Marcus stepped into the apartment, slightly uncomfortable with being in the muggle world. To be honest, since the divorce, he was uncomfortable being out in public anywhere, even though it had been a year ago. Why Pucey insisted on having an apartment here when there were perfectly good flats near Diagon Alley, he would never understand.
"Folks out here are more accepting of a 40-something bachelor than our world," he had said once over a few beers. If it was true, maybe Marcus should consider moving. Merlin knew he was tired of the looks of pity or disapproval he got for being divorced - something nearly unheard of in the wizarding world, let alone among pureblood families. Pucey was lucky in that he had been disowned from his parents back in Hogwarts. Flint had received more than a few angry owls from his mother and his father still hadn't quite spoken to him since he broke the news. Even though it only came about because Flint had caught his wife cheating on him for the fifth time.
But despite his discomfort, here he was, walking into Pucey's flat for a house party in honor of his cousin, who was visiting from America. Various memories of Pucey talking about her flinted through his mind. The most intriguing being that she didn't know about magic. He had thought Pucey's family was pureblood but apparently he had an uncle who had left the fold and married a muggle woman in the U.S., completely leaving the wizarding world behind. None of their children had shown any magical proclivities and they had decided never to tell them, hoping to protect them from the various uprisings of Lord Voldemort.
Even though the wizarding world was once again safe for muggles and muggleborn, so long had passed that they thought it best not to tell them.
"You made it!" Adrian shouted as he patted Marcus on the back, leaning in close. "She's in the other room, but remember… no magical stuff." Marcus nodded wordlessly as Adrian placed a glass of whisky in his hand. He looked around the living room of the large flat. Pucey had done well for himself as a quidditch player. Now retired a few years, he had taken on a lucrative position as chaser coach for Puddlemere United alongside Marcus' old school nemesis - head coach Oliver Wood. He frowned, thinking of the Scottish bloke. He supposed at some point they should let bygones be bygones and would probably get on. Wood had been twice divorced now, though he had a daughter from the first marriage who was in her sixth year at Hogwarts and showing promise as a keeper on the Gryffindor team.
Marcus took a long sip of his whisky as Terrence Higgs walked up to him.
"Good to see you out, Flint. Rejoining the world, are you?" he asked, grinning.
"Pucey didn't give me much choice," he replied with a shrug. "Bad enough he's been going on about his favorite cousin for years. He'd of dragged me out of my flat if I didn't show up to finally meet the bird."
"He's not trying to set you up, is he?" Higgs mused. Marcus nearly choked on his whisky. While he was still fit and looked younger than his 43 years, it was preposterous to think his old schoolmate would be setting him up with his much younger - not to mention favorite and muggle - cousin. Higgs laughed boisterously.
"It's about time you thought about dating again. It's been a year, mate. Time to move on from Pansy," he said. "She was a flighty bitch. And you're easy on the eyes. Who's to say she wouldn't be interested?"
"She's… she's young. And muggle," Marcus whispered furiously, looking towards a hallway that led off to the bathroom and various other rooms in the flat. "I'm sure she wouldn't be interested in an aging lawyer who's divorced."
"You never know, mate. From the way Pucey's always described her, she's nothing if not surprising," he said with a wink before wandering off to their various other schoolmates. Part of the old Slytherin team was there - Higgs and Bletchley. Plus Cassius Warrington and Blaise Zambini. Even though Blaise was a few years behind them, once they had all graduated, he had been incorporated into the group. Bletchley, Higgs and Warrington were happily married for several years. Kids included. Marcus took another large gulp of his whisky, silently thanking Merlin that he and Pansy had never had children. The custody battle alone would have been a nightmare.
Marcus finished his whisky and walked over to a table next to a TV that had been set up as a sort of bar. He almost fixed himself another, but then set the glass down, feeling the need to use the loo. He wandered down the hallway and stepped into the guest bathroom. Staring at himself in the mirror after washing his hands he took a deep breath. He could hear Pucey in his mind.
"You're still young, for Merlin's sake, Flint! We're wizards! We live until well into our 100s! You should get out there more," he had said once. Marcus chuckled ruefully as he turned and opened the door, stepping out.
