Chapter 8 : January 14th, 1996 Sixth Year
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He wasn’t in a bad mood, per se. He was just rather sick of the matter that left him wanting to kill himself. Or kill somebody else. In particular, the two other individuals who were sitting at the breakfast table, bickering like an old married couple.
Not that he’d point this out. No, Cal liked to keep his head intact, and insinuating that there was anything beyond the mere friendly between Tanith and Tobias, at this stage of existence, would have certainly brought around death and torment. Because, at that moment, their topic of argument was the same as it had always been: a certain dark-haired Gryffindor.
“I can spend my social time with whomever I wish to, Tanith, as you well know,” Tobias was saying coolly, but with that air of anger bubbling below the surface he usually kept under control as he buttered his toast with a forced and rather false casual air.
“Well, that’s true, but it doesn’t mean I’m not going to criticise your decisions,” Tanith replied coldly, with the perfectly calm appearance of somebody who was absolutely in the right, and in their discussions was doing little more than indulging a child throwing a tantrum.
“Oh, and you will criticise them, won’t you! Because Tanith Cole always knows best on how to rule somebody else’s life!” Tobias mumbled, sounding bitter.
“Not everyone else’s. Just yours, right now, when you’re being silly,” she answered flatly.
See, that was the thing about their arguments. Their voices were never raised, but verbal daggers flew through the air enough to give Cal a headache. And he definitely didn’t want to know what had triggered this new round of Tanith’s criticism of Tobias’ recent attachment to Annie MacKenzie. After all, the trigger could be something as straightforward as ‘good morning’, for her and her volatility.
“What makes you think you know what’s best for me? In the current madness of inter-House war, don’t you think it’s pleasant that some people can look beyond the petty bickering and actually get to know each other when they wouldn’t normally have the chance to?” Tobias was well and truly getting into a snit now.
“Oh, yes. You’re a regular Romeo and Juliet,” Cal mumbled under his breath.
They ignored him, fortuitously, as Tanith leaned towards Tobias a little. “Yes. I just think it’s stupid. Believe it or not, this isn’t fuelled by me just wanting to rip apart anything you have, it’s more a concern that I’m not sure you and MacKenzie is the best decision you’ve ever made. You’ve made some bad ones, of course…”
“Yes, I remember one. You were one,” Tobias replied, and Cal shrank back at the inevitable backlash this would bring.
It didn’t come. Tanith merely fixed him with a look, her expression impassive for a moment – and that was as shocked as she would ever get. Cal knew that Tobias had crossed the line in that moment, but he didn’t seem to notice, straightening up and fixing Tanith with a look. She seemed to have had all of the fight taken out of her by his words, and Cal continued to wonder why they were so dense on this topic.
“And you had no problems with it last week when we were in Hogsmeade. You didn’t make any such comments,” Tobias continued slowly.
“That’s because I was tipsy, partying, and thought it was just a fling that wouldn’t go much further than you pulling her a few times before good old inter-House conflict kicked in and stomped down on any actual emotions.” Tanith paused, her eyes widening a little. “There aren’t actual emotions involved, are there?”
“Well…” Tobias turned bright red at this. He could never, ever blush subtly, which was his curse – albeit a very amusing curse for Cal. “I don’t know. I mean, I still don’t know her very well. But we’re having fun. That’s all it is.”
Tanith’s eyes widened more. “Oh, God. You’ve fallen for her, haven’t you?”
Cal was afraid she was going to have a fit then, and even though he didn’t think she was necessarily right – from conversations with Tobias, it seemed his dalliance with Annie MacKenzie was nothing more than a bit of fun both of them were enjoying – that still wouldn’t stop Tanith if she flipped out completely. If nothing else, MacKenzie might not survive the ensuing explosion.
He searched around for a distraction, and found it as Gabriel stepped in to the Great Hall, his newspaper under his arm. Cal waved at him madly, half-rising from his seat. “Gabe! Over here!” he called, grimacing. “Please, God, come over here,” he added in a mumble to himself.
Gabriel never looked too cheerful in the morning-time. He didn’t look cheerful a lot of the time, truth be told, but he rarely looked as grim and horrified as he did today, slouching across towards them from the main door. He sat down next to Cal without a word, and pulled his paper out.
