Jacob Kowalski is starting to see wizards around every corner.
Why, just last Tuesday he’d been walking to the corner store to buy candied peanuts, and he’d seen a girl no older than fourteen busking in the street with a tambourine and dancing dog. The dog had waddled around on its hind legs, barking the tune to “Drunken Sailor,” and right before his eyes Jacob had seen humorless old Tony Balesco stop, and laugh, and give the girl a penny before continuing his usual shuffle to the newspaper stand.
She’s a wizard, Jacob thought, and the thought made him a little giddy. He had to hide his smile when he walked past her. He gave her two pennies. “Thanks mistah!” A wizard.
In the week that followed he saw a little boy talking to the plants on his balcony at four in the morning, two young men involved in a deep conversation about the price of songbirds, and an elderly woman in a green coat and a truly ostentatious hat, which seemed to buzz when she walked past him, as though it were full of bees.
Wizards, all of them. Well, perhaps not all of them. But some of them, certainly. At least one.
He tells Queenie all about it at their next Sunday breakfast, which they take at a sweet little spot called the Strawberry Lodge. It’s full of warmly chattering patrons, faux-wood panelling, and a quartet of singing frogs that hop from table to table and refuse to go away until they’re given bread.
Breakfasts with Queenie never fail to make Jacob smile.
“I’m sure they ain’t all wizards, honey,” Queenie says to him. The playful smile in her eyes rather undermines the effect of her conspiratorial whisper.
“Yeah yeah, you’re right,” Jacob mumbles, as close to sullen as he ever gets. “But I want them to be,” He sighs, slaps the table with one palm. “Alright. What’ve we got today?”
“Somethin’ real special,” Queenie says, gently touching her wand to his temple. “You’ll like him. He’s a bit of a trouble maker . . .”
But before she can finish, the world swims before Jacob’s eyes, seems to flicker and blur before it comes roaring back, like he’s breaking the surface of an icy lake, and he remembers its little, skittering feet, its soft fur and its flat, snuffling nose . . .
Jacob seems to float back into himself, regains his awareness of his hands, his physicality. It’s dizzying for a moment, but already Queenie’s holding a glass of water to his mouth, and he sips it while his vision comes back into focus.
“It was so cute,” is the first thing out of his mouth.
Queenie beams in delight. “That's a niffler, honey.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Jacob is nodding, a smile spreading across his face. “Yeah! I remember . . . at the bank. And the jewelry store. I was with . . .”
And for the first time his smile falters. “Who was I with?”
Queenie’s smile wilts a little too. “Soon, okay honey?” She says earnestly, reaching across the table to hold his hand. “Soon.”
Jacob looks at her sadly and nods, squeezing her hand. At the first of these many, many breakfasts, she had explained it to him in a way that brooked no argument. “We have to take it slow, sugar,” she’d told him. “I know a thing or two about the human brain, and yours would go all ka-blooey if we tried to dig up all those memories at once. So one at a time it is.”
“I wish I remembered it all now,” says Jacob, grouchily picking at his breadsticks. The frogs are two tables away now and getting closer; they’ll need appeasement soon. “I can’t stop thinkin’ about ‘em, now that I know they’re out there! Wizards, I mean. That girl could’ve been a wizard, and I wouldn’t even know it.”
“You think everyone is wizards, honeybear.”
“No I don’t,” Jacob says defensively, which was perfectly true. He had plenty of friends who weren’t wizards.
Percival Graves, for example, was a cop. He came into the shop several times a week for breakfast and a chat, and was, apart from Queenie, Jacob’s closest friend. Graves called him Jake, Jacob called him Perce, and their conversations were always the highlight of Jacob’s morning. He was also as thoroughly non-magical as it was possible for a man to be.
When he’d first started coming to Kowalski’s, Graves had always just bought coffee and the most boring pecan tart in the shop, which was a triumph considering Jacob didn’t sell boring food. Then he began to linger, taking his time to browse and chat. Jacob didn’t mind the lingerers, who took ten, even twenty minutes inspecting the pastry cases before picking something they liked. If he was being perfectly honest with himself, he liked the attention. He liked the way people’s faces lit up, the uncertain lip-bites they did when they were torn between choices. The joy of extravagance.
