t so easy to lie by omission to his brother. Or to anyone. Newt was an awful liar, and he knew it. He looked away and swallowed a burst of water through his gills nervously, his shoulders slumping.

 

“I’ve told you everything that’s…necessary.”

 

“Newt,” Theseus said, and then he tugged playfully at Newt’s ear fin. “I’m your brother. And I can tell when something’s bothering you, something beyond what you’ve already said.”

 

Newt didn’t want to know how Theseus would react to this. Would he be mad? Disgusted? Newt didn’t know, and it only made the pit in his stomach feel that much deeper. But he knew Theseus wouldn’t let him be, not until he came clean.

 

“I found my bond-mate,” he said in a near whisper, and Theseus’ eyes widened, his ear fins flaring in surprise.

 

“That’s…supposed to be a good thing, little brother.”

 

“He’s a wizard.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

 

Of all the responses Newt expected to get, he didn’t even consider that Theseus would start laughing. But that was exactly what happened, and Newt looked up in shock.

 

“Of course he is,” Theseus said once he got the laughter under control. “You, of all merfolk, would have the weirdest bond-mate in merfolk history. Why am I not surprised?”

 

“You’re not…mad?” Newt asked hesitantly, and Theseus snorted.

 

“Of course I am. I’m mad that your first response wasn’t to introduce me to him so I can threaten to carve his fins off if- wait, that won’t work. Legs, right? I can substitute.”

 

“It’s not that simple,” Newt said, shaking his head. “He can’t stay here, and…I can’t go back with him. It’s not safe. We…we can’t…”

 

Theseus’ face fell as he began to realize the problem. “You…you can’t just live an ocean away from your bond-mate, Newt. You’d be miserable your whole life,” he said, and Newt shrugged helplessly.

 

“I don’t know what else to do to keep us both safe.”

 

Theseus frowned, and then he looked up and spotted the shadow of the boat above. “Is he up there?” he asked, and without waiting for an answer he gave a powerful kick of his fin and took off for the surface. Newt tried to catch up, but he was still sore and readjusting, so Theseus broke the surface before him.

 

Percival and Tina were standing by the edge of the boat, and they startled when the two mermen broke the surface, though they quickly relaxed when they saw Newt.

 

“Alright, which one of you deflowered my little brother?” Theseus asked, and Newt gave him a glare and a smack on the shoulder with one webbed hand- meanwhile, Tina cleared her throat and not so subtly pointed at Graves, earning a raised eyebrow from her boss.

 

“Sorry. Um…this is my brother, Theseus. Theseus, this is Tina Goldstein, and Percival Graves.”

 

Theseus gave Percival an appraising look, and then sighed. “Well, at least you picked a good looking one.”

 

Theseus.

 

“I assure you that I have his best interests at heart,” Percival said, though he looked amused more than anything else- and maybe a touch smug. Theseus eyed him suspiciously, and then huffed out a frustrated sigh.

 

“If that’s true, you won’t sail off and leave him here.”

 

“I’m trying to keep him safe.

 

“You’re going to keep him heartbroken.”

 

“Theseus, please,” Newt said softly. “We’ve already been over why it’s a bad idea for me to stay in New York.”

 

“Actually,” Tina said, and a slow smirk appeared on her face as she spoke, as if she’d just had an epiphany. “I might have an idea that would grant you a pardon to stay on land. It’s a long shot, but…it just might work.”

 

Percival looked both curious and skeptical as he turned to look at her. “Well, Goldstein- don’t keep us in suspense.”

 

As Tina explained her idea, Newt felt hope growing in him for the first time since Percival had said he would have to return to the sea. And she was right- it was a long shot, and there was a good chance of it backfiring on them, but if it worked…

 

If it worked, he would be able to stay with Percival. He would be able to stay with his bond-mate. And that alone made it worth trying, at the very least.

 

But it also meant saying goodbye to his brother.

