“For the sixth time, Newt,” said Tina, pinching the bridge of her nose, “stop talking to your spoon.”
Her voice had such a tense edge to it that Newt immediately lowered the spoon down onto the table (he didn’t want Tina to start scolding the spoon, the spoon had done nothing to deserve it). Only, there was no table in front of him and the spoon was quicker than his fingers – and so it ended up slipping from his grasp and clattering down onto the floor in front of Percival’s closed office door.
Newt tried to pick it up, but it was terribly difficult to aim his hand right and he had to lean even closer. Unfortunately, it appeared that his head had gained a considerable amount of weight since that morning because when he leant forward on the bench to reach out for the spoon, the weight of his head pulled his whole body forward and he fell from his seat, headfirst, hitting the floor with a soft “ouch”.
There was a loud sigh coming from Tina’s direction even as Newt, triumphant, managed to pick up the fallen spoon from where it was on the floor right in front of his face.
“Hardins and Otterfield will be lucky if Graves only gives them an oral reprimand for this,” she was muttering as if to herself, but since Newt couldn’t understand how it could have possibly been Hardins and Otterfield’s fault that he had fallen off the bench, he had to tell Tina as much.
He let her know that Percival wasn’t nearly so unreasonable that he would have given warnings to people for things they hadn’t done, but Tina merely sighed again in response before her arms appeared out of nowhere and she began to try and lift him up.
Sadly, not only had Newt’s head gained a lot of weight since that morning, but it now turned out that there was also something wrong with his legs because he simply couldn’t get them working, to support him.
“It’s because you’re drunk, Newt.” Tina sounded exasperated. “Now, do try to get back on the bench before Graves comes back. It’s going to be painful enough for Hardins and Otterfield as it is, but if Graves sees you down on the floor, he will chew on them till there’s nothing left but bones. I normally wouldn’t mind – Merlin knows they’d deserve it, you could have died of an overdose! – but Otterfield is the only bass singer in our all auror singing group, Audible Arrest, and we have a concert next week. We can’t afford to lose him now. So you need to get up on your seat, Newt. Please.”
Newt looked down at his uncooperative legs. Tina had spoken too fast and she had spoken a lot, and while Newt had heard the words – while he had listened to the words – he hadn’t been able to comprehend the meaning of them before more words had already followed.
He raised his hand and looked at his reflection on the back of the spoon.
“Can you tell me what Tina just said?” he asked his reflection, careful to keep his voice low enough so Tina wouldn’t hear him – he didn’t want her to think him impolite for the way he hadn’t been able to comprehend her.
As Newt looked, his reflection with its twisted face – nose as large as the rest of its face, tiny eyes, tiny jaw – shook its head looking just as regretful as Newt felt.
“Oh,” Newt said, disappointed. “What a pity. Do you-”
“For fuck's sake, Scamander!” Tina snapped beside him, cutting him off, and the spoon was snatched from his grasp. Newt saw Tina shoving it in the pocket of her uniform robes before she continued on with her efforts to get him back onto the bench.
“Sorry, spoon,” he whispered in the direction of Tina’s pocket, truly apologetic. He hoped she wouldn’t scold his reflection too hard – she had clearly had something against the spoon from the beginning, kind though she usually was.
“Amanda, could you please come and help me.”
Tina sounded desperate, tense, and Newt, concerned and confused, blinked at her the best he could from where he was leaning entirely on her torso, arms limp by his sides. Her hair was tickling his nose and it smelt like the kind of rose soap grandma Scamander had preferred to use.
“Nana once washed Theseus’ mouth with soap,” Newt recalled, lips pressed against the coarse fabric of Tina’s uniform, leaving a wet drool spot on her shoulder, the childhood memory as wistful as it was dear. “Theseus’ toes had gotten under her rocking chair and he had said ‘bollocks’ where she could hear. Afterwards Theseus insisted that it had been such a terrible word that my ears should be washed too because I had heard it. Nana agreed. I haven’t had such clean ear canals since.”
“Oh dear, he’s completely out of it, isn’t he, slurring his words like that.”
That was Percival’s secretary, Amanda, and Newt twisted his neck to look at her. Brown hair stylishly curled to frame her narrow face as always, she stood beside them, her painted lips downturned, arms crossed on her thin chest.
