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bewitched, bothered, and bewildered

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He didn't know it at the time, but he met his wife when he was 11.

Hogwarts was a pretty big deal. His mother, a happy, quirky herbologist, baked him the most incredible chocolate and caramel cake the day his letter came. She took him shopping in Diagon Alley the next afternoon and proceeded to load him up with every possible thing he could need, including a beautiful, jet black owl that swooped down and landed on his shoulder with a confidence even Marcus himself didn't possess. The wand chose the wizard—and so, apparently, did the owl.

He named her Mars.

Vera stayed at Platform 9 3/4 and waved him goodbye until she was only a pinprick in the distance. Marcus tried very, very hard not to cry. He was only 11, after all. The fair-haired boy sitting across from him respectfully averted his own overly bright eyes; Marcus was grateful for his discretion immediately.

He met the woman he would eventually marry ten minutes later.

She was a girl then, skinny and rosy-cheeked, with her light brown hair in a neat braid down her back. She was cute, even though most girls were strange, and she had an entourage of kids behind her all looking for a compartment to squish themselves into. She opened her mouth and the door to their future with the most annoying introduction he could have imagined:

“Hey, tall, dark, and moody, you got room for a couple more in there?"

So, that was how Marcus Kane met Abigail Walters. And it was how he met Thelonius Jaha, of the prestigious Jaha family of purebloods, and Callie Cartwig, and Diana Sydney, too.

And that was how Abby met her future husband. No, not Marcus. The other boy.  

That was how Abby met Jacob Griffin.

 


 

 

Callie wound up in Hufflepuff, which seemed to suit her just fine, judging by the happy grin on her face as she bounded down from underneath Professor McGonagall's stare to join the yellow-and-black house. Jake, naturally, wound up in Gryffindor—even after spending a few short hours with the tall boy, Marcus could tell his big heart and stubborn moral streak would land him in the house known for its bravery. Thelonius was a near hat-stall. It was only after an extremely grating and lengthy five minutes that he was deemed destined for Slytherin House. 

Marcus had a moment of sheer terror when the Sorting Hat told him his cunning and clever mind would suit Slytherin just fine. It wasn’t that he hated Slytherins—his father was one, and he liked him quite a lot—it was that the house was littered with rumours and whispers of deceit and deception, rumbles like the ones that had followed Grindelwald’s rise to power all those years ago. And while Marcus knew it would make his father happy, he was no fool. He asked the hat for Hufflepuff, and so to Hufflepuff he went. The scathing look of the blonde-haired Lucius Malfoy sent him as he walked over to his new table was enough to cement in Marcus that he’d made the right decision.

Diana was placed in Slytherin before the hat had even settled on her head.

The Sorting Hat took its time with Abby. It seemed like ages and ages passed before it gleefully yelled, "SLYTHERIN!" into the air.

She retold the story of her sorting to him many years later: the Hat had told her of her courage, and her nerve, and how those were Gryffindor traits to be admired. But it told her of her quick, calculating mind, too, and how her resourcefulness served her well because it was not at the whim of her moral compass. She told him how devastated she’d been to be sorted into the House that had produced the most dark wizards out of any House in Hogwarts history. She vaguely remembered trying not to cry through the Welcome Feast and her first walk down to the dungeons, but the thing she remembered most was what happened once they reached the grand, dark Slytherin Common Room later that night:

Andromeda Black, of the renowned Black family, sat Abby down in a wing-backed chair and explained to her that she was not a bad person for being sorted into Slytherin. She told Abby in a soothing voice that kindness and compassion were valued, too, and that being clever was not a bad thing--the others in the house often misunderstood compassion for weakness, but that there were still others who were like her, whose brilliant minds and shrewd problem solving skills were put to good use.

Marcus didn’t know any of that at the time, though. All he saw was the pretty girl from the train being sorted into the House he’d purposefully avoided, and all he really felt was pity. If only she’d been strong enough to choose.

