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Can I lay by your side

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Newt is spending his 15th month as assistant professor at Hogwarts when he hears the soft whispers passing around the students. The voices are low and hushed, like a secret they shouldn’t readily divulge. As it often is in Hogwarts, Newt is only too aware that student gossip shouldn’t quite concern a man who is way ahead of them in years, and has little reason to involve himself in one of the many relationship triangles that seemed to plague every school year. But this seems different – there’s an undertone of dread and darkness, tendrils lacing into every word Newt picks up.

He carefully side-steps a handful of third years as he hobbles forward towards Professor Kettleburn’s office. In one hand, he carries a bucket full of cured ferret meat, in the other, a stack of parchment papers – homework assignments submitted during an earlier class. He fumbles his way across the courtyard and through the winding hallways and towers, all the while keeping his head low while a light snow shower continues to fall overhead. Time has bled well into December while he’s been kept at Hogwarts, Newt has only been too painfully aware of the time while everything seemed to move ahead without him.

He can’t help but think he’s stalling. That everyone on Dumbledore’s side has been stalling, for what, he’s not too sure. But it leaves him antsy with every passing day.

Fumbling for his wand, Newt flicks his wrist to open the door to Professor Kettleburn’s office and enters, setting the ferret meat by the door and moving to his desk. “Good afternoon, sir,” Newt mumbles. Customary, to say the least – Newt didn’t favour conversations and a greeting has always been an open invitation to conversation.

“Scamander,” Kettleburn greets in return. He smiles warmly. “Thank you for getting the ferret meat out of the snow.” Professor Kettleburn is about to return to his work when Newt ventures a question. See, in the whispers Newt has heard in passing, he’s quite sure he’s picked up the words “Aurors in the courtyard” and “Grindelwald” among the voices and it had unsettled him.

“Professor, I was wondering-,” Newt starts, and then falters. He’s not sure what he should ask, if anything at all; Professor Kettleburn is likely to be kept in the dark as much as Newt has been. He licks his lips and tries again, acting nonchalant as he shrugs off his coat. The dusting of snow falls to the wooden floor, and Newt trains his eyes on it as he parses his next few words. “Uhm, funny things the students have been saying all morning today.”

Professor Kettleburn looks up with his single good eye. There’s a copy of the Daily Prophet folded on the table. Newt can’t quite read what it says, but the picture up front is a man on a broomstick, waving at the camera. “And what have they been saying?”

“Aurors,” Newt says a little too quickly. He turns his gaze upwards, peering through the fringe that falls over his eyes. He feels a little dismayed when he finds a lack of surprise on Professor Kettleburn’s face. “In the castle,” he adds. “A-and talks of Grindelwald?”

“Hmm.” Kettleburn scratches at his chin, thoughtfully. “It is true that I’ve heard the Ministry summon for Professor Dumbledore recently. Doubtful anything went down though. You know how they are, both sides stubborn as a mule.”

Newt cracks a smile, awkward. He doesn’t think Professor Kettleburn has addressed much of any of his concerns, but the man is kind at heart and Newt takes no ill will against the professor. He glances at the clock perched high on the wall: a Muggle thing enchanted with magic. Newt thinks about going to find Tina or Jacob – both captive in Hogwarts along with himself but thinks better of it when he realizes he only has twenty minutes before his next class.

He goes to shuffle more papers together, preparing for a class on murtlaps when his line of thoughts is derailed by the professor.

“Now that you mention it though, I did see the lot of Aurors earlier today,” Kettleburn says brows furrowed, but eyes diverted onto a piece of parchment in his hands. “You don’t suppose we’ve trouble brewing in the distance, do you? Aurors on campus is never a good thing. Isn’t your brother Head Auror?” Professor Kettleburn trails off, distracted.

It’s enough to make Newt halt in his tracks, hands stilling in the midst of an action. His heart is suddenly thundering in his chest, blood rushing to his ears. Theseus, Newt thinks a bit light-headedly. He bites his lower lip to prevent himself from getting too emotional – he couldn’t know for sure if Theseus would be with them. He doesn’t even know for sure that Theseus had survived the attack at Platform 9¾. But his heart aches anyway, a longing and desperation laden with guilt but also with so much affection that seemed to wrangle his logic and cloud his mind.

