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Fantastic Humanity

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Somewhere in Newt's suitcase there is a pocket watch. It's an old thing of gold that refuses to open, engraved with intricate circles so complex that they tip over the edge of magic and into science – or maybe over the edge of science and into magic. He's never really thought about it too much, though he remembers every arch and curve perfectly and could draw them with his eyes closed.

He doesn't know exactly where in his case the watch is, just that it is in there somewhere.

It's always been in there somewhere.

 


 

Four days after Newt had been expelled from Hogwarts, Mother and Father sit him down on the old living room couch and tell him the truth.

Two days after the welcoming feast on his first year at Hogwarts, Theseus pulls him aside in a empty corridor to tell him the truth.

On Mother's birthday when Newt is nine, uncle Will gets terribly drunk and breaks of in middle of tale about hippogriffs to tell him the truth.

Truth is, Newt never really forgot.

He still remembers sitting on the open road somewhere in Wales, weight of something big and heavy to four year old hands in his pocket and the wide open night sky above him. There were so many stars and he thought he knew their names.

He remembers staring up and up and up and he remembers a shadow crossing over, big and wondrous thing he couldn't name any more than he could the stars. But it was living and big and whatever it was he was sure it was wonderful.

He remembers following the shadow, running after it wildly, his lungs heaving and his heart – just the one – thundering in his small chest. His coat dragged the ground and got entangled with the foliage but all he cared about was the shadow and he wanted to catch it and name it and know it.

It led him straight to the dragon sanctuary, and into the arms of number of very astonished wizards. And he still remembers those first five minutes and the confused, startled answers to his questions – They're Dragons, Dragons Are Magical Creatures, Oh There's Loads Of Different Kinds.

While they waited for word to come back from the Ministry about what to do concerning the strange muggleborn orphan that had just wandered into a warded, unplottable valley, Newt asked questions and got increasingly amused answers. It was one of the dragon handlers who called him Newt, saying, "Well maybe once you grow up a little you'll become a big dragon, but right now you're nothing but a little newt."

He's still a little sad he never thought to ask for her name.

He remembers the aftermath, he remembers the Ministry as big imposing place, gilded and gleaming, and he remembers wizards, some of them nice and some of them less so. He remembers people talking about muggle orphanages and mudblood rabble and how his memory loss might be of magical origins and he remembers how some people indulged his questions with warm smiles – and some didn't, shutting him coldly down when he asked if they knew about magical creatures.

He remembers a woman, a witch who'd soon become Mother to him, kneeling down to talk to him. "I hear you're interested in beasts," she said. "I keep a stable of hippogriffs – would you like to hear about them?"

He did, very much so. And he knows now that she worked in the Creatures Department back then and had heard about him through the grapevine and had been amused – later she tells him she'd fallen in love with his enthusiasm and his bright little mind and his brighter smile and she just had to have him. He also knows it was more than that and harder than that and there were days he spend in the Ministry, cold and confused, before she and man who'd become Father and boy who'd become his Brother came to take him home.

Mother names him Newton just so that he can keep Newt. That's the moment he decides he's going to love her a lot – and he's not wrong.

Newt knows his adoption eventually lost her job, that it made a dent in the Scamander family image. They aren't Old but they're old enough to be considered pure – or they were, until he made them half-blood.

They thought he forgot – he was so young, everything happened so fast and he never talked about after, so he must have forgotten. As far as their household was considered, they'd always been half-blood and that was that.

Newt doesn't forget things, though.

Later they tell him the truth. They tell him they never minded the change, that it was never a loss, that he was worth it.

They tell it even as he's sent home, his wand snapped and future ruined.

 


 

Leta reminds Newt of someone. She's pureblood and so smart and knows so many things, but she seems stuck in her shoes, unsmiling and unable to move. She makes him want to grab her hand and run and show her things, wonderful magical things, things to astonish her and open her eyes and make her smile.

He thinks for a while he succeeds too. She knows so much more about magic, but he can still astonish her with creatures – can drag her into the Forbidden Forest and make her eyes go wide with excitement. They have adventures and he loves making her marvel and sometimes he thinks that maybe she sees things how he sees them.

"You are complete nutter," she tells him between bursts of excited giggles as they swim in the Black Lake, the threat of mermaids and grindylows and a giant squid just below their kicking feet.

Newt thinks that he wants to keep her.

Later, after the excitement fades and the marvellous becomes mundane for her and she starts being more interested in boys and being pretty than whatever mischief they could get into in the Forbidden Forest, he knows – remembers – that he can't.

