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Credence was eleven when they’ve found an envelope in front of their door. He thought it was weird, because it had been raining all night, yet the cream colored paper was dry.

It was addressed to Credence, and Ma… Ma had been furious.

He’d never seen her like that before; she looked at the envelope and her features turned twisted, ugly. She picked up the heavy candlestick on the little side table and hurled it at Credence, screaming at him.

He didn’t know what was happening, all he knew that he was scared. He was scared and confused and he was… he was sorry. He didn’t know what he did, but he was so, so sorry.

Ma didn’t want to hear it.

Credence had always taken his punishments like a good boy should; without a fuss, without crying. But now was different. Now Ma was unrecognizable, throwing things at him and chasing him around in the small, one-room apartment that was their home for now.

Credence had been terrified.

He ended up curled under the desk by the window, but Ma was still raging, she grabbed him, her fingers digging into his arm like claws. Credence cried. He cried and he kept saying that he was sorry for whatever he did. He might have been eleven, but in that moment he knew that Ma was going to kill him.

Credence thought about the little black cat that lay on the side of the road yesterday. It had been hit by an automobile, maybe. He remembered that its fur was wet, sloppy with rain and that its belly had been open, the dark insides spilling out onto the pavement.

He wondered if Ma will do that to him.

She raised her hand, holding the candlestick she must have picked up from where it fell.

Credence closed his eyes.

***

When he opened them again, he was on the pavement. His feet hurt, and everything… everything looked huge. It was still early and the street was empty, but when he looked up, he could see Ma in the window, sneering down at him. As soon as she disappeared from sight Credence ran.

Running felt weird. His body felt weird, but his heart was beating too fast, his blood racing in a panic. All he knew was that he couldn’t stop.

A man came down the street. Credence thought it was a giant at first, but when he got closer, he realized that it was Mr. Arlton, who lived a block away and worked at the newspaper stand.

Mr. Arlton didn’t get big. Credence got little.

***

He had never been this terrified in his life, he didn’t think. Did he… did he do something? But nobody looked at him the way they would at a shrunken person. People didn’t pay him any attention as he ran and rand and ran until he was in a completely unfamiliar part of the city.

Finally, Credence had to stop, his legs unable to carry him forward. Everything was… too big, and too loud and too smelly. He ducked into an alley to catch his breath.

When he looked down, he saw paws.

Paws and fur.

Credence jerked back in surprise, but instead of a frightened shout he… he meowed.

Credence was a… a cat now.

***

He spent long, miserable days on the street. It was cold and he was hungry and he kept getting wet, because it wouldn’t stop raining. He drank from dirty puddles and ate things people dropped under the table at the cafe nearby. It wasn’t enough - just a few morsels a day - but there were bigger, meaner cats in the alleys where the trash was and he was scared of them.

He saw his Ma once and he hid behind a crate of vegetables until she passed. She was looking for him, he knew.

That was when it hit Credence; he would never be able to go back. Maybe he would never turn back to being a boy either. A part of him knew that… that Ma had not been what others called a good mother, but she had been the only one he knew and he... And he loved her.

It hurt. He wished he could go back, he wished she would forgive him, and cut his hair and read him stories from the Bible.

But he knew it was never going to happen now.

***

Credence didn’t know how much time passed. He felt weak and couldn’t fall asleep from being too scared of everything. One of the big cats chased him around the day before, and a vendor hit him with a broom when he tried to steal a fish.

Stealing was bad, but his belly kept hurting and cramping with hunger.

But then everything changed.

There was a family passing by. A mother, a father and two daughters. One of them was Credence’s age, the other around four. They looked very elegant, and some people kept looking at them, maybe because they were black.

Ma didn’t like black people very much and Credence never understood it. Weren’t they all supposed to be the children of God?

But, most importantly, the woman was holding a cream colored envelope, just like the one Credence got. At first he had been scared, remembering what happened so clearly that his breath turned short, but then his curiosity won out and he snucked after them, listening.

“Do we have everything, darling?” the man asked.

The woman examined the letter and nodded.

“I think so,” she told him, but the older girl seemed to disagree.

“No! Mom, you promised!” she sounded petulant. Credence’s Ma would never have tolerated something like that, but this woman just sighed.

“Gloria, I said we might , but I don’t think you’re ready for a pet. You will have enough on your plate in your first year without worrying about an animal,” she said. She sounded patient and kind, but the girl didn’t seem satisfied. Still, she didn’t argue anymore, kicking a stone as they walked.

The smaller child was holding her sister’s hand, walking a bit slower and almost fell. Her sister held her up, and they stopped for a second.

Credence had nowhere to hide, and the girl - Gloria - noticed him.

Her dark eyes grew wide.

“Kitty,” she whispered, then quickly glanced after their parents, who haven’t noticed anything yet.

“Come on, here, kitty! Come on,” she said before grabbing her sister’s hand again and starting after them. She kept looking back over her shoulder to see if Credence was still following.

For some reason, he was.

***

They went all the way to the train station. There were a lot of people milling around, and Credence almost lost them a couple of times as he hed to zig-zag between so many feet, worried that he would get trampled on.

The train they were heading for was standing on the very last pair of tracks, and most people didn’t even glance at it. Credence couldn’t understand why, when it was much more beautiful than the other trains with a large, flower-like crest at the front of it. There was a luggage compartment, and that’s where they headed first, letting the people working there pack away the three full suitcases they arrived with.

“Well, here we are,” the woman said. Her voice was a bit clipped, like she was holding her emotions back. Even Gloria looked a bit miffed.

“Yeah.”

“Promise me you won’t get into trouble,” the man said, picking her up easily and squeezing her tight.

“Dad! I will be fine! And I will write you as soon as I’m sorted, okay?” she said, but she didn’t look like she wanted to let go of him either.

The train whistled and the woman kissed Gloria on the forehead. The little girl started to cry.

“Could you just... “ Gloria said, her eyes shiny with tears. “Could you just go now? I don’t want people to see me crying,” she said, sniffing. Her father laughed, and nodded. After another round of hugs and kisses the family left, leaving Gloria alone on the platform.

Credence was watching the exchange from behind a column. He didn’t know what he was supposed to do, but she had been the only person to notice him and… and not be cruel.

Gloria watched after her family for a long time, then looked around, searching.

Credence was scared, but still. He meowed.

The girl’s face lit up, and she crouched down, holding a hand out.

“You came! Come here, kitty, come on, cute little kitty,” she said. She was smiling, and Credence couldn’t stop himself from slinking forward carefully.

“That’s it! That’s a good kitty, come here,” Gloria cooed, and when Credence was finally in arm’s reach she reached out very carefully, running her fingers over his head.

It felt nice. Scary, but nice.

He gravitated closer to her, starved of contact, butting her hand with his head, brushing up against her.

“You are the cutest kitten I’ve ever seen,” she whispered.

Before Credence could object she picked him up, gently. It was jarring and made his fur stand on end, but then Gloria cradled him close to her chest.

“Want to come to school with me?” she asked.

Credence didn’t know what that meant, but he meowed again. He wanted to… to go somewhere.

Gloria smiled, bright and happy.

“I’m gonna call you Tux.”

Chapter Text

Gloria carried him onto the train, finding an empty booth for the two of them. It was starting to get dark outside and as the lights finally came on, Credence understood his new name.

He blinked at his reflection in the window, it was jarring to see himself as an actual cat, even though he had days to come to terms with his situation, he still expected his own face to look back at him.

But he was a cat, a scrawny, black and white kitten. His face was completely white, the black fur starting high on his forehead, in a straight line, just like his short bangs had been as Ma cut them with a bowl. There was a white crest on his chest, and his front paws were white too. He imagined he really did look like he was wearing a tux, even though he had the feeling that it was more an impression of his outgrown, black little coat with the white shirt under it.

Credence… he didn’t hate it, but he was scared. He didn’t know how or why he was turned into a cat. Did Ma do it? No, no that couldn’t be. Witchcraft was a sin and witches were evil - that was the first thing he was taught about on Ma’s sermons. But then… then what happened?

Credence looked away from the glass, his hair standing on end again from nerves, and it didn’t slip Gloria’s notice.

“Oh, hey, kitty. It’s okay. I’m going to take good care of you, I promise,” she said, smoothing his fur down, petting him nice and slow.

Credence was tired. He was so tired and scared and confused, and Gloria’s lap was warm and comfortable, and she didn’t look like she wanted to hurt him.

Credence slept.

***

He woke up when the train was already in motion to his stomach growling. There were two other girls in the booth now, one of them just sitting down with her hands full of sandwiches.

“Are you sure you need this many?” she asked, handing four of them over to Gloria with some change.

“Yup,” she said, unwrapping one. The smell of tuna hit Credence nose and he stood in the girl’s lap. Maybe…

He almost didn’t believe it when Gloria picked off the bread and offered him the fish from her fingers.

God, he’d been so hungry.

He ate as fast as he could, not knowing how long this kindness would last, but to his amazement Gloria just cooed at him and opened the next sandwich as soon as he was finished.

The other girls giggled, calling him cute. It would have made him embarrassed, but the food was more important and he ate the tuna from that one too, then he was full, his belly feeling stuffed tight from only the two slices.

“That cat is the cutest thing I ever saw, I wish my mom would have let me bring a pet,” one of them - Agnes, he thought - said, her voice dreamy.

Gloria grinned, winking at Credence.

“I know, right?”

***

Credence slept for most of the rest of the evening. He was warm and dry and his tummy was full, and Gloria kept petting him, the constant contact making him drowsy.

The next time he woke up, he was in Gloria’s arms and they were walking through the gates of a huge… castle.

Credence didn’t know much about schools, and especially not the fancy ones where one would stay for the whole semester, but he was sure he never saw something so grand in his entire life.

The walls were of black granite and there were statues on both sides of the gates - a man and a woman. Everything looked old, like the place had been standing for thousands of years now.

They made their way up to the front door, it was open, with welcoming orange light shining inside.

“I wonder what house I will be sorted into,” Celestina - the other one of Gloria’s new friends - said, wringing her hands. “What do you think our wands will be like? I can’t believe we will go to bed today as actual, real witches!”

Credence stiffened. Witches? He looked around, eyes wide. Was that… was that possible? That all these children were witches? That Gloria…

Suddenly he remembered the letter. The letter that he got, that looked just like the one Gloria seemed to have.

Credence started shaking, feeling scared again, but didn’t know why. A little voice in the back of his head kept insisting that these people had to be evil if they were witches. They had to be foul, unnatural creatures and apparently he was one of them too. The little voice sounded mean and vicious… and a lot like Ma.

Credence shook himself, making Gloria shush him, worried that he wanted to escape.

No. No that couldn’t be true. He just… refused to believe that Gloria was a bad person. Gloria let him sleep on her nice clothes and didn’t care that he got cat hair all over her skirt. Gloria fed him and petted him and…

Credence burrowed closer to her.

Maybe he would just have to see for himself.

***

They were led to a big hall. There were a lot of children who were as young as Gloria and him, at least a few hundred, and they were all noisy and nervous and it made Credence want to hide somewhere quiet.

“It’s okay, Tux! Don’t worry, we will be finished in no time,” she said.

There was a balcony overhead filled with even more children, thought they looked older. There was a woman on a podium, talking to them, and everyone went quiet.

Quiet for human ears, maybe, but Credence was still overwhelmed, not knowing where to focus. Someone had a frog close by. Or a toad. And it kept making noises. He could hear a hundred coats ruffling, too many children murmuring between each-other, their hearts beating fast and nervous just as his was.

It made his head hurt.

He couldn’t listen to the woman talking among all these other sounds, and was grateful when she finished. A man took her place and unrolled a long, long list, starting to read names of it.

As he called the names, the children stepped forward one by one. Credence didn’t see what was happening tucked against Gloria’s chest, but he jerked in terror when a great roar sounded from in front of them. It sounded dangerous, like something big and nasty and Credence could feel every single hair on his body standing on end.

Gloria hugged him closer, leaning down to whisper.

“It’s alright, Tux, I promise. Someone just got sorted into Wampus house. You will see,” she said. Credence didn’t know what it meant, but the next time the animal roared he wasn’t that scared. Gloria wasn’t afraid, and nobody looked like they were either.

The crowd kept thinning around them, and then finally the man called out her name.

“Gloria Picquery!”

Credence couldn’t stop himself from digging his little claws into her coat as she moved forward.

They stopped in the middle of the hall, right over a golden, knotted design on the floor.

Around them, there were four statues. A bird, a six legged cat, a great snake and some sort of a dwarf creature. They were all old looking and carved from wood and Credence couldn’t shake off the feeling that they were watching them.

Gloria’s heart was beating fast, and she was holding him a bit tighter than was comfortable, but it was okay, Credence felt like he would have jumped out of his skin if not for that firm contact.

For a second nothing happened and then the jewel set into the great serpent’s forehead started to glow. Gloria took a deep breath.

“Horned Serpent,” the man announced and some of the students on the balcony started murmuring.

Gloria was just about to turn away but then the six legged cat’s head moved, and the blood froze in Credence’ veins. It was hard to tell, but he was certain that the statue was looking right at him.

The whole hall fell silent, so that must have been something extraordinary.

Gloria’s mouth was hanging open as she looked at the cat and she jumped when it let out a loud roar.

Credence’s tail stood up and he hissed back, almost leaping off from the girl’s arms, too scared to make sense of what was happening.

The man cleared his throat.

“Ms. Piquery, it looks like you may make a choice. Horned Serpent or Wampus?”

Gloria hitched Credence higher, holding him tight. She bit her lip, looking around for a clue then her eyes fell on Credence. She smiled.

“Wampus.”

Chapter Text

Credence learned a lot of things in his first week.

He learned that he was in Ilvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, on top of Mount Greylock.

He learned that Gloria will not hurt him, even if he wakes up from a nightmare and bits her hand when she tries to calm him down.

He learned that they served ham in the mess hall every single day , enough for his friend to be able to feed him.

He learned that there were people other than humans in the world.

***

That last realization happened on his third night in the castle. His days were full of excitement and new things; he followed Gloria into her classes, stretching out along the edge of her desk and listening intently to her teachers.

Sometimes he still couldn’t believe that this wasn’t some fever-dream. Everything was… everything was so new and exciting, and Credence could barely wrap his head around it. But his afternoons were mostly filled with long naps in the common room of Wampus house - the door of which was guarded by a statue similar to the one that picked them in the sorting.

It was hard to explain, but he felt safe behind that door; surrounded by kids laughing and talking and doing their homeworks.

