"Sir," Tina hissed through her teeth, "I think that's her."
The door shut behind the woman, unremarkably pretty with dark hair and pale skin. She didn't particularly look like the vampire that had drained and killed five people so far, but then, Tina didn't know who would. The first four had been No-Majs, the latest a wizard, and they'd traced her from a recently-acquired description from the wizard's very annoyed ghost.
"For Merlin's sake, don't stare, Goldstein," Graves said, his conversational tone somehow both unremarkable against the background noise and a severe, chilling reprimand. "What did I just say?"
"She's headed this way, sir," Tina said, abashed as she quickly looked back at her drink. "Do you think she'll approach us? Neither of us fit her usual target."
'Disaffected marrieds' was the best way of defining it, the lonely partners who were looking for someone for the night to forget their problems at home, whose disappearance was reported always a few days late. Graves's mouth thinned in a line. "I can be."
To Tina's disconcertion, he followed this by sighing heavily, shoulders slumping, and said as though they'd been talking for hours, " - and he's always too busy to stop by, I don't think he's been home in months."
Prompted by the annoyed tick of his eyebrow as he stared at her, Tina said awkwardly, "That's - that's terrible."
"Isn't it," Graves said, looking precisely like a husband mourning his relationship. "And who even knows what he's getting up to - the last letter he sent was from India, can you believe it?"
Tina said faintly, "That's... very far."
"Sometimes," Graves said, reflective, "it is. Very far."
Tina was thankfully saved from coming up with a response by their suspect, who slid into the barstool next to Graves and gave him a commiserating smile. "I couldn't help overhearing," she said, "your wife?"
"Husband," Graves said. He had, Tina realised, placed his hands on the bar, and was twisting a ring around one finger. "He's..."
"It's tough," the woman said, and if Tina didn't know better she'd think it was compassionate. "I've been there, too."
Graves followed her lead when she placed her hand on his arm, when she leaned in close and dropped her voice in conversation. " - I shouldn't," Tina heard, his voice low, but the woman seemed to expect it, her head ducked in quiet empathy. Slowly, as Tina surreptitiously watched, their heads bent together, the woman's hand fell to Graves's leg, and he didn't push it away.
When they rose to leave, Tina waited for a long sixty seconds before following them out. She ran across them just in time to see the flash of the woman's - vampire's teeth by Graves's neck before Graves had her stunned and bound, slumped unconscious against the alleyway wall.
"That was - quick thinking, sir," Tina said, finally able to catch her breath. "With the ring, and pretending to be married."
"Goldstein," Graves said, an odd look on his face, "I am married."
Tina waited, expecting him to finish it - to my job, maybe, as you should be - but he just stopped there, leaving the sentence hanging. A little too high-pitched, Tina laughed. "As - as much as we all are, sir," she said, words stumbling over each other, and Graves's eyebrows slowly rose. "I'll, ah, get her to a holding cell for processing, how about that."
"That is," Graves said, "your job."
"Yes!" Tina exclaimed, and seeking escape, grabbed their captive's arm and Apparated away.
"A flock of hippogriffs?" Graves strode forward, cutting a clear and striking figure against the snow. "Shouldn't they be flying south for the winter?"
"They must have gotten caught up, sir," Jacobs said. He was nursing a long gash on his forearm, having come a little too close to one of their talons. Graves's gaze swept over him and his mouth twitched into a deliberate frown. "Rogers suggested we, ah, corral them, but they're immune to most of the spells we've been trying - "
"Rogers is in medical?"
"Yes," Tina said, and then, a little hesitantly, "We don't really know what to do, sir."
Graves looked at her for a long moment. "Well, at least one of you knows when to admit your ignorance," he said, and shook his head. "Hippogriffs."
Then, to Tina's sudden horror, he started toward them. "Sir!" she said. "They're immensely territorial, I don't think - "
"Goldstein," Graves said, not even looking back, "stay there and for Merlin's sake, be quiet."
Tina swallowed and could feel her face flush as she ducked her head. Jacobs gave her an amused, sympathetic smile. "The Director," he said, and Tina's mouth twisted as she sighed.
"I know," she said, "but couldn't he be, I don't know. Nicer?"
"The Director?" Jacobs said, affecting a horrified tone that made Tina smile. "Nice?"
"I guess," Tina said, but she still worriedly watched the back of Graves's coat as he headed toward the hippogriffs.
He didn't even have his wand out. He didn't always need it, with the wandless magic he threw around like it was easy, but against these creatures - Tina found herself clutching her own hands together, squeezing until her knuckles were white, and had to force herself to take a breath and relax the slightest amount. She'd be ready with healing spells and potions and maybe a Portkey, she thought, and they'd have to Obliviate the No-Majs in the area once the wards were dropped -
She still found her attention caught again when Graves stopped, a few feet away from the beasts. They were watching him, eagle-eyed, as he spread his hands wide and, abruptly, bent at the waist in a - was that a bow? The hippogriffs shuffled, wings spreading, and Tina had her heart in her throat and spells behind her teeth, wand at the ready (though she was too far, she should've gone closer, not stayed this safe distance away) but then, inexplicably, one by one the hippogriffs bowed back.
"What?" she said, involuntarily. Jacobs was watching the scene with as much bemusement as her. Graves, connection apparently established, walked toward the hippogriffs and wasn't attacked at all as he started scanning them for - something. Who even knew. But Graves bent toward one of the hippogriffs, wand in hand, and by the time he returned they'd already started to flock and head back into the trees.
"Goldstein," Graves said, "Jacobs. Don't try to skip your visit to medical."
"Yes, sir," Jacobs said dumbly.
Tina blurted, "How did you do that?"
"They're simple to approach if you know how," Graves said, eyebrows raised at the both of them. "Wards, Goldstein?"
"Oh, yes, sir," she said quickly; she'd already sought out the anchor points and it was a simple enough spell to lower the No-Maj-repelling ward. "It's done, sir."
"But - that's crazy. How did you know?" Jacobs asked, still looking stunned.
Graves glanced over them and said, a little dryly, "If you must know, my husband taught me. Are you done interrogating me now?" Not waiting for an answer, he swept off for the routine Obliviations they had to do, and Tina shared a very confused look with Jacobs.
"Merlin wept, he didn't have to lie about it," Jacobs said, mouth twisting. "If he didn't want me to ask - "
"It's Director Graves," Tina said, though she had the slight feeling something was strange about it all. "Now, come on, we've been ordered. Can you Apparate?"
"Better Side-Along me," he said, sighing, and so Tina did.
Somewhat fittingly, the next time Tina heard Graves mention he was married was at the Department's annual New Year's party. Graves was being cornered by the punch bowl, as much as a man like Graves could be cornered, by one of the newer administrative assistants, a poor girl who certainly hadn't been around long enough to know better. Tina took a gulp of her champagne and grabbed a canape.
" - I'm married," Graves was saying.
"Sure you are, honey," said the girl, patting his arm, which he looked at with the sort of disdain he gave people about to be demoted. Tina winced. "That's what they all say, isn't it? But you can still have a good time, you know."
Graves stepped - not back, because it would lead him into the bowl floating in the air, but sideways. "I really am married," he said, not sounding sincere at all. "In fact, I have been for nearly seven years. It's very happy." He didn't look happy; in fact, he looked rather on the edge of murder, or at least some barely-legal retribution.
One of Tina's fellow Aurors, Rogers, had obviously gotten too much into the alcohol; his face was red and he actually thumped Graves on the back as he laughed. "Good one," he said, "come on, Director, there's no need to make shit up. He's not fun," he added, to the girl, who was eyeing him in a vague sort of way, "you want some fun, don't you?"
