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The Impact and the Glue

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Three weeks after Tina finds Mr. Graves trapped in his own bedroom, Queenie Goldstein visits Jacob Kowalski’s new bakery. The bakery has been open and running for a grand total of three days and already has a line out the door. Queenie is so proud she can hardly speak.

When Jacob sees her approaching the counter, his hand rises to his neck of its own accord and his mind floods with gauzy, dream-like recollections. The memories are largely non-specific: a flash of occamy feathers, Dougal’s luminous eyes, Newt’s blue coat, and… Queenie’s hand conducting the creation of a strudel, the subtle floral of her perfume, the titter of her laugh, and the feeling of encompassing warmth. Queenie beams, heart fluttering in her chest, and steps up to the register.

“Ah, good afternoon, miss, er, ma’am,” says Jacob, stumbling for his words over thoughts of oh jeez and she’s a real dame and I gotta know her name.

“Good afternoon,” she replies pleasantly. “You wouldn’t happen to be the Mr. Kowalski whose name is on the door?”

“As it happens, I am,” he replies, chest puffing with pride, “but you can call me Jacob if you like.”

Queenie giggles and sticks out her hand. “I’m Queenie, it’s real nice to meet you.”

 

- - -

 

Queenie goes back to Kowalski’s Quality Baked Goods almost every day since. Jacob doesn’t remember anything beyond vague snatches that come to him in dreams and with the occasional sensory reminder. Despite knowing that she ought to stay away and despite knowing full well the laws about relations with no-majs, Queenie can’t help going back to see Jacob again and again.

The third time Queenie comes home with a bag of baked goods—which is after her fifth time visiting Jacob—Tina sighs and her thoughts turn sad.

“Oh, Queenie,” she says softly. “What are you doing?”

Queenie worries her lower lip and focuses on the paper bag.

“I don’t know, Teen,” she answers honestly. “I just… I couldn’t help it and then I saw all his pastries… We’re in there, in his memories, somewhere.”

Tina is an open book to Queenie; the sisters have long accepted this. Even without her Legilimens, Queenie can look at Tina and know exactly how she is feeling. Right now, Queenie watches the professional and personal sides of her sister go to war. She listens and feels (because the mind is a multi-faceted thing) as Tina automatically runs through her Auror training and reviews countless protocols for dealing with no-majs and illegal relationships. Then Tina’s mind turns to Queenie’s smiles and recent boost in happiness; she lingers on this the longest. And then, finally, she thinks of Jacob himself and everything he did to help Newt and his creatures and all the times Tina noticed him staring dopily at Queenie. (There is a brief flicker of Mr. Graves’s face when he stares at Newt and both sisters chuckle.)

“Alright,” Tina says at length. She drags her hand over her face in a very Percival move and drops her arms helplessly at her sides. “Just… Be careful, please.”

“I’m a big girl,” says Queenie.

“But you’re also my little sister,” says Tina softly in return.

 

- - -

 

“So, I had the craziest dream last night,” says Jacob, breaking the peaceful quiet that had fallen over the kitchen. It’s late, nearly nine o’clock, and Queenie is helping Jacob prepare large batches of dough to be proved overnight and baked into bread first thing in the morning.

“Again?” Queenie asks, teasing.

“Yeah, yeah,” says Jacob, chuckling. “I don’t know what it is, but ever since I got my collateral, I’ve been having the strangest dreams.”

“Your life was changed,” says Queenie, as she always does when this topic comes up. “Now that you’re not trapped in that cannery, your imagination is going wild.”

“Hm, must be,” Jacob agrees easily enough, but like always, he isn’t fully convinced. He doesn’t know why the logical explanation never completely convinces him, but Jacob has yet to mention it out loud.

“So, tell me about this crazy dream,” says Queenie, pulling Jacob back to a kinder topic—or at least a topic that doesn’t make him quiet and confused. Just as she hoped, Jacob perks back up and grins at her as he kneads a lump of gooey dough.

“You’ll like this one, you was in it,” he tells her.

“Hot socks!” she exclaims, giggling and wiggling a bit on spot. Jacob’s mind rushes with affection and a fleeting Lord, she’s adorable.

“I dreamt we was at Macy’s,” he says, “and we were… I don’t know how I knew this, but you know how in dreams sometimes you just know things.”

“Yeah, of course.”

“So, we were looking for something we couldn’t see and somehow I knew we had to be real sneaky-like. One of my flying snake monsters was up in the ceiling and we had to be careful not to spook it.”

Queenie beams down at the lump of dough in front of her, giddy down to her core at the emergence of this new memory. She sprinkles a bit of flour on the counter and carries on kneading.

“Did we catch it?” she asks.

“Yeah, in a teapot.”

“A teapot!” she repeats, thrilled by the detail of his memory.

“I found a bug, see,” he goes on, turning to face her, cheeks pinked slightly with excitement and maybe a touch of embarrassment. There’s a part of him that thinks his dreams are silly and that Queenie will spurn him for foolishness if he tells her too much. Queenie does her level best to encourage him in the hopes that the more he talks about his dreams, the more the memories will return to him. Queenie is ever hopeful that one day Jacob will look at her and she will see in his mind that he knows. He continues, “And I threw it and you… I mean, it must’a been you. You caught the bug in a teapot and the flying snake chased it in. Bing bang boom. We caught the monster.”

“Alright, I gotta question for you, Mr. Kowalski,” says Queenie, turning now to face him. There’s perhaps a foot of space between them and she’s close enough to see the striation in his dark brown eyes. “Why’d we have be so sneaky to catch your snake monster?”

Jacob opens his mouth and inhales to answer, but then stops. Stumped. He scratches his head and then jerks his hand back; his fingers are covered in flour and he’s just smeared it in his hair. Queenie laughs and dabs more flour onto his nose.

“You’ve got some wild imagination, sweetie,” she says, plopping the dough into a bowl and then covering it with a cloth.

“Nah, baloney,” he mutters as he bowls and covers his own lump of dough. Louder, to her, he says, “Thanks for helping out again, Queenie. You’re the cat’s pajamas, you really are.”

“It’s my pleasure,” she says, then she bites her lip and considers her next words. It’s been a week since Tina was injured and trapped in that hallway and she’s already back to work. Even in that short amount of time, Tina has somehow managed to insert herself into an intense case that has Mr. Graves tense and on edge. Whatever it is, Tina is taking care to shield it from Queenie and it’s bringing the mood at home down. So, Queenie shrugs and smiles shyly. “It’s nice to have a place to go sometimes that isn’t home and to have such sweet company.”

“Aw, Queenie, you know you can come here any time you like,” Jacob replies earnestly.

“Thanks, honey.”

 

- - -

 

On Friday, Queenie knows Mr. Graves will be late for work because he is escorting Newt to the docks. She waits about forty-five minutes before refreshing her tray of coffee and doughnuts and bringing it to the Investigations floor. She floats the tray along in front of her when she steps off the elevator, one doughnut short after convincing Red to have a treat, and passes around the edge of the bull pen.

Queenie stops to offer the Aurors coffee and pastries.

“Hi, Teen,” she says to her sister. “Is the Director in yet?”

Queenie knows the Aurors have their own permanent coffee station in the bull pen, it’s one of the few consolations of working such long and often difficult hours. What they don’t get, however, is a supply of fresh doughnuts and they fall on Queenie ravenously when they see what she has brought them.

“Yeah, he just got in a few minutes ago,” replies Tina, topping off her mug and picking out a jelly-filled doughnut.

“Do you know why he was late?” asks Franklin, sidling into the conversation with feigned casualness. Queenie reads he’s never late, deplores tardiness and a wash of concern from the woman; there’s also the ever-present tinge of attraction and mild embarrassment. Poor Franklin’s got it bad.

Queenie glances at Tina and Tina raises her eyebrows in response. Percival hasn’t explicitly told them not to tell people about his relationship, but he also operates on the assumption that the sisters know how much he values his privacy. They hesitate for too long, though, and Franklin purses her lips, glancing between them.

