Author's Note: Should be working on a million and one other things, but this story literally would not let me do anything but write it, so, here you go. Read, review, and enjoy!
Percival didn't immediately remember what had happened when he woke up, chained to the wall in his basement, head pounding. He was ashamed to say that his first thought was that he'd gone a little hard on the drink and had taken a psycho home with him. It wouldn't be the first time. This wasn't even the first time that this, specific, thing had happened to him.
Then his actual memory kicked in and he wished this had been a simple case of a wild night on the town.
Grindelwald was in New York. Grindelwald was in New York and had attacked Percival. Apparently, the next step in his dastardly plan was to chain Percival in his own basement. That… didn't make much sense. Why would Percival not be in Nurmengard or somewhere else where he could be suitably tortured without worry of being caught? If Percival went missing, the first place his aurors would look was his house. Or, maybe, Percival's eyes narrowed in thought, this was a trick to make him feel overconfident. Perhaps this wasn't even his house. Perhaps the room was simply spelled to look like his basement. Did that make sense?
Percival had a headache.
That headache did not get better when he saw himself walk down the stairs, smirking at him. There was a tall wisp of a man following behind Percival's lookalike, but, honestly, Percival wasn't focused on him at that moment. Instead, his lookalike drew his attention by sneering, "How do I look, Percival? I quite like your suits. Very well made. You have to give me the name of your tailor. Do you think he'd enjoy making Grindelwald suits?"
Percival snarled as realization finally sunk in. Grindelwald was going to use his face. He was going to steal Percival's face and stand in as him at MACUSA. He could keep Percival hidden in his own basement because no one was going to come looking because no one would even know he was missing. Percival was screwed.
Grindelwald brought Percival's attention to the man hovering slightly in the background, "This is one of my most trusted and skilled followers, Mr. Newt Scamander."
Percival ran a careful eye over the other man – Scamander. The man was tall even with the way he hunched his shoulders in under Percival's gaze. He couldn't tell what color Scamander's eyes were with the way the ginger kept his gaze nervously on the ground. He didn't look like a skilled follower; he was lean and willowy enough to look like a light breeze would push him over. He didn't look like a trusted follower, either. The way Scamander curled in on himself spoke less of follower and more of abused lackey. It didn't make sense. More than that, Percival recognized the last name. Theseus Scamander was Percival's counterpart in the Ministry of Magic and a known war hero. Percival had only interacted with the man a couple times, once at a war memorial and two or three times in his role as Director of Magical Security. Were they related? Both were tall and willowy (though Theseus was a little stockier) and certainly shared their bright red hair. It was particular enough that they were probably related, but… how would Percival have not heard of a Scamander working so closely with Grindelwald? Did Theseus Scamander know? What did Grindelwald do to tempt a war hero's relative over to his side?
The man in question moved forward suddenly, causing Percival to flinch back instinctually. Scamander blinked big, blue, startled eyes at him before moving forward more slowly, like Percival was a skittish owl. Scamander carefully leaned over and cut a bit of Percival's hair out. After uselessly jerking against his bonds (and feeling vicious satisfaction when Scamander gasped and moved backwards quickly), Percival growled, "Polyjuice potion?"
Grindelwald smirked at him, "Not quite. Something a little more resistant to revelios and much longer lasting." He gestured back to where Scamander was braiding Percival's hair together, "Newt here is, rightfully, a magical creature activist. On that note, he works quite hard to develop potions that don't require hurting animals to create them. Polyjuice potions require the shredded skin of a Boomslang. Unfortunately, a large number of sellers get that shredded skin while the Boomslang is still alive. They believe that it makes the skin a more potent ingredient. So, I don't use Polyjuice potion anymore. I use Newt's lovely creation."
"Fascinating," Percival deadpanned, attempting to kill one or both of the men in front of him with his eyes. Especially Scamander. After the amount of time Percival had been an auror, he had a healthy respect and fear for evil potion makers. The number of things potions to do to a victim were innumerable and people who could invent potions had a level of intelligence that was frightening. If only Grindelwald hadn't gotten his hands on this man.
Smirking more as if he could hear Percival's thoughts, Grindelwald waved a magnanimous hand, "I'm afraid that's all I have the time to answer today. I do have to get to work, you know. Newt will be taking care of you while I live your life. Do be nice to him."
And then he was gone, sweeping out of the room with a dramatic turn and heavy steps on the stairs. Percival was never that dramatic. Someone would notice he'd been replaced. There's no way someone won't if Grindelwald acted like that at work.
A clinking noise from the other side of the room startled Percival (curse this headache for making him so unfocused) and he whipped his head up to see Scamander putting the hair into the cauldron he was leaned over. Percival took the moment to observe him again. Percival knew from the scant reports MACUSA got from the European governments that Grindelwald's followers came in all shapes and sizes and from every walk of life, but Percival still hadn't expected someone like this. Scamander was soft-looking, all long limbs and warm curls and a demurred posture. It didn't fit with Percival's image of a fanatic at all.
Percival scowled at the thought. It didn't do him any good to wonder how or why this Scamander fell in with the evil wizard of the generation. He wasn't going to figure that out in a day and Percival had definite plans of being out of there by the end of the day.
Once it had become apparent that Grindelwald's poison was spreading across all of Europe, MACUSA had arranged a training session of sorts for what to look for in and how to deal with one of Grindelwald's fanatics. The training session had been largely useless. The man who'd come to 'train' them was frazzled and obviously eager to be back in Britain. There also hadn't been much to teach. There was no rhyme or reason to who would join Grindelwald and there was no rhyme or reason to who Grindelwald put trust and interest into. The worst part was that it was incredibly difficult to convince one of the fanatics to denounce Grindelwald. It certainly wouldn't be a viable option in this scenario unless Percival wanted to spend a long time in this situation. Which he did not. His best bet would be to get Scamander to lower his guard and take advantage of that.
With that thought in mind, Percival cleared his throat slightly and asked, "What are you doing?"
Scamander's shoulders immediately moved to box his ears, his back stiffening. He didn't turn around, but he did answer, "I'm making the potion."
Well, Scamander was British. That only increased the likelihood that this Scamander was related to Theseus Scamander. His voice was also as soft and nervous as his demeanor and Percival had to wonder about the wisdom of leaving this gentle man alone with him. Grindelwald had to know that Percival would do anything to escape, including taking advantage of the man in front of him. Pasting on a fake smile even though Scamander couldn't see it, Percival admitted, "It's impressive that you managed to make an alternative to Polyjuice potion. I hadn't realized that creatures suffered so much in the creation of potion ingredients."
All at once, Percival saw how Grindelwald felt safe leaving Scamander alone down there. Scamander whirled around at Percival's words, glaring out from under the fringe of his hair, "You did not know because you did not care to know. And I highly doubt anything would have changed even if you did know. If you are going to attempt to – to bond with me or convince me that you aren't a threat or – or whatever it is you're doing, then I suggest you try a bit harder and actually try to be somewhat genuine." With that said, he spun back around and resumed working on the potion.
Well. That had certainly been unexpected. The man had a spine after all. It really, really was a shame that Grindelwald had gotten to this man before the right side could. If Percival could train him out of his shy, unsure disposition, then Scamander could do good work with MACUSA's alchemists. Maybe, if he couldn't get out of this place today, he could actually try to convince Scamander to see the error of his ways. It would be worth the effort. If he were especially lucky, then Scamander really was a trusted follower and would be able to give MACUSA information on Grindelwald, his plans, and his following.
But that was only if Percival couldn't get out that day. That was the preferable goal. On that line of thinking, Percival asked innocently, "Does Theseus know you work with Grindelwald?"
Percival had been worried that he'd guessed wrong about them being related when his only response was silence. Then he realized that Scamander's entire body was frozen, one thin hand wrapped tightly around the vial where he'd been pouring the potion. Percival eyed him carefully, not sure how he would react, but hoping it was something he could use. If Scamander showed more of that backbone, and attacked him, Percival was certain he could take the man out and grab his wand. If Scamander broke down, guilty or afraid of the thought of Theseus Scamander knowing, Percival could use that, too – blackmail or bonding or guilt to manipulate.
He didn't do any of those things, though. He finished filling the vial, corked it, and set it down before announcing, "I'm going to go back to my room. Please just call out if you need anything." His voice was smooth and blank and empty. He walked over to another corner of the room and opened a suitcase that Percival hadn't noticed. To Percival's bemusement, Scamander actually walked down into the suitcase, the top falling shut behind him with a gentle click.
If it weren't for the fact that Percival's head already ached, he'd smash it back against the brick behind him. Fantastic. Just fantastic. What else was Percival supposed to do, though? He wasn't good at coaxing people into doing things. He could threaten people and order people, but coaxing them? Relating to the criminal? He was an auror because he didn't relate to criminals. Of course, there were times when he had to put himself into a criminal's mind to try to guess their next move, but it wasn't the same thing. Percival couldn't understand how anyone, ever could follow Grindelwald. The man was a psychopath. A cold, murderous, immoral psychopath. The European aurors could tell Percival day in and day out that Grindelwald had incredible charm and persuasive abilities. They could tell him that Grindelwald was exceptionally skilled at knowing his targets and always knowing what to offer them. Percival couldn't see it. He'd read about the things Grindelwald had done. He'd read about the things Grindelwald had done to his own people. What could he offer to entice people to his side after all of that?
Especially someone like this Scamander. The man cared enough about magical creatures to design an entirely new Polyjuice potion simply to avoid using their parts! Then again, Percival mused, he'd see plenty of evil, evil people who had that one good thing they were passionate about. Not that an overwhelming fondness of magical creatures was a good thing. Sure, Percival wouldn't want anyone to suffer, but to take it that far? Percival knew as well as the next wizard that some magical creatures were too dangerous to let live when faced with them. People who disagreed had death wishes.
Percival blew out an aggravated breath. There was no point thinking about that. As far as he could see, he only had three options if he couldn't escape today: someone at the office notices something's off, Grindelwald lets him go, or he convinces Scamander to let him go. The second one was laughable. The first one… as much as Percival couldn't understand how people followed Grindelwald, he understood that Grindelwald was powerful, and he did have a massive following. If anyone could trick his aurors, it was Grindelwald. That left convincing Scamander to let him out.
If he could figure out what it was that enticed Scamander to Grindelwald's side, then maybe he could figure out a bargaining chip. The problem was that he didn't know a thing about the man. He knew now that this Scamander was related to Theseus Scamander somehow. He knew that Scamander made potions and had a fondness for magical creatures. What did that do for him? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Percival had never been particularly skilled at or interested in potions and he wasn't sure that any sane person had a fondness for magical creatures. People were complex and turned to crime for any number of reasons. Some were – understandable. Many were pitiable. A few were just plain idiotic.
Groaning again, Percival tried to calm himself down. He would figure something out. He always did. At the moment, he needed to focus on getting out. What could he use? There wasn't much in the basement, but he would have to work with what he had. First and foremost, he needed out of these cuffs. If Grindelwald was smart, he'd have enchanted the cuffs to resist lock-picking spells. Percival would just have to hope that Grindelwald wasn't smart. Taking a deep breath to center himself, Percival pushed his magic outward, shaping it into the spell he wanted to do. Alohomora.
Yep. Nothing. Not a surprise. Irritating, but not a surprise. Percival really, really hated it when the bad guys were intelligent.
Alright, he could try something else. It was unlikely that the key was anywhere around here, but just to give it a shot, Percival pushed his magic out again, Accio. There was a muffled yelp from inside the suitcase before something started bumping gently against the top of the suitcase. That was probably the key. There was a sigh from inside the suitcase before Scamander said quietly, "Finite Incantatem." Awesome. Well, at least he tried.
There was something else he could think of, but it was a lot harder to do wandless than a simple Alohomora and was a lot more likely to cause damage to him as well. He was running out of time to escape, though.
It took up precious time, but Percival relaxed himself, drawing on as much of his power as he could. Once he'd gathered it all, he let it out, actually saying the word, "Defodio." Immediately, the spot where his chains were tacked into the concrete wall of the basement started turning to dust. The spell quickly and efficiently carved through the stone to let him out. He was very, very glad that he didn't catch his hands in that spell.
The worst part about the spell, though? It was loud. Much louder than he wanted it to be. He didn't know how much Scamander could hear inside that suitcase, but he'd said that Percival only needed to yell to get his attention. That implied that Scamander could hear a great deal and that Percival was screwed.
And, shocker, just as the chains dropped away from the wall, Scamander burst out of his suitcase, looking beyond disheveled. For a single moment, their eyes met, wide-eyed and surprised. Who was going to make the first move?
With a wave of his hand, Percival sent the cauldron launching towards Scamander. He'd been expecting a weak, hastily constructed shield in response, but Scamander surprised him by actually apparating out of the way. Scamander ended up in a different corner of the room, hands up and slightly forward, "I'm going to ask you to please sit back down and not resist. I have to reattach your chains to the wall."
"Do you seriously think I'm just going to do that because you said please?" Percival asked incredulously.
Scamander sighed and shrugged, "I had to try the peaceful option first." That didn't sound good. Percival readied himself, a thousand spells on the tip of his tongue. He wasn't expecting Scamander to whistle loudly. Scamander was certainly full of surprises, wasn't he? Now, what exactly did he think that whistling was going to achieve in this situation?
The answer to that became terrifyingly obvious only seconds later when a nundu stalked out of Scamander's suitcase. Percival gaped at him. Scamander had the gall to simply shrug again, "I did say please."
"You can't be serious," Percival said weakly. Sure, his shield could hold up against a direct attack, but if the nundu released its deadly gas, then he was screwed. He'd need a wand to be able to deal with that and even then, he probably wouldn't be fast enough.
Scamander sent him a sharp look before crooning softly to the beast, "Sacha, Mr. Graves is trying to escape, and we cannot have that. Can you help me keep him under control long enough to put him back in his restraints?" Was he – was he talking to the creature like it could understand him? Scamander was crazier than Percival thought he was. Maybe he did belong with psychopaths like Grindelwald.
After another second's hesitation, Percival raised his hands in the air. Gritting his teeth, he walked back over to where he'd been chained earlier. Even though it hurt his pride to do it, he left his hands open and non-threatening when Scamander came over and fixed the damage with softly spoken spells and gentle flicks of his wand. He slumped in defeat when he heard Scamander adding even more spells to the restraints. It would be nearly impossible to get out now.
Once he was done, Scamander walked over to the nundu – Sacha, apparently – and scratched lightly behind its ear and under its poison sac. The nundu shuddered in delight and practically melted onto the floor. It was – it was purring. The nundu rolled on its back and started wriggling it's rear-end, clearly delighted with the attention it was getting. The thing acted no different than a common house cat!
Scamander must have caught Percival staring because he started explaining defensively, "Nundus are quite magnificent creatures. Really, they're just as beautiful and powerful as a typical lion or tiger with all the need for affection and love as a domesticated cat breed. And they're perfectly harmless if they just keep up a steady diet of mint-based food. It nullifies the toxins and diseases in their poison sac and has the added benefit of making them much happier and less likely to feel the need to defend themselves. Did you know, nundus were actually a revered creature in African wizarding tribes? They were considered gods to some of them, but that was when they all still lived in South Africa where they could eat the wild water mint that grew there. Once the wizards pushed them out of South Africa or even transported them away, it was discovered that nundus had this toxic ability. It's my belief that their ability to release plagues when not eating their preferred mint is a defense mechanism. Likely, the reason the mint could have been decreased is due to other creatures eating it. If the supply of mint went down because more creatures were eating it, then the breath of the nundus would become poisonous again and they would be able to eliminate their competition. It's really quite fascinating."
"Wait," Percival interrupted, simmering anger roiling under his skin, "Are you telling me that this nundu is completely harmless – not dangerous at all, - but you got me back in my chains because of it regardless?"
Scamander sighed, gently nudging the back flank of the nundu and gesturing towards the suitcase. The nundu leapt gracefully back into it as Scamander stood, staring just to the left of Percival's shoulder, "None of these creatures are dangerous. The only dangerous magical creature is wizards. When a magical creature attacks a witch or wizard, it is because the witch or wizard has provoked them in some way. So, yes, they are completely harmless in the true sense of the word. But no, they are dangerous. Because if you try to attack me or to escape when Grindelwald doesn't want you too, then they will protect me, and they will hurt you."
Percival nodded stiffly, not trusting himself to respond. He was so mad that he'd allowed himself to be backed into that corner. Especially if the nundu's poison sac was nullified or whatever. Percival could have dealt with the claws and the pouncing. It was the toxins he'd been so concerned about! It was infuriating! It was also Percival's own fault. He should have just made a run for it anyways. Grindelwald clearly needed him alive, so even if the nundu had an operational poison sac, he was sure that Scamander or Grindelwald would have saved him. He shouldn't have let himself be played like that.
Scamander ducked his head a little, lifting his eyes to meet Percival's once before they skittered away, "As long as I am up here, did you need anything? Are you getting hungry? Do you need to go to the bathroom?"
Percival closed his eyes and clenched his jaw, "No. I'm fine."
Scamander's eyes flicked back up to his one more time, "Okay. Please call if you need anything." And then he disappeared into his case. Percival's eyebrows rose when, during the brief period of time the case was open, he heard the sound of dozens and dozens of animals. How many creatures did Scamander have down there?
It didn't matter. What mattered was that Percival clearly wasn't going to get out of there in one day. Scamander was a lot more formidable than Percival had considered him. And, next time Percival attempted escape, he figured that he'd be facing something other than a nundu. Scamander knew that Percival knew that the nundu was essentially not a threat now. Then again, maybe he didn't have anything more threatening than a nundu down there. Percival would probably be able to deal with anything else. They were just magical beasts after all. Nothing that a little force wouldn't be able to handle.
That was, of course, assuming that Percival would be able to get through the new charms locking him in. He'd heard Scamander adding some pretty intense locking spells, but he wasn't sure how powerful they were. A wizard could be technically skilled but still create spells that were as weak as cobwebs.
At the moment, though, he didn't have any way of testing that. He'd heard Scamander placing a shielding spell over his others. If Percival reached out to test the strength of his spells with his magic, then the shielding spell would shoot his magic right back into himself. Painfully. He would wait a few days for the spell to weaken. He could be patient. It was just like a stakeout. Patience was the key.
Just… a little patience.