Of course, him “helpfully” telling her that the next day in Transfiguration earned him a pocketful of toad slime and the start of a truly magnificent rivalry.

 



It wasn’t that he didn’t like Abby. It was just that they argued every hour of every damn day.

It was clear early on in their first year that Abby was destined to be an exceptionally skilled healer. She could concoct any potion placed in front of her, and perform any charm Professor Flitwick put to her. Even Professor McGonagall liked Abby (and Professor McGonagall, who was as stern as they came, liked almost no one, as far as Marcus could tell), after she successfully transfigured her matchstick into a needle on their very first day.

Marcus had not been as lucky.

And so her ease at subjects he struggled with began to drive him insane, especially the matter-of-fact way she attempted to explain the seemingly ‘simple’ concepts to him, as though he were a particularly stupid garden gnome that his mother liked to keep as pets. He got her back frequently when her quick mind faltered at things that he succeeded easily in—mainly Herbology, which came to him from his years of helping his mother tend to their overgrown greenhouse, and Defence Against the Dark Arts, which he inherited no talent for from anyone in particular, but which he excellent at and enjoyed immensely.

Abby, he discovered, was not one for violence, and even though he tried to explain that defence was not the same as offence, and that knowing those spells could one day save her life, Abby remained stubbornly anti-Defense Against the Dark Arts, and thus did not pick up the skill for it at all. He suspected it was some sort of deep self-loathing in Abby that stopped her from learning the subject all her fellow Slytherins languished in: if she was above it, and rejected it, then there was no way she could be thought of as one of them. This caused frequent arguments between them for what amounted to actual years. Why was he, the Hufflepuff, so intent on learning spells that could hurt someone? Which, really, demonstrated Abby’s fundamental misunderstanding of both Hufflepuffs, who were loyal and fought for what they believed was right, and Marcus himself, who believed that forearmed was forewarned.

So, by the time they were 15, it went a bit like this:

Marcus was friends with Jake, Callie, and Jaha. Jaha was friends with Marcus, Jake, Diana, and Abby. Abby was friends with Callie, Jaha, and Jake. And Jake was dating Abby. This meant, in a roundabout way that Marcus was never 100% happy with, he spent a lot of time with Abby. Especially when O.W.L.s rolled around.

Her Potions, Charms and Transfiguration O.W.L. marks were shoe-ins for Os, while Marcus’ Herbology and Defence Against the Dark Arts marks were the same. But, like it or not, they both needed the other to boost their weak areas. So, while Jake trained endlessly for the upcoming end-of-year Quidditch match, and Diana lured Jaha off to strange meetings with some of Malfoy’s left-behind cronies, Abby and a reluctant Marcus locked themselves in the Library and attempted to take in five years worth of learning in the space of a few short weeks, all while trying not to kill each other.

They managed to keep themselves from severely injuring one another (Marcus’ lower lip may have gotten a scar from a jinx gone awry in Abby’s hands, but he didn’t feel the need to complain when she was dabbing gently at it with a cloth and insisting, futilely, that he could accompany her to the Hospital Wing and have it closed quickly—a small part of him liked the idea that he had a bit of Abby marked on him, and a large part of him hated himself deeply for thinking so). Abby managed Es in Herbology and Defence Against the Dark Arts, which both were just enough to get her into her N.E.W.T. classes she’d need to become a healer. Marcus pulled Es in Transfiguration and Potions, and surprised them both when he received an O in Charms. And, happily, the nights they’d spent toiling away in the Astronomy Tower, sharing butterbeer, arguing over star classifications and wondering what else was up there that they just didn’t know about yet, were not a waste—they both received twin Os for their efforts.

They may have barely survived each other, but they made a great team. And perhaps made even better friends.

 



By Seventh Year, the world looked a little different.

