Chapter 1: Prologue: An Extraordinary Offer
"I hope they don't send you too far Teenie," Queenie sighed miserably. "I don't understand why we can't try for better options. Why can't we get married too? We're as deserving as anyone else!" she finished indignantly.
Tina shrugged nonchalantly before patiently explaining it all to her younger sister once again. "Queenie, you know that's not how it works. Girls like us… Orphans, charity cases… We don't have so many options. We're lucky to even have someone looking out for our interests. I'll be glad to be a governess for a respectable family, I wouldn't even have such an opportunity if not for the kindness of Mr. Graves. I hope they don't send me too far away either."
Queenie nodded solemnly. She couldn't deny that they were much better off thanks to the charity of their wealthy benefactor, Percival Graves. He was the one who had sponsored their education at the prestigious Ilvermorny Academy for Girls, without which they'd have been facing far worse prospects. Tina was now 18 and finishing up her course, so the time had come to arrange her post-Ilvermorny future.
Tina hugged her sister tightly. "Don't worry, I'm your big sister, I'll always be looking out for you, even if I'm not as close by as I'd like. Now, I must go to Madame Picquery. I do believe she's called me in to meet with a prospective employer."
The two sisters embraced once more and Tina nervously shuffled off to meet the head of their school and the family that was going to interview her for the position of governess to their children.
Percival Graves sat patiently in Madame Picquery's study, awaiting the arrival of one Porpentina Goldstein. He was about to make her the offer of a lifetime, one he'd never thought to offer any of his wards before in all the years he'd been taking wards in.
A handsome, wealthy man in his mid-40s, Graves had never remarried after tragedy struck in his late 20s, when his wife had died giving birth to their stillborn daughter. He'd spent the last 18 years channeling his grief for his wife and daughter into charity work. Specifically, he sponsored orphaned girls through an Ilvermorny education, which opened up opportunities and connections they never would have had otherwise, ensuring a comfortable enough and respectable future.
The Goldstein sisters, of course, had come as a pair. He'd traveled to the New York orphanage as soon as he'd heard about the plight of the two sisters, then aged 11 and 12, who had lost their parents in a recent smallpox epidemic. The girls were charming, smart, and pretty. The younger sister was an exceptional beauty, but he found himself particularly drawn to the older one. For one thing, she'd been born on the very same day as his daughter. She also had the same raven black hair. Graves couldn't help but see Tina as the very embodiment of the daughter he'd never gotten to raise, and thus, of all the girls he'd ever sponsored, he felt a particular fatherly affection for her.
It was that fatherly affection that led him to come to Ilvermorny today with a most extraordinary offer. There was nothing wrong with being a governess for a prominent and respectable family, but Porpentina, who reminded him so much of his daughter, deserved more, and he had a plan for arranging a future for her beyond anyone's wildest expectations.
Graves bit down a chuckle as Porpentina entered the study and proceeded to look utterly perplexed upon seeing her benefactor sitting there. Whoever she'd been expecting to see, it wasn't him.
"Good to see you looking so well, Miss Porpentina, please, take a seat, and I'll get right to the point," he gestured to an empty chair, and Tina, still very nervous and confused, sat down in it, patiently awaiting an explanation.
"As your sponsor," Graves began, "I have of course been following your progress here since you started six years ago. You have excelled, and certainly proven yourself to be an accomplished young lady."
"Mr. Graves," Madame Picquery cut in, "she is indeed an accomplished young lady, but there is also the matter of the disciplinary record-"
Graves waved her off. "So she's a bit of a spitfire. Something I loved dearly about my wife and would have hoped to see in my daughter," he sighed. Tina and Madame Piquery both looked down awkwardly at that. No one would dare argue with a man still grieving his lost family after all these years.
"Miss Porpentina," he began again, "I feel it would be a shame for you to be a governess for some family. I want more for you. To that end, I still have some family connections and property in England. I'd like to take you with me on my next trip so I can introduce you to society and find you a proper husband."
Both Madame Picquery and Tina stared up at him in astonishment. Introduced to society? Marriage?
Tina didn't know what to think. She wasn't opposed to marriage, exactly. She would certainly be happy to marry in the event that she met someone and they developed a mutual affection. But always the realist, she'd never spent too much time dreaming about the scenario, because it wasn't terribly likely to happen given her station in life. Besides, a governess’ life was good enough, and far beyond what she could ever have hoped for had Graves not sent her here in the first place. She'd come to accept her likely future and did not feel any disappointment about it. And now, here before her sat Graves with this extraordinary offer…
And yet, what about her sister? How could she leave Queenie behind like that, to cross an ocean and likely never see her again? Did she dare ask Graves for more, to take her sister along too? And she knew that Queenie, ever the romantic, would be absolutely thrilled. Her heart was pumping fast, and she never would have done it for anyone but her sister, but she opened her mouth to ask.
"I-I-I'm speechless, sir," she stuttered deferentially, "but-but my sister… I don't know…"
She trailed off as she saw Madame Piquery staring daggers at her for daring to ask for more in the face of such an offer, but Graves smiled kindly.
"Oh, I'm so sorry, you're right," he cut in, "I couldn't ask you to leave your beloved sister. My offer is extended to Miss Queenie as well."
Tina could have hugged Graves, but of course repressed the urge, merely smiling radiantly. "I don't know how I can possibly thank you, Mr. Graves!" was all she could say.
"No need to thank me. I shall send a carriage for the two of you in three days. You will be brought to my home and I'll have some seamstresses come to measure you and prepare proper wardrobes for the balls you'll be attending in England. We board the ship in six weeks' time. I look forward to my time as the official guardian of yourself and Miss Queenie."
With that, Graves stood up and bowed curtly before striding from the room. Tina, still beaming, floated out after him, rushing back to the room she shared with Queenie to share this incredible news with her. Madame Piquery simply stared after them in complete shock. But obviously the decision was made. Besides, if those two girls managed to marry into aristocracy, it could only further bolster her own reputation.
Three days later, the Goldstein sisters stood outside in their plain traveling clothes with their sparse luggage containing their few worldly possessions. They embraced peers and faculty alike before boarding the magnificent carriage Mr. Graves, whom they were now to call Uncle Percival, had sent to whisk them away to the thrilling next chapter in their lives.
Chapter 2: A Chance Encounter
Tina, nervous about the upcoming ball, goes for a walk to clear her head. In the meantime, a certain local gentleman, also nervous about the ball, does the same...
Tina and Queenie stood in their room at The Burrow, the affectionately ironic name for the massive Graves family estate they now lived in, eyeing the wardrobe of beautiful ball gowns. After two miserable months bobbing like a cork at sea, followed by three dusty days in a carriage and roadside inns, they'd arrived at The Burrow one week ago.
Having just completed such a harrowing journey, Tina, Queenie, and Graves himself needed some time to rest and recuperate. Tina could have sworn he had spent every night of the journey sleeping with one eye open, and she wasn't entirely wrong. Graves had not, in fact, allowed himself to sleep too deeply, in order to protect the two girls under his care from unwanted advances from the ship's crew, and then from unsavory characters on the road. It was a fact of life that long journeys were particularly hazardous for females, and he went to great lengths to keep his charges safe. Arriving at their destination safely had been a huge relief.
After this week of recuperation, the big day finally arrived. That night there was to be a ball hosted at The Burrow, and Tina and Queenie were to be presented, officially announcing them to be eligible and available for courtship.
"Oh, isn't it wonderful!" Queenie gushed, as she settled on a shimmering pink gown for the night, "us, being presented! Handsome men, like princes, sweeping us off our feet and off to happiness forever…" she sighed dreamily.
Practical Porpentina shook her head at her sister's romantic daydreaming.
"Don't get carried away now, Queenie," she sighed as she rifled through her own set of gowns trying to figure out which one to choose for tonight, "life's not some romance novel. Let's just see how things go."
"You're just feeling nervous, Teenie, " chided Queenie, who was always very intuitive, especially regarding emotions, "and I do understand. Perhaps we should review our curtsies and other ball etiquette."
"We both passed that course with flying colors!" Tina exclaimed.
"And you spent all that time assuming we'd never actually need to use any of it!" Queenie rolled her eyes, "now, do you want to look like a fool in front of everyone tonight? Hey, Teen, where are you going?" she called out as Tina made for the door.
"I'm going for a walk, I just need some air," Tina muttered.
Queenie had to practically jog to keep up with her. "But you haven't picked out your gown yet!"
"You choose one then!"
"There's so much to do-"
"I promise I'll be back in time to wash up and get dressed."
"You can't go unescorted!"
"Says who?" Tina snapped as she finally turned around to face her sister.
"You don't want to start a reputation for being unladylike before you've even met anyone in this town!" Queenie admonished.
"To hell with 'ladylike'!" Tina yelled as she turned back around to head for the door, "and sorry if that offends your ladylike ears!" And with that, she ran out the door to walk the trail she'd uncovered just a few days ago.
Though very much a rule follower, Tina was also somewhat tomboyish and constantly chafed against the restrictions of womanly propriety. She'd gotten into trouble with Madame Picquery a few times for arguing with teachers about the necessity of such restrictions, and occasionally outwardly defying convention. Graves had always come to her defense though, and so, she'd been able to complete her education despite the controversies she sometimes caused.
Sometimes, she just needed to get out on her own. Already within a few days of arriving at The Burrow, she'd found a lovely little forest trail that led to a small clearing with a creek. It was the perfect place to wander off to and be alone with her thoughts without straying too far or getting lost. In her annoyance with her sister, she headed there now, to this place she'd discovered, and suspected might become a frequent haunt for her.
"You're not getting out of this one, Newt," Theseus Scamander admonished his younger brother, who had his back to him, busy brushing his horse's coat. "It's your first ball since returning from the army having redeemed your good name after... Well, after the incident at school. And don't you dare bring that bloody badger of yours!"
"I'd rather spend time with my badger than yet more vapid young ladies who care for nothing of me but my face and my money," Newt replied irritably, "and besides, what's so special about this ball?"
"Oh!" Theseus clapped Newt on the shoulder, "haven't you heard? The American, Graves, is here for a time, and he's brought two young ladies with him, to be presented tonight. American girls, Newt! I've heard they're quite ravishing beauties..."
"And what difference does that make?" Newt sighed, "I'll bet they're as empty-headed as their English counterparts."
"Now Newt, if you only just tried… You know, being a little less…" he trailed off, but Newt caught his meaning instantly.
"Less like me," he said coldly, looking Theseus straight in the eye. Theseus just shrugged sheepishly.
Newt immediately grabbed Niffler, his badger, who'd been playing at his feet, and exited the stables without another word.
"Going off to sulk by your special clearing?" Theseus teased, but Newt didn't answer, he just continued walking. "Well, Mother will be on your arse if you're not back in time to get ready, don't say I didn't warn you!"
Newt knew he was right, and he did intend to get back in time. But right now, he just needed to be alone and to clear his head, and so, he headed to the clearing, his special spot at the end of the trail through the neighboring woods where he always went when he needed some time alone. While he was sure the clearing wasn't a secret, somehow, he'd never run into anyone there before, and so, over the years, it had become his special spot.
As he approached the clearing however, he could see a figure standing there. Oh bother, he wasn't going to be alone today… Suddenly, Niffler leapt off his shoulder and made a beeline for the figure, who Newt soon saw was a young lady.
