f: Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them
c: Queenie & Tina
s: [post movie] Tina taps Queenie’s shoulder, firm, three quick fingertip raps. “Queenie.” Her tone is soft, but beneath it there’s the undercurrent of we’ve talked about this before.
n: [Title from Sleep To Dream by Fiona Apple.] I've taken a few months out of writing because my brain's been not doing the thing, but have a huge soft spot for this film and I wanted to write about Queenie and Tina, because, darlings. This is set post-movie, so it'll make more sense if you've seen it, though nothing terribly plot-y happens, it's more about emotions. I did do some 1920s research, though not that much, and hopefully I've caught any Britishisms that crept in. Lastly, I love that the sisters are almost definitely canonically Jewish, so I've tried to slip that in around the edges; I hope it's not too jarring or inaccurate, please let me know if I should edit anything.
Outside Dolores’ window, Frank scuffs his boots that need replacing against the sidewalk, whistles Bye Bye Blackbird.
Before the war, he was going to marry Virginia Coleman, but while he was in Europe dodging bullets and forgetting how to sleep well she chose somebody else, and he’d kinda thought, well, maybe he didn’t want to find someone else after that, maybe he was better off without a girl.
That was before Dolores, of course, Dolores with her dancing eyes and the kind curl of her mouth that never laughs aloud but hints that the right words could unlock it, and perhaps she would after all. Her hand sometimes lingers too long in Frank’s, and it isn’t a tease: it’s a plea, perhaps, or at least a sort of granted permission, and he doesn’t want to be too forward, but he whistles Bye Bye Blackbird at her window and imagines that she’s breathing, smiling, behind the wind-stirred drapes.
Dolores is behind the drapes, hands pressed to her mouth, and she longs to run down to the street and throw her arms around Frank’s neck, push her face into the curve of his shoulder, his freshly-pressed suit, darned to hell and back but smart enough, but she can’t, she won’t. She won’t let herself fall again, not when the last time that she loved someone made the world fall apart around her. Nothing left now but a curl of hair in a ribbon in a drawer, and they let out her dresses and her mother’s almost forgiven her now, dragging another set of rosary beads through Dolores’ fingers when she visits on Sundays.
Frank wouldn’t be like that, and he wouldn’t be her older sister’s fiancée either, but something punishing coils around her ankles and won’t let her run downstairs. She doesn’t move, though, leaning toward the whistle like it’s something physical she can trap in her hands.
Tina taps Queenie’s shoulder, firm, three quick fingertip raps. “Queenie.” Her tone is soft, but beneath it there’s the undercurrent of we’ve talked about this before.
“It’s better than the pictures, Teenie,” Queenie replies, blinking a few times to clear her vision.
MACUSA is very clear that they are not to go to movie theatres, not to mix with no-majs at all, but when they go in the evening, hiding at the back behind bags of candy, there’s always a handful of witches and wizards, trying to dress down, sneaking in during the news reels. Several of the regulars work for MACUSA, though there’s an unmentioned pact between them all that they won’t turn each other in.
Besides, Queenie does all sorts of filing, and she knows just how many magical people are employed in Hollywood these days.
Tina says nothing, just purses her lips a little, and Queenie sighs. The afternoons are drifting warm these days, but she leans and closes the window sash, cutting off the faint trickle of Frank’s whistle down on the street below. She can always check back in later, after all.
For a moment, Queenie thinks Tina is going to say something – remind her to leave the no-majs alone, not to spy on their neighbours, to let other people’s emotions stay solely theirs – but her sister just squeezes Queenie’s shoulder, everything about her momentarily sorry and wistful before she steps away.
On Saturday morning, Queenie makes challah while listening to the wireless; Tina’s at work again, overtime, the Auror department frantically trying to patch their holes and figure out how Grindelwald infiltrated them in the first place.
Sometimes Queenie tries to figure that out for herself; MACUSA know that she’s a legilimens of course, though she suspects that information hasn’t trickled far down the hierarchy. They keep a registry of all natural-born legilimens, and there are more laws than Queenie’s ever really bothered to read about what she can and cannot do with her ability – they’d certainly never let her in to interrogate a prisoner, even if she wanted to pursue that avenue of work. Still, people do make a habit of asking her to bring refreshments into their endless top-secret meetings, and she knows far more than she thinks anyone is supposed to. Graves – Grindelwald – never spent much time around Queenie, but he got close enough times for their minds to brush, no matter how fast Queenie pulls away – for politeness’ sake, most of the time – and she didn’t feel anything from him to sound any alarms. She suspects he’s a good occlumens, and has discreetly mentioned it to Tina to add into their files.