"For fuck's sake, Mark. I told you I'm on vacation. I turned in all my pieces due for the next month and I'm not fucking meeting any bands. I don't care if you've already set it up," a woman's voice shouted from the open doorway across from the bathroom. Marcus froze. He looked down the hallway to the living room where music could be heard playing over conversations. He cautiously stepped to the doorway, curious about this cousin.
Peeking in, he saw a short woman from behind. She had wavy, shoulder-length hair that was light brown - almost blonde - at the roots and a light shade of pink at the bottom. She was in black skinny jeans and a long, fitted gray racerback tank top.
She leaned her head back in exasperation, her right hand holding something to her ear. It appeared to be a muggle mobile. Adrian had shown Marcus his before. Odd contraptions.
"NO!" she shouted, causing Marcus to jump slightly. Her left arm, which had been wrapped in front of her came up as she ran her fingers through her hair. "You shit-eating asshole! This has nothing to do with that and everything to do with the fact that I. Need. A. Vacation. How many festivals did I cover this year? And don't you for damn sure forget who got you the interview with the Rolling Stones you've been pining for."
She turned slightly, standing in profile as she placed her left hand on her hip. Her face was more visible and Marcus was shocked. He knew she was in her early 30s, but at his first guess, he would have thought more along the lines of 25. Barely visible on the inside of her right arm were some sort of odd markings that confused Marcus. They must be tattoos. She took a deep breath and slowly let it out, closing her eyes.
"I'm not doing it Mark. And from this point on, I'm not taking your calls. I'm on vacation. Get someone else to do your work for you," she said calmly. Whoever this Mark was, whatever he said next must have enraged her because her eyes flew open.
"Get this right, asshole, I made me. Not you. Not anyone else. I got my own interviews and I worked my way to the top. Don't you have some secretary to fuck because I'm done with this conversation," she yelled. She moved the phone from her ear and angrily pressed something on it, then tossed it on the bed, letting out a shout of frustration. She started pacing, which Marcus took as his cue to make his way back to the living room.
The odd exchange wouldn't leave Marcus' head as he made himself another drink and turned to the small circle of friends gathered in the large living room.
It seemed not two minutes later, they were interrupted by a loud presence entering the room. Marcus turned with the others to see the cousin sauntering in the room. Finally getting a full look at her, Marcus knew he was right in his assessment that she looked way too young to be 32. A large grin was plastered on her face as she walked up to Adrian, making it difficult to make out her eye color. She had pale skin and tattoos on the insides of both arms that swung lazily at her sides. Some image was on her tank top and Marcus surmised it must be some band. He remembered Adrian telling him she was a music reporter.
"This is mine, I take it?" she said brightly as she took Pucey's glass from his hand and emptied half of it in one gulp.
"Everyone, my cousin from the States - Nora," he said with a grin. Nora smiled at everyone, waving with her left hand. There was a collective gasp among the men as they saw the tattoo on the inside of her left arm, images of the dark mark dancing through their minds.
"Adey here has told me so much about you all. It's nice to finally meet you face to face," she said, grinning still.
"Adey?" Higgs stuttered, a smile breaking out. Soon they were all laughing at Pucey's nickname. Adrian rolled his eyes.
"Look… she couldn't say my name when she was younger, so she called me Adey," he explained.
"And never stopped," Nora said, winking at her older cousin. Adrian scowled down at the younger woman. The look of slight terror at her tattoos didn't go unseen by him, though thankfully she hadn't noticed. Marcus wondered how he was going to explain something obviously muggle without giving up anything about magic.
"As I've mentioned, she's a music writer," Adrian continued. "Been traveling around the world chasing bands and musicians for the better part of 10 years." Nora hopped slightly, as though she just remembered something.
"Ah! Yes! I have an announcement," she said, turning to look at the bar. She ran over and grab a load of shot glasses, pouring tequila in them.
"A bit early for that, yea Nor?" Adrian said, walking over. Nora looked over her shoulder at him.
"Not for a celebration," she said with a cheeky grin. "Help me pass these around." After the two had made sure everyone had a shot glass in hand, Nora started grinning. "I know I just met you all, but I need to celebrate." Adrian looked down at her slightly impatiently.