“Read this,” he said in a hollow voice, unfolding the day’s copy of the Daily Prophet, and setting it down in the middle of the table.
Tanith sighed. “Doyle, I’m sure we have more important worries that whatever the bloody ministry’s done now…”
But Cal wasn’t paying any attention to her anymore as he grabbed the paper, his eyes wide, round and horrified as the pictures on the front of it leapt out at him – almost literally – and filling him with a cold, shaking fear that settled in his belly like ice.
For there, alongside a dozen other pictures of witches and wizards, was his father.
Thanatos Brynmor had been one of the strongest Death Eaters to serve Lord Voldemort in his reign of terror fifteen years ago. He and his wife, Nila, had been responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Muggles and had personally slain half a dozen Aurors, only stopped when a young Unspeakable named William Rayner had arrested Thanatos and killed Nila, taking in their young son Caldwyn and adopting him. Thanatos had been sent to Azkaban, where Cal had done a fine job of ignoring his existence. Will had never tried to deny Cal any knowledge of the truth, but still, all he knew of his father was from half-worn memories and aged photographs.
That was still enough to recognise the man’s face on the front of the newspaper.
“Death Eaters… escape Azkaban?” Tobias said slowly, leaning across to read the paper upside-down falteringly. “After Black, is everybody doing it these days? Has it become some sort of fad? So much for a competent Ministry.”
“Or competent Dementors. How… could this happen?” Tanith asked, sounding much more shocked than the dry Tobias. She seemed to be getting her head wrapped around the implications of this break-out faster, and all bickering about romantic liaisons with Gryffindors were forgotten.
“The end is coming,” Gabriel said in a hollow voice, and in an instant, Cal was reminded of that night of the Quidditch World Cup, hidden in the woodlands, where Gabriel had been the only other one of them to vaguely comprehend the implications of the Dark Mark in the sky. “Maybe, you know… mad Potter’s right. Maybe You-Know-Who is back. I mean, it would take something like him to get a mass break-out from Azkaban, not just the one escaped convict…” His eyes were empty, and he sounded like he might be sick.
Cal felt about the same, but, inexplicably, when he raised his head to look at Tobias and Tanith, he had managed to paste a smile across his face. “Well. I suppose that saves me a lot of trouble of trying to keep my father’s real fate a secret from everyone, doesn’t it? After all, it’s there, in black and white. Thanatos Brynmor. People would have to be pretty thick not to make the connection, wouldn’t they.” His voice had a horrible, heavy and false cheer that he thought might rip them apart.
Tanith was looking sympathetic – horribly, horribly sympathetic, as he didn’t want her pity, but Tobias just looked blank with shock at the reality of this sinking in. They’d known, of course; had known since the summer of their first year, once they’d begun asking questions and he’d trusted them enough to tell them the truth. But here it was, as he said, in black and white. Hard to miss.
Tobias drew himself up to his full, not inconsiderable height. “Any of them worth a damn won’t let it affect them… beyond the initial shock,” he conceded, but with a certain haughty tone to his voice. “You know that. You’re more than that – you know you’re more than that.”
“Do they know that?” Cal asked, the humour draining from his eyes, and all his friends could do was look away and eat breakfast in silence. Suddenly, the grim atmosphere in the Great Hall made sense in ways he hadn’t considered when he’d first stepped in.
“We’d better get going to Transfiguration,” Gabriel said at last, leaving the paper on the table as he stood. He hadn’t touched any food, but Cal hardly noticed this when, almost as an afterthought, he grabbed the copy of the Daily Prophet and shoved it into his bag. He’d read it later. There was some scary fascination that it held for him he wasn’t sure he could just dismiss.
“Oh, good. A lesson with the Gryffindors. Maybe they’ll try to burn me on the stake,” Cal mumbled, tossing his bag over his shoulder and wearily standing to follow Gabriel. Behind him came Tobias and Tanith, clearly far less enthusiastic in their bickering but clearly not done with the concerns at hand.
It was now, he had to admit, faintly reassuring to hear them go on about the same thing they’d been whinging about before they heard the news. Because now… now Cal knew what was going on, now he knew that his father was free and dangerous, he wanted nothing more than to focus on something normal. His two friends arguing was definitely normal.
