Relationships: Katie Bell/Marcus Flint
Summary: He wished he had some wise parting words, but he had never been much of a philosopher. In the end, it all depended on a slight change in his past to change his miserable future. It all depended on his younger self pulling his head out of his arse and coming to his senses before it was too late.
Decades ago, Marcus Flint made a major mistake. Today, he gets his chance to do something about it.
“Oh, Merlin, not again. What have you done?”
“I-I’ve made a mis-stake… I’m so sorry. I shouldn’t have-”
“Of course, you shouldn’t have. What you should have done was to listen to me for a change, you dolt. ‘Sorry’ won’t be enough this time.”
The setting sun showered the skies and lands in a warm orange glow when the old man entered the private and heavily guarded part of his garden. Pained grunts escaped him with each step he took; his body had finally begun failing him after all these years. It wasn’t a surprise, though. Since his early twenties, he had done everything all but point his wand at himself to get this far. Quite early on, he had realised that killing himself without the pain and suffering he had caused others would have been a too easy way out. And if there were something he never had done, making life easier on himself would be it. He deserved the agony of his body shutting down and the prospect of a long drawn out death. Only then, he could make up for the hurt and suffering he had caused in his life.
‘You don’t mean that, Marcus.’
His chest constricted at the memory of one of the last things she had said to him. Yet, each time he closed his eyes, it wasn’t the memory of her disappointment in him that came to the foreground. Instead, all he saw were her big brown eyes that used to have a way of looking at him as if he were the best thing in the world. Sometimes, on a lucky day, he could feel her soft touch tickling his skin and hear her whisper in his ear how much she loved him. And to think that he had thrown it all away in a moment of insanity.
Withering brown leaves crunched underneath his soles as walked down the cobblestone path. For more than four decades now, he made the same track once a week to talk to her. He would tell her about his week and keep her updated on the lives of their friends and family. She never talked back, though. Here, she never laughed or kissed his skin, only a deafening silence and cold lingered here. Her absence here was his punishment, he knew. Here, he only saw the weariness and defeat shine in her eyes, only felt how she had shrugged him off in anger the last time he spoke to her. This place was the reminder of the fact that she had never forgiven him for his wrongdoings, and he couldn’t blame her because he hadn’t forgiven himself either.
The small plot surrounded by rosebushes was the same as he had left it last week. With a flick of his wand, the dead leaves tarnishing her final resting place disappeared. She only deserved the best and most beautiful, a realisation he came to after losing her, and had tried to compensate for it ever since. Everlasting, thornless pink roses grew over and around the marble headstone. Over the last forty-and-some years, her favourite flowers had grown to a respectable size and protected her from the rain. For all the things he paid others to do for him, caring for the roses was his task. He did not allow anyone else to touch them; they were for her, from him. She had always loved their colour and scent, and as he had refused to buy them for her in life, all he could do now was to ensure she had an abundance of them in death.
Marcus let out a low grunt as he fell to his knees in an exhausted heap and traced the letters milled into the white marble as if it were for the first time. Even after all these years, he had difficulty with accepting the meaning. He still couldn’t wrap his head around on what had happened to her, to them, and his part in it. Their lives could have been some much more different if he had bothered to pull his head out of his arse when it had mattered.
Too dearly loved to ever be forgotten
7 November 1978 – 4 March 2005
4 March 2005 – 4 March 2005
A lump formed in his throat as he traced the second name: a son he never had the chance to hold. The only time he had seen him had been minutes before they were about to close the casket, a tiny baby curled up on his mother’s chest as if they were napping. A child he had refused to acknowledge or accept when she first told him about it. He still remembered the hurt and tears on her face, his cruel dismissal of her feelings. Her pleas to rethink his words still rang in his ears.
In the end, he had. Too late, but he had.
“I’m back, love,” he greeted in a raspy voice. Even after all these years, he still hadn’t found the words to say to his son. The guilt and shame were too immense to ask for his forgiveness. If it hadn’t been for his stubbornness and disregard for her, his son would have been more than a name on a tombstone.
“I thought you’d like to know that Ter and Alicia became grandparents again. Their Ka-”
He swallowed hard to hide his breaking voice. “Their Kate had a boy yesterday. She’s still thinking about names, but Ter reckons that she’ll name the baby after him. Then again, Graham expects the same courtesy.”
He let out a watery chuckle at the memory of yesterday’s heated discussion between his two old friends. Katie would have loved to witness the argument. Most likely, she would have fuelled to fire even more in the name of jesting. His laughter died down as sadness overtook him again at the thought of his friends and their expanding families. It was just another daily reminder of what he had lost. Being a godparent to their children had never substituted for what he had given up willingly. No matter how hard they tried to involve him in their lives, it would never be the same.
“That’s not all I wanted to say. Remember Thomas, Adrian’s boy? He dropped by this morning with a present to cheer me up. An early Christmas present, he said. Because he can’t stand to see me like this any longer, he said.” He pulled out a locket on a golden chain from under his robes and carefully held it against the setting sun. The gold and glass sparkled in the light, the white sand within glass held a wish he would have never imagined to come true.
