Tina swallows, her insides twisting in an anxious-yet-pleasant way, but nods her consent. From her peripheral, Newt fidgets by the stairs that lead up out of his case, his wings twitching (he's just as unsure as she is). She chooses to ignore his apprehension, focusing on the vials lined up on his desk, each filled with a spectrum of colors and odd charms. In the silence between, she hears the call of his creatures from out beyond the walls of his shed.
Slowly, Newt steps closer into the space between her wings and she lets him, staring definitely at the maps laid out before her, noting the many points across the continents marked in cursive writing. He reaches out and she shivers when his fingers finally brushed against her primary feathers, a faint touch that’s no more than a breeze.
Tina lets out a shaky breath, gripping the stool under her, but otherwise doesn’t respond.
Her lack of rejection spurs Newt further, pressing more firmly on her wings, sliding down to the tips. Gently, softly he explores more, slipping his fingers in between her feathers, his knuckles grazing her shirt when he pets those closest to the center of her back.
Her eyelids drop. She lets herself get lost in the attention, especially so when Newt switches wings, giving the other the same care as he did the first. Unconsciously, Tina spreads them wider, taking up more space she'd usually allow; for once she's in the spotlight, not in a dark basement within MACUSA where no one can catch a glimpse, berated and smothered. It's nice.
At his voice, she snaps to attention immediately. It only takes a second for her to realize that Newt had finished his ministrations some time ago, awkwardly standing behind her and waiting for some kind of signal.
Heat builds in her cheeks, embarrassed. Never before has this happened. She wasn't one of those giggling flapper girls that fluttered their tips at any good-looking man with a mediocre wingspan, nor did she usually let a stranger preen her into such compliance.
But Newt isn't a stranger- at least, not entirely.
A small movement catches her eye and she foregoes any other thought in light of the sight of her wings.
She touches the tip of a feather. Unlike before, it glows under the warm light, even more luminous compared to her pale skin. Her hand feels more, wiping off the dust of neglect that’s covered it for so long to reveal a steel blue that reminds her of her mother's.
Coughing, she hastily stands, folding her wings and leaving them pressed against her back like a steel shield. It takes only a moment to hastily wipe her face and another to get her breathing back to normal. Newt hasn't moved when she turns to face him, still staring at her wings.
"Thank you," she says, unable to think of anything else.
"It was nothing," he tells her, making eye contact for a split second before glancing down at their shoes.
He does that often, Tina realizes, tossing away compliments. These little acts of kindness are easily given, as if the sky would fall around them if not done so, and it's something else. Living in New York, with its bustling streets and detached people (with their small wings, shining and loved compared to her own), this kind of unbiased care is strange and new.
She finally looks at his wings, really looks. They’re brown, almost rustic, dappled in white and black, as common as the Muggle's she's seen on the street. Self-preened, at least the places he can reach, his feathers as lustrous as they can be surviving off self-love. She touches one without thinking. Newt's small intake is ignored in favor of the softness of his feathers, shivering under her fingertips.
She focuses on a place he can most certainly reach on his own, but she’s too much of a coward to step around him and preen at the ruffled mess that covers the back. That’s the difference between them, she supposes, their courage; she can fight criminals and break the Statute of Secrecy without hesitation, but intimate acts with anyone besides her sister leave her a frightened quail. It’s only Newt’s previous single-minded attention for her that pushes her to continue, so she settles on combing her fingers through the feathers she can reach, brushing down displaced quills and flattening those sticking out of place, giving something in return for the selfless care she’d been given.
When she looks back at his face, he’s already staring at her, and she scrounges up some courage to meet his gaze. Her hand drops to hang by her side and, even with no legitimate reason to keep them standing so close, she stays where she is. This close, she can see his freckles in detail, as well as the scruff lining his jaw and the emeralds lurking in the sea of his eyes. He's quite handsome, in a roguishly awkward kind of way.
“Thank you.” He tucks a strand of her hair back, his expression focused, and a new feeling flutters in her chest, pushing back the fear and replacing it with something more.
And when he gives her a small smile, she can’t help but give a hopeful one in return.
Chapter 2: raise the curtains and set the stage
This chapter is 3x longer than the first and I can't believe how overboard I went with this AU. Why do I write so much? Why do my drabbles turn into lengthy one-shots?
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The crowd roars, hands raised and clapping, sound soaring to the tent’s peak in an electric wave.
From the top level, Newt observes all sorts of people, large and small, men and women, young and old, each adding a distinct voice to the commotion of the show below. The businessmen could sit beside a common working man, united in the throes of wondrous laughter. It was a beautiful thing, shining under the guise of the night; though come morning, the world would reset and strangers would become strangers once again, but, for now, responsibilities and social conduct could be thrown aside in the face of entertainment.
They’re a stark contrast to the performers down below, shining figures that dazzle in the stagelight, fluidly moving in time with the beats of the music the band plays, the bright dash of red marking Picquery slipping in between to draw the crowd in even more.
Pickett chitters anxiously from his shoulders. Newt turns away from the action, walking toward the empty bleachers on the highest level.
“It’s alright, Pick,” he murmurs, petting the lemur in soothing strokes. “We’ll be leaving in a jiffy.”
His words calm the primate, who curls his tail around Newt’s throat, gripping his shirt’s collar between his little hands.
Newt had tossed his overly flashy coat aside the moment his act had finished, never one to draw attention to himself. That was reserved for his animals, not him. He stands close to the tent flap where a mild breeze is easily accessible, the heat of the crowd raising the temperature within the tent tenfold and not the best for his friend. Pickett purrs his thanks, especially when Newt hands him an apple slice from his pocket.
They grab the attention of a little girl two rows below, her face lighting up so quickly once she sees Pickett perched on Newt’s shoulders. His act has always been a favorite of children, the exotic animals piquing their curiosity, especially when he tells them of the far-off places they come from. It must be so for the girl, recognizing him from the earlier part of the show.
Newt presses a finger to his lips before she can draw attention to him. She gives a kilowatt smile when Pickett turns her way, charmingly showing off his food as he chews with an open mouth, and nods, scampering away with a skip to her step.
Indiscreetly, he checks his watch, pursing his lips at the time. It’s been long past usual showtime, even longer since Pickett had rested. He didn’t often stay after his act, only to watch over one of the assistants if they were performing a new stunt, preferring to retire early.
The only reason he hadn't left yet was that there were now a number of new acts, none of which he’d seen yet. New dancers to accompany Picquery as she started the show (who weren’t half bad, if the show below is any indication), a band of trapeze artists, as well as more “freaks” for the sideshow. Not only that, but a fortune teller had begun traveling with them, a pretty young blonde with a dazzling smile that always knew what everyone was thinking. Coupled with the original acts and the countless vendors that traveled with their troupe, they would soon be the biggest in North America and Europe, if they weren’t so already.
“You wouldn’t notice if Picquery replaced the entire troupe, brother,” Theseus had said jokingly, and, as much as Newt wouldn’t like to admit it, he’s right.
Though true as that might be, it always paid to know who you were traveling with and so he forced himself to bear through the countless acts. Through the clowns making a fool of the audience and themselves, the sword swallowers and fire-eaters, Mr. Grave’s magician's act (the runaway boy hanging off the man’s every word and doing better as his assistant than anyone expected), the jugglers and tightrope acrobats, as well as the parading elephants. The contortionist doesn’t effect him like the patrons, the act always the same, and he claps with the rest of the crowd when his brother makes consecutive shot after shot, not even the blindfold covering his eyes enough to impede his stellar aim.
Near the end, the acrobats come out, offering a dazzling performance. There are a total of five cascading down from the corners of the tent, just beyond the reach of the captivated crowd. They hang, suspended on hoops, holding their bodies in fantastical positions, displaying more control and strength than their very own Strongman. From there, they rise to elevated platforms, foregoing static tricks to those more dangerous. Some of the crowd scream when the first jumps down from a great height, barely caught by another.
Newt grins, watching the trapeze artists swing across, their costumes shimmering under the stagelight, enthralled as much as the crowd. Some continue to do static positions while others are swooping over the crowd with wide smiles as they do incredible flips and gravity-defying stunts. They swoop over the bleachers and, when they’re turned away from the crowd in that split second, Newt can see the facade slip momentarily as the performers makes faces at one another.
Then he sees her.
Or, rather, the crowd goes suddenly silent, the music dipping into something low and daring, and he sees the stage lights dim until only one remains. Newt slips through the maze of the bleacher’s metal frame as the performers disappear as quickly as they appeared, catching glimpses of pale blue through the seats as he hurries back into the open.
It’s a single performer, a woman with a dark bob hanging from fine silk in the center of the stage. Above her, a hoop that’s been beautifully crafted to resemble a grinning moon.
For reasons he can’t explain, Newt feels drawn. Without realizing it, he’s moved out from the shadows to stand at the edge of the upper seats.
The woman is just as extravagant as the other performers, displaying her flexibility and strength, holding the splits even as the ribbon tied around her ankles turns her in a slow orbit. She twists and spins, hanging by an ankle for a moment, before wrapping herself with the silk, both body and legs.
Suddenly, she falls from the ceiling in a waterfall of silk, her lifeline slipping through her fingers, and Newt feels his breath leave his lungs. The stage light follows her descent like a loyal companion until halfway down, she stops, the fabric swirling around her legs, holding her steady as she releases her hands and waves an elegant arm to the crowd. They cheer, appreciative whistles rising over the the barrier and brushing along the curve of her spine.
She makes the climb back up look easy, hooking her legs and pulling herself up like she’d been born doing it. The crowd gasps when the silk falls away, but the woman’s already grabbed hold of the ring, hoisting herself to sit there like she’s not risking her life from a potential fall. She flips back, dangling with one hand, only to swing and pull herself back up, and then again, changing her routine way to keep the crowd interested.
From Newt’s peripheral, a man shouts and points to the right, and Newt tears his gaze away from the woman to see that some of the other performers are back. When he looks back at the main stage, she’s gone, aerial ring and all.
The act resumes to its prior tricks, the acrobats swings around grabbing the crowd’s attention once more. Newt searches the faces of each one as they rush by, but none of them are the woman in blue. She’s vanished like one of Graves’ doves, there one second and gone the next, right before his very eyes.
A cry from the crowd and then, suddenly, she's there. Body bowed and legs hooked securely around a trapeze bar, she's rushing towards him, until she’s looking straight at him, an arm’s length away.
Their eyes meet. The stagelight highlights half of her face, adding color to her pale skin, shadows trailing down the expanse of her neck to the shimmery material of her costume.
She extends an arm to him as if she’d known he’d be standing here, beckoning.
A small part of him wants to reach out, but that would be silly, strange even. Before he can even act out the desire, she's falling back, grabbing hold of another acrobat and speeding to the other end of the tent. She doesn't come near Newt again.
The rest of the act follows in a daze, the crowd growing louder and louder, until the finale sets them off into a frenzy of applause. Pickett screeches in his ear, but Newt’s deaf to it. He stares at the woman in blue, who stands in the shadows atop the main platform while the other women come forward with big, sultry smiles.
He's rushing back down to ground level before the performers even begin their bows.
After the show, he doesn't go back to his tent and retire for the night. What he does is search the crowded backstage, ignoring Theseus’s surprise when he stares at the trapeze artists more intensely than he ever has for anything that isn’t an animal. He doesn't see a hint of pale blue.
His brother doesn’t say anything, but asks with the rise of his eyebrows. Newt can’t answer him because he himself isn't sure why he's looking in the first place.
It's days later that he finally meets her in person. He's emptying his Rhino’s watering trough in the patch of dirt behind his tent when he hears a polite cough.
Newt turns and he nearly trips over the the trough in his surprise. Hanging on the ropes pegged into the ground, a few lines down from where his clothes hang to dry, is the woman.
She stares at him and he at her, silently.
“Hello,” he says.
“Hi.” For some reason, her voice isn’t what he expects, blunt and melodic at once. She doesn’t say anymore, dropping the upper half of her body from the taut ropes to hang from her legs.
Newt glances around them, spotting no one else. Not many of other circus goers ever wandered near his tent in fear of his animals, and those who did kept a respectable distance away while they stared in awe. Behind him his elephants grunt and his lions roar, but he can still make out the indistinguishable chatter of the rest of the camp, boats of laughter rising up in small intervals.
“What are you doing back here?” There are other places to practice, similar to his own, and yet, strangely enough, she's here.
The woman waves a hand at her position, as if it would speak for itself, before twisting her torso to grip lower along the rope in a spine-breaking stretch. From there, she releases a leg and maneuvers herself onto the next rope, and Newt merely watches stretch herself comfortably.
The toned shape of her legs draws his gaze, his focus on the way they wrap around the rope, where the swell of her flesh will most likely have a temporary impression of the rope after. And much of her skin is visible with her simple leotard, resembling more of an undergarment than clothing to walk around public in.
“Are you going to stand there all day watching me?”
“Ah, sorry.” He coughs, feeling heat creep up his neck to his ears at being caught, the mid-afternoon sun burning at his back. He hastily makes his escape.
Her voice stops him before he can take a single step toward his tent. “Hey, fella, would you do me a favor?”
Newt turns back to her, confused. That is, until she nods to the ground underneath her, a puddle of mud that looks like a slop of brown paste. He spots her shoes at the edge, too far to reach.
“Oh, ah, yes—allow me.” The mud sticks to his boots when he steps into the puddle, wet straw and grass sticking to his soles, and reaches out to her. He doesn’t give himself time to think, wrapping an arm around her waist and settling her on his hip, taking on her slight weight easily when she releases the ropes. He doesn’t grip her bare legs, and instead she curls them against her chest as he side carries her to a dry patch of grass.
She sets her feet on the ground one after the other, but doesn’t take back her hands, keeping them where they are, her grip like a steel clamp, the press of her fingers burning through the fabric of his shirt. Newt suddenly realizes how very close her face is, her body pressed against his, and that he has yet to release her. “Thanks.”
“You’re welcome, Miss.. ah…”
Some of her hair sticks to her cheek. “Tina.”
He inclines his head. “Newt Scamander.”
It’s been so long since he’s been this close to a woman—anyone beside his brother really—blatantly staring as he thinks of what to do or say. This close he can feel her breath on his chin, warm and soft, see every eyelash, the color of her eyes (they are darker than he’d originally thought). Very pretty, he thinks.
He clears his throat—once, twice—pulling away and stepping back so there’s a respectable distance between them. Stuffing his hands in his pockets, he watches her slip her flats on, his gaze sliding up her legs to the crown of her head. His eyes are resolutely on the ground when she finishes and looks back at him.
It’s then he spots the rest of her things still in a pile, close to the mud puddle. He hurries to gather them up for her, scooping up a worn book, a golden locket, and what he thinks is a playing card. Further scrutiny reveals it isn’t so, but a tarot card. Newt studies it, noting the winged being hovering over a man and a woman before it’s snatched out of his hand.
Tina takes the rest of her things, slipping the locket around her neck and the card between the pages of her book. She seems oddly flustered, but Newt doesn’t know why.
“You’re also a fortune teller?”
“No, Queenie, my sister is… she's always reading my palms and looking into my future, but none of it has come true yet.”
Newt shakes his head, scoffing. He’d never believed in that sort of thing, too wishy-washy and unreliable for his taste. Normally the gipsies who’d offered him a glimpse of his future were less than true and spouted on about pre-destined lovers and a famous life ahead of him. It's only a moment later and a wry raise of an eyebrow that he realizes the accidental snub he enacted and quickly goes to remedy it. “Oh, no, I didn't mean—it's just that I don't, er…”
Luckily, he's saved from embarrassing himself in conversation when Pickett runs out of the tent flap and scurries up Newt’s legs to sit on his shoulders. The lemur curls his tail around his neck, loudly munching on a what Newt suspects is a caterpillar.
Tina looks at Pickett, head tilted. “So what everybody says is true—you don’t keep it in a cage. It’s fully tamed.”
That causes him to grimace, tucking his chin against the spiel he has ready on the undeserving prejudice concerning his animals. It seems the troop grapevine has been spreading. “I haven’t tamed him, no—he’s still as wild as any other animal.”
Her expression morphs into something different than before, more nervous. “So you have more, right?”
He puff his cheeks. “Oh, yes… about two dozen horses, ten elephants, six lions, five tigers, three sea lions, sixteen parrots, and five lemurs—” Pickett cackles a warning. “Six lemurs.”
“And do you have… polar bears?”
Newt nods, frowning at his forgetfulness. “Yes—two actually. Ursula and Alaska.”
Leta’s bears, actually, a small voice reminds him, but he shoos it away. They were his now and dealing with a change of handler better than he expected them too. They didn’t give him “kisses” like her, but they did allow him to do every other trick. Feeding was a hassle with only one person, but he dealt with it well enough.
He clears his throat of the sudden lump, mentally chastising himself. It’s best if he didn’t think about that, especially about people who’d left for better things. “Hm, well, I must be getting back to them, so, if you’ll excuse me…”
“Wait!” He stops, confused and more than a little surprised when Tina steps in front of him, and he nearly jumps when she lays her hand on his chest. “There’s a reason I’m hanging around your tent.”
“Yes.” She hurriedly pulls her hand back when he blatantly glances down at it. “I was, um, wondering—hoping actually—if I could see your animals.”