But when they meandered down the corridors, finally reaching the door of the Transfiguration classroom, last of the groups to arrive to wait in the corridor, it was clear that normality had disappeared. Eyes were on him – eyes of Slytherins and Gryffindors alike, all with different emotions and thoughts hidden behind the quiet stares but focused, unmoving nevertheless.
The silence was tense, and had clearly been tense even before the four of them had arrived. Cormac McLaggen’s gaze was angry and venomous, but Miles Bletchley’s retaliating glower was equally forceful. Cal felt himself stumble a little as the Slytherin Keeper gave him a hefty slap on the back, an obvious sign of solidarity, and didn’t know if he should feel encouraged or pitied.
McLaggen’s gaze pulled away from Bletchley finally as Cal moved to lounge against the wall next to Gabriel casually. It didn’t take long before Cal felt the Gryffindor’s eyes on him, accusing and piercing. He did his best not to return the gaze. He wasn’t sure he could shoulder it.
“You know, Brynmor,” McLaggen started, but was mercifully cut off by the arrival of Professor McGonagall, storming down the corridor towards the classroom, seeming taut and yet very much aware of what was going on. She fixed them all with her own stare, which was enough to disperse the animosity, for now, and as one the Gryffindors and Slytherins trooped into her classroom without saying a word.
“…and I will be expecting to see two feet of parchment on your considerations of the best way to Transfigure inanimate objects into living creatures on a temporary basis. That will be for Friday’s lesson, without fail. I will not accept Quidditch practice as an excuse from Mister Montague, Mister Bletchley, or Mister Pucey. No, nor you, Miss Bell. My lessons are more important than the Quidditch Cup, and I will say that even to my own Gryffindors.”
Tobias stood up slowly as McGonagall instructed them on the essay that he knew would haunt the rest of the days of the week. That was, if he couldn’t find something else to haunt him, and considering recent events, that would be quite unlikely. Tobias was quite used to juggling various work assignments, and in six years had become, if he might say so himself, damned good at it. But finding the fine line between personal worries and homework was becoming increasingly difficult as the personal worries evolved beyond what he’d do at Hogsmeade over the weekend.
“Say what you might about McGonagall,” Tanith hissed in his ear as she also stood up, “but she’s quite nasty to everyone when she wants to be. Even Snape shows favouritism.” It was the most they’d spoken to each other all morning. That was a curse of the NEWTs – fewer lessons, and thus much longer blocks of time for their classes. A short break, but on the whole, the morning lesson would consume them until lunchtime.
“And you know that Potions this afternoon is going to be a barrel of laughs,” Tobias replied dully. He’d had all the fight taken out of him with all morning to consider the implications of the Daily Prophet’s article, and the increasingly dour state of Cal.
“At least it’s with the Ravenclaws. Not the Gryffindors again, or Hufflepuffs. I won’t say anything about your girlfriend right now, Grey, because I’m sick of bickering with you, but don’t expect me to get friendly with the lions if they’re going to keep acting the way they have for the last two hours,” Tanith told him, with no uncertainty in her voice.
Tobias couldn’t help but make a noise of acknowledgement, and was certainly not going to dispute her point as they walked out of the classroom. It wasn’t as if he was finding the Gryffindors to be any more tolerable than she was. Not if they were going to let stupid biases affect them and torment his friends.
Cal and Gabriel were standing just outside, as was almost everyone else, talking quietly. Tobias knew there were some matters regarding which Gabriel Doyle had a much better comprehension of things than he himself did, and Death Eaters was one of them. Tobias didn’t want to know why – but a part of him did wish he could be of more use to Cal than just giving moral support.
He felt the hairs on the back of his neck rise, though, when Nick Wilson’s voice filtered across the hubbub of the Slytherins and Gryffindors talking amongst themselves. Somehow, no matter how many people were talking, a challenge would never go unheard.
“…interesting day we’ve been having, though, and nobody can disagree with that.” Wilson finally tore his conversation away from McLaggen and Percival Anderson, and turned to face the whole body of students lurking about the corridors, his gaze at last settling upon Cal. “Isn’t that right, Brynmor?”