"Get back here, Niffler, you little bugger!" he yelled, but it was too late, as he deduced from the ear-splitting shriek the young lady emitted.
Tina had just been standing by the creek, breathing deeply and calming her nerves before returning to the house to get ready for tonight, when out of nowhere, some little creature attacked her. She wasn't scared so much as startled and let out a loud scream, at which point the animal, whatever it was, began desperately clawing at her skirts, tearing the bottom half of them to shreds. Tina wobbled this way and that, trying to shake the horrid little thing off, and was already quite off balance, when a flash of a blue frock coat and a copper mop of hair emerged, leaping right towards her. Tina screamed again, this time in actual fright, as the man toppled her over and landed right on top of her, pinning her to the ground.
Newt pulled his badger off her and placed him on his shoulder out of the way. For a split second, he marveled at the beauty of the young woman on the ground beneath him, until it suddenly occurred to him that they were in quite a compromising position. He immediately jumped up as though on fire, muttering his sincerest apologies, and offered a hand to help her up.
The woman declined his offer, picking herself up off the ground. Then, to Newt's utter astonishment, rather than scurrying away, she approached him furiously, and shoved him back against a tree.
"Who are you?!" she demanded irritably.
"I'm sorry," he muttered, bashfully looking away.
God, she's beautiful, he thought, feeling weak at the knees as she jabbed her finger in his chest.
"Who are you?!" she demanded again.
Newt was rather taken aback at having some stranger interrogate him about his identity, but decided to oblige her.
"Newt Scamander, and you are?"
But instead of answering, she eyed his shoulder suspiciously. "What's that thing on your shoulder?!" she demanded, in the same tone with which she'd just demanded his name.
"That's just Niffler, my badger," he shrugged.
It was then that he noticed a streak of dirt running from her cheek to her upper lip. Feeling sorry that the dirt was likely his fault, and still too taken by the strange woman's beauty to register that she was not terribly enamored with him at the moment, he lifted a hand to her cheek to wipe it away.
"Sorry, you've got something on your-"
"Why in God's name did you let that thing loose?" she snapped as she flinched and jerked herself out of the way of his hand.
"I didn't mean to," Newt blushed as he looked away again, "he's incorrigible, you see, he sees anyone unexpected-"
"You didn't mean to?" she repeated back at him, "you could not have chosen a worse time, look at me, just look at my dress-"
"I really am so s-sorry, I'll pay to fix it, I-I promise…" Newt stammered out.
"No, just-just keep that thing away from here!" she commanded as she started to back away.
Well, Newt may not have been used to finding people in his spot, but even he knew they were on public property. Nobody owned this clearing. But he'd found it first, and he was damned if he was going to share his special spot with this tempestuous newcomer.
"Pardon?" Newt replied, now rather irritable himself, "this is not your property to dictate who can and cannot be here! My badger has as much right to be here as you!"
"Your badger attacked me!" Tina shot back.
"He only wanted to play! If you hadn't screamed like that-"
"Well, if he hadn't jumped on me-"
"Come on, Niffler, let's get away from this ill-tempered badger-hater!" Newt grumbled loudly as he stalked back up his path, then, under his breath, too softly for her to hear, "No amount of beauty is worth that rotten temperament."
"Yeah, good day to you too, you crazy creature keeper!" she shouted after him, before turning back up the path to her own dwelling.
Tina furtively slipped back into The Burrow and made straight for her chambers so she could clean herself up before anyone asked too many questions. Queenie had picked out a gown for her, midnight blue that somehow glowed like moonlight, and laid it out right beside hers, along with the proper array of petticoats and undergarments.
Tina knew she wouldn't be able to get dressed all on her own. One of the maids was going to need to help her with the stays and petticoats. But she figured she could at least get into a clean shift and hide the tattered remnants of her daytime gown before anyone noticed. She knew she'd have to explain it eventually, but it could wait for now.
Queenie soon returned with the lady's maids who were to prepare them for the ball.
"Oh, thank goodness you're back!" she cried.
"I told you I would be, did you not believe me?" Tina rolled her eyes as she spread her arms for her maid to begin dressing her. There was a bit of an edge to her voice that Queenie, ever the keen observer of emotions, immediately picked up on.
"Teen, did something happen out there?" she asked seriously.
Tina started to try to brush her off but Queenie's gaze bore into her so deeply that she knew she'd have to recount the tale of her encounter at the clearing.
"I-I had an encounter while out on my walk," she began tentatively.
"I TOLD you not to go unescorted, Porpentina Esther Goldstein!" Queenie admonished between breaths as her stays were laced up.
"Oh no, nothing of that sort, I was never in any danger," Tina hurriedly explained through her own lacing, "I encountered an animal. A badger, he said it was called, I think it must be some English creature, never seen such a thing back in-"
"He?" Queenie raised an eyebrow, intrigued.
"Yes, a man came after the badger," Tina sighed in exasperation.
"Oh," Queenie squealed dreamily, "was he handsome?"
Tina froze for a second, sitting down, now fully gowned, to allow her maid to work on her hair and jewelry. She'd certainly gotten a good look at Newt Scamander's face when she'd pushed him against a tree and scolded him, and she had to admit that, well, he was very handsome.
"Well, yes, he was, but-"
"Oh, Teenie, you're so lucky!" Queenie gushed, breaking away for a moment from her own accessorizing and throwing her arms around her sister, "rescued from a horrid beast by a handsome young man-"
"I was not!" Tina protested hotly, "that badger thing was his pet! I mean, yeah, he got it off me, but he was the one who let it loose, it was his fault it attacked me in the first place!"
Queenie's face fell. "Was he at least a gentleman about it?"
"Absolutely not!" Tina ranted, "he was the most troublesome, vexing, downright galling human being I've ever had the misfortune to cross!"
Queenie started giggling again. "What are you laughing about?" Tina snapped, "I just told you I didn't like this fellow, not one bit!"
"I'm not so sure, Teenie," Queenie teased in a sing-song voice, "he clearly wasn't malicious, and it sounds like you at least talked enough for him to really get your dander up! You know, I know a great many romance stories that started out just like-"
"Don't be ridiculous, Queenie," Tina huffed, "there is no way I could ever find that man agreeable!"
"You think he'll be at the ball?" Queenie grinned wickedly, refusing to let the idea drop.
"I sure hope not," Tina groaned, as Queenie grabbed her by the wrist to exit the room and go meet Uncle Percival in his study for a final inspirational talk before he presented them, "I sure hope not!"
Yay, we've met Newt and Theseus! But oh no, Newt and Tina got off on the wrong foot! As always, kudos and comments appreciated! Come back on Monday for chapter 3!
Chapter 3: The First Ball
Tina and Queenie are introduced to society at a ball thrown in their honor.
The sisters followed Graves to the balcony at the top of the stairs, where they could already see the guests beginning to stream in. They had never in their lives seen so much opulence in one room!
"Now remember, girls," he said, "we're going to make our entrance a little bit late, when most of the guests have arrived, so that all the attention will be on you. While we wait, I'll point out some of our most notable eligible bachelors so that you have an idea of who you might want to prioritize."
The girls nodded. Queenie was listening with rapt attention, but Tina also made sure to listen well enough.
"Over there," Graves continued, pointing to a short, stout man with a mustache, "he's actually one of us, American, though he prefers to stay here. A Mr. Jacob Kowalski. Family got rich in the sugar business, and rumor has it that despite a full kitchen staff at Sugarloaf Manor, Mr. Kowalski himself bakes all the confections there."
That was certainly interesting, and both girls made note.
"Oh, there's Miss Leta Lestrange," he remarked, gesturing to a stunningly beautiful dark skinned woman, in the most elaborate gown the girls had ever seen. "I think you should befriend her. There are some, well, whispers and rumors about her family, but ultimately, they're very rich and she's known to be the most beautiful woman in town, plus she knows all the latest gossip, so it won't harm your reputation to befriend her, plus, you want her on your side. But do be careful, as I said, she is a big gossip."
Then, a blond man walked in, to much fanfare. "Aha, I didn't realize he was even in England! What an honor!" Graves exclaimed, then immediately turned to the girls to elaborate, "Duke Gellert Grindelwald, of Nurmengard Castle in Austria. First cousin of the Holy Roman Emperor there."
Even Tina had to admit to herself that a Duke was impressive, and Queenie was on the verge of collapsing into paroxysms of delight.
"And another pleasant surprise, Lord Albus Dumbledore is here as well! He almost never shows up to anything!" Graves now gestured toward a handsome young man in his thirties, wearing a neat beard, "very sad story, really. He's Lord of Godric's Hollow, but after his sister died in a tragic accident, he left the running of the Hollow to his brother and went to live at the family's other estate, Hogwarts Castle, up in Scotland, and mostly keeps to himself there."
The girls nodded politely. It did sound very sad, but he was a complete stranger to them. Of course, he was clearly one of the young eligible men Uncle Percival was hoping they might get to know.
Then, two redcoat soldiers entered, scarlet uniforms ironed to perfection, silver officers' gorgets gleaming at their throats, and ceremonial swords at their sides. Both soldiers were exceedingly handsome, but Tina froze as she recognized the young man from earlier. Queenie realized immediately and raised a teasing eyebrow at her.
Graves also noticed Tina's nervous expression, but assumed she was concerned about the presence of redcoats.
"No need to worry, Porpentina," he assured her, chuckling, "the Scamander brothers are too young to have been involved in the war for our independence. The eldest, Theseus, did distinguish himself in his service and is to inherit the main estate, Hippogriff manor. The younger one, Newton, is a rather odd fellow," he continued as Tina tried to contain her snort. She'd seen that for herself just a few hours ago.
"He has this fascination, obsession even, with animals of all kinds," he continued, "even got himself thrown out of Eton because of an incident."
Why am I not surprised, Tina rolled her eyes inwardly. But Uncle Percival was not done telling over Newton Scamander's life story.
"So Dumbledore, a respected scholar, tried to argue against the expulsion, and in the end, his parents bought him an officer commission, and he got shipped off to India. Did well enough and cleared his name," he explained, "and he's as respectable a match as anyone else here. He's to inherit the slightly smaller, but no less luxurious, Hufflepuff house, along with the stables. Their mother breeds champion horses, and Newton's got a way with horses like no one's ever seen before. So yes," Graves finally wrapped up his running monologue, "he's quite a catch for a husband, if you can get past his oddities."
Not a chance of that, thought Tina, though she could see the inner workings of Queenie's mind in her blue eyes. Now she was sincerely hoping Queenie didn't do anything embarrassing in service of her ridiculous notion that herself and this Newton Scamander were destined to fall desperately in love.
Graves then gave both girls a knowing look, and they knew the moment had come. They followed him to the stairs, with Tina directly behind and Queenie right behind her, just as he'd instructed them earlier. All eyes in the room turned to the trio coming down the stairs.
Theseus nudged his brother in the ribs. "Newt, look up! It's time! Graves is about to introduce the American girls!"
Newt glanced up, and thought he was going to faint on the spot. He should have known, really, as soon as he'd first heard her speak. Her accent was clearly foreign and his brother had just told him moments before he'd stalked off from the stables that there were some American girls in town. But still, he was not prepared to run into that bossy young lady from the clearing at a ball, let alone to find that the ball was partially in her honor. Still, he took a deep breath to keep his composure as Graves spoke to his assembled guests.