“See my animals?”
“Well, actually your, um, bears.”
“I, er, don’t usually let anyone besides the assistants go near them. They’ve been a bit barmy lately and it’s best if they’re not bothered.”
“That's alright,” Tina says, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear. Newt sees her deflate, feeling guilt build in his chest even though it has no right to be there. “I can see them during the show."
"Er, they won't be performing for a while..."
"Oh." Tina is looking everywhere except him, a delicate red coloring her cheeks and neck. She grips her books tighter and inches away from him.
Now Newt really does feel guilty. Never before has he ever regretted pushing someone away, especially a near stranger, but he does now and wants to lighten the blow somehow. Not many people want to come near him and his animals and now he's found one. He'd be daft to let it slip past.
He doesn’t realize he’s grabbed her hand until she tumbles back into him. “So sorry! How would you feel about helping me with feeding? Nothing too dangerous,” he reassures her, focused on the curl of her hair at her jaw. He drops her hand and fiddles with his suspenders. “I have to make my rounds and it's best if I had a helping hand.”
He makes a quick glance at her face, only to find himself unable to tear his eyes away. Her smile blooms before him and it's stunning.
“I'd like that.” She lets out a little laugh, dimples forming on her cheeks, and Newt can't help but smile back. “I’d like that very much.”
The scene where Newt sees Tina came from a scene from the trailer for the The Greatest Showman.
If I'd written Leta in more, she would've been based off the Polar Bear Princess, Ursula Blütchen, who was a real person. You guys can check out her and other famous circus performers here if you're interested!
Reviews are appreciated!
Chapter 3: foam on the crest of waves
For you, returntosaturn, since you really, really, wanted this written. :)
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The woods of Upland New York are surprisingly rich, the morning dew still clinging to the thick trees and the birds just starting their morning routine. And had she been there on anything other than business, Tina would have appreciated the scenic view, but, as it was, that was not the case. The case was that it had taken quite a lot for her to convince Sergeant Graves to deal her in on this particular case and, in no way whatsoever, was she going to throw this opportunity away and go back to sitting in her desk all day. The rumors surrounding the notorious Manhattan Mauler was big business (four kills in a span of two weeks and counting) and she had to be on her toes to make sure they didn't get the slip on her.
So, here she is, walking along the ridge of the infamous dumping grounds for the city’s most sleazy crooks, hoping to catch a whiff of something, anything. It's this desperation that has her spotting the misfortunate shape tangled in the murky water.
She’s about to call it in when the body in question moves.
She doesn’t let herself think, going straight into action and starting down the rocky shore. Tugging off her coat and holster, she dives into the river. It's cold, shocking her momentarily, but she ignores the numbness that builds on her skin to swim into deeper water. She hasn’t gone swimming in some time, too busy with work to have a relaxing day at the beach, but the post isn’t so far where she actually has to tread water.
When she reaches the body, she immediately grabs hold—
—and the face turns toward her, eyes open wide, and gurgles out an angry reply.
She shrieks, slipping and falling back into the water. It fills her mouth and burns her nose, and she kicks out wildly when something that feels like a hand clasps around her ankle. Once it lets go, soaked and gasping for air, she crawls back to the shore.
Just beyond the safety of dry land, seafoam bubbles where Tina knew the body was flailing, ripples of waves sweeping out and splashing against her feet. A minute passes, then another, and she watches whatever is under the water struggle.
It's still stuck.
She curses. “Oh, for the love of—”
Against all of her survival instincts, she jumps back in the river and waddles to the thing. She can’t see much past the foam, but the netting is dark enough for her to latch onto. When pulling doesn't immediately free it, she pulls out the small knife she carries and starts cutting at the net. After a few tries, she tears a gaping hole the length of the thing’s body.
Then it’s free and something heavy slams in her chest, knocking her back underwater. She swallows nearly a quarter of a gallon, spitting it all out when she finally resurfaces, knife lost somewhere on the riverbed below her. A small coughing fit and she blinks away the saltwater of her eyes.
A face stares back.
Tina swallows a scream.
“Thank you,” it—he, Tina thinks, noting the square jaw and strong nose, remarkably handsome and male in structure—says. Pointed teeth peek out from pale lips when he speaks and Tina puts a little more distance between them, attempting a poor and awkward backstroke. “Though you did nearly finish me off yourself—got me right in the gills.” He rubs his his cheek, wincing.
Tina finally reaches land. “What the hell are you?”
“I thought it'd be obvious.” His tailfin rises out of the water, golden scales of delicate plating shining off what little sun shined past the overcast.
“You shouldn't exist!”
“I've never met a human before,” he says, ignoring her words. He looks almost fascinated.
She kicks out her heel when he starts to come closer, dragging his body with only the strength of his forearms, warding him off. “Ah ah ah, don’t you come any closer—hey!”
He's grabbed her ankle, inspecting her boot. “How do you swim with these anyway? And why do you cover it?”
“It's a shoe and let go of my foot!”
He rolls his eyes, too bright to be normal. They remind Tina of the eyes of an octopus showcased at the aquarium. “Yes, I’ve heard about shoes, but why do you have them? Wouldn't your species have evolved perfectly fine without them?”
She yanks her foot free, bringing her knees to be pressed against her chest and out of his reach. Water laps at her boots and she shimmies back to where she'd thrown her coat. “W-Why are you talking like that?”
“Like what?” he asks, sounding confused and incredibly… British.
He points to himself with a claw-like finger. “How I speak? I learned it from fishermen on the other side of the ocean, of course.”
“Then why are you in America? Don't you live near England or something?”
“New York is considerably more interesting than England,” he says as an explanation. “I’m glad I made the swim.”
“Yeah, well, I’m not!” she snaps. “I came here looking for a dead body and I found you! What am I supposed to tell Sergeant Graves when I go back? That I found a mermaid? I’d be kicked off the force!”
“Mermaid? Do I look like a maid to you?” Then fins at his back rise in offense. “And why would a human be looking for a body in the first place? Don’t you lot usually stay on land?”
“I’m a cop. That’s part of my job.” Tina shakes her head, making a frustrated noise. She can’t believe this is happening, that she’s arguing with something that shouldn’t exist. “Why did I have to be the one to find you?”
“I don’t see why you’re blaming me...”
“You were the one stuck, pal! You're lucky I didn't just leave you! One call and you would be on your way to an aquarium!”
His gills flare. “Well then, thank you for all your help. I’ll be on my way,” he says, beginning to shimmy his way back to deeper water.
“Oh no, you're not going anywhere!” Without thinking, Tina grabs his arm and yanks him back onto the shore. His skin is cold, slick, and unsettling to the touch, but she forces herself to keep hold of him. “I helped you, now you help me.”
He stares at her, surprised, not giving a bit of fight at her handling. There's no way for her to know if she can physically keep him here, but she'll be damned if she doesn't get something out of this crazy situation. Besides, if anything happens, she has her gun.
“What exactly do you want from me?”
Tina doesn't know herself until an idea forms in her head. It's ridiculous, stupid even, but she's desperate and maybe, just maybe, this could work out for the better for her.
“I'm looking for someone. A teenage kid, around eighteen. Skinny. Black hair. Bowl cut. He was last seen near Hudson Valley, Upstate New York.” At the his confused expression, she elaborates. “Around here.”
His grimace looks like a snarl. “I suppose this is the body you were talking about earlier.”
“Yes.” It was always bad when it was a kid, no matter if they were a ten year old or eighteen year old.
“Why is this one body so important to you?”
“Because it'll help me catch whoever killed him!” she huffs, patience thinning. “If we find a body, then that means I have a suspect.”
“They could just as easily kill you.”
“I catch criminals and killers.” Tina feels like she's explaining her job to her disapproving great aunts and uncles. “Never mind that! All I need is for you to check a couple of places along the river. Near the park across from New York City and like that. That's it, I swear.”
“There's nothing there,” he says like he's actually been there, which Tina doesn't believe for a second.
“Don’t lie to me.”
“How do you know I’m lying?”
“Because Pelham Bay Park is a dumping ground for the mafia, gangs, and drug lords,” she snaps, slapping the puddle of water around her. “If Credence’s body isn't there, then someone else’s is. If you'd checked we'd be having a different conversation right now.”
That stops him short.
Her phone buzzes from the folds of her coat and one glance at it tells her she has less than twenty minutes to get to Manhattan for the morning briefing. She gets to her feet and throws her coat on to stave off the cold, ignoring the eyes watching her as she’s putting away her gun. “Look, I have to go, but you better be here tomorrow and you better have checked the the coves by the park. And if you find something Mr. Mer—”
“Newt,” he interrupts suddenly. “You can call me Newt.”
“If I do this will you tell me all about what you do? About humans and other land creatures?”
“Sure.” She'll do anything to get ahead in this case, snatching any help she can get, mermaid or not. “Just help me find him. Please.”
“Good.” She shifts, almost unsure what to do now. He’s agreed to help her and that that’s, she supposes, so the only thing left to do is leave and go about the rest of her day like normal.
She does just that, feeling the prickling of his stare until the trees swallow her up.
She gets a handful of stares when she comes back to the precinct, still soaking wet. No one bothers to question her and that's fine by her.
She calls Queenie to bring her an extra set of clothes.
Despite her better judgement and a little voice inside her head telling her that she's stupid for asking a merperson to help her find a body, she comes the next day. She waits for ten minutes in the chilly morning, wrapping herself in her coat, feeling every bit of a fool.
And, just as she thinks she's wasted her time, she hears splashing. Not two seconds later, a head breaks the surface, fiery hair plastered to a wet forehead and a pair bright eyes watching her curiously.
Rather than show her relief, she motions him over like her Sergeant would any subordinate. She keeps her expression cool and professional, even when he ducks down into the water and reemerges at the dip of the shore barely five feet away. The shimmering of scales at his temple and forearms are more prominent now, as is the protruding ridges along his spine, but she resolutely moves past the oddities.
She doesn't say anything about how she didn't think he'd turn up, or how she’d laid awake most of the night wondering whether or not he'd been a figment of her imagination. She says nothing and they move along with this weird, abrupt coalition. Newt describes what is clearly the body of a woman wrapped in a tarp floating at the bottom of the river bed while Tina takes note. It's not Credence, but they're getting somewhere.
Strangely enough, he's more interested after that and Tina doesn’t know whether to be relieved he’s finally putting effort to help her or irritated that he’s using it to fulfill his own curiosities. Whatever his reasons, he puts in more effort to in his searches and Tina won't complain.
It becomes part of her schedule, an early morning trip that's out of her way from work and leaves her smelling like the sea for the rest of the day. What begins as a means of getting back on track with her case becomes something more. Newt offers an ear for her troubles, someone who's interested in the workings of her job and her life, fascinated by social constructs, questioning everything about modern inventions like cars and cellphones. It’s easy to spill ideas off him, explaining what the evidence meant and what suspects’ motives could be. He’s often soft spoken and inquisitive, if not a bit wicked at times, and she comes to enjoy her time with him.
She begins to bring food for him to try, different things each time. She rolls her eyes when he complains about the bitterness of her coffee and remarks that he's stolen tea from a careless fisherman on the other side of the ocean better than what she's drinking (there's a joke in there somewhere, she's sure of it). She roasts him for his current diet of raw Hudson bass and deep-sea crustacean in retaliation and grins when he can't argue.
Most often than naught he directs the attention to her, insistent on learning about the land animals he'll never see and the inventions he'll never know. “And you use these elevators to climb your buildings? Fascinating!” he'll say, or, “Are elephants really so much smaller than whales?” Tina doesn't know a lot about the mechanics of things or why land animals act the way they do, but she invests in books to bring to him to quell his curiosity.
His interest builds with every visit until she can see the desire breaking through every glance at the city just across the water. Tina thinks he might just swim to the city and crawl out into the streets, tail and all, and sternly reminds him to stay away or else get seen by a random tourist out to enjoy the view.
He scoffs. “I have stayed hidden for this long. Beside, I only want to see the city. Maybe a cat or two.”
Tina laughs. “Yeah, well, if you ever get your own pair of legs, I'll give you a tour someday.”
He’s in a quiet mood after her joke, one that she’s come to know to means he’s thinking of some little problem. She doesn't make anything of the peculiar expression on his face and leaves for work a little while later, happy.
He’s not there the next day.
Or the day after that.
Tina waits, sitting on the rocky shore until her behind is sore and her coffee goes cold, and stares out into the Hudson for any glimpse of gold. She spends minutes, hours there, hoping in a way she hasn’t in a long time, only to be left disappointed when her time runs out and she’s sprinting to work, arriving late and getting a scolding from Abernathy and Picquery.
The days that follow, she's left feeling like she’s been dumped. It’s silly, really, but there’s nothing she can do about it. It was just for the case, she tells herself, hoping to soften the blow of what she refuses to label as rejection.
Queenie knows something’s wrong, but Tina doesn’t want to confide in her this fantastical story or else be presented as crazy. So she doesn’t tell anyone about the merpeople in the Hudson or that she’s somehow gotten to know one and is deeply missing him. She’s ready to shoulder this secret for the rest of her life, move past it and forget that she ever saved Newt from the net, even if the feeling in her chest has something to say about it.
She focuses on the case, putting all her resources in finding Credence’s body (because she knows it’s been too long to hope for a better end to his story). Without Newt to talk to, she’s back to theorizing with the rest of the force, only to find that something’s changed; she's changed. She's at the heart of the breakthroughs, becoming the unofficial lead investigator, with more knowledge of possible dumping sites in the Hudson than anyone else on the force.
And by the end of the week, neck deep in files of possible subjects and criminal records, she stops going to the spot altogether.
The sun is out and shining later in the week, a cold wind blowing the clouds into the distant horizon of the Atlantic.
Tina pays the vendor for her food and sets off to her usual route, hotdog in hand. The usual bodies that press and slip past one another on the sidewalk are easy to maneuver around and she makes it to the cross section to wait for the light to change, taking a bite of her hotdog and scanning the pedestrians nearby.
There’s the usual businessmen, with their pressed suits and tight-nit group, out for lunch. A homeless woman pushes her cart down the street, muttering to herself, while a couple of teenagers chat on the benches behind her. There’s a tall woman on her phone to her right and an elderly couple to her left, chatting in Chinese and pointing across the intersection.
Tina spots what caught their interest, a man in a blue coat haphazardly making his way against the general flow of people on the other side of the street. He’s faced away from her, neck craned to take in the electric billboards and overbearing skyscrapers of Times Square. A tourist then.
A suicidal tourist, she thinks a second later, when he openly staggers backwards out into the street, still gazing up, and into the path of oncoming traffic.
Tina doesn’t think, she just acts. Her body surges forward, lunging out into the busy street. She’s got a lifetime of living in New York and extensive police training under her belt, and she reaches the man in time to pull him out of the path of a taxi.
The driver leans out of his window as it passes and yells, “Move it, pal!”
The gangly man says something, but his voice is drowned out by the honking and sirens of the general city life. Tina ignores him and keeps an iron grip on the back of his coat, pushing and pulling him between the maze of cars that begin to stack up from traffic, nearly run over by a speeding cyclist. More drivers start to yell, offering a number of choice words that would usually have her whipping out her badge, but she only offers a quick retort and a stink eye.
They make it to the other side of the street in one piece. The onlookers give them a quick glance before going on their way, the tourist and foreigners eyeing them for a little longer. Tina doesn't pay them any attention, too busy catching her breath and lamenting over her discarded lunch.
“Hey, you better watch where you're going next time! You almost—”
She stops and gapes at the man when he smiles down at her, oblivious to his near death experience. What in the world…
His teeth are flat and his skin tanner, covered with more freckles when under the warm sun, while his eyes have dulled to a calming blue-green. His clothes are wrinkled and damp, his pant legs twisted as if he struggled to even get them on, and his great coat looks vintage, specks of sand in the crease of the collar. He smells like saltwater.
“Oh, hello, Tina,” Newt says, shuffling closer on his two, very human legs. “Do you think you could show me around now?”
Queue the police crime-drama starring fish-out-of-water Newt and annoyed-yet-smitten Tina, with occasional cameos of naive-but-lovable Jacob and the beautiful-and-somewhat-clairvoyant Queenie.
Chapter 4: when the full moon comes
This is currently my own personal favorite, so I hope you guys enjoy it!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The shed within Newt’s suitcase appears as it always does, a chaotic mess with an order only it's main inhabitant can decipher. It's a place where time seems to have stopped, rustic with an earthen smell, small and compact in an homey kind of way.
Yet, for Tina, something's off when she descends the stairs, her steps so light and cautious that the stairs don't offer a creek at her weight. There’s a muted undertone, one that had surely not been present the last time she visited. Usually, there’s some sort of ruckus whenever she enters, maybe a Billywig or two whizzing about, chased by the occasional Doxy and the lack of motion, of activity, of life, sends her nerves on edge.
Tina spots Newt sitting on the stool at his desk, turned away from her, and she refrains from gripping her wand. She’s not a frightened deer, frozen in terror at the sight of the big, bad wolf—Newt is anything but.
