“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.”
“You cannot go ahead with your wedding because you will be in the middle of a trial for murder.”
Harry regards Gawain Robards calmly. “Is that so? Murder of whom?”
“Fenrir Greyback.” The Head Auror is smiling as though he’s scored a point.
Marcus only stares at him. “There’s no law against killing a werewolf. Especially not a werewolf who’s broken into a private home, and obviously intended to hurt us.” He taps his wand against his teeth and flexes his muscles. This time, Harry knows, he means to intimidate people, even though they’re in the supposedly “civilized” setting of the largest sitting room in Flint Manor.
But that doesn’t mean Harry can’t enjoy the show anyway.
“Mr. Potter.” Robards pivots in the large red chair he’s taken near the fireplace to stare at him. The other Aurors standing behind his chair shift uneasily. “I thought you had at least one werewolf you considered a dear friend. And your godson has werewolf heritage.”
“And you can listen to your betrothed sit there and say that werewolves don’t matter?”
“I can listen to him speak the truth. Besides, I’ve lobbied for years now to try and get the Wizengamot to at least vote on changing the law, and they refuse to listen to me.” Harry lets his bitterness color his voice. There’s been more of that lately, as Marcus points out that he doesn’t need to tiptoe around all day and apologize to people for upsetting them.
Robards stares at him. “Then you can consider this the first installment of the legal protection that werewolves undoubtedly deserve.” He can’t conceal the twist of his lips on those words, though, and he doesn’t seem to be trying. “Come with us, and submit to a trial.”
Harry shrugs. “You have the right to arrest me. You don’t have the right to stop me from getting married.”
“If you’re in prison, you can’t get married.”
“Yeah, he can,” Marcus interjects. Harry thinks he’s probably the only one in the room who knows how on edge Marcus is, and ready to fire a curse if he needs to. Harry shifts back a little, which leans his hand against Marcus’s, out of sight. Marcus relaxes with a long sigh and shakes his head. “My father looked it up once, when he thought he might be arrested. Prisoners are allowed weddings. And,” he raises a lascivious eyebrow at Harry, “conjugal visits.”
“Pretty hard to enjoy yourself on the cold floor in Azkaban, though,” Harry says, pretending to consider it.
Marcus snickers. “You said hard.”
“Enough of this!” Robards flings himself to his feet. “Mr. Potter, I insist that you come along with me and submit to arrest. And there will be no more talk of a wedding.”
“So are you going to pay our deposit fees, then?” Marcus asks. “Because we’ve already put down a lot of Galleons on the food and the park we’re getting married in, and the rest.”
“This is ridiculous.”
“I agree,” Harry says, and lets his voice sharpen and chill when Robards glares at him. “You’ve seen the body. You’ve come to arrest me despite the fact that what we did isn’t illegal. You’ve made it clear that your main purpose is to interfere in my marriage, not arrest me for murder. You’re a piece of shit, Robards. Get out of our house.”
Robards is gaping at him. Harry has never been that blunt before. When Marcus first started courting him, Harry went out of his way to conciliate people and get along with them. Even when other Aurors invaded his privacy or made loud comments about him being a Dark-Lord-in-training in the corridors, Harry kept smiling and reminded himself that he would have to work with these people someday, and it was better not to cause a fuss.
Now, those days are over. He isn’t going to be an Auror, and he doesn’t have to like it when they start treating him like he’s an idiot or an obstacle because he’s living the life he wants to live.
“You shouldn’t have picked him,” Robards says, almost under his breath. “When there were so many other suitors for your hand.”
Harry rolls his eyes. “When most of them either wanted to take as much of my money as they could or have me rescue them. Yeah, sure, they were better. Like drowning is better than learning how to swim.”
“Oh, it’s like that, is it?” Marcus is sitting up, and his eyes shine in a way that Harry usually only sees when he gets to insult someone in public. “Well, I didn’t know. You could have said. It is me or Harry that you want to duel?”
“What?” Harry knows he’s missed something, especially from the enraged flush creeping down Robards’s face, but he doesn’t know what. He pokes Marcus in the arm when Marcus just gives a huge belly laugh.