 

Evidently, Percival could see the distress in Newt’s expression, because he knelt at the side of the boat with a concerned look. “We don’t have to try this, Newt,” he said, though the words seemed difficult for him. “If you want to stay with your family, then that’s what you should do.”

 

“No, I…I want to be with you. I just…” Newt started, though the words trailed off as he glanced at Theseus, who was smiling at him fondly.

 

“Go with your bond-mate, Newt. Or you’ll regret it the rest of your life,” he said, and he nudged Newt with his tail fin. “You’ve always told me to stop being so overprotective of you. Consider this me kicking you out of the anemone nest.”

 

Newt smiled even though he felt like his heart was breaking, and he pulled Theseus into a hug. His brother had always been there for him, always protected him and covered for him; the idea of saying goodbye was overwhelming. But when he thought of his future, he couldn’t imagine a future without Percival in it.

 

“I’ll miss you,” he whispered, blinking back tears.

 

“I’ll miss you too. I’ll even miss all the trouble you cause me. It’s pretty dull around here without you dragging a new creature home every other day,” Theseus said, pulling back and holding Newt at arm’s length. “Now get on that boat and put the legs back on before I throw you up there.”

 

Newt laughed and pulled away, and when he turned to the boat Percival already had a hand out to help him up onto the deck. From there it was a simple matter of drying him off, casting the spell, and getting dressed while Tina and Theseus chatted at the side of the boat. When he finally returned to the side of the boat where Theseus waited, he was in his trousers and a button up shirt, the sleeves rolled up to his elbows. Theseus grinned when he saw him, his ear fins flaring.

 

“Well, look at you. Up on two feet and everything,” he said, and then the grin went a little wicked. “You look ridiculous.

 

Newt rolled his eyes. “Thanks,” he said dryly, and Theseus turned his attention to Percival.

 

“Okay, listen, you clumsy no-fin,” he said, pointing a clawed finger at the wizard. “Wizard or not, if you do a single thing to hurt my brother, I will recruit Tina here to give me my own set of legs so I can come kick your nonexistent tail fin from here to Atlantis. Understood?”

 

Percival smirked. “I’ll only torment him as much as you have,” he said, and Newt couldn’t help but smile softly at the impressed look on Theseus’ face.

 

“Yeah, I like this human. He’ll do fine,” Theseus said, and Newt knelt down at the edge of the boat.

 

“If this doesn’t work out…I’ll be back soon,” he said, and Theseus snorted.

 

“If you come back, I’m kicking your tail right back across this damn ocean. You belong with your bond-mate; you’ll figure out how to make it work,” he said, and then he took hold of one of Newt’s hands, studying it closely.

 

It was the first time Newt had really seen his human self in contrast with something so close to his merfolk self. It was strange, like two halves of a whole, one hidden in a cloak of magic, but still ever present.

 

“It suits you,” Theseus said, his voice a bit softer as he gently touched the claw-free tips of Newt’s fingers. “You always were the gentle type. Just…be careful, alright? You know where I’ll be if you ever need my help for anything.”

 

“I’ll come visit,” Newt promised, knowing he would find a way to do just that. He could take a boat out every year or so, he was sure of it. “Just leave word if you go to a new shoal.”

 

Theseus smiled and reached up, using one clawed hand to carefully tuck Newt’s hair back from his face a bit. “I love you, Newt. And I’m proud of you,” he said with a quiet confidence, and then he braced his free arm on the edge of the boat to boost himself up and tug Newt into a hug.

 

“I love you too,” Newt said, returning the hug and not bothering to try and keep the tears at bay.

 

It was a temporary goodbye, that much he knew, but it didn’t make it any easier when there would be an entire ocean between them.

 

It wasn’t long before Theseus dove back below the waves, and the moment Newt stood up, Percival pulled him into a hug.

 

“You’re sure about this?” he asked, and Newt nodded, shifting to wipe the tears from his face.

 

“I’m sure. Theseus is right for once,” he said with a smile, and then he gave Percival a quick kiss. “I hope this works, Percival.”

 

“Only one way to find out.”