Cal froze in his conversation with Gabriel, and slowly glanced over at Wilson. “I suppose,” he said blankly, blandly, before carrying on talking. Tobias didn’t need to know his friend as well as he did to notice the conversation was forced, meandering, and without focus. From where he was standing it would be hard to go and join in, but he did note how Gabriel was also trying to act like nothing was wrong. Doyle was definitely often underestimated as a friend.
“’I suppose’?” McLaggen echoed, raising an eyebrow in surprise. “You know, I figured a slightly more enthusiastic reaction from you! Isn’t it a day of great celebration for all the snakes in general, and you in particular?”
Now, any general discussion had faded completely, and the lines of conflict had been drawn as the Slytherins and Gryffindors stood – unconsciously almost shoulder to shoulder – and faced each other.
“What’s that supposed to mean, McLaggen?” Tobias found himself saying, the words escaping automatically.
It was Anderson, whom Tobias had always thought to be a rather reasonable bloke until now, who answered with a smirk. “I thought that was quite obvious, Grey? I mean, Death Eaters escape, and now all your parents or buddies of your parents are back in action!”
Bletchley shrugged. “My parents never had anything to do with Death Eaters. Why should I be cheering?”
Tobias, again, found himself bristling as he glowered at McLaggen. “My father was killed by a Death Eater. I’m assuming that you’re not implying that I’m in the least bit cheerful that there’s been this breakout?” His voice was low, and dangerous, and with a similar lack of anger to his argument with Tanith this morning – only he would never quite sound this venomous towards Tanith.
“Maybe not you cheering, but definitely Brynmor there,” Diana Sawyer spoke up, with her own trace of hostility.
Cal looked faintly sick, and tired, but still met all of their gazes resolutely. “As you can see, I’m not cheering. I know that Gryffindors aren’t exactly renown for their amazing cognitive abilities, but perhaps you ought to put those brains swollen with pride to use and try to work out just why I’m not jumping for joy over my father, a Death Eater, having escaped?”
There was a rumbling of hostility across the Gryffindors, and Tobias couldn’t work out why they were all… like this. Why nobody had told the idiots to back off, lose their prejudices, and just move along. Tom Everard, supposed Prefect, was lurking at the back, along with Riley, neither of them making any effort to intervene. Even Annie had her eyes downcast, just trying to pretend to be somewhere else.
Why the hell weren’t they stopping the complete wankers amongst their housemates from being suck utter idiots?
When was the last time you stopped Montague from baiting a Muggle-born Gryffindor?
The thought was sudden, treacherous, and completely true. Tobias felt a little sick. The tables had turned, at last, and it was getting ugly.
“…you know, Brynmor, we thought you were half-decent,” Percival Anderson was saying, once Tobias tuned back into the conversation. “But it seems that you’re a snake to the core, and thus just as terrible as we figured.”
“And it seems you’re a complete pillock, Anderson, and need to shut your damned mouth this bloody second,” Tanith spat back, taking a step forward. Tobias reached out to lightly place a calming hand on her shoulder, but she shrugged it off lightly. No, she wasn’t in a blind fury. This was a calculated retaliation.
“Who’s going to make me? Is Brynmor going to try out some Unforgivables he learnt from his dad?” Anderson managed to make a chuckle mix with a sneer as he gave Tanith a derisive look.
“Well, we are prefects, and we’re going to do what we can to try and keep the peace here.” Tobias took a step forward to stand next to her, giving Everard and Riley glares. They had the good grace to look sheepish. “So I suggest that you stand down now, apologise for your biased suggestions, and move along?”
“Oh, you’re standing with the Junior Death Eater now, Grey?” Wilson asked wryly.
“Yes, I bloody well am!” Tobias snapped, whirling around to face him. “Because he’s my friend, because I don’t give a damn who his father is, and because he’s worth bloody ten of you, you arrogant, self-righteous, judgemental Gryffindor bastard!”
McLaggen let out a quick bark of laughter. “You know, Grey, I think your dead father might be pretty upset if he knew his son was siding with the kid of someone from the group of people who murdered him.”