“Gawain here wants to date you,” Marcus says, curving his arm around Harry’s shoulders, “and he’s angry that I got there first.”
Robards flushes so hard that Harry wonders if he’s going to faint from lack of blood to his muscles. “Fuck you, Flint.”
“Shan’t. I’m taken.”
Robards turns to Harry with an air that only resembles patience if you don’t look into his eyes. “Mr. Potter, listen to me. You were meant for greater things than marrying a Death Eater. If you could—just listen, just talk to me or some of the others—”
“Do you have a club or something?” Harry asks, because he can’t help himself. “Where you sit around and talk about me and lament the fact that I’m getting married to someone I love? Where you claim that you’d be happy as long as I chose one of you, and none of you would be jealous because at least one of you got chosen?”
Robards takes a step away from him. “Are you a Legilimens?” he blurts. “It’s illegal to use Legilimency on a Ministry employee without prior permission!”
Harry stares at him. “You mean it’s true?” He glances at Marcus for help, because this is bizarre even beyond his expectations.
Marcus is no help. He’s laughing quietly into his fist, and shakes his head when Harry mutely appeals to him. “You probably didn’t notice it because the Head Auror doesn’t spend every second with Auror trainees,” he says. “But yeah, he wants your arse, Potter.”
“I would never have dated a trainee under my care!” Robards exclaims. The other Aurors who were standing behind his chair are now spreading out and looking at the ceiling as if they want to pretend that they’re anywhere but here. “I knew I could only look and long when Potter was still going to be an Auror, but now—”
“No, now you just want to break my betrothal to a man I love.” Harry huffs a breath. “Get out. Tell the Ministry that if they want to investigate Greyback’s death as murder, then they’re going to have to assign someone to the case who isn’t a walking conflict of interest.”
“Harry, please.” Robards stops retreating, and then, to Harry’s embarrassed horror, drops to his knees. “Please. If you don’t want to choose me, that’s fine, you can have someone else. But you could have so many people. Don’t think that you’re forced to keep your word to this monster just because you said you would.”
Marcus is shaking the couch with his laughter. Harry buries his face in his hands.
“Um, sir,” one of the other Aurors says, and Harry peeks between his fingers to see that the woman has come up to Robards’s side and is tugging gingerly on his arm. “Um. Perhaps we should leave.”
“Not until Mr. Potter listens to me.” Robards arranges his face in an angelic expression of patience. “Not until he knows that he has options.”
“Yeah, I have options,” Harry says. “I probably had more choices than anyone else in the wizarding world. And I chose Marcus. Shut up and fuck off.”
Robards stares at him as if he can’t believe what he’s hearing, but one of the other Aurors finally urges him to his feet, and they walk away. Robards keeps looking back as though he thinks that he can somehow change Harry’s mind if he just stares at him hard enough.
When they’re out of the house, Marcus stretches out on the couch so he can laugh better, confining Harry to one end of it. Harry stares at him. “Why does that happen all the fucking time?” he asks himself.
Marcus hears him, and stirs from his daze of laughter to grin at Harry. “Well, look at it this way,” he says, reaching out and moving Harry’s fringe away from his forehead so he can trace the lightning bolt scar. “At least you’re going to be married soon, and you know that the Ministry isn’t going to be able to prevent it no matter how desperately they want to.”
“But what is it about me that makes them do it?”
“Wow, I don’t know,” Marcus says, widening his eyes. “The magic, the beauty, the fame, the wealth—”
“Berk,” Harry says, shoving at him half-heartedly.
“Your berk,” Marcus says, and slings himself around on the couch so that he’s leaning comfortably against Harry.
Harry relaxes and sighs. “Yeah.”
“So you don’t think they should charge Flint with Greyback’s murder?”
Harry looks up with a sigh. He’s in the middle of the hedge maze that occupies the grounds of Amaranth, the premiere wizarding florist. They all but begged Harry to come and choose flowers, and he agreed because the owners embarrassed him into it. At least the sample flowers are beautiful and grow widely-spaced, so that he can wander from plot to plot and relax in the meantime.
Or he could relax, if Hermione wasn’t trailing after him, frowning disapprovingly.