So, Tina is repairing the damage, and Queenie is alone at home, trying to pay attention to the endless drama programme on the wireless, career witches who can never catch a break or a boyfriend, full of enough ridiculous twists that it’s almost impossible to remember how it started or to predict how it’ll end. It fills their home with noise, anyway, and keeps the thoughts in the building confined to Queenie’s own.
She flicks her wand, and the challah dough sails into the oven. She could cook it immediately with the right spell, of course, but there are some things that taste better made the traditional way, and this is one of them. While it cooks, there’s a buckle that’s come off her favourite pair of shoes, and Tina’s been pretending the seams in the lining of her coat haven’t been giving way for days.
“He’s a pretty big deal at MACUSA,” one of the characters – Elsie, Queenie thinks, maybe Emily – gushes, “and he dances like a dream.”
“You don’t want a man who sits behind a desk all day,” another character says, all broad flat vowels, “he’ll be flatter’n a piece of parchment.”
Queenie sighs and sits down at the table, which, even covered in half of a new dress and three different periodicals and a stack of Tina’s endless notes, seems too big for the room, too big for them.
The thing is, perhaps, that until recently Queenie had never had a love affair that didn’t belong to somebody else.
There’s a dark hall and someone screaming at the end of it; when she tries to get closer, a man snaps cruel hard fingers around her arms and drags her away, and she’s shouting a name, a string of thick frantic syllables, she’s crying and she’s angry but mostly she’s scared, the man breathing against her neck and he wants something from her she doesn’t understand and she startles awake in the next moment, shivering and staring around the suddenly too-bright room, the candle left burning all night, every night.
“Shhhhh,” Tina whispers, closing the gap between their beds and clambering in with Queenie. Her big sister, braver and brighter than any light, and she’s warm in her threadbare pyjamas, where Queenie is clammy and shuddering. “Shhh, Queenie, it’s alright, none of those feelings are yours.”
Queenie is eight years old, and Tina says it’ll get better when she’s older, when they go to school and someone can help her control her powers better, though Queenie can also read that only half of that is belief; half is desperate, desperate hope.
Tina’s hair is escaping out of its braid and her eyelids are half-closed; she’s barely awake, but her love and comfort are sincere, and Queenie huddles into them like she huddles into her sister’s arms, one of Tina’s hands stroking her mussed curls. “They’re not yours, you can let them go,” Tina continues, voice thick and drowsy, “you’re alright, bubbala.”
It’s what their dad used to call her, sitting on the end of Queenie’s bed and holding her hand until she could sleep again; something about the endearment stings and soothes, and Tina’s almost asleep again, curled around Queenie like she can protect her from the world with her own skinny body. Queenie nods, lets her eyes close again, and there’s no locked doors on the other side of the lids, no screaming women afraid of something Queenie thinks she might be too young to understand. She can feel Tina’s dreams starting to unspool instead, and tonight they’re sweet; no fear, no determination to be strong for her little sister, no grieving ache that cuts through both of them. Queenie leans into them, not disturbing them, just letting them roll on past her until she falls asleep to the rhythm of her sister’s dreaming.
The only person Queenie’s ever had is Tina; there were a couple of traumatic years when Tina went to Ilvermorny and Queenie wasn’t old enough, and then when she did finally make it there, Queenie ended up in Pukwudgie instead of Wampus with her big sister. So much for the same house running in families, though their parents were both in Thunderbird and perhaps what does it matter, anyway? Still, even when they were apart, Tina wrote regularly, and not just the stuff Queenie wanted, like tales of her new schoolfriends and pranks played in the dormitories and grudge matches on the Quidditch pitch, but endless reams of stuff about Queenie eating her vegetables and studying hard and going to bed on time and everything.
She knew it was coming from a place of love, but the distance from Tina’s mind enabled Queenie to be petulantly mad about it all anyway.
Tina never found it easy to try and be both sister and parent, and Queenie used to try and tell her that she didn’t have to, she didn’t expect it, but her sister’s mind is endlessly open to her in a way that no one else’s is or will ever be, and she could read in the nuances that the determined coddling was something that was almost as much for Tina as it was for Queenie. Tina will always be as fiercely protective of Queenie as an adult as she was when Queenie was six, all gold curls and grazed knees and a gaze that unnerved people. These days, though, Queenie thinks she’s the one that does the mothering: makes sure Tina eats, has clean clothes to go to work in, remembers to get her hair cut and take her papers to the office with her and doesn’t get so caught up in cases and saving the world that she lets herself slip through the cracks.
