Rating: PG-13, Teen and up
Word count: 8067 words
Summary: “Sodding no-good Gryffs, drinking my whisky,” Marcus muttered under his breath and he turned to the barman, holding up the empty bottle. “Get me another one.”
Katie and Marcus bond over a bottle of Ogden's.
Disclaimer: Not mine. I'm just playing in Joanne's sandbox.
Author's Note: Originaly posted at AO3 January 2017. Re-posted here for archiving purposes.
A Chance Meeting
Inside a posh Muggle hotel in the London city centre that also catered to the upper class of Wizarding Britain, soft music wafted through the air in the dimly lit, luxuriously fitted penthouse. Numerous scented candles burnt in all corners, their shadows dancing on the walls to the rhythm of the tunes. Rose petals covered every surface available, their strong scent adding to that of the candles. To complete the utterly romantic scenery, a bottle of pink champagne and two flutes stood on a table next to a large bouquet of more roses.
His mother had done well.
Between the rose petals on the floor, a golden ring with a diamond inset glistened in the faint light. The way it lay there, carelessly thrown aside, was a clear answer to the most important question the owner had asked in his life.
'Whatever gave you the idea that I'd marry you? How desperate do you think I am?'
The unlucky owner sat on the edge bed with his face turned to the grand bay windows. The City lights twinkled happily in the night, mocking him almost. Suffice it to say that the evening hadn't gone as he had planned. The man could only imagine his parents' reactions to his unfortunate news. Utter disappointment expressed in every way imaginable from his mother and a mere look that said 'I've always known that you were a failure' from his father. Then there was his brother. The bastard had been right after all. He had been punching above his weight with her.
'No hard feelings, alright? Floo-call me when you want to have fun again.'
"No hard feelings," he said with a sigh as his eye caught the ring on the floor.
Would the goblin he'd bought it off refund it? Maybe he could sell it to one of his friends. He knew that a few had plans for their girls in the next couple of months. Then again, the thing must be cursed now. Who'd want a second-hand engagement ring? A rejected one at that.
Maybe it was better to think about that in the morning.
He needed a stiff drink first.
It wasn't much to look at, the sparsely decorated one-bedroom flat in Horizont Alley. In the living room, a worn carpet barely covered the floor around the wobbly crate that double functioned as coffee and dinner table. The small sofa was pushed against the far wall to keep the mould-covered wall from sight. Quidditch posters and numerous photographs hid the worst of the stains and cracks until the inhabitant had enough monies saved up to buy proper paintings. The small bedroom held a narrow cupboard and a small bed, the mattress on it the only thing she'd insisted on buying new.
On bad days, which tended to be every day in the autumn and winter, and little less in the other two seasons, rain trickled inside through the ill-fitted window frames and rotting ceiling beams. But that small fact was still a few days away from being discovered.
For now, the proud resident of the flat, a girl who had left Hogwarts less than a year ago, didn't see any of that. Firstly, she was the first of her friends to move out on her own and start living the adult life. Secondly, with her apprenticeship at the Ministry, this was all she'd been able to afford. Thirdly, and thirdly, having her own flat allowed her to have guests over whenever she wanted. Or, in her case, the love of her life. Who, coincidentally, was about to visit her in the next few minutes.
He'd insisted on meeting her tonight, and she for one knew why. After years of secretly pining after each other, he was finally ready to admit his feelings for her. She wasn't a schoolgirl any longer, and now that she had her own flat and a proper job, no one could stop them from being together.
Giggling in giddiness, she jumped up when the bell rang and straightened her new dress and fluffed her hair. She needed to look her best for him. Skipping her steps as she did so, she darted through the small flat to open the door. She briefly debated whether to jump in his arms and snog him silly as soon as she opened or play it cool so he wouldn't think she was desperate. It was decided for her when the sound of two men laughing reached her ears.
Frowning in confusion, she opened the door.
He was here, at her door, in all his heavenly glory.
And he wasn't alone.
Swallowing slowly, she came to the realisation that maybe, he wasn't here to confess his undying love for her. The hopeful 'maybe' turned into certainty as she took in the entwined hands and the beaming grins on the men's faces. She knew it before he opened his mouth. He had already confessed his love to the ginger next to him. That insufferable, pompous Headboy from a few years back.
It couldn't be, could it?
Had she saved herself for this?
Merlin help her get through the evening without hexing either of them.
The dingy pub on the crossing between Horizont and Diagon Alley was the only one still open this late at night on a weekday when Marcus Flint stumbled through the door. In his hand, he had an empty bottle of Firewhisky, and he was in dire need of more.
He stalked to the bar and plopped down on one of the three-legged stools as he slammed his bottle on the bar.
"Refill," he growled, his manners left in a sickly-sweet decorated hotel room.
