Who: Taliesyn Robards, Idris Robards
Where: Idris’s place
When: 8 February 2002, evening
Everything was alright in Idris’s world. Zacharias Smith’s relationship had imploded like he always thought that it would, and since Mum had been away for three weeks no-one had been asking irritating questions about his own. He really felt ready to take the next step. And so, why not herald the beginning of a glorious new future by letting go of the past?
Tali was not difficult to corner. Idris had sent out a message saying the whole family was having dinner at his place to celebrate Mum and Dad’s return. But he only sent the message out to Tali.
“Where’s everyone else? Am I early?”
“No. No-one else is coming. I want to speak to you.”
The look on Tali’s face was a mixture of surprise (yes, really, even at this late stage in their relationship), growing disgust with oneself and sudden terror. It was priceless.
“So there’s no dinner?” Ever the optimist.
“There’s no dinner. Sit down.”
“But I’m hungry.”
Idris rolled his eyes. “For Merlin’s sake, sit down. You can buy a million dinners after I’ve finished my piece, alright?”
Tali should have turned tail and left, but his curiosity was a little piqued. A million dinners, what? He did sit, but without stripping off either coat or gloves.
“Ah. Yes. Getting to it.” Idris strode to the opposite end of the table. He chose to remain standing, but placed both hands upon it, fingers taut against the grain.
“I realise I may have been a bit unfair to you and I wish to apologise.”
Tali blinked. He was silent for a long time. Idris waited for some kind of catharsis, some kind of acknowledgement of the enormity of what he had just said, a few tears… but none of that was forthcoming. Finally, Tali said: “A bit?”
Idris scowled. “Yes, that’s what I said. I have been a bit unfair to you and I wish to apologise. Don’t make me repeat myself again.”
“You wish to or you’re going to? Because, you know, I wish for a lot of things…”
Tali was not meant to be treating this moment with scepticism and, dare he voice it, derision. “I’m going to,” said Idris, crossly. “I apologise for being a bit unfair to you. I am sorry. There, I said it. I am sorry. OK?”
Tali did not betray much of a reaction. Maybe he was in shock. Idris hoped he’d hurry up and accept his apology; he didn’t have all evening.
“You have tormented me for 20 years.”
Idris’s mouth dropped open. “Oh, for fuck’s sake…” he muttered. He crossed his arms and uncrossed them, not knowing which was the position better suited to keeping his growing annoyance in check. Trust Tali to turn everything into a hideous, drawn-out chore.
He allowed himself an eyeroll. “Stop being dramatic. It was barely anything.”
“It was hardly barely anything,” Tali replied, nostrils flaring a bit. “You have tried your best to make me go to pieces…”
“Well if you weren’t so weak you wouldn’t fall apart so easily…”
“Oh, that’s lovely, that really makes it sound like you’re sincere.”
Idris bit back another retort. “Let’s not quibble,” he said, throwing a hand out as if to draw a line under the conversation so far and start from scratch. “I am sincere. And to prove it, something to compensate you for your…” he couldn’t bring himself to say the word ‘pain’, “…trouble.” He took out a cheque and pushed it over to Tali.
Tali’s mind exploded. He didn’t know how much it was in galleons, exactly, but it must be a sizeable figure. He couldn’t think the last time he saw such a sum with so many zeros tucked in.
“So do you accept?”
“Are you trying to buy my forgiveness?”
“I don’t need your forgiveness, Merlin,” said Idris in exasperation. “Just… just take it, alright? Think of it as a belated Christmas gift, if it makes you feel better.”
“So you aren’t very sorry at all.”
“I knew you would make a huge deal over me saying unkind words to you.”
“Unkind words?” Tali was incredulous. He got out of his seat. “You tried to drown me once.”
“I did not try to drown you.”
“You pushed my head underwater and held it there for a full minute.”
“It wasn’t a minute. Stop exaggerating.”
“It was at least a minute. I could have died.”
“No, you couldn’t have. You can’t drown someone in a minute. Takes at least three.”
“You tried to drown me.”