"No fun," Graves said darkly, "is going to be had, Rogers, if you don't get your hand off me this instant." Rogers, quickly paling, did. "And I wouldn't lie about my relationship status," he added, his gaze sweeping over the small crowd of people who were pretending they weren't eavesdropping like Tina, who quickly ducked her head behind her glass. "I am married. Look it up."
"What's her name?" asked the girl, still too unknowing to be too afraid.
Graves sighed. "His name is Newt. Newt Scamander. Is that all?" His expression said it had better be, and the girl seemed to come to her senses as she squeaked a quiet assent.
Later, though, it was still the topic of conversation; Tina heard Jacobs say, "Newt, really?" as Chang looked extraordinarily doubtful. "That's not even a real name."
"Maybe he made someone up?" Chang offered, and she looked at Tina lurking. "What do you think, Goldstein?"
Tina made a face and shook her head. "I have no idea. Scamander... I've heard of that name before."
"Like the war hero, right?" Chang mused. "What, you think he's a relative?"
"Graves actually dating someone, though?" Jacobs said, doubtfully. "Let alone getting married? No, I think maybe they've been in contact - you know, he gets those international owls sometimes - "
"And Scamander's name might put people off," Chang said, though she sounded uncertain. "I don't know. Would Graves make someone up like that?"
"Maybe he got permission?" Tina offered, dubious. "It seems kind of strange all around, huh?"
"Well," said Jacobs, "there's one way to find out if this husband's real, right?" He raised his eyebrows at Chang, who said, grinning:
"But he's so annoyed already!" Tina protested.
"Alcohol," Jacobs and Chang said at the same time, and Jacobs continued, "If we get him drunk enough, hopefully he'll forget all about it."
"And be more truthful," Chang said, and Tina put her head in her hands and sighed.
But despite (or perhaps encouraged by) Tina's protests they did what they said they would, and started plying Graves with drinks. They weren't obvious about it - they were Aurors, after all, trained by Graves himself - but Tina could see the way they worked together, the way Jacobs recruited Lopez to ensure Graves's drink never got too empty, the concerted effort by Fontaine to keep Graves occupied with talk about regulations. If Graves noticed their efforts, he didn't let on; it actually seemed to be working, with the way his gestures grew steadily easier, and he'd even loosened his tie.
"So we never knew you were married!" Chang said, after they'd all given her the clear. "What's he like?"
Graves said, "An absolute menace," and eyed her narrowly for a moment. "Why do you ask?"
"Just wondering, sir," Chang said blithely, as Tina winced at his tone. "Scamander, right? What's he do?"
"He's a magizoologist," Graves said, and Tina stared blankly at Jacobs, clearly asking is that even a job? Jacobs shrugged.
And each factoid was even more bizarre than the last. "An author and a dragon tamer?" Lopez said dubiously to Tina, keeping his voice low. "Has Director Graves forgotten everything he told us about lying and internal consistency?"
"You mean, keep it simple?" Tina asked, her bemusement matching his. "I don't know."
Lopez frowned. "You think it's a test? I don't think he's outright contradicted himself yet."
"Maybe..." Tina said, and glanced surreptitiously around. Chang was still occupying Graves out of earshot. "I don't know. Maybe he's trying to keep people from asking him on dates?"
Laughing, Lopez said, "Come on. Director Graves? When he has that deadly glare?" When his amusement faded, though, he looked thoughtful. "It could be, I guess. We'll see if he slips up."
But despite their questioning over the night, Graves didn't seem to outright contradict himself, though the story became more and more outrageous. "A whirlwind romance?" Jacobs hissed to her, red-faced and weaving on his feet. "Graves? And - and - for years?"
Graves, vaguely flushed and gesturing widely, was expounding about a number of creatures Tina was fairly sure didn't actually exist stored in a wizarding space that must have been exaggerated. Who would put a forest inside a suitcase? "And a nundu," he added, and Fontaine dizzily put his head in his arms and groaned.
Tina had had enough. "Mr. Graves," she said too loudly, "I think it's time you got home."
Graves pulled out his pocketwatch, the effect of the alcohol visible in the way he fumbled the catch and stared down at it for a long moment. "Yes," he said, and looked at Tina blankly. "Yes, I need to go home. Alone."
"Very good, sir," Chang interjected, grabbing at Tina's arm to steady herself. "Uh, say - say hi to your sweetheart for us, won't you?"
"He's not here," Graves said, and looked back at his pocketwatch. "I did say that, didn't I?"
"Yes, you did," Tina said quickly, and chanced putting a hand on Graves's elbow to lead him away. "You mentioned it. A few times. Come on, let's get outside these wards."
Graves gave the hand on his elbow a stare as blank as he'd given Tina before, and Tina bit her lip hard and herded him through the diminished crowd toward the door. "Goldstein," Graves said, "I'm not - incapacitated." He sounded the word out slowly.
"Of course not, sir," she said, trying for a smile as she pushed open the door, breathing in the freezing cold air. "So, ah, you'll be fine to Apparate home?"
Graves said, distantly, "He named the nundu, you know. Calls it Mittens."
Tina said, "Ah. Sir?"
Graves closed his eyes for a moment, and when he opened them his gaze fixed on Tina's face for a moment before sliding away. "My apologies," he said, stiffly, and stepped back from her grip. "Good night."
"Good night!" Tina said, and, completely bemused, watched him Apparate away. She glanced back to the doors, thinking of Queenie, and after a moment of feeling far too sober to deal with her boss's strange manufactured relationship, headed back inside.
"Are you looking to purchase something? A set of these rings, perhaps?"
Tina couldn't help her guilty glance toward the door, even though she was Disillusioned and spelled silent. Unravelling the wards was a simple but time-consuming effort if they wanted to restore them untouched, and if this turned up nothing they definitely did. Graves was distracting their suspect, a jeweller, while Tina had entered unnoticed behind him and snuck in. The eavesdropping charm he'd cast on her before she left was impeccable; she could hear them crystal clear.
"Perhaps," Graves echoed. "What would you recommend?"
"Are you planning a wedding? These engagement rings - "
"No, I'm married," Graves said, "but he loses his on a regular basis - I need to replace them quite regularly."
"Ah. Well, in that case..."
Tina let her awareness of their conversation fade to background noise as she focused on the wards, gradually teasing them apart. She bit back the noise of triumph as the last fell and she opened the safe with an easy alohomora - and inside were the stolen enchanted heirlooms they'd been looking for, along with a stockpile of probably-illegal gems.
"Got you," Tina whispered, triumphant, and tapped her wand against the linked Protean-charmed token in her pocket. Graves and the jeweller were still talking about wedding rings, and by the time Tina crept back out to the front of the store, there were a dozen boxes on the counter and Graves was peering thoughtfully at one in the center.
His sharp gaze caught her outline when she shifted, and then he fixed his stare on the jeweller. "Thank you for your time," he said, "and you're under arrest."
Tina cancelled her disillusionment charm as the jeweller started spluttering, his safe coming to them at Graves's wave of his hand. "You can't - "
"I can," Graves said, unsympathetically. "You're in possession of stolen goods. Hand over your wand before I make you."
The jeweller's hand tightened on the hilt of his wand. Tina shifted her grip on her own, but Graves didn't move an inch as he stared the man down. Faced with that look, the jeweller folded, handing his wand over the counter. "I bet you're not even married," he grumbled, low enough to be heard. "Who the fuck would marry an asshole like - "
"Mr. Smith," Graves said icily, "perhaps your entire store's stock will need to be confiscated by MACUSA as well."