Credece had never been to school before - Ma said that they would teach him useless things, and all he needed was in the Bible - and he didn’t know if this sense of comfort and belonging was because this was a school, or because it was a magical school.

Nonetheless. His afternoon naps left him itchy to get out and move by the time the other children went to sleep after dinner, and - as he happily found out - the statue of the Wampus cat had no problem letting him in and out of the living quarters. He just had to concentrate a bit, and it obeyed him, like the other children.

Ilvermorny was a bit scary after darkness, and thanks to his changed perspective, everything looked larger and more imposing. But Credence… he wanted to know things. He couldn’t be sure how long this would last, if he would ever change back to a boy, but he was certain that they would throw him out as soon as he was found out. Ma didn’t want him. He didn’t think anyone would, if he weren’t a cat.

His ears were sharp and he heard every little creak of the castle settling, every bug zapping outside. His eyes got used to the lack of light fast and his paws made no sound as he made his way across the stone corridors.

He’d seen some of the school as he followed Gloria around during the day, but the night was so silent and the air so fresh that he couldn’t help exploring paths they haven’t seen before.

Credence wasn’t sure how he found the small courtyard. It was simple, and ancient looking, bathed in the moonlight. In the middle of the yard a little house was standing, made of stone, the chimney billowing cheerful, white smoke, the windows lit from the inside. A big tree stood beside it, like someone just grabbed a piece of the countryside and wedged it into the middle of the castle.

The grass was long, like it would be on a field and there were bugs and mice hiding in it, making Credence twitch with the need to catch them.

He only made a single step into the grass when someone grabbed the back of his neck, lifting him up. Credence immediately started trashing, meowing loudly, even though he knew that Gloria was too far away to hear him.

The creature holding him was… not human. He looked a bit like the statue of the dwarf that was on the sorting ceremony. A pukwudgie, Gloria called it.

“What have we here?” he asked, looking at Credence with narrowed eyes. He had very, very big eyes. And a big nose. All his features looked too big for his smooth, gray skinned face. To Credence terror, he realized that he… he didn’t smell like anything. No wonder he didn’t notice the pukwudgie approaching him. He was also short, smaller even than he had been or most of the children were, but unfortunately he still had a very good hold on Credence’s scruff.

Maybe he made too much noise with his panicked meows, because the door of the little house opened and three people appeared, making their way over to him and the pukwudgie.

“Mr. Norman, what is this ruckus?” asked a female voice, Credence could recognize it from the ceremony, she was the one who did that first speech.

“Headmistress, headmaster, professor Bullhove,” Norman said, his eyes never leaving Credence. “I’ve caught a trespasser.”

“Is that so?” she seemed a bit dubious, and the man - the one who read the names during the sorting hummed along. Credence knew professor Bullhove, he was the head of Wampus house, and he taught Defence Against the Dark Arts to Gloria.

“Oh? I know this little fella, he belongs to one of my kids,” he said in his deep, southern drawl.

The woman nodded once.

“I see, then please be a dear, Sydney, and take him back to the rooms. He really shouldn’t be here.”

Bulhove nodded and took Credence gingerly from the pukwudgie, who was still looking at him suspiciously.

“I will do that, ma’am, goodnight.”

Thankfully he didn’t hold Credence by the scruff, but cradled him to his chest. The professor was a sort man, but he had wide shoulders and a powerful body that even his robes couldn’t hide. Credence found him intimidating, even though he’d always been nice to the children, and had a way to make his lectures interesting.

Bullhove carried him back to the dorms silently, and he thought about just slipping out of his hold and making his own way back, but as soon as he tensed to make a break for it, the professor’s big hands tightened a bit more securely around him.

Finally they’ve arrived to the little hall that was almost a perfect copy of the one they used in the sorting, with the dorms of the four houses hiding behind the statues of their respective patrons.

The professor put him down, looking at Credence curiously.

“You know,” he said, deep in thought. “I was pretty sure that animals shouldn't be able to open the doors. They open only for those sorted into a house.”

Credence didn’t like that. What if he will be thrown out? What if they find out he’d been deceiving them? He knew Ma’s punishments for much smaller transgressions, and he was terrified of finding out what people who didn’t care for him would do.

He backed up to the wall, his hair standing on end, skinny tail pointing to the sky. He didn’t hiss, but only because he didn’t want to antagonize the man further.

Bullhove took out his wand from his pocket and pointed it at him, muttering a word and shooting a ray of silver light at him.

Credence closed his eyes, steeling himself for the oncoming pain… but it didn’t come. The magic washed over him, inquisitive and prodding and he could feel it trying to untangle him from his body, peeling back whatever it was that kept him from being a boy.

He didn’t want that. He didn’t want to be a boy again, he just wanted to be here. Wanted to be here, with Gloria and the other children, and take naps on the windowsill of the common room, and go to classes, and sneak into the mess hall for ham and bacon…

It was the first time he could consciously feel… something. His own magic stirring in his chest, answering his call. It swelled inside him, running along his bones and pushing . It pushed and pushed and pushed until the other magic finally ebbed away, unsuccessful in revealing him.

Credence was left shaking, barely able to stay on his legs.

“Aw, hell. Sorry, little fella. I guess you must be part kneazle, eh?”

Credence didn’t know what that meant, but thankfully Bullhove just opened the door and shooed him inside.

Chapter Text

Credence mostly stayed clear from professor Bullhove after that - oh, he still went to his classes, but he usually hid in Gloria’s lap - his lectures were just too interesting to stay away, and Credence listened with all his focus as the teacher explained everything from dueling to dark wizards. It was amazing how much bigger the world was than he ever knew.

And he started to pay more attention to his surroundings, listening more intently to things that happened around him. The pukwudgies were everywhere. They didn’t usually come anywhere near where they could be seen, but by now Credence knew how to spot them. They guarded the castle closely, walking on top of the walls, watching the premises even from the rooftops.

He couldn’t tell how many of them there was, but definitely not just the one called Norman.

He was more careful with his nightly walks now, but after a while he realized that the pukwudgies just didn’t like it when he went where he wasn’t supposed to. Credence got into the habit of meowing whenever he knew one was close by, and if they didn’t appear to shoo him away, he continued on his way.

Later, during Wizarding History, he learned that the little house in the middle of the castle was Isolde’s original house, that now served as the office of the headmistress and the headmaster. Apparently there were always two people leading the school, just like Isolde and her husband did.

***

One night, Credence was just about to go on his usual walk - there was so much he still haven’t explored! - when he heard a muffled sound coming from behind the statue of the Horned Serpent.

He snuck over, listening intently. Somebody was crying in the common room.

It was too late for any of the children to be awake, and Credence couldn’t help but worry. What if someone was hurt? He tried concentrating on the door, willing it to open, but it remained stubbornly closed.

The best thing he could do was make some noise and hope for the best.

Credence started meowing, getting louder and louder when it didn’t work, and finally he could hear movement inside, and a few seconds later the statue moved, revealing a curly haired boy. Credence didn’t know him that well, but he thought his name was Pablo. He was in Gloria’s year.

“Oh,” the boy said, sniffing. “You’re… Tux, right?”

Credence meowed again, blinking at the boy until Pablo blinked back.

“You want to come in? Did you get locked out?” he asked, stepping to the side, and that was all he needed. The common room of Horned Serpent house was much like their own, except it had a lot more books, and not just wizarding ones either.

Credence sniffed around curiously, trying to get the hang of the place while Pablo sat back in front of the fireplace. There were a dozen or so letters laid out in front of him. He made his way closer to the boy, peering down at the papers.

“They are from my parents,” Pablo told him, his eyes welling with tears. “I miss them a lot.”

Credence couldn’t really imagine that. He knew that it made him a bad child, but despite everything, he didn’t much miss his home. He was ashamed by how fast he was forgetting all the good times with Ma, but he… he also knew that there weren’t that many of them to remember. Still, he could see how much the boy was hurting, and he wished he could help.

He butted his head against Pablo’s knee, and the boy put the letters back to a little wooden box.

“It’s… it’s not like this isn’t nice, you know? I just never been away from them for this long,” he said as he packed up. He scratched behind Credence’s ears.

“Do you want to… do you want to come up?” he asked, inclining his head to the staircase leading to the rooms.

Credence rubbed himself against his shin, and followed him, curling up against the boy when he was settled in bed, and fell asleep to Pablo petting him.

The next morning he didn’t seem that sad anymore.

***

To his joy, Pablo became quick friends with Agnes and Gloria, and from then on, they would sometimes study in the Horned Serpent common room. He heard that house rivalry was a serious thing in other schools, but at Ilvermorny, the house cup was just a friendly competition. He was also surprised to find that he didn’t mind getting to know so many new people. It had taken Credence a while to get to know the Wampus students, and now it was rare that one of them would pass him without a few scratches behind the ear. It wasn’t different in Horned Serpent either.

Ma had always been adamant that he shouldn’t talk to strangers, not even strange children, as they would make him stray from the path to salvation, but - once again - Credence felt like she had been proven wrong. Not even one of the students were anything but nice to him.

A part of him knew that it was all because he was a cat, and that maybe they wouldn’t even tolerate him, if he was his real, awkward self, but he tried not to think about that.

He was a cat now. Maybe forever.

Sometimes he hoped it would be forever.

***

Credence was sleeping in Gloria’s lap over at the Horned Serpent common room one day, when he was woken to her excited voice.

“How did you do that?” she asked, sounding awed.

Credence blinked his eyes open and stretched, looking around. There was a sixth year boy there, with long, black hair. He thought his name was Nathan. Nathan Redlake.

“There’s not only one way to do magic,” he said, pushing a strand of hair behind his ear. He waved his hand and a book flew off the shelf, landing right in front of him.

“But,” Agnes, who tagged along with them, said “I thought you need a wand to do that!”

Nathan huffed. It didn’t sound mean, but he was obviously proud of himself and was enjoying the attention.

“Well, yeah, according to the standard, you need one. But my people had been doing magic for thousands of years before the first wands appeared in America. This is how I was taught.”

Gloria had her mouth hanging open, and Credence could understand it. They were taught that other than accidental child magic, it was very, very difficult to do anything without a wand.

He had so many questions, and none of the words to say them with.

Credence meowed, walking over to Nathan, making a little inquisitive noise as best as he could.

The boy laughed, petting his head.

“You interested, friend?” he asked, and then - without even a word - he levitated a long quill off one of the tables, making it dance in front of Credence.

For a moment or two, he was distracted by his need to chase it around. Being able to just… play and enjoy himself was apparently never getting old, not even when he had more important things to focus on.

Thankfully he quickly managed to hunt the offending feather down and tune back into the conversation.

“... they have their advantages,” Nathan was explaining, “but ultimately a wand is just a tool to focus and center your magic. You can do both of those things without it, though. A lot of people around the world do it. It’s a different way to do magic, but not in any way inferior.”

Credence looked at him long and hard. He wished he could talk so much, because he… he didn’t have a wand. He wasn’t sure they would even let him have one if he was a boy, but to top it all off, he was a cat. He wouldn’t be able to use it anyway.

But he could feel his magic, more aware of it now that he knew what to look for - just like with the pukwudgies - and he could feel it sometimes gathering like a storm under his skin, growing unsettled with disuse.

He knew instinctively that he shouldn’t let that happen. And if it was possible, if there was no other thing left for him, he would learn how to use magic his own way.

Chapter Text

By the time autumn turned into winter, he felt like he was really home at Ilvermorny.

All the teachers knew him by name, and most of the children did too. If Credence wanted to, he could get into any of the dorms - maybe the Wampus was the only one he could open, but there were always someone happy to let him in wherever he wanted to go.

His nights were filled with practicing his magic. And playing.

His favorite game - maybe born out of necessity, but still entertaining - was hiding from the pukwudgies. Originally he only wanted to find a safe place to try a few spells without being seen, but it evolved.

It didn’t take long for the pukwudgies to catch on, and from then on it was an outright competition. Credence learned a lot about the castle and about how to be sneaky when he needed to be, and even managing to distinguish between each of the guards roaming the premises at night just by the sound of their faintest footsteps.

But he didn’t let himself get - completely - distracted. If he found no place to hide, he would find a way into one of the classrooms; he liked the one for Alchemy best. Yeah, it might have made his nose twitch with all the weird smells, but despite the door being locked, it was easy to get in through the special vents.

That would be where he did most of his own, special schoolwork.

Credence - as it turned out - was not very good at magic.

He tried, he tried a lot, but by now he understood that he was at a serious disadvantage, being a cat. A cat couldn’t talk, which was an important part of spellwork. A cat also couldn’t flick his wrist, hold a wand like a human, or twitch his fingers just the right way like Nathan did.

It seemed like some sort of… channel was needed for magic, be it intricate gestures, complicated verbal commands or sophisticated wands.

Credence had none of that, he was just a boy stuck in a cat’s body with nowhere to go and no one to ask for help.

He usually carried his favorite toy - a little wooden ball that had a thousand little teeth marks on in by now - to the Alchemy classroom and sat down in front of it.

Levitation was a basic magic. He knew the spell, he knew the exact wand movement, he could even see in his mind’s eye the way Nathan’s wrist would move when he performed it with a quill to get him to play.

Credence took a deep breath and concentrated as hard as he could, picturing the ball just lifting gently into the air. Just a few inches. Just a tiny bit.

Nothing happened.

He tried for hours, not daring to give up. He could feel his magic, it was running around at the tip of his fur, like static just waiting for something to zap, but he couldn’t do it.

Credence tried and tried again until his head was hurting, and then tried a bit more. If there was one thing Ma taught him, it was working hard, even when you were tired or in pain. It was the only thing he was good at.

Even after weeks of work, all he could manage was to make the ball roll half an inch, and with every night of disappointment he became more devastated. Maybe he couldn’t do magic after all, maybe his letter had been a mistake.

***

Christmas saw the castle emptying out.

Gloria cried for an hour before her train was about to leave. Her parents still didn’t know about her acquiring a pet, so she couldn’t just take Credence with herself. She couldn’t even cast some invisibility magic on him, because all the children under seventeen were required to leave their wands behind.

Credence was sad too. He made a lot of friends in the last months, and he couldn’t even imagine what he would do alone. He went to the station with Gloria and stayed on the platform long after the steam of the train disappeared in the distance. It was cold outside and the tips of his ears were slowly going numb.

He already missed her. It was an unfamiliar feeling, a deep ache that made the fairytale landscape look gloomy and full of shadows. It was the first time in his life that he even had a chance to really miss someone and finally he understood Pablo crying through the night for his parents.

