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The Kissing Booth

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Obviously, Newt knew that this day was coming. It had been highly anticipated by Dumbledore, Newt’s favourite teacher and the head of sixth form, who had rambled on in their assemblies about the responsibility of organising an event that would be such a source of such joy to the younger students. That’s not to mention the abundance of tacky looking posters stuck up in every corridor, honestly, did this school even know climate change was a thing? Truly, Newt thought, some people treated the summer festival like it was the sole reason they went to school. The sixth form council, of which Newt was (thankfully) not a part, had been pinning down pretty much anyone in their year to interrogate how exactly were going to contribute to the day. Anyone, that is, except Newt.

Newt was an exception in many ways, few of them good. His peers tended to avoid him, preferring to whisper behind his back about the various creepy and disturbing things he was surely thinking. He wasn’t entirely sure where they got these stories from, especially given how quiet he was, but decided it was best not to question. School wouldn’t last forever.

That wasn’t to say that his classmates didn’t bring up the summer festival at all in his presence. On the contrary, last week Alice Carrow had endeavored to raise her hand in assembly and announce that Newt ought to be an exhibit in himself. This comment was met with roars of laughter that only paused momentarily when Gellert Grindelwald loudly shouted that freak shows were prohibited in the 80s. Newt didn’t especially mind. Not really. Their jibes hurt, of course, but ‘freaks’ are so often just people that look a little different, and standing out is never something to be ashamed of. Dumbledore, however, did mind. He minded so much, in fact, that Alice and Gellert were on gum duty for a fortnight and Newt was invited to have a ‘friendly cup of tea’ with Dumbledore.

Dumbledore rather stood out too. He was a kind man with twinkling eyes and half-moon spectacles that gave him a strangely wizardly appearance. Newt enjoyed having tea with him. He had excellent taste in tea-biscuits. It was Dumbledore who introduced him to Jacob, one of the minority of students in his year who never laughed when Newt got punched or teased by his peers. Jacob had been singled out a few years ago when he showed an interest in baking, which was apparently not a ‘cool’ or ‘macho’ thing to do in your free time. This all ended when Jacob brought in some profiteroles last year and Queenie, a giggly girl from the year below them with large almond eyes and an infectiously sweet smile, had kissed him on the cheek. Gobsmacked, Jacob had since been welcomed into the popular crowd at once, and was frequently pulled aside by boys and girls alike to share ‘baking tips’ that could help them in their romantic pursuits. Unfortunately, his peers had not changed their view on Newt in this way.

And that was why Newt was lounging in his favourite spot in the entire school. The oak tree. The oak tree offered him an excellent view of the field, where he could spot various sixth formers darting here and there with trays of curious items. Was it sad that he was proud of them? Only… it was rather impressive how gifted Polly and Chloe were at face-painting, and the cakes had been iced to perfection by a bunch of students hand-picked by Jacob, and goodness, was that a henna tattoo station? Who was in charge of that? Of course, Newt could have been unkind, claimed that they were a talentless bunch of losers but that wasn’t really his style. No, he was quite content in the safety of the tree, sunlight itching his skin through the leaves, observing.

He should have known it was too good to last. Jacob came slinking towards the tree like he had something very important to share.

“Hey, Newt, buddy.” Jacob said, beaming, hopping around him like an over-excited magpie, “Think you could man the kissing booth for me?”

Newt waited for the punchline. It didn’t come. He slid off his tree branch and hastily began gathering his stuff together.

“Oh, no, you see- I’m not really qualified for that.”

Jacob looked at him, confused, for a moment, then motioned towards Newt’s face vaguely with a wave of his hands, “You got a pair of lips, right?”

For some inexplicable reason, Newt immediately covered his lips with his hands, thereby dropping his biology textbook, as though Jacob’s statement had shocked him.

“Well, yes, I think so, but I don’t really think I’d be awfully good-” He muttered, frowning as he stooped down to pick up his textbook and force it into his bag. The sooner he left the better. Jacob had been persistent for a while now over getting Newt a girlfriend, so they could double date and he suspected this was part of that mission, not that anyone here would want to kiss him.

“No way, you’d be great at it.” Jacob retorted, scrunching his eyebrows together.

Newt avoided eye contact, not particularly keen on having a pep talk about his kissing abilities. “I er, I don’t think I would, and besides I have, um stuff to, er.” He shrugged pitifully at him and started walking.

Jacob grabbed his arm and pulled him towards the festivities. “Come on, please. You’d be doing me a massive favour?” He asked, softly, and Newt swore he could see a couple of tears gathering in his eyes.

He sighed forlornly, “See, the thing is that a favour is normally buying you, er, lunch or giving you advice or something like that, not, um, not this?” But he knew it was a lost cause.

“The ladies will love you. Come on, you just sit down here,” He said, steering Newt into the kissing booth seat before Newt could spit out any protest, “And pucker up.”