“I know you two are friends with him,” she says. “Strenburg says he visited you in the hospital last week.”

“He did,” Tina confirms, “but he also likes to keep his professional life and personal life separate. So, if we don’t know why he was late today, then it’s because it was for something personal.”

Franklin narrows her eyes for a second and then relents. “You’re a damn loyal friend, Goldstein.”

“I do my best,” Tina replies and then takes a large bite of jelly doughnut. Franklin snorts, selects a simple glazed for herself, and retreats to her desk.

“You got a bit of jelly on your lip,” says Queenie, indicating the spot on her own lip. Tina makes a squeaking sound in her throat and grabs a napkin. Queenie grins toothily, spins on her heel, and flounces off to Percival’s office.

When the door swings open for her, Queenie finds Percival leaning back in his chair with Daphne coiled in his lap, several papers spread out before him and a pen poised in his right hand. He musters up a small smile for her and Queenie beams in return. Percival’s mind is a seemingly blank book to her, written with invisible ink that gives her, at best, a vague impression of emotion. Presently, all she can glean from him is the faint sort of sadness that usually goes hand in hand with loneliness.

“I know you got your own coffee, but I thought I’d bring you something sweet,” she says.

“Thank you, Miss Goldstein,” he murmurs politely, but when he sees the plainness of the selection his eyebrows quirk. “No occamy Danishes or niffler scones?”

“’Fraid not,” Queenie replies. “I think the house elves in the cafeteria would be heartbroken if we ordered pastries from an outside establishment.”

“Well, we mustn’t upset the house elves,” Percival agrees humorously as he plucks up a maple-glazed with a napkin. There’s a trickle of curiosity across the surface of his mind; it’s the same little trickle that always comes up when the subject of Jacob’s pastries arises. Queenie knows Percival will find out eventually that a no-maj is baking magical creature-shaped treats and she is trying to find an appropriate time to tell him, but… The appropriate time has thus far not presented itself.

“So, how long ‘til Newt comes back?” she asks while busying herself with preparing a perfect cup of coffee for Percival.

“He was unable to give me a proper estimate,” Percival replies, a wry twist to his mouth. “Merlin knows how long he’ll be in Norway chasing hydras—”

“Huldra,” Queenie corrects. She remembers because when Newt talked of the strange, Scandinavian wood nymph, he brought all the images he has seen of it to the forefront of his mind. Newt has until now only seen artists’ renderings of the creature, but all depictions are roughly the same. The huldra are feminine and humanoid, hearty and stocky in build, with wideset all-black eyes and a long bovine tail. They are also, apparently, highly intelligent and capable of speech, much like sphynxes and centaurs.

“Right,” says Percival. “For all I know, he could spend a year in Norway living with a single species of magical beast and be quite content.”

“You know he wouldn’t now that he’s got you,” Queenie says confidently. “It’ll be non-stop owls between the two of you at the very least.”

“I don’t know about ‘non-stop,’” says Percival, referring to Newt’s ability to become entrenched to the point of obliviousness in his work.

“Well, whatever,” says Queenie with a laugh. “You know what I mean!”

“I do,” says Percival with a small, grateful smile. “Thank you.”

“Sure thing, honey.” She beams brightly. “Have a nice day, Mr. Graves.”

“You, as well, Miss Goldstein.”

Queenie shoots him a wink before she picks up her tray and strides out the door. The rest of her day is business as usual—she bustles around the Wand Permits Department, refilling coffees and occasionally helping a witch or wizard fill out a renewal form. Her department is not known for its excitement, hence the reason she primarily delivers coffee. By the end of it, her feet are aching in her heels and her calves are beginning to feel a bit sore.

Despite this, she goes directly to Kowalski’s Bakery after she clocks out and manages to arrive before the post-work rush. Jacob is just setting out a fresh display of erumpent loaves when she enters and his mind goes a little fuzzy when he sees her—Queenie can’t help being flattered.

“Hi, Queenie,” he greets her with a wide grin and a smudge of flour on his chin. “How’s you doin’ today?”

Queenie gives him a cheeky smile and replies, “Everything’s Jake.”

“Ooh, har-har. I ain’t ever heard that one before,” Jacob says teasingly. But she can see in his mind—and she’s not actively looking—that he doesn’t believe her. He knows her well enough at this point that he is able to tell when her smile doesn’t quite reach her eyes.

“Really, Queen,” he says, softly and more seriously. He lifts the counter divider to let her into the back and touches a gentle hand to her elbow. “You’s can always talk to me if there’s something bothering you.”

“I know,” she says. Feeling bold, she leans in and pecks him right on the cheek. “Thanks, honey.”

She ducks away before he can see the pink rising in her cheeks, but listens shamelessly to the rush of giddiness that floods Jacob’s mind. Ever since she hit puberty and grew into her feminine figure, Queenie has been acutely and often uncomfortably aware of how attractive she is. It’s refreshing in a way she can hardly put to words to have a man who hasn’t lingered on those thoughts past his very first encounter—and to have that someone be Jacob.

“You’re sweet,” she calls over her shoulder as she makes herself at home in the bakery’s kitchen, “it was just a long day, is all. I went outside my usual routine to bring Tina’s boss a pastry. He’s missing his sweetheart, see, so I thought he might like a little something sweet.”

“You’re something sweet,” Jacob says from the doorway, smiling at Queenie and radiating fondness. Queenie glows.

 

- - -

 

Tina comes along to the bakery after work halfway through the next week. Queenie asked her to just this morning. She’s hoping that another familiar face with loosen a few more memories in Jacob’s head and it is about time he met her sister. Queenie and Jacob have been dancing coyly around each other for months now, it is time to take the next big step.

It is much later in the day than Queenie’s usual post-work visits when the sisters step through the doorway, because Tina is a chronic workaholic and may as well be stuck to her desk with a Permanent Sticking Charm for all the time she spends at it. When they at last step through the door ten minutes before closing time, Queenie puts a little more concentrated effort into reading Jacob’s mind and memories. He looks up when the bell rings and beams when he sees Queenie—mind flashing through the usual roster of wow, what a gal and sensory recollections of her perfume, her touch, her laugh… The sound of rain. He sees Tina and—he watches her walk away, hands shackled behind her back, escorted by two blurry white figures, alongside a peacock blue coat worn by an indistinct male figure. He sees her leaning on the back of a kitchen chair, lips quirked in a funny smile, have a seat, Mr.… We’re not going to poison you. The name is lost, but the moment is there. Finally, he sees Tina across a vast distance with a teapot held aloft, standing behind immense coils of turquoise feathers with her hair ruffled and clothing askew.

These memories come and go in an instant, then Jacob is blinking and smiling and stepping out from behind the counter. From beside her, Queenie can feel several emotions swell in Tina: worry and anxiety for knowingly breaking law, a glimmer guilt for what happened to Jacob, and the kind of longing that comes from missing a dear friend.

“You must be Tina,” says Jacob, sticking out his hand as he thinks of all the times Queenie referred to her big sister as tenacious and straight-forward. “Pleased to finally meet you, I’m Jacob. Queenie talks all about you.”

Tina smiles and takes the proffered hand, shakes with her usual firmness. “Good things, I hope,” she says with a wavery little laugh.

“Eh, sisterly things,” says Jacob and that pulls a stronger laugh from Tina.

They cajole Tina into the back to help mix and knead dough for tomorrow. Soon they are wrist deep in gooey, sticky dough and standing shoulder to shoulder at the counter—Queenie sandwiched between her sister and her boyfriend—chatting and giggling. The primary source of their amusement is Jacob, regaling them with tales from his childhood and learning to bake from his grandmother. He goes on to show them how to section the dough into long, thick pieces and then how to braid those sections together.

Jacob covers and puts away three braided doughs to prove overnight—one pristine (his), one very nearly perfect (Queenie’s), and one rather clumsily done (Tina’s). Tina sighs and frowns at her final product, but Jacob pats her on the back and compliments her on a successful first attempt.