“How do you know that I didn’t kill him?”
“Because that’s not in your nature. But Flint was a Death Eater—”
“He was not, Hermione.” Harry rounds on her, which surprises her enough to have her stare at him with her jaw hanging open. “He doesn’t have the Mark. For fuck’s sake, I’ve told you that often enough, and you’ve seen him with his shirt off now.”
Marcus likes to walk around with his shirt off in front of Harry’s friends. Harry thinks it’s forty percent taunting them with the fact that he feels comfortable enough to do that, ten percent reminding them that he never took the Dark Mark, and fifty percent giving Harry something more to ogle.
“There’s such a thing as a Death Eater in spirit, Harry. You know that.”
Harry rolls his eyes and chooses a large purple flower that sheds delicate scent into the air. It promptly unspirals from the vine it’s attached to at a tap from his wand, floats into the air, and settles with a droop of its petals over the basket floating next to him. Harry knows the shop assistants at Amaranth will know how to charm it so it’ll stay alive and with that same beguiling scent until after the wedding day.
“You didn’t feel this way about him even two days ago, Hermione. What changed?”
“He killed someone!”
“By accident.” Harry turns around and stares at her. “Do you think he did it deliberately? Is that it? I was there, and I promise, he didn’t. He knocked him across the room with a Bone-Breaking Curse, and his ribs got pushed into his lungs. That’s all.”
“He was still—” Hermione swallows and brushes a couple of tears away from her eyes, and Harry is astounded to see how deeply she’s been affected. “He was still a living human being, Harry. And it shows that Flint is violent. I’m just worried about you, that’s all.”
“He was a living human being who wanted me dead,” Harry says quietly. “I’m sorry that this has hurt you, Hermione. But I would have done the same thing to Greyback if he attacked Marcus. Maybe worse.”
“You’re not violent, Harry.”
Harry sighs. “Remember the part where I used Cruciatus during the war? When I was trying to use it on Bellatrix right after she killed Sirius? When I was swearing to kill Sirius when I thought that he’d betrayed my parents?”
“Right.” Hermione wipes away some more tears. “But you also prevented him from killing Pettigrew when you found out he was the real traitor.”
“That was at least partially because I thought they couldn’t prove Sirius’s innocence without the git being alive,” Harry admits. “And I thought he was helpless at that point. Greyback was charging Marcus, Hermione. I don’t believe for one moment that Marcus would ever lift his wand, or his hand, to me. Besides, if he tried, I’d kick his arse.”
“How? You’re so much shorter than him—”
“With my magic,” Harry says dryly. “I’m a lot stronger than he is, Hermione. And Marcus is proud of that. He wouldn’t be with me if he was worried about the fact that I’d win in a contest of magical strength. I wouldn’t be with him if I thought he would lash out at me.”
“It’s just—a death.” Hermione looks away from him.
“I know.” And Harry knows, too, that Hermione has been working, more ferociously than he has in the last few months what with the wedding preparations, on getting laws passed so that killing a werewolf will be murder, and giving them all the other legal protections they should already have. Of course even Greyback’s life matters to her.
But Harry is capable of separating werewolves in general from ones like Greyback, and he meant what he told Hermione. He would have done worse than a Bone-Breaking Curse if he hadn’t had perfect conviction that Marcus could take care of himself in such a confrontation.
“If you think you’ll still be happy with him,” Hermione says, while one of her hands closes into a small fist, “then I can be happy for you.” And she gives Harry a tremulous smile that makes him smile back.
“Yes,” Harry says. “Thank you. Now, can you help me find some more flowers that aren’t lilies? Marcus is allergic.”
“I wanted to ask you about something.”
“Go ahead.” Harry is lying draped across Marcus’s stomach, lazy after a bout of lovemaking that’s made him feel as if all his bones have turned to broth and drained out of him. Marcus smooths a hand down the side of his neck, and Harry sighs and nuzzles into it.
“What’s this mean?”
Harry has to open his eyes and turn his head to understand what Marcus is talking about, which is just unfair. But he opens them quickly enough, all the way, when he realizes that Marcus has hold of his right hand and his fingers are tracing the words the Blood Quill left scarred above Harry’s knuckles.
