A/N: This is for Ariaeris, who is totally made of win. (Go read his stuff!) I promised him a Harry/Marcus fic like a bazillion years ago, and after months of writing, rewriting, and then re-rewriting, it's finally finished! This is the first half - or third, I'm not entirely sure yet - but I'll be posting the rest soon, after I'm finished editing.
Warnings: Slash, smoking, mentions (and, in spots, more-than-just-mentions) of sexual situations. And, for the record, this is set in Harry's third year.
Also: If there's anything that doesn't sound right, please let me know so I can fix it! I don't have a beta, so all mistakes are my own. Concrit is welcome and definitely appreciated.
Cigarette Smoke And The Morning Sun
Chapter One: Open Spaces
The grass was covered with frost, slippery and ice-stiff underfoot, as Harry strode across the sloping lawn that separated the castle from the Quidditch pitch.
His every breath was like smoke, clearly visible in the sharp November air. The first snow hadn't fallen yet, but it was bordering on winter, and even late fall in northern Scotland was bitterly cold. The fact that it was late at night - early morning, to be entirely accurate; two a.m. could hardly be called "evening" - made things all the worse. The wind cut through his flying gear mercilessly, leaving him shivering, muscles tight like coiled springs against the cold.
Even so, Harry needed the release, the freedom that flight granted him. Nothing would dissuade him from flying until either a) the sun came up, or b) he lost all feeling in his hands. He'd brought his Quidditch gloves to help prevent the latter - presently, they were tucked away in one of his pockets - but the thin leather was hardly going to keep his fingers warm.
He slipped into the Gryffindor locker room and fetched his Firebolt, then made his way onto the pitch. The grass crunched loudly, frost-crisp, with every footfall.
He'd only gone a couple of steps before he realized he wasn't alone; a large, burly figure was spiraling through the air on the far side of the pitch, near the goal hoops. Whoever he was, he appeared to be fairly gifted in the flying department; the corkscrew motion he currently employed was a difficult one to master. Harry stood there for a moment, just watching and admiring the ease with which he moved through the sky - almost as if he belonged there, a bird in flight rather than a human on a bespelled shaft of wood.
Before long, though, the itch to do some flying of his own grew too insistent to ignore. He yanked his gloves on and straddled his broom before shooting upwards, the frigid air harsh against his face as he accelerated. He did a couple of quick laps before falling into his usual nighttime flying pattern - a few, admittedly unnecessary, repetitions of the newer moves Wood had devised for him, and then a harrowing game of chicken with the ground. Or the stands, or the goal posts; anything exceptionally large and solid, really.
It always brought a thrill - rocketing towards an immovable object at high velocity, swerving or pulling up a split-second before impact. It made him feel strong, powerful, like he was in control.
Of course, the adrenaline rush was pretty good, too.
They flew for what seemed like hours, separated by an entire pitch-worth of empty space but sharing the same mindset, the same motivation. Both were striving for the sense of freedom that, for a devoted Quidditch player, could only be found hundreds of feet above the ground.
They kept their distance, each sticking to their own respective halves of the pitch. They'd both been seeking calm and release, just their thoughts and their brooms and the wide open sky, and the lack of solitude wasn't about to keep them from it.
Eventually, though, even the cathartic sensation of flight wasn't incentive enough for Harry to stay in the air. His face and hands had long since grown numb, the cold bite of the wind not unlike submerging himself in ice water.
He descended slowly, steering with his thighs as he peeled his gloves off with stiff, fumbling fingers. He rubbed his hands together, blowing on them. His breath was hot against the chilled skin, but it soon dissipated, leaving only a faint reminder of its warmth. The friction of rubbing his palms together was a little more successful, but still not enough.
He was so engrossed with warming his hands that he didn't even notice the other flier's approach.
"Cold?" a gruff voice asked, and Harry jerked his head up to see someone hovering scarcely ten feet away. His first impression was rather so-so. Close-cropped black hair, jagged teeth, and a lot more bulk than he was comfortable being at odds with.
