Words: 10641 words, 4 chapters
Summary: Christmas Day starts with a bang when Marcus goes on a wild goose chase to find Katie Bell after a very confusing Floo-call.
Notes: I got the inspiration from one of my heroes, Stephen King. I'm a big fan of all his work (more of his older works than the newer ones but I digress). This particular story is based on his "Sorry, Right Number that is featured in the short story collection 'Nightmares & Dreamscapes'.
If you're familiar with that short story, you'll know how this ends as I did not deviate from the formula. If you prefer to stick with the happy-go-lucky part of the story, do not read chapter 4.
Second note; I consider this an unofficial prequel to my one-shot All This Time, but can be read as a stand-alone as knowledge of the mentioned story is not necessary and if you don't read the past the bolded part, it wouldn't make any sense anyway.
Written for fanfic50, used prompt: 016. Search
Marcus relished the crushed look on his opponents’ faces as he hoisted the Quidditch League Cup in the air. Confetti danced in the air around him, the metallic paper twinkling in the colourful beams that lit up the stadium. Thousands of fans chanted, no, screamed his name as coloured banners proudly weaved in and out in the gentle breeze.
He had done it, done something no one else had achieved before. He, Marcus Flint, the best Chaser to have ever lived, had single-handedly led the Tutshill Tornadoes to victory, not a match lost the whole season. With a smug grin etched onto his face, Marcus slowly guided his broom in a full circle around the pitch to make sure that all the fans got a good look at the Cup in his hands. Most importantly, he wanted his father, who stood amidst the rowdy crowd like a beacon of peace and tranquillity, to see it. Marcus wanted to make him proud. And judging by his father's puffed out chest and a grin quite similar to his own, he was.
Feeling encouraged by his father's approval, Marcus thrust the Cup higher in the air. On cue, bright, colourful fireworks erupted above him. “We did it!” he roared.
His fans began singing the Tornadoes' club song, and he gladly joined them, singing -no, screaming the lyrics at the top of his voice.
“… you’ll never fly alone…”
Distracted by the clear voice amidst the noise, Marcus’ mile-wide grin faltered for a brief second, and he forgot what he was doing. Shaking his head because he was too stubborn to take his hands off the Cup, he hoped to get rid of the bothersome gnat by his ear and tried to find the right moment to join the song again.
“Nah, nah…cheers from thousands of throats…”
“Marcus, are you there?”
“No, not now, go away” Marcus muttered, but it was too late. Fireworks stopped exploding, and the flashing lights abruptly dimmed as if someone had flipped a switch. His face fell when his fans’ screams slowly muted as they disappeared one by one. A sob bubbled up in his throat as he lifted his eyes to the stands. His father stood all alone in the stands. He looked apologetic and utterly sad, mouthing 'sorry' before he, too, disappeared into thin air. And just when Marcus thought it couldn’t get any worse, the Cup vanished as well, leaving him empty handed.
With that last piece gone, the stadium around him crumbled at a rapid pace, signalling the end of the dream.
“Marcus, are you there? Please… please be there…”
Roughly pulled from his deep slumber, Marcus snapped his eyes open just as lightening outside lit up the otherwise pitch-dark room. Harsh rains pelted against the window, the sound occasionally drowned out by deafening thunder. He found himself panting and gasping for air as his heart raced inside his chest, almost as if it tried to break free from its cage, and he didn't quite understand why.
He raised himself onto his elbow, ears strained in hopes to figure out what had ruined the best dream he had in ages. Although the dream was rapidly fading from memory with each breath he took, he remembered it being a glimpse of his career as newly minted first-string Chaser, albeit a bench-warmer for now, for the Tutshill Tornadoes.
“Hullo?” Marcus mumbled, feeling foolish. As he'd expected, there was no response, just the storm raging outside.
“Idiot, who'd be there at this time of night,” he said with a sigh as he eyed the alarm clock on the nightstand.
It was four in the morning on Christmas day, far too early to get up. With a bit of luck, he’d have a solid three hours of sleep before his mum appeared by his bed, ordering him to join her for breakfast. He dropped back onto his pillow and threw his arm over his eyes and started counting dragons.
“…twenty-one dragons, twenty-two dragon,” Marcus mumbled as blissful sleep nibbled at the edges of his consciousness. His eyelids began to feel heavier and heavier as he counted on and just as he was about to drift off…
A feminine voice, crying miserably and distorting most of what she was saying, reached his ears. This wasn’t a dream. He’d recognise that voice out of thousands.
