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not the fire but the sparks

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Hogwarts castle is larger than Tina had imagined.

Obviously, she knew that Ilvermorny houses more students - simply due to the fact that America is a way larger country. However, she hadn’t pictured the British school to be quite as imposing - nor their contact and new ally, the much-revered Albus Dumbledore, to be so… well… normal.

Of course she’s heard the stories about Dumbledore - a man twenty years her senior, who had already managed to gain a reputation for being one of the most powerful wizards of their age. A man rumored to be the only person who was Grindelwald’s true equal, a man already making gigantic leaps in magical development, in alchemy, in areas previously left unexplored. A man who pushes boundaries, who is celebrated and admired-

who is currently enchanting a kettle and passing out mismatched teacups to their gaggle of mismatched aurors and civilians, a docile smile on his lips.

Tina knows she’s quick to pass judgments, but really, she’s thoroughly underwhelmed. He doesn’t even seem especially professional - but when he meets her gaze across the room, she catches a twinkle in his eye that somewhat unsettles her, and puts her right back on her toes.

Maybe there’s more to him after all.

The longer she watches him, the more she gets the feeling that there’s way, way more to be unraveled behind the air he’s putting on for his guests, no matter how effortless it seems. And she has ample time to observe - she’s not paying much attention to the general briefing the Head of Magical Law Enforcement (whose name, she has learned, is Torquil Travers) is giving Dumbledore, and watching him is a good distraction from the person she actually wants to be watching, who’s sitting across from her and trying to catch her eye. She knows they have to talk - but not here, not with so many people involved, so she keeps her attention on their host.

Dumbledore is charming, and seems to be the type of person who figures out other people alarmingly quickly, but rarely divulges anything about himself. She’s not sure how she feels about this - she knows she’s a good enough judge of character in her job (though recently she’s been realizing her judgment might not have been as impeccable as she thought it was, colored by the one-dimensional orders she was given as an auror, which, as much as it pains her to admit it, did mostly follow along the lines of Newt’s accusation: kill everything you don’t understand) - but she has always struggled, or maybe just not bothered much with other people in her day to day life.

Really, there’s only been one constant in her life, and thinking about her now is excruciating, because deep down, Tina knows who is to blame for Queenie’s change of heart, and she’s not sure she’s ready to accept that just yet.

Queenie, who might be further proof that Tina continuously underestimates the people around her, even though she fancies herself an accurate observer.

It’s becoming harder to swallow, and the tea has lost its flavor. Tina forces her hands away from the cup she’s been toying with, setting it down into its saucer with a rather loud click that has Newt flinching across the table.

“Sir,” she says, aware that she’s interrupting, but somehow unable to contain herself any longer. “I’m sorry, but… what are we supposed to do now?”

All eyes shift towards her, and she feels the familiar unpleasant prickling at the back of her neck that comes with the attention of a full room of people. She sits up a little straighter, reminding herself, as she always does, that she deserves to be here, and deserves to be heard.

No one answers her question, and she realizes she wasn’t really clear about whom she was asking - but eventually, gazes shift over, like a gravitational pull, to Dumbledore. Even high-ranking ministry officials seem to submit to his authority, whether they want to or not.

Dumbledore, however, just raises his eyebrows, returning Tina’s gaze.

Beside Newt, his brother clears his throat. Theseus, she reminds herself - the Head of Aurors. She turns to face him, but can’t stop herself from blushing slightly at the memory of their first encounter - he still hasn’t confronted her about hexing him, though she’s sure he hasn’t forgotten.

“We return to the Ministry with what we have learned,” Theseus says, tapping the table with his fingers. “We regroup, and consider our strategies.”

His posture is the polar opposite of Newt’s - he looks relaxed, comfortable, authoritative, while his brother… Tina steels herself, fighting the urge to look over at Newt, already knowing what she’ll see. No distractions.

“...and what about us?”

The voice is unexpected, so much so that Tina almost jumps. It’s coming from the far end of the table - from the maledictus, Nagini. She looks the most shaken of everyone at the table; even Jacob, beside her, is holding it together a little better. She’s got dark circles under her eyes, a mix of sleeplessness and makeup smudged by tears, and Tina realizes, in that moment, that this is a woman who has lost everything. Her home - if the circus could even be called that at all -, her only friend, Credence, and with him, her future.

