The lid of Newt’s suitcases closes with a decisive click after the Erumpent is safely inside. He smiles at Jacob and his giddy grin, and is cautiously optimistic that he’ll be able to rescue his missing beasts in a few hours without the Goldstein sisters even noticing the two of them are gone. Then something catches his attention. It lacks tangible qualities that might make it readily identifiable, but he instinctively knows that something is lurking in their proximity. He looks down at the ice underneath their feet, and then to the foliage either side, but there is no animal to be seen anywhere in Central Park.
“What’s wrong?” Jacob asks in a hushed whisper before Newt signals him to be quiet.
Everything is too quiet. Sound should carry in the cold, crisp air, and yet the loudest thing is their breathing. Newt picks up his case with a slow, deliberate movement. As he straightens, case in hand, the silence is broken by a strong swooshing sound. He looks up and sees a wild, dark wind making its way towards them with incredible speed. He knows what it is, and is sick to recognize it.
The Obscurus whips overhead, a whirlwind of misery and fury finally given voice and force. This close, Newt is able to hear the scream of a betrayed and devastated child nestled at the heart of the Obscurus, a cry that is painfully familiar. The Obscurus pounds the bridge overhead, shattering the masonry with a bone-shaking crack. Newt grabs Jacob’s shoulder and pulls him away from the Obscurus’ path in a desperate yank, and the two of them tumble into the snowy bank to the right of the bridge.
The chill seeps into his clothes as they cower in the snow. Newt presses Jacob down by his shoulder to make him as small a target as possible. There is no reasoning with an Obscurus, and if either of them draw attention to themselves they could become collateral damage on the Obscurus’ path towards avenging itself against whoever has wronged its host. Instead, he stares after the destruction left in the Obscurus’ wake and thinks in shocked indignation how could they? He’s not sure who he means by that: the people responsible for traumatizing this child, the onlookers who must know about what is going on and chose to say nothing, or the entire magical community who failed to find this lost child despite New York being the largest city in North America.
As his ears stop ringing, Newt is able to hear rapid footfalls in the proximity of the now ruined bridge. He angles his head to get a better look, and through the wreckage of broken stone he catches a glimpse of Miss Goldstein’s dark coat hem flapping behind her as she picks her way towards safety. How she managed to survive standing up there is beyond him.
He wants to run after the Obscurus and try and stop it before it hurts anyone else, wants to try and save the lost child whose anguish is sustaining it, but the seething shadow encased in magic in an isolated snowstorm is censure enough of his acting alone without more information. He needs to do better this time. Miss Goldstein is his only true source of information about the American wizarding world at the moment.
“Was that one of your creatures?” Miss Goldstein demands once she’s on steadier ground. Her eyes are wide and her short dark hair windswept, but her wand is steady as she points it at him. Newt’s had practice staring down law enforcement after a rescue missions goes awry, and he gives her grudging credit for her nerves of steel after being at ground zero while an Obscurus passes, but she’s not an Auror anymore. Even if she was, Miss Goldstein is at that moment a representation of everything that is so wrong with a wizarding community so repressed that an Obscurus could even exist.
“No, it isn’t.” The words are hot and sharp on his tongue, steeped in the smoldering anger that has propelled him forward since discovering that his charges are lost in New York, and tempered by the sick of horror of what he has just witnessed. “That is an Obscurus.”
Her face pales, but her wand tip does not move from its position. “That can’t be,” she says, scowling in incredulous disbelief. “An Obscurus? In New York? That’s impossible.”
“Clearly, it is possible,” Newt snaps.
“It must be something else,” Miss Goldstein insists. “There couldn’t be an Obscurus here. All of our children go to Ilvermorny when they’re of age. MACUSA makes sure of it.”
There’s nothing to say to refute this, and so Newt returns Miss Goldstein’s glare.
“What’s an Obscurus?” Jacob interrupts. Newt and Miss Goldstein both look at him, and he puts his hands up as if to placate an angry beast. “Sorry,” he mutters, looking at the two of them warily.
“An Obscurus is a parasite that lives on an Obscurial,” Newt explains quickly. “A witch or wizard, no more than ten, who has been taught to hate and fear their magic in the worst ways. They repress their magic because they can’t bear to have it, but it won’t be repressed, exploding whenever they’re afraid or angry or miserable.”
“That’s why it’s impossible,” Miss Goldstein insists. “We’d never allow something like that to happen.”
“But…” Jacob continues, slow and careful. “What if it’s not one of you wizard types. What if it’s one of us — a ‘No-Maj’.” He says the word carefully, as if it were a foreign word whose meaning he’s not quite sure about. Newt concedes that perhaps in this case that is exactly what it is. “You have magic types born into No-Maj families?”
“Yes, of course,” Newt says. “They’re taken to Hogwarts at the age of eleven, same as everyone else.”
Miss Goldstein shakes her head, a quick, agitated movement that tells him little. “That wouldn’t matter,” she says, sounding sick. “You said that the Obscurial would be no older than ten. That’s too young for Ilvermorny.” She straightens, brushing snow off the hem of her coat. “We have to find them.”
“Now?” Jacob sounds incredulous.
“It’s going to kill someone,” Newt says distantly. He’s seen the destruction that an Obscurus can wreak, and it would be terribly easy to tear a building down and kill thousands on its way to lash out at whoever had hurt its Obscurial and make them suffer more than the child did. “That’s what happens when an Obscurus gets loose. It kills people, destroys property. It’s a scared child who finally can hit back at whatever hurt it.”
“Yeah?” Jacob asks, eyes wide. “But how? I mean we’ve been running all over town trying to find your animals, and there’s only a few of them. There’s five and a half million people living in New York.”
Miss Goldstein sighs in defeat. “He’s right,” she says, tucking her wand back into her coat. “We can check the underage magic registry, but we can’t do that until tomorrow. There’s too many people to knock on every door.”
That may be so, but there are still several creatures lost in New York and Newt is responsible for their safety. He starts to walk off only for Miss Goldstein to catch his elbow.
“What are you doing?” she asks. “Didn’t you just hear what I said?”
“I did,” Newt says and tries to pull away. Her grip is surprisingly strong. “But there are a number of scared beasts out in the streets tonight and I’m the only one who seems to care at all.”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” she tells him, ignoring the heat in his voice. “You need to rest tonight. We can search for your missing beasts tomorrow morning.”
