“Harry, hold still.”
Marcus hisses the words from the corner of the room where he’s leaning to hold the wall up, at least as long as you’re paying attention to the mutters of the tailors and florists and enchanters and ward specialists and busybodies passing back and forth. Harry doesn’t, particularly. Listen, that is. He has his eyes on Marcus’s broad shoulders and flexing arms instead.
And the way that his mouth is twitching.
“Seriously, Mr. Potter, you should hold still.” The witch kneeling at his feet, where she’s trying to fit the rich blue robes to his form, scowls up at him for a moment. “Otherwise, there might be blood on the robes.”
Harry snorts. “Wouldn’t be the first time. It might even be more appropriate for me to get married in bloodstained battle robes than anything else. What do you think, Marcus?” he adds over his shoulder to his betrothed as he shifts to ease a cramp in his leg and ignores the seamstress hissing.
He does think about telling her that she’s not saying anything comprehensible in Parseltongue, but Marcus has asked him to refrain from scaring people “as much as possible.” Harry loves how sensible Marcus is about the fact that it might not be possible.
“If you wear blood to our wedding, it should be our enemies’. Not your own.”
Our. Harry still feels that word lift his heart after six months of betrothal. He sighs. “Oh, all right.” He fixes his face into a stern smile and curves his arm so that his clenched fist is beneath his chin.
He can hear Marcus desperately trying not to laugh, even as the witch who’s fitting his robes nods at the heroic pose. “Very nice, Mr. Potter, just hold that.” And then she flutters around him like a hummingbird, making the same rapid noise around the needles in her mouth that a hummingbird’s wings do. Harry shakes his head. Why she won’t enchant them to float behind her, he doesn’t know.
He asked Marcus about something similar considering one of the caterers yesterday, though, and Marcus gave him a long, blank stare before responding, “Because they don’t have the magic to maintain the charm without constant application. Your power’s rare, Harry.”
Intellectually, Harry sort of knew that before he became betrothed to Marcus. People were always looking him in the eye and saying how powerful he must have been to defeat Voldemort. But Harry discounted that because he knows himself that it depended on Horcruxes and wandlore and six tons of luck, not power.
But one of the first things Marcus did after they were betrothed is take Harry into the quiet, still room at the back of the Flint house that has charms woven into the walls for amplification of magic, and ask him to close his eyes and listen. And so Harry heard his own magic singing for the first time, wild and strong and eager to surge to his command if he wants to crush someone.
He knows Marcus would like to crush someone. But so far, the people helping them prepare for the wedding—a mixture of the ones Marcus thinks necessary, public opinion has pressed on them, and the people Harry likes—haven’t shown they deserve it.
“Mr. Potter, please turn a little towards me and don’t flex your shoulder so much.”
Harry bites his lip against the temptation to say that she was the one who told him to hold that stupid heroic pose, and then turns to face the door. The seamstress hisses again. But Harry doesn’t pay attention to it, because he’s in the perfect position to see Hermione run through the door to the Ancient Bells wedding shop, waving the Daily Prophet madly over her head.
“Harry, Harry! They’re going to try and stop the marriage!”
Harry opens his mouth and finds that he has nothing to say. The words are just ringing in his brain, and nothing makes sense. He knows he’s standing there, blinking foolishly, but that’s about all he feels good for at the moment.
“Let me see the article, Granger.”
Marcus moves away from the wall of the boutique and reaches Hermione, scooping the paper out of her hand. Hermione glares at him. Harry knows she doesn’t like Marcus much, and only some of it has to do with him being a former Slytherin and fighting Harry on the Quidditch pitch all those years. A lot more of it is the fact that Marcus will just do what he feels like, and ignore anyone else trying to make a point or get around him.
Marcus reads whatever headline is there again, and then more slowly, moving his finger and his lips this time. Hermione catches Harry’s eye and rolls her own.
Harry just shakes his head, ignoring yet another hiss from the seamstress, and stays still. He loves Marcus for lots of reasons, but that bullheadedness is one reason. Marcus will do whatever he thinks he has to to protect Harry, and they sometimes argue about it.
