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how to overcome my weaknesses

On the third day of his second year at Hogwarts, he learned the single most important bit of information that any person in the history of the school could ever learn. He didn't learn it from a book or a teacher or even in a classroom at all, he learned it in the fourth floor boys' toilet from two sixth years who smirked and could barely contain their laughter. What they taught him and the other three Slytherin boys in his year was, at the time, nothing more than a simple sound dampening charm. What it became, when the devil that is puberty began to rear its ugly head, was the most priceless knowledge in the universe.

The knowledge that in saying the correct few syllables a person can achieve the closest thing to privacy next to murdering all of their housemates in their sleep. The knowledge that, in the correct casting of a simple charm, a person could be screaming bloody murder at half three in the morning and to the rest of the world it would sound like a whisper. The knowledge that you can wank yourself raw and no one will ever be the wiser.

The key, though, is that the person casts the spell properly and, for some reason that he has not even come close to understanding in the three years since that fateful night it first happened, Flint cannot cast a sound dampening charm to save his life. Ask him to come up with a strategy for trouncing the Ravenclaw Quidditch team every game or to transfigure a beetle into a 1/100th-sized replica of the Ministry of Magic complete with working plumbing and he can do it no problem. Ask him to cast a simple sound dampening charm so easy that any normal second year can do it perfectly on the very first try and you'd better have your affairs in order because you won't be going anywhere for quite some time.

And it's odd, he thinks, because Flint isn't stupid -- distracted, yes, certainly, but not stupid -- he just never seemed to get it quite right. The first theory that Terence came up with was that the information just went into one ear and then flitted right back out the other. Almost like, between the playbook that exists only in his head and the statistics of every single game The Prides had ever played and ten million ways to make Oliver Wood turn red with rage, there was no room for something as silly as a mostly-useless spell.

Except that he doesn't think it's a silly, mostly-useless spell and he doesn't think that Flint would think that it was either. Because Terence has known him since they were both in nappies and Flint isn't really the sort of person who would parade his more personal moments around for all to see on purpose. So the only plausible explanation, then, is that Flint doesn't know that he doesn't know what he's doing. The only explanation that even makes the tiniest bit of sense is that Flint has no idea Terence can hear him banging one out almost every single night.

At first he'd tried to ignore it, tried to pretend that the slick sounds and heavy breaths that were not nearly muffled enough considering the two layers of bed curtains they had to get through weren't what he knew they were. He'd tried to convince himself that if he squeezed his eyes shut tight enough he would be able to just fall asleep and wouldn't have to blush and avoid Flint's eyes the next day.

It was impossible, though.

Impossible even if he hadn't already become disturbingly used to the thought of blue-blue eyes and annoyed expressions setting off an odd ache in the pit of his stomach at the most inopportune moments. Impossible even if he could have actually been able to forcibly will out the thousands of images in his mind that the sounds created. Impossible because even if he hadn't and even if he could, his cock wouldn't let him do anything but close his eyes and hold his breath and wait, wait, wait in anticipation of the next quiet gasp.

He doesn't think that he would have become quite so obsessed with Flint's nightly ritual if he didn't sound so completely different from anything that anyone would have expected of him. If Flint sounded like he looked -- irritable, vicious, intensely dodgy -- Terence doesn't think he would have to bite his lip and desperately try to pretend that he was deaf. Try to pretend that he hadn't wondered, try to pretend that he didn't want to hear it even more than he wanted to take his next breath, try to pretend he didn't want to cause it. He thinks that if Flint didn't let himself pant so quietly that he wouldn't have to whisper the charm that Flint never learned and wiggle his pyjama trousers down to his knees. He thinks that if Flint didn't pant so softly he wouldn't have to spit into his palm, slide his hand under to wrap around his cock, and start pushing down into his fist at the same achingly slow pace.

He pushes his face into his pillow, breathing his own breath twice, feeling light-headed and sweating hard but not making a sound because he needs to hear it all. He tries to imagine exactly what Flint's hands would feel like on his skin -- what Marcus' hands would feel like on his skin, he reminds himself. Because Flint wouldn't be Flint if he was touching him and he wouldn't be Higgs, he would be Terence again like when they were younger. He would be Terence and Marcus would be Marcus and Marcus would touch him with warm palms and callused fingertips and kiss every freckle on his back with something like reverence.

