Standing on the platform, smoothing down the front of her antiqued cream blouse, Artemis heaved a sigh as the line for customs moved forward a bit and she was jostled a bit from behind. She wished now that she’d taken her brother’s offer of a Ministry portkey instead of insisting that she wanted the opportunity to rest and get her bearings before launching off into another bout of frantic movement.
The extra funds Theseus added to her vault on the sly, along with the cabin upgrade he’d snuck onto her ticket had actually been appreciated, though at the time she’d been put out by the typical heavy-handedness. Especially when she knew it was against their parents’ wishes. In fact, the last conversation she’d engaged in with her father had included the shouted, “If you want to galivant around like a bloody tramp, you can do it on your own coin! I overlooked the expulsion and your refusal of the Malfoy proposal because your mother and Professor Dumbledore pleaded your case. But this is going too far. As of this moment, Artemis, you are cut off from the Scamander funds. Until you come to your senses and decide to start acting like a proper pureblood lady of station, you’re disinherited.”
Angry and hurt, she’d bit off the retort about this expedition being funded by her superior at the Ministry and that she really didn’t need his money. That’s not what she’d been after. That had never been her end goal. After a long moment of staring at the floor, listening to her father’s furious ranting and her mother’s tearful pleading, Artemis had firmed her jaw, picked up her case, turned smartly on her heel, and left.
That had been two years ago and she hadn’t seen her father since. She’d gone to tea with her mother a handful of times but had reached her limit on guilt trips and pleas to ‘just give up this silly farce and come home.’ Theseus was the only one that she truly kept in close contact with, and for that she was ever grateful no matter how much of a nuisance he could turn up to be. As far as overprotective brothers went, he was up there. But before he’d ‘allowed’ her to go off on her own, he’d insisted on her taking a month to undergo a one on one training camp with him and a handful of hand-picked aurors. Being that he’d used his clout in the Ministry to get her sponsor to make it a requirement, there hadn’t been much of a choice. It had given her immense satisfaction to wipe the floor with them on semi-consistent basis for the first three days. Artemis could forgive her brother's underlings, since they had no clue of the three years she'd spent in the war. Theseus, though, was just an arse.
After they'd stopped babying her and really gave it a good go of teaching her things she didn't know, she couldn’t complain. The results had been brilliant in equipping her to be even more capable of handling the shadier aspects of what she’d gotten involved in on her travels. The less Theseus knew about exactly how much she used his training, the better.
The line moved again and Artemis found herself standing in front of an unamused looking American and answering questions about her single suitcase. He seemed surprised that she was only declaring the one and made a show of looking around for the rest of her luggage.
Grinding her teeth a little, she flipped the muggle-worthy latch and opened it for him to take a peek. A little smirk appeared at the stack of neatly laid garments, which included a set of simple underthings just for authenticity. Skin crawling just a little, she forced a smile and accepted the, “Welcome to America, Miss Scamander.”
She wished she could have produced papers in her alter-ego, Newton, call me Newt, but she didn’t trust her own knowledge of the muggle paperwork system to do an accurate forgery. Asking Theseus for help would have been counter-productive because he’d go all sorts of barmy at the thoughts of why his little sister needed to pose as male in the first place. He had enough of those sorts of misgivings just thinking about her traveling in what he considered the ‘safe’ zones. No, Seus had no business knowing how dangerous her travels really were.
With that firmly in mind, Artemis tugged at the lapels of her blue wool coat and ventured out into New York City to procure a quiet, safe, and hopefully cheap place to lay her head for the next few days. This was nearing the end of her research gathering, and she’d given herself two months to finish up organizing her notes while she made the trek to Arizona to release the newly rehabilitated thunderbird she’d rescued. The smile that touched her lips at the thought of the majestic animal in his habitat was sweet and genuine. She was going to miss him terribly, but it was best for her creatures to find their way back into nature where they belonged. Frank deserved the open, endless skies, and she was going to make sure he got it.