“I thought magical beasts were forbidden in New York.”
“They are.” Something in her voice stops Newt in his attempts to shake her off. “But tomorrow we’re going to need you to find the Obscurial. Aren’t we?”
“Yes,” Newt says, voice colorless. “I suspect I’m the only person in North America who’s ever seen one for any length of time and lived.”
“They’ll be safe for one night,” Miss Goldstein says. "Your monsters, I mean."
It takes Newt a moment to realize that she’s trying to comfort him, aided in part by Jacob’s exaggerated facial expressions. “Thank you,” he says. “I appreciate your assistance, Miss Goldstein.”
Her mouth twists. It’s not quite a smile. “Call me Tina.”
He picks up his suitcase from the snowdrift, brushing loose snow from its surface with his other hand and sets off back to the Goldsteins’ apartment, ears cocked and eyes searching for any sign of his missing creatures. He can hear Jacob’s sigh behind him, and then the two of them moving to catch up to him and, in Tina’s case, overtaking him.
Under the silent regard of the Obscurus he had previously entrapped inside a magical cage, Newt reviews what he knows about Obscurials. It isn’t a lot. They were considered eradicated with the advent of wizarding schools, relegated to footnotes in textbooks much like how Muggles would write “here be dragons” in areas they had not explored themselves. Newt had discovered slightly more, such that their hurt fury was calmed somewhat by cold air, the colder the better. He’d also learned that using an Asclepius Charm to prise an Obscurus from their Obscurial was delicate work that could go catastrophically wrong, both for the Obscurial and everything around them.
“I don’t suppose you know what I did wrong with you,” he says to the Obscurus. If there is any meaning in the way its smoky form twists and turns, he cannot discern it. He has kept it here, half-frozen, in the hope that one day he will learn of a way to end its suffering. He hasn’t come up with one yet.
His watch chimes and he looks at his wrist, exposing as little of his shirt sleeve to the frigid air as possible as he pushes his coat sleeve back. The watch reads “Being Looked For”, which Newt supposes is to be expected. He had not told anyone where he was going, merely exchanging an awkward smile with Jacob as he stepped into his suitcase several hours before. Still, he takes the time to check on each of his charges as he makes his way back to the ladder leading to the outside world. They all seem to be asleep, barely noticing his passage, and quickly settling back to sleep as they recognize this scent. Newt smiles crookedly at this: it’s been a long road to reach this point but he thinks he is finally making progress.
The smile is wiped off his face as he opens his suitcase. Tina is sitting on the bed Jacob had used the previous night with a newspaper in front of her. He cannot read the print, but her harried expression suggests the news is not good. Her expression doesn’t change as she looks down at him.
“Ah, sorry about that,” he says as he finishes entering the living room. “Had some … some things to attend to.”
“There’s been another attack,” Tina says abruptly, folding the newspaper. “A No-Maj politician. I don’t understand — why would any of us care about No-Maj politics?”
Newt remembers Jacob’s theory that the Obscurial is a Muggleborn and says nothing. Newt had tried several times on the way home to encourage Tina to consider that the Obscurial was not from a magical family, but Tina had been adamant that all Muggleborn — or No-Maj born, as she called it — children were kept under surveillance by trainee Aurors to ensure that Rappaport’s Law was not broken even by accident. She was equally adamant that no child could possibly be overlooked, and they were always recorded in the magical register. It’s an argument he’s not willing to rehash at this point.
“MACUSA’s in a panic,” Tina goes on. “We don’t have time to waste.”
“Will we be able to get inside?” Newt asks as he snaps his case closed. The charm on one of the latches doesn’t operate as it should, and it takes him a few tries to force the latch closed. He makes a note to cast a new charm on it when he gets a chance. “I didn’t think you’d be allowed away from your desk.”
Tina colors. “You leave that to me,” she says decisively. “Once I tell President Picquery about the Obscurus, we’ll be allowed to look at the register.”
“I suppose you’d know best,” Newt says, shrugging.
Tina looks like she’s about to reply, only to stop at the sound of a lock turning in a door. Newt cocks his head at the sound, and Tina radiates the fierce intensity of a wary animal. He can hear Jacob greet the new arrival, meaning that it must be Queenie. That, strangely, does little to ease Tina’s tension.
“She shouldn’t be home,” Tina mutters. “Something’s going on.” She stands up, sweeping the wrinkles on the coverlet away with her hand, and opens the door of the bedroom decisively. “Queenie?” she calls. “Shouldn’t you be at work now?”
Newt follows Tina into the living room. Queenie has already taken off her winter coat and hung it on the back of the chair she is sitting on, and is finger-combing her blonde curls into submission. Jacob is sitting across from her, his back to Tina and Newt, but Newt doesn’t need to see Jacob’s face to know what it looks like. It likely is a mirror of Queenie’s, only without the understanding that this fun flirtation will end by tomorrow.
“Oh, there you are,” Queenie says. Jacob turns in his seat to see the two of them. “I was at work, but something happened just now that I thought you should know.”
“What?” Tina asks warily.
“I was serving tea in a meeting with President Picquery about the recent attacks on No-Majs, and I heard one of the people at the meeting thinking about you.”
“Me?” Tina sounds as confused as Newt feels.
“Uh huh,” Queenie says. “They sounded European. Not like you,” she clarifies, smiling sweetly at Newt. “But different somehow. I didn’t recognize anything but Tina’s name.” She looks at Tina earnestly. “I thought it was peculiar because no one spoke with that accent.”
“Are you sure?” Tina asks. “You weren’t picking up someone else from outside?”
“I’m sure,” Queenie says. “There was definitely someone in that room thinking about you and sounding … European.”
“I don’t understand,” Newt says. “What does that mean?”
“I don’t know,” Tina sighs. She shakes her head dismissively. “That doesn’t matter right now. We need to focus on finding the Obscurial first. We can worry about that later.”
“The Obscur — oh!” Queenie says, eyes wide. She looks at Jacob in excitement. “I’d love to, hon. Just let me change my shoes into something more practical.”
