Rating: M

Summary: Oliver was conspicuously absent when the rest of the Gryffindor Quidditch team confronted Harry the following morning. Warnings for slash. Oneshot. In the verse of To Bedlam and Partway Back. Marcus/Oliver


Disclaimer: I own none of these characters, nor the movie from which the title is taken from, or the song lyric at the end.

To Antarprince, for the original suggestion

"Why am I not surprised to find you still down here?"

Oliver scowled into his shower, uncaring that he was past ankle-deep in freezing water; or that his lips had turned blue and he couldn't quite feel his toes; or that his greatest rival was watching him from outside the clear walls of his shower cubicle. The boy was circling about him like a panther on the prowl, darkly dangerous, with his cropped dark hair and glittering pistachio-coloured eyes. And then he hated himself for being so observant- yet again. Somehow, no matter the circumstance, he never failed to appreciate that much about the Slytherin captain.

"Piss off, Flint," he snapped.

"It was less than 10 degrees out there, and I highly doubt your shower's any warmer. Do you honestly want to catch hypothermia? I think Pomfrey's got enough on her hands as it is."

At the reminder, the Scottish boy's face twisted in bitter self-recrimination.

"Did you see him, Marcus? Did you see- Harry-"

"Aye," Marcus replied, taking a few steps nearer to settle on a red metal bench, before scowling with distaste at the colour and hexing it green. "I saw him, and the Dementors."

"This wasn't the way I wanted to end my Quidditch career," Oliver groaned, dropping his head into his hands. "Harry- no one was ever supposed to get hurt. It's just what I always say before games: get the snitch, or die trying. Win the game, or die trying. It- it was only ever meant to be a sort of mantra, or a jinx. I mean- nothing was ever supposed to come out of it. He certainly wasn't supposed to listen to me!"

"So it's his fault now, is it?" Marcus asked, in a carefully neutral tone.

"Of course not!" Oliver bellowed.

The Slytherin captain sighed. "You can yell at me all you like later, Oliver, but get the hell out of the showers first."

Painstakingly slowly, the sandy-haired blond obeyed. He gasped when the even cooler air from outside seemed to sear his skin, but Marcus was already waiting for him with a heavy, fluffy towel loaded with heating charms. Oliver burrowed into the warmth presented by the towel and the thick arms of the boy holding it.

"You're too good to me," he whispered.

Marcus smirked. "Don't I know it."

Oliver's head shot up, eyes stricken.

The Slytherin sighed, his raspy breath not even stirring the short wiry curls of the boy in his arms. "You're way too wound up about this whole thing."

"Can you blame me?" Oliver demanded. "This whole affair is just- just-!"

Marcus ran a soothing hand through his blond curls. "You aren't entirely to blame, you know. You can't just keep beating yourself over the head like this."

"If I hadn't told him to catch the Snitch at any cost-" he insisted stubbornly.

"Then you'd just have lost in a slightly more anticlimactic manner," Marcus said.

Oliver stared up at his rival captain as if he were seeing him for the first time. And then he flushed, painfully. Marcus took advantage of his defenceless posture, and tugged him into a kiss. Oliver moaned in protest, but was clearly reluctant to do much else. Marcus's large hands burrowed deeper and deeper into the towel, causing the other boy to gasp when they brushed bare, damp skin for the first time. The blond shivered heavily, panting into the kiss, still unwilling to let go of his lips. Marcus growled against his mouth, dragging the rough texture of the terrycloth over sensitised skin, and Oliver was shuddering, and pushing back harder-

"Wait!" he gasped, tearing his lips away with an almost painful smack. Marcus stared down at him in muted disbelief.

"There is something we can do," Oliver rushed on to say, "it just depends…" He bit his lip nervously, and dropped his head, unwilling to meet Marcus's pistachio-coloured eyes. "It just depends on whether you're willing to speak for me."

He nearly flinched as Marcus withdrew till only those thick, warm hands were left on his body, gripping his hips tightly. The Slytherin was staring down at him with astonishment. "As in- a bond?"

"If it isn't too much to ask."

"Tell me what you're thinking of first, and then we'll see," Marcus said instead. Oliver never knew how much it took to keep his voice steady in that moment, to keep up the outward projection of utter calm, when all he wanted to do was snog him senseless. What Oliver had just suggested had been everything Marcus had ever wanted from him, but what he had been afraid to ask, because of their vivid differences.

Even how their relationship started had been a fluke of sorts; sometimes after Quidditch matches- or practices, even!- push came to shove, and shove to grope, and then the jarring realisation that perhaps they had more in common than an almost fanatical love for Quidditch.

