Ilvermorny is like Hogwarts, and yet not.
That sort of thing is expected, Newt supposes. When growing up, there's always that childish feeling that never really goes away, growing smaller with each passing day, but still there nonetheless; even the most strictest of adults can reminiscent their youth, feel small in a castle they've never stepped foot it. How far the feeling of nostalgia mixed with déjà vu goes, now that is a mystery.
The magic surrounding the school is deep, ingrained in every stone and to every arching crest. Bay windows curve along corners and gabled dormers protrude from atop slanted roofs with dark tiles. Towers rise in staggering heights, bright flags allotted on every peak and swaying a beautiful dance in the wind. Bustles of green press in from all sides, clouds of forest floating the expanse of the mountainside, breathing life into an already thaumaturgic place. Gates, large and made of shining brass, surround the grounds, swinging open when the sole of his shoes touch the ground before it.
Yet, despite the awe inspiring picture it paints, nearly excessive in its impersonation of an impressionist painting, there is a welcoming air. The scaling walls do not swallow when one steps inside, but embrace. Safe and warm and magical, everything a school of wizardry should inflict on its students, Newt feels it. He hasn't stepped foot in Hogwarts halls since expulsion, but Ilvermorny can almost convince him he's back in Scotland and the Hufflepuff common room is just down the corner.
"How marvelous," he murmurs, turning in circles and craning his neck to view the ceiling, taking in the delicate paintings of creatures and people of old. He spots a few recognizable creatures, smiling at what he can only assume is a thunderbird.
He's barely through the second arch in the entrance when he hears, "Mr. Scamander!"
The voice is loud and strong, coming from behind him. Newt turns and is greeted by a dark-haired woman with high cheekbones and a flat nose dressed in red and blue.
"Headmistress Peregrine," he greets, remembering the official letters sent to him, nodding his head and offering what he hopes is a respectful handshake when she reaches him. Her grip is firm. "It's, ah, an honor to finally meet you. I've heard so much."
"Likewise." Her smile is genuine, Newt notes. "I hope your journey here wasn't too difficult."
The boat ride across the sea had been bearable, the weather realistically calm despite the cloudy disposition, and he hadn't gotten sick once, which was a small mercy to his person. But where the voyage had been kind, the people had been not; the officer at the docks had frowned distastefully when looking at his traveling papers, then another at the train had grumbled something about his accent when he had asked where the loo was, and then a final one just outside the gates had eyed him with suspicion when he had mentioned his newly obtained position; there were even strange looks to his suitcase and gruff mutters of "those pretentious English," but he makes no mention of that. Instead he nods, following her down the short hallway.
"No, not at all."
The entrance opens up to a circular hall, one so large that Newt's momentarily stunned by its magnitude. He steps away from the pair of lifelike statues framing the entrance, a woman and man with smiling faces, and further into the room to soak up more of the beauty. Taller and grander than the Great Hall in Hogwarts, it's more fitting for a cathedral or basilica than a school, with walls made from white stone and a ring of columns that tower over him. There are three corridors, one straight across from the entrance and the other two at each side, that are bordered with similar stone, carved so articularly that he's unsure on whether it was done by hand or magic.
A wooden balcony circles the room, while a glass cupola allows rays of pale moonlight to shine down and cast winding shadows on the stone floor below. Headmistress Peregrine allows him to ogle, laughing a bit at his expense, before leading him to a set of stairs that he's more than positive wasn't there prior, spiraling up into the second floor.
The view from above is just as astounding, the pattern marking the floor captivating, abstract shapes circling the central piece of the mural (the school's crest). Newt lets his gaze slide from one sight to the next, unabashed at his eagerness.
Behind them, the doors burst open, as do all the others leading to the second floor, and a wave of students of all ages surge through. The sheer amount of them appearing so quickly and without notable command is startling, their numbers more than what Newt's encountered in a while.
The space fills quickly, the students pressing against the banister for a better look. A young boy no older than thirteen squeezes himself between Newt and a pillar, not offering him a moment's glance.