Percival could do that.
Percival could… do… that…
It took him only about three hours to break and yell for Scamander. It only took a minute or so for Scamander to stick his head out of the case, blinking curiously at Percival, "Did you need something?"
Percival scowled, hating himself for what he was about to say, "I'm bored." There. He said it. Well, maybe he could use it to his advantage. Wasn't one of his plans getting closer to Scamander? Might as well start now. Kill two birds with one stone. Percival's scowl lifted a little bit, pride unfurling in his chest. He was such a good auror (he dutifully ignored the mocking voice in the back of his mind that sounded like a painful mix between his older sister and Seraphina).
Scamander actually blushed at that, although Percival couldn't for the life of him figure out why. Did Scamander think that Percival was propositioning him? No, that was completely ridiculous. Did the idea of Percival being bored embarrass him? Was this secondhand embarrassment? Or was Scamander just that flustered at the idea of someone asking him to help alleviate boredom? Percival really knew nothing about this man.
Carefully, Scamander scooted out of the case, settling into a cross-legged sitting position in front of Percival, just far enough away that Percival wouldn't be able to touch him, even if he stretched. Smart. Scamander's eyes flickered up to Percival's and down again a couple times before settling on looking directly at his right shoulder, "What did you want to do?"
"I don't know. You're the one who kidnapped me. You think of something," Percival said irritably. He immediately berated himself. This is not how you're supposed to make friends.
Scamander shrugged slightly, "All I have in my case is stuff for my creatures and research and I'm not allowed to leave the room to get anything from the rest of your house. I can ask Grindelwald to bring some books down tonight, though."
Percival frowned, "How did you end up working for Grindelwald anyways?" Maybe that was a little too direct, but Percival couldn't find it in himself to care.
Scamander shrugged again, "He gave me a place to belong, where I could travel the world, study and rescue creatures, and create non-harmful alternatives to regular wizarding ideals. He promised that the rest of his followers would have to treat creatures with respect, too."
"And it doesn't matter to you how he treats people?" Percival asked incredulously.
Scamander's lips pursed, "People are always going to hurt people and kill each other and fight and torture. Nothing I do will change that. I can make things a little better for the animals, though. At least the animals are rational creatures."
Percival shook his head, scoffing, "You can't be serious. What? You were bullied as a kid and decided that people didn't matter because they don't like you? Oh, boohoo. You're just as irrational as the rest of us if that's the way you think."
"Did you ask me here simply to insult me or was there anything you were specifically looking for?" Scamander asked, voice cold.
Percival sighed, trying to reign in his irritation. This was really, really not his strong suit. It took a lot of effort, but he managed to push out a, "Sorry." Scamander still looked like his feelings were hurt and like he was contemplating going back into his case, so Percival pushed his pride a little further down and said, "You seem to know a lot about nundu."
Scamander glanced at him suspiciously, but eventually explained, "I have been studying Sacha for a while now. Of course, I also spent some time with a pride of nundu in the Kalahari Desert. That was where I learned the most about pride hierarchies and the effect of mint on their diets. It would have been troubling if I had taken Sacha in before I spent that time with the pride."
"How did you get… Sacha?" Percival asked, intrigued despite himself.
Scamander lit up, "I was living with an Ethiopian wizarding tribe called K'eyi T'ebasa, studying their unique relationship with Fwoopers. As I'm sure you know, Fwoopers are legally required to be spelled with Silencing Charms if you wish to sell them, which isn't good for them at all, but the K'evi T'ebasa live amongst Fwoopers without any spelling necessary." Percival found himself just the slightest bit sidetracked by the effortless way Scamander pronounced words that were clearly not English. It was impractical to keep translation charms equipped all the time and the only other way he would have pronounced that so smoothly was if he actually knew the language. It made Percival wonder how many other languages Scamander knew.
Scamander was still talking when Percival tuned back in, "-which I thought was quite unique. But they found themselves rather set upon by a nundu that was slowly destroying their food source. They wanted to create a hunting party to kill it and they asked me what spells I recommended to protect them against the breath of death. I told them that I would give them the spells, but only if they let me try to remove the threat without violence. Although they were reluctant to let me face the nundu by myself – which was very sweet of them, by the way. I think they quite liked me even if they thought my accent was a tad ridiculous and made fun of my freckles – but I was insistent. Then, well, I went out and I found Sacha. The poor thing was starving. She had been transported so far from home she didn't know what to do. Thankfully, I had some wild water mint on hand because I had been using it for an experimental healing potion, so I was able to give her some food that would truly satisfy her. She became attached to me rather quickly and was eager to come with me as long as I kept providing food. I did try to release her, you see, but she had been away from the pride dynamics for too long, evidently. She was unable to reintegrate with a pride, so I ended up fully adopting her. She's been with me for a while now."
"That so?" Percival asked mildly when it seemed as if Scamander was done. He hadn't quite been expecting it to be that easy to get Scamander to open up, especially after how quickly he'd shut down when they'd been speaking earlier. Clearly, he needed to take a direct interest in one of Newt's creature instead of insinuating that he liked the beasts or whatever.
Seemingly to just realize how much he'd spoken, Scamander blushed again, ducking his head and twining his fingers in and out of each other. It was… strangely endearing. It made Scamander seem less like a psycho cult member and more like a sweet, animal lover. It was disconcerting.
Scamander shrugged and they descended back into silence. Percival searched for something to say, eventually settling on, "So, how big is that expansion charm you have on that suitcase? I had assumed it would only be a room or so in there, but then you pulled a nundu out of it and I started to think it might be a little bigger."
Percival's eyebrows raised when Scamander hunched his shoulders in and muttered, "A couple thousand acres."
There was nothing Percival could do to stop his jaw from dropping, "A couple thousand?"
Scamander's shoulders hunched in even further, "Yes."
Percival itched with the need to pinch the bridge of his nose in frustration, "Do you understand how illegal that is?" He didn't wait for an answer before continuing, "Incredibly illegal. Very, very, incredibly illegal. Not even to mention the illegal nundu you have in there. How many illegal creatures do you even have in there?" He took a breath but started speaking again before Scamander could get a word in edgewise, "By Morgana, man. How did you even get your hands on something that illegally expanded? Did Grindelwald make that for you?"
Before Scamander could answer (now that Percival had actually given him a chance to try), Grindelwald interrupted him, "I did not." He smirked at Percival when he growled. It was so, so, so disturbing to see his own face reflected at him with that creepy sneer on it. It was also incredibly discouraging to realize that Grindelwald had gotten through an entire day of being Percival without anyone noticing. What was he even paying his aurors for?
Grindelwald continued speaking before Percival could growl anymore, "Newt here actually made this case himself. He's wonderful with expansion and creation charms. You should see all the different habitats he has in there. It's a veritable wonderland for his creatures. Isn't that right, Newt?" Scamander ducked his head at the praise.
Percival had to stop himself from staring at Scamander in surprise. He'd done all of that himself? That was incredibly strong magic. If it was anyone other than Grindelwald or, say, that Dumbledore guy that Percival's Defense Against the Dark Arts professor always went on about, then Percival would have expected that it would take several witches and wizards to create a case like that. Then again, he'd noticed how effortlessly Scamander had apparated out of the way of that cauldron earlier. That wasn't the easiest thing to do either.
It seemed like Scamander wasn't done hiding things up his sleeve. Unfortunately, that meant that Percival likely wouldn't be able to unravel the spells that Scamander had placed on his cuffs earlier that day, even when the shield wore off a little. That was inconvenient. It seemed as if Percival really would have to stick with his plan of wearing Scamander down. That, or finding a moment and taking advantage of it. Those were his only options at the moment.
Grindelwald moved to crouch down next to Scamander, placing a tight hand on Scamander's shoulder. He leaned down and asked, "Now, did Mr. Graves behave today?"
Percival stiffened. This couldn't be good. He was surprise again, though, when Scamander nodded his head and said quietly, "Yes."
Percival couldn't quite help the way his eyes instinctually widened in shock. Was Scamander… protecting him? Unfortunately, Grindelwald caught the movement. His sneer deepened into a fixed smirk as he tightened his grip on Scamander's shoulder until the man whimpered slightly, hand twitching like he wanted to forcefully move Grindelwald's hand. Grindelwald got even closer, lips practically touching Scamander's ear, voice deadly, "Why don't I believe you?"
A full body shudder ran through Scamander before he stilled, going almost limp in Grindelwald's still tight grip, "I'm sorry. I just – I didn't want you to hurt him."
Grindelwald finally released Scamander's shoulder, patting it roughly before telling him, "I wouldn't have to hurt him if he didn't do something worth punishing. Surely you know that, Newt. What did he do?"
Scamander licked his lips, still not looking at anyone in the room, "He tried to escape. He tried to Accio the key and he tried to break down the wall around his chains."
Grindelwald ruffled Scamander's hair, ignoring the flinch it caused. He stood up and smiled down at Scamander, "Thank you for telling me. And good job at keeping him here. Now, go down to your creatures. It's getting close to feeding time, correct? I will be down there once I finish dealing with Percy."
Percival grit his teeth at the nickname. The fact that Grindelwald knew it meant that he'd been reading through Percival's letters. His sister was the only one who dared to call him that. Even Seraphina had been dissuaded from using it.
He was distracted from his anger at the sight of Scamander standing up and moving quickly over to his suitcase. He locked eyes with his warden for the briefest moment, trying not to be unnerved by the fear in Scamander's eyes. Then Scamander was gone, disappeared into his suitcase.
Grindelwald stalked forward and Percival could do nothing but grit his teeth against the inevitable pain.
Newt was curled up in one of the hidden cubbies he'd found over his time at Hogwarts. During his first year, he'd had his brother to cling to. Theseus was always very good about letting Newt play with him and the other seventh years in their house even as Theseus reminded Newt that he should spend time with his own year mates. But Theseus was gone now, graduated from Hogwarts and gone into Auror training.
Without Theseus there, the other boys weren't so nice. They'd never been shy with their scathing comments and mocking. Newt's nervous stuttering was their favorite thing to imitate. They hadn't gotten physical until Theseus was gone, though. Perhaps they had realized what sort of shield Theseus was.
So, instead of spending the evening in the common room or his dorm room, talking quietly or listening intently to his brother's tales, Newt was trying to write his Potions essay even as his fingers shook with leftover adrenalin and his eye throbbed where it had already swollen.
He was still sniffling when Professor Flocks found him.
Newt blushed in embarrassment when Professor Flocks' head popped into view from the staircase, short brown hair frizzy with the humid weather of the season. She gave him a warm smile as she pulled herself further up into the cubbyhole. Professor Flocks made an intrigued noise when she saw the large basin with the tiny Grindylow in it. After arranging her robes a little bit, Professor Flocks sat down in front of the basin, "And where did you find this little fellow?"
Newt's eyes flicked up to her curiously, trying to gauge if she was actually interested or just setting up a trap. When she looked back at him with nothing but simple curiosity, his shoulders relaxed a little bit and he answered hesitantly, "He was washed up on the shore of the Great Lake. He's very young. Based on the size and number of his tentacles, I would place him as an infant. He was hurt when I found him. I brought him back here and I've been tending to him. He's almost ready to be released back into the lake. I hope he finds his family alright." Newt closed his mouth abruptly when he realized he'd been rambling.
Professor Flocks was still looking at him kindly, though, her lips tilted up in a little smile, "That's very kind of you, Newt. I'm sure he appreciates this a lot. Have you named him?"
Newt glanced up for a moment before he looked back down at the Grindylow, "Named him?"
"Well, of course," Professor Flocks smiled, "Everyone deserves a name, don't you think? And since we don't know what his own kind calls him, we'll just have to give him one."
Smiling a little at the 'we' that Professor Flocks had slipped into her words, Newt reached out to touch the side of the basin, "I wouldn't know where to start."
Professor Flocks laughed, "I'll have to get you a book of names. I have the feeling this isn't the only creature you're going to help in your life. For now, let's see… How about Grendel?"
"Grendel?" Newt asked curiously. He liked it. It suited the Grindylow, somehow.
Professor Flocks nodded seriously, "Yes. Just a warning: there's a little bit of a Muggle Studies lesson included in this name." Newt laughed softly. Professor Flocks was the Muggle Studies professor and she always found a way to fit a lesson into her conversations. She was infamous for it. Professor Flocks grinned again and continued, "A lot of muggle folklore comes from witnessing magical creatures. In the counties of Yorkshire and Lancashire, they have tales of Grindylows in bogs and lakes. They believe there's a connection between those creatures and the man-eating demon named Grendel described in the epic poem Beowulf. A lot of depictions of Grendel look somewhat similar to a more land-oriented Grindylow."
Newt was watching Professor Flocks intently at that point, "Really?" He frowned as he thought of something, "It hardly seems nice to name him after a demon."
Professor Flocks smiled and lightly ruffled Newt's hair, causing him to jump slightly, "He was only a demon to the ones who he defeated. Anyone would think poorly of the person who tries to kill them. But that's a uniquely human standpoint, don't you think? Afterall, I'm sure mice understand that owls will hunt them for food. Do you think mice condemn all owls simply because the owls must eat?" Newt frowned at her, somewhat confused. This was starting to sound less like Muggle Studies and more like the Philosophy club. Professor Flocks rubbed the back of her neck and chuckled softly, "Sorry, I went on a bit of a tangent there. How about this? I'll let you borrow my copy of Beowulf. I want you to read it once just for understanding and then I want you to read it again from the point of view of Grendel. He's supposedly a villain, but I find him to be a more compelling character than even Beowulf himself. How does that sound? Just a warning – it's a tough read."
"I can do it," Newt responded automatically. The other boys already called him stupid. He didn't want Professor Flocks doing it, too. She and Dumbledore were the only ones who seemed to really understand Newt. The rest of the professors either thought he was weird or too shy.
Professor Flocks beamed at him again, "Great! Then, why don't you tell Grendel and I how you got that black eye, huh?"
Newt ducked his head, embarrassment flashing through him. He'd hoped that the professor would somehow not notice. He didn't want to explain it. He didn't want to explain how he was too weak, too scared to do anything but stand there as bullies pushed him around and broke his quill and hurt him.
Professor Flocks ruffled Newt's hair again, gentle enough to make tears push at the corners of Newt's eyes, "It was those other third years, wasn't it? I've heard from other professors that they push you around. If I ever saw them do it, I'd stop them in a heartbeat and bring them straight to Headmaster Dippet. I can't believe the other professors don't stop them."
Newt's shoulders curled in again, not used to someone telling off other adults like that, "It's not their fault. The other boys try to do it when the professors aren't watching."
Professor Flocks raised her eyebrows slightly in a gentle rebuke, "Don't tell me that Prendergast didn't walk right past one of those Ravenclaw boys hexing you because he talked about it in the staffroom." Newt bowed his head, closing his mouth from when he was about to lie. Professor Flocks sighed and leaned back against the far wall, "It's a shame there aren't more people like you in the world, Newt."
"Like me?" He asked hesitantly, eyes wide, "No one likes me." He blushed after he said that, ducking his head.
Professor Flocks was smiling when he looked up, though, "I like you. Dumbledore likes you. Newt, you're amazing. Don't think I didn't hear your Charms professor gushing about the theories you had about expansion charms. And your Potions work? Stunning. You understand that stuff better than I could ever hope to and you're only a third year! People are so cruel to you because they don't understand you. And they don't understand you because society has created this false idea of 'strength.' They believe that brawn is the only acceptable form of power. But intelligence and a kind heart are just as important. Your love for these magical creatures? Your interest and research on them? That makes you so powerful, Newt. You're going to be a real star someday."
Newt didn't really understand everything she was saying about the ideas of strength that society had, but he did know that she had just given him a big compliment. It was about the only one he could expect to hear for a while. His dad was always busy with his Auror work. His brother was temporarily busy with his training and wouldn't be able to write letters until he was done. Newt and his mother had had a falling out when he'd said he wanted to become a magizoologist when he grew up, so she currently wasn't speaking to him. It wasn't like he had any friends. And, well, Dumbledore would probably have some kind words. But Dumbledore's encouragements could be slightly cryptic sometimes. This? What Professor Flocks had given him? It was the most direct encouragement he had heard since starting his third year at Hogwarts.
He beamed at Professor Flocks, looking straight at her when he said, "Thank you!"
She smiled back, "Anytime, Newt."
Percival groaned as he woke up, limbs aching at the positions they were held in. Sleeping in chains? Not fun. Sleeping chains after a torture session with Grindelwald? Torture in itself. Maybe he could convince Scamander to give him something for pain and maybe get him something softer to lay on. Yesterday had shown him that Scamander was clearly uncomfortable with Percival getting hurt, even if he had folded rather quickly.
As if his thoughts had summoned him, Scamander's case opened slowly and the man in question peered out. Once he realized that Percival was awake, Scamander came fully out of the suitcase, awkwardly cradling a bowl of something in one hand. Percival felt his stomach awaken in hunger when he smelled porridge from the bowl. He couldn't help leaning forward a little bit even if the action embarrassed him.
Scamander ducked his head when he saw Percival's reaction, a small frown on his face as he quickly spelled the porridge to float in front of Percival's face, a spoon dipping into the porridge before waiting in front of Percival's closed lips. Percival opened his mouth experimentally, eyebrows raising in approval when the spoon moved into his mouth. That was a neat trick to feeding prisoners without having to let them out of any restraints.
Scamander started talking while Percival was eating his way through the porridge, "I'm sorry I couldn't get you any dinner last night. Grindelwald said that you weren't allowed any as punishment."
Percival grunted in irritation, "I thought the Crucio was meant to be the punishment."
Scamander winced at the word, putting his head down further, "Crucio was for getting out of your bonds. The lack of dinner was for trying to steal the key."
Percival frowned when Scamander kept his head angled down. He ducked his own head a little bit as he chewed the porridge in his mouth. When he saw Scamander's face, his lips tightened, "Did he hit you?"
For a moment, Scamander didn't answer, and Percival thought he'd lost the trail of the conversation again. Then, miraculously, Scamander decided to respond, "I – I lied about you trying to escape. He knows that I don't like it when he hurts people, but I… I know better than to lie to him. He only – only hurts people when they deserve it."
"You trying to do the right thing and protect someone from being tortured gets you hit? Yeah, that makes sense," Percival said sarcastically. What was Scamander really doing with someone like Grindelwald? How could he not want to escape that psycho?