Paling, the jeweller shut his mouth and Tina gave him a grimace of a smile as she restrained him. "Do you want me to investigate further here, sir?"
"Yes," he said, after a moment of thought. "I'll take Mr. Smith to his cell. Note everything."
Then, almost deliberately, he slid the ring box he was holding into his pocket. The jeweller gaped at him and Graves gave him a look that dared him to object as he grabbed the man's elbow; Tina tried to hide her amusement by turning pointedly away. "Meet me in my office for a debrief once you're done," Graves said to her, and stayed to see her nod before he Apparated away.
Smith's books were incomplete, and Tina spent a good hour on cataloguing charms, marking down the discrepancies. It seemed like Smith had been running this for years, re-purposing precious metals and gems from other jewellery to set them in another piece or copy the original's design with a fake, and she thought there were a few open cases of stolen goods that would be closed with the man's arrest. She did the rings on the counter last, assessing them despite herself: no gems, classy and elegant to the last, but...
Was Graves actually planning on getting married? Had he taken the ring just as a pointed rebuke? Or - Tina felt her thoughts halt - was he really telling the truth?
She took her notes and a mokeskin bag of confiscated goods with her to her meeting, and Graves nodded along to her conclusions, though he was fiddling distractedly with a pen. "I also didn't get that ring, sir," she added at the end.
"Confiscated," he said, and tapped his wand against her notepaper; the entry filled itself out with Graves's signature flourish. "Good work, Goldstein."
"You're going to keep it?"
"I do," Graves said, "have a husband who often loses his wedding ring." He looked at her curiously. "Do you also not believe I'm the marriageable sort, Goldstein?"
"I," Tina said, and flushed, feeling awfully transparent. "Of course, sir - if you're married, then you must be, right?"
"Yes," Graves said, "you would think that."
There was something about the expression on his face, strangely blank and thoughtful, that made Tina feel abruptly terrible for questioning him; even if Graves wasn't married, he was their boss and not a bad guy, and they should have at least offered to play along. "Well," she said, "I hope, um, he likes the ring." The lie felt awkward on her tongue. "I'll get to Mr. Smith's questioning, then."
Graves said, "Thank you, Goldstein," almost smiling, and Tina managed a weak smile in return and fled.
But despite not really believing him, Tina found herself in the unenviable position of covering for Graves often. "If he wants to say so," she said to Lopez, who had decided the whole thing was some sort of extended con, "I won't contradict him, for Merlin's sake."
"Of course not," Chang said soothingly, patting Tina's arm. "No one's ready to face Director Graves's wrath."
And Graves had been exceedingly wrathful lately; Tina was already walking on eggshells around him because he'd taken to formally reprimanding anyone who stepped even slightly out of line. Rogers had been moved to archives, and Tina was worried there were far too many open positions in the Wand Permit office just waiting to be filled.
So when she found herself with Graves at the Blind Pig, downing shots of Giggle Water so she wouldn't have to make conversation, she was already light-headed when a witch came up to interrupt Graves's surveillance, and thought nothing of catching her arm. "Don't try," Tina said, "really."
"Taken?" the other woman asked, and Tina made a face.
"Married," she said, "and no - not to me."
"Ah, what a pity," the woman said, and then gave Tina a lingering look that made her laugh, shaking her head. "No? Your loss."
But when Tina turned back to grab another shotglass, she realised Graves was watching her narrowly. "Um. Sir?" she said, feeling entirely not drunk enough. "I'm sorry, I just thought you'd prefer - "
"Married?" he said, and Tina blinked at him, confused.
"Yes," she said, "you've mentioned it a few times..."
Tina trailed off awkwardly. Graves was staring at her.
"Yes," he said, slowly. "I have mentioned it. I didn't realise you'd paid attention."
"Oh, yes, Mr. Graves, sir," Tina said quickly, "I mean, we all remembered after the New Years party - even though you made him up, it's a very good story, sir, we're all amazed at your ingenuity and it does actually work well for chasing people off." She paused, mentally rewinding. "Not that you made him up! I'm sure you're - very happily married, sir."
Graves's piercing stare, at least, was gone; he was looking back at the crowd with his mouth twisted, almost a smile. "Of course, Goldstein," he said. "Ah, there's our informant. You're running backup today. Don't get too drunk."
Tina forcefully restrained herself from glancing over at the door. "Yes, sir."
Graves's mouth quirked slightly. "And leave the marriage talk to me, hm? I can keep my story straight."
Startled, Tina said, "You don't mean, you're not actually - "
"Leave it to me," Graves said, not answering Tina's question at all. "I wouldn't want too many lies to spread." He rose to his feet, straightening his waistcoat, and then, absurdly, winked at her before he left to talk to their target.
Tina grabbed blindly for another shot and downed it, letting the magically-induced giggle carry her disbelief. "He actually lied," she said to the house-elf behind the bar, who didn't look at all impressed. "Mercy Lewis."
She'd thought he had, of course. Everyone had. But hearing it from him, almost outright - Tina felt rather odd about it, but it was lost in the realisation that even if he had admitted it to her, she couldn't tell anyone else about it.
Her mind whirring in self-defeating circles, Tina kept her hands off the drinks and an eye on the crowd for the rest of the night.
"Wait," Tina said, her hands pausing on the sheaf of wand permits she was about to glance through, "you said you were Newt - Newt Scamander?"
"Yes, that's me," said the man, looking innocuous and objectively quite pretty, his red hair falling into his eyes, face freckled and pale. "Oh! But I suppose it's Scamander-Graves, here, I'm not quite sure, Percival did the paperwork, you know - "
"...Graves," Tina said weakly.
" - it's a bit of a taboo in Muggle circles, so I've taken to using my birth name only - sorry?" he said, looking at her with wide blue eyes. "You said you worked in the Auror office, didn't you? So you know Percival?"
"I..." Tina struggled to form words through her utter disbelief. "I think we all thought he made you up."
Newt's expression turned complicated. "Really?"
"Yes, and then," Tina paused, her mind turning. "Wait. That's... strange."
"Stranger than my owls all refusing to send him my mail?" Newt asked, expression turning worried. "I don't know what's gotten into them, they've been stuck for weeks. That's why I'm here, actually, to visit home and see what's going on. I mean, he - do you think he saw me? He didn't look at me at all."
"Strange as in," Tina said, slowly, "I thought he told me he had made you up."
Newt stared at her. "What exactly did he say?"
Tina recounted the conversation. "And that was three weeks ago," she said. "I, a few days later I got demoted to here. Do you think he was... joking?"
"He wouldn't," Newt said, and Tina couldn't help but agree. "Not about us. I..." He looked lost. "If he's been - replaced by someone using Polyjuice, or transfiguration - I - we need to fix this."
Tina opened her mouth and closed it, uncertain, and then heard the sound of someone calling her name. "Abernathy!" she said, almost feeling grateful to see his smug, pompous face. "Have you seen Director Graves?"
"Goldstein?" He looked bemused at her enthusiasm. "Yes, he was only a bit behind me - "
"Great," Tina said, "no, wait, that's awful - Abernathy. This is Newt Scamander."
Abernathy stared at Newt, eyes rounded in surprise, and Newt coughed and looked away. "Newt. Scamander."
"Yes," Newt said awkwardly. "That's me. Newt Scamander, magizoologist. It's... nice to meet you?"
"Merlin's beard," Abernathy said, "do you really keep a nundu in your case?"
