The Ashwood house looked no different than it had yesterday. If one were to overlook the blood staining the light green walls and flooring. There was still quite a bit of blood on the corner of the mantle piece where Angela had presumably hit her head on the way down. Even with the bodies removed, Newt could still feel the remaining traces of dark magic used. Floating over his skin like an odor that seemed to be determined to linger.
The house reeked of death, bringing a dark cloud over the once happy home and marring it. The evil that had occurred here would settle for a long time. Calliope’s home would fester a wound that would take a long time to heal, and he knew first hands that those wounds often left permanent scars.
Even with permission to be here to retrieve things for his new ward, he had the oddest sense that he was intruding. Through the deafening silence, he found himself reminiscent of the Scamander family home. “Hidden from the world”, was what he would call it when he was younger and was yet to be aware of all the wrongdoings of the world. Playing with his brother through the orchards and helping his mother with the hippogriffs. Curling up with his father in the evenings while he read, tucked into his side while the man read to him with his deep, baritone voice.
He smiled at the memory, though it quickly disappeared when something light tapped his cheek. He jumped in surprise at Pickett trying to get his attention, the Bow Truckle not at all amused of having been ignored for so long. “I’m sorry,” he said sheepishly. “You’re right, let’s not get lost in thought, eh?”
Cautiously, he took light steps towards the Jesa still on the table by the fireplace. The candles and incense had long since burnt out, though the aroma still laid thick in the air, not at all matching the foul odor of dark magic. Heavy like ozone, but now matched with the lightest hints of jasmine.
The food had long since been removed, leaving only the two stone markers of her family name. He took them carefully, taking the silken tablecloth to wrap them up. Seeing as they were her family, it was only right that they fall into her care. He opened the case, using his wand to gently lower the items down there to his workshop until he could find a better place to put them.
He took the pictures off the fire place as well; not that there were many. Seoirse had no photos of his parents or of his brother and his wife. An old photo of Angela’s parents sat in the center, next a photo of Seoirse and Angela on their wedding day. On the opposite side, a moving photo of Calliope as a baby and then a recent one of her on her mother’s lap, giving a smile that would never be the same again.
“Ashwood had to have known the man who killed him,” Newt muttered to himself, closing the lid to his case. He made his way up the stairs, hands gripping the bannister tightly. “This whole case makes absolutely no sense.”
Pickett, in response, gave a chirp that could have meant: “I agree. It makes no sense.”
On the top landing of the stairs, there were only four doors. Angela and Seoirse’s room nearest the stairs, which he could not bring himself to go into. The bathroom sat across from them and the door on the other side, with a small yellow rain jacket hooked on the outside. Calliope’s room.
He pushed it open, eyes immediately assaulted with bright colors and blinding late afternoon sunshine. Her unmade bed tucked in a corner near the windows, perfect for a child to stick their head out and take in the New York City night. A desk sat near the other window, covered in crayons and other clutter. Random pictures of what looked to be her parents, a park and other scribbles lined the walls of her room, and he could not help but smile fondly.
With a complex twist of his wand, he conjured a small suitcase, only slightly less wide than his own. With another flick the dresser at the opposite end of the room opened, clothes spilling out and landing in the now opened suitcase lying on the floor, the closet door opening as well to bring out more. If Jacob were here, he thought with amusement as he shut the lid of the case once all the clothes were in, the muggle would be amazed. Even with all the spells he’d seen, their world never ceased to amaze him.
He sighed uneasily. Everyone seemed to be under the impression that because he was good with creatures, he would be good with children. Creatures, for all their diverse complexities, were fairly easy to understand. Children, especially small ones, were something else altogether. His creatures normally told him in their own ways when they needed something, or if something was bothering them. In her moments of unnerving silence, it was nearly impossible to know what Calliope was thinking. He was no legilimens like Queenie. Unless it was something fairly obvious he had no other way of knowing.
“Merlin’s beard,” he huffed to himself, picking up his case. He eyed Pickett still sitting on his shoulder. “I’m being ridiculous, aren’t I?”
Pickett, in response, patted him on the cheek. Newt wasn’t sure to interpret that as a conformation or a sign of comfort. He chose the latter.
