Chapter 18 : The Ides of March
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“I endorse this state of affairs. We should encourage it to continue.” Gabriel peered around the empty common room, leaning back in his overstuffed armchair with a satisfied sigh. “Peace. Quiet. Nobody to bother us.”
“It is all rather more civil than usual,” Tanith had to agree, spreading her Herbology textbooks and notes across the coffee table, just managing to not mingle them with his. “But such is the advantage of an irrelevant Quidditch match, where the more fanatical or less smart have to go off and watch it.”
“Just be glad Cal can’t hear you now.” Gabriel smirked. “Ravenclaw-Hufflepuff is going to be an integral game for this season. After all, it’s going to define who comes third place or fourth place in the rankings.”
Tanith just about smothered a laugh. “And Ravenclaw will win, because they’re more technically proficient and because Hufflepuff still won’t have recovered from losing O’Neal. Because they’re a bunch of duffers and haven’t moved on. Unlike, and I hate to say it, Gryffindor, who lost half of their team and had a Chaser taken out of action a matter of weeks before the match. And managed to win.”
“I think the ‘puffs are in some sort of extended mourning period.” Gabriel frowned, chewing on the edge of his quill before he began to scribble down some notes on the correct means to care for the latest poisonous and dangerous plant of the week.
“I think they’ve been in a mourning period since Diggory. Honestly, you’d have figured they’d have got over it by now.” Tanith rolled her eyes. “I heard they wanted to dedicate this match to O’Neal.”
“Really? That’s going to be a bit of a bummer, isn’t it, when Hufflepuff lose. Because you can say many things about Ravenclaws, but there’s no way they’ll be stupidly sentimental enough to throw the match over something like that.” Gabriel shook his head. “I reckon we’ve only got a couple of hours before Chang gets the Snitch.”
“Then we should make the most of it to enjoy this peace and quiet, rather than spending the time talking about a Quidditch match we’ve actively chosen to not go and watch, yes?” She smirked at him.
“And worry about how to best take care of Devil’s Snare without it growing to monstrous proportions, and/or murdering us in our sleep? A far more riveting proposition, Cole.”
“A good NEWT in Herbology will have far more benefits. Let’s not split hairs.” Tanith paused, sticking her quill behind her ear as she paused, flicking through one of the hefty tomes in front of her. “Why, oh why, did we take this subject?”
“Because we both needed a fifth NEWT and it’s a doss? Especially if you’re already doing Potions?” Gabriel grinned toothily at her. “The amount of work you can combine is quite staggering. And you, for one, have plenty on your academic plate without taking on a fifth NEWT that would actually challenge you.”
“That’s true enough. The essays from Snape and McGonagall are enough to drive anyone insane, and that’s ignoring everything else.” She raised an eyebrow at him. “I trust you’re still enjoying the House points you and Cal won for the duck incident?”
“At least nobody can say McGonagall’s biased against Houses. We were the first people in our year to succeed at a full-body transfiguration. We deserved those twenty points.” Gabriel paused, mulling this over. “And the two hours of detention. But it was totally worth it.”
“Cal seemed in a good mood about it all. Which is, well, good.” Tanith nodded to herself. “He seems to be a lot happier these days.”
“I won’t deny that there may have been some ulterior motives to allowing him to turn into a giant duck and attack Cormac McLaggen. I see absolutely no problem with this.” Gabriel’s grin returned.
“I’m behind this plan. I’m enthusiastic about this plan.”
“And at least it seems he’s been able to finally talk to Lockett.”
“Doing more than talking these days, if the rumour mill’s to be trusted. He’ll be in an even better mood if Ravenclaw win today. Celebrations, and all that.”
“Or consolations if they lose. It seemed to work for him,” Gabriel pointed out. “Plus, she seems to be alright.”
“Oh, I think Cal’s done quite well for himself with her,” Tanith agreed. “She’s a good laugh. No sticks up her arse, no uppityness. Just good fun. Good to talk to. Easy to get on with.”
Gabriel didn’t miss a beat before delivering his next, cautiously well-calculated move. “Unlike a certain Gryffindor of our acquaintance.”
Tanith froze at this, before looking up at him and retrieving her quill. She said nothing for a moment, then glanced back down at her work and began to scribble nonsense on the parchment. “Unlike. Yeah.”
“How’re you doing with all of that?” Gabriel asked quietly, with somewhat uncharacteristic concern.
“I don’t know. How’re you doing with your headaches and that visit to Madam Pomfrey’s which never happens?” Tanith challenged, looking up sharply. It was an obvious message: Don’t expect me to show my cards if you won’t show yours.