***

There were only a handful of children staying during the holidays. Some of them had no family, others didn’t celebrate Christmas, and decided instead to study early for the final exams.

Nathan was one of them.

Credence decided to stick with him, the boy wasn’t really affectionate - and too preoccupied by the real life that was waiting for him at the end of the school year - but he still fed Credence and let him curl up at the end of his bed so he wasn’t so terribly alone.

Miss Annabelle Castwing, the head of Horned Serpent house spent most of the evenings with them.

They talked a lot with Nathan, and Credence was paying attention. He came to realize that you never knew what would be the next thing you’ve learned in Ilvermorny.

“I would like to get a research scholarship,” Nathan said after the professor’s gentle prodding one night.

“Is that so? I thought you would return to your people, maybe give lessons to the smaller children. I know your people don’t like to wait for eleven to start magical education,” she said, raising an eyebrow, her eyes shining with interest.

Nathan gave a little smile, but shook his head.

“Our elders are more than equipped for that. I… I want to travel the world, see how others are doing magic - others who don’t use wands,” he explained, looking at her intently.

“I mean, there’s nothing wrong with wands, but I want to collect all the knowledge and customs of those who don’t.”

Professor Castwing smiled, petting Credence absentmindedly.

“That is a noble pursuit, and I think I know a few people who could help you get proper funding. But I will give you a reading list first.”

***

Credence helped himself to the books on wandless magic Nathan checked out from the library. It wasn’t easy. He could only do it when nobody was around, and with only the light of the fireplace it would have been difficult to read, even if he was a particularly good reader.

Credence wasn’t a particularly good reader. Ma taught him the basics, but he didn’t have much practice; the only thing he was allowed to read was the Bible and after countless sermons, he knew most of it by heart.

It was slow, he had to think hard about some words, especially the ones that were more than a few letters.

Flipping pages wasn’t easy either, and that was when Nathan even left the books in a place for him to reach.

Credence worked on his reading tirelessly, hoping that he would find a way to channel his magic - if he even really had it. The books did tell him a couple of things.

Magic without a wand had to come from a different place than with a wand. Sure, some regular wand users could do stuff without their wands, but they were used to doing magic, and the channeling happened almost unconsciously there.

Credence didn’t know what that ‘different place’ was. Sometimes, when he was especially dejected, or missing Gloria he felt like his whole body was made of magic, ready to burst out and… do something.

The books also said that starting to use wandless magic was the hardest part - which he felt like he already knew. Apparently, the first time his magic obeyed him, his ‘channels’ would open up, and let it flow more freely.

Sometimes Credence couldn’t make sense of the things he was reading; the words were too long, some of them didn’t even look English. Chakras. Third eye… There were times when he felt like he was only getting farther from the answers he needed.

***

In the days between Christmas and New Years Credence and Nathan took long walks in the park surrounding the castle. His fur grew fuller the colder it got, and he was glad to find that he wasn’t cold at all; he wished he had hair like this back when he had been a boy and Ma sent him to stand on the street as punishment in the middle of winter.

The teachers mostly left them to their own devices; Nathan was the oldest student who stayed behind, almost seventeen, and an adult by wizarding standards, and they weren’t doing anything naughty, other than getting some fresh air after countless nights of reading in front of the fireplace.

The boy didn’t mind Credence following him around either, sometimes he would stop and levitate a snowball or a pine-cone for him to play with.

One afternoon - with the park bathed in the light of the setting sun - they were doing just that. Credence was busy chasing around a charmed twig, and maybe that was why he didn’t notice it… maybe if he had...

He only saw it happen from the corner of his eye; a shadow erupting from behind a tree and rushing at Nathan, slicing him open with a clawed hand.

The boy had no time to scream, and Credence just stood there, frozen with terror. The shadow seemed to be able to change shape on a whim, its form flittering from tall to bulky, the mass of it going from smoky to solid in a second.

Nathan lay on the ground, his eyes round and lips open, the snow around him turning dark with his blood.

The shadow was standing over him, ready to finish what it started, not giving a single glance to Credence, standing only a few feet away.

It all happened in the blink of an eye; he jumped, heart thudding in his chest, frightened, but unable to… to just watch his friend die.

He landed right beside the boy, and for a second, the shadow reared back, almost disappearing behind a skinny nearby tree, despite how that should have been impossible.

The monster didn’t appear to have eyes, or even a head, just an ever changing body. Its surprise only lasted for a second and then it was charging at them again, and Credence… he didn’t know what to do. He was just a cat, his little claws were no match for a nightmarish creature like that.

Stop - he thought. Stop .

He hissed, ears flipped back as he waited to be killed by the shadow, but in the last second it fumbled, smacking up against some invisible shield that shimmered silver on contact.

Credence didn’t know what happened.

And then he knew.

He did magic.

He didn’t have time for joy, not with Nathan’s body slowly going cold beneath his front paws, and the monster was still there, confused for the time being, but not less dangerous.

What if he couldn’t do it again? What if that was all he would manage and they would die here after all?

The shadow screeched, high enough to make his ears hurt and rushed them again, intent on breaking through.

Before it could reach his shield, the air hissed and a dart hit its body, and it immediately started to smoke and blister, melting under whatever magic or poison coated it. Credence watched in horror as the creature melted into a smelly, black puddle, like tar, but somehow blacker.

The snow creaked behind him, and Credence whipped around, seeing a very old looking pukwudgie marching towards them. His face was covered in wrinkles, his eyes beady and dark.

He knelt down by Nathan, using his coat to press on the deep gashes on his belly. The pukwudgie barely spared a glance to the puddle the shadow melted into, but he turned to Credence with narrowed eyes.

“Well, what are you waiting for, boy? Get help,” he growled.

Oh.

Credence turned tail and ran to the castle as fast as his legs could carry him in the snow.

The heavy front doors were closed, but he didn’t stop. He had to get help. He had to get a teacher, or Nathan would die.

The doors opened in front of him with enough force to bang into the walls, and he ran through them, meowing loudly. Some of the staff were usually in the great hall at this time, chatting before dinner.

Professor Bullhove and the Headmistress were already standing by the time he arrived, looking alarmed at the ruckus he was making.

Credence ran up to them, uncertain. How will he make them understand what he wanted? He meowed again. And again, loud and desperate.

It was the Headmistress who finally gasped.

“Sydney! Look at his feet!”

Credence couldn’t fathom why they would be talking about his feet when he needed them to follow him, and fast, but then he looked down, and saw that the white of his paws were red. With Nathan’s blood.

He meowed, turning in a circle and starting back towards the door, and thankfully the adults understood him, running after.

Credence led them back into the woods, where the old pukwudgie was just barely keeping Nathan alive, and then people stopped paying attention to him for a while.

He didn’t mind it, because by the next morning it was certain that Nathan would live.

Chapter Text

Credence… well, he couldn’t really say that his life changed after the attack of what he learned to be a Hidebehind, but it certainly got different.

While he hadn’t been lacking in attention before either, he was mostly just… Gloria’s cat.

But after his part in Nathan’s rescue - despite nobody other than William, the old pukwudgie knowing the full truth - he became Ilvermorny’s cat.

That unofficial title came with some perks and some drawbacks.

On one hand, Credence was never in need of food again - not like Gloria hasn’t been diligent in that regard, but now there was hardly anyone around who didn’t have something for him in their pocket, if ever the need arose.

On the other hand… he couldn’t help feeling a bit stifled by all the attention. It was very hard to get around the castle without someone wanting to pet him or pick him up, especially in the first few months after Christmas break.

The teachers were also looking at him differently. None of them tried to change him back, thanks to Bullhove telling everyone that he already tried, and it had been unsuccessful. Apparently, the DADA teacher had enough of a reputation that nobody questioned the result of his spell.

That didn’t mean that they weren’t keeping an uncomfortably close eye on him. It didn’t feel malicious, more like they thought Credence was a puzzle - too smart for a cat, and yet no proof of him being anything else.

After the end of his first year at Ilvermorny the general consensus was that he was some special, american breed of kneazle - maybe bred illegally by someone. Credence was alright with that. The farther they were from the truth, the safer he felt.

***

His first summer had been a study in contradictions.

The school felt gutted without all the students around, and the absence of Gloria - who couldn’t find a way to bring him along back to New York - was like a sharp pain between his ribs.

Even most of the teachers were gone, with only Bullhove, and the Headmistress staying behind. On more than one occasion, Credence saw them sitting in front of the little house, holding hands and… well. Kissing. Sometimes.

He felt like an invader watching them, so instead he spent most of his days roaming around the grounds and in the castle, only joining them in the evenings, when they would eat in the great hall, feeding Credence in his own little bowl placed at the end of the head table.

The pukwudgies were the ones he kept to. As they got to know him more and more they slowly stopped being so elusive, and allowed Credence to track along on their rounds, making sure that no creature or enemy got their feet on the castle grounds.

Credence liked old William the most. By now the others knew that he wasn’t any regular cat too, but they made no move to reveal him to the humans, deciding that he wasn’t a threat, and as soon as that was confirmed they cared little about why he was wearing an animal’s skin.

But William, William taught him.

He was the oldest pukwudgie living in Ilvermorny, and Credence suspected he was also the oldest creature he ever met in his life, but he was still very spry, patrolling the premises with his grand - and great-grandchildren, like it was the easiest thing in the world.

He taught Credence how to walk on silent feet - even more silent than a cat naturally did - he showed him how to read footprints, how to smell danger in the air. Sometimes William would even make him practice magic.

Despite the crushing loneliness that sometime overcame him, Credence loved every second of it.

***

With autumn came the start of the new school year, and Credence couldn’t have been happier to see the train arrive, bringing all his friends back. Sure, the pukwudgies and the teachers who returned before September were nice, but there was nothing like having Gloria scoop him up and hug him close.

Credence hasn’t realized how much he missed classes until they started again. Oh, he knew much more about his own magic by now - all that trying with imagining how to flick his wrist or pronounce wingardium leviosa failed for a reason; what he needed to do was concentrate and throw his magic at the task at hand. Sure it wasn’t really elegant, and sometimes hard to control, but he came a long way from the frustrating results of last year.

That didn’t mean that he didn’t want to learn everything the other children knew.

Arithmancy was boring, and the one Divination class he’d wandered into had been more like a cheap carnival spectacle than an actual lesson, but there were things he wouldn’t have missed for the world.

Wizarding History. Transfiguration. Defence Against the Dark Arts.

Even Gloria commented jokingly about how her cat seemed to pay more attention than some of her classmates did.

***

The first big shock of Credence’ existence in the magical world came from an unexpected place: history lesson.

In their first year they covered the first wizarding communities of the United States, the foundation of Ilvermorny and some of the world’s magical history.

Their second year, they started with Rappaport’s Law.

“The Law,” Miss Castwing explained, “Was established in 1790, after an incident between a witch named Dorcus Twelvetrees and a scourer called Bartholomew Barebone.”

Credence could only thank his long lessons on how to stay still with William that he didn’t fall off Gloria’s desk.

Barebone? Scourer?

He knew who scourers were, of course, they covered the atrocities they’ve committed in their first year classes; they were the vigilante mercenaries of the magical New World before the MACUSA had been established, and went into hiding, marrying into no-maj families after it was.

They held a deep, unwavering hatred for anything magical.

He should have known.

Credence felt like he would shake out of his skin with nerves as he listened to the professor’s explanation on how Barebone betrayed the magical world, almost exposing them, and hoping to exterminate every single witch and wizard in the world.

The words filled his bones with a deep chill.

He hadn’t… hadn’t really thought about Ma, or his life before Ilvermorny in a long time, but now the memories came rushing back. All those sermons, all that heated talk about the evils of magic… It all made sense.

Credence did something he never did before and walked out of class, uncaring that even Miss Crastwing stopped mid-sentence, looking after him, like he grew a second head.

He just couldn’t stay.

What did this mean? What did it mean to him? A part of him, of course, knew that he was not really a Barebone. When he was especially naughty, Ma liked to remind him that it was only her charitable actions that kept him from rotting in an orphanage, but…

But he had magic. Could that be a coincidence? If the Barebones had been magical a long time ago, it would have been possible that the trait came back somewhere along their lineage.

Credence couldn’t remember ever being in an orphanage, he couldn’t remember ever not living with Ma. But she had no reason to lie about that.

He spent that afternoon out with William, walking the farthest edges of the castle grounds, noting where the fence needed mending, where the protective runes needed to be renewed. It cleared his head a bit.

The fact was, the Barebones had been an enemy of the magical world. They were evil as far as anyone he knew and held dear was concerned, and that meant one thing; Credence could never turn back to human.

Chapter Text

Credence was a bit less enthusiastic about learning afterwards. It wasn’t that he didn’t care, or wasn’t interested, just… What good it did to learn how to make a potion or a complicated spell? His magic was too rough for those things. And it was clear now that he would never be a human to make use of such crafts.

He still went to classes and still listened, but the burning passion was lost. Even if he wasn’t a Barebone by birth, he was one by name, he had no other one to call himself.

It wasn’t as hard as it should have been. Tux had an easy, pleasant life. He ate when he wanted, went where he wanted - even to the restricted sections of the library if he so pleased. Now that he was on better terms with the pukwudgie, he could even go to Isolde’s house and take long naps on the roof, soaking in the sunshine.

It was better to be Tux than it was to be Credence Barebone.

***

Sometimes he thought he should miss human contact; being able to smile at someone or talk about the weather. Most people probably would have, but he’d never been really encouraged to make friends, not even when he had been a human child.

He had Gloria now though, and it was perfectly enough for him to just listen to her talk with her friends about the million things both outside and inside the school.

Credence knew who she had a crush on - he took careful note of that -, he felt like he knew the little street where her family lived like it was his own. He knew all about her aunt Seraphina who was a very important person and maybe would even become president one day, or her uncle Percy, who wasn’t really Gloria’s uncle, but had always been there for her…

It was relaxing to hear all the students chatter around the table when they were eating, or around the fireplace in the common room.

Credence just closed his eyes and let himself imagine what it would be like to have all that for himself.

***

Of course, Credence had a lot more time on his hands than most students. Not having to do homework or study for tests was a blessing, especially with his night-time walks with the pukwudgies. He also had the advantage of being able to choose exactly what classes he wanted to attend.

His second year was filled with even more exploration, and the deeper he wandered into the castle, the more secrets he found.

To his dismay on more than one occasion he was forced to wait around and meow until a pukwudgie found him when he got lost, too deep in the enchanted guts of the castle to make his way out.

But it was worth it, because Credence was learning with every step he made - and especially every misstep.