“At least Percival will be able to help with this mess; she doesn’t seem to be so hesitant around him,” he thought back to when Percival had carried her out of the warehouse, daring anyone with eyes like steel to remove her. “He helped raise his younger sister so there’s that.”
That should have made the tension disappear, but it only lessened it slightly. However good with children Percival might be, the other man also wasn’t prepared for the task. His heart had warmed at the way Percival had stood up for the girl, even though it wasn’t professional at all to shout at her father’s family. His heart fluttered against his chest in a way in hadn’t done for a very long time.
Asking Theseus for advice would also be beneficial; he couldn’t deny that as much as he wanted to. His older brother would probably be over the moon at the idea of his little brother asking him for help. As much as he loved his brother, his hovering did nothing to smooth over their strained relationship.
Out of Calliope’s room and into the hall, he leaned against the wall, staring at the door that he had not ventured into yet. He glanced down at Pickett, who chirped at him in what sounded to be a reprimand. He smiled sheepishly. “Yes, I know it’s not polite to go through other people’s things,” dead or alive, he added to himself. “But there might be something; there has to be something in there that might let us know what happened.”
It was a long shot, the other aurors had already checked the office, but Newt wanted to see for himself. With a whispered, “Alohomora!” against the locked door, it pushed open with a gentle sounding creak. He stood in the entryway, momentarily unable to bring himself to step over the threshold. Death had cloaked itself over the room, just like it had the rest of the house. They had found Seoirse’s body up here, eyes frozen over in death.
Tucking his wand away, Newt was met with a surprising scene. His office was a mess, he realized as he found the courage to step in. From what little he knew of Seoirse, the man had been expectantly neat and organized. He was one of the few aurors Percival never needed to have rewrite his reports because of how systematized and coherent they were. His desk, across from Tina’s, never had a speck of dust on them. It seemed completely out of character for him to have his home office in such disarray.
The aurors must have taken whatever files they could find that might be relevant to the case. Or files that they didn’t want to have fallen into the wrong hands. He wasn’t too sure, but the office was now covered with paper they deemed useless. Quills scattered everywhere and a few ink bottles tip over and staining the wooden desk. Even the plants he kept on his windowsill had been removed.
Yet, something still didn’t feel right. Amongst the haphazardly tossed paper and open drawers, he had the nagging suspicion that someone else had been here. Another presence was in the house, and he instinctively drew his wand out from his pocket. The prickling sensation of nerves dancing along his skin made him tense, tightening the grip on his wand. Pickett, sensing trouble, crawled his way down to take refuge in his front pocket.
Footsteps, light and unhurried, stopped at the door’s entryway. Only a few feet from where Newt stood. He whipped around, wand at the ready when he met the intruder’s gaze. He froze, heart seizing in his chest. “Oh, it’s you.”
Those familiar eyes took in his anxious form, revealing nothing but cold, vague disinterest. The stranger smiled at him, as though they were old friends. Yet there was no warmth in his smile, only the merest hint that the man found something to be oddly amusing. Except Newt had no idea what exactly was so funny, only that this smile made him more on edge.
“Now, is that any way to greet me? Honestly Newton, I thought you were raised with better manners than that.”
“I should hardly think that you have any right to be commenting on my upbringing,” he answered, his voice clipped and chillingly polite. “Or any right to be standing in this house addressing me so casually.”
The stranger’s smile widened and familiar piercing gray eyes gleamed. “Perhaps not,” the man said with no hint of indignation. “But all the same, is that any way to greet someone you have not seen in a while?”
Newt pursed his lips. “What are you doing here?” he asked, careful to keep any suspicion out of his voice. “What interest could you possibly have in a vacant house?”
“Come now, Newton, there’s a bit more to this house, isn’t there?” the man brushed his question off easily. “What happened here is no secret. Every witch and wizard in the United States knows that a recently murdered highly esteemed Pureblood auror has broken their most sacred law by marrying a muggle. Even the British Ministry has caught word of it; nothing of this caliber has ever happened to M.A.C.U.S.A.”
“If I didn’t know you better, I’d say you are taking enjoyment out of this,” he sighed, the smallest amounts of irritation noticeable. “But yes, nothing like this has happened here before.”