She wasn't meant to see what she’d seen, she's sure about that now. It was an accident, a major one that they can't forget and move past, especially after she'd retreated so hastily (She hadn't run away, she tries to convince herself, she hadn't. Though no matter how many times she says it, it still feels like a lie). His case had been closed for a reason, hidden in the corner where she had to look twice to see, clearly set aside for a moment of solidarity, and she'd ignored it for a chance to spend time with a man she realizes she hardly knows.
He's focused on his work, dabbing the cuts on his knuckles with Dittany before wrapping them in bandages. Even when she walks around to stand in front of him, he doesn't give her a glance, and she doesn't know whether to be grateful or worried.
“There's been rumors about new, untested lycanthropy potions in Eurasia,” he says, startling her. “Mostly with rare ingredients like wolfsbane and silversword.”
Her voice won't work immediately and she's worried that if she does manage to say something it will come out weak and frightened, and that's definitely not what the both of them need right now. To see that they're falling into the common stereotype of misunderstanding and fear.
She wants to chastise him for keeping this from her. She wants to rant about safety hazards and violations and his irresponsibility at leaving his case lying around unattended with a faulty lock during the full moon where someone could get to it. Most of all, she wants to ask why he didn't trust her with this secret. They've known each other for quite some time now, writing when seas apart, and he’s had ample moments to confide in her. So why didn't he?
What she says instead: “That must be costly.”
Newt snorts. “One good thing that comes from traveling with a case full of magical creatures is that I’m never lacking in potion ingredients. I grow everything I need—or what I think I might need.”
They lapse into silence again, one that Tina finds deeply uncomfortable. She’s trying to figure out what to say and comes up short again, settling on watching Newt’s hands, his knuckles rubbed raw and red. He’s having trouble with his wounds, his less dominant hand shaking and clumsy when he uses it, but doesn't ask for her help. In the end, when the urge to help proves to be too strong, Tina steps forward and gently slaps his hand out of the way, grabbing the bandages and taking over.
“When?” she asks.
“The Sudanese girl—turns out she was more than just an Obscurial. I started planning after she… after she died.”
“What did you do?” It's easier to ask these questions, to keep to the safer side of an already dangerous subject. Now isn't the time to hound out answers about trust, no matter how much it burns her from the inside.
“There's not much to do, but I found a few ways. I mostly focus on the symptoms—dealing with the sickness before and after.”
At his slight nod, Tina glances at the assortment of instruments taking up his desk, a number of concoctions that she doesn't recognize smoking in the corners, while many of his plants are stripped bare. Next to a mortar filled with crushed indigo petals there are crumbled papers covered in Newt’s hasty writing. Lastly, Tina spots bottles, too large and familiar to be anything but liqueur. Another possible treatment, she supposes.
“I'm quite safe in my case,” Newt continues. “Usually I'm kept entertained so I don't hurt myself.”
Tina finishes wrapping his hand. Unable to help herself, she lingers, applying a gentle pressure on the wrappings, as if it will rub away the wounds underneath. Newt draws away quickly.
Tina lets her hands drop, but doesn't step back. Rather than focus on the rejection, she presses on. “One of your creatures?”
“Yes. It's the offspring of two werewolves who've mated when fully transformed. It's very intelligent and acts as regular wolves do.” He gazes at his hand, fingering the bandage at his wrist and Tina finally begins to wonder how he'd hurt himself. Was it after she'd run away? “There was a small problem in the beginning—I had to put more barriers around the more vulnerable creatures just to be safe. Two werewolves is one too many it seams.”
Newt goes quiet and Tina suddenly begins to read between the lines.
There's more to this than she'd originally thought, things she doesn't know and understand, and mentally curses herself for acting so rashly. Because of it, she'd done more harm than good and that's not what she wants. More than anything, she wishes she hadn't run away. She wishes that she didn't come back in the safety of the morning, when the difficulties had come and past. She wishes she knew the whole story, faced the problems with him, gave him the friend and confidant he needed.
“Newt…” she whispers, hating how he curls in on himself at the sound of her voice. This isn't what she wanted when she entered his case, not by a long shot.
It's the same as when she confronted Barebone, this feeling filling up her chest, when the horrible woman was beating Credence. Tina’s heart aches in sympathy, and she steps forward into the space between his legs and reaches out to pull him into a gentle hug.
He's tense, incredibly so, the muscles at his back hard under her fingers. Despite that, he returns the gesture, wrapping his arms around her waist in a tight embrace. He’s shaking.
“Most suffering from lycanthropy don't have the means to contain themselves every full moon, much less find alternative ways to dull down their transformation. I was lucky I found a Brazilian wizard who specialized in potion making who could help me.” A small, hollow laugh escapes him. “Though he kicked me out as soon as I told him it was for myself. I think I gave him a near fright.”
Tina sweeps her hands over his shoulders, smoothing out the wrinkles of his shirt. “Does it help? The potion?”
“A little. It's not a permanent solution, but the pain is dulled and I've gotten less wounds because of it. I'm still a danger to humans.” He presses his face against her stomach, breathing deeply, the warmth of his breath seeping into her shirt. “I’ve also tried breathing in spices and other strong-smelling herbs. I thought that if I can make my sense of smell useless I wouldn't be prone to attack humans if one ever chances in entering the case.”
“Does it work?” she asks.
Newt shakes his head, pulling her a little closer and hugging her a little tighter. Her legs are starting to ache from standing for so long, but she ignores it, and instead forces herself to be the immovable object that anchors him to the present.
Silence envelops them, the calls of his creatures muted by the walls of his shed. Letting him have a moment, Tina focuses on rubbing his back. It's strange to see him without his waistcoat, even stranger to see his bracers down and his clothes in disarray; she knows he throws propriety aside when he's inside the case, but he's always had been put together whenever she's with him, a respectable gentleman. They've never been this intimate, but the time to skirt around one another is long past. She'd abandon all social constructs in favor of rebuilding the man in her arms, to coddle him until he got past this low moment and regained his usual self.
Her hands drift to the nape of his neck, heat radiating off his skin, and she feels a strange sense nostalgia. When she'd been alive, her mother had been overly affectionate, and Tina had always felt better after her mother had hugged her, played with her hair, offering little touches that told her she was cared for.
She thinks Newt hasn't been touched enough.
“I met a Chinese wizard who suffered from lycanthropy as well and he offered another solution. A sort of opium mixed with wolfsbane that renders him docile.”
“But…” There's always a catch.
“It's highly addictive and he was halfway dependent on it when I came to him.”
Tina tries not to imagine the man before her, completely spent and under the drug's effects, left helpless and vacant for who knows how long. It doesn't sit well with her.
“Does your family know?”
Her question has the opposite reaction she was hoping for. All at once, Newt grows tense, leaning away as if to separate himself from her completely. But, before he can get up, Tina tightens her hold on him, silently informing him that she will not let go, not until they're finished. Not until this stops hanging over them like an impending thundercloud. She pushes a little further, gently running her fingers through his hair. He calms down quickly at her ministrations, falling back into her embrace.
“No,” he sighs. “Only you.”
All at once, the hollow feeling from before fades. The hint of betrayal still lingers, but it's overshadowed by the sudden burst of emotion in her chest for man in her arms.
“What should we do now?”
He looks at her then, craning his neck to finally meet her eye, searching her face with something akin to desperation. It's then that Tina gets a good look at him, noting the bruises under his eyes, the weariness that's etched in every crease and shadow outlining his face. Even the warm lighting from the lantern above them does nothing for his haggard appearance.
She tilts her head.
Newt’s expression falters to something more vulnerable and, in one great exhale, he deflates, his relief palpable. He’s staring at her like she's the moon and, instead of damning him to the torture he endures every month, she'll be the one to save him. In that moment, Tina realizes she wants to give him just that.
Her resolve strengthens even more, her hands leaving his hair and running along the length of his jaw, the rough feel of his scruff prickling her skin. She wipes away the tears on his cheeks. “You'll have to trust me.”
Slowly, Newt slips his hand lay atop hers, leaning more into the touch. He nods somewhat frantically, finally offering a wet smile.
There's a lot ahead, secrets that'll need to be told and ideas that'll need to be considered, Tina knows, but that could be put off for a little while. For now, they hang in the moment, wrapped up in each other arms.
Hmmm, I really should have them kiss or something in one of these AUs. ;)
Chapter 5: all of time and space
Newt is awkward, has a pocket watch, and wears a blue greatcoat. Of course I'm making this AU. This is more for me than anyone else. :D
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“Will you miss him?”
Newt nearly bangs his head on one of the hanging screens. “Excuse me?”
“Jacob,” Tina elaborates. She's leaning against bannister surrounding the main panel, watching him fiddle with the controls. A few wires fritz in the aftermath of a dodgy repair, done so in a tight spot on Maserith’s third moon during its Festival of Comets, when his brother had laughed himself to tears at Newt’s first test flight in the spacecraft and how he had broken the tribophysical waveform macro-kinetic extrapolator within minutes of use. “Will you miss him?”
Behind her the walls are lined with an assortment of instruments, ranging from low tech to modern. Newt doesn't think he's used half of them, but it's always best to be prepared for any situation, even if he keeps losing track of them and putting them back in the wrong places.
It's been a clutter ever since his last reincarnation.
“Of course,” he says.
Jacob had been awed by the sight of New York in the twenty-first century, beyond words as he took in the Time Square and the bustle of bodies skipping across sidewalks and talking to handheld devices. Even more so when they’d visited New New York. He'd gone from early models of Ford automobiles to hovercrafts in the blink of an eye and whirl of Newt’s TARDIS, and taken it in wonderful stride. He had had a taste of the future and come back the same lovable man (with a smidge more knowledgeable of the universe at large).
Most species, past, present, and future, tended to find Newt annoying. Even being a Time Lord couldn't stop his attitude being less than patronizing. Jacob was the first who didn’t want him gone the moment he opened his mouth—well, maybe a little, but at least he had the good grace to smile and nod whenever certain moments arrived—and Newt is certain that finding another like him in the universe would be near impossible.
He shakes away the feeling. It’s best to focus on the now rather than wallow about what’s past. Jacob would be happy, he knows.
He abandons the main console for a moment to busy himself with the beginning preparations of feeding, placing three crates of foreign meat by the bottom step of the stairway that leads to the habitats of primarily aerial species. He separates the semi-poisonous plants from the Halg galaxy for a later feeding for the murtlap, and the Pilaxian brain for the Swooping Evil is left on an empty shelf where it won't contaminate anything with its psychedelic mucus.
“And you? Will you miss your sister?” None of it’s his business, but he asks anyway. Despite the occasional irks at being read so easily, Newt had liked the blonde who ultimately decided to stay behind in the roaring twenties with the man she’d grown affections for.
“Everyone has to go their separate ways and live their own life at some point. Both me and Queenie knew that.”
He nods in agreement, focused on logging on the supply count to the database. When that's done, he makes his way back to the controls. “Well, I’ll set the coordinates to the twenty-first century. Any particular place you’d like to be dropped off?”
He blinks, confused. “I assumed you wanted to head home. You've talked about returning to your work, did you not?”
Instead of answering, she changes the topic. “There's police in space, right?”
“Oh, yes—they’re very annoying, if you ask me. Most law enforcement is.” He grimaces, realizing his words too late.
Thankfully, Tina sees it more as a joke than a jab. She laughs. “I think that's because you don't follow the rules, Newt. Intergalactic police probably tremble in terror at the mere mention of you.”
“I don’t usually cause trouble. In fact, it’s all too exciting for me. A boring, old life—one with three Kneazles and limitless tea—that’s all I want.”
“Says the man who travels time and space to help extraterrestrial species.”
He can't argue with that. Tina must know this because she smiles again. She doesn’t step away, purposely keeping close or unaware of it, and Newt’s left with nothing to do but stare into her eyes.
They're suddenly colored in pale light, shining from the skylight above as the ship passes under a small moon. Shadows sweep along Tina’s cheek, sliding to dip into her collarbone, and Newt jerks his head to looks at the panel in front of him.
“We're leaving Felai Praxin’s solar system,” he comments offhandedly. He can hear the beat of his erratic hearts in his ears.
“What if I came with you?” Tina, purposefully ignoring the previous information, steps forward until the tip of their shoes brush.
“Come with me?” Newt asks, confused. He risks a glance at her direction again. She’s still staring at him, not even the view of the cosmos above enough to grab her attention, and Newt can’t look away. “Why… why would you want to do that?”
“I want to help.”
One of his hearts stutters so quick he almost doesn't catch it. It's strange how such a simple sentence can mean so much. Tina’s words mean one thing, righteous and professional, but her stare is pleading for something else (at least, he thinks it does), and Newt would very much like to say yes to both. But he has to stop letting her get so close, or else he doesn’t think he’ll ever be able to say no to her again. However, Newt is a weak man and this is something he simply can’t—won’t, refuse.
“Then I'd be delighted if you accompanied me.”
Tina laughs, delighted. She presses a chaste kiss to his cheek in her happiness before hopping about like a teenager rather than the professional detective she is. It’s absolutely charming.
Too late, Newt thinks, staring, enthralled and a little delirious. The trap is sprung and there’s no way he can escape this (attempting to break away from the gravitational pull of a black hole seems easier in comparison). He doesn’t think he wants to. He tries to roll past the realization, to focus on getting the TARDIS ready for departure. He goes to activate the engine.
It's already flipped. Tina moves to the opposite end of the control, tossing her coat to where his blue greatcoat lays, peering at the switches and knobs in front of her, looking relatively at ease with the technology in front of her (as well as any human when faced with Time Lord technology).
He starts up the thrusters, glancing at Tina from the corner of his eye as the vibrations under his feet grow, finding her already looking at him. Her eyes are bright under the luminescent lighting, like the galvanic radiation from an x-tonic star, lethal and beautiful.
“Well, Ms. Tina, the whole universe is at your disposal. Who do you want to save first?”
“Hmm…” She slides closer, playing along, contemplating the hologram before her, before idly tapping a small planet nestled in the middle of a galaxy dotted with shimmering stars and swirling planetary systems. “Here.”
Newt hums. “Canref. It's settled in the middle of the migration path of Orcus galacticus. Poachers will be there around this time.”
“We better get a move on then, shouldn't we?”
Newt doesn't hold back the smile this time, placing his hand on the thrusters next to hers. It’s exhilarating and real, how she laughs.
“Well then,” he says, “here we go!”
The next chapter is finished, but I'm waiting for my betas to look over it! *cheers* And anyone wants to read more of a doctor whoAU, there's Fantastic Humanity by esama. It's really great! Check it out!
Like always, kudos and comments are appreciated! :)
Chapter 6: better to be a cursed man
Kind of a mashup of three AUs (modern, vet/detective, and curse). Amazing, I know. XD
For future reference, Pickett is an Egyptian Mau.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Newt raises his hands slowly. “I know this looks incriminating—”
“Try real incriminating,” says the woman currently pointing her gun at his chest. She comes forward, apprehensive in the low lighting of the museum. When she's close enough, she turns him around and forces his hands behind his back.
Newt doesn’t offer any struggle, only sighing as cuffs are slapped on his wrists. “I don't see why you're arresting me.”
“Breaking and entering and destruction of property are pretty good reasons,” she says. “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you can't afford an attorney, the state will provide you with one.”
This isn't what Newt had planned, nor wanted, when he'd entered the museum after hours to be honest. Being arrested is the last thing he wants to deal with. He has things to do—on a time limit no less.
The officer’s gaze rakes over the room and he can already tell what assumptions she has about him. Newt had already prepared most of the ritual, drawn the proper symbols in chalk in the middle of the room. The smell of herbs had already pervaded, stifling any other scents.
If her expression is anything to go by, the woman’s not happy with any of it. “What are you? Some kind of cultist?” she asks, toeing a wax candle.
Newt frowns, somewhat offended. “No, of course not.”
“Then what's all this?”
“Uh huh…” She starts pulling him to the exit. “Well, Mr. Cultist, how about you come with me downtown to the station.”
“I'm not a cultist!” Newt says, annoyed. “But I have a ritual to finish, so, if you'll just let me go, I can get back to it.”
“Yeah, buddy, like I'll—”
Pickett growls low in his throat from the confines of his carrier and the officer jumps, just spotting him. Then, in a stroke of luck (good or bad, Newt doesn’t know), the museum’s infrastructure shakes, startling them both. The vases rock within their glass cases, the painting rattling on the walls alongside them, and coupled with the wiccan supplies Newt’s laid about, the overall effect is ghostly.
Then, as quickly as it began, it stops. The room is still once more, but the eerie feeling continues. The shadows seem to have grown, stretching from the crevices hidden from eyesight, reaching for their shoes. The room feels bigger, emptier, but full at once, like something’s hiding just beyond sight.
“What was that?” the officer says, confused.
“That'd be the curse.”
Just as he expected, he's not believed. “Probably a small earthquake.”
Newt twist to look at the woman. She’s about his age, with a short haircut and a pretty face that’s currently far too serious for a simple break-in. “You’re not one of those people who refuses to believe in something even in the face of proof, are you?”
She snorts. “You’re delusional. I’m taking you in.”
She means jail, Newt’s sure, but that can’t happen. Not now.
A low groan comes from the pet carrier, as much of a warning Newt will get. The shakes were only the beginning, no doubt.
