A/N: I have labored to include a myriad of underutilized and moribund vernacular for this, Classicblack's "Vocabulary Challenge". My only hope is that this piece will moreso add than detract from the ecclectic manifest that is my author's page and not act as a deterrent to my other works, which, though they contain their own idiosyncracies, are not meant to be as tedious or saturnine as this.
It may help to approach this story in the same manner as one might when reading Lewis Carrol's "Jabberwocky". If you don't recognize a word, you may construe its meaning from the context. Be advised that even the mighty Word does not acknowledge some of the outdated syntax, and with that said, one may speculate to their heart's content about the true spelling of the contents within.
As always, I must bow to the ineffable skill of my tireless beta, ladybirdflying, who keeps my prose clean, my theme focused, and my disobedient muse on a tight leash.
Newt Scamander pulled his face away from the telescope's eyepiece and fiddled with the dials and mechanisms. Then he rammed his face back against the viewer, cursed, pulled away, polished the lenses and peered eagerly back into the viewing frame. There. He could finally see something. Albeit, it was just Mrs. Scamander down in the garden, a gorgeous, half-blurred vision if he did say so himself, but at ninety-eight, she looked amazing, especially when she wasn't in focus. The telescope gave Newt the missing clarity he'd been craving since he'd misplaced his spectacles and languished about for more than a week without them. The device also busied his idle hands while his two sons prattled on about the family business at their requisite monthly estate meeting.
He half-listened as he focused in on his wife's wild, gesticulating arms at a patch of dirigible plums in shambles, while the conversation around him vacillated between the mundane topics of expansion and finance.
"I'm telling you that South America is the next frontier," his younger son, Beauregard was saying, always the visionary in such matters. "If we negotiate a curriculum review with Rio's Ministry of Magical Education, our thirty-sixth edition could flood the southern hemisphere in the next decade. Think of the revenues!"
"Is that coming out of next month's travel budget, or is it considered a capital expense?" Richard countered, having an affinity for the more banal matters of the estate. He was also cautious to a fault with his brother's often superfluous ideas, creating caveats that made Beauregard rather testy at times.
"Neither. It's Marketing and Development, dear brother. And I have the perfect person for the job."
"Not you?" Richard's surprise couldn't be contained. "You love those schmoozing trips."
"No. I'll be in Madrid with my wife, working with a translator for the revised Spanish edition. We'll send Rolf."
"Your son has never shown much interest in Marketing."
"I'm sure he can do it. With Wizarding Wireless communication every night, I'll be able to coach him through the political maelstrom of the region. Plus, he's smart and good-looking, just like his old man and he's available."
"No job prospects yet?" Richard chimed in, not missing a decent opportunity to badger his brother regarding his son's rapscallion nature.
"Not the serious kind. He's been off in the middle of some jungle somewhere, working on his thesis, but he's back home now that the rains have started and won't be able to return for another three months. I thought I'd provide him with a real job for a season."
Newt scowled into his telescope, unable to temporize his response . "He was on a real job. What has the child done to you now, that you'd send him off to South America on a boeotian business errand?" His grandson avidly contributed to the cause of magical creature protection and preservation, and Newt wasn't going to sit idly by while Rolf's father made him out to be a lackadaisical slacker. Rolf's next three months could be much better spent applying for another year's worth of funding for noble and worthy causes.
"He's almost twenty-nine years old and all he does is oscillate from one research grant to another. Where's the future in that?"
Newt pulled away from his eyepiece as a myriad of responses flitted through his mind. He'd built his life's work on dedicated research and Beau was good to remember that the great estate he'd built up had started with a mere pittance. "You've done well enough capitalizing on it," he rebuked.
"Right. Sorry, Dad. No disrespect meant. But I can't condone the life of a penniless free spirit, peregrinating the uninhabitable wilderness. He's got to work for the right to his inheritance. Marketing is the fastest way to make money out of nothing. It's like magic, only easier and you don't need a license."