The entrance doors swing open, a gaunt man with dark shadows under his eyes leading the group of first-years through. They stop just short of the mural.
The circle before them ripples, rings of small waves sweeping from its center. Then, like a mountain rising from the very earth, the floor bubbles up, twisting and morphing into shapes that rapidly begin to resemble figures. The first is the wampus, a fierce looking feline with an extra set of paws, the length of its tail leading to the long body of the horned serpent spiraling about the base, twin fangs sliding from a gaping mouth. Nestled in the middle, the small human-like figure of what Newt assumes is a pukwudgie stands with its prickly hair and lifelike furs, bow drawn. Finally, the head of what can only be a thunderbird erupts, followed by its copper body, wings spread like it's about to take flight.
The man produces a parchment and, with absolute monotone, says, "I will call your name and then you will step forward to the Guardian Knot to be chosen."
The statues seem to shiver and Newt watches, captivated, as the group of first-years spread out along the wall in preparation. There's no sorting hat, he observes with analytical curiosity, and wonders how these Americans go about orientation.
The first child is called and steps forward.
The statues breath, shift- come alive.
And the sorting begins.
"They'll be getting their wands," Headmistress Peregrine tells him as she leads him down from the balcony, people parting for her without a word. "With Rappaport's Law, students aren't allowed to keep their wand outside of Ilvermorny grounds."
Newt raises his eyebrows, thoroughly surprised. A little too strict, he thinks, but interesting nonetheless. Maybe he should take the chance to read up on a American history, if only to understand it better.
They make their way through the castle, the headmistress leading with a fast pace set to the precise click-clacks of her heels. Newt hurries to keep up, distracted by passing architecture and design; incredibly detailed, they are new and strange, untold stories just waiting for him to learn. Folklore has always been ally for Newt, creatures slipping through time, hidden underneath veiled truths, just waiting to be discovered by those willing to look.
Newt nods at the passing portraits and most of them smile, whilst some wave. A few frown and one even raises a fist, muttering, "Sniveling Redcoat."
"Usually faculty come a week before the students to prepare for their classes, but since you've just come today you'll be a bit behind. Because of this, I've arranged for you to have a day or two to get your things in order- sadly, that's all I can give you. We must keep to the schedule."
"That's more than enough time."
"Good. Thankfully, you arrived before we let the students in- any later and you would have missed the sorting ceremony." She looks back at him, thick eyebrows raised. "Would you like to say a few worlds when I introduce you?"
"No, that's fine- thank you."
The corridors leads them to a grand staircase, which in turn leads them to a grandiose hall not unlike that in Hogwarts, with a high ceiling decorated with opulent arches and intricate carvings and floating chandeliers running along its length. Engaged columns pair around the multiple double doors that lead out to what Newt assumes is a terrace. They're closed now, the doors, but he can see a wonderful view of the canopy of the outside forest through their colored glass windows.
Everything's decorated in the school's colors, the tables draped with golds and reds and blues and greens in what Newt assumes represent each the four house colors. There's a second floor, he notes, catching sight of balconies. Banners and drapes hang from their rails, adding a touch of exaggerated extravagance that would have no home in his motherland.
A man dressed in black stares down at him from the shadows of a curtain.
Headmistress Peregrine follows his line of sight, glancing at the man for a fraction of a second before continuing on smoothly. "With all the uproar going on in Europe we will be having extra security for the school this year. Who knows where Grindelwald will attack and so, MACUSA has graciously stationed a number of their aurors here as a precaution."
The tone of her voice indicates anything but gratitude and Newt grins. He's certain he's going to like this woman.
The headmistress leads him past long tables, through a storm of plates, cups, and other silverware flying to their designated places, embroidered tablecloths and napkins floating ever so gracefully. They step over a colorful mural of the school's coat of arms right at the head and Newt almost runs into a spoon to stop and get a better look at it.
The other teachers are already in their seats at the oblong table at the end of the hall, chatting amongst themselves. When they spot the newcomers, a few eyes track Newt's movement with interest, sizing him up from his worn boots to his tan complexion.
