Author's Notes: Well everyone, this is it! I finally have internet (sorry it took so long!) and can finally post the last chapter. Hopefully the wait was worth it. I wanted to thank everyone who has followed this story and has given me feedback and their opinions on it. Rediscovering these two has been a real joy for me and I know that it shows in the writing. Exploring them in a whole different environment has really given me a new outlook on how Marcus and Oliver interact, especially in a different setting outside of Hogwarts. Please don't forget to leave a review and let me know what you think, it means the world to me :)
I've thought a million ways of how I wanted to begin this letter to you. I know that we haven't really spoken since Fred's funeral (and before that, even), and for that, I'm sorry. I understand now more than ever how important it is to never give up on your friends and family, no matter how lost you get in your career. What I did is unforgivable, but I am hoping you can find it within you to let everything go.
It was good to see you at the wake, even if we only spoke briefly.
Let me make it up to you and take you out for a drink?
If this works for you, please let me know.
Percy I. Weasley
At first glance, Oliver couldn't believe that Percy had written to him. It was true what he had said: they really hadn't spoken in quite some time. The last occasion he could recall being with Percy was Fred's funeral, as the letter had said. Even though Percy's birthday had just passed in August, Wood hadn't sent his friend anything. Unfortunately, he didn't feel all that guilty about it.
But Percy was extending an olive branch of sorts with his letter. After the confusion and frustration that had burst out of him at Marcus' the other day, Oliver had retreated back into his solemn quiet, only surfacing when absolutely necessary. Alicia, though she gave him the space he needed, seemed concerned. Meeting up with Percy would likely soothe her worries. Maybe it would do him some good, too.
Oliver's reply to his once-close friend was simple: Meet me at Fred's grave this afternoon at three.
Fred's funeral had taken place at the Burrow, near where he was buried. Oliver hadn't been to Ottery St. Catchpole since that day, and he figured it was about time he went. He hated to admit it, but Flint had been right: he needed to move on. He needed to let go. Maybe on some level having Percy there to grieve with him would make it easier. He could hope, anyway.
With his cloak draped over his shoulders, Oliver apparated to Ottery St. Catchpole, arriving a couple dozen feet away from Fred's grave. In the distance he spotted Percy, his bright red hair lighting up the pale countryside sky behind him.
"Oliver!" Percy called.
The two stared at each other for a moment. Percy fidgeted from side to side, seemingly trying to predict the best way to greet him. He settled on a hug, which Oliver returned.
As they walked over the rising hill and toward Fred's tombstone, Percy asked, "Why Fred's grave, of all places?"
"I need to say goodbye."
Percy may not have remembered, but Oliver had never said his goodbyes to Fred during his funeral. It was still so soon after the battle that he had refused to. He was stubborn, almost to a fault sometimes. Saying goodbye then meant letting go, and Oliver hadn't been ready. On some level he felt like he still wasn't, but he would never be able to move on with his life if he didn't.
Oliver stared at the tombstone for a long while. Percy stood beside him, silent, but supportive.
"It's not fair," Percy eventually said. He placed his hands into the pockets of his robes, shivering from the cold breeze whisking through the air.
"No, it's not."
"Oliver, can I…tell you something?"
Oliver looked at Percy. "Anything, mate."
Percy glanced at his brother's tombstone. "I…I feel responsible. In a way."
The redhead furrowed his brow. "I shouldn't have just come back the way I did. Blasting in there like I owned the place. I threw everyone off. Fred likely never would have been where he was if he weren't."
"Perce, you can't blame yourself. You couldn't control your brother. Hell, you couldn't control the explosion that killed him. None of us could." Oliver returned his focus to the tombstone as well, bringing his arms closer to his body.
Merlin, was it cold. He was surprised it hadn't snowed today. Early December was usually rife with it.
"Fred fought valiantly, justly. His death was unexpected, but…nothing we can do about it now."
