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The Life and Times of Percival Graves, Alpha in Courting

Chapter Text

Apparently, Grindelwald had spent the entirety of his stint at MACUSA adamantly avoiding paperwork. When one considered the persistence of various MACUSA bureaucrats whose primary job was to harass aurors to get their paperwork done, the sheer amount of unsigned and unsorted reports was a tribute to work place avoidance tactics.

Graves would even go so far as to say that he was impressed at what had to have been a very difficult execution of said tactics, were it not for the fact that he, Graves, was the one having to read, sign, and sort the damn things. If Graves didn't already hate Grindelwald for kidnapping him and stuffing him in a battered trunk for several months*, he definitely would have developed a deep dislike based solely on the towers of reports leaning precariously over him. Emphasis on towers.

Normally, Graves went through paper work quickly; the sheer volume of work before him would, under normal circumstances, take a few weeks. However, for the past few weeks he'd found himself distracted and struggling to make it through even a handful of reports. At the rate he was currently going, Graves was likely to spend the next two months reading reports.

He'd just picked up what seemed to be the fiftieth report on magic reveal via drunken escapades of teenagers when a loud crash echoed down the hall. Ah, yes. That would be the cause of his distraction.

Newt was visiting Tina again.

The omega had taken to visiting his new American friend at work frequently, be it to chat or to show her something that didn't belong in the MACUSA offices, much less America. Normally, Graves would bring the wrath of God upon any auror stupid enough to entertain a friend in the work place. But Newt, with his big eyes and curly red hair -- that is, Newt, who was responsible for unveiling Grindelwald, was an exception. That was it. For reasons of heroic services rendered to MACUSA, Graves allowed Newt to visit Tina without comment; it had nothing to do with the fact that having Newt on the aurors' floor meant that Graves had easy access to Newt's company, if he so desired.

Which he didn't. Desire Newt's company, that is.

Even sitting all the way down the hall with his office door closed, Graves could still smell Newt’s omegan scent— along with the man’s ever present smell of wild, likely dangerous, beasts. He could hear Newt babbling in excitement, though he couldn't make out what Newt was saying. Every so often, the sound of Newt’s laughter drifted from Tina's desk (typically preceded by a crash or bang; Graves suspected it was an abashed sort of laugh caused by reasons that, at this point, should long since have resulted in Newt’s arrest).

It was driving him mad. Newt was driving him mad.

Focus. He was Seraphina’s right hand man, the most powerful and skilled auror in the MACUSA, and a world weary alpha who was most definitely not controlled by his instincts. Particularly instincts telling him to mate with the walking hazard that was Newt Scamander. Graves was more than capable of reading a report without pining over the omega visiting with his subordinate next door.

“… an eye witness reported that the suspects charmed the undergarments of a no-maj department store to sing and chase passersby—“

Another crash, followed by a loud cry of "Newt!"-- presumably from Tina.

“He really didn’t mean anything by it! Horatio's just a bit bashful around people." Newt's voice rang down the hall, raised from its normal soft pitch to be heard over what sounded like an intense scuffle between the two wizards and Horatio. Several Horatios, at that. Whatever it was that Newt had decided to take under his wing this week was clearly well-endowed in the leg department.

Only Newt would think it was a good idea not only to cart around a magical creature with more than the standard amount of limbs but to name said creature 'Horatio'. He could picture the younger man smiling at some godawful beast, likely poisonous, while telling it something inane like, "You look like a Horatio!" Newt's eyes would crinkle around the edges and he'd get a little teary--

Graves tossed his quill to the side. Clearly he wasn’t going to get any work done so long as Newt was down the hall. With an irritated sigh, Graves pushed out of his chair, waving his wand to call his jacket over to him as he walked out of his office.

He needed air. Some fresh, cool air that didn’t smell like Newt Scamander, who was rapidly becoming a testament to Graves’ impressive self-control.

Graves pushed his way through the hall, making a beeline towards the elevator. Several witches and wizards saw him coming and ducked quickly out of his way. Anyone who had lasted at MACUSA long enough to be on the aurors' floor had developed a sense for when Graves was in A Mood.

“Lobby,” Graves said as soon as he stepped into the elevator.

The goblin inside looked at him. “That omega back again?” it asked.

There was a brief moment of silence during which Graves kept his eyes trained ahead of him, scowling. The goblin gave him a knowing look and pulled the lever in a smug, vaguely superior way.

When the elevator stopped, Graves did his utmost to leave the cart as quickly as possible while doing his best to look as if he was not trying to leave as quickly as possible. It wouldn’t do for the Director of Magical Security to do something as undignified as flee from the judgmental elevator goblin. The new aurors might get ideas.

No. Graves had an image to maintain and underlings to keep cowed.

Still, Graves couldn’t say that he was doing all that great with his image. He was one run-in away from attempting some asinine courting practice to woo Newt. Merlin knew what would happen if Graves did something that ridiculous. Seraphina would never let him forget it, Tina would start to feel a bit too comfortable sharing her thoughts with him, and Newt…

Graves paused. People dove around him, trying desperately not to run into the frozen director.*** Graves, caught up in his thoughts, didn't even notice.

Newt… what if Newt accepted?

Newt, with his big eyes and shy smile.

Newt, with his flowery sweet smell spiced with the smell of various magical beasts.

Graves shook his head. No, no— no Newt. No more thoughts of Newt. Graves' mind was a fortress, utterly under his control and susceptible to nothing. Especially not to Newt Scamander.

Newt, bringing a magical creature to his office instead of Tina’s, excited and babbling.

Newt, covered in dirt and who knew what else, hugging him when he came home from work.

Newt, carrying their pup—

Graves cursed and pushed his way through the doors. With a sharp flick of his wand, he aparated to the nearest market place. He had a few things he needed to buy and a friend to write. An omega would know how to kickstart a courtship, even if it was a courtship of Newt, who was likely to defy convention just by being in the same room as it.

It would seem that Perceval Graves was going to attempt an asinine courting practice, after all.

*- It was a pink trunk. With dollies on top.**

**- Graves suspected this was intentional on Grindelwald's part.

***- Rumor had it that the last person to do so was placed on janitorial duty for several months. Wandless janitorial duty. Other rumors suggested that the person was only rumored to be on janitorial duty; in fact, anyone who knew anything knew that the person had been disposed of so well that the consequent rumors had to be about something with more support to it. Such was workplace gossip.

Chapter Text

Anyone that knew Percival Graves knew that keeping their distance was the optimal form of interaction with him. For everyone involved, really. It was an unstated mandate* that any ambitious (or self-preserving) witch or wizard knew to follow. Percival Graves was not a friendly man, nor was he interested in small talk— in fact, he erred on the side of no talk in almost all personal matters. 

Porpentina Goldstein, recently reappointed to auror and currently attempting to finagle one Newt Scamander out of another sticky situation regarding magical beasts, was one of the few employees at MACUSA that did not follow the Graves Mandate. Like everything Tina did in her life, she approached Graves with a sort of stubborn determination that, for whatever reason, had not resulted in the immediate termination of her job. 

This wasn’t to say that Tina wasn’t afraid of her boss; Graves had early on instilled a healthy sort of fear in her. Tina knew better than to engage in idle chit-chat with Graves, just as she knew that immediately getting to the point was the only acceptable way to deliver a report. Graves was very much the head alpha of the all alpha auror division, and Tina acted with the appropriate amount of awed respect that entailed. Still, Tina didn’t attempt to disappear as soon as she noticed Graves, and in that alone she violated the core tenant of the Graves Mandate.

Graves, on his end, didn’t generally make it a point to approach Tina unless it was to a) give her an assignment, b) quietly judge her for how she handled an assignment, or c) loudly judge her for how she handled an assignment. Every once in a blue moon Graves gave her what passed as his approval, but Tina could count those moments on one hand with room to spare.

So it was with some surprise that Tina, exercising all of her bureaucratic talent to make it seem as though Newt’s acromantula wasn’t that dangerous, looked up to see Graves carving a determined path towards her desk. He didn't look happy**. Tina looked down at her report. 

"While there was some damage done to the surrounding area--"

(She looked over at the 'some damage.' There was still a bit of smoke coming from the floor over by the file cabinet. Apparently cedar wood spontaneously caught fire when exposed to aracumantula venom. Tina rather felt she had learned something valuable from this whole thing.)

"-- the situation was handled with minimal costs, financial or labor-wise, to MACUSA."

There was a good chance, Tina thought as she started despondently at the report, that Graves was coming to speak to her about Horatio. 

"Director Graves is here!" said the auror at the desk next to Tina's, stating the obvious for those few aurors who hadn't noticed the chaos a few feet away.

"Bob, I told you they'd notice that you took the eggs!" another auror hissed. Next to her, a tall auror with a splotchy face and an ill-fitted suit, presumably Bob, was busy trying to stuff a lumpy bag in his desk drawer. He glared and snarled something that sounded like, "Not now, Adelaide!"

"Oh no," someone moaned. "He's coming this way!"

Tina looked up to see Graves pushing his way past several employees, all of which scattered in a mad panic to clear a path for him. Graves didn't even notice. Tina wondered if it was too late to hide underneath her desk.*** She eyed the area underneath the desk speculatively; not as much space as her desk in the Wand Permit Office, but she was certain she could fit. Maybe if she just slid slowly out of her chair…

Nope, no such luck. Graves had caught her eye and was walking faster. The office space, previously full of various MACUSA employees, began to clear out as the aurors unanimously decided to take an early lunch.

It was curious, Tina observed as if from a distance, her dread numbing her to the mass exodus taking place around her, how a bunch of people paid and hired for their bravery were so quick to flee a room at the slightest hint of their boss in A Mood. As Graves closed in for the (hopefully metaphorical) kill, Tina reflected that she wasn't in a position to judge.

Oh Merlin, here he was.

Graves came to a stop in front of Tina’s desk. The other alpha was cradling a large, nicely illustrated book on magical creatures in one arm. Worse, he looking at Tina with a slightly wild look in his eyes. 

Tina slid her Newt report underneath another, non-Newt report.

“Sir?” Tina squeaked. She cleared her throat. “Uh, I mean, that is— sir?

Graves scowled at her before casting a cursory glance around the office. Aside from an ancient auror that Tina rather suspected was deaf (or blind, seeing as he hadn’t noticed Graves’ presence two desks down), they were alone in the work space. Satisfied that no one else was around (Tina firmly told herself that it wasn't because he didn't want any witnesses to her death), Graves turned his attention back to the witch sitting in front of him. 

“Is your friend here, Auror Goldstein?”

“My friend?” Tina repeated. “What friend?” 

She managed to curb the knee-jerk response of, “I don’t have any friends," that would have been a pathetic attempt to deny her part in whatever trouble had led to Graves showing up at her desk. Not only would that be pathetic, it would also make Graves think she was up to something. Tina, thinking of the 15 pages she’d already written on Horatio the acromantula and his happy but shy disposition, wasn’t entirely sure that she wasn’t up to something. 

“Yes,” Graves said, voice tight. “Your friend. The one whose presence has frequently graced our office for the past two months.”

Ah. Well, Tina thought, things weren’t looking good for Horatio. 

“I’m sorry about the trouble earlier, sir,” she said, deciding to do the responsible thing and try to play off Horatio’s presence in the office as a misunderstanding. “Newt stopped by to show me something he’d found. I just screamed because it was so… exciting and—“

“That’s not what I’m here about,” Graves said, cutting her off. 

“Oh, thank god." She coughed at the sharp look sent her way.

Then she paused, thoughtfully. “Then, uh, why are you here?”

Graves glared at her.

“Sir! Why are you here, sir?”

Graves didn’t answer immediately. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath in, then let it out. He looked very much like a man bracing himself to face some horrible death. Tina could relate to the feeling.

Finally: “What does your friend like?”

Tina tried not to stare. Really, she tried. But she was pretty sure her boss had just asked what Newt liked. Newt, the force of nature responsible for the recent onslaught of paperwork on magical beasts. Newt, who happily brought (questionable and dangerous) magical creatures into a highly secure government facility. Newt… who was an omega. 

And Graves, who watched Newt anytime her friend dropped by the office. Who had, now that she thought about it, signed off on several reports that let Newt off the hook. Who always seemed to be on the floor when Newt arrived or just down the hall. Who had been seeing engaging in small talk with Newt just last week.

Who was a very single alpha.

Oh, Tina thought.

“Oh,” Tina said.

Tina didn’t think it was possible, but Graves’ glare intensified. 

“That is, I mean— he likes magical creatures a lot,” Tina said, trying to back track. “And cocoa. His brother always sends him cocoa as a treat.”

“Cocoa,” Graves repeated gruffly. “Of course.”

“I, uh, I think he likes chocolate in general. Sir,” Tina added, feeling braver. 

Graves nodded, looking thoughtful. He was clearly storing this information somewhere in his (what Tina imagined to be) mental file cabinet. He shuffled the book around and— were her eyes deceiving her?— flushed. “Is there anything else I should know? Any allergies or things to avoid?”

“He doesn’t like pickles, but he eats just about anything. He’s not picky” 

Really. Tina had seen Newt eat some things that would have made a less experienced auror gag. She didn't understand what it was about pickles that was so unappealing to him; his standards for edible food were embarrassingly low, and it spoke poorly of pickles as a whole that Newt shunned them.

But no, enough about Newt's gross eating habits. Something was afoot, Tina could sense it. It was time to jump in for the kill, to call Graves out on the whole thing.

Tina squinted at Graves. “If you don’t mind me asking, sir, it seems a lot like you’re about to court him.”

And back came the glare.

“That’s not a question, Goldstein,” Graves snapped.

Tina employed the expectant silence she used when interrogating suspected criminals. And teenaged alphas who were caught being idiots in public, no-maj settings. Under the power of the silence, the mighty fell.

Graves sighed, resigned. “Yes, I do intend to court him.”

“Oh.”

Tina wondered if she should give Graves the ‘if you hurt him, I’ll hurt you’ talk. She opted not to; she’d only just gotten her job back and, in all reality, the beasts Newt traveled around with were themselves enough of a deterrent for bad behavior. Their employment also wasn't at risk of termination, so Tina felt they were all around better equipped to handle this than she was.

“Well then, good luck.”  

Graves inclined his head, not looking very appreciative of her half-hearted well wishing.

“Here,” he said, shoving the book at her. A phoenix blinked at her curiously from its perch on top of a dragon. “This is for Mr. Scamander.”

As one of the closet (and few) friends Newt had, Tina was the logical choice to deliver the first courting gift. She was an alpha in Newt’s pack who had a platonic bond with him, and she tended to spend a lot of her free time with or chasing after the British wizard. Tradition mandated that someone in Tina's position be the one to deliver the gift to the omega.

More importantly, she was the most likely person to run into him at some point that Graves knew. Ease of access and what not.

“I’ll see that he has it, sir.” Tina waved her wand over the book, shrinking it down so that she could place it in her pocket. That done, she looked up at Graves. “Umm… I think… well, I mean—“

“Out with it, Goldstein,” Graves snapped. Mission accomplished, he clearly wanted to leave.

Tina felt her face turn red and she hoped, dearly, that she wasn’t about to over-step. Technically, though, he had started the conversation.

“If you have any other questions or you need some more advice, I don’t mind helping!” she blurted out in a rush.

There. She’d said it. 

For a minute, Tina thought that Graves was about to yell at her. He very much looked like he wanted to. Then, with another resigned sigh, Graves shook his head. “That’s all, Auror Goldstein. I trust you’ll keep this between us.”

Tina nodded. Graves straightened his coat, getting his bearings back now that his personal business had been aired with his subordinate. With a last warning look at Tina, he spun sharply on his heel and headed towards his office. 

Tina let out of breath of relief. She slumped in her chair, suddenly tired. Between Horatio and Graves, she'd had a little too much excitement for the day.

“Auror Goldstein,” Graves called, halfway to his office.

Tina shot up to attention. “Yes, sir?”

Graves looked at her over his shoulder, pausing in his flight to address her. “I look forward to reading your report on the acromantula Mr. Scamander brought in earlier. I’m sure it will be... exciting, as you said.” On that note, Graves continued towards his office. He didn’t bother waiting for Tina’s response.

So much for being subtle.

Tina wondered if Graves would accept 'adorably clumsy flailing' as the reason for the three broken desks that were among the casualties of Horatio's visit. She didn't think so, but weirder things had happened. With a shrug, she pulled the report back out and started writing.

*— Though there were rumors that several recent hires had written up a series of basic rules for a successful interaction with Graves. It was supposedly called the Graves Mandate: Your New Boss and You. No one thought the recent hires were going to stay hired for very long.

**-- To be clear, Graves never looked happy. It was just that at this moment, he looked more unhappy than usual. The kind of more unhappy that led to someone getting fired. Or placed on janitorial duty with the other poor bastards that caught Graves in A Mood.

***-- While Tina didn't go out of her way to disappear around Graves, per say, she also had what she considered well-developed self preservation instincts. Said instincts were currently calling for her to make herself scarce-- at least until the floor board stopped smoking.

