Rating: Teen And Up Audiences
Relationships: Katie Bell/Marcus Flint
Series: Part 3 of Happy Christmas Collection
Summary: As he stood by the bedroom door, ready to start the day he wasn’t particularly looking forward to, he glanced at the girl in the bed. His Katie. Even though she was so close, it felt as if she was on another continent.
Christmas Day was not supposed to end like this.
It was still dark when the church bells tolled in the distance, reminding Muggles and magic folk alike that Christmas day had finally arrived. Per tradition, the day was meant to be spent with loved ones whether it was by blood or not. Eating and drinking together whilst showing your appreciation of them through gifts or gestures, big or small. And up until yesterday, Marcus Flint had been one of the many people looking forward to the day. Now, not so much.
Marcus stared at the ceiling, wishing that he could skip the day altogether. He had a gut-feeling that the day wasn’t going to turn out as he had hoped and it had everything to do with the girl sleeping next to him. Even though she was so close, it felt as if she was on another continent.
He let out a barely audible sigh as he rubbed his face. His eyes were burning with the lack of sleep, and he felt sore all over. Done with pretending, he quietly slid out of bed and hastily donned his trousers and ratty jumper. As he stood by the bedroom door, ready to start the day he wasn’t particularly looking forward to, he glanced at the girl in the bed. His Katie. In the dim light, he could see her shoulders shaking. Apparently, he wasn’t the only one faking sleep.
“Coffee,” he muttered as he closed the door with a soft click.
On his way to the kitchen, he passed the small living room. The sight of the lights twinkling in the small tree worsened is already foul mood. Boxes full of baubles and other decorations stood untouched next to it. Last year, Katie had laughed and teased him while he had wrestled the fairy lights, swishing her wand to put the knots right back in. They’d guzzled mulled wine while discussing where to put the ugly decorations his mother had bought for his, back then, new flat. Last year, he’d asked her to move in with him. She had hit his chest in answer, wheezing in laughter because sharing the rent wasn’t a romantic enough reason to ask someone to move in. She had ordered him to try again next year, this year.
Now that the time had come to do as she’d told him, though, Marcus wasn’t sure about anything anymore.
Before last night, Marcus hadn’t seen or talked to Katie since early December. She had cancelled their plans, blaming her upcoming Mediwitch exams and the amount of work she had to put in her studies to pass. Then the ignoring of his owls had begun, and on the rare occasion that his notes hadn’t come back unopened, her replies had been nothing more than flimsy excuses. Helping her mum, meeting the girls, feeling sickly. That’s why he’d been over the moon when she’d tumbled out the fireplace yesterday. In return, she had done her best to quench that excitement.
Other than a quick ‘hi’ and a peck on his cheek, Katie had ignored him. Each time he’d tried to lighten the mood with crude jokes she loved so much, ask her opinion on how to decorate the tree, she’d merely pursed her lips and nodded. She had stayed more than an arm-length away from him, evading his touches. When he had demanded to know what her problem was, Katie had announced that was going to bed because she felt ill. The curt announcement had been the longest sentence she had spoken to him all night. Marcus still didn’t understand what he’d done wrong for her to act like that.
Muttering under breath, he rummaged in the cupboards and pulled out what he needed. A quick swish of his wand while reciting a simple charm would have got him what he wanted in the blink of an eye. This morning, however, he preferred to do it the hard way. Preparing his coffee in the Muggle way was soothing. Watching water come to boil gave him the time to gather his thoughts. He rested his head against the overhead cupboard as his mind wandered off.
He had such grand plans for today. They were supposed to have a rich breakfast followed by a lazy stroll through Morgana-park while they discussed what they were going to do once she finished Mediwitch training in February. He’d tease her a little; tell her that she’d probably forget all about him once she started working with all those handsome, uppity Healers. She’d reassure him, of course, tell him that she preferred a certain cauldron maker with crooked teeth over any Healer heartthrob, which would have been more than enough to make Christmas unforgettable for him.
Then, after an impromptu snowball fight, he’d take her back to her parents’ house for lunch. Her father would hug her tightly as her mother cried despite their promises not to let on that they knew something. Later, his parents would join them there for dinner and desserts. But before the food and drinks, they’d exchange gifts. He’d kneel on his knee and ask her the question he’d been meaning to ask since their first date. And by the time Katie sat down to devour the glazed ham, she wouldn’t be his girlfriend but his fiancée.