 

 

Chapter Text

It seemed like far too soon that they were standing back in the halls of MACUSA, and it had been a long time since Percival felt this nervous just being in his place of work. But then again, the stakes had never been quite so high.

 

He did his best to try and hide his nervousness for Newt’s sake, though. Newt was a bit of a mess; he’d even stopped fidgeting, and was just leaning against the nearby wall with his shoulders hunched, his eyes downcast, and having gone unusually quiet, even for him.

 

“Alright. You ready?” Tina asked Percival with a concerned glance thrown at Newt. Percival nodded.

 

“As I’ll ever be,” he said, and then he turned to Newt and tried to give him a comforting look. “Stay here, alright? I’ll call you in when the time is right.”

 

Newt swallowed hard and nodded, and Percival reached out and gently tipped Newt’s chin up, and then kissed him.

 

“This will work. I promise,” he said, and he felt Newt relax, just the slightest bit.

 

“I trust you,” Newt said, and Percival smiled and kissed him one more time before he picked up the brown suitcase from beside Newt’s feet and stepped away to join Tina at the door to the President’s office.

 

One more deep breath, and Percival stepped inside, Tina at his heels.

 

President Picquery was standing by her desk looking through a file when the pair entered. When she looked up and saw who it was, she smiled.

 

“Mr. Graves, Ms. Goldstein; I trust your trip was successful?” she asked, and Percival nodded once.

 

“It was indeed, Madam President,” he said, which wasn’t technically a lie; he was just going by his own standard of success, rather than hers. She closed the file and put it aside.

 

“Good. Then I trust you’re both prepared to return to your usual duties?”

 

“Actually, Madam President, there’s an unrelated issue that I wanted to bring to your attention,” Tina said, and she stepped forward boldly. Percival couldn’t deny that he was proud of her; before all of this, he wouldn’t have seen her as being able or willing to stand up to Picquery, and yet now she’d done just that multiple times to protect himself and Newt.

 

He appreciated it more than he’d ever be able to show her.

 

“Oh?” Picquery said, arching an elegant eyebrow. “And just what is this ‘unrelated issue’?”

 

“I’ve been researching for the trip I’m scheduled to take to the Ministry of Magic this winter, to combine our intel on this latest group of dark wizards,” Tina explained. “And I incidentally found evidence that MACUSA is breaking one of the international laws of wizardry, unintentionally.”

 

Picquery’s expression turned to a frown. Obviously this was a bigger deal than she’d expected. “Well, go on.”

 

Tina cleared her throat, looking nervous for the first time since she’d entered the room as she tugged a pamphlet from her coat and opened it up. “According to section 83, line 42: All sentient beings taken into custody by a governmental entity are entitled to both knowledgeable representation and appropriate accommodations based on their natural habitat and the infraction they’ve committed.”

 

Picquery waved dismissively. “The merman was a special case, obviously-“

 

“Not the merman,” Tina interrupted. “The Bowtruckle and the Occamies. The other animals the traffickers had in their custody.”

 

“What of them?” Picquery asked. She looked suspicious now. Percival stepped forward with a nod to Tina before he turned to Picquery. “If I may, ma’am,” he said, trying to remember everything that Newt had told him. “Bowtruckles require certain types of trees to thrive on. They live on the wood lice living in the tree, and they use the bark for defense. They use the branches for camouflage. And the Occamies are still babies; they need a proper nest, and they’re too young to properly care for themselves.”

 

“What we’re saying is that by not providing proper environments for the sentient beasts in our custody, we’re technically breaking the law and could be sanctioned by the international community,” Tina said, and Picquery sighed in frustration and took the pamphlet from Tina’s hands. She read over the lines carefully before she looked back up at the pair.

 

“We don’t have the time or facilities to create ‘proper habitats’ for trafficked animals in a government building,” she said, obviously irritated. “I’m not sure just what you propose we do about this.”

 

“Actually, we had an idea,” Percival said, the beginnings of a smirk on his face as he set down the brown suitcase on the floor and opened it up. “Follow me, ma’am.”