He'd been sharing the pitch with Marcus Flint the entire time, and the Slytherin hadn't even tried to off him and make it look like an accident? Odd.
Well, just because he hadn't done it yet didn't mean he wouldn't. There was still plenty of opportunity to kill him off; even something as simple as a tickling charm could make for a nasty fall. Harry eyed him warily. "A bit."
Flint drifted a little closer. "Hold still," he ordered, pulling out his wand and pointing it at Harry.
Harry tensed, half-expecting a jet of light to come shooting out at him. He opened his mouth to object, but suddenly glorious, all-encompassing warmth - reminiscent of sitting near a blazing fire, like he often did in Gryffindor tower on winter evenings - rushed over him.
His eyes closed as the sensation washed over him, and when he blinked them open again Flint was tucking his wand away, clearly finished with any spell-casting he'd been planning.
He'd never managed to get the protest out, but his mouth was still open, so he muttered a hasty, "Thanks."
Taking notice of Harry's expression-half bewildered and half apprehensive, as though he expected to be shoved off his broom at any moment-Flint asked, "What? You thought I was going to hex you?" There was no mistaking the amusement in his voice. "Don't worry, Potter. I don't want the Cup that badly."
Angling his broom upwards (after all, they'd been scarcely twenty feet above the surface of the pitch), Flint flew over to the stands and landed there, just short of the top row.
After a moment's hesitation, Harry followed him. His instincts were still screaming "Run away!" but since when had that ever stopped him? He'd done plenty of stupid, risky things before and it had always turned out all right. Why should this be any different?
He alighted on the topmost bench and settled in against the backrest, feet propped up on the seat directly in front of him. Flint turned to look up at him - he was several inches taller, but their positions evened things out - and a peculiar jolt went through Harry's body as he realized that Flint's face was only a few inches from his knees, almost level with his crotch.
Flint shot him a confused look. "Potter?"
Harry braced himself for the considerably larger Slytherin's ire and said, "Why'd you do it?"
"Why'd you do it?" he repeated, impatience coloring his voice. "The warming charm, I mean."
Flint shrugged. "You were looking a bit pathetic," he said offhandedly, as if he were remarking on the weather.
Harry wondered if he should take offense - after all, it was true, but no one with actual manners would've said it so bluntly - but before he could get anything out in his own defense, Flint added, "Besides, what's wrong with a bloke doing somebody a favor?"
He didn't quite stop himself in time to hide the snort of disbelief. Flint, helping someone of his own free will?
The Slytherin shot him a narrow-eyed look, and Harry quickly averted his eyes. Much as he hated to admit it, he was a little intimidated by Flint. Then again, who wouldn't be around someone five years his senior, three times his size, and more than capable of tearing him limb from limb should he feel the sudden, burning urge to dismember the Gryffindor Quidditch team's most valuable player?
Flint, however, seemed perfectly content to lounge on the bench and make small talk with him. Him - someone Flint, by all rights, shouldn't have even been speaking to, which made it all the more surreal. Beating him up, maiming him (permanently or non-permanently, so long as there was pain and blood involved), heckling him? Those were all understandable. Having a casual, almost - dare he say it, or even think it - friendly conversation with him? Not in a million years.
Deciding on the "safe" approach for once, Harry let the subject drop. "Where'd you learn that, anyway?"
"Pucey. The bloody bastard waited 'til after I'd nearly froze my balls off to tell me there even was such a thing as a warming charm." Flint scrunched his face up comically; his memories of that particular day's flight were obviously less than pleasant.
Harry couldn't hold back the smile that curved across his lips. He hesitated, smile fading a little, when Flint asked, "Why d'you care anyway, Potter? I would've thought the little know-it-all you're always hanging around with would've taught you it by now."
"Hermione's not a know-it-all," he argued, defending his friend. "She's just . . . she reads a lot." It came out a lot lamer than it had sounded in his head.
Flint snorted. "Potter, every time I go in the library - and don't you dare tell anyone I go there occasionally, or I swear to Merlin I'll hex your ears off, I've got a reputation to protect - she's in there poring over some huge, dusty old book."