Newt shuffles through the papers half-heartedly, thoughts miles away to a distant memory of a kiss shared in the dark of the night, Theseus’ hot breath on his collar. The way Newt had mindlessly traced the curve of his brother’s jaw, gently and lovingly.

Newt stops working when he finds, frustratingly, that his fingers are trembling.

-

He wants to find Tina but can’t. He knows she’s been helping out with Professor Slughorn in the past months but fails to find her in the potion chambers in the dungeons, or even in the Professor’s office. He knows where Jacob would be though, undoubtedly busy with his own tasks.

Jacob would likely be in the kitchen helping the elves with the preparation of food. Has been since they’ve all set foot on Hogwarts. Jacob made quick friends with elves that have known Newt since his time at Hogwarts, and everything had slipped into place quite seamlessly. Newt had never been prouder of his Muggle friend, has never been prouder that Jacob would be his first Muggle friend.

But with his friends occupied or missing, Newt doesn’t waste much of his time dawdling. He sets about to find Dumbledore for answers.

His hands clammy with sweat, and his heart pulsing in his throat, Newt makes his rounds around campus. The students greet him heartily, a recognized faculty member, but Newt gives them non-committal responses with his eyes searching the corridors for some of the tallest men Newt knows so well.

Newt hears the voices first, at the foot of the spiral staircase leading up to the Astronomy Tower. The words come in a soft echo, trailing sounds that have lost their edge as they bounced off the walls. Newt’s tired mind regains a vigour, mouth going dry as his mind spirals into a frenzy of hopeful thinking. He charges up the stairs, not caring at all for the clacking of his shoes as he takes the steps two at a time.

He’s not sure how far he’s gone when he stops. In front of him, Professor Dumbledore stood with Theseus next to him, both their bodies turned to welcome the new intruder. Newt, overtaken by some kind of twist of emotion deep in his gut, could only open and close his mouth like a fish.

“Newt,” Dumbledore says, evidently surprised. But Newt is barely looking at the professor, instead his eyes take in the sight of Theseus, standing there, alive and well, and in the flesh.

“Theseus,” Newt says in a breath. He meant to say it more as a statement to himself, but it carries in the dry air of the enclosed space. Newt may not be the most willing candidate when it comes to physical contact, but in that moment, in that dizzyingly light moment of relief, Newt wants to reel his brother in for a hug, a kiss. Or for a good punching, maybe.

The relief that washes over Newt is blissed-out and white; the weightiness of something iron and leaden releases its grip on his heart.

For a long time, Newt believed his brother to have been badly mutilated or worse, dead. In his memory, time had suspended when the ceiling of Platform 9¾ had caved, raining sawdust, plaster and debris from the sky; a snowfall of destruction. He had watched from his carriage as the lifeless bodies of Aurors took deep-dives from the awning hole in the ceiling. It had all happened at a distance, far enough that Newt hadn’t been able to quite pick out features, never knowing if Theseus had fallen then or in any of duels that happened after the Hogwarts Express made a mad runaway while Grindelwald’s followers had been distracted.

With his brother standing before him now, Newt feels equal parts happy and nauseated. The rush of emotions that he’s being forced to feel in a short span makes him want to keel over and hurl out his lunch. But what he does instead is allow himself to marvel at the sight of his brother in the silence that stretches out.

Newt admits there is something statuesque in Theseus’ entirety from the slant of his nose to the square of his jaw, and oddly still, to the shape of his feet. Newt wouldn’t be very much surprised if he cracked open his brother’s skull to find a slab of marble in the seat of his brain cavity – sculpted to perfection like the rest of himself. It would also be a testament to how very, very stupid one Theseus Scamander could be.

“I-I didn’t know you were coming,” Newt says, awkwardly filling in the gaps left in the wake of silence. When the rush of joy and enchantment has died, Newt finds that he’s a little bewildered but oh so bitterly annoyed. He frowns when something twangs funny in his chest.