“He enhanced it for me. I’m not sure how long he’s worked on it but apparently, it really works. He says that instead of hours, it’ll take me back by decades if I wanted it to. Can you believe it? I’ve changed that boy’s nappies and now he’s trying to get me tossed into Azkaban.”
A mirthless chuckle rumbled in his chest at Thomas’ insistence not to give out his name in case someone found out. Not that he ever would, he wouldn’t dare to pass on this one in a lifetime chance to correct his mistake. A cold breeze picked up, rattling the rosebushes hanging over him. Pink petals rained down shortly after, covering the grass where he sat kneeled down in pink velvet. He liked to believe that it was her way of approving the far-fetched plan, and whatever doubt he might have had disappeared like snow under the sun.
Convinced that this was the right thing to do, his trembling, wrinkled hands started turning the hourglass four times and he adjusted the small buttons next to it, just as Thomas had shown him earlier. He didn’t need to think about the exact date or place; how could he ever forget the day he had ruined the best thing that had happened to him.
“I’ll see you at the wedding, yeah? Save me a dance,” he whispered before he vanished from sight.
The strange feeling of being pulled and pushed was nearly too much for his tired body. The whole ordeal couldn’t have lasted longer than a few seconds, but felt like a lifetime to Marcus. In that short span of time, familiar and at the same time strange images flashed all around in rapid succession, leaving him dizzy and bereft of a life that could have been.
He landed awkwardly in, what seemed an undefined cold and grey space without confines. As he anxiously looked around, his surroundings began to shimmer violently and then morphed into a large, empty room. For a brief moment, nothing happened or seemed familiar and he feared that the time turner had malfunctioned, leaving him in a limbo-like place. That fear proved to be unfounded when suddenly a warm yellow light washed over him, chasing away the grey and cold. Festive decorations on the walls and flower arrangements appeared from out of nowhere. As the room took shape, entities began swirling around him in ever-changing silhouettes and colours.
Just as Thomas had urged, Marcus shuffled to the side as fast as he could to avoid fusing with one of them. From behind the thick velvet curtains, he watched the room in amazement. What started as the buzzing of a gnat, turned into rhythmic murmurs that turned into melodious music. The rapidly whirling colours finally slowed down and took on solid forms. Before Marcus could blink twice, the ballroom filled with the wedding guests for the Spinnet- Higgs wedding. Where seconds earlier oblivion had been, couples now waltzed around the fully decorated and furnished ballroom, chatting and laughing. At the tables around the dancefloor, more witches and wizards enjoyed themselves at one of the most talked about weddings of that year. Dozens of elves ran around with drinks and appetisers, supplying the guests with all they needed or could wish for.
Unbelieving that the time turner had worked, Marcus warily watched a slow dancing Terence and Alicia amidst the swirling couples. They swayed back and forth to their own rhythm it seemed, so absorbed they were with one and other. He couldn’t remember seeing them like this that day; he had been too busy with downing his drinks at the bar and avoiding her, Katie.
His eyes shifted to the very back of the room where he knew the bar would be. It was easy to spot his younger self. He was the only one not having a good time and chugging Firewhisky at an alarming rate to compensate for his displeasure. In the end, his appetite in whisky had played a crucial role ruining his life. Marcus whipped his head to the other end of the room, scanning for the deserted table at the very back he knew would be there. Just as easily he had spotted his younger self, he found her. There she sat, his beautiful girl, all alone and sipping from her water as she longingly watched the dancefloor. He let out something stuck between a sob and laughter at seeing her head bob to the rhythm of the music. He was sure that if he were to look underneath the table, he’d see her foot tap along. She always had like dancing while he had been as supple as a log.
‘Dance with me, Marcus, just once.’
‘I’m busy, go bother someone else.’
Even after all these years, he could still remember the smugness he had felt that day felt for rejecting her. He could still hear himself scoff at how she walked away to their table with her shoulders slumped, the weakness she had showed. Another thing that she had and he had not, class. In hindsight, it had been his immature way of punishing her for their fight the night before. Not for the first time, he wondered how someone like her had given an arse like him the time of day. No matter how awful he had treated her, she had always curled up against him at night, whispering consoling words of understanding for his behaviour, and promising that it would all be better one day. That he would be better one day, and that she'd help him with every step on the way there. Only in the darkness, hidden away from prying eyes and curious ears, he had believed her. Only to lose hope once the morning came and another torturous day began.
But today, at the wedding, he had been more vicious and angrier at life than usual. Most of all, he had been livid with her. Her stubbornness had stoked his already burning rage because for the first time in their relationship, she hadn’t given in to him and his demands. Instead of talking to her or listen to what she had to say for once, he had dealt with it the only way he had known how back then: picking fights and putting her down to make himself feel better. And she had stood her ground, patiently listening to his harsh rants regardless of the rubbish he had sprouted. All because she had faith in him. In the end, it took an open bar at a wedding to crush that faith and chase her away for good.