The barman rolled his eyes but still did as ordered. Galleons were Galleons and if the sod was stupid enough to order a whole bottle, who was he to deny him that.
Marcus practically snatched the bottle from the man's hands when he pulled one out from somewhere underneath the bar. And as he impatiently barked for a glass, someone spoke up. Grunting in annoyance and ready to tell off anyone who'd dared to interrupt his alone time with Ogden's Finest and his miserable misery, he glanced in the direction of where the sound had come from.
A mousy little thing was hanging on to her empty glass for dear life. Was she fishing for free drinks?
"Wot?" he snapped.
"Rough night?" she asked again, unimpressed.
Marcus grumbled something under his breath and poured himself a drink. And as he downed it one go, he remembered where he'd seen the mousy girl before.
"You're that Gryffindor Chaser… What's her name?" he trailed off as he snapped his fingers and tried to force his alcohol-soaked brain to dig up long-buried names.
"Bell," she offered and then immediately, like him, came to a realisation. "Oh, Gods, it's you."
"Who?" he asked, already forgotten they were talking.
"Marcus Flint," the girl spat his name and shook her head as she muttered something unintelligible.
"Yeah, that's me. Good guess. Look, I know I'm irresistible, but I'd like to drink alone tonight."
"No worries there." Bell huffed in disdain and turned her back to him.
Marcus grumbled some more under his breath and poured another shot, and another, and another. Waiting and hoping for something more than a faint buzz. Damned the Flint bloodline and their inability to get drunk. Something-something about one of his perpetually drunk grandfathers and bad choices and spells to keep his progeny from doing the same. Sodding old codger.
Just when he thought that his night couldn't get worse, the mousy Bell girl started sniffling. Glancing in her direction, he saw her hastily wipe her cheeks as she held up her glass to the barman. He had to admit that she looked horrible. But then again, he couldn't think of one Gryffindor girl from his time at Hogwarts that had been easy on the eyes. Maybe, it was a House thing.
But whatever it was, the girl looked like she could use a drink or two. He knew the feeling all too well.
Cursing his uncontrollable kind-heartedness, he pushed his bottle in her direction. At her questioning look, he merely shrugged and said, "I've changed my mind."
They sat in silence after, sharing the bottle until the last drop. When the last of the Firewhisky was gone, Bell tossed a few coins on the bar, which Marcus tossed right back at her, and slid off her stool, wobbling on her legs.
"Thanks, Flint," she slurred as she pocketed her coins again, which took a few tries, "Next round is on me."
Without waiting for his answer or a bidding him a proper goodbye, she left.
Not that Marcus cared, he barely knew the chit. But still, ever the gentleman, he watched her through the grimy window. To his surprise and relief that he wouldn't need to feel guilty for not escorting her home, she disappeared into the crooked building across the street.
"Sodding no-good Gryffs, drinking my whisky," he muttered under his breath and he turned to the barman, holding up the empty bottle. "Get me another one."
Katie sat on the floor by the make-shift coffee table, staring at her plate of overcooked peas and burnt chicken. Several empty phials of homemade Sober-Up Potion to alleviate her headache lay around her plate, few of the many she'd taken all through the day. But as it was, she was rubbish at potioneering and must have missed a key ingredient because her brain was still trying to crawl out of her eyes and nostrils. Her quest to save a few sickles and knuts had backfired spectacularly. To make a bad situation worse, her stomach had decided to revolt against the ungodly amount of potion she'd forced herself to drink.
"Great," she muttered as she pushed her plate aside and rested her head in her hands. Aside from the hangover that she was trying hard to overcome, she pretended not to hear the hooting of the handful of owls on her windowsill and the incessant pinging of the Floo. She wasn't ready to be pitied or to hear from anyone and their uncle how romantic the whole situation was.
Oliver declaring his undying love for her would have been romantic, not him jumping out of from the depths of the proverbial closet and announcing his engagement to Percy Weasley in a full-page advert in the Daily Prophet.
The day had started bad enough as it was. After spending the night drinking -with Flint of all people, she had drunk-cried herself to sleep two hours before her alarm had gone off. Feeling like an Inferi, she'd dragged her still half-drunk arse to the office, only to be confronted with excited buzzing about the Puddlemere Captain and his new fiancé from the second she'd stepped out the Floo. The handsome, successful Quidditch star had chosen one of them, a measly Ministry clerk as his lover.
The knowledge that all the times she had seen Oliver hang around the Ministry Atrium hadn't been because he wanted to see her was a bitter potion to swallow. Although that stung, it wasn't the worst that had happened today.
