Tina was quite surprised at just how fast Newt could be when he put his mind to it. His natural walk wasn't fast-paced or smooth, but rather awkward and deliberate. Tina suspected that he had developed it after working with so many different kinds of creatures, all of which needed to be approached with caution at first meeting. He led with his right foot, which turned out at an angle, and gave his stride the appearance of imbalance. But it seemed that, when he wanted to be fast, any awkwardness in his stride disappeared.
As Tina held onto Newt's hand for dear life and did her best to keep up with his pace, she noticed that he had led her straight out of the ballroom, through the front hall, and now down a corridor that led to the back of the estate. It seemed that he intended to take Tina outside, for through the open glass doors, out onto the verandah and into the warm summer air they went. Newt led them down the stone steps, across the narrow lawn, and into the vast and beautiful gardens between the estate and the woods beyond.
Newt finally stopped at a spot near a tall hedge, which put them out of view of the house and in a bright beam of moonlight. Poor Tina was understandably out of breath, but she tried to catch it in the most graceful and ladylike way possible (she resisted the urge to bend over and grab her knees, and settled for putting the hand that Newt was not still holding to her chest). Her cheeks, already flushed from the exercise, burned as Newt's bright eyes (in the moonlight, they were the same color as her dress) drank in every detail of her appearance. He still hadn't let go of her left hand.
As soon as Tina had gotten some reasonable control of her breathing, Newt's own free hand lifted to her face. Just as he had done all those months ago, he gently stroked her hair. But this time, he didn't let his hand drop: this time, his hand gently cupped her pink cheek. Even as her heart pounded, a soft sigh escaped her lips and she leant into his gentle touch.
Finally, Newt spoke to Tina. His voice was soft and thick with tender joy. "Is it really you, Tina? Are you really here?"
Tina let out a breathless laugh, and raised her hand to press against the one that rested on her cheek. "Of course it is, you silly man!"
He shook his head a little bit, his eyes sparkling both from the moonlight and the emotion in his eyes. "But how…"
Knowing what he needed an explanation for, Tina immediately plunged into it.
"It was your mother's idea, and your brother helped. About a month ago, I got a letter from your mother. She wrote that she was holding a party to celebrate your book being published. She had asked you if I would be coming, and that you'd told her that you didn't want to inconvenience me by asking to take time off work and make the long journey over here. Is that true?"
Newt hung his head as if in shame, and his hand fell away from her face (much to her disappointment). "Ah…y-yes, it is. It, um, seemed like a lot to ask of you at the time. Also, you'd written in one of your letters that you had no liking for large parties, just like me."
Both touched and exasperated by his selflessness, Tina found the courage to lift her now free hand and cup his own freckled cheek. His gaze immediately met hers again as he leant into her touch.
"Well, your mother said that I was more than welcome to come if I was able to and thought she should extend the invitation no matter the outcome. Thankfully, I was able to get the time off and the boat ticket in time!" She finished with what she hoped was an encouraging smile, hoping that she would get a smile in return.
Instead, an excited collection of squeaks filled the summer air, and Tina's eye caught movement coming from the breast-pocket of Newt's dress robes. Just as she guessed, it was a very familiar bowtruckle to, it seemed, could contain himself in Newt's pocket no longer. "Hello, Pickett!" said Tina happily, holding out both of her hands in front of the little creature, palms down and one in front of the other, so that the bowtruckle could greet her properly.
During the week that Newt had spent with the Goldstein sisters in New York City, Pickett had taken a liking to her. If ever he became annoyed with Newt (much like a teenage boy with his mother), Pickett would transfer to Tina's shoulder and perch there until Newt was able to bribe him back to his pocket. Now, the nimble little creature crawled out of Newt's pocket and practically strutted over Tina's fingers. When he stopped in front of her face, Pickett leaned forward and kissed the tip of her nose.
Tina giggled with delight. "It's lovely to see you again, too! Have you been behaving yourself?" Her voice then became that of a conspiratorial whisper. "Or, more importantly, has he?"
"Please don't encourage him," said an exasperated and embarrassed Newt as he ran a hand through his hair.
Pickett's stance got a real attitude when he put his hand (if you could call it that) on his hip, the same stance he always acquired when Newt tried to get him to join the other bowtruckles on the tree. The squeaks he let out were anything but innocent.