Though they’d only known one another for a few weeks, Jacob and Graves had become fast friends. Jacob suspected that he came not for the food, but for the people. He knew the pale, shadow-eyed look of the lonely and over-worked. How often had Jacob worn that very same expression?
Graves had a grim look to him, perpetually glowering and handsome in a brutal, carved-from-stone way, but he smiled when he talked to Jacob, and once in a while he made jokes, which Jacob encouraged even when they were bad. He didn’t talk about work often, but when he did, it made Jacob glad that he wasn’t stuck in law enforcement.
He'd clocked him as a cop right away.
The first time Graves had come into the shop, he’d stopped on the threshold as though unsure of himself. Jacob had been making coffee at the time, and at the sound of the little jingling bell, turned and said “Mornin’ officer, what can I get you?”
Graves, then a stranger, had tensed for a moment and glanced down at himself. Dark suit, darker shoes. A warm woolen coat that Jacob was starting to envy the longer the winter breeze crept through the open door. “How did you know?” the stranger had said cautiously.
“I mean,” Jacob shrugged, chuckling in spite himself. “If you’re tryin’ to be undercover, pal, it ain’t workin’. You look like a bull.”
At that, the stranger visibly relaxed. Jacob saw him take his hands out of his coat pockets. “I see. Well,” and here he went to inspect the pastry case, “I’m rarely in uniform these days. People tend to get nervous if they think there’s a cop around.”
“Am I in trouble?”
“No, not at all,” said the stranger, apparently missing Jacob’s jovial tone. “The opposite of trouble, actually, if those pecan tarts taste as good at they look.”
“Glad to hear it,” Jacob smiled. He slid back the glass from behind the counter and crouched to retrieve whichever tart looked the tastiest. “I didn’t grow up in a neighborhood where the cops were my friends, so.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” the stranger said, and he did sound sorry. “I hope you won’t hold it against me.”
“Nah,” Jacob huffed dismissively, plating the biggest of the tarts. “I don’t know you. I’m not gonna hold you accountable for what the other guys did. Judge a man by his own actions, that’s what I say. Besides,” he added, “you look like one of the good guys.”
The stranger grinned at him and looked away, a peculiarly shy action for a man so imposing. “I’m Percival,” he said. “Percival Graves.”
“Jacob Kowalski,” Jacob said cheerily, setting the tart down in front of him with a loud thunk. “Can I call you Perce?”
From that day on they met nearly every morning, and could frequently be seen back-and-forthing across the counter about nothing at all, merely glad of each other’s company. It surprised some people, and concerned still more, that someone so affluent should be close friends with a baker. More than a few looked at Graves with interest, and some with undisguised greed. Interested parties looked him up and down and wondered what he could afford.
Jacob, to his credit, was never bothered by such things. He had his bakery, and food on the table, and the satisfaction of good work well done. He even had a beautiful woman whose heart he was lucky enough to call his own. There were plenty of guys like him in the world, guys who had never even got a glimpse of their heart’s desire, yet here was Jacob Kowalski, living the dream. He even had magic, or at least the knowledge of it, which was almost the same thing.
Besides, for all his fine clothes and expensive pomade, Jacob had rarely seen Graves happy. Occasionally he would talk about work, always in the vaguest of terms, and whenever he did he made it sound as though he were being constantly scrutinized, studied, and observed.
“They want me to retire,” he says bitterly, one morning when the snow is piling up particularly deep on the street outside. “They think I’m unfit for duty.”
“I had a rough November,” Graves mutters. “My boss is telling me I should take a vacation. A long one. Sh- he wants me to spend some time at the estate. Fresh air, you know.”
“Winter in the country must be beautiful,” Jacob says wistfully, as he begins applying little frosting ribbons to the latest batch of cookies. He nods at Graves to indicate he’s still listening.
“Not with my grandmother, it’s not,” Graves told him. “Ever since Mr. Graves died- that’s my grandfather- she’s been more determined than ever to cut me out of the family.”