Tina looks momentarily confused, and then understanding dawns on her face like an early-morning storm. “No,” she says firmly. “Absolutely not. It’s far too dangerous.”
“What?” Newt asks, as Queenie ignores Tina to head into what Newt assumes is their shared bedroom.
“I was just thinking…” Jacob begins, his mouth twisted in a cringe as Tina turns her glare on him. “She’d be helpful. She’s got that legitmency thing.”
“Legilimency,” Newt corrects absently. He hadn’t considered Queenie’s legilimency abilities when trying to come up with a plan to identify the Obscurial, but it would be far more efficient than checking the underage magic registry to see if any young wizards had used magic during the night and then investigating each one of them. If Queenie is able to identify individual people within a group, then it would be a matter of her simply walking past their Obscurial. That is, if they could get her into the right place to begin with.
Newt doesn’t consider himself a particularly suspicious person, merely appropriately cautious. But he has to wonder if they’re not seeing something obvious.
“Is there any interaction between the wizarding world and Muggles?” he asks Tina, who shakes her head.
“Rappaport’s Law is very strictly enforced.”
“But that can’t be right,” Newt says slowly. “The woman at the bank yesterday — she knew about the magical world.”
“She’s a Second Salemer,” Tina says, as if that explained anything. “A descendent of a Scourer.”
Newt shakes his head. “A what?”
“Surely you’ve heard of the Salem witch hunts,” Tina says impatiently. “They were in part started by wizards. After that, they married No-Majs. It’s why we’re living in secret - they know about magic and hate it. We keep an eye on the Second Salemers as a precaution.”
“Ah,” Newt says. He’d known that witch hunts in Europe were far less devastating than the American equivalent — everyone had known that — but he hadn’t known that there were Muggles who knew all about the wizarding world. He would have thought that the American magical world would have aggressively removed any trace of them in these Second Salemers’ lives, given how zealously they enforced Rappaport’s Law.
“At least now we know where to find this Obscurial” Jacob comments.
“The Second Salemers?” Tina asks incredulously. “They’re monitored constantly by Aurors. There’s no way one of them could be a witch or wizard without us knowing.”
“Are you sure, Tina?” Queenie says, exiting her room. She stamps her boot heels against the floor twice, and nods slightly in satisfaction. “Weren’t you the one monitoring them?”
“Not officially,” Tina says, which casts a new light on the American wizard who told her at MACUSA headquarters to stay away from them. “It’s Auror Graves whose responsible for that. But he’s very respected. There’s no possibility he would miss something like this. Besides, you’re not going.”
“We’ll need her,” Newt says.
“No,” Tina says firmly. “She’s not an auror.”
“Nor are you at the moment,” Newt says, trying to ignore the look of hurt betrayal on Tina’s face and failing. “A Legilimens would be able to tell us which one’s a witch or wizard. If we don’t take her, we’ll have to test every single one of them and wipe their memories afterward.”
“It’ll be okay,” Queenie adds, slipping on a winter coat and tying it up. From the way Jacob sighs, it must be very fetching. “You just leave that to me.”
“I don’t like it,” Tina mutters. “There’s got to be a better way.”
Newt bends down to pick up his suitcase to avoid meeting Tina’s gaze. He’s not sure what to say, and is perturbed that he even cares that he wants to comfort her in the first place. He clears his throat as he straightens. “If you see any magical creatures, tell me. There’s still a few missing.”
“Not a problem,” Jacob says.
“Let’s go!” Queenie says brightly, tucking her hand into the crook of Jacob’s elbow. Jacob beams.
Finding the Second Salemers has proven to be more difficult than initially expected. Tina has taken them on a whirlwind tour on all the places that she knows that the Second Salemers usually frequent, but they have had no luck. The most they had found was a brochure, weather beaten and waterlogged in the melting snow of the sidewalk. Tina quickly dismisses it as being too old.
“They recycle their sermons,” she had offered in way of explanation as she tossed it in the rubbish bin. “This one has to be at least a day old, as eight days ago they were doing this one outside Grand Central.”
Newt had had more luck in locating the rest of his animals. It’s a relief, to say the least, to know that his charges are all safely back in his care. No one else seems to agree as much as Newt would like, but he’s used to that now.
The four of them come to a stop near a busy intersection to reassess their options. Tina looks frustrated, Queenie abstractly pensive, and Jacob is wiping away sweat from his brow with a handkerchief.
"Is there some kind of magic thing you can use to find them?” Jacob suggests, after looking around to make sure no one else can hear them.
“If we had more time I could enchant a map of New York,” Tina says. “But that kind of charm work would take more time than we have. Weeks of work, if not months. We don’t have that time.”
Newt looks at her with renewed interest. He’s familiar with the charm she’s referring to, though it’s not one that he’s had to use himself. He’s never really had to search out the locations of magical creatures, as people will often quite willingly tell him where they are along with such useless information as "keep away", "beware the monster", or "it’ll kill you as soon as look at you". That said, it’s impressive how casually she shrugs off how complicated such a charm would be to cast, and Newt feels a pang of sympathy for her. It seems that regardless of where you are, being a civil servant means being shunted into roles you aren’t suited for, especially when in her case it seems she was a very good Auror. It’s a waste. She deserves better.
“It’s a good idea,” Queenie reassures the crestfallen Jacob, and then stops, arrested by something only she can hear. She darts into a nearby alley, the soft cream of her coat shockingly pale in the shadowed narrow path. She doesn’t go far - Newt cranes his head to see what had caught her attention as he reaches into his pocket for his wand. For a brief, heart-stopping moment, he sees nothing but a smoky wraith that hurt his eyes to look upon. Then he blinks and sees instead a cringing young man press his back against the rough-hewn walls, staring at Queenie with startled dark eyes. He looks familiar, but Newt can’t quite place where he has seen him before.
“It’s you, isn’t it?” Queenie asks the young man.
Newt’s breath catches. He had expected a child raised to hate magic and too young to understand that not everything they had been told was true. He had not expected a young man who must have some control over his magic to have lived so long. That meant they have time, an unexpected gift that Newt is determined not to waste.
The young man says nothing in response to Queenie’s question, instinctively hunching his shoulders against a blow that never falls.
She looks around, and her voice has a thread of abstracted confusion as she continues. “Oh honey, he’s not coming today. I don’t know where he is.”