Gabriel sighed, rubbing his forehead. “I don’t want to go to Madam Pomfrey’s,” he said at length. “I don’t know what she’ll tell me.”
“It’s probably not serious, Doyle. And if it is, well, better to know now so you can nip it in the bud before it gets… well, bad.” Tanith chewed on her lower lip, looking at him with undisguised concern. “I don’t mean to nag. I just… worry. You’ve been a bit out of it lately.”
“And you’ve been acting like you’ve been gagged and bound, around Tobias at least. There’s been no sniping. No snide commentary. No territorial hissing at MacKenzie. Just… slinking off and avoiding the situation.” Gabriel tilted his head, watching her curiously. “What’s going on?”
“Uh-uh. You first. Your problem’s been going on longer. I’ve been nagging you longer.” Tanith shook her head very firmly, very quickly.
Gabriel paused, leaning back in the chair. There was a long silence as his gaze drifted across the common room, searching for things to say, and the right way to say them. Tanith, to her credit, said nothing – just sat and waited patiently.
“It’s going to sound crazy,” he said at length.
“And I’ve been a paragon of bloody sanity,” she countered smoothly.
“This isn’t just acting a bit weird around people. This is full-on psychotic kind of crazy.” Gabriel scrubbed his face with his hands. “The sort of thing where they cart you off to the crazy ward at Saint Mungo’s.”
Tanith straightened up, her concerned frown deepening. “Gabe, what’s going on?”
Gabriel sighed, leaning forwards and clasping his hands together before looking her straight in the eye. If he could convince her of his sincerity, it would be a start. It might just demonstrate that he was sincerely crazy, however.
“I’ve been, um, seeing things,” he began hesitantly, and waited a few seconds for that one to sink in before he pushed any further. And there was the reaction he expected; the slight furrow of the brow, the straightening up, the almost visible emotional barriers falling down. This was Tanith Cole going full defensive.
“Seeing things,” she repeated emptily, obviously careful to not put any inflection on the words, obviously trying to avoid giving any clues to what she might be thinking.
He groaned. “There’s no easy way to explain this. I’ve been having headaches since about the beginning of term now. When I passed out in Defence class, I… had some really weird dreams. There were voices chanting, telling me things, but I… I can’t remember them.” That was neither a complete lie nor the complete truth, but he didn’t feel particularly inclined to get onto that subject right then.
“Weird dreams too?” Here, Tanith failed to keep any scepticism or worry out of her voice.
“Then a week or so later… odd things happened. Like when I came into contact with people, I would… see something.” Gabriel wrung his hands together, trying to keep his nervous tics to a minimum but needing to allow the tension to escape somehow. “When Wilson grabbed me, I had a flash of something. When Urquhart clapped me on the back, I had a flash of something. Then… something in the corridor when I got bumped into. And it’s happened a few times since then, completely at random when coming into physical contact with people. Just that day – the Tuesday after the Hogsmeade trip? – that was the most intense.”
Tanith seemed to be softening a little as he gave her more facts, and she leaned back in the chair, expression wary but obviously a little less guarded. “What are you seeing?” she asked quietly.
“I’m not sure,” he confessed. “I just get these scenes in my head. They’re kind of blurry, and I can’t make out details. It’s like… sort of like a dream where you don’t identify things by what they look like, you just inherently know what things are. Or who they are. Sometimes.” Gabriel sighed, brushing some hair out of his eyes. “Like when I touched Wilson I had this vision of… of a funeral. It was in a graveyard, it was cold but the sun was shining, and a coffin was being lowered into a grave.”
She frowned, tilting forwards, and he could see he’d sparked up that flare of curiosity within her he knew would hold her in good stead as an Auror. “You saw Wilson’s funeral?”
Gabriel shook his head. “I don’t think it was his. I think I was seeing things through his eyes. There were people around, as well – he was holding a crying woman, and there was a crowd, and some man hanging back he didn’t like being there. But it was all indistinctive. More like… like feelings about a person, or the impression of a person, rather than a face or identity.”
Tanith played with the quill in her hands thoughtfully, her mind clearly ticking over these facts. “What about the others? Like Jack’s?”
“That one was a bit less confusing. I – he – was on a broom, above the Quidditch pitch, having an argument with a girl. I don’t know who. She seemed kind of familiar, but again… it was all just an impression. He was saying something about not wanting to help people who hated him, and she was telling him that it was the right thing to do, and it was rather weird.” Gabriel shrugged.