Harry opened his mouth to continue the argument, but closed it again for lack of a decent retort. After all, it was tough to argue with the truth, and what Flint was saying was hardly a lie.
"That's what I thought," Flint said, a little smugly, upon seeing that Harry had run out of excuses for his friend's know-it-all-ism. He produced a slightly battered pack of cigarettes from one of his pockets and tapped one out into his hand. Placing it between his lips, he lit the tip with his wand and took a slow drag.
Harry watched in bewilderment; Flint, a pure-blood, smoking Muggle cigarettes? Where was the seemingly ever-present pure-blood disdain for anything Muggle or Muggle-born? Had the Slytherin Chaser been Confunded one too many times and lost his distaste for anything non-magical?
Sensing Harry's eyes on him, Flint held out the pack. "Fancy a smoke?" he asked, exhaling a lungful into the frigid night air.
His first instinct was to refuse, having been lectured a number of times by his primary school teachers that smoking, drinking, and drugs were Not Good. Then again, he seemed to be taking a lot of risks tonight; what was one more?
"Yeah, sure." He reached out and took one, setting it between his lips much like he'd just seen Flint do. He fumbled in his pocket for his wand, but before he could get it out, Flint leaned up and lit it for him with the end of his own cigarette.
Murmuring his thanks, Harry balanced it between his middle and pointer fingers, much like Flint seemed to be doing. After a moment of staring at the smoke trail curling up from the tip, he dredged up every last scrap of Gryffindor recklessness he possessed and took a drag, drawing the smoke down into his lungs. Almost immediately, he doubled over, coughing, as the burning sensation in his throat became too much to bear.
Flint cocked an eyebrow at him. When he spoke, his tone was deceptively mild. "Easy, Potter, or you'll hack up a lung."
Harry wanted to glare at him, but considering the identity of his present company, that might not be such a wise thing to do. He settled for narrowing his eyes and taking a second pull on his cigarette, determined not to give the older boy a reason to laugh at him by giving up after only one drag. It was a little easier this time, although the burning sensation was just as bad. He coughed, putting his hand over his mouth to muffle it.
"Y'know, I never would've figured you for a smoker," Flint said, almost conversationally, "what with you being the Gryffindor Golden Boy and all."
Harry shrugged. "Yeah, well, people aren't always what they seem." He steeled himself and took another pull, keeping his expression relaxed through sheer force of will even as he was bombarded by the urge to screw his face up in disgust. It was time to let his Slytherin half take over; his Gryffindor persona wouldn't do him any favors when it came to dealing with someone like Marcus Flint. The last thing he wanted was to show weakness, especially now that the Slytherin seemed to be warming up to him a bit.
"So, do you do this often?"
"What, corrupt innocent little Gryffies with my nicotine habit?"
Harry rolled his eyes. Flint wasn't nearly as good at faking confusion as he seemed to think he was. "That too. I mean, do you come out here a lot? Is it just to fly, or do you always finish off a flight with a nice leisurely bout of destroying your lungs and throat?"
He was a little surprised by his own boldness; then again, he seemed to be doing a lot of out-of-character things tonight. What would it hurt to have a halfway normal conversation with somebody?
. . . Even if it was a Slytherin.
"Any one of those in particular you'd like answered?" Flint's tone was surprisingly genial; Harry highly doubted it was sincere.
"Any of them. All of them. None, if you're not up for sharing." He used his most goading tone, knowing that Flint would see it as a challenge. If there was one thing he'd learned from watching the hulking seventh year play Quidditch - aside from the fact that he was a chronic cheater and usually resorted to violence when his team was losing - it was that Flint's pride wouldn't allow him to brush the question off.
"Yeah, I do. Come out here a lot, I mean."
"To clear your head?"
Flint shot him a sideways look. "Sometimes, yeah. Why d'you care, anyways, Potter? It's not like you've got any reason to."
He shrugged. "Maybe I'm just trying to make conversation. Maybe I'm curious. Maybe I'm wondering if I'm the only one who ever comes out here to be alone."