“So how do you make the erumpent loaves?” Tina asks thoughtlessly, wiping her wrist across her forehead to brush away loose hair and leaving a smudge of flour behind. She doesn’t immediately catch her mistake, doesn’t realize that she has screwed up until she sees Queenie’s wide eyes and Jacob’s bemused expression. Queenie reads a litany of oh no, oh no, oh Mercy Lewis, no from her big sister’s mind and jumps in to cover the slip.

“That’s the name I made up for your funny creature loaves,” she explains, beaming blindingly. “The ones that look kinda like a rhinoceros?”

“Erumpent,” Jacob repeats, testing the name on his tongue. “Huh… I like that. It fits.”

“Doesn’t it?” asks Queenie laughingly.

“Queenie’s on a mission to come up with names for all your pastries,” Tina goes on flawlessly. “She’s been bouncing all sorts of funny words off me all week.”

“Oh, yeah?” asks Jacob, eyes lighting up, touched and delighted by Queenie’s dedication and admiration of his work. “What else ya got for me?”

“Well,” Queenie says carefully, “we was thinking occamy would be nice for the Danishes.”

She listens intently to Jacob’s subconscious reaction to the name and finds a flutter of recognition and familiarity paired with the image of the occamy in Macy’s staring transfixed at the cockroach pinched between his fingers.

“Occamy,” he says, slowly to himself, brows pulling in confusion. (There are flickers of iridescent feathers, a large bronze eye, and a note written in peacock blue ink, nestled in a suitcase full of glittering silver eggs.) Tina and Queenie watch with heavy anticipation for his complete response. “That sounds… I feel like I’ve heard that before?”

“Maybe you’ve heard me say it,” says Queenie with a shrug and Jacob nods vaguely in agreement. Queenie, however, can see the turmoil inside him—the conviction that he has heard this peculiar word before, the inability to remember precisely when or where, and the fear that he has forgotten something vitally important. This fear has been growing within Jacob for months now, starting as a tiny, niggling thought buried in his subconscious and now a conspicuous presence at the forefront. Queenie worries what this fear will do to Jacob the longer it has to develop and the longer it takes for his memories to be restored.

“So, show me how to make a creature loaf,” Tina jumps in with honest enthusiasm. She has flour dusted down her front and dough stuck under her fingernails and her eyes are shining. Jacob is quickly distracted as he throws himself wholeheartedly into his work, regaining his brightness as he goes about rolling and shaping dough and tutoring Tina as he goes.

 

- - -

 

Queenie knows it is only a matter of time before the wizarding world notices Kowalski’s Quality Baked Goods and its particular pastry designs. There is very little cross-over between the magical and non-magical worlds, but there is a precedent for bleed-through. The two communities exist on opposite sides of a two-way mirror where the wizarding world may look through the glass and see all that occurs on the other side while the non-magical world sees only a reflection of themselves. Should a large enough percentage of the no-maj community rave about Kowalski’s, it becomes a simple question of when a witch or wizard will take notice. And then it’s no more than the span of a blink for that witch or wizard to discover the non-magical status of the establishment and report it to the authorities.

Despite her awareness, Queenie can’t think of a single thing she can to do stop the inevitable from happening. Jacob has more than earned his successful business; he has worked tirelessly for it, dreamed and hoped and prayed for it; he deserves it. Queenie would rather face Obliviation, herself, than do anything to take this away from him.

So, she waits and she watches and she anticipates. As she walks MACUSA’s halls, she opens her mind to the hum of thoughts around her. She searches for the one that will tell her, warn her, that Kowalski’s has been discovered so she can… So she can what? Queenie doesn’t rightly know, figures she’ll have to make it up as she goes along, but some warning is better than no warning. Right?

 

- - -

 

No amount of expectation or anticipation could have prepared Queenie for the abrupt arrival of Director Percival Graves at Kowalski’s Quality Baked Goods. Her shift ended half an hour ago and she has been helping Jacob behind the counter since, keeping note of every person who comes through in search of the inevitable witch or wizard. With over an hour of time left on his clock at work, Percival is the very last person Queenie expects to cross the threshold.

When their eyes meet across the crowded parlor, Queenie very nearly drops the tray of fresh cookies she has just brought out to refill the display. Percival’s mind is closed to her—it always is—but she watches his expression go from startled to stormy to blank in a single, frightening instant.

“Oh, my,” Queenie says fretfully. “Oh, dear.”

She flounders for a moment with the tray of cookies before setting it aside to deal with later and hurrying around the counter. Percival has already crossed the parlor, cut through the afternoon crowd like a warm knife through butter, and is with her almost instantly. Annoyingly, Queenie feels her cheeks heat up and betray how wrong-footed and worried she feels. Percival is, always, a blank wall mentally and entirely neutral physically.

“Mr. Graves, sir,” says Queenie, beaming a little too widely. “Funny seeing you here.”

“Quite,” Percival replies, eyes narrowing ever so slightly at her before shifting to take in the distinctly non-magical atmosphere of the establishment.

Queenie’s hand flutters out to touch his arm and regain his attention.

“So, uh, what brings you all the way out here during work hours?” She hopes he doesn’t pick up on how nervous she is, but is certain that he has. She isn’t doing a very good job of hiding it. No amount of inevitability could have prepared for seeing her friend and sister’s boss—and Head of Magical Security, no less—walk through the doors of potentially the biggest breach of the Statute of Secrecy since Grindelwald walked MACUSA’s halls. Friend or not, Queenie is in for it, she knows she is.

“I received a top priority memo about a peculiar bakery,” he says, nodding pointedly towards a three-tiered display of erumpent loaves. “The last thing I expected was to find you, Miss Goldstein, already at the scene.”

Queenie flinches at his use of formal title. “Mr. Graves, I know this looks bad, but it’s Jacob and he—”

“Queenie,” he says heavily and she doesn’t know if that is disappointment in his tone or anger or if it’s even anything intentional. “Come to my office tomorrow morning. We’ll talk then.”

He gives her a curt nod and no chance to say anything further before turning and sweeping out of the bakery. Queenie stands rooted to the spot, arms crossed over her stomach, hands clutching her elbows, and squeezing tight as if to hold herself together. Percival Graves cannot afford to take any missteps in his job, not after the hell he went through and the scrutiny that hell placed upon him from the New York Ghost and the public. But Queenie just doesn’t know how far he’d go to keep his footing or who might get trampled along the way.

Jacob comes up beside her, scratching at the faint scar on his neck and staring after Percival with furrowed brows. Queenie takes a concentrated peek into his mind and finds a storm of fear and confusion wrapped around fleeting impressions of a dark figure in a sweeping coat and an ominously outstretched hand.

“Who was that, Queens?” he asks.

Queenie glances at Jacob from the corner of her eye.

“That was Teenie’s boss,” she answers quietly. “He’s our friend, too, but I think…” She swallows down the lump forming in her throat. “I messed up and I think I made him real angry with me.”

“No way,” Jacob says immediately. “Who could ever be mad at you.” When his fond chiding fails to lift Queenie’s mood, Jacob switches tactics. “You need cocoa.”

Jacob sits her down in the back, guiding her into a cushioned chair at a little table in the corner with soft hands and a sweet smile. He continues to send her little comforting glances throughout the long, non-magical process of heating milk and adding the chocolate, but quickly enough he is setting a steaming mug before her.

“Thanks, honey,” she says softly.

“Now, then,” says Jacob, sitting across from her. “Why would Tina’s boss be mad at you?”

Queenie wraps her hands around the mug and bites her lip. She can’t tell Jacob the truth—he wouldn’t believe her, would think she was making fun—but she doesn’t want to outright lie either. In all the months they have been together again, Queenie has not once had to lie to Jacob’s face. It’s easy when he never actually asks about magic or why he has such funny dreams, just tells them to her like stories and focuses on his pastries.

After a moment of deliberation, Queenie sighs and says, “It’s still office hours where we work and I’m not meant to be here.” The two statements are true, but unrelated; it’s the best Queenie can do.