Shaking off the officer, Newt lunges back to the center of the room, the officer following after with an angry curse. She nearly bowls him over with a tackle and they stumble back into the safety of the pentacle. None of the symbols are compromised in the small scuffle.
This time the officer isn’t too gentle when she grabs hold of his arms, forcing them to twist back a little too far than comfortable. “Do I have to add evading arrest to—“
She stops and Newt knows why.
Black vapor seeps through the moulding on the far wall (Newt was wondering when it would full solidify), somehow thicker than air and sinking to the ground. It moves like a mass of roaches, slowly crawling out and toward them. Picket whines from his carrier, his eyes flashing in the dim light.
"That's not..." The woman stalls in face of the supernatural. "Possible."
"I told you I was telling the truth." Newt eyes the curse warily. They’re perfect safe inside the pentacle of chalk, but that’s no reason to dilly dally. “I love these handcuffs,” he says and, after a quick flashing heat, his hands are free.
The officer skitters away. “Sweet Mary Joseph—”
“So sorry. My fault.” He rubs his wrists and what’s left of the cuffs fall to the floor in an ashy pile. “I completely forgot to tell you. I am slightly cursed myself.”
“You just—that’s not—” She stares at what remains of the cuffs, wide eyed. “You're cursed?”
“Only a little.” Now free, Newt hurries back to what he was doing before she’d interrupted him, gathering his things. He slips his extra talisman around her neck as a safety measure while he’s at it. “I'm currently working on it—don't take that off. Once we get moving that’s the only thing that’ll protect you.”
"You've got to be kidding me." The officer examines the talisman, but doesn’t try to remove it. “How many curses are you dealing with?”
He rocks his head side to side, contemplating. “Two or three.”
“What? Is this your job or something?”
“Not generally, no. Usually I spend my days at the clinic.”
“You're a doctor?”
“Great…” Despite the less than happy woman’s tone, she’s at least accepting his words and not labeling him as crazy anymore. Good. That means he isn’t going to be arrested anytime soon. She watches him bend down to the pet carrier. “And the cat is...?”
“Pickett. He’s the reason I’m cursed, actually. Someone must have abandoned him because of it. Luckily, I found him.” Newt strokes Pickett’s head, calming him enough to be taken out of the carrier. “I couldn’t just let it kill him.”
Pickett climbs up and onto his shoulders, small enough to balance perfectly near the juncture of his neck and shoulder. His attention doesn’t waver from the curse, letting out a low huff, the sound trailing off into soft moan.
“So you're a cultist and an animal activist.”
“For the last time, I’m not—“
She points to the black mass that’s edging around the barrier surrounding them. “What is that thing?”
Newt sighs, exasperated. Was she not listening? “I already told you. It’s a curse and a big one at that.”
“And you’re trying to get rid of it?”
“Yes,” he says. “Then you started to arrest me and now here we are. Would you like to continue talking in circles or can we get a move on? We don’t have all night. Whether or not you believe me, we have to go.”
“No, I…” Her hand drift to her holster.
”Bullets won’t help. You can certainly try, but it would be better time spent if you believed me.”
She leaves her gun holstered. "You've dealt with this before?"
"Yes—well, yes and no. This whole curse-lifting is recently new, but I think I've gotten the hang of it. No need to worry." He accidentally kicks the pet carrier, sending it tumbling out of the barrier and straight to the curse. It swallows it whole. Interesting. "But we can both agree that I wasn't lying, yes?"
“I cant believe I’m saying this, but… yes, I believe you. There’s just no other explanation to all this. Either that or I’m crazy. This is crazy—you’re crazy.” The officer groans. “I’m definitely going to lose my badge for this.”
“Well, if I fail, you won't have to worry about that anymore.” He gives her a quick smile, trying for a joke, but stifles it when he meets her eye.
“Not helping.” She rubs her temple, looking weary. A side effect of the curse being so near.
There's nothing he can say to reassure her (and he didn’t bring anything to alleviate the symptoms of the curse), so he does the next best thing. He offers her his hand. “Newt Scamander.” When the woman edges away from contact, he jumps to smooth over her worry. “This particular curse won’t hurt you, don’t worry. It manifests by verbal cues.”
After a moment of doubt, she takes his hand. They shake. “Tina Goldstein.”
“Nice you meet you Tina,” he says, shoving his herbs in her arms. “Hopefully you won’t end up dead by the end of the night.”
He was being serious, at least partly, but decides it's best not to tell her that. He hurriedly layers the pentacle with more salt before the curse can compromise it before they're ready to move. He shushes Pickett when they get close to the curse, making the cat growl unhappily. “I was planning on doing this alone, but I could use the help. You brought backup, yes? We’ll have to warn them.”
“No, it’s just me.”
Newt glances over his shoulder, surprised. He would’ve assume that the police force in America would have some sort of protocol. Then again, he doesn't expect much from law enforcement in general, so it doesn’t come as a big shock to him.
Tina glares at him, daring him to comment. He lets it be.
“Right. Just us then.” With the curse already powerfull enough to have taken shape, most of his supplies as useless (except for the protection he’d given Tina), so he decides to leave them. That leaves him with only one thing to carry. “We’ll have to contain the curse and dispose of it after.”
She eyes his choice. “In an old suitcase?”
“Yes. I’d usually use a bottle or something similar, but it’s a rather big curse. It’ll fit in this, I think.”
“You think? How are you going to get it in there?”
Pickett’s begins to growl in earnest now, rising above the unsettling warble of the curse. Newt feels the vibrations, feels the cat’s fur at his neck rise and shiver. “Bait.”
“You’re definitely crazy.”
“Maybe so, but better I deal with this than some other bloke.”
Before Tina can respond, Pickett yowls suddenly. Back arched and tail straight, he bares his teeth at the curse, his claws digging into Newt’s skin painfully. The black mass shrinks back a fraction, but comes right back, bubbling at the edge of the pentacle, hissing when it finally overtakes a piece of the salt barrier. A sulfuric smell overtakes the previous herbal one, making Newt want to gag.
Their time has run out.
He grabs Tina’s hand. “Ready?”
“You’re crazy,” she says again, but doesn’t shove him away. “And, even if you’re not crazy, I’m still going to take you in when this is all over.”
Even with the curse slowly encircling their last means of protection, Newt laughs. “How dedicated.”
There’s a sharp snap, like someone set off a small firework, and the curse washes over the the salt and surges toward them.
Happy Halloween y’all!
Chapter 7: we are all subjects to the fates
For the second week of Newtina Appreciation Month (AU). I know I'm late by 3 days, but I never got time to post this! Better late than never, I always say!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
A woman with a peregrine falcon perched on her shoulder pulls Newt aside after his niffler fiasco.
Though ‘pulls aside’ is a rather loose way of phrasing—rather, she grabs him at the crook of the elbow before he can make his quick getaway and whisks him and Diana to a secluded alleyway where she proceeds to chew him out about the Statute of Secrecy and runaway Muggles. He listens to the best of his ability, gaze flicker between her face and her dæmon, but gets distracted halfway through by the smidge of mustard caught at the corner of her mouth, halfheartedly attempting to tell her amidst the scolding on to hum and shift when she throws him the most unimpressed look he’s ever seen.
The falcon doesn't stray it's gaze away from Diana the entire time. Perhaps it's to make sure she doesn't try anything funny while Newt and the woman talk (which is so absurd that it’s laughable, for Diana is nothing but respectable), but, even so, neither Newt nor Diana appreciate the attention. She was a wolf, not some unpredictable stray.
An unusual dæmon for an auror, Newt thinks offhandedly. He expected a canine of some sort. Nonetheless, the blue-grey color of the its feathers is intriguing.
A badge is flashed and he sees the words ‘MACUSA’ and ‘Goldstein’ before it's stuffed back into the woman’s coat; the shine of the badge matches the stern way she talks of Salemers and law breaking, how he’s currently tallied up to half a dozen infractions in the span of an hour. “I'm taking you in,” she finally says in a no nonsense tone.
Nothing Newt can do persuaded the woman differently, so he grudgingly lets her step closer to grip his arm tightly. Diana leans against his leg and he grabs hold of tufts of her fur as Ms. Goldstein takes them into custody.
At dinner, Diana sits by his feet, her side pressed against firmly his suitcase. Occasionally she'll peek over the tabletop whenever the younger Goldstein sister and Mr. Kowalski have a particularly exuberant laugh, but, besides that, doesn't bother to partake in the conversation.
The other dæmons get along swimmingly, Queenie’s stoat chattering happily with Mr. Kowalski’s labrador. One look at the four of them and Newt knows he's seeing something amazing in real time. Except there's not time to think out that, not when he has a niffler (and possibly so much more) running around free in New York City, but he refrains from thinking on it too long, else be heard.
“You two can bunk in here,” Ms. Goldstein says when he tries to excuse himself. He makes another go, mumbling about other accommodations, but that fails as well.
Her dæmon shifts its stance on the chair, staring at him with fierce, unblinking eyes. “It's late. We would be happy to offer you a place to stay for the night.”
Diana huffs quietly.
“You can make it to the bed, can't you, sweetie?” Queenie asks worriedly. Across from her Jacob’s still sweating profusely, his dæmon, Madeleine if Newt recalls correctly, looking tired as she pants and slips into a ungracefull sprawl along the wooden floor.
The Muggle dabs his face with a napkin, muttering about a sudden flare up of nausea, but wordlessly accepts Newt’s help out of his seat. He sways, but stays standing.
Ms. Goldstein is already setting up the beds and Newt can do nothing but guide Mr. Kowalski across the room. Bordered with the oven on one side and the table on the other, room is sparse and he shoulders a chair, upsetting Ms. Goldstein’s dæmon. It attempts to nip at him and launches toward the bedroom, and Newt’s not quick enough, the whisper of a feather on his cheek for one fleeting moment. He freezes, startled, and Diana shakes like she’s just finished a bath.
“Be careful, Mordecai,” Queenie's sighs, her attention turning to Newt before focusing on her sister, frowning when Ms. Goldstein carefully slides her hands along her sides before hiding them behind her back. When her sister doesn’t make a move to get up or say anything, the blonde visibly shakes herself of the moment, offering Newt a small smile. “Sorry about that, he’s usually not so—”
“—standoffish,” her dæmon finishes.
Newt nods wordlessly, casting a quick glance at the doorway before shuffling off to the offered rooms.
They sneak out the second the sisters leave him and Jacob alone. A quick trip into his case and the man accepts Newt’s request to round up his creatures, confused, but with good intentions. Madeleine and her nose is certainly useful, keeping them on track when Jacob’s memory falters with the city’s layout.
“They're going to be angry,” Diana whispers when they’re on the streets, if only to put the words out in the open.
Newt knows who she's referring to. How could he not when her thoughts and emotions are pulsing through their bond, implementing her dislike of their current situation. “Couldn't be helped. You know that.”
Diana doesn’t answer. Her silence doesn't stop her from reminding him of their kindness, that the sisters did, in fact, house them and feed them. Most people weren't that courteous.
He frowns, observing the shop fronts they pass by. “You worry too much.”
“And you don't worry enough.”
Newt turns a quizzical frown in her direction; her mane, just as wild as his own windblown hair, is fluffed out and making her appear bigger than she is, large ears angled outward and down. He prods at their bond, not sure exactly why the circumstance bothers her so much. He’s been just as crude to other people, so this situation, with these American witches, shouldn’t be any different. He has his creatures to think about.
Jacob interrupts them. “Hey, Newt! I think Maddie found something!”
Right. They had more important matters to focus on instead of arguing over failed etiquette. His creatures needed to be found and everything else took second place.
Diana leaves him be, but they're both acutely aware of the argument gone unsolved.
Newt focuses on his hands, picking at his nails, and tries to ignore the hollow feeling building in his chest.
His creatures are gone, taken from him. Who knew what fate awaited them at the hands of MACUSA and the mysterious Mr. Graves. They're in the hands of people who wouldn't hesitate to see them destroyed and that's a most terrifying thought.
Diana snuggles closer and Newt abandons his ugly habit to grip her fur. He stares at her and definitely not at the woman who hasn't taken her eyes off him once.
“Obscurials don’t live long, do they?” she asks.
Newt shakes his head and tells her all he knows on the matter, all he’s seen. Tells her of the Sudanese girl, hated and abused. Tells her about what Obscurus’ truly do to their host, hollowly recounting the last moment of the little girl, her nameless dæmon swallowed by the dark infestation, gone forever.
Diana rests her head in his lap, tears seeping into her fur. “She was so small…”
Newt takes care of the executioners with the help of the Swooping Evil while Diana holds their dæmons at bay. She bares her fangs in a fearsome snarl like the wild creature she is, snapping at the dogs dæmons that get close; with their humans incapacitated, but unharmed, they keep respectable distance.
“Newt,” Diana calls and he hurries over to the cage she's frantically pawing. Once Pickett’s dealt with the lock, he rips it open and ushers out the falcon dæmon trapped inside.
And then there's Tina hovering over the death potion. It rises up, ready to engulf her completely. She yells while Mordecai screeches in fear.
The Swooping Evil darts by and Newt creates a plan. A wild plan, but it's the only one they've got. He whistled and the creature twists to circle Tina. “Jump on him!”
“Are you crazy!”
“I'll catch you, Tina,” he says, reaching out.
“Trust us!” Diana steps up beside him, as close to the death potion as she'll dare. Mordecai shuffles anxiously between her forelegs.
Newt reaches out. “Tina,” he says, quietly. “I’ll catch you.”
There’s a ruckus on fifth and sixth that Newt knows isn’t a demiguise.
They split up in pairs, Tina sticking to his side while Jacob and Queenie head in the opposite direction. Newt’s more than positive they’ll find Dougal, leaving him and Tina with the bigger problem to deal with.
“You have an Armoured Bear?” Tina asks incredulously when he finally tells her his suspicions. “And you brought it to New York City?”
“It’s only temporarily. Just until he gets back on his feet.” Newt keeps his pace brisk, keeping an eye on the street signs. They should be near where Gnarlack said to go. “He's had his armour stolen, you see, and finding each piece has been slow.”
Something sounds out further ahead and Newt hurriedly ducks back to press himself against the wall. Tina’s right beside him.
“Next you’ll tell me your mother's one of the original Witches.”
“Great-great-grandmother, actually,” he says, sneaking a glance around the corner. “Oh, bugger.”
“What?” Tina says.
Newt turns to her. “He’s gotten into a Muggle speakeasy.”
“What’s a bear doing in there?”
“I’ve been trying to lean him off spirits, but he’s a persistent alcoholic.”
“You’ve gotta be kidding me.” When Newt doesn’t respond and is, in fact, being serious, Tina eyes grow big. She gets close to take a look herself. “Amoured Bears don’t drink!”
“This one does.” Mordecai flies to the streetlamp at the corner and eyes the building with interest. “What’s the plan then?”
Diana sighs. “There is no plan,” she says as Newt makes his way by himself to the building.
“Newt!” Tina calls, frantic.
Newt ignores them, focused on making his steps light and silent. The display windows of the storefront have been shattered, their wooden frames broken and splintered like something tried to force itself through. He spies tufts of white fur against the broken glass, hears grunts and breaking of glass coming from inside, and knows he’s found the right bear.
Mordecai is the first to catch up, flapping to keep eye-level. “You don’t think things through do you?” he asks as Newt enters the establishment.
The owners must have been passing it off as a restaurant of some sort, what Newt assumes was once a quaint dining room now a mess of tables and chairs. Further in, the shadows move. A shape rises out from the hole in the wall that leads to the kitchen, turning white as it slips into what little moonlight shines through the broken windows, until it takes the form of a bear. Red wine stains his muzzle red like a fresh kill.
“Oh, hello, Iorek.” Newt keeps his tone cheery even as the bear rises on his hind legs, towering over him.
“Well, if isn’t Mr. Scamander, my persistent keeper. Come to put me back into your traveling circus of beasts?”
Newt tries not to be offended. He’s dealt with drunks before and could do it now. “It is quite late. How about we retire for the night? Don’t want the Muggles wake up and start a panic.”
“Mercy Lewis,” Tina whispers just behind Newt, “he’s huge!”
“And who are you?” the bear asks, squinting down at Tina like she’s a small critter bothering him.
“Tina Goldstein. I, uh, work for MACUSA—”
“MACUSA!” Iorek snaps his jaws. “You brought a MACUSA agent to capture me!”
“No, no, she’s not here to capture you.” Newt steps in between Iorek and Tina. Diana slinks closer to press against his knees, tail between her legs. “She’s, well, there’s a reasonable answer as to why she’s here. It’s been long a day—I’ll gladly tell you all about it back in my case.”
That’s the wrong thing to say apparently. “No case! No more! I am not one of your pets to be traded!”
“Now you know that’s not true! We made a deal, you and I. I help you recover your armour—”
“And I’m still no closer to having it back!” The bear stumbles forward a step and, to Newt’s dismay, swallows down all the liquor from one of the bottles in his paws. “How long has it been now? Almost a year?”
“Almost a year, yes, but—”
“How about you put down the bottle,” Mordecai suggests at Tina’s shoulder. “I think you’ve reached your limit.”
“Speak again and I’ll be picking you out of my teeth.”
