Marcus straightened his tie in the lobby mirror while he waited for his aunt to arrive. They normally didn't meet for dinner in places quite as fancy as Salazar's, and he found her choice of restaurant more than a bit curious. Regardless, he knew it was important that he look his best - he needed to carry the air of the successful businessman he was in a place like this.
He had no doubt that she had used his father's club membership to reserve the table - a membership that was supposed to be his one day. In all likelihood, though, that wouldn't be happening after all. There had been no contact between him and his parents since they had chosen to essentially disown him following his failed Quidditch career. While the trying experience had led him to the success he was now experiencing in his life, he did not believe he would ever be able to forgive them.
It had only been a few months prior that he started visiting with his aunt again. There was some hesitation on his part when she showed up in his nightclub, but he knew it wasn't fair to blame her for his parents' actions. She was unmarried and had no children of her own. Since Marcus had no siblings himself, he was the only progeny of her generation of the Flint family. Just because her brother was a stubborn arse didn't mean she should have to be cut off from her nephew forever.
When he had received her invitation for dinner this week, there was another hesitation on his part. He knew that she would have had to let his father know they were meeting if she was booking a table at Salazar's. He worried that she might be attempting to spring a surprise meeting on him. He had already made it clear that he did not intend to reconcile with his parents any time soon. But his worry was only for a fleeting moment as he knew Aunt Mildred had always been a woman of her word. She had agreed to his terms from the beginning - no attempts to get them in the same room, no discussing Marcus with his parents, and no discussing his parents with him. In return, he would be open with her about his own life and let her be as much of a part of it as she wanted.
The hostess tapping him on the shoulder brought him back from his thoughts. She informed him the other member of his party had arrived and they were ready to seat them. He smiled brightly as he turned to see his aunt standing near the door to the dining room. He hugged her and they exchanged greetings as they followed the hostess to their seats.
He picked up the menu and perused the options for dinner. He had quickly narrowed his choices to the duck or half-lobster when he could feel his aunt's eyes fixed on him through the menu. He slowly closed it and placed it on the table. He brought his eyes to meet hers and noticed that her smile had faded. It seemed to him that she was studying him, considering something.
"Is something--" She put her hand up to stop him before he could finish his question. She was still in the process of making a decision. He watched her closely, a look of concern working its way across his own face.
After a few moments of silence, she let out a sigh. "Marc, you know that I have been very respectful of your request to not discuss your parents with you."
"Millie..." He could feel his face starting to redden. He was in no mood to renegotiate their agreement.
"Let me finish." She reached cross the table and put her hand on his. "I have honestly been debating telling you this for a while now. Your father is ill."
His eyes narrowed. "So? Perhaps he should owl for a Healer, then."
"Marcus," she snapped at him and squeezed his hand. "I am not saying that he's just having a bad day. He's seriously ill, Marc."
"This isn't just some ploy to get me to visit them?" He realized his tone was a bit more dismissive than he intended, but he didn't feel very inclined to apologize.
"No." Tears were beginning to well up in her eyes.
"I'm sorry," he said as he put his other hand on top of hers. "I'm just still not ready to see them."
"I know, Marcus," she replied, "but I don't know how much time you have left to get there."
He sighed. "Is it that serious?" He had already seen the answer to his question in her eyes, but he was trying to stall the conversation somewhat. He wasn't ready to let this sink in just yet.
"It is." She nodded slowly. "The Healers at St. Mungo's, some experts from France, and even some Muggle physicians have all looked at him and no one can find anything to help him." Her voice broke slightly. "They don't think he'll last until year's end."
A tingling numbness washed through him. "Is--is he--"
"He seems fine right now. If it wasn't for the fact that I know he's ill, I probably wouldn't be able to see it. He can't manage to walk long distances, but aside from that he has some excellent potions to help keep the pain under control."
"Do they know what it is?"
"The Muggles called it 'cancer'. The Healers attempted to remove it with various charms, but it's either spread too far or is somehow resistant."
He stared at her in silence for a moment. He understood why she told him, but part of him wished she hadn't. She had his best interests in mind, thinking he would regret never making peace with his father before it was too late. At the same time, though, he was never one that liked feeling forced into anything.
"You know how stubborn he is, Marc," she added after a moment. "I know he wants to see you, but he just won't admit it."
He shook his head. "If he isn't asking for me, he doesn't want to see me. Strong-willed or not, he knows what he wants and has always known how to get it." He pulled his hands back from the table. "Which is fine, though, because I don't want to see him, either."
He put up his hand to cut her off. "Thank you for telling me. I know you weren't sure if you should. I'm still trying to decide if I really wanted to know, but I appreciate you telling me anyway." He pushed his chair back and stood. "Forgive me if I suddenly don't have much of an appetite. I'll see you next week."
He rushed out of the dining room without looking back. While his aunt would no doubt want to follow him, he knew she wouldn't. Not only would it have the potential to cause a scene, but it would not make any difference. Her nephew often needed time to process things and when he was ready to talk about it further, he would let her know.
Marcus returned home to his flat and sent a note to the club that he would be taking the evening off. He quickly shed his suit and crawled into bed. He would never admit it if anyone asked him later, but he hugged his pillow tight and cried himself to sleep.