The city was gorgeous in a way that she could appreciate just because it was so different from everything else she’d experienced. It was cleaner than most of the cities she'd meandered through, newer. She had the thought that it was only a matter of time before it caught up with the rest of the world. They always did. The pace was about the same as London, people rushing about on their way to their daily tasks, attentions on whatever was manifesting in their own lives with little to spare for their neighbors. That was perfectly fine with Artemis. As a rule, she tried her best to blend where she could and deflect where she couldn’t. As an incredibly tall, slender woman with striking auburn hair and overly fair skin, that sometimes proved to be rather hard in the smaller communities. Those occasions had been where disillusionment charms and Newt had come into play and it had worked well enough to get her by. By now, she was an expert at the chameleon glamour magic and could nearly change appearance at will. It was refreshing to be back in a well-populated area where she wasn’t the only freckled ginger on the block.
Her height was still a disadvantage, however. A former potential lover had once confessed that it was hard to picture himself with a woman that was easily six foot tall in stockings and was at eye level with him. After a scathing remark on his insecurities and poor manners on pointing out such an insignificant flaw, Artemis had gathered her drink and melted into the evening pub atmosphere to finish it, then slipped away. After a few other disasters, she’d decided that it just wasn’t worth it to try and she had better things to occupy her attention. Like infiltrating the back alley occamy poachers and bowtruckle dealers.
Her ear was caught by a woman’s earnest voice speaking to a small crowd gathered on the steps of what looked like a bank, and she couldn’t help but be drawn in despite the growing distaste of the material being spouted. Did people really believe in this nonsense? In this day and age, and in this modern city, the notion was ridiculous. Of course, Artemis had spent time in much more primitive societies where having ginger hair automatically made you a fit sacrifice for the harvest. That story was yet another incident that her brother was to absolutely never hear word of. She set her case at her feet for a moment, absently tugging at the sleeves of her coat to make sure the healed scars from that incident were still covered.
She watched with wonderment as the crowd shifted around her, uncomfortable and yet enthralled by the woman’s compelling words. She was good at spinning a tale, Artemis noted. Very good. But thankfully, these modern Americans weren’t suckered in as easy as all that. Most were scoffing and snickering under their breath. Others were outright disgusted by the silliness blocking their access to the entrance of the bank and openly shook their heads with a muttered, “Bullshit.”
A man came pushing through the crowd and tripped over her case, knocking both it and her forward. There was a quick exchange of apologies, the sweet man pausing long enough to make sure she wasn’t harmed, then he was on his way again. Unfortunately, it was enough to draw the woman’s attention, and she focused directly on Artemis, black eyes going shrewd and sharp in the millisecond Artemis allowed eye contact. Avoiding direct eye contact was an unfortunate side effect of her very personality, and a trait that surprisingly offended and infuriated a good number of people. She just felt a bit too uncomfortable with that much direct attention. It felt sometimes as if she were being sucked in. Eyes were the windows to the soul, and she’d found that to be increasingly accurate the more she dealt with humans. There were reasons animals were much better company.
“And you, friend, are you a seeker of truth?”
She couldn’t help the smile that quirked the corners of her lips as she glanced over the woman’s face again before darting over the orange, red, and black signs the small congregation carried with them, depicting angry hands snapping wands in a show of imaginary force. “I’m more of a chaser, actually,” she couldn’t help the small inside joke that no one else would really get. Before the woman could sharpen her hooks and try to reel her in, Artemis caught sight of a familiar dark spike of hide disappearing up the steps and into the bank.
“Bloody Tartarus on ice,” she huffed, glancing down to see that that blasted latch had come undone, giving just enough leeway to let the menace out. Without another word or even a backwards glance, she charged up the walkway after the damned niffler.
Two hours later, she was being herded into the grand halls of MACUSA, her wrist held in the tight grip of one Auror Goldstein, the shorter woman reading her the riot act on irresponsible actions and ‘don’t you know the laws? Mercy Lewis, did you do any research before barging into our city?’ Or something to that order. Artemis had stopped listening right about the time the other woman had cut her off for the third time. This wasn’t entirely the way she’d wanted to touch base with her brother’s friend, Percy, but in some epic twist of irony, it made total sense. He already thought she was a complete heathen with insane ideas on what would be appropriate for a woman of the times. Thank Merlin her brother didn’t entirely share those thoughts, or else she’d be on the outs with all her family.