Headmistress Peregrine motions to the only empty seat remaining. "You'll be sitting with Mrs. Barrow and Ms. Erigenia, Mr. Scamander."
Newt hurries to get out of the spotlight. "Excuse me," he says to the dark-haired woman at the end of the table, trying his best not to hit anyone with his suitcase as he passes them by. He takes his seat between two women, to his left a Native American woman with two thick braids, and to his right a young African woman with short, curly hair. He nods to them both, otherwise remaining silent, and waits for the students with the rest of them.
He doesn't have to wait long. The clock above them rings as its hands hit a quarter to six and the main doors swing open without help.
Students surge through, bringing in laughing voices that seem to fill up the space, ricocheting from one wall to the next before ringing along the chandeliers. The sheer amount of them is overwhelming, the dark blue of their robes making them appear like a surging sea, and they keeping filing into the hall without stop. They take their seats, dividing into their sorted house. Newt spots a few first-years running in from the utmost back, branding their newly acquired wands with unadulterated joy.
Headmistress Peregrine stands once they've settled. "Welcome back for another marvelous year at Ilvermorny. I trust you all had an exciting summer and have come back ready to learn." Someone snorts loudly, but she ignores it. "For those of you new here, I wish to welcome you- I'm sure you'll come to see Ilvermorny as a second home and I look forward to see you all thrive into outstanding witches and wizards. But, before we start that journey together, there's a few announcements to be made."
"We have a new guest this year. Due to Mr. Jensen's leave of absence, we have found a temporary replacement for the position." Headmistress Peregrine motions to Newt. "Newt Scamander has come from the Ministry of Magic and will be filling in for Mr. Jensen this term. I hope you all give him the utmost respect and courtesy he deserves."
All eyes turn to him, the new face amongst the teachers.
He attempts to stand, only to hit the table's edge and send every silverware near him rocking. There is a ripple of laughter and he quickly takes his seat again, flushing to his roots.
It's fine, he supposes. He had been a first year once, the anxiety and fear and uncertainty almost overshadowing the excitement. Laughter is better (even if he is the target) and it goes a long way.
Thankfully, Headmistress Peregrine raises a hand and the students instantly quiet. "As always, traveling down the mountainside is forbidden and those caught doing so will be dealt with thoroughly. On behalf of MACUSA we will be housing agents from the Magical Investigation Department for extra security. I hope I don't have to remind any of you to be on your best behavior." She gives the room a semi-serious glare before waving her wand. "Now, let us proceed with the feast."
Food appears in the plates set out in front of Newt, as it does for all the tables. The gobsmacked expression of the first-years are more than amusing, completely overwhelmed by the buffet currently at their disposal. None of them hesitate, throwing courtesy and appearance to the side in favor of trying it all.
He smiles. Very much like Hogwarts, he thinks.
Although his residence at Ilvermorny is only temporary, Headmistress Peregrine offers him all that he needs. As long as it's reasonable and safe, he may do whatever he wishes, teach the students as he sees fit. That sort of freedom is a stark change than the limitations the Ministry inflict on him and a gift that he does not want revoked.
After dinner, a pukwudgie wearing breeches and a simple shirt waits for him. It barely comes up to his knees and holds a lantern nearly as tall as it, but carries a no-nonsense air that Newt would expect from his boss in England.
Upon a closer look, the pukwudgie is more human-like than Newt initially thought, with the same number of fingers and toes as any human, though it's nails are far longer. It's dark-skinned with large, triangular ears and a hooked nose, the hair atop its head appearing to be more like porcupine spikes, trailing down its back to its knees. Newt can't help but wonder how closely related it is to house elves and goblins.
"If you're done staring, wizard, you'll be following me," the pukwudgie grumbles in a voice like tumbling rocks, staring up at him with beady eyes.
"Ah, yes- sorry. I've never met one of your kind before and I was wondering if-" He stops when its frown deepens. He remembers how the banshee in his department- Olivia, he thinks her name was- had lectured him from sunrise to sundown on the etiquette of engaging conversation with sentient beings, labeling all talk of digestive tracts and reproduction systems as improper. "Right- my apologies. Lead the way."