The high-pitched whistle of the kettle broke his reveries. Going through the motions without thinking, Marcus prepared his cuppa. Muttering under his breath, he grabbed his coffee and shuffled back to the living where he flopped down on the sofa. Sipping from the hot brew and staring at the unending sequence of flickering lights in the tree, he tried his best to reassure himself that he was overthinking things. He was sure that she hadn’t meant to dodge all his efforts to hold her last night. He was sure that he had imagined seeing her turn her head when he’d tried to kiss her goodnight.
Not sure why he felt the need to torture himself some more, Marcus summoned the small box from one of the back branches of the tree. The wood felt smooth underneath his fingertips as he flipped the lid open. Two golden rings, an old-fashioned betrothal ring and a sparkly wedding band, glistened in the light. His mother had told him that they got passed down to the newest Missus Flint to be, as it had been a tradition for generations.
Until yesterday, Marcus wouldn’t have doubted Katie answer to his burning question. Now, though, he couldn’t imagine her saying yes.
Just as he let out a deep sigh and closed the lid, Katie walked in with her overnight bag in hand. She wore the same clothes she had worn yesterday. Dark circles accentuated her bloodshot eyes, her skin paler than he’d ever seen.
Maybe, she truly was sick.
“Morning,” she muttered, her eyes not quite meeting his. “I better go home. I, uh, I don’t feel so good.”
Marcus merely stared at her, waiting, hoping for more. Surely, she’d say that they’d see each other later at lunch. Anything. Something. He’d accept it all and forget all about her strange behaviour. But nothing came. Katie kept her gaze locked on her shoes, her bag in front of her like a shield. The longer he stared at her, the more Marcus realised that this was it for them.
The sudden realisation hit him like a brick. She was trying to break up, let him down gently.
His brows furrowed and he dropped his gaze to the box in his hand. “I know what’s going on,” he said, his voice hoarse. The sharp intake of breath didn’t escape him. It was true, then. He swallowed hard and slowly looked up at her. His heart shattered into a million pieces at seeing the caught look on her face.
“I’m sorry,” was all she said, her voice thick with tears. “I don’t know how it happened-”
“Don’t,” he harshly cut her off. The last thing he needed to hear was that she'd met someone else. When she dropped her head again, wiping the tears from her cheeks, Marcus believed that they were tears of relief. “Just, go home. I- I can't do this right now.”
He wasn’t sure if he'd ever be able to face her again after this. His uncle's offer to work in his cauldron shoppe in Paris sounded a lot more attractive at the moment.
“We need to talk about it now. It can’t wait,” was her quiet retort.
“Oh no, we don't,” he said with a mirthless laugh. “You had weeks to tell me about it. We’re not gonna talk now because I’ve figured you out. Just go. Leave.”
She stood there for a long time, sniffling and shaking shoulders. Whereas Marcus would have rushed to her side to comfort her on any other day, he sat frozen in his chair. When she finally took a deep breath and turned around to leave, Marcus remembered the intricately carved wooden box in his hand.
“Wait a minute,” he called after her as he jumped up and ran after her. The hopeful look on her face would have been amusing if she hadn’t gutted him just seconds ago. Afraid that he’d crumble at her feet and beg her to take him back if he stared any longer at her, he thrust the box into her hand and took a step back.
“What’s this?” Katie asked, frowning.
Marcus tucked his fists deep into his pockets, mulling over what to say to her. “It’s, ah- It’s for you. It’s better this way.”
The deep line between her brows deepened when Katie opened the lid. When she looked back up to him, she asked in a tight voice, “Marcus? What are these?”
It took all his strength not pour his heart out to her, beg her to stay with him and give him another chance to fix whatever it was he’d mucked up. He wanted to tell her that those were the pieces of his broken heart she could keep. He didn’t think that he could stomach the idea of giving them to someone else. He was sure that he couldn’t love anyone the way he loved her. Eventually, he muttered, “They're yours. It’s for the best. I mean, with what you want…”
Ten minutes later, as he gave up on appearances and opened a bottle of Ogden’s, his cheek still stung and her last words echoed in his ears.
“You’re a bastard, Marcus Flint.”
“It’s the season to be jolly, fa la la la,” Marcus slurred as he brought the bottle to his lips. He lay sprawled on the sofa, altering between crying and laughing as he tried to drink himself into a stupor. Unfortunately, instead of making him forget, the Firewhisky just worsened the pain inside his chest.
