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Falls the Shadow by Slide
Chapter 37 : The Course of True Love
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 1


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Chapter 37: The Course of True Love

‘You know, patrolling’s not bad,’ said Jacob. ‘If you ignore the Wandless. And the run-down shops. And the fact that the average member of public looks at us like we’re about to wantonly torture them.’

Tanith gave her partner a suspicious look. ‘Apart from all that. Yeah.’

‘I mean that nothing happens in Diagon Alley,’ he said as they wandered down the street. ‘Nobody tries anything. So we don’t have to defend ourselves, we won’t have to take action against some poor innocent who should have known better. We don’t have to be in the office, next to Mulready and Lackardy and all those other bastards.’

She didn’t say anything for long moments, hands still shoved in her pockets. It wasn’t that she disagreed with her partner, so much as she wasn’t especially in the mood to clutch at straws. ‘Why do you stay in the MLE?’

He blinked at her. ‘I don’t think they’d look very well upon my leaving.’

‘Yeah, but... your family’s a Good Family.’

‘And I’d like to keep it that way.’ Jacob’s expression twisted, then he reached out a hand to squeeze her shoulder affectionately. ‘Besides, who’d look after you? I’m still your mentor. I’m still supposed to look out for you. You can’t get out of here.’

Tanith looked at him quickly. ‘If you’re just here for me -’

‘I’m not. I’m here to do what little bits of good I can, to protect my family and, yes, to look out for you. Because you’re my friend, and you’re my responsibility. But don’t you try to pull this martyr thing on me.’ He gave one of his content, easy smiles, and she wondered how he managed to keep it together quite so effectively through such dark times.

Then again, his times hadn’t been as dark as hers.

‘I’m good at it,’ she mumbled. The knot of worry in her gut that had been placed there by David - or, perhaps, by Miles - hadn’t been dismissed by drinks the night before. For the most part, it had just made her head spin worse. ‘You manage to do a pretty good job of keeping your head.’

‘I try,’ said Jacob, but he was too good an Auror to not notice a pointed comment like that. ‘What’s up?’

‘I -’ If she’d struggled telling two girls she’d known for eight years after a lot of whiskey and gin, telling Jacob in broad daylight in the middle of Diagon Alley was no fairer prospect. ‘It’s tough. Keeping a normal life. Normal relationships.’

‘You’ve got yourself a bit on the side?’ He grinned crookedly, nudging her with his elbow. ‘Good for you. We all need those little specks of normalcy.’

Tanith gave a dismissive laugh before she could stop herself, and his gaze became more pointed. ‘Yeah. Normalcy. I know.’ She rubbed her temples. ‘I just - he and I - it’s getting complicated...’

Jacob’s expression went level - encouraging, certainly. Ready to help, certainly. But he was also clearly a little apprehensive about whatever was going to come out next. ‘What, erm, sort of complicated?’

She looked him in the eye. She thought about what was going on. And then she turned away. ‘You know what? It doesn’t matter.’

She thought he looked a little relieved, but Jacob still frowned as he fell into step beside her. ‘I... it only doesn’t matter if you don’t think it does,’ he said.

‘We don’t need to talk about it.’ And then, irrationally, ‘You’ve had girlfriends, right?’

‘That’s not exactly what you’re asking -’

‘It’s close enough.’

Neither one of them made eye contact. Jacob straightened his robes. ‘Yep.’

This conversation would have been a whole lot easier if they weren’t both trained in reading body language and seeing through deception. They knew each other well enough to know when they were bluffing and when they were being sincere, and Tanith had the horrid sensation Jacob had figured out more than she’d let on.

She couldn’t fob him off, though. So it was time to approach this situation from a different direction. ‘I mean no offence, but I’m kind of only talking to you because most of my friends are wanted fugitives.’

‘That’s perfectly fine by me.’

Tanith lifted her hands, giving vague and probably incredibly unhelpfully misleading gestures as she clawed with the words. Let’s take this from a different direction. ‘How’d you figure when was a good time to - take things to the next level?’

‘Being able to talk about it with the other person without being paralysed by euphemisms helps,’ Jacob said, dryly but not unkindly. ‘But, at the risk of being supremely unhelpful, I think you just know.’

She bit her lip. ‘And if you’re not sure?’

‘You can talk to people - you know. Friends. Women.’ He grinned reassuringly even as he fobbed her off, though she took it in the calming spirit it was intended. ‘You can talk with them. You can try to figure out why, really, you’re uncertain, and get to the heart of matters. So there’s only two things I can really tell you.’