It grumbles something in its own language, turning and marching down the hallways, far faster than Newt might expect with its short feet. He hurries to catch up, unable to help himself from staring at the assortment of things hidden in its hair (feathers and yarn, even some keys). Fascinating.
Stone silent, the pukwudgie leads him out of the main part of the castle (with only a few glares when he's caught staring), the light of the lantern throwing shadows along the walls and dozing portraits when they reach less used corridors. They cut across empty courtyards until they're following stone steps down into the forest.
It's not long until they reach their destination: the little house where he's to stay is located at the west end of the school, lower along the mountainside. The path to it is beaten and old, cutting through a patch of thick trees that hide it from view of the main buildings. While it follows with the school's architectural style, it has significantly less flair. One story, covered with ivy still vivid green despite this far into autumn, it's more of a cottage than anything else.
The pukwudgie hands him the key and somehow vanishes while his back is turned. He searches for it in the crowded trees and thick underbrush, but spots not a spiked hair.
The door creaks a bit when he enters, a tell-tale sign of regular use, and he finds comfort in that. Once inside, he sets down his case at the doorway and takes in the place he'll be calling home for the next nine months. It's a quaint set up, a small living room with an open doorway leading to a kitchen that doubles up as a dining room, while another door opens up what's to be his bedroom. Someone has already set a fire going in the stone fireplace, the crackling of flames masking the calls of the forest and warding off the cold clinging to his clothes.
One word to describe the entire place is cozy, from its autumn colored furniture to the photos that hang from its walls. Newt idly picks up one laying on the small dresser, peering at the family smiling up at him. It's a portrait, with a man and woman and two little boys, a simple backdrop behind them. A perfect family, he thinks as the man brings his youngest boy closer.
Newt notes the date scribbled on the back of the frame. The boys are grown, both dead.
Now more than ever, he realizes what he's doing: in a stranger's home, a little house in America, he's replacing a mourning father. The thought doesn't sit well with him, but there's nothing he can do to relieve it.
"I'll make sure your home is looked after," he promises the man in the photo.
The man smiles, happy and carefree.
He's informed that his classes will be held in a small hall not too far from his living quarters. There's a path at the side of the house, and when he follows it, he reaches a little building next to a babbling brook.
It's simple like the house, with multiple large windows on the east wall, showing a clear view of the wilderness outside. Four rows of desks take up most of the room while cupboards and shelves occupy the wall opposite of the window, already stocked with herbs and ingredients with which he's familiar. He sets up the few things he's brought, his desk cleared of everything except for his case.
Around noon he sees a trail of children making their way from the school and he waits anxiously as they file into the hall and take their seats. They eye him like an outsider trying to integrate itself into a tightly knit herd and he supposed that's what he is, a foreigner suddenly stepping into their lives hoping to be accepted. Cooperation came from coalition in both humans and beasts.
Newt opens his mouth to say- what, he doesn't know. Thankfully, introductions are taken out of his hands when someone blatantly asks, "Who're you?"
"Didn't you hear Headmistress? He's the Brit who's replacing Mr. Jensen."
"Scamander," someone corrects.
He nods. "Ah, yes, that's me. I'll be temporarily standing in for Mr. Jensen."
There's a moment of silence, all eyes on him, waiting for him to continue. Another small revelation hits him, that he's expected to stand in front of room full of children and talk and teach day after day.
Dealing with dragons has never been this daunting, a walk in the park when compared to mingling with humans. As dangerous and wild as they were, dragons followed guidelines that set precise interaction and socialization keys within the species (despite how unpredictable those guidelines were to humans). Newt could read a dragon's mood by the telltale signs of its body language (the agitated swish of an armored tail, the rustling of leathery wings that meant fear, the playful bobbing of a horned head) and take appropriate action as well as the best of them, but he was less than adequate in deciphering the human language, much less that of adolescents.
There's a reason he traveled the world alone, abandoning humans in favors of animals.