Unlike Tina, Mordecai doesn’t look bothered by the threat. His feathers rise, doubling his size. “Like you could catch me, bear.”
“Mordecai,” Tina hisses as both her and Newt back away.
The bottles falls from the bear’s grip, spilling alcohol and glass across the floor, and he drops onto all fours, prowling forward. The room suddenly becomes much too crowded, too little for an offended bear and the two humans currently in his sights, and Newt thinks that maybe he should’ve thought this through.
“You know you’ll regret this later,” he tells Iorek in a last effort to reason. “Remember what happened in Greenland.”
Diana whines. “I hated Greenland.”
Tina grips Newt’s coat when she nearly stumbles into a table. “Please. We’re just trying to help.”
“Trying to help? Bah! You’re kind is the reason my armour was taken from me!” They’re almost at the front of the place now and Iorek looks even more fearsome out of the shadows. He snaps at Tina, his voice dipping further until it rumbles like a Muggle automobile. “All of my troubles are because of you!”
A growl startles them, not because it comes from the advancing bear, but from the dæmon at Newt’s side. “That’s a lie!”
“Diana—don’t.” He has no idea where this anger is coming from, but it’s not helping the situation.
She doesn’t listen. “You have no one to blame but yourself for that! You got fooled in the first place by being a poor excuse of a bear! You—” Her ears flatten at the sudden realization of her words, their reservoir of bravery run dry. “Oh no…”
Iorek bares his fangs, sharp, white daggers that could tear flesh of bones, the rancid smell of meat and spirits hitting Newt in the face. He roars.
Newt grabs Tina’s hand. “Run!”
Credence is scattered along the subway, ripped pieces of black that fade into the Dust even as Newt clutches at Diana.
MACUSA aurors come and go, taking control of a situation that shouldn’t have been left to fester, but in light of recent events Newt’s glad that they leave him be. He’s already done what he can, released Frank and wiped the Muggles’ memories of the night, dealt with a madman willing to violate the most horrific taboo known to man, and now it’s time for him to focus on the one person who truly matters.
Diana presses her forehead against his and the pain, physical and emotional, alleviates a little. She ducks forward to squeeze herself into the space between his arms and all Newt can do is stroke her fur like it will wash away Grindelwald's tainted touch.
There’s a soft touch on his shoulder and he glances up to see Tina leaning over him. She’s covered in dust and grime, paling her skin and clothes to match the dreary underground, but her eyes are brown and warm and concerned. Mordecai stands guard, his size not as formidable as the other dæmons around, and he would look silly if Newt didn’t appreciate it so much. “Newt…?”
He swallows and tries to move past the lingering feeling of wrongness that won’t go away no matter how much he’d like it to, a violation to his very being. “We’re fine,” he says and hopes it's true. “We’ll be fine.”
After saying goodbye to Jacob, Newt’s not entirely sure what to do.
Frank’s gone, flying off to what Newt hopes is Arizona, as his reason for being in America in the first place. He’d expected to pass through New York, to travel to Arizona by train, and has planned his return a week later. Only now he has a week to waste.
He tags along the Goldstein sisters back to their brownstone, lingering at their door as they vanish into their room. The home is near quiet, the soft ticking of the clock setting a constant rhythm for his heart to follow, a difficult task after the night he’s had, and Newt tries to loosen his grip on his case and calm himself. He succeeds only slightly.
Diana jumps on the couch and eyes him like she expects something of him, only he doesn’t know what. Mordecai nestles on the armrest just beside her, keeping an eye on them both, although Newt thinks the attention is less on him.
He’s considering that maybe, he should have a seat himself when, a moment later, Tina emerges from her room. Her cheeks are flush and her eyes red. “Sorry about that. Queenie’s—”
“Yes.” Newt shifts from one foot to another, wondering how he should go about this conversation.
Although not a legilimens, Newt’s come to know Tina as an exceptionally perceptive witch, and guesses his thoughts. “You could stay,” she says quietly and, dare he say it, hopefully.
“I wouldn’t want to impose.” He’d like to stay if he’s honest with himself, but then again, he doesn’t know if he should.
“It’s no trouble, really.”
They make eye contact and he hurriedly looks at her curtains. A tingling in his head tells him Diana is exasperated and insistent at once, goading him to something he doesn’t know what. “I, um…”
Tina steps into his space, eyes wide and earnest, and Newt feels as if he’s a timid creature that’s being goaded out into the open. She lays a hand on his arm. “Stay.”
He glances at Diana to find her already looking at him, her ears perked to attention. She waits for his next move, hopeful, and, for once, he listens to his heart.
He nods. “Alright.”
Diana closes her eyes, her tail thumping on the chair cushion, happy.
Saying goodbye to Tina is difficult.
That comes as a surprise since they've only known one another for a short while, a week at most. She’s water-eyed as she bids him a safe trip, putting up a brave face for him, and Newt doesn't know what to do about that.
“Don't get into too much trouble,” Mordecai says not unkindly when neither of them can figure out any words.
Diana huffs a laugh and, to Newt’s surprise, nudges the bird with her muzzle. Whatever's happened in their time in New York, she's accepted it and Newt hopes he'll be able to follow.
And then another surprise, this one from Tina. She asks about Leta.
Newt realizes that he hasn’t thought of her for sometime. That’s a good thing, he thinks. “I don't know what she likes these days. People change. I've changed. I think.”
Newt swallows at the breathlessness of Tina’s voice. He rushes forward, else he ruin the rest of the conversation somehow. “I'll send you a copy of my book, if I may.”
“I'd like that.”
“The first copy!” Diana yips, more passionate than usual.
Newt flushes, but nods. He doesn’t know what spurs him on, but he reaches out to Tina to tuck back a misbehaving strand. His fingers linger and Mordecai lets out a soft sound.
For some reason he'd like the moment to stretch out longer, if only so he can figure out what's happening between them. Something's changing and he needs to study the feelings in his chest, to understand why this strange attraction is happening. It's a phenomenon he didn't think would happen again, least of all to him.
He has to leave, so he does.
Only to realize his mistake before he even reaches the ship. There's more, there has to be more.
He backtracks immediately, Diana hot on his heels. “So sorry. How would you feel if I gave you your copy in person.”
Tina laughs. “I’d like that… very much!”
Newt’s unable to cap his smile, nodding fervently before making his final leave, feeling freer than before. But, again, there's a nagging feeling that strikes him on the gangplank of the ship. He stops.
Diana looks up at him. “We could,” she says quietly.
Newt shakes his head. He doesn't know if he's ready for this, not yet. He wants to, he realizes that now, Tina offering more than he's given, but there's still loose ends that hover over his heart, people he has to get over. Maybe one day, but not today.
He hopes it's soon and grins down at Diana when she silently agrees.
They make their way up the rest of the plank, together.
Newt - Diana, a maned wolf
Tina - Mordecai, a peregrine falcon
Jacob - Madeleine, a brown labrador
Queenie - Aaron, a stoat
Reviews and Kudos are appreciated!
Chapter 8: here comes trouble
So I wrote this AU for the Fantastic Beasts Calendar, but I got permission to post it as a chapter on this technically incomplete fic since the AUs on here are all finished. Late though because I'm a piece of shit.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Tina knows many things about Newt Scamander. He’s elusive and a sneak, the black sheep of a pure blood, ministry-oriented family. He’s a smuggler, one who disregards the codes and conduct that’s meant to guide and protect the wizarding world, who willingly deals in the black market and is incredibly good at what he does.
He's also most incorrigible man Tina’s ever had the unfortunate luck of meeting.
She catches him on mistake, she thinks.
Customs is particularly tight, especially now and for anyone entering New York, but she sees him strolling down Main Street without a care. He’s cute, the wanted posters displayed in the Department not doing his complexion justice, but that piece of information is brushed aside in favor of something else. A suitcase at his side. Tina’s attention snaps to it, openly staring as the man continues down the street unaware.
It’s the very same case she knows to hold a menagerie of magical beasts.
And it’s in New York.
Tina doesn’t need any other reason to pursue him. That’s why she follows, Apparating him to an empty alcove, shoving him against the wall, and demanding answers. What proceeds is a conversation filled with semi-reasonable excuses and an innocent facade done to deter her, only Tina’s not one to back down and ignore her gut.
“I’m taking you in,” she says when he’s evaded too many of her questions.
He gives her a quick smile like her words are laughable. “Taking me in? Taking me in where?”
Tina flashes her badge and his smile vanishes.
“You work for MACUSA?”
She nods, stuffing her badge back and taking out her wand. This is going easier than she expected.
“Then I really am sorry about this.”
Tina doesn’t see him move. She ducks in time to evade whatever flies at her head, a devilish face with fangs screeching at her. It catches her by the back of her coat and she’s flying back, crashing into the trash cans behind a deli. When she gets to feet, she catches a glimpse of his retreating back as he Disapperates away.
She gets chewed out by Madam Picquery, Abernathy after that, and then the rest of the force pipes in their two cents. A tasteless joke goes around that she might just be demoted for her ametuer mistake because you had him and you let him escape.
She fumes to Queenie for a week.
The second time they meet, Tina’s been following a lead for months and she’s all but caught her target. She’s invested hours of her time, priceless favors from her contacts, all for it to come together to take down one of the biggest bosses in New York.
All it took was one novice to mess it up and what is supposed to be a clean dispatch turns into a full fledged battle. Even though Knarlack escapes in the chaos, and with him, her total victory, there’s enough high ranking criminals to compensate. Alberto Macellarus is forced to the ground at her right by Johnson while Eduardus Limus hits the floor out cold at her left. Tina personally takes out Eleanora Shanks.
One of them tries to make a run for it.
“Goldstein!” Johnson says, but Tina’s already moving.
“I got him!” She shoves past fleeing patrons, managing through her heels well enough, their crime too small compared to the man she’s chasing.
Raymond Lambus is without his partner in crime, his so-called brother, and after she shields herself from incoming spells, she flings an ensnaring spell back. Lambus stumbles into crates of firewhisky, but he must be especially stubborn because he somehow remains standing. He vanishes the conjured ropes tangling his feet and gets to the back door, Tina right behind him. She makes the sharp turn into the pub’s parlor—
—and runs straight into someone. They fall in a tangled mess on the floor, Tina’s face pressed into a crisp shirt that gives off a distinctly earthy smell.
“Ow,” a familiar voice says under her.
It’s then Tina gets her first look at just who exactly she’s laying on top of. “You!” she growls.
“Hello,” Mr. Scamander says rather cheerfully. He isn’t visibly affected by the ruckus in the room behind them or at the number spells flying over their heads. “Knarlack is long gone, I take it?”
She ignores his question. “What are you doing here?”
His eyes flick down her dress and then back to her face. “I could ask you the same question.”
There’s a loud bang! and then a shout. “Goldstein!”
Tina jolts at her name, ready to leap into action and toward whoever is calling her, but Mr. Scamander is faster. He grabs her, crushing her to his chest, and rolls so that Tina’s the one on her back and he’s on top of her.
Tina tries to knee him in groin. “Get off! What are you—“ She stops. Beside them, there’s a smouldering scorch mark where they were just laying.
She stares at Mr. Scamander who stares back.
“You can’t catch us both,” he tells her.
Spellfire starts out the door only to end abruptly; whoever was in charge of guarding the entrance has failed. Lambus is getting away and if he does, Tina will have hell to pay. He’s a dangerous wizard, and a violent one at that, and while Mr. Scamander may be a thorn in her side, he isn’t a murderer. Her choice is clear, but that doesn’t mean she likes it.
Growling in frustration, Tina grabs his collar, pulling him close. “Your luck will run out.”
She shoves him off her before he can answer, rushing to her feet and after the more important target.
Tina catches Lambus, bringing him in with a bloody nose and a limp. The entire investigation team congratulates her. They’re that much closer to nailing Knarlack, even if it is one informant at a time. President Picquery gives her a clipped praise that’s more callous than anything else, but Tina still has to smother her pride.
There’s no word of Mr. Scamander ever being at the Blind Pig.
“It’s alright,” Tina coos, creeping forward. “I’m not going to hurt you.” She steps around the remains of a broken poker table, her steps light, and gets to her knees.
The small kneazle cowers against the wall, its lips pulled back in the beginning of a hiss, but doesn’t so much as move as Tina gets closer. It’s a kitten with matted fur so dirty that she can’t recognize it’s original color, scared and hungry and deep underground, and she wants nothing more than to find the escaped smugglers and give them a piece of her mind.
She offers it a small piece of bread from the leftover of her lunch and smiles when it takes it from her palm. Once it finishes, it crawls toward her hesitantly, sniffing at her fingers for more. Animals are inherently trusting, one small meal enough for the kneazle to let her gather it in her arms with minimal biting. “There we are. You were just scared, weren’t you. Hungry too.”
She does a quick check and finds that it’s female. “Oh, so you’re a lady,” she tells the creature, bringing her face closer. Her heart swells at the mewl and she laughs when the kneazle tries to swipe at her locket. “You have such the prettiest eyes.”
Tina jumps, clutching the kitten to her breast. She spins, her wand out and pointed at the person’s face before she recognizes him. She lowers it immediately.
“Johnson,” she says, relieved. “What are you doing here?”
The man looks uncomfortable. He idly fixes his surcoat, then awkwardly slips his hand in his pocket like he’s reaching for something. He clears his throat. “I’m here to, ah, take the last of the living shipments back to MACUSA.”
“Oh.” She nods to the crate beside her. “Right there.”
“All we scalvaged we’re those eggs. The rest were dead or already moved.” Tina grimaces, remembering the sight of the rest when she’d opened up the crates herself. It made her more than glad that she left most of the smugglers unrecognizable by the end of the fight.
Johnson's mouth thins into a straight line. He’s in the same mindset as her.
“It’s less to carry,” Tina says as a joke, only she regrets it the moment it’s out. She clears her throat when Johnson looks at her, uncomfortable. “Sorry.”
He doesn’t answer her, instead heading to the shipment. The crates aren’t particularly large, big enough to handle without a levitation smell, and Johnson handles it the old fashion way. He’s stronger than he looks, Tina surmises, observing his shoulders without care.
“Make sure those get to the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures. We don’t want them back on the streets.”
“I will.” He nods and gives her a passable smile. “Goodbye.”
She watches him leave before coming to a realization. She jogs after him. “Wait!”
He turns back to her, startled. “Yes?”
“I forgot I had her,” she laughs, presenting the kneazle. She summons a small cage, one with a thick blanket so to make it less dreary, and ushers the little kitten in. “There you go, sweetie.”
She cries when Tina hands her over, but she manages to quiet her by wiggling her fingers through the cage bars. “I know. I would love to keep you.” She stops when she notices Johnson staring at her strangely; she clears her throat, straightening and brushing off the nonexistent lint off her coat. “She’s shouldn’t be here any longer than she has to.”
“No, she shouldn’t.” The kneazle takes to Johnson immediately, no cajoling necessary, pressing against the bars to playfully swipe at him. That makes it a little easier for Tina. At least she won’t feel completely abandoned. “Tell me, um, who’s the auror who discovered this ring?”
“Oh.” Tina tucks her hair behind her ears. “That would be me.”
“You…?” He looks like he’s been hit with a stunning spell to the head, wide-eyed like a rookie just added to the force, and Tina feels a little more than annoyed She’s already proved herself, saved his hide in more than one scrape. “But this isn’t a priority—”
“It’s my job to catch criminals—yours too. It doesn’t make a difference if they’re going around killing No-Majes or smuggling Ashwinder eggs.” She frowns at him, suddenly suspicious she’ll have to defend her insistence at the raid. “What? You think this was a waste of time?”
“No, no, I think it was a sensible choice. More than I can say for everyone else here.”
He grimaces like he’s said something wrong. “I was planning to do something, but um…it looks like you beat me to it.”
Tina snorts. She’s trying not to be standoffish, especially to a colleague she’s respects. “I would say ‘better luck next time,’ but let’s hope this sorta thing doesn’t happen again.”
They stand there a moment longer staring at one another until Tina clears her throat. “I’ll walk you out.”
“Oh, no, it’s alright.” He’s gazing at her shoes, mumbling through his reason, but stops when he glances up and sees her stare. Ease up Teenie, Queenie often tells her, you can’t be serious all the time. Maybe she is too aggressive, too intimidating.
It’s to make sure the shipment is secure, she tells herself, holding the gate open for him. She says goodbye to the kneazle one last time. “Make sure she gets a good home, alright?”
“The very best,” Johnson says and there’s no doubt that he’s telling the truth. He hurries of, his gait slightly off, and Tina wonders if he got hit by a flyaway spell.
She lingers in the room for a little while longer, memorizing it. Notorious criminals had used it as a hideout and she doesn’t doubt that more bloody, heinous acts were committed here. She thinks of all the people that passed through here, the ones who never left. She thinks about the little kneazle.
Good riddance, she thinks and leaves.
On her way out she sees Johnson adding an extra ward around the block. He’s wearing a different coat and Tina stalls for all of two seconds. Her pulse rockets at the sight of him and what it means. She marches to him, pulling at his sleeve. “Cut off all the exits!”
He shakes her off. “What? We just finished clearing out all witnesses, Goldstein.”