“And the girl I presume is in the custody of M.A.C.U.S.A,” the man continued airily, stepping further into the office, forcing Newt to step back out of self-preservation. The man’s voice softened. “Yes, such a tragedy. To lose one’s parents in such a manner would rouse suspicion.”
Newt narrowed his eyes. “Do you happen to know who did this?” and even if the man did, he had no doubt that he wouldn’t tell him.
To his surprise, the man shook his head. His pale hand traced the carvings on the edge of desk interestedly, but not meeting Newt’s narrowed gaze. “Someone with their own goals, I imagine,” the man finally answered evenly. He then cocked his head. “Or perhaps someone who just wanted the muggle woman and her spawn out of their way.”
In spite of himself, he bristled at those words. “That “spawn” is a four-year-old girl,” he said firmly, forcing himself to push his anger back down. “The lesser good are no less than those whom you believe are greater.”
At that, Grindelwald’s one gray eye shone almost blue in the fading light of the sun. His hand lifted from the desk, only to fall back down lazily. “Those almost sound like Albus’s words,” he said softly, and if any remaining fondness was there, it did not show. “Well thought out, but foolishly sentimental.”
Newt shuffled awkwardly, feet nudging more papers askew. “Why are you here?” he asked again, abruptly changing the subject. “Being a well-known terrorist doesn’t leave you with much free time, I suspect.”
If being called a terrorist angered Grindelwald, he didn’t show it. Newt didn’t think it was likely; many called him that anyway. It seemed rather silly for him to get upset over a word, but Newt had seen many witches and wizards get upset over less. Grindelwald, however, merely ignored him with perfect ease.
“The girl,” Grindelwald began slowly, drawing out the words almost lazily. “I hear you and that Director Graves are taking her in as a ward. My sources tell me her father’s family didn’t receive the news quite as well as they hoped they would.”
So, there were spies in M.A.C.U.S.A then, Newt noted unsurprised. How could there not be? Grindelwald was more than capable to infiltrate the Magical Congress all on his own, but it would have been an opportune moment to get information from his spies while he searched for Credence. He would have to tell Percival about this at some point, though he suspected the man probably already knew. Narrowing down who were the spies, however, would be a long daunting task.
“The Ashwood’s are one of the few remaining Pureblood families in North America,” he stated shortly. “Their reactions were not surprising in the slightest.”
“An old family that immigrated here almost 300 years ago,” Grindelwald added, eyes on the spilt ink bottle as though it were somehow fascinating and worthy of his interest. “They left a branch back in England, but I heard they relocated to Paris in the early 1800s. Only one of them remains now, however.”
Newt frowned, and the slinking suspicion that there was more to what Grindelwald was telling him felt like an itch along his skull. “And that has something to do with the recent murder?”
“Perhaps,” Grindelwald began aloofly. “Or perhaps not. Yet it would be foolish to believe that this murder was a mere coincidence. On the contrary, I believe there is more at play here.”
The unease in his chest tightened, and Newt forced himself to speak. “Something unpleasant, I imagine.”
Grindelwald eyed him. “Have you ever heard of a wizarding family by the name of Cromwell?”
Cromwell? He knew of an Oliver Cromwell, an English muggle political and militaristic figure who lived in the early 1600s, but other than that, the name wasn’t familiar. He didn’t know of any wizards by that name, nor did the name sound of any significant importance in the current political climate.
“Can’t say that I have,” he answered lightly, warily watching as Grindelwald took a step forward. “I don’t see what that’s got to do with the Ashwood’s.”
“An old Pureblood family that seemingly all but disappeared. The main branch of the family; a couple and their four sons. All of them killed after they willingly murdered another member of a Pureblood family. Nothing truly noteworthy that history books would mention, but I do remember my Aunt Bathilda mentioning them while editing one of her works. Or so I believed, at the time.”
It was obvious to anyone what Grindelwald was referring to, and Newt couldn’t help but purse his lips tightly. “If you think that the Ashwood’s had something to do with the Cromwell’s end, I doubt even that would prompt you enough to show yourself to me in broad daylight. No, there’s something else. What is it?”