‘Dance with me.’
He glanced down at the small hourglass in his hands; he had time to spare. There wouldn’t be any harm in holding her in his arms for a few minutes, would there? Hadn’t he deserved that much after years of repentance?
‘Dance with me, Marcus, just once.’
“Don’t mind if I do, love.”
A big grin spread on his wrinkled face as he shuffled across the crowded dancefloor to the nearly empty table in a shadowy corner. If all else failed tonight, he would walk away with the dance he had refused the first time around. Maybe that alone would have some effect on their future. Even if it didn’t, he would die knowing that he had made her happy for once. By the time he reached her, Katie had ducked her head, staring down at her lap and discretely rubbed her thumb over the red silk of her dress. Sadness seemed to radiate from her. How could he have not noticed that before? Why had he ignored her and focussed only on himself?
Her name was on his lips, but he managed to refrain himself. To her, he was nothing but an elderly stranger. “Miss?” he asked instead.
“Marcus?” The hopeful smile she looked up with faltered when she laid eyes on him. Clearly, his voice did not match the man she had hoped to see. With his snow-white hair, wrinkled face and his nearly emaciated body, he didn’t resemble the healthy young man he had once been.
“I’m sorry, sir, I thought you were someone else.”
The words stuck in his throat as he stared down at her. For forty-three years, he only had photographs to remember her by. Now he knew that they hadn’t done her justice. They had never captured the light in her eyes, or the joy for life in them. He realised he had forgotten about how her dark hair shone in the light and the natural rosy blush on her cheeks. What else had he forgotten?
“Sir, are you alright?” she asked when he made no effort to walk away or hide his gawking.
Marcus blinked a few times to regain his composure. “Yes, yes, my mind must have drifted off. It tends to happen at my age. Never mind me.” Sadly, he wished he were joking.
Katie smiled unsurely as her eyes darted around to catch someone’s attention in case she needed a quick escape plan. Of course, everyone was having a too good time to pay attention to her. Beside the old geezer that is. Then again, any company was better than sitting alone at a wedding. “Would you like to have a seat?” she eventually offered as she pointed at the empty chairs around her. “There is enough room for you. Everyone else is, ah, dancing.”
Marcus shook his head as he tried to ignore the pang of guilt that coursed through him. Why hadn’t he spared a few minutes on the dancefloor back then? He braced himself and gave her his most charming smile, the one that used to make her giggle on their good days. “No, thank you. I was wondering if you’d like to have a dance with me.”
His unexpected question too her aback and her cheeks flushed a bright red as she tried to shake off the weird feeling that she had seen that crooked-teethed grin before, belonging to a man much younger. “No, thank, you, I-I…”
It didn’t escape him that she glanced at the direction of the bar. He followed her gaze to where his younger self stood, chatting up a tipsy, blonde-haired woman. For the life of him, he couldn’t remember her name. He hadn’t known back then either. All he knew was that he would end up with her in the coatroom within the hour, the deathblow to his relationship with Katie.
“Stupid wanker,” he muttered under his breath. Perhaps, he should have dealt with him first and then end the trip with a dance with his love.
Disappointed that her own crooked-teethed man had forgotten all about her, Katie let out a shaky sigh as she dropped her gaze back at her lap. Perhaps it was time to count her losses and go home. “I shouldn’t, but thank you for asking.”
“Please? I have the swing in my legs and no one to share it with. I’d cherish the memory forever.” He really would. More than she’d ever know.
She glanced at the bar again where Young Marcus poured himself and the woman another Firewhisky, laughing and chatting in a way he hadn’t done with her in a long time. Suddenly peeved by the sight and fed up with just about everything, she scoffed and held out her hand. “You know what? I’d like to.”
The moment she put her hand in his, he wanted to cry out in happiness. If he were to drop dead now, he’d die a happy man. As he led her to the dancefloor, he was sure that the face-splitting grin on his face made him look like a severely demented old man. He didn’t care, though; he had her in his arms again, and that was all that mattered to him. Would she be proud of him if he told her that he didn’t need to count his steps anymore?
“I didn’t catch your name,” she started in an attempt to make conversation as he skilfully guided her across the dancefloor.
“My name? Call me, uhm, Daniel.” He regretted it the moment the name crossed his lips; it felt wrong somehow and a thousand different sprung to mind. Would this be the night she decided on the name? Had he made matters worse by going back in time? He faintly shook his head; he couldn’t think like that. He had to believe some things were destined to be, the name for example, but not her death, never her death. Tonight had to succeed. And if it didn’t, he’d go back over and over again until he got it right.
“Nice to meet you, Daniel, I’m Katie.” She looked up at him from underneath her lashes, studying him with an unconcealed curiosity. “Do I know you, sir? You seem so familiar.”
“I don’t think so. But with my memory, I can’t be too sure,” he joked. The desire to pull her closer burnt his hand on the small of her back, just as he would have done before it had gone pear-shaped. Before he had chosen the bottle over her.