Chapter Text

"On behalf of Percival Graves, it's my..." Tina paused, apparently struggling to find the proper word. She sounded quite flustered with herself, Newt thought, sympathetically; he sometimes had trouble thinking of how to say things, too. "... Honor to present you with this gift," Tina ground out, confirming Newt's suspicions that she felt self-conscious about her struggle. Then: "Here, take it."

Shortly afterwards, a large, heavy object was pushed abruptly into Newt's chest, to Pickett's noisy aggravation. Newt freed a hand so that he could gently push the creature back in his jacket pocket.

"Thank you?" Newt asked, not entirely sure what to make of this but somewhat relieved that his case was, at the moment, on Tina's couch rather than in his hands. Last time he'd accidentally fumbled the case, Horatio had gone flying in the direction of some official looking file cabinets by Tina's desk.

Tina hadn't been happy about that. Or about the fact that he was keeping a (very friendly, really) acromantula in his case. His reassurances that Horatio was incapable of laying eggs hadn't done much to mitigate her anger, though acromantulas were, without a clutter of fellow acromantulas, relatively docile creatures. A female acromantula with a cluster of eggs was a much different case, but still easily handled should one take into account the proper ways to approach a nesting female.

"Aren't you going to look at it, Newt?" Tina asked, tapping the book's cover to bring Newt's attention to it.

He met Tina's gaze briefly and saw that his friend appeared uncomfortable. Her eyes didn't quite meet his, which Newt found strange; normally, Tina seemed pleased when he met her eyes. He wondered if she was okay. Perhaps she was still upset about Horatio?

Another tap drew his gaze back down to the book. 

Newt looked at the cover curiously. A rather impressive subspecies of phoenix (found only in mountainous areas of eastern Asia, if his eyes didn't deceive him and that was a purple tint to the upper breast) stared back at him, equally curious. It was an accurate representation, he thought as he watched the phoenix cock its head at him, as this particular breed was known to be insatiably curious about humans-- 

"Newt?" Tina said. "Newt, you haven't said anything. Do you like it?"

Newt blinked rapidly and shook his head a bit, startled out of his musings. "Ah, sorry," he apologized. "Umm, yes. Yes, I must say that I do. You see, this particular phoenix right here is native to the mountainous regions of East Asia and--"

"That's great," Tina interrupted. She must be distracted by something, Newt mused, if she wasn't willing to listen to the considerable virtues of the East Asian Phoenix. "But are you accepting this overture from Graves?"

Ah yes, Graves was the one who had bought Newt this lovely new book with its rather impressive illustrations. It was even a yellow color, so it matched Newt's favorite scarf. Not to mention the dragon on the cover. The Hungarian Horntail was brilliantly done, if Newt did say so himself. The artist clearly had not allowed his or her (uninformed) prejudice against the nature of the Horntail to influence the quality of work.

Though, really, Hungarian Horntails were not so bad as people thought. It was a common misconception-- one that Newt did his level best to address in a friendly manner that opened discussions about the issue instead of fights-- that many people held, quite unreasonably. This particular breed of dragon was just misunderstood; the maternal instincts were admittedly assertive, some might even say aggressive, but one could hardly blame the dragon for going on the offensive when it felt it necessary. In fact, during his time working with dragons, the Hungarian Horntail Bessie had been entirely pleasant, only burning him three times, two of which Newt was positive were unintentional.

"Newt." Tina's voice had that tone it got when she felt Newt wasn't listening to her. Newt was very familiar with this particular tone. He wasn't looking at her face, but he could sense she was starting to become exasperated.

"Hmm," Newt hummed, trying to focus. It was just difficult, what with the book and all. Newt started to flip through it. Pickett popped out of his pocket to see what the fuss was about. Upon noticing a small family of bowtruckles on one of the pages, he tried to share his find with Newt, tugging at Newt's collar while pointing and chattering excitedly. Newt hummed and nodded along to Pickett's narrative.

"Newt!"

Newt startled, looking up from his little friend. "Oh, I beg your pardon!"

"Did you hear my question?"

He couldn't quite remember the question. Something about a grindylow? No, that was unlikely. They hadn't been discussing aquatic creatures at all, he was certain of that; they were most definitely discussing land creatures. Perhaps a griffin, then? He knew it was something that started with a 'gr'...

Several seconds passed, during which Newt continued to try and remember the 'gr' thing Tina had asked him about while Tina's exasperation reached new, concerning levels.

Finally, Tina let out a huff. Based on the usual gestures that she employed when he seemed to annoy her, Newt suspected that she was pinching the bridge of her nose and puckering her lips just so. He risked a glance at her face and-- yes, she was doing just that. 

She wasn't, Newt reflected, the only person who had the habit of pinching the bridge of their nose while talking to him. His mother used to do it frequently when he was growing up. When he'd asked her about it, she'd told him she pinched her nose to ward off the headaches he caused her. Newt had tried to cause his mother less headaches, but despite his best efforts he had never managed to so. He hoped Tina didn't get headaches because of him.

"Newt, please try to pay attention. This is important." 

Recognizing that Tina was likely to get seriously upset if he continued to be distracted and, as a consequence, that he would be banned from work visits in the interim time it took her to not be upset, Newt made eye contact with his friend and gave her an appropriately abashed smile.

It was nice to have someone who appreciated his rehabilitated and rehabilitating creatures, so Newt was happy when Tina gifted him with a small smile of her own. He was still allowed to visit her at work, then. Horatio would be relieved.

"Are you accepting the opening overture from Graves?"

Well yes, clearly he wanted to keep his gift. Overture was a strange word to use for gift, but Americans did refer to muggles as no-mages, so he supposed he shouldn't be surprised. Regardless, he was keeping the book. If anyone wanted to take his book from him, they'd have to-- well, they'd probably just have to ask, but Newt would be seriously unhappy should he have to forfeit it. There would be some sharp words; that he could almost certainly promise.

"Yes," Newt said, clutching his new book to his chest protectively.

If Tina wanted him to state the obvious, he'd humor her. Access to her work space was vital. He was curious to see the state of the floor boards following their direct exposure to Horatio's venom, as he'd never seen a flammable reaction to the venom of a member of any magical spider family. The exception being, of course, a rare breed of magical spiders that hailed from Turkey; while their adult size was roughly the same as the size of an adolescent aracomantula, the aramulciber was known for its highly flammable venom that spontaneously combusted upon contact with certain substances, most notably water. Seeing as Horatio was a fledgling aracomantula, the combustion in the MACUSA offices was highly unexpected.

Newt felt the odd sensation that suggested that someone was looking at him intently*. He glanced at Tina's face and saw her squinting at him in a suspicious manner that, Newt was relived to note, didn't appear to suggest that she was mad at him. He wasn't entirely sure why she was looking at him like that, but Newt was content to ignore it so long as he wasn't upsetting her.

"Yes?" Tina repeated. "That's all?"

Newt processed this. "It's a particularly lovely book," he finally said after a pause. He wasn't really sure what Tina was looking for, here. "The attention to detail is incredibly accurate, far beyond what I would expect from most illustrations on some of the rarer and more elusive species."

Tina was pinching the bridge of her nose again, Newt noticed. "That's not-- you know what, never mind. I'll tell Graves you said yes." 

Again, Newt wasn't entirely sure why Graves needed to be told his (Newt's) response. It should stand to reason that Newt had kept the book if Tina returned without it. Tina's repeated emphasis on his acceptance of the book was disconcerting, if not entirely concerning.

"Tina," Newt said, blinking up at her, "are you feeling alright?"

Aracomantula venom did have fumes, after all, and there was a chance that Tina, the closet to Horatio when the poor darling had suffered an anxiety attack following his projection from the case, had inhaled more than what would feasibly be safe for an adult woman of her size, build, and dynamic type.

"Have you had a loss of short term memory at all?" he asked, looking at her face inquisitively. "Perhaps a sudden onslaught of forgetfulness?"

Tina stared at him. Newt noticed that her left eye twitching; very concerning, that. Perhaps it was another side effect? 

Then Tina was laughing in a nearly hysterical manner, which startled Newt and only increased his concern. He hunched into himself as he reached out towards Tina, doing his best to assume a calming, non-threatening posture that would, ideally, allow him to approach Tina and inspect her for signs of poisoning.

"Oh god," Tina said as she gasped for air. She batted Newt away from her with one hand, wiping away a stray tear with the other. "Poor Mr.Graves. This is going to make my week."

She looked at Newt, who still wasn't sure what had happened and was trying to decide if he was qualified to handle it. Pickett was peeking out curiously from Newt's pocket again. "Oh my God, who am I kidding? This is going to make my month."

Perhaps, Newt mused, a visit to the doctor was warranted for this particular situation,.

Tina was acting rather oddly, after all.

 

*-- Newt had an almost omniscient sense of when someone or something was staring at him. This was likely due to his chosen line of work. If a mazoologist didn't learn to sense when something had been looking at them intently or for a long period of time, they were likely to die quickly.**

**-- The survival rate for newly anointed mazoologists was, unsurprisingly, lower even than that of new-hire aurors. 

 

-------

 

While Newt was off in New York causing mayhem in the most amiable and approachable manner possible, his brother Theseus was in England, causing his own, political form of mayhem. In the midst of this, Theseus had left quite a few letters unanswered and unread. Among those letters was a neat, white envelope with blocky handwriting and the name and address of Percival Graves in the left corner. This letter would, once its contents were read, cause a level of mayhem that was suspected by some British physicists* to require an omega from the Scamander family in order to be successfully executed.

Luckily for Graves, Theseus was kept too busy to immediately read the contents of his letter. In fact, it was several days after Graves decided to pursue Newt that Theseus kissed his wife on her cheek, settled down in his over-stuffed armchair, and finally began to tackle his mail.

But first, some background is necessary to fully understand and appreciate Theseus' reaction to Graves' letter.

Theseus was an omega.

Even more background is, perhaps, called for in regards to the traditions of the British dynamic culture and Theseus' position within it. To begin, omegas were a bit of a rarity in the magical world**, which was, coincidentally, the only world in which they occurred. Theseus was one of 20 British omegas born to his generation-- his little brother Newton included in those numbers.

While it might at first seem strange that omegas, rare as they were, would occur twice in one family, this was a common occurrence. Nature, fickle bastard that it was^, had decided that having one omegan child meant you were more likely to have another your second go around.

The Scamanders, upon discovering this natural fact for themselves, were not what would qualify for most as 'thrilled.' The omegan dynamic wasn't the most desirable dynamic for an offspring. If a pureblooded or well-to-do half-blooded family had any say in it, they'd prefer to have an alpha, perhaps a handful of large and ambitious-leaning betas.

Of course, the more enterprising families recognized the pragmatic value of an omegan offspring. It was simple supply and demand: there weren't a lot of omegas, but there was a healthy alpha population that typically wanted an omega for a mate. As those alphas were willing to pay large bridal prices to get said omega, it stood to reason that a mercenary family might get a sizable compensation if they played their metaphorical cards right.

Sadly for the Scamanders, Theseus was not of a disposition to be married off to a well-to-do alpha.

Theseus had joined the aurors upon graduating from Hogwarts, the first omega to do so. An omega becoming an auror was, at the time, something omegas Did Not Do. That said, there weren't all that many omegas, so no one was entirely sure whether or not this was due to the patriarchy or merely a lack of interest on part of the omegas; regardless, Theseus' decision was met with outcry and much offending of sensibilities. There weren't that many omegas to go around, and consequently many alphas took it somewhat personally when they found out that an omega was risking life and limb for country.  

Still, Theseus was powerful and highly talented at offensive magic-- something omegas, even those few war-mongering ones, rarely found appealing. He was also an unusually tall omega, at a height with or taller than most alphas, and knew damned well how to use his size to his advantage. He rose quickly through the ranks of the aurors and, when war broke out, was among the first to sign up. During his time fighting in the war, his comrades came to have a healthy, fearful respect of him and his temper.

Though the magical community dearly appreciated the brave services rendered for ministry and country, Theseus had put them in the rather awkward position of having an omegan war hero. To make matters more awkward, this particular omega was known to do his level best to defy societal conventions at every turn possible. For that matter, Theseus was known to defy societal conventions at turns that didn't exist for anyone else but him, something most wouldn't have thought possible before meeting the young man.

After becoming widely acclaimed as a war hero, Theseus had settled down with another omega. As a final metaphorical middle finger to the traditional alpha-omega society, Theseus had taken his wife's last name of Longbottom and stubbornly refused to respond to any "Mr. Scamanders" that he heard^^.

Some of Theseus' disposition can be explained more effectively through a look at his family. 

As mentioned, the Scamander family was one of the unlucky families that had produced naught but omegas. The Scamanders, however, handled their misfortune with a practical, almost mercenary approach. As soon as Theseus had been old enough to walk, he'd been carted around to all of the major pureblood households to be presented to any interested family that might be looking for a good status symbol for their alpha child-- err, that is, a good mate.

Of course Theseus wouldn't be bonded until he was an adult. But Mrs. Scamander had decided that having avenues was a good thing and that the one thing Theseus damn well wouldn't want for in life would be avenues. 

Theseus was never comfortable being paraded around the parlors of his neighbors. He much preferred pissing off other children his age so that he could engage in fist fights with them or, more to his nurse maid's preference, honing his magical talent to an art form. As he got older, he became more resistant to his mother's pushiness regarding her search for the perfect, financially well-endowed alpha. 

His mother, more interested in forming connections than in her son's (admittedly questionable) interests, began to spend less and less time with Theseus. As for Mr. Scamander... well, he didn't much care for Theseus' quirky personality. Or for Theseus in general. 

The relationship between Theseus and his parents was not a strong one, and likely had more to do with Theseus taking his mate's name than 'sticking it to the man'. Theseus' home life was not, by any means, what someone would term pleasant. 

And then Newt was born.

In what was another instance of nature being somewhat of a dick, Mrs. Scamander fell pregnant with her second child when Theseus was 7. Mr. Scamander was ecstatic-- perhaps now he and his wife, both betas, would produce a child who could carry on the Scamander name.

It was to their great disappointment when the mediwitch in charge of the delivery beamed at them and said, "Oh, isn't he the most precious omega you've ever seen?" before thrusting the newly born omega at his parents in the manner commonly associated with mediwitches (that is, a no-nonsense manner that suggested you best do as the mediwitch wished).  

Newt, as the second omega born to the Scamanders, was a bigger disappointment than Theseus. The only way he could have been more of a disappointment were if he had been born a squib on top of everything else.

Still, not all was horrible for the newest Scamander omega.

Theseus, who had never had much of a nuturing bone in his body (refer to the above anecdote about fist fighting), found himself utterly enamored with his tiny baby brother. His time allocation shifted rapidly from waging war on his neighbors to spending time in the house, handing Newt various safe items to stick in his mouth and removing those that were closely linked to sudden choking fits in infants.

As the boys got older, Theseus began to redirect his youthful inclination for fights into an awe-inspiring protective instinct towards his brother. Now, some would say that this wasn't much of an improvement; Theseus had a nasty habit of punching anyone that looked at Newt for too long and a nastier habit of attempting to maul anyone that made Newt cry. At Hogwarts, the professors quickly learned to that Theseus was a force to be reckoned with when it came to his brother. And, coincidentally, that Theseus was very gifted in offensive magic.

So, now that more is understood about Theseus, perhaps his reaction to Graves' letter will be, if not entirely reasonable, then somewhat understandable.

 

*-- Physicists were not common in the magical world, as most witches or wizards who began to pursue the subject found themselves at odds with the entire basis of their existence. It took a special mindset to juggle the laws of the physical universe alongside magic. For this reason, the majority of magical physicists were accomplished divinationists. 

**-- The traits traditionally viewed as making an omega appealing-- submissiveness, eagerness to please, and reluctance to harm another creature-- were not traits that became the omegas very well during the witch hunts. Once word got out that there were docile witches (and wizards) who would go into your witch cart, as easy as you please, the muggles had a bit of a hey day. If you asked their descendants about it now, they admitted to being a tiny bit over-zealous about the whole thing.  

^-- This was seen by ye ole witch hunters to be quite a boon, as it made their already easy job significantly easier. Odds were that if you'd just caught yourself one of those docile witches and he or she had siblings, said siblings were likely also magical and, more importantly, amiable about getting into the witch cart. 

^^-- This was, perhaps, one of the better cases of a 'turn' that didn't exist for anyone but Theseus. No one was terribly bothered by his taking Longbottom as his last name. They were more concerned with the fact that two omegas had shacked up together, what with the limited supply and all. Several high profile alphas in the wizarding world had petulantly noted that Scamander-- that is to say, Longbottom-- could have done just as well to prove his point if he'd married a beta.

___

 

Prima Longbottom smiled at her husband as he entered their house. She had settled herself on her customary loveseat, located conveniently by the fire and blanket basket, and was sipping at some tea as she used her wand to direct a mop and several dusters into various crooks and crannies. One of the dusters was currently engaged in battle with a prodigiously large dust bunny-- the bunny, upon seeing the duster coming its way, had determined to face its fate valiantly, and was now fighting viscously to avoid being swept into a nearby bin.