"Full emancipation for Potter," Oliver declared, ignorant of his lover's inner turmoil. "I can have my father raise it in a Cabinet meeting, and then the Wizengamot, and if…your father would back it in full session- I know how much sway he has over Lucius Malfoy-"

"Why would you think my father would ever even consider that in the first place, let alone Malfoy?" Marcus asked, genuine curiosity colouring his voice.

"That's because emancipating him would get him in the open, and out from under Dumbledore's thumb. He's young enough to still be malleable, you know that. You remember what it was like at his age. It allows him to be exponentially accessible to an increased number of influences- ones that your father and his crowd might not be so quick to disapprove of. At the moment, Potter is Dumbledore's pawn, not the Light's icon. Given the opportunity, who knows what he could be. Given the right influences, he could be at least abstain from the conflict entirely. That's almost as powerful a position as validating the traditionalists' claim, and it goes to show that Dumbledore's influence is slipping."

Oliver had three great loves in life, if he were truly honest with himself. One was, obviously, Quidditch. The second was politics. It was bred into his very blood, as it was Marcus's, and many other Pureblood heirs, even more so for those with seats to inherit on the Wizengamot.

Despite the persona of the Quidditch-crazed Gryffindor nut he portrayed in school, the third weekend of every month would see him in sombre umber coloured robes with his family crest, attending Wizengamot sessions with his father as the Wood heir. He was acutely aware of the power struggle between the factions of Dumbledore, Fudge, and Malfoy, but was himself a part of the elusive fourth faction, the Neutrals. They were a small elite group with enough power and prestige to stand apart from the aforementioned three, and were the true wildcards in any vote.

Not counting the Neutrals, the Wizengamot usually voted two-thirds either in favour or disfavour, with Fudge the swing vote between his morals and his pocket. However, there were enough Neutrals to hold the vote to a tie, or if there were dissenters within a faction, to topple the vote the other way entirely. While they were all largely traditionalists, they still had independent views on differing issues, and were largely unpredictable.

Although a Gryffindor, it hardly meant that Oliver was automatically a Light wizard. Sure, his tendencies were to lean towards it, but he found that to call himself a Light wizard, under Dumbledore's definition, was to deny a large part of his heritage, which was something neither Oliver nor his father were willing to do. In some ways, they were almost as severe traditionalists as some of the truly Dark families.

As for the third great love in his life…

"I suppose you state a good case," Marcus conceded grudgingly. "Even Malfoy might buy into it if you put it like that. But let me ask you: does Potter mean that much to you that you'd be willing to sell your own freedom?"

Oliver flinched. And shuddered. He couldn't help it. Hearing the words so baldly…they were cruel, just as he knew Marcus meant them to be that way. Marcus Flint, the consummate politician, despite all evidence pointing to the contrary. His father, Lyall Flint, was a man nearing his eighties: well-groomed, elegant, and an abrasive, powerful speaker. It was unsurprising that he had Malfoy's ear, although Malfoy would never openly admit it. His family's history in England predated the Malfoys, and they were almost as old as the Blacks, and just as Dark.

The truth, however, was that Lyall was not a politician. There was a reason why he had only truly blossomed during the War. The Flint's similarities to the Blacks did not end with their Dark tendencies; rather, they were both also more keen to take action in the name of the Dark than politick behind the scenes, like Malfoy.

But it had been Lyall's wife, Marcus's mother Rhetta, that had been the true mastermind of the policies that had cemented his position as Malfoy's right-hand man in the Wizengamot. Crabbe and Goyle were seen as mere muscle, but Lyall had been prized as the brain, which had in reality all been Rhetta's. And Rhetta, before her passing, had gifted much of her talents to her son.

And now it was Marcus who was the one truly carving the path of the Dark faction. Malfoy brought the weight of his name, of course, but it was Marcus's thoughts and dreams that channelled that power into a potential course.

There were times where it irked Oliver, of course, especially when their differences were brought so starkly into contrast. But he'd always known that a relationship like this wouldn't have be easy. It was why he'd never dared to bring up the subject of bonding before, despite the slow, careful way Marcus was with him at times, and the lingering look in his eyes as they stared at each other from across the hall. Harry was as much an excuse for him as he was for Harry. He did care for the boy, of course. But if he could get what he wanted as well-

"Not to me, personally, no," he replied slowly. "He did us all a favour by ending the war all those years ago- no matter how others may dispute on the way it ended," he said sharply, blue eyes warning Marcus to keep his tongue between his teeth, for this moment at least.