He was literally backed up against the wall, and the strained sound of Pickett chirping against the blue fabric of his coat was slightly muffled. The hand around his wand had grown sweaty due to how tight he was holding it, so badly now it was starting to shake. His jaw clenched decisively, and no matter how badly he wanted to tear his gaze away from Grindelwald, he refused to turn away.
“There is no need to look so defensive,” Grindelwald sighed, as if Newt were the one causing the thick tension in the room. “Despite what you make believe, this is merely a visit of informality. My only intentions are to speak with you.”
Newt snorted. “As much as I’d like to believe you, I am not silly enough to. Even if you are being truthful, there’s always something else you’re keeping to yourself.”
Grindelwald’s lips twitched. “You’re beginning to sound like him, Schätzchen.”
He flinched at the very word. “Don’t call me that,” he uncharacteristically snapped. “You have no right to-”
Grindelwald raised his hand in what appeared to be mock surrender. “There is no need to get upset, Newton. I was speaking the truth, despite what you want to believe.”
“As if I’d ever believe anything you’d have to say.”
Grindelwald ignored the biting remark, wand twirling in between his long pale fingers. The German wizard lifted it upwards languidly. The tip of it traced Newt’s face gently, and though a thousand voices in his head screamed at him to run, he remained frozen to the wall. Those mismatched eyes stared at him for what seemed like forever before clicking his tongue in disappointment.
“I see that you still resent me for using the Cruciatus curse on you. And for sending you to be executed,” he added, with a smallest, barest hint of indignity. “But you must understand that I could not let you interfere with my work.”
“So better to have me dead, then.”
The older wizard frowned. “You must think so little of me,” he mused, more to himself than to Newt. “However, I was on my way to retrieve you from the executioners. You just happened to be competent enough to save yourself.”
He ignored the pride that shone in those eyes, glaring at him instead. “You would have let them murder Tina and I; don’t pretend you now suddenly care about my well being,” he sighed, fighting the urge to run his hand through his messy auburn hair. “Now if you don’t mind, I have things to go do.”
He made his way to leave, pushing past the German when the older man called out. “You haven’t seen Credence around, have you?”
Newt froze, hand on his case almost loosening at the very mention of that name. Slowly, he turned back around. “What did you just say?” he asked in astonishment.
“Credence Barebones is alive.”
He shook his head in disbelief. That couldn’t be true; after being attacked by so many aurors, there was no chance that Credence was still alive. “Impossible,” he muttered. “While Credence may have been the longest living obscurial, there is no chance he could be alive after what they did to him.”
“I assure you, he is very much alive,” Grindelwald continued, ignoring his previous statement. “Currently, he is hiding out in Paris. Merlin knows how he managed to end up there without the authorities noticing.”
“Why are you telling me this?” he asked suspiciously. “If you think he’ll trust you again after all you did to him, you’re only deluding yourself.”
“There is a rumor circulating among our world that he is a member of the Lestrange family,” Grindelwald ignored him once more. “However, seeing as how a certain Lestrange family member keeps denying it, I can’t help but wonder if the rumor is perhaps merely that, a rumor. Or if a certain Lestrange is hiding something from the rest of the world.”
Leta, he knew whom Grindelwald was referring to instantly. Beautiful, but hauntingly sad Leta Lestrange who just like Newt, was an outcast. An odd duo; a Slytherin and a Hufflepuff as best friends until the even that happened in their sixth year. Even if speaking to her now caused nothing but old wounds to hurt, he wouldn’t allow anything to befall her.
“Leta’s got nothing to do with this,” he said curtly, forcing down his anger once more. “Whatever they’re gossiping about in England, it’s simply that, a rumor.”
“Conceivably, they might be simple rumors,” Grindelwald carried on amusedly. “Or she could be hiding something. It’s not as though she shared everything in her life to you. Even if she was your one and only friend.”
“Yes, you consider the Goldstein sisters friends. And that muggle,” Grindelwald interrupted brusquely, and Newt could have sworn he saw an expression of disgust cross his features. It was gone in a moment before a knowing smirk replaced it. “And your friendship with one Director Graves, now, perhaps there is something unspoken there, hm?”