Tobias’ self-control, which had been tenuous until then, slipped completely, and there was a flash of red in front of his eyes. The next thing he knew he had McLaggen pinned against the wall, his wand pointed at the Gryffindor’s chin. “Don’t you ever insinuate what my father would or would not think, or ever try to use him as a tool in your prejudices, McLaggen, or I swear to God I will hex you six ways to Sunday.”
His voice still held that quiet harshness, but now it was shaking with the anger, the effort of not letting his temper get the better of him, and the bubbling emotions eating away inside him that moment. It was only when a gentle hand was lain on his forearm that he managed to fight the anger away enough to be completely aware of what he was doing.
It wasn’t Tanith, as he’d figured, trying to stop him from losing his prefect’s badge. It was Annie, and the fact that she was trying to stop him from hexing McLaggen didn’t really help his mood.
He did pull away, shoving his wand back up his sleeve, only to fix her with a glare that held his anger. “You’re not bloody well siding with him, are you?” he hissed, feeling furious and betrayed all at once.
“I will if you hex him!” Annie retorted. “You’re acting like a little child!”
“I’m acting…?” Tobias took a step back, rolling his eyes, then raised his voice so as to address everyone else as well. “I’m not the one who seems to think that having a father who was a Death Eater, even if you never met him and were raised by the man who arrested him makes you a Death Eater yourself!” He knew he was giving away pieces of Cal’s past that Cal might not have necessarily appreciated, but he needed some fuel to his argument.
“Tobias? Don’t bother.” This was Cal, this time, still standing beside Gabriel and looking rather quiet. “They’re just proving themselves to be the hypocrites we’ve always known they are.” He found his own sneer as he gave them glares. “So much for ‘Gryffindor nobility’.”
Wilson took a step forward. “Just trying to keep the school aware of the danger of the snakes. Come on, we all know that the majority of the Death Eaters were from Slytherin house. Right now, it’s best to try and pinpoint which of you is most likely to get recruited. Obviously, Brynmor’s high on the list, but with your morals, Grey, you might not be far behind.”
Again, no support from Annie, which didn’t surprise Tobias too much. Tanith stepped forward, though. “What, and no Gryffindors fell to the Dark Arts?” She pulled out her own copy of the Daily Prophet, and gestured to the picture of a tall, willowy man with dark, receding hair. “I think Idaeus Robb would have something to say about that. Not to mention the great Sirius Black himself!”
“I said majority,” Wilson retorted, though there was less bite to his anger than a moment before.
“So? I still think we should watch you. After all, you’re rather known for inventive and cruel ‘punishments’ for those who have annoyed you in the past, Wilson. I remember what you did to those Hufflepuffs last year. Again, I say ‘so much for Gryffindor nobility’. It seems to be a fable which you just like to flash around. Maybe you’re the Death-Eater-in-training?” Tanith smirked at him.
“And I think you need to stop trying to pretend that you haven’t got some bloody corrupt friends and are just as likely to end up that way yourself. It wouldn’t be too surprising if Azkaban already had a cell lined up for you, you little snake…”
“Hey!” Tobias took a step forward, cutting off Wilson’s tirade. “This is someone who’s studying to become an Auror. What are you doing about this incoming tide of Death Eaters? Making accusations against a bunch of Slytherins because you’re incapable of using your brain?”
Wilson rolled his eyes. “The fact remains that bloody Brynmor here’s the spawn of a Death Eater. That might as well mean that evil’s pasted all over him!”
Tobias turned to face Cal at this final accusation, but he wasn’t to be seen. Gabriel was standing there, glowering viciously at the Gryffindors, but there was no sign of their friend. Tobias wondered how much of this rubbish he’d suffered before he’d decided to leave it all behind.
“You missed Potions. Snape isn’t too happy,” Gabriel said coolly as he walked through the grass towards where Cal was perched on a tree stump, gazing across the lake mutely. “I think you’ll need to go and explain to him.”
“Explain what? I was sulking, so didn’t go to lesson?” Cal shrugged, not tearing his gaze away and resolutely not looking at his friend. “I’ll just take the detention, and suffer all he has to throw at me anyway.”
“Snape has a lot to throw,” Gabriel pointed out, moving to perch on the broad tree stump next to him. “You might need to do some dodging.”