A slight, lopsided smile began to form at the edges of the Slytherin's mouth. Not one of the bitter, fake, mocking ones Harry was used to seeing; a real, honest-to-God smile. The sort of smile that slimy, conniving, black-hearted Slytherin bastards were supposed to be incapable of.
"No, you're not the only one." Flint pushed himself up into something vaguely resembling a sitting position, resting his elbows only a few inches from Harry's sneaker-clad feet. He took another slow drag on his cigarette before breathing the smoke out into the night air. He swiped his tongue over his lower lip afterwards; the action drew Harry's eyes involuntarily to Flint's mouth, and his mind to somewhere far less innocent that involved a number of things Flint could probably do with that mouth and those full, saliva-wet lips.
"Shut your mouth, Potter. You're drooling."
Harry started, jerked out of his mouth-induced fantasies by the sound of Flint's voice. Flushing in embarrassment, he averted his eyes. His posture was rigid, wary even, as he waited for Flint to comment further; after all, he'd just handed him enough ammunition to arm a machine gunner in the middle of heavy combat. How could he expect Flint to just let it go?
True to form, Flint didn't let it go.
When he next spoke, though, it was with a tone far different than the harsh, disgusted one he'd been anticipating. "Like what you see, do you?" He sounded almost . . . amused?
When several more moments had passed and Flint hadn't said anything else, Harry looked over at him in confusion. That was it? No jeering about how the precious Boy-Who-Lived was such a disappointment, no sneered remarks about how he was freakish and unnatural?
Oddly enough, none seemed forthcoming. Maybe he was just taking his time thinking them up? Putting a little extra effort into making them as cruel and vicious as possible? In that case, sticking around much longer would be a stupid thing to do.
Actually, sticking around period would be a stupid thing to do.
"I gotta go," he muttered, just barely loud enough for Flint to hear him. Stubbing his cigarette out against the bench, Harry lurched to his feet and grabbed his broom. He straddled it hastily and kicked off.
Stupid, stupid, stupid . . . he berated himself, feeling like an idiot. You didn't even deny it!
Flint watched him go with an inscrutable expression on his face, so focused on Harry's retreating form that he forgot about the still-burning cigarette in his hand. He remembered in a hurry when it started to burn the side of his pointer finger, though, and he dropped it with a heart-felt, "Bloody fucking-fuck!"
Harry was very talented at avoiding people.
More specifically, he was very talented at avoiding Flint. After three days of skulking through seldom-used corridors and ducking into alcoves at the sight of anyone over six feet tall (not counting the Weasley twins, who were easily distinguishable as Definitely Not Flint), he practically had it down to an art form.
It was like some twisted version of Hide And Seek. The hulking seventh year had tried to catch him alone a number of times over the last three days. Harry'd had plenty of practice escaping from larger, slower people, though - Dudley and his gang had made sure of that - and he managed to keep out of Flint's way for a whole three days, nine hours, and twenty-seven minutes before Flint finally caught him in an empty hallway near the Transfiguration classroom.
His first act was to shove Harry up against the wall, although with considerably less force than he was capable of.
His second, after trapping the younger boy in with his beefy arms, was to lean close and growl, "I've been trying to get you alone for ages. Stop avoiding me."
It took Harry, who'd been rather surprised by the suddenness of the ambush, a moment to collect himself. After all, it wasn't every day he was jumped from behind and tossed about like a rag doll. Not since coming to Hogwarts, anyway.
Forcing his wits back into some semblance of order, he threw caution to the wind and retorted, "Why should I?" He was both proud and shocked by the fact that his voice didn't shake at all.
"Because I said so." Flint sounded a little confused, as if he weren't used to his authority being challenged. He probably wasn't; when you were - arguably, although anyone trying to say otherwise would probably be looked at like they'd suddenly sprouted a second head - the biggest, meanest guy in the entire school, people tended to listen to you.
"So?" It came out a lot less aggressive than Harry would've liked, but he'd said it, and that was all that mattered.