Tanith blinked. ‘Two is two better ideas than I have.’

‘The first is that it’s okay to worry, or... or whatever. Nobody’s judging. All you can do is what’s right for you.’ Jacob reached to squeeze her shoulder again. ‘The second is - and I know this might be a whole new way for you too look at the world - but sometimes? You being reluctant isn’t about you having a problem, isn’t about you being wrong, or failing, or whatever other way you’ll try to spin it. Sometimes? Sometimes you know, somewhere in you, if the problem is actually with the other person. And that’s okay, too.’

She let out a deep, uncertain breath, and nodded. ‘You’re right,’ she said at last. ‘Trying to have a non-euphemistic conversation would be a good start.’

------------------------

‘You are going to fold that piece of paper into nothing, my friend.’

Tobias glanced up as Dimitri joined him at the railing at the edge of their terrace, the best spot to enjoy and admire the extensive view across the island - though it wasn’t as if he’d been paying the view any mind. Not for several hours, anyway.

‘What?’ he said, even as he tried to palm the note.

The Russian nodded at his hand. ‘You have been staring at it for hours, then putting it away, then getting it back out again. Does it contain the secret to your success or the like?’ He gave a good-natured smile, softening any blow of his probing.

‘Something like that,’ Tobias murmured, looking down. He drew a deep breath. ‘Why’re you here, Dimitri?’

Dimitri blinked. ‘To see how you are -’

‘No, I mean... in general. Here, in Greece. Helping me.’ Tobias straightened, turning to face him. ‘You don’t have to be. You were assigned originally, but I bet that stopped being obligatory when we left the country.’

‘I want to help.’ Dimitri opened his hands and shrugged. ‘You are a friend. This is a good cause. And the Federation pays for me to be here.’ He nodded at the bright blue sky with a lopsided smile. ‘That is hardly so bad a thing. And you must remember, this is less a case of life and death for me, I must admit it. Whether we succeed or fail, I will still go home and my life will go on.’

‘I suppose,’ said Tobias, frowning at the railing. ‘I do appreciate it, though. Everything you’ve done, everything you’re doing. We’d be in a much worse state if it weren’t for you, and I do know you don’t have to have done... well, anything that you’re doing.’

‘I do,’ said Dimitri. ‘Because the alternative would be to leave you floundering, without protection, without aid. I am sure that Will has many ideas and prospects, but this is something easy that my government can do. That I can do. Somewhere to stay. Somewhere safe. Equipment.’ He waved a hand at the cottage behind them.

‘I have learnt many things in my short time in international diplomacy,’ he continued. ‘The most notable has been that doing the right thing is hard. Many people do not want to. The right thing is often costly. It is difficult. And so often, we do not do the right thing, because it is inconvenient. Right now I have the opportunity to do the right thing, at little expense. So I do it.’

‘I can understand that. I think.’ Tobias’s brow furrowed more. ‘I don’t think I’ve ever been fighting someone else’s fight.’

‘You sound guilty. Do not. It is hardly your fault that the fights came to your front door. Even if you are not at home right now.’ Dimitri cocked his head. ‘But this sounded like a leading question.’

‘What?’

‘Asking why I am here. Why I do what I have done. You do good work, you know. I do believe people are inspired by the words you write, by the news you bring them. Hope is a weapon, and...’

‘I know.’ Tobias rubbed his temples. ‘I don’t... doubt what I’m doing. It’s just sometimes pretty hard to see the benefit. The gain.’

‘Ah. I see. Then think of the little things. The people you have helped individually. And remember that they add up.’

Tobias gave a heavier sigh. ‘I know,’ he repeated, unable to keep a wistful tone from his voice.

‘Is that what this magic note is?’ Dimitri asked, a smile playing about his lips. ‘The reason why you do this?’

‘I think it is,’ he said, a little thickly. ‘The cause is important. Helping people is... important. Fighting back is important, and I want to, and I feel like we’re making a difference, and that’s great, but then, when I struggle to see what the point is, the purpose is, the gain is...’ His hand, at first against his will, went back to pull out the folded-up note again, and his fingers twirled it absent-mindedly. ‘...I think of her.’

‘Tanith.’ Dimitri frowned until Tobias nodded, and his expression cleared with a lopsided smile. ‘I can see how she could be an inspiration.’

Tobias’ frown returned abruptly. ‘...I hate to go all... I mean, this was three years ago... what happened between you two?’

