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.
“So, you're the lad Katie's chosen for herself, huh?” Mrs Spinnet asked from the doorway where she was hiding from the rain.
Marcus nodded faintly, his teeth chattering and his hands tucked deep in his pockets for some warmth as ice-cold rain and sleet pelted down on him. He was too cold and soaked to the bone to say or do much else. Mrs Spinnet, an Auror like her husband and very skilled with wandless magic, had not invited him to wait in the hallway with her whilst her husband checked out the rest of the house. Instead, she'd ordered Marcus to stay where he was and then reamed him for forcing them to return home early from their weekend getaway in France.
“Huh...” Mrs Spinnet pursed her lips, staring him up and down, deep in thought almost. “Funny, I'd always thought she'd settle for someone like the Wood boy. Polite, talented, pleasant to look at-“
“Well, she didn't. She loves me,” Marcus interjected harshly. He wanted to tell the older witch off for sticking her pointy nose in his business, but he held in. Before you knew it, his mum would get word of it and get cross with him for embarrassing their good name. He'd received more than enough Howlers from her during his Hogwarts years for being a dunderhead to last him a lifetime, and didn't need more or have his mum go mental on him in person.
“Pleasant to look at...” he grumbled.
To hell with Wood. Besides, Mrs Spinnet wasn't one to talk about being easy on the eyes. Not whilst she was wearing a ratty jumper over even rattier pyjama bottoms. Her short, dark hair stuck out in every direction, and a sickly green cream covered her face, only leaving her eyes and her mouth bare. No, she wasn't exactly a looker herself at the moment.
“She loves me,” Marcus repeated, ducking his head and staring hard at his worn-out boots. He couldn't feel his toes any longer and randomly wondered if and how bad that was.
It was a choice between worrying about his toes or about how Katie hadn't said those exact words yet even though he had. Then again, she hadn't laughed at him either when he had accidentally blurted them out last week, just snogged him until he was out of breath. That had to count for something. At least, that's what he kept telling himself.
“She does, does she?” Mrs Spinnet said with a chuckle that faded into a deep sigh, almost as if was resigning to something. “Love, honestly, youngsters these days. Quick to toss words around,” she muttered, shaking her head.
Marcus was about to demand what she meant by that, good manners and his mother's wrath be damned. Just as he opened his mouth, Mr Spinnet returned, laughing, and Marcus forgot that he'd wanted to unload his frustration on Mrs Spinnet. Any second now, Katie could pop out from behind the older man and jump into his arms.
That didn't happen.
“It was Fifi,” Mr Spinnet said laughing. “The girls must have accidentally locked her up in the kitchen. Looks like she went a bit mental in there.”
On cue, a fluffy white Kneazle the size of a Crup ran out of the house. For a brief moment, it stopped by Marcus’ feet, its yellow eyes glaring into his as if it knew something Marcus didn’t. Already mighty uncomfortable, he cocked his chin at the over-sized cat as to say ‘what?’. Fifi, however, was still in a bad mood and did not appreciate the cheek. It hissed and spat and repeatedly clawed Marcus' leg in retaliation, tearing his trousers and drawing blood.
“Damned beast, shoo!” Mr Spinnet yelled, loudly clapping his hand to scare off Fifi. Behind him, his wife had her hand clasped over her mouth, stifling her laughter.
And as the little monster ran into the garden, Marcus, who was still a bit flabbergasted, looked down his stinging leg to assess the damage. He reckoned that it suited perfectly with everything else that had happened since he’d woken up to Katie’s Floo-call.
“Sorry about that. I don’t know what’s got into her. She's normally as sweet as her name. Oh my, let me see that,” Mr Spinnet said empathetically when he noticed Marcus' mangled leg. When Marcus just stayed where he was, Mr Spinnet stalked out the door and took his arm, pulling him inside. “Come in, son. You're sodden. Emily, help the boy get dry whilst I look at his leg.”
Marcus was relieved that he was no longer exposed to the rain. But then Mrs Spinnet lazily waved her hand and his clothes dried as a warm feeling spread across his body, and he just wanted to cry in gratitude. He could feel his toes again!