“But still, you’ve got a legacy there, yeah? A family name, a family home,” Jacob says thoughtfully, still focussing on the cookies. “My grandma was just about the nicest lady to ever bake a pączki, and all she left me was my memories and my recipe book,” He sighs. “I used to think my memories were the one thing no one could take away from me, y'know?”
“Did she teach you how to cook?” Graves asks curiously, craning his neck to catch a glimpse of the frosting ribbons.
“Yeah, she did,” Jacob nods. “Taught me everything I know. Most of what I sell here is from recipes I learned from her. I loved her to pieces.”
Graves smiles. “Now that’s a legacy to be proud of.”
One gloomy afternoon, when the shop is empty and the streets are gray and cold, Graves stops by for a blueberry scone and asks Jacob about the War.
He does it cautiously, but far from casually, and even then it takes Jacob by surprise. He had been counting up the money in the till when the bell above the door had sounded, but he abandoned it quickly at the promise of someone to talk to. They ended up leaning on the counter together, side by side, watching the snow fill the street outside the windows.
“Yeah, I fought in the War,” Jacob says slowly. “Everybody fought in the War.”
He pulls up his sleeve, exposing one wide, hairy forearm. An ugly white scar snarls up it like a streak of paint. “Got this to remember it by.”
Graves frowns when he sees it, but doesn’t look away. “That’s not a bullet scar. Not even a bayonet.”
“No, no, nuthin’ like that,” Jacob says, tugging his sleeve down. The scars don’t embarrass him, but neither does he care to show them off. “I got caught in a landslide, along with the rest of my regiment, and got wedged between two boulders. Took three men to dig me out. It’s a miracle I didn’t lose the arm.”
He chuckles humorlessly. It would’ve been funny, in another lifetime.
There’s a part of Jacob, a part which he knew a man like Graves wouldn’t understand, that feels ashamed of it. He’d been there for over a year, and the only real pain he’d endured had been at the hands of a rainstorm, not a German.
Even so, Jacob knew in his mind that the war had ruined everybody, one way or another. It didn’t matter if it was a rockfall or a bullet or a barbed-wire fence, everyone got got by something. The ones who didn’t, well, they got got by the shame of it. They got got by the guilt. They got got by the nightmares, the cigarettes, the flinches when they were touched. Everybody gets got.
He opens his mouth to vocalize his thoughts to Graves, but before he can, Graves says “I got shot over there, you know.”
Jacob shuts his mouth. “You got shot?”
“Yes,” Graves says, with a peculiar pregnant pause after it. “Got shot in my right leg,” he continues. “Miracle I didn’t lose that limb, too.”
“Jesus,” Jacob whistles. “That bad?”
“That bad,” Graves says, with a small smile.
“Damn,” Jacob murmurs, looking at the ground. “I’m sorry. You know,” and here he chuckles a little, “my girl, Queenie, she used to be a nurse. I wonder sometimes how things woulda worked out differently if I’d woken up in the infirmary with her standing over me. Bet she . . . bet she was somethin’ real swell, you know.”
He glances up at Graves- their height difference will be the death of him- only to see that Graves has an unreadable expression on his face. He looks almost disturbed, as though he’s read a disconcerting headline.
“Queenie’s a . . . a pretty name,” he says.
“A pretty name for the prettiest girl in New York,” Jacob says, with not a little pride.
“I guess so. I mean, I don’t get around much,” Jacob admits, “but there are probably loads of girls named Queenie. Only one of them’s my angel, though.”
They stay like that for a while, leaning against the counter in a companionable silence. “I should probably be going,” Graves says finally. “I’ve got work tomorrow and I can’t show up tired. There are a number of guys at the bureau who’re chomping at the bit to get my job.”
“I don’t envy you, Perce,” Jacob says, shaking his head. “I’m a simple man with simple dreams, y’know? I’d like to keep it that way. Frankly, from what I know about your job, anyone who’d try to snipe it out from under you must be a real basket case.”
“Is that right?” says Graves, giving him a sidelong look.
Jacob can see a smile twitching at the corner of his mouth, but elects not to comment on it. “You and me, we’re pals, right?”