Tina glanced at the case on her desk at the same time as Newt. "That's not the problem right now," she said, quickly. "The real issue is - "
"The real issue is what, Goldstein?" Graves's voice came from the corridor with his footsteps, and he raised his eyebrows at the group as he approached. "Something worth interrupting our meeting for, I expect."
Newt stepped back, dropping his gaze to the floor as Graves moved toward the desk; Graves didn't spare him a second glance. Tina looked fixedly at Graves's tie. "Yes, sir. This man, Mr. Scamander, released an - uncontrolled magical creature amongst the No-Maj's today, and nearly broke the Statute of Secrecy. He keeps it in this case, here."
Graves tilted his head, curious. Abernathy was still staring at Newt. Tina opened the case, feeling oddly guilty about it, but it was full of... pastries?
She caught Newt's sudden, pained grimace before he wiped it off his face.
Graves looked between Tina and Newt, and then raised his eyebrows at her. "I see," he said. "Please don't waste my time, Goldstein."
"Yes - yes, sir," she mumbled, feeling blood rush to her face as he turned dismissively away. Glancing at Abernathy, she could see his mouth open, and she gestured pointedly to Newt; Newt's narrowed eyes were fixed directly on Graves's retreating back, his hand clenched tight around his wand as he drew it slowly.
"So," Abernathy said, ignoring her, "are you actually married? Do you hyphenate? What is it, Graves-Scamander, or - "
Graves spun toward them, but Newt was faster - even as a spell flew from his wand, the red of an incarcerous, his other hand snapped out and something grew from it, flying, faster than a spell or a reflex, there between one blink and the next as it spread wings wide and leapt -
The spell was brushed aside, but the creature wound itself tight, knocking Graves's wand from his hand as Tina's own restraining hex connected. "Goldstein," Graves said darkly, falling to his knees, and Newt stepped forward, expression cool and blank.
"It's Scamander-Graves, actually," Newt said, and raised his wand again, a spell on its tip. Graves watched it, hands twitching in the creature's claws. "Who are you, and what have you done with him?"
"Married," Graves - or the man pretending to be Graves - said, and laughed. "He doesn't keep photographs of you, or pictures - he doesn't keep your letters if you send them, he keeps his ring with another in a box in a drawer - "
"He doesn't keep pictures," Newt said, "because he says they're too intransigent, that they only capture a pale imitation and never entirely me. He burns my letters once he reads them, because he prefers to take them as a conversation - to keep it in his memory, fickle and unreliable as it is, instead of a reminder that we're ever apart. And every time I lose my ring, he takes his off, too - so we can renew our vows again when I return." Newt's spell brightened on the tip of his wand, and when he released it it hit Graves head-on, his features changing and morphing and -
Tina could feel her heart pounding like a rabbit in her chest; Abernathy's mouth was in a thin, terrified line as he cast a messenger Patronus that leapt quickly through the ceiling.
"I know who you are, Gellert Grindelwald," Newt said, voice remarkably steady. "Now, where is he?"
Grindelwald said, smirking, "Percival Graves, a romantic. Who would've guessed?"
"A Swooping Evil's diet is usually human brains," Newt said, conversationally. "I do have an alternative food source, but he is insatiable sometimes." The creature holding Grindelwald captive rested its sharp beak almost gently on his skull. "I would hate for him to slip up."
"And you think you'd retrieve his location once your creature ate my brains?" Grindelwald said, mockingly amused.
"I do know," Newt said, "that the memories of a Swooping Evil's last victim can be painlessly extracted - I have done it before." He stepped forward and picked Graves's wand up from where it had fallen to the floor. "Where is he?"
"I can tell why he likes you," Grindelwald said, eyes narrowing. "But why would a talent like you go for a man like him? Is he that good a fuck?"
"Newt," Tina said, as Newt murmured, "Sweetheart," and the creature perked up, eyes bright as Newt met its gaze -
The sound of multiple Apparations echoed through the basement, and Tina managed to breathe as Picquery took the situation in at a glance and turned her wand on Grindelwald. "Gellert Grindelwald," she said, "you are under arrest."
With a dozen Aurors holding Grindelwald at wandpoint, Newt let his own wand fall to his side as he dropped his gaze to the floor and stepped back; his expression, when Tina looked, was a complicated mix of emotion she couldn't read. "Madame President," she said, quickly, "he was impersonating Director Graves. He has been for at least three weeks."
"And this is...?"
"Newt Scamander-Graves," Newt said, quietly. His gaze flicked to Picquery's shoulders and away.
"And you brought him in because," Picquery said, doubtfully, and Tina abruptly remembered the case of pastries on her desk.
"I've - misplaced some personal belongings," Newt said. He glanced at Tina. "Ms. Goldstein was going to help me retrieve them."
"Yes," Tina said, jumping on the excuse. "I was mistaken earlier, Madame President, I'm sorry. But without him here we never would have discovered Grindelwald."
Picquery's gaze was far too knowing. "Indeed," she said. "I do believe he is suitably restrained now, Mr. Scamander-Graves."
Newt blinked at her for a moment before realisation crossed his face, and he clicked his tongue twice, tilting his head toward his creature. It released Grindelwald's now-thoroughly-bound wrists and flew to Newt's hand, folding in on itself as it went. It was, Tina could see now, a tiny cocoon that Newt quickly tucked up his sleeve. "You will look for him?"
"Director Graves has been an asset to MACUSA for years," Picquery said. "We will be questioning Grindelwald thoroughly."
"Thank you," Newt said, looking at his feet. Picquery's attention turned back to Tina.
"I hope," she said dryly, "you will be able to recover Mr. Scamander-Graves's belongings before any other problems occur?"
"Yes, ma'am," Tina said quickly, and looked over at Newt when Picquery turned away. Newt still looked almost petrified, his face fixed and unreadable, and Tina took a step toward him and tentatively laid her hand on his arm. "Hey," she said, "your case?"
Newt squeezed his eyes shut for a moment. "Yes," he said once he opened them again, "let's go find my case."
Tracking it down worked like a charm, though Tina was disconcerted to find the No-Maj Newt hadn't obliviated being attacked by some strange tentacled creature - "A murtlap," Newt explained, hurriedly dropping it into his actual case. "He's only got a mild reaction, I expect. It should work through his system in less than forty-eight hours."
"He's a No-Maj!" Tina said, gesturing toward the man groaning on the floor. "You can't just leave him - "
"Then I'll take him with me for that time for monitoring, and obliviate him once it's done - that's your stupid procedure, isn't it?" Newt snapped, and then rubbed his hand over his forehead, the irritation falling from his face. "I'm sorry. I - I can probably mix up something for the effects."
"Did anything else get loose?"
"I'd have to check," Newt said, looking away, and stepped toward the groaning No-Maj, sliding his arm around the man's waist. "Come on, Mr. Kowalski, up you get."
"Yeah," Tina said, "best get out of here before we have the rest of the department on our tail."
She Apparated them to just outside her apartment, aware of how quickly the sky was getting dark, and quieted them as they headed up the stairs. Inside, Queenie's attention was caught by Jacob while Newt looked out on the street through the window. "Newt," Tina said, and he blinked at her. "The food's ready."
"Thank you," Newt said quietly, sitting down at the table, and Queenie gasped.
"Oh," she said, "oh, Tina, we're helping him, aren't we? You're so worried - "
Newt stared at his plate. "I'd really prefer if you didn't - read my mind."
"I'm sorry," Queenie said, "but I really can't help it - things you're worrying about are hard to ignore." She bit her lip, looking at Tina, who grimaced at her food. "Sure, MACUSA's on it, but what about Mr. Scamander - Newt?"