But the bad blood is not shared and is made apparent when Theseus’ face breaks into a smile – an emotion shadowing underneath it that was there in a second and gone in the next. He takes a step towards Newt, while Professor Dumbledore respectfully hangs back. In moments, Theseus stands before him, firm hand on Newt’s shoulder.

The younger of the two shudders at the contact – the hand is warm, solid and real. Newt wants nothing more than to press his face against his brother’s chest, holding onto him tightly and breathing in the scent of something he’s missed so ridiculously badly. But with the firm grip on his shoulder, Newt stays his distance. He meets Theseus’ eyes for a second before glancing off, gaze too piercing for his liking.

“I meant to surprise you later,” Theseus says quietly. His smile is apologetic but charming all the same. It makes Newt feel a little dizzy, however, Newt frowns still - thinks that if Theseus’ keeps coming up with these cheap, chummy excuses as to why he hadn’t kept in contact, Newt might actually forget himself and throw some punches of whatever strength he can muster.

“Yes, well,” Newt mumbles distastefully, eyes downcast. He fidgets, a nervous tick. Wonders if it’s too late to find Tina so they could maybe run a tag team to actually murder Theseus for real. His voice quivers as he continues, “you being alive is already quite the surprise as it is.”

“Newt…” Dumbledore says empathetically, but offers no more. He is just as complicit at hiding Theseus’ survival if nothing else. Emotions are a complicated thing, and Newt is reminded again why he prefers the comforts of creatures and magical beasts.

As if to save the situation from itself, Theseus compromises. “We can talk about things later, alright Newt?” His eyes are imploring, but Newt thinks, later? It always has to be later with Theseus, like Newt just isn’t worth the time now. But he sees Professor Dumbledore waiting patiently out of the corner of his eye and Newt knows enough social mannerisms to step away when he needs to.

“Alright,” he says, begrudgingly. It doesn’t show in his face, and he keeps his gaze trained on the second button of Theseus’ vest, avoiding any kind of eye contact. He tries not to act childish or selfish in this, because he knows Theseus has a duty as Head Auror. But inside, Newt thinks petulantly that Theseus also has a duty to him, as a brother, and as something more.

-

It is late when Theseus comes knocking on the door to Newt’s quarters. The sun had completely set and the sky is overcast with clouds, a promise of more snow overnight. Newt’s room faces off to the north, with a view of hill tops that stretch far into the distance. They’re mostly still green now, but in the coming days, Newt expects they’ll be blanketed in a whiteness so clean, it would make him feel almost sinful just looking at it.

When Newt opens the door, he finds Theseus’ hand raised to knock a second time.

“Newt,” Theseus murmurs. In the small privacy with just the two of them, the cutting edges of Theseus’ personality that he wears on himself like an armour have been put away. He looks tired but he smiles fondly at Newt, a grin that stretched to his eyes, twinkling with adoration.

And that does it all for Newt. He takes his brother’s face in his hands, skin cold to Newt’s touch, and then pulls Theseus in for what he’s not quite sure – his brain doesn’t catch up with the mechanics of his body. He stops himself mid-action and finds that he has Theseus bent over slightly, lips inches away from Newt’s own in what was probably going to be a kiss.

They stare at each other silently. Newt watches mystified as Theseus’ gaze drops to his lips and then flickers up at his eyes once more, questioning but also slightly amused. Newt frowns, a slight pull to his lips, and then shoves Theseus away, kicking him swiftly in the shin.

Ow! Great Merlin!” Theseus winces, “Alright, perhaps I deserved that.”

“Actually, Thes, quite frankly, I believe you deserve worse,” Newt says unhappily. At that, Theseus laughs.

Newt steps away from the door to let his brother in, then closes the door behind him. When it’s just safely the two of them, Theseus does what he does best and pulls Newt in for a hug.

