Graves let out a sharp whistle. "Everyone, in line, now!"
Immediately following his command, four small bodies rushed clumsily to line up beside one another. Another body, considerably smaller than its more reasonably small comrades, toddled haphazardly behind the others while shouting "line, line, line!"-- or rather, attempting to shout line. Graves wasn't entirely sure what his son was trying to say, to be honest.
As it was summer and the oldest children were not attending their preparatory school, someone was required to watch the large brood of offspring that had been produced (at the time, very enthusiastically) by Graves and his mate Newt. However, Newt was off dealing with an illegal breeder of bowtruckles, Queenie and Jacob were at a pastry conference on the west coast, and Tina was not currently an option, having refused to allow the children in her office. This was due to the fact that she was still trying to get the smell out from her carpets after their last visit; Graves felt that this was very unfair of her, but Newt hadn't allowed him to put her on janitorial, the menace.
That left Graves, who had no feasible excuse to duck out of child duty. Graves had, therefore, gotten stuck with six children who were in their own, special way well-behaved.* They had managed to entertain themselves semi-quietly in his, thankfully very spacious, office for the morning.
Now, however, it was time for lunch. As such, the Graves and his brood would be required to emerge from his office and make the perilous journey to the the front doors of the MACUSA headquarters. The journey was fraught with distractions, shiny things and small creatures, as well as nosey aurors that needed to mind their own damned business, thank you very much. But Graves was certain he could manage it.
Like 80% certain, even. Maybe 90%, barring something particularly shiny making an appearance.
Graves examined his children as he stood, feet planted and holding a cooing and spit-burbling infant, in front of his desk. Five sets of eyes stared ahead, their owners standing with expressions of mock seriousness that suggested that while their father was serious about this whole affair, they were approaching it as fun bonding time, complete with a game of pretend soldiers. The gravitas of their father in his office-- previously a place of terror and hopeless despair for any new aurors-- was somewhat lost on them.
Graves watched as his youngest son, attempting so single-mindedly to stand stiff and at attention, nearly tipped himself over. He felt a sudden itch to look at his ceiling for patience, but managed to restrain himself. Largely because nothing on the ceiling would help him with his offspring.
That he knew of, at least.
"What are the rules?" Graves asked, moving to pace back and forth in front of the line of children. "Theseus**?"
The eldest boy snapped his hand to his forehead and responded, "Quiet in the halls, sir!"
"That means no unnecessary giggling," Graves added, feeling that if he didn't clarify this fact the youngest of his brood would make him regret it. "Maggie?"
Magdalena "Maggie" Graves was the second of the Scamander-Graves brood. Her dark hair, the same shade as Graves', was done up in clever little ringlets, courtesy of her Aunt Queenie, who, after realizing that both Newt and Graves were hopeless with a brush and likely to knot anything they touched, made it a point to flame in every morning to do the hair of the two Graves girls.
She bit her lip and gave her father a hesitant look. "No picking up things that don't belong to us, Daddy?"
Graves nodded, pleased. "Including any creatures you find." He shot a sharp look at Theseus. "That includes the house elves, Theseus. I don't want to see you trying to convince one to come home with us again."
Theseus nodded petulantly.
Graves noted that the boy's thick black eyebrows were set in a such a manner as to suggest that he would do no such thing. He'd address that problem when it came, he supposed. While he was the mirror image of Graves at eight, he had taken after him mum in personality and could frequently be found attempting to 'adopt' any hapless creature that looked at him too long, especially if it had fangs. Little that Graves said, did, or yelled had any effect to the contrary.
"Rolf?" He turned towards his third son, a six-year-old with wide blue eyes and a smattering of freckles that ranged across his entire body.
"No running?" Rolf, the most frequent offender of this rule, should not sound so uncertain about it, Graves thought. Merlin knew that the child had heard this rule shouted at him more than he heard his own name.