"We're not little kids anymore, you know. Are you ever going to grow up?" Leta asks him that last time Newt asks her if she'd like to come see the centaurs. She apologises later, he knows she means it... but he doesn't ask her again.

Funny thing, it's creature she smuggles into the school to cheer him up that gets expelled. Somehow, he knows – remembers – that feeling too.

 


 

Magic doesn't come easily for Newt. It comes, sure, but it's never quite as instinctive and easy for him as it is for others, for Leta who can wave her wand, delicate and smooth, and just make things happen. For Newt, it's always a bit of a struggle to get it to happen.

He never quite figures out why. Thing is though, he doesn't really care that much, not like Leta does. She wants her spells perfect and powerful but Newt doesn't mind that much that it sometimes takes him a couple of tries, or the fact that he never quite manages to make wordless casting work for him.

"It's not like you don't have power – I've seen you cast a patronus, you have plenty of power," Leta says, a little frustrated. "And you know the material. You never forget a spell."

Newt shrugs. He doesn't forget spells, no.

Sometimes he has trouble believing in them, though. Sometimes he looks at books of spells and something in his mind catches – sometimes he peers at his wand and it feels strange and foreign. Sometimes, everything feels just a bit too… fantastical.

Hogwarts never becomes the sort of second home it becomes for most students. He has pride, same as everyone else, in his House because that's how the school is designed, and for a time he even plays Quidditch for his House's team… but he doesn't fit in. He has hard time relating to the other students, hard time keeping up with his classes.

And of course he's the adopted Scamander. And the more popular Theseus gets, the more people notice him…

The thing Newt thinks he'll miss the most is the forest, the cool air with tang of moss and dew and all the adventures he's had under the heavy canopy. He'll miss the hippogriffs and the thestrals, the centaurs and the occasional glimpses of unicorns, more than he'll miss the school.

He'll miss Leta too, he knows that. He'll miss her like a lost limb, always feeling her absence and the loneliness not having her there leaves him with.

But he knows he can never keep them. And sometimes walking away is the best option for everyone involved.

 


 

"Is there something you'd like to tell me, Newt?" Professor Dumbledore asked him, quiet and serious, trying to meet his eye.

Newt thinks about the runespoor – such an lovely little thing, all fire red throughout. She kept trying to bite her own heads. He'd had been trying to fit a parchment cone on the head that was trying to bite the others when Theseus had found them.

He thinks of Leta, glancing at him imploringly and not saying a word, just shaking her head mutely at every accusation and looking away, guilty.

He thinks of Theseus, sighing, "Oh Merlin, Newt, really?" exasperatedly, like it's almost expected, like of course this was going to happen. And maybe it was.

"What's going to happen to the runespoor?" Newt asks.

Professor Dumbledore looks at him worriedly. "Newt, my boy, it's an extremely dangerous poisonous serpent you brought into the school – it has already attempted to bite several of the staff members. This is no jaunt into the Forbidden Forest, you know. This is quite serious."

Newt looks down. Theseus said that too. "What's going to happen to the runespoor?" he asks again, quieter. "Where is she, she it alright?"

Dumbledore sighs and runs a hand over his beard. "My boy," he says, almost imploringly. "Endangering the lives of students and faculty members is a serious, punishable act. Think now – is there anything you would like to say?"

Newt bites his lip.

Leta, he knows, wouldn't be punished severely. She's Old Blood and her parents have money – they could make it all go away and worse she'd get is slap on the wrist and maybe disapproval of her family, ridicule of her friends, which would eventually pass and be forgotten. He'd get much worse.

But... "The runespoor, sir," Newt says again pleadingly. "What is going to happen to her?"

Dumbledore sighs and shakes his head. He gives up and it's clearly visible on his face, on the slump of his shoulder. He gives up on Newt. "You will have to take it with you when you leave," the Deputy Headmaster says. "Do you understand?"

Newt closes his eyes and breathes through the relief and betrayal both. "Yes, sir, I do."

 


 

It takes Newt better part of year to fix his broken wand. He ends up growing it's new core inside it – shell and coral and mother of pearl, and niggling absence of memory that makes him want to check his watch. The result is far from pretty but it works and he thinks it suits him. It feels a bit… more real in his hand.

He's always been a bit cobbled together, hasn't he?

He does it just in time for Theseus to graduate with full honours, a proud Head Boy of Hogwarts. Theseus comes home victorious and glowing and announces to everyone's – and no one's – surprise that he's going to join the Wand Corps, join the War.