"Welcome, and thank you all for coming tonight," Graves began, confidently addressing his audience, "I have brought with me two rare flowers from across the sea. These are two young ladies, educated and accomplished in all the matters ladies of good breeding must be accomplished in, and are surely the fairest you have ever seen."
Graves then stepped aside to offer a better view of the two women. "These two young ladies are sisters, and both are most eligible and excellent matches. I hereby introduce Miss Porpentina Goldstein, and her sister, Miss Queenie Goldstein."
Both sisters curtsied flawlessly, and began to make their way towards the guests to mingle and choose their first dance partners.
Newt thought his head was going to explode. Dressed and adorned in her evening finery, Porpentina Goldstein was even more beautiful than she'd been at the clearing. And yet, he wanted nothing to do with that temperamental curmudgeon who hated animals.
Theseus nudged him in the ribs again. "Pick your jaw up off the floor, Newt, and go ask Miss Goldstein for the first dance," he teased.
"How do you know it's Miss Goldstein I'm staring at?" Newt asked, hurriedly trying to hide his smitten expression, "perhaps it is her younger sister, Miss Queenie, who I'd like to pursue."
"Oh, Newton," Theseus chuckled, "I'm your brother, I know what you like. It is the older sister that is of the type you tend to fancy."
"You're right about that, a more beautiful lady I have never seen," Newt admitted as he crossed his arms huffily, "but I'll have you know, I met her at the clearing. And let me tell you, Theseus, no amount of beauty can make up for what an utter shrew that one is. I pity whichever poor sap does become her husband."
At that moment, Theseus stopped joking around and slightly inclined his head to a spot behind Newt. Newt slowly turned around and felt his heart drop to his stomach as he saw the two sisters standing right there, both looking extremely offended. They'd clearly heard what he'd just said.
Newt felt bad, he wasn't one to ever deliberately hurt people, but it's not like Porpentina Goldstein thought any more kindly of him. He'd try to apologize later, but only for his rudeness, not because he felt he needed to patch things up between them.
"Damn it, Newton, you've just sunk our chances with both sisters," Theseus grumbled, "let us hope Miss Lestrange will at least give us each a pity dance tonight." With that, Theseus stalked off, with Newt following closely behind, staring at the floor, feeling rather embarrassed at his little outburst. He wondered if Porpentina had heard the first part of what he'd said, about her beauty. He wasn't entirely sure, though, whether or not he hoped she had.
"Well, I never!" Queenie ranted, as she steered her sister away from the Scamander brothers, "I don't care how handsome he is, what an absolutely miserable, rude, disagreeable young man!"
"I tried to tell you," Tina shrugged. After the initial shock of hearing such hurtful words about herself, she now found it rather amusing.
"Nobody, and I mean absolutely nobody insults MY sister and gets away with it!" said Queenie fervently.
"Queenie, really it's alright-"
"It most certainly is NOT alright, the nerve-"
"Queenie, please!" Tina looked her straight in the eye, "it wasn't nice, but I already told you I found him utterly disagreeable, and I don't like him, so why should I care that he feels the same about me? Let's just move on and enjoy the evening. Oh, look, there's Kowalski, the sugar fellow…"
Queenie agreed to calm down for the moment, but as she put her socializing smile back on, she shot Tina a look that said she wasn't done assailing Newton Scamander's character.
"Miss Queenie," Kowalski could barely get the words out, "may I have this first dance?"
The smile that graced his face when Queenie accepted looked as though it might never fade. Tina didn't have much time to contemplate her sister's first dance partner because just a minute later, she accepted a dance request from Lord Dumbledore.
He was a perfect gentleman, and he was certainly very interesting and witty. He also had striking eyes- kind, blue, and twinkling. Tina could imagine being good friends with him, but there was an aloofness about him. She couldn't imagine the faintest possibility of this man courting her, or getting married. Then again, what did she know? Were you even supposed to feel like marriage was in the works from the very start? Or did that take time to develop? Well, there was no rule that you had to marry your first ever dance partner, so she put the thought aside and just enjoyed the moment.
The rest of the ball went smoothly, with both sisters accepting dances from a range of nice, young gentleman, studiously avoiding the Scamander brothers (they agreed that the older brother would likely be on his younger brother's side and was probably just as disagreeable). When the night was over, and the girls were finally released from their gowns and stays, they fell asleep within minutes. Even Queenie was too tired to rehash the details of the ball or rant about the younger Scamander.
Let me know what you all think!
Chapter 4: New Friends
Leta invites the Goldstein sisters for tea. Jacob visits the Scamander brothers to buy a new horse.
Good news, everyone! Although the later chapters still need some work, I have everything all written out. I am therefore switching to an every other day posting schedule :-)
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The following morning, the sisters were given their first social invitation since arriving, for tea with one Miss Leta Lestrange that very afternoon.
"Oh, how wonderful!" Queenie exclaimed, "you remember what Uncle Percival said last night, we want to be in her good graces. This is just perfect!"
"I'm not so sure," Tina raised a skeptical eyebrow, "Uncle Percival also said to be careful with her, that she's a huge gossip."
"Well, then, you'll have to stop traipsing around the woods by yourself then," Queenie chided, "don't give her things to gossip about, and she won't gossip."
Tina rolled her eyes, but she knew they were going to be taking tea with Miss Lestrange. After all, she wasn't about to rebuff someone welcoming herself and her sister to town, even if she was wary about motives.
Graves, of course, was thrilled about the invitation and sent the sisters over to the Lestrange manor in his barouche.
Even though they had a full wardrobe of the latest fashions, and had taken great care in getting dressed for tea that day, they were still quite awed and intimidated before the gorgeous Leta Lestrange, with her flawless complexion, perfectly curled hair, and resplendent in her gown of pale green silk, in the latest French fashion of wide skirts and many ruffles.
She wasted no time in showering her guests with smiles and warmth. "Thank you so very much for coming, I am so looking forward to becoming well acquainted with our new American neighbors!" Leta gushed, as she linked her arms with both of the sisters, floating them along with her to the tea room.
Over the clinking of spoons against tea cups, Leta talked and talked about this and that and everyone in the neighborhood. Queenie listened with rapt attention, but Tina found it all rather tedious. She also didn't quite trust Leta; if she was this informed on everyone's business, Tina wanted to be sure this woman didn't learn too much of her business to spread around.
Finally, Leta turned the conversation toward last night's ball, allowing the sisters to actually chime in.
"Miss Goldstein, I did see you spending a lot of time with Lord Dumbledore," she raised an eyebrow, "you seemed to enjoy his company."
"He is definitely very interesting to talk to," Tina conceded, "and very well mannered, but I don't know…" she trailed off.
"I don't think you'll want to get too attached," Leta warned, "while I don't know anything definitively, it is curious that a man of his age and station is still unmarried."
"Well, he's been through a lot," Tina replied somewhat defensively, "the whole matter with his sister. And it's not that unusual for a man to wait a little longer."
"And yet," Leta shook her head, "and yet. As I said, I've nothing definitive, but I'm fairly certain that if he has not yet taken a wife, it is because he doesn't actually want to take a wife."
Tina and Queenie shared a skeptical look. Queenie was even a bit scandalized by what Leta was implying.
"I'm just being honest," Leta smiled sweetly, "now, moving on to you, Miss Queenie, you gave Mr. Kowalski the first dance, I noticed."
Queenie blushed a little, before answering. "I did like him very much. He seems very kind."
"And he's American like you," Leta added, "so no doubt you feel a kinship. I do think him an excellent prospect, though it is a bit strange with the baking, don't you think?" she grimaced.
"Why shouldn't he do his own baking if it pleases him?" Queenie spoke up in his defense.
"I suppose if it doesn't bother you…" Leta sipped her tea for a moment, "though before you settle on him, you should know, that Austrian Duke had his eye on you."
"Did he really?" Queenie asked, trying to sound like she was inquiring casually rather than getting excited about the possibility that she'd turned the head of Duke.
"Oh, he did," Leta nodded sagely, "and I think you'd do well to give him first dance at next week's ball."
Tina was still feeling skeptical about Leta and her intentions. But, it's not like she was malicious, and she did seem to know the important things. What was she playing at? Or was she just trying to be friendly and helpful?
"And now, the Scamander brothers," Leta was now saying, and Tina stiffened, "I find it curious that neither of you danced with either of the brothers. The most eligible young men in town, and the most handsome too, are they not?"
Tina and Queenie exchanged another glance, wondering if they should tell Leta why they'd ignored the brothers, but Leta barreled on.
"The younger one, Newton, is my dearest childhood friend, and no doubt you've heard he can be a bit…odd," her eyes flashed dangerously, and Tina and Queenie took it as a hint that Leta thought rather fondly of him and would not take kindly to hearing about his faults.
"But I do think he'd be an excellent match, especially for you, Miss Goldstein," she looked pointedly at Tina, "and you really should give him a try. Although know, as my oldest and dearest friend, I am always looking out for him," her eyes flashed dangerously again.
Tina found it strange. Could Leta perhaps be in love with the younger Scamander? But then why were they not already married? Well, perhaps it was unrequited; or perhaps his parents forbade it, due to the rumors about Leta's parentage. Well, whatever the situation, it didn't matter. As far as Tina was concerned, Leta could have him, and good luck to her.
Soon, the time came to wrap up their tea and head home. "Do come again soon!" Leta insisted brightly as she kissed both sisters' cheeks goodbye, "I do hope to see you before the next ball! I think we shall be great friends!"
Tina and Queenie waved once more as they climbed into Graves' barouche, but Tina sank into her seat in relief as soon she was out of Leta's sight.
"Oh Teenie, it wasn't that bad, was it?" Queenie teased.
"Not bad, exactly," Tina shrugged, "it's just, I don't really trust her, you know? Like, if she's gossiping about all those other people, how do you know she's not gonna turn right around and gossip about us?"
"I don't disagree," Queenie nodded, "I don't think she's entirely genuine. But she is helpful and a good ally to have in a town like this."
Tina nodded back, and they spent the rest of the ride in silence. There was quite a lot to ponder.
Newt and Theseus were in their mother's stables waiting for Mr. Kowalski, who had mentioned that he was in the market for a new horse. Really, Newt was the one who dealt with anything horse related, but Theseus liked to stay nearby to keep him from sticking his foot in his mouth around other people.
This time, Newt didn't even have to open his mouth to cause trouble, as they heard a surprised yelp coming from up the path. Both brothers ran out in time to see Jacob Kowalski trying to fight off a playful little monkey.
"Pickett," Newt said sternly as he ran to help get his macaque away from from the poor, hassled gentleman, "leave him, Pickett, he's not here to play." Pickett turned around and jumped up on Newt's shoulder, wrapping his arms around his neck.
"That creature has been nothing but a headache since you brought him back from India!" Theseus muttered through gritted teeth as he caught up to them, then, plastering a smile on his face, he turned to Jacob, "my apologies, Mr. Kowalski."
Theseus then smacked the back of Newt's head as a reminder that he too, had to apologize. "R-right, p-please accept my apologies, and, um, Pickett's as well," Newt stammered out, before averting his gaze toward his shoes.