Marcus’s hands are lazy, but his eyes aren’t, at all. Harry bites his lip. He doesn’t want to lie, but he also doesn’t know why Marcus has only asked about it now, instead of earlier, even though the scar has been on display for him along with all the others that litter Harry’s body.
“Um,” Harry says intelligently.
“I know you wouldn’t lie to me. And I’m not bright, but I get it eventually. Now, Harry. What does it mean?”
Harry sighs. Marcus’s trust in him is inconvenient, sometimes. He has to answer. “It’s from the lines that Umbridge made me write when she was Defense professor at Hogwarts. She used a Blood Quill,” Harry adds, because Marcus’s brow is furrowing as if he’s trying to understand what’s so bad about lines. “She was upset that I was telling the truth about Voldemort’s return, she thought it was lies, so…that.” He nods to the scar.
Marcus’s breathing is abruptly hoarse and deep, although he’s cradling Harry’s hand as gently as ever. The sheet is suffering from the way his other fist tightens, though.
“You mean the same Umbridge who’s still working in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement and as secretary to the Wizengamot?” Marcus demands. “That one? The one who didn’t even get punished for participating in registering Muggleborns during the war?”
“That one. Yeah. She claimed to be under the Imperius, and they accepted it because they would have had to investigate too many people for collaboration otherwise.” Harry sighs and takes his hand back with equal gentleness. That frees Marcus to clench the bed with both fists and scowl off into the distance. “Hey.” He touches Marcus’s cheek. “It’s over. I survived.”
“You didn’t agree what I could get you as a wedding gift yet.”
“You know the wedding itself is more than—Marcus. No. Not a dead Umbridge.”
“What about a maimed one?” Harry shakes his head, determinedly not laughing, because Marcus will take that as a sign that Harry can be talked around. “A wounded one? Then you could put her in the dungeons here and decide what you wanted to do with her at your leisure.”
Harry hesitates longer than he probably should at that one. Marcus rolls him on his back and strokes the insides of Harry’s wrists with a tickling touch. “The dungeons here are very secure,” he whispers. “The only people who will ever know she’s here are you and me. No one else can get through the wards once I change them when we’re married. I can be discreet when I snatch her.”
Harry has to snort, remembering the way that Marcus subdued the Lestranges for his first courting gift. “You, discreet?”
“I can be. I just didn’t see the need to be with your courting gifts. I wanted everyone to know that I wanted you.”
Harry kisses him for that, but shakes his head. “I don’t want to think about her ever again. And I don’t want our wedding connected to her in any way. Besides, if she disappears, then probably some people would suspect me, just because she’s fairly well-known as someone who fought against me.”
“They know that, and yet they didn’t do something about this?” For a second, Marcus’s finger presses heavily on the scar.
“I don’t know if they knew specifically about that,” Harry qualifies. “Except Ron and Hermione. But I’m asking you to listen to me, Marcus. Leave her alone. Unless she ever makes a move against us,” he adds, because it’s up to him to think of that and shut off that course of action before Marcus can decide that not talking about it means permission.
“What happens if she does?”
Harry blinks down at Marcus. His eyes are shining. This is probably the part where someone like Hermione would think he was eager to commit violence.
But Harry knows Marcus better than that. He’s practically swooning at the thought of being able to do something for Harry, to protect him and guard him and get revenge for him that no one else has ever thought to get.
“If she ever does something,” Harry says slowly, “and I mean something open, not just make nasty remarks about me or seem like she might, then we can revisit the dungeon idea.”
Marcus gives him a celebratory blowjob after that, and it turns out that not everything in Harry’s body has changed to soup and flowed away after all.
“Are you ready?”
Harry lifts his head. He’s been fussing about the wedding robes, which don’t seem that rich a blue out under the sun in the park he and Marcus have chosen, and the flowers, which twice did make Marcus sneeze, and the food, which is due to be delivered after the ceremony but some of which arrived early due to a mix-up in the times.
But Marcus is smiling at him as he stands in front of Harry in his own deep grey robes, and Harry can feel calmness settling into his bones as he looks at him.