The young man’s eyes dart to each of them in turn.
“What are you …?” he says.
“We’re just like you. You’re a wizard.”
“I know,” he says, which isn’t quite the response that Newt was expecting. Not the knowledge about his magical potential, but instead the calm way in which he says it. “Mister Graves told me.”
“Auror Graves?” Tina asks sharply.
The young man jumps in surprise and stares at her, his fright melting into something more abstract as he looks at her properly. He shakes his head incrementally, as if waking from a dream or trying to put his thoughts in order. There’s a dim light of recognition in the way he holds his head while staring at Tina, and Newt is reminded that she’s been told to stay away from the Second Salemers.
“Do I know you?” he says, a quizzical frown pinching his brow.
Tina shakes her head once in a short, curt movement. “No.” It’s an answer that does not lend itself to further inquiry, and the young man doesn’t offer one.
“Credence? Where have you gone?”
Newt looks around for the speaker and sees a middle-aged woman with jaw length dark hair. She’s standing a short distance down the road, looking around her immediate surroundings with obvious annoyance. He recognizes the voice before the face, as he remembers the way she had challenged him on the steps to the bank the previous day. With that in mind, he can recognize this Credence as well. He had been standing next to her, head bowed, as he held pamphlets out to an unreceptive audience.
“I have to go,” Credence whispers, ducking his head as he slips past them into the street.
The woman turns to glare at him as he approaches her, shoulders hunched and gaze downcast. “What are you doing in there? Come along.”
“Sorry,” he mutters.
“Who were you talking to?” the woman says as Credence walks in her wake.
“Well?” she demands. Her voice snaps like the crack of a whip, and Credence flinches.
“I - I don’t know,” he mutters. “Just some people. They wanted directions or something.”
The woman says something but the words are lost in the roar of a car engine accelerating through the intersection and a chorus of horns as the car cuts everyone else off.
The four of them look at one another, dumbfounded.
Jacob is the first to speak. “I thought you said that Obscurials were kids?”
“They normally are,” Newt says.
“Are you sure it’s him?” Tina asks Queenie, who nods emphatically.
“Absolutely.” Queenie sighs, looking out to the street. “He’s so sad and angry. Is there anything we can do?”
“Could you find him again?” Jacob asks. “With your uh - mind reader thingy?”
“She doesn’t need to,” Tina says. “I know who he is. He’s Credence Barebone. Adopted son of Mary-Lou Barebone, a Second Salemer.”
“He’s met you before,” Newt says. “Is that why you were told to stay away from them?”
“Yes.” Tina bites the word out with almost painful precision. “I found her beating him and intervened.”
“And Graves told you to stay away.” It’s not a question. A terrible, ugly suspicion is dawning on him about Graves’ intentions. Newt’s not sure what an Auror is authorized to do in the United States, but he thinks that even with as harsh as MACUSA seems to be it’s unlikely he’d be authorized to allow a magical child to be beaten into an uncontrollable weapon. There must be something else going on.
“It must be some kind of secret operation,” Tina mutters to herself, but even she doesn’t sound that confident.
“I don’t know anything about this magic stuff,” Jacob says, “but you said it’s gotta be a scared kid, right? What’s she gonna do to him now? I think she saw us.”
Newt draws his wand. “We’ll just have to beat them there.”
“Are you going to apparate with him?” Tina asks, jerking a nod at Jacob.
Newt bristles. “I’ve done it before.”
It is then that Newt realizes that the emotion threaded in her earlier question is appreciation rather than skepticism. He’s not sure what to make of that. He clears his throat instead. “Let’s be off. Where are we apparating to?”
“Yes. Right.” Tina looks away herself and then recites the address.
Newt pretends he doesn’t see the looks that Jacob and Queen exchange as he apparates himself and Jacob to the address specified by Tina.
In the split moment between one place and the next, Newt realizes something has gone terribly awry. Rather than appearing smoothly in the next location, the two of them slide off an anti-Apparation charm, spilling them into the street to land heavily on the cobblestones below. Newt shakes his head to clear it as Tina and Queenie arrive shortly afterward, equally dazed.
“An anti-Apparation charm?” Tina sounds incredulous. “That wasn’t there the last time I was there.”
“Maybe it’s to do with the meeting with President Picquery?” Queenie wonders. “After all, this time it was a No-Maj politician.”
“Maybe,” Tina allows. “It could be to contain the Obscurus until the Aurors get there.”
Newt shakes his head. “An Obscurus could tear through a charm like that without even noticing.”
“It’s a magic thing to keep you guys out?” Jacob says. “So … who can do those?”
“Anyone could, but only …”
“Only Auror Graves would be authorized,” Newt says, and sees the confirmation in Tina’s face. The horrible feeling congeals into something more solid and sickening.
“You mean, the same guy who told that kid he’s a wizard?” Jacob asks. “That … doesn’t sound good.”
“There’s got to be a reasonable explanation,” Tina breathes, more to herself than to anyone else. Newt’s never had a working relationship like the one that Tina seemed to have with Graves, but he finds himself sympathizing with her anyway.
“We should hurry,” he says instead of anything clever or meaningful. He sees Jacob extend a hand to help Queenie to her feet and thinks of doing the same for Tina. However, she is already rising to her feet, and smiles crookedly at his half-extended hand before glancing over at Queenie and Jacob, and then overhead in search of landmarks. She nods after a moment.
“It’s not far. We’ll get our answers then,” she says firmly. She brushes herself off and stalks down the street like a tiger on the prowl. Jacob nods at Newt and then at Tina, but his meaning is lost on Newt. He sighs in exasperation and follows her.
Tina takes the lead once again, weaving them through the unfamiliar streets of New York, plunging across the roads without even a glance for the oncoming traffic. Despite the grim circumstances, Tina seems lighter on her feet, buoyed on by their mission, and that energy suffuses her voice as she urges them onward.
It’s the same urgency that drives Newt on. He had been too late in the past, coming up with a solution only as the Obscurus leached away the life of a young witch. It’s the fear of failure that drives him on now, the thought of too late, too late, too late, with each footfall.
She stops outside a house that looks like its seen better days, and takes a moment to straighten her coat and fix her hair. She frowns at Newt and he looks away, feeling as if he has been caught out and is not sure why. Instead, he knocks on the door, heart in his throat.
