Author's Notes: Long time no see, everyone. I apologize for my absence (for those who might have me on author alerts and are reading this) but it's mostly been due to work and a lack of time to really focus on writing. Plus, as we all know, muses come and go. I'm hoping mine, now that she's back, will work with me a little bit more so I don't disappoint fans who are reading some of my other fics.
I'm going back to my roots with this one. Oliver and Marcus are one of my favorite pairings-always will be. I've been writing them for just about 8 years now, which feels like a lifetime for me considering I usually jump around fandoms like I'm playing hopscotch. But this pair has never fully left me, and I feel like now that I've evolved as a writer, my take on them will, too. Plus, in a post-DH world, their lives are bound to be interesting.
This is definitely a Flint/Wood-centric slash story, so don't say I didn't warn you. It will deal with adult themes, have adult language and will be all around how I imagine these two would interact now that Voldemort has been defeated. The story takes place a couple months after DH, so things are still fresh.
Come along on my journey to rediscover my favorite pairing :) Lemme know what you think. Thanks everyone!
Oliver Wood was an easygoing man. Many would agree that it took a lot to get his feathers ruffled, at least where Quidditch wasn't concerned. But right now? Right now he was trying his best to not let out a string of curse words so long that his mother in Scotland would probably hear it.
He threw a just received owl post directly toward the fireplace. To his dismay it came flying right back at him, nearly smacking him in the face. There was no escaping it.
He thought he had more time. Then again, Oliver had never been very great with deadlines and due dates. The fact that his lease was ending at the end of the month and that this letter was informing him of that only furthered his belief that he just wasn't good with time. This was a complete mess.
Time wasn't the only problem. He needed money, as well. Playing reserves had been amazing at first—the lack of decent pay was made up by the fact that he was on a professional Quidditch team. But he'd just completed his fourth season, having yet to see much of an increase, or even a chance at taking over the official position as Keeper. Throwing in a war that had done a number on him had only made the financial situation worse.
"What am I going to do?" he muttered miserably. He'd made it through this last year solely due to his lease keeping his rent low. With the wizarding world's economy going belly-up due to the aftermath of the war, Oliver sincerely doubted his current living situation would be at all feasible with the income he had now.
He'd have to get a job—or maybe even two—during the off-season. That in itself wasn't the problem; he worried about what kind of position he could get with the little experience he had.
This had become far too intense to deal with in such a short period of time. Oliver reminded himself that he had somewhere to go, someone to see. The lease and its nonsense could wait, at least until tonight.
Oliver set the letter on the end table by his sofa, hastily retrieving his wand so he could Apparate to Diagon Alley. When he arrived a cool afternoon breeze whisked past his face and sent a chill down his spine. It was definitely autumn, all right. What day was it? Some time in September. He couldn't remember.
He pondered the date as his feet guided him subconsciously in the direction of Quality Quidditch Supplies. He was nearly at the door before he realized that he needed to be at the Leaky Cauldron. He spun on his heels and went back the way he came, slipping inside the warm, dimly lit pub. To his surprise there weren't many people around. Lately the pub had been full of disenchanted witches and wizards looking for momentary solace in butterbeer and firewhisky.
Out of the corner of his eye Oliver caught sight of that signature Weasley red hair. George, his longtime friend and once Quidditch partner, was leaning back in one of the several booths nestled against the wall. He approached with his hands in his jacket pockets.
"George, you'd best not be ordering food without me."
George turned at the sound of Oliver's voice. He grinned, got up and embraced the burly Scotsman in a friendly hug. "Oh, you know me, mate. I'm always eating. How couldn't I order before you arrived?"
Oliver took a seat across from George, shrugging off his jacket and dumping it beside him. They exchanged pleasantries, ordered their drinks and food, and while they waited, caught up on what had happened since their last visit. Oliver blamed himself for the fact that it had been over a month—it wasn't as if he'd been particularly busy. He just rarely left his flat nowadays unless he absolutely had to.