Before Scamander could answer, Grindelwald himself came down the steps, expression crafted into one of indifference. He settled a hand on Scamander's shoulder, leaning down to whisper something that caused a soft smile on Scamander's face before he turned to look down at Percival, "I would appreciate it if you didn't try to escape again today. You caused a lot of trouble for me and you got Newt here in trouble. Don't try to take advantage of his kindness again. I'll be very displeased with you."
Percival growled. That rat! He was trying to blame his own psychopathic actions on Percival! This was a ploy to make sure that Scamander didn't get too close to Percival. Unbelievable!
Although, even as Percival felt disgust and fury rise within him, he couldn't help but be mildly impressed. Apparently, the wizards over in Europe hadn't been kidding when they said that Grindelwald was a smooth talker. He had clearly fooled all of MACUSA with his quick wit and Percival was starting to see how he fooled all his followers, too.
When Percival looked back at Scamander, though, the man was staring at him steadily. Percival had to stop himself from flinching back. It was the first time that Scamander had ever really met his eyes for that long. Did having Grindelwald nearby give him confidence? He didn't get a chance to ponder it further because Scamander dropped his eyes and Grindelwald stood up, groaning dramatically, "You have an interesting body here, Percy. A lot of aches and pains. Old war wounds?" Percival snarled but didn't answer.
Grindelwald shook his head slowly and tutted, eyes turned dark with something crazy, "Come now, Percy. Didn't I just tell you to behave today? If you keep acting like this, I'm going to have to make breakfast your only meal of the day. You don't want that, do you?"
Percival could feel a muscle twitching in his jaw, but he eventually forced himself to subside, leaning back against the wall of his basement. As much as his pride demanded that he continue to threaten Grindelwald, he knew that he would need to keep his strength up. He was already flagging from the torture, the lack of food, and the uncomfortable position. The last thing he needed was for his situation to get worse.
Still, that didn't stop the bitter feeling of failure from rising up in his throat when Grindelwald laughed, cold and dark and short. He twirled around dramatically, whispering one more thing in Scamander's ear before flouncing back upstairs. Overdramatic show pony. Percival was going to fire every single one of his aurors once he got back if they're too dumb to not notice how clearly different Grindelwald was from their boss.
When Percival had calmed himself down and focused back on the remaining person in the building, he had to stop himself from gaping, "Is that a bowtruckle?"
Scamander glanced up, expression lightening at Percival's recognition, "Yes. He doesn't get along very well with his seed group. He says that the others bully him. He adopted me as his wand tree in retaliation, which I find mildly insulting. I might be skinny, but I am not a tree. Also, it makes the other bowtruckles terribly jealous which isn't good for anyone."
A bowtruckle. There was a bowtruckle right there. That was literally the key to his escape. Of course, using a bowtruckle to pick locks was illegal, but that was mainly because bowtruckles were illegal in general. Percival felt like he could claim extenuating circumstances if he managed to get the bowtruckle to pick him free.
Percival had to resist tugging at his chains when Scamander seemed like he was trying to stuff the bowtruckle back into his pocket. He asked somewhat desperately, "What's the bowtruckle's name?"
"Pickett," Scamander answered softly, lightly rubbing the creature's head. Percival was somewhat interested to see the thing butt its head back against Scamander's hand, closing its eyes in apparent bliss. Then the name of the stupid thing set in and Percival wanted to groan. Pickett? Really? Pick-ett, pick it. Lock-picking creature. Very funny.
The more he learned about Scamander, the more of a dork he seemed to be.
Scamander and the bowtruckle seemed to be content doing what they were doing, so Percival cast around desperately for ideas. How could he get that creature to loosen his chains? If he was able to get out of there fast enough, then it wouldn't matter what sort of creatures Scamander had down in that impossibly large case. All that would matter was that Percival would be out of there. Percival narrowed his eyes at the bowtruckle. He was not above threatening the thing to get out of here. It was just a magical insect, no matter what Scamander was saying about jealousy and wand trees and seed groups or whatever.
Narrowing his eyes, Percival gathered together the vestiges of his magic, trying to ignore the still-lingering pain from the Cruciatus curse. Maybe he should ask Scamander for a pain potion first. No, Percival thought to himself, he'd already started gathering his magic and he really couldn't know how drowsy the potion would make him, especially if Scamander was using one of his experimental potions. He needed to be sharp for this.
Taking in a deep breath, Percival let it out again and sent out the spell: Accio. That was the easy part. The harder part came next. Percival focused and, even as the bowtruckle was flying through the air, he cast the second spell, localizing it in a smaller spot so he could put more of his power into it, Deprimo.
The bowtruckle made a shrieking noise as Percival's Deprimo started creating great downwards pressure on it, slowly but surely smushing it into the ground.
Scamander was on his feet in an instant, eyes wide and hand gripping his wand tightly. Scamander's eyes were hurt when he called out, "Finite Incantatem." It wasn't right against a Deprimo, though, and Scamander knew it. Something in Scamander flipped and he changed tactics, shooting a quick, wordless Stupefy at Percival. Hastily, Percival dropped his Accio and lessened the focus he had on his Deprimo, casting a quick Protego.
They both stared at each other, chests heaving as the Stupefy was reflected. They were silent for a long moment until the bowtruckle made another pitiful sound. Scamander's expression hardened again, "Please let him go. I'm only asking once."
"How about this?" Percival asked, "You let me go and I'll let him go."
Scamander's eyes went flat. His voice was cold when he responded, "I can't do that. Let him go." There was something dangerous in Scamander's voice, something feral; a sign that Scamander might have more in common with the creatures he kept than Percival thought.
Percival sat up straight, sweat beading on his brow as he fought to keep his enchantments in place under the increasing strain of the past day or so, "No. Scamander, you need to let me go. I can make sure you don't get in too much trouble. I'll put in a good word and I'll say you helped me – which you did. You were even trying to help me last night. I appreciate that. I'll put a word into the Madame President's ear. If I do that and you give some info – not a lot if you don't want to – on Grindelwald's plans and movements, then you'll get a light sentence. I promise."
Percival could practically feel the chill in Scamander's voice when he said, "The moment I'm arrested is the moment I lose my creatures and I will not lose them. You will not take them from me."
Desperately, Percival said, "I'm sure we can work something out. Professor Wu at Ilvermorny could take care of them until we figured something out. He's exceptional with beasts. He specializes in infant care, but-,"
"I know who he is," Scamander interrupted, a hint of tears caught in the back of his cold, cold tone, "Please, let Pickett go. This is between us. He didn't do anything wrong. He doesn't deserve to be hurt. Please stop hurting him."
Percival winced, glancing back down to where the bowtruckle – Pickett – was looking up at him with watery eyes, the claws on each hand digging into the wood floor as much as they could. Percival hadn't known that bowtruckles could cry. It was… it was actually really, really sad to look at.
Just once more, Percival glanced up to see Scamander's unyielding gaze. Scamander wasn't going to let Percival go, not with this bargain. And, at the moment, Scamander had the upper hand. Percival had no doubt that if he really, truly pushed Scamander while Percival himself was in this state, then Scamander would win.
Gritting his teeth, Percival eased his spell away, slumping back against the wall in defeat. Instantly, Scamander was scooping up the bowtruckle and retreating back into his case. The lid slammed on its way down.
Percival slammed the back of his head against the wall. He just royally screwed that up, didn't he?
It took almost a week for Percival to see Scamander again. He'd woken up in the morning to a bowl of porridge hovering in front of his face. In the evenings, Grindelwald would go into Scamander's case and come back up with some meal or another, never seeming to mind being the go-between. It was almost surreal being given rather well-made meals by Grindelwald. Of course, the man's gloating and sick, twisted ideas made the situation a little less surreal.
At least Scamander had had the decency to get Grindelwald to bring down some of Percival's books. They were all ones he'd already read, and it was hard to turn the pages in his state, but he managed.
He was starting to feel lonely, though. He knew it would only get worse, too. He'd talked to people who were long term prisoners of evil wizards or witches. He knew that half of them felt that the loneliness was a torture in and of itself. Percival couldn't bring himself to disagree.
So, when Scamander hesitantly peeked his head out of the case almost a week later, Percival shoved down every bit of his pride and irritation. He needed Scamander to stay with him. If Grindelwald was his only company, he was going to go insane. He gave what he hoped looked more like a smile and less like a grimace when Scamander started moving towards him, "Hey. It's been a bit, hasn't it? I've been wondering, are you the one who's been cooking those meals? Because they're really something else."
Scamander didn't say anything, simply reaching forward and snipping off a lock of Percival's hair. Percival slumped. Right. The potion Grindelwald was using to look like him. Of course they'd need more of it. Percival tried again, "How long does this potion last? Regular Polyjuice lasts, what? Ten hours? Something like that?"
Scamander's lips twitched like he was going to respond, but he remained stubbornly silent. Good. The silent treatment. Just what Percival wanted. Resisting the urge to sigh, Percival screwed up his courage, "I'm sorry. About what I did to the bowtruckle. Pickett, right? I'm sorry about that." He wanted to add on a bit about how he felt he needed to escape, but he figured that Scamander wouldn't appreciate the comment at the moment. Instead, he just let it end there, hoping that Scamander would deign to respond.
It took a few minutes, but Scamander eventually said, "I accept your apology. Pickett requires a longer one, though."
"You want me to apologize to a bowtruckle?" Percival asked incredulously. Scamander's shoulders went up next to his ears and he clearly focused himself more intently on making the potion. Percival cursed inwardly, stuttering slightly as he tried to backtrack, "Sorry. You just, uh, caught me by surprise. I didn't know he was up here," It was a weak lie and they both knew it. Percival winced and continued, "Pickett, I am very sorry for what I did. I shouldn't have tried to escape in the first place, but I especially should not have used you for it. It was rude and hurtful, and I humbly apologize." It felt ridiculous letting the words he normally stored up for high-end banquets and galas roll of his tongue now, at the behest of what was essentially a walking stick. If it meant he didn't spend the rest of the day alone, though, then it was worth it.
Scamander peeked over his shoulder at Percival at the same time that the bowtruckle clamored his way onto Scamander's shoulder, holding lightly onto a pale ear to keep himself anchored as he glared at Percival. The bowtruckle – Pickett – had a lot to say apparently, chirping and cheeping at Scamander for a couple minutes.
Finally, it seemed to run out of steam, plopping down onto Scamander's shoulder and sprawling there dramatically. Scamander tipped his head slightly in something of a nuzzle against the creature's side. It chirruped at him cutely, nuzzling back. Scamander's shoulders were significantly less tense when he told Percival, "Pickett accepts your apology. He also wants you to know that he will gouge your eyes out if you ever do that to him again."
Percival cringed, "Got it."
There was silence for a moment as Percival allowed the relief of stopping that cold shoulder from continuing to flow through him. He felt stupid and pitiful and weak for feeling that much relief. He'd been at Grindelwald's mercy for a week and he was already going weak-kneed with joy at apologizing to one of Grindelwald's minions. It was laughable.
Reluctantly, Percival heard the voice of his mentor berating him. The man who'd taken him under his wing and mentored him through his first years of being an Auror had been a grizzled old man who'd retired as soon as Percival got his first promotion. The old coot was dead now, buried beside his wife, but his tips and tricks had never stopped saving Percival's life. Now, he heard the old man telling him that it was only natural that he felt this way, that Grindelwald was a master manipulator who knew how to charm an entire army onto his side. Did Percival really think that Grindelwald was going to stop at just physical torture? No way. Of course there was psychological stuff going on, too. Percival needed to stop blaming himself for feeling the way he did and start doing something about it instead.
Percival focused back in on Scamander, "Hey, talk to me about bowtruckles. I've already heard a little bit about Sacha, but I want to hear about Pickett now."
Scamander glanced back at him, that same haunted, hunted look he always wore when someone took an interest in him. Maybe Scamander wasn't far off from Percival. Except maybe Scamander's chains were a little more metaphorical. Maybe, maybe it wouldn't be as hard to escape as Percival feared it would be.
Once he seemed to realize that Percival was being genuine, Scamander started happily rambling on, talking about the Home Tree dynamic and seed group hierarchies and wand tree properties. Percival tried to ignore the feeling of wholeness in his chest.
He didn't really, fully tune back in until Scamander mentioned Hogwarts, "It was my first time integrating myself into a full population. It took almost two years of going to the tree practically every day to fully become a part of their interpersonal relationship web. Of course, I got lucky at the time. I hadn't realized that a bowtruckle was more likely to accept a human as an extension of their Home Tree if the wood used in their wand was the same wood as the tree of the Home Tree. It was a happy accident for me, honestly."
Curiously, Percival softly interrupted Scamander's rant, "What house were you in Hogwarts? I was a Wampus in Ilvermorny."
Scamander's shoulders went back up again, leaving Percival cursing himself for his carelessness. Eventually, though, Scamander did answer, "I was a Hufflepuff."
"A Hufflepuff?" Percival asked incredulously.
Scamander sent him a surprised look, "Yes?"
Percival shook his head, "Would have pegged you for a Ravenclaw with how smart you seem to be. Not that I know much about Hogwash, of course. Why would I bother learning when I was already going to a superior school?" He said it with a little grin, participating in the age-old tradition of making fun of other schools. Honestly, though, Hogwarts made it so easy. That name? Prime mocking material. Plus, their headmaster was something like Dippet or whatever, which was also prime mocking material. They were asking for it.
Scamander shrugged uncomfortably, dipping his head again, "School is school. I imagine its all the same at this point. But no, I was in Hufflepuff. I'm afraid a was a little too soft-hearted to be a Ravenclaw."
"That's not a bad thing," Percival reminded him, watching to see how he took the words.
Sighing, Scamander looked down at his work, "Theoretically, no. Its not a bad thing. Experimentally? In the society we live in? It's the absolute worst trait a person could have."
Percival winced, trying to dive into a new subject as the previous line of conversation petered out, "So, favorite subject? I'm sure you could guess that mine was Defense Against the Dark Arts."
Scamander sent him a quick grin. It was small and fleeting but it was also the most genuine one that Percival had seen so far. Scamander answered, "Muggle Studies."
Percival spluttered, choking on air, "Muggle Studies? What on earth is that?"
"Do you not have Muggle Studies here? Or, I suppose it would be No-Maj Studies, wouldn't it?" Scamander asked, tilting his head to the side in consideration.
"We do not," Percival said, "What do you even do in that?"
"We learn how the muggles live," Scamander answered like it was the world's most logical answer, "We learn how their communication and transportation functions and a little bit about their general job prospects and house appliances. It's a glimpse into the daily life of a muggle."
Percival's brows came together as he thought over everything he'd heard about Grindelwald's whole campaign. He glanced up at Scamander in confusion, "I thought Grindelwald hated muggles. Shouldn't you hate them as well?"
Scamander shook his head, "Grindelwald doesn't hate muggles. He hates that we have to hide from them. He thinks that they're lost and confused without us and that we can help and stop them from destroying themselves."
"So," Percival said, trying to wrap his head around the situation, "He's essentially saying that muggles are lesser versions of wizards."
"Correct," Scamander answered around the wand in his mouth, using both hands to sprinkle something into the potion.
Percival frowned, "Okay, so that basically makes them creatures. Would you think that way about your creatures? If you found a bowtruckle seed group and they seemed to be panicking over something, would you automatically assume that you needed to bully your way into control over them to make it stop?" He could see Scamander's shoulders going back up again, but he didn't stop, "How does that make you better than any animal trafficker out there? You're thinking the exact same way they are, just with humans!"
"That's exactly it," Scamander snapped, "With humans. They don't act rationally. They don't act intelligently, half the time. They ignore their instincts and focus on hate and jealously instead."
Percival subsided a little at the pain in Scamander's voice, letting his own gentle a little in response, "And do you really thing wizards are any better?"
"Maybe not all of them," Scamander said, voice tired, "But enough."
Percival looked at him sadly, wondering what could have happened to make Scamander this distrustful. After a second, Percival admitted, "I didn't become an Auror to fight bad guys. I know that's a common misconception. Not just with me, but with Aurors in general. We're all here to beat up some bad guys and look like the hero. That's, well, not necessarily a bad thing, but it's not why I joined. It's not why I'm still doing it today. I became an Auror because I wanted to help people. I wanted people to know that it was safe for them to bring their kids to the park. I wanted them to know that it was safe to go out partying at night. And I wanted people to know that they were safe from No-Majs."
Scamander glanced back at him, holding his eyesight for a second before his gaze drifted off again, "Who are you really protecting? Us? Or them?"
In the end, Percival couldn't find an answer to that question.
"Have you heard of Grindelwald, Newt?" Professor Flocks asked between quietly whispered healing spells.
Newt winced at the sight of his skin knitting back together, but still gave the question some thought. He was fairly certain he'd heard the name before, but it wasn't giving him any ideas. Or… wait… After a moment, he responded hesitantly, "Isn't he that guy in the newspaper with radical ideas about muggle-wizard relationships?"
"That's the one," Professor Flocks said proudly, taking a moment to ruffle his hair. Newt glanced at her curiously, not sure where she was going with that, "What do you think of him?"
He blinked in surprise, "Oh, well, I'm not sure I know enough about him to decide one way or another. I've only really read his name in passing in the newspaper. I don't know a lot about his ideas. I know that people think he's crazy. One headline said something about disrupting the peace of the wizarding world as we know it."
Professor Flocks snorted, brushing a lock of her hair out of her face, "Those are people who aren't open-minded enough. Grindelwald believes in reintegrating wizards back into the modern muggle world."
"That is crazy," Newt gaped, not even sure what to think about such an outlandish idea.
Looking up from where she'd been absentmindedly playing with the kitten they'd found near the edge of the Forbidden Forest, Professor Flocks laughed a little at the surprise on Newt's face, "Is it really? Why do you think I teach Muggle Studies, Newt?"
He tilted his head to the side, "In case we end up accidentally getting stranded in a muggle area. We need to know how to blend in."
"No," Professor Flocks said with a smile, "That's why the Ministry wants us to teach the class. Why do I teach Muggle Studies?"
Newt shook his head, "I don't know."