“I just handed you the Horntail eggs to take back to MACUSA!” she hisses. “So unless you are really who say to be, we need to cut off all the exits!”
His skin goes pale, and he surges into action with the urgency of someone who just found out that a criminal might be using their face to infiltrate a crime scene, Tina hot on his heels.
“Seal the exits! We have a breach!”
They don’t catch the perp, but the next night, a cage is left on the steps of Tina’s building.
The kneazle inside meows once she sees her, rubbing her body along the cage, tail quivering. Tina thinks she’s been waiting for her, which she probably has. Unable to help herself, she crouches down to slip her fingers through the bars.
She doesn’t look cold, even with the chilly August air that’s settled over the city, so Tina assumes she hasn’t been here long. She touches the blanket and it’s pleasantly warm. The heating charm must still be fresh.
She finds a slip of paper in the folds of the blanket. Her name is Victoria , the note says in looping cursive.
There’s not a doubt in Tina’s mind on whose handwriting this is. She should be worried about how a criminal knows where she lives and deemed it necessary to gift her with a pet, but all she wonders is what made him want to do it in the first place. It could be a threat, but Mr. Scamander doesn’t strike her as the type of man to play with his enemies, much less use a creature, even one as common as a kneazle, as the means to do it.
Victoria meows, demanding her attention and Tina gives it to her. Queenie won’t mind another addition to their little home and Mrs. Esposito has never said anything against pets in the apartment. Tina picks her up, cage and all, shushing her gently, and, with one final look at the empty street, takes the new addition to her family into her the building.
She begins to see more of Mr. Scamander.
She sees him so much that she can’t keep reporting to her department in fear of being labeled as paranoid. Why would Newt Scamander remain in New York City, much less let himself get caught by the same auror repeatedly, remains a mystery and until she figures it out, she keeps it to herself. It’ll stop sometime, she hopes, I’ll catch him and he won’t escape.
Only it happens again, again, and again.
She chases him through half of Manhattan, tackles him into the lake in Central Park, nearly takes his head off with a hex, but no matter how hard she tries, he slips through her fingers. And despite what she’s heard about him, he’s chatty , saying offhand remarks that are somewhat understandable, beginning unusual conversations that Tina doesn’t mean to partake in, but frustration brings her to do just that.
“Nearly got me with that jinx,” he’ll say cheekily, but unwilling to meet her eye. “Sorry about the bank fiasco—won’t happen again.”
Tina, hot on his heels, wants to scream. “Your creature robbed a bank!”
“My niffler. He’s a thief—”
“You nearly broke the Statue of Secrecy! And the No Majes—”
He grins over his shoulder, lopsided and awkward, only to duck to the side at her spell, slipping into a wide alley. He magicks the sheets and undergarments to whip off their lines and trip her. Two stories above, a No-Maj woman gasps. “That’s a silly word for Muggles, isn’t it?”
Newt Scamander talks of a variety of things, speaking of creature and politics like their interrelated, commenting on American laws and disrespecting those in charge of enforcing, and he only spurring Tina’s determination to give him his just desserts. She’s proud of her job, proud of what she does, and no bow-legged Englishman will get away with insulting her decision scott free. Only she loses him time and time again, always having to wait for the next interaction, all the while dealing with the repercussions of their crossings (the Obliviator division is growing tired of her mess ups and her explanations).
Mr. Scamander is an enigma, a strange man with a stranger personality. He mumbles his half of the conversation and, when she’s not simmering at the insults that indirectly spill out of his mouth, Tina thinks that she needs a decoder to fully understand what he’s trying to tell her, if it’s anything important at all. She’s getting there slowly, she knows, putting the pieces together one by one until she can use it to finally catch him in the act and take him in like she’s wanted to since she first she laid eyes on him.
It’s a double-edged sword, this growing knowledge of Mr. Scamander. With every passing day she sees the reason behind his actions, can deduce his very thought when given the context, and it’s like she’s learned a new language, dreams it and changes to fit it’s psyche. He meddles in a undercover exchange, but that’s because they were selling Re’em blood and what a better way to stop the smugglers than relieve them of their product before they get to the hand-off place. Tina has to remind herself that taking justice into his own hands is nothing but anarchy and that it’s her job to put a stop to it before other wizards get a similar idea; in her field, drawing empathy with a criminal can and will spell trouble for her.
Still, she holds her tongue when she hears passing conversations that are anything but empathetic to other beings. “Did you hear about the dog down by twenty-first? Tolliver nearly had to collar him,” someone will say or, “Them kooks in the Monster Division went off on me for tossin’ some petrified eggs! Can you believe it?”
Why should you resort to killing? If you want a creature to respond positively, it’s as simple as understanding the right social queues and replying in kind. All it takes is some patience and kindness, the tilted voice in her imagination says and she can imagine his face to go with it. Can almost agree with him.
Not that she tells anyone that.
She runs into him in a bookstore.
Living in New York means a quiet community, directions and passwords whispered in passing, shops disguised behind ratty buildings and entrances to the main shops in vacant lots. Tina’s favorite bookstore is a hidden gem at the edge of the city, it’s door camouflaged with the brick of a well to-do No-Maj tailoring business. She taps the bricks with her wand and quickly steps inside when the door cracks open enough for her to fit through.
The scent of paper and ink welcome her in the homey abode, releasing the tension she’s accumulated from her long day, and she gratefully surrenders herself to the quiet and patience of books. Nodding at the owner and what few shoppers linger about, she drifts through the selections, skipping past potions and herbology to the familiar titles that promise her mind protection from meddling sisters. The slanting shelves look close to falling over, creaking occasionally, and there’s stacks of books piled as high as her hip, but it’s the sort of organized chaos that Tina’s come to love about the place.
Her feet take her to a underused section where a layer of dust has blanketed the wood of the lower shelves. After a lot of contemplation and convincing, she plucks a last book off the shelf and, in a sudden moment of paranoia, glances around in case anyone spotted her. Nothing happens and the owner remains at her desk submersed in her own reading, and Tina thinks that she’s in the clear.
That is, until she hears someone clears their throat. She whirls around and a familiar face peeks at her through the shelf opening.
Tina clutches her books to her chest, but forces her voice to be accusing. “What are you doing here?”
Newt Scamander’s eyes are bright and his tone hushed. “Same as you.”
She lifts one of the books in her hand for him to see. “You’re learning occlumency?”
She levels him with a disbelieving expression, her voice dripping with sarcasm. “How convenient.”
He smiles again and it looks like a practiced thing, like he’s trying to convince her he’s an honest man with good intentions. “Very.”
After the weeks she’s been chasing him, each scenario seemingly too coincidental, all Tina can afford is a snort. It’s completely unladylike, but she doesn’t care. “What’s the real reason you’re here, Mr. Scamander?”
The man suddenly grows fond of the text nearest to him. “Well, you see, I was—hold on.” He finally spots one of the books Tina’s been trying to hide. It’s ripped from her hand and flies through the the space until he’s flipping through it.
“Give it back!” She glares at him through the spaces between the books, hurrying along the stack to catch him on the other side, only for him to do the same. A miniature owl made of grey wood shushes them from it’s podium down the aisle.
“Bestiarium Magicum?” Mr. Scamander says, bewildered. “Absolute rubbish. All of its editions are nothing more than an extermination guide, but the American version is something of a disaster.”
Tina struggles not to be offended and, as usual, finds it rather difficult. She can barely deal with the man when they’re on opposite sides of the law, much less in a social setting, and he’s getting under her skin like usual.
He continues on. “I recommend—”
Tina places one of the thicker spellbooks back, effectively blocking his view.
If she were in a more stable position, she might just summon a team of aurors, but she isn’t and so she can’t. No one will believe you. They’ll think you’re imagining him like he’s some kind of womanly fantasy. Tina flushes at the thought. Mr. Scamander was cute, but not enough to sway her.
Instead she abandons her book on beasts and runs away to the safety of the transfiguration collection, delving deeper into in the back of the store that’s less inhabited by other customers. The musty smell of paper and leather calms her in face of her current annoyance and the wooden shelves act as cover from the rest of the world, reassuring her that she can keep this strange, almost-friendly conversation going until she finds what she needs and leave.
Mr. Scamander follows her. “Did I do something wrong? I was only giving you my professional opinion.”
“I didn’t ask for your opinion.”
“You said you were learning occlumency.”
“I am,” she lies.
“No, you’re not.”
Tina flushes at being caught, spinning on her heel so that she faces the man straight on. Mr. Scamander nearly runs into her and they’re an arms length away from each other, no bookshelves or crowds between them. Merely two people in a small shop. “Don’t you have some beast to save?”
The owl shushes her, more insistently this time.
“Actually, yes,” he mumbles to her shoulder. “You won’t be seeing me for some time. I’m going out of the country.”
“Oh.” The honest answer catches her by surprise, but she pushes forward to get something out of the situation. “And where will you be going exactly?”
He’s not fooled one bit. “I’ll keep that to myself, if you don’t mind.”
“Can’t blame a girl for trying,” she says and thinks she sounds a lot like Queenie.
“I won’t. And you can finally do what investigators do when they’re failing to catch criminals.”
Tina sputters, unable to string together a witty response, flushing when Mr. Scamander grins. He’s laughing at her, proud of his little joke! Not bothering to use her wand, she magicks the shelf behind him to shake and its dozen of texts to cascade down on him.
She’s chased out by the owl and is halfway home when she realized she forgot to buy any of her books.
A package is lying on her windowsill when she comes home, wrapped with paper and twine, but Tina knows what it is the moment she picks it up. There’s a note again.
This is a personally copy of mine. I hope you don’t mind the corrections I’ve made, but I couldn’t help myself. Much more informative than any extermination guides in stores, if I do say so.
Tina spends most of the night reading the looping cursive that fills each page.
She’s sent across seas.
Grindelwald is still at large in Europe, his followers getting particularly rowdy in the British Isles, which means that Madam Picquery sends a select few of aurors as will of good faith between the two ministries, which means a trip to London Tina. Her and her team arrive without problem and then are divided among British groups. Tina’s assigned to personally work with the Head of the Auror Office himself.
Theseus Scamander shares obvious traits with his brother, namely the curls and height, but is a cleaned up version, hair slicked back and fitted in a tailored suit with expensive cufflinks at his sleeves. He doesn’t mention his brother and neither does Tina.
He hands her an address scribbled on a small piece of paper. “I have a meeting with Travers in ten minutes, but meet me here so we can debrief.”
The meeting place is a large home in the English countryside, an endless sea of green, in a town that’s name sounds like the locals put together random words until something stuck. Tina walks up the sloping path to the front door and knocks. While she waits she lets her gaze drift over the door frame, only for the name of the estate to catch her eye. She stares at the plaque with wide eyes.
Before she can do anything, the door opens to reveal a middle-aged witch with light brown hair and covered in freckles. “Oh, you must be the American Theseus is expecting. Come in, come in!”
The home is elegant, openly spaced, and much larger than the apartment her and Queenie share in New York. At the woman’s insistence, Tina leaves her coat at the door and follows her down a splendid hallway. A peek through a curtained doorway shows a parlor that’s furnished with plush rugs and elegant vases.
The woman laughs at her expression. “Not what you were expecting? Theseus sometimes brings colleagues here when London can’t do—it’s much quieter here, don’t you agree?” They pass another parlor, after that a spacious living room, then an elegant staircase that leads up to what Tina expects is more amazing rooms. “He’s sent an owl ahead, asked me to play host until he arrives.”
“You’re house is beautiful.”
“Thank you, my dear. Would you like some tea while you wait?” She’s starving. They reach the kitchen, utterly pristine and modern, and Tina’s ushered to the table by a window that gives an amazing view of the countryside. Tina spots a dirt path that leads to an oblong stable. “Oh! Where are my manners. I’m Elicia Scamander, his mother.”
Tina gives her hand a firm shake. She’s finally schooled her expression, thank Merlin. “Tina Goldstein.”
It shouldn’t mean anything, her name, but one look at the woman’s face says it does. “You’re Ms. Goldstein?”
Unsure what to expect, Tina nods.
Elicia rushes to sit opposite of Tina, enchanting the pot and kettle to sort itself out. Her face is eager and excited. “Oh, my son’s told me all about you!”
That comes as a surprise. She’s only met Theseus in passing during a debriefing in New York before he’d departed ahead of her, which only means.…
“You’re in contact with Newt Scamander?”
“Sometimes,” Elicia says. “He doesn’t come by often, mind you, but it’s always a nice surprise when he visits.”
“When was the last time you saw him?”
“Oh, about a month or so.” Porcelain cups float over, followed by the sugar and honey and some confections Tina doesn’t recognize. Her mouth waters at the sight of them. “You’re still trying to catch him, are you?”
“Yes. He’s caused multiple fractions to the Statute of Secrecy, not only in America, but in—”
“I’m well aware of his track record, love.”
“You don’t seem worried that your son is an international criminal.”
“Worrying has never gotten me anywhere I want to be faster.” The kettle starts to whistle and Elicia summons it over. “Do you like milk in your tea?”
“No thank you. Why haven’t tried to turn him in?” Surely a higher authority would demand their cooperation, especially with Theseus the head of his department.
“Tried to at the beginning, but it made dinner rather unpleasant,” Elicia admits with a wince. “But I’ll let you know that he’s hurt not a soul, him or his beasts. Breaking and entering, illegal portkeys, and occasional theft, I’ll admit to, but never violence. I raised him to be a good man.”
“He told me you’re a stubborn one, Ms. Goldstein, and now I can see why. Newt said it’s one of your best qualities. That and your clear head.” She tans her wand to her lips, wondering. “Or was it your wandwork?”
Tina flushes. “How often does he talk about me?”
“He usually has a tale of two to tell when he visits. You must have made an impression—Newt doesn’t compliment often.”
Now that’s not something she expected. She’s not begging for praise, but it isn’t often she’s complimented so easily and consistently (by a criminal, no less). Rather than deal with the implications of Elicia’s words, and what her son’s compliments could possibly mean, Tina preoccupies herself with her tea. She spits it out when it burns her tongue.
“Careful.” Elicia cleans up the small spill and vanishes the drink that dribbled down Tina’s chin to stain her shirt. “You don’t take compliments very well, do you love.”
Embarrassed, Tina glances at the window. In the distance, a man is opening the stables and a small group of hippogriffs meander out, different shades of grey and brown. In the sun that peeks out from the clouds, the man’s hair turns fiery.
Elicia follows her line of sight. “That’ll be the help.” There’s a loud rushing noise that can only be floo powder. “And that’ll be Theseus. Right on time, I see.”
The tea set flies away, as do all the pastries that Tina hasn’t eaten. She stops herself from reaching out after the platters, her stomach grumbling at the missed chance.
“I’ll leave you two to it.”
It’s all so rushed and Tina doesn’t have time to think about why her gut tells her that something’s wrong before Theseus Scamander enters the kitchen, brushing the last of the soot from his prim suit. Elisia has disappeared out the back door to the stables. He is everything his brother is not and for some reason, that makes Tina disappointed.
She’s in Canada when she saves Newt Scamander’s life.
Madame Picquery had sent them north toto look into reports of a smuggling ring in Quebec with specific orders to snuff out the leaders and close it down before it attracted No-Maj suspicion. They narrow down the possible bases to a outpost just five miles from a small No-Maj town, charmed to look like a cluster of evergreens.
They smoke out the unsavories quick enough, driving them out and into firing range; per the western way, the smugglers jump into the fight instead of surrendering and soon the wilderness is filled with barrage of spells and curses. Tina is just about to back up the rest of her team when she spots something. The reddish brown color that pops out from the white backdrop of their surroundings draws her attention instantly and she’s nearly struck by a curse in her surprise.
Mr. Scamander doesn’t see her. He also doesn’t see the smuggler running straight for him in the act of escaping. Too focused on whatever resides in his case, he doesn’t see the spell either.
Tina doesn’t think, she just acts. She throws herself across the short distance, Disapparating the moment she has a handful of his coat. They fall into a snowbank within sight of the outpost, the mud smothering her singing coat.
Not bothering with the sticks and leaves in her hair, Tina merely wipes away the snow that clings to her face before focusing on the man under her. “Could you try not to get yourself killed for one second?”
She shoves him back down when he tries to get up, puts all her weight on his chest and brackets his hips with her knees, giving him no option but to stay still and listen. She presses the tip of her wand against his neck. “What are you doing here?”
The chilly air leaves his skin red, especially so at his neck and cheeks. His Adam’s apple bobs when he swallows. “You don’t understand. I need be here.”
“There’s a chupacabra inside and won’t last this long in the cold. I’ve tried to break the lock, but it’s made out of Goblin silver. Only the key will open it and it’s currently in the possession of the leading dealer.”
For once, it sounds like he’s telling the truth. Tina sits back. Mr. Scamander makes a strangled sound, but she ignores it, too focused on planning how they’ll pull of this stunt. It’ll be hell to do, but could work if she played her card right.
“What does he look like?” she asks, snapping her fingers impatiently when Mr. Scamander doesn't answer quick enough. “The leader! What does he look like?”
“He has a dragon burn on the right side of his face.”
An obvious marker, lucky for her. Tina picks herself up. “Wait here.”