Newt doesn’t fight it off, instead he settles his face into the crook of Theseus’ neck, surprised by how cold his skin and coat is – like he’s been standing in the wind the whole evening. He probably has been, if he’d been up on the Astronomy Tower all day. Like a rehearsed action, Newt brings his own hands up and crosses them over Theseus’ back, careful as if anything more might cause his brother to break.

“Newt, I’ve missed you,” Theseus breathes after a minute, hot breath fanning over Newt’s ear. Newt shudders and squeezes Theseus, reveling in the physical contact, something real to hold on to. He had missed this dearly – how Theseus fits so nicely tucked against him, how his warmth radiates like a personal furnace, the sturdy press of his chest against Newt’s own. He focuses on the way he can feel Theseus’ heart pulse faintly behind the layers of clothes.

But Newt is quite unimpressed still, and conveys as much with his words: a little barbed; icy and testy. “Then, perhaps you should have written,” Newt says somewhat accusing.

Yet he clings onto his brother, basking in his calming presence. After all these months, Theseus smells the same – sandalwood or another. Newt never quite bothered to keep up with the scents of fancy colognes, something Theseus makes a habit of applying to his person after taking the high road of a career’s man. Having spent so much time apart, Newt feels the familiar ache of regret of not having bothered to spend enough time to get to know Theseus better.

When they pull apart, Newt keeps a hand on Theseus’ arm. “Everyone was- I was so sure you died. No one could tell me - that you were alive or dead.” He glances off to the corner of his room where something gold, wilted and shiny stood on the bedside table. “The nifflers built a monument of you from the chocolate wrappers they nicked from your coat pockets.”

Theseus makes a face, “Thoughtful but unsanitary. That can’t be very clean.”

Newt doesn’t laugh. Doesn’t really know what to feel. He chances a look at Theseus to find his brother still looking at him with a fiery gaze, tinted with longing and love.

“Have more faith in me,” Theseus says finally. He reaches for Newt’s hand and the younger man lets him, just as starved as Theseus is for that familiar touch. “I’m sorry, I really am,” Theseus murmurs after a beat. “I couldn’t write, and anyhow, you would have heard it on the news if I had… you know…”

Confrontation has not been and will never be one of Newt’s fortes. He finds himself waffling in the face of Theseus’ sincerity. He physically wilts on the spot, squeezing his brother’s hand. “The Ministry hasn’t had a good track record as of late, have they? So many people have – have died, but you never hear about it,” Newt makes a gesture, dismayed, “I couldn’t be sure you weren’t one of those.”

As if reluctant to continue the trajectory of their conversation, Theseus takes a step forward, further into Newt’s quarters. He throws Newt another one of his apologetic smiles and Newt knows that that part of the conversation is already over. He bites his lips and says no more.

“So, this is where my little brother has been living,” Theseus comments, switching up the tempo.

Newt’s room isn’t something extravagant – it’s simple but spacious, lit by iron-wrought lamps attached to the walls. There’s a small fire place where Newt burns discarded parchment. There is no décor – Newt hadn’t bothered on the assumption that he wouldn’t have been staying here for more than a month, an assumption that had turned out so cruelly wrong. Had he known, he might have brought a few more of his charts and books to fill up the space.

He lets Theseus wander around the barren room – a sort of fake interest in things that aren’t there. Newt trails behind, fingers still linked and Newt focuses all his time and energy into staring at their hands. Not quite concentrating on where he’s going, Newt accidentally bumps into the corner of his desk, where Theseus has stopped. Theseus looks at him funny, corner of his lip quirked in humour.

“How has your work been? “Theseus inquires. He pages through one of Newt’s deftly written notebooks and sifts through the stray leaflets on the table. There are sketches of figures and plenty of details printed onto parchment with a steady quill, inked with passion. Newt sees the pride on Theseus’ face in the dim fire light, a glow that emanates gold even without trying. It’s a sort of funny feeling Newt feels inside, he squirms at the thought.

“It’s,” Newt flounders for vocabulary. “a job. I get to work with the creatures a lot.”

“See? I knew you’d like it.”