"I," Tina said, and sighed. "Your creatures first."
"Of course," Newt said, "and I - I know your best Aurors are on the search for Percival - it's quite all right."
"You'll be looking anyway, won't you?" Tina said, and Newt's mouth twitched, slightly wry. "Mr. Graves was my boss, and I didn't even notice - it's the least I can do."
"Have I... missed something?" Jacob asked, a fork paused halfway to his mouth. He was still staring rapturously at Queenie, and when Queenie gave him a sweet, flirtatious smile and said, "Not at all, honey," Newt swallowed and pushed his chair away from the table.
"I'm sorry," he said, voice trembling faintly. "I'll just be - over there - "
He fled. Jacob said, concerned, "Was it something I said?"
"No, honey," Queenie said, her smile dimming, "he's just - had a really long day."
"And it's only going to get longer," Tina muttered, and ignored Queenie's pointed frown.
By the time they'd finished eating, Newt was gone, his suitcase opened in the middle of the floor of their guest room. Tina entered it first, looking past the door to the wide-open expanse Graves had once mentioned and none of them had ever believed, stunned at the magic in it. Newt, his sleeves rolled up to his elbows, emptied a bucket into a small pond and took Jacob back inside.
"Did we really not trust Mr. Graves that much?" Tina wondered out loud, stopping in the gently swaying grass. "That we just - wouldn't believe him?"
"No," Queenie said, "it wasn't trust, was it, Teenie? It was..."
"We couldn't imagine him outside of work," Tina said, "and everything seemed so unbelievable, and then." She shook her head, looking out across the vast swathes of different lands - somewhere out there, there was probably a nundu named Mittens. "And now he's probably dead."
"Don't," Queenie said. "Don't say that, Tina, especially now - "
"Grindelwald," Tina said, "isn't really known for taking prisoners." She spun on her heel to glare at Queenie's shocked noise, only to see Newt standing by Jacob, the blood drained from his face, his freckles standing out starkly on his pale face. "I'm sorry," Tina said, quieter, but Newt looked at the ground, mouth twisting.
"No," he said, "I know." He looked blankly out across his case. "I - I'm missing a few creatures, not many, Annabelle might be a little troublesome but Dougal will be fine - "
"Should we go look for them?" Jacob asked, concern written all over his face, and Newt gave him a tremulous smile.
"Yes, I think so. Thank you."
Collecting all his creatures again was less simple than Newt had indicated, but the adrenaline of it seemed to do him good - or perhaps it was Queenie, who said, "You know, I never could read Mr. Graves, his Occlumency is impeccable. If he was needed for information..."
Newt said, "Thank you," his voice wavering, but he seemed to straighten, purpose settling in the line of his shoulders.
"So, you're married to this guy, huh?" Jacob asked when they were wandering around the streets, Newt holding up a bowtruckle like a divining rod. "How'd that happen?"
"He was - very sweet," Newt said, quietly. "We met in the war - my squadron had just won a battle, so everyone was celebrating, but we'd also lost one of our Ironbellies - dragons," he clarified, glancing at Jacob's curious expression. "I - I'd been very close to her, but no one else seemed to take it as a loss. And then Percival came up to me, asked why I was sad when I had such a lovely smile, and - I rather unloaded on him, I'm afraid, but... he understood. That was all."
"And you got married?" Queenie asked.
"In the spring," Newt said, "In England, of course, because Artemis - my hippogriff namesake - had to carry the flowers, my mother wouldn't hear otherwise. I... it was wonderful."
"A whirlwind romance," Tina said, shaking her head, and Newt's mouth quirked.
"Yes," he said, "I suppose it was."
They'd only just crossed into the area near the Second Salemers church when the bowtruckle on Newt's hand began to chirp, tugging on his finger insistently; Newt sped up, from a steady walk to a jog, and they kept up with him until he stopped in front of a apartment building, eyed it, and Apparated to the roof. Queenie grabbed Jacob's arm as they followed Newt to a roof-access hatch. "I'm not certain what room he's in," Newt said, as he waved it open with his wand, "but - "
"Go on," Tina said, "we're right behind you."
Newt wandered the hallway murmuring low to the bowtruckle as it lead him back and forth and gradually down. They finally stopped in front of a door notable only for the fact that Jacob's eyes had a tendency to slide directly over it, making him squint and shake his head when Queenie held his hand, and Tina said, "Watch out, it's pretty heavily warded."
Newt looked down at the bowtruckle. "Pickett," he said, "please?"
The bowtruckle made a chirruping sound that sounded almost chiding, and flung itself at the door. Tina winced, expecting something to trigger, but the creature clambered inside the lock without a leaf out of place, disappearing from view until there was a clicking sound and the door swung slowly ajar.
Waiting only a moment, Newt pressed his palm to the door and walked in, wand drawn. Tina was only a step behind him and couldn't help the noise she made when she saw Graves, stripped to his skin and manacled to the wall; he was bruised, his limbs trembling from curse damage, but at her dismayed gasp he looked up and his eyes were almost clear. Newt rushed forward, heedless, as Graves opened his mouth and croaked his name, and as Newt conjured water and fed it to him carefully, as he put his hands on Graves's face and leaned in, Tina looked away.
The bowtruckle slid out from Graves's now-released manacles in a flash of green, and Jacob said, "Hey, little guy," as it clambered up his leg, bending down to pick it up. It looked at him for a moment, and then imperiously tugged at his sleeve. It let them into the tiny No-Maj-style bathroom, then leapt for the locked medicine cabinet.
Queenie pressed her hand over her mouth. Inside were shelves of vials, their contents opaque and silver in their faint wandlight. "Memories," she breathed, and Tina glanced to the door, where Graves was saying, " - didn't tell him anything, Newt, I promise," as Newt made soothing, careful sounds in the back of his throat.
"You guys can - take memories and keep them in these things?" Jacob wondered.
"They're not gone," Queenie said, "but dulled, like something half-forgotten. And other people can see them. Or - use them."
"We have to pack these up," Tina said, and looked at Queenie, her expression resolute. "And then call President Picquery."
"I'll take them," Queenie said, to Tina's thought about getting them out before that happened with vials intact - right now, with Grindelwald in MACUSA's cells and his influence unknown, she trusted Graves more than bureaucracy. Queenie reached out and squeezed Tina's arm as Tina started lifting the vials, settling them carefully in a conjured case. "Good luck."
"Thanks," Tina said, and knew Queenie would hear what she didn't say. Queenie smiled and took Jacob's arm as Tina closed the case's clasp and handed to her.
They left to the room, where Graves was now wearing Newt's coat, buttoned up all the way. Newt had Graves's arm around his shoulders and was helping him gently to his feet. "We're leaving?" Newt asked, and Queenie nodded.
"Straight to your room will be just fine," she said, and Newt's smile was tight.
Graves stumbled against Newt's hold, but he met Tina's eyes and said, still hoarse, "Thank you."
"Don't thank us yet, Mr. Graves," Queenie said, managing a smile, and Jacob braced himself as Queenie glanced at him, her smile turning more real. "Sorry, honey," she said, and Apparated them away; Newt looked at Tina for a moment, and she inclined her head.
"I'll handle this," she said, and then they were gone, too.
The room might have had an air-freshening charm, but under that the smell still turned Tina's stomach; torture and pain and desperation. She looked over the empty room, re-locked the medicine cabinet, and only then sent a summons to the Auror Office; they were probably still busy with Grindelwald's capture, and so Tina left the room and settled in the quiet, No-Maj hallway to wait.