“Sure we are.”
“Then I’m gonna level with you, buddy,” Jacob says. “I wouldn’t wanna be you in a million years, and I’d bet the farm that no one else would wanna be you either.”
Of all the reactions Jacob was expecting, uncontrolled laughter wasn’t one of them. Graves' laughter bends him almost double, his hands on his belly, almost shaking with mirth. Jacob, who has never yet been able to resist laughing along with somebody else, starts laughing too.
“Oh God,” Graves moans, straightening up and covering his face with his hands. His voice is hoarse from laughter. “Wouldn’t want to be me, eh?”
“Yeah,” says Jacob, who doesn’t get it but is just happy that everyone’s having a good time. “You’re one-of-a-kind, Perce. There’s nobody like you.”
Graves sighs happily and claps a hand on Jacob’s shoulder. “You’re a real pal,” he says. “You know that? You’re on the up-and-up.”
“Hey,” Jacob grins, “you’re not so bad yourself.”
Graves walks home that night, his hands shoved deep into the pockets of his warm wool coat. The rain sluices neatly off his shoulders, leaving him warm and dry and feeling flush with magic.
His mind wanders to the scar that made a spectacle of Jacob’s war wounds. He hadn’t told him, of course, that the reducto he’d been shot with had nearly blown off both legs and everything in between them. He hadn’t mentioned the hospital tent, the leather strap between his teeth, or the feeling of gloved hands holding him down as he thrashed and bled and lost control of his bowels.
He hadn’t told him how it felt to be pulled from unconsciousness six hours later, and told that the healers had worked wonders on him, and he’d be cleared to return to service in a day’s time. It wouldn’t even leave a scar.
The next day, Graves shows up at Kowalski's wearing color for the first time in a month. He's traded his dark suit for one of a reddish, burnt-umber brown, and two collar pins shaped like golden laurels glitter at his throat. He feels smashing.
Jacob grins at him, genuinely impressed. "Holy smokes, Perce, don't you look a million bucks!"
"Says you," Graves laughs. "I'm going to a party this evening."
"The department," Graves tells him. He's smiling, and Jacob can't help thinking that he looks younger than he's looked in a while. "Everyone's supposed to bring something. Anything you'd like to show off?"
"Actually, yeah, I've got somethin' real special," Jacob says, coming around the counter to draw Graves' attention to one of the display cases. "Look at these."
He gestures proudly at the top shelf, on which he's arranged about two-dozen little shortbread animals. They're a little squashed-looking, but given that it had taken him three batches to make ones that kept their balance, he's pretty damn proud of himself. They sit on their hind feet, front paws out, and wear candy-eyed expressions of perpetual astonishment. They’ve been generously drizzled with icing.
“Yeah?” Jacob grins, proudly surveying his lasted creation. “Aren’t they just the cat’s pajamas? Queenie loves them. Says they’re almost ‘too sweet to eat.’”
He looks at Graves and realizes that his face has gone still, and he's looking at the cookies with a look of muted horror that no cookie deserves.
"They're very cute," he says finally. "I think I'll have the pecan tarts, if you don't mind."
"Sure," says Jacob, a little taken aback. "How many?"
"As many as you have."
Jacob tries to make conversation as he boxes them up, but Graves is having none of it, and he pays curtly and leaves with the box under his arm.
"Everything alright . . ?" Jacob asks his retreating back, but he's already gone, storming down the sidewalk in silence.
An unnamed non-magical.
That was all the due consideration Jacob Kowalski had received in the Scamander case file. Newton Scamander and his interactions with an unnamed non-magical currently living in New York. The non-magical had been exposed to the true nature of the wizarding world, and was considered an immediate threat and a direct violation of Rappaport’s Law. His memories had been wiped accordingly, and he had been allowed to return to his normal life.
It was a file that Percival Graves had read dozens of times, late nights spent alone in his apartment with his firewhiskey and his thoughts. An unnamed non-magical. Just like every other no-maj in the world.
Suddenly the likelihood of them both knowing two different women named Queenie seemed laughable. And he had been making demiguises. Little candied demiguises. That was a Class Four illegal magical creature. He had knowledge of magic.