***

On weekends, they worked out a routine with William. On Saturday nights especially, the older students were prone to sneak out to have fun or do some mischief, and Credence always made sure to follow them without their notice. Most of the time, he left them be, but there were times when he was forced to intervene.

When he knew they were just out for the thrill it was enough to appear from behind a corner and start meowing when the children took a turn leading towards where they weren’t supposed to go, rubbing himself against their legs. For some reason most students found that it broke the magic of Ilvermorny’s silence in the middle of the night, they just had a good laugh and went back to bed.

***

One time, towards the end of the year, he was doing just that, following a couple of Thunderbird students. Their leader was a boy named Arnold Craftsmith, a loudmouthed fifth year who Credence never really liked. He and his two cronies were definitely up to no good, he could feel it in his bones, but so far he couldn’t figure out what they wanted to do.

As it turned out, they planned to make Ms. Castwing sick, covering her chair in the dining hall with a potion that would cause nausea and a slight fever. All just to get out of their history test.

Credence was furious, his magic bubbling under his skin like black oil, but he reined it in. The magic he could do would not be helpful in this situation, so he just kept following them, watching as they rubbed the potion over the polished wood, and then followed them back to the dorms.

Then he went to fetch William.

***

The next morning found him in Gloria’s lap at breakfast, munching on a bit of bacon the girl slipped him, but he kept his eyes open.

Most of the student were watching the staff’s table, their eyes round with wonder. It wasn’t every day they actually managed to see a pukwudgie, and now there William was, in his full, wizened glory, talking to Ms. Castwing.

Credence didn’t pay them any attention, focusing on where the Thunderbird students from last night were sitting. They were watching the exchange too, one of them already sweating - good instincts on that one.

Ms. Castwing looked thundurus. It was a rare look on her, most of the time she was the sweetest member of the staff, always making sure her students were alright. Not today though. Today she looked like a witch out for blood, so much so that even Bullhove did a double take when he saw the expression on her face.

The head of Horned Serpent was soon called over too, and then Mr. Bullhove’s face turned equally angry as he listened to William’s explanation of the situation.

Credence knew what they were talking about of course. He couldn’t tell William who the perpetrators were, but he did show him the chair, and the old pukwudgie had enough experience with poisons of all kinds that he immediately figured out what happened.

In a few minutes, the Headmaster and the Headmistress joined the conversation too.

When they were finished William dragged Ms. Castwing’s chair out of the dining hall, the legs of it scraping loudly against the stone floors. The professor transfigured one of the cups on the table into another one before sitting.

The Headmaster stood, turning to the students, and Credence hopped off Gloria’s lap to stroll over to the table he’d been watching.

“Children,” the Headmaster started, and the hall fell silent immediately. It was rare for there to be a speech before breakfast, only when there was a big announcement to make.

“It has come to our attention, that last night someone - or someones - decided to play a tasteless and dangerous prank that could have endangered the health of Professor Castwing,” he said. There were a few gasps, especially from her own students. “We do not, as of yet, know who they are, but I’m giving them a chance to confess what they did and avoid being expelled.”

The three boys were whispering among each-other, though everyone was doing just that; speculating on who the perpetrators were.

The Headmaster cleared his throat, and the murmur fell down again, the students craning their necks to see if anyone stood.

Credene hopped onto the table, careful of the food and sat down before the boy who’d been sweating since William appeared in the dining hall.

Arnold swatted at him, but he didn’t move, blinking at the boy. He looked scared, and he stared back at the cat in front of him with wide eyes.

Credence meowed, just once, but it sounded incredibly loud in the silence, his gaze never wavering.

That was all it took to make the Thunderbird boy break down and confess.

***

The three boys had been suspended for the rest of the school year, and were collected by their disappointed parents a bit after dinner. Credence was glad. He didn’t want them expelled, god knew he would rather die than leave Ilvermorny, but they needed to be punished.

He didn’t know how he felt about the bright flare of satisfaction he felt when they had to leave, he couldn’t help but remember who the Barebones were. Vigilantes.

It soured his victory quickly, and made him swear to be kinder. He had to remember that.

Chapter Text

In his third year at Ilvermorny, Credence mastered the grounds. As much as William was holding himself up, he was getting older every year, and on some nights, when the chill was too deep, he even let Credence make their usual rounds alone.

Sometimes he wondered what they were guarding the school against; of course, by now he knew the history behind Ilvermorny, knew what happened with Isolde’s aunt, but nowadays the worst thing that could attack them was the occasional Hidebehind or some other critter. Not like those weren’t dangerous, but they weren’t particularly malicious either.

Still. Credence did what he was taught, being observant, careful and always aware of his surroundings.

His days were full of studying and tagging along Gloria and her friends.

She was starting to grow up. It was a startling realization, as much as it was unavoidable. They were fourteen now, and with that, Credence picked up the habit of hanging out in the common room while the girls changed to their nightgowns. A part of him thought that maybe he should be more interested in that, but just the notion of spying on them made his belly churn, and he felt absolutely no desire to see any of them undressed. Maybe it was because he was more cat than boy now.

***

He watched life at Ilvermorny from the sidelines. He watched Gloria get a boyfriend, then break up with him in fourth year. Then he watched her get a girlfriend, watched her and her friends struggle with studying for exams, and getting drunk on firewhiskey someone snuck it after their summer break in fifth year.

Credence existed on the sidelines, on the margins of the letters Gloria wrote to her aunt - the only one back home who knew about her cat. It should have been lonely, but it wasn’t, not for someone like him who didn’t like attention in the first place.

He was beside Gloria when she needed it, took the affection that wasn’t really meant for him and ran with it. Even as he knew that their time together was slowly but surely coming to a close, he wasn’t sad. Or no, that wasn’t true. He was sad, but he knew they would both get along without each-other. He knew that they would have to, because Ilvermorny was his home now, but Gloria? Gloria was going to conquer the world.

***

In seventh year it was time for the annual career day. Of course, by then most of the student already knew what they wanted to do, but it was customary for the graduating students to invite someone from home to hold a short presentation about their occupation.

It made Credence anxious. The whole week leading up to it was filled with excitement, and he knew that Gloria had a hard time. She wanted to invite her aunt - a congresswoman at MACUSA, but unfortunately she couldn’t come.

It almost seemed like Gloria would be forced to call one of her parents, but then thankfully her uncle came through in the last minute.

The day of the event was nerve wrecking. The school was overrun with strangers and Credence could barely stand it. He never noticed how averse he became to unfamiliar faces, but there was no helping it, so he tucked himself into the shadows along the walls and tried to stay out of people’s way. Maybe it was just the pukwudgies constant vigilance rubbing off on him.

It got to the point where he decided to stay in the common room all day. It wasn’t something he often did, and a part of him felt guilty, because he knew that his place was beside Gloria, but on the other hand… William and the others were already on high-alert, so there was nothing bad that could happen.

Gloria looked at him a bit weirdly in the morning when he pointedly laid down in front of the fireplace, but thankfully she was too excited about her uncle visiting to be worried.

Credence slept the whole day away, one ear always tuned in to whatever was going on in front of the dorms.

***

Gloria didn’t let him get out of dinner that easily.

“Aw, Tux, come on! What’s gotten into you?” she asked, picking him up. Credence meowed, but made no other objection. He was getting bored anyway, and he had been curious about this man Gloria talked so much about, even if he couldn’t stand to be around so many unfamiliar people.

“You, young man, are coming with me. I’ve already told Uncle Percy all about you! He even asked why you weren’t in class,” she said, hefting him into her arms. Credence didn’t fit so comfortably there anymore - he was a grown cat now, and quite a lanky one.

The dining hall was packed, but this time there were smaller tables scattered around too - the seventh year students traditionally ate with their guests.

He looked around, wondering which one of them was Gloria’s uncle. There was an older, black gentleman sitting at a table, and he was almost sure he would be it, until Gloria took a sharp turn, towards a man who stuck out like a sore thumb.

It wasn’t that he was underdressed. Quite… quite the opposite actually. Credence never saw anyone - not even the principal at the beginning of the school year - dressed this sharp. Uncle Percival was wearing a long, black coat with white lapels, a white shirt and a black tie. His hair was slicked back, slightly graying at the sides.

His face looked handsome if stern, but the second his eyes landed on Gloria, he lit up, smiling and standing to pull her chair out.

Credence couldn’t understand why his heart was beating so fast suddenly, his whole body warm. He had a feeling that he would be blushing if he was a human. When Uncle Percival finally looked at him, and that warm smile didn’t leave his face, Credence - to his embarrassment - started purring uncontrollably.

“So, this is the amazing Tux I’ve been hearing so much about,” he said, raising an eyebrow. Gloria laughed, and before Credence could get himself together, she placed him in her uncle’s lap.

“Yes! And I think he likes you,” she said.

Credence didn’t know what to do. Uncle Percival was wearing some sort of cologne that made him want to rub himself against the man. The only thing stopping him was the thought of getting his fur in that expensive-looking coat.

Still, when Gloria’s uncle huffed out an amusement breath and started scratching him behind the ear, Credence all but melted into his lap.

***

To his shame, he could barely remember what was said over dinner, he spent the whole time purring and just basking in the man’s scent and attention. It was not something that ever happened to him. Sure, he liked to to be petted, but it was never like this before.

After dinner was finished, Uncle Percival picked him up, apparently not bothered by cat-hair all over him. His arms felt strong, made him feel little.

“Will you walk me out, darling?” he asked Gloria, and she nodded eagerly. The guests could apparate from outside the school grounds, and on this special occasion, the students who invited them could see them out.

Credence didn’t know why the man didn’t just put him down or handed him over to Gloria, but he was too comfortable to care.

It was dark outside, but still warm. There were people around, walking down the long road leading to the gates.

“Gloria,” Uncle Percival said, and suddenly he sounded all too serious. It made Credence snap to attention. “I know that Seraphina didn’t tell you why she couldn’t be here.”

“Yeah?” He could hear that she noticed the change of tone too.

“And, I can’t tell you either. But I will tell you this: I want you to be very careful, alright? There are… things happening in Europe that might find their way here,” he said. Credence felt a shiver run down his spine.

They reached the apparating spot and Uncle Percival handed him back to Gloria, kissing her forehead and scratching him behind the ears one last time.

“Promise?”

She nodded, holding Credence a bit tighter.

“I promise, if you promise to be careful too,” she said mulishly, making her uncle smile.

“You’re just like Sera. Alright, I promise,” he told them, before disappearing in a whirlpool of magic.

Chapter Text

When Gloria graduated, Credence felt like his heart was breaking in two. The day when she left, he walked her out to the train station.

There was excitement in the air, everyone chatting and planning how and when they will be catching up, adamant about not forgetting their school friends. Gloria didn’t look happy at all.

She sat down on one of the benches and Credence hopped into her lap without invitation, rubbing his head against her. A silly part of him hoped that she would smell like him for a long time, even after she was gone.

“I’m gonna miss you, Tux,” she said, her eyes tearful. She cupped Credence’ face in her palms and touched their foreheads together, making him meow pitifully. He hated to see her cry.

“I could… I could take you home now, you know? I’m getting my own place as soon as I have my first paycheck from MACUSA.”

Crence meowed again, licking at the tip of her nose. He thought about it, of course he did, but it wouldn’t work. He loved Gloria, but he just couldn’t.

She sniffed, smiling a bit.

“But you don’t want that, do you? Being locked in some little apartment in New York when you have all of Ilvermorny at your feet.”

Credence meowed again, headbutting her softly in apology.

She ran her hands over his back.

“I know… I know there’s more to you, Tux, than what meets the eye,” she said, making him freeze and blink up at her. She never said anything before, always treating him with the same warmth she did on that first day.

She just smiled.

“You should know by now that I’m not one to tell on my friends. And you… you are my friend, Tux, and if you ever need help, you can find me in New York, okay?”

Credence purred, rubbing against her before jumping from her lap. The train was leaving.

***

After Gloria left, he moved out of the dorms for a whole semester, sleeping in the trees or in the hideouts of the pukwudgies scattered around the school. They didn’t mind, and he couldn’t bear to be inside, where Gloria’s smell - her memory - was slowly fading from the classrooms and the dorms.

It was good for a while, but eventually he started missing the buzzing of Ilvermorny, the smells of the dining hall and the laughter of the kids.

***

Credence didn’t have an ‘owner’ anymore, and the students just took him as a natural part of Ilvermorny. He was alright with that. There was always someone to feed him - if nobody else, then the members of the staff. He kept his ears open, unable to forget Gloria’s uncle and the warning he gave them.

News was slow to reach the school, but the Headmistress did have a subscription to the New York Ghost, and while Credence couldn’t turn the pages, he did get the occasional glimpse at the cover over breakfast.

The news was about a man named Grindelwald, a powerful wizard from Europe.

He couldn’t quite understand his agenda from the snippets that reached him, but whenever the headlines were about the casualties of his attacks, his belly churned in unease. He knew that Uncle Percival was an auror, and he couldn’t help being worried about him.

***

Two years after Gloria left, her aunt became the President of the MACUSA. It was all the older kids talked about, but it was only from a discarded newspaper where Credence learned that her first order of business was appointing Percival Graves to be the Director of Magical Security. The paper had a photo too, Uncle Percival looking at him with steely determination from inside the moving picture. Credence dragged the paper into the attic, for safekeeping.

It was a secret, dirty pleasure.

He was… he was nineteen, and he wasn’t completely stupid, even if it took him so long to figure things out. He could remember as clear as day how… how floored he was the first time he looked at the man. And since then… since then he realized that he was probably a homosexual. At first he didn’t know what to do with the realization, unable to shake off the ingrained disgust his Ma’s lectures instilled in him.

Then he remembered Gloria and her girlfriend.

And finally he remembered that he was a cat. He was Tux, the unofficial mascot of the school, nothing more and nothing less - it was completely beside the point what sort of person he would like, because he wasn’t one anymore.

But that single picture? That he kept.

***

The news kept coming, dripping into Ilvermorny slowly. Sometimes there was no word of Grindelwald for months, other times there was headline after headline of the crimes he kept committing, the followers he was amassing.

He was caught once, and the magical world rejoiced, only to be thrown back into darkness when he escaped only a few weeks later.

Credence kept closer to the staff than before, and he could see how much it was weighing on them. Some could… sympathize with Grindelwald’s vision in theory; a world with no secrets, with magical people walking around in the daylight.

Others - like Bullhove and Castaway - got into heated arguments with those people, about how Grindelwald wanted to rule no-majs.