"Correct, Rolf." Graves came to a stop in front of the last two children in line. Gwen, four, and Artie, two, had lost interest in the soldier game, and two mops of curly auburn hair were bent over to look at something Gwen had pulled from her jumper. Upon realizing that their father was staring at them, they looked up guiltily and Gwen, after Graves produced a hand expectantly, very reluctantly handed over the roach she had been examining with her brother.
Graves, used to being handed things with multiple legs, put the bug in his pants pocket to be dealt with later.
"You are all to be quiet, leave things alone, walk," this was stressed with a pointed look at Rolf, "and stay together. What's the golden rule?"
"Stay by daddy," several voices chimed. Artie, not quite able to repeat the family mantra, simply crowed "daddy!" in the happy voice of a two-year-old.
Graves nodded, satisfied that his offspring would behave as well as was in their abilities. Shifting little Tina in his arms, he spun smartly on his heels and headed towards the door. "Hold you position!" he called to the small line of children following behind him. Immediately, several uncoordinated bodies attempted to coordinate themselves into a line, to questionable success.
Leading his brood out of his office, Graves reflected upon that fact that it was a very difficult thing to be feared and respected by your colleagues when you led around a gaggle of children like a mother duck. No matter how well-behaved said children were, new hires got Ideas about the whole thing. Fear levels were at an all time low, and Graves worried for his Image.
As they passed through the hallway, several employees paused to smile and "d'aww" at his children. Graves took the opportunity to scowl darkly at one auror who had bravely stopped to coo at little Artie. The alpha jumped and scattered, causing the other onlookers to head immediately in a direction that was headed away from the Graves clan, though not necessarily to anywhere of particular importance.
At least there were some remnants of fear, Graves mused, mollified.
The Scamander-Graves brood were semi-frequent visitors to the MACUSA offices. Babysitters were often difficult to find, especially when Newt and Graves were so particular in regards to who watched the children. Add to that the fact that all of the children smuggled various creatures around in their pockets, and there were about five people who were qualified and willing to watch the little terrors. When those people couldn't be reached, the duty of ensuring that the children lived on to be terrorized by their own children fell to one of their parents. Graves, stuck behind his desk more often than not as the Director of Defense, was the better choice between him and his mate when it came to being the necessary responsible party. Newt's chosen line of work often involved things setting spontaneously on fire, and Graves wasn't entirely sure that his offspring had developed their mum's flame retardant nature.
So here he was, walking for what seemed like the umpteenth time through the hallways of his work place with a gaggle of children trailing behind him. Several years ago, he thought forlornly, everyone would have been shocked to see him with small children hanging off of various limbs; now it was taken as part of the daily routine at MACUSA.
Maybe he should have sent the kids with Queenie to the pastry conference, after all. Just to shake things up a bit.
A tug to the back of his jacket drew Graves' attention to Gwen. The little omega was biting her lip and looking agitated. "Daddy," she whispered loudly, "Daddy, I need to go pee-pee."
Several nearby aurors heard this and did their level best to act as if they had not heard it. This involved much shuffling of paper and, in one case, spontaneous whistling. One auror, newly hired and never exposed to the Time Before the Children, snickered to himself and elbowed the auror beside him. The other auror paled and backed away hastily, suddenly remembering something to be done on the other side of the building.
"Report to janitorial, Mr. Robertson," Graves snarled, glaring at the offender. Said offender stopped laughing abruptly and let out a dejected, "Aww." The man trudged away, head down and shoulders slumped. The remaining aurors watched him go with a pitying, if somewhat of an "I could have told you so," look in their eyes.
Image somewhat restored, Graves turned his attention back to his daughter. She was doing a small dance that bespoke of her need to relieve herself and letting out a distressed humming sound. The nearest bathroom, Graves realized with dread, was on the next floor. Due to the wards in the office, Graves wouldn't be able to apparate to the restrooms, and there was little chance of Gwen making the walk over.
"Can you hold it?" he asked, looking around in a slightly panicked manner. "Just for a moment longer, sweetheart."