Katie's lipped pressed together into a grim line as she recalled the Prophet waiting for her on her desk. A photograph of Oliver and Percy kissing each other in an endless loop as both held out their hand, showing off their engagement rings, had graced the front page. Again, that was a stab to her heart, but still not the worst. No, what had gutted her, were the numerous interviews with his friends and colleagues printed next to the public declaration. Judging by most of the comments, everyone had known about those two. For years.
Some of those people were her friends as well. Friends she'd confided in, gushed to about Oliver's every move, and had asked for advice on how to seduce him. Why hadn't they told her sooner?
A sharp crack from the other side of the room made her look up. A large Eagle Owls had managed to peck through the glass, two thick scrolls attached to its feet. She'd recognise the overfed bird from thousands. Angie's owl.
"Now you care, huh? I'm not interested, shoo!"
She needed a drink and knew exactly where to get one.
Rush-hour at The Spotted Dragon never lasted that long, thank the Gods. As most of the after-work drinkers went home, the regular patrons took over their places. In a far corner, Marcus Flint sat at a wonky table unseeingly watching the slow change. He had his legs stretched out, and his hands clasped behind his head. As it was, his mind was too preoccupied with the happenings of the day to take any interest in witches and wizards washing the day away with booze.
Although he hadn't managed to get black-out drunk last night despite his best efforts, something akin to a hangover bothered him. Or it could have been the memory of his mother's misty eyes when he'd told her that Samantha Greengrass had turned him down or even the not so subtle exchange of a pouch full of gold under the breakfast table. His brother Julius had won the apparent bet. Going into the office hadn't been any better. The sniggering of the hags behind his back -dear brother and father had seen fit to inform them of his misfortune- had only worsened his foul mood. The only remedy he'd been able to think off was to continue where he'd left off late last night.
It was just a shame he was too tired to order something, and Gary the barman was too lazy to do his work properly.
Marcus took a deep breath and closed his eyes to muster up the will to get up and order a Firewhisky, and then sludge back to his table and drink it one go. Merlin, he got tired by merely thinking about the effort he had put in it. He should have tossed someone off their stool by the bar earlier. That would have been much easier.
"You look like you can use one."
Startled, he snapped his eyes open. To his surprise, the mousy Gryffindor from last night -what's her name- stood before him, holding up a bottle of Ogden's and two empty glasses. She was a sight for sore eyes. The bottle that is.
"The whisky or the company?" he asked.
"Are you asking or saying?" Marcus raised his brows at seeing her flush a bright red. "Well?"
"I-uhm…" Bell cleared her throat a few times, looking everywhere but him. Then, as if something had clicked in her head, she squared her shoulder and slammed the bottle and glasses on the table. Her voice sounded firm when she finally answered, "Both."
Years later, Marcus would look back on the events of that time in life and wonder how a simple gesture of sharing his bottle Firewhisky in silence with a Gryff had changed the course of his life. But for now, he was happy to have a drinking mate who didn't have the need to yap his ears off his head. Still, it was after a straight week of drinking a nightcap together that curiosity got the better of him and broke his rule of not exchanging more than 'you want another drink?'.
"So, Bell, what's got your knickers in a twist?"
He'd expected a long teary answer or even a snappish 'none of your business'. Instead, she managed to surprise him with her deadpan reply.
"Who says I'm wearing any?"
Marcus choked on his drink, liquor dripping from his nose and chin. Bell was beside him in a flash, patting his back whilst giggling in his ear. As he regained his breath, he looked up at her in disbelief, and just like that, his breath hitched in his throat again. Even in the dim light, he could see her eyes sparkle with mirth, her lips curled up into a smile. Her cheeks were rosy, not the bright-red of embarrassment or from drinking too much -she barely drank more than one glass of whisky since the night she'd invited herself over to his table, but a healthy glow of someone who was having a good time. Slowly, he lowered his eyes from her face to her neck and chest and lower. For the first time that night, he took notice of what she was wearing; a tight jumper with a deep neckline and an even tighter Muggle trousers. Bell had tits and curves? When did that happen?
It didn't compute with the ickle girl he remembered from Hogwarts. Even more, he had to admit she wasn't a girl nor ickle.
"Woman," he croaked to his embarrassment.
Bell's smile faltered and her brows furrowed. "What was that?"
"Nothing, nothing," Marcus rushed to answer as he shook his head to remove the unwanted thoughts. Bell was still an ickle Gryff, one who could keep up with him drink-wise and had curves, but an ickle Gryff nonetheless. With a shapely arse he couldn't help but ogle as she returned to her seat.
Maybe it was time to stop drinking.
