The students' hectic buzz seemed to warm the interior of the train hurrying toward London, a good contrast to the icy, wet landscapes of an october afternoon which heralded the winter's arrival in the european climate. Chatting animatedly in small groups over the first two weeks of term or immersed in fiction romances written by foreign authors, or even reading heavy books of arithmetic, contemporary history, or medical genetics, students of the renowned University of Oxford took advantage of the remaining thirty minutes of the return trip for the weekend in any way that seemed most convenient to them.
Sitting on one of the double seats on the left side of the train's aisle, a tall young man was crouching awkwardly over a sketchbook resting on his lap and was increasingly messing up his own light brown hair as he attempted, not being successful, to avoid his fringe entering his field of vision. He used an extremely fine-tipped pen to draw the outlines of long, bulky strands of hair that fell on a delicate feminine face, seeking to portray on paper, with the greatest reality he could, the figure of the real girl who watched quietly the houses of the villages being turned into blots by the high speed of the train that passed them.
Loud laughter caused the young man to interrupt his activity in a jolt and hastyly hide the sketchbook under the hard-cover book in which it was supported, fearing the possibility of being watched. Luckily, the laughter belonged to the black girl sitting by the window on the right side of the train, laughing at something while accompanied by three other colleagues, completely oblivious to what was happening only a few feet from her seat. Very tempted to keep his eye on the one that always drew his attention so much for the rest of the journey, but afraid to be noticed while in his contemplation, he decided best to look down at her drawing in his hands and could not contain a sad, but affectionate, smile of contentment.
Newt Scamander studied his fourth and final year of zoology at the University of Oxford and spent most of his time cataloging and collecting information on the most varied species of animals found in the United Kingdom. His particular goal was to write and launch a book on these animals as soon as he graduated to raise awareness of the importance of preserving all those species and their habitats rather than exterminating them, and he was very tempted to pass the rest of his life in fieldwork to care for and closely observe species around the world.
He was an unusual young man, characterized by many as eccentric. A little shy, he did not make friends easily and could always be found by himself wherever he went. But it was not like he cared about it. In fact, he preferred to be in contact with animals more than people simply because of the clumsiness he had to interactions with them and the lack of patience and care with which he used to be treated in turn.
Heavy raindrops ricocheted off the glass windows of the train, catching the attention of the students who rushed to put their belongings back in their luggage. Soon they would be arriving at the capital.
As the train reached the platform and the mass of anxious students dispersed from the doors, Newt got up and made his way out. He was in the great hall of London's Paddington Station again, halfway back to his parents' house. He checked his watch, it was only fifteen minutes before the departure of the train that would take him to Canterbury. Beneath the long fringe of very frizzy hair, he gazed at the group of girls who walked leisurely down the main hall toward the outside of the station, his focus fixed on the small, slender silhouette of the girl gesturing excitedly. He wondered in his mind if he would ever, either by irony or good grace of fate, get the chance to talk to her.
The journey from London to Canterbury had always been more time-consuming and less crowded than the previous one because of the absence of the university students, and Newt was accustomed to the darkness of the night's eminence through the glass windows that accompanied him all the way back. He took out of his backpack the notebook in which he wrote the manuscript of the book he intended to launch, ready to use the ninety minutes of the journey about to begin to further develop the chapter devoted to British rodents.
A quick movement drew his attention to the seat in front of his, separated only by a narrow table between them, which was now occupied by a girl who was nervously searching for something in her bag. She was very pale, or seemed to be due to her apparent apprehension, and her hair was very dark and short, quite uneven by her agitation. Newt had the feeling that her physiognomy was familiar to him and tried to remember if he had already or possibly met her in Canterbury, but it did not occured to him any memory. The girl did not seem to notice or care for Newt's presence, so he returned his attention to the paper in his lap, trying not to be any more aggravating to the passenger's restlessness.
Just over an hour and twenty minutes after the departure of London, the train panel announced the final minutes of the trip to its occupants and Newt was pleased to reread the paragraph on Red Squirrels he had just written one last time before finally putting the notebook in his luggage.
"Thanks God you answered my calls!" - Newt startled when he heard the female voice of the girl sitting in front of him suddenly sound very loud, a tone of concern that contradicted the hissing of the phrase - "I just talked to her. Do you know what mess you just got us into?"
Swaying between semblants of worry and anger, the girl seemed to absorb whatever words were directed at her from the other end of the line. Newt was careful not to look at her distressed face for a long time, feeling a great deal of sympathy for the apparent "mess" that was taking away her peace.
"Being careful would never be enough, Queenie! You know how strict she is for the rules!" - the girl let out a resigned sigh, interrupting her angry sermon. She seemed to see nothing beyond her own feet as she impatiently fingered the zipper of the bag in her lap - "She said she wants to talk to us today, just when I arrive at home, which must not be taking very long now..." - another sigh as resigned as the first, followed by a long pause. The girl's eyes seemed to be tingling- "If she's sure that she saw you two, it'll be the end for us!"
Newt watched the familiar landscape of the Canterbury West Railway Station appear in the glass window next to his seat. A heavy rain was pouring on the small British town, accompanied by the traditional cold and humid year-end climate. He reached for his umbrella inside his backpack, depositing some books on the vacant seat next to him to make easier to see through the many jars and small observation instruments stored between the bag dividers.
From his peripheral vision, he noticed a small object falling to the floor beside the girl's pair of boots as she hurried to the open door of the train. She was still on the phone as she bravely launched herself into the heavy raindrops that fell on the station's open platform, completely oblivious to the boy's calls and the object left behind as she quickly disappeared from view. In a very fast and awkward movement, Newt put the books back into his backpack, momentarily forgetting the reason he'd taken them out of there, picked up the object from the floor and, in a rush, jumped out of the train into the storm.
Much heavier than he could hope for, the rain made it difficult to those who intended to see little further than two meters away from their surroundings, and there were no alternative for the boy other than running toward the covered structure of the station entrance.
The entrance hall was packed with a great number of people waiting for acquaintances who were about to arrive or for a moment of respite from the storm to finally leave the station safely, but Newt did not recognize the female face he sought in any of them. When he gave up on his mission, he settled himself into one of the vacant benches he found in the place, instinctively pressing the object in his hands with a little more force than it was necessary. It was an identification badge for the employees of a bookshop settled into the center of Canterbury, cointaining the name and a small picture of the person to whom it belonged.
As he waited for the cab to take him to his parent's house that friday night, the boy cast absent-minded glances at the object in his hands, longing between the name of the bookshop, the picture of a young woman with short hair and very dark that smiled shyly at the camera and the name that laid next to it:
Porpentina E. Goldstein