Percy nodded. After a period of long silence, he said, "Oliver, I'm sorry. I know I did a number on our friendship. I didn't mean to be so…"
"Yeah, prat-like." He smiled faintly. "I made the decisions I did, and now I have to deal with them. Which means fixing the bridges I burned. Are you and I…are we okay?"
Oliver stared at Percy. There was sincerity in his eyes which glowed from behind his horn-rimmed glasses. Taking in a deep breath, he nodded.
"We're okay, Perce."
Percy's smile widened, but what caught Oliver's attention was the wetness building up around the other's eyes as he said, "Thanks."
The only sound that followed thereafter was the wind blowing through the treetops that surrounded them. In the distance, Oliver heard the cries of several domesticated animals. He forgot how close they were to the Burrow.
"I don't know if I'll ever be ready to say goodbye," Percy said with a sigh. "I had just gotten him back. Fred and I were never close, not like him and Bill, or him and Charlie, but I loved him. He was my brother."
"He was like a brother to me, too, mate." Oliver swallowed roughly. His throat burned from the threat of oncoming tears. Saying goodbye was never easy.
He addressed the tombstone: "Fred. If you can hear us, we miss you, mate. Life isn't the same without you. But wherever you are, know that we are remembering you each and every day. We'll watch over George, over your mum. We'll make sure you're never forgotten."
Percy added, "We love you, Fred. More and more each and every day. Good bye."
"Good bye," Oliver added, staring up into the cold, grey sky.
He felt hot tears dribbling down his cheeks.
. . . . .
Marcus stared at the outside of Weasley's Wizard Wheezes. Its magical outward display lit up the dark corner upon which it sat, drawing attention from every which direction.
He took in a deep breath. He was doing this for a reason. He knew he was. That didn't make it any easier.
With the cold wind picking up around him, he hurried inside Weasley's sensory overload of a store, wondering exactly where he'd find him. He hadn't seen the ginger since way back when, and when he thought about it, he wondered if he would even remember what he looked like.
He glanced around the store, trying to find someone with flaming red hair. He stepped deeper inside, past several colorful display boxes around which children congregated in gaggles.
To his surprise—and perhaps fortune—George was the one who recognized him, just shortly after he passed the Skiving Snackbox setup.
"Flint! What the bloody hell are you doing in my store? I didn't know you had a sense of humor."
Marcus opened his mouth to speak, only to have a firecracker whiz past him and explode in the air. He shook his head. What was wrong with this git?
"Weasley. I've always had a sense of humor. Mine's just more adult than yours."
"Mm-hmm, yep," said George, clearly unconvinced. "All right, then, Flint. Doesn't explain what you're doing here."
"I came to ask you something," Marcus offered simply. He eyed the other. Dressed up as he was in a snakeskin suit with a bowler hat tilted sideways, he was hardly impressive. He looked rather daft, in the Slytherin's opinion.
George clutched his chest in surprise. "You came to ask me something? I think the world's gonna end. Unless you came to get my expertise on all things funny—in which case I'll be happy to offer some assistance. You know, so long as you buy something."
"I'm not going to buy any of your ruddy nonsense," Marcus grumbled. He swatted away an enchanted flying toy that some child was aiming toward his head. "I just needed to know where Wood lives."
"Why do you need to know that?" George asked warily.
"It's none of your business," Marcus replied. "He and I have something to talk about, and I need to find him."
"Nonsense. You're gonna go beat him up just like you used to try doing back in Hogwarts, you bully. Might as well hex you myself, save him the energy!"
Flint growled. "Listen, Weasley, it's personal, and it's nothing like that. Just tell me where he lives."
"Only if you tell me why," George said.
Marcus stepped closer, using his scowl and size in hopes of intimidating George. To his misfortune, he stood still with no visible fear in his eyes. Marcus hated that he was built similarly to him.
"I need to apologize for something I did," Marcus said. It wasn't completely true, but he hoped it was sincere enough to draw sympathy.
"Don't you always?"
He gritted his teeth. This wasn't working.