Gwen shook her head, whipping her red ringlets back and forth in an almost violent manner.
Graves managed to keep from cursing, but only just.
"Everything alright over here, Mr. Graves?" a familiar voice asked, somewhat dubiously. Tina, having followed the sound of excessive cooing and awing to the gaggle of her honorary nieces and nephews, was standing at the back of the line of Graveses, her arms crossed and an eyebrow raised.
Salvation had come in the form of Tina Goldstein.
Ignoring the cries of "Auntie Tina!" that broke out behind him, Graves shoved Tina's namesake at her before whirling around to sweep Gwen up in his arms.
"Watch them!" he barked.
Then, to the shock and slight horror of those around him, Graves took off at a sprint for the elevator. One auror had to support herself against a wall in face of the sheer amount of shock that arose from seeing Directer Graves running down the hallway. Even Tina was a bit taken aback, though she quickly gathered herself.
Now in charge of four children and an infant, Tina looked around her with a sigh, before saying, "Let's take the lot of you home, then." Then, "No, we're not going to my office." Followed by, "Because the last time I let you lot in there you ruined my carpet, that's why," when one child requested an explanation for this unfair banishment.
Graves, meanwhile, had made it to the elevator. The goblin inside looked at him with an expression that suggested that he was very unimpressed. Graves attempted to look put together and calm, but was sold out by his daughter, who let out a loud cry of, "Daddy, I really have to go pee-pee!"
"The next floor, immediately," Graves barked out. The goblin, after a silent moment of judgement more, pulled the lever to start the elevator.
The several seconds it took to get to the next floor were some of the longest in Graves' life. Gwen was whimpering in his arms and his arch-nemesis-- that is, the elevator goblin, was emitting dangerously high levels of judgement. When they arrived at the next floor, Graves flew out of the elevator without thanking the goblin. Not because the goblin had won in their nonexistent battle of nonchalance; rather, Graves was simply ensuring that his daughter made it to the bathroom.
"Daddy, I can't hold it!" Gwen wailed. She tugged on his jacket. "Hurry! Hurry!"
Graves was damn well hurrying, it was just that some idiot hadn't designed the building with readily available bathrooms.
He pushed his way through a crowd of aurors, and, seeing more ahead of him, bellowed, "Out of my way!" Immediately, aurors began to dive to the side and a path was cleared in front of him. Graves, happy to see that the Graves Mandate was still in effect despite the cheekiness of select new hires, continued his sprint towards the bathroom with significantly less obstacles in his way.
He was several feet away from the bathroom when Gwen let out a small, "Ohhh!" and Graves felt a sudden warmth around his abdomen. With dawning horror, he looked down and saw a wet spot spreading across his favorite jacket. Gwen, having let her bladder go, gave a small sigh of relief even as she said, "Oopsie."
Oopsie was right, Graves thought. He was standing in his work place, holding a now wet child and smelling very much like "pee-pee."
This couldn't get any worse.
Behind him, Mr. Robertson, recently demoted to janitorial, chose that moment to appear. "Pshahaha-- I mean, can I," more uncontrollable giggling, "that is-- do you need help, Director?" It was very clear to anyone with eyes that Graves did, in fact need help.
Graves sighed. Next time, the kids were going to the damned conference with Queenie. It wouldn't hurt them to put on a pound or ten.
*-- Which is to say that they tried very hard to do as they were told, but despite their best and most earnest efforts were rarely able to do so.
**-- Theseus was named after his uncle in an attempt by his parents to mitigate some of said uncle's righteous fury upon finding out that his old friend had knocked up his precious baby brother. Nature, the bastard, had taken the opportunity to ensure that Theseus took after his namesake in name as well as personality; the little alpha seemed to have made it his life's mission to ensure that his father was never alone in a room with his mum. Still, when Newt wasn't around, the child seemed to tolerate Graves, perhaps even like him.***
***-- This was very much the approach taken by Theseus the Elder when it came to Graves, actually.