He turns his head to the side, gasping deep and blinking against darkness. He brings his free hand up to grip the pillow, still moving in time with Marcus because it makes it more real that way. He listens and licks at his already wet lips and he doesn't even have to try to think anymore because he can see it happening in his mind -- can feel it even though he knows it's not really real. He can feel the mattress dip as Marcus shifts behind him, feel the hands on the backs of his thighs, squeezing and pushing his legs further apart. Can feel Marcus leaning down over top him, feel heat coming off his body and the wet of his mouth as it slides over his shoulder. Marcus' hand slips up over his side and then down his spine, hesitating for a second and then touching him right there just like he read about in that ancient book in his uncle's library. Just like --

Marcus' fingers are warm and wet with something, teasing and slippery slick around his hole, down over the sensitive skin behind his balls, and then back up. He makes a sound in the back of his throat, his hips rolling against the mattress as Marcus breathes out shaky and loud against his skin, then presses his fingers hard, pushing in.

-- he's only ever imagined as he pumps his hips hard against the bed, tugging at the pillow case with frantic fingers and --

He sucks in a breath between his teeth as his legs jerk, automatically spreading even further apart, hips lifting and pushing back. Marcus makes a choked sound but doesn't stop, doesn't stop, doesn't stop, his fingers thick and quick and deep and he doesn't stop. Pressing kisses to the back of his neck, breathing hard, twisting his wrist until his fingers hit that spot that was in the book, until Terence can't do anything but jerk and gasp and twist, beg for more.

-- he squeezes his eyes shut and can feel himself moan even though he can barely hear it. And in the next bed over he can hear Marcus speeding up and in his bed his hips are breaking the rhythm because in his head Marcus' weight is pushing down on him and Marcus' cock is pushing into him and he's going to bite his lip clean through because he wants it so very badly.

He wants Marcus on him and in him and kissing the back of his neck, stroking his sides and moaning against his ear. He wants Marcus pulling him up to his knees and pushing into him hard until he can't feel anything else but the thick slide and stretch and heat of cock in his arse. He wants Marcus in his bed and for his own and he never wants to have to use the stupid charm again and he wants it to be real and he wants Marcus to know. More than anything he just wants Marcus to know.

He hears Marcus' breath hitching and in his mind it translates into his name and he presses his face into the pillow again, groaning out. His hips move quick against the mattress and his hand, wet with sweat and spit, squeezes tight around his cock, wringing himself out like a bloody cloth, begging with his fingertips. He holds his breath until his chest hurts, until stars are bursting behind his eyelids, and then Marcus is coming -- fuck, oh -- and he feels himself breathe out something that might be a sob and thinks, yes, just like this, and lets go. He shakes as he comes, shudders and spasms as each individual bone in his body turns to liquid or what feels like, and the bed barely makes a creak beneath him, safe in his own self-made bubble of nearly silence.

After, as he tries to still his wildly beating heart and catch his breath, he shifts and thinks that he can't stand doing this anymore. He can't stand the wanting and the waiting and the pathetic weakness anymore. He pushes himself up onto his knees and stares down in the direction of his thighs, feels the come sticking to the hair on his stomach and slippery like blood in the spaces between his fingers, and thinks that he has to stop wanting something he isn't even brave enough to ask for. Because bravery is for Gryffindors and so are hopeless love stories.

He wipes his hand on the sheets angrily, fumbles for his wand in the dark, and finally finds it half-wrapped in the dirty sheets. He mutters Scourgify for the mess and Finite Incantatum for the charm, twists his pyjama trousers back up awkwardly and slides down onto the mattress. His face numb and his shoulder sore from a rough practise earlier in the evening and then this. He turns over onto his back to rub at it, wincing when it hurts even more, and listens to Mar-- Flint's breathing even out.

In the morning, Flint flings his bed curtains apart with the energy that only someone who's had more than two hours sleep can manage. Calls him a lazy bastard and jabs him hard in the side of the head with his wand until he pushes the blankets back and sits up. They go to the showers together like they always do and he doesn't watch Flint undress and he doesn't watch Flint's soapy hands run across his chest and he doesn't wish that he had the nerve to step closer, push him against the wall, and kiss him good morning.