Theseus returned his wife's smile as he walked over to her, leaning down to kiss her cheek. That accomplished, he stepped gracefully around the panicked duster and its now assailant, heading towards his favorite armchair. It was an ugly shade of puce, but Prima had insisted upon its presence; it was the only chair that Newt's creatures didn't wreck havoc upon when he visited. No one was sure if it was the color or the lack of shiny things that caused this, but Prima was not one to question good fortune.

"Read your mail, dear," Prima said. It came out friendly enough, but Theseus was aware of the underlying 'get rid of the bloody stack of envelopes cluttering my favorite coffee table' that she meant to convey.

Theseus nodded, suitably cowed. Five years of marriage had taught him that the friendlier Prima sounded, the closer she was to the kill.

He poked at a few of the letters, recognizing them immediately as not being worth his time. Several were from an organization Theseus had signed up for upon being offered a discount on some wand supplies he'd been eyeing; he hadn't yet figured out how to unsubscribe from this organization, though he'd tried just about everything in his power to do so.*

One letter's familiar blocky handwriting stood out to him, and Theseus grabbed it eagerly from the pile next to his chair. 

"Percival wrote me again," he said happily to his wife. "I think it might be about those new bracers with the runes etched into them-- you know, the ones I've been telling you about?" 

Prima nodded, flicking her wand to send another duster to aid its comrade in the fight against the dust bunny. She knew Theseus was trying to drop as many hints as possible so as to ensure that he received the bracers for his Christmas gift that year. Prima, not entirely sure that her temperamental mate needed attire capable of sending out electric shocks upon command, had settled instead on a nice, cashmere sweater that went well with Theseus' eyes.

Theseus stared at Prima a moment longer, waiting hopefully for some hint that his wife might have picked up on his hint. Receiving none, he sighed and turned his attention back to his letter. At the very least he could live vicariously through Percival.

Theseus, Theseus read, I'm in need of courtship advice.

Well, there went any chance of living vicariously through Percival.  

"Prima darling, Percival's got himself a love interest," Theseus reported to his mate, somewhat obediently. Prima was very much invested in all matters of everyone's business, and took it as the greatest insult when anyone hesitated to let her know their private going-ons.

Prima nodded as she went to the kitchen to peruse around for a new flavor of tea. As with anything Prima did, her actions did not adequately reflect her inner emotions; Prima wanted a tea flavor that was on par with the level of gossip necessitated by Percival Graves facing the challenges of the heart.

I've decided to court an omega. As an omega, I assumed you might be able to offer some guidance on your preferences for a courtship.

Eh, probably not. But what the hell, Theseus would give the ol'Hufflepuff go around. What was he working with, here?

The omega in question is a suitable mate and companion.

Theseus rolled his eyes. 

He is a rather unique omega, which was why your assistance seemed, in particular, to be fitting.  

Theseus took a minute to debate whether or not he should find that offensive. He reflected on his morning spent attempting to incite a high level alpha at the ministry in order to pass the time in a very slow, very boring meeting, and came to the conclusion that Percival wasn't wrong in his assessment.

I have already taken the first steps and sent a member of the omega's pack with a courtship overture-- an illustrated book on the magical creatures found in the east.

 Huh. That was something his Newt would like.

Newt was such an accomplished mazoologist; it made Theseus proud to know that his brother had also chosen an unconventional career, though he'd admit to being somewhat skeptical of his brother's insistence that the larger beasts didn't mean him any harm. Maybe he could have Percival send him a copy of the book to give to Newt for Christmas.

A book on magical creatures might not have been the most traditional gift; I'm aware that jewelry or something hand-crafted is typically the choice for the overture gift.  

It spoke volumes that Percival, as succinct in his writing as he strove to be in his day-to-day life, felt the need to explain the reasoning behind his overture choice.

Poor bloke, Theseus thought. He's got it bad. 

However, he's fond of magical beasts-- particularly the dangerous or obnoxious ones, it seems-- and I felt that the book was the most practical choice for that reason, as well as it being a testament to my ability to provide for any future offspring we would have.

Theseus blinked a bit at the paper. Odd that another omega would have interests that matched so specifically with Newt's. He was getting an odd sense of unease, similar to how he felt as a teenager when that prat Malfoy had taken to making cow eyes at Newt across the dining hall.

If I might be blunt, I require your advice as to what to do now that I've initiated the first steps of the courtship. A high-quality coat in an olive or grey color would serve as an informal gift. His eyes would best be on display with such a coat, and he wouldn't run the risk of it clashing with his auburn hair. 

Green or grey eyes with auburn hair, huh? The uneasy feeling grew.

I believe that a sturdy lock, equipped with protective spells and a small magical barrier might be a practical formal gift; the omega in question carries around a hazardous case full of magical beasts, and such a lock would serve the purpose of keeping him out of trouble.

While the Scamander boys were not what someone might call 'on the ball' or, more accurately, 'aware of things outside of their immediate interests,' they weren't idiots. And Theseus knew that the odds were incredibly low that another omega not only liked magical beasts enough to warrant an illustrated text of them, but to cart the bloody things around in a poorly protected old case bequeathed to him by a late, much beloved gradmummy.  

"Bloody wanker!" Theseus roared, jerking up from his chair so violently that it was knocked backwards. 

"Who's a bloody wanker, dear?" Prima asked, eying her husband placidly from her love seat.

"Bloody Percival!" 

"Mmm," Prima hummed, non-commitedly. "And why is he a bloody wanker, if I might ask?"

"He's courting Newt!" 

Though her face remained passive, Prima's first thought upon hearing this bit of news was, 'oh dear.' Her second, more urgent thought was, 'I hope Percival has strong wards around his property.' 

"I'm sure it'll be fine, Theseus," Prima said, putting her cup on the end table beside her. She walked over to her pacing mate and laid a hand on the other omega's shoulder. "Newt is an adult--"

"He's innocent in the ways of the world!" Theseus cried out, throwing his arms up in the air. "He can't even remember when his heats will hit, Prima. They happen the same time every month, and you know he won't take his suppressants if I don't owl him a reminder and some cocoa, don't tell me you don't know!"

"Regardless, he's an adult," Prima repeated, aggressively calm and sensible. 

"That's what they all say," Theseus said, petulant. 

"Because it's true, dear." Prima pinched the bridge of her nose.** "Calm down."

"I must know what Graves' intentions are, the wanker!" 

"You--" Prima started to tell her mate that they already knew Percival's intentions, but Theseus had already made up his mind to confront the alpha and she didn't want to aggravate him further. She sighed; there wasn't much to be done about Theseus once he'd made up his mind.

"I'll leave at once," Theseus said, marching quickly towards his jacket and wand. "Not a moment to waste!"

"Don't forget your scarf, dear," Prima called as she headed back towards her seat. "It's frosted over in New York right now."

"Yes, of course." Theseus flicked his wand and summoned his scarf to him. He all but ran out the door. There was a loud slam, then silence.

Prima waited expectantly.  

The door was thrown back open to reveal Theseus' neatly combed blond head. "Love and kisses," he said, half out of breath. The door slammed shut again.

Prima shook her head. Taking a fortifying sip of her tea, she looked over to check on the status of her cleaning supplies.

In the corner, the dust bunny reigned victorious over the defeated dusters. Its ears twitched as it eyed the broom, hidden behind the puce arm chair, speculatively. The broom darted quickly behind Prima's love seat, sweeping back and forth in agitation.

Best to handle the dust bunny now before the others got any ideas, Prima thought. Her husband was enough trouble as was; she didn't need some maniacal collection of dust and grime wrecking havoc on her nice sitting room.

 

*-- It was a well-known fact that subscribing to anything, particularly when doing so in order to obtain a small, almost insignificant discount, was much akin to making a deal with a devil. The devil, upon completion of the deal, never really left. 

**-- The Scamander brothers did not look terribly similar to one another, but did tend to inspire similar reactions in those around them. Their dispositions were also, after the initial first impression passed, very similar in that both were almost impossibly hard-headed about certain matters.

 

Chapter Text

There was an intense cloud of awkwardness in Graves' office, though only one of the occupants was aware of this fact. 

Graves watched the omega in front of him intently, heavy brows furrowed. He'd crossed his arms over his chest, though not to hide his nerves or anything of that sort; his hands had been somewhat shaky today, not for any particular reason, and crossing his arms allowed him to hide them without encouraging undue stares from insolent employees.

The point was, Graves was not nervous about presenting Newt with his first formal gift, not one bit. It wasn't as if he'd expected Tina to do it for him, for Merlin's sake, so being nervous about something that was bound to happen was, in a word, the height of foolishness. And Graves was most definitely not a fool. So it stood to reason that he could not possibly be nervous.

"Well?" he barked. The silence had gone on for too long. 

Newt startled from whatever daydream he'd been caught in and risked a quick glance at Graves' face. Graves felt his stomach do a bit of a flip, and wasn't sure if it was due to the not-nervousness or the fact that Newt's eyes were such a fascinating color. 

"I'm not sure that I know what it's for," Newt said slowly, looking at the item in his hands. "But it is very shiny."  This last part was said in something of conciliatory tone, as though shininess somehow made up for the otherwise uselessness of the gift.

In hindsight, perhaps approaching Newt and saying, "I hope you accept this as a sign of my regard," before shoving a magical lock into his hands was not the best way to present him with a gift. Next time, Graves thought with a flush, he would spend a few minutes telling Newt what it was that he was being given. Adverse as he was to small talk, Newt was a special case and Graves, if anything, would like to engage in, dare he say it, more small talk with him on a regular to semi-regular basis. As it was, he supposed he should explain his gift so that Newt wasn't under the impression that his suitor was just presenting him with a shiny trinket.

Not that he seemed terribly bothered by it.

"It's a lock." Graves realized that this was not quite at the level of detailed explanation he'd intended. "For your suitcase of creatures."

Almost there, he thought. Really, at this rate he'd be almost chatty by the end of the courtship.

Newt flushed, evidently pleased. Graves managed to keep from puffing himself up, but only just. He was not going to become one of those insufferable alphas that strutted around, preening, every time their intended graced them with a smile. He had an Image to maintain. Graves was still dwelling on his many advantages over other run-of-the-mill alphas when Newt started to speak. At which point, Graves immediately lost any and all urge to posture.

"Is this about Horatio?" Newt blurted as he picked up his case, previously placed gently at his feet, and held it to his side in a protective manner. "It really was an accident, Mr. Graves. He was only upset because I tripped and he came flying out, which is quite a terrifying experience, I'm sure, and likely to make anyone upset."

Once again, hindsight paid an unwanted visit to Percival Graves, who had not thought about the implications of presenting Newt with a (much improved) lock for his case, but perhaps should have considering how shifty Tina had been following the incident with the acromantula. Or anything related to Newt, now that he thought about it. Giving Newt a lock, he realized, probably seemed like some sort of passive aggressive reminder to keep his creatures under stricter control.

"No," Graves said hastily. He cleared his throat. "No, that's not it at all. I merely thought-- It's a high quality, magical lock that forms a barrier of about three feet from the case. Even if they're able to fit through the sides, your beasts won't be able to get far. It should prevent your creatures from wandering too far from your sight." 

Newt still looked a bit suspicious, but he was regarding the lock a bit more thoughtfully than he had been, previously. That was a good sign, Graves felt. A damned good sign.

"Oh! Well--well then, thank you! Thank you very much. It'll be very helpful in keeping NIffler out of people's pockets, I think." This last part was said a bit dubiously, but Graves didn't take it to heart; that little hellspawn of a creature had stolen his pocket watch more times than he could count, and he had no doubt that it would find its way past a magical barrier, were there a way past.

If there weren't, Merlin knew the little bastard would create one.

"I'm pleased to hear that you like it." Graves was. Very pleased, that is. It didn't occur to him that, between his flat tone and impersonal word choice, he came across as only slightly pleased, perhaps moderately so if you looked closely at his mouth and noticed the slight hitch that was suggestive of a repressed smile. 

Another moment of silence took up residence in the office with Graves and Newt, settling in with the awkwardness that had established itself quite comfortably the moment Newt walked into Graves' office. 

Newt was glancing between his new lock and a spot just under Graves' chin, apparently lost in thought. This was a common state of being for Newt, though, so Graves simply waited to see if the omega would respond to his gift with the traditional words or if he'd receive some other form of notification regarding the omega's feelings. Finally, Newt's eyes made the precarious journey up to Graves' face and the younger man offered him a smile.

"It's very kind of you to give me all of this," Newt said. He was clearly making an effort to maintain eye contact. That was a good sign; the lock was obviously a success. "You didn't have to go through all of this trouble, but it means quite a bit that other people are taking an interest in magical creatures, really." 

In what was one of the worst cases of sudden realization that Graves had ever experienced in his life*, Graves mentally reviewed the last few minutes of conversation and deduced that Newt had not, in fact, recognized any of the gifts he had been presented with as part of a courtship. Following this realization, Graves felt a rush of queasiness caused by what seemed to be his stomach attempting to escape from his body. He subtly lowered his crossed arms so that he could attempt to press against his stomach until it was once more obedient. The resulting image this produced would have been comical if it were anyone but Graves doing it.

"I-- what?" In his confusion, this came out more as "Bwah?"

Newt was already walking towards the door, though, blissfully unaware of the crisis Graves was suffering. "I'm meeting with Jac-- with Queenie. I'm meeting with Queenie for lunch, I'm afraid, so I really must be going. I can't thank you enough for the gifts, they really are lovely. Oh, hello, Tina!" 

Tina, who had apparently been in the process of knocking on Graves' door, stared at her friend in surprise. "Newt? What are you doing in Mr. Graves'-- oh, yes, never mind." Tina had a look about her that suggested that she clearly wanted to be somewhere else.

Graves glared at her for a variety of reasons, but primarily because of the shit show his courtship was turning into. Tina, aware of her status as the chosen go between for her boss and his intended, was less wary of his glare than she would have been a few days ago.

Newt didn't have a large group of friends. If Graves put her on janitorial, he'd lose his in with Newt because Tina sure as hell wasn't chaperoning a courtship while trying to clean out the ladies room (which was disgusting). Queenie fled whenever she saw Graves coming her way and Jacob... well, Graves wasn't supposed to know about Jacob. There was that brother Newt had and would, after being asked to change the subject from that of his creatures, happily talk about for as long as anyone would listen. But from what Tina had gathered, Newt's big brother was a bit protective, not that Newt seemed to be aware of this.

Brother or no brother, Graves needed Tina. It was a classic case of supply and demand.

Still, perhaps it would be best for her to leave. The reports could wait, she figured, and she had only just been reassigned as a auror. Tina began backing towards the door, holding her reports in front of her defensively. Newt, following the same sixth sense that had cultivated numerous reports for Tina's enjoyment, as well as a permanent spot on Picquery's shit list, placed his case back on the floor so that he could more effectively show off his new gift.

"Tina, look-- it's a lock for my case! Mr. Graves gave it to me so that Niffler wouldn't get loose." He was by all appearances unaware of the fact that Graves was shooting Tina looks intended to kill and that Tina was doing her level best to make herself scarce.

Tina eyed the lock, somewhat dubious of its abilities to contain Niffler. "Is that so?" 

"Yes, it is," Newt said. He gave Tina a bit of a suspicious look, still concerned about her mental state following her exposure to Horatio's venom. Tina scowled at him in warning and Newt, showing a hint of the remarkable self-preservation skills he presumably had to develop as a mazoologist, didn't try asking if she was alright. "Isn't it wonderful that he's taking such an interest in magical creatures?" 

The urge to laugh was strong, but Tina withstood it. "Terribly wonderful," she said, deadpan.

There was a slight snapping sound in the general vicinity of Graves; an unfortunate quill had met its fate via a frustrated (and increasingly embarrassed) alpha. 

"I've got to go," Newt told her. "Queenie and Ja-- Queenie is meeting me for lunch at that pastry shop that has pastries shaped like niff-- animals. There are pastries shaped like animals there."

Tina closed her eyes to hide the fact that she looking to the ceiling for patience. When she opened them, she was just in time to see Graves hand Newt his case-- which was entirely unnecessary considering how close it had been to Newt. He than began to carefully drape Newt's scarf over the omega's shoulders. Tina wasn't entirely sure where he had produced the scarf from, as Newt hadn't had it or noticed it missing when he'd tried leaving earlier. Graves was apparently going to make the most of his possession of it and use it as an excuse to get closer to the omega.

Newt seemed a bit taken aback by this, but not terribly upset; while Newt was somewhat uncomfortable around people, Tina had noticed that he was not adverse to, and in fact sought out, physical contact. Graves, sensing that Newt was not put off by his presence, took the chance to linger and straighten out imaginary wrinkles. For some reason that Tina would never, ever in her life understand, Newt did not seem to think that there was anything strange about this. Her friend simply stood there, allowing Graves to tend to him and quite obviously thinking nothing of it. More likely than not he was day-dreaming about the pastries Jacob had set aside for him. 

Merlin's beard, she thought, and now he's scenting him.  