"So, no knickers, then." He cringed inwardly at his own statement. Pulling himself together, he tried again. "Who kicked your Puffskein? That's what I meant. Yes…"
One couldn't say that Marcus was one of the most observant or articulate wizards on earth. If he had been, he could have spared himself the trouble that was named Samantha Greengrass. But still, he saw right through Bell's too careless shrug. Also, he was sure that she hissed at the crumpled Prophet on the floor by her feet earlier. He wanted to call her out on the obviously fake smile she flashed him but decided against it. It wasn't any of his business, he told himself.
"No harmed Puffskeins or knickers in a knot. It just- There's not much to say, let's keep it at that."
A loaded silence followed as both turned their attention to their empty glasses. Marcus regretted having said something at all. If he had kept his gob shut, Bell would have remained the flat-chested walking broomstick he remembered her to be. If he had kept his gob shut, he wouldn't have felt the need to come up with a funny story to cheer her up.
"So, I guess same goes for you as well," Bell suddenly broke the silence.
Marcus chuckled, shaking his head because the last thing he wanted to do was discuss Samantha with Bell. He poured their glasses full to buy himself some time and gather his thoughts. He didn't owe Bell and explanation, he concluded. He was just a bloke enjoying a good glass of Firewhisky after a hard day of slaving for his father.
As he held his up in cheers, he winked at her and finally answered, "Yeah, same here."
Bell never touched her drink. She just sat there for the rest of the evening, studying her glass in silence. And as the night ended she tossed a few coins on the table and bid her quiet farewells, Marcus watched her hurry to the shoddy old building across the street. When he was sure that she was out of sight, he bent to pick up the Prophet from the floor.
He tried hard but failed to keep himself from rolling his eyes at the photograph on the front page. It featured Oliver Wood and Percy Weasley showing off their engagement rings. The news hadn't been too surprising, he and many other had walked in on those two in the many broom sheds and abandoned classrooms at Hogwarts. It was a miracle that they managed to keep it a secret for so long.
Then it clicked.
"Oh, Bell," he murmured with a sad laugh.
Not too long ago, he would have laughed at her and would have made it his life mission to make relentless fun of her taste in men. Tonight, though, he merely balled the Prophet into a wad and tossed it into the air. With a well-placed flick of his wand, the newspaper slowly fluttered back to the floor in nothing but glowing ashes.
Heartbreak wasn't funny.
"C'mon, Bell, admit it. Wood only selected you because you were so tiny that it made spying on the better teams easier." Flint howled with laughter, his head thrown back and eyes screwed shut.
Pretending to be offended by Flint's remark, Katie rolled her eyes and took a small sip of her pumpkin juice. She wasn't, though, not really. Oliver had ordered her to spy on the Slytherin team, just like he had ordered Alicia to spy on Hufflepuff and Angie on Ravenclaw.
"Oh, please," she brushed Flint off, doing her best to stop herself from laughing along with him. That turned out to be harder than she'd expected; his laughter was just too infectious. "There was nothing to spy on. Everyone knew your lot was nothing more than a hotchpotch of bad and even worse players. It's a miracle you won anything at all."
"Is that so?" Flint asked, still laughing.
"Yeah, that is so. I mean, if, and that's a big if, the only reason for me to get picked for the team was my spying potential, the Gryffindor team was still lucky to have me. I was a natural talent, and only developed over the years. You were long gone by then."
Katie wasn't sure why Flint suddenly stopped laughing and did her best to come up with another witty retort to get him going again. She liked to hear him laugh. It was deep, rumbling, and stirred a something in her belly that made her want to hear more of it. It was confusing the hell out of her.
It was strange how things worked out. Just a month-and-a-half ago, she'd been heartbroken over the loss of the love of her life. She hadn't believed that everything would work out and had sworn that she wouldn't love again. But then a morning a little over a week ago, as her landlord finally fixed her broken window, she had come to the realisation that she made a new friend. With Flint, who used to pull her hair and call her every name in the book during the few Quidditch matches she'd played against him.
And the more she thought about Flint, the less Oliver occupied her mind. In fact, she found herself being happy for him and Percy. She just needed more time to remove him from her fantasies and plans for the future. And that was where it got confusing. Slowly but surely, Flint seemed to take over his place. Whereas she would have gagged by the mere idea a year ago, the wonder and curiosity of how it would be to kiss distracted her at the most inconvenient times. He had become the leading man in her night-time and daydreams. Sometimes waiting at the end the of the aisle as she strode towards him in an overly puffy wedding gown, and other times, she dreamt about a gaggle of dark-haired, grey-eyed kids running after him in the garden of her dream cottage in Cornwall she hoped to own one day.
It was silly and unnecessary. This was Marcus bleeding Flint for heaven's sake. A nightmare prince, not the Prince Charming her fantasies were making him out to be. He was loud, arrogant, and unkind. But then again, he was also funny, a lot smarter than she'd given him credit for, and once you got to know him better, he wasn't unkind at all.