“Yeah,” Harry says. “I’m ready to be married to you and to share the rest of our lives together.”
Marcus beams at him and holds out his arm. Harry takes it, and doesn’t care if it’s not the “proper pureblood” way to hold onto it. Marcus doesn’t give a shit about that, and Harry doesn’t have to, either.
They originally discussed holding the wedding on the grounds of the Flint house, but Marcus doesn’t want other people having a chance to map the grounds or look at the wards, and Harry has to admit he would also prefer to keep that house as a private place for just the two of them. And Hogwarts, which would have been Harry’s second choice, doesn’t host weddings. So this is a park that used to be the manor grounds of some pureblood family who died out, and which now serves to host weddings, parties, funerals, Ministry functions, and other gatherings that need a large space.
It’s beautiful, Harry has to admit. The flowerbeds are full of shining, magically-enhanced roses that grow bigger than normal, and in all kinds of bizarre colors; a large part of the price he and Marcus paid was to have them charmed dark radiant blue, the color of the sapphire in Harry’s ring, for the ceremony. The grass has been color-charmed, too, to a soft and shining gold. It’s spring, but it looks more like autumn on the ground as they walk towards the pool at the far end of the gardens.
It’s a huge pool, softly shifting and rippling up towards a marble fountain portraying a leaping stag, for Harry’s dad, and a lily, for his mum, in the center. (At least stone flowers aren’t about to make Marcus sneeze). The marble can be charmed into different shapes depending on the customer’s preference.
Harry asked Marcus if he didn’t want some representation of the Flint family at the wedding, and Marcus only scowled.
“My dad wasn’t much,” he says. “Not any of my other ancestors for a while. I’ll have what most matters at the wedding.”
It’s not the polished, practiced courtesies that some other purebloods could probably offer Harry, and all the better for that.
The audience is bunched around the pool, sitting on the wooden benches or sprawling on the grass or standing according to preference. The flowers that Harry chose grow around the benches, transplanted easily into the earth, and if they cause a color clash with Harry and Marcus’s robes or the blue roses elsewhere on the grounds, well, Harry doesn’t give a fuck.
Mrs. Weasley is dabbing at her eyes with a handkerchief, and comes over to hug Harry a second later. Harry knew she would; she can’t help herself. She pats his hair and straightens his robes even though they don’t need it and looks at him with huge, tearful eyes.
Harry knows that probably part of her wishes he was marrying Ginny, or even one of her sons, but she doesn’t say it, and she gives a stiff nod to Marcus, who returns it.
“You look so wonderful,” Mrs. Weasley finally breathes, bending down to kiss his forehead. “Your parents would be so proud.”
Harry likes to think they would, not because he chose a pureblood or because he’s marrying a man, but simply because Marcus loves him and Harry loves him in return. He smiles at Mrs. Weasley and proceeds towards the pool again.
Hermione has to come up and hug him, too. Ron pounds him on the back. Arthur smiles and wrings his hand. Bill and Fleur are both smiling at him from their benches, while Victoire squirms between them and protests in French, probably about sitting still. George is standing next to Angelina, looking less brave and more relaxed than he has since Fred died. Even Charlie decided to attend, and gives Harry a cheery little wave from the front. Percy nods to him and then glances around as if posing for a photograph.
Then Harry catches Ginny’s eye.
She has a sad, wistful smile on her face, but she knows as well as he did that they didn’t work. She nods to him, tilts her head a little, and looks away.
The Ministry guests matter much less to Harry, especially since Kingsley declined to attend at the last moment, but there are still some Heads of Departments and Auror trainees there. And there’s Neville, beaming him, and Luna, beaming at something that is probably him.
Marcus only invited two people. One of them, Theodore Nott, Harry vaguely remembers from Hogwarts. He never had any personal problem with Nott, and the nod he gives Marcus makes Harry resolve to invite Nott around as soon as possible after the wedding.
As soon as we can make it out of bed on a regular basis, Harry resolves, and then tells himself not to think about that too much, in case he has the kind of reaction that will make the rest of the walk torture.