“I suppose,” Newt concedes, although reluctantly. “I could be doing much more though.” He hints at something unspoken between the two of them. He peers at Theseus’ profile through his lashes and finds Theseus pointedly looking away; a conversation he’s determined to delay. Newt looks away – it takes a lot of effort on Newt’s part to not stand his ground, but he also knows that he doesn’t want to sour this special moment of intimacy they’re finally having after months of separation.

“And the view from your window,” Theseus says, overstepping the subject at hand. “Hogwarts always did have a bewitching scenery to match the magic inside.”

They stand by the window, side by side, gazing out into the dark. Newt doesn’t really know what Theseus is talking about – it’s so dark you could hardly see anything. It may be enchanting in the morning but right now, it looks foreboding at best. He turns to face Theseus, to find his older brother’s gaze distant, staring out into something unknown and far away. It unsettles Newt; he doesn’t quite like the look of worry and distractedness on Theseus. So, he tugs at his brother’s hand, tightening his grip and pulling Theseus back to the present. They stare at each other, long and quiet but not uncomfortable.

“What’s wrong?” Theseus asks, though the words seems hollow. They both know what’s wrong, the question almost sounds unhinged in the quiet air. But Theseus’ eyes are searching, and in a beat, he leans forward, towards Newt, and presses a kiss to the corner of his little brother’s lips.

In doing so, Newt takes leverage of the situation to kiss his brother silly. It’s hungry, desperate and passionate; their tongues sliding against each other into the heat of the other’s mouth. Their self-control snaps, and Newt finds Theseus’ hands tangled into his hair, and into the fabric of his shirt, ever pulling Newt closer still, as if the distance between them was still far too wide for his liking. And Newt fumbles forward, wanting to fall into Theseus, wanting to remember the taste of him and nothing else.

They pull apart, panting, when the back of Theseus’ knees hit against the corner of Newt’s bed. In the dim lights, Newt can’t seem to take his eyes off the glossy appeal of Theseus’ lips. He gently pushes his brother down and onto the bed, pushing him further still until Theseus’ back meets the fabric of sheets. And Theseus, gentle and trusting, lets Newt lead the way.

Newt crawls over his brother, knees straddling his brother’s hips and hands on either side of his face. He watches the expression on Theseus’ face – something dark and full of desire but also of infinite patience and love. He thinks of kissing some more, of running his hands over Theseus’ chest, to feel the skin-on-skin contact. But instead, Newt rolls off to his side, and the two brothers lay there, side by side while their breathing slowly evens out.

Newt doesn’t know what to say or where to begin. He licks his lips and tries to speak but Theseus beats him to it.

“There’s a rumour milling around that Grindelwald has rallied his followers to raid Hogwarts,” Theseus answers. He speaks straight to an unsaid question that is dangling on the very edge of Newt’s lips. Newt turns to look at Theseus to find his brother watching him; his eyes are stunning and Newt feels his breath hitch.

“When? Tomorrow?”

“We’re not exactly sure,” Theseus says, quietly. “It’ll happen soon, for sure though. We have reason to believe it isn’t just an empty threat.”

“I’ll fight with you,” Newt answers earnestly. But Theseus doesn’t address it, his gaze slipping as he continues to speak. It makes Newt feel uneasy.

“The Aurors and Ministry are Hogwart’s first line of defence,” Theseus continues. “Travers will be coming down tomorrow with more back-up. We’ll be setting up defence charms and patrols along the perimeters.”

There is an exclusionist way in which Theseus speaks and Newt can’t quite put a finger on what it is that has him so bothered. Every word seems to be a pebble added to an already teetering pile of worries, and Newt sinks his teeth into his lower lip. The vines of the foreboding dread grow ever more and slowly twines around his heart.

“You specifically sought out the Professor,” Newt says slowly, words thick and gummy in his mouth, “why is that?” Newt’s mood takes another plummet as Theseus’ neutral expression falters and is replaced by something firmer and more unyielding.

Theseus sighs.

“Please. You said you would tell me.”