Their response time wasn't half-bad, considering. Tina heard the first Apparition in about ten minutes, and then the second, and when she stepped back into the room Chang and Fontaine were peering around, looking disquieted. "You found Director Graves here?" Fontaine asked.
"He's safe," Tina said. "I didn't think MACUSA was the best place for him right now."
Chang grimaced as she took in the bloodstains on the wall. "Yeah," she said, "not when we're on full alert, he'd probably be shoved in right next to Grindelwald." Sounding lost, she said, "How did we not notice? He'd been demoting people left and right - good people. Good Aurors."
"Thanks," Tina said, wryly, and Chang smiled at her briefly. "But I only noticed when Newt came to me."
"And that," Fontaine said, shaking his head. "There's a real person called Newt Scamander? That's almost harder to believe than Grindelwald getting the drop on Graves. Good work, Goldstein," he said frankly. "And tell Director Graves he can report in at his leisure, President's orders."
Tina exhaled in relief. "Well, knowing the Director's work ethic," she said, and Chang and Fontaine both smiled.
"Grindelwald has a few of these apartments," Chang said. "If you plead your case, we could use you."
"I," Tina said, startled, "thanks, I will. I'll see you tomorrow?"
"Today, now," Fontaine said, glancing out the window to the moon high in the sky, and then rubbed his forehead. "Thank Merlin you're not on the books tonight, Goldstein, it's a long one. Might want to hold off on reinstating yourself for a few days until things quiet down."
"It is the job," Tina said, smiling slightly, and he huffed a wry laugh and nodded to her as she spun on her heel and Apparated away.
Her and Queenie's apartment was dark and quiet, and Tina lit her wand low as she crept through the hall. Queenie's bedside lamp was still lit, and she examined Tina in the way that meant Legilimency as Tina spelled herself out of her clothes. "I knew they liked you," Queenie said, "I did say so."
"When no one says anything about me leaving..."
"They could've been ordered to," Queenie suggested, "or, well, you know how tense things were then."
Tina felt herself relent under her sister's smile. "Yes, you're right," she said, sighing. "How are they?"
"Tired," Queenie said, "exhausted. Newt said he and Mr. Graves would work through the memories in the morning. Jacob sat with me and we had hot chocolate."
"Did you conjure another bed?"
"Nah, you'll like this, come here." Queenie rose to her feet, padding silently down to the spare room, and opened the door a crack. From the moonlight shining through the window, Tina could see Jacob lying on his back, fast asleep, and in the other bed -
They hadn't even gotten undressed, and though someone had transfigured Newt's coat into comfortable nightclothes for Graves, Newt was still wearing a rumpled waistcoat, shirt unbuttoned at the sleeves. Newt's hand was pressed into Graves's hair, Graves's head in the crook of Newt's neck, and they were sharing the single bed, entwined.
Queenie's gaze was lingering on Jacob when Tina closed the door, and Tina didn't need Legilimency to tell her thoughts were lingering too as they headed back to their beds. "Queenie," Tina said, warningly.
"I was going to offer them a drink, but they were already asleep," Queenie said, misinterpreting Tina deliberately. "Don't you wish you could have someone like that when you see them?"
Tina thought, pointedly, of the laws regarding magicals and non-magicals, and Queenie made a face at her. Tina sighed. "Do you really like him?"
"He's sweet," Queenie said, quietly. "I do. Good night, Tina."
"Good night, Queenie," Tina said, equally quiet, and tried not to think of anything at all.
When Graves entered the kitchen the next morning he looked miles better than before, for all that he was wearing what must have been Newt's clothes, ill-fitting; there was a tremor to his hands when he picked up a fork and knife, but he was clean and groomed and present in a way Tina had worried he wouldn't be.
"You look better, sir," Tina said, and held his gaze when Graves looked at her for a long moment.
"Newt has a half-dozen experimental poultices he was just waiting to try," Graves said, looking to his plate, the corner of his mouth lifting slightly. "Some of them are even effective."
And Graves, it was quickly evident, couldn't say no to him. When Newt bustled into the room, buttoning his waistcoat with one hand and a still-mixing paste in the other, his wand between his teeth, Graves seemed to visibly soften, smiling as he reached out and carefully snagged Newt's wand, setting it slowly on the table. "Here," Newt said, "I've reformulated this one," and watched Graves with curiously gentle eyes, taking his trembling hand and beginning to carefully smooth the silvery paste into his skin.
Tina wondered, then, how she could have doubted the validity of Graves's marriage; not only his smile when he looked at Newt, entirely fond, but how they fit together, the ease of the way they moved in and out of each other's space. They spent the day in Newt's case, slowly reintegrating Graves's memories, and Graves looked deliberately away when Newt said goodbye to Jacob, pressing Jacob's case too insistently into his hands.
Tina took Jacob outside, Queenie at her side, and raised her wand - and then lowered it again. "Just - don't tell anyone?" she asked, smiling crookedly, and Jacob laughed.
"Who'd believe me?" he said, but he met Queenie's gaze almost bashfully when he smiled.
Afterwards Queenie hugged her, her eyes bright, and Tina couldn't regret it at all.
For herself, Tina headed back to work. The Department was in disarray as Abernathy took the lead, and half the office was on full-time Grindelwald duty, trying to work out what his goals had been. Tina had a hunch, though, and didn't tell anyone as she dropped her hat over her eyes and walked toward the Second Salemers' meeting; that awful woman was there again, proselytizing.
Graves - or, she knew now, Grindelwald disguised as him - had been oddly furious with her when she'd mishandled the situation and performed magic in front of unknowing No-Majs. She'd chalked it up to his growing irritation at the time, but the way he'd forbidden her from going near them again, so far as to have the other Aurors on her case - Tina had wondered. She tugged on the brim of her hat as she waited there until the crowd dispersed, and as Mary Lou walked off imperiously Credence lingered behind.
Tina caught up to him when he'd stopped glancing around, his expression blank and despondent as he stared at the ground and turned to follow. "I'm sorry, sir," she said, "but have you seen this man before?"
She held out a still photograph of Graves. Credence stared at it, his already pale face draining of blood, and he looked at her then, darting and wary. "Mr. Graves?"
Tina kept her anger to the curl of her fingers around her wand. "Yes, do you know him?"
Credence looked at the photo, and then to Tina. "Are you - you're a - you're a witch."
Tina swallowed. "Yes," she said, "Credence, what did he tell you? Please, I need your help. And - and I promise I can do something about Mary Lou."
Credence stepped back, eyes wide and fearful. "What..."
"I promise," Tina said, "I can help you."
Glancing around, she led Credence into a nearby alleyway. His hands were red and irritated, and when she took out her wand he watched it with a terrified longing that made her chest ache. Tina didn't know many healing spells, but she knew enough to heal his hands over before she said, "Credence. I'm sorry - I did this badly the first time. But I'll stop her from hurting you again."
Credence looked down at his hands, clenching and unclenching his fingers. "How?"
Tina bit her lip, grabbed his arm, and Apparated them a few blocks away.
They were in view of the church, a small side alley that Tina had admittedly visited a few times before. She cast a quick notice-me-not and raised her wand to the street, where Mary Lou was talking to her elder daughter, her expression unforgiving.
Credence had half-collapsed against the wall and looked nauseous as he stared at her. "What - what will you do to her?"