“I doubt he has more than the Gryffindors had. And I dodged that okay, didn’t I?” Cal’s voice was empty, horribly empty, and Gabriel wondered if he’d done the right thing in coming out to find him. Maybe he wanted to be more alone.
“Yeah. You dodged it all the way out here. And dodged dinner and lunch, too, while you were about it.” Gabriel lifted the folded napkin he’d carried out here, and passed it to him. “Food in there. Sandwiches, mostly. I couldn’t smuggle anything else out.”
“Thanks, but I’m not hungry,” Cal mumbled, just sitting the napkin on his knee. “Or I would have gone for food; I’m not that damned moping and dense. I just… I’m good here. You don’t need to worry about me.”
“Is that you saying that you won’t mind if I go, or that you want me to go? Because I don’t have anything important to do, other than sit around and make sure my friend isn’t on a self-destruct course,” Gabriel told him with absolute certainty.
“No, you can… if you don’t have anything better to do,” Cal mumbled, and did unwrap the napkin of food. He lifted one of the sandwiches and took a bite, but seemed to be unaware of what he was doing, taking no relish in the eating when he had to be starving.
“Caldwyn, do not go all self-deprecating on me. It gets annoying, and simply delays the inevitability of the fact that I’m going to sit here with you, my friend. Do not play the poor, maligned, worthless little wizard with me,” Gabriel reprimanded him, tapping one foot against the ground.
Cal paused, then looked over at him as he swallowed another bite of the sandwich, his expression quizzical. “Gabe? Why are you always the only one to call me Caldwyn? I mean, well, some others who don’t really know me call me Caldwyn, but I don’t particularly like it, and everyone else calls me Cal…”
Gabriel shrugged. “I don’t know. I just always did. Nicknames are one thing; shortening a good name because it can be cumbersome is annoying. Sure, when you’re eleven, but we’re out of this school next year…”
“So that means you find it annoying when we call you Gabe?” Cal asked, raising an eyebrow.
He shifted. “No, not really. That’s just you being lazy.” Gabriel paused, scratching his chin. “It doesn’t mean you find it annoying when I call you Caldwyn, if it bothers you coming from everyone else? Because that’s not really my intention.”
“No. Others, yes. You, no. Not sure why.” Cal shifted a little, then focused intently on his sandwiches suddenly. “Nobody else could be bothered to come down and hunt for me?” he asked at last.
“Oh, so you did want attention!” Gabriel exclaimed, widening his eyes at him.
Cal shook his head. “No, I just meant… I expected somebody to show. I just figured it would be all of you, rather than you coming along solo.”
Gabriel shrugged again. “Tanith and Tobias were locked in an argument and I thought it would be a good time to try and slip out. They’re just beginning to annoy me with this stupid bickering. Yes, Tobias goes out and snogs MacKenzie. Tanith just needs to accept this.” He sighed heavily.
“Tell me about it.” Cal passed him a sandwich, which Gabriel accepted and began to eat. “Though I reckon Tanith has some new ammunition to use on Tobias, what with the little display from the Gryffindors this lunchtime.”
“Oh, yes.” Gabriel nodded firmly. “And she’s using it. Not that she doesn’t have a point. They were seriously out of order saying what they did. I don’t know if we have dumber Gryffindors in our year, or what…”
“Nope, they’re all just as damned bad. It’s been alright the last few terms… I think we might have had better relations than other years – you know, once our little war with McLaggen and Wilson ended in the second year. But matters are disintegrating all over the school.” Cal made a face, picking at the next sandwich. “That’s a function of what’s going on outside, and what’s happening here with Umbridge.”
“The world’s turning against the Slytherins. Despite what Bletchley said this lunchtime, I think he’s loving it. He was chatting with Warrington and some of the others in the common room when I left. I think they might be planning something… returning back to the old ways of tripping Muggle-borns in the corridors, and what have you,” Gabriel warned.
“They’re idiots, and they’re just symptoms of the problem. I think the problem itself is linked to what happened today.” Cal raised his head to stare across the lake, his eyes slightly out of focus. “You know I’ve never particularly liked McLaggen, but I never thought he’d be quite as vindictive as he was earlier.”