"You're looking at the new senior features writer at the biggest music magazine in Britain!" she shouted, lifting her glass up. Adrian gasped and picked up the small woman, swinging her around, miraculously not spilling their shots.
"Serious? That's amazing!" he shouted. The rest of the guys managed to fake passable attempts of being impressed, even though none of them had the slightest clue what she was talking about. "Is that why you're here? What about Billboard?"
"Done with that shitshow. Mark was becoming impossible. I did the interview a few weeks ago and they offered me the job last week. I signed the contract this morning," she said, grinning and obviously proud of herself. Adrian turned to the group, lifting his glass up.
"To my cousin, the next hotshot in music journalism," he said, grinning as Nora rolled her eyes. Everyone cheered and took their shots. Marcus watched the woman out of the corner of his eye, noting how she relished the taste going down. He wasn't fond of tequila, but whatever this was, it wasn't bad.
"Oh god, Adrian, I just made all your friends do shots without proper introductions," she said suddenly. "Sorry… I get excited sometimes and I have a one-track mind."
"Especially when tequila is involved," Adrian muttered. Nora scowled at him playfully and punched him in the arm.
"Okay, let me see if I can guess this right - I've heard so much about you all over the years," she said, looking around the room. "Terrence Higgs… and then you must be Warrington - Cassius, is it?"
"Never understood why my mum gave me that name," Warrington said, rolling his eyes. Nora grinned.
"It's unique," she said. She then turned, looking at Zambini, who was standing next to him. "Blaise, right?" He nodded. "Miles Bletchley. How's little Annie doing?" Bletchley looked shocked that she knew his daughter's name.
"Good, though she's nearly 14 now. Not so little anymore," he replied. Nora nodded.
"Adey said she's got a penchant for writing," she said, smiling.
"Started a newspaper for her school house," he said proudly.
"Sounds like she's on the right path," Nora said, impressed. She then settled her eyes on Marcus. He noticed for the first time that she had dark blue eyes that reminded him of the calm sea both in color and depth. He shifted slightly, feeling as though she was staring into his soul.
"And you must be Marcus Flint," she said, walking up to him with her hand out and a grin. He took her hand, going slightly mute. Her hand was positively tiny in his and he felt a shiver run up his spine.
"Nice to meet you," he said, sputtering slightly. He couldn't put his finger on it, but something about the woman had him transfixed. He had never met anyone like her before. In a split second, images of the two of them in a passionate embrace, tongues fighting for control, ran through his head. He quickly shook it, banishing the thoughts and hoped he had a warm smile rather than a grimace on his face. He heard Adrian chuckling behind Nora. She let go and turned back to her cousin.
"Well… pre-drinks are out of the way. Are we ready?" she asked. Marcus looked at Pucey in confusion, along with the rest of the group. He grinned wickedly.
"Right, I guess I forgot to tell you. Nora has a table booked at one of the hottest clubs in London. We're meeting some of her friends there," he said casually. Flint's eyes widened. He thought he was coming here for a quiet night of drinks. Apparently everyone else as well, though Zambini looked excited. Higgs and Warrington each shared a pleased look, while Bletchley seemed to be quickly coming around to the idea.
"I dunno… I haven't been to a club before," Marcus found himself saying. Nora turned to look at him, eyes wide with amusement.
"Well, then it's settled, Mr. Flint, you have to go," she said, her voice full of mirth.
Marcus was mentally berating himself for allowing himself to be dragged out to the muggle club. This had bad idea written all over it. He slipped his hand into his leather jacket, feeling the warm familiarity of his wand. But he knew he couldn't use it. He was completely helpless and currently being led by sprite of a muggle toward the entrance of a large brick building.
"Relax. Have fun, Flint," Adrian said to him, grinning.
"Not really my scene, Pucey," he replied.
"Not really any of our scenes, but you don't see us complaining," Zambini said, grinning as he checked out the many beautiful women standing in line. Nora was now hugging two women who looked about the same age as her. She turned to the group of men following her. The women raised their eyebrows and glanced at each other, obviously happy with the situation.
"Guys, these are my friends - Moira Hamish and Belle Kane. They both work at the magazine and I've known them for years," she said brightly. "This is my cousin, Adrian Pucey - single, and his friends, Miles Bletchley, Cassius Warrington and Terrence Higgs - married." She paused to give the two women looks of warning. They laughed.
