This was written for angela_snape at the charlieficathon at live journal.
Warnings: Frottage, snogging, brief reference to suicide.
Many thanks to vix_spes, who beta-ed this over Christmas and New Year for me.
All of the characters and settings belong to JK Rowling. I made up the names of some Quidditch teams. The title (and Oliver's eventual pronouncement) are a misquoting of Bill Shankly who said "Someone said to me 'To you football is a matter of life or death!' and I said 'Listen, it's more important than that'" in interview on a Granada Television chat-show hosted by Shelley Rohde in 1981.
A Matter of Love and Death (or something more important than that).
Percy Weasley had found a woman who was prepared to put up with him? Well, it was a miracle, but it was one to be celebrated. Oliver Wood chuckled to himself when he received the invitation to the engagement party. He wondered just how many guests there would be at this party. Percy was an infuriating git, but Oliver was fond of him. He was frequently surprised to discover just how many other folk were just as enamoured of the ginger prick.
Oliver looked at himself in the mirror. He was still single, and Percy Weasley had found a life partner. Wasn't that shameful? Oliver had been considered the more handsome of the two of them at school, and he didn't think he'd aged that badly. He had been the one who was more fun to be around then, too. Maybe not anymore; maybe that was why he was the one on his own. Not that a Weasley-based get-together was the place to remedy that. They were an incorrigible bunch of breeders, that lot.
On the night of the party, the Burrow was heaving. Perhaps half of the guests were only here out of curiosity, to see this patient or desperate girl who was marrying Percy. Some of them must have been her friends, Oliver realised. However, he knew most of the people squeezed into the magically expanded sitting room and recognised all of the couples dancing on the lawn. He was sure that he had no friends in common with the mysterious American Muggle-born, Audrey, so that meant that most of these people had come for Percy's sake.
Percy's younger siblings all seemed to have paired off with someone, too. It made Oliver feel old. And rather pathetic. He was still single, and wasn't that Neville Longbottom snogging in the corner? By the time he'd got there, the party had been in full swing. Absence might have hurt Percy's feelings, but Oliver hadn't been sure that he was going to be able to face all of these people from his past. He had decided to arrive late, show his face, give his present and leave early if need be. He was sipping his first drink now and wondering how long he absolutely had to stay for the sake of good manners.
A determined rustle of skirts behind him made him turn. He recognised the curvaceous, tipsy woman falling out of her low-cut top but could not instantly place her.
"Oliver!" she gushed. "Oh, Oliver, it's good to see you. You look good."
"So do you!" He'd captained her at school. Chaser, he thought. He couldn't get the name. "You still playing Quidditch?" That was the last question he'd wanted to ask her; he didn't want her to ask it back. The only thing he could remember for sure about her, though, was that she'd once played.
"Oh, God, no!" she drawled. "Grew out of that. Unlike you. National squad tactician." She touched his arm in a friendly way. Oh, hell, it might have been flirtatious, actually. "Oliver Wood." She sighed. "After all this time. As handsome as ever." She paused; he knew that he should have replied with her name and a compliment in return. "Alicia Spinnet," she snapped.
"I know, I know. Of course I do. We were on the same team for – what? – four years. How could I have forgotten your name, Alicia?"
She sighed again. "You never did pay me any attention. Even then."
"That's not true. You were a fine Chaser, good team spirit, particularly good at throwing to the left–"
"I was never really that interested in the game, you know. I only tried out to get closer to you. Then you only made me a Reserve."
"Just for that first year."
"I didn't care, really." She edged closer. "I was two years younger than you and that seemed like such a gulf when we were at school, didn't it? Different now we're both adults." Her eyelids lowered in what was probably meant to be a seductive move. "Two years is nothing, is it?" she breathed. "Or am I still insignificant?"
"You were very significant in that game against Hufflepuff in – erm – '92 was it...?" Oliver blustered as he tried to back away, but found himself blocked by the window through which he had been bitterly watching the dancing couples only a few minutes before. He wished he had gone home then. "Your pass to Bell saved us from – erm – what are you doing?"
She was touching his shoulder, in fact her palm was pressed to the bare skin at the open neck of his robe. "So broad and manly even then –"
Oliver was startled by a deep voice close to his ear saying, "I don't think you're his type, love."
Alicia froze and Oliver spun his head round.
"Charlie Weasley!" he squawked.