“You said you was workin’ a half-shift today,” says Jacob, with a confused frown.

Queenie’s lips twitch upward. “I did. I am. Mr. Graves is a real stickler and he’s been running himself ragged lately… Maybe he just forgot.”

“There, that’s an easy fix,” Jacob says encouragingly. “You just gotta talk to him tomorrow and I’ll bet he’s gonna be real embarrassed when you explain things to him. In the meantime, drink your cocoa and hows about I teach you how to make kremówka when you’re finished? It was my grandma’s specialty.”

Queenie smiles sweetly at him. “Thanks, honey. I’d like that.”

 

- - -

 

Queenie gets up before her alarm and dresses for work in record time. She whips up breakfast and leaves it for Tina under a warming spell, too jittery to eat any of it herself. Rather than Apparate to the Woolworth building, Queenie opts for walking to give herself a chance to collect her thoughts. Despite the additional time spent walking, Queenie arrives far earlier than she usually does, but not—she suspects—earlier than the Director of Magical Security.

Queenie takes the lift up, hurries straight to Percival’s office door, and knocks rapidly before she overthinks it. The door swings open almost immediately and Queenie quickly steps inside and closes the door firmly behind her. Percival sets down his pen and watches evenly as she approaches his desk. Queenie’s mind and heart are racing; she doesn’t know what to say or even where to begin.

“Miss Goldstein,” Percival says, low and bland. He is worryingly neutral in expression; Queenie is unable to glean a thing from his physicality. “According to the reports, Mr. Kowalski was Obliviated nearly a year ago. Is that correct?”

Queenie nods, still unable to speak, not that it matters to Percival.

“So, how is that he is able to recreate so many of Newt’s creatures in his bakery?”

Queenie shakes her head, clears her throat, and says with hardly any voice at all, “I really couldn’t say, Mr. Graves. He was makin’ those pastries and loaves before I…” She bites her lip, silencing herself before she can further implicate herself, but it’s for naught. The knowing gleam in Percival’s eye is proof enough that he knows very well what she was about to say.

“You sought him out,” Percival says plainly. He runs a hand through his hair and sighs. “Miss Goldstein, you know the law and there can be no exceptions.”

Queenie sits heavily in a guest chair with tears welling up in her eyes.

Please, Mr. Graves,” she says, pleading, swallowing a sudden sob. “I love him, I love him so much, I… Teenie says he looks at me the same way you look at Newt.”

It’s a low blow, she knows, but Jacob is worth it. Jacob is worth so much to her and she is willing to fight to keep him, even if that means fighting her friend if she has to.

Percival’s shoulders sag. Daphne peeks up at him from his lap and cheeps worriedly. The occamy looks at Queenie, sees her in equal if not greater distress, and begins to emit a high, sweet cooing noise. The small, sweet thing is trying to soothe them the best she knows how.

“Miss Goldstein,” Percival says at length. He doesn’t speak with much volume or inflection—especially not since he became deaf—but his expression is pained. “Queenie. You must understand that I am sympathetic to your plight, I truly am, but I cannot help you.” He leans forward over his desk to emphasize the importance of his next words. Queenie sniffles and scoots closer. “If you want to fight this law— If you want to legitimize your relationship in the eyes of the government, then I cannot help you.”

Most days Percival’s mind appears to Queenie as little better than a brick wall, strong and unyielding. But in this moment, that wall has been graffiti’d with the leering white face of Gellert Grindelwald. Queenie understands immediately. If she decides to take up this fight, any progress she makes towards change would be instantly and utterly erased should Percival Graves, once a captive of Grindelwald, show his support. It’s an unfortunate truth, but a truth it remains. More powerful and influential wizards than Leland Collins will accuse Percival of being in the dark wizard’s pocket and force Picquery to remove him from Office. Jacob will be Obliviated all over again and Queenie… Queenie doesn’t know what her fate would be, but she knows it would not be good or gentle.

“Tina will help you,” Percival goes on. “It doesn’t even need saying. Or go to Abasi, he’s a decent man, very reasonable and open-minded. I’m certain he will help you as well.”

Queenie nods and wipes the stray tears from her cheeks. “Okay.”

“I will do everything in my power to keep you here and safe, should it come to that,” Percival promises. “But I’m sorry to say I cannot do the same for Jacob.”

“I understand,” Queenie whispers.

“And, of course, you don’t have to do anything at all if you don’t wish to. I haven’t filed a follow-up report on Kowalski’s yet, but for you, just this once, I’m willing to bend the rules. I saw no cause for alarm, just pastries shaped like animals.”

“Thank you,” says Queenie, “but I think I should, do something that is, seein’ as I’m in a position that’ll make my voice heard.”

She picks up a glow of pride from Percival and a deliberate projection of his intentions. He stands and Daphne chitters agitatedly as she hooks her claws into the hem of Percival’s jacket and squirms up over his shoulders. Queenie rises and meets him halfway around the desk in a tight hug.

“You’re a strong woman,” Percival murmurs near her ear. “You’ll be just fine.”

Queenie pulls back so he can see her say, “Thanks, Mr. Graves.”

“Off you go, then, Miss Goldstein,” says Percival, brushing off her gratitude a touch awkwardly. Queenie giggles, flickers a wink at Percival, and reaches out to tickle Daphne under the chin before making her exit.

 

- - -

 

Queenie waits until dinner that night to speak with Tina. She’s spent all day thinking things over and deciding the best way to breach the subject. She didn’t even stay long at Kowalski’s, too anxious and eager to focus on mixing and kneading dough. Instead, she simply popped in for a few minutes to tell Jacob that she is unexpectedly busy today and give him a sweet kiss on the lips before hurrying home.

“So, Tina,” Queenie says as casually as she can while the sisters direct the dishes to washing themselves. “Say you wanted to change a law… How would you go about doin’ it?”

Tina eyes her with only the slightest bit of suspicion, her mind conjuring brief images of Jacob, the Statute of Secrecy, and the thick volume that is Rappaport’s Law. She mentions none of these things aloud when she answers, “Depends on if you want to change a state law or a national law.”

“Oh.” Yikes. Queenie hasn’t considered that. “State law.” Start small, Queenie decides, she mustn’t overstretch herself, doesn’t want to set herself for failure.

“Okay,” says Tina, leaning her hip against the counter and facing Queenie fully in that way she does when she is taking something into honest consideration. “So, it’s a state law, that means you want to meet with a house representative or local councilor, someone in Picquery’s Cabinet. Percival would be your best option.”

“I talked to him this morning,” says Queenie. “He says he can’t help me.”

Tina’s eyebrows shoot upward. “Oh… Did he say why?”

Queenie perches on the edge of the kitchen table and hugs her stomach. “Not in words, no, but I understand why he can’t.”

Grindelwald’s unsettling eyes flicker across Tina’s mind and the elder sister nods knowingly. “Then we’ll get Abasi to help,” she says firmly. “He’s a decent man, he’ll help.”

“Percival said the same thing,” says Queenie with a light giggle. Tina smiles and her eyes crinkle at the corners with the sincerity of it.

“You should also write to Newt,” Tina suggests. “His brother’s an Auror, he can tell you all about Britain’s laws for relationships with no-majs.”

“That’s a great idea,” Queenie says earnestly. “Thanks, Teenie.”

Tina smiles and then bites her lip.

“He’s worth it, right?” she asks. There’s the oft-present sisterly concern at the forefront of Tina’s mind as she speaks, the niggling worry that her younger sibling will be hurt and the fierce desire to protect her from harm. Queenie glows with affection for her big sister and swoops in to pull Tina into a tight hug; Tina returns the hug without hesitation.

Queenie swallows thickly and replies, “He is. And even if it don’t work out for me, I gotta try for everyone who comes after.”

Immense pride bursts from Tina and it warms Queenie to her core, bolsters her confidence and fills her to the brim with love.

