Characters: Katie Bell/Marcus Flint, various characters and OCs
Warnings: Angst, fluff, poor childhoods, language, sexual content
Word Count: 12 784
Summary: Sent to his exiled Squib Aunt's home whenever his tyrannical father is displeased, Marcus meets a spunky Muggle girl that sends his world spinning.
Disclaimer: Not mine! No money is being made here!
Author's Notes: Written for the Prompt List over on bell_flint, "An AU where one of them does NOT have magic yet still catches the eye of the other."
Author's Notes 2: I HATE endings! Where the hell are my Girl Guide cookies?!!
Eight Years Old
Aunt Melania Flint smiled entirely too much. She wore strange clothes and constantly tried to ruffle his hair and kiss him goodnight. There were no house elves in her cottage (which, compared to Flint Manor, was a dilapidated shack) and so Marcus was expected to make his own bed and help with daily meals—in short, act like the indentured servant that his father had accused him of being. Malcolm Flint had mightily scorned young Marcus' interest in broom maintenance and sent him away in disgust to spend his summer in the company of Muggles on an island of no importance off the south coast of England. There would be no flying, no spells. Marcus may as well have been sent to live leashed in a kennel.
He had seen pictures of his Aunt before, Malcolm's older sister who was a disappointment in every sense of the world—(not only was she stupid enough to be born a Squib, Melania had never married thus keeping the Flint family oath-bound to provide for her welfare)—and in his dull frame of reference Marcus found it odd that siblings should look so dissimilar. She had the requisite raven black hair and height, but her eyes were dark as well and upon meeting each other the orbs twinkled in delight and warmth, something that Malcolm's had never done. In any event it wasn't hard to express his father's hatred towards her: Marcus was going to miss out on Terrence Higgs' Solstice celebrations, and as Higgs was the only boy who didn't treat Marcus like he was out to eat him, the young Flint was more than full of rage when Melania asked him to dry the lunch dishes. He was in a high sulk.
Marcus didn't fit in with Melania's flowers and wicker furniture or her clucking chickens in the backyard, and her plates—unlike his family's fine china designed with the Flint coat of arms—didn't match and neither did her petite mugs. His large, mostly uncoordinated hands felt awkward passing such doll accessories into her empty cupboards, and his dark attire contrasted completely with her mauve and yellow colour scheme. Melania drank chamomile tea at all hours so Marcus was not surprised when she put on the kettle an hour later, rubbing his shoulder in an irritatingly affectionate way as she passed where he sat at the table in sullen silence, reading one of her disgusting Muggle books on something called rugby.
Marcus startled at the screeching cry, his large knobby legs knocking against the round kitchen table and upsetting the oddly shaped sugar bowl that only ever held sugar cubes and a sprig of lilac. There was a slapping sound of small shoes on the stone pathway that led up to the cottage door which suddenly burst open to emit a tiny blond whirlwind; Melania's long arms were open to receive and the girl in a rainbow shirt and blue jogging pants jumped into with a squeal, allowing his Aunt to spin her around the room, dropping a multitude of kisses upon her bright pink cheeks chapped by the unavoidable ocean breeze that seemed to blow continuously over the island. The girl was smiling and giggling merrily until she finally noticed Marcus when her sounds stopped and she stared agog at him with her big blue eyes, hands draped around his Aunt's shoulders. Marcus scowled. It only emphasized his wide set jaw and protruding teeth. He barely acknowledged the equally blond woman who entered on the girl's heels, out of breath and holding a lacy white shawl in one hand.
"I told her to wait Mel! Lord, the wind just picked up there for a—" She cut herself off abruptly, just noticing Marcus as well. "Oh. Hello there." Melania only smiled and rubbed the girl's back slightly while Marcus stared a black hole into the pine floor.
"Katie," she spoke sweetly, in the way adults speak to the very young but in a way no one had ever spoken to Marcus. "This is Marcus, my nephew. You remember I told you he was coming to visit the summer?" The girl must have nodded because Melania continued with a light tone. "He's going to need someone to show him around, someone smart and brave—"
"Mimi!" the girl giggled once again as Melania tickled her strategically. "You know I'm smart!"