"It will be good experience for when I join the aurors," Theseus says, in way that vaguely reminds Newt of professor Dumbledore. "And we should all do our part for the greater good."

For a moment Newt thinks of stars fading to namelessness and rifts consuming histories, thousand horrors being born and disappearing in instant as the War tore the universe apart.

He shudders as guilt sets over his shoulder like old heavy cloak, the weight of which he knows all the way down to his bones. His head bends down and he doesn't meet anyone's eye, least of all Theseus'.

Mother and Father try to talk Theseus out of it of course. Newt doesn't.

He joins Theseus only couple months later – and he doesn't stop having nightmares until years later after the war is won and lost.

 


 

Newt takes three things into the war.

His wand, which feels a little like a living part of him now, like it's growing under his finger tips. It hums when he touches it, a low comforting reverberation just at edge of his hearing. It's the coral, he thinks.

His new suitcase, a gift from Mother which is the first thing he casts a spell on with his fixed wand. So far the expansion charms are only good enough to triple it's size, but it's made the suitcase bit more comfortable for the runespoor and Newt has ideas, possibly slight mad ideas, about how to expand it further.

And a pocket watch.

He loses none of those things and gains a lot more – the suitcase expands thirty times as big, the runespoor is joined by wounded unicorn, number of crippled hippogriffs and winged horses, half a dozen dragon eggs and a thieving niffler. He wins honours and earns reprimands and makes friends and loses them along the way, he rides dragons and proves that they are, indeed, unridable. He comes away with number of scars, a uniform that quickly grows dusty in his closet and a muggle rifle that he destroys as soon as he can. The baggage he comes away with clearly overshadows the one he joined with.

And yet it feels like he lost something in the Eastern Front and his steps are both heavier and lighter for it as he walks away, feeling so much older than his scant two dozen years.

 


 

If anyone had asked Newt what he thought of the war, the first thing he would've said was small. The war was a lot smaller than he'd assumed it would be.

Thankfully, no one asks.

 


 

Theseus is right about something – the war was good experience, and having taken part in it opens doors that otherwise might've remained shut. For Theseus, it speeds him through auror training in no time at all. For Newt it gets a job in the House Elf Relocation Offices – something he knows he wouldn't have been able to get with the papers of a Hogwarts dropout.

"There, see?" Theseus says cheerfully. "Its all going to work out just fine."

He means it well and he's right – it is perhaps best Newt could hoped for and he's just happy that his... faults aren't holding Theseus back from advancing. Even with black sheep like him in the family, Theseus is still pushing through and good for him.

But the job is draining Newt. Its not that its hard – its anything but hard. Its slow, and monotonous, full of quiet days where nothing happens and no one so much as peeks their head into his office. House elves, it turns out, don't need that much relocating.

The days and minutes and seconds drag on and on, slower with each passing one, until Newt swears he can actually feel the Earth itself moving, quietly spinning through space under him.

He starts bringing his suitcase into work and popping in on the quiet days to do whatever chores need to be done, expanding the space as he goes. The runespoor has grown to be bigger than a man now – her right head is still trying to bite the other two. The horses he's rehabilitated as well as he could but there isn't much he can do for them now – no one wanted to bother keeping wingless horses. At least the hippogriffs are better off – they'd joined his Mother's flock at the farm.

The niffler has became a semi permanent nuisance, having dug a burrow for himself on the roots of what was supposed to be the start of a more forestry habitat. Newt suspects half of his meagre pay from the Ministry ends up hidden in the burrow. He'd be bothered by it if it wasn't already too small to make much of a difference in his life.

He's coming out of the suitcase when Augustus Wormwood, his supervisor, enters his office for the first time – seeing the whole thing of course.

"Oh, sir, I'm so sorry – I was just –" Newt starts to say, horrified, because as poor as the job is, as little as it pays, he can't lose it.

"At ease, Scamander – don't fret about it. Everyone knows there's no office slower than this one, and there hasn't been a witch or wizard assigned here that hasn't came up with creative ways to pass the time. I myself took up knitting," the elder wizard says amusedly, peering at his suitcase curiously. "What do you have down there, then?"

What starts as mild panic and eagerness not to get fired ends up as start of a surprising friendship. Augustus is the head of the relocation offices and admits that his days are hardly more exciting than Newt's – mostly he goes through old files from 1600s and pretends he's working while laughing over incidents concerning magical cratered during the Great Seek and Hide as he calls it.