He was out of bed and by the door in the blink of an eye as he called out to her. His heart began racing again, this time in fear and worry as her sobs grew louder and more desperate. In his haste to get to the fireplace in the living, he accidentally knocked the Christmas tree over. Glass baubles and ornaments shattered in all direction, but Marcus didn’t stop to assess the damage. Nor did he stop when his mother called his name from her bedroom, demanding to know what the ruckus was about.
All he could think about was that Katie was in trouble and needed him.
A roaring fire danced in the hearth, bright green flames licking at the brick walls on the three sides and covering the living room in a green glow. He was just in time to see Katie Bell amidst it all, her hand clasped over her mouth to stifle her cries, her shoulders shaking violently.
“Help… quick… please…”
Marcus fell to his knees, ready to pull her through into safety. But before his fingers touched the green flames, she disappeared. Darkness took over the room again, and it was as if she had not been there to just seconds before.
“Katie, no, come back,” Marcus bellowed as he reached into to fireplace as if that would help get her back. All he got was a handful of ice-cold ashes.
“What’s going on here?” Edith Flint demanded again as she put on the lights.
Marcus briefly glanced over his shoulder. His mother, with large curlers in her hair and dressed in black as usual, was surveying him in worry. Behind her, the tree stood upright again, and a whirlwind of tinsel and glass fluttered in the air as the decorations slowly took on their old forms and repositioned themselves in the tree.
When Edith realised that Marcus wasn’t listening to a word she was saying, she narrowed her eyes and folded her arms over her chest, foot tapping in impatience.
“Didn’t you hear her?” Marcus asked when she repeated his name in warning. He stuck his head into the fireplace, glancing up the chimney in hopes to find a clue to help him figure what had happened.
“Who?” Edith glanced around, frowning, almost as if she was searching for someone. “Are you hiding someone? If I told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times, Marcus Aurelius, you can’t have witches sleeping over unless you've put a ring on their finger. Not as long as you're living under my roof. I've taught you better than that!”
“Bloody hell, Mum, there’s no one here. She was in there,” Marcus growled as he scrambled up and grabbed the tin with Floo-powder on the mantle. He ignored his mother's complaints that he was leaving grime everywhere and focussed on the issue at hand. “I mean Katie, you must have heard her. She was sobbing her eyes out.”
Edith frowned, staring at Marcus as she waited for further explanation. When none came, she said in exasperation, “Why would Katie call you in the middle of the night? Crying no less.”
“That’s what I wanna know, don’t I?” Marcus snapped as he wrestled to get the lid of the tin. “Something bad must have happened.”
Marcus let out a sigh of relief when the lid finally came off. He ignored his mother’s indignant huffs at his sloppiness when he accidentally spilt half of the contents on the floor. Too worried about Katie and in a hurry to get to her, he threw a pinch of Floo-powder into the fireplace.
“Bell House,” he said loud and clear as he stepped into the emerald flames and was whisked away almost immediately. Glimpses of empty living rooms and kitchens flashed by until he reached the final destination; the Bell’s kitchen. In that split-second the whirling stopped, he noticed how dark the kitchen was and how there was no trace of Katie.
And before he could blink a second time, he bounced right back to his starting point, the small flat he shared with his mother, landing hard on his bum. The fairy lights in the tree blinked happily as Edith Flint sauntered over to him. Clearly unimpressed by her son's attempt at being the hero, she kneeled down to his level.
“Good Gods, son, you take too much after your father sometimes. Think before you act for once,” she said as she patted his cheek, a bit too hard. “The Bells are on holiday in Marbella, remember? Their Floo-connection is locked.”
“Oh, right.” Marcus scratched behind his ear, feeling like an idiot for forgetting that titbit. Still, he wasn't one to give up that easily. “But, Katie isn’t with them, is she? And if you’d let her stay here for the week-”
“Not until you’re married,” Edith interjected with a final pat on Marcus’ cheek. Groaning loudly, she got back up to her feet and shook her legs to get the blood flowing in her stiff limbs again. Sternly wagging her finger at Marcus, she added for good measure, “And so we’re clear, that’s not happening soon because you two started dating a few seconds ago and she's too young. She just finished Hogwarts.”
She knew her son too well; he considered rules as challenges to be broken. Knowing Marcus, he’d wed his witch the first chance he got just to prove that he could.