"Oh, you remember his name, then." Alicia swigged from her glass, but she kept her other hand in contact with Oliver's skin.
Charlie stood right beside him, so close that Oliver was breathing in his after-shave, but he continued to speak to Alicia: "Percy sent me over to ask you if you'd met Audrey's brother yet. He plays some Muggle game called American football, apparently, with a complicated scoring system and padding. Just your type, Percy reckons."
They all looked across the room towards the tall, burly young man Charlie had pointed out. He was standing in a small group which included Percy, who was clearly watching the three of them. Oliver raised his glass in thanks and Percy winked back. His arm was round the waist of an elegant-looking woman.
"Is that the mysterious Audrey then?" Oliver asked.
"Yes. She's not so much mysterious as fool-hardy, I'd say. Go on, Alicia, run along and introduce yourself to the sportsman."
When Alicia was safely away, Oliver turned to Charlie and found that the stocky red-head was already regarding him.
"Oliver Wood," Charlie said. "It's been a while." His blue eyes twinkled under thick, ginger eyebrows.
Oliver suddenly thought of Alicia's observation about how at school, age differences were so great, but in adulthood a couple of years was negligible. Three years. Charlie had been three years ahead of him at school and a Quidditch hero to boot. Unattainable.
"Uh huh," Oliver managed. Charlie was in Muggle jeans: tight, low-waisted Muggle jeans. He wore them with a soft sweater which caressed his muscular frame.
"Mind you, Percy's kept me up to date."
Really? What did that mean? Charlie quizzed his brother about him?
"Oh, yes. I know all about you." Charlie's eyes flicked down Oliver's body in an unmistakable way.
Bloody Percy! What the hell had he told Charlie? Who else had he told? He was supposed to keep some things quiet.
Oliver decided to change the subject. "Charlie Weasley: the man who could have played for England, but decided to give up Quidditch instead." Oliver shook his head. "I never got that."
"Oliver Wood: the man who would have played for Scotland if he hadn't lost his elbow to a Death Eater," Charlie countered. "I never understood that, either. How do you lose your elbow without your whole forearm falling off?"
Oliver tentatively took hold of Charlie's strong, freckled hand. The tail of a tattoo-dragon flicked across the back of it and disappeared up his sleeve. Oliver moved the hand across his own body onto his left elbow. "See?" he asked. "There's a piece missing like a scoop's been taken out of it. It still works well enough for most things, but I'm not fast enough for the professional game anymore." He let go of Charlie's hand, which didn't fall away but slid to Oliver's upper arm instead. "You didn't answer my question. You were amazing. You could have joined any team in the world. Even Harry didn't have the snitch-instinct that you did."
"Just not that keen on the game, I guess. I'd had enough. And the dragons were calling me." Charlie's right ear was pale and curled and perfect, with three freckles on the lobe.
"Not that keen?"
"Whereas you, I hear, are still obsessed. I resented it at the time, but McGonagall was right to give you my captaincy."
"She said you were concentrating on your studies, that you didn't want to be captain anymore."
Charlie laughed. Teeth white and even, a glimpse of glistening tongue. "Sly old bat. Would you have taken the position if you'd known I still wanted it?" Chest shaking, sweater rising, glimpse of flat abdomen, hair, tattooed claws on stretching paws.
"You were only a bloody fourth-year as well. That's what really smarted." Charlie huffed and the warmth of his breath hit Oliver's cheek. "But she was right. I never was a person-manager, and I don't understand the game like you do. I don't think anyone else alive does."
"I just like to think things through."
"Word is, you never think about anything except Quidditch." Charlie licked his lips slowly. Oliver couldn't wrench his eyes from the sight. "Is that true?"
"Not quite," Oliver said in a choked voice.
Charlie's grip on his upper arm tightened slightly as he said, "You must miss playing."
"Like mad. Every day," Oliver confessed. He usually down-played the depth of his pain, but Charlie was distracting him so badly that he couldn't manage anything but the truth. "When I lost my team place I seriously considered killing myself." Why had he said that? He'd never told anybody that. "Still do sometimes."
"Then why are you working for the Scottish team? It must be torture to watch all the players going out every week, doing what you want to be doing. I'd get as far away from it all as possible. You should come and work on my Dragon Reserve."
"No! I couldn't leave the game. At least I'm making a contribution. The manager relies on me. And it's no trouble to me to remember things like plays, feints that backfired, the weaknesses of opposition teams. That's all in here anyway." He tapped his head with his glass rather than his empty hand, so he wouldn't disturb the contact with Charlie. "It would be there wherever I was."