Evidently a shameless opportunist, Graves was now taking a bit of time to scent his intended as subtly as possible, though subtle was not much of a requirement when interacting with Newt. Anything short of 'blunt' or 'blatant' was required to make sure Newt noticed something that didn't involve magical creatures.

It was time to draw some boundaries, Tina thought. She cleared her throat to get the attention of the duo in front of her. "Don't you have to meet with Queenie, Newt?" she pressed, hoping to get out of the third-wheel situation she had somehow found herself party to.

Newt processed this and checked the clock behind Graves' desk. Seeing the time, he startled and darted out the door with a hasty, "Goodbye!" 

Now that Newt was gone, the silence in the room was no longer awkward but tense. Tina realized that, without Newt in the room, there was no one standing between her and her boss. She began to back slowly towards the door.

"Correct me if I'm wrong, Auror Goldstein," Graves said, halting her escape, "but I was under the impression that you had made an overture on my behalf and that Newt had accepted it."

Eh, kind of. She had done as much as was possible, given the circumstances and who she was dealing with. Once that was taken into account, Tina felt she had gone above and beyond with the whole thing.

"In so much as one can expect Newt to accept, sir."

Graves rubbed his temples. "And what is that supposed to mean, Goldstein?" 

Tina gave him a look. The look clearly asked 'were you not just in this room five minutes ago?' and let Graves know that Tina's opinion of him had dropped somewhat following that stupid of a question.

Graves, despite his anger, had to concede to her point, unspoken or otherwise.

"I would have thought that you would try to be clear about the matter," he said with a slightly petulant tone. 

Tina rocked back on her feet, somewhat sheepishly. "I said all of the proper things for an overture, sir. And he did accept your gift." 

"I don't want to court an omega that isn't receptive to my advances," Graves said stiffly. "Mr. Scamander--"

"Excuse me," Tina said. Then, following yet another glare, added, "Sir."

She waited for Graves to acknowledge her interjection, not willing to risk making him angrier than he already was. Graves nodded magnanimously, allowing her to continue. 

"It's just... Newt doesn't always get formalities. I don't think he cares all that much for them, to be honest. It's not that he's unreceptive, it's just that I don't think he realizes what's happening." Hence his newfound belief that Graves was developing an interest in magical creature advocacy.

"Are you trying to suggest another approach?" Graves demanded. If so, he sincerely wanted to hear it. He just wasn't able to convey sincerity very well in his tone of voice, so it stood to be pointed out that Graves did, in fact, really, really wish to have Tina's advice.

Tina, noticing the somewhat crazed look being sent her way, began to take on the shifty look she got whenever she had to turn in a Newt Report. "Errm... not so much a new approach as no approach. Sir."

There was another moment of silence as Graves stared expectantly at Tina and Tina came to the gradual realization that she had Graves' full attention on her. This was in full violation of the Graves Mandate and Tina expected suitable repercussions to be dealt. Likely via midnight report duty.

"I'm waiting, Goldstein." Graves was not, when it came to personal matters, a patient man.

"I just think that not using the traditional approach might be better," she said miserably. She wondered if she could get fired for giving her boss bad relationship advice. Whatever gods were out there had clearly taken it upon themselves to punish her for finding this whole thing funny the other day. "Newt isn't very familiar with it, and even if he were I doubt he'd care. It might be better just to... well, you know. Just to be more obvious. And to give him something that's not pricey but that you clearly put a lot of effort into making for him-- that's more obviously a romantic gift. Sir." 

Graves was nodding, which Tina took to be a good sign. "Yes," he said to himself. "That just might work..."

He waved a hand and, in an impressive but questionably appropriate display of wandless magic, summoned his hat and outer jacket to him. He practically marched towards the door, supposedly having made his mind up about something. 

As he passed her, Tina held up a hand in an attempt to catch his attention. "Mr. Graves, sir, I have the reports you wanted--" she trailed off, watching as her boss disappeared down the hallway.

How rude, she thought. This after all that time she'd spent trying to play off the missing file cabinets as a minor set back in the grand scheme of learning more about the intricacies of arcomantulas. 

At least she didn't have to watch Graves make cow eyes at Newt anymore.

___ 

In the backroom of his brand new (and shiny) shop, Jacob presented Newt with a niffler-shaped danish. He was remarkably proud of it; danishes were hard to make into nifflers, and it had taken several tries before they had stopped looking like ambiguous rodents of some sort and more like Newt's companion. To ensure that there was no mistaking the niffler danish as a mole danish (as most of the no-majs did, Jacob reflected in a vaguely superior way), Jacob had made sure that the filling looked somewhat like a shiny pocket watch. His inspiration in doing so had been because Niffler seemed to have a particular pocket watch that he was a rather fond of, one with the initials P. G. on the cover and whose owner clearly took careful care of and likely missed it every time the little bugger swiped it. 

Newt, upon seeing the danish, lit up. He was fond of sweets, and little could beat sweets shaped like his magical beasts. Beside him, Queenie was working on an occamy cookie while smiling in her normal dreamy way at Jacob. Jacob, despite having been in a relationship with Queenie for a few months, felt himself flush with the familiar rush of happy disbelief that he always got when in Queenie's presence. He stepped back from the table and beamed at his friends. 

Despite Madam Picquery's decision to have Jacob obliviated, a series of poor decision-making on behalf of Newt had led to Jacob recovering his memories of the wizarding world. Tina, if asked under the threat of janitorial, would claim that Jacob did not regain these memories until a month or so following his obliviation; however, a more accurate estimate would be somewhere with in a few business days, perhaps even a week. Newt was not known for his subtly, and having been asked by Picquery to stay and help the MACUSA as a consultant, had gravitated towards his established partner in crime**. 

This was how, in blatant violation of several mandates given by MACUSA and Picquery herself, Jacob Kowalski came to be serving a light lunch to two of his closest (and only) friends.

"What do you think?" he asked Newt. "Is it good?"

"Oh, very!" Newt replied. This came out as "omfbery" because of the large bite of danish stuffed in his mouth. He chewed away happily, reaching for the mug of cocoa Queenie had made for him when he'd first arrived at the pastry shop. He then provided a small, bowtruckle sized piece of danish to Pickett, who grabbed it eagerly before retreating into a pocket to feast.

Life was going swimmingly for Newt Scamander, at least for the moment. 

Jacob's smile, if possible, grew larger. He turned towards Queenie to share his pastry related success. She returned his smile with one of her own before returning to the business of nibbling on the occamy's tail. Having settled everyone in, Jacob grabbed a pastry of his own and pulled out the chair beside Queenie. 

The three friends ate and discussed their days before falling into a companionable silence. Newt was finishing his second niffler when he lit up in excitement and hastily began digging around in his pocket for something. Queenie and Jacob watched him, somewhat apprehensive about what in Newt's pocket could possibly cause that level of excitement from a man known to collect very... exciting creatures.

With an "ah!" of triumph, Newt retrieved a small yellow rectangle. He the muttered engorgio under his breath and tapped the top of the rectangle with his wand. Jacob watched eagerly as the little rectangle began to grow into a large and heavy looking book. He managed to restrain himself from clapping his hands together gleefully, but only just.

"Tina gave this to me yesterday," Newt explained, presenting the book to Jacob. "She said that Graves wanted me to have it. I'm not sure why, but it is a remarkably accurate book, despite the lack of several recently discovered subspecies of various creatures in the Himalayas and a few important species found in Thailand."

Queenie, who had been obligated to sit through an hour long rant about Graves' inability to request things in a polite, socially acceptable way, knew exactly why Graves had wanted Newt to have the book. Admittedly, her legilimency had helped too; she could hardly walk past Graves without catching some thought or other about the British omega and his twice be-damned creatures. Queenie was familiar enough with various thought processes to recognize that this was a fond and favorite line of thought for the alpha, not the exasperated process she often caught from Tina after a Newt-related office fire. 

"Did he mention it today when you met him about the occamy in Rhode Island?" she asked. While not as amused as Tina was about Newt's thick-headedness when it came to Graves' suffering, she'd admit to being interested in whether or not Newt had managed to gleam something of Graves' intentions on his own.

It was, she reflected, rather like watching a train crash.

Newt paused to think about this. "I suppose he did. I can't say that I remember, though. The occamy was much more important. Humans can be very dangerous, you know."

That meant that yes, Graves had asked Newt about it and Newt had likely been in the middle of thinking about how an occamy could make its way to Rhode Island without having arrived via his case. Queenie did her best to respect Newt's privacy, but she'd been around him long enough to know that any mention of a magical creature typically led to a very detailed recap of the animal's natural habitat, nature, etc. By the end of the year, she was likely to know more about magical creatures than most mazoologists, simply through osmosis.

"He didn't say anything at all?" she pressed. Jacob frowned at her, confused, and she reached under the table to pat his knee in a consoling manner. He'd catch on.

Newt shrugged. "I'm sure he did, but it didn't seem important at the time." He lit up again, turning his gaze to Queenie's nose happily. "He did give me a new lock for my case, though! It's able to project a barrier so that none of my creatures can get out."

They all took a moment to be silently dubious of the lock's success against Niffler.

"It sounds like a lovely lock, honey," Queenie said once her doubt in regards to the lock's success against Niffler was suitably conveyed. "Likely a bit pricey or very time consuming if he made it himself." Formal courting gifts were not intended to be cheap.

"Do you think?" Newt asked, apparently surprised at this revelation. He had pulled out his new lock and was now inspecting it curiously. "He didn't need to go through all of that trouble," he added with a frown.

Queenie sighed and ignored the questioning glance being directed at her from Jacob. "Oh sweetie, I'm sure he wanted to," she hinted. One had to be blunt when hinting something to Newt.

"He does seem to be interested in magical creatures," Newt agreed.

There really wasn't a good response to that, Queenie thought to herself. She wondered if being a even more straight-forward might help.

"He might be interested in something else, aside from the magical creatures, sweetie." There, now if she just added in a wink, like so, Newt could not possibly be able to misinterpret this.

"I suppose law enforcement is more likely," Newt said, slumping a bit in disappointment.

Jacob, not being nearly as thick as his friend, was starting to savvy on to what was happening. He looked at the lock, then the book, and then at Newt with something of a surprised expression on his face. He repeated the motion. Then, "Oh." He looked at Newt again. "Oh," he repeated, with more understanding.

It had occurred to him in that moment that Newt was not, perhaps, the best person to be pining over, and he felt a momentary pang of sympathy for the poor bastard who was pining over him. 

Queenie, on the other hand, had decided that it was the responsibility of Graves to see to it that Newt actually realized that he was being courted; the basis of a strong relationship happened to be communication, and it was clear that this was not a strong point for either man. With another dreamy smile, Queenie changed the subject to replacing the store's wallpaper with something a bit more whimsical.

Jacob was left feeling a bit behind, having only just realized what was happening. 

Newt, of course, didn't even notice.

____

Graves stood in his apartment, staring as his stove top with a frown. Around him, various utensils floated in the air. They did so in a confused, almost hesitant manner; several kept bumping into one another, and a whisk was currently batting away a spatula from what it had determined was its bowl. The bowl in question was running repeatedly into the wall, though Graves wasn't entirely sure what had led to that particular development. 

On the stove, a tray burbled sadly. Its contents were burnt black around the edges while, rather impressively, the center was still an uncooked liquid^. While Graves was not a connoisseur or even a passive eater of sweets, he knew enough about cakes to know that his did not look like one.

He had a sense that Newt would not appreciate receiving this as a gift.

Following his brief conversation (if it could be called that; it was more of an interrogation) with Tina, Graves had decided to change how he was going to go about this whole courtship thing. It had occurred to him that the young Mr. Scamander was fond of sweets-- or at the very least spent an inordinate amount of time at the no-maj pastry shop that Graves was not going to think about. While a cake wasn't a traditional courting gift, or really a courting gift at all, it had the virtue of being entirely unrelated to an interest in magical creatures.

Or at least Graves thought that it wasn't. His experience with Newt left him somewhat doubtful about this, but he figured it was worth a shot.

Graves flicked his wand. The ruined cake went soaring towards the trash and the utensils, recruited once again to aid in the likely impossible task of creating an edible pastry, reluctantly stopped what they were doing to begin stirring eggs into flour. Graves watched sternly, though in all honesty he didn't really know what he was watching for. He figured he would know it if he saw it, and tried not to dwell on the fact that he didn't know what it was either. 

He spent several minutes watching the utensils attempt to create the batter for a cake. Graves debated briefly on whether or not writing "Will you consider entering into a courtship?" on the top in pink icing would be too obvious-- there was such a thing as poor taste, after all-- or just the sort of blunt approach Tina had been talking about. He had just decided against the frosted lettering when he heard a sharp knock on his door. Somewhat relieved to have an excuse to leave the kitchen, Graves gave the utensils a stern look and wag of his finger before walking towards his front door.  

Another knock sounded, slightly more urgent, as Graves crossed his living room. Graves frowned at his visitor's urgency, but removed his apron and, after tossing it somewhere behind his couch where it would ideally remain out of sight, pulled open the door. 

"Yes? What do you--"

A snarled, "You bloody wanker!" interrupted Graves' mid sentence, as did a well aimed fist. A familiar blond head was behind the surprise attack, and Graves took a moment to reflect on how good it was to see that Theseus' punch had not lost its touch.

After the fiasco with Grindelwald, you would think that Graves would have learned his lesson about opening the door without at least checking the peep hole.

 

*-- Second only to waking up in a pink chest with dollies on it, of course.

**-- Tina was under the impression that Graves was unaware of all of this when, in reality, Graves had come to the realization that Jacob Kowalski had not, in fact, been left alone by the three wizards some time ago; Tina had a tendency to get shifty and twitchy when she was trying to hide something, so it didn't take genius level intellect to put two and two together. Graves simply let his subordinate think that she was getting away with the no-maj friendship because, to be entirely honest, he couldn't be bothered to fill out the 50 paged report such a thing would entail.***

***-- No, it had nothing to do with the fact that Newt would likely be shipped back to England, just as quick as you please, should he say something. Why are you asking?

^-- As anyone with a friend, family member, or acquaintance who is an aspiring cook knows, the hallmark of a supremely poor cook is not their ability to burn an item, but their ability only to burn some portions of the item while leaving the rest uncooked. Graves, in a feat rarely matched by other new chefs, had managed to catch the corners of his cake on fire while still failing to bake the middle. 

 

Chapter Text

 Whatever vestiges of self-preservation still existed in Graves* started to kick in after Theseus delivered his greetings.

With a grunt, Graves rolled to the side right as Theseus dove bodily towards him to finish whatever this was-- Graves wasn't yet willing to call it an ambush, as Theseus had been known to engage in strange and unusual greetings. A punch to the nose could very well be Theseus' new way of saying, "Why hello, old chap, very good to see you! Hope you're in good health and all that." Or at least something similarly British. 

As it was, Theseus wasn't currently saying anything that Graves would consider as being 'British,' despite his very British cursing. Though Graves wasn't entirely certain, he thought he could hear Theseus howling something about "deflowerers of precious baby brothers" and "the deepest pits of hell." He hadn't caught the verb involved in the declaration, but he had the sense that something along the lines of "rendering" or "banishing" might work well. 

In addition to his mean right hook, it would appear that Theseus had not lost his talent for poetic exaggeration.

Thanks to Graves' well-executed roll, Theseus had missed his follow-up attack and landed in a heap on the floor. The momentum with which he had flung himself at Graves made use of itself to fling Theseus into a favorite end table of Graves'. The collision appeared to agitate the omega, who snarled and attempted to get to his feet. A few pieces of paper fluttered down onto Theseus' head from the table, causing the omega even more agitation. He nearly fell over trying to bat the paper out of his face.  

"What in the hell are you doing?" Graves asked, honestly confused. He rolled again as Theseus managed, somehow, to toss himself forward from the graceless sprawl he had landed in. "Damn it, Theseus, what the hell's wrong with you?"

Theseus simply responded with a mangled wail-roar and a better aimed tackle that knocked the air out of Graves. Realizing that his friend wasn't open to communication at the moment, Graves decided to save his breath and focus on protecting his face.

While he wasn't a vain man, Graves was aware that his face was likely going to be in his favor when it came to courting Newt; having a broken nose or two black eyes come tomorrow morning probably wouldn't result in a swooning omega. Unless Newt liked the sort of alpha that got a bit roughed up every so often-- in which case maybe letting Theseus land another punch or two would be an acceptable, if not flat out advisable, tactic. 

Graves mused on this while trying to pretend that he was not musing on something so trivial. On his end, Theseus mused on the benefits of breaking the nose of the resident pretty boy alpha, and continued his attack with enthusiasm and vigor.

Despite the high amount of respect and awe allotted to the two war heroes currently wrestling on Graves' living room floor, the following fight was what some people, well-educated in the art of brawling, would refer to as pathetic. Perhaps even sad. Graves, not entirely sure what was happening and half distracted by his deep, philosophical musings on the omegan preference for a roughed up alpha over a healthy, unbeaten alpha, was not putting up much of a fight. He blocked several hits and yanked several choice chunks of hair, but otherwise made not further investments in the fight. On his end, Theseus wasn't trying to cause permanent damage to Graves; he merely wanted some form of bloodshed, preferably on Graves' end rather than his own. Plus, Theseus was in the middle of what Prima referred to as "hysterical hovering,** " and was currently not employing his rather impressive tactical and martial knowledge. 