That Dimitri threw back his head and laughed did not help the frown, and he clapped Tobias so hard on the shoulder the other man stumbled, and grabbed the railing with a wince. ‘I am sorry, sorry,’ said Dimitri, sincere in his regret both at jostling an injured man and at laughing in his face. ‘You are just so very earnest, Brain-Box Grey. It was, as you say, years ago. She was a lovely girl and I did enjoy our time together. But it was nothing even a boy could call serious.’

For a brief moment Tobias wanted to demand to know exactly what their “time together” had constituted, but then sanity kicked in, and his shoulders sagged. ‘I apologise. That was both childish and intrusive of me.’

‘There are worse crimes you could commit. Though this is not such a good sign if you two are...’ Dimitri waggled his eyebrows and gestured demonstratively.

Tobias snorted, though it sounded again more wistful than dismissive as he leant on the railing. ‘No. No, we’re not. I don’t know what we are, but we’re not... anything. Communication issues aside, it would be ridiculous to be anything right now. So maybe, maybe... when the war is over... when I can come home...’

Dimitri watched him as his gaze swept back to the fantastic, shimmering horizon of the Mediterranean Sea. ‘You will come back to her?’

‘I’ve wasted so much time. Took so much for granted; I see that now. And now I’m here, and I don’t know if I’ll ever set foot back on British soil, I don’t know if I’ll ever see her again even if I do, and all I can think about when people are fighting and dying is that it’ll all be worth it if I can.’ His shoulders sagged. ‘If I can just tell her... everything.’

‘“Everything” is a long subject.’

Tobias drew a deep breath. ‘It is for her that I’m here, that I do this. When I struggle, it’s the thought of making her life easier, keeping her that little bit more safe - with my work, if I can’t do it myself.’ As if she’d need me to fight for her. But this is a way in which I can fight. ‘And perhaps it’s selfish, and perhaps it’s ridiculous, but between that, and fighting to make it back, it... it gets me through the dark nights when “because it’s the right thing to do” doesn’t quite cut it.’

The two stood in silence for a long time, Tobias frowning as the words spilt past his lips he’d not even consciously realised were there - though they had been, of course. Even saying the words back in November had seemed like a blind stumbling; the truth, eminently the truth, but the entire meeting had become like a dream, as if it had happened to someone else, for all the escape that it had been from his reality and hers.

‘So when you get back,’ said Dimitri, ‘you will tell her this.’

He winced. ‘It’s... complicated.’

‘Is it?’ Dimitri cocked his head. ‘I think not. You find her. Perhaps somewhere normal, like the street. Perhaps take her somewhere nice - take her here. You take her hand, you look her in the eye, and you tell her that everything you have done - defying Lord Voldemort himself, risking life and limb to bring hope and truth to the people of Britain, fighting and suffering the scars and wounds of your trials - has been for her, and for the love of her.’

He had straightened as he spoke, puffing up his chest and gesturing with a self-aware, melodramatic air, and by the time he finished he was wearing a broad, jocular - but sincere - grin.

Tobias couldn’t help but return it, and punched him on the arm lightly. ‘So nothing understated.’

‘You have come back from the dead, my friend. Understated is for lesser mortals.’ Dimitri’s grin, if anything, became even toothier. ‘And then she swoons, and then you have a lovely sunset. See?’ He nodded at the horizon, and indeed the rays of the sun were beginning to grow orange, this late in the day.

I don’t think Tanith Cole has ever swooned in her life. Tobias gave his own lopsided smile. ‘Are you trying to tell me how to sweep a girl off her feet, Dimitri, or are you trying to sweep me off mine?’

‘It would be unfair to her for me to present myself as competition,’ said the big Russian, mock-preening. ‘But you do it, hmm, Tobias? When it is over. You remember these moments, where you would give anything to be able to tell her, and do not - when you could, any day, go up to her and do it - find excuses to not.’

‘I’ll try,’ said Tobias, and he meant it, but then he straightened and picked up his cane. ‘But in the meantime, we’ve got a war to win.’


----------------


‘Hey.’ It was such a simple, deceptive word, but it was all Tanith could manage.

David stood in the doorway to his flat, expression concerned. ‘Hey yourself. Come in.’

She wrung her hands together as she walked into the flat, and didn’t take her coat off, even when he closed the door behind her. It was mid-April by now, and not so cold outside, but she still had not abandoned Altair’s coat for something cooler, lighter. ‘I’m sorry I... about last time. Can we talk?’