She needed someone to talk some sense into her, set her straight, but there was no one she could talk to at the moment. Who knew where her mother was these days, and she hadn't quite forgiven her friends yet. Those hags needed to stew for a bit longer before she'd forgive them for lying to and keeping secrets from her.
Startled that Flint had started talking again, she tore her eyes from his big hand on the table and looked at him. Now she was sure of it; he was blushing. She knew that she hadn't been dreaming last night. "Sorry, I must've drifted off. You were saying."
Flint swallowed hard, fidgeting with the scruff of his shirt with one hand as the other waved awkwardly in her direction. "I, ah, I said that I can see that-, uh, no. I said that I actually can believe that you de-developed in those years. After I left school. In Quidditch, I mean. Is it hot in here?"
Katie felt her cheeks heat up and quickly took a sip from her goblet. She was sure that they weren't talking Quidditch any longer. A quick change of subject was needed before she said, or worse, did something she'd regret. Thankfully, Gary helped her out.
"Closing time," he grumbled from behind the bar and flicked on the bright lights. When none of the remaining patrons moved to pay their bills and leave, he slammed his fist on the bar. "Out, out, out!"
Flint mumbled 'wanker' the same time Katie muttered a drawn-out 'no'.
"Looks like he wants an early night," Flint said, disappointment lacing his voice. He stopped Katie when she reached for her wallet, his hand covering hers. "My treat."
"You know when to give something away, don't you," she teased, hoping that he wouldn't take his hand off anytime soon. It felt comfortable and safe, and for a fleeting second, she wondered if it would be too weird to put her other hand on top of his. She wished she had when he withdrew it.
"It isn't my fault you insisted on being a cheap date tonight." He must have realised his slip up, and before she could say anything to the contrary, he rushed off the pay their bill. She wouldn't let him off the hook that easily of course.
"So, this was a date, then?" she asked upon his return.
"You were the one insisting on a juice night for a change."
Amused, Katie watched him don on his thick winter cloak and then out of nowhere, and very much to her surprise, he stepped up next to her and helped her put on her jacket. "Thank you, you're quite the gentleman," she told him as she zipped up. "But you didn't answer my question."
"What question?" Flint stomped to the door, only halfway he noticed that she wasn't behind him. "Are you coming or what?"
"Fine, be a wet blanket," Katie muttered and followed him to the door.
As they stood by the door, ready to step out into the rainy night, she tried one last time. Before he could open the door, she quickly put her hand on his on the knob. Although she felt bold, looking him in the eye whilst asking was a bridge too far. So, she settled on a side-eyed glance, happy to see that he was doing the same. In the bright light, it was much clearer to see the blush on his cheeks.
"Is something wrong?" he asked quietly.
"Yes. Was this a date?" Funnily enough, Katie found herself torn between yes and no. Yes, because she wouldn't mind a date with Flint, just to test the waters. No, because The Spotted Dragon was hardly a first-date kind of pub and besides, she hadn't prettied herself up.
Flint already had his mouth open, but again, Gary beat him to it. "Oi, stop blocking my door!"
"Thank Merlin," Flint murmured as he yanked the door open and pulled Katie outside with him.
Harsh rain pelted down on them, but instead of hurrying home, they stood in the middle of a deserted Horizont Alley as the other remaining patrons passed them in a rush to get out the cold wetness. Katie wasn't ready to let go just yet. It was still early, they could go to another pub, Muggle or magical, maybe have something stronger than a pumpkin juice. Something, anything.
Maybe, she ought to stop playing it safe and do something she'd regret.
"Would you like to come up for tea?"
And for the third time that night, Flint wasn't given a chance to answer. Almost out of nowhere it seemed, a group of women surrounded them, pulling them apart.
"Gods, we were so worried about you."
"Where have you been? Why have you been avoiding us?"
Katie wasn't sure who said what, the voices blurred into each other and then into nothing more but an annoying buzzing by her ear. All she knew was that the girls pulled her towards her flat whilst Flint stayed behind on the cobblestone, his hands shoved deep into his pockets. He looked as utterly disappointed as she felt.
Just before the heavy door slammed shut and obscured him from sight, he called out to her.
"Hey, Bell. It wasn't tonight, but maybe another time?"
That was good enough Katie. For tonight, though, she had her friends to deal with.
For the third night in a row, Marcus sat alone at their table in the pub, but he refused to give up hope. She'd come, he kept telling himself, she always came. He fidgeted with the stems of the bouquet of roses before him on the table as he wondered whether he ought to go and knock on her door in case she didn't come again tonight or just take the hint and accept that their drinking nights were over.
"Closing in ten!"