“Oh, ignore them. They’re Gryffindor idiots. Anyone who knows you can’t possibly suggest you’re a Death Eater in Training. There’s nobody in the house who’s more likely to give Malfoy a thump when he makes anti-Muggle-born comments. McLaggen’s a pureblood and doesn’t quite hide the fact that he’s proud of it; he has more chance of becoming a Death Eater than you.”
Cal snorted. “So? The majority of the people out there who will be making judgements that will affect my life won’t know me. They’ll see the fact that Thanatos Brynmor, renowned Death Eater… is my father, and judge me on that. I’ve had to live with it for seventeen years; I’m quite used to it, but I would also rather avoid it.”
“Then you ignore those bastards! You’re the only one that matters.” Gabriel gave him a light, playful punch on the shoulder. “It’s not as if you’re alone in having a convoluted history. We’re the generation born during the last war. Things get complicated. The majority of people – those you’d actually want to bother knowing – will be smart and see you as who you are, not who you might be.”
Cal scrubbed his face with his hands, still staring ahead. “Gabriel… of everyone, you’re the one who places the most emphasis on blood. Tobias is a half-blood, he doesn’t care. Tanith has had a change in priorities. You’re the one who thinks that who your relations are has an affect on who and what you are in the wizarding world.”
“Yes… look, Caldwyn, I’m not about to go and collar a first-year Muggle-born Hufflepuff and call them a Mudblood! Times change, people change. Just because I would rather Muggle-born students weren’t at Hogwarts, weren’t in the wizarding world doesn’t mean I conscribe to You-Know-Who’s views and want them all dead. There’s a long way to go before I get there,” Gabriel said in a rush, looking at his friend with faint concern.
“That’s not what I mean.” Cal glanced over at him. “If blood dictates who and what we are, then shouldn’t I have ‘tainted’ blood?” A slight sneer tugged at his lips. “If having pureblood parents makes you a better witch or wizard by default, then why is Tobias the half-blood the best student in our year, maybe in the whole damned school? If blood really has such a sway on who and what we are, then why aren’t I running around with the escaped Death Eaters learning Unforgivables this very second?”
Gabriel stared at him, completely taken aback, and could only splutter for a few seconds.
“Exactly. It makes no sense.” Cal stood up, throwing the remnants of his last sandwich into the lake. “You’ve always thought that I didn’t give a damn about blood because giving a damn would force me to condemn my foster-father – no, wait, he’s my father; again, I don’t care about blood, and it doesn’t matter who sired me, just who raised me. The fact remains, though, that I sort of have to not care about blood.” He turned to face Gabriel, his eyes glittering. “Otherwise I have to believe that my blood taints me, corrupts me, and dooms me to the darker side of magic.”
“That’s preposterous. You are who you are, and you’ll make your own lot out of your life. Thanatos Brynmor has no more bearing on your life than any other one of those Death Eaters that escaped Azkaban,” Gabriel declared with certainty.
Cal paused, nodding, then turned to face his friend. “Then why do those who champion the cause of Muggle-borns and say blood doesn’t matter decide that my heritage condemns me? And why do you, who says that blood affects our wizarding nature, not condemn me? We’re picking and choosing here, and there’s no ‘right’ side until we work on principle, not preference.”
Gabriel stared at him, blinking for a few long moments, then stood up. “Let’s get back. Maybe Tanith will have killed Tobias, and his Gryffind-whore will have made the lions rise up for vengeance. We might not even have to worry about this.”
Cal gazed over at the lake for a few more seconds, then nodded slightly and moved to walk alongside Gabriel. “You know, once Tobias is finished with McLaggen, he’ll hex you six ways to Sunday if he knows you called MacKenzie a whore. And I won’t stop him.”
“Well, let him. I’m not exactly feeling very Gryffindor-friendly right now. Ask me again later, when MacKenzie actually sticks her neck out and faces her dumb housemates,” Gabriel growled.
“Like we do all the time when Montague’s taunting Muggle-borns,” Cal pointed out sarcastically.
“Yes. That’s right,” Gabriel declared, ignoring Cal’s thoughtful expression. “It’s the way of things. It’s why Tobias and MacKenzie together is a bad idea.”
Cal sighed. “And it’s not going to change.”
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