 

He climbed down inside, and there was a long pause before Picquery followed after, managing to seem graceful even in a dress. Percival led the way out of the shack that made up the entrance, to where there was still a small sampling of the ocean, waves lapping up on the beach. To their right was Pickett’s tree, and the Bowtruckle watched the humans warily from the branches.

 

“A rather clever Undetectable Expansion Charm,” Picquery said as she admired the habitat. “How far does it expand?”

 

“There’s room for at least eight habitats, maybe ten. It would take a while to craft them and some very strong magic, but once they’re in place, nearly any beast could be housed comfortably in here,” Percival said, his heart racing in his chest. It was nearly the moment of truth. “But there is the matter of the law requiring ‘knowledgeable representation’.”

 

Picquery eyed him curiously. “I suppose you’ve thought of an answer to that, too.”

 

Percival didn’t answer right away. He stepped back to the shack, looking up through the open lid of the suitcase. “Tina, send him on in,” he called up, and there were a few long, awkward moments before Newt climbed down into the suitcase and stepped out onto the beach.

 

Picquery’s expression turned to one of anger. “Mr. Graves, I thought you said that the situation had been resolved successfully,” she said, but before she could continue, Percival cut in.

 

“And it was,” he said, staying by Newt’s side. The poor merman was avoiding Picquery’s gaze, shifting his weight awkwardly, and all Percival wanted to do was hold him close and comfort him- but that would have to wait. “This will resolve two problems, as a matter of fact.”

 

Picquery crossed her arms, ignoring the fact that Pickett was giving her a rather rude look. “Whatever suggestion you have had better impress me, Mr. Graves,” she said, but Percival didn’t allow her stance and words to intimidate him.

 

“Newt- Mr. Scamander- still has that power at his fingertips. Personally, I think that sending him home and leaving things to chance is the worst decision you could possibly make,” he said. “He needs training. He needs someone to teach him how to control it, or the same thing could happen again if Grindelwald’s followers ever go after him.”

 

“I fail to see how this relates to the other problem at hand.”

 

“We need knowledgeable representation. If there’s anyone that can provide that for the traumatized creatures that come through our door, this is the wizard that is most willing and able. You saw how Pick…the Bowtruckle responded to him,” Percival said, and he caught a glimpse of a small smile of appreciation on Newt’s face. “He needs to stay here to be trained. We need him to stay here to handle any issues we have with the trafficked beasts that cross our borders, in order to adhere to international law. Any habitats he needs can be reproduced right here, in a safe location. That, Madam President, is what I am suggesting.”

 

The silence that followed was nearly unbearable. Picquery looked from Percival to Newt, who looked up at her from under his fringe of red hair, and though he still looked nervous and awkward, there was earnestness in his expression that couldn’t be ignored. A plea that she wouldn’t turn him away, not now, not after so much.

 

And perhaps that was the tipping point, rather than all of Percival’s logic and negotiation.

 

She turned fully to Newt and stepped closer to him, and Percival saw the way he swayed backward just a little, barely resisting the urge to step back. She took in a deep breath, and after a moment of ridiculous suspense, she held out her hand for him to shake.

 

“Well, Mr. Scamander…it seems you’re hired. I fully expect you to make yourself extremely useful as a consultant to my aurors,” she said, and Newt glanced down at her hand, fumbling a bit before he finally returned the handshake.

 

“I won’t let you down, Madam President,” he said with a smile that even Picquery couldn’t help but return. She turned back to Percival and gave him a look.

 

“Since you’re so eager to see this case through to the end, I’m sure you wouldn’t mind following up on all the Obliviation reports and checking to make sure they’re factual. After all, we only had to Obliviate…72 No-Maj’s?” she said, and Percival had to bite back a groan. That would take weeks of research, and normally one of the lower ranked aurors would do it, but this was obviously his punishment for subverting her orders.

 

“I’ll get right on it.”

 

“And since Goldstein is so eager to broaden her knowledge of international law, I want a report from her on my desk in one week going through every statute and detailing the ways in which MACUSA is following those statutes.”