Newt glared at the strawberry lip balm with the hatred he usually reserved for people who didn’t throw their litter away. “I don’t think the ladies, or anyone else for that matter, wants me to do that.”

“You’ll be great. Thanks man, I owe you.” He said, clapping Newt on the back and scuttling off.

Newt thunked his head down on the table, miserable. He couldn’t possibly imagine being placed in a worse situation than this, shoved on a revoltingly florescent chair beneath a sign that said, and Newt seriously disliked whoever came up with this, ‘Kiss a Frog for a Sprog’ written on it. Poetry who? There was far too much glitter here… he had a vague idea of the culprit there. He was sure he’d seen Queenie dashing about earlier, no doubt skipping class to sprinkle her boyfriend with five hundred tubes of glitter. Newt chewed his cheek and prayed to whatever was out here that the earth would swallow him up right now.

And then, because the universe truly did loath Newt Scamander, a mass of students erupted out of the buildings. It was like living in an ant nest, Newt thought miserably as he watched them charge towards the festivities, beetle black blazers long since abandoned in the heat of June, book-bags swinging to whack the younger students out of the way. They were vicious animals, teenagers, and yet his parents still questioned why oh why he didn’t make more of an effort to make friends with them. Gosh, wouldn’t they be proud of him now?

Why were they in such a rush anyway? The summer festival was never an especially exciting event. It was more an excuse for teachers to be amused by the utterly appalling organisation skill of the sixth form. He glanced up to the main stage, where a bunch of lads were polishing their guitars, chatting amongst themselves eagerly, no doubt the future one direction.

There was one benefit to his seat, he supposed, he was far closer to the cupcake stall – directly opposite it, in fact. Come to think of it, it was strange that Jacob wasn’t running that? Instead, it was Tina Goldstein. She hadn’t seemed to have noticed him yet, too busy scrawling something down in a notebook. Newt wasn’t sure whether to be happy or mortified about this.

Tina and he didn’t exactly have a fantastic relationship. In year seven, she had told Ms. Picquery on him for accidentally spilling some sort of chemical all over himself. The call of “It’s Mr. Scamander, miss. I think his arm is burning?” in a honeysuckle sweet voice had earned him detention for a week. Newt could have handled it – he was fine. His arm had been injured by far worse before. And besides, it wasn’t like he meant to spill it. It was Tina’s fault, really. She was his lab partner and she’d giggled at something he’d said, making him startle so much that he’d spilt the bloody thing all over his arm.

He huffed at the memory and Tina looked up and grinned at him – or, at least, he thought it was at him. She offered him a little wave. He stared back, puzzled at the gesture, and looked behind him. The boy next to her, Achilles Tolliver, snickered and Newt’s face fell. Of course, she’d only been making fun of him. He wasn’t sure why he’d expected anything different. He stared down at the glitter and swiped it with his finger, coating it in the shimmering substance. He felt like there was a ping-pong ball in his chest, knocking into his heart, jabbing between his ribs. It wasn’t like Tina had ever been his friend, though she’d never stooped so low as to taunt him, or even reacted to any of their peers’ jokes.

Two fifty pence coins clinked against the table and Newt looked up, alarmed. Tina Goldstein was stood in front of him, and this time he was certain that it was him she was looking at. She had a fiery, determined look in her eye that made Newt straighten up hastily.

“Can, um, can I help you?” He asked, then immediately regretted it – what was he? A customer support service?

Tina narrowed her eyes, “Yeah, it’s a pound, right?”

Newt frowned for a moment before he cottoned onto what she was referring to, “Oh. Oh. Well, um, yes, it’s all for a really fantastic cause, the library- but then you’d know that given that you are part of the council, oh and Jacob should be back soon if you’d rather kiss him?”

Tina snorted, “I’d rather not kiss my sister’s boyfriend, thanks?”

He felt his cheeks burn. He didn’t actually know that Tina and Queenie were sisters until now. Huh. That… actually made a lot of sense now he thought about it. It wasn’t as though the two girls looked similar – Queenie had curly, honey coloured locks, a giggly tone and an affinity for pink, whereas Tina had straight dark hair and favoured neutral colours. But he did see them both around each other a fair amount. Not to mention Jacob’s (not so) subtle hints that he should date Tina. Why, countless times now he’d lightly hit his friend and dramatically claimed that she was way out of his league, to which Jacob would always smile deviously and claim that he was daft to think that Tina believed in leagues.  

“Right, well, that’s understandable, quite reasonable actually. So, you, uh?” He mumbled, unsure of how exactly to communicate with her that she’d made a mistake. If she didn’t kiss Jacob then she’d have to kiss him, and Newt was not someone that anyone wanted to kiss, not if school rumour was anything to go by.

“Yes, I’d like a kiss from you.” Tina said, looking down at the glitter with pinkened cheeks.

Newt stared at her for a moment in disbelief, “Oh – okay.”