"But it's not the only thing you ever think about?"
"What else is there space for in your stadium of a brain, then?"
Just at that moment, only Charlie's skin and Charlie's smell and Charlie's chest hair (ginger, thick, poking out of the v-neck of his sweater) occupied Oliver's thoughts. He couldn't even have told you the result of the 1987 Benelux Cup. ('88, of course, was a classic, he'd never forget that – 170-58 to the Rotterdam Reewilds – but '87 was a different matter). He didn't know what to say.
"Want to dance?" Charlie asked.
"What, with you?" Oliver looked out through the window. The music was slow and the couples were dancing close together. "Here?"
"Where else?" Charlie asked.
"In front of your family?"
Charlie shrugged. "Sure. Why not?"
"Your family and my friends."
"Percy knows. Doesn't anyone else?"
Oliver should have asked what Percy knew, but he didn't need to. Percy knew he was gay. "Nobody else," Oliver confessed. "Well, the Wasps' Second Beater probably worked it out, considering..." He wasn't going to talk about that now. "Nobody. And they mustn't find out."
Charlie cocked a questioning eyebrow. He put down his drink and placed the free hand on Oliver's waist. The other hand was still on his arm. Oliver should have stepped back, but it felt too good. It wasn't going to take a genius observer to work out his secret now, dance or no dance.
"I'd lose my job," Oliver said quickly. He was staring at Charlie's Adam's apple. It bobbed at his eye-level, stretching out the pale skin, creating a shadow beside it.
"Notes. I have to be able to give them. Straight after the game, and just before. The men have got to be comfortable with me rushing into their changing room. It would be awkward." The dip at the throat below the Adam's apple, pulsing.
"There are women on the Scottish team, aren't there?"
"Well, yes. I don't barge into their changing room."
"Maybe you could. If they knew you weren't interested in looking at them." Charlie gazed seriously at Oliver. "And it would save poor girls like Alicia from making fools of themselves. So, what about that dance?"
Oliver looked out onto the lawn again. He wanted it; he wanted to feel Charlie's body shifting against his own. He didn't answer. Somehow, though, he found he was moving. He was being pulled along by Charlie, whose hand was in his, and suddenly there was cold, night air, grass underfoot other bodies, and music. Then Charlie clasped his waist again, keeping hold of his hand. The dragon-tail flicking over his hand tickled Oliver lightly. Oliver's other hand somehow drifted to Charlie's shoulder. They swayed to the music and shuffled a few steps.
"How's that?" Charlie asked. Oliver could feel the vibrations of his voice in the chest so close to his own. "Sky fallen in yet?"
Oliver looked around at the other dancers. They were wrapped up in their own partners and didn't seem to care that this was his moment of revelation. He relaxed.
"It's nice," Oliver admitted.
"And nobody cares that we're both men, do they?" Charlie shifted even closer.
"It doesn't look like they do."
"Talk to me," Charlie said.
"What should I tell you?"
"Anything. You've got such a lovely voice."
"Anything at all?" Oliver's mind went blank.
"You can tell me what happened with the Wasps' Second Beater if you like," Charlie murmured into this ear, so close that the heat and moisture of his breath sent shivers through Oliver.
"No," Oliver replied nonetheless. What happened in the Brisbane International Stadium locker room showers stayed in the Brisbane International Stadium locker room showers. Instead he said the first things which popped into his head. "The fairy-lights are reflecting on your hair. It's all soft and auburn and it smells like lemongrass."
"Don't give me that auburn bollocks. It's red. Flaming red ginger. I'm not ashamed of that."
"Why would you be ashamed? In this light it is auburn, though." Oliver let go of Charlie's hand and reached up with his good arm to stroke the back of Charlie's head. "Soft," he said in a sigh. "Just like I thought." He ran his fingers lightly down Charlie's neck.
Charlie groaned quietly, deep in the back of his throat. "We should go somewhere more private," he said.
"I thought you wanted to dance? I thought nobody cared."
"They can watch us dancing all they like." Charlie moved their faces even closer together. "But I don't want an audience for what's going to happen next."
Oliver's head was screaming, What's that? What happens next? but his mouth said nothing because it was so dry that his tonsils were sticking to each other. Instead he let Charlie pull him back, away from the dancers, further away from the house, into the orchard which lay beyond. The bark of a tree hit his back just before Charlie's lips met his own.