"But have you seen him? Truly looked at him, and seen him? If he were any other child, it would never have gotten this bad, but if it were any other child, they would not be under Albus Dumbledore's guardianship. Everyone knows the headmaster has custody of him, and sends him somewhere classified for 'his own protection', but if Potter actually gets any attention- or care, for that matter!- then I'm a Duffer!" he spat. "Surely you can't have missed the way he is, having played across him all these years-"

"I've never really looked at him," Marcus admitted. "I was always watching you."

Oliver promptly blushed. He had no idea what Marcus was thinking.

"So what happens after emancipation?"

He latched onto the subject, still feeling the remnants of the blush fading from his face. "Sending him to the Weasleys didn't seem to do any good for him last year. I mean, I trust the children- maybe not the youngest two, as they seem a little odd, truth be told- but obviously the parents aren't doing enough. The others: the twins, Percy, Charlie, Bill- you can tell what type of a person someone is from the way they play-"

"So what kind of person am I?"

He frowned. Surprisingly enough, he'd never really thought about it in terms like this. Marcus had, somehow, always been Marcus to him.

"I guess at first I would have thought you were just a brute to begin with. Bit of a bastard, actually." Marcus wasn't insulted. If anything, the little prick was smirking. "The way you play- it's savage and brutal and aggressive. But it's also raw. You're not very graceful when you fly, and I think I've always wondered why you weren't a Beater, or even a Keeper. But you're good at what you do, I won't deny it." He smiled wanly up at him. "Even if you were an utter arse for switching matches with the bloody Duffers this time."

Marcus raised his hand to gently touch his cheek. "But see what happened this time? Can you imagine if Malfoy had played, and had gotten injured? His father would have drowned Hogwarts in lawsuits, and then none of us would ever graduate. Besides, you could have, too. Told McGonagall that you were worried about Potter playing in this weather. You know she's a sop when it comes to him."

Oliver sighed. "I know."

The silence stretched, before Marcus broke it.. "How do you know your father will even give you the time of the day after you throw this cockamamy plan at him?"

Oliver wouldn't meet his eyes. "He knows- about you."

"Does he know about your intentions?" Marcus pressed.

"I understand if you don't want to commit this much, especially not when you see it for Potter's sake," he said dully. "Father is open to considering an alliance between our two families, despite what it may do for our reputation as a Neutral vote. It's as much politics as it is- other things."

The pause between his words was brief, but Marcus snapped up on it immediately. "What other things?" he asked, his hand having not left his cheek. "Will you tell me?"

Oliver reared his head back, Scottish brogue thickening in anger. "What do you want to hear?" he demanded. "What would you have me say?"

Marcus didn't let up. He gripped Oliver's chin powerfully, and wouldn't release it. "You had to have known what I want," he said harshly. "You had to have known what Pureblood tradition is like. I would never have gotten this involved if my intentions-"

"I couldn't have known!" he snapped back, although hope was beginning to burgeon in his chest. "I thought our circumstances were different, because we were both-"

"Men?" Marcus sneered. "It would never have made a difference to me. In differing factions in the Wizengamot? You should have recognised it as an opportunity for your family as much as mine for a new alliance. It would have never mattered."

His head dropped. "I never knew," he whispered.

"And you just went along with it regardless?" Marcus said incredulously.

He just shook his head, with no words left to say. Marcus said nothing either, just pulled him close and tucked his blond head beneath his square chin. Oliver raised his hands to fiercely grip the back of his robes.

"Thank you," he whispered against his collarbone, bared by the undone tie.

"For agreeing to your insane plan, or our impending bond?" Marcuse asked, mock-serious.

"Either. Both. I lo-"

Marcus swept him up in another kiss, and Oliver sighed into it, relaxing in the feel of the Slytherin's arms holding him upright. Those big hands were tracing lazy patterns across his abdomen, and he crooned at their proximity to his cock. He thrust his hips up insistently. Marcus pulled back, pistachio eyes flashing warningly.

"Don't start anything we won't have time to finish," Marcus hissed, even as his hand moved to rip the knot that held his towel in place apart. Marcus had put that knot there himself, not twenty minutes ago.

Oliver just laughed throatily, hitching one knee high enough to nudge at the apex of the larger boy's crotch. "Time?" he purred, parting Marcus's robes and inching his trouser zip down. He knew Marcus never wore pants unless he was riding a broom, and sometimes not even then. "We'd better have all the time in the world…unless you have something better you'd like to…?"

Although he was clad only in a towel, Oliver's hand somehow managed to still meet heated flesh first, and they both groaned at the feel. Oliver squeezed teasingly. Marcus bit down on his neck and tore off the towel. He shoved two blunt fingers into his face and brusquely ordered, "Suck."