She smiled, leaning down to play with the kitten again, "That's okay. Newt, I teach Muggle Studies because I think that there's an entire world out there that we know nothing about. The numbers aren't kept very strictly and there's a lot of miscommunication and ignored memos between government organizations, but it's estimated that there are about one million wizards in the world. There are almost two billion muggles. That means there's roughly two thousand times more muggles than wizards. That's two thousand times the experience we're missing out on. Think of that, Newt. Two billion heads out there, thinking up ideas and doing things that we have no access to just because of some antiquated laws fueled by fear."
By then, Newt had gotten somewhat used to Professor Flocks' non sequiturs into more philosophical debate. She'd recommended a lot of different philosophy books for him to read. A lot of them were her own personal copies, with notes and opinions and connections to real-life written in the margins. It made it easier to follow her lead in conversations like this. He asked tentatively, "Wasn't that fear founded? The Statute of Secrecy was put in place after the disaster of the Witch Trials, right?"
"Exactly right," Professor Flocks smiled, "But we don't live in that time anymore. Don't you think it's a discredit to muggles if we assume they're going to do the same thing? Besides, we have advanced as well. If wizards play their cards right, they could easily find a way to coexist with the muggles, showing them how to live peacefully and happily."
"They don't already live peacefully and happily?" Newt asked. He was only about halfway through Muggle Studies, but they'd mostly talked about inventions, conversation patterns, and government bodies.
Professor Flocks shook her head sadly, "No. They fight in wars all the time. They're constantly killing and hurting each other. There are muggles whose only job is to kill other muggles. It is despicable, but they don't know any better. We can show them a better path. That's why we were given magic, you know. Some family lines were blessed with it, given the gift. Others were the first in their family lines to be considered worthy. All of us are destined to spread this gift to the muggles."
"If this is what Mr. Grindelwald is saying, then why do so many people disagree with him?" Newt asked. It didn't make sense. It didn't sound wrong to him to help others out. If the wizards could do things that the muggles can't, then it only made sense to share.
"Ah," Professor Flocks said, "Therein lies the root of the problem. People are afraid. They have a nice, cozy life. They're afraid that going out and spreading a little bit of the magic will make life harder for them. So, they sit by and do nothing as muggles destroy each other – and us by proxy. Fear of change and fear of the past are very powerful things, Newt. Remember that."
"Can't Mr. Grindelwald just show people that, though? If he explains it like you explained it, then it makes perfect sense!" Newt argued, getting passionate about the subject like he rarely ever did. He was starting to get comfortable around Professor Flocks, though.
"People don't want to listen to him," Professor Flocks said sadly, "He might be young, but he's not young enough to make a difference. And him standing on his own isn't going to change anything either. He needs people to stand behind him and support him."
"Why don't you do that, Professor Flocks?" Newt asked.
She smiled at him, ruffling his hair again, "Please, just call me Iona when it's just the two of us. We're friends, after all. And as for why I don't publicly join him… Well, at the moment, I'm doing more good where I am. If I were to publicly join him, I would likely get fired from Hogwarts. While I'm here, though, I can pass the message along and help other people understand where he's coming from."
Newt's eyes lit up in sudden understanding, "You know Mr. Grindelwald personally, don't you?"
"I do," Prof – no, Iona, said, "He's a good friend of mine. In fact, how would you like to meet him? Perhaps I could arrange a meeting on the next Hogsmeade weekend? I've told him quite a bit about you – there's just so much to brag about, honestly – and he's been wanting to meet you. This seems like the perfect time."
Newt bit his lip, eyes flickering down. He was unsure at the idea of meeting this stranger. Sure, he was a friend of Iona's, but… Plus, Newt had been planning on spending some time with Leta that weekend. Well, he could always reschedule with Leta. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity. Newt flashed Iona a bright smile before leaning over to play with the kitten too, answering quietly, "I would like that a lot."
Percival groaned into wakefulness. He was entering his third week as a captive in his own home. It was starting to get harder to tell how much time had passed. He could feel himself wasting away, muscles weakening from his captive state. It – wasn't ideal.
More than that, he felt like he was no closer to bonding with Scamander than he had been weeks before. Every time he felt like he was getting somewhere, Scamander would come out of the suitcase the next day subdued and back to his previous tenseness. Percival was almost certain the change was due to the nightly visits Grindelwald had with Scamander. Something Scamander said or did would tip Grindelwald off and he'd spill more of his poison into Scamander's ears until Percival lost all the progress he made. It was irritating. It was worrying. At this point, Scamander was Percival's only ticket out of there. He'd tried four more escape attempts and had failed every time. On two occasions, Percival had found out the hard way that Scamander carried monsters on his person instead of just inside his case. On one occasion, he found out the hard way that Picquery had let Grindelwald off work early that day. On the last occasion, though, he'd found out the very hard way that Scamander had some very good dueling abilities.
He'd asked him, quietly and carefully, "Where did you learn to do that?" Scamander had only tensed and returned to his case. It wasn't an answer, but… in a way, it almost was. There were four things that Percival had learned to avoid because they chased Scamander away: talking for a long period of time about Hogwarts, making a harsh comment against magical beasts, proving that Grindelwald was spouting nonsense, and asking about Scamander's family. The last was the worst. Bringing up any mention of where Scamander had grown up or what his childhood was like or questions about Theseus Scamander were all no-go's. He had only made that mistake twice and it had been two or three days before Scamander had returned after those. Percival had learned to avoid the conversation even though he was burning with curiosity.
What would it take for a well to-do Scamander child to turn to Grindelwald's side? Especially when his brother was a decorated war hero and held the Ministry of Magic equivalent of Percival's high-ranking job. It was… odd. Percival didn't understand how no one saw the signs, how no one did anything. He was also almost certain that Scamander was swayed to the side of evil during his time in Hogwarts. That would mean that he had been a child when Grindelwald sunk his hooks into him. That wasn't an ideal situation for anyone. A child caught under Grindelwald's scrutiny? Drowning in his manipulations? The only way a child like that could have been saved was if someone had just noticed. Why hadn't anyone? Why had Scamander been allowed to fall into depravity without anyone stopping it?
Maybe people had tried. Maybe there was more to the story than Percival knew. Maybe, maybe, maybe. He was sick of maybe's and he was sick of the chains around his wrists and he was sick of staring at his basement walls. He was going to remodel once he got out of this. He was going to rip down every wall and start from scratch. He would make sure that nothing looked the same.
Percival took a deep breath to calm down. When he felt like he'd sufficiently calmed himself, he glanced over to where Scamander had made himself comfortable, cross-legged on the ground with a quill between his teeth, a journal rested on one knee, one hand holding back what looked to be a niffler while the other steadied a disrupted ink bottle.
There was a soft look in Scamander's eyes as he gently wrestled with the menace, ticking it's belly and snorting with laughter at the amount of gold that came out (Percival was… reasonably sure that none of it was his. Probably. Maybe). Clearing his throat slightly, Percival asked, "What's that one's name, then?"
Scamander glanced up, eyelashes brushing against his eyelids as his eyes widened in surprise. He stuttered for a moment before getting out, "Um, Bandit."
Percival snorted, surprising both himself and Scamander, "Bandit? Honestly, Scamander, you cannot name these creatures to save your life. These are such stereotypical names."
He was expecting Scamander to flick that shy smile at him before focusing his attention back elsewhere, but when he looked at Scamander's face, he found himself staring into Scamander's focused eyes. After a moment of silence where all Percival could think of was how intimidating Scamander's full attention was, Scamander said quietly, "Newt. You – you can call me Newt."
Blinking at the random comment, Percival managed to get out, "Uh, alright. I suppose you can call me Percival, then."
Tension Percival hadn't even noticed escaped Scam – Newt's body like a balloon letting out air. Newt's eyes flickered back down again, apparently done with the staring contest he'd been in. Percival felt like a weight had left him. He wondered if this was the time to try to forge a deeper connection. It was obvious that Newt was finally starting to really trust him. Should he forge forward, or should he let the peace that settled over them stay? He didn't want to push too far and risk losing whatever progress he'd made.
In the end, the choice was taken away from him when Grindelwald came stalking down the stairs. Percival frowned; wasn't Grindelwald normally at work by this time? Even on weekends, Grindelwald seemed to go somewhere and spend about the same amount of time out as usual. He shouldn't have been home. At least, not based on Percival's inner clock which was, admittedly, questionable. But Newt wouldn't have risked making that connection if Grindelwald was home, would he have?
A glance at Newt's face told Percival that he would absolutely not have taken that risk. Newt had gone deathly pale, freckles standing out like bruises against the paper quality of his skin.
For once, Grindelwald completely ignored Percival, stalking past him and towards Newt. Percival yanked against his restraints, suddenly terrified at what Grindelwald was going to do, "Hey! Hey, you mess with me! Don't hurt him!"
Newt had backed himself up against the wall at that point, legs trembling and palms flat against the wall. His chest was fluttering up and down, small breathy gasps punching their way out even as Newt clearly tried to stifle his breathing. It struck Percival, suddenly, how calm and happy Newt could be around a village-destroying nundu, but a single man instilled this much fear. It was a sad thought.
Percival stopped struggling when, curiously, Grindelwald didn't immediately attack Newt like Percival had thought he would. Instead, Grindelwald bent over, lightning quick. Percival hadn't even realized what he'd done until Newt made a squeaking noise, arms flinching outwards. Percival swallowed down bile when he realized that Grindelwald had grabbed Bandit the niffler. What… what was he going to do?
Grindelwald was breathing hard, fury coating his figure. He hissed, "Did I or did I not tell you to not befriend the prisoner?" Newt's only answer was a whimper. Grindelwald's jaw clenched, "You cannot trust him. He is a liar and a manipulator. He will hurt you. He will hurt your creatures. He will not change. Percival Graves is the worst kind of villain in this story. He stands against everything we stand for. Do you understand that? Do you understand what it means to be trusting this man? Do you understand what you are doing to us? To the rest of the people out there trying to save wizards and muggles? To me?"
"I – I understand," Newt stuttered, trying as hard as he could to meet Grindelwald's eyes. Percival felt like he was suspended, stuck watching this awful scene play out while he was completely helpless. Newt shook as he continued, "I just – I just thought it would be easier. I m-miss hearing people call me by my name."
"Do I not call you by your name?" Grindelwald asked, quiet and dangerous.
"You do," Newt answered settling on staring at Grindelwald's left elbow, "You do."
"Is that not good enough for you, Newt?" Grindelwald pushed, "Am I not good enough? I took you in. Do you remember that? When Hogwarts expelled you and your only friend your age betrayed you and your family was so disappointed without even listening to the full story, I took you in. I saved you. Without me, you would have been nothing. Wandless. Friendless. Probably without even family to comfort you. I gave you a home and a purpose and people who care. And now you are telling me that I am not enough?" The scariest part was that Grindelwald wasn't shouting. He wasn't talking in a deadly whisper. He sounded hurt, genuinely hurt. Even though Percival knew what a monster Grindelwald was and even though he was determined to never feel pity for the man, he found himself hard pressed to not sympathize, to not be drawn into Grindelwald's spell.
Newt was shaking even harder at that point, hand still twitching outwards like it could grab the niffler still in Grindelwald's grasp. There was a hitched breath and then Newt was crying softly, begging, "You are enough, please. I swear you're enough. Please let Bandit go. You're hurting him. Please let him go. I – I didn't mean it. You saved me. You did. I don't need anyone else to call me by my name. I was being stupid. I'm sorry. It won't happen again. Please let him go."
Grindelwald stared at him for a long moment, cold and furious. After a moment, he sneered, "I don't believe you. But, I will teach you this lesson. I will make sure that you never make this mistake again. If you interfere in your punishment, I will make it worse, do you understand?" Newt nodded miserably, eyes locked on Bandit's at this point. Grindelwald smiled, turning suddenly to face Percival. Newt tensed at the same time Percival did. Percival opened his mouth (to do what? There was nothing he could do in this situation) just as Grindelwald pointed his wand at Percival and incanted, "Imperio."
Percival could do nothing but widen his eyes in horror as the curse took hold, locking all of his limbs and chaining his words deep down in his chest. He tried to buck in confusion as the chains around his wrists gave way. The confusion turned to horror as soon as Grindelwald put Bandit in Percival's hands. Percival writhed against the curse, begging and pleading and praying that he could get out of it, that he could prevent this.
Percival could do nothing but watch as his hands squeezed the life out of Bandit, as his calloused fingers tightened against the scrabbling claws and scratching teeth.
Percival felt sick.
He felt used and dirty and wrong and sick.
He might believe that magical beasts were pests at best and dangerous monsters at worst (although, the longer he stayed there and learned about creatures and watched them when they weren't threatened, the less he believed the propaganda he'd been raised under), but he would never condone needless violence like this. Maybe he would say to cage the thing and train it out of its thieving ways. Maybe he would try to set it free somewhere it couldn't hurt anyone. He would never kill it. He would never just order the death of something as harmless as a niffler.
The look on Newt's face somehow made the situation even worse. If Percival had thought that Newt had been upset when his past was brought up, it had nothing on the looming emotions as Newt watched Percival kill Bandit. There was a mounting horror as Newt stayed paralyzed against the wall. There was an impotent fury at his helplessness. There was a stricken look of guilt as Newt took in the fact that this was supposed to be his punishment.
More than anything else, though, there was a tide of grief, slamming against the rocks of his other emotions, tearing down every wall and boundary he had built within himself. Percival saw Newt breaking down to his barest self. For a moment, there was only Newt and the pain he felt at watching one of his creatures be killed.
There was a long, frozen, stiff silence when Bandit finally stopped struggling. With a lazy wave of his hands, Grindelwald made Percival drop Bandit gracelessly onto the floor. He forced Percival back into the chains before releasing the Imperius curse. Percival wanted to apologize, to comfort Newt. He found his words drying up at the sight of the man, though.
Newt looked shattered. There was something vacant in his eyes even as tears poured from them. He had slid to the ground at some point, knees forming a barricade between him and the rest of the world.
To Percival's mounting fury, Grindelwald made a soft cooing noise before kneeling on the ground in front of Newt. Carefully, slowly, projecting all of his movements, Grindelwald took Newt's hands, settling their clasped hands on top of Newt's knees. He spoke gently and quietly to Newt, "There, there. I'm sorry your punishment had to be so bad. And I am truly sorry about your loss. Bandit… Bandit was a good friend of yours. I know that. I know that he's been there for you for over a decade now. But Newt… this is what happens when you trust the enemy. He will only ever hurt you. Please, for my sake, for your sake, please remember that."
"Okay," Newt whispered, voice chipped and broken. He didn't say anything else.
Grindelwald stared at him for a moment longer before kissing Newt gently on the forehead, the way a father might, and moving fluidly to his knees. He reached down to put a hand in Newt's hair for just a moment, smiling reassuringly, "I have to go out now. I will be back later tonight. I'll bring ingredients for your favorite meal, alright? I'll make dinner, too, okay? You just rest today, Newt. Everything will seem better tomorrow." He swept out of the basement, sending one last look to where Newt remained curled against the wall, before moving through the door and shutting it behind him.
Percival tried to find his voice in the silence, tried to say something (anything) reassuring, but his tongue felt like it was tied. Newt was still crying, and Bandit was dead on the floor between them and Percival could feel nothing but the bile creeping up the back of his throat and the guilt that threatened to swallow him whole.
In the end, it was Newt who spoke first. He wasn't speaking to Percival, though. Instead, he moved to kneel next to Bandit, gently scooping the creature up and cradling it against his chest. Newt spoke gently to the corpse, voice shaky and fragile, "I'm sorry, Bandit. I'm so sorry. I'm so, so, so very sorry. Bandit, I'm so sorry." He kept repeating the phrase over and over again. The sound grated against Percival's ears, but he couldn't think of any words to make him stop.
Percival didn't know how much time passed like that before there was a quiet creaking noise from the corner where Newt's case was. They both whipped towards the noise in surprise, hearts catching at the sudden noise. Newt clearly relaxed when what appeared to be a demiguise loped towards him. Carefully, slowly, the demiguise pulled Bandit out of Newt's hands. It laid Bandit on a pillow that Percival hadn't noticed before it crawled into Newt's lap, wrapping its long arms around Newt's shoulders and making soothing cooing noises into Newt's ears.
Percival's heart broke again when he saw how hard Newt cried once the demiguise gave him permission too.
It was another long stretch of time before Newt addressed Percival. His eyes were bloodshot and puffy, skin still too pale under his mop of hair. He couldn't quiet seem to manage anything other than a desolate expression when he said, "This is Dougal. He's – he's one of my best friends. He helps me look after the others in the case." Newt paused for a moment before saying quietly, "I think I am going to go back into the case, now. I should – Bandit needs…" He trailed off.
Heart still in his throat, Percival finally managed to get words out, "Newt," He ignored the flinch that Newt gave at the name, "Newt, please. You need to get out of here. At this point, I don't even care if you take me. You and your creatures are in danger here. You have to see that. Grindelwald is – is the classic abuser. He hurts you and then blames it on something you 'did' or something someone else 'did.' Then he tries to apologize by doing things for you and getting you lavish gifts. Newt, that man doesn't care about your creatures at all. He doesn't care about you. I've seen the bruises you come up here with. I've seen you flinch from him before. It doesn't matter how often he treats you well compared to how often he hurts you. The fact that he's hurting you is bad enough. Please, Newt. Save yourself and your creatures. Get out of here. Stop working with Grindelwald."
For a moment, Percival thought he had a chance. He thought that his words had changed something in Newt. His eyes had flared briefly to light again, hope sparking like the tiniest flame in the back of his eyes. But then the light had gone out and Newt had given Percival's shoulder an empty, wooden attempt at a smile, "He isn't hurting me. Sometimes I get injured working with my creatures. That's all."
Percival closed his eyes as horror overtook him, "Newt, please listen to yourself. You have to hear what you're saying. Please don't lie to me. I -,"
He was cut off when Newt stood back up, scooping Dougal up and stooping only long enough to gently pick Bandit back up, "Please forgive me. I need to get back to my case."
Percival tried one last thing, saying something he should have said the moment after it happened, "I'm sorry, Newt. I'm sorry I did this. I'm sorry that Bandit is dead because Grindelwald kidnapped me. I'm sorry I couldn't stop it."
Something else died in Newt's eyes as he whispered, "Don't be. It was my fault anyways." And then he was climbing down the ladder to his case, disappearing completely with the soft snick of the case locking behind him.