I have to talk to Ms. Goldstein, Graves thinks, sitting in his office when he's supposed to be going to a party and being cheerful.
Graves snaps the file shut to stop himself from reading an unnamed non-magical for the fourteenth time. He can hear the distant sounds of a party from far above him; he knows the citadel will be decorated for the Yuletide. Flocks of golden songbirds, real icicles dripping from the window ledges. The starlight would refract through the enchanted windows a hundred times brighter than they ought to, bathing the citadel floor in an incandescent silver glow.
The ticking of the clock on his office wall, identical to the one hanging in the main citadel, is deafening.
Graves sighs heavily and leans back in his chair. Truth be told, he loves the Christmas festivities. The lights, the food, the songbirds. All of it. But there was no point in decorating his apartment for the season when he was hardly ever there.
A pair of paperwork rats scuttle over his desk on small, inky feet. He holds out his hand for one of them, and, upon sitting in his palm, it unfolds itself and lies inanimate.
“What do you think, Search and Seizure B?” Graves asks, as the second rat does the same. “Should I go up there after all?”
Queenie would be there, he knows. Queenie, to whom all things came easily. Hair glowing like the morning sun, fluttering from conversation to conversation, keeping everyone happy and well-fed and content. Then along comes The Boss like a rolling thundercloud, to ruin her evening with a few simple words. We need to talk.
“Mr. Graves, sir?” comes a soft, bright voice from outside his office door.
“Come in!” Graves says, sitting up straighter. It’s Queenie, he thinks. Oh God, I have to arrest her.
He raises his right hand and the tumblers in the lock click open, one-two-three, and when the door swings open Queenie is standing on the other side, white-faced and eyes wide. There’s a cup of hot chocolate in her hands.
“Come in, Ms. Goldstein,” Graves says encouragingly. “You always seem to turn up when you’re most wanted.”
She smiles shakily, and it breaks Graves’ heart to see her so distressed. “It sure means a lot to hear you say that, Mr. Graves. I have a knack for that kinda thing, y’know?”
“What can I help you with?” She’s been so happy for the past few weeks. And Jake’s a good guy.
“I brought you this,” Queenie says, placing the hot chocolate on his desk in front of him.
“That was very thoughtful, Ms. Goldstein, thank you.”
Graves gets the sense that she’s steeling herself for something, though for what, he has no idea. There’s no reason for her to be nervous, as far as he can see. She thinks I don’t know. Mercy Lewis, I wish I didn’t.
“If you don’t mind my sayin’, sir,” Queenie says, folding her hands demurely. “I don’t think you oughta’ be cooped up in your office all day. The boys outside have a nice open-plan thing going, maybe you could put your desk out there.”
“It’s a security measure,” Graves says automatically.
“It might help you get to know some of your men better.”
“I know them perfectly well,” Graves says, a little sterner this time. He makes a complicated hand gesture over his coco, and it begins to cool itself. “I’ve been working with these people for four years now. They respect me enormously. And furthermore,” he adds, “I’m sure you have better things to worry about.”
Like the fact that your relationship with a non-magical could put the entire wizarding world as we know it at risk.
Even as he thinks it, it sounds ridiculous. And it wasn’t “a non-magical.” It was Jake. Jake who loves his grandmother, and smiles at stray cats.
Queenie looks a little put out, and Graves immediately feels ashamed of himself. “I apologize,” he amends. It's difficult to be mad at Queenie. “I’m a little distracted today.”
“I hope you’ll come to the party,” she says quietly. “They do respect you, sir, but it’s more than that. They like you. And I like you too.”
She deserves happiness, Graves thinks, and it’s an unusual thought but one that immediately strikes him as true. Jake deserves happiness. I’ve lived according to the Law all my life, and look what it’s done for me.
He sighs, almost bitterly, and nods his head. “I’ll be there,” he says. Oh God, I can’t go back to Jake’s. If word gets out about this, I'll be an accessory. It'll be another reason on a very long list of reasons to fire me. “I had some paperwork I needed to finish.”