The door opens. Credence is on the other side, staring at them, but doesn’t close the door in their faces. The longing in his face as he recognizes them is painful to see, especially as Newt is not sure that he has any true answers to Credence’s plight.
“Mister Barebone,” Tina begins, brisk and businesslike.“We’d like to talk to you about something.” She looks around, reaching into her coat for where Newt knows she keeps her wand. “Is your mother around?”
“No. It’s just me here.” Credence looks at each of them in turn before asking, already half-cringing, “Who are you?”
“Newt Scamander,” Newt offers absently, listening for signs of Mary-Lou Barebone’s return.
“I’m Queenie and this is my sister, Tina.” Queenie dimples charmingly. “That’s right, you have. You just don’t quite remember it.”
“Don’t undo the memory charm,” Tina sighs. “It’s there for a reason.”
“Did you do magic on me?” Credence asks. His voice is soft, but there’s a suspicious edge to it. Newt reminds himself that a frightened Obscurial can lash out dangerously to protect himself if he feels threatened.
“Yes,” Tina says, demonstrating that she is as recklessly brave as any Gryffindor that Newt has met. “It’s the law — no No-Maj can know about us. Not that you are one, but at the time, I thought you were.”
Strangely, this eases the hard, wary tension that has driven Credence’s shoulders up in a defensive shield. “That’s what Mister Graves said too. Isn’t that unfair though? They don’t have powers, not like us. Why should we be afraid of them?”
“It’s necessary,” Tina says.
“It’s not,” Newt mutters, because truly it isn’t. Wizarding Britain has gone along quite nicely without obliviating every Muggle that stumbles into their world, and witches and wizards aren’t afraid of Muggles. Baffled by, certainly, but the fear that has permeated every part of the American wizarding world just wouldn’t happen in Britain.
He is, however, disquieted by what Credence has said, and remembers that so far every victim has been a Muggle. He had suspected that Graves had gone rogue, but thought that his actions were about furthering his own immediate interests. He hadn’t considered that Graves might be a dark wizard. Had Grindelwald’s influence stretched as far as America? Perhaps he should have read the Daily Prophet rather than using it as lining for nests.
“What else did Auror Graves say to you?” Tina asks.
Credence looks conflicted, his gaze down at his feet.
“You’re not in trouble,” Tina adds. “We just need to know.”
“He said once I found this magical child he’d introduce me to the magical world,” Credence says finally, his voice low and quiet. “He said it was important, that if they weren’t found then they could hurt a lot of people.” He swallows. “That’s what’s going on, isn’t it? I read it in the paper. That senator …”
“You don’t need us to tell you that,” Queenie says gently. “You already know.”
“I suspected.” He bows his head. “I didn’t want it to be Modesty. Mother wouldn’t like that at all.”
“She’d hurt her?”
Credence freezes in place, and then nods in a painful jerk. “It’s for the best. My magic can hurt people.”
“It doesn’t have to,” Newt says urgently. “You can control it.”
He realizes he has made a terrible mistake when Credence looks at him, something dark and wild in his eyes. “But … Mister Scamander, maybe they deserve it.”
An animal that has been abused will be wary, over-sensitive to perceived threats, and requires specialist expertise to handle. Newt knows this, as it has been his life’s work to understand and care for fantastic beasts. Credence is no different, but Newt does not know how to understand and care for him.
“Hey, kid,” Jacob breaks in.
“I know all you’ve seen so far is the bad stuff. But this guy —" and Jacob points to Newt — “has a zoo in his suitcase.”
Credence looks down at the suitcase in Newt’s grip with renewed interest. Newt fiddles with the loose clasp.
“You said you’ve been speaking with Auror Graves,” Tina continues. “When will you be seeing him again?”
“I don’t know,” Credence says. He adds, “I was meant to see him earlier, but … I met you instead…"
Newt supposes that would explain what Credence was doing in the alley in the first place. He asks Tina, "Do you think he might come here?"
Tina nods once, a sharp, inelegant jerk. “Yes. He knows where the Barebones family lives. MACUSA always has, because of the threat they posed.”
“Threat?” Credence asks.
“We can talk about that later,” Tina equivocates. “For now, we need to get you out of here.”
It’s a fair question.
“When I told you that I was here to see a magical creature breeder, that wasn’t completely true,” Newt says. Tina looks startled and irked, Jacob confused, and Queenie grins in delight. “I have a magical creature to return to Arizona. A Thunderbird.”
“A Thunderbird,” Tina repeats heavily. “You brought a Thunderbird into New York. Why am I surprised? It didn’t get loose, did it?”
“No,” Newt says. “If everything went to plan, I would have used your Floo Network to travel there through Chicago and Denver. Assuming we move quickly, we should be able to elude MACUSA’s security.”
“There’s a lot of open space in Arizona,” Tina says. Newt understands what she is not saying: there are a lot fewer people there at risk of being killed, if Credence loses control of himself before Newt can prise the Obscurus from his magic.
“It is,” Queenie says to Credence, who looks startled at her answering an unspoken question. “I wish I could go.”
“I don’t know if I can go,” Credence mumbles. “What will Mother say?”
“Sweetie, you have to go,” Queenie says, as if it is something that Credence has already known and accepted. “You always were going to leave. Why not now?”
“A young man like you should travel,” Jacob adds. “Don’t worry. We’ll keep an eye on your sisters for you.” He looks across at Queenie as he says it, who nods enthusiastically. Newt isn’t sure how that will work given that the Goldstein sisters have obliviate Jacob as soon as possible. Though, perhaps they won’t. They haven’t yet, he’s stopped being necessary several hours ago, and there are the flirtatious glances that Jacob and Queenie keep exchanging when they think Newt or Tina aren’t watching.
“Besides,” Tina adds. “You can’t stay in New York. There’s a task force looking for you.”
Credence flinches. “Because I killed those No-Majs?”
“Because of how you killed them,” Tina clarifies. “You’re a danger to New York as you are.”
“I could use the help,” Newt says into the awkward silence that follows Tina’s words. “If you’re willing to learn.”
“Mister Scamander.” He takes a shaky breath and starts again, more steadily this time. “Why are you doing this?”