Oliver immediately obeyed, a thrill of anticipation running through his naked body. Marcus was still completely dressed, with only his trousers' zipper undone, most strategically for his thick, engorged cock to pry through. He turned, Marcus's fingers still in his mouth, and he heard the other boy mumble a couple of familiar spells that left him empty and hollow and wanting inside, and then those fingers were gone and back, in such an achingly familiar way.

"Mmmmmm…" he crooned, sliding his legs further apart.

The fingers splayed out within him, digging, pawing, searching, and when they found what they were looking for, Oliver was left gasping against the clear shower door, his back and chest suddenly damp with cold sweat.

And then the fingers were withdrawn, and all the warning Oliver had was a deep grunt from beside his ear before he was filled. He cried out from the intensity of the feeling, relishing the sharp, vivid pain, and the heat of the solid flesh sealing him against the cool shower pane.

This was real, he told himself as Marcus withdrew and then returned, real because of the words, the promises between them. He ignored the part of himself that was the incessant Gryffindor, crying out in a dwindling voice that snakes couldn't be trusted.

Lips nipped at his earlobe, and then they were murmuring the words he'd only ever wanted to hear, and he was lost; all that was left was them.


"Let go of me, damnit!" he hollered, fighting the deceptively slender redhead that had his arms wrapped about his torso, pinning him against the wall. "I'm going to rip his bollocks off and feed them to the Giant Squid! I'll make that Duffer bastard ever regret being born-"

"Oliver!" Percy snapped. "Will you calm down!" He grit his teeth in exasperation and shot a heated glare Marcus's way. The hulking Slytherin was leaning casually against a study desk pushed into a corner, calmly watching the two Gryffindors struggle in a rather compromising position. "Will you-"

Marcus only shrugged. "I'm not the one who wants to keep Diggory's bollocks intact. As long as that's all Oliver's doing with them."

Percy ignored the Slytherin and shook him again. "Were you listening to a damn thing I said?" he demanded.

"The bloody Duffer-" Oliver sputtered. "Pledgeship Bond-"

Percy rolled his eyes. "Exactly. What were you expecting to do about it, now that it's been cast? Don't you understand how it works?"

Abruptly all the fight drained out of him, and he hung his head. Truthfully, he was all worn out from the Quidditch match, and then the colossal defeat, the after-session with Marcus, and now- this. Scottish he might be, but he had no fight left in him, especially not against his best mate.

"There isn't a damn thing we can do about it," he mumbled, feeling tears prickle his eyes. He'd failed Harry, yet again-

Above him, Percy gave a testy sigh. "Well, at least you got it faster than most of the other people. They've been making an absolutely dreadful scene all over school. It's disgraceful, especially considering half of them were wizard-raised. They know what the results of a Pledgeship Bond are."

"But what in the world was Diggory thinking?" he yelled.

The redhead shrugged. "He's a good man, Ollie," he said patiently. Oliver realised belatedly Diggory and Percy would have known each other through prefect patrols. "Potter already looked better in his company this morning than he has any other morning in Gryffindor. Besides, better Diggory than Dumbledore. He and Pomfrey actually separated the two last night after the Bond had been cast-"

"They what."

Marcus's tone was flat. Percy looked cautious, and rightly so. That tone of Marcus's never bode well for anyone.

"Cadwallader told me today after breakfast. Hermione Granger- Harry's friend- had to kidnap him from the Hospital Wing and smuggle him down to the Hufflepuff Common Room."

"How did the school react?"

Percy shrugged, trying for nonchalance. But he couldn't quite hide the glimmer of fear in his eyes, or the tremor in his slender shoulders. "Typical responses, at least for the traditionalists. Malfoy shouting, 'My father'll hear about this', although this time he actually seemed pretty distraught."

"Then they haven't all lost their senses," the Slytherin said shortly.

"Honestly!" Percy huffed, regaining his equilibrium as he turned pale with anger. Unlike most redheads, he didn't turn red easily, unless it was from the sun. Unlike all of the other redheads Oliver knew, Percy was also the only one who knew about him and Marcus. It was unavoidable, seeing as how he was his roommate, and Marcus was unable to make his roommate, Terence Higgs, see any reason at all, unless he simply made Higgs not see anything at all. They'd never gotten along right ever since Marcus had kicked Higgs off the Slytherin Quidditch team and inserted Draco Malfoy in his place. Malfoy had actually been the better flier, so the swop wasn't entirely unwarranted…but the Nimbus Two Thousand and Ones Lucius Malfoy had thrown it had sure as hell sweetened the deal.