Credence thought of his Ma, of what a vile creature she was, and he could almost agree with his supporters. But then he thought about all the wonderful people he met, about how some of them were born to no-maj families and were still good people. Being a maj or a no-maj was nothing but a game of chance, and he couldn’t rationalize how one group could be generally better than the other.

***

Four years after the warning of Uncle Percival was eavesdropping on the room of Isolde’s house. For how little it looked from the outside, the whole staff could comfortably fit into it with room to spare.

“Ladies and gentleman,” the Headmaster started, sounding grim. “We have called for this meeting because we received worrying news from MACUSA,” he explained.

There was a murmur among the teachers. Credence doubted that William was in there, but if he closed his eyes and concentrated very hard, he could feel his presence nearby. You couldn’t smell or hear or see a pukwudgie if he wanted to go undetected, but by now Credence could just feel them - especially William.

“Gellért Grindelwald is in America,” he announced, and the room broke out in noise. Some people were asking questions, other were clearly scared.

“Are you sure?” Bullhove asked over the ruckus, level-headed as always.

“The MACUSA is sure. There was an attack in New York that fits his modus operandi and sources from the British Ministry of Magic have also confirmed the suspicions,” the Headmistress cut in.

Credence didn’t know what to do. He was… he was scared, thinking about Gloria all alone out there, about all the other Ilvermorny graduates he got to know over the years. He hoped that none of them would be caught up in this mess.

“What does this mean for us?” Bullhove asked, the same time as Ms. Castawind said “How are we going to ensure the safety of the children?”

There was only a week until the end of the school year, but with so many young witches and wizards around… Credence didn’t even want to think about what could happen.

“Silence,” the Headmistress ordered, and the house fell quiet. “We are in constant contact with MACUSA, and we will ask the pukwudgies to double their patrols. We would also like to ask everyone - thought this should be self explanatory - that you should have your wand at your person at all times.”

There was a murmur of agreement, but then the Headmaster cleared his throat.

“There are… other concerns as well. Over the centuries, there have been quite a few rare and potentially dangerous magical artifacts that have been entrusted to Ilvermorny for safekeeping. The MACUSA is worried that Grindelwald might have his eyes in something here.”

Somebody gasped.

“After the children leave, they will be sending aurors to secure everything and to help with the protection of the school. If all goes well, Grindelwald will be under lock before the summer ends and everything will continue as usual,” he explained.

Credence didn’t like what he was hearing at all, but at the same time… Aurors would be coming to Ilvermorny, he wondered if...

Chapter Text

The staff did its best not to let the children know that Ilvermorny was on high alert. According to the MACUSA’s wishes, they tried to keep the situation under wraps, not wanting to spread panic among the kids - and especially their parents.

And there was also the situation of Grindelwald’s followers. The MACUSA suspected that he managed to gain quite a few since his arrival, and while the teachers couldn’t be sure, it was possible that some of the parents were among them. They couldn’t let them know that they were reinforcing the school’s protection; against someone like Gellért Grindelwald there was no advantage too small to disregard.

Credence spent all of his nights - and a good part of his days - patrolling the grounds. After ten years in Ilvermorny, he was still not sure exactly how many pukwudgies lived on the premises, but he could see that they were overworking themselves. None of them complained, of course, but he could see it.

When he wasn’t doing rounds, he was practicing with William. He’d grown into his magic; it was still wild and not completely tameable, but it was his . He knew how to use it, and he was willing to do it, even though he knew that if anyone caught him, his life - as he knew it - would be over.

Ilvermorny was his home and he was going to protect it.

***

The aurors arrived before the steam of the train disappeared on the horizon with the last of the students.

They apparated right outside of the gates, and Credence’ heart picked up as soon as he noticed that Unc… that Percival was among them.

The Headmaster was the first to welcome the group, obviously surprised to find such a high profile delegation.

“Director! Welcome, I… didn’t expect that you would be here,” he said, shaking the man’s hand. There were four other people in the group, nobody Credence knew. One had a suitcase that… that smelled funny and made him want to investigate and stay as far as possible in equal measures.

“Headmaster, Headmistress.” Percival said, nodding at the staff in attendance. “I’m afraid I won’t be staying long, just until we are sure that everything is secure. Let me introduce the team,” he continued, and started to walk towards the castle, clearly not wanting to waste time just for talking. Credence kept to the shadows, but followed closely.

“This is Ms. Goldstein, my second in command, and that is Mr. Abernathy. And the two other gentleman are the Scamander brothers, a bit of a reinforcement from the Ministry in London,” he said, gesturing to the two man bringing up the rear. They had identical mops of reddish blond hair, and Credence could clearly see the family resemblance. The younger looking one had the case.

He slipped in just as they closed the doors.

***

“First order of business,” Percival said when they were situated at the dining hall with an early dinner. “I will have to talk to Mr. William.”

The Headmaster looked taken aback, but the Headmistress nodded her understanding. She looked around, her eyes falling on Credence, slinking around between the legs of her chair.

“Tux, darling, would you mind getting Mr. William?” she asked. It took him by surprise - to be addressed like that - but he should have known not to underrate her. He meowed and ran out of the hall, adamant about getting back as soon as he could so he wouldn’t miss anything important.

He knew that William was up in the ceiling on the corridor anyway. Thankfully, the old pukwudgie either heard the request or could read Credence’s meows perfectly by now, because he hopped down and followed him back inside.

All eyes were on them, and it made Credence want to scurry away somewhere. But then he saw Percival’s lips twitch when looking at him - just a tiny bit - and he couldn’t.

Instead he hid under the table where he could hear everything but couldn’t be seen. Nobody could fault him if he sat down by Percival’s feet.

***

The company talked at length about what needed to be done, what shifts they had to take… It particularly warmed Credence’s heart that Percival talked to William first and foremost. Some people avoided the pukwudgies or ignored them, but not him. He was polite, and took the gruf replies he got in stride, not once trying to push his status in William’s face.

Credence could also tell how much it meant to William. Oh, he wouldn’t have shown it for the world, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t hear the hint of pride in his voice as he explained what defences Ilvermorny already had, how the runes stopping apparation worked.

He payed attention, trying to get a feeling for the other aurors. Ms. Goldstein didn’t talk much, but when she did she asked smart questions, Mr. Abernathy was the complete opposite. He was obviously well meaning, but there was something in his demeanor that grated on Credence’s nerves.

The older Mr. Scamander did not ask questions and from the few remarks he made, it was apparent that he knew Percival, that they were friends - or at least had been at one point, but his little brother didn’t say a word throughout the whole thing, his fingers idly drumming on the strange case in his lap.

***

After dinner was eaten and plans were made the aurors were given rooms in the quarters reserved for guest teachers. Credence was a bit sad to learn that Percival couldn’t stay more than three days - his presence too important at the MACUSA - and he vowed to make the most of his time. He didn’t know yet what he would do, but a selfish part of him, the part that kept sneaking into the attic to stare at a faded newspaper, was begging him to stay close, to let himself have this at least.

To his surprise and joy, as soon as the rest of his team was out of sight, Percival turned around and scooped him up.

“Well, hello there, little fella. Glad to see you’re still around,” he said as he opened the door to his rooms. Credence made no move to get away - not even sure he even could with Percival’s scent once again overpowering his senses - and let himself be carried inside. William would forgive him for taking a night off.

Percival traveled lightly, he took a small pack from his pocket and then enlarged it to its original size with a flick of his wand to reveal what appeared to be a pack of clothes and toiletries.

Credence - thankfully - had enough self restraint to turn away and inspect the room while the man changed clothes. When he turned around, Percial was wearing a pair of striped pajamas and a lush looking, dark purple dressing gown. He looked sharp dressed even for bed.

Percival took a few manila folders from his things, and sat down to read them, patting his lap when he noticed Credence looking at him. He didn’t need more of an invitation and hopped up, curling into a tight ball and purring as the man started to stroke his fur.

***

He was woken by a knock on the door, and jumped off so Percival could stand and answer it. He already knew it was William of course, and suspected that the old pukwudgie only gave the courtesy of actually knocking and not just sneaking in because he did like Percival.

“Mr. William, is everything alright?” he asked, letting the old creature inside. “Would you care for some firewhiskey?”

William shook his head, but he did take a seat at the table.

“I just came to say that your men are all settled. The young one, the one with the case tried to sneak out to the woods, but we stopped him,” he said, his voice raspy and unused to the human language.

Percival sighed and poured himself a drink.

“Newt. Of course. I assure you, Mr. William, he didn’t mean any harm. He was brought in as a consultant - we suspect that Grindelwald might be using dark creatures - and after his brother got involved too, he just sort of stuck around,” he explained.

William nodded.

“Alright. But I won’t have him wandering outside without permission. Not now.”

Percival nodded his understanding, before quirking a smile.

“Am I right to assume that you have your family watch all of us?” he asked.

William shrugged but didn’t seem offended.

“The rest, we do. And he will make sure you don’t get into trouble either,” he said, nodding towards Credence.

Oh. He didn’t dare look at Percival, because while William never told his secret, his words clearly indicated that he was more than an ordinary cat.

The man hummed before seeing William out, and then pinned Credence with a sharp look after his door was locked again.

He didn’t say anything, but he did pick up his wand.

Credence didn’t know what to do, he backed into a corner, feeling all the hairs on his body standing up. He knew he should do something, run away or protect himself, or hiss at least, but he couldn’t. He closed his eyes tight and waited for whatever would happen.

He waited and waited, but in the end the only thing he heard was the noise of wood cluttering to wood as Percival put his wand down.

When he opened his eyes, the man was still watching him, but the sharpness have gentled a bit.

“You know, I would trust Mr. William with my life, I don’t see why I shouldn’t trust him with this,” he said. He turned the covers on the bed down and climbed under them, throwing one last look at him before turning on his side. “Come here then, Tux. You heard him, you are supposed to keep an eye on me.”

The relief flooding him was almost enough to knock him off his feet, it made him reckless, and he gratefully hopped up, lying down in a tight little ball.

Percival huffed out a laugh and turned the lights out.

“I’m a cat person anyway,” he murmured into the darkness.

Chapter Text

Credence spent the next day shadowing Percival, who didn’t seem to be bothered by his company in the least. They were touring the deepest bowels of the school, the hidden chambers and dark corridors underneath the dorms and classrooms.

It was a younger pukwudgie - Nolan - who was leading their team, but Credence did get a glimpse of William before they descended into the tunnels. The old man gave him a curious look, but Credence shook it off.

William himself said that he was supposed to keep an eye on Percival. He was just doing his job.

And it gave him a chance to get to know the team better. Mr. Abernathy seemed a bit… scared throughout the whole thing, and for a while Credence had no idea what he was even doing here - for some reason he thought that all aurors were fearless warriors, though that might have been the result of getting most of his insight into the magical world outside of Ilvermorny from children.

But, as it turned out, Mr. Abernathy had a very good eye for architecture and a very good hand for intricate spells that hid things and misdirected attention. Credence felt bad for his assumptions.

At least he was right about Ms. Goldstein. She really was a smart woman, and wasn’t afraid to get herself dirty. She also didn’t shriek whenever a spider - one of those that grew to the size of rat down here - scurried into their line of vision. Unlike Mr. Abernathy.

The older Mr. Scamander - Theseus, as he found out - was great with setting traps and alarms, his spells sinking into the stone walls, almost well enough that even Credence’s practiced eyes lost sight of them.

Newt seemed much more interested in the spiders themselves than what they were doing, but it didn’t slip Credence’s notice that occasionally he took a green… something from his pocket. It almost looked like some sort of magical yo-yo, but he could feel that it was alive somehow.

He got the feeling that Mr. Scamander wanted the creature to be familiar enough with the tunnels, whatever that could mean.

***

At lunch, Credence sat in Percival’s lap, to the astonishment of everyone, except Theseus, who looked more amused than anything.

“Still have a weakness for those fur-bags?” he asked, his mouth quirking up at the corners. Credence meowed in indignation, but quickly switched to purring when Percival started scratching him behind the ears.

“Possibly,” he said simply, and slipped Credence a nice slice of ham. Ms. Goldstein was watching them with wide eyes, but Newt was nodding, looking somewhere over Percival’s shoulder.

“Cats are great, I have found that observing their behaviour helps a lot with certain creatures,” he mumbled. Credence liked him. And he liked Ms. Goldstein too.

He wasn’t sure about about the elder Mr. Scamander - whenever he smiled at Percival or patted his arm familiarly, it made him want to sink his claws into his hand.

Jealousy was an ugly thing.

***

The afternoon was spent with much of the same. At one point Credence was forced to take the lead when Nolan lost his bearings - it was understandable, he was one of the younger pukwudgies, and as far as he knew, he usually worked outside.

Credence didn’t feel comfortable showing them how much he knew Ilvermorny, last night had been bad enough with the threat of being found out, but he really had no choice.

And he had the silly feeling that Percival wouldn’t let them hurt him anyway.

***

It happened in the evening, right after they’ve retired to their rooms. The whole team was tired, they’ve walked miles and miles in the stuffy corridors beneath the school, and Percival looked to be ready for bed too.

Then Credence felt a… pop . It wasn’t anything tangible, but it made the hairs stand up along his tail. Percival noticed, of course he did.

“What’s wrong, Tux?” he asked, frowning, and Credence desperately wished to be able to talk, because whatever that was, he just knew that it wasn’t good.

It only took two minutes for William to burst through the door.

“The anti-apparation runes have been broken,” he croaked.

Credence knew about those. One of the duties of the pukwudgies was to charge the eight stones placed along the wall surrounding Ilvermorny.

Percival nodded, every hint of exhaustion disappearing from his face. He already took his coat off, but somehow he looked just as imposing in only his shirt and waistcoat.

“What’s the situation?” he asked, already striding down the hall. William had to scurry to keep up with him, but if anything he looked relieved by the way Percival immediately flung himself into action.

“The building is still secure, there’s no magic breaking through those spells. But the runes were broken. And we don’t have wands to set new ones,” William reported.

Oh.

Credence had a very bad feeling about this.

By the time they reached the entrance hall, everyone was there with their own pukwudgie guides, including the Headmaster and the Headmistress.

“So are they already inside?” Percival asked William as he came to a stop.

The old man shook his head.

“It had to be an inside job. Nobody could have gotten in without us noticing and the spell that broke the runes…”

“Tell me.”

“It looks like they rotted away from the inside, it had to be a slow acting enchantment.”

“So they aren’t here yet. Unless they’ve already apparated,” he growled.