In the meanwhile, Marcus wanted to say that whilst he and Katie were out and about for six months now, they may or may not have fooled around for quite some time before that. As in years, before that. Wisely, he bit his tongue and grabbed his mother’s proffered hand to help him up. The main reason she'd warmed up so quickly to Katie was that the rest of the Bells were quite the traditional Pureblood family and believed that it meant that Katie was as well. And to be fair, Katie played her part of the innocent maiden well when needed. He didn't want to ruin his mum's image of his girlfriend.
“So, what are we gonna do about Katie, then?” Marcus asked, hoping that his mother would have an idea how to get to the bottom of the situation. She always had a solution to every little problem.
Edith raised her brows, smirking. “What about her?”
“Honestly, mother,” Marcus said in frustration as he tossed his hands in the air to emphasise his point. "The Floo-call. Katie!"
Edith pinched the bridge of her nose and took a deep breath, seemingly to calm herself. It was a front, though; her son didn’t need to know that she found the whole thing amusing. She’d said it before, and she’d say it again, Marcus was too much like his father in everything. What a shame they had such little time together. Gods, how she missed that man, he would've been so proud of their son.
“Use the brains Merlin gifted you with, darling. Where did Katie say that she was staying while her parents gone for the week?”
It took a few seconds before the answer dawned on him. When it finally did, Marcus scrunched up his nose and rubbed his eyes with the heels of his palms, cursing his stupidity under his breath.
“With the Spinnets,” he mumbled finally.
“The Spinnets,” agreed Edith. She gave him a slight push towards the hallway, where his broom was. “You now know where to look for Katie. Be sure to be back in time for breakfast, all right? Oh, don't forget to bring her with you.”
Marcus was soaked to the bone and had managed to avoid being hit by lightning a few times by the time he reached the Spinnet house a half hour later in the next village over. Eager to get off his broom, he steered it towards the garden and regretted it immediately. His already damp trousers got even wetter, and his cloak weighed down on his neck and shoulders as the fabric soaked up the rain in the tall grass.
Cursing under his breath, he balled up his cloak under his arm as he made his way to the house. His mum had urged him to fly over there instead of trying to Floo-call them first. According to her, the Spinnets wouldn’t appreciate being woken up in the middle of the night by the lovesick boyfriends, so it would be better to go there in person.
“Barmy old hag,” he bristled.
His mother started making less and less sense as the days passed, Marcus decided. Well, first, he wasn’t lovesick –fine, maybe a bit but who wouldn't with a girlfriend like Katie Bell. Second, he had a feeling the Spinnets would have more problems with him lurking around the house like a Peeping Tom instead of waking them up with a polite Floo-call. And lastly, he was the most annoyed with himself for not thinking about Apparating to the Spinnets and doing as his mum told him without question.
Katie was right; it was time for him to cut the cord with his mother.
But first, he needed to make sure his girl was alright.
Although Marcus was sure that he’d tripped at least one security charm on his way through the garden, not one light lit up inside the house to his surprise. Nothing happened as he stepped on the gravel path either, nor when he climbed the stone steps and knocked on the door. It was almost as if the house was deserted, which was impossible because the lavish and over-the-top Christmas decorations and lights on the outside of the house implied the opposite. That, and the fact that Katie was supposed to be staying here until the New Year.
“Hullo!” Marcus called as he banged his fist on the door. “Katie? Open up, it's me!”
No, his earlier assumption was the wrong one. The house was not deserted. A shriek and something breaking could be heard on the other side of the door. Ready to save his girlfriend from whatever horror was in there, Marcus reached for his wand and pointed it at the door. With only one thing in mind, he roared,
It did not have the desired effect. At all. The force of the spell bouncing back at him sent Marcus flying through the air, and he landed flat on his back in the wet grass. But he didn’t give up. He scrambled up and charged at the front door again as if his spell had not backfired just seconds before.
The spell bounced off the wooden door and flew in his direction, leaving scorch marks on his clothes as he ducked a half a second too late.
Again nothing, although he did manage to move out of the way this time around before he got hit by his own spell again.
Getting desperate, Marcus tried a final spell, one he wasn’t that good in because he always found a way to muck up the incantation and wand movement.
Fortunately, Marcus didn’t get a chance to cast the wrong spell. A large hand, almost as large as his own, clamped down hard on his shoulder and roughly forced him to turn around. Looked like he was right about tripping a security charm earlier when the owners of the house pressed their wands into his throat.
“You have five seconds to explain yourself, son.”