 

- - -

 

Senior Auror Omar Abasi comes to Queenie two days later while she is bringing a tea and coffee service around the stations in the Atrium. He catches her leaving one cluster of desks, on her way to next, and seamlessly matches her stride. His mind is trained, like most Aurors’ are, so all Queenie gets from him is calmness and surety.

“Good morning, Mr. Abasi,” Queenie greets him sweetly.

“Good morning, Miss Goldstein,” he returns politely.

“What can I do ya for?”

“I wanted to ask you to come by my desk at your earliest convenience,” he replies. “I’ve been lead to understand that there is something we ought to discuss.”

Queenie looks up sharply and then breaks into a wide grin. “I’ve got a moment after I finish up here, if that’s okay?”

“Of course, I’ll see you in a few minutes, then.” Abasi tips his head to her, hands clasped behind his back, and then strides off. Queenie makes quick work of doling out tea and coffee to the rest of the Atrium workers and no more than fifteen minutes later, she is stepping into the lift and requesting Investigations. Red grumbles a greeting at her and jabs the button with his walking stick.

Queenie takes two steps into the department floor and immediately knows that something dramatic as occurred. The Juniors don’t know much, but their minds are the least guarded and Queenie instantly picks up on their distress. From the rest of the Aurors, Queenie gleans very little, but key words and flashes of images leak through and she easily manages to put the pieces together. Franklin is particularly distressed and therefore an open book to Queenie, though admittedly written in very rushed handwriting that requires a moment of deciphering.

She forgets meeting Abasi and searches out Tina. Queenie finds her sister sitting stonily on the corner of her desk with Junior Auror Quailfoot sat fidgeting in her chair. The two are deep in conversation, speaking in low tones with serious expressions. Quailfoot’s mind is ablaze with nervous energy and anxiety, continuously flickering with impressions of occamys—Percival’s in particular.

“Teenie!” Queenie exclaims, gripping her sister’s arm urgently. She takes care to keep her voice down and not create an obvious scene. “He got hit by a no-maj car?”

Tina nods gravely. “About an hour ago, near a no-maj corner of town. He was taken to a no-maj hospital before we even heard about what happened and then someone had to go get him…”

The memory of Franklin immediately volunteering springs to the forefront of Tina’s mind and Queenie snorts a laugh.

“We sent Strenburg instead,” says Tina, with a small chuckle of her own. “Sadie’s more reliable when it comes to keeping her cool around Graves.”

And she knows that Percival is deaf and that he carries a highly protective and defensive magical creature in his pocket, Tina thinks pointedly at Queenie.

“Where is he now? Is he okay? Is Daphne okay?”

“Director Graves is going to be fine,” announces a strong, female voice. Every Auror—and Queenie—in the bull pen turns to see Sadie Strenburg striding in with her dirty blonde hair coming undone from its bun and her suit jacket unbuttoned. She stops at the low wall of storage and filing cabinets that surround the bull pen and lets out a heavy sigh. She dives directly into an explanation and Queenie has the added benefit of being able to watch along as the recent memories replay in Strenburg’s mind. “Graves was walking past a known, no-maj-heavy area and no, I don’t know why. It wasn’t at the top of my priority list to ask. He was on foot when he was suddenly struck from behind by a vehicle, doing heavy damage to his pelvic bones and lower spine. According to witnesses, the vehicle swerved off the road to strike him, leading no-maj police to believe the hit was intentional.”

Franklin gasps loudly and then blushes beet red when all eyes go to her.

Strenburg’s lips twitch into a quick smirk before she resumes her debrief. “The no-maj healers were contacted and brought him to their hospital. Director Graves told me he does not remember much of what happened between being hit and coming to in a hospital room. He struck his head during the incident and then the no-maj healers gave him a… Er, a shoot? A shoot of their medicine to make him numb. I transfigured my ID badge to pass as Graves’s sister and, well.” Strenburg rolls her eyes. “Basically, I had to throw a tantrum to get them to transfer him into my care.” (Queenie is granted a wonderful vision of Strenburg mustering up the entirety of her five-foot, four-inch stature and glaring fiercely up at an alarmed no-maj healer.) “They wanted to keep him there for months, insisting his condition was too critical for him to be moved. If you want a laugh, I’m sure the story will pop up in the no-maj newspapers. I had to sign all kinds of forms to tell them I knew what I was getting myself and my dear big brother into and that if he dies, it’s exclusively my fault.” (This is followed by a glimpse of several nurses painstakingly transferring a barely-conscious Graves to lay across the backseat of a waiting car while Strenburg watches imperiously. Strenburg has just enough know-how to get a vehicle from one place to another at the lowest permitted speed and summoned a stretcher the moment she was within the Disillusionment Barrier of the wizarding hospital.)

Strenburg shakes her head. “He’s at St. Agatha’s now. Head Healer Curio has him on Skele-Gro and a Sleeping Draught to keep him still and relaxed while he regrows his spine and pelvis. The spine’s tricky, so he’ll be on constant surveillance, but he should be fully recovered by lunchtime tomorrow. I’ve also just a sent a team of our more experienced Obliviators to muddle up the healers’ memories of the Director’s face.”

“Thank you, Auror Strenburg,” says Abasi, pulling the room’s attention. “Now that we are all informed and reassured, let’s get back to work.”

“What about his occamy?” Quailfoot pipes up. Abasi and a few others blink at her, but the Goldsteins and Strenburg smile.

“Don’t worry, Verity,” says Strenburg warmly. “Daphne’s fine. She was hidden safely in the Director’s breast pocket at the time of the accident and remained there until we got him to St. Agatha’s.”

After this final announcement, activity resumes in the bull pen and the chatter remains low and largely professional. Queenie doesn’t need to be a Legilimens to know the same two questions are burning in everyone’s minds.

Why was Director Graves so close to a no-maj section of the city? Who tried to run him down with a no-maj vehicle?

Strenburg slips over to Tina and Queenie.

“Quailfoot,” she says assertively, “scram.”

Quailfoot jumps up and skitters away obediently. Strenburg drops into the relinquished seat and leans forward with her elbows on the desk. Tina and Queenie lean in as well.

“The healers had a hell of a time trying to get ole Percy to cooperate,” Strenburg tells them quietly. “I don’t think they believed he’s deaf ‘cause he kept talkin’ at ‘em, trying to get them to look at him head-on. Poor saps, they was so confused.

“Anyway, before I left St. Agatha’s, Graves wanted me to tell you why he was there in that corner of the city. Said it’s important that you two know because he knows how the rumor mill works around here. He’s been learning sign language and the best teacher from our world is a squib who happens to live right on the edge of a no-maj neighborhood.”

“Aw, wow,” says Queenie. “That’s just grand, good for him!”

Tina nods in agreement and then, in true investigative form, asks, “Did you find anything about the driver?”

“Not much,” Strenburg admits. “I talked to the no-maj bulls, played my concerned-and-demanding sister role, but they couldn’t tell me a whole lot. No trace of the driver, they said, almost like he vanished from the scene.” Strenburg glances heavily between the sisters.

Tina blows out a gusty sigh. “So, some witch or wizard used a no-maj car to attack Percival?”

Strenburg shrugs. “Seems like it, but after that hallway business are we really so surprised?”

“I suppose not,” Tina says darkly. Queenie gets flashes of the case her sister and Percival have been slaving over for the past few weeks—glimpses of them casing abandoned rooms, crossing names off a list, watching Brangham look at potion samples through several magnified lenses and dissect its purpose and ingredients. The name Collins drifts by, accompanied by a flicker of his face, blurred slightly in Tina’s memories by the passage of time since she last saw him in person.

“Well,” Tina says firmly, “we won’t find out anything new by sitting here talking about it.”

Strenburg agrees, rises from Tina’s chair, and heads off to her own desk where she begins rifling through her drawers. Tina shifts down into her chair and scrubs her hands over her face.

“Weren’t you of your way to see Abasi?” she asks Queenie, a twinkle of humor in her eyes.