When MACUSA demoted Tina, she came home all hard and cold and silent and brave and Queenie made matzoh ball soup and waited and waited until they sat by the fire and Tina put her head on Queenie’s lap and cried and cried and cried. Queenie stroked her hair and hummed, soft and soothing, and felt like saying these feelings aren’t yours, but it wouldn’t have worked because they were Tina’s, sharp and needing and helpless, and it was all Queenie could do not to sink into them herself, sweep away on a wave of communal weeping. Instead, she let Tina cry herself out, made her cocoa and tucked her into bed, sat up a little late and charmed tearstains out of her nightgown.
Still, there are advantages to legilimency too: Queenie knew exactly whose coffee to spit into, and did, daily and with alacrity, until Tina caught her at it and made her promise to stop, even as her mouth curled in the best smile she’d worn for weeks.
They didn’t have a home for long as children, nothing they got to keep, but they had each other, and now they’re older and Queenie can make what she wants: a place of safety for them both, one Tina can enjoy and take for granted because it’s not going anywhere, not ever. This one is theirs, and Queenie loves it like she loves everything she makes with her own hands, love in every stitch, every crumb.
“Go to bed, Teenie,” she orders, looking up from the latest spring fashions for witches to find that Tina’s fallen asleep at the table, ink spilt across her fingertips, cheek smushed into her notebook. Tina’s always been the one who’ll take the world apart, put it back together better; and Queenie knows she’ll always be behind her.
Tina looks lost and young when she sits up, kneading her tired eyes, clotted lashes. “Sometimes I dream we saved him,” she says.
She flicks her wand, transforms Tina’s work clothes into her favourite pyjamas, soft and familiar. Tina strokes her palms against the flannel, smiles a little sleepily.
She could offer platitudes, but Tina hates to lose anyone, that big heart of hers that she tries to protect and is so bad at it, so so bad. Queenie can protect herself because she knows what people’s hearts hold, the sticky cruelty like pitch that can seep, molasses-dark, into every thought, every gesture. Tina knows less than she thinks she does; Queenie knows more. Between the two of them, perhaps they can manage a decent night’s sleep.
Newt Scamander’s letters are always smudgy, written in haste, sentences abandoned halfway through, the corners of the parchment perpetually torn and nibbled, little sets of miniature paw-prints in ink trickling across whole pages.
He writes mostly about his creatures and about sandwiches. He often forgets punctuation or capital letters when he gets excited about something, and sometimes there are strange little sketches in the margins, labelled in a scrawl that Queenie can’t read but Tina always can. She shares Newt’s letters easily enough; he doesn’t talk about anything personal, though he brings up the weather with clichéd regularity. Occasionally there’s a drop of Ministry gossip, which they both leap on with unseemly eagerness, though Queenie’s pretty sure those are accidents. Newt isn’t much interested in people.
Well, not most people, anyway.
“I hope he remembers to put some grammar in his manuscript before he hands it in,” Queenie remarks, looking up from where she’s been skimming over three entire paragraphs on the eating habits of a creature with altogether too many teeth and tentacles where she’s not sure tentacles should be. Newt’s a big fan.
“I’m sure someone will remind him,” Tina replies. She’s reading the paper, though her gaze keeps flicking to the letter in Queenie’s hands. Newt’s letters are addressed to Tina, but he always sends his regards to Queenie at the end, and it’s not like there’s anything in there that isn’t fit for them both to read. It would be kinda nice if there was, but Queenie’s not sure yet that Newt or Tina has really noticed that something strings between them, fragile and shimmering, gossamer-bright and scared as anything. So, Tina reads about Newt’s weird and wonderful bestiary, and Queenie reads bits and pieces about it, frowning at the unintelligible bits.
She doesn’t need her legilimency to know that Newt never wrote letters like this to Leta Lestrange; though a flash of his hurt did tell her that he tried to, that she didn’t read them, and eventually started returning them unopened. His delight at having someone to tell about his discoveries as he makes them is palpable, sweet even when Queenie isn’t the one he’s shining all his excitement on.