Back in the room, as he grunts his mornings to MacArthur and Banhart as they shuffle off to the Great Hall, scowling and blinking blearily, he doesn't watch Flint pull his towel off his hips and scrub it over his head. And he doesn't want to press his mouth to the hollow of Flint's collarbone as he does up his robes. And he doesn't want to tell him that he looks fine when he compulsively checks his hair fifteen times before they can finally leave for breakfast.

And at breakfast, when Duncan asks what the last Prides/Falcons score was and Flint mumbles back around the rim of his glass that it was three-hundred to eighty but clearly isn't paying attention at all as he's too busy staring at something across the room and not even blinking, Terence doesn't feel his heart pounding like he's just pulled out of a dive two seconds before hitting the ground. And when he doesn't turn to follow the gaze, the only thing he doesn't see isn't Oliver Wood gesturing wildly with a piece of toast and talking a excitedly to one of those hideous, interchangeable Weasley brats and just not seeing Flint at all. And when he doesn't turn back, he doesn't care that Flint still has the glass to his mouth and still hasn't blinked and doesn't even notice that Terence is looking at him.

But when he looks down at his plate, his stomach churning and his chest tight, he thinks that there has to be a charm for blocking out sounds if there's one for keeping them in.

Yes, he does think that.

how to win at everything

It was Quidditch trials third year and he'd dreamt the night before that he didn't make the cut but he'd told Higgs that he knew they'd both make it. Because they'd been practising all summer, hadn't they? And they were better than all the rest put together, weren't they? And Higgs had looked like he was going to vomit the entire day so Marcus'd had to tell him something before he actually did.

For over three hours they'd done nothing but play -- every applicant playing every position even if they didn't particularly want to in an effort to find "hidden potential". Separating the ones who could fly fastest from the ones who could hit with the most power. The ones who could score from the ones who could stop said scoring. The ones who could elbow a lad in the face with one arm and make a perfect pass with the other from the ones who could actually catch the Snitch.

They'd played until his robes were absolutely soaked with sweat, he couldn't feel his arse for sitting, and he had been hit with more Bludgers than he had ever even imagined possible. They'd played until the captain; a huge, surly sixth year named Thomas Stoning-Brown, called them down and walked the line of candidates.

Stoning-Brown'd walked back and forth in front of them, his hands clutched behind his back and an expression of supreme distaste plastered across his face, until the fifth or sixth turn when he'd stopped dead in front of him and asked him what his name was. He remembers that for a whole second he'd had no fucking clue what to say, no idea whatsoever, as though his brain had fallen out of his head, abandoned him and fucked off for fucking drinks while he wasn't paying attention. He'd swallowed hard, stalling, and then, when he opened his mouth to say something along the lines of I'm sorry, I've forgotten, there was this Bludger, you see... miraculously it came rolling out as, "Marcus. Flint. Marcus Flint."

Down the line, someone had snickered and he'd winced, feeling suddenly sick and stupid and knowing absolutely that that was it, that he would never be chosen now -- he stammered through his own fucking name, for Merlin's sake. But Stoning-Brown hadn't seemed to notice or perhaps had just ignored it, because he'd only kept on looking at him, staring him straight in the eye, as if he were trying to read his mind or his future or scare him to death.

It had seemed to go on for ages like that and he'd wanted to look away but had been unable to actually manage it because Stoning-Brown had been like a god to him then, like everything. And one can't just... look away from something like that no matter how terrifying it may be.

Time had come to a grinding halt, it'd seemed, the entire world falling away to nothing but the two of them and the soft sound of the wind over the pitch. His chest had been tight and he hadn't even been able to think and he was sure that he was absolutely going to die and then wondered if perhaps he already had. But then Stoning-Brown had finally moved and it was over just like that. He'd blinked hard, utterly confused but unbelievably relieved at the same time, as Stoning-Brown had tilted his head to the side, quirking one thick, bushy eyebrow, and asked him, "And just what exactly are you willing to do to make every game you play a win for us, Flint?"

He remembers that his breath had come fast and then caught in his throat at that. That there'd been sweat in his eyes and every bone in his body had ached and he'd practically been able to could feel everyone waiting for his response. But that he'd known the answer before the question had even been asked.