And Percy was an alright sort, contrary to popular belief. He had kept his gob shut about the two of them ever since they started up Fifth Year, although it might have had something to do with Marcus threatening to rip off his bollocks and feed them to the giant squid at first. That alone probably made them the only two in Hogwarts who could claim to know the real Marcus Flint. Marcus often stated that it was a pity they were both in Gryffindor.

"The whole world out there is going insane already," the lone redhead growled. "The two of you certainly don't have to add to it." He sniffed haughtily. "You should have been there this morning, Oliver, you stupid prat. Your whole bloody team was out of line this morning, when they actually confronted Harry and Diggory." Then he sighed, and rubbed the crease between his brows which Oliver was sure would become permanent before he graduated.

"Not that I don't have my fair share of the blame. My brothers were among the lot too. Fred, and George, at least, managed to see reason afterward, but Ron was just being plain obnoxious."

"Well," Marcus began dubiously, "at least this way we won't have to worry about guardianship issues, eh?"

"But it was never supposed to be with Diggory!" Oliver hissed, thankful that Marcus had pushed them off the previous subject. He wasn't sure what to say to Percy, well aware that his best mate was awkward at best in his relationships with his parents and siblings. But no one could doubt his dedication to them. He loved them, as sure as anyone had loved their family.

"You weren't there this morning," Percy said again quietly. "You didn't hear the circumstances. Sure it might have been irresponsible for Diggory to have case the Bond, given their ages-"


"But he was in the right in every other circumstance. He was saving Harry- Dumbledore separated them immediately after the casting, Oliver. Surely you know what that means."


"Think about it, will you at least? There isn't anything you can do against their Bond anyways. To move against them like how Dumbledore did be as good as moving against Magic herself, and every single decree Merlin put into place with the foundation of wizarding society as we know it. Besides, moving against Diggory would mean moving against Harry. They aren't separate entities any longer."

When he made no move to respond, Percy tsked angrily and snapped, "While you were wallowing in guilt and self-pity, and undoubtedly lust in the locker room downstairs-" and here his eyes flickered dangerously to Marcus, the Head Boy badge gleaming against his charcoal-coloured robes, "-Diggory was upstairs doing something about it. Harry might have appreciated that a bit more than just talk, don't you think?"

Marcus snarled, stalking forward in burning fury. "How dare you-"

Oliver grabbed his arm before he could do something Oliver would regret, and Marcus would enjoy just a little too much.

"And where were you, Weasley!" Marcus snapped instead, shrugging Oliver roughly off. "Didn't Potter trust your family more than anyone else? And didn't you utterly disappoint, just as you always have."

"I'm not blind to my faults, Flint!" Percy shot back.

"Could have fooled me," Marcus growled, voice utterly guttural.

"Not like this," Percy replied, "not when they've been all but thrown in my face. So I won't stand against them. I won't do that to Harry, not after all that's already happened." His head dropped, and a flicker of regret dashed across his face. "I've never been very close to him, but I can keep my brothers in line, at least. They- and everyone else- needs to wake and realise just what the Bond is, and accept it for what it is. They can't be separated any longer. To do that would be the death of them both."

Oliver hated to admit it, but he was almost ready to concede defeat in the face of Percy's desperate plea.

"But how do we even know Diggory will keep his word? Sure, Harry's happy now, when he doesn't fully understand the repercussions of this Bond, but what about later-"

"He's a Hufflepuff," Percy said patiently.

Oliver pouted. "Bunch of bloody Duffers," he sulked.

"Once a badger, always a badger," Percy corrected, rolling his eyes at his belligerence. "You know they hold on, and never let go. Not to mention Diggory is the epitome of his House, and both Harry and Granger have already been adopted."

"But what can we do now?" Oliver sighed.

Percy just looked at him. "You could always apologise, you know. He's gotten precious little in the way of those his past couple of years at Gryffindor. This is the last straw for him. He's going to leave without even looking back, and frankly, I don't blame him."

Oliver was aghast. Even Marcus looked rather surprised at how easily those pained words slipped out of Percy's mouth. Harry had always been loyal to a fault, having stuck by his friends through thick and thin, a true Gryffindor. And then Oliver rethought that definition in his head, and blanched.

"I shouldn't even ask about Quidditch right now, should I?"

Marcus thew his head back and barked out a laugh. Percy watched them with a sad smile. "At least it means I know you're still you."

The week meandered on with startling event after startling event, and Oliver made sure to scrutinise Harry and Diggory's relationship as much as he could from afar. In the end, though, he had to give Percy his due. Harry appeared genuinely content in his relationship with Diggory, and the blond Duffer seemed to go out of his way to cater to Harry's every need.