Abby and Jake were happily settled as both a couple, as well as Head Boy and Girl, and surely on the path to marriage after graduation (Marcus was perpetually in denial about why he felt such animosity towards their relationship, and wasn’t really up to exploring those feelings in any kind of detail). Abby was already training to be a healer in addition to also studying for her N.E.W.T.s, while Jake was clearly destined for a promising career as a Keeper. Marcus was working hard towards becoming an Auror. Callie wanted to be a reporter, and one a damn sight better than the Prophet’s newest columnist, a truly repulsive young woman called Rita Skeeter, who Callie could be heard bemoaning to anyone who would listen in the squishy, comfy Hufflepuff common room (Marcus, it was Marcus who would listen, and he’d discovered that an effective way to cheer her up was to kiss her until she melted into him and berated him for distracting her). Jaha had aspirations for the Ministry. And Diana…Diana was the wild card.

It was no secret that she and Jaha had been disappearing to meetings with Lucius Malfoy’s legacy of left-behinds since fifth year (Abby had staunchly refused to join them from day one). Jaha had increasingly come back from them shaken and skittish, often confessing to Marcus that he had no idea just what was going on in the dungeons, right under his own nose. Diana, however, seemed to settle and thrive in the environment blooming underneath the belly of the Great Lake. She skated by with uninspiring marks, choosing instead to focus her attentions on befriending a particularly nasty gang of Slytherins that included Severus Snape, whose treatment of Lilly Evans a few years before had made him a sworn enemy of Abby, and, by extension, the rest of them—or so they thought, until Abby and Jake’s late night stroll to meet Marcus at the kitchens netted them a view of a group of cloaked Slytherins slipping away from the dungeons with their wands drawn. They easily spotted Diana’s curly blonde hair, Snape’s greasy black locks, as well as Mulciber, Avery, and even Barty Crouch, Jr. They reported the event to the head of Slytherin House, but Horace Slughorn had merely brushed them off as kids being kids, and they had no choice but to drop the matter.

And then, one day, after their N.E.W.T.S. were done, and graduation behind them, Diana disappeared.

And a war started.

 


 

 

Eleven years was a very long time to fight.

Marcus had his scars. He was an exceptional Auror, and would have been quickly on track to make Head Auror by the time he turned 30. But the Ministry was not what it once had been—He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named had multiple spies within the Ministry, and it was impossible to know who to trust when the witch or wizard next to you could be under an Imperius Curse. He knew that uneasy feeling all too well, for he had watched his own father, a skilled Auror, turn and take out roughly half of his own team before Marcus had been forced to kill him to break the spell. He buried his father, hid his mother away, and joined the Order of the Phoenix.

The Order came to be not far into the war under the careful direction of Albus Dumbledore. Marcus joined immediately, and found himself surrounded by many of his old classmates—Sirius Black, who had calmed down in recent years, and Remus Lupin, who was always an enigma, if a nice one; Lily and James Potter, Alice and Frank Longbottom, Callie, and Andromeda Tonks (née Black) came along, too, and then…Abby and Jake Griffin, hardened and determined to do as much good as they could against not only the Death Eaters, but their leader most of all. Abby was a proficient fighter, thanks to Marcus’ training while they were in school, but she was really there as the official healer of the Order, and worked closely with Molly Weasley to make sure their people were taken care of while they went off to fight a war they didn’t know if they could win.

Then Abby got pregnant, and things changed.

She stayed in the Order, but neither Marcus nor Jake were comfortable with her out in the field (the three had several, strange rows on the subject, which all ended with Marcus feeling somehow far too involved in their relationship, and incredibly removed at the same time, and all of which resulted in rightful victories for Abby on the grounds that she was a grown woman who knew exactly how to take care of herself, thank you very much). Jake moved them frequently—they hopped all across Europe, never staying in one place for long, always on the lookout for Death Eaters that were hunting Order members like prey. Marcus stopped in when he could. It was hard to avoid the ever-increasing numbers of Death Eaters hunting him, but his need to connect with his friends, to remind himself what he was fighting for was enough to keep him sharp, keep him going. (And reminded he was, the first time Abby placed his hand on her round belly and he felt the kick of her child against his palm.)