"That's good, because Marcus pretends to be scary but actually he's very nice."
Eight year old Marcus had heard enough, and as Melania placed Katie back on her feet he roughly dropped the rugby book on the table and pushed back his chair.
"I don't need a babysitter and I don't want to walk around this stupid island!" It was the most he had said at one time in two days but his Aunt merely raised a black eyebrow that reminded Marcus so much of his father that unconsciously his shoulders began to turn in. The other woman said nothing in the silent pause that followed Marcus' outburst but the girl Katie approached him, one hand playing with the end of her ponytail.
"Sometimes I need one in London but not here." Marcus had no time to move back from her grasping hand as it flew out to latch hold of his wrist. "I can show you the big wasps nest behind Miss Kelly's and there's lots of oaks and we can skim rocks down on the beach and. . ." She was trying to pull a very reluctant Marcus out the door.
"Just stay away from the cliffs Katie," the other woman nodded.
"Yes Mummy! And maybe we can play football with Johnny and his mates when we get to town, you're big so they'll let you. . ." Marcus had no idea what she was talking about and had no intention of interacting with any other Muggle children. Too refined to roll his eyes, he simply dug his heels in and stood his ground, letting Katie pull on his arm ineffectually.
"I'm not going anywhere," he grumbled. "I don't want to see any stupid—"
He met Melania's hard look with an inward cringe. She looked from him to Katie and back again, and while her eyes still twinkled it was with a backing of steel that meant that yes indeed Marcus was going out and that if anything happened to this loud obnoxious baby there would be hell to pay and football would be the least of his worries. Lowering his big dark head, Marcus' narrowed green eyes watched the girl's blue striped sneakers as she led them out of the cottage and down the stone path out of Melania's yard.
"And Mister Owen'll give us a sweet if we go in to say hi and Hey! That's a pretty flower! There's 'posed to be an eagle up by the lighthouse. I don't think that's true but we can go see tomorrow. And Miss Francis has five puppies and two lambs and about a dozen kittens and I saw all of them so I know that's true. . ."
". . .and then Jack hid and the big ugly giant yelled Fe Fi Fo Fum I smell the blood of an Englishman!"
Marcus watched he blond girl with barely concealed disgust. No matter what she thought he wasn't stupid. He was big and ugly but he wasn't stupid and he'd heard variations on this ridiculous story before. Of course when Daphne and Miles tell it 'Jack' is already incredibly rich and is hunting down trolls on a mission from Merlin himself. At least Katie's version had some clap trap with magic beans and a poor mother, a little more reason to be stealing gold. It still didn't stop the sting that she was telling this particular story for his benefit, because of his appearance. Muggles.
She ended the tale with a loud KABOOM as Jack chopped down the fast-growing beanstalk and the giant died a gruesome death and good was rewarded. Stupid Muggles. He gripped fistfuls of long grass and pulled, tossing the lush green off to either side and digging his heels into the ground beneath him; they sat underneath a large tree with roots that bulged and curled like petrified snakes. There was too much sunshine beating down on his head and there were annoying birds chirping from somewhere up above. Katie was beaming at him however.
"What?" Marcus grunted, tearing up more grass. Stupid nature.
"You liked it right?" she made a move, kind of like jumping up and down but with her knees. Why was she so happy? Merlin, she never shut up! "I mean, it had a fight and boys like that—Is that a chipmunk!" Eight year old Marcus rolled his emerald eyes and watched contemptuously as she hopped around the oak, intermittently pointing and squealing. None of the kids he knew acted like that. Marcus brought his knobby legs up to his chest and rested his chin on his knees. He wished he was home with his broom, flying around the grounds. And he'd get a cup of cocoa before bed if Jelly wasn't delivering papers for his father. . .Marcus rubbed his cheek haphazardly and sniffed.
". . .climb the tree?!"