"Watch your language, young man!" Newt snapped, but Tina could see that his cheeks were red and he was biting back a smile.
Pickett held his stance, turned his head, and blew a raspberry at Newt. Tina laughed fully at the situation, reminded of how much she had missed watching these two bicker.
Newt pursed his lips for a moment, and then gently lifted Pickett from Tina's hands and placed him onto his own hand. "Alright, then. Now you can enjoy my larger and lower right pocket for the duration of the evening."
Pickett gave a squeak that could only be described as a whining "why?" to Newt. The man then lowered his head so that he could be at eye-level with the leafy creature and speak to him in a very serious, entreating, and almost conspiratorial tone of voice.
"You don't want to have each of your limbs crushed and broken, do you? Because, I guarantee you, that will happen if I put you back in my breast-pocket."
Pickett was silent, but he looked at Tina, then back at Newt, and gave a nod of his head. With a smile, Newt carefully placed the bowtruckle in that lower right pocket.
Confused by the exchange that she had just witnessed, Tina began to say, "Why would he be –"
But her words were cut off when Newt gathered her in his arms for a tight embrace. It only took Tina a moment to return it, her arms wrapping around his shoulders. As she felt his face press against her bare neck, her own right hand rose up to his head. She felt Newt shudder as her fingers sank into his unruly hair, and their grips around each other tightened. That safe and warm feeling that Tina had felt in those times that they had held each other all those months ago came back. And just like that, the rest of the world fell away.
Newt spoke first, his lips brushing her neck. "Merlin, I've missed you, Tina."
Tina's entire body felt warm, but in the best possible way: she felt safe, she felt alive. "Believe me, Newt, the feeling is mutual."
How long they stood there and held each other, neither of them ever knew or cared. The embrace only broke when their heads moved back enough so that they could look at each other. Though their arms dropped, their hands immediately found each other's.
"Are you angry about this?" asked Tina, feeling a little pang of insecurity now that they were no longer holding each other. "I know it would have been better to let you know, but we…well, I…I wanted to surprise you."
Mercy Lewis, did she want to melt into a puddle right about now. But that feeling lasted no more than a moment. The way that Newt was looking at her, with such warmth and joy, kept her confidence from completely failing her. He took one of her hands and placed it in the crook of his elbow before leading her down the long and winding garden path. His natural and awkward stride wasn't too fast or too slow; it was the perfect pace for her to walk side-by-side with.
"The only person that I am angry with is myself, Tina," said Newt. "For stopping my letters to you completely, and for not asking you to come to this myself. I can't speak for you, but these past three months have been some of the longest of my life." He covered her hand resting in the crook of his elbow with his own.
Tina leant her head on his shoulder for a moment before responding. "It's felt more like six months, even nine months…"
"At least," said Newt. "How long are you staying in England? Please don't tell me that you have to leave tomorrow."
"No…the day after tomorrow." Her tone was as sad as Tina felt about this now that she knew that Newt was happy she was here. "With less than a month's notice, it was the most time that I could get off work."
Newt's expression fell, and his steps slowed. But he picked up his pace a moment later, and spoke with a determined cheerfulness. "Well, we'll have to make the most of your time here, then. What would you like to do on your first trip abroad?"
Tina shrugged. "I don't know, Newt…Honestly, it really doesn't matter to me, as long as I'll be able to spend it with you."
Her cheeks positively burned now. Never before had she spoken to a man this way, like one of those heroines in the romantic novels that Queenie had scattered all over their apartment. But then again, Tina had never felt for anybody what she felt for Newt.
The two of them had come to a fountain in a circular clearing of the garden. The water had been enchanted to glow a pale turquoise as it splashed around the figure of a mermaid. Newt stopped them and took a pace or two away from Tina. Already she felt cold at the loss of physical contact, but she kept herself still and waited for Newt to speak.
"Tina…I feel I owe you an explanation, and an apology as well. For stopping our correspondence for so long."
Holding her hands a bit tightly together, Tina said, "Newt, it's alright. You told me that you needed to concentrate on finishing your book. I understand that."
Newt rubbed the back of his neck, and his eyes were more focused on the ground than on her as he continued. "Yes, I did, that is true…but it's not the entire truth…You see, the book itself has been finished for over a month. That's when I sent the finished manuscript off to the publishing house. Something else happened over a month ago, as well…"
He looked so nervous, almost uncomfortable, and though Tina felt like she was standing on pins and needles, she gently prodded, "Yes?"