Inside him, something curled unpleasantly at the implication. “There is nothing there,” he retorted coolly, even though his heart beat had quickened at the very thought of Percival. “If you even think of going after him, I-”
“Contrary to what you may believe, Newton, your dear Percival is of little interest to me now,” Grindelwald said breezily, brushing Newt’s anger aside once more. “I got what I needed from him, and when he was of no more use to me-”
“You left him to die!” Newt interrupted hotly, and with that, annoyance flashed in those eyes. He swallowed down the fear, nails digging into his palms to anchor himself. “Whatever explanation you might have, I have no desire to hear.
Grindelwald fell silent, staring at him as though he were the most interesting specimen of human he’d ever seen. Aside from the creaks of the old house and the occasional brush of wind against the window, even the outside world seemed to be at a standstill. The noise of New York City had all but faded away, leaving behind what sounded like faint hums against his ears. Those piercing eyes, fixated on his soul, searching for something they were desperately seeking to find.
Finally, the German lowered his gaze and gave a smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes. “You are more like him than you realize,” he then added, “And Theseus too.”
“That’s not even remotely true,” he replied back stonily. “And Theseus wouldn’t use people like pawns on a chess set.”
“So, you’re not blind to his faults, are you?” those eyes gleamed. “And yet your loyalty is still to him?”
Stiffly, Newt raised his head up. “My loyalty is to those who seek to help to those who are in need of it,” that didn’t just extend to his creatures, he thought as his mind drifted to the girl under his care. “And it does not matter to me if they have magic or not.”
Grindelwald raised his eyes. “How noble,” he said drily. “But if I am to be honest, entirely expected of you, Newton.”
He didn’t care if he met Grindelwald’s expectations or not. To tell the truth, meeting anyone’s expectations had never been on his list of priorities. He said nothing in return to Grindelwald, finding there was not a single thing he wanted to say to him that he hadn’t said already.
“The girl was kept alive for a purpose. I imagine those who performed the crime have been eager to receive my attention,” abruptly, Grindelwald changed the subject nonchalantly, leaving Newt with the vague impression that he was speaking to an old friend about the weather or their family. “Carving my insignia upon her back was a theatrical, I do admit, if not a bit crude.”
“It was more than a bit crude,” Newt said between pursed lips. “She’s four. She shouldn’t have a tattoo to begin with.”
“It’s enchanted, no doubt,” and Newt wasn’t surprised that Grindelwald knew this. What else did the German know of the happenings inside M.A.C.U.S.A? Grindelwald carried on. “Whoever did this is more interested in her background than they might appear to be. Did that ever cross your mind, Newton?”
Newt felt his brow furrow, a single thought crossing his mind. How did he not think of that? He had figured that whoever had done this to Calliope was sending a message out to Grindelwald that they were not afraid of the American aurors, especially ones who had broken one of their laws. Yet there had been a suspicion he wanted to ignore that this could not be entirely true. Why leave a child alive unless there was something even more sinister planned? The more he thought about it, the more worried he became for the girl’s safety. Even with Percival’s protection, how safe could he keep her?
“The main branch of the Cromwell family became extinct in the male line,” Grindelwald hinted at in an inexplicably vague voice. “My aunt suggested that all were killed by the Wizard’s Council. However, I have concluded that this perhaps is untrue.”
He tossed something in Newt’s direction, and he caught it gingerly in his right hand. It was firm in his hand, the cold metal soothing against his sweaty palms. Bringing it closer for inspection, he was surprised to see it was a clasp, ancient and worn from years of being lost to time. Beneath the rust, he could make out a shield being supported by the carving of what appeared to be two women, both with flowing hair. On the top of the shield, sat a symbol that was probably, at one point, a large ornate moon. Yet engraved on the shield, the silhouettes of three men gripping their wands arrogantly upwards and at the bottom of the shield written in words plain as day, in Latin, read: “Memoriae Proficimus.”
“To memories we prevail,” Grindelwald voiced, as Newt continued to stare at the crest. “Interesting motto, is it not?”
“And what does this have to do with recent events?” Newt asked, the clasp dancing through his fingers as he sighed.
“Your auror friends aren’t as through as they’d like to believe,” Grindelwald said smugly. “I found it in one of the desk drawers. Newton, you cannot pretend it is merely coincidence.”