He clears his throat, clasping his hands behind his back. "Right- yes. My purpose here is to educate you on magical creatures. You have been taught how to deal with them, but not how to live with them." Young faces take on bored expressions and he winces inwardly, remembering nearly falling into a coma at his Charms professor's tranquilizing voice and less than exciting lectures. "Magical creatures don't know they should be careful- that they have to hide. This is why they are a threat to exposing the wizarding world."
"Because they're dangerous," a girl in the front row says and, despite his appreciation for class participation, Newt frowns a little.
"They are dangerous, yes, but so am I- as are all of you. Everyone has the potential to be dangerous, it's a matter of what we do with the power we have. There's a difference between defending oneself and going out of the way to inflict harm on another."
"Magical creatures are divided into three categories: beings, beasts, and spirits. Of the three, we will be focusing on beasts- though if you have questions on the other two, I'm sure we can take time to discuss them. As you know, the Ministry- ah, excuse me, I mean to say MACUSA- has classified creatures into five sub-categories. You've already learned about the creatures in the first two classes, so we'll be skipping straight to class three and four. Many of these creatures will be standard beasts, but some will be not so standard." He brings out his ace for the evening, showing the students the dormant Swooping Evil hanging on his finger. "This- is an example of one not so standard."
A moment of silence, and then, "What is it?"
"The locals called it Swooping Evil," he says. "Quite an agile fellow. It's venom is highly dangerous, but, diluted correctly, I believe it can help erase bad dreams."
"What kind of name is Swooping Evil?"
Newt frowns. "I think it's a fine name- if not a bit overly dramatic."
They are, overall, unimpressed.
If any full grown wizard knew what he had in his hand, he would be on the receiving end of a thorough lecture on student safety (but that's what he's come to expect- caution and fear. Always fear). But there's only him and the children, no authority figure to tell him to stop. By all means, this is his chance to show these children what he's seen all along, to make them understand. Amazing, fantastic, awe inspiring, that's what his creatures are.
He turns to his desk, running a thumb along its green spine. It shivers, awake. There's soft chattering behind him, the students losing interest and beginning to socialize among themselves, and he thinks it's about time to start the show.
He throws the Swooping Evil underhand.
It roars, the solid clack! of its snapping jaw loud over the sudden commotion in the room. Newt keeps his grip, fighting the pull of its wings for one, two, three, four flaps. Then he yanks it back with a hard tug. The Swooping Evil folds in on itself immediately, returning back into its dormant state.
Newt smiles to himself. "We probably shouldn't let it loose in here."
He turns back to a startled room. Gaping mouths and wide eyes greet him, exaggerated to comedic extents; some of the front row are even on the ground while others stand further back near the doorway. He'd expected as much, but after continued silence, he's not so sure this was his best choice.
"Perhaps that was a bit too much," he says, more to himself than anyone else. Maybe what he considers amazing is more frightening to others.
His finger twitches and the majority of the room jump. The Swooping Evil is back in his pocket and out of sight.
"Right- well, er, not all the creatures I'll show will be quite… attention grabbing. I-"
"Where did you find that?"
The question is out of the blue. Still, he answers the girl. "In Equatorial Guinea. Nearly mistook it for a plant. Now, as I was saying-"
"Why were you there?" asks a blond boy.
"I spent a year out in the field for my research- many of the magical creatures I was studying were from Africa. That isn't to say it's the only place I visited- I spent some time in India before that and a week or two in Romania-"
"And now you're here- teaching?"
"The Ministry wanted to keep its ties with MACUSA intact and strong- and I was already intending to make a trip to North America…"
"I was intending to search for a gowrow," he lies.
"That ain't real," someone says from the back.
Truth or not, there is a prickle of annoyance. He overcomes it, reminding himself that the world had once said the same thing about nifflers and look where he is now, constantly babysitting one. "It hasn't been discovered yet."
From his peripheral vision he sees a lock on his case pop open. The students' attention shifts. They all look like they're ready to bolt, as if something will jump out of his case- which seems silly in retrospect, with its battered appearance, but Newt knows how real the possibility is.
Newt gives a small smile and casually clicks the lock back into place. "I must get that fixed- any more questions?"
A sea of hands shoot into the air.