He snapped his head in the blond girl's direction, glaring. "Well?" Katie looked at him expectantly, all big blue eyes and pink cheeks. "You're the tallest boy ever! Can you climb the tree or not?" Marcus didn't know why he felt flattered by her words, said without a sneer or postscript on how he was also the meanest, ugliest, slowest. He gave her a minute to reconsider but even when the pause dragged out he didn't move, instead responding with thick disdain.
"Why would I want to climb a tree?"
Katie frowned, then inexplicably broke into giggles like he'd just made a joke, little fingers going up to her mouth before she bounded back to him, staring down goggle-eyed. As close as she was Marcus could see that her blue pants had grass stains on the knees and there was a hole near the hem of her shirt. A poor Muggle. Merlin, what was Aunt Melania doing associating with people like this? She pointed.
"Can you get up to that high branch? You could pretend to look for the singing harp and the hen and then when I come in—" she raised her arms up in a curve and growled—"you can hide in the leaves and. . ."
Marcus' brow furrowed in confusion and he shook his head, cutting off her incessant chatter the only way he knew how: harshly.
"Just shut it!" He made a slashing gesture with his hand and didn't feel bad when her jaw clamped, bottom lip unsure. Marcus shook his head again and lowered his hand back to the grass. "What are you saying? You. . .you want me to be Jack?" The smile bounced back as if nothing cruel had happened which Marcus didn't understand at all. She should have retaliated, should have come back with a threat of her own, should have walked and left him alone. Katie would be eaten alive in his much superior world.
Unless this was the punch line. Marcus frowned harder and repeated himself.
"You want me to be Jack."
"Yup!" she nodded vigorously. "I'm always the giant, he has the best lines!"
Stumped. Marcus hadn't been expecting that at all.
"How old are you anyway."
"I'll be six next week! Wanna come to my birthday party?!"
"Back again Ding-a-Ling?"
Having grown up with laughter directed at him by wealthy patricians creative and uninspired alike, Marcus wasn't at all taken aback by the mousy haired plebeian who stood arrogantly at the head of a group of a dozen mousy haired plebeians, couple gingers. They were on a well-beaten field, two ratty net things on either end; it was just outside 'town' and Marcus knew Miles and Bole would never have stepped foot on such a pitiful field. The Quidditch pitches in Old Harlow were better than this!
Tiny Katie stood with folded arms a step in front of him in an obviously mistaken form of protection. Marcus didn't need her help and didn't understand why she had insisted he come meet these idiot Muggles. It wasn't like he was actually looking for friends. He was on this island as punishment and he'd take it like a man: complaining under his breath constantly.
"Can Marcus play forward Johnny? He's fast, he'd make a really good forward."
The laughter was riotous for no good reason. Well. . .Marcus was staring at the blond girl slack jawed, looking all but fast in his state of incomprehension. What the bloody hell was a 'forward'?! The group, led by Johnny holding an odd black and white ball, was moving closer, still snickering. Katie titled her head up to meet the boy's mocking eyes, her chin pushed out stubbornly.
"Fatty doesn't look like he could chase a ball if his life depended on it." Marcus felt his cheeks go red but he rolled his eyes anyway and didn't comment. That was original. He wasn't going to talk to these lower life forms. "Go home and play with your dolls Ding-a-Ling, no one wants you here." Apparently Katie wasn't going to be so easily persuaded and she stamped her foot.
"Let me play goal Johnny! Dick's sick anyway and you know it!"
The boys laughed some more and most trailed off to their places on the field in some random order Marcus couldn't decipher. This had been a horrible idea and when he got back to Aunt Melania's he was going to tell her to let him hibernate for the rest of the summer. No more stupid Muggle children and no more little girls dragging him around.
"Let me play Johnny! I'm good!"
Johnny spit at her feet before turning away and Katie made a face, gasping.
"I'm gonna tell your Mum!"
Johnny's response was to drop his ball and kick it right at Katie's head.
She wasn't as good at playing goal as she thought.