But at the Hogsmeade weekend– Oliver was horrified. Certainly his father had been sending him owls regarding the schemes concocted by Amos Diggory and Albus Dumbledore, and Marcus and he had discussed the vulnerable position of Harry and Diggory here in Hogwarts. But he had never expected Amos Diggory to act out in the open quite like that.

He watched the Fleet brothers quickly cart Diggory and Harry away to St. Mungo's, and then return for Granger. Afterwards, the elder Fleet returned to collect Pensieve memories for court testimony. Fleet had collected nearly all the memories from the witnesses before the Hogwarts staff managed to rally and converge on Hogsmeade to settle the situation. His yearmate brushed off all their questions with a brusque shoulder. He glanced at them, and his eyes slightly widened at what he seemed to read in their eyes, before he squared his jaw and nodded.

"Do you think he knows?" Oliver murmured to Marcus, not taking his eyes off Fleet's stiff back. To anyone else, they looked like they just happened to be standing beside each other.

"It doesn't matter," Marcus grunted. "It won't for much longer." Beneath their cloaks, he gripped Oliver's arm tightly. "I have the first draft of the contract with me. I'll pass it to you tonight so you can look through it."

His eyes widened, and he turned sharply.

Marcus's face softened for a bare second before returning to his regular stoic expression. And then he walked away.

Oliver watched him leave. Percy came up behind him, and touched his elbow. He turned at the touch.

"He has the first draft," he whispered to his friend. "He'll give it to me tonight."

Percy's freckled face wrinkled in worry. "Just be careful, okay?" he muttered. "Just know what you're getting into."

He smiled, but it was wavering. "You should have told me that three years ago when this first started."

Percy frowned.

"Look it through with me?" he asked.

The redhead gave a brittle smile. "Did you even need to ask?"

He raised his eyes after having sieved through the parchment. The two of them were in their room alone, which wasn't as common as their being roommates might have suggested. Percy was often in the library, studying, or in the Common Room, watching over the other Gryffindors as was his duty as Head Boy. This left their room free for him and Marcus, especially since Marcus's room in the Slytherin dormitories was more often than not occupied by the aggressive Higgs, and smuggling Marcus up to Gryffindor tower was as much foreplay half the time as it was a routine necessity.

Percy had been reading another section of the contract. "He's being very generous and leaving you with your larger properties intact. It's only the second Manor that he's asked for, and then some of the off-continental properties, like the summer house in Aspen."

Oliver flushed, which made Percy tsk. "Something happened there, didn't it?"

Oliver didn't quite know how to reply.

"I don't really want to know, do I?" Percy sighed.

"No," he squeaked. "You really don't."

"What do you think he told his father to get this contract?" Percy asked instead.

Oliver shrugged. "I don't know. Anything but the truth, I suppose."

The redhead just raised his eyebrows.

"Well, I really wouldn't know, would I!" he exclaimed.

"Ask him," Percy said. "I think it's something you need to know."

So he did.

Marcus examined him for a long time before answering. And when he did reply, it was with another question.

"Weasley told you to ask that question, didn't he?"

He reddened. He supposed a side effect of Marcus knowing him this well was his knowing what he wasn't- and that that gap was usually filled by Percy.

"You aren't the sort of person who would ask that question," he said. "In that way you're a true enough Gryffindor."

Oliver didn't take insult the insult seriously. They had, after all, gone through this conversation many times before when they'd first started going together.

"I told him what he needed to hear. That it'd be a good political alliance between our families. Nowadays, heirs are a secondary point anyways, and they can still be had with the help of the right potions."

Oliver nodded measuringly. That much, he understood. It was similar to what he'd said to his own father, if with a little dish of sentimentality on the side.

"And then I told him that if he didn't give me this contract on my own terms that I'd bury him, politically. I'm already of age, and he can't touch me in any way. He had to give into me then. He knows I'd be able to do it, no doubt about it."

He reached up and touched the side of Marcus's face. There was just the slightest hint of stubble. Marcus looked better with a heavy beard or nothing at all. He'd worn a beard their entire time in the second Manor, and Oliver had come away from their time together with some rather spectacular beard burn. It'd been beyond brilliant.

"Thank you," he murmured.

Marcus bent down and kissed him.

"Malfoy," he murmured, with their lips pressed together, "has a personal vendetta going. I hear it's his son pushing him to it, actually."

Oliver laughed, running his hands up Marcus's broad sides. "You, of course, will be there to take advantage of it."