“Never mind that,” groaned Tina, shifting under Newt’s weight. “Just help me to get him on the bench. Please, Mandy. Before Director Graves comes back from lunch.”
“He’s not eating lunch,” said Amanda, “but at a meeting with Emmanuel Heraldson, the head auror from our base in Chicago.”
“Yes, yes, yes. Doesn’t really matter where he is for as long as he’s not yet here. Just, please, help me with Newt.”
Amanda did and some time later Newt found himself sitting on the bench.
“Thank you, Mandy,” panted Tina and Amanda went back to her desk, adjusting her rumpled clothes.
As they sat on the bench side by side, Tina had an arm around Newt and a firm hold on his arm as if she thought he might fall off the bench otherwise – she seemed to have forgotten that she had taken Newt’s spoon and Newt therefore could not drop the said spoon again which meant that there would be no other reason for him to lean forward and fall off again.
“Yes, I know I took your spoon,” she said when he pointed this out to her. “You have said so four times so far.”
Newt frowned. He didn’t remember doing so, but he must have because Tina never lied to him. If only he had had his spoon, he could have asked his reflection whether it remembered him doing so. Only, Newt didn’t have the spoon because-
“Yes, I know I took your spoon!” Tina sounded frustrated. “You have told me. Several times.”
Newt studied her closely. Her lips were downturned, an angry tight line, she was glaring straight ahead.
“Are you mad at me?” he dared to ask.
Her hold around him relaxed a little.
“Not at you, Newt, no." She gave him a tight smile. “And don’t you worry about it any. You just… You just focus on happy thoughts until Graves comes back. And try not to fall off again. You are heavier than you look.”
Relieved, Newt tried to do as she had advised. He thought various happy thoughts of his fantastic beasts and of Percival, of Percival and of Tina and Queenie and Jacob, of Theseus and their mother and father, of mom and dad and hippogriffs, of hippogriffs and his other fantastic beasts.
And before Newt knew it, Percival was there kneeling before him, dark eyes studying his face closely. Percival was wearing his fine black suit, the one he wore for important meetings, and the grey tie Queenie had helped Newt to choose for Percival for Christmas was there around his neck. He had a black file under his arm and a steaming coffee cup in hand, but he handed them both over to Tina who released her hold around Newt in order to take the offered items.
Even as he reached for Percival’s tie unable to not touch it, Newt made a point of staying on the bench rather than falling off of it – he was capable of sitting without falling off even if there was no-one there holding onto him, thank you very much. He had a lot of experience of sitting on things, after all, and it was hardly the first time he was sitting on a bench, on this particular bench.
Tina and Percival were talking, but Newt was too content to play with Percival’s tie to listen to them. That was, of course, until Percival was snapping his fingers in front of Newt’s face. Newt blinked at the snapping fingers, slightly startled, his fingers toying with the grey tie coming to a momentarily halt.
“Try to pay attention, Newt, will you,” Percival was saying with his brows furrowed.
“I took him to the healers. They said he’ll be fine after he’s slept it off, but his levels were high enough to be of some concern. Healer Brahms said that he would have needed to take Newt in just in case, if Newt had drunk just a few drops more.”
Tina was speaking so fast she sounded out of breath, it was like she was in a hurry to explain it all to Percival. She spoke so fast Newt couldn’t comprehend anything she was saying – where Newt’s head had grown heavy, her mouth had grown fast – but he did his best to look attentive so her feelings wouldn’t get hurt, so Percival wouldn’t tell him to “pay attention” again.
“Thank you, Goldstein.”
Newt played with the grey tie, content to let his mind wander now that Tina was no longer talking.
After a few moments, there was a finger tapping against his thigh. Humming, Newt looked from the finger up to Percival’s face. Based on the frown on the handsome face, Percival had been trying to get his attention for a while already.
“Tina tells me Hardins and Otterfield had you drinking spiked troll gin,” Percival said when Newt had given him all his attention. “How much of it did you drink exactly, do you remember?”
Newt did his best to comprehend each word. Thankfully, Percival was speaking slower than Tina, more clearly, and his speech was therefore easier to follow.