There are any number of responses that Newt could provide. He discards all of them. While he wants to make up for his past mistakes, while he wants to pay forward the generosity of his benefactors who allowed him to travel to write his book, and while he knows that it’s his duty to stand up against whatever is keeping Credence ignorant, there’s really only one true answer.
“Because it’s right,” he says simply. He turns to Tina. “Where’s the Floo station?”
She gives him directions which seem easy enough to follow. Credence seems to understand them in any event. When she’s done, the two of them look at each other awkwardly.
Tina acts first, removing her hand from her pocket to shake Newt’s. As he accepts her handshake, there’s a sting in his palm. He blinks in surprise, and Tina smiles sheepishly.
“Sorry,” she says. “Must be static electricity from somewhere.” She looks at the two of them. “Good luck.”
“Thanks,” Newt says. They’ll need it.
Newt remembers being told that the Floo station is a squat building at the end of winding streets, charmed to keep Muggles from entering. The two of them have found the streets, but getting through the charms is uncomfortable as there’s simply too many to dispel quickly. The charms are terribly dense, stinging him when he brushes up against them, and make their passage torturously slow.
Credence is brushing at his skin with quick, agitated strokes. He shakes his head in confusion.
“I don’t understand, Mister Scamander,” he says. “There’s nothing here. I’ve been here hundreds of times and there’s nothing for me here.”
“Really?” Newt asks, slowing to a stop. “Why did you keep coming if you thought that there was nothing here?”
“I followed Mister Graves once,” Credence says, as if confessing a great sin. “He went in here and disappeared. I wanted to know where he went.” I wanted to go where he went, was left unspoken.
“And there was no building at the end?” Newt asks. Credence shakes his head.
“Why?” Newt doesn’t expect Credence to have an answer. There’s no reason to hide the wizarding world from wizards, even an untrained one like Credence.
Newt looks around warily. “This isn’t right,” he mutters. “There should be more people than this.” He reaches into a pocket inside his coat and pulls out a vial of Demiguise saliva. The vial itself is invisible, and Newt only knows where the seal is by touch. He pulls the stopper out and hands it to Credence.
“What is this?”
“Drink it,” Newt says. “It’ll make you invisible. And stay where you are.”
Credence does as he is told, not wasting time arguing or asking about Newt’s plan, and disappears before Newt’s eyes. That done, Newt starts to walk briskly back the way they came, hoping that Credence will stay in hiding where he left him. He is certain now that he is walking into the teeth of a trap, the hairs on the back of his neck prickling, breath shallow and quiet. It’s not the first time he’s used himself as bait, but it is the first time he’s done it without extensive research into the creature he intends to rescue, let alone as bait for a suspected subverted Auror.
As he rounds the fourth corner from the main street, he’s not quite running, muttering counter-spells under his breath. The oppressive feel of the air eases slightly as he hits on the right counter-spell to undo some of the charms in the area, and Newt shakes his head fractionally in disbelief. Whatever trap he has walked into, the caster must be extraordinarily paranoid. He increases his rate of counter-cursing, undoing new spells that if triggered would tear into flesh, turn the air in his lungs into water, trap him in ice, or drown him in a never-ending sleep.
He’s so caught up in undoing the spells that he fails to notice at first that the distance between the fourth and third corner is much longer than it should be. He stops undoing the spells and starts running. He has in his suitcase a beast that can tear down these sorts of charms like tissue paper, but Sally is shy and easily startled and he doesn’t know if he has the time to coax her out of her protective burrow.
It’s as he reaches the halfway point between the fourth and third corners that he’s finally attacked. Not from the charms and curses that lie quiescent along the walls, but instead from behind, by a wizard whose voice he remembers but doesn’t recognize. His legs are entangled in a jinx, spilling him to the floor where he lands painfully, unable to catch himself with his hands. His wand and suitcase slip from his grip but Newt cannot see where they fell, as he is pinned face down on the pavement by a ferociously strong spell that sparks across his body like a lightning strike. Pickett complains about his rough treatment from his pocket, which is some comfort at least.
Newt mutters a counter-jinx under his breath. It works, partially, and he raises his head to look for his wand, gritting his teeth against the pain that intensifies as he moves. It’s just out of reach. His suitcase is closer, and he can brush the cool brass latches. His fingers catch on the loose latch but he can’t quite flip it open.
Graves advances towards him deliberately, coat trailing in his wake and wand outstretched. Newt cannot look away, arrested by his gaze.
“I saw everything change,” Graves says, obviously aware of the effect that he has on people and savoring it. “At the centre of it was you. Who are you?”
“Newt Scamander,” Newt says, jerking his chin up in a nervous tic.
“Who? Ah. The magical creature lover.” It sound sordid in Graves’ mouth, as if Newt’s love and affection is something perverse and inexplicable. It’s familiar territory at this point. The next question, however, isn’t.
“Were you sent by Albus?”
Strong emotion twists Graves’ face, distorts his voice, and Newt has no idea what has inspired it in the first place.
“No,” Newt replies blankly. “Why would Dumbledore have sent me?”
“Why would someone studying magical creatures come to New York? They’re prohibited.”
“I know,” Newt says. “I was told that after I arrived.”
“You would have known beforehand,” Graves says dismissively. “You had some other reason to be here. But no matter.” He smiles. “Now, where is the Obscurus?” It is terrifying how quickly he shifts from naked fury to genial friendliness.
“I don’t know,” Newt says.
“Oh now, don’t lie to me,” Graves chides. “To protect the city, I’m authorized to use whatever force is necessary. Now where is the Obscurus?”
“I don’t know.”
Newt’s refusal doesn’t visibly anger Graves. Instead, he casts a curse. It’s not one of the Unforgivables, but Newt doesn’t have time to puzzle out which curse Graves is using. The curse feels like knives twisting inside him, alternating hot and cold, and hideously painful. He can’t see or hear, and his thoughts are consumed by agony.
It stops. The absence of pain is more shocking than the spell. His ears ring and it feels like every muscle aches. It’s hard to breathe and he pants to try and catch his breath.
“Try to remember,” Graves suggests, as Newt’s hearing returns to him. “I know you know where it is. Now tell me. It’ll go easier for you.”
“I don’t know,” Newt gasps out.
