"AND I SAID I'D BE THE ONE TO GO TELL HER!"
"Easy, Marcus." Kingsley Shacklebolt said, pulling the other man out of Percy Weasley's face.
"Shacklebolt, you best keep your watchdog leashed."
"Now see here-"
But Draco cut him off. "Just because you're Fudge's toady, Weasley, does not mean we answer to you. It was decided in this war that our group didn't answer fully to you Ministry types."
"Yes and the war has been over for two years, Malfoy."
"Do you really believe that?"
"That's know long you-know-who has been gone."
"You-know-who? He called himself Voldemort, Weasley. How much of a puss are you that he's supposedly dead for two years, and you still can't call him by his self-appointed name? Besides, he's not quite gone. The rug in my foyer can attest to that. He's still very much present on THAT. It's the stain that wouldn't die."
"Draco." His cousin Tonks warned.
Draco held up his hands. "Look, if you really believe that offing Voldemort ended this little tug-of-war for power, provided the evil git is really and truly deceased, then you're as deluded as your boss."
"Malfoy!" Tonks snapped.
"Look, it's Slytherins that escaped Azkaban. Death Eaters. One of them was Higgs. All he's done the last two years has been mutter about Katie Bell. I think Marcus should be the one to go. If anything, he knows how Higgs thinks. It evens the field here, but I think the woman needs to be placed in protective custody, personally."
"I think protective custody is a bit far, Malfoy."
"Look, Higgs is going to go after her."
"How do you know?" Weasley asked suspiciously. He had never trusted Malfoy, nor Flint. No matter what anyone said.
"I just know, Weasley."
"How? Are you in league with them or something?"
Draco lunged at Percy. Marcus grabbed the blonde man to stop him.
Tonks was shouting with a finger in Percy's face. "You go too far!"
Kingsley grabbed her and pulled her back. He rarely saw Tonks let loose her temper. She was usually easygoing and full of jokes... unless someone was badmouthing her cousin. For never having known one another until he was about eighteen, Tonks and Draco were fairly close. They argued constantly, because no two people could be more unlike each other about things, but attack one in any fashion, and the other came after you... sometimes viciously. In those moments, you could see the Black bloodlines shining through in Nymphadora Tonks. You could tell their mothers were sisters.
"Easy, Weasley. Malfoy's one of us, and the next time you accuse him of otherwise, I'm going to let his cousin have you." Kingsley said in an amused voice. "I trust him to know a bit about what some of Higgs's moves might be."
"You think he'll go after Bell... even with all the risk?"
"I don't, but the point is, Percy, Draco thinks it, and I trust Malfoy's judgment on the matter."
Percy sighed and looked at Draco. "He has to know someone would suspect it of him. Would he really attempt to go after her? With all the risk?"
"Especially with all the risk, but the risk isn't going to matter. In his mind Katie Bell is the reason Marcus betrayed him. Little does he know, Marcus was 'betraying' long before that."
"This is such a mess." Percy sighed.
"Don't worry." Marcus said. "I'll clean it up."
"We." Draco added.
"There's no we."
"No, Flint." Percy said. "If Miss Bell is in as much danger as Mr. Malfoy says, I do think your whole team should go."
"Now wait just a damn minute." Draco snapped. "No one said anything about the whole team. Pansy and Blaise have lives now. I'll not uproot them."
There was a snort from the doorway. Draco looked up to see his two best friends that he hadn't see in about six months. Pansy Parkinson and Blaise Zabini.
"Pans." He was up in an instant hugging her.
He hugged Blaise next. Other guys were too manly to hug and kiss. Not them though. Because a light kiss followed the hugging. Percy's uptight eyes bugged a bit. Tonks pursed her lips to keep from smiling. She knew about her cousin and Zabini, and being half Black, she sort of got it. They just had one of those weird and twisted Slytherin relationships. Well, weird to other people. Like she said, she sort of got it.
"We don't have as much of lives as you think we do, Drake."
Pansy had just placed a kiss on Marcus's temple. Blaise shook his hand. The two exchanged pleasantries with Kingsley and Tonks.
"So." Pansy started. "Katie Bell guard. Where are we headed? Hogsmeade, right? Uh, I fucking hate Hogsmeade. Somebody hex me now please."
Blaise was reaching to take out his wand when Draco slapped his hand away from his robes. He shook his head 'no' at Blaise.
They had just closed up for the night.
Rosmerta was behind the bar, and Katie was finishing up with the tables when the door opened. Katie frowned. She could have sworn she locked it. Her heart started hammering when she noticed the patrons were four figures all in black, cloaks and all. Their hoods were up, and she couldn't see their faces.