“Right, yeah,” says Queenie and musters up a smile before heading off. Suddenly, she’s not so sure now is the right time to oppose a law—this one in particular. But then she pictures Jacob’s face and the glow of love and happiness that surrounds him constantly and she takes a bolstering breath. Upon her approach, Abasi conjures a chair for her to sit at his side and turns his own to better face her.

“I was told,” he begins, keeping his voice inconspicuously low and neutral so as to not attract unwanted attention, “that you’re interested in changing a state law.”

“Yeah,” Queenie says with the same subtlety, “but with the Director injured, is now the right time?”

“It’s as good a time as any,” Abasi says frankly. “If you wait for the right time, you’ll never find it. There will always be something around here.”

Queenie nibbles her lower lip and nods quietly. Then she takes a strengthening breath and dives right in. Abasi, for his part, listens intently and shows no hint of judgment or ill-opinion. He remains pleasantly neutral and Queenie reads nothing but patient understanding from his mind. This encourages Queenie to take a leap of faith and reveal the true extent of her intentions and devotion to this particular amendment. When she finishes, Abasi regards her with an unreadable expression while he absently strokes his neatly trimmed beard.

“Miss Goldstein,” he says at length and Queenie picks up traces of worry and apology, but also the definite heat of determination. “I won’t sugarcoat this for you. This is a monumental task to take on. Given the current state of affairs in the wizarding community, it will be immensely difficult to get anyone to listen to your plea. Many will write you off as a woman with a crush, some may even accuse you of being sympathetic to Grindelwald, and you won’t be able to go to the Director for help.”

“I know,” says Queenie.

“Your best bet, I’m afraid, is to get the President on your side and she will likely be the most difficult to convince. You’ll want to take time to decide your points, polish them, prepare for all possible arguments and counterpoints. You will have to face the entire Board of Directors as well, which I imagine will not be pleasant for you without Mr. Graves there.”

Some amount of alarm must show on Queenie’s face, because Abasi hurries to assure her, “I’m not trying to frighten you, Miss Goldstein. I just want you to know exactly what you are getting into. If you are willing, I would be happy to do everything in my power to prepare you for that and future meetings.”

“I’d sure appreciate that, Mr. Abasi,” Queenie replies gratefully.

Abasi smiles widely at her and then pulls open a drawer in his desk with a flick of his wand and levitates out a thick green and yellow tomb emblazoned with the title Rappaport’s Law and the MACUSA crest. The book lands on the table with an audible thud that makes Queenie blink involuntarily.

“President Emily Rappaport wanted to leave nothing to chance or uncertainty when she wrote this law,” says Abasi. “Take your time reading this, underline passages, take notes, dog-ear the pages. Whatever you need to do to learn the law backwards and forwards. I also recommend reading The Intricacies of Rappaport’s Law, I believe your sister has a copy?”

“She does,” says Queenie, recalling the somewhat slimmer book that sits on the shelf in their apartment.

“The first step is to read those books,” says Abasi. “Please don’t hesitate to come to me with questions or for clarification.”

“I won’t,” Queenie promises. “Thank you.”

 

- - -

 

Newt arrives via international portkey that evening, having received word earlier that day of Percival’s condition courtesy of Tina. Queenie is curled up on the sofa with some hot cocoa and a sliver of cheesecake, pouring over the first few pages of Rappaport’s Law, when her sister drags Newt into the apartment. The young British wizard is a bit rough around the edges, his shirt untucked and his hair more of a mess than usual. He looks tanner—at the very least, he has more freckles speckling across his nose and cheeks—and thinner than when the sisters last saw him. He is also visibly exhausted and made frazzled with worry, judging by the purple smudges under his eyes and the fact that his waistcoat buttons are off by a few holes.

“Hi, honey,” Queenie greets him sweetly. “Come sit, have some cocoa.”

Newt doesn’t need much more encouragement than that. He stumbles over to the sofa, sets down his case, and slumps onto the cushions next to Queenie. She gives him a gentle tug to get him to rest his head on her shoulder and flicks her wand to levitate a blanket over him.

“Thank you, Queenie,” he mumbles. His mind is fuzzy; his accent paired with his exhaustion makes him especially difficult to read. All she gets is a strong sense of worry and the image of Percival’s face, gentled in a way that she has never seen before. Queenie purposely stops looking at Newt’s mind before she spies anything else not meant for her.

“Rappaport’s Law,” he mumbles, staring at the book still open in her lap. “Tina mentioned you were researching muggle laws. I sent an owl to my brother, told him to forward you a detailed copy of our muggle laws for you to study.”

Queenie rests her cheek against the top of Newt’s head. “Thanks, hon. That was real sweet of you.”

Tina sets a second mug of cocoa and another slice of cheesecake on the coffee table for Newt. The redhead sits up and scoots forward a bit to reach the plate and quietly tucks in. He is preoccupied, it doesn’t take a mind-reader to know this, it’s obvious in the way he absently eats the dessert in small, consecutive bites until his fork scrapes the china. Pickett is nestled against the warm skin of Newt’s neck, tucked under the collar of his shirt with his leafy hands pressed against the man’s pulse. Despite his distraction, Newt reaches up and strokes Pickett’s tiny sides with delicate fingertips; comforting his creature just as much as his creature is comforting him.

“Percival’s going to be just fine,” Tina says soothingly, flicking her wand and sending the dirty dishes to the kitchen sink. “Strenburg was there when he got picked up by the no-maj healers and she made sure he got to St. Agatha’s in one piece.”

Newt nods. “I know… And thank you for sending for me so quickly.”

“Well, of course,” Tina replies. She smiles at him and then turns motherly. “You get some rest now. Go on and take my bed, I’ll bunk in here. Tomorrow I’ll bring you straight to St. Agatha’s to see Percival.”

Newt nods again. “Yes,” he said faintly. “Thank you.” He rises and staggers off to the bedroom, so worn out and distracted that he forgets to grab his case. Queenie closes her book, tucks it under her arm, and follows after him with his case in hand. When she steps into the bedroom, Newt is blinking confusedly at his empty hands and turning in a slow circle on the spot.

“I got it, sweetie,” she says softly and sets the case down on the foot of Tina’s bed.

“Ah, right,” says Newt, blushing delicately. “Much appreciated.”

Queenie chuckles and squeezes his arm. “I’ll give you a few minutes to change and settle in.” She leaves him to it and returns to the living room where she helps Tina transfigure the sofa and cushions into a cot and blankets. Then the sisters take turns in the washroom to clean their teeth and change into their nightclothes and use the toilet before bedding down.

Newt is sitting up against the headboard when Queenie enters the bedroom. The lamp on the bedside table is on, casting the room in a dim glow, and Pickett is cradled in his lap. He looks up when Queenie slides the door shut behind her and his eyes are a touch puffy and red. Queenie smiles encouragingly at him, knowing there is something he is itching to put to words, and puts her book next to the lamp and pulls back her quilt. Newt waits until she is settled under her blankets before finally speaking up.

“I know Percival is perfectly capable of taking care of himself,” he says quietly, voice nearly lost to the muffled sounds of the city beyond the walls. “He didn’t get to where he is by chance, after all, but I still… I still worry.” He huffs a humorless laugh. “You know my philosophy, but I can’t help it sometimes. I know there are people out there who wish him harm, beyond the normal parameters of his job. He doesn’t say much of it in his letters, but… I know.

“This, today, getting run down”—Newt’s voice cracks, but he keeps going—“by a muggle vehicle… We never could have imagined something like this. Daphne doesn’t know to warn Percival about vehicles, we specifically desensitized her to them, because they’re everywhere. And I can’t help myself imagining how frightening it all must’ve been for her and for Percival, especially for Percival. No warning, just walking in silence and then… Out of nowhere—”

Newt exhales heavily and wetly and Queenie is out of bed in an instant. She sits on the edge of the mattress and pulls the magizoologist into a fierce embrace.

“Shh,” she soothes, “it’s okay, honey, it’s okay. He’s fine now and you’ll see him tomorrow. Perry’s okay and Daphne’s okay. Shh, sweetie, it’s okay.”