Newt wasn't in the mood to argue about the future of his grandson at the moment. "Alright," he acquiesced, trying to remain couth about the matter. "Send Rolf. What is the next order of business?"
Richard stirred the parchment around on the desk and picked out a sheaf on top. "Here. The candidates for the new Ministry position."
Beauregard bit back a groan. "I'll take my leave, if you don't mind. My family and I will return later this evening for the Ministry banquet."
Newt turned back to his telescope. He directed his next comment to Richard, who had taken a recumbent position on the sofa that his brother had recently vacated. "He is loathe to sit through a discussion on the real nature of our work, but he'll come back for the food."
"His wife likes to eat." Richard offered, which was true. She was a great zaftig of a woman, but pleasantly so, and had a piquant wit which balanced her husband's occasional asperity.
Newt scanned the grounds of the estate through the murky lens. A two-horse carriage pulled up and his younger son bowed to the coachman before he got in. Beauregard Scamander's outward appearance was deceptively demur, but his inner devious nature allowed him to manipulate most any situation to get what he wanted. Newt pushed the eyepiece south and found Mrs. Scamander again. He and his wife still worked tirelessly for the preservation of natural land and the discovery of new magical species, but they eventually had to accept that both of their sons had veered onto different paths.
She hadn't moved from the verdant garden, but this time she was waggling her finger at the gardeners who were supposed to be tending to her dirigible plums and were doing a horrid job of it. Several patches had been decimated by an unknown assailant, and a new crop of the usually vibrant and fecund fruit was now hanging flaccidly on the vine. The gardeners had the decency to look contrite about their agrestic duties, and it looked like his wife might resort to finishing the grounds keeping personally. A consortium from the Ministry would be arriving in the coming crepuscular hours, and Mrs. Scamander was determined to be a xenial hostess for the evening. Newt sat back, pulled out of his reverie by the idoneous reminder. He would be facing her displeasure himself if he didn't get moving.
Newt shuffled back to his desk and began sorting the papers as Richard launched into his usual litany of facts and figures about the affairs of his estate.
"Beau dropped off the latest sales reports, which are fantastic, in case you were wondering. He's also completed plans for the next marketing campaign. And..." Richard flicked his wand at a small envelope that magically enlarged itself to a fat volume of a book, "I have the fifty-sixth edition fresh from the publishers. They wanted you to go over the Fire Slug additions one more time before it goes into mass print." Richard waited patiently for a beat before adding, "Have you made a decision yet?"
"No." Newt appeared to be reading the fine print without his spectacles and hoped that his son wouldn't notice.
"They want a decision tonight."
"I am aware." On Newt's advisement, the Ministry had opened a Newly Discovered Breeds Division in the Department for Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures. The Director would be charged with knowing the difference between Magizoology and Make-Believe. It was a thin line at best, and if Ministry funds were being doled out to prove the existence of an illusory beast, they'd need a responsible party to blame if a six month tour of some uncharted part of the world resulted in mere photographs of a neophyte adventurer on a Ministry-funded holiday.
"The gathering is imminent. It's only a few hours from now." Richard prodded him.
"Yes." Newt looked up at him again. "You seem awfully interested in this decision. Is there something I should know about?"
"Only that you've had their CVs for almost three weeks and you haven't made a decision yet. That concerns me."
"There's much to consider."
"There are only three candidates."
Three? Newt shuffled through the mountain of parchment that he hadn't touched the first two weeks because it looked so overwhelming, and when he'd finally built up a facade of bravery, his spectacles had gone missing. He rubbed the back of his neck, where a tension headache was forming. "Could you read it aloud? I'll think better with my eyes closed."
"Alright, Dad." His eldest son took the top three inches of parchment off the stack, and with a withering look, blew a layer of dust off the first page. "Eldrege Swarkensky is from Portland."
"I haven't heard of that." Newt muttered with his eyes shut.
"Oregon. From the United States."
"Ahh. What are his qualifications?"
His son paused. "I assume that you've read this already."
Newt rubbed the palm of his right hand with his left thumb. He'd read about a pressure point that alleviated neck tension, but he couldn't remember exactly where it was. "Refresh my memory."