‘Sure. Of course.’ He nodded, awkward but sincere, and waved her towards the chairs. ‘Do you want a drink?’

Her head had throbbed all day after the drinks with Ariane and Melanie. Whiskey gave her the worst hangovers. ‘No - no, thank you.’

There were several long seconds of silence as the two sat opposite one another on the armchairs, David’s stance clearly awkward and concerned, Tanith trying to gather thoughts and words which she’d believed she’d mastered before coming here - but right here, right now, they were failing her.

‘I’m sorry I bolted so quickly. That wasn’t fair. I guess I keep on owing you explanations...’

‘It’s okay,’ said David. ‘I know things are... I know your life is...’

‘It is, but it’s not really about that.’ I don’t even know what it’s about. ‘I’m sorry, this is proving... tough to... put into words...’

‘I understand - how about if I go first?’

She looked up with surprise, not having considered that he might go at all, that he might have anything to say, and apprehension tightened in her gut. ‘Um. Okay.’

David leaned forward, clasping his hands in his lap. ‘You mentioned... a while ago... this friend of yours. The one who’s abroad, printing his paper. You indicated that the two of you have... history, and that it’s pretty complicated considering the Occupation and him being an exile and all, and I get that. And I appreciate you being honest with me...’ He rolled a shoulder. ‘But then I began to wonder. I mean, when all of this is over for you. If he comes back...’

‘I’m not going to suddenly ditch you because a “better” offer comes along,’ said Tanith a little indignantly, and was almost surprised to find that she meant it.

He looked like he might have even believed her. ‘That’s not entirely what I mean. It’s not just this guy. It’s everything. It’s your life. You say that right now I shouldn’t go anywhere near your life, your world, because it’s not safe, and I understand that. But what about when it becomes safe. What then? Are you just going to... walk down the wizards’ streets with me, like everything’s normal?’

Tanith’s expression sank slowly. ‘I can’t say I’ve thought about it.’

‘Am I just going to... be the non-magic guy at magic dinner parties?’ David shifted his weight awkwardly. ‘I mean, do people do that? Magic people and non-magic people? The worlds... intertwining?’

‘I know it... happens...’

‘Does it happen to you?’ he asked quietly, firmly. When her shoulders slumped, he made a face. ‘Do I have a place in your life when it becomes less complicated? When you don’t worry about your safety or the safety of people around you? When you want to live a normal life, do I fit in it in any way?’

She drew an awkward breath. ‘I don’t know.’

‘No. I don’t either. I know I’m a port in a storm for you. I know we’ve just... found things in one another which we’ve needed. And, you know. Still need.’

‘I don’t -’ Panic bubbled in her briefly. ‘I can’t just walk out of here and not come back. I did that once, it was stupid, you - we -’ I need you. I don’t know what it means, or in what way, but I...

David lifted his hands. ‘Woah, I didn’t mean we stop having anything to do with one another...’ He gave a wry smile. ‘This is silly and messed up, huh?’

My specialty. ‘Actually,’ Tanith sighed, ‘this might be the least silly and messed up thing that ever happened to me.’ She leant forwards a little. ‘My life is messed up. In lots of different ways. And you’ve been a calm in that, an escape. Me fleeing the other night - like most of the bad things I’ve done to you - wasn’t about you, it was about me. I do trust you.’

He bobbed his head. ‘I’m glad.’

‘And you’re not... wrong.’ She scrubbed her face with her hands. ‘I could make it happen. A relationship, something long-term, when peace comes - if peace comes. But it wouldn’t be easy. I’ve just not thought about it, at all. I’ve not dared think about the future in that way.’

‘I get that,’ David agreed. ‘It just... occurred. Since we’re sort of dancing around taking things to a deeper level, I realised we’ve not had any kind of conversation about where this is... going.’ He looked away briefly, pained. ‘And I don’t know if where your life is going is anywhere I fit in.’

‘I was just planning on taking things a day at a time, myself.’ Tanith bit her lip. ‘I’m sorry. I know that’s not a very helpful answer.’

He reached out to take her hand, anxious and apprehensive, but reassuring. ‘I can’t say I knew what I was getting myself into with you - but that’s the point, I knew I didn’t know, I knew it would be messy. And I’m not going to turn my back on you just because there’s no obvious future. There’s never been an obvious future. You’re right; all we can do is take things one day at a time.’

‘So... where do we go from here?’