The blond girl dropped like a stone, screeching on the ground and holding her face and Marcus moved on Johnny like a tank. There was no thought to it, no consideration or weighing the odds at how quickly the other boys could regroup. With Katie's sobs resounding in his ears Marcus put all his bulk into pushing the skinnier Johnny to the ground, knocking the wind out of the startled boy and his head on the beaten earth. Marcus used his appearance to his advantage, growling at the other boy and pointing one meaty fist.
"You hurt her again and I'll rip your bloody eyes out."
Katie weighed next to nothing as he picked her up, thin arms locking around his neck and jogging pants legs going around his waist automatically while huge tears streamed down her now mottled cheeks. She dug her face into his shoulder and didn't look up until they were safely inside Aunt Melania's cottage where Katie's Mum took over and Marcus was obliged to submit to interrogation.
"Why do they call her Ding-a-Ling?" he mumbled later that evening. They were sat down for supper—ham sausages and mash, with milk for him and a mug of wine for Melania, a bowl of fresh rolls between them—and Marcus was keeping a careful eye on his plate. He had found the rugby book in his room after his earlier adventure and it was still there, now under his pillow. Melania lowered her one of a kind mug and shrugged her elegant shoulders softly.
"Katie's last name is Bell. I suppose they think it's funny." Marcus barely acknowledged this answer but didn't protest when she reached over and touched his black hair. "Have boys ever called you names like that?"
"And girls." His shoulders turned in again without his knowing, face still averted but voice mostly inflectionless. "They call me 'Troll'." Melania nodded slowly without much change in her expression. She didn't remove her hand.
"They called me names too you know." After a minute of silence, where Marcus didn't ask for further details and didn't continue the conversation, Aunt Melania sat back and finished her meal. He was confused and conflicted, could still feel little hands and feet digging into his back, and couldn't stop thinking of her words by the oak tree after he had raced up and down it's heavy limbs.
"Oh that was so fast Marcus! You should play the hero all the time!"
Thirteen Years Old
Marcus watched Katie toss another speckled stone into a brown puddle, one of hundreds that dotted the dirt road between town and his Aunt's cottage. She was grinning he supposed, given the bounce of her knees; her floppy yellow rain hat and oversized matching slicker encompassed her small body, blocking out her features unless she chose to look up, which, despite the downpour, she did with alarming frequency—alarming because of how the drops splashed against her eyelids and rolled down her chin. It must have caused her some discomfort and yet she continued to raise her face and smile.
He stood with the red floral print umbrella he had accepted from Melania under complete duress held vice-like in his calloused grip. Back home there would have been water repelling charms or bloody proper black sunshades or his perfectly tailored multifaceted robes that water just glossed over like a duck's back. Marcus had to make do with a poncy tan pea coat his Aunt had supplied and ancient galoshes that soaked his toes when submerged. It was like she hadn’t grown at all in the past five years, all tiny and fragile and pretty bloody helpless; the get-up was icing on the cake of how awkward he felt towering over a little girl. Marcus had shot up another foot though it hadn't helped his face, his large jaw or teeth.
It hadn't helped him secure a spot on the House Quidditch Team.
Marcus had almost committed a cardinal sin and begged his Father not to send him away: how was he going to improve on the broom if he was sent away to a Muggle island? How was he going to improve his Transfiguration chants if he couldn't use a bloody wand? Damn McGonagall! She's never liked me! Damn Gryffs, all the bloody same! It was embarrassing to be sent back here and Marcus had no answers for Higgs or acquaintances when they asked—some snidely—where he was going for three months. If they knew. . .if they knew he was related to a Squib. . .
"I got a new bike for my birthday," Katie spoke loudly over the rain, continuing their way down the path. It was on the tip of Marcus' tongue to ask what a 'bike' was but he had learned his lesson from his last summer on the island. Just nod along to whatever nonsense she spieled and everything would be fine. Mostly. Luckily this time Katie didn't seem to require an answer. "Well my Da gave it to me before I left so it's still back at his place." Marcus furrowed his brow. Conversation with Katie was much easier than with his Slytherin housemates; he had realized she was surprisingly—stupidly—honest in what she said, no real artifice, and thus he needn't guard himself or expressions with the Muggle as he would at home. But now he was confused. Marcus had assumed Katie's father was dead.