Katie awkwardly chuckled along with him but didn’t comment further. Instead, she kept an inquisitive gaze on him, frowning at what she was seeing. Or wasn’t, she couldn’t put her finger on what exactly peaked her curiosity. Nevertheless, they settled into a comfortable silence as only two strangers could. He didn’t mind the silence or her relentless stare, having her in his arms again was enough. Still, he wouldn’t be Marcus Flint if he didn’t find a way to muck it up.
“Don’t mind me asking, Katie, but you seem a bit down on such a happy occasion.” He grimaced at his stupidity for ruining the moment. Of course, he knew what and who had managed to bring her down, the tiny little phial on the bathroom counter and his uncouth reaction to it.
“I’m just having a bad day, s’all.” Trying to hide her misery behind a façade, she smiled a smile that didn’t reach her eyes and changed the subject without much effort. “I have a feeling we’ve met before. Maybe at the engagement party, where you there? Are you here for Ally or Ter?”
“For Terence, I was his best, ah, I’m one of his uncles. His favourite, best uncle. Yes, uncle,” he explained, hoping that she would buy his half-arsed excuse.
“I didn’t know he had any further family than his grandfather.” Katie frowned. “Alicia said-”
“Not by blood,” Marcus rushed to interrupt her. “Aloysius is an old friend, so…”
“Right, of course,” Katie trailed off, nodding in fake understanding. She wasn’t in the mood to delve into her private life either, so she understood his hesitance. However, just as she wanted to compliment him on his smooth dancing, something about the way the man talked finally caught up with her. She halted mid-waltz and cocked her head, meticulously scrutinising each detail on his face in search of something she couldn’t name. After a while, she turned her attention in the direction of the bar again, submitting the extremely drunk Marcus and the blonde woman next to him to the same scrutiny.
“Is he your boyfriend? If you don’t mind me asking, of course.”
She didn’t even hear him. Instead, her lips pressed into grim line and her brows knitted together in a deep frown as she tried to understand what she was seeing. Suddenly, she paled and her whole body went rigid in his arms. She let go of his hand and reached out to his face, lightly touching his cheek. Marcus’ eyes fluttered shut at the barely there touch and he slightly leant into her hand. He only realised what he had done when she quickly withdrew her hand as if burnt by a hot cauldron.
“You’ve travelled far, haven’t you Daniel?” she asked with an edge to her voice.
He wanted to lie, ask her what she was getting at all of a sudden. Instead, he found himself nodding, she had always seen right through his bullshit anyway. Even with his thinning white hair and wrinkled hollow face hadn’t fooled her. And as strange as is felt, it pleased him that she had recognised him.
It was his turn to turn his attention in the direction of the bar before giving an answer. He saw the woman whisper something in his younger self’s ear and his eagerness at whatever she was suggesting. He had a few minutes left to prevent that from happening. “I’ve made a mistake a long time ago. I need to right my wrong.”
“It must have been a serious mistake for you to travel this far.”
“One I still regret to this day,” he answered her sincerely. Was he apologising? He didn’t know anymore. “Please, don’t ask me more. I-I need to do this.”
Katie looked past him at the bar and back again. It looked as if she wanted to say something. But in the end, she just nodded curtly and stepped away. He wanted to hold her, grab her, and take her with him to his own time just to be sure that she wouldn’t leave him. That’s why he was here, wasn’t it? To keep her safe, to keep her by his side so he could grovel at her feet for the rest of life to atone for all the times he had wronged her. What if couldn’t get through to his younger self to do that? Wasn’t it wise to have a back-up plan?
“In that case, Daniel,’ she swallowed hard as her hands balled into fists next to her thighs, ‘I’ll let you get to it. I’m sure you have a lot of work to do. If you’ll excuse me, I need to freshen up.”
She didn’t wait for his reply and had already taken a few steps when Marcus came to his senses. He grabbed her arm to prevent her from walking in the wrong direction. Her eyes flicked from his hand on her arm to his face and back. He knew that look; she was angry. Muttering an apology, he let go of her and pointed in the opposite direction of where she had wanted to go. “It would be best if you, ah, use the one near the garden.”
Again, she looked as if she wanted to say something. But other than a huff in irritation, nothing came out, and she walked away without a backwards glance. Marcus watched leave with pain in his heart and hoped that he’d see her again once he finished what he had come to do. As soon as she slipped out of the room, he took a deep breath and squared his hunched shoulders; he had work to do. The plan was to intercept his younger self at the bar and shoo the blonde chit out of his way. Of course, nothing could be that simple, nothing ever had been in his long miserable life. Aside from the elf guarding the booze and pouring drinks, no one else stood at the bar.
“Ah fuck, sodding bastard,” he muttered annoyed and pulled the time turner out of his pocket. He had a half hour left to talk some sense in his thick-headed younger self. To the coatroom it was, then.