As a result, the two men were rolling around on the floor rather than fighting, occasionally landing blows on one another. Various sounds, such as hissing and cursing, persisted during the rolling, alongside a crash or two as some unsuspecting furniture was rolled into and a pot met its fate via wooden flooring. The kitchen utensils, distracted from their cake baking duties, hovered in the kitchen entrance, curious to see the cause of all of the noise. 

They were, perhaps unsurprisingly, a bit disappointed at their discovery.

It was only after a third pot, gifted to Graves by Seraphina at the last mandatory office party, had crashed very near to Graves' head that he decided to put an end to things. In making this decision, it also occurred to Graves that having a wand was very useful and a good tool-- far superior than fists, that was certain.

Putting this tool to use led to a frazzled Theseus being thrown across the room to a wall that was a safe distance from Graves and his now bloody nose.

Graves righted himself as soon as he was free from the six foot some body that had previously been trying to suffocate him. He stood and stared, brushing imaginary dirt from his shirt, as Theseus hissed at him in a way that managed to be both amusing and utterly terrifying. 

Calm. That was the best way to approach an enraged attacker: calm and tranquility.  

"What the fuck, Theseus?" Then, because Graves didn't feel that he had conveyed his feelings well enough: "What the fuck?" 

Theseus glared at him while attempting to free himself from the wall. "You bastard!" he shouted. "How dare you prey on my brother's virginal innocence and naiveté!"
 
Graves opened his mouth to respond to this somewhat bizarre statement. He closed it soon after, as he realized that more thought was required before he'd be able to adequately address the statement. Theseus took his silence as a chance to spew more concerning and confusing accusations, as well as some rhetorical questions, presumably for flavor.
 
"You tosser-- this entire time you've been plotting to seduce my baby brother! Haven't you?!" Theseus bared his teeth in a menacing manner that most certainly did not have Graves taking a step back at all. "He's new to the ways of the world! Untainted by the touch of a bloody git like you!"
 
Graves processed this. "Your brother's a virgin," he finally said. "And this affects me... how?" 
 
For reasons that Graves didn't fully understand, but would very fully understand in a few minutes, this comment appeared to enrage Theseus. The omega howled and began to struggle valiantly to free himself, making gestures that suggested that he wanted to go for Graves' jugular.

Graves, fond of his ability to breathe unaided, took another step backwards. He waved discreetly towards a kitchen knife that had, upon hearing Theseus' caterwauling, hovered its way closer to the living room. The knife took stock of the situation and, after some deliberation, began to inch back towards the kitchen in blatant disregard of Graves' summons.

Graves couldn't say that he blamed the knife, though he was going to keep this in mind the next time he had to cast a drying spell on the cutlery. If the knife thought Theseus was bad, perhaps it needed to be reminded of the dangers of rust induced by soapy water.

"Theseus," Graves called, trying to be heard over the ravings of his friend. If the knife wasn't willing to cooperate, perhaps he should focus on talking things out. "Theseus!"  

The other man quieted down a bit, though he continued to snarl in a threatening, albeit subdued, manner. 

Seeing his chance, Graves held his hands forward in a placating gesture. "I don't know what the hell is happening, Theseus," he said. "Just... tell me what in Merlin's name is going on. We can figure it out from there, alright? I just need to know what's happening."

"You're courting my brother!" Theseus shouted, renewing his struggles and his howling. "My brother!"

Omegas were known to be protective of their young or, by extension, any persons that they considered to be their young. Theseus, a bit of a hot head as it was, would attack someone if he thought they were a threat to his brother. In fact, Theseus was likely to attack a would-be suitor in a manner very similar to the one he had employed on Graves several minutes ago. Merlin knew the man's protective instincts were probably the stuff of legends.

Still, Graves wasn't entirely certain why Theseus' protective instincts were rearing their dangerous head at him. Unless Theseus had mistaken his letter as being in reference to his younger brother? That could be it. Graves mentally reviewed all of the Longbottoms he had come in contact with. When that failed to pull up any possible suspects, he reviewed all of the omegas he was courting or had ever courted. There was the one: Newt.

But... that didn't make any sense. Aside from an unusual height for an omega and a similar, striking eye color, the two omegas didn't have a lot in common. Theseus was broader in the shoulders and always looked well-groomed while Newt was, well, Newt. And that didn't even begin to address the personality differences. Newt was one of the most passive and calm human beings Graves had ever met; quirkiness aside, Newt's mannerisms made for a highly valued omegan disposition. Theseus, in comparison, was the anti-thesis of a virtuous omega. He started fights with everyone he could, even if this meant fighting over a quill. Hell, Graves had seen him start a fight with someone over how they were crossing the street. There couldn't be too omegas who were more dissimilar.

Now that Graves thought about it, though, there always had been that confusion regarding Theseus' name. The British wizards had always seemed wishy washy about using Theseus' last name, Longbottom, and some other name. What was it again? It was awfully familiar, Graves was sure of that. He'd heard it recently. Actually, he'd read it. It was in one of Tina's reports, the one about that godawful acromantula--

Oh.  

Stupid didn't begin to describe the emotion Graves was currently feeling, partially because stupid was not, in fact, an emotion^. Graves closed his eyes and braced himself with a deep breath. "Newt Scamander is your brother, then?"

The resulting screaming and cursing confirmed Graves' theory.

___

 

Seraphina was in her office staring at a stack of reports that had, through sheer perseverance and self-importance, made it to her desk.

She had a relationship with paper work, and it wasn't a good one. Luckily, being Madam President tended to mean that paperwork was a rare visitor to her office, as her secretary or Graves were more than capable of handling whatever it was she didn't feel like dealing with. But some paperwork managed to work its way up regardless of the obstacles she set in its way; hence her current staring contest with the Grindelwald-based reports sitting ominously in their corner of her desk.

"One day," Serpahina told the reports, "we will find a way to rid the world of your presence."

 The reports rustled a bit in a defiant manner. 

"One day," she repeated under her breath. Nonetheless, she reached out and grabbed a report. A brief skim of the first page revealed two things: 1) she really, really hated this part of her job and 2) the auror who wrote this thing needed to have his or her thesaurus confiscated, perhaps violently so. 

Just as she was bracing herself to actually read the damned thing, her door was thrown open and Tina ran into her office. Seraphina stared at her, an eyebrow raised in a pointed, 'I think you're forgetting something' way. Upon seeing this, the younger woman paused mid-step and gasped in realization before shuffling back out. Shortly afterwards, a knock sounded.

Seraphina sighed. "Come in, Miss Goldstein."  

One day, Tina Goldstein would learn to knock before coming into her office. That day was not today. 

"I'm so sorry, ma'am, I just had important news for you-- I promise I'll knock next time, I know we've talked about it, it's just that something came up and I was in such a hurry to let you know, y'know, what with how important this news is--"

"Miss Goldstein," Seraphina interrupted, a bit desperately. Tina, she had found, had the unhappy talent of creating an unending sentence, apparently without the need for air. It was better to stop her sooner rather than wait for her to pause and breathe. "What are you here for?"

Tina took a calming breath in. "Right," she said. "Right-- Madam President, there's an intruder at Director Graves' house." 

Seraphina stiffened.

Ever since the fiasco with Grindelwald, she had placed some wards at Graves' house (without his knowledge). While Graves was an intelligent, competent auror and director, he had never really internalized the whole 'don't open the door to strangers' message that most people learned as children. Grindelwald had only been the latest in home visitors with hidden agendas; several months before the whole Grindelwald thing, Graves had been attacked by an auror he'd sentenced to janitorial. The man had charmed Graves' cleaning supplies into open warfare on the director, and Graves, for all of his tactical abilities, had been required to call in for back up. 

And before that, someone had left a bunny on Graves' doorstep. The bunny, while adorable, white and fluffy, was apparently bred in Britain to attack wizards and witches on sight. Graves had managed to fight it off, but just barely. Seraphina had, again, been required to step in with back up. That fiasco had taken several hours to get under control, not to mention the numerous no-mags that had had to be obliviated. 

The point was, Seraphina was tired of her second in command being incapacitated by his inability to use his peephole when at home. So, as any good boss would do, she'd installed a few wards as a fail safe. If Tina was to be believed, she had been right to do so.  

"Do we know who it is this time, Miss Goldstein?"

Perhaps it was that goblin Graves had so many issues with. That was bound to escalate at some point. Seraphina had just assumed that it would take a few more months of smugness before one of them cracked.

Tina flushed and shook her head. "No, ma'am. Just that his wards were activated. There didn't seem to be any magic involved when this happened."

Seraphina put her head in her hands. Feeling that that wasn't quite enough to convey the level of resignation she was experiencing, she began to massage her temples. At least she had a valid excuse to abandon her paperwork. 

"Miss Goldstein," she said, still rubbing her temples, "you'll come with me to handle this. We leave in ten minutes."

If there wasn't any magic involved, then more likely than not Graves hadn't managed to piss anyone off that badly. He'd be fine for the time it took her to find a hard drink. 

___

Graves was not, as it happened, what most experts would refer to as fine. His favorite (and only) pen-pal was attempting to cause him bodily harm. Or would be, if Graves' binding spell wasn't doing its job as fantastically well as it was.

The binding spell had the added benefit of ensuring that Theseus was unscathed. Sure, Theseus was turning a bit red in the face from all of his efforts to free himself so that he could, based on what Graves was observing, claw Graves' eyes out, but he'd be fine aside from a strained muscle. Or ten-- Graves admittedly didn't know a lot about anatomy. 

"I didn't know he was your brother!" Graves said in his defense.

"It doesn't matter! You still would have chosen to prey on him in all of his kind-hearted innocence!"

"Yes, but I wouldn't have told you that I was going to court him," Graves pointed out. He immediately regretted bringing up this point, valid though it was, as Theseus managed a choice bit of wandless magic and sent a bowl of fruit sailing towards him. Several apples and a banana made painful contact with his forehead.

"You arsehole!" the omega shouted, directing an ink pot and some quills towards Graves's jacket. The jacket was hanging, minding its own business and utterly defenseless, off a coat rack by the front door. Theseus shouted some other things, but Graves tuned him out so that he could focus on diving bodily in front of his jacket.  

Magic or no magic, ink stains were ridiculously hard to remove from quality material.

"Don't you dare bring my jacket into this, Theseus!" Graves roared, shielding the coat rack with his body. "You go too far!" 

This, of course, caused an intense debate about who had gone too far first: Graves, who had decided to court Theseus' brother, or Theseus, who had shown up at Graves' apartment uninvited, attacked him, and was now engaging in a scorched earth warfare with Graves' personal items.

The two men were in the middle of this debate when Tina and Seraphina apparated outside of the apartment. Hearing the shouting going on in the apartment, the women hesitated on the doorstep and looked at each other uncertainly. 

"Umm," Tina pointed out, eloquently.

"Yes," Seraphina agreed. "Very well put. Now go see what you can do to help."

That said, Seraphina began pushing Tina towards the door, much to Tina's dismay.  

"What!? No, I'm not going in there!" Tina dug her heels in and flung her arms out to the side, doing her best to resist the other alpha's increasingly forceful pushing. "It's fine. Clearly he's not in any danger--"

There was a loud shattering sound followed by what sounded like an anguished howl from Graves.

"Any major danger. It's probably just a misunderstanding that we don't need to get involved in, nope, not at all, he probably has it all under control--"

The sound of a body making contact with another body, at considerable speed and with considerable force^^, made this claim questionable, at best. 

"Oh, fuck it all," Tina finally said, "I'm going in."

She gave Seraphina a reproachful look that was borderline insubordinate and trudged her way up to the door.

She knocked. 

"Miss Goldstein!"

"What?" Tina asked, defensively. "You keep telling me to knock!"

"This is not the time, Miss Goldstein!"

Tina huffed and kicked the door open. Brandishing her wand protectively in front of her, she peered cautiously into the doorway. Behind her, Seraphina leaned forward to see what was happening.

Graves's jacket was lying on the floor, splattered with ink. Tina's eyes trailed further into the apartment to where two bodies were rolling on the ground for the second time that night. Graves, upon witnessing the fall of his beloved jacket, had released the binding spell so as to reengage Theseus in mortal combat. He was currently attempting to bash Theseus' head in with a banana, wand apparently abandoned. Tina was unimpressed with the scene, particularly since Graves made it a point to let her know that the loss of personal items was never a reason to behave unprofessionally. 

Using a fruit to attempt to injure an enemy was the height of unprofessionalism, Tina felt. Far worse than using clever euphemisms when hiding Newt's latest creature related mishap. 

Still, it likely wasn't a good idea for Tina to intervene. That's what Seraphina was here for, when it all came down to it. It was one thing to come to her boss' aid when he was being attacked by a European wizard with a flair for hiding people in doily covered chests-- it was quite another to intervene in her boss' personal fight with his frenemy.

"Umm," Tina said, gesturing pointedly with her head towards the two figures on the ground. "That is, yes." She paused, not sure what else to add. "Yeah."

Seraphina rolled her eyes. "Thank you, Miss Goldstein. I'll take it from here." Seeing that Tina was about to apparate her way to freedom, Seraphina reached out and grabbed the younger woman by her shoulder. "I did not excuse you, Miss Goldstein."

"But-but!" Tina couldn't put into words that it was very bad form to be present when your boss was getting reprimanded by his boss, though her rapid 'buts' did somewhat manage to convey this thought. 

"I can handle Director Graves, but I might need assistance with his friend," Seraphina said. She released Tina and began to make her way into the apartment. "Stand at the ready, Miss Goldstein. I'm sure that I hired you to do more than write reports about that Scamander omega's various magical beasts."

While this was true, Tina felt that her job description had adapted to consist almost entirely of writing Newt-based reports, and therefore she shouldn't be expected to participate in Graves damage control as well. 

Still, she mumbled a petulant, "Yes, ma'am," and stood in the doorway behind Seraphina.

With a flick of her wand, Seraphina separated the two men. Graves floated over to one corner while Theseus floated over to another. Another flick of her wand sent the kitchen utensils back into the kitchen. This was met with some reluctance, as the fight had just been getting interesting.

"What appears to be the problem, Director Graves?" Seraphina's tone of voice gave no indication that she was addressing a grown man with a half-squashed banana in his hands while another made noises akin to those of a congested cat in the opposite corner.

Graves gave her a look that would have qualified as pouting on any one else's face. On his, it merely looked intimidating. "He attacked me and spilled ink on my jacket." 

"He?" Seraphina repeated, turning to look at the other man. Her eyebrows shot up in surprise. "Theseus Longbottom?" 

Theseus, presented with an alpha that wasn't attempting to court his baby brother-- at least to his knowledge-- mustered up a semi-polite, "Yes, hello." He then resumed his hissing and spitting noises. 

"Director Graves," Seraphina began slowly, "why are you fighting with Theseus Longbottom?" 

"He attacked me and spilled ink on my jacket," Graves repeated, as though this clarified matters entirely. 

Which, in his defense, it did.

 Seraphina turned her attention back to the British wizard. "Might I ask why you attacked Director Graves, Mr. Longbottom?"

"And spilled ink on my jacket," Graves added. He felt that this was a rather important point that Seraphina was choosing to leave out.  

"Yes, yes-- that too. Well, Mr. Longbottom?"

"He's courting my brother!" Theseus said defensively. "My baby brother!"

"I had no idea he was your brother, goddamn it!"

"That's beside the point!"

"I told you, I wouldn't have said anything if I had known!"

"That makes it worse!"

Feeling that there were too many exclamations going on for her taste, Seraphina stepped into the argument. Somewhat literally, as she stepped between the two men in hopes of preventing them from making eye contact with one another.

"Gentleman, please. Calm down." She looked between the two. "Why don't we start from the beginning?" 

___ 

Several hours later, a hesitant truce had been arranged. Seraphina had been required to use all of the diplomatic skills that she had obtained during her time as Madam President, and she was a bit embarrassed to realize that this was probably one of the most impressive diplomatic feats she had executed. Let it be known that Percival Graves and Theseus Longbottom were not easy men to mediate for.

Not that anyone would be surprised at this fact, but still. She felt that the difficulty of the entire thing should be highlighted. 

Tina, upon sensing that her boss' boss had things under control, had attempted to flee once the proceedings had begun taking place. Seraphina had once again prevented her from escaping, and had required her to sit between Graves and Theseus as a sort of human wall. This had made for a very uncomfortable several hours for Tina, as she kept getting hit in the head with various odds and ends that the two men tried to lob at each other.

Still, accords were made and Seraphina had managed to establish some semblance of control over the whole courting situation. 

Things were now wrapping up, to the satisfaction of the two women and the reluctance of the two men.

"So you agree that Director Graves will be allowed to continue his suit of your brother, without any interference on your end?" While phrased as a question, this was in fact a statement that was not up for debate. 