But the rest of the time, Harry luxuriates in the feeling of having someone who loves him that much, someone who doesn’t give a fuck about being polite and attending to the wishes of the rest of the wizarding world, someone who thinks everyone but Harry can go hit themselves with a Killing Curse to the head for all he cares.
Marcus finally throws his head back and laughs. Then he turns and brings the paper over to Harry, spreading it out so that Harry can read the headline without having to move and disturb the long-suffering robe witch.
Harry stares, and then he starts laughing, too. The headline is above a photograph of him and Marcus that someone must have snapped on their last journey to Diagon Alley, looking into each other’s eyes with small smiles. The headline says, FLINT HEIR WITH TROLL BLOOD?
“Oh, God, I owe you two Galleons,” Harry says, and manages to scrub some tears from his cheeks without moving too much. “I really didn’t think they would go for that angle!”
“What angle?” Hermione interrupts, stomping her foot. “This is serious! Trolls can’t legally get married in Britain. So for someone to say this, that means they want to stop the marriage!”
“Do you know how many magical people there are who have troll blood in Britain, Granger?” Marcus asks as he tosses the paper back towards her.
Hermione pauses, caught between her outrage and the offer of new knowledge. The new knowledge wins out, though, the way it always does with her. “No. How many?”
“Close to a quarter of the population,” Harry offers. Marcus has had him read some of the old Flint history books and genealogies, and it’s fascinating (and sad) to see how inbred the purebloods are and always have been. “There was a time when it was thought better to have a troll in the family than a Muggleborn.”
Hermione’s mouth rounds, but Marcus nods and speaks before she can. “That’s right. My ancestors thought it was better to have someone around to fuck who was thick and wouldn’t present a threat to them if controlled with the right spells.” He pauses and thinks, then continues. “Thick in all the right ways.”
Hermione squeaks and hides her burning red face between her hands. Harry laughs and leans against Marcus for a second. “You’ve inherited the best parts of that,” he mutters.
Marcus only grins, while the blazing red creeps down Hermione’s neck. One of the things that’s proven hard for her to get used to is how casually sexual Marcus and Harry are in public. Or, well, sort-of-public. But that’s yet another thing Harry enjoys. If everyone around him is going to be scandalized by his life choices at all times, then he might as well give them something real to get scandalized about.
“But how are you going to respond?” Hermione finally asks, when she’s taken her hands away from her mouth. “They’re going to say that you can’t legally get married!” She’s obviously working herself into a froth again as she stands there.
“They can say it all they want,” Harry says. “They can’t enforce it.”
“But people will think—”
“Hermione.” Harry leans over, ignoring the seamstress’s muttered comments, and makes a patting motion on the air since she isn’t close enough to reach. “They already think that I’m mad for getting married to Marcus, for getting married to a Slytherin, for getting married to a man, and I’ve heard the rumors about the Imperius Curse, and love potions, and all sorts of other things. Legally, they can’t do anything. I’ve finally started taking my power seriously, and that means I don’t need to listen to them.”
“Power.” Hermione repeats it a little doubtfully.
Harry just nods. It’s amazing how much easier it’s been to live in the wizarding world in the last few months, since Marcus pointed out that people don’t have the right to enforce their opinions on him. “Sure. If they try to come after me, I have the Galleons to outlast them in court. They can’t take my job away. They can’t break up my betrothal.” He smiles at Marcus over his shoulder. “They won’t make my true friends back away. They can’t do anything to threaten what I really hold dear.”
“They could make your life difficult!”
“I wonder what that’s like.”
After a moment, Hermione’s mouth quivers in a reluctant smile. Then she sighs and says, “I don’t understand it, Harry, but I know you really love Flint and want to marry him. I just don’t want anyone to get in the way of that.”
“Don’t worry, Granger,” Marcus says, and lets his biceps roll the way he sometimes does. Harry doesn’t even pretend not to ogle him. “I’ll stop them if they do.”
“Mr. Potter, I am simply concerned about you.”
Harry rolls his eyes as he turns around from the door of the jewelry shop where Marcus asked Harry to meet him. “I know that, Minister. And I appreciate it. But I’ve submitted to all those tests to humor you, and I’ve proven conclusively that I’m not under potions or a curse. So, with all due respect, I don’t care about your opinion.”