George, however, seemed to be doing better. Much like at the beginning of the war, many witches and wizards flooded Weasleys' Wizarding Wheezes, helping to support his business through their desire for escapism and entertainment.
Neither mentioned Fred once. The topic was still too sore.
When the focus landed on Oliver once more, he finally shared with George his current frustration.
"It's just frustrating. I know I signed a short lease, but I didn't know if I could afford it all in the long run. Well, that, and I thought it might work itself out a little bit sooner…"
George nodded thoughtfully. "It's understandable, Oliver, you know? Everyone's got to keep watch on what's going on around them nowadays. Money's tight for most, and rent and food tend to take the majority of it…and since people need places to live, landlords just soak it all right up. M'not surprised the bastard's trying to raise yours again now that your lease is up."
Oliver sighed. "It's not that I can't afford it, it's just that…" He paused, furrowing his brow. "No, actually, it is just that. I barely make enough money as it is on the reserves, and the money that I do get, I need to keep for the bare essentials. If I keep paying this rent, I'll probably have to give up on food, or something."
It was pathetic, really. Oliver had only just a few days ago received notice that his lease for his home was up soon. And even that rent had been a little difficult to manage. This new amount, however, was downright ridiculous.
He took a sip of his earl grey. "I should probably try moving elsewhere. Maybe find a flatmate or something."
"Oliver." George snorted, then smirked. "You live in a one bedroom, mate. Unless you make real good friends with that person, I don't think it'll work out so well."
"Funny." Wood shook his head. "You know what I mean. I'll just pay the month's rent for October, and then throughout the month I'll look for some kind of flatmate to help me split the rent somewhere. My only hope is if the front Keeper for Puddlemere resigns and I take over for her. Doubt that'll happen, though. She loves her damn job."
And he couldn't blame her. Oliver, in all of his four-odd years of having been on the reserve team, had never lost his passion for Quidditch. If anything, being on an actual professional team had only strengthened it. Of course, the real money came from actually playing. He only got that occasion every so often. The piddly pay offered to reserve players was sometimes laughable.
George shifted in his seat. "Listen, mate, why don't you come do some odd jobs around the store for me, huh?"
Oliver, who had been slouching slightly in his chair, sat up straight at the suggestion. "What? Oh, no, George, I can't. You don't need to—"
"Nonsense. You're a good friend, and I can trust you to do 'em. They wouldn't be anything too big. Just cleaning up around the store at night, helping me receive shipments, things like that. Come on, what would it hurt?"
What would it hurt? Oliver thought.
His pride, for one. His parents, although supportive, had never been completely infatuated with the idea of their son playing on the reserves for a professional team. They wanted him to go back to the farm and help him take care of things there, like his older brother had. But Oliver didn't want to be like his brother—he had never wanted to be. And he refused to think that he couldn't support himself with the career he had chosen. Oliver had been fanatical about Quidditch for so many years that to try and earn money through some other means seemed almost…sacrilegious.
"It's just the economy, is all," he retorted. "It'll settle itself out soon enough. I mean, the Ministry's being rebuilt, and with You-Know-Who—er, Voldemort—gone, there's no real threat out there anymore."
George gave him a completely unconvinced look. "Listen. Oliver. Come on, it's not like I want to steal you away from your bloody game. Merlin knows I couldn't even if I tried! I'm just trying to help you out some." His voice softened. "Besides. It's…quiet around the store. You know, ever since."
Oliver paused. Suddenly he felt guilty. He could only imagine how hard it was for George to deal with having lost Fred. It was no cakewalk for Oliver, himself. Nearly five months had passed since the battle at Hogwarts, but it still sometimes felt as if it had been only yesterday.
Discomfort and painful nostalgia filled him at that moment. He had been there, just like George had. But he hadn't lost nearly as much.
Things seemed so much different when they were put into perspective, he thought.
"All right," he finally said. "Sure. That'd help a lot. Thanks, mate."