“The gashes are quite deep,” Mr Spinnet said as he crouched down to examine the cuts Fifi had caused. He conjured a wet flannel and started dapping away the blood that kept welling up. “We ought to get you to a Healer.”
“No, no need,” Marcus said hastily, pulling back his leg. He was on a mission to find out what had happened to his girlfriend, not waste his time at St Mungo's. “I just need to speak to Katie, s’all. Can you fetch her for me? Uh, please?”
“Stay still,” Mrs Spinnet said shrewdly as she grabbed his arm to stop his fidgeting. “Let George at least stop the bleeding and sanitise it. He’ll have you fixed up in a jiffy, then we'll call for Katie.”
“Yeah, about that… There isn't much I can do, darling. A Healer needs to look at it. Kneazles wounds are known to scar, infect even,” Mr Spinnet protested. As if it sensed that they were talking about it, a loud, almost proud mewl could be heard from the nearby bushes.
“I don't mind, I'm covered with scars as it is,” Marcus rushed to answer. “Quidditch,” he added as an afterthought as if that explained everything.
“Fine, but no complaining afterwards, yeah?” Mr Spinnet conceded. He pulled his wand from his waistband and pressed the tip against Marcus' leg, casting a silent spell. A warm red hue enveloped his leg, and slowly the gashes closed up, puckered where the ends of skin unevenly met.
“Can I speak to Katie now?” Marcus asked no-one in particular as he craned his neck to see around Mrs Spinnet up the dark stairs. Why hadn't she come down to see him yet? He wouldn’t have minded her taking care of him.
“No, not tonight, I’m afraid,” answered George Spinnet. Seeing the confused look on Marcus' face, he explained, “The girls aren't here.”
“But Katie…. She was crying.”
“Yes, yes, you told us. Well, that looks good enough, I’m done here. Still, better see a healer after Yule, alright? Just to be sure.” Mr Spinnet patted Marcus' leg and then held his hand out to his wife. “Em, a little help here?”
Mrs Spinnet helped her husband up to his legs, her brows raised as if she, too, wanted to know where the girls were.
“Ali left a note in case we got home before she did tomorrow, uh, today I guess. She and Katie went over to the Johnsons for the night.” Mr Spinnet pulled a crumpled piece of paper from his pocket, waving it about. “And yes, they're there. I Floo-called Malcolm from the kitchen earlier. He was his pleasant self, as usual. It seems Angie broke up with that bloke again. What's his name?”
“Graham Montague,” Marcus grumbled. Not satisfied with the answer, he asked, “Anything about what happened to Katie?”
“Nothing's happened to her. The girls have been keeping Malcolm up all night doing whatever it is girls do in the privacy of their room, but that's about it. If anyone should be crying it's him.”
Well, that would not do for Marcus. He needed to see Katie with his own eyes to believe she was alright. There was just one way to do that.
“May I leave my broom here?” he asked Mrs Spinnet.
“What on earth for?”
Instead of answering, Marcus pulled his wand and DisApparated to the Johnson home in London. A loud crack echoed across the hallway; he hadn't quite mastered the skill of soundless Apparition. However, something was missing. He didn’t feel like as if he was being turned inside out whilst falling off his broom. As he opened his eyes, he realised that he was still in the Spinnets' hallway, in the south of Wales.
Mrs Spinnet scoffed as her husband hid his face in his hand, shaking his head.
"Anti-Apparition wards, son. Go the main road and try again there."
It was almost five in the morning when a loud crack coming from a nearby playground echoed through the night in a deserted street near King's Cross station. Loudly, a string of colourful curse words followed soon after as a hulky young man pushed his way out of dense, thorny shrubbery. The only positive thing he could think of as he brushed the dead leaves and thick thorns from his clothes were that the awful weather in Wales had not followed him all the way to London.
“The Johnsons,” Marcus said with a sigh as he studied the row of terraced houses in front of him, trying to figure out on which door to knock. It wasn't a long search. There was just one house with the lights turned on on the top floor. And when Angelina Johnson flashed by the window, he knew exactly where he had to go.