Marcus turned his gaze from the roses in the direction of the bar in acknowledgement. It was Valentine's Day today, and by the looks of it, even Gary had a date. The usually shoddy looking barman was dressed in his smartest clothes, his hair parted in the middle, and so closely shaven that Marcus was sure that he must have had the top layer of his skin scorched off.
"A few more minutes," he muttered as he turned his attention to the roses. She had to come, she always came. He had things to ask her, maybe have dinner with her tonight if she was willing.
She'd come, wouldn't she?
Had her friends talked her out of it?
"Are those for me?"
Marcus studied the numerous unmoving photographs on the wall as Bell busied herself with making tea. From what he gathered, the people in them were related to her in one way or another. Just as he tapped his finger on a picture showing a very young Bell with a woman who had to be her mother, she walked out the kitchen holding a tray.
"Are you still looking at those?" she asked laughing.
"They're interesting," he answered her absentmindedly, still tapping the picture.
"They're still. That means you're Muggleborn," he said. "And you look like your mum and your Nan. Oh, like that woman too. It's quite scary actually."
"Thanks," she answered as she put the tray down on one of the crates. "Well, go on. Out with it. I know you want to."
Marcus furrowed his brows as he turned to her, and for a minute he forgot what he wanted to ask. She looked beautiful with her plait falling over her shoulder and flushed cheeks. A fire he hadn't seen before burnt in her eyes and he wondered where she'd hidden that all those weeks. He wanted to see more of it, know what had caused it tonight.
"Say it," she said as she put her hands on her hips.
"Say what?" he asked in confusion.
"Something about me being a Muggleborn. Your lot used to make fun of us at school. Don't tell me you forgot about that?"
Marcus huffed and stalked over to here. Not sure where to sit, he plopped down on the sofa. "That was a long time ago, Bell. Besides, I never made fun of Muggleborns. You're thinking about other Slytherins."
He crossed his fingers in his lap, silently cursing his younger self for staying out of those discussions. He could've been her hero tonight. Thankfully, Bell just laughed.
"Had you there, didn't I? I know you didn't," she said with a wink. Then, as if she remembered something paramount, she snapped her fingers and turned around. "Give me a few, yeah? I need to put the roses in a vase."
True her word, she walked out of the small kitchen a few minutes later with a vase filled with the red roses Marcus had bought for her. "They're beautiful," she told him sincerely as she put on the narrow windowsill.
"Not as beautiful as you, uh, Katie." He braced himself, expecting to get told off for being too forward.
"Thank you, Marcus. That's very sweet of you."
For the first time in weeks, Marcus was at a loss for what to say next. At the pub, their conversation had flowed easily; they had been safe there because he had to behave because of the prying eyes. But here, in her flat away from those eyes, he wanted to hold her and see of those plump pink lips really tasted as sweet as they did in his fantasies. He wanted to wrap her long brown hair around his fist while sat on her knees before him, as starkers as the day she was born.
'Slow down a few notches, you prick.'
Most of all, he just wanted to hold her hand again and hear her bemoan Barty Crouch Sr. she apprenticed under like she always did. Maybe, she'd even rest her head on his shoulder. That seemed like an innocent enough of a start.
"Milk and sugar?"
"Oh, uh, black is fine, thanks." His throat dried up when she sat down next to him, close enough for their thighs and shoulders to rub. "So," he croaked, "No plans for Valentine's either, huh?"
"No plans, are you sure about that?" she asked as she bumped her shoulder against his.
Katie sighed deeply and patted his knee. "Never mind. No, no plans. At Hogwarts, I used to go to The Three Broomsticks with the girls. I thought we'd do something similar this year but…" She shrugged sadly as her smile ran away from her face.
"But what?" He shyly reached for her hand on his knee, praying that she wouldn't pull away. She didn't, which gave him hope.
"You don't wanna know."
"I wouldn't have asked if I didn't." Fully expecting her to push him off, he screwed his eyes shut and wrapped his arm around her shoulders, slowly pulling closer to him. Again, she didn't object, and another part of his fantasy became a reality when she rested her head on his chest.
"You remember that night when you asked what got my knickers in a knot?"
"They lied to me, about Ollie. My friends," Katie answered after a long silence. "They knew I fancied him since the moment I saw him, and they didn't tell me about him and Percy. That first night at the pub, I was there because I'd spent most of the evening listening to those two gush about their engagement and their wedding plans. I'd thought that Ollie wanted to see me to tell me that he was in deeply in love with me. Turns out he was, is, just now with me."
"You honestly didn't know? Those two were joined at the hip at school. In more ways than one." Marcus couldn't help but chuckle. The thought of Katie being so deep in love that she'd overlooked what everyone else had known for years was amusing to him. Until it wasn't. His chuckles died down when an unwanted thought popped out of nowhere. Would she feel for him what she'd felt for Wood all those years? And why did he care?