"I thought you lived with your Mother?" Katie's laughter was light.
"Only when I come here Marcus! I stay with Da in London." Still plodding along Katie seemed to cut herself off; she stuffed her hands into the deep front pockets, water dribbling off her hat in rivulets. "'Course he's at work most of the time. I see Felicia more than him."
Unexpectedly Katie kicked at the ground, sending up a spray that splattered the yellow coat. Marcus had dipped the umbrella down quickly, covering himself from the mud. "Damn it Katie, what'd you do that for?!"
"Don't curse at me Marcus! I'm sorry!" But she stomped her foot again which did splash Melania's coat. You haven't heard cursing Katie! Before he could yell some more the rain disappeared, just like a switch had been turned off, and the billowing grey that had coated the sky all week opened to reveal piercing rays of light that shot down, arrows from above. Katie's hands came up to remove her hat while Marcus shook out his umbrella with a curl of revulsion to his upper lip. He hated the weather here, he hated the claustrophobia that threatened, and he hated that he had no choice at all over the situation.
His feet were surrounded by wet wool. Disgusting.
"I'm sorry Marcus," Katie mumbled, folding her arms, material squeaking. "I'm sorry I got your coat dirty." It wasn't her usual sincerity, though he believed she was contrite; there was an under layer of petulance. He remembered Wood and the miserable ginger Weasley's laughing when Higgs had slipped performing a dive, crashing into Marcus out on the pitch and sending up turf. Hooch had broken up the fight before anything serious could happen and still his first instinct was to lash out. Instead Marcus gave Katie a small shove, which still had her wobbling, and started waking again. When he didn't feel as angry for his current lot in life Marcus broke the companionable silence.
"So who's Felicia?"
"Da's girlfriend. . .They're getting married in September and I'll have to stay with Leanne for two weeks while they're in Paris."
"But your mother—"
"I'd miss too much school if I stayed out here with Mum." Katie shrugged then looked up at him and smiled. "Staying with Leanne won't be bad. She has three older sisters an' they're boss and promised they'd take us swimming and Leanne's Mum just had twins so I'll get to help out, and they have a couple cats and. . ."
As Katie persisted on the various worthy virtues of this Leanne friend and the litter that comprised her family, Marcus was almost glad that Katie hadn't answered his question though he remained confused. He hadn't been thinking about her education troubles or issues of transportation. What Marcus didn't understand was how Katie's father would remarry with his wife—well, with Katie's mother still alive? There were marriages of convenience. There were marriages that began with a semblance of affection and then sputtered out. Men had mistresses. Women had affairs and society work. Husbands or wives died.
Marcus' Mother had died.
He shook his head and gratefully followed when Katie—changing the subject of her diatribe—spotted what she believed to be a falcon swooping in the direction of the lighthouse.
"You're quiet this evening."
Marcus stared levelly at his Aunt from under dark lashes, not deigning to respond to that remark as he knew perfectly well he was always quiet, morning or evening. Unlike some girls he knew, Marcus didn't need to run his mouth twenty-four-seven. They looked at each other for several moments in silence until he returned to his plate and continued eating. "Did you and Katie have fun today?" He shrugged and grunted an affirmative. Melania inhaled and reached for her wine. "That's good. She missed you."
From the top of his black mop to the fingers curled around his fork to his frozen feet, Marcus' entire body clenched.
". . .What?"
Melania didn't seem to notice his discomfort. She simply nodded and picked at her spinach, plucked fresh from the garden.