Percival nodded, but Credence felt the blood run cold in his veins. Someone… someone cursed the runes, and they didn’t notice. What if they broke when the students were still here? He wanted to hit himself. He should have noticed something was wrong sooner.

Percival pulled out his wand.

“Alright people. I want all of you to pair up with a pukwudgie to take you to the runes, we need to reset them as soon as possible.”

“There’s only seven of us,” Mr. Abernathy put in, he was already sweating, but he had a death grip on his wand and a surprising amount of determination in his eyes.

It made Credence realize that years ago he had to be an Ilvermorny graduate too, that this had been his home too - and Ms. Goldstein’s and Percival's - at one point.

“I know. Can Tux show me the way?” Percival asked, and he meowed loudly before William could even open his mouth. To his surprise that seemed to be enough for the man.

“Good. I want you to take me to the rune, and Mr. William, I would like you and your family to guard the last one until Tux and I get there.”

The old pukwudgie nodded, and then gave his own orders in their gurling, hard language.

They headed out into the night.

***

Percival told everyone not use light, in case the intruders were already on the grounds. There was no way to tell if they had spells in place to alert them to the runes breaking.

Credence ran between the trees as fast as the man could follow him, careful not to lose him in his hurry.

The rune stones were placed at equal intervals along the walls, and thankfully he knew the grounds enough to find his way there even in pitch darkness.

Percival kept up well, only stumbling once and cursing under his breath in words Credence never even heard of. He tried not to pay attention, not when he had to keep his ears trained on their surroundings. His hearing was superior to a human’s and he was adamant not to let anyone close enough to harm Percival.

It took them less than ten minutes to find the first rune, the stone as big as a car tire. It looked wrong, the surface where the rune should have been carved blackened and cracked, like the stone itself went bad inside.

Percival cursed again, but his wand was already out, and he was muttering spell after spell to repair first the stone, then the rune.

Credence watched him with wonder, the man’s magic feeling powerful even directed at something else, and for the first time he really understood why he was chosen to be the Director of Magical Security. It had little to do with his friendship with the President.

The rune came back to life with a flash of light that blinded both of them for a second.

“To the next one,” Percival told him, keeping his wand at the ready. Credence nodded and took off again, this time running along the wall, where the man had an easier time to follow.

They were halfway there when he could see the first flashes of the other runes being set lighting up the sky from elsewhere.

Credence could hear William and at least two of his sons in the distance when his ears picked up something much closer. For a second he didn’t know if he should run faster or stop and face whatever was coming, but then a branch broke and Percival made the decision for him.

He didn’t say anything, but he stopped, his wand raised and his face set in a grim expression.

Credence stared into the darkness of the trees, but then a familiar scent hit his nose.

“Mr. Graves? It’s me!” Mr. Abernathy said as he stumbled out from behind a trunk.

Credence could hear Percival’s relieved exhale the same time his eyes picked up… He didn’t even know what it was. Something about the way he put his feet, or the angle of his wand.

That was not Mr. Abernathy.

He jumped into action before he could even think about it, leaping in front of Percival and hissing, his hair standing on end and his ears snapped back.

The split second of warning was enough for Percival to raise his own wand and reflect whatever spell Not-Abernathy threw at him.

“What did you do to him?” Percival asked between clenched teeth.

Not-Abernathy straightened out, suddenly looking like a completely different person, even though his body did not change.

He laughed with Mr. Abernathy’s voice and Credence took a step back, dread settling in his stomach.

“Oh, wouldn’t you like to know…”

Chapter Text

For all the training Credence got from William - all the practice, all the calls for vigilance - he was petrified. It filled him with shame, but right then, standing in front of… of this stranger wearing the face of someone he knew, he felt like he was powerless. And a coward.

“I would, as a matter of fact,” Percival said, his wand not wavering for a second as he looked at the man. It was amazing, how collected he sounded. Sure, he was obviously enraged and worried for his subordinate, but still, he was standing his ground without a hint of hesitation.

The stranger chuckled, just the sound of it enough to make Credence hiss again, his back hunched. To his misfortune, it brought the attention to him.

“Well, well, well. You have quite the smart kitty there, Director. I would have gotten the drop on you without it, don’t you think?” he asked nonchalantly. In the darkness it was hard to read the expression on his face, but Credence felt like he was vivisected under his gaze nonetheless.

“What did you do to Abernathy?” Percival asked again, like he didn’t even hear the teasing, focused on what mattered.

It helped clear Credence’s head too. He wasn’t the important one here, and he would be a fool if he let Percival get distracted because of him.

He moved slowly from between the two of them, not wanting Percival to be at a disadvantage because of him. He… he wasn’t sure the man would even hesitate if Credence got into the line of fire, but it was better to be safe than sorry.

The stranger - Grindelwald, he thought, swallowing down his terror, it had to be him - followed him with his eyes for a second, but not for long, finding Percival to be much more important.

Neither man said anything for a second, just watching each-other by the faint light of the moon. Credence’s brain was running in circles, trying to figure out his priorities.

He could run to get help. William and his family were close enough, though he couldn’t hear their voices anymore. Maybe they noticed the fighting too.

Or he could try to attack. He had no idea if his distorted, weird magic could even touch Grindelwald, but maybe he could catch him off guard and help Percival… But then he would be perfectly, truly found out.

Or he could pull back and guard the rune. It wasn’t impossible that Grindelwald had reinforcements waiting somewhere, ready to apparate in at their master’s call.

Before he could make up his mind, Grindelwald moved, quick as a snake, throwing out a spelless curse that lit up like lightning, Percival parried. And then parried the next one and the one after that, the curses smashing into the wall beside him, redirected but unstoppable.

Why wasn’t he firing back? Why was he just…? Oh. Oh, they didn’t know if that was Mr. Abernathy’s body somehow. In his panic, Credence wasn’t sure if that was possible; to possess someone with magic, but considering Grindelwald’s infamy in the dark arts, it wasn’t outside of the realm of possibility.

But there was no way for Percival to win if he couldn’t attack.

Credence took off, fast enough that none of the duelers could react - or maybe even notice - and disappeared between the trees, his nose trained on the trail Grindelwald left. He might not have been a bloodhound, but the scent was fresh enough to pick up.

He went as quickly as he could without losing the path, his ears straining as he tried to follow what was happening behind him, if Percival was still holding out. He could hear the zap of curses flying, but it was alway the same sound, the static crack of lightning and the thunder as it hit the stone.

No matter how fast he was, it still took him long, precious moments to find Mr. Abernathy. His heart was still beating as he lay on his back on the forest floor. Credence couldn’t see any sign of injury, couldn’t smell blood.

Good. Percival needed reinforcements.

***

Except he couldn’t wake up Mr. Abernathy. He meowed, he bit his ear. Nothing.

Credence didn’t know what to do - again - and the bitter taste of failure was thick on his tongue. He couldn’t even do this much. He was useless .

Behind them, in the distance he could hear Grindelwald laugh, the sound of it freezing his blood. He had to go back, he had to…

He was so caught up in his thoughts that he didn’t notice the trees coming to life around him until William was standing right in front of him with one of his sons in tow.

“What are you doing, boy?” he asked gruffly, nodding at the other pukwudgie who immediately went to Mr. Abernathy’s side. “We have a job to do.”

Credence could have cried with relief. William was here, it would be alright.

They started back the way he came, and for how silently and swiftly he moved, Credence almost forgot how old William actually was. The pukwudgie had his blowgun at the ready, loaded with one of his darts. Credence noticed that it was a red feathered one - deadly.

William signaled him to slow down, before they could get there, and it took him a second to understand why.

Someone was talking.

“You know, I could end you right now… I’m a bit disappointed, to be honest,” Grindelwald said.

Credence felt his hairs stand on end. No. No, no, no…

Finally they were close enough to get a glimpse of the scene from the shadows of the trees.

Percival was sitting by the wall, his wand gone, his right arm blackened like burnt wood, and he clutched at it with his left.

Credence had never felt this angry in his life.

“Everyone kept talking about how wonderful Mr. Graves was,” Grindelwald continued, twirling his wand between his fingers, like it wasn’t more than a toy. “And yet you proved to be less than a challenge.”

Credence snuck from tree to tree, trying to get as close to Percival without being noticed as he could. He didn’t know what William was planning, but he had a feeling that he would appreciate a distraction. And a distraction he planned to be.

Grindelwald clucked his tongue, shaking his head like a displeased parent. He snapped his wand to the side, a line of magical energy pouring out of it like a whip.

“In any case, I’m going to enjoy this,” he said, lifting it above his head.

Credence could feel his magic rippling under the surface of his flesh, straining against the confines of his body. He leaped across the distance in the last second, landing on his feet between Percival and Grindelwald. He had no time to prepare, no time to pray.

He closed his eyes tight and pushed at his magic, throwing it between them and that crackling, burning power.

The magic of the whip hitting his shield was deafening, leaving his ears ringing and his nose filled with the smell of ozone.

But they were still unharmed.

Credence didn’t dare to look behind himself, too scared of what he would find on Percival’s face. There was no turning back now.

Instead he kept his eyes trained on Grindelwald, shamefully enjoying the shocked look on his face.

“Well, I’ll be damned. You, little fellow, are full of surprises on the other hand,” he said, eyes narrowed.

Credence didn’t move. He refused to.

“It makes me wonder how many tricks you can do, kitty… How about this?”

Credence didn’t know what he expected, but it certainly wasn’t Grindelwald’s lips quirked in a smile as he pointed his wand at Percival and said the words Avada Kedavra .

Chapter Text

Credence knew this much: the killing curse couldn’t be parried, couldn’t be deflected or stopped by magic.

It was strange, how inadequate he’d felt until this very moment, how lost and scared he had been. But now he had nothing left to lose. His magic was revealed, his life very likely about to end.

At the same time… there was no reason to hold back anymore.

He could see the sickly green spark of the spell gathering at the tip of Grindelwald’s wand.

All he had was a split second.

Credence sucked in a breath and dug his claws into the earth beneath his paws. If there was one thing he learned in the countless hours he spent patrolling the woods with William, it was that magic was a strange, intangible thing. It was almost alive, soaking into the land, seeping into the rocks of the mountain over the centuries.

And now he poured his own magic into it too, seeking help, seeking the sanctuary and protection of this strange, wonderful place he came to call home .

He couldn’t know if it would work, if Ilvermorny would answer his call, if the school was really what he hoped it was; the heart of American wizardry, the cradle of generations of amazing, bright children who came to learn and left loving and cherishing the memory of their years spent here.

And in his moment of need, Ilvermorny heard him. And Ilvermorny answered.

The earth moved, shaking the leaves of the trees as huge columns of rock exploded out of it, like petrified waves of a long lost ocean of lava, a barricade of impenetrable granite between Credence and certain death.

The spell slammed into the wall, the rocks cracking under the force of it, crumbling, splintering into a million shards but strong enough to protect them.

Grindelwald stared right at him through the broken pillars of rock and he looked… overjoyed.

“Oh! Oh, now that , that was something,” he said. Maybe it was his concentration breaking, but Mr. Abernathy’s body started to change, melt away to reveal a blond man with mismatched eyes and a bloated face. He looked like a downed corpse, left in the water to rot.

Credence hissed, exhausted, and still buzzing with adrenaline. It worked once, but he didn’t know if he could do it again… His magic was drained, his whole was body trembling.

“I could use someone like you,” Grindelwald said, stalking closer, stepping over the rock fragments littering the ground. “You’re an animagus, right? There’s no way an actual animal could possess this much power…”

Credence took a step back, hackles raised. He didn’t want this man closer, but he didn’t know if he could stop him.

“I can give you anything you want, sweet little kitten… Why are you like this? Are you hiding? There’s no need to hide, I’m building a world where people like us - powerful people - can walk freely…”

Grindelwald was standing right above him now, close enough that he could just pick him up, if he wanted, and even the mere thought of that made Credence want to vomit.

“Leave him alone,” Percival growled. He sounded pained.

Grindelwald smiled, his eyes sliding off him for a second - to Percival - and he raised his wand.

“What do you say, lovely little kitten? I will just take care of this eyesore, and…”

It was only thanks to years of training that Credence heard it - the sound of a poisoned dart sailing through the air.

William.

He could see it the second it hit Grindelwald, and he almost heaved a relieved sigh… But the man refused to just die, he gave an angered shout, clutching at his neck, even as he was collapsing. Somehow he managed to spin on his heels and fire off a last spell into the cover of the leaves high on a tree.

Credence watched with horror as William’s body fell.

He hit the ground the same time as Grindelwald.

***

No. No, this couldn’t… He couldn’t just…

He ran over, uncaring of Percival, uncaring of the last beats of Grindelwald’s heart fading into silence.

William was on his side, his face covered in shadows. Credence could… he could smell blood. The pukwudgie’s breathing was labored, it sounded wet .

Credence cried out, meowing loudly, hoping against the odds that William would just get up, dust himself off and tell him how he needed to do better next time.

It didn’t happen.

He could hear that Percival was trying to get on his feet, struggling to stand but it wasn’t important. Nothing was important.

William hissed - coming back to consciousness - but Credence’s relief was short lived as the pukwudgie turned onto his back. There was a deep gash in his side, bleeding heavily.

Too much blood.

There was too much blood, that was the only thing he could think about. He had to. He had to do something. He had to do something.

It happened just as unexpectedly - just as inexplicably - as the first time. All Credence knew was that he couldn’t let this happen, he couldn’t let William die here, and then his body spasmed and contorted.

The next second he had hands.

He felt disoriented and queasy, his head light, but that was fine, all was fine, because finally he was able to put his palms over the wound and stop it from bleeding.

His vision was swimming and everything felt distorted around him, things looking… small. Had William always been this small?

Credence licked his lips, trying not to notice how different his mouth felt, how blunt his teeth became.

“W… Wi-William…”

The old pukwudgie opened his eyes a fraction, his eyebrow twitching.

“You did well, boy,” he said, and Credence started to cry.

***

There were noises behind him, but he didn’t pay them no mind until another pukwudgie sank to her knees beside him. She had a bag and she immediately started pulling out bandages and herbs, swatting his hands away as she got to work. William grumbled at her, sounding almost annoyed, the sound of so much life in his voice made Credence cry even harder.

“Is he… will he be fine?” he asked, his own voice rough with disuse and tears.

“Yes,” she replied simply, none too gently rubbing dried leaves into the wound, and just from that, Credence could swear William’s color was getting a little better.

He couldn’t… he couldn’t hear his heartbeat anymore, not with his useless, blunt human ears, but pukwudgies didn’t lie, and that was enough.

“Tux,” Percival said behind him, making him freeze.