The smile that appeared on his face brought a half-hearted one to George's. Oliver could tell that even thinking briefly about Fred's death cast a shadow over his still living twin. Although George laughed, it didn't sound the same as before. He was one half to a whole now, and Oliver doubted either of them would get used to it.
"No problem, my captain. If there's one thing I don't have to worry about right now, it's business." A patented George Weasley smile formed on the redhead's face, though it lacked its usual luster. "To be honest, everyone needs something to laugh about right now, so I've got a steady flow of money coming in. I can't offer you loads, but I'll give you whatever I can."
"Whatever works, George."
Oliver meant it. He was just going to have to take the blow to his pride, suck it up and deal. In rough times like these, he needed all the money he could get. Sure, there was always the chance of moving back in with his parents, but that was a last resort—an extreme last resort.
George glanced at the clock hanging on the wall, and then gave a heavy sigh. "Looks like it's time to get back, anyway. M'sure Verity has been busy. Lunch hour is one of our highest trafficked times." He took one final quick drink of his tea, then moved to stand.
It was then that Oliver took notice of his missing ear. He had, for the most part, gotten used to the gaping hole that was where George's ear should have been. Still, on occasion it caught his attention and reminded him of just how lucky he was to get out of the war with little more than some psychological trauma and a hex burn on his forearm. He hadn't been nearly as involved as George had, especially not in the Order, but he had done his damnedest.
Giving a brisk shake of his head, Oliver then moved to stand. He embraced George lightly, gave him a pat on the back and, upon letting go, squeezed his shoulder.
"Good seeing you," he said.
"You too, captain. I'll send you an owl ahead of time, all right? For when I need you, I mean. Might be kind of sporadic. That work?"
"It's fine. Practice days switch throughout the week, but it shouldn't be too big of a problem, since I get home usually in the afternoon."
George saluted him. "Good, good. See you around then, mate. Don't play too hard."
Oliver chuckled. "Yeah, I won't."
He followed George out through the brick passageway behind The Leaky Cauldron that led into Diagon Alley.
By now, most of the businesses from before the time of Voldemort's terror had come back. The cobblestone streets were filled with people milling about. Everywhere Oliver looked, he was reminded of just how nice it was to have things back to some modicum of normality.
Street vendors attempted to sell anything and everything as he passed them by, hands buried within the pockets of his coat and his gaze set in front of him. He had some time to kill and hadn't been out of the house for a while, so he decided to take advantage of it. Of course, with a lack of money, it probably wasn't a smart decision to choose Diagon Alley as the place to go. But it was close, and he was disciplined. Not only that, he was frugal.
Well. He tried to be, anyways.
Pulling his hand out of his pocket, Oliver gripped the door handle to Quality Quidditch Supplies and stepped inside. It was several degrees warmer in the small, cozy building, so he shrugged off his coat and draped it over his shoulders to keep it safe while he walked around.
"Afternoon, Oliver!" came the friendly greeting from the young woman behind the counter.
He offered a wave. "Afternoon, Lynette! Just thought I'd…come on in and check things out." He leisurely made his way back toward the cash wrap. "Anything new?"
Lynette, a short woman about the same age as Oliver, laughed. "Since you were in two days ago? Not really. But maybe you'll find something to keep your interest. Oh, no, excuse me. I know you'll find something. Just start your pile here if you want to buy anything." She patted the wooden countertop beside her.
"You're funny," Oliver said wryly. "Barrel of laughs, you are."
"Yes, I'd like to think so."
She was right. Quality Quidditch Supplies was like heaven to Oliver. The smell of the fresh leather equipment, the feel of the new Quaffles, the magazines with the latest innovations in brooms and gear…he was a kid in a candy store, and everything tasted brilliant.