Rounding up the smugglers takes no more than ten minutes and only leaves Tina with a couple scrapes and bruises. Mr. Scamander is still in the same place she left him, lying on his back in the snow with his case a few feet away, and she tosses the key to him without fanfare. “There.”
For the first time since she’s known him, the man doesn’t have anything to say. Rather her stares up at her, grasping at the key tightly. His clothes are damp from the snow, as is his hair, and everything about him is disheveled. Tina almost regrets roughing him up.
“What are you waiting for?” she says instead, slightly embarrassed at the way she probably looks after the skirmish. She points her wand at him. “Scat!”
She’s never seen anyone run faster.
Central Park is silent and abandoned, not even the occasional homeless No-Maj out this late in the season. Still, Tina spots a lone man hovering by the bridge that crosses the lake.
“Mr. Scamander,” Tina greets, stepping out from the cover of the trees.
Mr. Scamander jumps, spinning to face her. It’s been half a year since Canada, but he looks to have not changed a bit. The humid summer night has her forgoing her standard long coat from something thinner and less conspicuous, but he still wears the same worn bluecoat and scratched shoes.
“I hoped you’d show up,” she says and for once she’s telling the truth. “This is right up your alley.”
“Oh, er, hello.” Mr. Scamander‘s eyes dart left and right. He unsubtly tries to hide his suitcase behind his body. “What are you, um, doing here?”
“MACUSA got ear of a smuggling deal that might be happening tonight. You wouldn’t happen to know anything about that would you?”
“No. Just passing through.”
“Right. You’re the ‘wrong place at the wrong time’ kind of fella,” she says. They’re only a dozen or so feet apart now and she keeps a respectable distance to ease his nerves. “A wrongly-accused saint.”
“I wouldn’t say saint…” He makes a jerky motion with his hand. “Your, um, hair looks… nice.”
Tina brings her hand to the back of her head, brushing the short hair there, then to her bangs. Queenie had been insistent that the cut suited her. “Thanks.”
Normal people would continue on with the conversation (a normal man would elaborate ), but either Mr. Scamander doesn’t care about the resulting silence or he doesn’t know what to do, and he doesn’t say anything more. Rather he focuses on lampost a few paces down the path with more fascination than it deserves.
Tina takes the reigns herself. “I met your mother,” she says.
He grimaces, but doesn’t looked shocked, and that solidifies Tina’s hunch. “Did you?”
“Yes. I think I saw her stablehand and could’ve sworn he looked familiar.” She hopes she doesn’t come across too intimidating. You gotta give them something to chew on, Queenie had explained once, all dolled up for a night out with the ladies from her office. Make them nervous, but not too nervous.
Except Newt Scamander is no regular fella.
“You were there.” She tilts her head, studying him. “Were you hiding from me?”
He can’t lie—she won’t let him this time. “You would have arrested me if you saw me.”
“I would have,” she agrees. “Do you usually tell your parents about the aurors who try to arrest you?”
“Only those who got close to succeeding.”
For some reason, that tidbit of information pleases her. “Well—”
“How would you feel about dinner?” he asks suddenly, awkwardly.
Tina blinks. “What?”
“Dinner—with me.” He shifts his weight from one foot to the other, looking at everything that isn’t her. With the buzz from the park life and the clear sky, it could be like one those scenes from one of her reads or one of the moving pictures that the No-Majes go on about.
“I…” Nothing she’s trained for prepared her for this, to be blatantly asked out by a renown criminal that has defied her again and again. And, despite the rational voice inside her head screaming that it’s a trick, she’s almost inclined to accept for whatever crazy reason why. Except...
She stomps down the flare of hope that burns in her chest, reminding herself that her job came first and foremost. Silly attractions couldn’t get in the way of what really mattered, even if Mr. Scamander was becoming more than that.
“What are you really here for?” She brings her hands up to stop his explanation. “And don’t say it’s to ask me out to dinner because we both know that’s not it.”
Mr. Scamander won’t meet her eye anymore, but it’s not embarrassment. He’s uncomfortable, more nervous than usual, and Tina finally realizes it for what it is. How could she be so blind?
“You were expecting someone else, weren’t you.” She steps closer. “Why?”
Before she can get an answer, a dozen cracks sound out, and she spies shadowy figures further down the trail. The deal’s about to start but Tina hasn’t seen a hint of the middle man. She turns back to Mr. Scamander.
He has his wand pointed at her, a sad expression on his face. His spell hits Tina like a soft breeze and her legs give out immediately.
Blackness comes over her, weighing her eyelids down, and while the rest of the world fades, she’s acutely aware that someone has kept her from falling. They hold her close enough that she can smell the crisp scent of cologne and she halfheartedly tries to break free.
“I’ve got you,” Mr. Scamander says in a voice that’s fading fast. “I’ve got you.”
Mr. Scamander doesn’t show his face until a month later and when he does, he has the gall to risk everything Tina’s ever worked for and shows up her new desk hidden in the corner of the Magical Law Enforcement Department without invitation. Away from the major traffic of the workforce, her little cell is out of view and closed off.
“What are you doing here?” she hisses, rising from her desk and marching toward the man the moment he shuts the door behind him. He’s gotten tanner, she notes, his hair a little wilder and his coat a little more dustier. She might even say he’s handsome if she wasn’t so furious with him. There’s a great deal of things she’s considered doing the next time she saw him, and she’s had some time to simmer and think on all the colorful things she wants to say, from insults to hexes. Her wand is out and she’s itching to use it.
“I’m sorry,” he says before she can even start, meeting her gaze head on. It’s abrupt and unlike him. “I shouldn’t have been so forward at the park.”
“Now that I’ve thought it over, I realize that I put you in an uncomfortable situation. I should have asked if you’d be open to meeting me outside of what’s normal. The timing was improper and I was too assuming.” His eyes drift past her shoulder to her small desk. “You have a nice…office.”
Tina gapes at him. Her anger fades in that split moment and she’s left flabbergasted, but then it floods her veins at the sheer stupidity of the man before her. “You’re apologizing for asking me out? You think that’s why I’m angry?”
How he can appear so innocent is a talent Tina’s becoming tired of. “It’s not?”
“Of course it’s not! I’m angry about you ruining my arrest. I’m angry you knocked me out right before the deal and now the entire operation knows my face!”
“Oh,” he says, wincing. “I made sure they didn’t see you—
“And because of that stunt,” she continues, advancing on him, “I’ve been demoted to desk duty indefinitely!”
His back hits her door. “I didn’t mean for it to happen.”
“‘Didn’t mean for it to happen!’” she scoffs, imitating him, accent and all. “Ever since you came to America a lot of things started happening—things I wish didn’t! You’ve been nothing but trouble and now I regret ever trying to turn you in!” She throws her hands up. “You’re in the mob, for Merlin’s sake!”
“I am not in the mob, but I’ve been trying to integrate myself into the inner circles. Most families are very suspicious of outsiders and I knew I wouldn’t be able to get past their wards—easier to walk right in with an invitation than sneak my way in.”
“So you were trying to steal from smugglers?”
“Yes. I’d heard they’d gotten their hands on a Re’em calf, so I had to do something. I found out where they were transporting it and managed to save it.”
“Well, I’m glad your plan worked.” She should be glad that he saved a creature from being some wizard’s profit, but with her current predicament, she’s completely drained of sympathy. It makes her words come out bitter and mocking.
“You must understand, I’d hoped you wouldn’t be the one MACUSA sent because I didn’t know how I would explain myself to you.”
“Explain to me?”
“I was honest in my intentions to taking you out to dinner,” he says, turning his head so he won’t have to look her in the eyes. “As I said, the timing was wrong—and I shouldn’t have used it to keep your attention while the smugglers came.”
“Oh, you were being honest!” She jabs him in the chest. “Isn’t that just the cat's pajamas! Listen here, pal! You being honest doesn’t make what you did any better, so don’t expect me to leap into your arms!”
He flushes. “I wasn’t trying to—” Frowning, he stops and takes a deep breath, and Tina thinks this is angriest she’s seen him. “You are making this extremely difficult.”
“Good! Did you think this was going to be easy? That I’d accept your apology just like that?”
“I’m not some girl that’ll swoon over the first fella that shows an interest!”
“Let me make this clear,” she growls, getting right in his face. “I’m not interested! Not now, not ever! So take your monster-infested case and get lost!”
What follows her words is deafening silence, broken by the sound of her breathing, heavy and loud. The clock ticks away the moments.
“Right,” Mr. Scamander says quietly. “I apologize for inconveniencing you. I won’t bother you anymore.”
All at once, Tina deflates, and the anger is smothered into something that can only be shame. Queenie often told her she spoke with her heart and never thought before she acted, and now must be one of those times. Mr. Scamander has never taken her harsh words to heart, but then again, she’s never outright rejected him until now.
“Look, Mr. Scamander,” she starts, only to be cut off by a shrill bell.
She jumps, yanking her hand so that it’s not gripping his shirt. One step back and there’s a respectable space between the two of them, and Tina can breathe again. Behind Mr. Scamander’s shoulder, through the glass of her door, she can see warped figures as they hurry by. The bell is still ringing, the clock by Tina’s door joining when it’s hand falls to the orange part of its face. A security breach.
“Let me guess,” she says, “that has something to do with you.”
Mr. Scamander pointedly looks at his shoes. “I thought I had more time,” he mumbles.
“And how are you getting out of here?”
He looks up at her from under his wild hair. “I hadn’t planned that.”
The words hover between you them and Tina realizes that whatever happens next is up to her. Mr. Scamander has infiltrated MACUSA, a place filled with wizards that wouldn’t hesitate to send him to Azkaban, with no inclination of how to escape. He did it to see her and now he’s completely completely at her mercy.
Tina massages her temple, sighing. This isn’t what she expected to deal with when she first met Mr. Scamander. “Of course you didn’t.” She tries to come up with a plan that won’t get her demoted even further (or worse, arrested) and will keep Mr. Scamander from being shipped to Azkaban, and thinks of only one possible solution. It’s a wonder she doesn’t just let him be captured and be done with it. “Get in your case.”
He blinks. “Sorry?”
She takes his suitcase from him and lays it at their feet. “Come on! We don’t have all day!” When he doesn’t move, she looks up to find him staring down at her, his expression unreadable. “I’m not going to turn you in.”
Then, finally, he acts . He crouches beside her, opening his case, and Tina belatedly realizes that there really is a whole other world down there. A weak breeze hits her, carrying an unusual foreign smell, while muffled sounds of life reach her ears. She gazes down into the rustic workshop and wonders what else is in this worn case.
Mr. Scamander descends down the ladder. When he’s down to his chest, he stops, looking up at her. He doesn’t say anything and neither does she, but something passes between them. For some reason she feels like she should say something, apologize maybe, but then he’s climbing down the rest of the way, closing his lid after him.
Tina locks it. She takes a deep breath, then another. Two more and she’s ready.
The quickest way out is through the front doors, so that’s where she goes. She nods when she should, keeping her face blank and her meanor cool even as she grips the handle of the case with white knuckles. No one stops her, not even her colleagues giving her a glance as they race past, and she doesn’t know if she should feel relieved or disappointed. The noise of the city hits her when she passes through the revolving doors, the world cheering at her escape.
She Apparates to an empty alcove a few blocks away from the Empire State Building. No-Majes go about their business on the street only a few feet away, unaware of her inner turmoil as she studies the case in front of her. The leather is battered and scratched, the feel of it rough when she sweeps her fingers over it.
“Oh, I’m in big trouble,” she whispers to herself.
She gives the top of the case a swift knock. Immediately, there’s a soft click , like he’s been waiting for her signal, and the latches pop up, unlocked.
Tina’s gone before it’s even begun to open.
There are no reported sightings of Newt Scamander that week, nor the following months.
She gets an invite from England.
It’s from a one Elicia Scamander, inquiring whether she’s free the following evening for tea. Everything will be taken care of, she only needs to accept.
“You should go,” Queenie tells her after she’s fretted over it for hours. “You deserve a vacation even if it’s only for a day. Maybe it’ll help you with clear things up with Mr. Scamander.”
“Don’t read my mind.”
“Don’t shout it out all the time and maybe I wouldn’t have to.” When she doesn’t answer, Queenie steps up and envelops her in a hug. “I’m serious, Teen. Go. It’ll be good for you—besides, she seemed sweet on you.”
True to the letter, Tina shows up and she’s processed through without a hitch, none of the usual screening and paperwork required. It pays to be related to a war hero, she thinks, stepping up to the mantle and letting herself be engulfed in green flames.
On the other side, Mrs. Scamander greets her like an old friend, as warm and sweet as Tina remembers. Her personality makes up for the weather, London living up to its name once again with a cloudy skyline and a wind so cold that Tina wishes she’d traded in her long skirt for a thicker pair of trousers.
The Scamander Estate is just as grand as her first visit, even with the gloomy backdrop and the incessant drizzle, and it’s there she’s acquainted with her husband, the elder Mr. Scamander. He looks around the same age as Elicia, except the color of his hair seems to have been washed out and replaced with grey. He gives her hand one good shake, says he’s pleased to meet her, and promptly makes his way to a plush armchair where he hides behind the paper walls of the Daily Prophet.
Elicia clucks at her husband, but directs Tina to the sofa nearby. She summons food and refreshments from the kitchen, talking all the while, asking about her day, her week, her month. Unlike her son, she continues the conversation with ease and without fear of telling too much, and soon Tina’s being told stories of Mr. Scamander’s youth that she doubts he’d want anyone, especially her to hear. She hears of dinners interrupted by swarms of pixies that were let loose in the house and of exploding experimental potions that left hair pink for two months, and by the time that Elicia is calmy recounting the evening her son escaped on one of her hippogriffs in the wake of a raid, Tina thinks that this home was an exciting one to grow up in.
“It was a splendid evening until this one here called in the aurors.”
Mr. Scamander huffs. “I let him finish dinner.” He eyes Tina over the lip of his cup. “You haven’t caught him, have you?”
“No, not yet.” She swallows, glad for the cover of the table between them so he can’t see her wringing her hands on her lap. “I haven’t seen him for a while actually.”
Somewhere in the house, the floorboards creak.
“No, you wouldn’t. He can’t seem to settle in one place for very long.”
Tina says nothing of the weeks where she’s seen him days on end, or that he’d become such a recurring figure in her life and now she’s starting to feel his absence in full. Before she can begin to wonder what to so, a gentle weight presses against her skin; looking down, she’s met with big, slanted settled right in the middle of a squashed face.
“Duke‘s taken to you! Usually he only cares for me or Newt.” Elicia cooes when the kneazle continues to rub itself against Tina’s shin. “Finnick loves visitors, but he must somewhere in the stables.”
Already knowing what to expect, Tina opens her arms just in time for the kneazle to jump into her lap, quickly settling in a position that makes it so she’s unable to reach for her tea. She finds that she doesn’t mind, scratching it where she knows is Victoria’s personal favorite. The kneazle purrs. “Me and Queenie were considering getting another.”
“You have a kneazle?”
“Just the one.”
“How are you faring so far?”
“She’s wonderful,” she says honestly. This subject is easy. She could talk about Victoria all day. “Very adventurous. I don’t know what we’ll do when it’s spring and she wants to go outside.
“I’m sure you’ll figure it out. They’re smart creatures—you just have to come to an agreement and then you’ll be alright!” Elicia reaches across and gives the feline a through scratch behind his ears. “What’s her name, dearie?”
“Victoria—I wasn’t the one who named her.”
Elicia makes an understanding sound. “That certainly sounds like Newt.”
Tina doesn’t say anything, only focusing on petting the little creature in her lap. She’d never told it had been Newt.
Mr. Scamander huffs. “The boy can name a stray kneazle and give it away, but the moment he comes across a manticore, he can’t bear to leave it alone. How he manages to escape being locked away in Azkaban with that heart of his is a mystery.”
Tina nearly jerks at the blunt reference to their son, disgruntling Duke enough for him to leap from her arms and saunter over to the door leading to the stairway. He rolls onto his back and stretches out leisurely, his purr loud enough for Tina to hear. “It’s not easy to take one side.”
“Finally! Someone who agrees with me! And an auror at that!” Elicia jabs her spoon at her husband. “Theseus and this one over here thinks it’s all black and white, but I always thought there’s a grey shade to it all.”
“Breaking the law is wrong, Elicia,” Mr. Scamander says, turning a page of his paper, and how nonchalant his tone makes Tina believe this is a common argument between them. “Even if it’s for a good reason. We have to keep order somehow.”
“There’s always exceptions!” Elicia turns to Tina, a mix between exasperated and amused. It reminds her of Newt. “You see what I have to deal with? Thickheaded like a graphorn, the both of them.”
“I’m usually the unreasonable one. The only reason me and Queenie get along so well is because I’m so easy for her to read,” she says before elaborating. “She’s a legilimens.”
“Oh, really? Now that must interesting.” Elicia leans forward excitedly and even Mr. Scamander looks up from his newspaper. “You must be especially good at occlumency, then.”
Tina blushes. “Not really. I’ve read so many books I’ve lost count, but none of them seem to work.”
Mr. Scamander turns back to his reading. “It’s not for everyone, so don’t get too sad about it.”
