It happened while Hermann was reading the paper, absently stirring his cup of tea, and Newt was spreading jam on his toast, trying to remember how a song on the radio went. Suddenly he was holding his toast but didn’t have his knife, and he was standing in a candlelit room with dark velvet curtains.
“Oh shit! What the fuck!”
“Doctor Geiszler, I presume.”
It was a voice with a very posh, weirdly familiar accent. Newt squinted in the candlelight as a tall dark-haired woman emerged from an anteroom. She was striking, dressed in muted green from head to toe, jewelry sparkling like her dark brown eyes.
“Please step out of the circle carefully. The chalk smudges.”
Newt obeyed without even asking why, shocked as he was. A strawberry dropped from his toast and onto the floor. Same, he thought numbly.
“Uh,” he finally stuttered once his voice got working again. “Where am I? Who are you? Can you put me back, please?”
“Really, Newton,” the woman huffed, and the weird penny finally dropped.
“Oh, you must be Karla. ”
Hermann talked about Karla more than any of his other siblings combined, about how she was stylish and exceptionally eccentric, and kept a practice in London, though he was constantly skirting about what her business really was. Newt assumed it had something to do with magic; Hermann showed Newt a little book of spells she made him when they were children, and even Newt could feel the deep power which came from its worn pages.
“Brilliant deduction. You can either eat your toast or drop it, but I’m afraid you can’t do both.”
Newt took a bite of his toast, and then another thought came to him.
“Does Hermann know where I am?” he asked, cheeks bulging. “Because I must have just vanished, and even if I was magic, vanishment over breakfast would…”
“Oh, he’s been informed.” Karla dismissively waved her hand.
“But where are we? Hermann said you live in England so we must be… Did I just hop a whole ocean? How does that even work?”
Newt couldn’t stay still now. He peeked out a window and saw a bustling, very English street below. The sun was setting. Newt ate the rest of his toast, tried to wrap his head around what he was seeing.
“Can, uh, can Hermann do this?” he asked, turning to Karla.
“Does it trouble you? That he could?”
“No,” Newton laughed giddily. “I think it’s awesome.”
“I forgot, you are a collector of the strange and unusual.”
“I guess you could say that I mean… wow, you really must know your stuff! I don’t know what any of this shit is, I gotta ask Hermann… wait, what is this about?” Newt asked, looking up from an old tome in what looked like Hebrew. What he remembered from his bar mitzvah was not helping him at all. “Is this a shotgun talk?”
“It’s a shotgun talk,” Karla confirmed, and Newt groaned.
“I thought his mom’s side was free of the patriarchal bullshit,” he said. “Look, Hermann is no wilting flower. He’s a risktaker, and he’s strong and smart. When he kissed me for the first time, and he kissed me , Karla, I was already with him, and when he proposed, I swore I wouldn’t ever leave.”
Karla raised an eyebrow.
“My father was scared of Mum’s power, in the same breath of denying it he would fear it,” she finally said. “I didn’t think you would be, of course, and the way Hermann talks about you is nothing like my parents, even at their best.”
“But you are reckless and led by curiosity. It will break his heart if curiosity leads you from him,” Karla said.
“If you really think that I’d drop him after a bit, like a hobby or something, why didn’t you talk to him before we got married?”
“Because you eloped?”
They did elope. Newt bit his lip, twisted the ring around his finger. He thought about how wrapped up in each other they were for those first few intoxicating weeks after the war, how neither Newt or Hermann could bear the thought of coordinating a proper wedding, with a rabbi and chuppah and their families and everything. It had made sense to exchange the rings and get the fuck outta Dodge at that point, and they made glancing promises about a small commitment ceremony friends and family could attend, in a temple of Grandma Geiszler insisted, maybe a year down the road when everything was a little less frantic. But a year was coming up, and they hadn’t done any of that.
“Whoops?” he offered gamely. To his immense surprise, Karla burst out laughing.
“Oh dear, I like you.”
“Too bad, I’m already married,” Newt responded automatically, setting Karla into another gale of laughter.
