Newt Scamander makes Tina think of those ordinary No-Maj creatures she’s only read about in books, chameleons (no doubt he’d give a dozen wizarding examples of creatures with a similar power, but magical creatures are a bit thin on the ground in New York City, thank god). She vaguely remembers the textbook saying that chameleons change color to blend in with their surroundings, move slowly, have quick tongues–alright the comparison ends there, because that goes down roads she can’t begin to think about.
The point is, people only see what Newt wants them to see–a gangly, skinny man with a mop of red hair, interacting with the rest of the world like he doesn’t truly inhabit it, with a distracted, absentminded air that she strongly suspects he cultivates deliberately. That must’ve gotten him out of trouble quite a bit over in that fancy English school of his, his look of who, me? and I had no idea that would happen but it’s perfectly fine I have it under control, to which Tina Goldstein says, ha and ha and bloody HA! again. The only thing Newt has control over is his animals and he’d deny it violently and give you a three hour long lecture about how that went totally against the notion of protecting and ensuring the safety of his creatures if you accused him of it (she’s made that mistake already). But Newt is not–he is not merely abstracted and distant, swanning through the world like all is a fine meadow and he’s just walking along, minding his own business. No, to think that is to set yourself up for being caught, tripped up by an observation as sudden and as unexpected as…well…a dragon in the subways of Manhattan.
Tina can’t entirely suppress this, even though she knows better, the instinct to protect him, shield him, a older sister protective instinct, even though her feelings for Newt are most certainly not older-sisterly. “Gee, I’d hope not,” says Queenie lightly, catching the thought once. “That’d be real awkward Teen.”
“Stay out of my head,” Tina grumbles, though she might as well tell winters in New York not to be horrendous, the house elf Red not to make awful jokes, or the sun not to rise. “You know how it is.”
Queenie shrugs, lightly flicking her wand through the motions of making stew for the two of them. “He don’t quite love her like that, you know. Not now. It’s all muddled in his head, like yarn all tangled up, like when you try to knit your socks. But he looks at you and all the tangles get smoothed out…or made worse, dependin’ on what you say to him.”
“Queenie,” says Tina tiredly, this conversation a threadbare hat between them, “you can’t be telling me what’s in other people’s heads. They should have the luxury of privacy.”
“Like I should have the luxury of not carryin’ other people’s thoughts?” says Queenie, though still gently, still sweetly and that makes it worse, somehow.
Tina sighs, gets up, puts her hands on her sister’s shoulders. “I’m sorry,” she says gently, “I don’t mean to be mad. Just–it’s no good thinking about what’s never gonna happen, you know? He’s in England now, and I’m an Auror over here. And Madame Seraphine might curse him if he ever comes back to New York again.”
Queenie sends Tina a sidelong glance. “They got Aurors in England too, you know.”
“Don’t start,” Tina says and Queenie shrugs and doesn’t. They don’t bring it up again.
Newt Scamander shows up in New York again after all, with his ever-present suitcase, this time with an unbreakable (so he swears) returning charm on it and a find-it-again spell he says he learned in China. “Fascinating wizards, the Chinese,” he tells Tina earnestly, seeming able to completely ignore the dark glowers he is getting from almost literally every other being, including the goblins and house elves, in the MACUSA building. “Far more advanced than any of the wizards in Britain, picky about who they teach, but I convinced them with some of the Swooping Evil potion I’ve developed and–”
Tina hauls him out of the office before someone starts flinging hexes, Lord knows she’s overheard enough people muttering about it, if that skinny no good snobby British guy shows his face here ever again and she’s flung her own hexes in return, in defense of Newt (not that she’d admit it). “Did you finish your book?” she asks him, tugging him along, as seems to be their habit. “Do I get a copy of it now?” she says, trying to imitate Queenie’s way with lightness, with easiness, like she’s never heard of anything so fascinating in her life, what the other guy has to say (admittedly, Tina’s always been rubbish at this and frankly, she doubts Newt would notice).
Seemingly entirely without thought or notice, Newt shakes his head and swings out of the way of a pair on construction walking by, their lunch pails dangling from their hands. “Watch where you’re going pal,” yells the taller one and Tina snaps back, “Same to you mister,” inflecting the word with as much sarcasm as she can, only to turn around and watch Newt collide directly with a light pole. Tina resists the urge to cover her eyes with her hand, or get out one of the handkerchiefs Queenie always insists she carries every where and spit on it, dabbing at the smudges on Newt’s face like she’s turned into her mother or something (she will not entertain the notion, she will not).
“How can you wrangle Nifflers and Thunderbirds and still brain yourself on a pole?” she asks, gently guiding him to the relative safety of the side of a building. She gets out of her handkerchief anyhow, gives it to him after murmuring a discreet soothing charm on it. “You have got to be the clumsiest person I know.”
“Camouflage,” says Newt, taking her hankie and pressing it to his forehead, the lace edging Queenie sewed on fluttering against his hair. “Lulling them into a false sense of security, you know.”
“Yeah, you’re a real terror,” says Tina dryly, smiling despite herself and the look Newt shoots out at her from under his bangs is…weirdly intent.
“I should hope I would never be considered a terror by you, Auror Goldstein,” he says seriously. “That would–that would be most unpleasant.”
English understatement, Tina thinks, with that weird paradox of her heart both swelling up and being squeezed in her chest. “After everything we’ve been through, Mr. Scamander, you’re not even on the lists of things that scare me.”
His smile is a flash here and gone, like heat lightning in the summer. “I am here in New York to talk to a publisher,” he says. “But for you–I brought this.”
He reaches into his ever-present midnight blue coat of his and pulls something out of the inner pocket in the lining, a hardback book with a verdant cover and golden vines embellishing the spine and the title: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
“Oh,” says Tina faintly, seeing the words she once said in feeble joke staring back at her, so much grander and lovelier than she could’ve imagined them. “It’s–it’s–”
“You don’t mind?” he asks with sudden anxiousness. “About the title? You summed it up perfectly, I didn’t think to ask you, I should’ve sent an owl or something–”
“No, no,” Tina says hurriedly, already clutching the book to her heart like it’s gold, “No, it’s lovely, it’s…it’s perfect. Thank you.”
His shoulders relax, his posture goes loose–looser, she means. “That’s the first English edition,” he says, gesturing to the book. “The first one they printed. If–if you like I’ll get you the first American copy too.”
“I–I would like that,” Tina says, looking back at him, her heart a wild creature in her chest, he could touch her and it might go completely still under his hand.
He does touch her–no more than a hesitant offer of his arm which she takes, as delicately as if she’s some society lady, not the half-blood daughter of Polish-Jewish immigrants, who fought and scrapped her way through school and work like it might be taken from her at any moment. And her heart does steady under Newt’s hand, and his pulse goes wild under her touch like a creature of myth chasing light. They walk down the streets of New York like any other young couple, but the air and the light treats them just a little differently, just a little gentler around them, magic leaking out and shifting the world by degrees, the smallest indications of what they can’t say yet–but will, if Tina has any say about it.