From there, talk of their son fades into discussion occlumency and legilimency, and Tina tells them what it’s like to live with a legilimens, the hassles of keeping secrets, how no matter how hard she tries she can’t keep birthday presents a mystery for more than a day. Where Elicia openly laughs and questions, Mr. Scamander lets them speak most of the time, only asking a short question here and there. Tina feels emboldened to speak more, enjoying every second, everything about them reminding Tina of the faint memories she has of her grandparents. She enjoys it so much she’s disappointed when, around half past noon, the old grandfather clock chimes out.
Mr. Scamander sighs. “Must be off then.” He gathers his coat and hat, and his relation to Theseus is more obvious. He gives her a strong handshake, then presses a quick kiss to Elicia’s cheek. “Glad to meet your acquaintance, Ms. Goldstein.”
He takes the floo and when the green flames die down, the entire mantle is covered in soot. “Sweet Perceles! This is why I hate floo! Ash everywhere!” Elicia huffs. As she speaks, the storm outside rumbles, and they hear the first drops hit the window.
“Just my luck. Nevermind the fireplace, I’ll have to bring in the herd.” She rushes to take a peek at the backyard. “You’ll be fine by yourself for a little while, deary?”
“Yes. I was wondering if I could explore?”
“Yes, yes, go right ahead! Don't get lost! It's rather larger!” She hurriedly shoulders on a coat, laughing at her own joke, and shoves her feet into thick boots, and she reminds Tina more of Newt like this. Then she’s out the door.
The silence of the room is only broken by the pitter patter of the starting rain and the ticking of the grandfather clock somewhere in the house. Duke purring slows until he’s fast asleep and Tina’s feet take her to the ornate cabinet near him and the collection of photos gathered there, except she’s not interested in them. She finally tears her eyes from her shoes and meets the gaze of the man hovering at the doorway.
Newt watches her like she’s a beast, wary and enraptured all at once, and Tina forces down the anxiety at the attention. He doesn’t move when she comes closer, not even when she’s less than a hair's breadth away.
“Why are you here?”
Tina’s startled. She didn’t think he’d speak to her, much less ask her flat out. She swallows, nervous. She’d accepted his mother’s invitation, but to tell him her true reasons feels impossible because she doesn’t fully know herself.
“I came to see you.” An assortment of emotions, hurt and suspicion the most obvious ones, and Tina continues on before she can lose her nerve. “I wanted to talk and to say that...I’m sorry for saying what I did.”
“There’s nothing to apologize for. You made your intentions very clear.”
His words are stilted, proper, reminding Tina of the way his brother had sounded in a meeting, everything Newt isn’t. She doesn’t want to hear him sound like that anymore. “I was lying!” she admits quickly, breathlessly.
He finally meets her gaze, eyes wide. “Lying? About what part exactly?”
“ Everything . What I said…”
“You said I lost you your job,” Newt says bluntly.
Tina bites her lip. “I—my job is all I have. I worked hard to get where I am and to have it taken from because of what someone else did…”
“It feels like you can’t trust your own judgement anymore.”
The feeling is exactly that and Tina wonders who hurt him. “Yes.”
“Ms. Goldstein, I didn’t—”
She lays a finger against his lips, stopping him short. He’d already said his apologies, each one honest and true, and, while he’d made his mistakes, so had she. It’s her turn now to give back, to be kind. “I’ll get it back once everything blows over, I know I will.” As much as she wished for her old life back, it wouldn’t be the same without him popping up and making it more interesting, more exciting. “I, um, have something for you.”
Not wasting another moment, Tina hurries to where she’s dumped her coat, nearly tripping over a crease in the rug, and fishes out what she’d brought in case this moment came along. The sight of Newt still in the doorway fills Tina with relief, a small part of her worrying over whether he’d vanish the moment her back is turned. He’s many things, but unkind isn’t one of them.
Newt unwraps the package slowly, taking care with the paper, revealing the book’s worn, magenta hardback and it’s peeling edges. The title is one Tina’s gotten to know exceptionally well Protection Charm Your Mind: A Practical Guide to Legilimency, legible except for the piece that Victoria has gotten to scratching. Newt flips through the pages and Tina’s own writing pops out at her, squeezing between lines and following along the margins.
“It’s my personal copy,” she explains, feeling silly. Their interaction at the bookstore seems a lifetime ago.
Newt runs a thumb over a personal anecdote and, when he finally looks her in the eye, Tina realizes how intimate this whole thing is. She can see so much. “Why are you giving me this?”
“I figure that since you gave me something of yours, I should return the favor.”
“Tina...” The intensity of his gaze is something Tina’s never seen before, solely focused on her. It speaks volumes in a language she can’t fully understand, but is starting to comprehend, words he can’t put out in the open without jeopardizing everything that lies between them.
Tina swallows the lump in her throat, pushes down the nervousness that threatens to immobilize her. Newt seemed to speak through actions more than words, so maybe she can too. So without asking whether she should, she steps forward and hugs him.
“I’m trying alright. I don’t know what to do or say, especially to you.” Tina breathes in the rustic scent ingrained in the very threading of his shirt. “This is so much… more than I imagined.”
Tina tried not to shiver at the feel of his hands at her waist. His touch gentle, barely there, like she’ll fade away at a moment’s notice. “Yes.”
“Why did you keep coming back?” she asks. She’s guessed, but hearing the answer would ease her heart and worries. She couldn’t risk being wrong now.
“You were someone to keep me on my toes. You were so determined and I thought—” Newt stops, moving his head so his nose is pressed against her ear. “I thought if anyone was going to turn me in, it would be you.”
“At first I thought you were like all the others,” he whispers. “But then you changed.”
Her chin fits perfectly at the junction between his neck and shoulder, and she’s tempted to turn her head and press her face into the skin above his collar. “I think that has something to do with you.”
He laughs lightly. “I take it you hope that you’ve instilled some of your law-abiding personality in me.”
“Maybe a little,” she says, “but I think you’re a good man the way you are.”
There’s an intake of breath and his fingers suddenly press into her spine, pulling her closer, and the heat of him seeps into Tina’s shirt. She gives into the embrace, clutching him just as tightly, and lets the touch relieve her of her stress and worries. All the times she’s been chasing after him, she never once considered what it’d be like to actually catch him, to have him in her grasp (and her in his).
”I have to go,” he says into her hair after some time, “before we’re seen.”
Tina hears the rest of the message crystal clear. Before you have to arrest me.
I wouldn’t, she wants to say, but her throat won’t work. Instead, she steps out of his arms. “Would you—” She stops.
Newt has a strange expression again, like he knows exactly what she was about to ask even though she doesn’t know herself. Would you chase me back to New York? Would you like to take me out for dinner? Would you let me hold you again? Would you please kiss me?
Whatever he’s looking for, he must see it because he reaches out and light drags his fingers along her cheek. Then he smiles. Tina returns the gesture and thinks they’ll be alright.
When she opens her luggage back in America there’s something extra.
The paper mouse leaps out like it’s been waiting for her to set it free, bounding throughout the room with enough energy to startle Victoria from her afternoon nap, chasing her under the bed. Tina lets it run around for a while, watching it explore, before gathering the miniature creature into her hands. It unfolds immediately at her touch.
Thank you, the note says, and Tina feels as though she’s done something right.
She’s on her lunch when someone passes her from behind, grabbing her hand and pulling her away from the hot dog stand she was heading towards.
Tina stares at Newt’s back, surprised at his sudden appearance. It’s public, completely risky, the peak of bad ideas. Someone could see him, see her with him, and then it would be a whole new set of problems they’d have to deal with. Newt might be captured, Tina could lose her job, and where would they be then?
She follows him anyway.
For a foreigner, he certainly knows his way through the usual crowd that floods the main streets. He leads Tina against the current of the crowd, between businessmen and tourists, bypassing automobiles and horses, before turning into an abandoned alley. He lets go of her hand when they’re alone.
“Have you decided on your answer?” he asks. He’s looking at the air above her left shoulder. “About having dinner with me?”
He looks good, better than she’s seen him. Freshly shaven, clothes pressed, he looks like he's gone out of his way to care for his looks; even his hair is somewhat tamed. Tina likes this put together version of him, but then again, she’s a bit biased now and couldn’t care less of how he looked.
“You know your way around now,” she says instead of answering him. “The streets are numbered, so it’s not that—”
She lunges forward.
Newt expects it, nimbly hopping away on the balls of his feet, grinning all the while. “Had to learn with you hot on my trail.”
He pulls his case out of her reach when she tries to grab it, spinning on his heel when she follows. They circle each other slowly, around and around, relaxed and only half heartedly trying to fulfill the roles set out for them.
“You can’t Apparate out of here, you know,” she says.
“I could arrest you right now.”
He shakes his head. “You won’t.”
“You don’t know that.”
They’ve stop circling each other, with Tina still blocking the exit, and stare into the other’s eyes. She takes a step forward. He takes one back.
This is normal. She can deal with normal. She can follow the script, play the part, and knows he can too. They’ll reach the end of the alley at some point, but until then they can keep doing this dance, prolonging the inevitable. So she follows him deeper into cover and away from the public eye and social expectations.
Tina slowly backs Newt into a dead end, brick buildings encompassing them on each side with the only exit the way they came. She charms the fire escapes lining the buildings rise out of reach and the windows high above clatter to a close, adding a No-Maj repelling charm and a silencing spell around them so they won’t be bothered.
Newt laughs at his slow capture. “Nowhere to hide.” He doesn’t sound worried, stating it in a matter-of-factly kind of way, almost like he’s amused by the whole ordeal.
Keep me on my toes, he’d said. Well, she certainly could.
She summons his case, only Newt’s hand still has a firm grip on it and he’s pulled along. He nearly bowls her over and they grapple with it less gracefully than she’d intended, trying to trip each other. Tina feels like she’s a child again, roughing around with the other city kids over a quaffle.
The case drops at their feet, but it’s not important anymore.
Newt grabs her wrists, effectively interlocking their arms and limiting any kind of spellwork Tina might need in the situation. That doesn’t worry her. She’s dealt with criminals twice her size and ten times the animosity than the man before her, leaving them kneeling and thoroughly hexed and her without a scratch.
She shoves him against the brick wall. “Let me guess,” she says, changing the subject. “No wand permit.”
“Would you believe me if I said I made an application months ago?”
“Wanted for multiple infractions on the statute of secrecy, harboring illegal magical creatures, and evading arrest from five international wizarding communities. You’re a sought out man, Mr. Scamander, and not in the good way,” she says, leaning in close. “Why would I believe you?”
“I do believe there’s a compliment in there somewhere, Ms. Goldstein.”
She scoffs. “Why does a man such as yourself, with such a high price on his head, keep getting caught for petty crime? Have you finally lost your touch?”
He grins like he expects she knows exactly why that is (and she does). “What do you think?”
This close she can see the constellation of freckles that dot the bridge of his nose, how his eyes have splashes of gold in the midst of his usual green, and the way they crinkle at the corners when he smiles. This close she can the exact moment his gaze slips to her mouth.
Closing her eyes, Tina makes her decision. “Yes.”
“Yes to your question.”
“The first one.”
Newt’s face is closer when she opens her eyes, his smile growing wider as he dips his head. “And the second?”
She grabs his collar and shows him exactly what she thinks.
Listen. I’m not saying that Newt’s into Tina channeling in her tough-as-nails auror self and threatening to arrest him, but he’d definitely be that kind of guy.
Chapter 9: our souls are marked in ink
When meet your soulmate, you get a tattoo animal that represents them. It slowly grows the more you love one another and can move anywhere on your skin (if your SO dies, then it stops moving forever).
Posted this as a random snippet on tumblr, so I might as well put it in this collection. :)
“Newt, the grindylows are—”
Newt jumps at the voice. He hits hit head against a hanging basket, causing a ripple among his nets instruments, and he barely catches one or two before they fall.
At the door of his shed, Bunty grimaces. “I didn’t mean to startle you.” She looks like she’ll say more, but trails off. She grips the pail of Mooncalf feed tightly. “Oh.”
Newt rubs the back of his neck at the state of his shirt, or lack of. “I didn’t know you were still here.” A beat. “The jarvey had away with my shirt, you see.”
In truth, the vulgar-spewing creature had shredded his clothing in a tantrum over the lack of treats and, after gently reprimanding it and facing even more curses, Newt had gone to grab a change of clothes. He always kept spares down here for a situation like this.
Bunty motions to her chest, almost timid. “I didn’t know you had a mark…”
Newt flushes. It’s not common practice to strip and display one’s marks and he’d tried to keep it a secret to the general populous else face unnecessary inquiry, but hiding it now seems silly. The thunderbird has gotten too big to explore the skin past his elbow without having to keep its wings pressed close and wriggle its way to his fingers, stranding it to his torso. Newt finds that it doesn’t mind much, preferring the open landscape of his back.
He’d once wallowed in the lack of one, hoped and wished it would appear in his school years. He remembers staying at school for holidays, hoping that maybe Leta would take him aside one of those winter days and tell him of whatever shape his heart had taken shape on her skin. He remembers the grief of Theseus showing him the petulant raven relaxing on his forearm (already growing in size after the first date), how he’d barely been able to offer his congratulations. He’d locked himself in his basement and drank himself in a stupor that night.
Thunderbirds are more fitting for him than ravens, Newt thinks.
Following the direction of his thoughts, the thunderbird spreads its wings in pride, reveling in the attention in a way Newt never could. It stubbornly flies up his chest when he tries to hide it from view, twisting and turning to draw more attention to the defined lines that make up its feathers, especially those adorning its wings and tail. It curls around his heart as if to remind him that he shouldn’t be ashamed of whoever might see it, that it shows that he’s loved.
He’s come to covett the rambunctious mark, wanting to keep it all to himself. Journalists and the like are as persistent as pixies, asking intimate questions and demanding facts about his personal life without a hint of shame, determined to a ridiculous degree to find out the latest scoop even if it broke social etiquette. Newt’s only lucky the thunderbird hasn’t risked a peak from his collar.
He wonders if the kelpie painted on Tina’s skin behaves this way as well.
“Something wrong with the grindylows? Has Herbert escaped into the kraken tank?”
“You should have a Healer look at those burns,” Bunty says instead and for once Newt prefers the ogling of his scars.
“It’s fine. Just another memory.” Besides, the thunderbird seems to like them, delighted at the rough terrain. “The grindylows? Bunty?”
“Oh, yes, um, Herbert’s led a small escapade and now they’re stuck in the cave at the far end.”
Newt turns and fumbles with his drawer, trying to find a suitable shirt and cover up the love that inks his skin. The thunderbird circles his hip to settle over his spine despite his wishes, widening its wingspan to embrace his sides in a sort of hug. Newt huffs, fond of the creature, but hasn’t the time explain that he needs to be clothed. Nonetheless, he foregoes fastening the top buttons of his shirt.
“It’s so… big.” Bunty’s still standing in the doorway when he glances her way.
Newt flushes, glad, and his chest feels light like he might just fly of into the horizon; he’s never doubted Tina’s feelings for him after Paris, nor had she him, but it’s heartening to physically see the growing affection. While he never bothered to take part in personal discussions with his assistant before, only every focused on his creatures, Bunty’s comment puts him in an especially good moon. That’s why he finds himself asking, “Have you, um, found your match yet?”
“No. There was one man… I thought… that he might be the one,” she says. “But I don’t think so anymore.”
“You’ll find someone, I’m sure,” he says offhandedly, rolling up his sleeves. “They might be right under your nose.” His words are supposed to be a reassuring, but it seemingly backfires when he spots the tears dripping down her cheeks. Newt steps closer, concerned. “Something wrong?”
He’s waved off. Bunty wipes at her eyes hurriedly, her voice shaking. “No, no, I just realized that it’s about time for me to head out.”
Normally, he has to remind her to leave, and her lack of persistence and reasonable excuses catches Newt off guard. He can understand her passion for creatures, but to get overly emotional over leaving for the night when she’ll be here in the morning seems odd. “Don’t worry about the grindylows. I’m sure Tina will back in time to help me,” he says instead of inquiring further. Best leave people to their own devices. “And have you visited the kelpie?”
“No, I didn’t.”
“Good. I don’t want you getting hurt if I can’t help it.” Physical contact with most people usually doesn’t sit well with him, but Bunty’s been a reliable assistant, certainly a witch capable of handling herself with the creatures he cares for, and Tina’s been insistent that it’s good for him, pressing against his boundaries. Newt delicately places his hands on Bunty’s upper arms and tucks his chin to look at her properly. “You go home and rest, Bunty. You look tired.”
She doesn’t react immediately, refusing to meet his eye and staring at his collar instead, but then nods almost mournfully. Wetness gathers in her eyes and her mouth wobbles a little, but she takes a deep breath and steadies herself.
“Are you sure you’re alright?” A tickling sensation tells Newt that the thunderbird has curled around his neck, watching the scene with interest. “I can set some tea before you go and—”
“I-I’m fine. Just need some time to myself, I think.” Bunty’s voice cracks like she’s barely holding it together. She meets his eyes then, even gives him waning smile that dissolves as quickly as it appears. She hands him the bucket with trembling hands and steps away. “Goodnight, Newt.”
Newt doesn’t understand why she runs out of the room.