The other is Terence Higgs, who was on the Slytherin Quidditch team. He gives Harry the kind of fierce, bright smile that Hermione would probably give Marcus if that was more her style than lectures about why Marcus should treat Harry well.
Believe me, I know what I have, Harry thinks, loud enough that he hopes Higgs can hear him, and returns the smile with one of his own.
He and Marcus turn around and face each other in front of the pool. They could have had an officiant of the kind who married Bill and Fleur, but they chose not to. Like Marcus says, he doesn’t give a shit about most of the “proper pureblood” ideas about getting married, and Harry was never raised to find them important.
On the other hand, Marcus has zero connection with Muggle traditions, and the Dursleys never taught Harry to value them. They’re on their own.
Which meant they could pick something that mattered.
Harry extends his hands to Marcus, who clasps them. Harry half-closes his eyes and summons his magic.
He hears more than one gasp from the crowd as the air around him begins to waver and burn, the magic manifesting as flickering yellow flames. Well, that’s fine, as long as they remember what kind of sign of strength it shows, and think twice about coming after him and Marcus.
Marcus extends his ring in anticipation. Harry holds his hand out, draws the flame back enough that Marcus can slide the ring onto his finger, and begins to recite the oaths that they chose together to make.
“I choose you, Marcus Flint. I promise to hold and cherish you until the end of my days. I promise to fight for you, to stand as your defense, to shelter you behind my wand, to heal you of wounds and scars. I promise to speak honestly to you, to trust you, to argue with you as much as I need to to make my point clear.”
Someone lets out a startled laugh from the audience. Harry thinks he recognizes Hermione’s voice. He smiles and focuses on Marcus.
“I promise to walk with you through laughter, joy, sorrow, and anger. I promise to stay faithful to you, in body, mind, heart, magic, and soul. I swear my whole being to the cherishing and guarding of you.”
Marcus’s eyes are alight. Someone might miss it if they’re looking from a distance, but Harry knows all of Marcus’s little telltales by now, and he knows. He nods to Marcus and waits patiently for him to recover his mental balance.
Marcus clears his throat after a moment, and holds out his own hand. Harry carefully places the sapphire ring he chose on the appropriate finger. Marcus told him to pick out something he liked, but Harry picked something he thought was appropriate, a star sapphire on a platinum band, and had it charmed with the same spells for good fortune and protection that Marcus wove around the ring he gave him.
Marcus stares at the ring for a second, apparently lost in reverie. Harry clears his throat softly, and Marcus snaps his head up.
He doesn’t look embarrassed, though. For him, the watching audience might not exist. His eyes are locked on Harry, and only Harry.
“I choose you, Harry Potter.” His voice rumbles like rocks rolling downhill. “I promise to guard you, defend you from anyone who thinks they can touch you. I’ll kick their arses.”
This time, more than one person gasps or laughs in the audience. It’s easy for Harry to ignore them, though. His gaze remains calmy fixed on Marcus.
“I promise to be with you until the end of my days. I promise to tell you the truth, and be utterly faithful to you in mind, body, magic, heart, and soul. Why would I want anyone else?” Marcus grins, showing his slightly crooked teeth. “I promise to argue with you when we need to, and rest when we need to, and heal you when we need that. My wand is yours, my body is yours, my heart is yours. I promise to walk with you through laughter, sorrow, joy, and anger. And that really annoying rain we get a lot of the time.”
Harry laughs himself, but it’s because his heart is full. He extends his magic around his body, and then weaves the fire carefully into a matching, intertwining pair of loops.
Some people use rings, some people use bracelets, some people use ribbons to symbolize this part of their union. Harry doesn’t see why they can’t use rings and bracelets and ribbons that he makes out of his own power.
He loops it around and over and under, and soon he and Marcus are linked with what looks like a continually rippling, dancing ribbon of fire. Marcus’s hands tighten on his, and the crowd gasps and murmurs.
Harry leans forwards, and they kiss, and Marcus’s kiss is as warm and rough and welcoming as their first one was, but deeper with the passion of experience.
Then the audience starts uttering more appreciative noises—clapping and cheering—and Harry settles the fire into both their arms, leaving slight, matching burn scars. The very last remnants of the flames, he tucks into the sapphires on their rings.