Flint, blindsided by Harry's recklessly brave rebellion, didn't seem to know what to say. He blinked a couple of times, scowling, but then the frown lines etched into his forehead disappeared and he smirked. Quite confidently, he announced, "I know what you're trying to do, Potter. It's not going to work."
"What're you on about?"
"You want me to give up. You want me to forget about the other night."
Harry was uncomfortably aware of the way the older boy's body pressed against his own as Flint loomed over him, his face a scant few inches from the Gryffindor's. The heat radiating from Flint's body was positively furnace-like, and the hard lines of his body were firm against Harry's chest and stomach, but even that wasn't as distracting as his voice, low and dark and carrying a slight hint of a Scottish burr.
Flint's hot breath, heavy with cigarette smoke and toothpaste, ghosted over Harry's face as he murmured in a lower, but equally smug tone, "Well, it's not going to happen."
"I've got no bloody clue what you're talking about, Flint." It sounded half-hearted even to him, though, and the shark-like smile that stretched across the older boy's lips made it quite clear his lack of vehemence hadn't gone unnoticed. Fuck.
"Potter - " Flint's tone was supremely confident " - you and I both know that's a lie."
He swallowed tightly, finding it difficult to breath as Flint leaned in even more closely, their noses practically bumping. The Slytherin's hands, which up until then had been bracketing Harry's shoulders, wrapped themselves tightly around his biceps. Harry mentally kicked himself for taking his robes off after lunch; the fabric of his uniform shirt was thin enough to feel the heat from Flint's hands.
Embarrassment flooded through him as he realized that his biceps were small enough for Flint to curl his fingers around. Flint had ridiculously big hands. . . . but still, that was kind of sad.
He looked up and was surprised to find the Slytherin staring at him, eyes intense in a way Harry had never seen them before. They were grey, he realized, grey like slate. There was emotion there - "eyes are windows to the soul" had never been a more accurate description than at that very moment - but he couldn't read it. Anger, maybe? Disgust? Fear? Interest, even? It was impossible to tell for sure.
Whatever it was, Harry didn't doubt that it was much more skillfully hidden than his own emotions. He'd always been told he was an open book. People took one look at his eyes and knew exactly what he was feeling.
What was Flint seeing right now? The fear? The anxiety? The want?
He tried to say something - what, he wasn't quite sure - but when he opened his mouth, nothing came out. That seemed to be a recurring problem lately. . . .
Flint seemed to get the hint, though, regardless of Harry's continued silence. Could Flint see it in his body language? His eyes? His expression? Whatever gave it away, it prompted Flint to take a step back, putting a little more distance between them (for which Harry was thankful, despite his body screaming in protest at the sudden lack of contact).
He reached out, seemingly on impulse, and straightened Harry's shirt collar. Then, still wearing that infuriating smirk, he said, "I'll see you around, Potter."
There was a definite swagger in his step as he walked away. Harry was left with his back against the wall, breathing shakily, his face flushed a furious Gryffindor red.
"Something wrong, mate? You've been awfully quiet tonight. . . ."
Harry glanced away from the fire - he'd been staring into the flames, watching them flicker - and smiled half-heartedly at the redhead in the overstuffed armchair across from him. "I'm fine, Ron. Just being my usual moody self."
Hermione, curled up with yet another monstrously thick book in one of the other armchairs near the fire, looked up from her reading. "Are you sure? You haven't been letting Malfoy get to you with those awful fainting impressions of his, have you? Because he's really not worth it . . ."
"No, it's not that. I'm fine, guys, really," Harry interrupted hastily. He'd prefer not to hear Hermione continue in that vein; he'd had enough reminders of his humiliating reaction to the Dementors lately without his friends starting in on the subject, too.
"Okay," Hermione said, tone uncertain. "But you'd tell us, right? If something was bothering you?"
Harry opened his mouth to say that of course he would and they'd be the first to know, but when he tried to, the words stuck in his throat. Damn them both for making him feel so guilty. He was lying and hiding things from his friends now, and all they'd done was try to help him.