Newt cleared his throat, still not meeting Tina's eyes. "Well, I was at Diagon Alley, and was making a withdrawal at Gringott's. As I was leaving the bank, someone came in…it was Leta. Leta Lestrange."
Hearing Newt say that name had the same effect on Tina's soul as her body would have felt had it fallen into ice-cold water. All she could say in response to this was a soft and defeated, "Oh."
This had been her greatest fear, ever since he had stopped their letters: Had he seen Leta Lestrange again? All she knew about this mysterious girl was that she had been a close friend of Newt's when they had gone to school (his only friend, really). And the fact that Newt carried her picture in his case – at least, he had been when he'd been in New York – could only mean that he had (or still felt) something deeper than friendship for this woman. She was also one of two aspects that Newt had never mentioned or discussed in his letters, that and his expulsion from Hogwarts. Which made Tina believe that the two of them were somehow linked together.
She knew that Queenie'd had a brief conversation about Leta with Newt when they had all been down in this case, but her little sister had only told her the girl's name, that she'd been Newt's close friend at school, and that her picture was in his case. Anything else Queenie may have seen in Newt's mind she kept to herself, saying that this was Newt's story to tell when he was ready to tell her. Tina understood and hadn't pushed either Queenie or Newt for more information. But it was hard to be kept in the dark about these things when she felt her heart no longer belonged to her anymore.
And now that Newt was telling her that Leta Lestrange had something to do with him stopping his letters to her, she found it very hard not to apparate as far away from this spot as she could. But she owed it to Newt to hear him out. If he didn't feel about her the way she felt about him, that wasn't his fault; she had his friendship, and she would keep it, whatever it took.
So, she took a deep, fortifying breath, gripped her hands more tightly, and waited for Newt to continue.
"We hadn't seen each other since…well, since I had left Hogwarts," Newt continued, shifting his weight from one foot to the other. "I was so shocked that I just called out her name, like I would when I saw her coming down the Great Hall for breakfast…"
Instead of the fond and faraway look Tina expected to see on his face, his forehead was furrowed and his eyebrows were pinched.
"She didn't recognize me at first. It took her a moment before she did. We only talked for a few minutes, and she looked like she wanted nothing more than to move on into the bank the entire time."
Tina wished she had been there now so that she could have punched the woman square in the jaw. But Newt did not say this with sadness at all. He spoke in the same tone of voice that he had used nearly a year ago, in response to Tina's question about whether Leta Lestrange liked to read.
Then, Newt astonished Tina by suddenly standing still and looking her squarely in the eye.
"Do you know what I couldn't stop doing in my mind?" he asked. "The entire few minutes that were talking to each other?"
Having no idea what to expect now, Tina shook her head. "What?"
Newt took a step towards her. "I couldn't stop comparing her to you."
Now that had been the last thing that Tina had expected to hear. She found that she couldn't say a word as Newt continued to step closer to her, only stopping when they were practically a breath away from each other. And if it weren't for that closer proximity, Tina wouldn't have been able to hear the next words he said as his hand cupped her pink cheek again.
"And you exceed her in every possible way."
Tina let out a short breath, and felt the urge to start hyperventilating because her heart was pounding harder than ever. Newt's gaze was so intense, even as his hand on her cheek was so gentle, that she had to look down at her clenched hands. "But I'm…" she practically choked out. "But I'm nothing special, I –"
Any other foolish and false words that she might have said were halted when Newt pressed his lips to hers. The kiss that Newt gave Tina was gentle but firm, leaving her in no doubt whatsoever that he knew exactly what he was doing. She responded to the kiss right away, despite her surprise, and it was wonderful. She didn't want to admit to herself how often she had fantasized this moment, so she would only rejoice that it was happening!
When Newt ended the kiss, and brought his head back, his eyes gleamed silver in the moonlight. There was a new shyness, even a drop of remorse, in his expression as he spoke again in a hoarse tone of voice.
"I must be honest with you, Tina. This revelation…well, it shook me, even frightened me. That I may feel for someone so strongly again. I know that…that I haven't yet told you much about Leta…but I'm sure it has quite obvious to you that my heart was broken a bit as a result of it."
"Oh, Newt…" Tina murmured, her heart aching for him as he indeed confirmed her suspicions. She turned her head to kiss the palm of his hand as his fingers still cupped her cheek, wishing that she could heal every wound and scar that covered his heart.