Oliver's eyes closed and his tongue pushed straight into Charlie's mouth, barely aware of the scrape of teeth or the taste of mead or even of Charlie's answering tongue. If you'd asked him the name of the Catalan Cougars' Keeper, he wouldn't even have known it, and he certainly wouldn't have used his mouth to tell you the answer if he had. All he knew was Charlie, Charlie, Charlie and the heat in his groin.
There was a mirroring bulge bruising his belly. Oliver tried to reach for it, but he'd forgotten about his hexed elbow. His left arm couldn't make the angle and for a minute he couldn't work out what to do about that, as the limb flapped hopelessly against the place where their thighs rubbed against each other. Then Charlie grabbed that arm and held it still. The tail of the dragon tattooed on Charlie's arm swept out to swish lightly over the sensitive skin of Oliver's inner elbow. Oliver moaned into Charlie's mouth. He remembered about having a right hand, too.
He found it was grasping Charlie's arse, pulling their bodies closer. He moved it up to Charlie's waistband and worked it round, encountering strange scratches and tickles on the way. He was too focused on the zip-fastening of the Muggle jeans to pay any attention to the tattooed menagerie on Charlie's torso.
His jaw ached, and his face was stubble-scratched; he inhaled inadequately through his nose and felt Charlie exhaling hot blasts onto his cheek. He wouldn't have known how to break the kiss; he wanted it to last forever and it felt like that was a possibility.
Their pelvises were jerking, rubbing their clothed erections against each other's bodies. Cold air swirled around the sweaty skin of his legs as Charlie pulled his robes up and at last Oliver forced the fly-button through its hole. The zipper unfastened of its own accord, then, surrendering to the pressure from the cock behind it. His own bare cock pressed into the rough denim. The damp cotton of Charlie's underwear stuck to the dark hair on Oliver's belly.
Charlie held him still and lined them up as Oliver pulled Charlie's cock out of his underwear. Oliver stretched up on tip-toes and Charlie bent his knees until their erections were perfectly aligned. The uncontrollable thrusting which resulted from this immediately knocked them out of place again.
There was dark and red and hot and joy.
Oliver couldn't have remembered how many hoops there were on a pitch.
He was held tight and he heard Charlie's triumphant groan as though it came from far away, felt the hot, creamy explosion of fluid, but only slightly, because he was tipping over into ecstasy himself.
Charlie's skin was under his mouth. It was his neck. Something stung Oliver's lips, but he was too bone-weary to pull away very quickly. He drew back. There were flames lighting up the night but only on Charlie. They burst from the top of his sweater and ran over his skin.
"Horntail tattoo," Charlie muttered. "Around my nipple. Gets a bit enthusiastic sometimes."
Oliver rubbed at his burnt lip.
"Hurts?" Charlie asked. "Kiss it better?"
After a long, lazy snog during which they both slipped onto the ground, Charlie said, "I'm taking you back to the Dragon Reserve with me. No more Quidditch management. It's embittering you."
Although it was tricky to make a decision with Charlie flopped all over Oliver's languid body, Oliver shook his head. "I'll visit. Lots. And you can come over to Munlochy to see me between training sessions."
"I will, but it'll kill you," Charlie said. "Quidditch poisons you. I want you alive; I have plans for your breathing body."
"Don't blame Quidditch. Blame the masked man with the hex in the library who stopped me from playing. I couldn't survive without the game, without being some part of it. It's not killing me, it's kept me alive. There's always that next match to look forward to. Something to live for."
Charlie ran a hand down Oliver's chest, unpopping buttons on his robes and revealing thick, black hair. "Is there room left in your heart for any man, or is it too full of the game?"
Oliver grinned. "Oh, I might just find a corner for someone special." He looked into Charlie's face and his school crush wore an expression which he had never dared to dream of seeing directed at him. "What about yours? Could I squeeze in amongst the dragons?"
"There are different types of love. You wouldn't have any competition from them. Not really."
"I'm not going to ask you to give up on them, and I'm not giving up on Quidditch. Not like you did. It's not a matter of love and death. It's more important than that."
"Nobody," Charlie said, "and nothing is more important than me." He slid his hand down inside Oliver's robes and went in for another kiss. Oliver submitted to it so totally that he couldn't even remember which position he had once played.