As he stalked towards the nearest exit, he didn’t notice the older, silver-haired woman Katie heatedly argued with as she was steered back into the room. Nor did he see her hesitantly trailing after him from a safe distance shortly after. All he could think of was to stop himself from making the biggest mistake of his life and stick his cock in places it didn’t belong. Grateful that the Gods were on his side for once, he reached the grand entrance hall just in time to see the blonde woman disappear through a door. Young Marcus stayed behind, drunkenly swaying on his legs as he looked around in confusion as if he didn’t understand how he had ended up here.
“Oi, you prick,” Marcus bellowed and banged the wall to catch his attention, wincing in pain as his brittle bones protested to the sudden bout of abuse.
Young Marcus slowly turned around, blinking unfocused and lazily scratching his chest. He smacked his lips as if he just tasted something awful. “Wot?” he slurred and let out a belch.
Marcus huffed. Yes, he had to be very drunk to ignore that someone had called him a prick. How on earth had he managed more than a snog with the blonde? With the amount of booze in his blood, he could barely lift a finger, he realised, let alone his dick. Not wanting to think too much about that, he strode towards Young Marcus and grabbed him by the scruff, roughly shaking him back and forth.
“Lemmego,” he slurred as his arms flailed around, missing their target by far.
“Not another word,” Marcus hissed in his ear as he pressed his younger body close and Apparated them away with a deafening crack.
Not much later, Katie appeared from behind a pillar, a half smile on her face. “Well, who would have thought?” she asked no one in particular, still a bit impressed by what she had seen. All she had to do now was to figure out where they had gone. Knowing Marcus as well as the insides of her pockets, she had a pretty good idea of where that might be.
Just as she was half way back to the ballroom, the door to the coatroom opened and a head popped out. “Marco, what’s taking so long?” the woman whinged. When no answer came, she called out again. “Martin? Uhm, Marcel?”
Fortunately, for the blonde, Katie only cast her a hateful glare before she stomped off. Too drunk and impatient to care or wait around for anyone, the woman merely shrugged and disappeared back into the dark room. She could do with some kip, she decided.
Impatient and at the same time relieved, Marcus watched his younger self stir in the chair he had tied him to. It had taken him four phials of Sober-Up Potions to get this far. He knew he had been drunk the night of the wedding, but clearly forgot how drunk exactly. With his attempts to get his younger self out of his stupor, he had lost precious time. They had less than fifteen minutes left before he had to go back to his own time. He could only hope it would be enough to change his history and future.
Young Marcus groaned as he fought against his bounds, confused as to why he couldn’t stretch out properly. His head pounded and stomach churned with the mixture of the various sorts of whisky he had tried and the excess of Sober-Up Potions. Ideally, he’d stick a finger down his throat to take off the pressure and have a beer after to settle his stomach. Not being able to move his arms complicated that plan, though. Squinting, he looked around in the dimly lit room and wondered how much he had to drink this time for not to remember where he was or got here. The room sure didn’t hold any clues to help him. It was far too dark for his alcohol infused brain. The few candles scattered around did nothing to brighten the room. The only things he could make out were with white sheets covered few pieces of furniture. In the distance, the orchestra played. So, he still had to be in the castle, then. The locked down part, perhaps?
A deep sigh from his left startled him and when he turned to see who it was, he noticed a dark form outlined against the bright moonlight that shone through the window. He narrowed his eyes to make out who it was. Was this one of his drunken hallucinations again? Perhaps, he was dreaming. He didn’t have to wait for an answer when a man suddenly stepped forward into the faint candlelight. The sound of breaking glass underneath the soles of his shoes resonated across the room.
“Papa?” Young Marcus asked confused, immediately scolding himself for his stupidity. His grandfather had died twenty years ago.
Chuckling, the man moved closer until he was in front of him and slightly bent forward. “Am I that unsightly?” he asked in a raspy voice.
“Yeah, worse even,” Young Marcus bit out, angered by his own foolishness. From this close, the man was certainly not his grandfather. But that was neither here nor there, all he cared was for to leave and get back to his drinking. Unfortunately, invisible shackles thwarted his attempts to stand up. “Why am I tied down? Release me, now!”
“We need to talk first. Well, I’m going to talk, and you’re going to listen. It’s very easy; even you can do that.”
“Sod off, you idiot. Go bother someone else.” Young Marcus buckled in his chair again, grimacing as his restraints tightened around his wrists and ankles. He wasn’t in the mood for playing games with crazy old codgers.
Marcus put his hand on his younger self’s shoulder as he clacked his tongue in disapproval. “Don’t bother. You ought to know by now that the harder you fight, the firmer they’ll become. Remember the war?”
Several things seemed to happen at the same time Marcus touched the struggling young man, the electric current coursing through his body seemingly the lesser occurrence. In the blink of an eye, pitch-black clouds formed above the castle, obscuring what had been a bright autumn night. Soon, multiple lightning bolts drowned the whole estate in a blinding light, followed by ear deafening thunder. Harsh rain and hail began pelting against the window. Inside, cracks appeared on the walls as the floor shook violently underneath Young Marcus’ feet. A cold, harsh wind blew around the room; the flickering candlelight alternately shortened and lengthened the shadows in their fight not to fade out. Still, in the distance, music played on without interruption as if nothing had happened.