But the expression he now gave her was one of complete tenderness and a shade of shyness. "But then I remembered something that helped me to stop being afraid. It was something that Queenie said to me when we were all in my case. She'd found Leta's picture and got some details from my mind, and she said…that Leta was a taker, and that I needed a giver."
Tina nodded, remembering hearing the tail-end of that statement when she had found Newt and Queenie talking in his case nine months ago.
Much to Tina's disappointment, Newt then dropped his hand from her face and took a step back from her. "Which reminds me that I have something for you."
He reached into the spacious, lower jacket pocket (the one which did not contain a spoiled bowtruckle) and pulled out a small, thin, and beautiful book. Tina instantly recognized it as his own, and he offered it to her with a bashful smile. The cover was embossed in golden letters on the richly red-leather cover: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
The young woman gasped, tracing the letters of the title with her finger. Tina's mind went back to the conversation she and Newt had shared before he'd departed New York City nine months ago, and her heart jumped. She had said this as a genuine compliment to let Newt know that she had grown to adore those creatures after seeing them through his eyes; she never dreamed that he would remember it and use it as the book title! She was too flattered to do more than give him what she hoped was a grateful smile.
Smiling back, Newt opened the book in her hands to one of the first pages. The page that he wanted to show her held only a few words – the dedication. Newt pulled out his wand and murmured, "Lumos." A soft, golden light illuminated their faces and the page, the better for Tina to read the dedication:
For the giver who gave me the title of this book, along with the greatest gift that can be given: Hope.
Tina had to blink back the tears that filled her eyes – she didn't want those words to blur in her sight – as her finger absently caressed the black-printed words as they had caressed the golden title.
"Do you like it?" Newt murmured so timidly that she looked up from the book at him as quick as her neck could allow. "I did say that I would give you your copy in person. This is actually the first copy printed; I set it aside especially for you. I've been planning, the last few days, my return trip to New York City. Looking into boats and fares and so on. I even sent a letter to Queenie yesterday, asking if you were working very hard and if it would be a good idea to surprise you. But then I saw you here tonight, and I was so happy to see you that I had to remind myself to fetch your copy before seeking you out, so –"
This time it was Tina who stopped Newt's words with a kiss. It was as if her heart and instincts had taken complete control of her body, since her mind had been so stunned by what Newt had shown her. She had dropped the book, practically lunged at the poor man, wrapped her arms around his neck, and kissed his lips with all of her heart and soul. Newt had managed to stay upright, managing to only stumble back one step but drop his wand, the tip still alight. And once he felt steady again, he kissed her back just as fervently, his arms wrapping around her tall and slender frame.
Though their embrace was quite fierce and tight, their kisses remained as gentle as they were heartfelt. This was a new step for them, after all. And what a fantastic step it was! Newt's hands on her back and waist seemed to burn through the fine fabric of her dress, and her fingers couldn't resist running through his already messy hair. When she did this, Newt shuddered and let out an involuntary sound, something between a moan and a growl. Tina couldn't help but giggle. "Oh, hush," Newt had muttered and silenced her by resuming their kisses. Tina didn't mind in the slightest.
But the two of them broke apart when the sound of a throat being cleared broke the tranquil silence of the moonlit garden. Looking towards the house, they saw Professor Dumbledore standing there, his wand lit to show the extremely pleased smile on his face.
Tina, extremely embarrassed, hid her burning face against Newt's shoulder. But Newt only held her closer to him, saying in a courteous but clipped tone, "Professor."
"Forgive me for interrupting this beautiful tableau," said the older man, still smiling. "But I've been sent by both your mother and brother to fetch you back inside, Newt. This is, after all, your party for your book, and people want to congratulate the author."
Newt sighed and leaned his head back. Tina, having been reminded of what the two of them had run away from, sighed to and straightened in Newt's arms (though he didn't let her go). "We'll be in directly, Professor," she said.
"Thank you, Miss Goldstein," Professor Dumbledore acknowledge with a nod and a smile. When he looked at Newt again, there was a new twinkle in his eye. "Glad that you came to your senses, my boy."
With that, Professor Dumbledore turned and walked back through the garden and towards the estate, chuckling to himself as he went.