Theseus reaches for Newt’s hand and squeezes it hard; a reminder that they’re both still alive. “When the time comes, he’ll have to escape through the Forbidden Forest,” Theseus answers quietly and slowly. He has his eyes – clear blue, electrifying – trained on Newt as he says the next few words with authoritative clarity. “And you’ll go with him. You, Mr. Kowalski, and Ms. Goldstein.”

Newt jolts at that. He sits up abruptly, gripping Theseus’ hand tightly. Newt just knew something he didn’t like was going to come, and this – this had to be the worst of it. He shoots Theseus a look, unveiled upset and feelings of betrayal deep set in his eyes.

“I’m running away again,” Newt says, more a statement than a question. He stares at Theseus, lips pulling into a frown. “You move me all the way to Hogwarts to stakeout and hide, and now you’re making me run away again. I told you, Theseus. I chose my side. I want to stand with you.”

At that, Theseus sits up. He raises his free hand to Newt’s face, cupping his right cheek. His gaze is unrelenting, almost pained but tender, mellowed and so full of love.

“Newt, this-,“ Theseus breaks off, eyes searching Newt’s face. The workings of Theseus’ mind have always been something like a distant thunder to Newt: loud, tumultuous and terrifying. He waits as the seconds tick and watches as his brother tries again. “You’re not running away, little brother. I daresay, you’ll be heading right to the heart of a battle more vicious than the one foretold to happen here.”

Newt thinks he understands the implications – that while Grindelwald’s followers are raining down on Hogwarts, Nurmengard Castle would be largely understaffed. An opening for an attack with Professor Dumbledore at the helm – it gives them a chance at a million but also raises the stakes so high, Newt can’t tell if this was some kind of sad, devastating joke.

The words weigh heavy, like lead in water, and even though Theseus tried to make it seem like a light jab, the atmosphere settles thick around them, suffocating them in an uneasy silence. It goes unsaid between them both but at that very moment, it becomes clear how devastatingly heavy the weight of their actions is to be – the outcome would have repercussions that will ripple across the continent and possibly further, into the broader world.

And Newt feels like he can’t breathe. The thought of having to part with his brother again after months of separation. That this union is fleeting and scarcely important in the grand scheme of things. Newt’s heart gives a lurch and a squeeze. It hurts and it must have shown on his face because Theseus leans forward and places a chaste kiss to Newt’s forehead, before letting his hand fall away.

In turn, Newt takes Theseus’ hand in his, running his fingers over the ridges of his knuckles. He spots a new scar – an angry thread that pulls across the back of his right hand and disappears up into the sleeve of Theseus’ shirt.

It shouldn’t surprise him. Theseus was, after all, an Auror, and Aurors do what they have to do: getting caught in the rough and tumble of things. But at the sight of it, Newt feels his heart tremble ever so slightly; something unbridled welling up inside him, cresting and threatening to drown out his senses.

He looks up into Theseus’ eyes and sees years of wisdom behind them. A quiet resignation of something that Newt doesn’t quite understand – isn’t sure he wants to understand. But he lets go of both Theseus’ hands to pull his brother’s face in once more; to kiss him sickly sweet right on the lips. A bold move so unbecoming of the quieter Scamander.

It’s gentle, loving and loaded with fear. But it also says “I love you, I love you, I love you” and when they part, breathing hard, Theseus smiles like a beacon in the dark. Newt’s heart trips up over itself, like he’s falling in love all over again. In the heat of war, he can’t quite compel himself to mull over the ethics and moralities that comes with building a relationship so intimate with his own brother. All Newt knows is that, like a ship out at sea, he wants to always, always come home to his harbour.

“Promise me you’ll be safe,” Newt mumbles, the heat rising steadily to his face.

“Of course,” Theseus says, voice barely an audible whisper. He raises a hand and places it gently over Newt’s. “What about you?”

“You know I would. We both know that I have an unbelievable knack for lucking out on situations.”

And Theseus laughs – deep but also incredibly light, a sound that Newt wants etched into his memory. Come what may in the days to follow, but this – this moment, is theirs to keep. Away from the prying eyes of the world, Newt falls in love again and again and again.