“I shouldn’t have done that,” Marcus deadpanned, shrugging nonchalantly. On the inside, though, his heart raced in anticipation. “Can you feel it? Changes are happening already.”
“What changes? Who are you?” Fear bubbled to the surface as Young Marcus witnessed the cracks on the walls spread out like oil in web like patterns.
"Do you really want to know?" Older Marcus, swallowing down the pain in his old limbs, crouched down to his knees before him until they sat nose to nose. “Guess who?”
“No,” Young Marcus mumbled as comprehension set in after minutes of thorough studying the face before him. He looked into the familiar grey eyes that usually stared back at him from a mirror and told himself that this was nothing but a dream. The man jabbed his shoulder for a reaction. Immediately, a loud crack appeared in the ceiling and dust and plaster fell into his lap. It couldn’t be; he was smarter than this, wasn’t he? Oh, dear Gods, he had to be smarter than this; this went against everything he had learnt about time travel. “No, you can’t… What have you done?”
“I've done what I had to do,” older Marcus answered and fought his stiff joints to get up. “We, you, whatever, cocked up, more than usual, and we need to fix it.”
“Me?” Young Marcus struggled harder in his chair, making it scratch and bounce on the floor as he tried to get free. “Bloody hell, I’ve gone barmy in my old age. Let me go, you sod. Now! You have to fix this before you kill us all.”
“We are. Now, sit still. With what I’m about to tell you, you won’t mind some future discomforts. You’re minutes away from losing everything as it is.” He hoped that keeping his younger self out of the coatroom would be enough, but he wasn’t about to take any chances.
Normally, Young Marcus would have huffed and sneered at someone attempting to teach him a lesson. If they were lucky enough, and he had a good day, he wouldn’t press his wand against their throats. “What are you on about?” He narrowed his eyes. “You know very well that I have nothing more to lose.”
Older Marcus shook his head. He remembered the hurt he had felt back then, remembered the anger and self-blame he couldn't turn off no matter how hard he tried. It had consumed him, had left him feeling worthless. He remembered the copious amounts of Firewhisky he needed to numb the pain and nightmares. Even now, after so many years, he could still hear his parents’ pleas to spare their sons’ lives, and take them. In the end, it had worked: their lives for his and that of his brother. Nevertheless, right after, Julius had joined the Death Eaters anyway. The last time he had seen his brother alive, they had stood on the opposite sides of the battle with their wands pointed at each other. After the dust had settled, he had been the last Flint alive. Barely alive and holding on to his sanity by a thread.
And in less than six months from this day, he would lose his last chance at a family. He would lose the one person who had loved him for him, and who he, in hindsight, had loved back with whole his heart. Even when he had never told her that, he realised with regret. Not one single time.
He glanced at the time turner he pulled out of his pocket. Time had slipped away from him again, as always. “How about losing Katie? You’re going to lose her.”
Young Marcus raised his brows in disbelief. “I will not, and if she leaves, I’m not going to stop her. She’ll come back crawling. She always comes back.” When he saw the grim look on his older self, his confidence faltered. “She will, won’t she?”
“Did you know that Katie has kept the automobile her parents gave her?” Marcus asked as he ignored the other’s struggles. A bright green Fiat, he remembered. He used to have lunchboxes bigger than that god-awful thing.
Young Marcus temporarily stilled in his chair, his features twisted in disgust. “To keep in touch with your Muggle roots,” he mimicked Mrs Bell in a shrill voice. “She wouldn’t. I told her didn’t like her riding that death trap, she’s horrible at it.”
Marcus chuckled without much conviction. Katie had never listened to him each and every time he had tried to lay down the law with her. Or anyone else for that matter. “Well, she still does and in about six months from now, she’s going to fall asleep while driving it at high-speed and wrap it around a tree.”
Another loud thunderclap drowned out the muffled gasp on the other side of the door.
“Let me go now and I’ll make sure that won’t happen,” Young Marcus tried to negotiate after a moment of shocked silence, sure that his future self had gone barmy. Why would Katie drive an automobile when she had a perfectly fine broom to fly?
Marcus went on undisturbed as his hand sneaked into his inner robe pocket. “She’ll die on the way to hospital. Them Muggle Healers will get the baby out, of course, cut him out of her. An hour it was, they told me at the funeral. He lived for about an hour after that,” he trailed off. The resentment he felt for her parents for not telling him sooner about what had happened to Katie, for not taking her to St. Mungo’s still ate away at him after all these years.
Again, the rumbling thunder covered a sob.
“Stop lying, you bastard. How can you say that?” Young Marcus hissed and fought harder than before. His cheeks turned red with anger at being forced to hear the man’s disgusting fables. “She’d never drive that thing, she promised me. Let me go and I’ll find that thing and tear it apart. Let me go.”
“I don’t think you can convince her without change. She will leave after tonight because you’ll finally push her hard enough.”