The larger boy nipped the side of his ear, nosing the side of his face. "Did you ever doubt me?"

Oliver slipped an arm up and hooked his elbow over his neck to pull him further down. He hummed. "Sometimes, you know. I think I could do with a bit more convincing on your side. Especially since I've had that whole life-changing contract on my plate to sign, and all.""

Marcus threw him against the wall and just about shoved his tongue down his throat, halting the laughter that threatened to loose and wash over them in ringing waves. That was about two seconds before there were fingers invading his arse, and another ten before those fingers were replaced with something larger, and that much more pleasuring. Oliver couldn't hold back his cries, not that he'd really been trying to. Midway through, they turned again to laughs, and he turned his face up to Marcus. This was what joy felt like. And this was what love should be like.

"Wood?" Lyall Flint repeated in disgust. "It isn't happening, Marcus. Fuck the boy till his eyeballs burst, I don't care, but he isn't worth your time and my money."

"Father," Marcus growled, but the man cut him off, like he was wont to do against people he was helpless at arguing against.

"In fact," Lyall iterated loudly, "say you'll make him your secret lover. A Gryffindor ought to be enamoured by that, the hussy."

"His family is Neutral," he hissed.

"Yes, but is he?" his father sniffed. "Even if he claimed to be, he's obviously been tainted after all these years-"

He wondered what Lyall would say if he told him his only friend (Oliver was his lover and possibly something more) was a Gryffindor. And then he mentally grimaced. He couldn't believe he'd actually referred to Percival Weasley, aloud or not, as a friend-

"-alliance with the Higgs, if you must indulge that side of you- I don't know why you could keep a tart or two on the side, like I did, if you want to have your fun with wands-"

Perhaps it was the topic. Perhaps it was the blatant slight against his dead mother. Perhaps it was Higgs. Marcus didn't know. He didn't quite care, either. He drew his wand in a rapid movement and cast a spell. Lyall froze.

"What did you do?"

It was a redundant question. Lyall knew very well what he'd done. He was just hoping to bluster, to intimidate. Well, it was too bad that Marcus was a whole head taller and nearly twice his width.

"An age-cap," he drawled, in a tone that would have put the little Malfoy to shame. "Nifty bit of magic, if I do dare say so myself. The ones who invented it ought to get a grand pat on the back. Who would've thought one would ever need to draw the line at a certain age rather than over it. As you're nowhere near the age of twenty, don't even try to de-age yourself- on second thought, please do. Preferably while I'm still in the room. It ought to make a nice bit of entertainment before I head down for luncheon and announce that you've abdicated your position as head of House to me."

"Marcus-" Lyall thundered, but he was already past caring.

"Goodbye, father." He yawned. "See you in hell."

He and his father seated themselves ten minutes before the call to court. Five minutes later, the main players of the Dark contingent filed in, with a rather conspicuous presence among them. To say he was stunned to see Marcus and no Lyall was quite the understatement. Oliver was sure all the blood had drained from his face in that moment.

"You said his father approved?" His father Averic murmured into his ear. "I don't think his father even had a choice!"

Oliver was shaking. He knew what had happened, what it meant for Marcus to enter the Wizengamot in those robes, without his father, and sit in that chair.

Lyall Flint was dead. No, dead would be merciful. Lyall Flint was still alive, probably trapped and left to die unwanted and alone in a place forgotten by time.

And Marcus had undoubtedly put him there.

The young Slytherin caused quite a stir within the Dark ranks as he entered and promptly took his father's seat beside Malfoy. The genteel Lord raised a disdainful eyebrow, but Marcus merely inclined his head to the side and began to murmur in his ear. The blond's eyebrows hit his hairline and kept on going.

"Will he keep to his end of the bargain?" Averic asked.

He didn't reply, not immediately. He was too preoccupied staring across the courtroom at his fiancé- the contract had been signed two days ago. Marcus was still talking to Malfoy, engaging him in a genuine conversation this time, although the blond still hadn't wiped the appraising look off his snobbish face yet.

Then Marcus glanced up, and the sleet in his eyes thawed for a split second.

"He'll hold," Oliver whispered breathlessly, "to the contract at least." He sunk his head into his hands. "I don't know about anything else."

He felt too sick to be even properly vengeful as Harry and Diggory won their case by a landslide. All he could do was watch the broad young man sitting directly opposite him with a sort of helpless abandon. He was watched unrelentingly in return.

Marcus went to him the moment the Duffer celebrations began. No one caught them in the chaos, save his father, who shot him a worried look. The contract had been signed, which meant Averic no longer had any legal jurisdiction in their relationship. He remained unaware of his father's anxieties, all his attention trained solely on the burly sort making his way up to him. Marcus took him by the elbow and Apparated them both.