"Well she hasn't seen you in five years Marcus. To a little girl that's an eternity! She was upset when you didn't come back. Crying, moped around for weeks that first—"
"She should've forgotten about me then! Just like her parents forgot each other!" The fork hit the plate with a porcelain clatter and Marcus' hands became fists. "She's only a stupid Muggle anyway, and a girl! I forgot she existed the moment I arrived home!" Feeling himself going red in the face, Marcus shoved his plate halfway across the table and ran upstairs. He hadn't known! How was he—No one had told him! Melania hadn't written!
Katie. . .
It was her own fault! Stupid girl! Stupid bloody Muggle! Moping over him? Ridiculous! If she wanted to waste her own time that was well enough but why involve his Aunt?! Her Muggle mother probably complained about it all the time to Melania and she was only bringing it up tonight to show how crazy he'd been to see her as anything other than a pet to be taken care of—Marcus stopped with his hand on the oiled railing, gripping tightly and shaking and suddenly not knowing which way was up or down. They had only known each other a few months. She was barely out of nappies. . .
Marcus' jaw twisted and he blinked rapidly. For no reason.
He heard Melania's sandal steps come up behind him and there was a gentle hand on his head.
"I thought I'd put a basket together for you both. It's supposed to be a lovely day tomorrow."
"And Marcus. . .Katie's parents didn't forget about each other. They were just happier apart, happier just being friends." Her fingers ran along his shoulder and then fell away. "A friend isn't a weakness Marcus. And no matter what my brother might say, it is possible to find one."
". . .Goodnight Aunt Melania."
Fifteen Years Old
Marcus had been chopping wood all day.
Melania had volunteered his services for old man Owen down at the shop, supplementing his coal stock with thick chunks of log that Marcus uncharitably hoped would smoke him out of house and home. He had then been sent in Eugenia Kelly's direction, avoiding the wasps that perpetually congregated around the woman's property while he cut and chopped and carried wood from the forest to her dirty, ill-kept shed, (which Marcus would sped most of the summer rebuilding after commenting on t to his Aunt). Miss Kelly had a cap of tight white curls, a hunched back, and insisted on pinching his cheek after he brought in the last armload, sending him home with a basket of dense home baked cloudberry muffins and a blueberry pie of which he was grudgingly appreciative as it would be as sweet as any Honeyduke's candy and he was too old now for Melania to attempt hiding it from him until after dinner.
Of course she had chores for him to complete on his return. Sweat stinging his eyes, rolling down between his shoulder blades and staining his shirt with great wet patches: Marcus groaned at the stretch of muscle as he lifted the shining axe over his head once again but luxuriated in it as well. He was strong, tough, and as Captain of his house Quidditch team everyone at Hogwarts knew it. To lead Slytherin one had to be and Marcus Flint was a definite leader.
Except on this island, where he had no wand, where he had no broom, and to the Muggle adolescents he had no reputation.
Marcus swung the axe with extra effort, grunting as the blade sunk deep, and then hefting the piece back over his shoulder again. It didn't matter what these plebeians thought, these useless beings that couldn't even fly, that couldn't even use words to create something tangible or use the plants that grew so plentifully around them to make potions to harness power and chain death itself. Not that Marcus' grades reflected any such knowledge either—But he'd been busy with more important things! The Team was what mattered now! He had Beaters to train and plays to design. Spies to send out after the Gryffs. "You're a student Marcus but a Flint first! If you can't handle your own responsibilities how can I possibly believe you can control my empire?! You can forget the Apprenticeship. Get out of my sight!"
Like Marcus wanted to spend three months following Malcolm Flint's lickspittle's around, trying to learn the intricacies of Magical Law & Order as it concerned property and ancient estates, having it further ingrained how predisposed Mudbloods were to weak or illegal testimony as it concerned their children's futures, how incautious and foolish they were when Purebloods kept such intricate, detailed wills and family histories. Fuck, he may as well poison himself! Three months in an office? Three more months of Malcolm looking down his nose at him?