She let out a deep breath, brow furrowed. “Do you think you’re seeing the future?”
“Or the past. Maybe. Or I’m completely crazy.” He looked over at her, feeling his nerves settle a little as Tanith seemed to be taking this on board, albeit as a curious mystery, rather than treating him like a lunatic. “I don’t know, I’ve never met an actual seer. Just that fake Trelawney and Firenze, and centaurs seem to work a bit differently to human seers.”
“Well, seers do exist,” Tanith conceded, seeming to be mulling this over.
“It would also match Pomfrey’s diagnosis,” Gabriel said quickly, reaching for any evidence which would disprove his potential insanity. “That I had too much magic going through me, which was why I passed out? One of the theories of how divination works is that the future leaves traces in the ambient magic of an area, and a seer is just someone whose mind is open to those traces of temporal arcane energies. If I’ve been soaking those up, then that could explain these side-effects.”
“You’ve also looked a lot better since the Hogsmeade trip. Or since these visions began manifesting.”
“I’ve felt better,” he agreed. “Just… if these are visions of the future… there’s one bad thing.” Gabriel paused, scratching the back of his head, wondering how to broach this subject. “That same day, when we finished lunch and went into the corridor, remember how I flipped at Cal when he grabbed on to me?”
Tanith hesitated, frowning. “I think so. I wasn’t really paying attention to you.” What she had been paying attention to at the time didn’t need to be voiced.
“I had a vision then. Of lying in a bust-up house, with someone standing over me with a wand. And then, uh… casting the Killing Curse. Right at me.” Gabriel looked away, scowling out of the enchanted window, which right then gave him a wonderful view of a scene from the grounds of Hogwarts that had no actual connection to what lay beyond the walls of the common room.
A pointed silence met his words, eventually followed by Tanith drawing a deep breath. “You saw Cal’s death?”
“I don’t know. I know he grabbed me when I had a headache. I don’t know if that was before I had the vision, or after. And it was crowded, there were lots of people passing by. It could have been one of them.” Gabriel shrugged, not making eye contact. Not wanting to look her in the eye and say he could predict death. “We also don’t know if any of this is mutable… if it’s even the future… none of these things have come to pass…”
“Jack might have had a storming row with a woman, we wouldn’t really know.” In what had to be an impulse move, Tanith got up from her chair and went to sit down next to him. Her posture was stiff, and she made no move to reach out for him or make any offer of physical comfort, but it still warmed his heart that she was moving closer, rather than recoiling. “What about if you try it with me? See if that gives you anything?”
Gabriel looked over, making a face. “It doesn’t happen every time. Or I’d be passing out every time someone poked me. It just happens… sometimes.” He reached out to place a hand on her shoulder. “See?”
A clearing in woodland. Rain pouring down. A bitter chill. Someone screaming in his face.
“You don’t love, you can’t love. You’re too damn selfish, Tanith. I won’t be sucked into that!”
His head was resting against the coffee table, and as he slowly tried to sit up, his Herbology notes stuck to his temple, only coming away when he pulled them off with a dull moan. “Or not…”
“You just… keeled over for a second. It was weird.” Tanith looked honestly scared, reaching for the throw over the back of the sofa and pulling it over his shoulders in an uncharacteristically warm, even almost motherly fashion. “Are you alright?”
“I… yeah. Blinding pain, then these strange moments of clarity afterwards.” Gabriel pulled the blanket a little closer around himself, shivering. “It’s kind of like a migraine, sped-up. Though I haven’t been keeling over before. That one… that one kind of had…”
His voice trailed off as he looked at her and the images pieced themselves together a little more firmly in his mind. That one had an emotional gut-punch the others didn’t.
Tanith tilted her head a little, expression still one of concern. “What did you see?”
He opened his mouth to give her the full explanation, then the words wouldn’t come. He sagged lamely. “I… don’t think I should tell you,” Gabriel said at last.
“Why not? You told me about the ones for Wilson and Urquhart. This one affects me,” Tanith said pointedly, with small hints of desperation and, indeed, fear in her voice.
“It wasn’t your death, or anything. I just think it’s so vague it wouldn’t do you any good.” Gabriel rubbed his temples. “I don’t know if these things can be avoided or changed. I don’t know if they should be.” He sighed, closing his eyes to block out the spots dancing in front of his vision. “If this girl Jack was arguing with means, or will mean anything to him… I think what I’m seeing is a big emotional turn in someone’s life. A funeral. An argument. Your own death would be pretty big, too.”