Percival hung his head in defeat.
Newt could be grateful, at least, that the other boys from his dormitory were still in class. At the very least, he could get through this act without them jeering at him and laughing the entire time. The Hufflepuff name may be known for its kindness and universal acceptance, but the students certainly didn't exemplify those ideals. Cruelty had reigned in this school for as long as Newt had been there. It had been better when Theseus had been there, of course. Distant though age might have made them, Theseus was nothing if not a supportive brother who wouldn't want to see Newt hurt.
Well, that might just change.
Newt had been expelled from Hogwarts. A part of him whispered that he should have just let Leta take the fall – it had been her idea and she was the one who hurt the jarvey and she was the one who hurt those boys. But it didn't matter what Newt should have done. All that mattered was that he couldn't be anything but completely loyal to his best friend. Leta had done the wrong thing and she had hurt people and she had hurt one of Newt's creatures, but… She had potential. She was smart and cunning and ambitious. Newt was just… Newt.
He hung his head, mechanically continuing to pack away his things, when he heard someone slowly enter the room. His shoulders curled up around his ears when Professor Dumbledore started speaking, "Newt, my boy. You still have a chance to make one more statement, to clear anything up. I… cannot believe that you would do this."
Newt didn't answer Professor Dumbledore's question, instead asking one of his own, "When do they want me to turn in my wand to get it s-snapped?"
Professor Dumbledore sighed, but was still gentle when he answered, "Myself and Professor Flocks managed to convince the Minister and the Board of Governors to let you keep your wand. You are a third year with an impressive record of test scores and practical experience. You will also be going home to a renowned wizarding family with a respected Auror father and a brother making records in Auror school. Although you will not be at Hogwarts, you will still be in good hands."
Newt's jaw clenched, but he didn't respond. Good hands? Sure, if they still cared about him after this. Things had been tense already between him and his family when they realized that he wanted to be a magizoologist. The progressive way of thinking that Iona showed him hadn't helped on that front, either. Newt was certain that this was the last straw. Expelled from Hogwarts? His family didn't put much stock into reputation, but the rest of the wizarding community did, and this would put a rather large dent in the Scamander reputation. Mother would lose customers and Father would lose respect. Theseus might even be given a hard time at training or once he fully became an Auror. It would be all Newt's fault.
There was another soft sigh before Professor Dumbledore knelt down next to him, putting a comforting hand on Newt's shoulder. Newt resisted the urge to push up into it. He didn't deserve the comfort. Still, that determination didn't stop him from giving a soft sob when Professor Dumbledore told him, firmly and passionately, "This does not reflect negatively on you, Newt. You are one of the best students I have ever had the pleasure of teaching. Newt, you are going to change the world one day. Whether you finish your studies here or not, I know that to be the truth."
Finally, Newt spoke, whispering into the cavernous feeling of despair washing over him, "There's nowhere I can go after something like this. No one will hire me. No one will listen to me."
"Make them," Professor Dumbledore immediately countered, "Show them. You want to be a magizoologist, the first in your field. Pave the way for others. Show them that you saw something that the rest of the world missed. Newt, you are uniquely positioned to do exactly what you want to do with your life. Do not let it pass you by because of this unfortunate incident. I know that, if you do not let it, this cannot hurt you."
Newt didn't know what to say to that. He sniffed one more time, closing his case on the last of his belongings, "Thank you, Professor Dumbledore. For everything."
"Of course, Newt. Anytime. I mean that. If you ever need me, you know how to contact me. I will always be there if you need me," Professor Dumbledore promised him, fixing Newt with a look that had more layers than Newt could accurately identify. There was something in Professor Dumbledore's gaze that said that he knew something about Newt, that he was offering that help now. Newt couldn't figure out what it really meant, though. Professor Dumbledore had already done more than enough to help Newt in this situation. There was nothing more he could really do. Professor Dumbledore gave Newt another one of his cryptic smiles before standing up, "Would you like me to accompany you to the train station, Newt? It would be my honor."
Before Newt could answer, Iona entered the room, knocking on the door frame even as she entered, "That's quite alright, Dumbledore. I've already gotten permission from the Board of Governors to escort Newt to the station. The thought is greatly appreciated, though." It wasn't the first time Newt had seen the two of them interact. He'd always recognized some sort of gentle friction between the two of them, but he had figured that was because Dumbledore had ideas that were rather different from the ones Grindelwald preached. Today, though, there was a line of friction between the two that he couldn't ignore. It wasn't gentle anymore. It was an electric charge in the air, bouncing between the two of them with Newt caught in the middle.
It caused Newt's breath to catch in his throat, eyes widening in surprise. The sound must have alerted the two professors because they both turned to look at him at the same time. Newt shrunk back into himself, more than a little wary of the strange energy filling the air. Iona relaxed first, giving Newt a gentle smile and coming around to put her hand between his shoulder blades, "Are you ready to go, Newt? If you want, we can go around campus one more time?"
Newt swallowed, shaking his head. Iona ruffled his hair gently in understanding. Before the two of them could move out of the room, Professor Dumbledore stopped Newt one more time, giving him that deeply serious look and saying, "I mean it, Newt. You can come to me with anything at any time."
"Okay," Newt answered. He mustered up a shaky smile, "Again, thank you, Professor Dumbledore. For everything."
"You are very welcome," Professor Dumbledore answered. Newt thought he looked unbearably sad.
Iona didn't speak again until they were well on their way to Hogsmeade. Since it was just Newt, it wouldn't make sense to take the Hogwarts Express, but Platform 9 ¾ was an ideal meeting spot for those having to leave school early for an emergency or, well, expulsion. Once they got to Hogsmeade where they could actually apparate, Iona would bring him to the station to meet with his family who should get there sometime later in the evening.
When Iona did speak, she had lost the terseness in her voice that had been present around Dumbledore, "Newt, dear, would you like to wait in Hogsmeade until your family is ready to pick you up? It's going to be a couple hours until then."
Newt ducked his head, "I don't really want to go to Hogsmeade." He'd only just gained the ability to go there over the weekends. It would be like a slap in the face to stay there for hours. Iona made a wordless noise of understanding, tucking Newt under her arm.
She bit her lip for a moment before asking, "How would you like to go see Grindelwald again?"
Newt glanced over at her, "Mr. Grindelwald? I – I don't know."
"Why not?" Iona asked.
Newt shrugged miserably, only answering when Iona stopped walking and looked at him, "I don't want him to be disappointed." Grindelwald would probably hear about Newt's expulsion no matter what Newt did. At least this way, though, it would take him longer to find out. Newt had come to respect and like Grindelwald a lot. He didn't want another person to be disappointed in him. The letter Newt's family had sent saying when they would be available to pick Newt up had been horrible enough. His mother had been so disappointed. Newt didn't know how he was going to look her in the eye. He had to fight a fresh wave of tears at the thought.
Iona crouched in front of Newt like Dumbledore had done earlier. She grabbed his hands, fixing him with a patient, serious face, "Newt. Grindelwald will never be disappointed in you for something like this. He would be hurt to know that you didn't want to visit him. You know this. He thinks of you like a protégé. Grindelwald knows as well as I do that school isn't anything. You are intelligent and powerful and creative and kind. That is all you need. An education isn't necessary. Grindelwald would never fault you for this. Besides, you and I both know that this was the work of that Lestrange girl. If it weren't for her, you'd still be in school. You are too loyal and sweet to ever admit it, but I'm certain that Grindelwald will understand without even being told."
Newt swallowed, jaw working, "Really?"
"Of course," Iona promised, "Come on, let's go see him. You'll see that I'm right."
Hesitantly, carefully, fearfully, Newt said, "Okay."
They apparated instantly, appearing in front of a place that Newt had come to recognize as Grindelwald's base of operations/home. Iona had secretly snuck Newt there a few times during Hogsmeade weekends when Newt didn't already have plans with Leta. Of course, most of the time, Grindelwald simply came to Hogsmeade and the two of them walked the area around it. They also exchanged regular letters and Iona had allowed Newt use of the fireplace in her office to fire chat with Grindelwald on occasion. It was almost frightening how much of an impact Grindelwald had had on Newt in the short time they'd known each other.
The two of them simply walked through the front door, Grindelwald's wards recognizing Iona and Newt as friends.
Newt was terrified by the time they got to Grindelwald's office. He trusted Iona and she was certain that Grindelwald would react favorably, but Newt was just so scared. What if Grindelwald didn't react the way Iona said he was going to?
Grindelwald was waiting for them when they came into the room, probably having been alerted by his wards. His eyebrows were raised in surprise, "This is unusual. I've never gotten a visit on a weekday before."
Iona put a comforting hand on Newt's back, "Well, they might be happening more often. We'll see. Newt, through no fault of his own, has been… expelled from Hogwarts. I'm bringing him home in a few hours." Newt shuddered as he tried to hold back his tears. He had a hard time meeting people's eyes on a regular day. At this point, he was just trying to lift his gaze further than Grindelwald's shoes.
"I see," Grindelwald said expressionlessly. He patted the chair next to him, "Newt, please come sit here." Newt obeyed, shaking all over. Grindelwald waited until he was seated before continuing, "Newt, what did you do to get expelled?" There was no judgement in his voice, just curiosity.
Newt answered in a trembly voice, "I – I set loose a jarvey on some boys. They were hurt. Pretty badly."
"That doesn't sound like you," Grindelwald mused, "It does, however, sound like that Leta Lestrange that you spent so much time with." He paused as if waiting for Newt to say something, but he didn't, so Grindelwald went on, "Newt, I do not believe for a second that this was you. I am certain that you did nothing wrong. And even if you had done something wrong, I know it would have been for the right reasons. You are a light creature, Newt. You are a creature of goodness. An expulsion from Hogwarts isn't going to change that. If anything, it just shows me how good you are. You are clearly heartbroken about being expelled, and yet, you accepted it anyways even though you weren't at fault. That shows such kindness and strength. Newt," Grindelwald said, pausing for emphasis, "I am so very proud of you."
That was the last straw. Newt broke down, sobbing into his arms. After a moment, Grindelwald pulled Newt over, letting Newt sob into his shoulder. Newt wanted to be embarrassed, but all he could feel was an encompassing sense of peace and comfort.
Newt had no idea how long he sat there before Grindelwald finally pulled back. Grindelwald cupped Newt's face and wiped away a tear before leaning back and offering Newt a cup of tea. Newt accepted numbly. He felt like he had been cleansed after that long cry. Grindelwald gave Newt a very gentle look, "How do you feel about going home?"
Newt's expression crumbled, "They hate me. I know they do. They must. They were so disappointed when they found out. The letter they sent…"
Grindelwald shook his head in sorrow, "That's hardly how a parent should react. They should be there to support you. They should know that you did nothing wrong." Newt took in a shuddering breath. Grindelwald gazed at him evenly, "Newt, do you even want to go home?"
Newt's shoulders rose to come around his ears again. He didn't know how to answer that question. He didn't know what he should respond. On the one hand, they were his family. Of course, he wanted to come home to his family, even if they were disappointed in him and hated him. On the other hand, he really, really didn't want to face their disappointment. More than that, though, he didn't want them to suffer from his damage on their reputation. Maybe if he just… didn't go home, people wouldn't look down on the Scamander name. What would he even do, though? Home was home. He couldn't really imagine not ever going back.
His indecision must have been written on his face because Grindelwald grimaced lightly before offering, "Newt, you could stay here, with me. I know you do not wish to see your parents when they are so disappointed in you. Honestly, I would feel apprehensive about returning you to a family who didn't care enough to call for an investigation into your expulsion. Did they even ask why you did it? Did they even come out to see you? Did they even try to argue the point? I worry what they think of you. You are such a wonderfully sensitive child. I worry what their disdain would do to you. Especially once word gets around that their youngest was expelled from Hogwarts. What would people think? I shudder to think how your parents might treat you when opinion of them falls due to foolish societal misconceptions."
It was like Grindelwald knew exactly what Newt was thinking. He understood every one of Newt's inner struggles. Grindelwald understood Newt's thoughts and then presented a solution. Newt could stay with Grindelwald where he would get to see Iona and he would get to help Grindelwald further his political ideas. He knew that Grindelwald agreed with Newt's ideas about magical creatures, too, so there wouldn't be disagreements about that like there would be at home.
Was… was this really an option? Could Newt really do this? Give up his family.
No, Newt shook his head, he was being ridiculous. It wouldn't be giving up his family. He would just… find somewhere else to live. He could still visit him family and see them from time to time. It wouldn't be any different from moving out after school, the way Theseus did. Newt would just be doing it a little early.
Besides, it would make his family feel better. They wouldn't have to deal with him, and he would be doing good in the world. It was a win-win, honestly.
Swallowing around the kernel of doubt that was trying to make itself known, Newt glanced up at Grindelwald, "Could I really stay here?"
"Of course, Newt," Grindelwald said warmly, smiling down at him, "You are always welcome in my home."
Newt swallowed one last time, gathering up every shred of his strength and determination and courage, "Then, please, I would like to live here with you, Mr. Grindelwald."
"Please," Grindelwald said in response, smile growing into a grin, "Call me Gellert. You're going to be living with me after all."
Percival was surprised to see Newt the next day. After something like yesterday's punishment, Percival wouldn't have been surprised if he didn't see Newt for a week or more. Newt didn't say anything when he climbed out of the case. All he did was settle into a chair near the wall and start scribbling in one of his notebooks. Percival noted that Newt didn't bring one of his creatures with him that time.
Licking his lips, Percival asked hesitantly, "How are you feeling this morning, Newt?"
"Please don't call me that," Newt said, sounding more tired than Percival had ever heard him.
Percival winced, but pushed on regardless, "I'm the prisoner here. I'm meant to be belligerent, Newt." It was meant as a joke and as a message. Percival would continue to call Newt by his first name unless he felt it was too dangerous to do so. For example, if Grindelwald was around, Percival would definitely call him Scamander instead of Newt. When Newt didn't even crack a smile, Percival leaned forward a little bit in his restraints, "Newt, really, how are you feeling this morning? Is there anything I can do to help?"
Newt ducked his head, setting the quill back in the ink bottle for a moment, "No, P-Percival. There is nothing you can do to help."
"Are you sure? I will do anything I can," Percival said, surprised by the honesty in his own statement. It wasn't just about getting free anymore. It was about helping his fellow prisoner escape because, truthfully, Newt was just as much of a prisoner as Percival was. Possibly even more of one. When Newt just shook his head silently, Percival pursed his lips. After a moment of contemplation, Percival decided to risk it, "Newt, when did you join Grindelwald?"
That day seemed to be a day of surprises because Newt actually answered that time, "1910."
Percival resisted the urge to wince. That would mean that Newt had spent roughly sixteen years of his life under Grindelwald's control. That… that would take a lot to break down. Newt would need some serious deconditioning before he could be allowed to live among the general populace. And that was just from a Director of Magical Security standpoint. Percival wasn't a medi-wizard and had no knowledge of psychotherapy, but he was certain that Newt would need some professional help on those fronts. That also raised another question. Percival had been sure that Newt was taken from Hogwarts, but to be certain, he asked, "How old are you now?"
A muscle in Newt's jaw popped, but he still answered, "I'm 29. Almost thirty."
Thirteen. Newt had been thirteen when he had joined Grindelwald. He'd spent more of his life under Grindelwald's thumb than he had free. Percival tried to swallow down the pity that was threatening to overtake him. He closed his eyes for a second before asking another question, "Newt, you are Theseus Scamander's little brother, yes?"
It took a long time for Newt to answer that question. When he finally spoke, he met Percival's eyes for one second before looking back down at his book, "Yes, I am."
Percival sighed, "Okay. Does he know that you're with Grindelwald?"
"Yes," Newt answered. Percival wanted to sigh again at the short answers. He understood that Newt probably wasn't really feeling up to conversation after what had happened, but Percival needed to know these things for when they escaped. It would just be more helpful if he could get more than one-word answers. Then again, this was more than Percival ever thought he was going to get out of Newt, so perhaps he really didn't have any room to complain.
Percival continued his questioning, "How did Grindelwald find you?"
"There was a professor at Hogwarts who would… scout students and try to find lik-minded people who she could spread Grindelwald's message to," Newt answered, giving Percival the longest answer of the day.
The answer itself wasn't good news, though. A professor? It had been a professor at Hogwarts that had introduced Newt to that psychopath? Professors were the ones who were supposed to keep students safe and make sure that they came out the other end as morally upright and well-adjusted citizens. Of course, there was no way they would be able to catch all the bad eggs or notice all the outside manipulation, but… the professors should never be the ones who were causing the problems. Students, parents, government bodies all respected and trusted the professors. They were given that highly honored job with the expectation that they were good people. How could this have happened?
There was nothing Percival could do about that at this point, though. From the verb tense Newt used, it sounded like that professor wasn't at Hogwarts anymore. Percival would just have to hope that there weren't any others sitting there and corrupting their students.
Percival hesitated for only a moment before gently pushing, "Is this the first time Grindelwald has… killed one of your creatures?"
Newt shuddered but still answered, "… no."
Percival closed his eyes, surprised at the wave of grief that swept over him. He was even more surprised to find that the grief wasn't just for what Newt had gone through. Part of that grief was for the creatures who had lost their lives to Grindelwald's insanity and cruelty. Swallowing some of it down, Percival pushed just a little further, "Newt… do you ever think of leaving Grindelwald?"
Newt's eyes fluttered closed and he finally gave up the pretense of writing in his notebook, spelling the ink dry and closing the book. He leaned back in his chair and passed his long-fingered hand over his face, "Sometimes."
Percival barely held in his sigh of relief. When Newt had come up and when he'd started answering Percival's questions, the Auror had been relatively certain that the other man had finally started to seriously think about leaving, but this was the proof that he'd needed. Trying to not sound too excited, Percival asked, "Are you thinking about it now?"
"He'll be furious," Newt muttered, sounding like he was mostly talking to himself.
Percival's heart sunk, but he didn't let it show, "Newt, it won't matter. You'll be out of here. MACUSA will protect you. And with sixteen years at Grindelwald's side, they're going to want you to like them. Plus, well, I hope that I'll be there, too. I'll be able to protect you."