"He has two degrees from American Wizarding Universities, and one from Cambridge in Muggle Zoology. Aged thirty-three. No family, unattached. Seems respectable."
"Field experience?" The pain had crept into Newt's forehead and hovered above his eyes like a looming shroud.
His son rustled the stack about and reported, "He did an internship with the Saint Francis Veterinary Hospital in Versailles, but everything else looks like theoretical studies."
That was odd. No one could learn the fine art of Field Studies from a text. Newt suspected that the man's entire CV was either a nefarious ploy by the Americans to get one of their own into the British Ministry, or a fabrication of a desperate dilettante.
"Next." Not there. Here? Newt pressed into the pad of his thumb harder.
Ahh. There was a name he was familiar with. "Lovegood," he repeated, finally finding the right spot on his palm. He didn't need to read the CV to know what she had been up to these last five years. Her work was well published in several periodicals of the field, including the Quibbler, which her father still proudly served as "Consulting Editor" from his convalescence home outside of Bath.
"Aged twenty-six. She went to school at Hogwarts, Dad."
“Hogwarts, schmogwarts.” Newt said gruffly as the pain receded from his head. His alma mater engendered great loyalty in its students, but Newt had remained laconic about his years there. If he was going to cloister his children away at boarding school for seven of their most impressionable years, he wanted them to experience nature, not get eaten alive by it. “You boys attended a good, old-fashioned school with private tutors and a grounds so pristine that you could see the clear sky almost every night. If I were an astronomer, I would never have left."
"You sent us to Oslo. It was cold."
"Spalen-Katnosa is beautiful," Newt remarked. His grandson had attended Oslo as well, and from his letters home, Rolf had loved every minute of it. No doubt, the rest of his time was surely being spent in a musty library somewhere, learning the pedantry of cultural trends and protocol from his father, Beauregard.
Richard remembered his school years differently. "If I never see another randomly-placed “j” it will be too soon."
"The Norwegians are an ingenious people." Newt answered his son's questioning glance with a wave of his hand. "They invented that fancy cheese slicer, for one. And currant jelly."
"And aerosol propellants, Dad. They don't deserve acclaim for the last half-century we've spent cleaning up that mess."
"That was a typical Muggle mistake. They're at a disadvantage." Newt was more than happy to forgive the Norwegians for one small iniquity. Newt gazed into the blue haze, wishing it were evening already so he could lose himself in the Milky Way. Unreachable, but so enticing.
“I need a drink. Pass the decanter of brandy.” Newt and his wife had loved raising their children in a place as beautiful as Norway. But it was nowhere near as interesting as Brazil. His last expedition to obtain more information on the rarest of the Fire Slugs had ended with a broken collarbone and a strong blandishment from his wife to choose a less hostile environment for his next expedition. The Brazilian rainforest was no place for an old wizard like him.
If he could gaze at the stars, slip into a personal nirvana of peace and quiet... but that would mean that he'd already have made his recommendations to the Ministry, and he hadn't even finished reviewing all the candidates.
"It's not even dark yet, Dad. Don't get any ideas."
Newt's eyes never left the sky. "About what?" he asked, sipping his brandy.
"You have that look. All you want is to be left alone with your stargazing equipment so you can ponder the origins of the universe. We'd better get back to discussing more germane topics. Lovegood has potential, even if she was a bit of a youthful rebel."
"Your brother can relate to that. He turned Naturalism and Discovery into useless kitsch."
From an early age, Beauregard had shown innate talent at everything he'd touched, but his ultimate joy came when he'd discovered the complexities of business trends. Newt's younger son had argued that Marketing was its own science, but as Newt stared at the bobblehead Hippogriff at the end of his desk, and the row of assorted "best-selling" items on the wall above it, all he could see was a shelf full of mocking effigies of his life's work.
“I sell encyclopedias for a living,” Richard said from the sofa.
“I wrote those encyclopedias. They're top shelf, thank you very much.”