Jacob broke into a wide grin, "No worries! It's actually kind of funny, now that I think about it. In fact, I've heard about you and your menagerie, Mr. Scamander," Jacob continued, "and I'd love to see it after we conclude our business with the horses."
Newt froze in astonishment. Someone was actually interested in his creatures? He looked back up at Jacob with a shy grin, and Jacob nodded. Then, he put out his hand, which Newt shook, before leading him off to the stables to assess the horses.
True to his word, Jacob asked to see the other animals after he'd picked out a horse and settled on a price. Theseus came along, to make sure there would be no mishaps, he said.
"So, how'd you like that ball last night?" Jacob asked. The brothers shared a knowing look. Neither of them had enjoyed it much after their run in with the Goldstein sisters.
"It was alright," shrugged Theseus, "and nice to be introduced to our lovely new neighbors."
"Oh yes…" Jacob said, as a dreamy look came over him, "especially Miss Queenie… I hope she lets me dance with her again at the next one. You planning on going?"
"Of course, we attend all the social events of the season," Theseus replied, as Newt rolled his eyes and shifted uncomfortably.
"What's the matter?" Jacob teased Newt, "you don't like balls and dancing?"
"No, I don't." Then, he narrowed his eyes, as though sizing Jacob up. "People like you, don't they, Mr. Kowalski?" Theseus glared at Newt for making the conversation awkward.
"Well, I'm sure people like you too," Jacob said with what he hoped was a reassuring smile.
"No, not really, I annoy people," Newt said matter of factly. Now it was both Theseus and Jacob's turn to shift uncomfortably.
"Did you get a chance to dance with either of the sisters?" Jacob inquired politely, trying to salvage the conversation.
"No, thanks to my brother and his big mouth," Theseus shook his head in annoyance.
"It was no great loss, I've already told you what I know of Miss Goldstein," Newt waved his brother off dismissively.
"Ah, yes, you told me she was quite the shrew. And yet," Theseus raised a teasing eyebrow, "you could have swept the floor with your chin, the way your jaw dropped the moment you laid eyes on her."
Jacob couldn't suppress his chuckle. "Oh, this is the start of a love story for the ages, then," he teased as Newt scowled.
"I was thinking the same," Theseus grinned wickedly, "even after what happened last night…"
"What happened?" Jacob wanted to know.
"This buffoon here," Theseus again smacked Newt in the back of the head, "opened his mouth to tell me about how he'd already encountered Miss Goldstein earlier in the day, and that she was a shrew. Both sisters overheard him."
Jacob winced sympathetically. "Oh, I'm sorry. But, it'll make the happy ending that much richer! I'm a real romantic, and I still maintain that this is the start of a great love story!"
"Should we put a bet on it?" Theseus suddenly offered.
"Twenty pounds," Newt scoffed, "which my creatures will happily benefit from when I prove you wrong."
"Deal," said Jacob shaking Newt's hand, "I'll expect to collect at your wedding to Miss Goldstein."
Newt rolled his eyes as Theseus doubled over in laughter. All business of horses and marriage bets concluded, Jacob left astride his new horse, waving affably and promising to chat more at the upcoming ball.
Kudos and comments are love! Let me know what you think so far :-)
Chapter 5: The Second Ball
Tina and Newt continue to run into each other at dinner parties, and a second ball.
Graves had plenty with which to keep the girls busy between balls. Though he very much indulged them, he also had high expectations. They were to keep up with their lessons, even though they were no longer in school. He also added riding lessons as well, something they had not done at Ilvermorny.
Each evening, Graves hosted dinner parties, generally with a few of the ball guests at a time, so that the girls would have a chance to really get to know everyone in town, and in turn, have a chance to really dazzle their guests up close.
Much to Tina's chagrin, one of those dinner parties included the dreaded Scamander brothers. Thankfully, Dumbledore was there too that same night, as was Kowalski. They were also the reason Newt didn't fight Theseus too hard about being dragged to a dinner party at the home of The Shrew, as he had started referring to Tina.
Dinner started out nicely enough. Once again, Newt was rendered speechless at Tina's beauty, dressed in a fine dinner gown and bedecked with gleaming jewels, and felt the utter turmoil of the contradiction between wanting to kiss the breath out of her and wanting to run away before she could open her mouth to say something rude and bossy.
Tina was experiencing much the same turmoil. Newt was handsome to begin with, all the more so in his military uniform. It was enough to make her wish for him to sweep her off her feet before remembering that she wanted absolutely nothing to do with such a vexing and disagreeable man.
Both sat there silently, switching off between staring at their plates and stealing covert glances at each other while everyone else at the table chatted politely. That is, until Dumbledore decided to try to include Newt in the conversation.
"It's so good to see you again, Newton," Dumbledore told him sincerely, "and I must say, India seems to have really agreed with you."
Newt awkwardly looked away as he mumbled a "good to see you too." Compliments always made him feel a little weird.
Theseus clapped Newt on the back, grinning widely. "It really did, and the military sure did make a man out of my little brother." Newt was now focusing on his plate intently, as though if he stared hard enough, it might mercifully swallow him up.
Queenie forgot for a moment that she was supposed to hate Newt because of how he'd insulted her sister a few nights ago. She was intrigued and wanted to hear more about his time in India.
"Oh, India!" she gushed, "do tell us please! What's it like there?"
Newt, who'd always struggled as a conversationalist, and hated being put on the spot, just shrugged and said, "Hot. India is hot."
"Oh, well, you learn something new every day," Tina quipped sarcastically. Theseus, Jacob, and Graves all hid behind their napkins attempting to disguise their laughs as coughing.
"Perhaps you should spend a little less time thinking about far flung places you'll never see, and a little more time getting accustomed to England then," Newt replied coolly.
"That shouldn't be too difficult," Tina smiled with mock sweetness, "after all, we Americans managed to send your redcoat army scurrying back to England."
The American men at the table didn't bother to disguise their mirth this time. Jacob was laughing so hard, he had tears streaming down his face. Theseus did not approve of this particular comeback of Tina's. A proud military man, he scowled at the insult to his army.
Dumbledore, however, found the humor in it, even if it was at the expense of his King and country. "Touche, Miss Goldstein," he conceded, his blue eyes twinkling with amusement. Newt, once more, stared at his plate, willing it to swallow him up.
As the servants came in to clear dinner away, Graves invited the guests to the music room, where the girls were to delight them with a performance showcasing their musical gifts.
As the sisters plaued their pianoforte duet while singing along, Jacob and Newt found themselves particularly entranced by Queenie and Tina respectively. It did not escape Theseus' notice that his younger brother appeared absolutely smitten by the young woman he kept insisting he couldn't stand. Theseus knew he was going to be teasing Newt mercilessly later.
After the performance, the men all left to smoke and have a brandy in the study. Much to Newt's chagrin, as soon as they were in there, all anybody could talk about was Newt and Tina.
"Oh, she's a spitfire alright," Graves wheezed with laughter as he clapped Newt on the back, "but I do love that kind of spirit, and it's good for a shy one like yourself. And I daresay, you two would make a very handsome pair!"
"Hear, hear!" Jacob guffawed, "I'm already planning what I'm going to spend my winnings on from our little bet!"
"Kowalski here's got twenty pounds on Newton marrying Miss Goldstein," Theseus explained to the others, who soon joined in on the chuckling, "and I must say, it's not looking good for my brother."
"I really don't understand," Newt cut in, "No offense, Mr. Graves, but you hear how we speak to each other. Why on earth anyone thinks-"
"My dear boy," Dumbledore put an arm around Newt's shoulders, "it seems to me you need to review your Shakespeare. You are clearly a Benedick to Miss Goldstein's Beatrice."
A chorus of nods and agreement went around the room.
"And you should have seen the look on your face during the performance just now," Theseus added in, "I've never seen you so besotted-"
"I am not!" Newt protested hotly.
"Are too!" Theseus shot back.
"Speaking of Shakespeare," Jacob grinned, "methinks the Scamander doth protest too much!" once again, everyone except Newt broke down laughing.
Newt scowled and stalked off to go fetch his horse. He was done for the evening.
"He's a touchy one, eh?" Graves remarked.
"You know how shy he is," Theseus shrugged, "I think he's just had enough of humans for today and has run off to confide in his furry friends. Don't worry, Mr. Graves, he'll be at the next ball, as he always is."
Graves nodded in understanding. "Alright. I look forward to seeing you both there. Good evening to you!" He bowed, as Theseus returned the bow and followed after Newt.
Meanwhile, the sisters had retired to their room and were helping each other out of their evening clothes and brushing out their hair for the night.
"Why did you have to engage him?" Tina complained as Queenie worked on her plaits.
"I'm sorry Teenie, I forgot," Queenie hummed apologetically, "it's just, he mentioned India, and I was so interested… But you're right he really is very rude and disagreeable, and he's not very nice to you at all. I'm sorry, Teen, you know I'll always stick up for you!"
"Thanks, Queenie," Tina squeezed her hand, "it's OK, really. We'll just do the same at the next ball, avoid the brothers, right?"
Queenie nodded, and kissed her sister on the cheek before getting into her bed. "Goodnight, Teenie."
"Goodnight, Queenie," Tina replied, blowing out the candle before getting into her own bed.
The night of the second ball arrived. Queenie wore a sparkling green gown, not dissimilar to Leta's tea gown, and had managed to coax Tina into a striking crimson French gown. Tina felt it was a bit too daring for her taste. The neckline was lower than she'd ever worn before, and the skirt was so wide she feared she would knock people over.
"Maybe you'll knock that awful Mr. Scamander flat on his face! He'd deserve it," Queenie giggled. Tina grinned too, and finally agreed to wear it, much to Queenie's delight.
Queenie had been right about about Tina's dress knocking Newt Scamander on his face, but this turned out to be only in the figurative sense. He once again found himself agog at how Miss Goldstein could be so breathtakingly beautiful and so vexing at the same time, and Dear Lord, how far down does that go, he gaped at the vast display of marble white décolletage against that dress that matched his military uniform, then shook his head to stop himself from any further indecent thoughts.
He was so taken by the vision before him, he didn't even notice Theseus snickering at how enraptured he was with Miss Goldstein. He only managed to break himself away when he noticed that the comforting weight inside his jacket pocket had disappeared. Oh no… Damn it, Niffler! He scanned the floor and caught a streak of black and white dashing up the stairs. He quietly slipped away from his brother and dashed after it.
As Tina milled about the room with the guests, she saw a streak of red dashing up the stairs. She had a feeling it wasn't the elder Scamander brother. She excused herself from her conversation with Leta Lestrange, and quickly made her way up the stairs. What on earth was that ridiculous man up to now?
As she made her way down the hall, she heard an alarming crash coming from her chambers. She gathered her skirts to allow herself to run faster, and burst into her room to find Newt all tangled up in a bundle of shifts, stockings, and garters, wrestling that dratted badger back into his pocket.
"Mr. Scamander!" Tina exclaimed in horror, "why of all the things-"
Newt was, of course, mortified. He knew it looked bad. He shuffled around awkwardly, hands in his pockets, as he murmured an apology. "My apologies, Miss Goldstein, I didn't mean to be indecent, it was my badger again-"
"I understand it was that creature, I did notice you stuffing him into your pocket just now," Tina interjected, but was still quite upset, "but why did you even bring that thing here?! An animal has no place at a party! Look what happened here!"