He quickly sneaked towards the house and, having learnt his lesson at the Spinnet house earlier, he halted by the open fence. From the little he knew about Mr Johnson, he assumed that it was likely that the older man would hex first and ask question later, if at all, in the off-chance he discovered Marcus trespassing.
Marcus rolled his wand between his fingers as he intently surveyed the window on the top floor, internally debating whether or not to try and send his Patronus up to warn Katie. Then he remembered that his Patronus was nothing more than a flash of light that usually went out as fast as a wet matchstick, and he was back at being at a loss on how to reach her without waking up everyone and their neighbour.
“Oi, Johnson,” Marcus finally whisper-yelled out of desperation, feeling like an idiot. “It's me, let me in!”
Other than the rustling of shrubbery behind him, nothing happened.
“Love, are you there?” he tried again in hopes Katie would be able to pick up the sound of his voice. It happened all the time in those sappy Muggle films she made him watch with her. Of course, reality turned out to be entirely different.
Again, the rustling of shrubbery and a dog barking in the distance was the only reaction he got.
As he tried to come up with ideas to get the girls’ attention, Marcus rounded his cheeks and slowly breathed out as he looked around. Where were pebbles when you needed a handful? A red and white can stuck between the bars of the fence was the only thing that seemed somewhat convenient for what he wanted to do. Without thinking things through, he picked it up and aimed it at the window.
Only when the can sailed through the air at high speed, Marcus guessed that he should have Transfigured it into something smaller, more manageable. Something that wouldn't cause too much damage or noise. Unfortunately, it was too late for any of that.
Several things happened in rapid succession. The tin can made contact with the windowpane, shattering the glass. Almost immediately several security charms snapped into action, and a blaring alarm went off as all the lights in and outside the house were turned on. Curtains were pushed aside and windows opened in the neighbouring houses as curious heads popped out to see what the hell was going on.
And amidst of it all, Marcus stood frozen. He was trying to make up his mind between bolting or staying and making sure that Katie was all right. The choice was made for him when someone pushed him hard from behind onto the narrow path leading up the Johnsons' front door. The already deafening alarm began to blear even louder than before.
“Arsehole!” Graham Montague cursed loudly in Marcus’ ear as he grabbed him by the back of his neck. “I thought you were my friend!”
Marcus, too stunned to react, stumbled forward against the door. His face pressed painfully against the colourfully decorated wreath, the twigs and decoration scratching his face. Montague kept on screaming in his ear, something or the other about backstabbing bastards whilst tightening the grip on his neck.
It took quite some self-control not to, but Marcus refused to engage, for now, just tried to wriggle free. Montague repaid the favour by kicking him in the back of his knees, making him buckle. And right before he went down, his so-called-friend grabbed the back of cloak and forced him up again.
“You stole my girl!” Montague howled as he grabbed the front of Marcus' cloak, his face red and cheeks tear-stained. He reeked like a cheap pub in Knockturn Alley, clothes filthy and wrinkled as if he had slept in them for days. “I thought you were my friend.”
“Mate, listen, it's not what you think,” Marcus said as he tried to pry Montague's hands off him, but his grasp was too firm. Without the aid of his wand, there was no way he could get him off without hurting him, and that was the last thing Marcus wanted to do. Graham was still his friend, even though the man is question doubted that currently.
That, and there were too many Muggles looking on, and since Marcus still hadn’t paid his last few fines for using magic in front of a Muggles, he couldn’t afford to add another one to that ever-growing collection.
“Slimy git,” Montague bellowed as he raised his fist.
“Oh, for fuck's sake, get a grip, man,” Marcus said, more out of disbelief that his friend would fight him like a Muggle than anything else. They weren’t kids anymore for crying out loud.
It turned out to be the wrong thing to say. Montague turned redder than before, and his fist balled tighter until his knuckles turned white. With no other option than to brace himself for the impact, Marcus screwed his eyes shut. And a few seconds later, just as his face exploded in pain and stars flashed before his eyes and the onlooking neighbours burst out in cheers and jeers when Montague broke his nose a low voice grumbled,
“That'll be enough.”