Thunk thunk thunk! The chunks fell apart under Marcus' aim, a growl growing on his lips. Bole had been planning a weekly match over on his Grandmother's manor near Ben Nevis however. Ter had extended an invitation to Milan. Thunk! Bole? Bollix. The mates would spend half their time flying in circles and the other half trying to skim oak-aged malt whiskey off of the old lady who knew more hexes than all of them combined. Marcus snorted. And it wasn't as if he needed to be exposed to Higgs' new hedonistic tendencies now that the bastard found a girl who could bear being around him on a consistent basis. Of course only Ter would be mental enough to chase after a Gryffindor. "I don't care if she's part dragon, she's bloody beautiful! And she's smarter than anyone you've ever met, that's for sure. And she's scares the pants off of Montague! What more could I ask for?!" Merlin, Snippet had Ter wrapped around her little Gryff finger.
Then again, Terence Higgs had been sickeningly happy this passed term.
Jacinta Ryder in Hufflepuff had kissed Marcus behind the Astronomy Tower after the Cup finals, pressed up tight against him with a mouth full of purple gloss and hands that didn’t hesitate to grab and touch what she wanted. "You're a winner Marcus," she had purred, trailing one shiny fingernail around the Slytherin crest on his chest. "I like winners. A lot." His first kiss and he really didn't know what to put where and how to do it, but that was alright because Jacinta did. Her hands stayed on his body, his uniform and waist, took and took and took as her slick lips greased up his. For a moment Marcus believed he could feel her sixteen year old breasts through his jersey, that her nipples were hard (which meant she was really excited to be with him) and what he would do if he could ever touch a pair. It had been awkward and exciting and bloody awful in the end when she had pulled away with an odd patronizing smile, walking away with a swing of her hips, promising she'd see him later.
Cedric had been decent enough to fill him in on what had happened once she had returned to the Hufflepuff common room. Where all her friends were waiting. To chat.
But if he wasn't a winner then what was he?
THUNK! THUNK! THUNK!
Melania would be home later. She'd gone back to town as some Muggle was pregnant and needed help with the wash. Pathetic really. They were going to have lamb for dinner, she had said before she left, and she wanted to measure him for a sweater. "You're much broader than you were two years ago."
"Fuck!" Marcus dropped the axe and jerked back. He had hit the chunk with off aim and a piece flew back, knocking him in the shoulder. "FUCK!" His upper arm blossomed in a throbbing wave and flared worse as he instinctively tried to move it. Marcus gnashed his teeth and kicked at the fallen chunk, sending it skidding across the garden. He didn't fucking need an injury! "Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck—"
He whipped around expecting to have a bludger batted at his head and instead was knocked senseless by something else. Someone else. He hadn't heard her trainers on the stone pathway.
She smiled and it was her. And yet it was someone new as well. She had shot up like a weed—no, not a weed, not at all, never—and was all angle's and elbows and cheeks, her hair pulled back in a severe ponytail. No longer did he tower over her or feel like the giant in a former fairy tale. But then again, with Katie he had never played the giant.
"Marcus," she smiled brightly. "Oh Marcus I'm so happy to see you."
With his shoulder aching and the vague thought that he may never throw a quaffle straight again, Marcus allowed a Muggle to touch him.
Marcus let Katie hug him.
And with one arm he hugged her back.
"So that's my swim team in Brussels last winter," she laughed lightly, pointing to an unmoving picture of a dozen or so girls in heavy jackets and blue hats posing in front of a gigantic structure of nine spheres and tubes. "The Atomium. Isn't it brilliant? It's blinding when the sun hits." Marcus nodded noncommittally as she turned the page in her album, more laughing teenage girls and happy adults, coaches and chaperones. They were sitting side by side on Melania's low doorstep, their knees high. Katie wore black trousers of a slick, shiny material, buttons down the side of either leg, and a blue t-shirt with an image he didn’t recognize. Just like he didn't recognize the architecture she presented or many of the things she talked about. It was pleasant to hear Katie speak though, all excited honesty. There was the scent of ocean spray in her hair from the ferry ride.