Oliver recognised the interior of what had once been the Wood Second Manor and ripped his arm out of the other's grasp.

"You're angry at me," Marcus murmured.

"No kidding," he bitterly replied.

"Why?" The Slytherin sounded genuinely surprised.

"You lied to me," he snarled, whirling about on himself. "You said Lyall didn't have a problem with our bonding. You made it seem like some sort of bloody fairytale- what do I look like, Marcus!" He was screaming by the end of it. "Do I look like I need to be told bedtime stories to sleep at night! Do I look like you need to hold my hand at the slightest obstacle!"

"I told you what I felt would be good for you," his fiancé offered.

"You got rid of your father!" Oliver roared.

Marcus raised a cruel eyebrow.

"Oh? Seems like to me you're more upset about the fact that you thought I was coddling you than my having…removed my father. And you're- dare I say it?- rather pissed that I made you realise this about yourself. That you couldn't care less about another life. That Lyall Flint's life is inconsequential. You just don't like being treated like a girl," he mocked with a sneer.

Oliver threw a wild punch, but Marcus, by far more experienced fighter, caught his wrist easily and slammed him into the wall. Oliver had always enjoyed the feel of their bodies rubbing against the cool plaster, but not now. Not like this. He struggled, but it was useless. He'd struggled before, too, in play. Their fun then had been derived from his ability to escape being so utterly dependant on Marcus's willingness to let him go. He wasn't, now.

"Let me go," he ordered, despite the fact that he was despairing, and in little position to be casting about any orders.

"No," Marcus replied.

"Why not?" he growled.

"Because. Because two years ago I swore to myself that I wouldn't." Marcus ground his teeth and looked away, but his grip didn't loosen in the least.

"I knew it was only a matter of time before I fucked up, and fucked up good. But even then, I knew I couldn't. Couldn't let this slip up. Couldn't let you go."

This was as much as a confession that Oliver was ever going to get, and he hated it somewhat, that his heart melted that much upon hearing it.

"Marcus," he began lowly.

"I'm not having you on," the larger boy interrupted, still not looking up. His brow was furrowed deeply, bespeaking his uncertainty.

"I know," Oliver replied quietly. Marcus glanced up. He took a deep breath, and then released it.

"I was being an obnoxious prat. And I don't care, either, abut Lyall. Well, not half as much as for Harry, and not even half that for you. In truth, Harry's suit was as much an opportunity for me as it was for him. I was- willing- more than that, really- to be- to be your- your bit on the side, or-"

He didn't know Marcus was hearing Lyall Flint's words running through his head again. All he felt were the tightening of powerful fingers about his arms, and the cooling of pale pistachio eyes, and turned away.

"I'm sorry," he whispered. "If you're disgusted with me- well, I can't quite blame you. I'm disgusted by me- by how blind I'd been to you. It wasn't fair of me to think the worst of you, especially not when you'd come through for me so many times before."

"Do you trust me now?" Marcus's baritone sounded like ground gravel.

"Yes," he whispered. "More than anything."

Marcus's deep sigh ruffled the longer curls over his forehead. The grip about his arms abruptly loosened, and there was a brush of stubble against his cheekbone. Oliver wrapped his freed arms about Marcus's waist without even thinking of it.

No words were necessary. He closed his eyes and sighed, tilting his head back against the wall, and basking in the clean smell of Marcus's aftershave.

"To love somebody," he murmured, "the way I love you." (1) His fingertips lingered on the thin band of skin exposed by Marcus's chronic inability to tuck a shirt in properly.

Marcus kissed him.

Lyall - from a Scottish surname that was derived from the Old Norse given name Liulfr (which was derived in prat from úlfr "wolf")

Rhetta - from an Anglicisied form of the Dutch de Raedt, derived from raef "advice, counsel"

(1) - 'To Love Sombody' by the Bee Gees, taken from the movie Melody, aka 'Sealed With A Loving Kiss'

Here we are then, at long last (o: As I'd mentioned before, the ending'd been troubling me, but I found inspiration in the oddest things. If you've seen Melody, I think you'll get what I'm talking about (o:

On a side note, congratulations once again to Lone-Angel-1992, who won my 300th reviewer contest for To Bedlam and Partway Back. They've requested for a chaptered Marcus/Harry piece, and I've gotten quite the headstart on. Hopefully that- or any of my other upcoming projects- will be finished soon enough, so we can start this whole process all over again (o: Thanks for reading, and don't forget to keep an eye out for future posts! Cheers.