What kind of person did that make him? And who could he tell if he couldn't even talk to his best friends about it?
Well. . . it wasn't like he had to tell them everything. It would be laughably easy to leave out the incriminating details. He was locked in a brief moment of indecision as the horrifying prospect of his friends guessing the whole truth warred with the intense desire to tell someone, anyone really, about the crazy thoughts going on in his head. Eventually, though, desire won out.
"I . . . I, um, there's something I have to tell you guys."
Ron and Hermione both leaned forward in their chairs, wearing nearly identical expressions of conflicting concern and insatiable Gryffindor curiosity. Hermione was forced to set her library book aside to manage it - the dusty old tome was ridiculously bulky - and a small puff of dust (a century's worth, more than likely) wafted into the air when she closed it.
Harry felt the sudden, irrational urge to laugh.
He glanced around the Common Room, making sure there was no one within hearing distance. With the exceptions of maybe a half-dozen fifth and sixth years and Percy, who'd camped out in the far corner of the room with a veritable mountain of textbooks and was scribbling away furiously, head bent in concentration, they were the only ones there.
Courage bolstered slightly by the knowledge that they were, in essence, alone, Harry scooted forward in his chair and cleared his throat awkwardly. It took a couple of false starts ("The other day . . . I, you guys . . . this is going to sound so stupid, I just know it is. . ."), but eventually he managed to blurt out something vaguely understandable.
"Imaybekindoflikesomeone. Aaanndddd . . . Ithinktheymightlikemeback."
Okay, maybe not understandable, per se.
Hermione blinked owlishly. "Pardon?"
Taking a steadying breath, Harry repeated himself. "I like someone - y'know, in that way - and I think they maybe like me back. Except I've got no bloody clue what to do about it."
"You're having a laugh at us, aren't you?" Ron asked suspiciously.
Hermione reached out and smacked Ron's knee. "Honestly, Ron! Have a little tact, won't you?"
"Ow," Ron grumbled, but said, "Sorry, mate. Won't happen again." He glanced over at Hermione, checking that his apology was satisfactory before continuing. "Have you tried talking to her?"
"Yeah, a couple times. It was a bit awkward, though. I've got no idea what to do or say or anything."
Hermione worried at her lip for a moment before asking, "Well, do you want to ask her out?"
Just the thought of asking out Marcus "I'm-A-Badass-Slytherin" Flint was laughable. Still, if it would help him pump Hermione for information (Ron, wonderful friend though he was, probably wasn't going to be much use other than for moral support) . . .
"Yeah. Yeah, I've been thinking about it."
"Right, well, don't take my word for it - I've never asked anyone out before - but I've heard that it helps to do something romantic. Sending them flowers or chocolates, writing them romantic poetry, things like that. If you're interested, there are some rather good volumes about poetry structure in the library."
Wow. Trust Hermione to work in a book recommendation. It was quite possibly the most useless advice he'd ever received, too, and that included Dudley telling him he might not want to stick his fingers down the kitchen drain, else-wise the snakes that lived in the pipes would bite them off. Thinking back on that now, he could see a rather disturbing similarity with the basilisk in the plumbing. . . .
"Thanks, Hermione. You too, Ron. I think I'll try that," he said, lying through his teeth and feeling absolutely no shame. There was no room for brutal honesty; not in this conversation. "I think I'm just gonna head up to bed now. Y'know, sleep on it." He squirmed his way out of the overstuffed armchair and forced himself not to bolt for the stairs, tossing a quick, "'Night, guys," over his shoulder.
He trudged his way up the staircase with Ron and Hermione's farewells echoing after him. Cue the inward sigh of relief; he'd been worried about the whole "it's a guy" thing coming up, but it had been almost criminally easy to keep things ambiguous. If he weren't so frustrated by their complete lack of actual help, he might've felt some guilt over deceiving his closest friends. He'd been hoping that Hermione, at least, would have some decent suggestions. . . .
By the time he reached the last step, he'd decided it quite firmly: there was no bloody way he was writing Marcus Flint romantic poetry.