Richard sighed. “I'd just pictured a life with more adventure when I signed on to be your prodigy.” He had been obsequious and obliging as a child, but he'd lacked the requisite insatiable curiosity that one required to ask the right questions.
“You were a horrid researcher,” Newt reminded him. “But you do your fair share of travel and sell a goodly amount of my books. For that, I am grateful. Otherwise, I’d have to rely on your brother to make up more of these disgusting things.”
Newt flicked his thumb at a Turbulent Toad Clacker that fell off the side of his desk and rattled about before falling silent again. If it weren't for the fact that it was last year's best seller and the proceeds had not only funded his research, paid for over half of his estate's taxes and also bought Newt a new stargazer with a telescopic lens, state-of-the-art, he would have keeled over in sheer embarrassment.
The night sky still held an ethereal fascination for him, but the enlargement charms he'd put on the lenses had dimmed the focus distance quite a bit and his eyesight was becoming worse every year. Newt hadn't counted on spending his sunset years in a big blur.
"The Lovegood girl would be a good fit," he said, a little sad at his condition, and more disappointed that he couldn't recommend one of his own for the position. "I almost bought out her father's clatterfart rag just to get him to stop sullying the profession, but I'm glad I didn't. She's discovered three new species of Blibbering Humdingers and her treatise on the connection between the dwindling Plimy population and a sudden rise in the use of Vanishing spells along the banks of the North and South Tyne is very convincing."
His son coughed politely. "Have you heard her speak?"
"Her published works speak for themselves. Do you think she fancies a career change?"
"She applied for the position."
"I was talking about my charities. The foundation could use someone like her."
"I thought you'd had Rolf in mind for that position."
"I don't think he wants it." Newt couldn't blame Rolf for finding his own path in life, having come from a long line of rebels. But he begrudged Rolf's father for calling his adventuresome pursuits a waste of time. If Rolf listened to any more of his father's discourse on how businessmen run the world, the last of his line would be lost to the hallowed Galleon and Newt would stand alone in his noble pursuit of Magizoology.
"Rolf can maneuver well through the Ministry's brouhaha," Richard told him. "He's got an eloquent tongue."
Newt had no doubt that Rolf knew how to pitch a tent in a thunderstorm. He had proven equally adept with a shrimp fork. "It doesn't mean he has the heart or the commitment to the cause."
"He's hardly pusillanimous, if that's what you are implying. Remember that incident in the Himalayas? If it weren't for his exigent actions, the lot of us would have been carted off to the nearest primitive village and hung upside down on a pillory for trespassing."
Newt shuddered at the memory. He'd been too busy standing on a lower peak, embracing the apricity of the sun's rays when the natives had found them. It was rumored that the village they had stumbled upon had a nasty reputation of eating their enemies. They would hardly have found him delectable in his half-dehydrated state.
His grandson had great advantages, but his faults were visible from a mile off. "If Rolf would resist his gregarious nature and keep himself out of the society pages for a few weeks, it'd do him and his professional reputation a world of good." Newt had suffered the ignominy of his grandson's name all over the front page of several gossip rags, though Rolf's father had merely chalked it up to "free publicity".
Newt never developed a taste for the public eye and instead focused all of his energy on "the next big discovery". Though in his more recent years, it seemed that his adventuring days were drawing to a close. To add insult to injury, Newt's research remained unfinished. The whole point of grousing to Porpentia about running off to the wilderness "for one last specimen" was moot if he couldn't see the blasted things. Even if he could see, wearing spectacles in a rainforest was asking for a calamity. He'd almost consigned himself to the reality of the Bestiary's latest edition being his last, but as Richard stared at the three CVs under consideration, Newt's eyes suddenly sparkled with the possibilities.
"Perhaps we should submit the candidates to a friendly competition."
"No such thing," Richard declared.
"The top candidates together would be a research and development dream: a felicitous combination. The best of the best, don't you think?"
Richard shook his head grimly. "They'd gainsay each other's findings to the point of complicity and then none of their collective research will have any credence. We’ll have discredited the candidates, except for the wild herring you have yet to announce."