Clarke Griffin came into the world on a warm July night in a safe house called Shell Cottage. It was a beautiful, strange little place hidden away in Cornwall by the Weasley family; Jake contacted Marcus by Floo to inform him of the birth of he and Abby’s daughter, and Marcus toasted the new family while sitting with his mother in her own safe house in Hungary.

“To Clarke Griffin,” he said, staring into his drink and thinking about Abby’s beautiful baby girl, and of the impending births of both Lily Potter and Alice Longbottom’s children, too. “And to all the children born in war."

 


 

A few months after Clarke’s birth, the Aurors were given the all clear to use Unforgivable Curses against the Death Eaters, and their ranks fell like dominos. The defeat of the Dark Lord’s once formidable army of Giants seemed to have started an avalanche, and suddenly, for the first time since the war had started eleven years ago, Marcus had something that he thought might be hope. They could win .

Marcus got lax. He was cocky, a bit too confident that the other side was finally falling. He was also exhausted. So, when his mother suggested that he join she, Abby, Jake, and Clarke for a small break a week before Halloween, Marcus thought nothing of whether the floo connection was secure.

By the time he arrived at his mother’s house, everything was gone.

The Dark Mark burned high in the night sky. Smoke and ash billowed lazily from the remains of the house he’d gotten used to using as his refuge from the war. Marcus forced himself on unsteady feet to step farther into the wrecked street, his boots crushing over glass and splintered wood and plaster that had once held the small house proudly together. His ears were ringing with the shock of it; here, where safety had once been, was death. Here, his friends, his strangely formed family, had met their ends, and now he was meant to walk through it.

He had to see it. He had to know.

He found Vera in the burned-out remains of the kitchen hallway. Her eyes were open, shocked, the green of the Killing Curse burned within them. Her willowy wand was clutched tightly in her fist, and Marcus allowed himself to brush his fingers along her own, slipping the beloved piece of magic from her before closing her eyes and bowing his head.

"In peace may you leave this shore,” he whispered. “In love may you find the next. Safe passage on your travels, until our final journey to the stars. May we meet again.”

He’d barely finished speaking when an ear-splitting scream ripped through the night. Abby, his wild mind conjured, and his heart began to race in both fear and hope. Maybe, impossibly...

Marcus tucked his mother’s wand into the pockets of his cloak and gripped his own tightly into his fist. He stepped around her body and headed out past the hulking remains of the kitchen wall to the modest garden his green-thumbed mother had created. There, among the sharp, broken remains of the greenhouse, was Abby, bloodied, and bruised, and so goddamn alive . She was huddled over a bundle clutched to her chest and screaming, shouting, hurling hex after hex at two darkly cloaked Death Eaters as they stood in front of her, wands flicking this way and that, to make Jake Griffin’s dead body dance in the moonlight.

Marcus didn’t think. He slipped into the shadows and felt hatred like nothing he’d ever felt before course through him, like a thick, consuming poison. Avada Kedavra slipped quietly, powerfully, from his lips, and in one bright, horrific flash of green light, both Death Eaters crumbled to the ground.

Abby scrambled back, hand slipping over glass and one leg pushing her, helplessly, away from the bodies of the men who had taken everything from her, away from the falling corpse of her husband as the spell holding him afloat broke and sent him crashing towards the earth.

Marcus ran across the lawn at a sprint. He reached a sobbing Abby and pulled her into his chest, wrapping them both in his cloak as her panicked eyes registered a friendly face after so much horror had occurred in front of them. Marcus felt a squalling Clarke squirm between them, and made his decision. He pulled his cloak off, tucked it around the two of them, and then scooped Abby into his arms with a helpful levitation charm to ease the pressure on her clearly broken leg.

He carried them away from the war, and he never looked back.