“That makes me feel so reassured.” Tanith drew back a little, drawing her legs up underneath her on the sofa.
He glanced sideways, expression sceptical. “Oh, come on. So all you know is that something big and emotional is going to happen to you, at some point in the future. And I have absolutely no idea when.” He rubbed his forehead again. “We also have absolutely no confirmation that I’m not just crazy.” This prospect was starting to sound a little bit more pleasant than he’d initially thought – to be mad, rather than be able to foresee death.
“I suppose not,” Tanith said, slowly sagging. “Um. Are you alright?”
“I’ve had worse. I’ll be fine.” Gabriel shrugged off the blanket, shaking his head a little and looking back over towards the Herbology notes strewn over the table. “Are we going to get this homework done, or what?”
It was with some hesitation that Tanith returned to her previous seat, and it took several tries at reading and discussion before they could resume their flow of academic study. Yet ironically, despite Tanith’s obvious discomfort, it was Gabriel who finally submitted to the small, nagging voice at the back of his head and looked up, expression curious.
“We didn’t get around to my question.”
Tanith looked up, blinking. “What?”
“I told you my secret. What about yours?” He tilted his head, smirking impishly.
“There’s no secret,” Tanith said firmly. “I don’t have any… secrets. What had you been asking about again, anyway?” It didn’t sound entirely like a misdirection or denial.
Gabriel chuckled softly. “I was asking why you were acting like you’d been muzzled around Tobias. And especially around Tobias and MacKenzie. This isn’t the Tanith I know, snapping at the heels of anyone who sniffs around Tobias’ ankles, perpetually territorial.”
Tanith sagged a little, looking mildly distressed. “Have I been that bad before?”
“Not really,” he conceded, “but then, there hasn’t been much cause apart from Annie. And to be quite frank, I share your worries about her dumping Tobias the moment her friends begin to disapprove again of her going out with a Slytherin, or some equivalent drama. I think it’d really mess him up if she did that to him again. So with that in mind,” he set his quill down, steepling his fingers and looking her in the eye, “why has the watchdog act stopped?”
“You keep making it sound like I was all but peeing on him,” Tanith grumbled. “I wasn’t that bad. I was just… trying to stop him from doing anything particularly stupid.”
“Alright.” Gabriel didn’t believe it all, but he had successfully manoeuvred her where he wanted her. “Then how come, with Tobias making what’s probably a big mistake in going out with MacKenzie again, you’re suddenly gone mute?”
There was a silence as Tanith dropped her gaze, again scribbling something pointless on the Herbology notes as a poor escape route which floundered in seconds. She brushed a lock of hair behind an ear, not making eye contact. “I just… didn’t fancy it.”
“She could really hurt him.” Gabriel tapped his chin, aware he was turning the thumbscrews far more than she had to him, but objecting to her reticence after he had so willingly volunteered information which was probably a good deal more… dangerous.
“Like Tobias listens to anyone else when he’s after something he… wants.” Tanith scowled. “Like he listened to me last time when I predicted this. Like he listened to any of us.”
“I didn’t get involved,” Gabriel admitted. “But even so… you went from wanting to declare open war on MacKenzie, to running and hiding under the table. In just one conversation with her, your attitude turned completely upside-down.”
“I…” Tanith’s voice trailed off, and she chewed on her lower lip, once again looking rather lost and a little scared. Then she took a deep, shaking breath and met his gaze. “I need you to be absolutely honest with me for a bit. Because I know before today you’ve just… skirted around what you think.”
“Okay.” He nodded.
“MacKenzie said some things which I thought were kind of crazy.” Tanith played with the quill, looking back down again and staring at it as if it held all the answers she needed. “But I can’t get them out of my head. Stuff like…” There was a long pause as she lowered her head, running her fingers through her hair. “Like how I only want Tobias when I can’t have him. Like how I’m not playing watchdog for his own good, but because I’m… jealous.”
The words hung in the air between them for a long moment as Gabriel turned them over in his mind. Then he just nodded again. “Okay,” he repeated.
“Okay? Okay?” Tanith sat bolt upright, glaring at him. “I asked you for honesty.”
“And you didn’t ask anything, you just told me,” Gabriel pointed out.
“Well? Is this what everyone else has been thinking? Has this been obvious to absolutely everybody?” The unspoken words dangled pointedly: Except me.
Gabriel made a face. “You asked for honesty.” She nodded, and he sighed. “I can’t speak for everyone. But, yeah. That is what I’ve seen. That you’ve got a… thing for Tobias, and you don’t know how to cope with it, and that’s fine and dandy except for when he’s with someone else. And then you go mad.”