"A right ray of sunshine, you are," Newt grumbled. "And it's red herring, even though your reference is entirely incoherent." But the more he thought about it, the more appealing it became. How else was he going to get the information for the fifty-seventh edition of "Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them", now that his escapades to the Brazilian Rainforests had been cut short by his aging backside. He was sure that there was one last undiscovered species of Fire Slug and if anyone had the brains and the know-how to prove it, it ought to be the next Head of Newly Discovered Breeds Division.
If any of the candidates were to opt out or not find any evidence, he'd know they weren't cut out for the job. Newt helped himself to another glass of brandy and realized he'd only heard about two of the three. "Who is the last candidate?"
Richard handed him the last stack of parchment. Newt squinted at the top line, noticing that the CV was just as thick and detailed as the other two. He reached over the telescope and pulled out the thick lens, and after adjusting his reading distance a few times, Rolf Scamander's name glared back at him in defiance, along with his impressive list of accomplishments, including field experience that Newt himself had insisted on giving him as a teen, restless with summer boredom.
All those glorious weekends of taking his grandson along on expeditions were listed in chronological order. And there were other things that Newt hadn't heard about. Rolf had been doing field research on a little-known medicinal plant that only grew in Giant droppings and had isolated the source of a mysterious ailment that had been adversely affecting the Welsh Pixies for over half a century. When Richard read to him the entry regarding Rolf's involvement in the campaign against the habitat destruction of the Scandinavian River Troll, Newt's spirits soared. Beauregard had complained incessantly about that movement and how it had squelched his plans for developing a vacation resort on the Rhine. Rolf wasn't interested in running a multi-million galleon empire built by his father. He was a Naturalist and a rebel, and both prospects pleased the old man to no end.
"Well, this is a rather interesting turn of events." Newt quaffed the remaining brandy and set down his empty glass. "You knew about this, Richard, didn't you?"
His son raised his glass in salute. "Indubitably. I thought it would earn me some favor, being the 'good uncle' and making sure Rolf's CV got through to us without being intercepted by his father. And it should make up for the new line of bobbleheads that Beau has planned for next season. Since the Hippogriffs were such a success, he's contracted with Chocolate Frog Cards, Incorporated for the image rights to 'Britain's Wondrous Wizards Through the Ages'. The juggernaut of hype for both companies will be inescapable. I believe he wants to start with the great Merlin and move on to Godric Gryffindor, Salazar Slytherin..."
"Enough," Newt muttered, but he wasn't flummoxed by Beau's abominable plan to once again flood the market with ludicrous frippery, this time having entirely nothing to do with Nature or Environmental Preservation.
He settled back into his lawn chair, peering into his telescope. A giggle almost bubbled up and escaped him, a tintinnabulation of glee at the turn of events. His rebel son was about to be one-upped by his rebel grandson. Newt sat back and sighed. It wouldn't do to have the upper echelon of Wizarding Society expecting a convivial gathering to see his family's incendiary drama played out in such a public display. He'd have to do this carefully.
If Beauregard only knew the abject disappointment he was about to feel when his own son rejected all of his personal ideas and went off in a completely different direction, blowing all of his plans away... a rite of passage for all parents, but particularly sweet for Newt. He gazed at the garish collection of his younger son's accomplishments, imagined the paltry image of next season's poor Merlin on a stick and felt better already at the image of his crestfallen son as Rolf's name appeared on the list of finalists selected for the expedition.
Newt smiled to himself. "Rolf will go to South America, but not the way his father had planned." His oh, so very confident son Beauregard had squashed many of Newt's own paternal dreams and here, he was about to receive the objurgating he obviously needed after having such a myopic view of his own son. One hundred and eleven year old eyes weren't going to stand in the way of apples falling close to trees and all that sentimental crap. Newt wanted to witness this revelation with the utmost clarity.
A/N: Egads! You have made it intact! There are chocolate eclairs in the little gray box below. Thanks for reading!
Write a Review A Man Named Newt Scamander: Part One of One