"I didn't, or I did and refused to believe. I don't know." She fiddled with the buttons on his shirt for a while before she continued. "I guess I knew, but it's easier to ignore the glaring warning signs when you're wearing rose-coloured glasses."
"Oh, yeah, I know about those."
"Oh, do tell." Katie pushed herself off, curiosity written all over her face. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to dredge- uhm, do you want to talk about it? I don't mind listening."
Marcus was ready to decline. What good would it do? It was embarrassing enough with only his family and friends knowing. His father and brother were still making fun of him behind his back and in his face, and his mother just wouldn't shut up about her fears about him dying a lone drunk somewhere in a ditch. It had been a humiliating experience, one he'd rather ignore than talk about it ever again. Despite his resolution to pretend that part of his life had never happened, he blurted out the name of the girl that had caused it all.
"Greengrass. You two broke up," Katie finished for him. It was her turn to chuckle upon seeing his expressing of surprise. "Oh, come on. You're a Flint, Pureblood, one of the Sacred Twenty-Eight. People love to gossip about your lot."
Scoffing, Marcus pushed her back against his chest and held her tighter. "Well, what you don't know is that she dumped me. Four years down the drain in one night."
"Just like that? Why?"
"I asked her to marry me, and she said no in quite a few different ways." He delved further into what had happened that night, how Samantha had laughed in his face, then got angry that he'd dared to think that she'd marry a tosspot like him. He told about the three-year affair with a married wizard she'd fessed up. The way she'd told it, it seemed like the most natural thing to do; waiting for that tosser to get rid of his wife. With great refrain, Marcus bit his tongue not to blurt out Lucius Malfoy's name. Samantha wasn't his problem any longer, and he refused to be in the middle of that shitstorm if and when the sordid details came out.
"You know what the worst part of it all is?"
"No, what?" Katie asked in a teary voice, upset on his behalf.
"I just felt relief when she tossed the ring back at me." Merlin, it felt good to say that out loud. "I hated her, every bit of her, and only realised it when my and her parents pushed me to make it official. I hadn't seen her in months before that night. Always too busy with everything else, she was, and I hadn't missed her for a minute."
"I don't understand."
"Our mothers set us up in our seventh year. Before that, I hadn't spoken more than five words with the stuck-up bint. Being an eighteen-year-old idiot back then, all I saw was a rack to die for on girl who wasn't as prudish as the average girl. To me, it was a match made in heaven. I spent most of my allowance and later my wages on her for the bit of bare skin she threw at me once every blue moon. It took me six months to wake up, and another three and a half years to end it. Well, technically, she ended it with me, but my point still stands."
Much to his regret, Katie entangled herself from his hold and stared long and hard at him, which became more and more unnerving the longer the accompanying silence lasted.
"What got your knickers in a twist those first weeks then?" she eventually asked. "You looked like a dragon had eaten your Kneazle."
"My family. Mum's devastated and blames me for mucking it up with such a precious girl and ruining her friendship with the Greengrasses, and my dad and brother… Let's just say that they think it's side-splitting and won't shut up about."
"That's horrible," Katie said as she snuggled into his side and wrapped her arms around his. "So, you've never loved her then?"
Marcus didn't need to think about that. "No, I tolerated her. Went both ways, I guess."
"Good, good," was Katie's unexpected answer as she tightened her hold on his arm. "You know what. I think we can use something stronger to go with the tea. I have an old bottle of wine in the kitchen cupboard. What do you say about popping that one open and I'll tell you about those photographs on the wall? A have few albums under the sofa as well."
Marcus startled awake from one of the best dreams he had in a long time. Disoriented and trying hard to hold on to the quickly evaporating images, he looked around the darkened room. The only source of light was the weak moonlight seeping through a crack between the curtains.
As his mind cleared, he remembered where he was, and felt heaviness pressing against him. "Katie," he whispered quietly to the girl sleeping against his chest. Would she want him to stay or freak out at his presence the moment she woke up?
"Do you want me to go?"
"No, stay, please." Katie shifted in his arms, pulling herself up against him. "Unless there's somewhere else you need to be?"
"I can't think of anything." Cautiously, Marcus began stroking her side, lower and lower to her hip and then subtly moving to her bum. "Is this okay? I mean, I can stop if you want me to. I understand if-"
"Marcus?" she cut him off. "You talk too much."
"Right." For the first time since leaving Hogwarts, Marcus decided to take a chance. He dipped his head and pressed his lips to hers. For a few long seconds, nothing other happened than the utter feeling of bliss taking over. He was kissing her, Katie. If he were to die right then and there, he'd die a happy man. Then she kissed him back, and everything in the world started making sense and dying seemed like a horrible idea.