As much as he loathed to admit, Grindelwald had a point. Newt pocketed the clasp quickly in his front pocket, and through the material, he could feel Picket wrap his branch-like arms around it. Firmly, he addressed Grindelwald. “Even if it is not coincidence, I don’t see why you’d be interested.”
“Why not?” Grindelwald suggest flippantly. “Why would Ashwood have this in his possession? And the girl was left with what people are calling my insignia. Whoever did this wanted my attention and well, I may be inclined to entertain them.”
“You’re not going anywhere near her,” he said hotly. “She’s got nothing to do with this!”
“A little girl holds very little interest to me,” Grindelwald responded evenly. “However, her circumstances are much more intriguing. If you look at her family emblem, you cannot deny that it holds a not so subtle resemblance with the one now residing in your pocket.”
Of course, he’d never seen the Ashwood family crest. Ashwood had never stressed before the importance of being Pureblood. The auror had rarely spoken about his family, and now Newt knew why. It must have been difficult, holding all those secrets in and in the end, had it been worth it?
“Ah, but I’m sure you’ve never seen it. The Ashwood’s would be selective on whom they show it to, naturally,” Grindelwald said almost pleasantly, unfitting the room’s tense atmosphere. “Family crests are much important in the old country, but to a family as old as they are, certain customs are difficult to part with.”
“I seriously doubt the Ashwood’s would let me anywhere near their home.”
“Perhaps not, but from what I have heard, they are not the only Ashwood’s left, are they?
Newt stared at him. “If you think I’m doing your dirty work for you, then you are mistaken,” he said softly, disgust creeping along the edges of his voice. “Even if the Ashwood’s and Cromwell’s are connected somehow, that’s no explanation for what they did to Calliope.”
“Come now, Newton, you know that’s not true,” Grindelwald responded very plainly, as though exasperated with Newt’s defiance. “Whomever it was that killed the girl’s parents had knowledge of them. They most likely killed the father because he knew too much. Perhaps he even tried to stop them. There is a family secret here, and even if you don’t figure it out, someone else will.”
“And they might not have good intentions for her,” he couldn’t help but think uneasily. Even if the Ashwood’s and Cromwell’s were perhaps, the same family, that didn’t explain anything. What was so upsetting to these people that they had to traumatize a small child? Blood was one thing, but the current angle M.A.C.U.S.A had didn’t fit anymore. They wanted her alive. Not only as a message to Grindelwald and to other wizarding families, but so they could study her.
Yet, study her for what? Exactly what were they waiting for? Newt didn’t know, and with the unease sinking in his stomach, he had a feeling he would soon know. “Where is the remaining Ashwood?” he asked hesitantly.
“Paris,” Grindelwald said, with his lips quirking in an obvious indication of smug satisfaction. “And if my sources are correct, Credence is there too.”
Newt paused. Even if Credence was alive, how would he tell Percival? The man would want to know where he got his information from and that would spiral a whole conversation that inevitably wouldn’t end well. “If you think that I am just going to drop everything and run off to Paris to do your dirty work, then I am sorry to say that you are mistaken.”
Grindelwald just smiled an all-knowing smile that did not quite reach his eyes. “I am sure our paths will cross again very soon, Newton.”
Then he was gone, disapparating out of the town house with a popping sound. Newt let out the breath he didn’t realize he’d been holding, slinking down the wall with a decided thud. His legs felt numb, as though they wouldn’t move ever again. His throat had gone uncomfortably dry, and his heart raced a mile a minute.
He had to tell Theseus about this. There was no one else he could explain to about the sudden bizarre encounter with Grindelwald. Not to Tina or Queenie, who would immediately insist he go to the President and not to Jacob, who would naturally side with the sisters. Lastly, he could certainly not go to Percival and explain it. That would lead to a million questions he was not ready or willing to answer.
After all, how could he even begin to tell someone that his father was Gellert Grindelwald?
The dark thoughts continued to linger his mind until well after dinner. He considered himself lucky that Queenie had made plans with Jacob tonight and had left earlier in the evening. As soon as dinner ended, Tina excused herself to retire for the night, leaving just himself and Calliope. Naturally she had followed him down to his case, like a wayward duckling chasing after its mother.