"Excuse me, but I've taken him to dozens of parties without incident!" Newt shot back defensively, "now, if you'll excuse me, I do not wish to spend a moment more in your chambers any more than you want me to!" He peeled a stocking off his shoulder and tossed it on the floor before stomping out of the room.
Tina was not done with him. "I should tell my uncle Percival on you, I should!" she yelled after him following him down the hall, "the only reason I won't is that if anyone finds out a man was in my room, I'm finished!"
"I'm sorry, why would you be finished when it was I who-"
"Oh just forget it. Let's get back down before anyone notices," Tina sighed dramatically, "and go set that badger thing outside before it causes us more problems!"
Newt placed his hand protectively over the pocket concealing Niffler and glared at Tina, before turning on his heel and disappearing back into party. Tina took a moment to straighten herself out before doing the same.
"Newt!" he felt a light tap on his shoulder and turned around.
"Leta!" he breathed, startled. As very old friends, they still called each other by their first names, though only when no one else was listening.
Leta smiled mischievously as she brushed Newt's shoulder. "What on earth have you been up to tonight?" she chided playfully, "I just swept a garter off your jacket."
Newt blushed so hard, his face practically matched his uniform. "Niffler's fault," he muttered, refusing to look Leta in the eye.
"Ah, yes, of course," Leta nodded knowingly, "I don't understand why you insist on bringing him to parties-"
"There's never been an incident before!" Newt protested.
"You know it was bound to happen," Leta shrugged, "anyway, why don't we take the next dance? It's a reel. Come on," she tugged him out toward the dance floor where men and women were lining up in rows to start the reel.
Newt was happy to oblige. He always had at least one dance with Leta at every ball, generally following some social disaster of his own making. As his best friend, she always knew just how to calm him down and make it better. They faced each other and took their positions as the music started up.
Meanwhile, on the other end of the line, Tina faced a young man who'd introduced himself as Mr. Tolliver. She was still too rattled from the incident in her chambers to really listen to what he'd been saying. All she knew was that he was also American, but hadn't managed to catch what he'd said about what he was doing in England.
The music started up, and Tina concentrated on the dance steps. She didn't really care who her partner was; just enjoying the music and following the familiar pattern helped her slowly forget about Newt Scamander and his badger tangled up in her undergarments.
Soon it was coming to the partner shift. Mr. Tolliver twirled her expertly, then let go, to hand her off to the next partner. Tina felt one hand around her waist, and felt a calloused hand grab her other hand. Then, she looked up to see who she'd just been transferred to.
Newt was equally shocked to discover who had just shifted into his arms. He and Tina stared for a split second before both irritably gasping out "You!"
However, neither one wanted to make a scene, and so, without skipping more than one beat, they continued flawlessly. All the effort they'd respectively spent calming down was now for naught, as blood pressures rose and anxious beads of sweat formed on two foreheads.
Though neither would admit it, the tension was not entirely from their annoyance at each other. Tina was trying not to enjoy the proximity of Newt's smooth, freckled face, nor the strength of his arms around her, steering her across the floor. Newt was trying to hold his composure as he realized just how close he was to the most stunning creature he'd ever beheld, in that unfairly revealing red dress that he'd already spent half the night trying not to stare at like a fool. This really isn't fair, he grumbled inwardly.
"Trod on my feet, and I'll knock you over with my skirt," Tina threatened, not because she really meant it, but because she needed to break the momentary spell.
"Trod on my feet," Newt threatened back, for much the same reason, "and I'll set my badger loose on you. Would be a real shame to ruin such a lovely gown."
"If we weren't in public, I'd slap you right about now," Tina scolded.
"That, I don't doubt, Miss Porpentina Goldstein, prickly as the creature with whom you share your name," Newt retorted.
Tina had nothing to say to that, other than to stare daggers at her unfairly handsome dance partner.
When it was time to shift back to their original partners, they both exhaled in relief. Leta noticed immediately. "That one has really got under your skin, Newt," she teased.
"Not at all," Newt insisted, "just another empty, pretty face."
"Oh Newt, if you only knew the look on your pretty face every time she's within your sight," Leta giggled, "it's practically indecent!"
Newt opened his mouth to object, but just then, the dance ended, so he and Leta broke apart and bowed. "I think your brother would agree with me. But I agree with you that she's rather… Prickly, as you say," she shrugged, as she sauntered off to socialize some more.
Newt was ready to find Theseus and let him know he was done for the evening before the next dance started. As he scanned the room looking for his brother, Jacob came over, looking rather deflated.
"Mr. Scamander!" he said a bit too cheerily, "sitting out the next dance as well?"
"As are you, it seems," Newt raised an eyebrow in surprise, "what happened with Miss Queenie?"
"I don't know," Jacob sighed miserably, "I had the first dance with her, and then that Austrian Duke asked her for the next one, and she hasn't left his side all night."
"Oh. I'm sorry, Mr. Kowalski," Newt replied genuinely.
"Well, what am I, what are any of us, really, next to an actual duke?" Jacob shook his head dejectedly.
"No, don't talk like that!" Newt protested sincerely, "you're worth ten of Duke Grindelwald! Besides, I don't like the look of him…"
"Thanks for the sentiment, but you don't have to hate him just because you're my friend," Jacob insisted.
"I really mean it! Something just strikes me as… Off about him…" he trailed off. Then, looking Jacob in the eye, he asked, "do you really mean that? About me being your, well, friend?"
Jacob's heart broke a little, just as it had last week when Newt had told him that most people found him annoying. Sure, he was an odd fellow, but he was nice enough to be around and seemed like a good, loyal friend.
"Yes," Jacob said honestly, "you are my friend. Unless you don't want to be?"
"I do!" Newt said a little too quickly, then grinned mischievously as he added, "though you may want to lay off the teasing about Miss Goldstein, lest I reconsider… Call me Newt, by the way," he stuck out his hand for Jacob to shake.
"No promises Newt," Jacob chuckled as he shook Newt's hand, "but you can call me Jacob."
"Well, there's my brother, finally," Newt exhaled in relief, "I'd best be going now, I've had enough of this evening."
"Miss Goldstein really got your goat tonight, then?" Jacob couldn't help teasing.
"Don't ask," Newt grumbled as he headed out with his brother, "just don't ask."
The inspiration for Tina's red dress is Claire's Red Dress from Season 2 of Outlander, image here: https://www.usmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/ols2_tease_art_finish_vertical_8x10-3938ccc7-7a25-4450-b085-24b35df5cbd1.jpg
Chapter 6: The Dinner Party
Leta invites the gang over for a dinner party.
As the Goldstein sisters acclimated to their new surroundings, they soon found themselves as part of a particular social group. Graves was elated.
"You are in with the finest group of youths in our county," he insisted, "you must attend those social activities with them. I'm too old for this dinner party tonight, this one is for you young people. Now, go forth and enjoy!"
Tonight was a dinner hosted by Leta Lestrange. When Tina had found out that it was exclusively for them, the Scamander brothers, Dumbledore, Grindelwald, and Kowalski, she had been reluctant. But, Graves explained why it was important, and why he wasn't a part of it this time, and Queenie promised to stick by her, so off she went.
Dinner was not too bad. Newt and Tina once again found themselves quietly studying their plates while sneaking occasional glances at each other. Dumbledore was smart enough not to try to rope Newt into the conversation this time. The chattier elements of the group carried on the conversation.
After dinner, they went to the music room, where the ladies switched off playing the pianoforte and singing. Tina was finally beginning to relax and enjoy herself, so Queenie eventually left her side to spend some time with Duke Grindelwald.
Tina knew she should have expected this, especially after the last ball. Something did seem to be blossoming between her sister and that Duke, and she was happy for her. But she didn't appreciate being left to fend for herself at this intimate gathering, plus, she worried that Queenie and the Duke were seeking out private conversations way too soon.
"Don't worry, Tina, dear," Leta sidled up to her, guessing what was bothering her, "We're all in here, I don't think you need to worry about anything untoward."
"I suppose. I guess it's just a little hard for me to be apart from my sister," Tina admitted.
"Well, you have me, dear," Leta smiled. Tina smiled back out of politeness and hoped it looked genuine enough. She still wasn't entirely sure what she thought of Leta, but she was being kind right now, so she was happy to accept it at face value.
"I do hope she's careful, though," Tina apprehensively confided in Leta, "she can sometimes be a little, well, a little too dreamy for her own good, if you understand my meaning."
Leta nodded. "It is something to look out for. I've no doubt you'll take good care of your sister, and I'll help you if you want," she offered, "but sometimes a dash of dreaminess can be useful. It's not always best to be entirely practical, you know," she looked pointedly at Tina, who chafed a bit from Leta's unsolicited criticism.
In the meantime, Newt found himself consoling his friend Jacob. "I'm sorry, my friend," he patted him consolingly on the shoulder. There wasn't really much more he could say.
"I know I should just move on," Jacob sighed, "but I just need a little time. I really thought we had something there, you know?"
Newt looked back over at Queenie and Grindelwald, whose heads were a little too close together, as they smiled at some private amusement. Not that he cared one way or the other, but it did appear to be a bit too much too soon, and he did feel for his friend.
"I know you told me not to think too hard about it, but I don't trust him, honestly," Newt shook his head, "I do hope Miss Queenie is careful."
"Careful about what?" Theseus chimed in, having just joined the conversation, then, seeing how close Queenie and Grindelwald were talking, he nodded in agreement.
"Indeed, that really isn't proper, this early on," he conceded.
"Well, Jacob," Newt cut in to change the subject, "how about a game of cards? Let's invite Dumbledore, so we can be four," he gestured toward Dumbledore who was standing alone, staring pensively out the window.
"Did someone say cards?" Leta called out from across the room, "why four, when we can be six? Come on, Tina, dear, let's have a round of cards with the boys!"
And so, with Queenie and Grindelwald still too enraptured to notice, the rest of the party gathered around the card table.
"It really is so good to have you both back home," Leta gushed at the Scamander brothers.
"It is indeed good to be home again," Theseus smiled warmly. Newt just nodded shyly.
"I heard you brought home some new…pets, Newt," Leta said. Tina was rather shocked to hear Leta use his first name. She knew they were childhood friends, but still, at their age…
"Don't get me started on that blasted monkey," Theseus groaned, "the Devil's own monkey he is!"
"Pickett is a macaque!" Newt retorted defensively, as Tina tried to disguise her snort of laughter as a cough. Newton Scamander really did get stranger by the minute.
Leta smiled warmly, and draped an arm over Newt. Tina raised an eyebrow at Dumbledore, who just smiled and shrugged, like he expected such behavior from them.
"Why do strange creatures like you so much?" Leta pouted flirtatiously.
"There are no strange creatures," Newt insisted, "only blinkered people." He shot Tina an accusing glance as he finished the sentence.
"Oh, my, Tina," Leta giggled, "did you perchance insult Newt's creatures lately?"
"That badger has now aggravated me twice!" Tina snapped.
"Well, the first time was your own fault!" Newt snapped back.
"You talk about blinkered people," Tina shook her head, "you're the most blinkered one of us all!"