“But you suddenly accepted Flint’s courtship, and you never did anything like that before!” Kingsley is attempting to extend his arm to block Harry’s entrance into the shop. “Nothing so impulsive—”
Harry laughs louder than he probably needs to in the middle of his soaring hilarity, but it is hilarious. Some people mutter and turn to stare at him, but most of them were already covertly staring anyway. And Marcus has taught him to become more comfortable with the feel of eyes focused on him.
In the end, the eyes that matter will be the ones watching him on his wedding day.
“Sir,” he chokes out, bending over to place his hands on his knees. “Come on. Taking off after a basilisk, walking to my death, challenging Umbridge, chasing Sirius Black when we thought he was a deadly fugitive—”
“Yes, fine,” Kingsley says, sounding a little irritated to have reality sit on his objection. “But you haven’t got married to someone before.”
“No,” Harry says, straightening up and lifting an eyebrow. “It’s the kind of thing I hope to do only once.”
“But you could marry Ginny Weasley, or some other nice girl—”
“So is it homophobia, Minister? I hoped it wasn’t. I hoped that you were bringing up your concern out of some genuine wish to help me and some genuine fear that I was being cursed or potioned—”
“You never dated a bloke at Hogwarts!”
Harry looks Kingsley in the eye and waits until the man is looking back at him, not making more dramatic gestures. “I would have thought,” he says gently, “as someone who was an ally, and someone who was going to be my boss until a few months ago, that you wouldn’t just rely on what I did at Hogwarts as a guide to the rest of my behavior.”
Kingsley blinks slowly and painfully. “It’s just—I wanted to make sure that you weren’t being cursed or potioned.”
“And now you have the evidence that he isn’t,” Marcus says, lounging against the doorway of the shop the way he lounged against the doorway of the wedding boutique. “Interesting that you never thought you had to intervene before, when he was dating the Weasley chit or linked to any of those witches the Prophet thought he was dating. Only when he started dating a man, right?”
“When he started dating a Death Eater!”
Marcus rolls his eyes and interrupts Harry’s indignant retort by turning his left forearm over. He goes bare-armed most of the time anyway—the better to show off his muscles that Harry never tires of looking at—and so Kingsley should have seen that he doesn’t have the Mark, but Kingsley seems too distressed to act normally right now. “I’m not.”
“You could have covered it up with a spell!”
“I’m not smart enough to do that,” Marcus says simply.
Kingsley gets the same befuddled look that people get when they’re trying to think, at one and the same time, of Marcus’s reputation as someone stupid with lots of troll blood and his reputation as the man that Harry is marrying. Harry catches Marcus’s hand and tugs. “You said you had something important to show me, Marcus. Come on and show it to me, and maybe by then, the Minister will have pulled his head out of his arse.”
“I don’t know,” Marcus says, giving Kingsley a critical look. “I think it’s wedged in there pretty hard.”
Harry laughs aloud, and Kingsley just turns to him with a lost expression. He shakes his head. “I thank you for the concern, sir, but not the way you keep pressing it on me. Come on, Marcus.”
Marcus nods at Kingsley as if dismissing him, and then they turn and make their way into the shop. Harry eyes the glass cabinets glowing with cool light, illusory flames, that make the jewels sparkle. He’s never been into a Muggle shop, but from what he’s heard, they don’t look that different. “What ring did you choose?”
“One that honors you.”
Marcus’s voice is low and reverent in the way that made Harry uncomfortable when they first got betrothed, but now, he understands. Marcus pitted everything that he is in an effort to become Harry’s husband, and that requires honoring not only Harry as a person but his own investment.
And, well, Harry can treasure someone who treasures him. He smiles. “Let’s see it.”
Marcus reaches for a red cushion that’s lying on a marble countertop, with a jewelry shop attendant hovering a little way behind. The cushion seems empty at first, but a Disillusionment Charm dissolves the minute Marcus’s fingers brush the cloth, and then Harry’s staring at a slender silver ring.