"Leanne dragged me to the Comics Museum but I wanted to see the Grand Palace. . ." She went on and on: Laken Castle, Cinquantenaire, Victor Horta, Magritte. He took some small pleasure in knowing she would feel just as stupid if he brought up Salazar Slytherin and Hogsmeades and Azkaban Prison, but it was very small especially with the thought that Katie Bell would ask questions, unlike himself. All Mugles must know these things. "I can barely speak two words of French so she did all the translating. And then—Oh my God—Oh oh this was hilarious!" She was all nervous giggling, and there was an image of a small peeing boy on the newly opened page. It was a fountain he believed, but there was Katie and the brunette paragon of all worthy virtues Leanne pointing over at the sculpture, obviously talking to someone behind the camera. "Petit Julien," Katie spoke, rolling her eyes. "It's a symbol of the city, can you believe it?! I'll take St. Paul's or Big Ben any day." There were a few photos of girl's in a swimming pool, of Katie and Leanne in bathing suits and caps, wet. She blushed and quickly passed these by while Marcus swallowed and brought his arms around his knees, critically aware of his sweat-stained shirt and the smell his hard work had created. "We didn't win anything but it was a lot of fun."
She had said she didn't want to bore him—she wasn't—and that if he didn't want to see her pictures they could go do something else or she'd help him with the chopping—Marcus did want to see her images and would have rather told his Father to go jump in the Black Lake than have her assist with his chores. But he wasn't complaining about the break and his arm didn't hurt as much. At least he was getting a chance to see how Katie lived beyond their few summers here on the island. There had been older ones of her father's wedding, of Katie in a puffy pink dress and a beaming red headed Felicia—someone whom Katie thought more of now than she had back then—in a flowing white gown. School pictures and holidays.
And then there was unexpectedly an extreme close up of a younger Katie in an easy headlock, sticking her tongue out and crossing her eyes.
The arm around her throat belonged to Oliver Wood.
"What the bloody hell is that?"
Marcus felt a tightness in his chest that he wanted to work out by chopping up something other than chunks of wood, something that he could also take his fists to, something that would make sounds.
"Hmm?" Katie looked down at the album, a line of confusion between her brows at Marcus' changed demeanour, then smiled and shrugged. "Oh. That's Oliver. He was—You remember when I had to stay with Leanne that time?" As the only time he knew of was after the wedding Marcus could only assume that was it. "Well Oliver was visiting his cousins who lived next door. Someone had died and there was a wake, but anyways we all spent most of the time just hanging out."
She frowned but then her eyes were suddenly sharp.
"You know him, don't you." There was a laughing puff of air. "You guys go to that-that same private school. Don't you? In Scotland. That's how you know him!" She shoved his arm and laughed and Marcus felt his chest decompress. "God, what a coincidence!"
"That's what he told you?"
"Wha—Marcus," Katie looked at him gently for a reason he couldn't discern. "It's ok if you go to a private school. It's not like I think you're some snooty Eton snob with a silver spoon up your bum." Marcus raised his eyebrows and Katie laughed. With her next comment he wished she hadn't. "And Oliver didn't seem that way either; I'm not surprised you know each other." Marcus didn't want to think about that, the ways in which he and bloody Gryff Oliver Wood were similar. The question came out before he could swallow it back. Or bite off his tongue.
"Do you talk to each other?" He twisted his mouth and pushed himself up, not offering Katie a hand. She shut her rainbow dotted album and shrugged once again.
"Ah. . .no. No, Oliver said he'd write but he never—"
"I have to finish with the firewood before Melania gets back," he sucked in a breath through his protruding teeth, knowing he'd never get that picture out of his head and angry at himself for even caring. "Maybe—"
"Marcus--?" Katie stood, frowning again.
"Maybe I'll see you in a couple days. I have a lot of work to do."
Katie stared at him in silence for a few moments but Marcus didn't look at her. She took a step forward. One back.
"Marcus. . .," Katie folded her arms awkwardly around herself. "You're coming to my birthday right. I—I mean. . .you are coming, aren't you?"