"Have you tried chocolates?" Percival Graves suggested in a flat, even, merciful death release me tone.
"Do I look like an imbecile?" Grindelwald demanded. Graves declined to answer. "Of course I've tried chocolates!"
"Have you tried chocolates untainted by love potions?" Graves clarified. "I don't know about Mr. Dumbledore but I'm not very flattered by attempted poisoning."
From the twitch on Grindelwald's borrowed face Graves was very sure he hadn't tried untainted chocolates and probably thought an attempted poisoning was very romantic. The common attitude to love potions as nothing more than schoolyard fun was infuriating half the time and incredibly dangerous the rest and usually not Percival's problem, why had this happened to him?
"I just think he needs a little reminder of the truth of his feelings," Grindelwald said.
"If, as you claim, he still has feelings for you in the first place, a love potion is superfluous," Graves said, trying his very best not to sound impatient or frustrated. He was both those things, of course, but Grindelwald didn't need to know that. "Get him some expensive, non-tainted chocolates."
"He'll throw them away just the same," Grindelwald said bitterly.
Graves resolutely did not sigh. "What about flowers? Flowers are traditional apology material."
Grindelwald almost shuffled his feet.
"...you actually tried to use the flower language, didn't you."
"They don't have dictionaries for the kind of thing, they seem to think everyone knows it! And more, that everyone knows the version for their particular tongue!"
"There are absolutely dictionaries, and there are most certainly helpful shop clerks," Graves said with despairing understanding. "You insulted him in flowers. You deliberately picked flowers with double meanings and used an apology bouquet to insult him."
"My feelings were very raw that day," Grindelwald said with a passable attempt at dignity, not even attempting a denial. "It was the anniversary."
Merlin, Morgana, and all the quest-less knights, what had Graves done to deserve this?
"...have you tried talking to him about it?" He said at last, helplessly. He twitched his fingers a little, hoping for the tiniest little spark – no. Still too tired – from irregular sleeping hours created by being forced to listen to hours long rants at random – too ill – from paying actual attention to said hours long rants – and too disorientated – how had this become his life?! – to muster any wandless magic, let alone direct it.
"He won't talk to me!" Grindelwald howled in overwrought anguish.
Graves winced, flinched minutely at forgetting what such an obvious reaction might get him, and pretended the desperate flex of his fingers was a pitiful attempt to try and scratch his face.
He wasn't sitting through another five hours of Grindelwald tearing into Dumbledore's paper on the potential uses of transfiguration in a duel again. He barely made it the last time; he still wasn't sure if Grindelwald meant to deconstruct or support it. If he nodded along soothingly and agreed with him 'yes, that sounds ridiculous' he got a stinging hex and an infuriated 'how could someone like you possibly understand the brilliance going on here', and if he argued against him he got a stinging hex and an infuriated 'how could someone like you possibly understand how wrong he is'. If he sat quietly and let his mind wander he got a stinging hex and an infuriated 'how could someone like you think so much of himself as to ignore his betters' - he just couldn't win.
"Don't think I didn't see that," Grindelwald snapped. "Trying to stuff your fingers in your ears again, I see how it is!"
"No, no," Graves said. "It's... the beard? The beard. I'm not used to... it itches. I prefer to be clean-shaven. Plus, you know, shaving it would be another source of hair for polyjuice, how efficient."
Grindelwald harrumphed, spectacularly unimpressed. Graves commiserated; he was spectacularly unimpressed too, with both himself and his captor. A shaving charm did not seem forthcoming. "Look," he said, "let's try again. We need to begin with the basic facts. You and Dumbledore are no longer speaking."
"Yes," Grindelwald said, with a savage kind of misery. Graves hoped it hurt even half as much as he clearly tried to present it as doing.
"You are no longer speaking because...?"
"Because Albus has lost his way," Grindelwald said, whirling around and pacing theatrically – although Graves had to admit, he had yet to see Grindelwald make even a slight attempt at restraint. Graves liked his theatrics as much as anyone – when you had the tailoring he did, you were owed a little staginess to make up for the mundanity of the deskwork that bought it – but was it too much to ask of a man to not look like he was going to go storming off-stage to throw himself onto a fainting couch in a fit of angst every time he turned around?
There was a thin line between looking impressive and looking like self-important prig and Grindelwald trampled all over it. Graves shuddered to think what the man was doing to his reputation.
Graves closed his eyes. Took a deep breath.
"Let us just clarify that 'lost his way' means 'no longer willing to attempt to subjugate no-maj kind with me'."
"Yes, that," Grindelwald said. "Don't forget 'take over wizard-kind,' that's quite important. Central, in fact."
Graves took another, deeper breath. "Alright," he said. "Dumbledore has 'lost his way'. ...When and why he ever had such a way is beyond me, but I am not pertinent here."
"Obviously," Grindelwald sneered.
Graves felt a muscle in his cheek twitch. He'd never realised it could before, but since his captivity it had been getting a considerable workout.
"Obviously," he agreed with all the sweetness he could muster – if there was any milk in a two mile radius it had probably curdled. "I'm sure there are other factors than Dumbledore just deciding not to be a bigot?"