"Nothing noticeable," Tina said. That had been her first problem. She narrowed her eyes and focused on the compulsion charm growing at the tip of her wand - it was delicate, difficult magic to do what she wanted, but she wanted it enough. "But with this, she won't want to hurt any of you any more. It'll wear off in a week or so," she added, glancing back at Credence, "but I can renew it, and for that woman - I will. She deserves to be - " Tina cut herself off, shaking her head, and let the spell go.
Mary Lou frowned slightly and looked around, but Tina's disguising spells did their work, and the woman turned back to her daughter, taking them inside.
Credence was quiet for a long moment. "Magic can... do that?"
"Magic can do all sorts of things," Tina said, and offered him a tentative smile. "Credence, could you... tell me what happened? What Mr. Graves said to you?"
Credence watched her, opened his mouth, and begun to talk.
Tina had to fight not to look outraged, though she felt a seed of anger that just kept growing. Whatever Grindelwald was looking for in a child was beyond her, but that he'd misled Credence to do it - she couldn't help but wonder if it'd been her own defense of Credence that had placed him on that man's radar, that where she had seen a young man in desperate need of help, he'd seen someone manipulable.
"I'm so sorry," Tina said, quietly. "The person you knew as Mr. Graves, he was - an awful man. He'd been impersonating Mr. Graves for more than a month, and he lied to you, Credence. I'm sorry."
"He wasn't real?" Credence asked, and Tina worried her lower lip and reached out, pressing her hand against his arm. "I... I'm not a witch, am I?"
"I don't know," Tina admitted, carefully. "You could be a squib. They're people with magical blood who can't cast spells; they can still use magical things, though, and be part of our world. And," she added, "I've met some really great No-Majs. Magic isn't everything."
Credence's mouth twisted. "The child he asked me to find," he said, "are - are they a witch?"
That Grindelwald had been searching for a child, something special... Tina remembered, almost abruptly, the reports they'd been talking about at the Auror Office, Grindelwald's focus on the latest unknown creature attacks. He'd gone to investigate them all himself, and unusually kept all the files directly on his desk. "I..." Tina said, frowning. "I think they might be - some sort of magical creature." It wasn't the work of a werewolf, but Tina wasn't an expert on all the varieties of creatures in the world - though, she realised, she did knew someone who quite possibly was.
She looked at Credence. He was watching her, his expression wary. "If you're willing, I could use your help," she said, gently. "I have a friend who's an expert in magical creatures, and I'm sure he'd be interested to hear what you know."
Credence dropped his gaze to his hands. "He'd know what - what it was? It's... dangerous, isn't it?"
"Even if it wasn't also a person - a child," Tina said, "he'd want to help. None of us want them to be hurt."
Studying her for a long moment, Credence said, quiet, "All right. I'll come."
Tina said, "Thank you," as she took his arm again; Credence closed his eyes as she focused on her apartment and Apparated them away.
"Bringing another man home, Tina? Should I be worried?"
Queenie's voice came from the kitchen as Tina and Credence stepped out from the doorway. Queenie's eyes widened when she looked at Credence, and Tina said, "This is Queenie, my sister. Queenie, this is Credence. And goodness, no, you know I wouldn't..."
"I know," Queenie said, and looked back at Tina. "Should I get Newt?"
"Not - "
"Just Newt," Queenie agreed, and spun on her heel, heading down the hall.
"I'm sorry about the mess," Tina said, as she practically herded Credence over to their tiny couch. Credence was looking around with wide, startled eyes, as Tina suddenly remembered Jacob had, too - the moving photographs, the everyday magic of their lives was normal to her, but for someone like Credence it was probably overwhelming. "Newt's the friend I told you about. He studies magical creatures. He has a whole menagerie of them in his case."
"Like a... zoo?" Credence asked tentatively.
"Not precisely." Newt looked pale and rather drawn as he came to join them, a curious look on his face as he glanced at Credence. "Most of the creatures I have are rescues - from bad circumstances. I look after them until they can be returned to their natural habitats. Tina, about Percival's memories - "
"Credence," she said, quickly, "had been in contact with the man who was masquerading as Mr. Graves. He's from the Second Salem Church."
"Second Salem," Newt said. He started to frown. "Did he ask you to look for something, Credence?"
Credence looked at Newt quickly; Newt watched him, his gaze steady. "Yes," Credence said. "Someone. A... a child. A girl."
Newt shook his head, squeezing his eyes shut for a moment. "I thought it might be," he said, glancing at Tina. "He was looking for an Obscurus."
Tina said, "No," disbelieving. "There aren't - "
"Here," Newt said, and summoned the Ghost from their kitchen table with a wave of his wand. "This attack, yesterday - I didn't want to think of it either, but with Grindelwald's focus on the Second Salemers and the Scourers, that he was looking for a child - the destruction is characteristic," he said, quietly. "It's only a matter of time before..."
"What's - an Obscurus?" Credence asked.
"An uncontrollable dark magical parasite," Tina said, "caused by the suppression of accidental magic in a child. You really think - "
Newt nodded, looking away. "I'm sorry."
"But, what can we do?"
Glancing at her and Credence for a moment, Newt turned back to the hallway. "Come with me," he said, "you should probably see this."
He took them into his case. Out of the corner of her eye, Tina saw Queenie drag Graves out of sight, but Credence's startled wonder at the magic Newt had woven kept his attention away. "It's this way," Newt said, his tone drawn and solemn as he led them through his maze of habitats, past the mooncalves and into a tundra, and -
"You have one," Tina breathed. "An Obscurus."
Credence was staring at it fixedly. "What - what happened?"
"I came across a girl in Sudan. She was already dying, the Obscurus had eaten away almost all her magic, but I thought if I could remove it... it didn't work. She - she died, still."
"You can't fix it," Credence whispered. His hands clenched into fists and released.
Newt looked at him then, searching. "I talked to one of my Hogwarts professors afterward, and he suggested - I think an Obscurus, any Obscurus, isn't simply a destructive force." He stepped toward the Obscurus he had encased, raising a hand to it and then letting it fall. "It lashes out, but as any creature that's been hurt lashes out. My professor suggested that removed from the environment that caused it, it won't necessarily continue to grow - the child can survive."
"But having the Obscurus in them," Tina said, and the corners of Newt's mouth turned down.
"It's not certain," Newt said. "But it's better than what we had."
"It can be - controlled?" Credence asked, voice low. "It doesn't have to - have to be hurt?"
Newt looked at him again. Tina did, too. "Credence," she said, gently, "do you know who the Obscurial is? I promise, we don't want to hurt them - we only want to help."
"He promised, too," Credence said. "He promised - I could learn magic, that I wouldn't have to stay - he helped me, he wanted to help me, and you're saying he was bad, that you're not, even though you all want the same thing - "
Credence's fists were clenching again, his knuckles turned white, his eyes terrified and angry. There was something uncertain about the shape of him, and Tina felt a slow growing horror as she tried not to step back. Behind him, past the curtain of this tiny world, Graves was watching them, his hand clutched tight and wavering on his wand.
"Credence," Newt said quietly, and Credence's mouth snapped shut as Newt stepped closer, his empty hands spread open, palm-up. "I'm sorry."
"That doesn't - change anything," Credence said, low.
"No," Newt said, mouth quirked wryly, "it doesn't. But I want to help. Can I come closer, Credence?"
Credence shrunk down, trembling. Tina could see the curls of dark smoke from his hands, the way his whole body seemed to shake from the force of it, as Newt stepped toward him, slow and careful. Tina reached gradually for her wand as Newt reached Credence, as his hand hovered over Credence's shoulder and he said, gently, "Please - "
And Queenie yelped, startled, as Newt's demiguise leapt past her, its eyes a glowing blue —
— Credence whirled, his collapsing human form exploding to Graves's widening eyes —
The rush of magic took Tina head-on. She cast a shield too small, too late as she was thrown, as Newt flew back and Queenie's cry rang through the air, "Tina!"