“You must infuriate him on an hourly basis,” she said gleefully. “And I suppose he must give as good as he gets.”
“Hell yeah, and he plays dirty.”
“He always did.”
Karla clapped, and the room seemed brighter all of a sudden. A radio hopped to life, playing some light eighties music, and from the anteroom, a kettle whistled.
“I’m going to give you a little something for Hermann so you can take with you,” she said. “I would mail it but postage is exorbitant these days.”
“Preach,” Newt said, and Karla pressed a small velvet bag into his hand. “What is it?”
“A few charms, for his altars. I hear you live in a very haunted house.”
“So he tells me.” Newt sighed. “But I haven’t seen a single ghost.”
Karla seemed intrigued by this, and Newt grinned wider if that were even possible.
“So Hermann isn’t blowing smoke up my ass? He told me I’m a medium, and I thought that was a weird attempt to protect my feelings seeing as I can’t do magic or anything, but apparently, I just trail ghosts like some people track dirt through a house.”
“You brought… something with you,” Karla said, and pulled a twist of black something out of thin air from beside Newt’s air, like a magic trick. Newt’s eyes widened, and he opened his mouth, trying to figure out what order to ask his questions in, and decided to just go with whichever ones came to his head first.
“That’s a ghost? Like a person? Someone who was alive ? And I brought it, them with me? But my butter knife didn’t come with me? Do they know things? Like, are they sapient? Do they know they’re dead?”
Karla shook her head, and the entity disappeared again.
“Not my expertise, I’m afraid. Hermann knows more about spirits. I’m a more practical sort, no matter what he says.”
“I’m gonna plotz, Karla, Hermann doesn’t tell me shit. Can I have your cell phone number? Run up your data at like 3 am if I have questions? We have to be friends.”
Karla smiled, and Newt’s cell phone (which also came with him? how? ) pinged.
“My number is in there now. Welcome to the family, Newton. I’m going to send you back now.”
Before Newt could respond, or say goodbye, or anything, he was plopped back at the breakfast table in his and Hermann’s house. Hermann was at the sink and raised his brow in Newt’s general direction.
“I’m sorry about Karla,” he said. He was washing dishes, a task he only elected to do when he was nervous, as they had a very efficient and highly capable dishwasher. “She often puts her nose in other people’s business…”
Newt walked right up to him and kissed him full on the mouth.
“I love her. I love you,’ he said. “Were you worried she would scare me off?”
“Of course not,” Hermann said, flustered and a pleased red from the kiss. “I’m glad it went well. I was worried you wouldn’t hit it off.”
“Are you kidding? With my charm and good looks?” Newt grinned. “Anyway, we should visit her sometime. Maybe have her here. I bet you two could get up to real magical shenanigans given half the chance.”
“And then what would she get up to with you?” Hermann said with a smile. “I reckon she showed you the greenhouse.”
“The greenhouse?” Newt repeated.
“Her apothecary is one of the finest in Europe,” Hermann said. “She has a small conservatory of magical plants and insects.”
“She did not show me that, ‘cause she knew my little muggle brain would explode! Hermann? That’s so cool? I am texting her right now, but after I kiss you again dude. I went overseas and I missed you.”
“That’s nonsense, you were gone half an hour at the most.”
“Half an hour and I missed you,” Newt reiterated, pecked Hermann on the cheek, and put the velvet pouch in Hermann’s hand. “And she gave these to me. She says for your altars.”
“Oh,” Hermann said and opened the bag. “Oh, lovely.”
He emptied the pouch, twisted bits of metal and vibrant bits of wood that still looked living. Immediately he lay one of the twigs on the kitchen altar and nodded when something happened that Newt couldn’t perceive. Then Hermann looked over at Newt with the fond crinkle in his eyes Newt had come to cherish for the time they’d been married. He couldn’t imagine ever being scared of this, the everything that Hermann was, wished he had the ability to tell Hermann this and make him believe. Instead, he just leant over the kitchen altar and let Hermann explain it, as best he could.