"Please, not us you have to worry about," Moira said, tossing her dark, curly hair over her shoulder.
"And then, Blaise Zambini and Marcus Flint - single," Nora finished. Marcus felt his cheeks heating up at her introduction. Adrian was busy kissing both women's hands. He always was the biggest flirt of their friends. Marcus nodded uncomfortably.
"Nora! There you are, you minx!" a male voice shouted. They turned to look as a tall, devilishly handsome man walked out, a grin on his face. He walked over and hugged her, kissing her on the cheek.
"Tom! How is the love of my life?" she replied coyly.
"Better now that you're here, my dear," he said, winking at her.
"Beginning to see how she gets so many interviews," Higgs said with a grin. "She's a bigger flirt than Pucey.
"Your table is ready. Follow me," he said, leading them back into the club. They all paused momentarily to receive wristbands. Marcus glanced at his curiously as they wove through crowds of people. The music was so loud he could barely hear himself think. They walked up to a raised section guarded by a rope and big burly man. Once they were all in, they came to a large table sat back into an alcove. It was still loud, but at least it was slightly easier to hear. The table had large tin buckets of ice with several bottles of various liquors in them. Glasses were arranged in the center along with a few bottles full of other liquids.
Tom motioned to the table with a flourish.
"Only the best for my favorite music writer," he said, winking at Nora. She laughed and swatted at him. All the men's eyes bulged slightly as they took in the setup.
"Looks expensive," Warrington murmured.
"Don't worry, Nor and I have it covered. She gets massive discounts," Pucey said so only they heard. The nervous ones smiled, reassured.
"Always appreciated," Nora said, kissing Tom again.
"Hey, you said it was a celebration and I came through. Have fun," he said before walking off. The group slid into the round table, which gave them a good view of the dance floor.
"Who's ready for shots?" Nora shouted with a grin. Marcus sighed. This was going to be a long, crazy night.
Marcus wasn't sure how many shots he had had or what they even were, but after about an hour, he was finally starting to relax. He was content to watch the various conversations going on around him. Even laughing as Moira and Belle dragged Zambini and Pucey off to the dance floor. Nora, it seemed, was content to stay at the table, chatting with the remaining men. She laughed over something with Bletchley, probably something about his daughter. She seemed to have this ability to set everyone at ease around her. There was something about the way she laughed, that made one want to laugh too, even if you had no clue what it was she was laughing about. It wasn't just a simple thing - she laughed with her whole body, tossing her head back, her shoulder shaking.
She had long lost the jacket she had tossed on before they left, her tattoos now on full display. Marcus was curious as to what they were. She then patted Bletchley on the arm and stood, walking over to the railing that separated their section from the rest of the club. Leaning up against it, she tilted her head to the side, watching the dance floor. Something compelled Marcus to follow her. It wasn't until someone walked up to her that he even noticed he had been starting to stand.
"Looks like Flint's got it bad," Higgs yelled. Marcus tore his eyes away from her and looked at his three remaining friends who were in a fit of laughter.
"Don't know what you're talking about, mate," he said gruffly as he grabbed his glass of whisky and downed half of it.
"You haven't taken your eyes off her all night. Though I don't blame you. If I were single, I'd be all over her," Warrington added. Marcus scowled at them and turned his attention back to Nora. She had turned to face this new person, her arms crossed in front of her as her head was tilted to the right. She was leaning closer, as though trying to hear the tall man. She laughed slightly at something, looking up at him. Flint moved his eyes from her to the man, who looked familiar. His eyes widened as he recognized him. Immediately a sneer fell across his face. Oliver Fucking Wood.
This time he did stand and walk towards the two. Oliver was handing something to her, which she accepted with an amused look. He then smiled and turned and walked away before Marcus reached them. He stopped suddenly, as Nora glanced down at the card and then slid it into her back pocket. She turned and noticed Marcus, a grin breaking out.
"Marcus!" she shouted, walking towards him. "C'mon, let's do a shot!" Marcus wordlessly followed her back to the table, sitting as she deftly grabbed two shot glasses and poured something from a stout bottle with a green label. She plopped down next to him, her thigh rubbing up against his. His breath hitched slightly as she handed the small glass to him.