There was nothing in malicious in Newt's voice when he pointed out, "You couldn't protect yourself against him," but it still hurt. Percival had done a good job at ignoring the fact that he was somewhat easily bested and held captive.
Giving Newt a tight smile, Percival brushed past the issue, "I won't be alone and tired this time. Besides, I'm sure the Ministry of Magic would help, too. They're going to want that information as much as MACUSA. And… I might not know Theseus Scamander that well, but I'm certain he would be happy to see you safe and free from this madman."
Newt flinched at the mention of his brother, "I doubt that."
Percival frowned, "Is that what you believe or is it what Grindelwald wants you to believe?" Newt's silence was answer enough. Percival spoke quietly, trying to urge Newt just the littlest bit further, "It doesn't matter what you've done – what Grindelwald has forced you to do. Surely there are people you could reach out to for help. People other than just your family. Although, I truly believe that your family would be happy to have you back, no matter what."
"Professor Dumbledore," Newt mumbled.
"Who?" Percival pressed.
Newt flicked his eyes up to Percival for a moment before focusing back on the closed book, "Professor Dumbledore. He's… I think he knew. Back then. I think he knew what path I was going down. I think he tried to stop me. He… he's Grindelwald's greatest threat. Grindelwald can't fight him, though. He just can't. Dumbledore says the same thing. That he can't fight Grindelwald. I think… I think they loved each other, once." Newt snapped his jaw shut, expression paling again as he looked at the staircase. They both froze, waiting for the tell-tale sound of the door smacking open. Percival breathed a sigh of relief when there was no sign of Grindelwald.
He swallowed before pursuing the topic, "But this Dumbledore would help you, right? If he knew what was happening at the start, then he'd understand, right?"
"I – I think so," Newt said, falling silent after the admission.
Percival gave him a supportive smile, trying to convey how much it meant to him that Newt was giving him so much information. Cautiously, Percival asked one last question, "Newt, what is Grindelwald doing here in New York?"
Newt flinched into himself and Percival did his best to not curse. He had figured that this might be the question that caused Newt to shut down, but he really did need this information. Plus, the conversation had been going so well. Newt had even accidentally revealed what was likely a major weakness in Grindelwald's shields. Surprisingly, though, after a moment, Newt answered, "He's searching for someone. An – an obscurial."
Percival almost choked on the air he was breathing; he was so surprised. An obscurial? Was Grindelwald serious? He couldn't be. He absolutely could not be. Percival managed to stutter out, "There hasn't been an obscurial in America in 200 years."
Newt frowned, expression turning into a shadowed version of what Percival had come to recognize as his 'lecture face.' Newt shook his head, "That's what the rest of the world says, too. And they're wrong. I – I didn't tell Grindelwald this – and you can't. He'd kill me and he'd hurt her. But… I found an obscurial. She was a little eight-year-old girl in a small village in Sudan. They locked her up and – and hurt her because of her magic. I found her, though, and tried to help her. I couldn't, though. I managed to separate the obscurus, but I couldn't save her. She – she died there. I still have her obscurus, though. She's hidden away, deep in my case where Grindelwald can't find her. I'm hoping that I can study her and hopefully, when I encounter another obscurial, I'll be able to help them that time."
"Newt," Percival said softly, not sure how to react to the passion in Newt's voice. With a sudden, jarring realization, Percival understood that there was a world out there that he knew nothing about. There were people and creatures and things in between out there that Percival didn't even know existed. They were hurting and he was sitting there, completely ignorant to their suffering and grief. People like this Sudanese girl. People like Newt. People like some obscurial that was somewhere in his city at that moment.
Percival cleared his throat and tried again, "Newt, how do you know that there is an obscurial? How – how did you realize that one was here? How is Grindelwald tracking it?"
Lips pursed, Newt explained everything. He explained all the arrangements Grindelwald made to ensure that he wouldn't be caught out. He talked about the minor attacks that Percival hadn't even taken more than a cursory interest in. He explained that the attacks had gotten more violent while Percival was in captivity. He told Percival about the New Salem Church and the awful woman who ran it. He talked about Credence Barebone, the poor abused squib who acted as Grindelwald's contact. From the sound of it, Credence was being manipulated and taken advantage of as much as Newt had been.
When Newt finally fell silent, Percival tried to formulate some sort of plan. At this point, he couldn't trust any of his aurors. Grindelwald had had weeks to win over Percival's aurors. That left the people that Grindelwald had apparently demoted or transferred out of the department. He needed someone who would be close enough to respond instantly, though. That meant that the transfers were a no-go. Who had Newt said was still in New York but had just been demoted? Tina Goldstein, right. Percival honestly didn't know her all that well. She hadn't been an auror for long. She'd been good, though; he knew that. If he remembered correctly, she had been up for a promotion into the senior aurors. That's where Percival would have gotten to know her. It was a shame that hadn't happened first.
In the end, though, that didn't matter all that much. Percival would have to make do with what he had. What would Percival do after that? He'd need more allies, clearly. But who? He knew that he'd get a message to Theseus Scamander as soon as humanly possible. If he was right about how the Scamander family would react to Newt coming home, then Percival could get a lot of support from that interaction. He would need to secure the safety of the Barebone boy before Grindelwald took him as a hostage. Then, somehow, he would need to talk to Picquery and convince her that the Percival she'd been talking to for over a month wasn't the real one.
Great. That wasn't hard at all.
First, though, before anything else, he needed to escape this place.
He wasn't sure how to bring it up. Newt must have realized by that point that Percival was trying to convince him to free the two of them. It wasn't hard to figure it out. Percival had said as much earlier. He just… needed Newt to act. That was all he needed. Brushing his pride to the side one last time, Percival opened his mouth to speak just as Newt stood up. Percival clamped his mouth shut as Newt walked towards him with a frightening determination, "I am going to free you now."
Percival wilted in relief, "Thank you, Newt. Thank you so much. You won't regret this. It'll all be over soon, you'll see." Newt pursed his lips but didn't answer. His hands shook as he pointed his wand at Percival's restraints and unlocked them.
Percival winced at the pain of his arms finally coming down, grimacing at the cramps that started up immediately. Whatever. He'd just need to deal with it. Newt strode forward immediately, holding Percival up and looking at his chin, "Where do you want to go?"
"Central Park," Percival said. He'd have liked somewhere more subtle, but it was one of the few places Newt was likely to know. He had already seen that Newt was fantastic at apparition, but he didn't want to risk it.
Newt frowned and cast a quick cleaning spell over Percival, magically repairing his clothes. It was the most like himself Percival had felt since he'd been taken. Before Percival could even thank the man, Newt was apparating the two of them out of the building.
Percival stumbled when they landed, overwhelmed by the sights and sounds around him. This was the outdoors. It was freedom. He was finally out of his basement and he was free. It was more beautiful than Percival could have ever imagined. Percival turned to truly thank Newt when his eyes widened in shock. He grabbed Newt's arm before the man could apparate away, forcing him to stop the spell lest he splinch the two of them, "What are you doing?"
"Going back," Newt said, quick and matter of fact, even as he tried to pry his arm out of Percival's grip.
"Are you serious?" Percival said through gritted teeth, "You can't go back there!"
"My case is there," Newt said, finally meeting Percival's eyes. Newt only really seemed to have this much courage when his creatures were involved.
Percival threw one hand in the air, the other still locked around Newt's wrist, "Why didn't you just bring it with you?"
Newt's expression crumpled even as he maintained eye contact, "Grindelwald spelled it to stay right there in that spot. He didn't want you to grab it as a hostage in case you ever got free and I couldn't stop you. Even I can't undo the spell. I won't leave them there with him. I can't."
"He'll kill you," Percival said desperately. He couldn't believe this. He couldn't believe that Newt was willing to risk this much to set Percival free. There was no way Grindelwald didn't hurt him after this. If Newt was lucky, that's all Grindelwald would do. If he was unlucky, Grindelwald would kill more of his creatures. If he was really unlucky, Grindelwald would kill him, too. There was no way Newt would come out of this unscathed.
Newt gripped the hand around his wrist, staring intently into Percival's eyes, "Percival, please let me go. You promised you could save me. You promised. So, save me. I will hold on until then."
"Please come with me," Percival tried one more time.
Newt just gave him a sad smile in return, "Let go, Percival."
And, although it broke his heart to do so, Percival let go.
He dropped his head in defeat when Newt apparated away, right back to the monster that had held him for over half of his life.
Percival gave himself only moments to grieve. Newt was right. Percival had promised to rescue him, to protect him. He couldn't do that if he sat there and moped around in the middle of Central Park. He needed to start enacting his plan. With that in mind, Percival set off towards the nearest group of hapless no-maj's he saw. Hopefully, one of them would be able to direct him towards the New Salem Church.
Thankfully, they were able to direct him there. He slunk around the city, snagging a hat here and a jacket there. It hurt him a little bit to steal those things, but it was the best he could do at the moment. Since he was without a wand until Grindelwald was apprehended, he needed to save his strength as much as he could. It was why he wasn't going to risk apparating, which was dangerous enough without a wand at the best of times.
It didn't take him long to find the church. Percival felt relief slump his shoulders until they immediately tensed back up again. No, no, no! Seriously? Percival swung himself back around a corner, breathing hard. That was… that was Grindelwald in Percival's body talking to a young man. What were the odds that Percival would arrive there while was Grindelwald was still there? That was the worst kind of luck.
Percival waited a few moments before inching his way back out of the alley. He was relieved to find that it was just the boy standing there. Looking around the area suspiciously, Percival quickly made his way over to the alley that the boy was standing in. When he got closer, he realized that Barebone was shaking, one hand clutching the other compulsively. Carefully, Percival stepped into the alley, calling out, "Credence?"
Credence's head whipped up, eyes wide and terrified before they dropped back down to his feet. Percival was painfully reminded of Newt. Ignoring that painful thought, Percival came even closer, "Credence."
"M-Mr. Graves," Credence managed to get out, his shaking getting even worse, "W-what do you need? You j-just left." His voice was quiet, the sound muffled by the way he spoke to the ground.
Percival had no idea how Grindelwald had shaped their relationship, so he was just going to have to do his best to pretend. Cautiously, Percival put his hand on Credence's shoulder, stepping just a little closer, "I know, Credence. I… I need to take you somewhere. I just found out that you aren't safe here. I know where we can be safe, though. Is that alright?"
Credence peaked up at him for the barest fraction of a second before returning his gaze to the ground, "What about the child you want me to look for?"
Percival grimaced, "I know that I've been pushing you to find this child, but you are more important. I need to make sure you're safe. We can find this child later. Together." He hoped he was saying the right things.
It seemed like it, because Credence's eyes were shining with something like a painful shot of hope when he made brief eye contact again. Percival tried to force a smile onto his face in response. He slung his arm over Credence's shoulders and asked, "Do you need to get anything before we go?" Credence shook his head, inching the slightest bit closer. Percival's heart broke for him. At this point, though, Percival wasn't sure there was enough of his heart left to break further.
He was glad Credence didn't ask any questions as Percival walked quickly down the sidewalks. He was lucky Credence didn't comment on the fact that Percival was dressed different and likely acted different, too. Percival looked every which way as they walked, dialing his paranoia up to the max. The last thing he needed was for Grindelwald or a follower to catch him out like that.
He only let himself relax a little when he got to the Goldstein's apartment building. He was lucky he remembered the address, honestly. Frowning, Percival glanced at the door. It didn't look like anyone was going in and out. He was just going to have to risk it. Percival tugged a curious but silent Credence after him as he slipped into the building, whispering unlocking spells as he went. They moved silently up the stairs, the only noise being a slight thud when Credence tripped on a stair. When he was assured that Credence was alright, Percival continued walking. They quickly got to the correct door.
If Percival knew anything about his aurors, then the lock on this door would be a lot trickier to undo than the one on the front door. Well, he could always try the easy way first. Percival glanced around one more time before knocking on the door.
Something settled in him when there was a quiet call of "Coming!" and then the pattering of feet approaching the door. Credence tensed at the unfamiliar voice, but a comforting hand on his shoulder relaxed him again.
Percival could feel the confusion emanating from both Goldstein sisters when they opened the door to find him. It wasn't until Tina Goldstein exclaimed, "Credence!" that anyone reacted.
Percival pushed into the room, pulling a tense Credence behind him. Queenie rapidly shut the door behind them, locking it with a flick of her wand. She cooed at Credence but didn't say anything. Tina looked between Credence and Percival rapidly, "Sir, what are you doing here? And with Credence? I thought you said that we couldn't interfere in his situation because he was a no-maj."
Credence frowned at the term, glancing over at Percival. Percival pinched the bridge of his nose, "That wasn't me, Ms. Goldstein. That was an imposter. He was the one who demoted you as well. Credence, this is Tina and Queenie Goldstein. They're witches. Do you remember Tina?"
Credence nodded silently. Percival took what he could get. He turned fully to Credence. He needed to explain this to him first before he lost any sort of rapport they'd managed to build. He felt bad ignoring the Goldsteins after barging into their home, but they'd have to wait. This was important.
Percival stooped slightly so he was looking Credence in the eyes and he placed his hands on Credence's shoulders, "Credence, I need you to know something and I need you to trust me. The man that has been coming to see you? The one with this face? He is an imposter. He is a very bad man who was trying to use you. I hate that he used my face to do that to you. I hate that he betrayed your trust like that. I will not use you like that. I will make sure you are safe from him. I know that you had magical parents. I will make sure you find your place in the magical world. Immediately. Not later. Not only if you do something for me. You deserve to be among people who respect your heritage and cherish you for it."
Credence was becoming obviously destressed, shaking and making hitched noises in the back of his throat. Percival hadn't wanted to give him such a rough introduction to the situation, but he didn't know a better way to do it. Besides, they were on a time limit. It was the best he could do.
After a moment, though, Percival realized that this wasn't a usual moment of destress. He backed away slightly when he saw that Credence was dissolving at the corners. It took only a second for his mind to make the connection and figure out what was happening. Jaw clenched, Percival dove back in closer. He threw his arms around Credence. He had to ignore the way Credence tensed. He had to ignore the raw buzzing against his skin that made it feel like he was about to be pulled apart. He just had to talk to him. Trying to pitch his voice into a calmer register, Percival soothed, "Credence, Credence, it's alright! I promise, I'm not going to hurt you. I want to help you. I know that you're the person that that man has been looking for. I know you're scared of this power inside you. I know you just want a place where you can be yourself. Please let me help you. You just need to calm down, Credence. I know you can do it. I believe in you. Please, Credence."
Slowly, ever so slowly, Credence calmed down. His fizzing edges settled into something much more human, sharpening into regular skin. Percival held him for a moment longer, making sure that it stuck. When he was fairly certain that Credence wasn't going to dissolve back into an obscurus, Percival stepped back, checking one more time, "Are you alright?" Credence nodded miserably, head still down.
Percival startled slightly when Queenie spoke into the silence, "Why don't you two come sit down? I've got lunch here. We'd be delighted if you came and joined us. You two look like you could use a good meal."
Breathing out slowly to calm his racing heart, Percival gave Queenie a tight smile, "I would like that. I should probably explain some things as well. Credence, would that be alright?" Credence seemed startled when he was asked, but still nodded jerkily.
The four of them sat at the table. Percival's hands shook with the realization that this was the first meal he'd been able to eat with his own hands for the first time in over a month. He tried to not get watery eyed at the thought. The look Queenie gave him made him think that he might not have succeeded.
Tina waited a few moments for the two men to get into their meals a little bit before starting her interrogation, "What did you mean when you said that there was someone wearing your face?"
Percival winced; she had to start with the hardest question, didn't she? He swallowed down the food he was eating before he began his explanation, "Over a month ago, I was walking through the streets by myself and I was attacked. I was brought to my home and imprisoned in the basement. I have been kept there for the last month or so while someone else wore my face. He used a much more powerful version of a Polyjuice potion – that's a potion used to make you look like someone else," Percival explained for Credence's benefit. He paused before admitting, "It's Grindelwald."
Tina and Queenie gasped, horror lining their expressions. Tina demanded, "What does he want? How has he stayed there for so long?"
Percival frowned. Before answering Tina's question, he turned to Credence and explained, "Gellert Grindelwald is a dark wizard. He is amassing a very large group of wizards and witches to do his bidding. They are killing and hurting people all across Europe, all with the goal of revealing themselves to no-maj's – non-wizards - and ruling over them." He turned back to include the other two, "Grindelwald is searching for an obscurial. I don't know why he wants one or what he plans to do with one, but that's why he's here. He heard about what's been happening in New York and managed to realize that there's an obscurial here. Credence, that's what you are. An obscurial is a witch or wizard who has suppressed their magic due to fear and societal pressures. I've been told a little bit about what Miss Barebone preaches at that church of hers. I'm sure you've been trying very, very hard to hide the fact that you can do things that others can't because of her. An obscurial is also often abused for a long time. All of that bottles up until your magic morphs into something uncontrollable that bursts out of you at times."
"Can I fix it? Can I make it go away so I'm not dangerous anymore?" Credence asked, starting to shake again.
Percival put a hand over his hand, "I don't know, Credence. But I know someone who just might know. We have to help him, first, but I'm certain he can help you. Especially since you're so powerful."
"Powerful?" Credence trembled, that painful hope lighting his eyes again.
Percival smiled reassuringly, "Yes, Credence. Most obscurials die by the age of ten at the latest. It takes someone with incredible magic talent to live as long as you have. With that power and the person I know, I believe that we can do this. We can make sure that you are in control of yourself again."
"Thank you," Credence whispered.
Percival patted his hand, "You're welcome."
Tina cleared her throat lightly to get their attention, "I'm sorry, I'm not sure I follow. Who is this person? And what are we going to do about Grindelwald?"
Percival grimaced, "I haven't really had the time to do much planning. I just escaped an hour or two ago. I know that, at some point, I need to talk to the Madam President. I'm sure I can convince her that I'm the real Grindelwald, but I need to get to her first. Before that, though, I need to talk to Theseus Scamander. Actually, he might be able to help me get to President Picquery as well."
"Theseus Scamander?" Queenie interrupted gently, pulling him back to his explanation.
Percival colored slightly, "Yes. When I was imprisoned, I was guarded by one of Grindelwald's followers, but… he's not really a follower. He's as much of a victim as I am. He was the one who helped me escape. He had to stay there in that place because Grindelwald had something over him, but he needs help escaping. Theseus Scamander is his older brother. Scamander is also an accomplished auror and war hero. He holds the same position I do, except in the Ministry of Magic."