Leta brought her hand to her mouth to cover a giggle, while Theseus and Dumbledore just shook their heads. Jacob just exhaled with a whistle.
Newt was too flustered to think of a comeback. But he did produce the game-winning move at that moment, and smirked haughtily while Tina scowled.
"Perhaps next time, you'll spend more time paying attention to the game than attempting to be witty at my expense," Newt got up and bowed curtly, "a pleasure playing cards with you, good evening, Miss Goldstein."
"I suppose the night is over for me too, good evening to all of you," Theseus gave an apologetic shrug before bowing and going after his brother.
Tina had had enough as well, and strode over to Queenie. "So sorry to interrupt, but it's time for us to go home," she grabbed Queenie's wrist.
"Do we have to?" Queenie pouted, looking between her sister and her potential suitor.
"Yes, it's getting late," Tina implored.
"Miss Goldstein, if I may," the Duke himself interrupted. He took Tina's hand and gallantly brushed his lips against it. Tina had never actually heard him speak before. She could sense that he had a way about him, a tone that could convince you that anything was possible.
"I can escort your sister home," he offered gallantly. Queenie looked at Tina expectantly. Tina looked at Duke Grindelwald. There was no reason not to trust him. But still, it was night, and as far as she knew, they were not in an official courtship. No, Uncle Percival would not allow it, and she herself didn't feel right about it.
"Your royal highness," she curtsied deeply, "it is a kind and generous offer, but I do not think our dear uncle would allow it."
Grindelwald's eyes narrowed a bit, and Tina noticed for the first time that they were oddly mismatched. But he gave a stiff nod, before turning to Queenie.
"It seems our enchanted evening must come to an end," he sighed dramatically, "but I shall call on you tomorrow. That should be good for…your uncle," he glanced back at Tina as he said the word uncle.
"Yes," Queenie breathed, "until tomorrow…"
She and the Duke squeezed hands just before parting, while Tina pretended not to notice. Once settled in the carriage, however, Tina immediately scolded her sister.
"What are you two playing at?!" she admonished, "your behavior with the Duke...you shouldn't be doing any of that!"
"Doing what?" Queenie asked innocently.
"Sneaking away for private conversations at a dinner party, holding hands, and you were willing to get into a carriage with him alone at night!" Tina ticked off her sister's offenses on her fingers.
"I cannot believe that the woman who goes off for walks alone in the woods every day is lecturing me on propriety!" Queenie huffed, crossing her arms defensively.
"That's-that's completely different!"
"Because… because…" Tina couldn't really think of a good answer. She was the one who usually rebelled against propriety. She wasn't exactly sure why now, all of a sudden, she cared.
"Well, is the Duke courting you, then?"
Queenie demurred and looked away.
"Is he? Answer me, Queenie!" Tina demanded.
"I'm not sure," Queenie mumbled, still not looking her sister in the eye.
"Not sure? What is that supposed to mean?" Tina raised an eyebrow.
"Well, his actions say yes, but he hasn't said the word yet…"
Until now, Tina did not have an opinion on Duke Grindelwald. But upon learning that he was not being entirely clear with her sister, she became very skeptical of his character. She did not like this at all. But she wanted to end the argument and get to bed, so decided not to question her sister further.
"Just-be a little more careful, please?" she finally replied.
"I don't see what I have to be careful about," Queenie pouted.
"Please, I'm just asking… Slow down a bit, and look before you leap, alright? I'm just looking out for you," Tina sighed, as she squeezed Queenie's hand. Queenie then rested her head against Tina's shoulder, as she'd liked to do since they were little girls. She didn't say anything, but Tina understood it to mean that the conversation was over. She sighed again, inwardly resolving to keep a close eye on the situation.
Let me know what you think below!
Chapter 7: Suspicion
Tina is skeptical of her sister's suitor. So is Newt.
True to his word, Duke Grindelwald came to call early the next day. After a short conversation with Graves, he helped Queenie into his carriage for a ride into town. Tina was all smiles and charm and did not let on that she had any niggling doubt.
She had plenty to work on that day anyway. She played the pianoforte and took her riding lesson. When it was time to paint, she decided to go out to the clearing. It was a lovely, early summer day and she wanted to get the best of the light.
Much to her chagrin, she saw none other than Newton Scamander when she got there, wading into the stream. His frock coat, waistcoat, cravat, and stockings were draped over his horse, which was standing nearby, while he was in the water in only his shirt sleeves and rolled up breeches.
God, he's handsome, Tina thought to herself, noticing how very toned he was without so many layers. She also noticed his forearms were badly scarred, and was curious about what might have happened.
Then, she mentally slapped herself. This was disagreeable Newton Scamander, and he was behaving in a most ungentlemanly fashion, wading in a stream half undressed, when anyone could come by at any time.
Tina initially thought about turning back, but then decided against it. This clearing didn't belong to anyone, and it was Scamander's own fault if he wanted to treat it as his own personal property.
Newt looked up momentarily from the amphibians he was studying and startled at the sight of Miss Goldstein, The Shrew. Bugger! What's she doing here? It was bad enough he'd recently gotten tangled up in her undergarments, and now, here she was catching him in this state of undress…
"You know, Mr. Scamander, it's time you learned that this clearing is not private property to treat as your own home," Tina admonished.
"And it's time you learned, Miss Goldstein," he retorted while quickly rolling down his sleeves to hide his scars, "that it's not polite to sneak up on people. Or stare." With that, he splashed his way out to get back to the clothes he had left with Dougal, his horse.
Tina got wet in the process, which vexed her further. She angrily stalked over to Newt, who had just pulled his stockings back on and was now working on his waistcoat, when she felt something creeping along her shoulder. She looked around to see what it was and nearly fainted at the sight of a slimy, reddish lizard-like thing, right there, on her. She promptly screamed.
"Oh, don't be silly, it's just a salamander," Newt rolled his eyes at Tina's dramatics, "here, I'll get that." But Tina flinched and backed away.
"Well, do you want it off you or not?" Newt snapped impatiently, "because it does appear to me that you don't like it much, so just let me take it already, before you hurt it!"
Tina huffed, but closed her eyes and stood still as Newt approached her. She felt a slight brush of his hand, and opened her eyes to find him gently brushing the creature off her shoulder and into his other hand. She watched as he cupped his hands around it and walked back to the edge of the stream to let it go. Tina was glad to have it off her, but was still upset about being wet, and the spot of slime that thing had left behind on her dress.
"You're welcome, Miss Goldstein," Newt remarked sarcastically.
"Why should I thank you for undoing something you caused in the first place?" Tina retorted.
"Fine, have it your way," Newt stomped over to his horse, "and enjoy having the clearing to yourself now. Good day, Miss Goldstein!" He swung effortlessly onto his horse, rumpled, but at least fully dressed, and trotted away. Tina, too rattled to enjoy the clearing now, stomped back through the trail towards home.
Tina's mood was not improved by finding Queenie with the Duke sitting cozily together in the garden when she got back. She stormed back into the house, and watched the pair suspiciously from a window.
"What were you up to today? Has it been settled? Is he courting you?" Tina peppered her sister with questions as soon as Duke Grindelwald left and she came back inside.
Queenie continued to be evasive and refused to answer.
"What do you think Uncle Percival would say if I went to him with my doubts?" Tina snapped, desperate for an answer, any answer, from Queenie.
"He's so happy I've got the attention of a duke, I don't think there's anything more to it," Queenie shrugged dismissively.
"Listen, Queenie, I'm happy for you, it's just," Tina sighed, "knowing where you stand…its important…"
Queenie turned away silently, with a vague expression and Tina gave up, huffing up to their room to change out of her wet, slime-spotted dress.
Tina continued to watch Queenie and Grindelwald suspiciously every day that he came to call, and at every dinner party they attended together. Queenie had been right that Graves was too thrilled with the development to have anything other than good things to say, and so, Tina was alone in her reservations.
At the next ball, Tina continued to dance with pretty much everyone except the Scamander brothers, because there wasn't anyone she'd felt any sort of attachment to. Queenie danced exclusively with Grindelwald, something that everyone in attendance was sure to notice and comment on afterwards.
While taking a break from dancing, Tina stepped back to watch her sister, still dancing with the duke. She slowly circled around the edge of the dance floor, never taking her eyes off them, and consequently, not watching where she was going.
"Ow!" she yelped, as she walked right into none other than Newton Scamander.
Newt was too transfixed to say anything at first. Bugger! Why does she have to be more beautiful every time I lay eyes on her?!
But he soon gathered enough composure to censure her lack of care. "You need to watch where you're going, Miss Goldstein!" he exclaimed crossly.
Tina really couldn't argue with that. She looked down in embarrassment. Newt chanced another glance at her, radiant and resplendent in a gown of emerald silk, not quite as low cut as the red one, but still showcased her figure quite nicely. Tina didn't notice his staring, instead going right back to watching her sister.
Newt realized right then that she too was not entirely convinced about Duke Grindelwald. As irritating as he found her, as someone who also had a much-beloved sibling, he sympathized with her concern.
"It does seem a bit too much, too soon, doesn't it?" he said mildly, also training his glance at the couple on the dance floor.
Tina glanced back at him, astonished. But she wasn't ready to accept that they agreed on something. Besides, it was rather nosy of him to be commenting on her sister.
"Oh no, not at all, I'm perfectly happy for them!" she exclaimed, far too brightly, "Duke Grindelwald is certainly a worthy prospect!"
Newt sighed. "In title, maybe, but there's something about him that I just don't trust…"
"You just don't like him because Mr. Kowalski is your friend!" Tina snapped.
"If that's what you want to tell yourself," Newt shrugged. He could have sworn she was just as distrusting of Grindelwald as he was, but if she wasn't ready to think about it, well, that wasn't his problem. "Good evening, Miss Goldstein," he bowed politely, and scurried away to find his brother before she could reply.
Tina was left wavering on just how much to trust her instinct, and whether the fact that Scamander had a similar instinct was a reason in favor of or against trusting her own.
She decided to try talking to Queenie again, once their stays were undone and they were in bed for the night. "Please, Queenie, I need to know," she pleaded, "after tonight, it's all anyone will be talking about. Is there an understanding between you two or not?"
Queenie just twirled her golden curls around her finger, blushing and smiling, before rolling over to go to sleep.
The following morning, when Grindelwald called yet again, Tina could not help noticing a new ring he was wearing. It contained a lock of golden hair.
"Queenie!" she whispered angrily in her sister's ear, grabbing her wrist, "we need to talk. NOW!"
Queenie huffed in exasperation, but smiled radiantly at her suitor, "Please, your highness, a word with my sister, and then we shall go off on our excursion."
"Of course, milady," Grindelwald took her hand and kissed it gallantly, "I shall wait right here for your return."
"You gave him a lock of your hair?!" Tina immediately rounded on Queenie as soon as they were out of earshot, "Queenie, you need to be more careful!"
"And what's wrong with declaring our feelings for all the world to see?" Queenie pouted.
"It's tantamount to announcing an engagement, when you haven't so much as confirmed a courtship!" Tina hissed, "there are rules about these things for a reason!"
"And since when do you care so much about the rules?" Queenie crossed her arms defiantly, "you, who have actually been disciplined over-"
"That's completely different!" Tina retorted, "My own indiscretions have never involved anyone other than myself, let alone a man we barely know anything about!"