Just as a new drop touched his tongue, the hearth roared to life with green flames and a tall, stern looking woman stepped out. No one had ever accused Mildred Flint of being a warm and welcoming witch, but this morning she looked more frightening than ever before. Her cheeks were flushed in anger and magic crackled at the tips of her fingers when she laid eyes on her only child. As she came closer, her nose scrunched up in disgust at his unkempt appearance the smell of alcohol that seemed ooze off him.
“Mummy,” Marcus greeted her flatly. He held his bottle out to her, “Wanna sip? S’good year.”
“What’s going on here, Marcus?” Mildred asked evenly as she looked down her nose at him.
“Celebrating Christmas, what else.” He let out a loud belch and murmured, “Ho, ho, ho.”
“We were supposed to celebrate Christmas with the Bells. Sober.”
“Nooo,” Marcus slurred slowly. “Not anymore.”
“Yes, so I’ve been told.” Mildred crossed her arms, narrowing her eyes. “Care to explain why Betty was foaming at the mouth when she Floo-called me earlier?”
“I dunno,” he mumbled while shrugging. Still, hearing about Betty Bell, Katie’s mother, foaming at the mouth was funny, and he couldn’t help but giggle at the image.
“Marcus?” Mildred warned him, waving her hand. “You’re not too old to get your ears boxed.”
The uncontrollable giggles ended as abruptly as they’d started. The bottle slipped from Marcus’ hand and landed with a soft thud on the carpeting, its contents spilling out. He tossed his arm over his eyes to hide from the world. His bottom lip quivered as he swallowed the sobs that tried to climb out his throat. “She left me, Mum.”
“What do you mean?” Exasperated, Mildred took a deep breath and pinched the bridge of her nose when Marcus howled ‘gone’. “Use your words, son. Like I’ve taught you.”
“She broke up with me. There’s nothing more to it,” Marcus cried drunkenly. “It’s over, Mummy. Three years down the drain.”
“That’s not what I heard,” Mildred snapped. “I heard that you were a right arsehole to the poor girl.”
“Wot? What are you on about?” Marcus lowered his arm, sure that he’d heard wrong. He stabbed his finger in his chest when his mother raised her brow in disbelief. “She broke my heart, Mum; she left me.”
Shaking her head in annoyance, she stalked over to him and pulled him up the scruff of his neck. He was nearly twenty-four years old, dammit, and she still had to fix his problems for him. But first, he needed a shower. Desperately. “If that’s truly the case, we’re going to sort it out this instant. Get ready to leave in ten minutes.”
The combination of Firewhisky, two phials of Sober-Up Potion, and side-along Apparition left Marcus wobbly legged when he and his mother landed in the snow-covered back garden of Bell Cottage. Clutching his stomach, Marcus dashed to the iron bench facing the house and flopped down with his head between his legs to catch his breath.
“You wait there. I’ll go in first,” Mildred ordered before she stalked to the house.
“Wait, yeah,” Marcus mumbled miserably and slowly lifted his head again, just in time to see his mother argue with Betty Bell by the door. Katie’s mum looked like she was about to hex him when she became aware of his presence. The only time he’d seen her like that was when Katie had brought him home to meet her parents. Something about the three years difference between him and Katie being too large of a gap.
Hoping that her hexes would miss their target if he made himself as small as possible, he hunched forward to his knees, his arms wrapped around his torso. He wasn’t sure how long he sat like that, and at some point, he must have dozed off. The last thing he remembered was Betty Bell staring him to death and the melting snow seeping through his trousers, and the next he felt a warm tingling sensation spreading across his body and someone sitting down next to him.
To his surprise, it was Katie, puffy-eyed and sniffling.
“Feeling a bit warmer now?” she asked.
“Yeah, uh, thanks.” The last remnants of the Firewhisky he’d drank earlier evaporated now that she was near again. While his mind cleared, dread grew in the pit of his stomach. He wasn’t sure if he was ready to hear why she’d dumped him, gutted him to the core, and danced on his broken heart.
However, their breakup wasn’t what Katie wanted to talk about. “Why did you give me those rings?” she asked.
Marcus shrugged, not seeing the point of discussing his reasons behind it. “Does it matter?”
“It does to me,” Katie answered softly. She pulled the box from her pocket and gave it back to him. “I need to know why.”