Queenie gasped, eyes going wide and watery, "Oh, that poor man. Newt will be alright, won't he? Grindelwald won't hurt him too badly, will he?"
Something cold settled in Percival's heart as he whipped his head up. He had to remind himself that this wasn't Grindelwald, that it wasn't the end of the world if his mental shields started to slip. Still, he yanked them back up again and commented mildly, "I didn't know you were a legilimens, Ms. Goldstein."
Queenie smiled nervously at him, "Just Queenie, honey. I'm a natural legilimens and, well, you were projecting pretty loudly. I couldn't help but pick it up. That was the first time your shields slipped, though, if that helps." She smiled suddenly, turning to Credence, "Legilimens means that I can read minds. Don't worry, though! I do my best not to pry." Credence nodded fearfully. Queenie's smile became a little more fixed. Tina put a comforting hand over hers.
Percival passed a hand over his face wearily, "Alright. That's alright. So, that's the plan. We can figure out the rest once I get ahold of Picquery. Does that sound good to everyone?" Everyone nodded back to him. He turned to the Goldsteins, "Could I use your fireplace to talk to Theseus? With the time difference… he should still be at work. Hopefully. If he's not, then I don't know how to get ahold of him quickly. I'm hoping we can catch him, though." Queenie nodded to him and led him over to the fireplace.
She winked at him as she turned around, "We'll give you some privacy for this conversation. Tina and I will get Credence cleaned up and heal him up."
"Thank you, Queenie," Percival managed before she sent him another wink and swept out of the room, dragging her sister and Credence along behind her. Percival spared a moment to worry about poor Credence being dragged from place to place all day before he pushed it out of his mind and focused on the moment. He cast the spell he needed and stuck his face through the fire, calling out, "Theseus Scamander?"
He felt relief blossom through him when he saw Theseus start violently from where he was working on some sort of document at his desk. He was there. Percival caught him in time. Thank Merlin. Theseus frowned and moved towards the fire, crouching down in front of it, "Percival? What's going on? Why are you fire-calling me at this time?"
Percival stared at Theseus intently, trying to convey the seriousness of his next words, "Theseus, I need you to listen to me very carefully. I'm about to tell you several important things and then I'm going to need your help. Preferably, I'll need you to come over here as quickly and as quietly as possible."
"Percival, just tell it to me. What is going on?" Theseus stressed, leaning closer to the fire.
Percival took a deep breath, trying to find the best way to word this. In the end, there wasn't a good way, so he settled on blunt, "I found your brother." He kept talking over Theseus's quick intake of breath, "He came with Grindelwald here to America. They captured me over a month ago. Grindelwald took my face and has been masquerading as me for this entire time. Newt was my guard until he helped me escape just this morning. He wasn't able to come with me, though. I want to take down Grindelwald as quickly as I can so we can rescue Newt." Percival trailed off, finally giving Theseus a moment to process his words.
For a moment, Theseus just worked his jaw, clearly uncertain about how to respond. Percival waited patiently even as part of him itched to reach through the fire and shake Theseus into responsiveness. Finally, Theseus swallowed and spoke, "Are you certain it's Newt?"
Percival frowned, "Grindelwald recruited him out of Hogwarts when he was thirteen years old and had just been expelled. He's thin and pale and very ginger. There is nothing in this world he loves more than his creatures."
He didn't have to say more than that. Theseus gasped out a sob, covering his face for a long moment. When he finally recovered, he tried to smile, "That's Newt alright. Is he… is he okay? I mean, obviously he's not okay, but… he's doing better than the last time I saw him if he was willing to help you escape. Last time I saw him… I just couldn't see him disobeying Grindelwald."
Percival grimaced, "He's doing as well as can be expected. Grindelwald respects him enough to take care of him even if he isn't always kind. I don't know what will happen when Grindelwald finds out that he helped me escape, though. I'm hoping to get to Newt before that happens, but…" He trailed off again. They both knew how that sentence ended.
Theseus grimaced in return, "Right. Of course. Okay. What do you need me to do?"
"I need to get a conversation with Picquery. I need her to go somewhere that Grindelwald won't find suspicious with someone who isn't suspicious. I think, if you request a meeting somewhere private outside the Woolworth Building, it should be the perfect cover. If we don't make it entirely legitimate, though, he will disappear with Newt. We both know that. You need to make sure that no one suspects a thing. Not even Picquery. Once she's there, we'll reveal ourselves and I'll explain the situation to her. I'm sure I can convince her that I'm the real Percival. After that, we can create a better plan of defeating Grindelwald. Then, we can rescue Newt. I know where he is," Percival answered, immensely thankful that Theseus was willing to help.
Theseus nodded back seriously, "Got it. I'll start drafting up papers immediately. I'll take the day off work tomorrow and I'll get an emergency portkey over tomorrow. I'll set up at a hotel just in case anyone is watching. I don't want to give away your location. Let's pick a place and a time. I'll take care of the reason. Does that work?"
"Perfectly," Percival answered.
They spent several hours ironing out the details of their plan. Percival was exhausted by the time he backed out of the fire call. He collapsed onto the sofa behind him, sighing into the soft feeling. It was the first real seat he'd sat in in over a month. He had a feeling there was going to be a lot of moments like that in the coming days.
Quietly, Queenie and Tina walked into the room, taking the other seats in the living room. Queenie smiled at Percival, "Credence is asleep, the poor dear. He's happy that he's away, though. He's also happy to have a name for what's going on with him. You did a good thing, saving him. You could have come to him after you took down Grindelwald. You didn't need to take that risk."
"You know as well as I do that I needed to take that risk, Queenie," Percival responded. He wouldn't have been able to live with himself if he'd left Credence there, potentially in danger from Grindelwald and certainly in danger from that woman who called herself his mother.
She smiled again, "I know."
Tina spoke next, "What's going on next? What did you and Mr. Scamander decide?"
"We've chosen a place. I'll get over there in the morning and hide out while Theseus lures Picquery to the location, alone. I'll explain the situation there," Percival answered.
"I'll come with you," Tina said firmly. Percival raised his eyebrows at her. She pinked slightly ducking her head, "I would like to come with you, sir."
"I need you here," Percival said, "This has become our stronghold and it's holding a key piece in this. If things go wrong, Credence is the one thing that Grindelwald wants at the moment. We can't let him take Credence. I won't let Credence be hurt like that. You need to protect him. No matter what."
Tina pursed her lips, but still answered, "Of course."
"Good," Percival answered, groaning a little as he settled further into the sofa.
Queenie made a concerned noise, "Mr. Graves, sir, I really think you should let us look at your injuries, too. You've been a prisoner for a long time."
"There's no time," Percival answered immediately.
Queenie raised an eyebrow at him, moving over to sit on the sofa beside him, "You have nowhere to be until tomorrow. You need to be well-rested and in good shape for tomorrow, right? You won't manage either unless I look you over and treat your wounds." Percival sighed and waved a hand, indicating that she could do as she wished. She smiled at him primly and peeled back his shirt, casting diagnosis spells over him as she went. Percival relaxed further under the soothing coolness of her spell work.
He didn't even realize he had fallen asleep until he woke up the next morning.
Percival groaned at the feeling of sunlight on his face. He winced and turned his head, putting a hand up to cover the light a little bit. He sat up blearily, blinking around the room. He was in a guest bedroom of some sort. The other bed in the room had clearly been slept in, but there was no one at that point. Groaning again, Percival glanced over at the clock. He cursed in surprise and flung himself out of bed.
He stumbled down the hallway, crashing into the kitchen area as he tried to wake up. Queenie, Tina, and Credence all looked up at his entrance. They blinked at his appearance. Percival fought down the blush that wanted to erupt at the thought of his subordinates seeing him like this. Queenie was the first to move. She stood gracefully and gestured towards a stack of clothes that he hadn't seen earlier, "Those are for you. I figured you would want to wear something a little nicer for your big meeting. We've made you some breakfast, too. Don't worry, you've got plenty of time to eat and get changed before you head out. We made sure."
Percival's shoulders relaxed, "Thank you."
"It's no problem, honey," Queenie said, a genuine note of kindness in her voice that relaxed Percival even more.
The thing that finally calmed him down enough to sit down at the table and actually eat the breakfast they'd made was Credence's small, shy smile. Percival was glad that the Goldstein sisters had managed to get Credence to calm down so much in their presence. He'd been worried about leaving the boy with them while he met with Theseus and Picquery, but it looked like that was one thing he wouldn't have to worry about anymore.
Still, to be sure, Percival leaned in and asked Credence quietly, "How are you doing, today?"
"Better, Mr. Graves," Credence answered, "They're really nice."
"That they are," Percival smiled in return, "And please, call me Percival." Credence nodded back to him.
Once Percival finished eating, he quickly changed into the outfit. He was unsurprised that it fit perfectly. It was still… a bit disturbing to know that they'd measured him while he slept. Nevertheless, he felt much more ready for the day with a fresh suit and food that he'd eaten himself.
He looked over the apartment one more time before he left, "You have everything you need, correct? You've got the place warded and protected? No one's going to be able to take you by surprise?"
"Yes, sir," Tina sighed, practically herding him out of the door, "We'll be fine, sir. Please get to the meeting point before you're late."
"Alright, alright!" Percival said, raising his hands as he walked out. Sue him for being cautious. He was pretty sure he had good reason to be so paranoid.
It didn't take him long after that to get to the meeting place. Still, he was cutting it close. He'd barely gotten himself hidden when Theseus came in. Theseus crossed the room to the table and picked up the piece of paper with Percival's note saying that he'd arrived.
Theseus had just sat down at the table when Picquery swept into the room, leaving her guards in the hallways with a careless wave of her hand. She sat down primly at the table, back straight and eyes fierce, "Now, what did you really call me here for? Don't think I'm stupid enough to believe your letter. I do, however, trust you enough to understand that this is important and requires careful, private handling. Is that correct?"
"Yes, it is Madame President," Theseus said. He turned his head slightly to where Percival was hiding – the signal that he should reveal himself.
Percival let the enchantments that were hiding him fall away as he stepped forward. Picquery's lips pursed, but she didn't say anything. Her eyes narrowed on him, though. Percival gave her a crooked half-smile before moving to join them at the table, "Picquery."
"Percival. I wasn't expecting you to be here," Picquery commented slowly.
He sighed before quipping, "I'd imagine. You haven't seen me for over a month after all. I'm sure this isn't where you were expecting to find me."
He finally caught her full attention with that comment. Picquery's gaze sharpened on him and she demanded, "What does that mean? Explain." So, he did.
Percival told her everything that had been done to him, everything he had discovered. It was the most detailed description he'd given to date. He knew that Picquery would want all the information. He ignored the way Theseus wilted at the knowledge of the bruises Newt obtained just during that month. He especially blocked out the choked off noise Theseus made when Percival described Newt's 'punishment' and Bandit's fate. Even Picquery looked pained at the description and she wasn't one to feel much over the death of a magical creature.
Picquery sighed heavily, dropping her face into her hands once Percival finished speaking. She sighed again before looking up at him, "You know that I will need to confirm this, yes?"
"Of course," Percival said, "I've lowered my shields."
Picquery nodded back and cast a strong Legilimens over him. He mentally bucked slightly at the intrusion, but quickly gave in to the feeling of Picquery's magic. This wasn't the first time they'd used this spell on each other.
There was a long moment where Percival and Theseus sat with bated breath as Picquery fact-checked Percival's story. Finally, she nodded to them, "Your story checks out." Her lips worked for a moment before she swallowed and admitted, "Percival, I am sorry that I did not notice this."
Percival gave her a tight smile, "I would like to talk about this more later, but, for now, I understand. I got a front row seat view of how good Grindelwald is at manipulating people and acting. He would have made it hard to see past his disguise."
It didn't look like that assuaged Picquery's guilt, but it was enough to push her past it for the moment. She nodded to him again before turning to Theseus, "This is going to be an important operation. I would like to enlist your help as well. I would order you off the case, Percival, if I thought it would do a lick of good. As it is, you will be playing a minor role. You've been in captivity for over a month and you don't have a wand. I won't risk you over something like this. Did this Newt Scamander know if anyone inside MACUSA flipped?"
"He never said," Percival said, "I'm assuming he would have if he knew. The only people I knew I could trust were the ones he transferred or demoted. The first one I could think of was Tina Goldstein. Is there anyone you absolutely trust?"
"My guards," Picquery answered, "No one else. Are there people you trust who can come in fast enough to make a difference, Theseus?"
"Absolutely," Theseus responded, "I figured that something like this would happen. I had people on standby with a portkey. I didn't tell them why or where I was going or what was going on. I trust them, though. And they're good, too."
"Good enough to bring down the dark wizard who's been destroying Europe for a long time?" Picquery asked drily.
"When he's on high alert now that he's knows that I've escaped?" Percival added.
Theseus's eye twitched, "I think so, yes."
Picquery's lips twitched upwards into something of a smile, "Good. Bring them here, then. We make our move as soon as possible. Grindelwald is still in the Woolworth building right now. I want to make sure he doesn't get a chance to disappear."
Things moved pretty quickly after that. Percival honestly felt more than a little overwhelmed. He'd been put on the team sent to raid his own house and retrieve Newt. He was pretty sure that both he and Theseus were upset with that arrangement. As much as Theseus wanted to bash Grindelwald's head in, he would have preferred to go rescue the brother that he'd admitted to not having seen since the end of the war which was eight years ago. He was an incredible dueler, though, and one of the strongest aurors around. It wouldn't make sense to not put him on the team going after Grindelwald. As much as Percival wanted to personally deliver on his promise to help Newt, he would have preferred to be the one to go bash Grindelwald's head in. He was weak from his imprisonment and wandless, though. There was no telling what sort of reaction trying to fight Grindelwald would give him, mentally, either. Plus, no one needed the confusion of two Percivals running around flinging spells at each other.
Before both teams moved out, Theseus came over to Percival, clasping his arm warmly, "I'm trusting you with Newt. Bring him home, please. Do what I haven't been able to do since he ran away when he was thirteen. Please."
"Only if you make sure to get a good punch in on Grindelwald for me," Percival promised. Theseus gave him a small smile before moving over to his squad.
Picquery moved over next, clasping his arm the same way Theseus just had, "I'm sorry to make you go back to that place so soon."
Percival grimaced, "I'm going to have to go back there fairly often. It's my house after all."
Picquery winced at the reminder, "We will have that talk. I won't let something like this happen again."
"Okay," Percival said. They both knew that he didn't quite believe it. He would have believed that nothing like this would ever be able to happen. He wasn't too keen on believing that it wouldn't happen again. He didn't want to be caught off guard again.
Picquery sighed, "We're going to get him and take him down. You just need to focus on rescuing that Newt."
Percival snorted and Picquery glanced at him curiously. Percival shook his head, "Sorry. It's just… I was thinking that you'd hate him so much if he just came here without any of this Grindelwald nonsense. He is exactly the type of casual rulebreaker you wouldn't be able to handle."
"Well, hopefully you can break him of that habit," Picquery sighed.
The small smile Percival had been sporting slipped from his face, "Picquery… you're not going to treat him like just another one of Grindelwald's followers, are you?"
"I think both you and Theseus would riot against me if I did and I have no desire to experience that," Picquery said. She pursed her lips when she realized that he wasn't going to take that copout answer, "I have to meet him for myself, Percival. I know what you feel about him, and I know what you and Theseus have told me about him. I need to make my own opinions. I will be taking both of your opinions in mind, though, when I make my decision. It depends on how much he's willing to give up, too. He's been with Grindelwald for sixteen years. That's the kind of information the world governments have been needing to take Grindelwald down for good."
"I understand," Percival said, feeling relief fill him at her words. He knew her well enough to know that she'd end up feeling just as protective over Newt as he did. She might hide it better, but she'd feel it. Newt seemed to be the kind of person to inspire that protective spirit.
Picquery released his hand and walked to the front of the room, "Alright, you all know what you're supposed to do. Let's go take down a psychopath."
The groups broke apart immediately, everyone going to whichever position they'd been assigned to. Percival led his own group to his house. A small part of him was shriveling at the thought of going back to that basement again, but most of him was just thrilled that they were finally going to take this man down. He led the group through the mansion, disabling his own security even as they worked on dismantling Grindelwald's. He hoped that the others had gotten to Grindelwald already because if they hadn't, this would have just tipped him off that something's gone wrong in his little plan.
He had to pause for a moment at the top of the stairs to the basement, but none of the aurors behind him judged him. They just waited silently for him to start moving again. Once Percival had pushed past the nausea that rose in him, he started down the stairs. Two aurors jogged ahead of him, testing the air for spell traps. They didn't seem to find anything until they got into the basement proper.
It wasn't a spell trap that they found in the basement, though.
Percival really felt like he was going to lose his breakfast when he saw what stopped them in their tracks.
Newt was in the chains that had previously held Percival. His hands were mangled where they hung limply from the shackles. He was in only a pair of pants, the rest of his skin cut to shreds. He was shaking and twitching in a way that indicated that the cruciatus curse had been used on him repeatedly. Percival didn't see any creatures, though. A quick glance at Newt's case showed that the outside was clearly battered. If Percival had to guess, he'd figure that Newt placed a lot of locking charms on the case in the time before Grindelwald came back. Grindelwald had probably tried to open the case but hadn't been able to.
Why hadn't Newt just locked himself in there?
The answer came to Percival immediately. If he'd been in the case, then Grindelwald would have stopped at nothing to get the case open and the locks would have been in vain. If he was outside the case, then Grindelwald would focus more on him than on the case. It had been a sacrifice for his creatures, the same way all things seemed to be with Newt. Percival couldn't help the fondness that rose within him at the thought.
Percival focused back on the team he was with when the two front aurors moved closer to Newt. The whole group stopped when a low growl echoed over the room. The aurors froze when a nundu eased its way out of the corner where it had apparently been hiding. Some of the aurors started shaking. Percival could hear one of them readying a killing spell.
Frantically, Percival threw himself forward. The nundu roared at the movement, causing Newt to twitch in his sleep. Percival put his hands up and crouched down in front of the creature. He swallowed through his fear and smile uncertainly, "Hey Sacha. You remember me, don't you? I'm a friend of Newt's. We're all here to rescue him. We need to get through you to do that. Is that okay?"