 

“Of course.”

 

She turned back to Newt. “I don’t suppose you’ve ever written a formal report, have you?” she asked, and Newt’s face turned red.

 

“I, uh…I can’t say I have, no.”

 

“…You can’t even write, can you,” she said, and it was obviously a statement, not a question. Newt mutely shook his head, and she sighed heavily and looked at Percival.

 

“Fix it. If he’s going to be consulting my aurors about creatures, I want him to be able to write down every last detail,” she continued, and then she turned and went back to the small shack.

 

The moment she was out of sight, Newt smiled in disbelief, and Percival closed the distance between them and picked up his lover by the waist, spinning him around once in the white sand. The moment he set Newt down again he kissed him hard, and Newt threw his arms around Percival’s neck to keep him close.

 

“It worked,” Newt said with a bright smile. “I can’t believe it worked. I get to stay.”

 

“Well, the suitcase is yours now,” Percival said fondly. “My gift to you, so take good care of it, alright?”

 

“I will,” Newt said, and then he hesitated and bit his lip nervously. “Percival…can I ask a favor?”

 

“What is it?”

 

“I want to see Grindelwald.”

 

Percival pulled back a bit, frowning as he searched Newt’s face. “Why?”

 

“Because I need to know that I can face him,” Newt said softly, and through the nervousness in his voice, there was a quiet strength. “The last time I saw him, he told me he murdered my parents. He nearly made me into a weapon for his uses. I…I need to get rid of that power he has over me. Please, Percival.”

 

Percival didn’t want to give in to the request. He didn’t want to see Newt and Grindelwald in the same room ever again, not after watching Grindelwald torture him like that.

 

But at the same time, he knew exactly why Newt felt the need to confront him, and he knew he didn’t have the right to deny him that.

 

“Alright,” he said, the reluctance obvious in his voice. “But I’m going with you.”

 

At least Newt didn’t argue that. Percival led him out of the suitcase- and passed along Picquery’s assignment to Tina, much to her chagrin- before he led the way to the lowest levels of MACUSA, where the prisoners were kept. Grindelwald was being kept under the highest levels of security, but luckily Percival was one of the few with clearance to get them past that security without a fuss.

 

Standing at the door to Grindelwald’s cell, he watched as Newt took a deep breath before he stepped inside. Percival followed, closing the door behind them.

 

Grindelwald didn’t look nearly as intimidating here. He was in a white room with a bench and nothing else, and wearing the all white uniform of MACUSA’s highest risk prisoners. He looked up as the pair entered, and he grinned widely.

 

“Well, if it isn’t Romeo and Juliet, still together against all odds.”

 

“Perhaps Marius and Cosette is a bit more fitting, considering we are both alive and together after so many conspired to keep us apart,” Percival pointed out, and Grindelwald’s grin widened.

 

“A gentleman and a scholar, Mr. Graves?” he said, and then he turned his attention to Newt. “Truly a catch, my little fish. Or is that phrase a bit offensive to you?”

 

To Percival’s surprise, Newt showed no response to the jab. Instead, he looked a little…sad.

 

“I feel sorry for you,” he said, causing the grin to quickly disappear from Grindelwald’s face.

 

“Don’t waste such emotions on me. It will do you no good,” the blonde said. “And were I you, I would hesitate to think myself safe so easily.’

 

Newt smiled, just a little. “I hardly expect to be safe,” he said, eyes finally lifting to meet Grindelwald’s. “But I’m not frightened of whatever else you might have planned. You’ve not broken me, and you won’t, either.”

 

“My magic flows in your veins.”

 

“But not in my soul.”

 

With that said, Newt turned and left the room without so much as a glance backward. Percival started to follow, but paused at the door when Grindelwald spoke again.

 

Love has no middle term; either it destroys, or it saves. Love is life, if it is not death. Cradle; coffin, too,” he quoted, and Percival could hear the smirk in his words. “He wasn’t a bad writer…for a Muggle.”