“Fine,” Marcus sighed, “I was going to propose today.”
Even though he should have known better, her reaction was disappointing. For a fleeting second, he saw them patch things up and her saying yes. All he got was an angry scowl, though.
“Yes, I gathered that much,” Katie said with a sigh. "But why?"
“Why? Isn't it obvious?"
"No, apparently, it's not." Katie screwed her eyes shut, shaking her head. "Why now, though?"
"Because I love you, you daft bint, I thought you loved me too. Because I wanted to make sure that you’d be mind and I’d be yours. Happy ever after and all that shite. I thought you wanted the same. I guess I was mistaken.”
Katie pursed her lips, disbelief written all over her face. “That’s all?”
“What do you mean ‘that’s all’? Isn’t it enough? What else do you want me to say?” Marcus snapped in anger.
Katie tilted her head and reached for his chin to make him look at her. She studied him for a long time, searching for something before she spoke again. “This morning… you said- you said you knew. What were you getting at?”
Marcus swallowed slowly as he touched her hand on his chin and brought it down to his lap, tightly enfolding his hand around hers. “I’m not a complete tool, Katie,” he started quietly. “You’ve been distant for weeks now. It wasn’t hard to guess what would come next. Mum gave me those before that, and- I don’t know, I want you to have them. They’re yours, even if you don’t want to be with me.”
“Shoving it my hands wasn’t much of a proposal,” Katie said with a sad laugh that quickly died down. “I’m sorry for keeping my distance lately, but it wasn’t because I wanted to break up, you know.”
“No, you silly oaf,” Katie chuckled, shaking her head. “I was planning on proposing to you if you kept me waiting any longer. But then…”
“Then what?” Marcus demanded to know when she stayed silent for far too long. “What’s got into you?”
“Fear that you’d leave me,” was Katie’s sad answer.
“Why’d you think that?” he asked incredulously.
Katie bit her lip, her eyes fixed on their entwined hands. She slowly drew herself free from his grasp and slid her hand into her pocket. When she pulled it out again, a small phial lay in her palm.
“Because of this. Healer Yeates told me to wrap it up for Christmas to surprise you. I didn’t get around to doing it.” She cleared her throat and muttered, “So, uhm, surprise.”
“What’s this?” Marcus picked up the phial and held it up to the watery sun to have a better look. It looked like blue smoke swirling in water. He couldn’t think of any potion that could do that.
“Please don’t be mad. I didn’t do it on purpose,” Katie said, a mere whisper at first but the longer Marcus stayed quiet, the more she got worked up, and the words tumbled out of her mouth. “I swear, it was an accident. I didn’t skip my potion, really, I didn’t. I would have told you if I had, honest. Healer Yeates said that there's a faulty batch-”
She burst out in sobs before she could finish what she'd wanted to say. Even though he still didn’t understand what she was warbling about, Marcus wrapped his arms around her, holding her tightly until she calmed down.
“What’s going on, love?” he whispered in her ear when she finally stopped trembling.
“Eight weeks last Friday.” Katie took a deep breath and gazed up at him from underneath tear-heavy lashes. “I’m pregnant.”
“That’s my boy,” Mildred said proudly as she watched Marcus slid a ring on Katie’s finger. “I knew that girl of yours got her knickers in a twist for nothing.”
Betty snorted and poured two glasses of wine to celebrate. “Of course she was worried. He wouldn’t be the first wizard to disappear into thin air as soon a witch tells him she’s up the duff.”
“Not my son. Jules and I raised him to be a gentleman, uh, ish.”
Betty hummed in agreement as she handed Mildred a glass. “Here’s to planning a wedding at wand point then. Granny.”
“Who says that they won’t wait until the baby is born. Don’t tell me your lot is that old fashioned.”
Betty snorted and took a big gulp of red wine before she retorted. “John and I aren’t. Katie on the other hand… I swear that she’s my mother-in-law incarnate. I should never let that old hag babysit her as much as I did. Oh, well. Make sure you keep New Year’s Day free, yeah? I have a feeling that there’s gonna be a wedding that day.”
Mildred cocked her brow as she glanced at Betty. “You’re not joking, are you?”
“Nope. Katie’s had her heart set on that day long before Marcus came into the picture. Easy to remember and all.” Betty poured herself another glass of wine. “So, who’s gonna tell the granddads that they’ll need to dust off their fancy robes?”