The stone in it is a sapphire. He’s absolutely certain of that, even though he doesn’t know much about gems. Nothing else would be that deep and radiant a blue, glittering as though it’s a piece of the underwater world come whole into the air.
“Wow,” Harry says.
“I know how much you love deep blue,” Marcus says, and grins at him. “You secret Ravenclaw, you. And the silver will take enchantments well, and protective spells are easy to fasten to sapphire.” He slides the ring onto Harry’s finger, where it promptly lights with a cool glow. Harry sighs. He can feel the magic already there wrapping around him. He’s sure Marcus will only add to it.
“And sapphire represents good fortune,” Marcus adds, his hand clenching around Harry’s for a moment. Harry looks up at him and smiles at what he sees in Marcus’s face. Marcus is crass and blunt and rough, but it’s all gentled for him, shining brighter than the ring. “Like mine.”
“Like ours,” Harry says, and nods to the jewelry shop attendant. “We’ll take it.”
“Harry. Wake up.”
Harry rolls over in Marcus’s enormous bed and nods without opening his eyes. That tone is serious. “What is it? Did someone cross the wards?”
“Yes. And more than that.” Marcus is moving around, picking up his wand, from the faint rasp of wood on the table next to the bed. “There’s a werewolf out there.”
Harry opens his eyes and feels nothing but a flow of quiet anticipation. “Greyback.”
“Yeah.” Marcus scowls at him. “You won’t stay behind the wards like I want you to.”
It’s a statement, not a question, but Harry nods anyway as he rolls out of bed and stands up. “Sorry,” he adds over his shoulder as he starts getting dressed.
“No, you’re not,” Marcus mutters, but his voice is fond, and so is the hand that glances over Harry’s shoulder for a second.
Harry smiles and flings his robes on, buttoning them up quickly as he seizes his wand. He could point out that the Flint wards won’t do much good to protect him if they admitted Greyback, even though part of that is probably Greyback’s Dark Mark and the exceptions that Flint’s father built into the wards for them.
But he doesn’t have to. He said he’s coming with, and Marcus respects that.
Together, they move to the top of the stairs, with Marcus casting Cushioning Charms on his feet so he can move silently. He pauses at the top of the stairs and closes his eyes again, reaching out with senses that Harry can’t share right now but will once they’re married and he can be linked to the wards.
“Just him,” Marcus says. He glances at Harry with a smile that he can’t see that well in the starlight through the windows, but knows will be sly. “Overconfident.”
“He always was,” Harry says. “And it isn’t a full moon.”
Marcus rolls his shoulders as they start down the stairs. “He probably thinks that he can still claw us and inspire terror. And there would be some terror on certain people’s faces if they saw you with werewolf scars.” He pauses and glances back at Harry. “Think you could create the illusion of some so fewer people will try to force their way into our wedding?”
Harry bites his lip against the bubble of laughter, especially when Marcus’s head snaps around again. Greyback must be inside the house.
He does step up next to Marcus as they approach the large room with sliding glass doors to the outside where Greyback must have come through. “Let me go first?” he murmurs.
Marcus rakes him with a single intense glance that feels almost like werewolf claws itself, then nods. “As long as you can actually get back under cover if he’s too much for you.”
If. Harry sighs, treasuring the word, and the emotions behind it, and then moves forwards. The door to the sitting room is starting to open, and he has no doubt that Greyback will smell him—but on the other hand, with Harry’s scent stamped all around Marcus’s house anyway, he won’t necessarily know that Harry is coming right for him. There aren’t a lot of air currents in the house to carry fresh scent.
Sure enough, Greyback comes out slowly and warily, his left hand clutching his wand. Harry snaps his own out and calls clearly, “Expelliarmus!”
The wand soars over to him before Greyback can catch it, but Greyback doesn’t look dismayed when he turns to face Harry. In fact, his joy breaks out of him in a howl, and he bounds towards Harry faster than a normal human could move, his hands raised so that his claw-like nails glint.
Harry steps back and tilts his head a little at Marcus. Your turn.