Sacha lowered herself slightly. She wasn't growling anymore, but she also wasn't moving. Trying to avoid showing fear to the nundu, Percival awkwardly crab-walked closer. Slowly, carefully, he reached out and put one hand under her poison sac. Then, just like he'd seen Newt demonstrate, he started scratching her in just the right spot.
He hit it dead-on. Sacha's eyes rolled up in the back of her head and she collapsed to the floor, purring loudly. She sounded like a motor engine. The aurors behind Percival were gaping at him. Percival kept scratching Sacha for as long as he dared before he cautiously got up and moved past her. She watched him lazily but didn't interfere.
Percival breathed a sigh of relief when he reached Newt. He nodded to one of the aurors to unlock the cuffs. A few of them started unlocking the cuffs as he instructed the rest to work on freeing Newt's case from its prison.
Newt came awake as his hands finally fell from where they were being held up. He woke with a choked off whimper that caused Sacha to growl threateningly. Newt blinked over at her. Before he even addressed any of the others in the room, Newt crooked a broken finger at her in a 'come hither' movement. She easily lumbered over to them and settled into Newt's side, purring against the skin she was touching. Newt immediately seemed more relaxed at the feeling of one of his creatures.
He blinked over at Percival, "I spelled the case shut, but I made sure the creatures could still get out. I asked them to make sure that they didn't come out, no matter what Grindelwald did to me. Sacha must have heard him leave and figured she could protect me if he came back."
Percival laughed, "Yeah, well, she won't have to worry about that anymore. Grindelwald is being taken down as we speak. I promised you that, didn't I?"
Newt stared at for a long moment, gauging his words. Then he smiled, slow and brilliant and more real than anything Percival had seen before, "You did. I told you I would hold out until you came."
Percival laughed again, "Yeah, you did." He put a hand in Newt's curls for a moment, reveling in the fact that he wasn't too late, that Newt was still alive, "Okay, we've got aurors trained in field treatment here. They're going to take a look at you while the others work on getting your case free. Can you get Sacha back in the case for that? I think she's making the healers nervous."
Newt peered suspiciously at the healers and aurors but seemed willing to trust Percival's assessment of them because all he did in response was whisper gently to Sacha. Percival couldn't hear what he said, but it worked because soon after, Sacha stood and walked towards the case. Percival saw Dougal open the case before Sacha climbed in. The case locked behind them.
The healers moved over immediately, as non-threatening as possible. Newt still flinched away from them and gripped onto Percival as an anchor through the experience. Newt trembled whenever one of them applied a spell to his injuries.
Partially as a way to distract Newt and partially because Newt just needed to know, Percival started talking about what had happened. He whispered, "Picquery is going to give you a chance. She's going to meet you and find out what you're willing to give up about Grindelwald and then she'll figure out what she's going to do with you. Don't worry, though. I won't let her do anything bad. Plus, Theseus is here, and all these people are from the Ministry of Magic and are trusted by him. Even if I can't stop Picquery, he'll get you out of here."
"'Seus is here? He came for me?" Newt asked. He was out of it, barely focused.
Percival nodded to him, "Yeah, he came for you. He's missed you a lot. He's been looking for you for a very long time, Newt."
"Really?" Newt asked. The disbelief in his voice tore at the last of Percival's heart.
"Really," Percival affirmed.
Newt smiled up at him, "That's… really nice…" He drifted off to sleep.
One of the aurors nodded to him, "We put him under for a little bit. We were worried about how much he was shaking. Full-time healers should be able to put him to rights, though."
At the same time, one of the others called out, "We got it! We got the case out!"
"Fantastic," Percival said, "I'll grab the case if you guys want to get Newt. Once we get out of the house, we should be able to apparate to the medical ward in the Woolworth building. Unless Newt's injuries prevent that?"
"Nope," an auror responded even as he lifted Newt into the air with a spell.
One of the aurors who had been freeing Newt's case asked cautiously, "Are we sure that thing can be apparated? If it's comfortably carrying both a nundu and a demiguise, then there's got to be a slew of illegal expansion charms on that. Those can be unstable if you're not careful."
"He's got countermeasures on it for just that reason. Trust me, he's the most skilled apparater I've ever seen. He's fixed that problem," Percival reassured. He'd actually asked Newt about that one day. The technical jargon and complicated spell work and research that Newt had done to fix the problem had mostly gone over Percival's head, but it had been fascinating regardless.
They nodded to him and prepared for transport. As soon as they made it outside the house, they apparated.
Percival honestly didn't remember most of what happened next. Medi witches and wizards were not to be trifled with and they quickly ushered everyone to separate beds, checking for hidden curses and adverse effects to the mission. Percival tried to ask them to notify someone of their return, but he wasn't sure if anyone heard him over the general hustle and bustle. He saw someone disappear with Newt into a private room, several healers running in after her. Percival gripped Newt's case even tighter.
A nurse forced a foul concoction down his throat and then left him alone. He would feel bitter about it if she hadn't promised to get a message to Picquery about their safe return.
Percival drifted for a little bit, to be honest. He wasn't sure what they gave him, but it made him feel floaty and happy, just for a little bit. A little of that bubble burst when Theseus limped over to his bed. Percival sat up quickly, "Are you alright?"
"I'm fine," Theseus dismissed, "You should see Grindelwald. We really took him down hard. I got that punch in for you, too. He just got a nasty hit in. He also definitely managed to get followers in here, too. They started attacking us as soon as we went after him. They've all been apprehended, but Picquery's got the building on lockdown anyways. She's checking to see if any of them were smart enough to stay hidden during the altercation to try to free him later. I'm guessing she's going to find some." Theseus trailed off, his eyes wandering over the rest of the beds in the infirmary. With each bed, his frown got deeper and deeper.
With a sigh, Percival said, "Just ask already."
"Where is he? How is he? Can I see him?" Theseus asked rapidly.
Percival gave him a tired smile, "He'll be fine. He was really hurt, but the healers say he'll be okay. He's in a private room right now, getting treated. He managed to protect his case, so Grindelwald couldn't get any of his creatures. I'm holding onto it until I can go see him."
"Is that the case there?" Theseus asked. Percival nodded, but didn't let him take it. Theseus leaned closer. Suddenly his face morphed into an expression of grief and he leaned back, "That… that's the suitcase Newt used for Hogwarts. That's the one he brought there. I can't believe he's kept it all these years. And he's put all those complicated spells on it. I'm certainly impressed. I should talk to Dumbledore and see if he can get Newt an honorary degree or something for the spell work on this."
Percival raised his eyebrows incredulously, "Do you know how illegal this case is? The expansion charms alone would get him years of jailtime, not even including all the different illegal creatures he's smuggled into scores of countries."
Theseus rolled his eyes, "Please, he's already charmed you. I'm sure you could get him through the legalities."
"You get him through the legalities," Percival muttered, hating the way his cheeks colored at the comment.
Theseus glanced over at him curiously, but only ended up saying, "Thank you, Percival. For all of this. I don't know how much was actual concern over Newt and how much was just you being a good person, but… my whole family has been trying to find a way to get him out of Grindelwald's hands for well over a decade. I cannot explain to you how much this means to me, to all of us. The Scamander family will always be in your debt."
Percival felt a part of his heart soften. It was clear, just looking at the tired slump to Theseus's shoulders, how much effort he had been putting into all of this, how much pain and suffering and grief and worry he'd experienced. Grindelwald certainly knew how to make his decisions hurt as many people as possible.
Speaking of, Percival asked, "Do you know when they plan on interviewing Grindelwald? Or are you just going to take him back to Britain immediately?"
Theseus rolled his eyes, "I highly doubt Picquery would just let me take Grindelwald. But, it's not my problem anymore. I've alerted my superiors and they'll be over here as soon as Picquery drops the emergency lockdown of the building. I mean, either way, Grindelwald's still wearing your face at the moment, so I think they'll wait until the potion wears off at the very least. What is he using by the way? I know you said that Newt made it, but it's unbelievable. We couldn't get any revelios to stop the effects of the potion."
Percival shrugged, "You'll have to ask him. It lasts for about a week, though, from what I could tell. It also includes no animal parts, if that helps."
Theseus shook his head, "Incredible. Newt always was a smart one, though. Studying everything. He used to take apart Horklumps when he was still a really little kid. I think he spent more of his time in Hogwarts with creatures rather than other people. Although, I know he used to do private projects with Dumbledore and another professor. I think she left the school in protest after Newt was expelled."
Interrupting him, Percival narrowed his eyes, "Who was this woman? Newt said that it was a professor who introduced him to Grindelwald and convinced him to join up."
"What?" Theseus asked sharply.
Percival frowned, "Yeah. I think he said it was a female professor, too."
Theseus's hands shook, "I'm going to -," He cut himself off and got himself under control, "I'll find out who she is. I'll make sure that she goes to jail for this. Especially… if she did this to Newt, that I'm sure she did this to others. Unbelievable."
The two of them fell into a quiet silence for a moment, both thinking on what Newt had gone through for all those years. They were interrupted when the door swung open and Picquery strode through. Theseus stood up, wincing a little as his leg obviously twinged underneath him. Percival didn't bother with pleasantries, simply staring at her evenly.
Once again, she waved her guards away and sat on a chair next to Percival's medical cot, "There's no need to stand, Theseus. We're all tired and hurt. I've gone through enough people that I feel comfortable leaving the rest of the interrogations to them. We should have the rest of the building cleared by late tonight. I've sent word to the Goldstein sisters to inform them of our success and my orders to stay where they are for the time being. Now, how are you two? No major injuries? I've already gotten a report from men on your team, Percival, so you needn't bother telling me about it. Although, I would be interested in hearing about you tamed a nundu."
Theseus choked, "Tamed a what?"
Percival rolled his eyes, "Sacha is one of Newt's creatures. She spent too long among humans and couldn't integrate back into the wild, so she stayed with Newt. Her poison sac was nullified due to… mint, I believe Newt said. And she often enjoyed just sitting with him, much like a domestic cat would, so he'd tell me about her. Apparently, if you scratch them under the poison sac just right, they'll be your best friend. Plus, she already knew me."
"That's incredible," Theseus breathed, shaking his head in wonder.
Picquery was giving Percival an assessing look, "Did he have many magical beasts that are that deadly?"
Percival nodded, "Tons of them. But they all love him. He actually regularly carries a swooping evil around with him, you know. He's writing a book about them. He wanted to publish it, under a penname of course, to show people that magical beasts aren't the monsters they're made out to be."
Theseus gave a wet laugh, "He's wanted to do that since he was a little kid."
Picquery pursed her lips and looked towards the door where Newt was being kept. She clapped her hands together and stood up, "Alright, then. I suppose I should go see what all the fuss is about myself. You two will stay out here and you will not attempt to listen in on the conversation. I will tell you when you are allowed to see him again." She valiantly ignored the pouts from both men as she added, "Oh, and Percival. Your wand is being processed as we speak. I've ensured that it gets to you as quickly as possible." With that, she spun around and walked through the door to where Newt was being held.
Both aurors looked at each other for a moment, eyes wide. Then, Percival asked, "You don't happen to know any good listening spells, do you?"
In the end, they weren't able to listen in on the conversation, which was more than a little disappointing. Then again, Seraphina Picquery didn't become the President of MACUSA simply for her politic skills.
The look she gave them when she finally came out of Newt's private room, hours later, told Percival that she knew that they'd tried to listen in and was deeply unimpressed with them. He just shrugged in response. Her lips tightened.
Regardless, she walked over to them and informed them, "Mr. Scamander is asking for both of you. And his case. Which he is… reluctantly allowed to keep. I've assured him that no one has even tried to open it since it was rescued, which I hope to still be the case. You have an hour with him until the medi-witch in charge removes you, so make the most of it." With that, she was gone.
Theseus glanced over to Percival, "Does that mean that Newt's free, or…"
"I guess we'll have to go find out," Percival responded, levering himself off the bed and grabbing Newt's case as he went. Theseus eyed the case like he wanted to grab it, but he thankfully never made a move for it. Together, they walked into Newt's private room.
Newt was awake and cautiously watching the door when they got in there. His eyes were red and a little puffy, but most of his wounds were gone and he was no longer doing that awful shaking. Conveniently, there were two chairs placed next to his bed. Percival was gracious enough to let Theseus take the one closer to his head, even if a part of him was irritated that Theseus thought he could just swan in after eight years -. Okay, Percival needed to calm down. He was getting irritable and frustrated at the closest target. He knew that was a common symptom of recent rescue from captivity. He needed to calm down and get himself back in order. He would not let Grindelwald effect his life any further.
By the time Percival had gotten himself back under control, Newt was blinking at their chins, eyes occasionally flicking upwards to meet their eyes as they sat in the chairs next to the bed. Theseus looked like he had no clue what to say, so Percival carefully put the case on the bed near Newt's feet and said, "Here. I promise no one tried to get in there. I've had it with me the entire time."
Newt smiled tiredly, "Thank you, Percival." His eyes kept sneaking over to look at Theseus, though.
Rolling his eyes, Percival elbowed Theseus in the side, jarring him into motion. Theseus startled, but laughed good-naturedly. He rubbed the back of his neck as he finally spoke, "Hey, Newt."
"'Seus," Newt said quietly, flicking his eyes rapidly between Theseus's eyes and his chin.
Theseus gave him a trembly smile, "It's really, really good to see you, Newt. I've missed you so much. For sixteen years, I've missed you. Mom and Dad have been missing you, too. I haven't informed them yet, but I guarantee they'd fly in as soon as they hear the news." Newt's lower lip trembled. Theseus paused for a moment, biting his lip, before he dove in for a gentle, but firm hug, "Love you, little brother."
Newt didn't return the hug, but he rested his forehead against the crux of Theseus's neck and started crying softly again. It didn't take long for Theseus to follow, back shaking with the force of his tears.
Percival felt like an intruder in the private moment, but Newt had asked for him, so he didn't want to leave. Then again, Newt might have only wanted to see him to get his case back. Which was possible. Probable, honestly. What other reason could Newt have for wanting to see him? Sure, Percival had gotten Newt out of there, but that was only because Newt had helped him escape first. And, yeah, Percival felt like the two of them had bonded while they were there, but there was a good chance that that was just Percival. Newt might not feel that way. He liked creatures better than people, anyways. Percival had been deluding himself when he'd thought that Newt actually wanted to see him. And why had Percival even wanted to see him so much anyways? To thank him? He'd already done that. To make sure he was okay? Well, he'd done that already, too.
Did Percival think that they were going to create a friendship out of this? What was he thinking? Newt was probably going to go back to England by the end of the week. He needed to get ahold of himself and stop holding to his captor like this. He knew what it meant, knew that captives could feel a connection to their captors after a time spent in captivity. It was clear that Newt didn't feel the same way and he just needed to… let it go.
A voice stopped Percival from getting up, "Percival? I – I just wanted to say that I was sorry for everything I did to you. I helped G-Grindelwald and because of that, you were hurt. I'm sorry."
"Don't be," Percival said, feeling his shoulders relax again, "He would have taken me whether you were working with him or not. Although I wish you could have been spared his attention, I'm glad it was you there with me."
Newt gave him a small smile, meeting his eyes for just a moment before they dipped back to the bedsheet, "I hope we could become friends at some point. T-that we could start over and get to know each other properly."
Something Percival couldn't identify settled in his chest and he gave Newt a soft smile back, "That sounds perfect."
"Speaking of," Theseus said, looking like he was reluctant to interrupt, "Did Picquery say what was going to happen once you were healed? She gave you your case back, but… where do you go from here?"
"I told her that I would give her everything," Newt said, eyes fierce, "Everything I know about Grindelwald, his followers, his mission, and his getaways. I gave her some already today. I told her that I would give her and the World Council a list of the potions I've made, and I'll accept it if they order the ban of certain potions. I told her that I would stay here and help the boy – Credence, she said his name was – learn how to live with the obscurus in his body. She said, in exchange, I would be allowed relative freedom. I could live where I wanted as long as I told her where it was. I would need to have a tracking charm on me at all times, but that could be removed with good behavior. She said that I need an escort if I go outside a certain radius. She understands that other countries might not agree with my sentence but she's given me emergency citizenship and has declared that her sentence will be the one that is followed. She said she would talk to other organizations to smooth out the rest. I might get more restrictions or demands, but she promised she would make them as light as possible. She also said I could work with the aurors on any case that involved magical creatures and that I would able to help and release the magical creatures involved in the cases. She even said that she'd like to sit down with me and discuss MACUSA's laws regarding the topic, but only after I've proven myself a little more. I – I have to go to a medi-witch specializing in treatment of the mind, too."
"Newt," Theseus said, clearly overwhelmed, "That's amazing. I'm so, so, so proud of you. And I'm so happy they aren't going to be unfairly arrested. I'll talk with the Minister of Magic, and I'll make sure to get a message out to Dumbledore, too because if anyone can convince the other countries that you don't need to be locked up or – or something, then it's that man." Theseus paused before softening even further, "And, Newt, Mom, Dad, and I will visit all the time. No matter what, okay? They're going to be just as proud and happy as I am, okay?"
Newt didn't seem like he believed him, but he nodded anyways. Then, he bit his lip and turned back to Percival, offering him a hesitant smile, "You promised she would help me, and she did. Thank you, again. I can never thank you enough for all that you did."
"You never have to thank me," Percival said, "Besides, you get to work with aurors, right? That means we're coworkers, now. And coworkers in this field never have to thank each other for stuff like this."
Newt gave him a soft, happy smile. It wasn't quite a look of freedom and Percival had heard the longing to wander in Newt's voice when he'd talked about his restrictions, but… it was a start. It was more than Newt would have gotten with Grindelwald. It was… it was a really, really good thing.
As Newt went back to looking at his brother, a soft, familial bickering starting up between the two, Percival let himself settle back in his seat, eyes sliding closed. Grindelwald had been taken down. Newt was free. Percival was free.
In the end, that was what really mattered.
Author's Note: I wrote 15k of this fic in 4 hours. I'm so tired, haha. I hope you enjoyed it! I feel like I rushed the end and then finished the whole thing off on a weird note, but whatever. Hope it was good regardless :P Thanks for reading!