Seeing the older boy as an insufferable git with an overinflated ego to match Theseus’s, and less sense of humor, Artemis had gone out of her way to avoid the boys when Percy was visiting. It wasn’t always an easy thing to do on the holidays without staying at Hogwarts the entire time, and she’d hated her schoolmates almost as much as being mocked by those dark eyes that seemed to find her just at her worst. She hadn’t seen him since the end of the war, when she’d snuck off to work with the dragons under the guise of taking an apprenticeship with a master herbalist. Her parents had been only too happy to see the back of her for a while, not looking too deep into the logistics of the ‘apprenticeship’, as long as it didn’t have anything to do with dangerous animals or anything potentially scandal-inducing. No one looked too close at her papers then, not even when she’d slipped into the training ranks as ‘Newt’. Baggy dragonhide and a brutally short haircut went a long way when you were seventeen, a beanpole with hardly any curves to speak of, and the powers that be were desperate for warm bodies that knew more than the grammar school tidbits about dragons.
It was a miracle she hadn’t been killed when Theseus had caught her about eight months into her stint, Percival right behind him as her older brother drug her out of sight of the others and tore into her like a rabid wampus. It had taken some quick talking to stop him from blowing her cover and shipping her home immediately. To be honest, it had actually been Percy that had calmed him down, pointing out that this was probably the baby-faced lunatic that was actually making headway in training the dragons to ride into battle. She’d been nearly floored when the boy she’d thought hated her not only convinced Theseus that she was more than capable of staying, but dropped the bombshell that he was the new commanding officer that was taking over for the division so he’d be there to watch her back.
She hadn’t known exactly how to process all of that. After she’d picked her jaw up off the ground, she’d just focused on the fact that she was happy to be staying and not being sent back home with her tail between her legs and another layer of shame on her shoulders. Though it would have been a bit much to say that she and Percy became friends in the next year, they’d learned to respect each other. Artemis thought that maybe Percy had come out of it thinking that she wasn’t as much of a waste of space as he’d previously thought. He’d been moved to a different command post, leaving her behind with an actual smile and a clap on the shoulder. That was the last time she’d seen him to date.
She’d stayed with her assignment for another six months after that, then had been sent home after a disastrous encounter with enemy fire that resulted in a firestorm that killed her beloved Ironbelly, Izzy, and shattered her left leg in four pieces and scored the flesh of her back to ribbons. She hadn’t been reprimanded or set down in shame when the officials had realized that she had lied about her gender- and her age-, but they hadn’t given her the commendations her male counterpart would have earned for his service. Everything had been hushed with a guaranteed salaried spot at the Ministry when she recovered, and then she’d been sent back to her parents, who had been less than happy to learn of the whole debacle.
As she and Auror Goldstein made their way through to the hall containing her superiors, Artemis forced herself not to think of those times. She rarely allowed herself the mixed luxury of dwelling on it, as it had both been the best and the worst times of her life. In her head, she was turning the words around, trying to find the best way to explain how all of this came about. First, she decided, she’d have to actually use her words, and hopefully manage to shut them off again once she came to her point. Her shoulders slumped just a little. This was the hard part. Why couldn’t she just… just… go about her business without having to explain anything? What was it to them why she was here? So, there’d been a little mishap with the niffler. She’d fixed it and put back all the shiny things Horace had pilfered. The only thing that hadn’t been remedied was the muggle who’d seen her, and the absence of an obliviate was directly due to the busybody auror that had barged in right at the worst time.
It wasn’t going to be that easy, and she was going to have to use words. Out loud. To the Director of Magical Security, Percival Graves, after nearly seven years of silence and who knows how many rambling, ranting letters her brother might or might not have sent him.