"I know what I need to know about Gellert!" Queenie insisted.
"Oh, now you're calling you're calling him by his given name? Queenie…"
"I'm not a child anymore, Porpentina!" Queenie shot back, "now, if you'll excuse me!" and with that, she stalked off to return to her suitor. They left the house together, with Tina fuming in the foyer.
Tina had never really been close with any young women other than her sister. If her own sister wasn't going to listen to her, who else could she turn to? There was only one other option, though she wasn't very happy about it. She hurried to her writing desk, and immediately pulled out a quill to hastily write out an invitation…
"Is it just me, or does Duke Grindelwald just seem… Untrustworthy?" Newt asked his brother and Jacob as they stood at a safe distance, watching him feed a monstrous cobra.
"You keep a snake like that around, and he's the untrustworthy one?" Theseus teased, then, when Newt glared at him, continued, "I haven't really formed an opinion. It is a bit strange how fast his courtship with Miss Queenie is moving, but you know how it is, sometimes love just blooms very fast."
Jacob winced at that, and Theseus had the decency to look sorry. "I told you, Newt," Jacob insisted, "you don't have to hate him just because I'm your friend. He seems a decent enough fellow, even though I've got no cause to like him."
"But, it's very curious," Newt continued, watching his snake carefully and taking notes with his quill, "Miss Goldstein distrusts him as well, you know."
Jacob and Theseus exchanged a mirthful glance at that. "Am I to take it that you and Miss Goldstein have begun to have some non-insulting exchanges?" Theseus joked.
"Yeah, you finally found some common ground, then!" Jacob added cheekily.
Newt blushed all the way to his roots. "Just because she's insufferable, she's still part of our social circle, and there's no reason I can't sometimes have a reasonable exchange with even her," he insisted.
"The man doth protest too much!" Jacob replied, as he and Theseus both broke into laughing fits.
"Stop it, before I make you stop by releasing the snake," Newt grumbled.
"Theseus, what do you think I should spend my twenty pounds on?" Jacob goaded Newt, still laughing.
"Oh, the possibilities are endless!" Theseus wheezed in laughter, with tears streaming down his face. Newt chucked his field journal at his brother's face, before grouchily stalking off.
"Depend upon it, my friend," Theseus patted Jacob on his shoulder as he got back up from ducking, "those twenty pounds will soon be yours, and the lovely Miss Goldstein shall be my sister by this time next year!"
"Oh, Tina, darling, I am so thrilled to have been honored with an exclusive invitation!" Leta gushed, kissing both of Tina's cheeks as she arrived for tea that afternoon, "I must say, I'm also glad of the chance to know you as yourself, rather than as part of a pair."
Tina smiled politely, as she escorted Leta to the tea room. "Likewise, Leta dear," she agreed, trying to make sure her smile didn't come off as a grimace. She had a reason for inviting Leta, after all. If anyone could give a full accounting of what society knew (or thought they knew), it was Leta Lestrange.
"Of course, all the town is talking about it," Leta chattered over their tea, "and how exciting, to possibly have a royal connection in our very own town! And as her own sister, I'm sure you know the full details…"
"Well, I've nothing to share from what's between us, unless it's to correct some misconception," Tina shrugged, hoping Leta would just keep talking.
"Well certainly they're courting now, that much is not in dispute," Leta prattled on, "and of course, the wedding will have to be abroad, oh, will you travel for it? I suppose you must, you wouldn't miss it, would you-"
"You don't believe a wedding is imminent, do you?" Tina interjected.
"I've heard tell they've been calling each other by their first names," Leta looked at her pointedly, then, as Tina's face fell, "I see you don't deny it."
"No, I do not," Tina conceded, "but action is not enough without word. And I can definitively say that there is, as yet, no word."
Leta was very surprised at that. "My, how curious, is it not, my dear?"
"Indeed it is," Tina sighed, "and I do wish I knew just a little more of his background…"
"Well, that's simple, just speak to our friend Dumbledore!" Leta exclaimed, "they’ve known each other for many years now, studied together at Oxford."
"Thank you," Tina said, sincerely grateful, "I really didn't know that. I suppose I will talk to him."
"I'm so glad to be of use, then. Now, hopefully, next time we have tea, you will have more news to share," Leta looked at Tina expectantly.
Tina smiled back politely, while inwardly resolving that she would never ever tell Leta anything she might potentially find "useful." As tea ended, she and Leta kissed cheeks once more, promising to get together again soon. After she left, Tina was left wondering how she could find a chance to speak privately with Dumbledore.
Nope, not yet! Still not ready to be friends, though it seems they do agree on something (even if they won't admit it). But we're almost there!
Chapter 8: The Runaway Horse
Newt and Tina find themselves thrown into a bit of an adventure together. Will they be able to work together?
This was one of my favorite chapters to write! Enjoy!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Much to Tina's relief, a chance to speak to Dumbledore came about just a few days later, when Leta hosted yet another dinner party for their group.
"Lord Dumbledore," Tina started as she came up beside him, as he stood aloof by the window in the study as he always did.
"Miss Goldstein," he bowed, curious that she'd sought him out.
"You stand here alone, each time we come here. I didn't want to leave you, you're my friend," Tina explained.
"That's very thoughtful of you," Dumbledore sighed, looking at Queenie and Grindelwald for a moment before turning back to the window.
"So, will congratulations be in order soon? Your sister seems very happy."
"She does," Tina replied, hoping the suspicious edge in her voice didn't come through too strongly, then brought the conversation to what she really wanted to discuss, "you know him from school, I'm told."
"That I do," Dumbledore sighed wistfully, "but it was a long time ago. We are but acquaintances now."
Tina was disappointed that Dumbledore was unable to help her further, but politely continued to engage with him, as she didn't want to just abandon him for the group card game.
"I am of more recent acquaintance with Mr. Scamander. The younger one," his blue eyes twinkled bemusedly as Tina rolled hers in irritation.
"Will no one in this town ever leave me alone about him?" she groaned, "can you not see how we cannot agree on a single thing? I find him abjectly disagreeable and he thinks I'm a shrew!"
"Yours would not be the first romance to start out as a series of arguments," Dumbledore chuckled, but then turned serious, boring his piercing gaze into Tina, "but I do mean it when I say I know him well, as he is now. He's a kind soul, Miss Goldstein, even if he can be a bit, well, exasperating at times."
"A bit exasperating… There's an understatement," Tina remarked sarcastically.
"But surely you don't think him malicious?" Dumbledore inquired.
Tina thought for a moment. She supposed he wasn't. Not a single person in the town thought so, he was really just harmlessly odd. "No," she conceded, quickly glancing over at where Newt was playing cards, and coloring brightly at the sight of his handsome face, "No, he is not. That's true."
"I will reiterate, he is a kind soul," Dumbledore insisted, "make of that what you will, but please think of it the next time he irks you. I say this as your friend, as well as his, there's more to him than you think, Miss Goldstein."
He turned back to the window with a finality that told Tina the conversation was over. She was frustrated with both his inability to shed further light on Grindelwald and his insistence on turning the conversation to Scamander. It was early yet, but she was done for the night. And so, she strode over to Queenie, despite the argument she knew it was going to cause, to insist that it was time to take their leave.
The next morning went no better with Queenie. Still sore about having had to leave so early the previous night, they argued all through breakfast.
"You could have let him bring me home!" she pouted.
"It's bad enough he prances around with your hair in a ring and that you call each other by your first names," Tina retorted.
"Just worry about your own conduct and finding your own suitor!" Queenie snapped back, "and leave me to conduct myself as I see fit with mine!" she got up from the table and headed for the garden, where, no doubt, the subject of their argument was waiting with his usual charming smile.
"Fine! I'm going to do as I please today, and see how you like it!" Tina exasperatedly called out after her, before she likewise stormed out of the house.
Once outside, Tina went straight to the stables. Somewhere deep inside, she knew she wasn't quite experienced enough to ride without her instructor, but right now, she didn't care. She could take care of herself just fine, and she was going out for a ride.
She struggled a bit with her mounting, but managed to adjust well enough. She smoothed out her skirts as she found her side saddle position. That was another thing she hated about society. The whole side saddle thing was ridiculous. In fact, part of her rebellious mood today was that as soon as she got to the clearing, she going to attempt riding astride.
She felt pretty good about herself and her riding ability as she got moving in a smooth, gentle trot, heading toward the trail in the woods that led to the clearing. Then she heard a second set of hoof beats, and turned her head only to find herself looking at the absolute last person she wanted to see.
"You!" she huffed out irritably, then pointedly turned her concentration back to the reins.
"I could say the same," Newt quipped back, "but be that as it may, I couldn't help but notice your poor form."
Tina was greatly offended, even though she knew she really was a novice, and she was aware that Newt was pretty much the biggest expert on horses in the county. Still, she had her pride, and she was damned if she was ever going to take a thing he said seriously.
"I thank you for your concern, Mr. Scamander, but I can handle myself full well," Tina scoffed, "and besides, don't you have better things to do, like taking care of marmosets or something?" She then dug her heels into her horse's flank, urging it to speed up and canter away from Newt.
"Suit yourself, Miss Goldstein!" Newt called after her, "but I do know a thing or two about horses! When that one throws you, don't say I didn't warn you!"
As he watched her disappear into the woods, he started to wonder if maybe he she should go after her, just to make sure she was alright. Sure, all they ever did was bicker, and he certainly found her the most vexing being he'd ever met, but he didn't hate her and certainly wouldn't wish harm on her. And she was at risk of serious harm right now.
"Alright, Dougal, quickly now," he whispered into his trusted stallion's ear, as he dug his heels to speed him up, "We're going after that incorrigible young lady and her horse."
As they cantered along the trail, Newt was able to keep Tina just barely in sight between the trees. Suddenly, he heard a piercing scream, and he knew in that moment that Tina had gotten herself into trouble, just as he'd predicted would happen.
"Come on, Dougal, faster, boy!" Newt called, breaking Dougal into a run. Soon they were gaining on Tina and her horse and Newt was able to get a good enough look to read the situation. What he saw absolutely terrified him.
Tina's horse had broken into a fast run and she had lost the reins. She was now hanging over the side of the horse, clinging to its neck and desperately trying to pull herself back up. Her bonnet was gone and her hair had come loose, whipping every which way. She screamed again and Newt urged Dougal even faster.
Finally, they managed to catch up and pull up alongside the hapless woman and her horse. Dougal instinctively matched the other horse's speed.
"Mr. Scamander!" Tina cried out as soon as she noticed him.
"Don't panic!" Newt called out to her, even though he was rather panicking himself.
"What do you suggest I do instead?" Tina snapped. Even desperately clinging for her life to the side of a runaway horse, Tina still somehow found it in her to be annoyed with Newt.
Newt scanned their surroundings. Then, forming a quick plan, he did what was both the bravest and stupidest thing he'd ever done in his life, getting up in the saddle into a slightly crouched standing position, keeping one hand on the reins, and with Dougal still running.
"Jump," Newt advised Tina.
Tina looked at Newt like he had three eyes. Did he really just ask her to jump? "Are you crazy?!" she cried, as her fingers slipped further, losing more of their already tenuous grip.