Theseus sank down into his chair in a sullen manner. When Seraphina raised an eyebrow at him, he nodded. She rewarded him with a smile and one of the small caramels she kept in her pocket for mediation purposes. Theseus, after a moment of hesitation, stuck it in his mouth rather than throwing it at Graves' head.

Tina was grateful for this decision.

"Director Graves, do you agree to court Newt only in sight of his brother or a chaperone designated by his brother?" Theseus coughed pointedly. Seraphina sighed. "And do you agree to continue the courtship without any outside aid from Newt's friends?"

"So that you don't use the bonds of friendship to manipulate my poor, unsuspecting--" 

"Yes, thank you, Mr. Longbottom," Seraphina interrupted. "I'm sure we're all quite clear on why Graves shouldn't be allowed to have Tina and her sister help him."

"I just wanted to make sure," Theseus said. "In case there was any confusion."

"I think you cleared up any confusion the fifth time you explained this to us," Seraphina said. She was rubbing her temples again.  

Tina, having recently submitted a 40-paged paper on Niffler's acquisitive but occasionally generous nature-- particularly in regards to a certain director's watch and the fact that it was always returned-- empathized with the female alpha. Scamander omegas were a trying sort.

"I agree," Graves said. "But you'll remember--" 

"That Theseus is to provide you with the guidelines for a British courting. Yes, I remember that that came up almost as frequently as the stipulation that none of Mr. Scamander's friends help you."

While Graves wasn't positive that a British approach would be more successful, he felt that any attempt was worth a shot. He hadn't entirely discounted the straight-forward approach of simply asking Newt to be his mate, but he'd rather begin the relationship with more pizzaz. So to speak.

"Just to be sure," Graves muttered. 

Seraphina pretended not to hear him. "Then we're in agreement. Director Graves, you have the permission of everyone in this room--"

Theseus scoffed, earning him a kick in the leg from Tina. She wanted to go home and take a nice, long bath, and minor rebellions were not to be tolerated at this point in time.

"--everyone in this room," Serpahina repeated, with emphasis, "to court Newt Scamander."

There was a moment of silence as everyone in the room digested this news, with varying reactions and emotions.

Tina raised her hand. 

"What, Miss Goldstein?" Seraphina felt that it was better not to address the fact that her adult subordinate was choosing to raise her hand like a school girl. There were only so many battles that could be fought in one night.

"Does this mean I can leave now?"

"Yes," Seraphina said. She was suddenly exhausted. Dealing with the best and brightest occasionally had that effect, particularly when one of the best and brightest was Tina. "You may leave, Miss Goldstein." Then, before Tina could make her grand escape: "So long as you take Mr. Longbottom with you. I'm sure he needs somewhere to stay."

"But my apartment only allows-- oh, to hell with it." Arguing was a surefire way to get stuck doing something else, likely a report or something equally horrific. And it wasn't like Newt didn't already live with her and Queenie, albeit in his luggage. "C'mon on, then. I suppose you'll pass as an alpha, just walk a bit more puffed up or something. Like how the director..." Tina caught Graves' eye and coughed. "I mean. Umm. Just walk like an alpha. Yes. But no alpha in particular."

"Goodbye, Auror Goldstein," Graves said pointedly.

Tina recognized an out when she was presented with one. She hastily grabbed Theseus by his arm and, with a small crack, the two were gone.

And so the formal courtship of Newt Scamander was again put underway, this time with the blessing of his brother, given as it were under the militant mediation skills of Serphina Picquery. 

_____

 

*-- Despite his continuous disregard for proper safety protocols when answering a door. 

**-- Hysterical hovering was an umbrella term for anything to do with Newt. More often than not, it consisted of Theseus hovering in the general vicinity of Newt and doing his utmost to ensure that no alpha attempted to approach his baby brother, while simultaneously making sure that Newt was fed and had a warm cup of cocoa. All of this was done in a vaguely panicked fashion, hence Prima's name for it. 

^-- Though there are some groups of psychologists who believe that stupid is, in fact, an emotion. Under this theory of thought, people who are considered 'stupid' merely function on an emotional level that favors stupidity over other, more productive emotions such as happiness, anger, or the ever productive grudge-holding. 

^^-- Working for MACUSA, you learned very quickly what this sounded like. Often from personal experience as one of the bodies. 

Chapter Text

"So I'm to stay with you, then?"

"Yes," Tina replied. "Now be quiet so I don't have to talk to my landlady."

Tina and Theseus had apparated outside of her apartment building, leaving Seraphina to handle Graves. While Tina was somewhat hesitant to bring in a wizard stupid enough to attack Graves in the man's own house*, she also didn't want to stay around and have her boss toss more paper projectiles at her head. There were some things that were definitely not within her job description, and Tina liked to think that that was one of them.

Besides, sneaking Theseus in wouldn't be as hard as it was to sneak Newt and Jacob in that first time, all things considered. He walked like an alpha and glared at people in the way that the particularly aggressive alphas tended to glare. The landlady merely looked up from her books, which Tina suspected contained a list of the various misdeeds of her residents, and grunted at them.

But while there was no question about whether or not Theseus fell into the 'appropriate alpha visitor,' there was apparently a question as to the cost of his visit.

"If he's sleeping here it'll be extra," she called to Tina. 

"What?" Tina stopped to gape at the woman, causing Theseus to bump into her. "Why?"

The landlady wrote something down in her books. Tina was willing to bet it was something along the lines of 'unreasonably rebellious when presented with a blatant scheme to make money.'^ "It's my apartment, that's why."

"But it's a total cost for the room! It's not like Queenie and I pay individually. It's rent for the month, Miss Crabapple. The month." 

"Extra person means extra cost," the landlady insisted. "It's the rules." 

"Merlin's beard-- when has that ever been in the rules?" Tina was starting to get a bit hysterical. Theseus, standing beside her, was shifting back and forth on his feet in a manner that suggested that he was starting to feel awkward.

"Extra," Miss Crabapple repeated stubbornly. "Don't think I don't know about all of those visitors you bring up, Miss Goldstein." 

Tina knew for a fact that the old woman didn't know about Newt. He hid in his luggage so that she could carry him to her room without getting marked up by Miss Crabapple. Newt, unlike Theseus, wasn't likely to pass for an alpha. Or a beta, even. He shuffled around too much. Point being, Newt was the only person who visited (as Tina wasn't quite brave enough to attempt to sneak Jacob in again), and Miss Crabapple had never seen him come in.

"I do not! I'll have you know that Queenie and I rarely, if ever, have visitors. Who would we have over? We have no social lives! None!"

This served to make Theseus look even more uncomfortable, as well as somewhat suspicious about his brother's friend group. Miss Crabapple wrote something down again, causing Tina to groan. The last thing she wanted to have documented was the fact that she and her sister didn't have friends.

"It's a choice," she told Theseus. "We're work-oriented, you see. And... umm... introverts." That was a thing, wasn't it? "We like our quiet time."

Theseus gave her a dubious look. Oh, come on. He was friends with Graves. Graves clearly had no social life outside of work, Tina was willing to bet on it. 

"It's not like Queenie and I are odd or anything. Perfectly normal, just like to keep to ourselves. Ha ha." Tina could see Miss Crabapple scribbling away in her book. "Oh for the love of-- would you stop that?"

"What I write in my book is none of your business, Miss Goldstein." 

Tina would show her none of her business. Was it unethical to plant some sort of prohibited magical item, maybe a cursed ring or necklace, in the old lady's jewelry box? Surely not. And then they'd see who was laughing when Tina led the righteous raid on the dark witch landlady. She could go ahead and write that in her book, the old biddy.

"I'll pay the difference," Theseus said, interrupting Tina's internal revenge plot. His face looked very much like Graves' did when he informed Tina that his pocket watch was gone again and 'I wonder what could possibly have taken it this time, hmm, Auror Goldstein?' Meaning he looked exasperated and not entirely sure what he had done to earn this.

Miss Crabapple stopped writing and peered at Theseus. "Are you British, young man?" 

Theseus seemed a bit taken aback by this. Tina was too, to be honest. She couldn't tell if it was an accusation or an interested inquiry. "Yes, I am." 

Miss Crabapple sniffed. Tina noticed, however, that she sat up a bit straighter in her chair, pulling her shoulders back in a way that put her rather impressive bosum on display. "Oh, well, then! Mr. Fancy is staying over!"

"I'm not sure that I would use the term fancy," Theseus objected, looking bewildered at becoming the sudden focus of the old woman's ire. 

"I hope my modest living arrangements meet your high standards," Miss Crabapple continued. 

"I'm quiet used to spartan living arrangements," Theseus said, offended. Tina scowled at him; that was not going to help.

"Oh, spartan? Spartan is it!" Miss Crabapple began scribbling frantically in her book. "The fancy young alpha thinks my building is spartan!"

"I didn't say that!" Theseus cried. "When did I say that?"

"And now he's lying! To my face. The nerve!"

"I am not!" Theseus was looking back and forth between the women with something akin to desperation.

"Not so much fun being on the receiving end, huh?" Tina muttered to him. He seemed to find this an unfair accusation, based on the way he squinted at her in response to that.

"I suppose we can't all cater to the high end tastes of the Europeans." This was said as though it were a bad word. "Some of us believe that less is more, young man!" 

"And that's not a bad thing!" Theseus added. "Not at all."

"Listen to him!" Miss Crabapple stopped her scribbling to gesture towards Theseus. "Now he's condescending to me in my own home!"

"I am not!"

"I'm sure he doesn't mean to," Tina said, deciding it might be best to intervene now.

Miss Crabapple had a thing against the British; she was likely old enough to have been a part of the Revolutionary War. At the very least, she took all things British with a healthy dose of suspicion and hostility. Tina wasn't exaggerating when she claimed that this could and would go on all night.

"Your friends leave a lot to be desired, Miss Goldstein," Miss Crabapple said. She was back to writing in the damned book. "A lot to be desired." 

"That's really very unnecessary." Theseus looked ready to continue this conversation, despite Tina's efforts to the contrary. The more time Tina spent with him, the more she suspected that he wasn't the sort to leave things well enough alone. 

"He's just tired," Tina interjected, jabbing Theseus viciously with her elbow. "Poor guy just got out of a... disagreement over an omega." 

"I object to th-- ouch!" Theseus glared at her and rubbed his side.

Miss Crabapple seemed to lose some of her puffiness. "Is that so?" She squinted at Theseus. "You do look like the sort of hot head to get into those alpha pissing contests, young man."

Theseus was staring to turn red, Tina noticed. "He really is that sort," she agreed. She stepped on Theseus' foot when he started to protest. "A total hot head," she added, pointedly.

Theseus remained quiet. His ribs were throbbing and Tina, for all that she was shorter than he was, had a pretty heavy step. 

"But I'm sure Theseus is very impressed by the apartment, Miss Crabapple," Tina continued. "In fact, he was telling me as much when we came in. Something about the simple elegance of the place, I think."

Tina and Theseus exchanged a look. "Very elegant," Theseus ground out. Tina elbowed him pointedly. "I mean, strikingly elegant? Ha ha, what about this is modest? Terribly lovely and high end. Awfully better than anything I've seen in London."

Miss Crabapple puffed up a bit, though she did so while maintaining a suspicious look at the two alphas standing in the entry way. "Flattery will get you no where, young man. But... I suppose that this one night you're welcome to stay," she said, proving that flattery would, in fact, get them somewhere. "Can't have it said that Americans aren't hospitable, even to the Brits."

"I'm sure Theseus would say no such thing," Tina assured her, yanking Theseus towards the staircase. "Right, Theseus?" 

"Right," Theseus didn't sound positive about this, but he did seem to have a healthy wariness of Tina and her elbow. 

The two fled the entry way, heading up the several flights of stairs that led to Tina and Queenie's apartment door. They ran into a few of the other inhabitants, who all took the opportunity to raise their eyebrows in shock at the sight of Tina with a visitor.  

"Oh, fuck off," Tina finally snapped at one of them. It was the prissy alpha from a few doors down. She always gave Tina these looks that were half pity, half superiority. The alpha glared at her, but let her be; Tina was clearly not an alpha to be messed with, despite her questionable social standing. 

Tina looked like the sort to have boney elbows, and the other alpha bruised easily.

When they finally got to her door, Tina threw it open and shoved an unsuspecting Theseus inside. He stumbled into the entry way and face planted onto the paisley sofa that made up the majority of their living room furniture. Queenie, hearing the commotion, appeared in the kitchen entry. 

"A guest!" she said. "We don't get a lot of those." 

There was a muttered, "I wonder why," from the direction of the sofa, just as Tina hissed out an offended, "Queenie, really!"

"Oh," Queenie breathed, clapping her hands together in excitement. "You're Newt's older brother!" She paused. "Theseus, is it? I'm Queenie, Tina's sister. Queenie Goldstein."

The blond alpha straightened himself out, glancing at Queenie curiously. "I don't believe we've met."

"No," Queenie replied in her friendly way.

Theseus stared at her for a moment. Then, something clicked: "You're a legilimens, then?" 

Queenie nodded, somewhat sheepishly. 

Theseus mulled this over. "Does that mean you can see what Percival's thinking about?" he finally asked, hopefully.

"Who?" Tina asked, right as Queenie said, "Oh, you mean Director Graves?"

Tina, standing a bit behind Theseus and therefore out of his immediate line of sight, began shaking her head 'no,' at Queenie. For added emphasis, she brought her arms up in a giant 'x' in front of her while thinking as loudly as possible, 'please Merlin, lie through your teeth.'

But Queenie was already nodding, though she did appear a bit confused by her sister's insistence that she lie. "His mind's a bit tricky," she added, for Tina's benefit. "Hard to see what he's thinking."

"But you can see it?" Theseus asked, looking far too interested in this for Tina's comfort.

Queenie let out a gasp. "I'm not going to spy on the director's thoughts about Newt!" she said, scandalized. "Why would I do something like that?" A pause. "I'm sure knowing what he's thinking isn't going to make you feel better about this whole thing."

"Oh Merlin," Tina said, putting her head in her hands.  

"And why is that?" Theseus was starting to get a glint in his eye that Tina didn't like. "He's a pervert, isn't he? My poor brother! My poor, innocent baby brother!"

"Would you be quiet?" Tina hissed, coming away from the door to shake Theseus by his shoulders. "Miss Crabapple is going to charge us for this!"

"I have to protect my brother's virtue!" Theseus cried, ignoring her. "He's lost and alone, surrounded by strange Americans at every turn!" 

Tina changed her grip to Theseus' neck. "Strange?!" This was really the final straw. Tina didn't think that Theseus appreciated how emotionally draining it was to be stuck in your boss' sitting room while he and his friend-turned-enemy threw balls of paper at your head. The frustration of the night was finally kicking in.

"Stop it, Teens!" Queenie rushed over and began the doomed attempt of pulling Tina off of the shouting omega. "I know it's been a long night, sweetie, but calm down!"

"Violent and strange!" Theseus amended, though this came out somewhat garbled.

Tina let out a shriek of rage and increased her efforts to strangle the omega. Queenie continued to try to pull her sister off of Theseus, but to little success. Theseus, in a show of delayed self-preservation, began yanking at Tina's hair in an attempt to get her to release his neck. This was the scene that Newt stumbled into, having left his workroom in the suitcase to pilfer for food in the kitchen. 

"Oh hello, Theseus!" he said, rubbing his eyes.

He paused mid rub, having realized something. He stared at the trio curiously. They stared back, somewhat guiltily. Tina slowly removed her hands from Theseus' neck while Theseus removed his hands from the chunk of Tina's hair he'd grabbed. Queenie, able to listen to the pair's thoughts, did not remove her arms from their grip around Tina's waist. 

"What're you doing here?" he asked, giving the group a wary look. "And, uh, why were you pulling Tina's hair?"

___ 

Meanwhile, Graves had finally managed to get Seraphina out of his apartment. The past hour or so had been an incredibly awkward period for him, and Graves would admit to feeling a bit flustered. And angry. Perhaps even pissed off.

"Goddamn it, Theseus," he muttered to himself.

He was in the process of cleaning his living room and kitchen. Various odds and ends were sailing through the air and putting themselves back to order, all of them wary of the man with the wand. He had the air of a man on his last nerve. Best to let him have his space, they decided collectively. He hadn't shown much aptitude for wand usage yet, but that didn't mean he wasn't willing to pull out his wand on bystanding cleaning supplies.

Graves knew that his friend was a bit of a loon when it came to his brother, but this was taking it too far. His living room was a wreck and there was smashed fruit smeared on several different surfaces. The smell of burnt cake, likely a combination of both Cake A and the forgotten Cake B, permeated the air. 

"I knew I shouldn't have given him my address," Graves continued. "No good ever comes from giving people your address." Not that that stopped them, he reflected. 

He picked up the remains of his fruit bowl by hand, shooing away a duster that had come over to assist him. He'd liked this fruit bowl. It was a good fruit bowl. "Bastard," Graves snarled, dropping the bowl pieces to the floor. They shattered, which only made him angrier.