There was yet another pause as Tanith rubbed her temples. “I really wish someone had told me this.”
“I thought you knew,” he admitted. “Your feelings for Tobias have been, I hate to say it, the worst kept secret in Slytherin. Maybe all of our year. I thought you knew.”
“The worst kept secret?” She stared at him in horror. “Does he know?”
“Tobias? Tobias doesn’t know anything about anything.” Gabriel waved a hand dismissively. “Or he’s shoved his head in the sand like you did. The guy might be oblivious, but he’s not an ass, and I think he’d have done something if he knew. Instead of, you know, expecting us to all be happy and shiny around the two of them. That would just be a prickish sort of thing to do, expect you to be okay when he’s shoving the relationship in your face if he knew you had a… thing.” He paused, tilting his head at her. “Is ‘thing’ the right word? Am I doing this girly chat thing properly?” He softened the joke with a gentle smile.
“I don’t know what it is. Pesky feelings. Annoying emotions.” Tanith rubbed her eyes and sighed. “Wow,” she said. “I’m an enormous bitch.”
Gabriel blinked. “Come again?”
“I reject him at the Yule Ball, then I run around like a crazy jealous harpy when he gets with someone else. Then when they break up I do absolutely zilch about it, and throw a massive strop when they get back together. I’m a crazy bitch,” she explained, expression rather dour.
“I’d agree with the crazy part,” he said delicately. “But them I’m the guy seeing the future; what do I know?”
She groaned, looking over at him. “What am I going to do?”
“Well, first things first. Just because it looks like a thing to me and looks like a thing to MacKenzie, that doesn’t mean it’s a thing. We could know absolutely jack shit. So.” Gabriel leaned forwards so it would be harder for her to look away. “How do you feel about Tobias Grey?”
Tanith flinched. “I…”
“How do you feel when he walks into a room? How do you feel when he smiles? Laughs at your jokes? Does something… I don’t know, endearing?” Gabriel smirked, then tapped the side of his nose. “See? Those girly magazines you read for occasional distraction have finally come in handy. Sheer exposure to them means I am, in fact, more useful here than either Melanie or Ariane would be.”
“A plank would be more use than either of them, Doyle, but your assistance is welcome,” Tanith said dryly, before she finally allowed the questions to dance around in her head and she slumped dejectedly. “I… I don’t know.”
He made a small, slightly impatient noise. “Yes, you do. Pretend I’m not here, and talk.”
“Fine.” Tanith sighed, and closed her eyes. There was a long pause, and Gabriel could almost see the thoughts begin to tiptoe to the forefront, creeping into reality along with the faintest hint of a wistful smile on her lips.
“I can be having the crappiest time, and just passing him by in the corridor, or talking to him in class for a few seconds, can make the whole day seem brighter. If I make him smile, I want to do whatever I did over and over again so he smiles more. But it’s not when he laughs, it’s… the little things. The way he nudges his glasses up his nose. The way he gets enthusiastic about things, and rambles about them. The look on his face when he’s thinking about something, like there’s a storm of brilliance going on under the surface, and I could see it if I just reached out…”
Her voice trailed off, but the words had come tumbling in a deluge, as if they had been released from a small, suppressed box for the first time ever, and as she fell silent, Tanith Cole looked deeply ashamed. “I’m screwed, aren’t I.”
“Well.” Gabriel paused, not having anticipated a reaction of such intensity. “I’m no expert, but in my official capacity as an honorary girl… yeah. I’d call that a ‘thing’.”
“The question is,” Tanith said, looking like she wanted to move on from her honest outburst rather quickly, “what do I do from here?”
Gabriel sighed, mulling this over. “Three options, really. The first is to carry on like you’ve been doing.”
Tanith made a face. “I’d rather not go barking mad, if it’s all the same to you.”
“Reasonable.” He nodded. “The second is to, well, pony up and get over him.”
Another scowl. “And the third?”
He leaned back in the chair, falling silent for a few moments as he watched her. His mind felt like it was clogged up from the previous conversation, and there was still a distant thump in his temples. He wasn’t sure if it was just leftovers from that or something else entirely which made the final choice twist in his stomach a little.
“It’s not like he’s married to MacKenzie,” Gabriel said quietly. “And as he doesn’t know how you feel.. it’s not like he’s necessarily making an informed choice.”
Tanith considered this for a moment, rubbing her hands together and now looking rather drawn. “Fight for him?”
“If you want him,” Gabriel said with a small nod. “Then, yes. Fight.”
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