“Of course, we can use all the help we can get in the fight against Grindelwald,” Travers says, uneasily - and when Dumbledore interrupts him, he almost looks relieved.

“I think, Travers, what she means is the more immediate future.”

Dumbledore smiles at Nagini, but she only flinches back further into her chair.

“Do you have any family? A place you can stay?”

Nagini lets out a small, bitter sound. “I have nowhere to go.”

Dumbledore nods. “I would greatly value your services, my dear.”

She crosses her arms in front of her chest, eyes narrowing. “My services…?”

“Indeed. Your knowledge of unique magic. Do you have a wand?”

She shakes her head. “No. Really, I don’t see of what use I can be to anyone.”

“Oh, on the contrary. I would very much welcome the opportunity to work with you. I will see to it that we set you up in a room here in the castle. If you agree, of course.”

Sensing her obvious unease, he adds: “I gather there has not been much research into your condition.”

Nagini’s eyes go wide, and she pushes her chair back from the table with an audible screech.

“I will not be experimented on,” she hisses, her entire body tensing up. Dumbledore immediately lifts his hands.

“That is not what I meant. I promise you, there will be no experimenting. As I said, I would like to work with you. I would like to help you harness your power, and possibly prevent your condition from becoming permanent.”

Slowly, Nagini seems to exhale, though she can no longer fully relax. “It’s a blood curse. There is no cure.”

“There might be,” Dumbledore says simply. “A year ago, most magical creatures were considered dangerous and deadly.” He looks around at the others at the table, eyes lingering on Newt. Tina’s gaze follows, like a gravitational pull of its own. “Now, we have been proven wrong in that assumption. All it takes is for someone to push the boundaries.”

Newt looks down at the table, uncomfortable with direct praise in front of so many people, but Tina catches the small smile playing at the corner of his mouth.

Travers clears his throat, and Dumbledore gives Nagini a cautious smile. “Whatever you decide, there is a place for you here, if you have nowhere else to go. I know you wish to find Credence, and bring him home - and I believe that if there is anyone who can help convince him to come back, it’s you.”

Travers, still looking uncomfortable, turns his attention to Yusuf, who has been silently swirling the contents of his teacup.

“Right. As for you, Mr. Kama-”

“My work is done here,” Yusuf says, looking up at the rest of the room. “I will return to France - perhaps the French Ministry will have a use for me.”

Travers gives him a stiff nod, and turns his attention to Theseus. “Well - we had better return to the Ministry. There is much to be done.” As he speaks, he’s already half out of his chair. “Dumbledore, we will be in touch. The war against Grindelwald is only just beginning - but we have more than a fighting chance now that you’ve agreed to join us.”

Dumbledore inclines his head - just as eager to be rid of Travers as Travers is to leave, or at least that’s how it seems to Tina.

“Miss Goldstein.”

She’s startled out of her thoughts by Theseus, getting to his feet as well.

“Mr. Scamander?”

“I would like to speak to you for a moment.”

She’s a little bewildered, to say the least, but she manages a nod, pushing back her chair to follow suit.

Across the table, slipping back into his coat, Travers clears his throat. “Right. Mr Scamander?”

Newt looks up, just as surprised as Tina. “Sir?”

“A word. Please.”

At the head of the table, Dumbledore watches these exchanges with his eyebrows slightly raised, and gives Theseus a nod when he walks past with Tina in tow. As they leave the room, he turns back to his remaining guests.

“So, Mr. Kowalski - I hear you own a bakery…?”

 

~

 

Tina follows Theseus down the corridor outside, just out of earshot of where Travers is already speaking to Newt, voice lowered, hands shoved deeply into the pockets of his coat. She catches herself watching, searching Newt’s expression, and snaps herself out of it.

“...what can I do for you, Mr. Scamander?”

Theseus gives her a half-smile.

“First of all - thank you for your help at the rally. The British Auror office is indebted to you for everything that you did.”

She can’t stop the slight incredulity slipping into her expression. “...we were thoroughly defeated, sir.”

Theseus exhales in a sigh. “It is true that we lost, and we played right into Grindelwald’s hands - but you and my brother helped contain Grindelwald’s magic, and after everything, we still managed to gain a powerful ally in Professor Dumbledore.”