He stands up, straightens his jacket a little. He picks up his hot chocolate, but just as he’s about to take a sip of it, he thinks, fuck Rappaport, and Queenie hugs him.
It’s so sudden and unexpected that if he’d had his wand in his hand he probably would’ve hexed her. “Ms Goldstein?” He stammers.
“Thank you,” she almost sobs, her voice muffled against his chest. “Thank you.”
“For what?” asks Graves, genuinely concerned now.
Queenie pulls away from him and wipes her eyes. The blanched look of her cheeks is gone; she seems hale and hearty and alive again. “Y’know,” she manages to say through a hiccup. She gestures at him. “Just . . . being you. You’re a good guy, you know that, Mr. Graves? You have a good heart.”
Graves opens his mouth to insist otherwise but before he can Queenie cuts him off. “And,” she says, “it’s the Christmas season, and I’m gonna hug absolutely everybody I can.”
“I thought you didn’t celebrate.”
“I don’t,” she says, smiling, though her eyes are wet. “But- just- oh for cryin’ out loud, Mr. Graves, I’ve had a day.”
And she gives him a fond pat on the cheek, and very nearly skips out the door, the closest thing to a frolic that this office has seen in living memory.
Jacob sees a wizard outside his shop one winter morning.
At least, he thinks it must be a wizard. It looks like a large black dog, with narrow limbs and a proud, pointed face. It looks just like those German dogs that used to wander No Man’s Land, half-starved and feral. This one is healthy.
It watches him with dark, intelligent eyes, as Jacob leans out of the door to offer it a piece of bread. “Nice doggie,” he says. “Good doggie.” He thinks he ought to be afraid, but he isn’t.
The dog doesn’t move, just sits at attention for a moment before sneezing and wandering away. Jacob ducks back into his shop. Wizard.
He’s been baking all morning and the shop smells like a myriad of sugars and spices. He’s making a new batch of little shortbread demiguises. What a word that was! Demiguise! It made him think of the pulps.
The bell over the door jangles festively, and Jacob glances over to see a familiar dark silhouette in the doorway. “Hiya, Perce,” he says. the shop doesn’t open for another hour, but it’s always open for friends. “I made more of those little, er, shortbread monkeys, if you want to give one a try.”
“I’d love to,” says Graves, almost sadly. He shakes the snow off his boots while Jacob wraps one up for him.
“Still warm,” Jacob says, when he gives him the little box. “Careful of the icing.”
“I will be,” Graves says. Then, “I’m not going to be able to come around here anymore, Jake.”
Jacob frowns. “You’re pullin’ my leg, right?”
“I’m afraid not.”
“Is something wrong at work?”
“Something like that,” Graves says with a heavy exhale. “I’m not . . . I’m not saying we can’t bump into each other every once in a while. Central Park, maybe, but . . . I can’t come around here anymore.”
Jacob doesn’t say anything for a long moment. Then he nods. “Okay. Alright,” he says, though it’s neither okay nor alright. “I hope things work out for you, bud.”
“I hope things work out for you,” Graves says, with such an abrupt intensity that Jacob is taken aback.
He pays for the monkey, overpaying as usual, and when he turns his back to leave, Jacob says "I'm gonna see you again, right?"
"You will," says Graves. "I can almost guarantee it."
Jacob nods weakly, and Graves pauses in the doorway to look back at him. For a brief moment, Jacob wonders if he’s going to say something else.
Instead, he vanishes in a splash of shadow and smoke.
“Holy moly!” Jacob yelps, stumbling backwards so fast that he slips and lands on his backside. He stays down for a moment, stunned.
“I knew it!” He yells at the door, even as he’s clambering to his feet. “I knew it! I knew it I knew it I knew it!”
Jacob scrambles out from behind the counter and runs out into the street, looking this way and that, but there’s nothing but the snow and the early-morning mist.
“I knew it!” he yells at New York. Someone leans out of their window and tells him to shut up.
"Sorry, sorry," Jacob stammers, backing into his shop again and closing the door. His heart is galloping like the Pony Express.
"I knew it," he whispers again, and he smiles wide.
He's got so much to tell Queenie.