The thing was, Newt really liked listening to Percival. Percival had a lovely voice, a voice smooth like a thunderbirdling’s back (thunderbirdlings’ backs were very smooth indeed, Newt knew this from having groomed several). Where they might have been different, Percival and Newt, where their personalities might have differed, they still understood each other where it counted. They understood each other and they liked each other and Newt was very fond of Percival indeed.
Heart filled with warmth for the man kneeling before him, Newt let go off the silk tie so he could twine his arms around Percival’s neck. The dark eyes studying him widened and Newt pressed their foreheads together in a fond, playful manner – or at least that was what he tried to do, but since his head was now made of lead, had been for some time, his gentle move turned into one sharp fast headbutt and he ended up slamming his forehead against Percival’s, eliciting a startled gasp from Tina and a pained grunt from Percival who was quick to pull back from Newt even if his arms were now the only thing keeping Newt from falling off the bench.
Newt’s head hurt. He looked at Percival, slightly accusing and really quite confused.
“Why is your head so hard?”
Tina let out a strangled noise, something not entirely unlike a laugh which quickly turned into a cough. Percival had a pinched look on his face and a red mark on his forehead, but he offered Newt a smile even if it looked quite tense.
“Have Hardins and Otterfield report in my office immediately, Goldstein,” Percival snapped, eyeing Newt's forehead with a frown. “And for Merlin’s sake, bring us some ice.”
Newt was lying on a sofa in Percival’s study where Percival had left him lying under a white fur blanket that was so soft and looked so expensive that it likely had cost more than everything in Newt’s study down his suitcase put together. The door to Percival’s office was closed, but Newt could hear Percival’s raised voice through it.
Percival was shouting. He sounded angry and kept on saying things like “irresponsible” and “civilian” and “inexcusable behavior” and “two experienced aurors – what were you even thinking”. They were words that reminded Newt very much of words like “duty” and “responsibility” which, in turn, were words that reminded Newt of things that had to be done.
The longcase clock by Percival’s bookcase – filled with thick books about illegal curses, unforgivable curses, “appropriate conduct of internal business” and other such topics related to Percival’s line of work – was striking seven. It startled Newt, the sound startled him – he hadn’t been down in his suitcase since afternoon, since he had left Percival’s study in order to go buy a bite to eat, since he had encountered two aurors who had asked him to help them with a case, to taste “a harmless drink” they thought might have had English origins – “Let us know if you recognize anything of the taste, it might be vital for solving this case,” they had advised him when Newt had agreed to help, always willing to do so for Percival’s people.
On the other side of the door, Percival sounded very mad indeed. It sounded like he wasn’t happy that the two aurors had asked Newt’s help. It was a sad thought, but Newt didn’t have the time to go talk to Percival about it right now since his first priority right now was to go down in his suitcase to feed his creatures, to groom them, to make sure everything was fine, to see to it that all beasts were content – he had already been gone for too long as it was.
The fur blanket softened his fall when he rolled off the sofa down onto the Persian rug.
“Ouch,” Newt said dutifully because that was what you were supposed to say when you fell onto the floor, even if it hadn’t hurt.
It took Newt a while to untangle himself from the blanket, but eventually he managed to get free. His suitcase was under the sofa right where he had left it earlier that day and he didn’t therefore need to try to move far to get it – thankfully, since his limbs were still rather uncooperative and he had a hard time to get them to move the way he wanted.
With a quite a lot of effort, Newt managed to pull the suitcase from under the sofa. He stroked it fondly and then moved his fingers to the hatches. It took him so many times to try to open them that by the time he managed to do so, Percival had stopped shouting and there was the sound of a deep mumble of an auror saying something, sounding rather panicked, although Newt, frowning down at his suitcase, couldn’t make out the words – not that he was particularly listening to them either, focused on opening his suitcase as he was.
Surely it usually didn’t take him this much effort to open the suitcase, did it? He didn’t think it did.
Eventually, the hatches snapped open and, with a sigh of relief, Newt managed to open his suitcase – but instead of the stairs leading down to his study he had expected to see, there were clothes and a toothbrush and a Muggle newspaper dating back months.
Startled, Newt closed the suitcase and opened it again – but the stairs leading down to his study still didn’t appear, the clothes and the toothbrush remained there where the stairs should have been.
Newt’s heart was pounding in his chest, dread freezing like the ice Percival had been pressing against his forehead moments earlier filled him to the core, seeping straight to his heart.