It wasn't as if this whole courtship thing had been going all that well to begin with. He was a week in and Newt didn't even realize that Graves was courting him. Graves had honestly thought that matters couldn't get worse. But now Theseus was here, and-- Graves would be honest-- Theseus was a scary son of a bitch when the mood hit him. He'd had to be, all things considered.

Working in a predominantly alpha field as an omega wasn't easy, particularly because most places didn't allow omegas to work in them. In fact, forbade might be a better term. But Theseus hadn't really left anyone with the option of telling him some nonsense like 'omegas aren't allowed to be aurors'; this was largely because he knew several spells that would set people on fire, and appeared to lack the moral guidelines that would prohibit him from using them. This made for a bit of an intimidating persona, Graves had to admit. A very, very intimidating persona. 

So backup would be appreciated. Not because Graves was afraid of Theseus or anything. It was more that he didn't want Theseus showing up at his doorstep again. But Seraphina had made it clear that, aside from her brief mediation intervention, she wanted nothing more to do with this. In fact, she had said something along the lines of 'I don't want to handle anything else to do with your romantic life, Percival.' Basically, Seraphina wasn't an option.

Tina and the rest of Newt's little friends (the no-mag baker presumably included) weren't allowed to step in and assist with the courtship, never mind the brother. 

But there was... no, that would be crossing too many boundaries. Far too many boundaries. But... Theseus had shown up to his house. That was a boundary that had been crossed. Very obviously and violently so.

This was awfully personal, though. And personal things were so... personal. Graves hated personal.

Desperate times called for desperate measure, Graves mused. Plus: "He started it," Graves muttered, pushing his way through the crowd of cleaning supplies to get to his office. He sat down at a large, antique desk that had been in his family for several generations. It always made him feel a bit better about himself, to be honest. His dam had said something about generations of Graves hormones having permeated the oak of the desk, which might have something to do with the confidence booster the desk always provided.

Graves needed something of a confidence booster right now. He allowed himself a moment of simply sitting at the desk, breathing deeply to gather himself. Then, with one final breath in, Graves pulled out a piece of paper-- the nice kind, with a tastefully subtle border-- a quill, and some ink.

Mrs. Longbottom, Graves wrote, Come get your husband. He stopped and looked at his letter. 

Okay, so some more work was probably necessary. And Seraphina might have a point about Graves needing to be less blunt and more personable. Why did personable have to be so difficult, though?

Graves sighed and waved his wand in the vicinity of the kitchen. Shortly afterwards, a mug of coffee came sailing towards his desk, and settled itself on a coaster beside Graves' hand. It appeared a bit apprehensive, but willing to suffer any possible consequences in line of its duty. Graves grunted at it, satisfied that some of his household items had the appropriate amount of respect for him and duty. He picked it up and took a long, determined drink.

Right. He could do this. He had to read flowery language all the time, courtesy of aurors who were still questioning their decision not to pursue careers in writing. Surely it wouldn't be that hard. 

Dear Prima,

Your husband is here. Please retrieve him. 

Regards,

P. Graves

There. That was much better. Graves felt that he was starting to understand this personable thing.

__

Luckily, Newt's presence seemed to have a calming effect on Theseus. Though calm probably wasn't the right word, as Theseus wasn't calm in the sense that he was tranquil and peaceful. But he did appear to be less hostile towards Tina, which Queenie felt was a major break through for them.

The two omegas were seated on the large sofa that Theseus had previously face planted onto. Newt was smiling at his brother and cradling a cup of cocoa in one hand and a cookie in the other. Theseus was smoothing his brother's curls down while asking Newt how he'd been and if any one had bothered him.

This last part was said with a suspicious glance at Tina, which Tina felt was incredibly unfair.

"It's quite lucky that you got assigned a mission here," Newt said to Theseus. He didn't appear bothered by his brother's mother henning, though Tina had thought that Theseus' attempts to wrap him in the living room quilt would have justified some complaints. She was honestly surprised that he had full use of his hands. "I'm so glad to see you again! And so is Pickett," he added. "He missed you and Prima a lot."

Theseus finished rearranging Newt's hair and leaned back to beam at him in a way that Tina had seen some mothers look at their babbling toddlers. "I couldn't wait till you came over for the holidays," Theseus said, lying through his teeth. "I had to see how you were doing."

Again with the suspicious looks, Tina thought. She resisted the urge to flip him off. Tina didn't want to say that she was a saint, but she believed that she had the restraint of one. Minor strangling attempt aside.

"Isn't it lovely here?" Newt asked, apparently immune to any and all hostility exhibited by his brother. "Look, my friend Jacob made me cookies shaped like Niffler! They're remarkably accurate, aren't they? I admit that I prefer his danish version, but these have some details that I don't think were possible on the danishes. Look, he even added Mr. Graves' watch!" 

Newt turned to study his cookie thoughtfully. Theseus was glaring sourly at the cookie, looking at the cookie as if it had personally betrayed him.

"Niffler steals Mr. Graves' watch pretty often, honey," Queenie said in response to whatever it was Theseus was thinking. "It seems to upset him an awful lot, according to Teens."

This seemed to appease Theseus somewhat. He was regarding the cookie speculatively. Tina didn't feel that this was any better than his glare, as matters concerning Niffler and the pocket watch typically required her intervention.

"What have you been up to?" Theseus asked, tearing his gaze away from the cookie to stare at Newt. "Anything of interest happening?"

Newt pondered this for a moment. "No, not that I can think of." He gasped in excitement. "Though I did find this rather charming acromantula--"

"Yes, yes," Theseus interrupted. "But has anything interesting happened with, oh I don't know, another person? Hmm? Perhaps an evil or conniving alpha?" He leaned in closer to Newt, gazing intently into the younger omega's eyes. "You can share any problems with Big Brother Theseus, Newt."

Newt's brow furrowed. He met Theseus' gaze for a moment, then turned his stare at a single strand of hair that had escaped from his brother's gelled back hairdo. "Do you mean Grindelwald?" he finally asked.

"No, I meant- wait, what?" Theseus leaned back in surprise.

"I don't know if he was an alpha," Newt continued. "But I suppose he was evil and conniving."

Theseus opened his mouth, then closed it. It was clear that he was trying to decide whether or not he should pursue this new, Grindelwald-related avenue over the more pressing Graves-related one. Graves, however, won out. "Has there been any other alpha?" Theseus pressed. "Maybe one who you see on a semi-regular basis?"

Newt looked over at Tina and Queenie, then back at Theseus. "Not them," Theseus said. Then he turned to squint at Tina, again. "Unless-- no, no not them."

"No?" Newt seemed to be aware that his brother was digging for information, Tina reflected. "I'm sorry, I can't help but feel like you're trying to ask me about someone in particular."

Tina took this moment to step in. "He wants to know about Director Graves," she said, walking to the kitchen so that she could avoid the deadly glare being shot her way, courtesy of Theseus. She started to help Queenie tidy things up. "He and the director are old friends."

"Are you?" Newt sounded excited. Tina took some joy in knowing that this was likely to irritate Theseus. "He never mentioned anything!"

Queenie frowned and leaned towards Tina. "I don't think Mr. Graves is a lying, conniving prat, Teens," she whispered before glancing into the living room. "Mr. Theseus seems awfully upset with him."

"He's really a very nice man," Newt was saying, oblivious to his brother's mood. "He gave me a book of magical creatures. And this lock-- it's supposed to make sure that none of my creatures get too far away. It's been a full day and Niffler hasn't once gotten out. I think it might take him a full week before he gets out again." 

This was said with a bit too much optimism, but perhaps Tina was being cynical. Niffler was only a mortal creature, after all; surely something was capable of containing him.

"It's really wonderful," Tina called from the safety of the kitchen. "Very thoughtful."

"Ah," Queenie gasped. She turned to Tina. "You're not supposed to intervene," she said reproachfully. 

"This isn't intervening," Tina retorted. "It's retribution." Then, louder: "Show him the book, Newt! It really is something, Theseus, let me tell you."

"That's not very nice," Queenie scolded her half-heartedly. "The poor thing is really very worried about his brother."

"Yeah, well, he attacked my boss and made my night time report writing run until midnight." Tina held her hands out to the side to convey her sense of helplessness. "Is it so wrong to want revenge, Queenie?"

In the living room, Newt was struggling to free himself from the quilt so that he could show his book to Theseus. When Tina glanced in, she wasn't terribly surprised to notice that Theseus was trying to tuck the quilt tighter around his brother.

"Don't rush off," Theseus was scolding him. "You just ate a cookie and had some cocoa. You'll upset your stomach!"

Newt stopped his struggles. "I can always show it to you later," he conceded. "Mr. Graves did a wonderful job choosing it. It's remarkably accurate, except for a few missing--"

Tina tuned him out, having heard about the virtues and shortcomings of the book several times now. She glanced around the kitchen for something to do. The counters were clean of any plates or food now, but Tina was reluctant to leave the safety of the kitchen. Queenie, currently checking the fridge to see if they'd have enough food for everyone in the morning, glanced at Tina over her shoulder.

"You'll need to go out there at some point," she told her. "It's our house, Teens, and you've got work in the morning."

Something occurred to Tina at that moment that hadn't occurred to her earlier-- likely because her mental state was such that it wouldn't have been able to handle it very well.

"What the hell am I supposed to do with him tomorrow?" she hissed to Queenie. "Can you imagine him at work? Can you?"

Queenie glanced out the kitchen entry to where Theseus was fuming quietly while Newt continued to talk about Graves. "He seems nice enough," she said. She offered a sheepish smile to Tina. "Aside from some rather... vivid thoughts about Graves," she admitted.

"Yeah, and guess who's going to have to step in if he decides to reenact those thoughts?" Tina asked her. 

"Just be patient with him, sweetie." Queenie walked over to her sister and placed her hands on Tina's shoulders. "He's worried about his brother. You worry about me and my Jacob."

"That's different," Tina objected. "You're legally not supposed to date him, Queenie." She didn't think that this was entirely clear to her sister. Or Newt for that matter.

"Oh, they just say that," Queenie said, waving off Tina's concerns with a hand. "That's beside the point. You worry that Jacob might break my heart--"

"Yes," Tina said, "because you're literally not allowed to date him, by law of the land."

"Theseus is worried that Graves will break Newt's heart." Queenie paused. "And do some other things, but that's really the main reason."

Tina glared at Theseus over Queenie's shoulder, unconvinced.

"Teens," Queenie said, grabbing Tina's chin so that her sister had to stop glaring at Theseus to look at her. "Just give him a chance. Be patient with him. He means the world to Newt, just like you mean the world to me."

Tina relented, just a little. "I'll bring him in with me tomorrow." If only so that she could torment Graves a bit, too. "Newt can show him around the offices."^^

Queenie grinned at her. "Oh, Teens! I know this is going to work out for everyone!"

 

___

 

* - The track record of wizards willing to attack Graves on his own turf was, admittedly, high and rather good. So perhaps stupid wasn't the best term to use. Still, it was worth noting that the wizards willing to attack Graves were not the most mentally stable.** 

** - That was probably a bit of an under-exaggeration. Grindelwald was, at best, referred to as a mad genius. The other wizards that had attacked Graves were, while not the genius type, definitely the mad sort. Both in the sense that they had lost their minds or were a teensy bit angry with the director.

^ - Tina was, as it happened, correct. More or less. The landlady had several pages dedicated to Tina and Queenie, and none of the pages reflected well on the sisters.

^^ - Newt, to the confusion of the mass majority of MACUSA's aurors, spent a lot of his free time roaming the MACUSA headquarters. A few of the aurors suspected that this had something to do with the way Director Graves looked at the omega when he thought no one was watching, but they didn't feel that this was knowledge that should be shared unless there was a lot of alcohol involved. And, y'know, maybe a secluded room that was far from Graves' ear shot.

Chapter Text

Newt wasn't sure what was causing everyone to behave so oddly, but something clearly was.

Queenie had left for the day, having made breakfast for everyone and, for some reason, having pulled Tina aside to whisper somewhat urgently at her while gesturing towards Theseus. She had hugged Newt and told him to be patient with everyone, before flouncing out of the apartment in a cheery manner that was greatly at odds with the hostile manner being displayed by Tina and Theseus.

Now he was alone in the apartment with his brother and Tina, and the vibes he was picking up on were not at all pleasant.

It should be noted at this point that Newt, generally oblivious to things that had nothing to do with his creatures, was not often able to pick up on the behavior patterns of humans; he tended to go about life with the vague optimism that everyone was, at their base, a decent person. This had led to some awkwardness for him, as someone who was, in fact, an asshole, he typically assumed was merely having a bad day. This tended to be in total contradiction to the general assholery the person went about displaying in their day-to-day lives.

Point being, Newt wasn't very good at reading people.

So it spoke volumes that he was able to sense some tension between his brother and Tina. Meaning, their hostility was so thick you could proverbially cut it with a butter knife.

It wasn't dissimilar to the way a hippogriff might handle someone who wasn't obliging in the whole 'bow before me in a polite and slightly fearful manner, mere mortal, or I shall render you a reason to bend over'; Theseus was clearly waiting for Tina to perform some sort of obligatory gesture, and Tina was waiting for something similar from Theseus.

The result was that the two were circling each other in a manner that reminded Newt very strongly of two hippogriffs he had met in the hills of Ireland. He reflected that the two hippogriffs had both been defending a highly valued piece of rock* and neither was willing to concede to the other's defense of the rock as being better than its own defense of said rock.

If Newt were more perceptive, he might have realized that he was, in this instance, that piece of rock. 

As it were, he spent most of the incredibly tense breakfast trying to puzzle out the apparent source of discord, while half-heartedly resisting Theseus' attempts to bundle him into another layer of protective outerwear, i.e., a very puffy jacket and winter accessories.

"You can show him around the headquarters," Tina said as she watched Newt attempt to put his arms to the side; the jacket made such a thing impossible. "I'm sure Theseus would really like-- love even-- to see Graves' office."

"It really is a nice office," Newt said to Theseus. His arms had rebounded from his sides and nearly whacked Theseus in the face. Rather than be discouraged by this, Theseus had a self-satisfied look on his face. It disappeared at Newt's observation about Graves' office.

"I'm sure it's a bit stuffy," Theseus said. "Most offices are."

"No," Newt replied, after some consideration. "It's actually rather airy-- Pickett is very fond of it because it's so breezy."

Theseus wasn't deterred. "I'm sure it has a bit of that stench that big cities often get, then," he said. He began wrapping a scarf around Newt's neck and the general vicinity of his face. It was snowing an awful lot outside, and Newt was susceptible to sniffles.

"Not at all!" Newt said, though this came out muffled due to the durable layers of scarf protecting his mouth. "I think he lights candles or something."

"High end candles," Tina added, helpfully. "The tasteful kind, not the cheap, cloying ones that everyone knows only want to be expensive." 

Theseus, Newt noticed, was scowling at Tina. He couldn't imagine why.

Having to concede to the superiority of Graves' office, Theseus took some comfort in finding a thick cap to put on Newt's head. This required some yanking, as the cap was lined with heavy, but very warm, wool, and wasn't yet willing to reimagine itself as the slightly stretched out piece of headwear it would need to become in order to accommodate Newt's curls. 

As in many situations that involved Theseus, he managed to bend the hat to his will through sheer pig-headedness. 

Newt, normally of a tall and lanky build, at this point in his life could be accurately compared to a marshmallow or any sort of marshmallow-shaped food group. If the numerous layers were unable to keep him warm, at the very least they would insure that, should he fall a great distance, he would bounce.

"We should get going," Tina said, looking at Newt in a way that would have been at home on the face of someone who had just seen a rat eat a snake, rather than the other way around. 

"This is so exciting!" Newt said. 

The garbled sounds that emerged from behind his scarf were not immediately recognizable as 'this is so exciting,' but both Tina and Theseus were used to hearing Newt make muffled comments**. They were, therefore, able to share a dubious look between them that was, aside from the instance with Miss Crabapple, perhaps the first time the two had ever been on the same page.

Both immediately looked away and attempted to pretend that such a thing had not happened. 

___ 

"And this is where I leave you!" Tina said to the brothers.

Newt had been recovered from his layers, and was now standing pink faced with his brother and best friend in the large, yet almost claustrophobic, entry room to MACUSA. Tina was beginning to back away from the brothers, having done her duty and ensured that Newt wouldn't suffocate on 100% cotton yarn. 

She was smiling very happily, Newt noticed. Tina often smiled, but he didn't think he had ever seen her smile so widely when at MACUSA. Not even when he showed her his latest rescue.

Now that he thought about it, she tended to get a bit of a cagey look to her when he put his suitcase down to show her some new creature. It wasn't dissimilar to the look he'd seen a kneazle display when presented with a bath and no immediate exit. He didn't understand why she would look so cagey-- it wasn't as if he'd ever pull a bath from his case. 

Tina was an interesting person, Newt reflected as he watched her walk at a quick pace away from them. 

He continued to think this as he watched her break into a run towards the elevator.

Newt turned to his brother, who was looking around at the various aurors and lower-level bureaucracy members in a bit of predatory manner. 

"Well," Newt said cheerfully, "what would you like to see first? There's the cafeteria," he suggested, hopefully, as he suspected that today was free cookie Wednesday. "Just over there. To your left a bit. Right on the way to all of the interesting things."

