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FIC: Sharing Penance (Katie, Marcus), GEN

Title: Sharing Penance
Fandom: Harry Potter
Characters: Katie Bell, Marcus Flint
Prompt: Prompt table 8, 038. Imperfection
Word Count: 1213
Rating: GEN
Summary: Marcus is suffering, Katie is having none of it.
Author's Note: One and a half sentence is taken from 'The Tales of Beedle The Bard' by JK Rowling.

Marcus Flint wondered if the pain would ever lessen. He turned to his side as he pulled the blankets over his head, hoping that the change in position would ease the pressure on his face. It did, but only for a little while.

At nine-years-old, he was supposed to be too young to have regrets in life. Still, he had one. A major one. As the pressure behind his eyes built up again, he regretted ever listening to his friends. Because if he hadn't, he wouldn't have tried to brew potion behind his grandmother's chicken coop. Merlin, how he regretted exaggerating about all the things he'd learnt during the potion lessons with his grandfather. He should've never shown his friends the old potions books, or let Adrian talk him into nicking ingredients from his grandfather's private cupboards.

One moment he was adding the Tarantula venom and the next, he woke up in St Mungo's, in horrible pain all over his body, bald patches on his head, and not a single tooth left in his mouth. The Healers had given him potions to regrow his teeth in an odd, crooked kind of way. The Pain-Soothing Potions had left him drowsy for days, falling in out of sleep and making him dream strange dreams.

One of those dreams had been about his long-lost father visiting him in hospital. In his foggy dream-like state, Marcus hadn’t been able to see his face, but the man had called him ‘my poor boy’, and he had stroked his cheek and hair. Unfortunately, the pleasant dream had ended with his mum getting cross and yelling, and his grandfather and Mr Bell jumping between his parents and leading his dream-father out of the room. Then he'd fallen asleep again. Or woke up, Marcus couldn't be sure.

And now, after three weeks in hospital, Marcus was back home. The pain wasn't as bad as it had been but he was still mighty uncomfortable and unhappy. Thin scars ran over his cheeks and forehead, and his teeth were crooked and discoloured. He didn't look anything like himself, and according to his mum, the Healers had said that they couldn't fix him more than this.

"Owww," Marcus groaned when the pinching feeling on his eyelids became too much. He tried to bury himself deeper in the covers, but something or someone was holding it back.

"Owww," a girly voice mocked him. Suddenly, bright light invaded his senses, and he was staring into six-year-old Katie Bell's chubby face. She had pried his eyelids open with her fingers and was grinning widely at him, her nose touching his.

"Your mum says that you have to wake up!" she chattered as she inched closer, peering deeply into his eyes as if she was trying to see inside him.

Annoyed, Marcus swatted her hands off his face and gave her a light push. "Lea'me 'lone," he grumbled as he patted around to find the hem of the blanket and pulled it over his head, hiding from the mean light and even meaner little girl. He had come to hate talking and usually refused to engage with anyone unless his mum or grandfather made him. Marcus couldn’t help how he felt; his new teeth made him slur his words and sound like someone entirely else.

Nothing happened for a long while, and Marcus mistakenly thought that Katie had buggered off. Of course, life would not be that fair to him. Just as he was drifting off again, a waft of cold air hit exposed skin when Katie crawled underneath the covers as well.

"Wake up!" she yelled, shaking him by his shoulders. "Your mummy says so!"

Marcus screwed his eyes shut and turned to his other side, trying very hard to ignore her. She poked something hard between his shoulder blades in retaliation. His whole body hurt now, and it only got worse the more she harassed him.

"Go away!" he finally bellowed when he couldn't ignore her any longer. He grabbed behind his back but missed her each time.

Why couldn't she leave him alone? And why oh why was his mother so cruel to send that little devil up to bother him just as he wanted to sleep?

"My mum made chocolate cake," Katie said suddenly. "All for you."

Marcus stilled, thinking very hard about how to respond to that significant bit of information. He didn’t have to think for too long, however. His mum would never let him eat cake if he made Katie cry. Or if he made her believe that he was too sick to eat at all. To be fair, he didn't feel that bad, not really. Not anymore, anyway, and it would be such a shame if all that cake went to waste.

"Shocolate ship?" he asked quietly, not paying attention to how he sounded for the first time in weeks.

She hit him again, and instead of answering his question, she said, "Your mum says you have to practice talking first."

Marcus wanted to bellow ‘no’ and tell her to get lost, but then he remembered the chocolate cake Mrs Bell had apparently made for him. Sighing deeply and imagining himself scarfing down a whole cake by himself until his tummy hurt, he turned around and threw the covers back. Katie lay next to him, grinning like mad, in her hands the children's version of Babbity Rabbit.

"Read to me!" Katie demanded as she held the book up in the air with both hands. "Your mum says you have to if you want cake."

Marcus stared at her in bewilderment. "Whash tha’ on y’r fashe?" he asked as he touched the reddish line on her cheek, one of many on her face, with the tip of his finger.

Katie's grin grew wider as she puffed her small chest. "Scars, just like yours."

"You drew them on?" Seeing her nod, he asked, "Why?"

For the first ever, as far as Marcus could remember, Katie looked a bit abashed. "I got sad because you were sad because you're the only one with scars. Now we both have them. I wanted to cut my hair too, but your mum took the scissors away."

Marcus wasn't sure what to say to that. If he had been older, he would've told her he felt touched that she'd thought about his feelings like that. But he was nine and not entirely equipped in expressing himself yet. So, he did the next best thing; smiling in gratitude, he took the book from her and sat up against the headboard.

As he opened the book at the first chapter, Katie crawled against him, thumb in her mouth and peering at the pages with the colourful drawings, waiting for Marcus to tell her which words those letters formed.

"The wishard and the hoppin’ po’," Marcus began reading, a bit unsteadily at first. Soon enough, however, he got used to the sound of his voice. "There wash once a kindly old wishard who ushed..."

And as Katie hummed and gasped at the right places and didn't laugh at him because he sounded funny or when he couldn't quite pronounce certain words, he reckoned that having Katie as his friend wasn't as bad as he often made it out to be.
Tags: fanfic50, ficlet, katie bell, marcus flint, one-shot, rating: gen, when we were young
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