"This is my favorite!" she shouted. Marcus looked at it and then back at her, watching as she licked her hand - causing him to gulp - then sprinkled something on it from a plate on the table. She glanced at him, an eyebrow raised. "You ever done Patron before?" He shook his head no.
"I haven't," he said, finally finding his voice. She smiled and nodded.
"Lick your hand and sprinkle some salt," she said, leaning close so he could hear her. He quickly followed her instructions. She then handed him a lime slice, before picking up one herself.
"Now, you need to lick, drink, suck," she shouted. "Got it?" Marcus nodded, thinking muggle drinking traditions were odd. "Alright, cheers!" She held her glass out to him. He clinked his against hers then did as instructed. He changed his mind. They weren't odd. They were fantastic.
Nora laughed and leaned back in her chair, looking out to the dance floor, bobbing her head with the music. Her hands were on the table, allowing Marcus to get a closer look at the tattoos. It was like nothing he had ever seen. They were intricate and delicate. The two larger ones - one on each arm - were some sort of design with lines, arrows and circles, with one large, main image in the middle. On her right arm was the scene of an plane flying over mountains and pine trees. Above it was a small delicate quill. He couldn't really make out the one on her left arm.
She looked back at him, catching him studying her arms and laughed, getting his attention.
"Sorry… I just haven't seen anything like that before," he said, sitting up. She turned her arms up, allowing him a full view of them.
"My tattoos? It's no problem. A lot of people ask about them," she said. She pointed to the two on her left arm. "This is my mother's initials. And this one is for my little brother." It was a large image that was half some sort of insignia and the other half a jagged, crystallized looking stag head. "He wanted to be a pilot and loved hunting. This one," she pointed at the large one on the other arm, "Is for my grandparents. That's my grandfather's plane and they grew up in the mountains."
"What's this one for?" Flint asked, pointing at the quill, genuinely interested in why someone would paint images on themselves.
"Ah, that's for me. To remind me on hard days that I'm born to write," she said with a fond smile. Marcus found himself reaching out and gently rubbing the quill with his thumb, surprised to see it didn't smear or budge. Her skin was soft. Nora chuckled, covering the shiver that ran through her skin.
"Yea, they're permanent tattoos," she said. Marcus looked up at her, expecting to find her mocking him. But it wasn't there. Just a warmth. "When I lived in Korea, a lot of people thought they were temporary. Got a lot of shocked looks."
"You lived in Korea?" he asked, intrigued. He had never traveled to Asia. Nora nodded.
"Amazing music scene. I was there for a few years before I went back to the States to work at Billboard about four years ago," she said. Suddenly, Nora sat up and turned to him. "Come on… we're dancing." She grabbed his arm and started pulling him. Marcus' eyes went wide.
"But… I don't dance…," he stuttered. Nora laughed, successfully getting him out of his chair.
"You do tonight," she said. Before he could protest again, she had dragged him out of the VIP section and onto the dance floor. Something with a Latin beat started playing and she turned to face him, moving her hips from side to side in time with the music. Marcus was frozen, unsure of what to do. Nora looked up at him and laughed. She stepped up close to him, grabbed his hands and pulled them around her waist. She gently urged him to follow her movement and he was surprised to find himself matching the beat.
"See, you do dance," she shouted at him. Marcus grinned as he relaxed, letting himself move with her. Nora then pulled back, still holding his hands. He was thankful for those dance lessons he had to do at Hogwarts. He expertly spun her, swinging her behind him and then spinning her back around to his front, pulling her in close. Nora grinned.
"Holding out on me, are you?" she shouted.
"Can't very well put all my cards out on the table at first, can I?" he replied, surprising himself as well as Nora. She grinned, happy to see the change. They danced for a few more songs, before Nora motioned she wanted to get another drink. When they reached the table, everyone was back, laughing and drinking.
"Where've you been?" Pucey asked when Marcus sat next to him.
"Dancing," he replied, taking the shot glass from him. Pucey's eyebrows shot up.
"So the great Marcus Flint dances?"
Been holding out on this one, but finally decided, what the hell, I'll post it. Gotten most of it finished. Totally different from the Wood Series...