She nods, still not sure where he’s going with all of this.

“I assume MACUSA will want you to return to America now?”

Tina swallows uncomfortably. “...eventually, yes. They will not be happy with me - I specifically asked for the mission to find Credence, not to kill him but to help him; something many people in my division did not agree with at all. Now I’ll have to report back that not only did I fail, but I allowed Credence to join Grindelwald’s forces.”

Theseus is looking at her strangely, eyebrows slightly furled in thought.

“Do you still believe that he can be saved?”

She blinks, startled. “I- yes. I think so. I think he’s confused, and Grindelwald is manipulating him.”

Theseus nods slowly. After a brief pause, he adds: “...I understand your sister has joined his ranks as well?”

At this, Tina purses her lips immediately, closing off. This seems to just confirm another notion to him.

“...so would it be correct of me to assume that it would be in your interest to remain in Europe for the time being? Seeing as this is where Grindelwald is likely to resurface next, now that he has the weapon he wishes to defeat Dumbledore with?”

Tina frowns. “...yes, but-”

“Well then.” Theseus straightens up a bit. “As you know, our forces have suffered substantial losses after recent events. I’m certain other ministries, including MACUSA, will be sending reinforcements once they are informed of what has happened - however, I would also like to make you a formal offer, Miss Goldstein. A transfer, if you will - a position in the British Auror Office.”

She hesitates, considering.

It does sound like a good offer - but she has to think it through. Her first, immediate thought - and it bothers her that it comes so quickly - is that this would help her avoid Piquory’s stern reprimands. The next thought is of Queenie, and she pushes it away as quickly as it comes - this is a breakdown for another time, a crisis she cannot afford right now, a reality she isn’t ready to face. If she returned to New York, to their empty apartment, it might become uncomfortably real - and this, this gives her a chance to make it temporary. To bring her sister home. To apologize, to right the wrong she has caused.

Also, a small voice in her head pipes up, it would mean you’d stay closer to Newt.

Newt, who is, come to think of it, probably receiving a very similar job offer right now, too.

“I don’t need an answer immediately,” Theseus says, seeing her hesitation. “But it is an offer that stands. I need capable witches and wizards on my team, and ones who will do what is necessary to defeat this threat. His reign of terror has lasted long enough - he will not take anything more from us.”

In a sharp, painful instant, Leta’s death is drawn to the forefront of her mind. She’d been preoccupied with Newt, losing a dear friend - but of course, Theseus had lost even more than that.

“...thank you, sir,” is what she manages to say, because how do you find words for anything else in this situation?

Theseus nods. “It’s time we take the fight to him - I hear you’re an investigator at the New York office, so your skills may come in handy.” And then, with a little smirk, he adds: “...and I have first-hand experience with your hex work.”

Tina can’t stop herself from blushing. “Mr. Scamander, I’m very sorry for-”

But he waves his hand dismissively. “Don’t worry about it. You were doing what you felt was necessary. Although I feel I should mention, I was not going to attack my brother - just confront him. I know he doesn’t care much for rules once he’s convinced something is right or wrong… and I know that he polarizes. You must think highly of him, to defend him so readily. Most people hate him, and those who don’t would willingly follow him into hell.”

He sounds so sure of this, that Tina can’t stop herself from asking: “...so where does that leave you?”

She’s already prepared to backtrack, apologize for her impertinence, but Theseus does not look offended. He merely studies her for a moment, debating his response.

Finally, he simply says: “He’s my brother.”

Queenie pushes herself to the forefront of Tina’s mind again - and this time, she doesn’t push her back immediately.

“I think I understand.”

Theseus nods. “We’ve all lost people important to us. We will fight to end Grindelwald’s war once and for all, to protect what we have left, and to take back those of us he has swayed. I would be grateful to have a skilled auror such as yourself on our side when we do so.”

He turns, to find Travers looking back at him expectantly from across the corridor, and readjusts his jacket.

“Think about my offer, Miss Goldstein. I can forward the paperwork to Piquory as soon as you’ve made a decision.”

And, with a slight wave of his hand, he steps over to his superior, and the two of them walk away.

Tina watches them go - and then her eyes meet Newt’s, standing over by one of the large castle windows. He raises his eyebrows, just a little, and she finds herself smiling.