There was a crack in the air, Apparation or breaking bones, and Tina wondered if it would be her. But something wrapped around her arm, pulling her aside enough that when she landed it was in a freezing snowdrift instead of on hard rock and ice; the shock of the fall jarred her but she scrambled to her feet as the demiguise's tail unwound from her arm, and she gave it a thankful glance before she turned around.
Credence - or what had been Credence - hovered in the air, an opaque, spreading mass in the air. Tina breathed, "Credence," as Newt gasped his name from the ground, his face drawn with pain as he struggled to sit up; crouched over him, his expression blank, Graves said sharply:
Credence's Obscurus stilled in the air, then began to writhe.
"No," Graves repeated. "Control yourself. You've hurt him enough. If you damage this place - "
"Sir," Tina said, and he barely spared her a glance.
"Go," he said. "Go destroy some empty building or that disgusting church, if it makes you feel better. You're angry he used you - that's understandable. But I'm not him, and if you try to take it out on Newt again - "
Newt said, weakly, "Percival."
Graves looked back at him, and then to Credence. "If you try," he said, sounding tired but firm, "I will stop you."
"Credence," Tina said, "I'm sorry - " but he was swirling in the air, the Obscurus's form spinning, searching - and then flying past Queenie and away.
He left a path of messy destruction in its wake; plants uprooted, curtains torn, and Newt winced, an arm pressed tight around his ribs. Graves turned to him at the sound he made, pained. "Shh," Graves said, and Newt shook his head.
"You shouldn't have - "
"You're always telling me I should be more firm with your creatures," Graves said, voice gentling. "What is it - 'don't show fear, treat them like you would an Auror or something, Percival, honestly' - "
"Credence isn't a creature," Newt said, but he was smiling slightly at Graves's impression as Graves pressed his palm to his chest, wand glowing white. "Not only."
"And don't I deal with people every day?"
Queenie reached Tina then, as Tina started to feel the edges of her bruises past the shaky adrenaline, and Tina submitted to her healing spells as she followed her away from Newt and Graves, down the path that Credence had wrought. Their reparos didn't work as well as they'd hoped inside Newt's case, but when Tina thought of Credence again Queenie said, "He'll come back."
She looked certain, and if anyone had any idea what he'd do, it was her.
Queenie's optimism was catching. Tina found herself smiling despite herself as they left Newt's case for their apartment, repairing the trail of damage Credence had left behind. It shrunk as Credence continued, things knocked awry but not broken except for the shattered windowpane, and when Tina looked out to the street she couldn't see in which direction he'd fled.
Still, even with Queenie's reassurance Tina couldn't forget; when their investigation into Graves's home turned up nothing and Newt and Graves could return home, Tina spent her free time checking up on the Second Salem Church. Credence had returned there with no apparent casualties, and Tina re-checked and re-cast her compulsion spells, layering them thick and heavy. They must have worked, for the way Credence had stayed.
He approached her a few days later, alone. "Credence," she said, as he said, "I - I'm sorry."
"No," she said, "I am. Are you - are you all right?"
"You... really did help," he said, not quite looking at her. "I shouldn't have - I..."
"We can still help you," Tina said, gently. "You don't need to stay here."
"What will happen?" He stared back at the church. "To - Mary Lou, and... my sisters?"
Tina had thought about it. "I'll Obliviate Mary Lou Barebone," she said, "erase all her memory of magic and you. And a friend of ours would be happy to take you in - he's a No-Maj, too, so there aren't any problems with our laws."
"He knows about - me?"
"He knows about magic," Tina said, carefully. "For anything else, it's really up to you."
Credence looked at her then, something tight and hopeful. "And you can fix me?"
"I don't know," Tina admitted, "but I promise you, we'll try."
Tina saw Graves back at work only two days later. The tremor in his hands was almost gone, but the gossip had immediately started up again - "You actually met Scamander?" Lopez asked, winking at Tina as Abernathy straightened, chest puffing out like a fwooper.
"He took down Grindelwald just like that," Abernathy said, and Tina struggled not to roll her eyes.
"He's a real person?" Jacobs asked Tina, and she sighed.
"Yes! Doesn't everyone know by now?"
"Well," said Chang, "if the Director got his act together and introduced us - "
Warned by Tina's abrupt gesture, she shut her mouth and slowly turned around. "I mean," Chang said, "Director Graves, sir, it's - good to have you back?"
"I would hope so," he said dryly, and looked over them all, his gaze stopping on Tina. "Goldstein, Newt wants to meet you at lunch."
"Newt's coming to lunch?" Tina said, startled. "Here?"
Graves raised his eyebrows at her, and she pursed her mouth as her face warmed. "Yes," he said, turning to speak to the room, "so if anyone is still insisting he is some sort of invention - "
"No, of course not, sir," Chang said quickly, echoed by the others. "We're looking forward to meeting him."
Whatever impression they had made of Newt, from Graves's own mentions to the widely-spread exaggeration of his capture of Grindelwald, was probably broken when Newt stumbled in a little past midday, carrying his case in one hand and an enormous box of pastries in the other. Tina quickly relieved him of them and he smiled at her, quick and bright. "Thank you."
He didn't mean just for the pastries, Tina knew.
Newt was very quickly overwhelmed by the bombardment of questions, at least until Jacobs asked, doubtful, "So, you... really have a nundu?" and he lit up.
"Did Percival mention her?" Newt asked. "She's really very lovely, you know, I've learnt so much about their diet and the effect it has on their poison sacs - "
Slowly but surely, the Aurors' eyes started to glaze over as Newt expounded on nundu's defecation habits in the wild compared to captivity. "He's really quite... different to Director Graves, isn't he?" Fontaine asked Tina as an aside, and she looked at Newt, talking animatedly to Jacobs who was looking more and more horrified, and then to Graves's office door.
"Hey," she said, "have you ever wondered why our protocols in case of a magical creature aren't like everywhere else? Newt was telling me even in Britain it's standard procedure to exterminate on sight."
"But," Fontaine said, frowning, "we've had the relocation policy for... years." He looked at Tina thoughtfully, then at Newt, who seemed startled by whatever Jacobs was asking him. "You think Graves set it up?"
"I think," Tina said, "Graves set it up for him."
And when Graves returned from his meeting, when he placed one hand on Newt's shoulder and Newt looked up at him, gaze softening, when Graves took his hand and dropped heedless of his audience to one knee - the office quieted. Graves said, very seriously, "Newt, it's me or the Niffler," and Newt pressed his lips together but couldn't repress his smile.
"You wouldn't really make me choose," he said, looking at Graves through his eyelashes, and plucked the ring box out of Graves's hand. "We'll have to have the ceremony soon if you don't want Theseus to crash it again."
"This weekend," Graves said, and then sent a pointed look around him. "Subordinates not invited."
"But what about friends?" Tina asked, tongue-in-cheek, and Newt smiled at her.
"Of course," he said. Then he seemed to realise the consequence of it as everyone started insisting that they were definitely friends with him, Mr. Graves, sir, of course he knows my name - until Graves took pity on Newt's increasingly awkward attempts to clarify and pulled him gently away.
"Mr. Graves's husband, huh?" Chang perched on the edge of her desk as Tina made an attempt at pulling out a casefile. "Who would've thought."
"Well," Tina said, "he did say."