"Grab a branch and jump," Newt instructed, shocked at how calm he was managing to keep his voice. Tina glanced skeptically at the branches rushing above them, then back at Newt, fearfully, her hair whipping wildly about her face.
"Tina, listen to me, I'll catch you! Tina!" Newt insisted, throwing formalities aside and using her name.
Tina was still frozen, although her grip continued to weaken, and she knew she was going to have to do something. Could she trust Newt's plan?
"I'll catch you, I've got you, Tina…"
Somehow, Tina managed to make eye contact, and in that moment, Newt sprang off his horse, yelling "Go!"
Without even thinking, Tina reached out one hand toward a branch, and grabbed it, then opened the hand that was still on the horse, letting the creature slide away from under her, free from the burden of a rider. Tina closed her eyes, bracing for impact as she let go of the branch and jumped down.
The impact never came, because he caught her, as promised. Strong arms wrapped around her, and brought her close, and she opened her eyes to find herself staring into a pair of gorgeous sea-green eyes. How had she never noticed those eyes? Despite who she was being held by, a part of her never wanted to let go…
He'd done it! He'd caught her, and as far as he could tell, she was perfectly alright. He held her lithe, trembling body close to his, and for a split second, it didn't matter that this was The Shrew, no, in that moment, she was Tina, and dear Lord, those eyes, those brown eyes, they reminded him of salamanders…he didn't want to let go…
And yet, this wasn't proper. As soon as Tina gained her bearings, they both let go and stepped awkwardly away from each other, both immediately training their glances on the ground.
At last, Tina spoke. "I, well, um, I…" she stammered, then glanced momentarily at Newt before going back to staring at the ground, "Thank you, Mr. Scamander. Really. You can now tell me all about how you told me so," she muttered while blushing furiously, ashamed and fully contrite.
Newt was very tempted to do just that, but stopped himself. Now just didn't seem the time. He cared more that she was safe than that she'd put herself in danger in the first place by disregarding his advice.
"No, Miss Goldstein," he sincerely assured her, "the important thing is that you made it safely to the ground." Then, as an afterthought, he added, "and you did very well, considering!"
Tina huffed bemusedly at that. "Thank you, I suppose? And considering what?" she asked suspiciously.
"Why, considering that you were riding side saddle!" Newt replied, "you know, it really astonishes me that we expect ladies to ride in such an inconvenient, and frankly, unsafe manner. It really isn't right!"
"I HATE riding side saddle, I think the whole thing is incredibly stupid! And unfair!" Tina burst out.
Newt raised his head to look directly at Tina, and for the second time that day, they made eye contact. They were both stunned. Neither could fully believe that they had just found a matter on which they agreed.
At that moment, Dougal trotted back over to them. He was alone, so they were going to have to find the other horse.
"Well, then," Newt mumbled awkwardly, looking nervously between Dougal and Tina, "it seems we're both going to need to ride Dougal until we find your horse."
"Right, yes," Tina agreed shyly. She was desperately trying to pin up her loose hair as best she could, but there wasn't much she could do until she found her bonnet. "We'll need to look for my bonnet on the way back."
Newt, who had been sneaking covert glances at Tina's loose hair, immediately trained his glance on the ground at that. Clearly she was uncomfortable in her current state.
"So, er, just let me know when you're ready to get on Dougal here," said Newt, still looking at the ground, then added, "as per our recent conversation, you can ride astride if you'd like."
He chanced a glance up, and saw that Tina was smiling, and clearly excited about the idea. He returned a shy smile of his own.
"I'm ready," Tina said looking nervously at the horse, "just tell me what to do. I've, well, I've learned I should listen to you when it comes to horses." They both chuckled at that.
"Here," Newt offered a hand, "I'll need to help you up."
Tina took his hand, and, for the second time that day, they both felt a most curious feeling, as though a horde of butterflies had taken up residence inside them. Their hands lingered for a few seconds even after Tina was settled securely in the saddle, and they both felt a little bereft as they let go.
Newt then swung himself up with a practiced agility and plopped down in the saddle right behind Tina. "Here, pick up the reins, there, that's it," he guided her hands to the right position and then settled his own hands comfortably beside hers.
Their position necessitated Newt's arms being around Tina's waist as he did the real work of driving the horse. Newt was both delighted and terrified at the prospect. He'd been taken by Tina's beauty from the moment he first saw her, but since they'd gotten off to a bad start, he had mostly kept his distance. Now that they were cautiously friendly, things seemed more charged than ever. He wondered if she was feeling similarly.
Tina's hair was still mostly loose and brushing against Newt's face as they gently trotted along. It took all of Newt's willpower not to bury his face in that silky raven hair. But, he managed to be a perfect gentleman. He kept up a superficial conversation, mostly explaining to Tina what he was doing with the reins.
But by the time they got to the clearing and found the other horse, they'd also managed to talk a bit about themselves and found they had even more in common than agreeing that women should be allowed to ride astride.
Tina's horse was still skittish, though was staying near the clearing. Tina looked skeptically between the horse and Newt. "I don't know that I can get back on that thing," she said nervously.
"A completely understandable reaction," Newt assured her, "listen, you stay on Dougal, I think that will be safer. I'll ride yours. I really ought to see you home anyway, so I'll take Dougal back then."
He hopped off Dougal and Tina suddenly felt his absence keenly. He too felt oddly bereft at the loss of contact between them. He shook it off and went to go handle Tina's horse.
Tina watched him interact with her horse, and suddenly understood what everyone meant when they said that Newton Scamander had a special way with horses. There was something almost magical about how in tune he was with the animal, how man and beast just intuitively understood each other.
Tina also took the time to really appreciate just how handsome he was. She had thought so from the very start, but had been so irritated with him that she'd forced herself not to think about it too much. But now, watching him calm the frightened horse both by speaking to it and petting it, she appreciated the wave of his messy cinnamon hair, the muscles of his back and arms, which, even underneath all the layers, she could still discern. His legs were clearly quite powerful, she noticed, as he mounted the horse, then blushed at the indecency of the thought.
Watching him interact with the horse also belied a softness about him, and she suddenly understood what Dumbledore had meant last night about Scamander having a "kind soul". Tina had, until now, thought of Newt as rather prickly, but seeing him with the horse, she could tell that he was kind and gentle. And besides, she'd been rather prickly herself around him to begin with. She was ready now to give him another chance.
With Newt on the horse, they were now ready to go back. They trotted alongside each other.
"I feel kind of silly saying this," said Tina, "because it's the first thing anyone ever says about you, but wow, you really have a way with horses!"
Newt grinned. "Well, my family has been breeding the finest horses in England for well over a century," he explained, "but yes, I'm the most drawn to them of everyone in the family. Even since I was a boy, it's been evident that I would eventually be the one in charge of carrying on that particular family tradition."
"But what about the other animals?" Tina asked, "horses, I understand, we need them, but what made you so interested in other creatures?"
Newt was a little offended at how she viewed other animals, but quickly gave her the benefit of the doubt. After all, most people in the world felt similarly. And her question seemed to be coming from a genuine place. He was glad to talk to anyone who showed interest.
"Well, because they're interesting!" he exclaimed, which made Tina laugh, before he explained further, "but really, they are so fascinating, and so wonderful. It's not just about usefulness to humans. Every creature has a role to play on this earth."
Tina nodded understandingly. She often felt awkward and out of place, and, given the way she'd heard people talk about Newt and how odd he was, she suddenly realized that he likely felt the same way.
"Do you keep a journal of your observations?" she wanted to know.
"Oh yes," Newt replied, "a journal and a sketchbook. I hope to one day publish a book about them, to help educate people about all the marvelous creatures in our world."
"I'd love to see the ones you keep at your home!" Tina suddenly blurted out. She looked away, just then, feeling shy at having been so forward.
Newt was in shock, but quickly recovered, a warm smile spreading across his face. "You may come visit my menagerie any time you'd like, Miss Goldstein. Just promise me one thing?"
"Please give my badger a second chance."
"Mr. Scamander, if I can give you a second chance, I suppose I can give your badger a second chance as well," Tina smiled warmly back at Newt.
"Oh, look, up ahead!" Newt pointed. There, caught in a branch, was Tina's bonnet. She grabbed it and tied it back on, neatly tucking her hair away. Newt was a little disappointed at that, but knew she had to do what she had to do. They were also almost back in town, which meant she was going to have to switch back to side saddle before they saw anyone.
"Here, let me help you with that," Newt helped adjust her position, and Tina was happy to take his advice this time. She wasn't going to forget her earlier ride any time soon. "And of course, I'll see you home, Miss Goldstein."
"Thank you, Mr. Scamander."
They didn't chat quite as warmly once they were back in town. Tina was glad that they made it back to The Burrow without having to explain to anyone why she and Newt were riding together.
Once back at Graves' stables, Newt helped her get her horse settled. Then, Newt did the second bravest thing he'd ever done.
"I very much enjoyed our ride today, Miss Goldstein. How would you like to ride with me again, some time?" his cheeks stung with a furious blush and he immediately looked down at his shoes, initially missing Tina's elated smile.
"I'd like that," she replied softly, and Newt looked back up, utterly stunned that she'd accepted his offer. "Very much," Tina concluded, and Newt smiled in relief.
"May I call on you tomorrow?" he asked.
"You may," Tina said, with a blush to match Newt's spreading over her face.
"Tomorrow, then," Newt gave a curt bow, and mounted Dougal, rather more clumsily than he'd ever done in a very long time. Tina kindly pretended not to notice. She stepped outside the stable and stared after Newt and Dougal as they trotted away.
At that moment, Queenie came running over to her. "Teenie, what's happened to you?!" she cried out, taking in Tina's very disheveled appearance.
Indeed, Tina's little horse adventure had left her face streaked with dirt and bits of branches and leaves stuck all over her clothes. Even with her bonnet back on, without the pins in her hair, the bonnet lay askew and wisps of hair escaped it from odd places.
"And what's he doing here?" Queenie's expression darkened as she saw Newt riding away, "did he hurt you, Teenie? Tina?"
Tina, still in a bit of a daze, finally tore her gaze away from Newt and turned to look at her sister. "No, not at all. In fact he… He just saved my life!"
"Saved your life?! What in the… When? How?" Queenie demanded.
"It's, well, it's a bit of a story," Tina mumbled as she stared at the ground blushing. "Come, Queenie, help me clean up before anyone notices, and I will explain everything."
Once in their chambers, Queenie attended to Tina. She was uninjured, save for some scratches and bruises, and as soon as she was in a clean shift, Queenie started working on her hair, which was a disaster. Tina recounted the story while Queenie untangled her hair.
"So that's it," Tina shrugged, "he caught me, and I'm alright. I think he deserves a second chance. He's… Not as bad as I initially thought."
"Well, if you're sure," Queenie replied skeptically, "and I certainly am grateful that he saved your life."
"If I can give him another chance, then so can you," Tina insisted, "and besides, I've already agreed to go riding with him tomorrow."
"My, how the tables have turned!" Queenie grinned mischievously.
"I'm only saying-"
"It's just a ride!" Tina blushed furiously. Queenie noticed her sister's color and just smirked knowingly.
Ok, our favorite bickering couple has found some common ground! Will this friendship blossom into something more? Keep coming back for more :-)