Marcus isn’t subtle, but the man who defeated the Lestranges doesn’t need to be. He smashes Greyback into the wall with the first curse, and the sturdy walls of the manor house hold up to it. Then, as Greyback staggers to his feet shaking his head and snarling, Marcus uses a Bone-Breaking Curse that hits him broadside.
Gryeback screams as his ribs break, and at least one limb, from the sound. And then he rolls to a stop on the carpet of the corridor and stares up at the ceiling.
Marcus stalks a little closer, slowly, as wary of a trap as Harry is. Then he stops and says, “Shit.”
“What?” Harry asks.
“I killed him.”
Harry blinks, not sure how to feel about that. Even though Marcus badly hurt the Lestranges when he brought them to the Ministry as a courtship gift to Harry, they did survive. But the more he thinks about it, the more he thinks that probably not that many people will care. Given who Greyback is, and the attitude of most people to werewolves.
“I suppose we ought to call the Aurors?”
Marcus shrugs and nods. “Yeah, and get them to cast Priori Incatatem so they’ll know he died of ordinary curses and not an Unforgivable. I don’t want more stupid rumors to start.”
“You know I don’t care about those rumors.”
“Yes, but the last thing you need is more about how you’re marrying a Death Eater.”
Harry doesn’t fight it when Marcus goes to call the Aurors by Floo. If Marcus wants to take care of him that way, well…
Part of Harry is still luxuriating every day in the fact of Marcus taking care of him. Of having someone who will take care of him instead of expecting him to be the big hero who’ll save them all. And Marcus takes it all so deadly seriously, since he thinks the part of a husband is to stand at someone’s side.
Harry can’t deny him these simple pleasures in life.
“You were party to murder, Harry?”
“No, but I would have been if Greyback had succeeded in doing what he wanted to do.”
Ron just shakes his head. In general, he’s been less vocal about any opposition he feels to Harry marrying Marcus than Hermione has been. Maybe he knows arguing against the marriage won’t work, maybe he doesn’t feel anything in particular about Marcus because ancient Quidditch grudges aren’t the same as if Harry had declared he was marrying Malfoy or something.
But now, he’s watching Harry with a pale face as Harry sits on the couch across from him in the Burrow’s drawing room, and his siblings bustle in and out around them. The whole Weasley family comes together on Sundays, a lot of the time.
If it’s to make up for the loss of Fred, there’s no way that Harry would ever make their burden more difficult by saying so.
“It was murder,” Ron says after a second. “What he did. Even if it was an accident because his ribs went through his lungs, the way Flint said they did.”
Harry shrugs. That was what was reported in the Prophet, which only proves there are Aurors who can’t keep their mouths shut, either. “I have to admit, given that Greyback was there to kill us both, or transform us at best, I have a hard time feeling sorry for him.”
But Ron cuts himself off, and Harry leans back on the couch and waits. “You’re different,” Ron finally says. “Ever since you agreed to Flint’s courtship, you’re different.”
Harry nods. “I know.”
Ron eyes him now like he expected to give a whole big speech and is secretly thankful that Harry spared him from that. “You do?”
“Yes.” Harry leans forwards a little. “Ron, I always wanted to be protected, to be with someone who didn’t expect me to be a hero. To have someone willing to fight for me. I know there’s you and Hermione,” he adds quickly, because Ron is opening his mouth, “but you’re not available for me to marry, so it’s not the same. And you know just about everyone else sits back and expects me to fight for them, while still scolding me for not being a perfect little minion.”
Harry looks Ron square in the eye. “Ginny’s a great person.” He’s saying that largely because she’s not in the room at the moment to be angry or embarrassed. “But she told me that she hoped I would save her during the year she spent at Hogwarts when Snape was Headmaster, and she never really got over me not doing that.”
Ron opens his mouth a little, then closes it and looks away. “I see. She—she probably didn’t mean it that way.”
Harry shrugs a little. “I don’t blame her. But I’m marrying someone who can protect me, too, and who doesn’t expect me to be a hero.”
“Won’t it get a little tiring to be protected all the time?”
“Marcus knows better than to try that. And I’d at least like to have the option.”
Ron nods a second later, his mouth curving up in a reluctant smile. “Fair enough, mate.”