Oh.

Oh, it was over.

Credence stood on wobbly legs, his head spinning. He was too tall. The ground was too far away.

Percival was standing, held up by Theseus. The Headmistress was there. And Ms. Goldstein too.

“Tux,” Percival said again, firmer.

He blinked, feeling like he was in some sort of shock. Grindelwald was dead. William was alive. His life was over.

He looked down at himself, cringing. He was wearing… he was wearing the same outfit he did a decade ago; the clothes seemed to have grown with him over the years, but they were just as ill fitting and misshapen as when he was eleven.

His brain appeared to be set on distracting him - anything so he didn’t have to look at the people staring at him.

His hair had grown out, he could feel it brushing his jaw.

He didn’t have shoes on.

“Who are you?” Mr. Scamander asked, his fingers twitching on his wand.

Credence Barebone.

But he couldn’t really say that, could he?

He didn’t want to be here. He didn’t want these people to look at him, he didn’t want them finding out who he was or what he did.

He didn’t think he could bare looking in their eyes and seeing…

If you ever need help, you can find me in New York , Gloria told him, what felt like a lifetime ago. He’d never missed her more than he did in that second. He just wanted to go back to how things were. He wanted to be her friend again, he wanted to be Tux again.

“Tux,” Percival said again, almost pleading, right as Mr. Scamander shouted “Answer me!”

He had to get away.

Credence didn’t think, he just tried remembering the apparition lessons Gloria took, of how effortless she looked, just popping from one place to the other, disappearing in a swirl of magic.

He closed his eyes and wished .

***

He almost made it, he could feel the magic pulling at him, yanking him out of existence… then it spit him out again, slamming him against the ground, his back lighting up in brilliant, terrible pain.

Someone shouted, and from the corner of his eye, he could see Ms. Goldstein running towards him.

No. No, he had to get away.

Credence heaved, his stomach churning with nausea and tried again.

It hurt worse the second time, like his flank had been set on fire and shred to ribbons.

No. Again, he could do it… He had to…

“For god’s sake! Someone-” Percival roared, trying to get Mr. Scamander’s wand from his hand, but the Headmistress was faster.

Stupify !” she cried, the bolt of magic hitting Credence just as he tried to gather his strength to try again.

His body went rigid, refusing to move.

He was so tired, his eyelids felt so heavy… Maybe he could close them just for a second. Just for...

Credence blacked out before he could see Ms. Goldstein dropping to her knees beside him.

Chapter Text

Credence woke slowly, becoming aware of how much his body was hurting gradually. Oh god, it was awful, he felt like he’d been skinned alive.

For a blissful second he couldn’t remember what happened, but it didn’t last long, not long enough at all.

There were voices in the… the room with him. As a cat he could have told what part of the school he was in, just by the smell, but his nose was all but useless now. All he knew was that he was on a bed, lying on his stomach, not much to go on.

Credence didn’t dare open his eyes, he just tried to concentrate on the voices - he had to be safe as long as they thought he was sleeping, right?

“... absolutely and most vehemently no ,” Ms. Castwing said, her voice almost harsh. It made Credence want to curl in on himself - he could count the times she became actually angry in the last ten years on one hand.

“Well, we will just have to agree to disagree. And anyway, I’m obviously right. You’ve seen what he did, didn’t you? That can only mean one thing-” Professor Bullhove said, but she cut him off.

“Excuse me? There is no logical reason for you to be right. There’s no reason to jump to conclusions just from that, we all remember what happened when he came here, don’t we?” she asked coolly.

Were they… were they fighting about him?

Credence wished he could just… shrink in on himself. Was this about his punishment? It had to be. He couldn’t remember a time when the two of them fought like this.

“I’m telling you, Marissa, technically-”

She huffed.

“I don’t care about technicalities. If we go by the theory that one of them was accepted into Wampus house, and the other to Horned Serpent, then, since Ms. Picquery chose your house, the boy is in mine . End of discussion.”

What?

“No,” Bullhove said with feeling. “Just no. They were both accepted into Wampus, the girl and the boy as well, he is my student! He is a perfect example of a warrior Wampus!”

“Ha! And that’s where you are wrong, Hiram; this boy taught himself how to use powerful wandless magic, all the while in a form that should have made it impossible. That is clearly the mark of a dedicated scholar.”

Were they… were they really arguing about what house Credence was in?

They were both cut off by the door opening.

“Or maybe we can ask him soon,” Percival said, sounding a bit put out. “Especially if his professors aren’t able to keep their voices down.”

Credence didn’t know if he should be happy or terrified. He was confused, and still so, so tired, like he haven’t slept in days. What was going to happen to him? What will Percival think now that he knew the truth?

Bullhove muttered something under his breath, but it was barely audible.

“He is already awake actually,” Percival said, making him jerk. Even that small movement made his back light up in pain. He could hear Ms. Castwing taking a step towards him, but Percival stopped her. “And I’m afraid I have to ask you both to give us some privacy.”

It was weird, hearing him talk like that, all authoritative, like he thought it simply wasn’t possible for someone to disobey him. To Credence surprise, the teachers left without a word, the door closing with a soft click after them.

***

He could hear Percival walking up to his bed, the scrape of a chair being pulled over.

He squeezed his eyes shut tight, hoping to disappear.

Percival was close enough that he could hear the ruffle of his coat.

“Credence Barebone,” the man said finally, after a second of silence, making the breath stuck in his chest.

He couldn’t… he couldn’t read anger or disgust in his voice, and he wondered if it was only because he didn’t have the heightened senses of an animal anymore.

Still, he couldn’t help his fingers twitching on the pillow beside his head.

“It was the only name under ‘failed to arrive’ in Gloria’s year,” Percival explained. Credence swallowed, refusing to open his eyes, even as a tear escaped from under his lashes.

They were going to… they were going to throw him out. To punish him.

“Usually, there’s an investigation when a child doesn’t show up to Ilvermorny. I’ve already talked to the people from the registry department at MACUSA. I’ve been told that they suspected that it was just some trick from a Barebone to root us out. They didn’t send anyone to look for you,” he said, sounding displeased.

Oh god, he couldn’t even imagine what would have happened if they did. What would have his Ma done if a bunch of witches and wizards showed up at her door?

“Suffice to say, I was forced to ask for quite a few resignations. They had no right to decide that the safety of a child was unimportant just because the name he was bearing,” Percival said angrily.

It surprised Credence. Oh, oh, he expected anger - he expected little else - but he couldn’t help feeling that it wasn’t… that it wasn’t directed at him.

He blinked his eyes open slowly, glancing at Percival. He was unable to look him in the eyes, so he averted his gaze quickly. The man’s right hand was heavily bandaged, but his fingertips were uncovered. They were black.

“I… I’m sorry,” Credence said, not knowing how to look away. Percival was hurt. He was hurt and…

“Hm? For what?” he asked, then he must have followed Credence’s eyes. “ Ah . Yes, that is… unfortunate,” he said, sounding… wooden. “But it wasn’t your fault.”

It wasn’t a safe topic, not by any standards, but it felt safer than talking about… about what was waiting for him, so he stuck to it.

“What’s wrong with it?” he asked. It still felt weird. To form words. To talk. A part of him was surprised he could even do it.

Percival shifted in his seat - a blatant sign of how uncomfortable he was - and for some reason Credence felt incredibly touched that the man let him see it.

“We don’t actually know what he hit me with yet, Tina is doing research. But from the looks of it, seems like I won’t be able to use a wand with my right hand for a while… The Headmistress is an excellent healer and she is certain I will get all mobility back, but I might not be able to use it for anything spellwork related.”

Oh. He should have stayed. He shouldn’t have run off to look for Mr. Abernathy, he should have stayed and helped Percival then this whole thing wouldn’t have…

He didn’t notice when he closed his eyes, or started trembling. This was his fault, it was all his fault.

Credence twitched when he felt fingers in his hair, scratching at his scalp.

Maybe it was a ingrained reaction by now, but he relaxed immediately, instinctively taking the comfort of touch.

“I told you it’s not your fault. You were at the right place at exactly the right moment, and without you, I don’t think we would be here today at all.”

It was impossible to argue with that, not while Percival was petting him so gently, like he was still a cat, like his life was still simple and easy.

***

Credence slept fitfully, dreaming of mismatched eyes and blackened limbs, and William bleeding out on the forest floor, but when he woke up the next time, someone was holding his hand.

He couldn’t believe his eyes.

Gloria. Asleep in Percival’s vacated chair by his bed, her hand holding Credence’s firmly, even as she snored softly. She looked older, like a real adult.

He didn’t dare to move, or even breath, afraid that he would disrupt whatever dream this was.

Just like she could feel his gaze, Gloria opened her eyes.

For a second, they looked at each other, not knowing what to say.

“Hey,” she started finally, her eyes filling with tears. “Long time no see.”

***

Credence told her everything, halting and shaky. He told her what happened when he got his letter all those years ago, how he finally found Gloria on the streets of New York. He told her all of it, his voice breaking at places.

She listened. She listened and helped him drink when his throat got parched, and when Credence was done, too tired to say another word, she ruffled his hair and started talking too.

Gloria told him about her job at the MACUSA, the training she was going to take to become an auror. She told him about her little flat and the parrot she was keeping for company, about her friend Queenie - Ms. Goldstein’s sister - and her illicit romance with a no-maj baker...

And she held Credence’s hand until he fell asleep again.

Chapter Text

The next days passed slowly, filled with sleeping and trying to get used to his new - old - body. The first time Credence happened upon a mirror, he didn’t recognize himself, and just stared at the unfamiliar, sharp boned young man reflected back at him for long minutes until Gloria came to visit him.

He avoided mirrors from then on.

He was filled in on the details of Grindelwald’s attack; how he’d been lying in wait for a long time, how he managed to blackmail the Headmaster into helping him. That had been a shock. Sure, Credence never really liked the man - he didn’t give out the pleasant, parental vibes the Headmistress did - but he would have never guessed that he would side with someone like that.

Nonetheless, the Headmaster had been removed from his position, forced into retirement - and not to prison - in exchange for his information of Grindelwald’s other followers.

William was recovering nicely, faster than Credence or ever Percival did, actually, and was now back on duty.

***

Credence didn’t have many visitors; only Gloria and Percival, and the Headmistress when his wounds needed checking. Realistically he knew it was so that he wouldn’t get overwhelmed, but he couldn’t help being anxious about the radio silence around him.

“Do you… do you think they will send me away?” he asked Percival one evening. The man had taken to reading in Credence’s room, even bringing him books and he had to admit, he rather enjoyed finally being able to turn the pages.

The man didn’t even look up from his reading.

“Honestly, I think nobody seriously considered that, even before William threatened the school with moving out with his family if any harm came to you,” he said offhandedly.

It had been a long time since Credence had felt himself blush.

“Oh.”

The corner of Percival’s lips twitched up into a smile.

***

“So,” Gloria said, plopping down beside him on the bed. The bouncing of the mattress made his injuries hurt a bit, but Credence still welcomed the casual closeness. Like Gloria didn’t care about what form he was in, they were still friends. It made him feel less like a stranger in his own body.

“So?” he asked, shuffling to the side a bit to give her more room. He could sit up now. It wasn’t too comfortable, but he had enough of lying on his belly.

“So… you have a crush on Uncle Percy.”

Credence froze, not daring to look at her, his mind going a mile a minute. Was he… was he that obvious? Did he do something? Oh god, did Percival know?

“I… I…”

Thankfully she noticed his panic right away and took his hand in hers, squeezing it comfortingly.

“Hey, don’t freak out, hm? I mean, objectively speaking, he is a fine gentleman,” she said, making a funny face.

Well, of course. Of course he was. Credence couldn’t even understand how he didn’t already have a wife and a family.

“But…” he couldn’t help his old thoughts bubbling to the surface. “It’s wrong. He… I mean we are both…”

Now that got Gloria angry.

“Okay, no. Just, stop right there, Tux.” It was weird, how she sometimes slipped back into calling him that, but Credence didn’t mind it all. It had been his name as long as Credence had been before.

“I mean, from what you told me about your mom, I get where that’s coming from, and maybe that’s the way it is in no-maj society, but… We mostly just think about it like we think about magic. You either have it or you don’t. It’s not a choice and it’s not a sin, it’s just is. There’s no reason to judge someone on who he or she loves.”

Suddenly, Credence remembered Gloria’s girfriend from Ilvermorny. Way to put his foot in his mouth.

“I… I’m sorry, I know that,” he said, looking away, but squeezing her hand back in apology. “I’m just being dumb.”

She scoffed.

“No, you’re not. You’re one of the smartest people I know - and let me tell you, that was true even when you were a cat - so you will figure it out. You just need a bit of time.”

They sat there silently for a moment or two, watching the wind play on the waves of the ocean in the picture on the opposite wall.

“And anyway,” Credence told her a bit later. “He wouldn’t be interested.”

From the corner of his eyes, he could catch the way she rolled her eyes at him.

“Sure, I mean, he is the Director of Magical Security, it’s not like he has better things to do than watch over an injured boy for days on end…”

Credence didn’t know what to say to that.

***

It took a week for Credence to be able to walk again. His wounds were healing nicely, but with how deep they were, the Headmistress told him that they will probably leave a mark.

The blackness of Percival’s arm didn’t go away. He acted like it didn’t matter, but sometimes Credence could see the shadow of anger and frustration on his face as he looked at his hand, when he thought nobody was watching.

He wished… He didn’t even know. Part of him wanted Percival to be better, to be completely healed and whole again. But another, treacherous part of him was glad, because it meant he would be staying here longer. It was an ugly thought, especially since he suspected the man delayed his departure, because he was afraid of the pity he would receive back at the MACUSA.

Sometimes Credence didn’t feel like he was a good person at all.

***

As soon as he could comfortably walk again, he snuck out of his room to walk the quiet halls of the school, alone in the night, like so many times before.

It was different now. His feet didn’t fall quite as silently, and the sounds of the night were much more muted, keeping their secrets from his dulled, human senses.

It should have been disconcerting, but he still found it relaxing. This was his home.

He walked, enjoying the air on his skin, dressed only in the borrowed pajamas that were too wide for his frame and somehow still too short. He didn’t care.

Credence wandered the halls, hitting up all the places he did as a cat. Of course, with the school standing empty there were no students sneaking out after curfew. Still, to his surprise, he found the library open, the lights burning.

He slipped inside as quietly as he could, but apparently he was not as quiet as he hoped to be. Percival greeted him with a raised eyebrow. He was sitting alone by one of the large, oak tables with a line of dusty tomes in front of him.