She used to try and encourage Tina to date, to get out more, to turn off the Auror for a few hours and go dancing, nothing too serious, just something to ease her into the world a little more, but Tina always refused. She’s always been like that; afraid to gain, afraid to lose. Queenie’s a little like that herself, but she was happy enough living vicariously, frowned-upon as it is. Things are different now, startlingly so, but here they both are, rattling around their little apartment with not all that much to show for it.
So many people are terribly lonely, and they don’t even realise it.
“You should insult Hufflepuff when you write back,” Queenie suggests, handing the letter to Tina, who refolds it carefully, whisking it away, though she keeps them all folded neatly in an old pepper imp tin, organised by date. “Tell him they ain’t got nothing on us Pukwudgies.”
“That would be a little like kicking a puppy,” Tina replies, though she’s smiling as she says it.
“Might make him stop telling you about the mating rituals of that thing with the eggs and the ten-inch fangs,” Queenie responds. With anyone else she might suspect it was flirtation with a hefty side of innuendo, but it’s Newt, so she doubts it.
Tina drops her gaze to her lap, where her fingers are knotting together.
“I don’t mind,” she whispers.
“I know,” Queenie replies, and something about her feels choked up; perhaps the emotion isn’t entirely hers. “That’s not a bad thing, Teenie.”
Tina rubs her cheek, smooths her hair, all nervous, awkward gestures and angles. “No,” she says at last, “no, I guess not.”
Someone’s painted Kowalski’s in lovely looping lettering on the front of Jacob’s bakery. He’s not ready to open yet, but he will be; people passing by occasionally stop to peer into the big shiny glass windows, point at the pale paintwork. Sometimes, Jacob’s inside, scrubbing the new counter, overseeing the installation of the ovens, the shelves. He looks happy, bright with purpose and new life.
He’s seen a lot of bad things in his time, dead men and mud and explosions under a dark European sky that seemed determined to eat half the men in the world before it was done, and Queenie holds those memories because he shared them with her and that means it’s okay to still have them, even if he doesn’t know it anymore. She feels a little awed; even the people who know she can read their minds have never held anything up just so that she could look at it, comprehend it in a way that no one else ever could. Jacob, scared and exhilarated in equal measure, gave her his war, and Queenie didn’t run into the explosions in the subway that her sister still cries about when she thinks Queenie’s asleep, she stayed with him and let herself believe for a long moment that that would matter in the long run.
Jacob’s had a lot of bad luck and a lot of sadness, and he deserves something like this. It’ll be enough for him, it’ll make him happy. He doesn’t know that there could ever have been anything more – maybe Queenie was lying to herself to ever think that there could have been.
A cab rushes past, splashes rain over Queenie’s shoes, and she leaps back from the road; it’s getting late, and she should probably go home, get started on dinner, catch up on the day’s news, tell Tina the latest gossip she gleaned in the toilets today, scandalous and fun.
Tina’s leaning against the building wall behind Queenie, hat pulled low, expression plain. “You think you’re the only one who checks up on him?” she asks, in response to the question Queenie keeps to herself.
“I wasn’t sure,” Queenie replies, because she wasn’t. Her sister’s mind is an open book, but she doesn’t rifle through the pages; she sees what’s there, and there’s still a chapter or two that Queenie’s never seen, probably won’t ever see.
“He’s doing well,” Tina says, tone kind. “And you should dress less conspicuously if you’re gonna keep doing this.”
Queenie smooths a hand down today’s coat, blood red and pretty as anything. Perhaps if Jacob had just seen her sparkling smile and her batting lashes and the curve of her hips like all men do, if he hadn’t started looking beneath them for her heart, then she’d be able to let this go much more easily.
“You always dress like you’re on a stakeout,” she responds teasingly, looping her arm through Tina’s as they apparate swiftly back to their block.
“Maybe I am always on a stakeout,” Tina replies. She gently hip-checks Queenie. “You can do this,” she adds, soft.
“Is it going to get easier with time?” Queenie asks.
Her sister is quiet for a moment, as they walk up to their front door. “I guess I’ll let you know,” she says at last.
Tina goes ahead; Queenie turns her head as a whistle cracks mid-note. Dolores, bathed in the last shreds of afternoon sunlight, opens her window, dark hair spilling around her shoulders, and Frank looks at up her like she’s the moon, not out yet but rising.
“Huh,” Queenie murmurs, looks away and smiles, and gently closes the door behind her.