May they shine like us. Forever.
“Don’t know if we can have a proper wedding night, when we’ve been sleeping together for the whole betrothal thing.”
Harry laughs and says, “I’m sure that you’ll find some way to make it special.” And he sheds his cloak, which Marcus wrapped around him when they left the park even though they were Apparating home, with a little shrug of his elbows.
Marcus’s desire takes root deep in his eyes, the way his joy does. He reaches for Harry, and Harry lets himself be reeled in, and his mouth crushed in a kiss.
It’s hotter than the one they shared in the park, and with a lot more curled tongue. Harry wraps his hands around Marcus’s shoulders and tugs him hard towards the bed.
Marcus is more than happy to go, and to let Harry take off most of his clothes. Of course, he doesn’t pass up the opportunity to flex his muscles and roll his hips, and Harry doesn’t pass up the one to reach around Marcus’s hips and grope his cock.
He wouldn’t have wanted to do that in the park. But they’ve pretty much managed to wear all shame and prudishness out of each other in the bedroom.
Marcus groans and leans back, his face coming close enough for Harry to steal a kiss. Then Harry urges him to lie down on the bed, and Marcus goes, spreading his legs wide and thrusting up once.
Harry unbuttons his robes, grateful that the wedding ones are thick and luxurious and meant to go over nothing but a pair of pants. The way Marcus’s shining gaze fastens on him, though, makes him feel like he’s wearing cloth-of-gold.
By this point, Harry’s competent as hell with the lubrication charms, whether he’s casting them on himself or Marcus. He chooses himself this time, and clambers onto the bed and sinks down onto Marcus with a sigh of bliss.
Marcus thrusts up, and it’s wild and rough and everything that Harry needs after all the tension of wondering if someone was going to mess up the wedding. They spill over the edge and onto each other in a glorious mess, and Harry curls up under Marcus’s chin and yawns.
“Meant to last longer,” Marcus whispers, stroking his hair.
“So make it up to me in the morning,” Harry mutters as he drifts off.
Later, he thinks he probably should have qualified those words.
“Breakfast in bed?” Harry eyes the tray with eggs and bacon that Marcus deposits in his lap, a little suspicious. Marcus usually does the cooking to spare his ancient house-elf, Reginald, but Reginald often insists on bringing the food to the table, or wherever they are, anyway.
“And with the paper, too.” Marcus grins toothily and hands it over.
Harry’s glad that he hasn’t taken a bite yet when he sees the story on the front page. He slams it down and glares at Marcus. “I told you that I wanted you to leave her alone—”
“Unless she made a move against you. I listen, you know.” Marcus slouches against the wall, his arms folded and his brows drawn down. But his eyes still glitter. “And she was going to. I found out that she was planning to send Aurors to arrest me on trumped-up charges in the middle of the wedding.”
Harry pauses and looks at the story on the front page again. “Oh.”
The lead photograph shows Dolores Umbridge cowering and trying to hide. And the headline screams about her being involved in a sex scandal with two centaurs and a hippogriff.
“How did you plant the evidence?”
Marcus blinks at him. “Plant?”
Harry stares at the paper with his mouth a little open. “She really—ew.”
Marcus shrugs. “She went around talking about half-breeds all the time. The only people who put them down that much are usually fucking them. A lot of them.”
That makes Harry wonder things about Malfoy and other purebloods that he doesn’t want to, so he puts the paper quickly aside. “Well, it’s nice to know that she won’t bother us again.”
“And this probably torments her more than the dungeons.” Marcus pauses. “Probably.”
“No, Marcus, we are not kidnapping Dolores Umbridge and stuffing her in a dungeon. Where would we put the hippogriff?”
“Got a huge garden.”
Harry gives in and laughs, and Marcus comes around the side of the bed, so as not to upset the breakfast tray, and kisses him.
Harry does remember reading about one tradition—magical or Muggle, he doesn’t know—but it says that what the morning after the wedding is like is what the rest of your married life will be like.
If this is the rest of my life, it’s going to be fucking brilliant.