What had happened to his suitcase? Where were the stairs? Where were the stairs?
Newt closed the suitcase again, but the suitcase was his, it was his suitcase, there was no doubt about it, he recognized the slight dents and scratches, the worn edges. It was his suitcase.
But why were the stairs not there?
Desperate, Newt opened the suitcase again. Clothes, toothbrush, the newspaper.
But no stairs.
something had happened to his suitcase!
When he realized what must have happened, horror hit Newt, horror crushing like a dragon, having lost its wings midflight, slamming to the ground: something must have happened to the Extension Charms he had casted on the suitcase, he must have done something wrong, his charms must have failed.
His charms had failed.
He had failed.
He had failed his beasts, the Extension Charms had failed – and his creatures were now either crushed to bits, into tiny particles, or they were trapped in the suitcase with no way out, with no way for Newt to reach them.
The horror of it all, the distraught loss, the way he had betrayed his creatures, it caught Newt’s breath, had his heart breaking into thousands of pieces, and when the first sob found its way to his lips and past them, he was unable to hold back his anguish. He ended up on his side on Percival’s Persian carpet, hugging the suitcase to his chest, bawling, his body shaking with sobs.
The door to the study was wrenched open and steps hurried to him, but Newt was barely aware of this, trapped in his anguish as he was.
A hand was placed on his arm and he was given a bit of a shake.
“Newt?” Percival sounded worried. “Newt, doll, what is it? Are you hurting?”
Newt kept on crying, kept on hugging his suitcase, stroking it, distraught by the unforgivable way he had failed his creatures. If his creatures were still alive in it, he would never reach them, never could. The beasts had trusted him and he had failed them. He had failed. He wouldn’t reach them, couldn’t, because there were no stairs, because the Extension Charms had failed, and his creatures – his amazing, wise, fantastic beasts – would start eating each other until the very last one of them would starve to death, would die of thirst. He had trapped his beasts and had brought carnage upon them.
“I am a monster!” he managed from his sobs. “A m-monster of the worst kind.”
“Niffler will be e-eaten,” he sobbed, the leather of his suitcase cool and hard against his cheek. “They’ll all starve because of me! How could I do this to them?”
“What are you on about?”
Percival was rubbing circles on his back. Newt pulled away, curling tightly around the suitcase, allowing the edges to bite into his flesh. He didn’t deserve comfort, he didn’t deserve Percival touching him gently when his creatures were about to- about to-
He cried harder.
“Hardins!” Percival had raised his voice. “Hardins, here, this instant!”
Hurried steps approached.
“Go get me a healer. And be quick about it.”
The sound of steps running.
A hand was placed on Newt’s arm, but again Newt flinched away, denying himself the comfort.
“Newt,” Percival’s voice was gentle. “Newt, you must calm down. What has happened?”
Newt felt his heart breaking all over again.
“I can’t get to my creatures,” he confessed, ashamed, broken, voice barely audible. “I can’t get to them. The Extension Charms on my suitcase have failed. My creatures are either trapped, or- or-“
A sob cut him off.
“Why don’t you let me take a look?” Percival asked after a bit of a pause, and after some more coaxing, Newt let him.
As Newt watched, tears streaming down his temples to wet his hair, lying on his back as he now was, Percival turned the suitcase this way and that, a contemplative look on his face.
“You have the No-Maj switch flipped on,” he said after but a few seconds. “Did you not notice?”
Percival flipped the switch off, put the suitcase down onto the floor and opened it. A smile tugged at his lips when he looked at the contents.
“There, now,” he said, eyes twinkling as he smiled down at Newt. “Dry your tears, doll. It’s all fixed now.”
And when Newt dared to raise his head to take a look – the stairs were there, leading down in the suitcase! The stairs were there and he could see his study from above. He could see baby mooncalves playing there in his study mewing joyfully.
Percival – the amazing, wonderful Percival Graves – had fixed Newt’s failure. Percival had saved Newt’s creatures!
Percival was a hero.
Newt scrambled to sit up, overcome with gratefulness, with relief, with- with- with-
“I love you,” he told Percival, his suitcase, his creatures, Percival. “I love you!”
And then his stomach finally protested the spiked troll gin he had drunk earlier – and he promptly threw up all over Percival’s expensive fur blanket.
Percival sighed, patting his back.