"Sorry. We're closed."
No response. When one of them rushed forward and grabbed her wrist, all hell broke loose. Well, at least within Katie it did. She managed to get her wand out, but someone disarmed her. Katie was screaming and fighting. She wasn't even aware of who had her. It was just like on the train. Hands all over her carting her away. Rosmerta was screeching.
Then someone started shouting hexes. Someone with a deep voice that was most certainly NOT Rosmerta.
Katie was thrown. She screamed as she sailed through the air. She hit one of the tables hard, knocking the chairs she'd placed up on it off onto the floor with loud crashes. Katie felt herself bounce a bit. Then she went tumbling to the floor. Her head caught the edge of the fireplace, and all the noise stopped.
There was just blackness.
"I'll kill him!"
"Marcus, you are so not helping right now."
Katie opened her eyes slowly. She seemed to be lying on the floor of Three Broomsticks near the fireplace. Something was propped under her head. Something soft. This must be some weird dream. Marcus Flint was pacing in her sight line, and he looked angry as a stirred-up hornet.
"I'll kill him with my bare hands too! No wand for him! I can't believe that wily little bastard escaped! Again! He's getting hexed! He's so getting hexed! I'm going to torture him before I turn him over! I may even use unforgivables!"
"I just can't believe he escaped! Again!"
"Well, he IS a Slytherin." Came a droll voice somewhere off to he right behind her head.
Katie blinked. Pansy Parkinson was looking down on her. She wasn't wearing Auror robes like Flint, so Katie was guessing that's what the soft thing under her head was.
"Sorry there." Pansy said in a much softer voice than she had been using with Flint. "We didn't realize you'd awoken. It was Marcus's shouting, wasn't it?"
"Oh, Katie, hon, are you all right?" Rosmerta asked.
She was crouched on the edge of the fireplace on Katie's other side. Katie craned her head around to see the whole room. Draco Malfoy and Blaise Zabini were standing near the door. There were three men in black robes tied up and sitting in the center of the room. She recognized two of them as Adrian Pucey and Vincent Crabbe. The third was older, and she did not recognize him. He looked familiar, but she could not place a name to his face. What had her undivided attention was that the previously-pacing Marcus Flint was standing stock still and staring a hole in her.
"Bloody hell, Marcus." Pansy snapped. "She's already had enough of a scare tonight. Stop glaring at her like that."
Suddenly, it was all too much. Marcus's face seemed to twist and swirl then it faded away into blissful blackness.
"She's going to be all right. She doesn't have a concussion. Just took a bump and has had a bit of a shock tonight. The cut on her head's healed up due to the stitching spell. I did as much as I could with the bruises. She'll be sore for a bit, maybe have a headache or two, but she'll be able to go home tomorrow."
This time when she opened her eyes, Katie was in a bed at St. Mungo's. She blinked. The attending mediwitch had been speaking to Rosmerta. Marcus Flint was in the room with his back to her, looking out the window. He was radiating some serious tension.
"Oh Katie." Rosmerta hollered when she noticed her eyes open.
"How are you feeling, Miss Bell?" The mediwitch asked.
"You don't remember?"
"Not getting here, no. I remember the tables. Closing. The four figures in black." Her voice broke. "It was just like on the train. So many hands. I couldn't do anything. And... I fell?" Katie reached up and touched the place where her head had hit the fireplace. She winced slightly.
"They threw you, sweetheart." Rosmerta said. "At Malfoy. He burst out of the floo throwing hexes."
That was the deep voice she'd heard. "I hit..."
"Then Pansy Parkinson?"
"Got your head to stop bleeding."
"And Marcus Flint was glaring at me."
They all turned to look at him. He'd turned when it was made apparent that Katie was awake. His arms were folded across his chest, and he was glaring again.
"Stop looking at me like that." Katie snapped. "It's not my fault. I didn't ask for it."
"No, you didn't. Never have... and that's half the trouble here."
"Those three of four gits we caught earlier... you do remember seeing Adrian Pucey, Vincent Crabbe, and Rabastan Lestrange, correct?"
That's who he was. Rabastan Lestrange. She knew he looked familiar. She'd seen him in all the pictures in the Daily Prophet for the Death Eater trials after the second fall of Voldemort.
"Well, they're still after their virgin."
Katie gasped. They couldn't possibly know that she... that she was still...
"Someone who didn't go to Azkaban has been keeping close tabs on you, Bell. They know just about everything from what you like to eat for breakfast to who you're sleeping with, or NOT sleeping with in this case."
Katie's jaw was hanging open.
"But there is some good news."