He stood up, and there was something that had changed, she could see it in his stance. His shoulders were a little tenser, his expression a bit more pinched. He was still here. His eyes were still locking on hers with that spark, there was still that playful grin about his lips. But walls were coming up, walls to protect himself when things inevitably went wrong, and Tanith had the sneaking suspicion that those walls would mean any lingering emotional damage she’d done herself on an ill-advised night with Miles Bletchley could remain quiet and hidden for a while longer.

Still, he crossed over towards her and extended a hand. ‘How about dinner?’


----------------


‘If you keep hovering outside that door,’ Tom told Gabriel as he emerged from the second bedroom in the girls’ tent, ‘then how can you expect me to work?’

Gabriel quirked an eyebrow at the Lions’ best wizard when it came to healing spells. ‘I disturb you even through walls? I’m impressed.’

Cal clapped a hand on his shoulder. ‘How is she?’

Oh, yeah. Concern first, sniping at idiot Gryffindors later.

Tom wiped his hands off with a towel passed to him by Diana. ‘She’ll be fine. The arrow did go right through the shoulder, but I managed to get it out without causing more damage and the flesh is knitting together nicely. I can’t make it all go away overnight, but I can set the healing process in motion. She should rest, she shouldn’t move, and within a few days, maybe a week, she should be good as new.’ He frowned. ‘I should have been there with you.’

‘What, Tom, so you could get shot too and leave us all in the crapper?’ Cal shook his head. ‘It was right to leave you here. Especially now Jen’s going to be out of action for a bit.’

‘Yeah - speaking of which, we got a new report coming in from Grey. His informants are suggesting there’s going to be a Detector squad standing by in Grimsby when he’s going to be making his way back from the European Conference next week. I think he’s implying that he’d like us to make sure there’s no goon squad waiting to make a grab for him if some window of opportunity opens up.’

Cal gave a rather feral grin. ‘Grimsby, huh. I did fancy a trip to the seaside.’

‘Yeah.’ Tom also smirked. ‘As I say, he’s implying, not outright asking, but I think his meaning is clear. You know, if we’ve got time.’

Gabriel gave them both sideways glances. ‘You boys have fun with that. Can I see her?’

‘What?’ Tom blinked and looked back at him. Disapproval flickered over his face, albeit briefly. ‘Oh. Sure. She’s awake.’

The second bedroom in the girls’ tent still had bunkbeds in it, two along either wall, and had been used briefly for storage while the few girls of the Lions used the other room. Now that it had become an infirmary, other places had quickly been found for the Lions’ equipment, the top of one of the bunks had been removed, and the place lit with gloomy, allegedly soothing candles, as if these would help the healing process.

And then there was her. Jen Riley, bundled under blankets as if they could bestow regenerative traits, her shoulder bundled up with bandages doused in alchemical healing aids, pale and sleepy in the gloom.

But alive.

He gave a wan smile as he saw her. ‘How, uh, are you feeling?’

‘Like I got shot with an arrow. I don’t recommend it.’ She returned the smile, weak. ‘Are you okay?’

‘Am I okay?’ He went to pull up the stool by the bed Tom had vacated. ‘You yank me out of the path of an arrow, get shot by it yourself, and you ask if I’m okay?’

‘Yeah. Well. Better for me to get shot in the arm than you to get shot in the face. You’re the golden goose, remember?’

His smile faded and he looked down at his hands. ‘The golden goose couldn’t pull that one off.’

‘It was a long shot, but it was worth trying, and we came closer than anyone could have expected or hoped. I hope Cal’s not blaming himself. It was a good idea.’

‘No, he’s...’ Gabriel paused and frowned. ‘I guess he’s leaving all of the guilt to me.’

‘Why, because you couldn’t break down centuries of oppression, hostility, and distrust in a five minute meeting?’ Even though she was weak, it was she who reached out with her good hand to clasp his. ‘I think they’ll remember your words.’

‘I lied.’

‘But your point wasn’t wrong.’

He scowled. ‘So when we lose this war due to a lack of numbers and a lack of resources, and the Ministry come for the centaurs in their isolation, then they’ll remember my words. Comforting.’

Jen inexplicably smiled, and the expression lit up her pale face. ‘Did you just come in here to complain at me? I’m horribly injured, you know.’

Gabriel looked down again, shame-faced. ‘I’m sorry. I’m just - I’m really glad you’re okay.’ He gave a one-shouldered shrug. ‘I guess that would be obvious. You know.’