“Stop lying!” Young Marcus screamed in desperation. “She’d never do that, not now. Not when she- she's..preg-”
Marcus donned a wry smile. He remembered that as well: the paralysing fear of becoming a father. The fear of mucking it up and lose everything again if he took another chance at happiness. It was far easier to lose yourself in your pain than to get up and fight against it.
“Because she’s pregnant, she’ll leave you.” Marcus pulled out the pictures from his pocket and threw them in the air. With a flick of his wand, they rearranged mid-air in a perfect circle and rotated around Young Marcus. Each picture enlarged itself before his eyes and stilled for several seconds before the next one took its place. Marcus had counted on the effect would have on his younger self. However, what he had not counted on was that with each new picture, his own unabated grief seemed to double and grow bigger to the point of nearly becoming suffocating.
It all came back to life again. The memories of utter loneliness, of waking up the morning to find her gone and having no clue of what he had done, the months that passed in and endless cycle of alcohol and restless sleep. And ultimately, the days and nights he had spent on her grave, begging her to return to him, promising her the world and apologising for everything he had and had not done.
“She’ll leave tonight if you keep up being an arse to her,” he said in a strangled voice. With his last strength, he came closer and pressed his palm against Young Marcus’ forehead. It was cruel and potentially dangerous, but it was also the last trick up his sleeve in talking some sense into his younger self. He had always been a slow learner. “Transferium.”
A surge of memories nestled into Young Marcus’ brain, nearly making him double over in the physical pain the emotions the images brought up, more so than the photographs hovering around his head. Seeing the photographs of a funeral, of Katie and their son in their caskets, the only picture of Daniel when he had been alive, so impossibly small with wires and tubes sticking out of him, did not compare to feeling the loss. Tears slowly ran down his cheeks as he struggled and begged for it to stop.
The time turner began vibrating in Marcus’ pocket. His last minute in the past had arrived. With another swish of his wand, he released Young Marcus from his bounds and burnt the pictures. He wished he had some wise parting words, but he had never been much of a philosopher. In the end, it all depended on a slight change in his past to change his wretched future. It all depended on his younger self pulling his head out of his arse long enough to come to his senses before he reached the point of no return. “Now you’ll know what not to do,” he finally said before the time turner whisked him back to his own time.
A gush of wind blew out the candles, plunging the room into a cold darkness. A clock hidden underneath one of the sheets chimed midnight in sync with the clapping thunder outside. Oblivious to his surroundings and that his vanished bounds, Young Marcus sat rocking in the chair in a numb haze. Painful emotions and memories he couldn’t place nor wanted, settled into his mind and body. He wept tears he hadn’t since being a young boy as he tried to make sense of what just had happened. It felt like a waking nightmare. He needed this night to be one because, from a bad dream, he could wake up.
At first, he didn’t register the hands on either side of his face or the calling of his name. Only when soft lips pressed against his forehead, he dared to look up. His Katie sat before him, looking at him with worry and sadness, crying. Why was she crying? He had meant to console her, start treating her better, just as she deserved. He’d give his wand arm to avoid the future he had seen. However, as soon as she wrapped her arms around his neck, muttering apologies, the dam burst. He buried his face in the crook of her neck and began weeping, about his past and his uncertain future.
“You’re gonna leave me,” he cried in panic. “Don’t leave me. Please, don’t leave me.”
Forty-three-years into the future, Marcus Flint startled awake in an eerily similar dimly lit room. In the hallway downstairs, the old grandfather clock chimed midnight as he blinked rapidly and took deep breaths to calm down his racing heart. Sweat dripped down his temples into his pillow, as he lay immobile and panting in fear under his down comforter, tied down by imaginary bounds. The more he fought against them, the more he became incapacitated with fear and somehow that felt similar to something he couldn’t name. Threatening thunder echoed in his ears with each chime of the clock and he didn’t quite understand why it scared him so much. Lingering remnants of a disturbing nightmare faded too fast for him to recollect what he had dreamt about, only that he was running out of time had stuck.
“It’s alright, love, calm down. I’m here,” a soft voice came from his right as a warm hand covered his cheek.
His fear seeped away and unexplainable hope and tranquillity filled his chest at hearing her voice. Her touch broke his temporary paralysis and had him whimpering in foreign emotion. He turned his head in his pillow to drink in the sight of her as if he hadn’t seen her in ages. She seemed to radiate in the darkness, still the prettiest woman he had ever laid eyes on, even with her dark hair turned silver and a few added wrinkles by the corners of her eyes. He couldn’t begin to describe how much he had missed her and it was so silly because he had seen her just hours earlier, hadn't he? Before he had fallen asleep.
“I was so miserable,” he whispered into the dark as he tried to puzzle together what it was he had dreamt. However, a firm fog had settled in that particular part of his brain, prohibiting him from accessing memories he no longer had a use for. Only sadness, so strong he could practically touch it, remained. “You'd left me. A-and..and I-”
To his shame, he burst out in tears he couldn’t remember ever crying before and that were another silly thing. He knew that he had cried about something not so long ago, he just couldn’t say about what. Suddenly, a glimpse of a young Katie dressed in a red dress popped up from the fog and deep grief overtook him. Merlin, what was happening to him?