"The Ministry of Magic, in light of this most recent attack, has placed you in protective custody."
"That's the good news?" Katie snapped. "Well, you'll forgive me if I'm too sore from bouncing off that table earlier and having the fireplace stop my momentum to get up and do a happy dance about it, won't you?"
Now his mouth was hanging open.
"This is completely ridiculous." She hissed. "I'm sure there are other virgins in this country."
"Some of them blame you specifically."
"Yes, he was one of the ones who escaped."
"Well, thanks for warning me!"
"We were on our way to warn you!" Marcus shouted. "They just got to you quicker!"
"Oh, well, that's certainly comforting. I'm so glad the forces of darkness are speedier and more efficient than the Ministry is." She held up her thumbs to him in complete sarcasm. "Good job."
"Now, see here, Bell-"
"Oh just stop it, the both of you!" Rosmerta shouted. "We've all had a bit of excitement and a bit of a scare tonight, and you two snipping at one another like a couple of third years isn't helping matters. Mister Flint, why don't you take a moment to count to ten, then tell Katie what's in store for her with this protective custody arrangement. Katie, sweetheart, can you just do me favor, and keep quiet until he's finished explaining?"
Well, that certainly sounded a bit sinister and foreboding. Katie looked from Rosmerta to Flint with wide eyes.
"All right. I can do that, I suppose. What's going on then?"
Katie was beyond irritated. They'd covered her head, so she wouldn't see where they were taking her. They being Pansy Parkinson, Draco Malfoy, Blaise Zabini, and Marcus Flint. Her Ministry-assigned guard. It was just too much. Four snakes to guard a lion.
They'd put a muggle ski mask over her head. It had the eyes sewn shut. She could see bits of light, but she couldn't see anything else. Flint had said it was better if she didn't know exactly where she was... that way if someone tried to invade her mind, they still couldn't find her. So comforting. The things the lot of them took precautions for.... it was spooky. They were thinking of preventive measures for things Katie had never even thought of doing on her darkest day. Yet, these four talked about it like it was old hat. Anyone who could remotely know where she was had to be put under the Fidelius Charm. That meant Harry and Rosmerta for certain, as they were the people closest to her. It also meant Fred and George Weasley. Katie didn't even know who their secret keepers were. She didn't even know who HER secret keeper was.
All she knew right now was that she was about to be sick. They had just apparated from her room above Three Broomsticks... several times. Malfoy had explained they would be jumping from place to place rather quickly, so their magical trail would be more difficult to track.
Katie stumbled. Hands steadied her. She whipped the mask off of her face.
"Dammit, Bell." Marcus snapped. "I didn't say you could take that off."
Her answer was to vomit all over his shoes.
Draco was still chuckling into his tea when Pansy came downstairs.
"Shut your fucking hole, Malfoy." Marcus growled.
"Well, if anyone's interested..." Pansy said. "Our girl's all cleaned up and resting in Marcus's guest room. Her eyes were drooping all sleepy-like when I left her."
"My guest room?" Marcus said with an incredulous look on his face.
Blaise and Draco started snickering.
Pansy was pouring herself some tea from the kettle by the stove. "Yes, sugar tits. You're the one who was SO adamant that YOU'D take care of this one, remember? It only seems fair that she be set up in your space. I mean, Draco has all his clothes strewn across his guest room. Mine's full of boxes that I haven't unpacked since moving back here, and Blaise brings too many stupid cows home for shagging not to disturb the poor dear with all the grunting and moaning. Your extra room was the logical choice, sweet bum."
"I hate you."
Pansy tapped him affectionately with one finger on the tip of his nose. "I love you too, you posturing toerag."
"Suck it up, Marcus." She snarled, grabbing a spoon to stir up the cube of sugar she'd just dropped into her cup. "You are the one who just had to get involved when you heard that Higgs had escaped because of your morbid fascination with the Gryffindor on the third floor. Now deal with it."
"I do not have a morbid fascination with Katie Bell."
"I am NOT obsessed. How many times-"
"Whatever, Marcus." Pansy snapped, throwing the spoon she had just stirred her tea with into the sink viciously. "You had better just start dealing before I forget we're friends and hex the ever-loving shit out of you for annoying me."
Marcus slumped down in his chair and put his hands over his face.
"She's going to be right next door to you."
"I'm not gay or anything, but Katie Bell has some sexy long legs."
"And that's a lot of blonde hair on that head of hers. All golden and soft. It's so very soft. I helped her brush it out. She got all blissful. I think she has a scalp fetish. You should offer to brush her hair for her. Those little pleasure sounds she makes are kinda hot."