"It took almost a full century before they finally managed to make muggles forget about magical beasts," he tells Newt. "And they still did a shoddy job of it – obviously we still have beasts running around in muggle areas, otherwise the offices here wouldn't be necessary. Thank Merlin muggles are good at coming up with their own excuses for everything though."

Newt thinks, oddly, of Big Ben of all things. "They certainly are that," he muses.

"I'm not sure we'd do better job of it now, though," Augustus admits. "Considering the hassle a single jarvey can cause, I'd hate to be the poor bloke who has to hide entire species of creatures. Like, say, grindylows. The things breed like rabbits – Merlin only knows how they got them off lakes and rivers."

"Mermaids, probably," Newt answers and makes a face. "And probably a lot of trapping."

And lot of butchery, he thinks and looks away. That's how most people deal with creatures they don't much like – they just kill them. That was probably how Statute of Secrecy was achieved, where animals were concerned. The populations had been... drastically reduced.

Augustus eyes him. "You know lot about magical creatures, don't you, Newt? Have you ever thought of working with?"

Newt sighs and looks at his dull office. "With my papers I think this is the closest I can get," he admits. "Though I can't deny that every now and then I do entertain the thought of just grabbing my case and just... going."

It was a daily daydream really, but it wasn't what people did, was it? Only mad men just travelled like that, with nothing but a box of things to their name...

Newt sighs, a little wistful, and Augustus laughs.

Next day, he offers Newt a better job.

 


 

Mother insist holding a gathering to send Newt off, and he's so glad to have his family's approval for the whole mad venture that he doesn't even argue. Theseus throws his not inconsiderable weight behind it and it turns into a ball, the first one the Scamander family has he'd in years and years.

Newt hates every moment of it. It's mostly family and friends, and Theseus mates – colleagues – and though it's, supposedly for Newt's honour, no one is there actually to see him. Which would be fine except both mother and Theseus keep dragging people to meet him – as if intending to condense a year's worth of being social into one night.

Most of them don't like him – lot of them down right disapprove him.

"I suppose it has been at least a little beneficial, growing up with the Scamanders?" one of Theseus' friends comments with a curious little sniff.

"I'm not sure I understand? " Newt answers uncertainly.

"Well, you are a... muggleborn, are you not?" she says and looks at the party and then at him, side eyed. "Pity good upbringing isn't always good enough, isn't it?"

Newt stares at her for a moment, not entirely sure they're speaking the same language at all. Then he gets her meaning and looks away. Theseus is coming around with another friend, an American wizard judging by the cut of his coat, and maybe he and Mother have the right of it after all.

Abruptly Newt has had enough of social interaction for a year at least.

"Newt, come and meet Percy –" Theseus starts to say with a smile.

"Sorry, I have to go – excuse me," Newt says and pushes past them.

He leaves the country without further fanfare – and it takes lot longer than a year before he comes back again.

 


 

Newt travels and something in his chest that has been clawing at the walls settles. He's possibly not very good at the whole travelling thing and he knows he sticks his nose into places he most likely shouldn't – but by Merlin if it isn't the best time of his life.

It isn't until there is no place and everywhere to go that he realises how trapped he's felt for most of his life. Trapped in home, in Hogwarts, in war, in office – only once he's left all if it behind does it feel like he can breathe. And so he breathes deep and hungry, inhaling ocean air like he's about to drown.

It feels a bit like chasing the shadow of a dragon under a starlit sky. Beautiful and dangerous and so very very exciting.

And once he's started moving it feels as if he can't stop, like if he stalls he'll start choking on the stale air in his lungs. So... he keeps going.

Through Europe and all of the magical creatures he can get his hands on through the Middle East and to India, from there to Asia, through Japan to Australia and back up north, to Russia and from there westward to Scandinavia...

It leads him to all sorts of wonderful places and exciting situations, into meeting people like him, who do not understand people nearly as well as they understand animals. It leads him to trouble, into being robbed and scammed and tricked, into beating back people and creatures both with his travelling tea kettle more than a few times. All if it is utterly fantastic.

It leads into him finding himself too, though Newt wouldn't ever do anything as ridiculous as to admit it. But he does find himself, bits of himself scattered all through the world.

He finds himself in a hair cut in Belgium and in a bow tie in India and in a coat in Sweden that has him haggling away almost half of his funds. He can't help it though – the colour arrests him and he feels as if he can't breathe until he's draped himself in that exact shade of blue.