Theseus smiled at a group of strutting aurors that passed by. The smile was not a friendly one; it wouldn't even have passed for a cautionary one, which dangerous people often use in place of friendly smiles. There was a distinct promise of pain and suffering in the smile, one which left the execution of said pain and suffering entirely to the viewer's imagination.

One of the aurors-- a co-author of the Graves' Mandate, in fact-- paled and tried to figure out why the smile reminded him of Director Graves before the alpha had had his coffee.

"I'm sure the kitchens are lovely," Theseus said, having laid the foundations of hierarchy according to Theseus. "Say, are they on the way to Percival's office, by chance?"

"Mmm, no, I don't think so." 

"What a shame!" Theseus said, though his tone of voice suggested the opposite. 

Newt tried to figure out why he was having flashbacks to life at Hogwarts, particularly around the time any balls or dances were being held.

He couldn't make sense of it, and instead focused his thoughts on figuring out whether or not the cook had set aside a Pickett-sized cookie.

This had become somewhat of a tradition of Wednesdays, and Newt would be disappointed if it ended.

__

"Auror Goldstein," Graves called as he headed towards his office. 

Said auror froze. 

Her body appeared much as if it wanted not to have stopped. Her back had hunched forward and one leg was lifted in the air; all in all, she was posed to begin running madly for the nearest exist.

Graves took no notice of this, as most people took on similar poses when he stopped them in the hallway.

There was some mumbling from the auror.

"What was that?" Graves asked. Not that he particularly cared, he just knew that he was in for a rough few days and, on a petty level, wanted to see Tina squirm a bit. "Your voice is oddly muffled, Auror Goldstein." 

More mumbling. 

Tina stared determinedly at the ground as her boss slowly made his way in front of her. The ground, she mused, was a reliable thing. It supported you went you were walking and, more importantly, when it was about to hit you in the face, you saw it. 

Graves always gave the sense of being about to hit you in the face, but for some reason you never really saw it coming until after the fact.

"And what are you up to on this fine day?" Graves asked. Once again, it was clear that he didn't particularly care what she was up to. He was just closing in on his target.

Mumbling with a bit of shoulder hunching commenced.

"Ah yes," Graves said, coming to a stop in front of Tina. "Lovely. And where is," he paused, closing his eyes as if to prepare himself for a threat, "Theseus Longbottom?"

Some mumbling and marked avoidance of eye contact.^  

"I'm sorry, I didn't quite catch that." This was something that Graves actually cared to hear about, and as such he didn't attempt to ask another vaguely threatening question.

"He's here with Newt, so hell if I know," Tina whispered to the decorative plant in the corner. It waved at her in what might have been considered a flirtatious manner. She immediately directed her attention to slightly less lively plant a few feet away.

"Auror Goldstein," Graves said, beginning to become exasperated, "I have this strange suspicion that I'd be able to understand you better if you were to speak-- oh, I don't know-- to my face, perhaps?"

Tina attempted to raise her gaze to Graves, and made it all the way up to his scarf. He hadn't had the chance to take off his outer-layers in his office yet. The first thing he'd done upon arriving at the MACUSA headquarters had been to set up shop in a slightly shady corner in order to wait for Tina.

Not in a creepy way, of course.

"I said," Tina repeated to the scarf, "I don't really know. He's here." She paused. "With Newt." Another pause. "So really, I think your best bet is the kitchen." 

Graves stared at her. His left eye started to twitch, just so.

"It's free cookie Wednesday," Tina said slowly. She didn't think Graves was the sort to appreciate free cookie Wednesday. Worse, he was probably the sort to say something ridiculous along the lines of '8AM is too early to consume cookies, you immature failure at adulthood.'

"He's here?" For some reason, Graves hadn't imagined an angry Theseus at his workplace. 

The mental image wasn't pleasant. 

"I wasn't about to leave him at my apartment," Tina said. "I think my landlady goes in there when Queenie and I go to work," she added, sotto voce. "I swear that my reports moved from the coffee table to the kitchen counter."

"So you brought him here?" Graves wasn't hysterical, he was merely concerned.

"Of course, Queenie sometimes comes home for lunch," Tina continued, far more concerned with her landlady's nosiness than the fact that Graves' new arch-nemesis might currently be receiving a free cookie with Graves' intended. "But then again, she's been going over to Ja-- I-ah, that is, Queenie hasn't been going any where. Nope. No where at all. Especially not to a pastry shop ha ha. That's ridiculous." 

The more practical side of Graves took the time to mentally file away the realization that he needed to retrain his team on subterfuge, as their abilities at deceit appeared to leave a lot to be desired. 

The rest of Graves was too focused on the fact that Theseus was at MACUSA to really care. And he was here with Newt, to make matters worse.

Surely there was a protocol for something like this. A building-wide lock down, perhaps? 

No measure was too much, Graves felt. Particularly when necessary against a man with a disposition like bulldog and the self-restraint of a five-year-old.

Perhaps he should just continue on to his office and try to catch Newt once the omega had wandered off towards the nearest source of trouble and or chaos. It wouldn't take long; Newt did this regularly. Or, even better: if he waited long enough, Prima was bound to appear. She definitely wouldn't leave him to deal with her husband by himself. That was just asking for a war between Britain and America, and she damn well knew it. 

So, yes. Hide-- that is, wait in his office. Yes. Wait in the safety of his breezy, comfortable office. Like the respected auror he was, yes.

...

That said, maybe now was a good time to confront Theseus. Y'know, to face his fears and what not. 

Graves tended to approach life much the way he approached answering the door. That is, he opened it without considering too long the possibility of bodily harm to himself. Under that mindset, it occurred to Graves that he might as well track down the Scamander brothers and deal with whatever fresh hell Theseus had crafted for him (and his employees, the poor wretches).  

Newt always said something along the lines of it being better to die one death than the thousand deaths of a coward, though Graves thought that Newt used this as an excuse to approach obviously dangerous creatures with an unbecomingly optimistic air.

Regardless, Newt had a point.

Graves walked past Tina in a quick, purposeful way that was more suggestive of a stride than a walk. One could even go so far as to refer to it as a march.

It was determined is what the narrator is trying to say.

"Where are you going?" Tina asked. She felt a vague sense of deja vu when Graves ignored her and turned in the direction of the cafeteria. 

No one listened to her here.

__

Theseus watched his brother feed a surprisingly adorable bowtruckle sized cookie to Pickett. 

He wasn't thrilled to be at MACUSA, to be honest. But there was fresh meat-- ah, that is, there were new persons upon whom he could impose his will. That was a plus.

But Graves was here, waiting to engage his baby brother in conversation like the bastard he was. 

That was a decided negative.

"The cafeteria is one of Pickett's favorite places," Newt confided to him. "The cook here normally makes him a plate." Some noise erupted from the little green creature currently gorging itself on chocolatey goodness. "Yes, his cookies are good, aren't they? Don't tell him I said this," Newt's voice lowered, "but they're on par with Jacob's." 

There was a shocked sound from the bowtruckle. It began to chitter at Newt in a heated manner, pointedly throwing its cookie to the floor. It then turned from Newt as if betrayed.

As he watched the cookie meet its untimely demise via the tile, Theseus reflected on the fact that Newt gravitated towards creatures that were oddly dramatic. 

There had been that one dragon Newt had been so fond of-- the one that set fire to everything whenever the littlest thing when wrong. Never mind the little bird dragon thing that would pretend to die anytime something didn't go its way.

He wondered what could possibly have led to Newt preferring the dramatic creatures over the more sensible ones. 

Surely nothing he'd done, Theseus decided. He was a rather mellow person, if he did say so himself.

"Where to now?" he asked, interrupting the lecture Newt was giving to Pickett about small problems entailing small reactions.

Newt paused. "Well," he said, "there's Tina's desk. I've been meaning to check in on the hole Horatio left behind. It's really interesting," he added, smiling at Theseus' tie. "It's still smoking, according to Tina. Fascinating!"

Theseus wasn't sure that he wanted evidence of his brother's constant interaction with things capable of burning a hole into him. Proud as he was of his brother's career choice, there was a willing obliviousness that Theseus preferred to employ in most matters concerning Newt and a dangerous, likely angry, creature.

"That, uh, does sound interesting," Theseus lied. "Why exactly is there a hole, now?" 

Newt proceeded to explain the Horatio Situation, which caused Theseus to pale a bit. 

"Why don't you show me to the training area?" Theseus suggested. He didn't particularly care to see proof of Horatio's venom, nor did he want to run into Tina. He'd had the uncomfortable realization last night that he, perhaps, hadn't been fair to her the other day. But he was knee deep in a feud at this point, so it was probably best just to avoid her for the time being. 

"Oh," Newt said. "There's really not that much there. Just some aurors who are training."

"Yes, but I'd like to see what he-who-shall-not-be-named has taught them," Theseus said. 

"Grindelwald? Oh, I don't think he had much to do with their training when he was impersonating Graves."

Theseus paused. He was starting to feel that Graves hadn't been exactly forthcoming about those few months when he'd stopped mailing Theseus. "... that wasn't who I meant," he finally said.

"Huh."

"I just want to see what they're capable of here," Theseus continued. The predatory look from earlier was back, and his hand had strayed to his wand in a thoughtful, though not pleasantly so, manner. "None of the aurors back home will spar with me, for some reason."

"If you're sure, then." Newt looked a bit disappointed. He figured that he'd be able to show Theseus the hole later.

Horatio would probably need to see it as well. The acromantula needed to have a serious talking to about overreactions, and Newt felt that this would best be done when faced with the three-foot hole behind Tina's desk.

___ 

While Newt and the other one weren't in the cafeteria when Graves arrived, it didn't take him long to track the two down.

He merely had to follow the trail of increasingly distressed and battered aurors to the training room.

"He just came out of no where," one was saying. He was being supported by two other aurors. 

"We have to go back for Billy!" another was shouting. "Billy!"

"It's too late for Billy, Marta!" someone hissed.

"No! Not Billy!" Marta attempted to escape her friend, presumably to go off in rescue of the unfortunate Billy. "Billy! BILLY!"

Graves had first met Theseus at an auror conference. He remembered that the training facility where the conference had been held had featured similar scenes on the days that Theseus had decided to spar.  

This was promising, Graves thought. For two reasons. One, he was clearly on the right track to hunting down the two omegas. More importantly, Theseus was probably wasting all of his energy ensuring that the American alphas had a healthy fear of him.

Graves continued on with a more optimistic attitude, pushing his way past aurors in various states of trauma.

When he got to the training room, he opened the door to reveal a smug looking Theseus (never promising) smiling at a several aurors who were laying on the ground, groaning. Sitting in a corner with his favored bowtruckle was Newt. He was the only one in the room aside from Theseus who didn't appear to be in pain.

"Newt," Graves called. Then, a bit more reluctantly, "Theseus. I'm glad I found the two of you."

Theseus froze and turned slowly to face Graves.

Don't hit him, a voice cautioned him. It was the voice of common sense, a ratty looking figure that was a bit emaciated; it didn't receive a lot of day-to-day attention from Theseus. Picquery said no more hitting. She was very clear on that account.

"Mr. Graves!" Dear Merlin, did Newt have to sound that excited? "Are you here to spar with Theseus?" 

"... No," Graves replied. 

"Oh," Newt said. He was a bit surprised. All of the aurors were having such a fun time going a round or two with his brother.

"I was actually hoping to run into... the two of you." Theseus noted that Graves likely meant to say something more along the lines of "you" rather than "the two of you," and had to take several deep breaths so as to not attempt to maul the other man. 

Graves gave a pointed look to the aurors twitching on the ground. They stared at him, not sure if he was here to save them or finish off what Theseus started.

"Alone," Graves ground out when his look wasn't immediately registered. Normally, any sort of look caused aurors to flee from him, so this was a bit unprecedented.

The aurors began crawling out of the room gratefully. One of them, Billy as it happened, crawled over to Graves and began kissing his feet.

"Oh, thank you, kind, generous boss who I've never once complained about!" he wailed. "Your mercy is unparalleled, unlimited! You have rescued us from--"

"Shut it," another auror hissed as she hastily crawled towards the door. "Get out before he changes his mind, Billy!"

Billy reluctantly crawled out with his companions. Graves felt an immense sense of relief; he was a bit discomfited by having an employee choose to be in his presence, never mind praise him. 

Alone now, the three stood in the training room, staring at one another. Newt was the first to break the silence.

Newt beamed at Graves. Or rather at his scarf. "I forgot! You and Theseus are old friends, aren't you?" 

Theseus exchanged a look with Graves. The look said, with no uncertainty, 'we are not currently friends you bastard^^.'

"Yes," Graves said, maintaining eye contact with the older of the two omegas. "Yes, we are."

The two glared at each other while Newt looked between the two of them, confused.

"Err," Newt said. He was once again reminded of the two hippogriffs. "Is everything okay?" he ventured.

Absolutely," Graves said, in chorus to Theseus' "Just dandy." 

Newt continued to look between the two of them, not entirely sure that he believed them. Still, if they said so...

Another brief silence popped up, and Graves took his chance to attempt to subtly boot Theseus from the interaction.

"How has your morning been?" he asked Newt. It was a bit gruff, as Graves didn't have much experience asking people how their mornings had been.

Newt smiled and managed, inexplicably, to begin talking about hippogriffs. It tied into Graves' question, but Theseus took a moment to be impressed at his brother's ability to turn most conversations into a discussion on magical creatures.

Theseus tried to ignore the way Graves was looking at his brother. It was hard to do this, largely because Graves, now that his attention was on Newt, appeared entirely unaware of Theseus' presence. Worse, he was staring at Newt in that stupid way that that prat Malfoy used to in the Great Hall.

Ugh.

"-- and I was rather surprised to find that the rock serves a major purpose in their mating habits," Newt was saying. "For a group of creatures that fly, a rock seemed a bit strange--" he stopped himself and flushed. "I'm sorry, Mr. Graves. I'm sure you don't want to hear about the mating habits of hippogriffs."

Graves didn't really care what he was hearing about, so long as he was hearing it from Newt. "It's fascinating," he said. His face did suggest that he was fascinated, though it wasn't likely due to the subject of mating hippogriffs.

Newt once again beamed at Graves. "Oh, but I should have asked how you were doing. And," Newt became excited, "I meant to tell you how well your lock has worked! Niffler hasn't escaped once since Ja- err, Queenie put it on for me."

All three men, the alpha and the two omegas, turned to look at the case in Newt's hand. A statement like that one typically proved itself wrong shortly after being uttered, particularly in the case of Niffler.

When no Niffler was immediately forthcoming, Graves took the opportunity to step in closer to Newt. "I'm glad it's working," he said. His stomach didn't flutter at the smile Newt gave him in response to that. Not at all.

Focus, man. Focus.

If Theseus' instructions on a British courting were correct, and Graves had reason to doubt that they were, now would be the time to bow to Newt and thank him for receiving his gift. Bowing seemed a bit excessive, but the British did have a king and all that nobility, so that was probably why. 

Seeing Graves step closer to his brother, Theseus realized that this conversation was not going the direction that he'd intended it to go. Right as Graves began to lean forward into his bow, Theseus stepped in. He attempted to discreetly place himself between Graves and Newt, which was a challenge as there wasn't much space left between the two. 

Graves looked ready to throttle him.

"Newt was going to show me Tina's hole," Theseus said cheerfully, not at all ashamed at this blatant interference.

This produced a scandalized look from Graves, until Newt chimed in with an excited, "I think that it's grown to about three feet since Horatio-- err," he stopped, remembering Tina's adamant 'do not discuss this with anyone, Newt, by which I mean do not discuss this with Mr. Graves.' He coughed and tried to pretend he hadn't said anything incriminating.

Graves felt a bit of relief at the realization that this hole was not the one he'd first thought of. He didn't think he'd ever be glad to hear of Horatio's spree in the office, but right now he damn well was.

"Lead the way, Mr. Scamander. I'm sure Auror Goldstein will be happy to see us," he said dryly. He glared at Theseus, still a bit sore over the interrupted bow.

___

Tina was not, in fact, happy to see them.

This was to no one's surprise, except perhaps Newt's.

___

 

* - Hippogriffs are generally considered to be very civilized creatures. While most believe that this is due to their custom of bowing to one another or being bowed to, which is perhaps a more accurate description of their interactions with others, prominent sociologists and mazoologists believe that the view of hippogriffs as civilized is due to their ardent defense of pieces of rock. Defending random, valuable pieces of rock is a hallmark tradition of most humans, and has led to the creation of most all notable civilizations. 

** - Newt often spoke with his head facing down or in a direction away from the person to whom he was speaking. In other instances, Newt tended to have his nose, if not literally than at least figuratively, in some creature-related task. This led to a lot of muffled speech, which both Tina and Theseus had large amounts of exposure to. At this point, they were experts at translating it.

^ - This avoidance went so far as to avoid eye contact with Graves' shoes, which is typically the mark of someone who feels guilty about something. 

^^ - There were several other things this look said, but none are appropriate to repeat.