From his workshop, he glanced out to where she was currently. Sitting on the ground, Calliope held one of Missy’s babies close to her chest, stroking its fur with the tiniest hint of a smile tugging at her mouth. The other three scurried around her, pawing at her knees for attention. He observed the scene, allowing a brief smile to mark his features. Yet, it fell as soon as it arrived.
Knife in hand, he chopped up blades of star grass. Nearby, his cauldron bubbled quietly, steam rising from the top of it before wafting upwards and disappearing. Every few seconds, he glanced to see where she was. He had given her instructions to not wander from his sight; to remain near the make-shift house. While he trusted that his creatures wouldn’t do any harm to her, the last thing he needed was for an accident to happen.
In a few days, though, that wouldn’t be a problem. They would be staying with Percival and he’d be a liar if he said the thought of it didn’t bring a pink hue to his cheeks. It was illogical to act that way, he grumbled to himself. He was an adult, not a sixteen-year-old school-girl in love for the first time. He was a grown man, as was Percival, and yet…
“Ridiculous,” Newt muttered to himself as he chopped up more blades of grass. “I’m being ridiculous. It’s a logical decision to move in. We’ll be able to keep a better eye on her.”
Except that meant he and Percival would be spending a lot more time together than usual. Meal time, days off, going to and from work. All of that would be spent with a man whom Newt could not deny was attractive. Not only physically, but with a kindness that he wasn’t often on the receiving end of. It brought a flutter to his heart, and the sudden urge to grin like an idiot. It had been a very long time since he had felt like this.
“Oh bugger,” Newt groaned softly to himself. “I might as well just admit it. At least, to myself anyway.”
So perhaps liking Percival wasn’t the biggest problem in the world. Except that Percival, with his resolute determination and kindness, did not deserve to be with someone who could not confess their major secret. Percival already, and justifiably so, had trust issues. How would Percival be able to trust him, the son of the man who had kidnapped, tortured, and left him to die all those months ago?
“What are you doing?”
He nearly jumped out of his shoes at Calliope’s sudden appearance. One of the baby niffler’s, Pumpernickel, sat on the top of her black hair, playing with the strands gleefully. Calliope’s dark eyes stared up at the cutting bored interestedly, with the fascination that only a small child could have. He moved slightly to the left, allowing her more access to the station. Even though she couldn’t see very well over the top of his work space, he still moved the knife to the side opposite of her.
“I’m making a salve,” he answered her, and when she tilted her head in confusion, he added on. “I use it for my creatures when they are hurt. This is the same one I used on you last night.”
“Oh,” came her response. She moved her hand to the where her shoulder met her back, fingers subconsciously retracing the memory of last night. She didn’t even notice when another baby niffler, Pumpkin, crawled up her leg. Still gazing at the grass, she spoke again. “Why do the creatures get hurt?”
“Well,” he started, and then paused, deciding on the best way to answer her without disturbing her too much. “Sometimes it happens on accident. Like when we sometimes fall down and scrape ourselves up. Other times, it happens when they get into fights. Or with what I work with, it’s when bad people make bad decisions.”
“All these creatures have been rescued and I am rehabilitating them. Some of them came from bad places, where bad people were doing bad things to them,” he wasn’t sure how much she could handle, so he opted on being as non-descript as he could be. “They can’t speak up for themselves, so I am there to do it for them.”
“Okay,” she looked back towards the enclosure where Frank had once been, with a surprisingly solemn glint in her eyes. He shouldn’t have been surprised; with all that she had been through in the past days, it wasn’t all that odd to see a sort of maturity come over her. It wasn’t fair that she should have this maturity, but then, when was life fair?
“You shouldn’t chop them up like that.”
He blinked in surprise at the statement. Looking quickly back down to the grass, he then met her serious gaze with his own surprised one. “What?” he asked in astonishment.
She didn’t meet his eyes, opting to stare at the bright green strands with a faraway look. “You’re cutting them up to small. You should only be cutting them up by half an inch, not by a fourth.”
He could only stare at her in confusion from the rather precocious statement. He looked back down to the strands, internally grumbling to himself that he had, indeed, been cutting them up too small. “How did you know that?” he questioned her softly. “Did someone tell you?”