Graves casts the curse again, and this time it takes a longer time for Newt to recover enough to register anything but pain.
“I can do worse,” Graves says. “Please don’t make me.” He even sounds regretful.
Newt sets his jaw and resolves to say nothing. He can feel Pickett crawl out from his pocket and hopes with desperate fervor that whatever Pickett is trying to do is not spotted by Graves. He doubts that Graves would be kind enough to let a creature, even one as small as Pickett, escape his wrath.
“I’m sorry,” Graves says, and casts the curse a third time. The pain is sharp, hideous, and aborted far more suddenly than Newt had expected from past experiences. He raises his head from where it has fallen forward, tries to focus his eyes, and then feels horribly sick. Credence is visible now, mouth open in shock and eyes dark with some unexpressed emotion. The demiguise’s power is fragile, and could easily be broken by an Obscurial about to lose control of themselves.
“Mister Graves,” Credence says. “Why didn’t you want me to join the wizarding world?”
“Credence?” Graves says in surprise. It’s hard to tell if it is an act or truly genuine. “What has happened to you?”
“Nothing, Mister Graves,” Credence says. He laughs. It’s wild, jagged, and terrible, and Newt shivers at the danger contained in it. “I just know what I am now.”
“Stay in control,” Newt says quietly.
“I don’t want to,” Credence says.
“You’re the Obscurial,” Graves says in wonder. He smiles like a proud father at Credence. “You’ve done well, Credence. Far better than I could have asked for.”
Newt stares at Graves in disbelief. He had assumed the whole time that Graves, at least, had known that Credence was the Obscurial he was looking for. To discover that Graves had had no idea seems peculiarly insulting.
“Why didn’t you want me to join the wizarding world?” Credence repeats, and points at Newt. “He said there was no reason why I couldn’t.”
“Is that what he told you?” Graves says, inclining his head at Newt. “That the wizarding world would accept you with open arms?” He shakes his head sadly. “That’s not true. I wish it were for you, Credence, but it’s not. He knows nothing of our history. Your adopted mother …” he sighs. “She gave you a name that would not be loved in the wizarding world: Barebone. Did she tell you what they did to wizards?”
“Did she tell you they were wizards once? That they married Muggles, threatened to expose us, and betrayed us every time? We didn’t fight back, and they exploited us. How could I bring you into the wizarding world, bearing that name, without showing them that you are a person to be trusted?”
“You couldn’t,” Credence says unhappily.
The use of the word Muggle attracts Newt’s attention. He’s been the only one using it since his arrival here, and it’s a predominantly European term. He remembers Queenie saying that there was someone in the debriefing meeting earlier that day who sounded European in their thoughts but not in their speech. He remembers Tina’s insistence that Graves would never go crooked, and he thinks what if.
He works harder to free himself. The jinx twists around him, binding him with slithering tendrils, but Graves’ distraction weakens it. He’s able to worm out of it enough that he can move his arms. He reaches out with grasping fingers for his suitcase and flips open the loose latch. He then reaches to the left of his suitcase for his wand, sliding it into his shirt sleeve carefully to hide it from view.
From here, it’s easy to mutter the counter-curse. He stays on the ground, pretending to be caught up in the jinx still. Hoping that Graves underestimates him enough to leave him an opening.
Not that it really matters, because Graves’ attention seems to be solely on Credence.
“Now, Credence,” Graves is saying. “It’s not too late. Now that I’ve found you, I can help you. I can save you. Haven’t I always helped you when you needed it?”
“I can teach you to harness that power. Control it rather than having it control you.” His voice drops, becomes more intimate. “You’ll never be hurt again when you can control your Obscurus.”
Newt had thought to disarm Graves. He now realizes that it is Credence who is the bigger threat, that Graves has hit on the very thing that Credence wants: to be able to stop anyone hurting him. Credence’s hurt and desire is painfully naked on his face, and Newt knows that he will only have one opportunity to persuade him otherwise. Newt’s never been good with words, never been able to find the right ones to win people to his cause rather than just annoy them. He’ll have to try anyway. It’s not just Credence’s life he needs to save, but the lives of everyone else that he might kill if Newt can’t persuade him.
“An Obscurus isn’t a weapon,” Newt interrupts. “It’s a monster that kills children. A tragedy. You deserve better.” He swallows. “At the end of my journey I’m returning to Britain. I can teach you spells on the way, and then introduce you to a professor at our school. He’ll know how to teach you properly, and make you in a proper wizard.”
“Who?” Credence asks.
Graves laughs darkly. “He would know what to do about an Obscurial, wouldn’t he?”
“What does that mean?” Credence asks.
“Didn’t he tell you?” Graves asks Newt. He looks across at Credence. “Dumbledore had an Obscurial as a sister. He killed her when she was fourteen, because she got in the way.”
This is something Newt hasn’t heard, and he inhales sharply. “What?”
Graves ignores Newt, keeping his attention firmly on Credence. “Would you trust your life to a man like that? You, who protected your sisters?”
Credence looks down, his expression hard to read.
“Why do you know so much about Albus Dumbledore?” Newt asks. "I've never heard of that, and it would be all over the news if it were true."
“It’s my job to know classified things,” Graves says simply. “Now, Credence. If you come with me, I’ll teach you everything I know about your magic. If you go with Mister Scamander here, then I can’t. I won’t force you. It must be your choice.”
“I …” Credence begins.
“Don’t go with him,” Newt says urgently. “You could have joined the wizarding world at any time. If you go with him, you’ll die. He doesn’t care about you. If he did, he would have taught you enough so you could control your magic. He didn’t. He wanted you to get hurt.”
Newt’s hand tingles, at the same time that he hears footsteps echoing down the alleyway, and Newt realizes what Tina has done. He had thought that their parting was incomplete, and now he knows he was right to think so: instead of shaking his hand goodbye she was slipping a surveillance charm on him.
“Drop the wand, Graves!” Tina calls, and Newt can’t help but smile at her and how alive she looks right now, wand out and expression fiercely determined, backed by what looks to be ten other wizards who also radiate an aura of competency.
Graves casts first, a scythe-like action that cuts towards her and the other wizards. The spell is blocked, and a flurry of spells fire back and forth between them. In the chaos, Newt uses the opportunity to prise himself completely free of Graves’ jinx. He throws himself at his suitcase, flipping the second latch open with desperate speed.