It had only recently returned to its former glory, however. In the year that Voldemort's fear reigned, Quality Quidditch Supplies—and most everything about Quidditch itself—had shut down entirely. During that time, Oliver had struggled to pay his rent. Looking back, he wasn't quite sure how he had managed. At the time, everything had seemed so overwhelmingly difficult, like there was no solution. And yet, here he was, still struggling for money, but at least with a roof over his head and the ability to pass the time looking at Quidditch supplies.
After a moment, he found that his feet led him right toward the new gear. It was all the same as it had been two days ago, but it still was nice to look it over again. Puddlemere didn't update their gear as often as Oliver would have liked. To have what he saw in front of him would be heavenly.
He stroked the breastplate with the tips of his index and middle fingers.
"Something about the leather get you off, Wood? Never thought you to be into cows."
Oliver recognized that voice. That London-bred accent belonged to only one person.
He turned around and his eyes met with Marcus Flint. It had been years since they had spoken, though Oliver had seen the other man several times at matches between Puddlemere and the Falcons. Marcus hadn't changed much over the years, still looking as menacing as before with his low-set brow, dark hair and surly expression.
On some level, it was nice to know that at least one thing had remained the same. How funny that it was something he cared so little about.
"Oh, you know me. I'm all about getting off to leather."
Marcus smirked at Oliver's dry wit. "Wishing you had that gear for Puddlemere? The Falcons have already received it for the new season. It fits like a dream."
"Wait, did they bump you up to first string?"
"Just this season," Marcus replied. A smarmy grin broke out on his face. "Can't wait to get on that field and start crushing the competition. Why? You haven't been given first string yet?"
Jealousy was an ugly feeling, and Oliver hated that he felt it toward Marcus Flint—the one man he'd been able to best their final year. Now it seemed Marcus had the upper hand.
Wood folded his arms over his chest, his features darkening. "Not quite. You know, what with the war and all that. Really wasn't a viable option."
"Didn't seem to stop it from happening for me."
"Yes, well, you didn't do quite as much as I did, I reckon."
It was such a strikingly immature response for which Oliver felt immediate remorse. To his surprise Marcus appeared taken aback, almost as if he was upset by it.
"We can't all be saints, Wood."
Flint stepped close to the other, moving briskly past him without saying another word.
. . . . .
Oliver returned home that night with a heavy heart.
The war. Try though he might, the damned thing came up every single day, and consequently his mood would plummet. Sure, he felt immense pride in knowing he'd helped the forces of good, but the losses had been almost immeasurable. All of those people…
He still had nightmares from time to time about it. The fighting, the violence, the death—all of it plagued him and his already somewhat unstable psyche. Even now, when he should have been worrying about finding a new place to live, all he could think about was carrying Colin Creevey's lifeless body into the Great Hall to prevent it from being mutilated.
Oliver knew he wasn't the only one who'd been traumatized by the experience. He and George had even argued about it once. He couldn't recall any other time where he'd yelled so furiously, so mindlessly. He didn't like to think about it, didn't like recalling that irrepressible rage that still lay within him. He thanked Merlin daily for the fact that practices started up here within a few days. He needed an outlet for his aggression.
Even though he'd only been out and about for an hour or two Oliver decided he wanted to take a shower. He began undressing along the way to the bathroom, dropping his clothes haphazardly down the hall. By the time he reached the bathroom he was naked. The pale fluorescent light illuminated his skin as he stared at himself in the mirror.
He saw the hex burn on his forearm. The red and purple discoloration jarred against the light olive tone of his complexion, and instinctively he covered it up with his callused hand. Usually Oliver wore his scars proudly. He had several from playing Quidditch that, when given the opportunity, he loved to show off. But this one reminded him of everything he was trying so hard to forget. Today it stung particularly deep after his brief conversation with Marcus.
Oliver wondered why the universe had chosen today of all days for him to run into his once nemesis. It seemed like a kick when he was down.
Here, Oliver, why don't you have something else to make you feel like you're inadequate? Marcus can get first string and has lots of money to live comfortably, why can't you?
He tugged at the faucet and turned the water as hot as it could possibly get. He had a lot of forgetting to do tonight.