“Thee! Thee, look!”
“What is it, Newt?” Theseus looked up from his papers blearily and started violently.
His little brother stood before him, muddier than he’d ever seen him - he’d probably been in the gardens - and clothes torn, but what drew Theseus’ attention was the disgruntled catlike creature squirming in Newt’s arms, which wrapped awkwardly round its middle.
“Newt! What in Merlin’s name is that ?”
“It’s a cat!” Newt declared proudly. “I found it in the garden.”
“That’s no cat, Newt, it’s far too big.” While it did look like a cat, its ears were oversized and its tail like that of a lion's. He didn’t know whether to back away from it or seize it from his brother. “It might be dangerous.”
“No, it won’t hurt me. See? It let me pick it up.”
The beast did not at all look like it had consented to being picked up, but as he watched, it stopped struggling and grudgingly allowed the six-year-old’s arms to tighten around it.
Theseus sighed. “Bring it to Mum. She’ll know what to do with it.”
“Can we keep it, Thee?”
“I don’t know, Newt. It might belong to someone else. And it might not want to stay,”
“Please? It likes me.”
Theseus doubted it, but didn’t say so. “We’ll ask Mum, okay?” He got up from his desk - his holiday homework would have to wait - and called for the house-elves to clean up the mess that Newt had tracked into his room, and trailed after Newt as the boy scrambled down the stairs. Theseus didn’t know what he’d do if Newt happened to drop the creature, or even worse, deliberately set it down and let it run wild. He could only hope Newt would have some shred of sense and hold onto it until they reached the stables where his mother was tending to the Hippogriffs.
He found Newt chattering away excitedly to their mother, and shook his head fondly as she corrected his grip on the creature so that he cradled it in his arms. He was glad Newt had someone who shared his interest in creatures - while he loved his brother, he never really understood his fascination with beasts of all shapes and sizes.
“Mummy, can we keep it?”
His mother smoothed his unkempt hair affectionately and wiped at a smudge of mud on his cheek. Theseus fought down a wave of jealousy; Mum had always been loving to them both, but she seemed much closer to Newt; they had so much in common. He was sure he was closer to Father than Newt was, but Mr Scamander was frequently away for work and rarely spent any time with his sons.
“Her, darling. And yes, we can, but only if no one comes to claim her.”
“What is it?” Theseus asked curiously.
“She’s a kneazle. A magical catlike creature.” Mum explained. “They’re usually unfriendly unless they bond with a wizard or witch whom they like.” She frowned, thoughtful, watching as Newt sat down amongst the bales of hay and stroked the creature tenderly, cooing to it, and Theseus understood. It seemed barely tolerant but not aggressive; if it bonded with Newt, there would be no separating them.
At dinnertime, as Newt wolfed down his food, desperate to be excused from the table to play with the Kneazle shut up in the stables, there came a knocking at the door. Mum opened it to find Mrs Rookwood, their next-door neighbour, in a noticeable state of distress.
“Oh, Thalia, have you seen my Milly?”
“Dear Mildred, are you all right?”
“Oh, quite all right. I’ve been looking for my Kneazle Milly everywhere, have you seen her?”
At the sound of the word ‘Kneazle’, Newt had leapt up from his seat and rushed to the door to listen. Theseus bit his lip - here it came. Poor Newt, he would be inconsolable.
“Why, Newt found a Kneazle in the gardens just this afternoon. We put her in the stable; perhaps she is yours.”
“No!” cried Newt. “She’s mine!”
“Newt,” scolded Mum, that’s no way to talk to Mrs Rookwood. Didn’t we agree that you could keep her only if she didn’t belong to someone else?”
Newt nodded unhappily, and ran ahead of his mother and Mrs Rookwood to the stables. Theseus hastily got up from his seat and followed, leaving the dinner to cool on the table.
The Kneazle hopped into Mrs Rookwood’s arms the moment it saw her, purring happily, and Newt burst into tears. Theseus tried to calm his brother down, kneeling and folding him into his arms, and Newt turned his head into the crook of his neck, tears dripping onto Theseus’ shirt. Theseus sighed and rubbed his brother's back soothingly. There was nothing he could have done to prevent this, and guilt gnawed at his insides - why had he let Newt be hurt so? Mrs Rookwood tried to offer words of comfort, aghast at his distress.
“Don’t cry, boy, Milly often goes into your gardens during the day. You may see her again.”
Newt brightened, pulling out of Theseus’ embrace and wiping his nose.
“May I play with her?”
“Of course you can, but make sure she goes home for dinner.”
Newt beamed and looked at Theseus. “Did you hear that, Thee?”
“Yeah, I did,” he said, smiling, reaching for his handkerchief to wipe off the tear tracks on Newt’s face.
“Say thank you to Mrs Rookwood, Newt,” his mother chided gently.
“Thank you, Mrs Rookwood!”
“You’re welcome, my boy. Thank you for returning Milly.”
After she had left, they returned to the house to finish their dinner. Newt had watched the Kneazle until Mrs Rookwood rounded the bend and was out of sight, and wouldn't stop talking about her as they walked(“Thee, did you see how pretty her eyes were?”).
“I’m still sad that we didn’t get to keep Milly, but I’m happy that I can play with her.” Newt smiled.
“That’s good, Newt.” Theseus grinned back at his brother. He would have given his brother all the Kneazles in the world just to see that smile on his face forever.