"It is not bigotry to want wizards to take their rightful place!" Grindelwald said. "We shouldn't have to hide from them! You Americans don't even wear robes, for Faust's sake!"
"Why would we want to?" Graves said, but quietly, so as not to be forced into another argument about 'oppression' and 'it's about the right to wear them if you want to' and 'pride in wizarding tradition and history as exemplified by sartorial choice'. His typical response was 'you've seen my suits – you're wearing my suits, you pasty-faced bastard – I look fantastic in them' and apparently that didn't meet Grindelwald's standards of reasonable discussion.
"– have you seen what that muggles are doing to themselves, it's like they want to go extinct, they need to be led, to have someone tell them what to do –"
Maybe he did deserve this, he was starting to think. He'd been a hard boss, he knew that, but kindness was overrated when being tough meant his aurors had won the international 'most likely to survive the first five years' departmental competition for the past three years running. Perhaps he could have been... nicer, however.
"Anyway," he said loudly. "Dumbledore. Break up. Reasons thereof."
"We didn't break up," Grindelwald said. "Officially. Technically."
"I'd have thought twenty-seven years without contact would probably be a good indication of the status of your relationship."
"Technically," Grindelwald stressed. He scowled. "What would you know?"
"I wouldn't," Graves agreed mildly. "Given that I apparently don't even have friends close enough to realise I've been replaced by a genocidal dark lord, I'm not sure why you think I could offer any romantic advice whatsoever."
"I'm a very good actor," Grindelwald sniffed. "It's no reflection upon your friends... or lack thereof."
There went that muscle in his cheek again, twitching madly.
"Is knowledge of the full circumstances really necessary?" Grindelwald asked after a long moment. If Graves didn't know better he might have thought the man was... ashamed.
"Well if you stopped speaking because one of you kept hogging the bathroom it's a very different thing to killing someone like a... relative..." he trailed off at the look on Grindelwald's face. "Oh Merlin, no."
"None of us know who killed her!" Grindelwald said defensively. "It was an accident, it was –"
Graves didn't want to know what his expression was like but whatever it was it made Grindelwald shut up, for which he was very grateful.
"Chocolates and flowers cover missed anniversaries and forgotten planned outings, not murder," he said.
"Are you sure?" Grindelwald said.
"Absolutely," Graves said through gritted teeth.
"We've been going about this all wrong, then," Grindelwald said, sounding determined. "We must alter our approach."
'We', Graves mouthed incredulously, letting his head fall back against the wall behind him with a heavy thunk. "Talking," he said, eyes on the ceiling. "I believe in this very particular case talking it out would be good. Very good. Absolutely crucial. There is just no getting around it."
"Yes, very well," Grindelwald said, "but how am I to talk to him? He burns my letters, he silences my howlers, he disapparates if I get within ten streets of him, tell me, how am I supposed to apologise, to speak with him, if he refuses to meet me halfway?"
Anything, Graves thought, anything to get Grindelwald to go away.
"For the love of... look in the mirror, asshole," Graves snapped.
Grindelwald frowned, tapping his fingers against Graves' own damn wand as if to threaten to charm his mouth full of soap. "A tad narcissistic of you," he said, "but very well." He conjured a small mirror and peered at his reflection. "I do like your suits," he admitted. "You must give me the name of your tailor."
"Like hell," Graves muttered, before raising his voice and saying impatiently, "You're masquerading as the damned head of MACUSA's department of magical law enforcement, can you not think of a single reason I might converse with a man of Dumbledore's intelligence and skills? There. There's your damn foot in the door."
"Ah!" Grindelwald beamed. "You are helpful, Mr. Graves."
"If I find myself married to Albus Dumbledore when I get out I will end you," Graves said.
"You are never getting out," Grindelwald said, voice dripping with false commiseration. Graves glared at him, solemnly promising himself that he would indeed get out and when he did he was going to punch his own face off Grindelwald's. "And good heavens, weren't you just telling me that communication is vital and no relationship can last founded upon lies? No, dear man, I need only use your name to get Albus to begin to speak to me again, I can quickly coax myself back in his good graces once he has."
"Bully for you," Graves said dourly. "Now get out and let a man bemoan his life in peace."
Grindelwald rolled his eyes at him, stepping back. "One would think you don't appreciate your little vacation," he said.
"My first break in five years," Graves said bitterly, baring his teeth at him, "and I'm spending it chained to a wall and having my hair butchered. You only need one strand per batch of polyjuice, you colossal prick!"
"Very unappreciative," Grindelwald said disdainfully. "See if I let you help draft my letter to Albus. I suppose it won't help you to know I am perfectly capable of transfiguring my face to yours now I'm so familiar with it?"
"You unbelievable whey-faced pile of doxy droppings," Graves said blankly.
"There's no need to be so down on yourself," Grindelwald said. He waved jauntily as he headed to the door. "You'll excuse me, some of us have very important jobs to be at."
Graves knew the futility of screaming with frustration just as well as he knew the futility of trying to throw himself at Grindelwald's back and stab him in the kidneys with a lapel pin but knowing hadn't stopped him yet.