Once he has fitted the coat on, adjusting it with couple of spells to fit it perfectly, he feels himself settling into his bones at last. It even eases the feeling of emptiness around him, somewhat.

And so he's feeling rather confident when he sets his eyes towards Africa.

 


 

There are times when Newt looks at people and they don't seem real. Wizards especially but all people in general. Sometimes they just seem so utterly, completely incomprehensible that he's not entirely sure what's he doing among them.

Sometimes it's lovely. Like when Mother made him one of hers and when Theseus called him brother the first time – when he met Leta and she let him run off with her just for a while. Its parents with their children and teachers with their promising students – and soldiers risking everything to save lives of their mates, of civilians, sometimes even of their enemies. Its that split of a second between a raised wand and lowered one, when a person chooses not to hurt and tries to talk instead. Its invention and innovation and curiosity – and care and humanity is just brimming with it and sometimes Newt is helplessly in love with them all.

But then there's the flip side. Its cells and cages and war crimes. People's aptitude for abuse is sometimes so unreasonably high that Newt isn't sure how they can even function with so much malice inside them. Or maybe it's just carelessness and disregard, which he thinks is a especially insidious form of malice.

People who want to actively cause pain are vastly outnumbered by those who just don't care at all. And Newt isn't sure at all how it works because he knows humanity has such an incredible capacity for caring and loving – how can they be capable of that and then, like flicking of switch, not care?

He sees it time and time again and maybe his perspective is skewed by how many poachers and smugglers and black market dealers he ends up running into, but the longer he looks the more vicious humans seem. And the few sparks of kindness only seem to contrast it, bringing out the sharp edge of evil people are capable of.

The fact that he got help in getting Dougal out and there were villagers who helped peacefully capture a rampaging erumpent doesn't erase the fact that it was people trapped the demiguise in the first place, that it was people who ran the erumpent into a ravine. And nothing will ever soften the blow the creatures he is too the late to save – occamy eggs destroyed for their shells and graphorns slaughtered for their horns. There malice there that apologies, explanations and offers to help can't fix.

And yet that care and the guilt that promotes it and all it other little sparks of kindness – they're real too, real and bright and heavy in their importance. There are people out there who strive ceaselessly for peace, for care, for understanding. He is far from the only one out there, working at rescuing magical creatures – there are others and they're important too.

And sometimes there's no difference between a person who is malicious and who is caring. Sometimes they are the same person.

Newt's years of travel are education in not only magical creatures in the end, but in humanity too. And he knows he doesn't figure it out fully – thinks that maybe thousand years wouldn't be long enough to do that – he does learn some things. 

Humanity isn't a coin you flip to get either good or bad result. It is rather a set of dice with hundred sides and none of them are be really black or white. And those people with darker set of dice rolls made the one with lighter sides showing all the more special.

He still loves humanity but he thinks he loves it a little less after Africa.

Africa breaks his heart.

It breaks it with a four legged nundu in a pit trap, slowly starving to death even as she chokes on her own fumes.

It breaks it with a thunderbird chained up with his wings clipped, forced to predict danger and make it rain for his captors.

It breaks it with a little girl imprisoned and beaten for the crime of having magic to the point where her magic started eating her inside out.

Africa takes Newt and chews him up and saving two out of three is not a good enough, it's not good enough by far.

 


 

Newt isn't entirely blind to the fact that he doesn't include himself in his ruminations on humanity. It never occurs to him and he's always bit of an outsider looking in.

He doesn't think about it too closely though. Neither that, nor the bouts of loneliness and strangely nostalgic longing that make him eye his fellow creature enthusiasts and wonder if they liked running.

He's not that lonely, to be fair. He has his creatures. Its probably better just to keep it that way anyway.

 


 

As a rule Newt doesn't try to keep anything by force. There are creatures that have to either stay with him or go to stay with some other magizoologist – ones that were raised by humans, or who are badly injured and can never function in the wild. But every creature that has shown inclination for depression and that seems trapped even in the best habitat he makes them, he tries to release.

Its not always easy. Finding a safe place for the erumpent has proven difficult and it's just as well that the nundu seems fairly comfortable in her habitat because no one wants her released in their lands.

Frank, though, Frank moults even as he grows new feathers and the best of feather care potions Newt has can only go so far. A thunderbird, Newt very quickly figures out, does not do well even in the cosiest of closed spaces.

"You belong in the open sky, don't you?" Newt says, combing his fingers gently through golden feathers. They're still a bit ruffled. "Alright Frank. Let's see about getting you home then."