"Look, Weasley. It's a private matter. I'd owl him, but I need to tell him to his face. He deserves the courtesy. Now, are you going to help, or not? I'll buy this stupid box of sweets,"—he picked up a Skiving Snackbox—"if you tell me where he is."
George stroked his chin, as if pondering the matter. Marcus didn't need to know what he was thinking; he'd already made a decision and was just prolonging the outcome.
"All right, I guess if you'll buy it, I can tell you where he is."
Marcus fidgeted around inside of his robes until he found a few coins. He extended his hand, money out, and George snatched it up quickly.
"All right. He lives in a small wizarding community in Sevenoaks, just outside of London. You know it?"
"Heard of it, never been. Thanks. You know the address?"
"Let me just write it down for you."
George conjured up a quill and a piece of parchment paper, writing down Oliver's address. Before he handed it over, he said, "If I get any word that you did something to him, it won't be pretty. You got it, Flint?"
"Yeah, yeah, just gimme the paper, Weasley."
Marcus snatched the folded up paper from the other, nearly dropping his snackbox in the process. He had absolutely no idea what he was going to do with it. Pawn it off on his niece, probably. She'd like it.
"Thanks," he said flatly, already heading for the door.
"I'm serious!" George called after him, though Marcus was already gone.
. . . . .
Oliver returned home after having a drink and sharing a plate of food with Percy. It felt nice to catch up with his old friend, even if talking about his situation wasn't exactly the most enticing conversation. He found out that Percy had moved home and had yet to go out and find a new job. Oliver found this incredibly strange, as Percy hardly seemed the type to handle life without one. But it had apparently done him a world of good; he seemed happier than he ever had before.
When they parted ways, they wholeheartedly agreed to meet up again. Percy had a grounding effect on Oliver that helped keep him from drifting too far off into his own world. Given how often it was happening nowadays, that presence would definitely be welcomed.
He drew himself a bath and relaxed his aching muscles. He'd had practice the day before in preparation for the upcoming game against the Falcons on the seventeenth.
He still needed to owl Marcus. It had only been a few days, but Oliver knew the reason he was hesitating: something was happening between them and he didn't know how to deal with it.
It had started simple enough with their fooling around. But then things got gradually more complicated, and now they knew more about each other—about their lives, their feelings, their hopes and dreams. Oliver realized something was different when he had returned home after his emotional outburst. All he could think about was how guilty he felt for leaving Marcus high and dry. Not only that, but he longed to see him. The only time he'd ever had that sensation was when he fancied someone.
Oliver pondered the idea of cooling things down between them. They had met up regularly for the last few weeks, most of which hadn't led to sex as he'd originally intended. Though he and Marcus had never explicitly stated what they were, despite his desire to do so, he realized it was going outside of the boundaries of his expectations.
This was precisely why he wanted to avoid this all. Feelings just confused him—confused things in general. He groaned.
He continued to soak for a good half hour before finally getting out and drying himself off. He dressed and was on his way back to his bedroom when he stopped, seeing Alicia speaking with someone at the door.
"I don't know what you're getting at but I really don't see why you need to—"
"It's none of your business, now just—oy! Wood!"
The younger man stopped in his tracks. Flint was standing outside on his porch.
"W-What? What are you doin' here?" Oliver asked.
From the doorway, Marcus said, "I came to talk to you."
"Oliver, what's going on?" Alicia looked confused and irritated. "He just showed up a minute ago and keeps nagging me to speak with you. I told him you were busy."
Oliver didn't know what to say. This was not only unexpected but also very disconcerting. He didn't want or need anyone to know about his thing with Marcus, and now it was hitting him right at home. Just after he'd spent forever thinking about it.
Marcus didn't seem the type to just show up on one's doorstep, however. Uncertainty as to how he'd found his flat aside, it was…oddly intriguing.
He approached the front door, standing beside Alicia. He shifted nervously. "What're you here to talk about?"