“Sorry,” he says as he reaches into his suitcase. There’s a trick to summoning beasts as he requires them, and he pulls out the Swooping Evil. “I’ll return you very soon, I promise.”
Credence is starting to shake as he takes on a wraith-like appearance. Graves spares a moment to look at him in awe. Newt seizes that opportunity to throw the Swooping Evil into Graves’ face while Tina casts a successful disarming charm.
The Swooping Evil latches onto Graves’ skull, and he stops fighting long enough to pull it away. As he does so his face changes: dark hair giving way to fair, one eye changing from brown to grey, the planes of his face shifting to an older man who Newt instantly recognizes. Every wizard would recognize Grindelwald, after all.
“What?” Tina says in surprise, still holding Graves’ wand. “It can’t be.”
Grindelwald looks at her, the wand in her hand, and then at Credence, before tossing the Swooping Evil back to Newt.
“It is,” he says. He smiles slightly and inclines his head to Credence. “We shall meet again in Europe,” he says. “I will come for you then. Be well, Credence.”
It’s a statement that has the ring of prophecy to it and stays with Newt as the Aurors wrap Grindelwald in binding spells to transport him to a cell.
The Aurors take down the charms hiding the Floo station and Newt sags in exhaustion. It’s been a long day, and now that the adrenaline has worn off, everything hurts from Grindelwald’s spell. He takes a moment, now that Credence is safely inside the Floo station waiting to leave, to check in on the Swooping Evil. It is back in its artificial habitat, and in dire need of milking, which he attends to quickly before stepping back out of his suitcase.
He blinks into the sunlight as it is reflected from the MACUSA’s president’s headdress.
“Mister Scamander?” she says in greeting. She sounds poised and courteous, and there is no suggestion that not so long ago there had been a major incident involving Grindelwald. “I’ve been wanting to speak with you.”
Newt is aware that he is sweaty, dirty, and despite having washed his hands he still smells of Swooping Evil venom. He doesn’t care. If MACUSA had been doing their job, then none of this would have happened. He straightens his vest. “Here I am,” he says briskly.
“You have authorization to take Mister Barebone to Arizona,” she says. “I will speak to the Minister for Magic about allowing Mister Barebone into Britain.”
“Thanks,” Newt says, if only because he had intended to smuggle Credence in whether he had permission or not. It’s nice to have it anyway, if only because smuggling a person may be more difficult than smuggling magical creatures in a suitcase. After all, magical creatures keep secrets about where they came from and cannot be tricked into revealing how Newt brought them to a safer environment.
“We will keep an eye on the other Barebone children. It seems likely that they’ll be accepted into Ilvermorny upon their eleventh birthdays. We won’t allow another Obscurial to exist in New York.”
It’s almost an apology. It really should be going to Credence, but none of the American wizards had met his gaze. Newt inclines his head in acknowledgement, if not appreciation.
“I should be going,” he says. “I’m sure the Ministry for Magic will be in touch.”
He starts to walk to the Floo station when he hears his name called. It’s Tina, who he does want to speak to, and so he stops.
“Hey,” she says, and brushes her hair back from her face in an awkward gesture.
“Hey,” he says. “It was clever work with the tracking spell.”
“Thanks,” Tina says. “I thought that Graves would have gone after you first.” She looks around, and over Newt’s shoulder, biting her lip nervously. “Where will you go after Arizona?”
“Of course. I should have guessed, with their dragon breeding program.”
Newt smiles briefly. “I do look forward to seeing it.”
“Yeah. I hear it’s a marvel.”
The wistful longing in her voice causes Newt to almost ask her to come with him, but he discards the idea. She has a life and a job here in New York, and he can’t ask her to uproot herself to travel to China with him.
“Will you be all right with him?” Tina asks.
“I don’t know,” Newt confesses. “But I think it’s important to try.”
“If you run into any trouble, I’m only an owl away.”
“I know.” He looks around to make sure that there is no one in earshot and says, more quietly, “Will you be removing Jacob’s memories of the last few days?”
“Rappaport’s Law is very strict. There are few exceptions.”
Few exceptions is different to no exceptions, which is what he suspects the Tina of a few days ago might have said. Then again, Queenie seems to be a person who was used to getting her way in the end, and he supposes that this would be no different.
“I’m sure between the two of you you can find one.” He remembers something he had done earlier, when he was washing his hands, and pulls out a small bag from his pocket. It grows larger and heavier as he lifts the shrinking charm, and he hands it across to Tina. “They’re Occamy shells. For his bakery. I’d love to try some when everything’s settled.”
Tina blinks in surprise at the weight of the bag, and nods. “We’ll find a way to send some to you.”
He knows that he should say something meaningful. He’s spent the last two days admiring Tina - her skill, her tenacity, her ability to rise to a challenge, and he is starting to suspect that she had been doing much the same thing. It’s a weird feeling. He’d like to stay in contact with her again, but the last girl he had asked that was Leda, and that had not ended well for anyone.
“I’m writing a book,” he says instead. “Would you like an advance copy?”
Her smile is beautiful in its self-conscious awkwardness. “I’d like that.”
“Okay,” he agrees. “I’ll be in touch.”
He waves awkwardly at her and she smiles and waves back.
Turning away from her and walking away was one of the hardest things he has done, and he makes a mental promise to be sure to write to her when he can. Perhaps it would be easier to write what he means to say rather than to say it.
Credence is just inside, his expression bemused as he stares at the fireplace. “Mister Scamander,” he says. “It’s empty.”
“It should be,” he says to Credence. “Now, stand in it, throw the powder down and say ‘Chicago’. You should be there in a jiffy. Wait for me when you get there.”
As Credence does so, Newt considers the events of the last few days. He had planned to simply stop in New York on his way forward. The last few days were quite a bit more exciting than he had anticipated, and he knew that when he caught his breath he’d have to check in with Dumbledore and explain what mess he has found himself in. Grindelwald’s prophecy is definitely something that Dumbledore will need to know in the future.
But for now, he has an adventure to go on, and a young wizard to save if he can. He takes his own handful of floo powder and flings himself off to Chicago.