"And you should see what I helped her get into to get into bed. Hoo boy. I didn't know they made scraps of material that little."
"Shut up, Pans." He mumbled through his hands. "Just shut the hell up. Please."
Pansy smirked and took a long drink of her tea. Blaise and Draco exchanged a look and started snickering quietly. Marcus was in full denial, but the rest of their merry little group knew he'd fancied Katie for a while. Draco knew Pansy was playing matchmaker. It would have been no problem to clear out one of the other guest rooms each of them had in Marcus's home for Katie Bell. Pansy just wanted to put the little Gryffindor within Marcus's reach. Draco was thinking that wasn't such a bad plan. He was also thinking if the woman was too close to Marcus's reach, the main problem they had would cease to be.
Because would Higgs and those rogue Death Eaters really be after the lovely Miss Bell if she were no longer a virgin? Likely yes, in Higgs's case, but the bastards wouldn't be able to use her in any of their dirty little dark magic rituals.
It was absolutely staggering how many dark magic rituals required virgin's blood.
Katie laid awake in the foreign bed. She had pretended to go to sleep so Parkinson would leave her. She couldn't believe what was happening to her. She couldn't believe she was lying in a bed in Marcus Flint's house. It was a very nice house from what she had seen too. Pansy, Parkinson had said to call her Pansy, had told Katie a little about the house. She and Blaise Zabini had just moved back in. Mostly Marcus and Draco Malfoy lived here, but they'd kept Pansy's and Blaise's rooms for them. Each of the four had their own room, guest room, and bath. Marcus's and Pansy's rooms were on the third floor. Draco and Blaise lived on floor number two. The kitchen, living room, and front parlor were on the bottom floor.
It was a very nice country house. There were no other houses or cottages nearby, and Pansy had said the wards Marcus and Draco had set up on the place rivaled the wards on Hogwarts. The place was lovely, but it didn't seem like the sort of place that Marcus Flint or Draco Malfoy would live in. It was nice, but a bit... simple for Slytherin tastes.
Katie got out of the bed and started pacing. Though it was not cold, she shivered and rubbed her bare arms. Katie walked to the wardrobe in the room. It was nice. Cedar. It smelled good. Pansy had magicked all her clothes in it for her earlier. Katie dug in the bottom of it for the canvas messenger bag she used to carry at Hogwarts. She unbuckled it and pulled something out.
He'd probably have a heart attack if he knew she slept easier with her arms wrapped around his jumper. It was the one he'd tossed at her when he'd carried her out of that dungeon. Katie hugged the garment tightly to her chest and started pacing the length of the room. It was bigger than her room at Three Broomsticks. The rug was softer to her bare feet too.
Katie had tried not to consider Marcus Flint in the last two years.
Now he was completely in her thoughts. After all, he had saved her life... and not to mention her virtue... again. It just wasn't the sort of thing she expected from the brute who used to rough her up on the quidditch pitch. He was known as being the guy you didn't want to get caught alone with in a dark corridor in school. There was also the fact that she was in HIS home, and his room was right through the connecting bathroom. Katie scurried over to make sure that door was locked. She sighed in relief when it was.
She'd looked at the bathroom earlier. Now THAT was a Slytherin bathroom. Huge black marble tub with jets. Big enough for five people. There was also a shower with three sprays, two sinks set in the same gorgeous black marble as the tub, and the biggest mirror she'd ever seen in a bath. It was done in black, dark green, and silver. Very Slytherin.
She paced back across the room, stopping at the windows. They looked out onto a balcony over the back gardens. Katie lifted the window and climbed out. She shivered again as she pulled the jumper over her tank top and boxer shorts. There were some comfy-looking deck chairs and a deck lounger with some fluffy-looking cushions on it out there. Also, a few plants that looked as though they could use the touch of someone who knew something about herbology. The balcony was large and had double doors that led out from what had to be Marcus's room.
It was dark out here. They were quite far from the muggle lights in any city or town. Katie had no clue exactly where they were, but it was lovely. The stars were out. The moon was in its wax. It was still before first quarter. It looked like a little clipped fingernail just now.
Katie sat on the lounger and laid back to look out at the stars. She tucked her knees up and pulled the jumper over her bare legs. She didn't feel like a pack of deluded lunatics were trying to kill her just now. Laying out in the breeze like this, looking at the stars and the growing moon, she felt like she was on a long-overdue holiday. Like the last few years had been a dream, and now she had awoken to her life.
Funny and ironic thing, in her newly-awoken-to life, she felt so safe that she drifted right off to sleep in that deck lounger for a night that would be some of the best rest she'd had in two years.
end part 1