Newt clings to her as tightly she does to him and buries his face in the crook of her neck. Queenie rocks gently from side to side until Newt regains himself and steadies his breathing. He leans back, chuckling a bit self-deprecatingly, and bunches his sleeves in his hands to wipe his cheeks.

“Percival would be appalled if he ever heard you use that nickname,” he says.

“Then it’ll be our little secret,” she replies, winking. “You want me to stay? I don’t mind.”

“That’s a lovely offer, but please don’t trouble yourself,” says Newt, sincere though still slightly misty-eyed. “I’ll be perfectly alright.”

“If you’re sure…” Queenie says, leaving him plenty of time and opportunity to change his mind.

“I’m sure,” he insists.

Queenie glances at the book on the bedside table and then at the books on the little shelf on Tina’s side. Even in the dim light, she can see the pale peach spine of The Intricacies of Rappaport’s Law and an idea comes to her.

“Well,” she says, summoning the book with a flick of her wand, “how about I read you one of Teenie’s boring books to help you fall asleep. The sooner you fall asleep, the sooner you’ll wake up in the morning and see Perry.”

This draws a small laugh from Newt just as Queenie hoped it would.

“Alright,” he agrees. “Let’s hear it.”

Queenie opens the book and flips past the foreword and introduction until she gets to the first chapter, which is a basic summation of how the law came about. She clears her throat delicately, somewhat dramatically, and begins to read.

In 1790, the fifteenth President of MACUSA, Emily Rappaport, instituted a law to create total segregation between the wizarding and No-Maj communities. This followed one of the most serious breaches of the International Statute of Secrecy, leading to a humiliating censure of MACUSA by the International Confederation of Wizards. The matter was that much more serious because the breach came from within MACUSA itself...” *

Queenie is several pages into the chapter when Newt drifts off, but she doesn’t put the book away, merely begins reading to herself rather than aloud. She has just come across a name she did not expect to recognize. Barebone.

 

- - -

 

Percival is still sleeping, tucked away in a private room, when Tina and Queenie arrive with Newt the next morning. Considering he’s just been hit by a car, Percival looks to be in good condition; there is no obvious damage and his color is normal. Daphne is curled up on the pillow, nested down in the crux of his neck and shoulder, her little beak snuggled into the groove above his collarbone.

The little occamy stirs when she hears their entrance and lights up with excitement when she sees Newt. She is careful when she extracts herself from her nest, managing to not jostle Percival even the slightest bit, but loud when she launches herself from the mattress into Newt’s arms. Daphne shrieks and warbles and flaps her wings as she grows several inches and winds herself around Newt’s upper body.

“Hello, sweetheart,” Newt greets her with equal enthusiasm. “Yes, yes, it’s lovely to see you, as well. I’m so pleased you’re alright, you gorgeous girl.”

“Will you be alright here on your own?” Tina asks once Daphne has settled down. “Healer Curio said he ought to wake up around noon and that’s still hours away.”

“I appreciate your concern,” says Newt, “but I’ll be just fine here. In all honesty, I’d make miserable company if I were anywhere else.”

“But if you change your mind,” Tina starts.

“I’ll come find you at MACUSA,” Newt finishes. Tina smiles and then tugs the magizoologist in for a quick hug, occamy included. Upon releasing him, Tina flashes on last smile before she strides from the room. Queenie hangs back; she plans to stay with Newt for a little while before heading into work herself. She conjures a pair of cozy chairs and settles into one.

Newt coaxes Daphne back onto the pillow, coils her under Percival’s ear once again and then brushes a kiss to Percival’s forehead before taking the other seat. He looks to Queenie expectantly.

“You’ve been fiddling with your purse all morning,” he says plainly.

Queenie doesn’t bother with pretense and simply extracts The Intricacies of Rappaport’s Law from her beaded clutch. She flips open to the page she marked last night and begins to read.

One day, at a local picnic, Dorcus Twelvetrees became greatly enamored of a handsome No-Maj called Bartholomew Barebone. Unbeknownst to Dorcus, Bartholomew was a Scourer descendant. Nobody in his family was magic, but his belief in magic was profound and unshakeable, as was his conviction that all witches and wizards were evil.” *

“Barebone,” Newt repeats softly. “Yes, that does explain quite a bit. Mary Lou Barebone must be another descendant to have known all that she did and to hate so absolutely. According to Tina, she was aware that Credence’s mother was a witch and adopted him for the sole purpose of ensuring he never followed her footsteps.”

“Oh, that’s dreadful,” says Queenie, feeling a mirror sorrow in Newt. “That poor, sweet boy, may he rest in peace.”

Newt swallows nervously and says, “Actually…”

 

- - -

 

Tina puts subtle feelers out for any trace of Credence Barebone, relying solely on her own magical ability rather than risk including anyone the boy might perceive as a threat. In the month in takes for Queenie to read and understand Rappaport’s Law to her own satisfaction, there have been no hits in Tina’s network. Newt is still in New York, helping when he can, but is first and foremost concerned with Percival’s health. The Director of Magical Security returned to work a week ago after a miserable three weeks of medical absence to strengthen his pelvis and the three vertebrae in his lower back that had to be partially regrown. It is with great care and delicacy that Tina finally tells Percival about Credence’s suspected survival on the first Friday since his return.

Queenie is in the bull pen with Abasi and Strenburg—who nosed her way into Queenie’s case only a day ago and has embraced the challenge with bright eyes and a keen mind.

“You gotta emphasize the benefits,” says Strenburg, perched on the corner of Abasi’s desk with her ankles crossed. “You don’t want to start a war or nothing, you just want to be able to talk to the cute no-maj across the street without getting arrested.”

“I’m basing a lot of my arguments off the letter I received from Theseus Scamander,” Queenie admits. “British law obviously still complies with the Statute of Secrecy, but without banning interaction between wizards and no-majs. There isn’t much natural cross-over between the two communities anyway, but should it happen, the witch or wizard doesn’t have to be afraid of punishment.” Queenie uncrosses and re-crosses her ankles under the chair Abasi summoned for her. “It really just means that Britain has a higher number of half-bloods and that students are allowed to bring their wands home during vacations.”

“What are the stipulations for revealing the existence of magic to a non-magical person?” asks Abasi, businesslike as usual, but Queenie detects a glow of pride and approval from him for her.

“Marriage,” Queenie replies promptly. “The only reason a no-maj ought to be brought into the fold is if marriage is proposed or if children are imminent. That way, should a child show early signs of having magic, the no-maj parent won’t be alarmed and draw unwanted attention.”

Abasi nods curtly. “And should the relationship between parents turn sour?”

Queenie puckers her lips.

“Why does Queenie have to answer that?” asks Strenburg. Queenie can see Sadie thinking the question is somewhat out of left field, an intentional prod to set her off-balance, because every relationship is so varied and peculiar and plainly different—how could one woman be able to construct an answer that safely covers everything?

“Because someone is going to ask,” Abasi replies simply.

“Of course, every witch or wizard who decides to start a relationship with a no-maj must understand that the decision is theirs alone and that they claim full responsibility for the consequences, whatever they may be,” Queenie answers carefully. “That said, should a relationship be terminated—” and the use of such a harsh word grates on her, but it is the type of vernacular that will ensure she is taken seriously “—it is the responsibility of the magical half to report the divorce to the appropriate department within MACUSA so that the non-magical half can be properly Obliviated.”

“And what constitutes a proper Obliviation,” presses Abasi. “Certainly, we cannot wipe what could likely be years of memories from a no-maj’s mind. Not to mention the amount of non-magical in-laws that also have memories involving the magical parent, even if they do not have any knowledge of magic itself.”

“The divorced no-maj would not have his or her memories completely erased,” says Queenie. “It would be a selective Obliviation, which would entail blurring out memories and conversations concerning the existence of magic.”

“And the children?”