“Shouldn’t you be in bed?” he asked. He looked tired, but somehow right at home.

Credence stopped a few away from him.

“I’m not a child,” he said, feeling strangely defensive.

Percival hummed under his breath, motioning to the chair opposite him.

“Absolutely true. Care to join me?”

Credence hesitated for a second, but decided to take the offer. He wasn’t strong enough to say no to the man.

“I’m leaving the day after tomorrow,” Percival told him, turning a page in the book in front of him. “In fact, Gloria is coming back with me too.”

Oh.

Credence didn’t know what he expected. Gloria was still in auror training and Percival was a very important person. He shouldn’t have expected them to stay with him forever. And still.

“I see,” he said, trying to keep the dejection out of his voice.

Percival paused, considering him, but Credence didn’t look at him long enough to figure out the expression on his face.

“The President,” he said, sounding apologetic “Is starting to get impatient. Truth be told I might not have been very forward about my… condition.”

“But… but you will be okay, right?” he asked, unable to keep his gaze from sliding his gaze to Percival’s blackened right. The man took his hand off the top of the table, where his eyes couldn’t follow.

“That remains to be seen. Theseus has invited me to England, they might be able to do something with it at Saint Mungo’s. I admit, the British healthcare can’t be topped.”

Credence nodded. If anything, knowing that Percival would be with Mr. Scamander was even worse than knowing that he was leaving.

“You could… you could come with me, if you wanted,” Percival said after a second of silence, startling him into meeting his eyes. “To London, if you want to, or just to New York. My house will be empty, and I wouldn’t say no to company.”

Credence didn’t know what to say. That… That was wholly unexpected.

As much as he would have loved it, to go with Percival, to spend more time with him, the thought of returning to New York was something that made his stomach roll.

“I... “ He licked his lips, shocked to notice Percival following the movement. “New York is not a good place for me,” he stuttered out, hoping that he wouldn’t have to elaborate. Unfortunately, Percival just looked at him, waiting.

“I was… I was alone there. Even while I lived with… with my Ma. And… and when my letter came, then I was truly alone. I was scared, and hungry and lonely, and i don’t know if I can go back there again,” he said, feeling like he was laying himself naked, despite how little he said.

Percival gave him a smile that was a bit sad.

“Of course. In that case, I would love to read from you.”

Oh. He could do that.

Chapter Text

20 August, 1927

 

Dear Percival,

I hope you are well and that you arrived safely to London!

With September almost here, the school have been per preparing for the arrival of the students. We are trying to make sure that everything is the way it was before - even with all the secrecy, the Headmistress already got letters from worried parents about our security.

We still don’t have a new Headmaster, and I think it will be hard to explain that. The Headmistress told us that she already offered the position to a sutab suitable person, but she doesn’t want to tell us who until she receives a definite answer. I wonder who it is, but I trust her decision.

I also got a wand, it’s made of Alder with dragon heartstring. Professor Bullhove said it’s suitable for non-verbal spellwork, but unfortunately I haven’t had much success in using it. I’m afraid it might be too late for me to master using a wand, even though my magic could use the focus one offers.

In better news, I finally managed to turn back into a cat at will! The proffesors professors were quite surprised, and I don’t always manage it, but I’m making progress, and I feel like I’m getting the hang of it. Professor Castwing keeps telling me that there’s a long procedure involved when one becomes an animagus, but that was never how it worked for me. I’m probably just being weird like usual.

I hope you are doing well, and that you will find a cure at Saint Mungo’s.

Hope to hear from you soon if your time allows,

Credence

PS I’m sorry about my writing, I hope you will be able to read it. I’ve been practicing since you told me I could write to you, but it’s been a long time since I last wrote at any length.

***

28 August, 1927

 

Dear Credence,

London is as wet as always, you will have to visit some time in the future, even with all the fog and the rain, you can feel the old magic everywhere. I had - and have - a line of meetings planned with the specialists at the hospital, though so far nobody can give me good news. Should that be the case, I will visit Hogwarts; they have quite a few hundred years of knowledge stocked up there.

I wouldn’t worry about the new Headmaster, or the security concerns. With Grindelwald gone and you and William back on duty, I’m sure Ilvermorny has never been safer.

Congratulations on your wand! Alder does quite suit you, Credence, it favors wizards who are compassionate and kind, and in the time I’ve known you, you’ve proven to be both. Maybe you just need some time to get used to each-other.

And you figuring out the transformation is indeed wonderful news! I can’t tell you how proud of you I am, my boy, that is quite the extraordinary feet! You will have to show me how well you are doing the next time we meet.

Have you considered taking the final exams and actually graduating? With all the time you’ve spent in classes, I’m sure you would be able to get your diploma, and it would open the doors of any number of professions for you. I know you want to stay in Ilvermorny, but you should still consider your options.

I will have to go now, as I’m having another meeting, but expect another letter from me soon.

My warm regards,

P. G.

PS Your writing is completely readable, don’t worry about it.

***

19 December, 1927

 

Dear Percival,

I’m sorry to hear that your search wasn’t successful at Hogwarts so far, I’m sure something will pop up when you least expect it!

I’ve been meaning to tell you: my exam results are in. They are not very bright, but Professor Castwing said that considering my… inpa impairment with wandwork, they are nothing to scoff at. I suspect she is just trying to be kind, but at least that solves the mystery of what house I’m in, right? Because it’s definitely not Horned Serpent.

The Headmistress is trying to convince me to take the test for apparition too, and while I don’t want to be rude to her, I don’t think I ever want to experiment with that again, I can still see the reminder of my first attempt in the mirror every day.

We have been doing the rounds with William at night, I’ve taken to turning into a cat for patrol, it makes my senc senses shaper. During the day I don’t move out of my room much, Mrs. Braun sometimes lets me help out in the library so I have something to do. To be honest, it makes me feel like a freeloader, but the Headmistress said it was alright. I hope I’m not being too much of a burden.

Do you know when you’re coming back? It’s been a while. Gloria came to visit me last week, and she misses you too. She finished her training, but told me that it’s not the same without ‘the real boss’ in the office.

That is not to say that Tina Ms. Goldstein is not doing a great job in your absense, I think everybody just misses you.

I hope we we will see each-other soon,

Credence

***

26 December, 1927

 

My dear Credence,

Hopefully my letter will reach you in time for the holidays, I hope you are having a wonderful Christmas this year!

Gloria mentioned that she is going to invite you over for Christmas Day, I hope that you found it in yourself to accept her invitation, even with your aversions to New York. I firmly believe that the Picquery family would let no harm come to you. But even if you are spending the holiday at Ilvermorny, I’m hoping it’s as warm and welcoming as Hogwarts is.

Are you taking proper care of yourself? It sounds like you’re keeping yourself busy day and night, and that can not be healthy in the long run. The Headmistress is absolutely right, and I can assure you she does not consider you a burden in any way, shape or form. You’ve already earned a place at Ilvermorny for the rest of your life, and that is without even considering your ongoing service. If anyone made you feel the opposite of that, please do let me know.

Congratulations on your exams! Rest assured, Ms. Castwing is the last person to lie when talking about a student’s results, and if she is satisfied, then you’ve really performed well. Wandwork is not everything there is. I dare say even the most excellent, highly educated wizards in the world would have had a hard time achieving the feats you did.

If you want me to, I can write to the Headmistress if you would like her to drop the apparition subject. It’s a useful skill to have, but not something you need in everyday life at Ilvermorny.

I have not yet made concrete plans about returning home. As much as it warms my heart that you - and Gloria - miss me, there are still a few leads I have to track down.

After six months with my condition, I’m afraid I will soon have to face the fact that my injury might be irreversible. I don’t yet know what that means to me professionally, but I don’t think I will be able to return to active duty as an auror if there is the slightest chance that I can endanger the lives of my men with my somewhat diminished skills.

Please don’t tell this to anyone, I shouldn’t have worried you with it all, but alas, it’s already on the paper, and I don’t have time to rewrite it if I want you to get it in time.

I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year,

P. G.

PS As a present, please find a curious dissertation enclosed. It’s about the theory of the animagus transformation - or more accurately about how it allegedly was made willfully complicated to dissuade people from using it. I would have found it farfetched a year ago, but after meeting you, it does look quite probable.

Chapter Text

19 August, 1928

 

Dear Percival,

I hope you are doing well and that everything is going well at the MACUSA.

It’s been more than a month since your last lett I understand that you must be busy with resuming your position at the department, but do I hope you will find a couple of minutes to write me a few lines. I really don’t need much, I just miss hearing from you.

The Headmistress got a letter from the Administration department at MACUSA about a student coming in September. She had been taken from her home a few weeks ago, and as things stand, she will be staying at Ilvermorny until she graduates, as they are reluctant to let her go home even during the vacations.

The people in Administration warned us that she might have special needs, as she seems to have some serious problems with anxiety, and the Headmistress asked me to tutor her after she arrives.

I didn’t even know what to say. I feel woefully inadequate at helping anyone in such a delicate situation, but she seems to think that our shared past experiences might help me find a common ground with the girl. I’ve been spending a lot of time in the library, looking up things that might be relevant to prepare myself, and even though I’m still scared, I hope I will be able to help her.

We are preparing for the arrival of the new Headmaster, though we still haven’t been told who it’s going to be. Not like it matters to me, as I don’t really know anyone outside of the school, but I can see that professor Bullhove is quite cross because of all the secrecy. Interestingly enough, the Headmistress said he might not move into Isolde’s house as traditional, and I honestly don’t see why that would be. Of course, he might arrive with his family in toe, though I’ve been told that would also be unusual. He should get here in a week - before the school year starts - and there will be a dinner for the staff in his honor. Even I’ve been invited.

In the absence of word from you I’ve been rereading your old letters. It seems crazy that a year has passed since Grindelwald and since we last saw each other.

I do miss you, please let me know how you’re doing.

With lo warm regard,

Credence

***

“Is everything in place?” Ms. Castwing asked, looking over the long table set for the celebration. Credence tried to melt into the corner and not meet her eyes. She’d been very worried about giving the right first impression for the new Headmaster.

It was all a bit too much for him.

He was wearing new clothes, a luxurious three piece suit that he got from Gloria for Christmas. It was a dark, beautiful green, and he actually never had a chance to wear it before today. Maybe that’s why he was so nervous…

The doors of the hall banged open, but it was only Professor Bullhove. He had a grin on his face, and considering the poor mood he’d been for weeks now, that had to mean that he already knew who their new Headmaster was.

“Alright people,” he said, getting the room’s attention. “He’s here, the Headmistress is accompanying him from the gates, so get to your places!”

Everyone scurried to their chair, ready to wait and shake the man’s hand when he arrived.

Credence swallowed, wishing he could just turn into a cat and sneak away, but he wasn’t that lucky.

“Credence, come,” Bullhove said, grabbing his elbow and leading him up and up and up the table, right to the head where the place of honor was set to the Headmaster and the Headmistress. Bullhove was sitting next to the Headmistress, and he parked Credence next to the Headmaster’s place.

“I… what? There has to be a mistake,” he said, feeling like everyone was watching him. He usually didn’t eat with the staff, preferring to change into ‘Tux’ and mix with the kids during the meals.

Bullhove patted his back, grinning.

“No, no. Your place is right here,” he said. He reached up and adjusted a few locks of Credence’s hair, then nodded in satisfaction before taking going to his own chair.

What was that all about? Was something wrong with his hair? He’d brushed it before coming, but with how it curled in every which way since it grew out it was hard to control…

He had no time to worry about it, because the next moment the doors opened again, revealing the Headmistress, and on her side… Percival.

Credence felt like the whole world stopped for a moment, and he wasn’t sure he was even breathing.

His heart was beating furiously as he watched them coming closer, advancing slowly up the table as Percival shook hands with everyone in attendance. Credence didn’t know exactly what he was feeling, it seemed like he was feeling everything .

He was angry and disappointed that he’d been kept in the dark, but he was also incredibly relieved to see the man who he’d so sorely missed, and elated at the mere prospect of… of possibly seeing him every day from now on.

He didn’t know which of his emotions was on his face when Percival was finally in front of him. All he knew was that he couldn’t remember the man’s eyes being this warm and… and lovely.

“Credence,” he said, holding out his hand.

He should have taken it. That would have been the polite thing to do, certainly. But… But Credence couldn’t stop himself from leaning in, and holding Percival close. For an awful second there was no response, but then the man’s hands were around him, hugging him just as tightly, if not so.

“Oh, my dear boy, I’ve missed you terribly. Can you forgive me?” he asked quietly, only for his ear, and Credence shivered as his breath brushed against the side of his face.

He nodded against Percival’s shoulder.

***

Credence sat on his bed, looking at his shiny, new shoes.

He snuck out of the dining hall right after dessert. He knew it was rude, but he’d been just… completely overwhelmed by everything.

Percival was here. Percival was here to stay . He would have thought this whole thing to be a dream if it wasn’t for the way he could feel his heart still beating quick in his chest, like it wanted to escape.

What… What did that mean?

They had no time to talk during dinner, not the way Credence wanted to. Everyone kept making toasts and asking polite questions to Percival. There was no place to get the answers he wanted.

Over the last year, even with the physical distance between them Credence felt like they’ve grown closer. They got to know each-other.

And yes, that was nice, but it also meant that the childish crush he developed on a gorgeous, unattainable man had morphed into something deeper and much more honest.

What if… What if he was alone in that?

He was just contemplating turning back to a cat and going to find William when there was a knock on his door.

He knew who it was even before he opened it.

“Credence,” Percival said, his voice deep and warm “May I come in?”

He nodded, stepping out of the way, feeling too dumbstruck to talk.

“Was the company too much for you?”

He licked his lips, barely able to believe that Percival was standing in his room in all his sharp, elegant glory.

“I… yes.”

The man smiled, stepping closer until they were toe-to-toe, taking hold of Credence’ hands hanging limply at his sides.

“I apologize for keeping this from you. For a long time I wasn’t sure I would take the position, and I didn’t want to mislead you.”

He could understand that. He could. It was just hard to think so close to Percival. Close enough that their breaths mingled between them.

“Are you sure you will be happy here?” he asked, his voice breaking a bit. He didn’t even know what he was exactly asking. Here in Ilvermorny? Here in this position? Or… or here with him.

Percival leaned in the last inches separating them, running his nose over Credence’s cheekbone until he could whisper in his ear.

“I wouldn’t be anywhere else.”

It was all too easy to turn his head until their lips met.

And finally, Credence truly learned what it meant to be home .