Katie got up from her chair and slowly dropped to her knees next to the bed in an attempt to comfort her upset husband from as close as possible. “Silly old man,” she muttered as she cupped his cheek with one hand as the other rested on his chest. His heart drummed in a frantic rhythm underneath her palm. “Take deep breaths, love, your poor heart can’t take this much stress. We’re not eighteen anymore.”
“It hurts so much,” he told her in a strained voice as he grabbed her hand to make sure that it really was her here with him. She had been by his side since leaving Hogwarts, why didn’t feel it like that? “So, so much.”
“Of course, it hurts, crazy old man. You took quite a tumble. It’s a miracle that you haven’t broken anything. You gave me quite a scare.” She cocked her head, frowning when he didn’t laugh along with her, only whimpered like a scared puppy. “You fell off the stairs after supper, remember? You were chasing after the boys?”
“Boys? Oh Merlin, Daniel!” Marcus closed his eyes, immediately haunted by images of dead babies in caskets and tombstones that felt so real. It nearly brought up another round of sobs, though this time, he managed to swallow them down.
Alarmed by his behaviour, Katie laid her hand on his forehead to check for a fever. “No, Madeleine’s boys. Danny’s are at school; you know that.”
The crease between her brows deepened in worry at seeing the growing confusion all over her husband’s face. “Our youngest? The reason your hair turned white like you always say. Honestly, Marcus, should I call a Healer to check you over? I think there is more than a bump-”
“No!” he objected, even though he had no idea why. “I- I don’t know.”
“Try to go back to sleep then.” With her hand still on his cheek, Katie leant in closer, their noses touching. You must have had a bad dream. By the time you wake up again in the morning, you’ll feel much better. I promise.”
“But-.. what…don’t leave…” He tried to get up and reached for his wand to make ensure that his family would be safe, and nothing could harm them. What if he lost her or…or their brood? The thought alone sprouted another bout of misery deep in his gut and the overwhelming need to do something. But despite his frantic efforts to get up, Katie held him down without much trouble.
“I’m not going anywhere, Marcus. You’re stuck with the kids and me for another few decades at least. Now, just lie back and close your eyes, you need your rest. I’ll be here in the morning when you wake up.”
It took him a few minutes of feeble fighting against her suggestion, but ultimately, exhaustion overtook him. As he lay on his side facing her and his cold hands warm and safe in hers, the fog in his brain shifted a little and little snippets of his life and family overloaded his senses. They felt new and at the same, so familiar that it confused him to no end. Maybe, he had fallen harder than thought; his head did hurt very much.
“We’re stuck with each other, then?” he mumbled eventually as his eyes began to droop in drowsiness. “Always?”
“Always,” Katie agreed.
It was all he needed to obviate the sorrow that began to feel more distant with each heartbeat. Not long after, his light snores filled the room. Katie waited another few minutes until he was deep asleep before she reached over him and grabbed a golden trinket from underneath his pillow. The time turner glowed in the faint moonlight as she held it up. Her worried frown turned into a proud smirk as she studied it to make sure that it hadn't damaged earlier, her lifework. Sometimes, being an Unspeakable had its merits, she mused.
Careful not to wake Marcus, Katie got up as stealthily as she could and padded over to her vanity. He would never think to look there for something. After another look, she placed the locket and chain in the drawer, next to its twin she had brought back from another timeline to restore this one. In the morning, before their children and grandchildren would come over for Sunday breakfast, she'd owl Thomas Pucey to tell him that she had resolved his previous muck up. And after she’d given Marcus the potion to restore his jumbled memory before he went off the deep end, it would be as if nothing had happened at all.
No affairs and no premature deaths, just as it were destined to be. Like their lives had been before all this meddling with the past.
It didn’t take her long to vanquish Marcus’ clothes and the empty phials of Sleeping-Draught into nothingness. Pleased with herself for easily cleaning up the mess that came with irresponsible time travel, she settled in for the night; curled up around her husband exactly as she had done since forever. As her slightly modified memories settled in with the subsequent obligatory migraine, Katie stared long and hard at the small crack in the ceiling that hadn’t been there the previous night. It meant nothing, she told herself. Dwelling on a simple crack would do more harm than good. She was right back at where she had left off before deciding to use her family to experiment. Her life was perfect again. The only shame was that it had taken her a few tries to fix something that didn’t need fixing in the first place to come to that realisation. Life had a way of working out; she had to hold on to that. Her family and life were perfect.
Absolutely perfect. There was nothing she would to change. Not anymore, she had learnt her lesson the hard way.
“Third time’s a charm, love,” she said to no one in particular and promised herself that from now on, she’d keep her work and her family separated.
The enhanced time turner worked like a charm, and she had two now. They offered a completely new world of learning opportunities for her Department.
Adrian Pucey still suffered from the physical and mental scars from the war...
Perhaps Thomas would be open to the idea of using his parents for their next experiment.