They started out slow, almost shyly at first. Exploring, figuring out the boundaries. She tasted like whisky and chocolate biscuits, and he already hated the idea of letting go of those lips. Every hint of coherent thought left his mind, when Katie straddled him, touching, kissing, tugging at his clothes, which he reciprocated with the same eagerness. The need to see all over her, touch all over her, claim every part of her body as his, was an overwhelming one.
He wanted her. Now. He could only hope that she felt the same way.
Reluctantly, he let go of her lips and asked a simple, one-worded question. "Bedroom?"
He didn't see the hesitance that flashed across her face, only having eyes for the direction she was pointing at and her consenting nod. As he led her into the bedroom and tugged her remaining clothes from her body, he mistook her shyness for teasing. So, he teased her back until she was chanting his name in his ear while he worked his fingers on her wet folds and sensitive clit. And much later, when he was sure that she was ready, he sunk into her hot and welcoming body.
It was her gasp in pain or surprise, he couldn't be sure, that finally drew him out of his haze and made him realise that he'd made a mistake.
A mistake he couldn't undo.
"Stupid, stupid bint," Kate quietly scolded herself. She sat with her legs pulled up against her chest in the middle of her bed, watching the sun rise from behind the buildings of Diagon Alley. She had woken up less than an hour ago in a cold bed and no sign of Marcus other than her stained sheets. She couldn't describe the hurt of waking up before the crack of dawn to find him gone, sneaked out like a thief in the night.
Perhaps, she was as naïve as her friends had told her she was last week. Perhaps, those past few weeks had been nothing more than a game to Flint, and she'd walked into his trap with eyes wide open like the dumb little girl she was. Clearly, she'd been nothing more than an easy shag to him, while she wanted it to be so much more. She'd wanted to learn more about him, laugh with him, and listen to him talk while she lay on his chest. And when the time came, she would have introduced him as her boyfriend to her friends. She would have loved to see their faces fall at proving them wrong. Her mum would have loved him, she was sure of it.
If only he had wanted the same things.
Or maybe, she ought to stop being a dramatic bint and move on with her life.
"Oi, Bell, you awake? Can you open up? I've locked myself out. I, uhm, I got us breakfast."
Yeah, stop being dramatic was perhaps the best way to go.
Marcus watched Katie with amazement as she devoured her third helping of scrambled eggs, bacon, and toast. He'd never seen a woman eat that much, or anyone else but himself or bother for that matter. Frankly, it was quite exciting. He couldn't wait to bring her around Julius and see her out eat him.
"Wot?" Katie asked with her mouthful when she caught his eye.
"Nothing, nothing." He tried to focus on his own food, but when she reached for the strip of bacon on his plate, he blurted out, "You eat a lot."
"So? I'm hungry. Had an exhausting Valentine's Day."
Marcus wasn't sure what to address first; her stealing his bacon he'd kept for last or the fact that she forgot to inform him about a tiny little fact. He decided that she could make up the stealing bit by frying another batch later. He needed to get something off his chest first. "About last night."
For a moment, Katie stopped chewing and scowled at the toast she was buttering. "What about last night?" she asked between chomps.
Was there a right way to go about such things? "You should've told me."
"Told you what?"
Although he couldn't see, he was sure that she was laughing at him. She sure sounded like she was. "About you being… you know."
Deftly, Katie put her butter knife on her plate and folded her hands in her lap. "You've seen me starkers, Marcus, surely you can say virgin aloud. Does it bother you?"
"No," he replied slowly, which was a lie. It had kept him up all night. "I do wish you'd told me, though."
"Why? Would it have stopped you?"
"No, yes…Probably not." He rounded his cheeks and slowly exhaled. He wasn't used to such discussions. The most Pureblood girls he knew would have had clutched their pearls and ran away screaming at the mere mention of sex in bright daylight. Samantha excluded, of course. Then again, Bell was a Muggleborn; he'd heard it was different with them. "It's just, uh, I would have tried to make it more special for you. Isn't that what girls want?"
"I dunno, you tell me." A smile played at the corners of her mouth as she reached for his hand, entwining her fingers with his. "For what's worth, it was special. It truly was, don't worry about it."
He puffed out his chest, proud and satisfied that he'd done right by her, after all. Deciding that they were done with eating, he pushed the crate with their plates aside and pulled Katie against his body. He hadn't kissed her good morning yet, he realised and set out to remedy that mishap. Feasting on her lips and tongue was a much better start to the morning than a full breakfast, he decided. He'd never tire of it.
If only he could come up with the right words to ask her without making a mumbling pillock of himself.
Maybe, he ought to stop worrying and take one step at a time.
"Say,' Katie began after he finally released her lips, 'care to show me how you would have gone about last night if you'd known?"
He couldn't think of a better first step than that.