“I did not bloody try to drown you. It was a spur of the moment decision because you were being bloody irritating, as you always are, and surprise, surprise, just like you are now. If I had wanted to drown you, we couldn’t possibly be having this conversation because I would have succeeded.”
Tali’s face had gone red, but it wasn’t his usual shade. He was shaking. “I couldn’t sleep for weeks afterward.”
“Well, that’s your problem,” said Idris briskly. “Take the money and forget about that day. Forget about all the other days, whatever. I don’t know what the exact exchange rate is but £35,000 is a tidy sum. I don’t see why it can’t sate your psyche.”
“I don’t want your money.”
Idris wanted very much to slap some sense into his brother. “You only have enough to share a house with two other people and your girlfriend works two jobs to get by. Don’t be an idiot. Take it.”
“No. I’m not going to let you buy me out like this,” said Tali stubbornly, arms held tight over his chest. He should feel good about refusing but there was already a little voice in his head that whispered the same as Idris, that he was being a fool for holding out, that even without the financial consideration, rebuffing Idris’s (piss-poor) attempt at reconciliation would simply lead to worse treatment in the future, and if he was going to be unhappy regardless he might as well be unhappy and rich(er).
Tali’s insistence on making life difficult for himself brought a measure of calm to Idris. He let out a casual shrug. “Fine. But you’re just turning down your own money.”
“What do you mean, ‘my own money’?”
“Remember when you got hit by that car? I sued the driver. This is your compensation.”
The gears creaked in Tali’s head. “Is that why you made me stay in that Muggle hospital?”
“Oh, aren’t you clever?” drawled Idris. “Yes, see, it’s very hard to sue when the victim disappears. That’s why it’s in pounds. It’s all there, minus expenses.” He conjured up a piece of paper in front of his brother’s face. Tali glanced at it. It was a table setting out all the separate injuries he had suffered and their corresponding compensation amounts.
“And you couldn’t have given it to me when this actually happened?”
“No, I needed the money then,” said Idris. “And don’t get cocky — I know I said it was your money but there’s no way you could have gotten it without me.”
“I didn’t want the money, I never wanted money,” said Tali in a desperate tone. “I wanted you not to walk away and leave me on the road for dead.”
“Oh, not this melodrama, again. None of your injuries were life-threatening and the Muggles were already swarming around, trying to scrape you off the asphalt.”
“Not life-threatening? It says here, ‘moderate head injury — £7,000’.”
“Yeah, ‘moderate’, not ‘severe’,” said Idris matter-of-factly. This conversation needed to be wrapped up. He had an actual dinner to go to. He strode forward and tried to stick the cheque in Tali’s coat pocket. “Just take it, you’ll feel better. Why don’t you treat yourself to a new cardigan.”
Not only had Idris showed no actual remorse, not only had he tried to buy forgiveness, he had tried to buy forgiveness with his victim’s own money. Something in Tali’s brain just broke. No.
Tali shoved Idris’s hand away.
He took off one of his gloves and threw it down on the table between them. There was a brief silence, only punctuated by Tali’s heaving breathing. Idris remained as impassive as ever.
Idris raised an eyebrow. “Do you really want to do this?”
Tali was faintly seething. He picked the same glove up and slapped Idris in the face with it.
“Technically I’m supposed to do that, but point taken,” said Idris. He smiled for the first time that evening. “I’m free Tuesday morning, if you are,” he said coolly.
Tali gave a barely perceptible nod. “First blood?”
“Psh, no. It’d be over in seconds. How about death…” Idris laughed, “…or, you know, until one of us says stop and begs for mercy?”
Another tiny nod. Tali was finding it hard to speak.
“Fantastic. Well, since you’ve decided to settle the score this way there’s no need for monetary compensation,” said Idris, putting the cheque away. “Now get out. I have somewhere else to be.”
Tali left, one glove on, one glove being held in the hand. It seemed kind of wrong to put it on again. It’d be like pretending everything was right with the world and he wasn’t going to possibly die next Tuesday. See? Wrong.