In an instant, her expression morphed from one of solemnity to confusion. She blinked quickly, lashes fluttering against her cheekbones. “I dunno,” she replied, now noticing the nifflers and quickly lifting them off her head to gather them close to her chest. “I just thought it.”
At once, she let out a cry of pain. The baby nifflers immediately crawled out of her arms, running down her body and out of sight. She gripped her head with her small hands, and he could see tears beginning to fall down her face underneath her tightly closed eyes. Immediately he went to her side, hand pressing to her forehead. No fever, he quickly deduced. He waved his wand expertly. “Accio Calming Draught!”
The potion flew off the shelf into his outstretched hand. Opening it, he managed to get her to open her mouth to ingest some of the potion. The tears slipped down her face, but after a few minutes passing, she opened her dark eyes. Her breathing labored, she eventually managed to calm down enough to remove her hands from her head, sniffling as she did so.
“Are you alright?” he asked with deep concern.
“I…I think so,” she sniffed, wiping the tears from her eyes. “My head hurt a lot, and then it didn’t.”
The potion worked, then, he noted for future reference in case she needed it again. “Are you feeling sick?” he asked.
She shook her head. “My head hurt and then it didn’t,” she said with the same answer. She now looked more upset than in pain.
“Has it hurt like that before?”
“No,” she responded quickly. “Never.”
He checked her over once more, just to be sure that he didn’t miss anything. “Are you quite sure?” he asked quietly, calming his voice so that he didn’t let the fear in his voice show. “You’ve never experienced anything like that before?”
“No,” came her response, but then she paused and pursed her lips together in thought. He could see her mind working a mile a minute, trying to remember something she’d forgotten. The nifflers came back into the room cautiously, Missy right behind them with an expression of confusion as to what the commotion had been about. Calliope’s widened eyes met his suddenly. “I think I felt something like it when those bad men poked my back.”
He didn’t have to be a legilimens to know how traumatizing that must have been on her. Every so often during the day he would see her poke at her bandaged back, with an expression of pain at the phantom memory of their wands gauging into her flesh. It still caused her quite a bit of pain, though the salve did help with that.
She picked up one of the baby nifflers again, Pistachio, who instantly began to coo in her arms. Despite Missy hovering around, sniffing at her leg, she didn’t seem to mind. Too lost in the act of petting the creature’s soft fur.
“You need to tell me if it happens again,” he finally said, drawing her attention back to him. The alarming situation, despite being brief, was not something he wanted to see again. He knelt down to her eye level, giving a soft reassuring smile. “And if I’m not there, then tell Percival.”
“What if Percival isn’t there?”
“Then tell Tina or Queenie,” he replied back evenly. “Or any nearby adult. But the four of us are here to help you, Calliope.”
She nodded slowly, still stroking Pistachio with her index finger. She frowned then. “Newt?” she asked, so soft he almost didn’t hear her.
“If Mommy and Daddy aren’t here with me anymore, then where did they go?” her eyes looked up to him pleadingly. “The bad place was really, really dark and scary. And I thought that if they aren’t with me, then any other place would be too cold for me.”
His heart nearly broke at those words. He could see her again on that warehouse floor. Dress ripped, hair matted, and her face bruised and bleeding. He thought she was dead until closer examination. A lifeless husk was the better word for it. Like she’d received a Dementor’s kiss, all the life from her sucked away. She had been tossed aside, left to lay there on the cold wet floor. Waiting for someone to save her or even worse, waiting to die.
At Missy’s insistence, Pistachio heeded his mother’s call and ran down the girl’s arm again. Newt seized the opportunity to take Calliope’s hands into his. “They’re right here,” he started gently, never once looking away from her. He took her right hand and placed it over her heart. “And though you can’t see them, they are here with you. Our memories are so precious to us, Calliope. If you can remember how much they loved you, and how much you love them, then they are never truly gone.”
When she didn’t say anything, he continued on. “And Percival and I, we are here with you too. And we care about you so much. Tina and Queenie do too.”
She finally smiled, a real smile that lit up her whole face. It was as though a new person had taken over the sad, lonely little girl that she now was. He wasn’t prepared for when she threw her arms around him in a tight embrace.
She didn’t say anything, but the message was well received.