He never thought that Tina Goldstein of all people would want to kiss him. Newt considered that the sign above him wasn’t that wrong after all – because she certainly looked like a princess, and he was most definitely a frog. Except he was quite positive that he wouldn’t turn into a handsome prince when she kissed him – if she kissed him (he still wasn’t entirely convinced that this wasn’t a big prank).

“If-if you’re alright with that, of course?” Tina said quietly, swirling a flower into the glitter.

Newt gulped. Was this alright with him? Yes? Yes. Yes, he thought that perhaps he’d rather liked Tina for quite some time now. Even when she’d snitched on him it hadn’t necessarily been unkind. In fact, it had been quite the opposite, and that was what had upset Newt the most. She had looked genuinely concerned about the chemicals burning his arm, had offered to take him to the school matron herself and even messaged him after class to see if it had healed. But by that point, Newt was already used to the mocking of his peers and had convinced himself that she’d meant to get him into trouble. And, he supposed, maybe, just maybe, Tina had her own insecurities too.

She certainly looked nervous at the moment. He’d witnessed a nervous Tina before, seen her practically break-down outside of their maths exam last year and felt a nauseating wave of helpless concern because approaching her wasn’t something someone like him could do. But now, seeing her shoulders tense and blushing cheeks, he could actually do something, he could be honest and maybe, just for once, that wouldn’t mess everything up.

“I- yes, yes that’s fine by me.” He choked out, and Tina looked up hopefully, brown eyes slightly damp from what Newt realised would have been tears.

Newt felt a sudden flutter of anxiety take flight in his chest. What if he kissed her wrong? What if she recoiled after it and laughed, or cried, about how absolutely dreadful he was at kissing? He tried to settle his breathing and focused on the task in hand.

“You’re going to need to lean in more.” She said, softly, and Newt shuffled forwards obediently, “There we go.”

A wolf-whistle sounded and Newt shot back.

“Piss off, Tolliver.” Tina called, eyes still firmly fixed on Newt, who leaned in again.

She cupped Newts flushing cheeks and pulled him forwards. She smelt like safety and warmth. Newt shut his eyes quickly, recalling from the movies that kissing with your eyes open is a little bit weird, and willed himself to calm down. He startled the moment he felt her lips against his, but managed to relax back into it quickly. He’d expected time to stop and rainbows to appear on his first kiss but somehow this was better. Her lips were gentle and hesitant, soft against his. He had a strange desire to card his fingers through his hair but it was over before he could process that.

“You can open your eyes now.” He heard Tina say and opened them, mortified.

“Sorry I um, I haven’t?” He babbled, but to his delight, Tina was smiling, rolling her eyes fondly at him. He’d expected to be met with a circle of classmates, sneering about how ludicrous it was to think that Tina Goldstein would want to kiss him, but no one seemed remotely interested. The boy band had just got to the main stage and the majority of students were flocked around there, cringing at the overly cliché lyrics but dancing regardless.

“You did a great job. I have to get back to the cupcake stand now, that prat is incapable of good customer service.” She said, motioning to Tolliver, who seemed to be in a heated argument with a year seven over a piece of brownie, “How long are you on shift here for?”

Newt pinched his thigh to make sure he wasn’t dreaming – did Tina Goldstein really just say his kissing was great? He was sure she was just being nice, probably took pity on the poor boy who nobody wanted to kiss.

He looked down, fumbling with his hands awkwardly, “Uh, I, just until, until Jacob returns?”

“He’s with Queenie?” She said sharply, eyebrows raised.

Newt nodded. Then wondered if this was supposed to be a secret. Jacob hadn’t exactly specified whether they were keeping their relationship private or not. Fortunately, Tina merely sent him a small smile. Maybe she shipped Jacob and Queenie as much as he did?

“He’ll be a while then. Do repeat customers get a discount?”

Newt’s brain stopped. She… wanted to come back? “Oh, I-I suppose so.”

Tina smiled sheepishly at him and picked up her bag, evidently about to leave. A sudden swell of confidence coursed through him. “I think we accept cupcakes, as well, in trade for kisses?” He said, boldly.

This was actually not true. But Newt would have brought a cake either way so figured that he’d pay a quid and call it even. The kissing was an added bonus that he certainly didn’t mind giving away for free. Not for Tina.

“Mm, really?” She said, looking interested.

Newt met her gaze, “Yes- pretty sure that, um Jacob mentioned it before he, you know, left me.”

“Fantastic. Pleasure doing business with you.” Tina grinned at him, then turned to battle through the younger students. "Oh, and Newt? You have glitter in your hair"

Newt raked a hand through his hair, glitter sprinkling down like a snowstorm had hit. He looked over at Tina and watched as she pointedly ignored all of the questioning glances from Tolliver, immediately dishing out cupcakes to some kids. Newt thought that maybe, just maybe, he could forgive Jacob for making him do this.