‘I know.’ He looked up, and their eyes met for a few long, lingering moments, before she took a deep breath. ‘You saw something,’ she said at last. ‘Right before you kissed me.’

He hesitated, but remembered lying about his visions hadn’t been doing him much good lately. ‘I saw me kissing you,’ Gabriel admitted. ‘And figured there was no time like the present.’

‘That’s an interesting way to look at a precognitive vision.’ Her lips twitched. ‘Are you sure it was there and then you saw? Because, I might be no Seer, but this whole scenario seems kind of familiar to me...’

His heart leapt into his throat at the outright request, and permission, and for a few moments all he could do was work his jaw wordlessly, gaping. ‘I, um, I mean...’

She smiled even more, and tightened her grip on his hand. ‘I can’t sit up, Gabe, give a girl a break.’

‘Oh, so you’re asking me to be all chivalrous and gentlemanly,’ he said, joking suddenly the easiest thing to do, even as he leant down. ‘You should know that’s not my forte.’

‘I know, I was the one who had to take an arrow for you; that’s totally the wrong way... round...’

Then he pressed his lips against hers, gentle, gentler than he’d been in the warehouse office, and this time there was no frantic tension, no panic that, when the moment ended, it would be lost and gone forever.

And somehow that made the moment feel endless, and even though the kiss had been softer, more languid, less heated and desperate, he felt almost more breathless at the end of it. ‘...thank you.’

She quirked an eyebrow. ‘Thank you? You have to work on your romantic declarations, you know...’

‘I mean for taking an arrow for me.’ He brushed his nose against hers, and marvelled at such affectionate simplicity.

‘Is that really what you want to talk about right now?’

‘No,’ he agreed, and kissed her again. But much as he would have been happy to enjoy this second, peerless moment, he couldn’t help but pull back after a few seconds, resting his elbows on the bed and keeping her hand firmly gripped in both of his. ‘...what’s brought this on?’

‘Getting shot helps,’ said Jen, then sighed. ‘I just did some thinking. And some beating myself up. And took some advice.’

He frowned. ‘Advice? From who?’

‘Whom,’ she corrected absent-mindedly. ‘Katie.’

‘I’m surprised I’ve not been strung up by my balls, then.’

‘She doesn’t mind you, you know.’ She squeezed his hand. ‘I think she wants me to be happy.’

‘I’d kinda like that, too.’ The corner of his mouth twitched. ‘So that’s good. Because I’m not... I mean, just to jump the gun here, but there’s no way I’m going to be your secret bit on the side.’

Jen quirked an eyebrow. ‘My what?’

‘You know. Here to entertain and service you when you demand it, but to all and sundry in the public I’d be nothing more than your crazy prophetic adviser.’ He waggled his eyebrows and she laughed, but slowly he sobered. ‘I mean, I know you worry about what the others would think. But it’s great that Katie doesn’t seem so bothered, and, you know - I don’t care what anyone else thinks.’

She gave a softer smile. ‘I know. And I don’t... intend to keep you secret.’

‘Good. Because I made a promise, you see.’ He smiled again. ‘I spent a lot of time watching my friends, and how they’ve handled their love lives, and it’s been enlightening. Really enlightening. So I promised myself, if I was in a situation where I had to make a romantic choice, I would never pick one which any of them would pick.’

She laughed quietly. ‘I’d forgotten about Cal and Nat’s Worst Kept Secret.’

‘Worst kept? None of us knew!’

‘I guess he was better at keeping it secret than her. Katie was in with the Secret Quidditch Information Underground and so it filtered through that way. You Slytherins were all so isolated.’

‘And indifferent. Don’t forget indifferent.’ He lifted her hand, kissing the inside of her palm, revelling in how he could make such a gesture as he wished. ‘Huh. This is weird.’

‘What?’

‘This feeling. I think it’s happiness.’ He made a face at her. ‘You’re not going to tell anyone about that, are you?’

‘I don’t...’ Her smile grew a little more serious, though it didn’t face. ‘It’s not like we’re going to be able to have anything normal, Gabe. And I’m going to have to ask you to be patient with me. I’m working out... stuff. I’m not just going to forget about Nick -’

‘I know, I know.’

‘...and I still have to be responsible for the Lions. We’re still on the run. We’re still fighting a war. Nothing about this is going to be... normal.’

‘Good,’ decided Gabriel, and leant down to kiss her on the forehead. ‘Because of all the things I can cope with, “normal” isn’t anywhere near the list.’



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