 

To die for lack of love is horrible. The asphyxia of the soul,” Percival quoted right back. “No; he really wasn’t.”

 

With that said, he stepped out and closed the door behind him.

 

Newt stood down the hall a short distance, motionless, and when Percival caught up to him Newt immediately leaned into him in a tight embrace. Percival didn’t say anything, didn’t need to; he only wrapped his arms around Newt and held him for as long as he needed.

 

“He doesn’t control me. I won’t let him,” Newt muttered, and Percival kissed the top of his head.

 

“I know you won’t,” he replied. “Now come on; I have reports to write, and you have habitats to set up. Let’s not give a single more moment of our time.”

 

Percival steered Newt away from the prison hall with a hand at the small of his back, ignoring the looks they were getting from the guards after the display of affection; of course no one was really used to Percival being like this with anyone, but Percival didn’t have to answer to anyone about it, either.

 

Not to the other aurors, not to Picquery, and certainly not to Grindelwald.

 

No, Grindelwald could talk all he wanted about how love was a weakness, a vulnerability- in the end, Newt had been the one to prove him wrong.

 

Chapter Text

“Newt.”

 

“Yes, love?”

 

“Can we talk?”

 

Newt looked up from where he was bent over the small desk in his workspace, quill poised, writing about the effects that different types of food had on the wounds of the Erumpant he’d been treating for a few weeks now. “Of course, what’s wrong?” he asked, noticing that Percival didn’t look happy in the least.

 

“You have a Nundu in that habitat out there.”

 

“Yes, her name is Sheba.”

 

“Newt. There’s a damn Nundu. In your suitcase.”

 

At the baffled, confused look Newt gave him, Percival threw up his hands with a groan. “A Nundu, Newt! As in, ‘can instantly kill dozens of people by breathing on them! That kind of Nundu! What are you thinking? You could be killed!”

 

“Picquery was going to have her executed!” Newt protested, straightening up and giving Percival a stubborn look. “Just because she can kill me doesn’t mean she would. She’s hurt, Percival. She needs help.”

 

Percival took in a deep breath, and the fight seemed to drain from him- and then, he started laughing. Newt frowned. “What’s so funny?” he asked, and Percival shook his head.

 

“I’m chewing you out for taking in a hurt creature in need that could kill dozens of wizards simply by accident,” Percival said. “I’m just beginning to see the irony in it. And I think I owe Picquery an apology for her overreaction.”

 

Newt suddenly understood- just a year ago, he was that dangerous, unpredictable creature in need. He put down his quill and stepped in close to Percival, and then he gripped him by the waist and pulled him in for a kiss.

 

“I’ll be careful. I always am,” he assured him, and Percival sighed.

 

“I know you are, but I’ll always worry. I can’t help it.”

 

“Just like I worry when you run off to chase down some insane wizard,” Newt pointed out, and Percival chuckled.

 

“Okay, point taken,” he said, and there was a pause before he spoke again. “…Still, that’s a Nundu. So…don’t take any unnecessary risks, alright?”

 

“I won’t,” Newt said, and he meant it. The last thing he wanted to do was cause distress in his bond-mate, and he knew what it was like to know that Percival was in danger and that he couldn’t do anything about it. “I love you.”

 

“I love you too, “ Percival replied, and he kissed Newt once more. “Now. Tell me everything about this Nundu so I can help you heal it.”

 

“I was thinking of writing a book, you know,” Newt pointed out with a glance at his notes. “About all of these fantastic beasts, everything I know about them.”

 

“Fantastic beasts and where to find them, right?” Percival asked with a smirk. “I suppose it would be more interesting than ‘Idiotic dark wizards and how to arrest them’.”

 

“I would read it.”

 

“You’re biased.”

 

“Happily so,” Newt said with a grin. “So, about the Nundu- technically her breath doesn’t instantly kill. It causes a variety of fatal diseases, and reacts differently to different humans and species. It’s really quite fascinating.”

 

“…you’re really not helping your case here.”