Queenie opens her mouth, a response sitting on her tongue, ready to go, but is interrupted by a flurry of mental voices. She recognizes her sister instantly and whips around in her seat. Tina is fervently replaying a conversation in her mind, keeping it fresh at the forefront for later use and because it has her so riled. Queenie isn’t familiar with the face that Tina is holding in her memory—a roughly lined male face with a wide, bristly jaw and droopy eyes reminiscent of a basset hound—but the backdrop of a popular speakeasy tells her this is one of Tina’s informants.

The elder Goldstein left Percival’s office no more than two hours ago after telling him about Credence’s survival and is now returning with an update on that very topic.

Pale kid,” a cigarette-strained voice is saying in Tina’s memory, “scrawny, tall, and real sad. Real skittish, too. Scars on his arms and side of his neck, like eh... Burns, maybe? Or like something tried ripping him apart?

Tina in her memory slides a no-maj photograph of Credence Barebone across the table and asks, “Is this him?

The grizzled man lets out a smoky laugh and says, “Yeah, that’s him. Less beat to shit, but those’re the same sad eyes.

Tina remembers leaning intently forward and asking lowly, urgently, “Where did you see him?”

Then Tina is whisking past the bull pen and rapping sharply on the Director’s office door. Just before she steps through and is cut off from Queenie’s mental reach by the wards on Percival’s office, another name flashes through Tina’s mind. Queenie stares after her for a moment before a tugging on her sleeve pulls her back.

“What was that about?” asks Strenburg, resonating concern and curiosity.

“Tina just got a big lead,” Queenie replies somewhat absently, glancing between Abasi and Strenburg and then back at Percival’s closed door. With a twist of regret, she adds, “I don’t think the Board of Directors is going to care what I have to say until this pans out.”

She doesn’t need to add that it could take weeks, maybe even months, for any one case to pan out, depending on countless and unpredictable variables. She can read this perfectly in their thoughts.

“Well, hey,” says Strenburg, clasping Queenie’s shoulder comfortingly, “you wasn’t working on a particular timeline, right? You won’t be letting anyone down if you have to wait a while longer to bring this to the Board.”

“That’s right,” Abasi encourages. “All this means is that you have more time to make your points airtight.”

Queenie was preparing herself to approach the President about a Board meeting next week and then actually face the Board no more than a month after that. All her courage has been steadily pooling in her chest and now, in the event of that meeting being undeniably cancelled, all the nerve floods out of her and leaves her slumped in her seat.

Queenie doesn’t mention that this case is the one that will take more than a few weeks to blow over. It will be more than a few months before anyone in this office will be able to think about anything that is not strictly relevant to it. Because the name that flashed through Tina’s mind before that door slammed shut was the name of a man she and Percival have been turning the city upside down searching for. The name of the man who is the reason Tina has been losing sleep, the reason Tina has been working herself to the bone, the reason Tina has been coming home dejected and bruised. The name of the man who had Tina and Percival and Strenburg trapped in a deadly hallway with a known man-eater and who is the prime suspect behind Percival’s recent traumatic injury.

Leland Collins.

 

- - -

 

On Saturday, the next day, around eleven o’clock, Queenie brings Newt to Kowalski’s Quality Baked Goods. She tried to coerce Tina and Percival into coming along as well, but the two busy-bodies couldn’t be torn away from their work. Queenie and Newt tried to stick with them, holed up in Percival’s apartment with maps and documents pinned up like wallpaper, but their inability to properly contribute left them at the wayside. Unable to watch their loved ones tear their hair out any longer, Queenie proposed a break. Only Newt heard her and it was quickly apparent that Tina and Percival could not be torn from their task.

“He don’t remember all that much,” says Queenie quietly as they approach the shop, “and what he does, he writes off as funny dreams. But it’s all in there, I know it is.”

“I’m sure it is,” Newt agrees readily, honestly. “I know I don’t need to tell you just how remarkable the mind is.”

Queenie beams at him and then presses open the door and glides inside, announced by the high tinkle of the bell. She reaches for Newt’s mind and, giddily, experiences seeing the shop for the first all over again through Newt’s eyes. The bakery is warm and it smells heavenly as usual. The displays are freshly filled, the pastries flaky and golden, fluffy and light, glazed and iced. Everything is bright and buoyant, welcoming and wonderful. Classic loaves and baguettes fill the leftmost wall, labeled in a strong, legible hand. The front display cases that line the counter are filled with plates piled with classic cookies and rolls and muffins to one side and a vast arrangement of traditional Polish treats to the other.

Throughout the main floor, tables bear tiered displays of erumpent loaves, glazed demiguise doughnuts, breaded nifflers with raisin eyes, and occamy Danishes with various jam centers. Newt fixates on the creature-shaped treats, glancing joyfully between Queenie and the pastries and brimming with shiny pride and glittering happiness.

“Oh, these are wonderful,” he says with feeling. “Simply fantastic. Look at the detail here.” He steps up close to inspect a demiguise, indicating the precise lines of glaze that create the illusion of long, silvery hair. “That is so clever!”

“Aw, jeez, thanks, mister.” Jacob has just stepped in from the back, dusting his hands on the front of his apron. His cheeks pink with pleasure from the praise and his smile is radiant. Queenie’s heart flutters in her chest and she thinks she might burst she is so full of love.

“Hi, honey,” she greets him, hurrying across the floor and leaning over the counter to plant a kiss on his waiting lips.

“Haven’t seen you in a while,” he says, voice a low rumble laced with affection.

“I know, sugar,” she says apologetically. “But I’m all freed up now, I promise.”

“Aw, you don’t gotta worry about a thing, doll,” Jacob tells her and Queenie can see the extent of his honesty. This man would wait until the end of the world for her and never feel an ounce of resentment. “Now. You gonna introduce me to your friend?”

Queenie beams and beckons Newt over. The magizoologist tears himself away from his earnest inspection of the erumpent loaves and approaches the counter carefully, chin ducked seemingly shyly. Newt is nervous, Queenie knows, and anxious about meeting the man who fast became his closest friend for the second time.

“Hello,” Newt says pleasantly, mouth curling up into a sweet smile. “I’m Newt.”

Jacob meets Newt’s eye and “hey, mister, you dropped your… Egg?” Jacob frowns, befuddled by the sudden flicker of a memory he no longer has, but he presses on gamely and takes Newt’s hand.

“Jacob,” he says. “S’real nice to meet you.”

“And you,” Newt returns, smile slowly growing, relief flooding him when Jacob proves to be as earnest and affable as he recalled. “Really, it is a pleasure to meet the man behind all the delightful pastries Queenie is always bringing around.”

Jacob blusters and aw shucks and brushes off the praise with the awkward grace of one unused to being praised. Newt chuckles and his eyes go a bit misty, but he keeps himself together.

“We’ve just escaped from Teenie and Mr. Graves,” says Queenie, bringing a merciful change of topic. “They brought work home and haven’t been any fun at all this morning.”

“Uh-huh,” says Jacob. “You’ve come to just the right place.”

He opens the partition and beckons them behind the counter and into the back.

“I was just about to make some pączki,” he says, beginning to buzz with excitement as he does every time he talks about his work. “You two interested in learning how?”

“Yes, please!” cheers Queenie, rolling up her sleeves in anticipation.

Newt laughs quietly and says, “Very much!”

Hours later, the three of them are camped out in the back room with a plate of fresh pączki between them as they laugh and bond and get to know each other all over again. Queenie watches her hands folded under her chin as Newt regales Jacob with a modified tale of his recent travels in Norway. She reads and feels the joy in Newt’s mind as he reconnects with a once-lost friend. She basks in Jacob’s happiness, in the way his thoughts bounce warmly along with Newt’s words, fully engaged with the tale and utterly unquestioning of why this redheaded Brit has been so immediately accepted into his heart.

This, Queenie thinks, more than anything, is what she wants: laughter and friendship and love. This, she realizes, is what she wants for everyone around her and everyone who may one day find themselves in her shoes. This, she vows, is what she is going to fight for and keep fighting for, for as long as it takes to make a change.