Tina sighed again, and turned her head to look at Newt, who was now hanging his head. She laughed and tried to smooth Newt's hair down as best she could (her fingers had made it even more of a mess). His head leaned forward and their foreheads touched.
"Come on," she murmured, her thumbs smoothing over his cheekbones. "You know we have to go in."
"I know," Newt breathed, his hands resting gently on her waist. "But I wish that we didn't…and I wish that you weren't leaving the day after tomorrow."
Tina smiled, said "Me too," and kissed his lips sweetly.
But she didn't let it last long (though every cell in her body protested). Instead, she pulled up the courage of an auror and stepped out of his arms. When she did, Tina realized that Newt's wand and her book were on the ground. She hastily picked both of them up, feeling a little guilty, and handed Newt back his wand while she held his beautiful book to her chest.
"Nox," he murmured, and his wand-tip went dark. After slipping his wand into its special pocket, Newt took Tina's hand in his and they began to walk back through the garden.
"I can't wait to read the book, Newt," Tina said. "I'll read it tonight, after the party is over."
"Please be honest about what you think tomorrow," said Newt. "My publisher already believes that a second edition will be possible in a few years, should I find any new creatures to add to it."
"Newt, that's wonderful!" Tina exclaimed, squeezing his hand. Even by his dimly-lit profile, she could see how happy this made Newt as well.
"And also," he continued, "tomorrow you must tell me all of the news from Queenie and Jacob. I'm only just realizing that I should have asked after them sooner."
"Don't worry about that now. We have all day tomorrow. You know that this is my first time abroad, so I leave it up to you as to what happens. I only request two things: that I spend it with you, and that I can see the inside of your case again."
Newt smiled with delight and said, "Absolutely. I'd take you down there now if I could." He looked at her shyly again as they walked. "Will you stay by my side in there? You can imagine that I'm not exactly in my element at these things."
"Neither am I," said Tina, "but I will. I think we'll be just fine."
"You're staying here at the house, right?"
"Yes, your mother put me up in a very lovely room. Honestly the nicest room – the nicest house, if you can even call it that – I've ever stayed in my life."
"Would you mind terribly if we started the day very early, Tina?" Newt asked. "At sunrise, I mean. It's so beautiful here at sunrise."
Tina gave a wry chuckle. "Under any other circumstances and with anybody else, I would laugh and call them crazy for asking me to get up that early for anything other than work. But this is you, so yes."
The two of them had reached the verandah steps. Tina made to step up the first step, but Newt pulled her to the side so that the verandah wall hid them from view of the house (in case his mother or brother were on the lookout for them). Before Tina could say anything, Newt kissed her again with such passion that Tina felt sure her feet would lift off the ground.
There was no apology on Newt's face when he pulled back. "I won't be able to do that again tonight," he offered by way of explanation. "Mummy would never let me escort you to your room after the party without any type of chaperone."
Tina had to laugh a bit at this. "Newt, this is 1927, not 1827!"
"Not here, it isn't," Newt said almost petulantly.
"Well, in that case," said Tina, and then she gave him her own kiss. Mercy Lewis, could someone get drunk on kissing alone? No drink has ever made me this giddy!
But part they eventually did – after all, they had to breathe after a certain point and they were needed inside. They would have stayed looking longingly into each other's eyes if it weren't for the persistent squeaking of a bowtruckle in Newt's lower jacket pocket. With a chuckle, Newt lifted the little creature from the pocket and supported it on his palm between himself and Tina.
"Yes, you may go back into my breast pocket, Pickett," said Newt.
The bowtruckle chirruped what sounded like a reprimand. Newt rolled his eyes.
"I mean, your pocket."
"Well, he's got that right, Newt," Tina laughed.
Pickett turned to Tina and preened in front of her, making a kissing sound. Now beginning to understand him, Tina giggled and lowered her head so that Pickett could give Tina another kiss to the tip of her nose.
"That's enough of that now," said Newt and nearly stuffed the little creature into his breast pocket. Tina made his scowl disappear with a caress of his cheek. Without saying a word but with only the right words in his eyes, Newt took that hand and kissed it before tucking it in the crook of his elbow.
So, the witch and the wizard walked up the verandah steps and back inside the house. These were the first steps of billions more that they would make together throughout their lives.
A/N: I'm so sorry that this update took longer than I anticipated! The new Sherlock season has left my creative mind reeling (for good reason, let me tell you). So I hope that this was worth the wait!