"I just came to—well. It's—ugh." He eyed Alicia, then Oliver. "Look. I know you're going through some stuff. I just wanted to…I…"
Oliver waited for Marcus to finish his sentence, but he never did. Instead, after a moment of exasperation at his inability to verbalize his thoughts, the Slytherin reached out and brought Oliver into a hug. At first it was awkward, and he almost pulled away.
That was until Marcus whispered into his ear, "I'm sorry about Fred," and tightened his embrace.
At that moment, all that Oliver could focus on was him. His gesture was so pure, so unadultered—it hit him like a bag of bricks, and in turn, crashed down the wall he'd been trying to build for so many months. He returned the hug fiercely, pouring himself and all of his feelings into it. Marcus didn't let go, and it was bliss. Oliver buried his face into the crook of his neck, near the clasp of his cloak. Marcus' warmth and soft scent was comforting.
"Come home with me tonight," Marcus suggested softly. He cupped the back of Oliver's head.
Wood simply nodded in the touch.
When he finally pulled back, he nearly doubled over from the expression on Alicia's face. He couldn't blame her; this would have been the equivalent of seeing Voldemort hug Harry Potter in her eyes.
"It's a really long story," he said to her. Her expression remained shocked. "Listen. We'll talk about it tomorrow, yeah?"
"Y-Yeah, okay. Whatever, Oliver. Sure. Just..okay," Alicia sputtered out.
He turned back to Marcus. "Be right back."
Oliver disappeared just long enough to retrieve his wand from his bedroom. When he came back, Marcus wrapped an arm around him, instructed him to hold on tight, and before he knew it they were twisting and turning though space. They appeared in the somewhat familiar kitchen Oliver had nearly stormed out of earlier in the week, but he felt no shame. He felt…oddly at peace.
He pulled away from Marcus, but only insomuch as to pocket his wand.
He stared at the other, unsure of what to say. Oliver had never been good with words. He wanted to thank him, wanted to explain what he'd done earlier that afternoon, but nothing was coming out.
Eventually the word that escaped him came almost on its own accord: "Why?"
Marcus clearly understood. "I fancy you, Wood. I know it's pretty obvious at this point, but I do. I've never been the suave, socially adept type, and I've made some mistakes. I'm trying to make up for them."
Oliver chuckled softly. "You did a pretty good job, you dolt. But I have no room to talk. I haven't been all that sensible lately, either."
They both smiled at each other. A mutual understanding had begun to grow, something which Oliver had never anticipated happening with Marcus Flint, of all people. Then again, nothing about this entire situation was ordinary.
The dark haired man smirked. "By the way. If you tell anybody I'm actually not a complete prat, I'm going to have to hex you."
He started to leave the room. Oliver followed after him, all the way until their arrival in his bedroom. Good memories lingered here, helping to keep his mood uplifted.
As Marcus began to undress, the younger one took a seat on the plush bed.
"I went to Fred's grave today."
"Yeah. I finally said my goodbyes."
Marcus said nothing; he didn't need to. Oliver just wanted him to know that he was on the track to recovery. Losing someone close was never easy, but it helped to have someone there who understood you in a way nobody else would.
He wondered how that person had ended up being his once rival, though he didn't dwell on it. It was a pleasant sort of irony.
"Never thought I'd end up in this sort of situation," Marcus explained as he came to lie down beside Oliver.
"Me, either," Wood said. He looked around him. So many thoughts and feelings bustled around in his head. He found it hard to focus. Strangely enough, they all dissipated the moment Marcus brought him in closer, wrapping his arm around the younger one's waist.
"Get a good night's sleep, Wood. You need it."
Oliver nodded his head. Everything happened for a reason, he knew that now better than ever. Still, it had taken a long time to get here. However, he supposed what mattered most was what you learned on the journey, not the destination.
Healing was a process—a process that required the care, attention and help of others. Now that Oliver had finally accepted that, he could begin fully moving forward.
With Marcus' arm draped around him, the Gyffindor closed his eyes, nuzzled his head into the pillow and felt himself drift off to sleep.