"Anything," he'd said in a rush. "Everything. Whatever I've got to."

For a moment nothing had happened but then Stoning-Brown had laughed, loud and rough and in a way that made Marcus think that he probably never found much worth laughing about, and looked up and down the line. "You hear that, lads? Flint here says he will do anything to get us a win. Any of you feel you can say the same?"

There was a shuffle of feet as a few of the other boys mumbled and grunted that, yes, they bloody well did feel the same. And then with a viciousness that Marcus'd never seen in his life, Stoning-Brown told them all to get off his pitch, get out of his sight, because they would never have the skill or commitment to win at all costs.

As they'd left, muttering amongst themselves, Stoning-Brown had slapped a heavy hand onto his shoulder, making him wince and sway under the pressure, and asked him who he would choose for the new Seeker if he was the one who got to choose. And when he hadn't even hesitated before pointing to Higgs, Stoning-Brown had hummed, nodded, and asked him why. He'd felt a fierce and strange sort of pride looking over at Higgs' vaguely green face and wide brown eyes. "Because he's small and quick --" and pulling up the sleeve of his robes, the nasty, red tooth marks on his forearm unmistakable even in the half-light of evening, "--and he bit the fuck out of me."

//

He's turning the corner on his way to the pitch for a bit of a fly before dinner when he sees them, Wood and that swotty Weasley twat, arguing about something. He can't hear what they're saying but he doesn't think it really matters all that much. He has eyes, after all, and it's more than clear when Wood reaches out and puts his hand on the side of Weasley's face, steps in close, and presses their foreheads together, that he doesn't want to know. He tries to force himself to look away, to go back the way he'd come and just pretend he never saw them, but his fingernails are digging into his palms and he can't feel his legs.

He watches Wood say something and Weasley shake his head and try to pull away. He watches and he thinks that Weasley obviously isn't as clever as he likes to think he is because if it were him -- if he had Wood looking at him like that -- he wouldn't be trying to get away. He thinks that if Wood's hands were coming up to grip his shoulders, that if Wood was shaking him and yelling right in his face, that he would promise Wood whatever he ever wanted.

He watches as Weasley pushes Wood and barely even moves him, watches Wood grab his wrist when Weasley tries to walk away, watches when Wood presses their lips together in a hard kiss. And watches as Weasley flails for a moment before grabbing onto Wood like he's drowning and this is his only hope of staying afloat.

He feels like he can't breathe, like he's going to suffocate right now from seeing them like... that, but then he realises that he is breathing, sucking hitching breaths through clenched teeth and he feels like he's been punched in the throat. He watches as Wood pushes Weasley's back against the wall of the castle and grinds against him, watches as they kiss and grab at each other. And then he doesn't watch anything because he's turning and running in the other direction and he doesn't even know where he's going.

He runs until he can't anymore and then he leans over and tries not to vomit. He rubs viciously at his face, takes a shaking breath, and thinks that he hates himself but he hates Wood so much more. He stares down at his hand for a long time and, in a distant sort of way, wonders why he never took Divination. And then, just like that, just like it was spelled out on his palm this whole time but he never even noticed it until right then, he knows exactly what has to be done.

In the common room, it only takes a second to find the strangely pale, blond head. Malfoy is sitting by the fire with the two dim-looking boys that follow him everywhere and the pug-nosed girl with the flowery name, blathering on some rubbish about Harry Potter no doubt. He watches them from across the room for a moment, watches Malfoy doing his absolute best to suck the attention right out of them, and thinks not for the first time that he has no idea why the little bastard wants to play Seeker in the first place. He is not Seeker material at all -- too much chance he'd miss the Snitch because he was too busy showing off -- but he flies and throws well enough to be a decent Chaser. He watches Malfoy's hands waving around as he tries to make his point, remembers how Pucey had whinged about his sore ribs and Malfoy's "awful, bony elbows" after trials, and thinks that with enough training Malfoy could be a bang up Chaser, really.

He shakes his head and calls Malfoy's name, watches him jump practically out of his skin before twisting around and trying to act like he knew that Marcus was there all along. Marcus waves him over and rolls his eyes at the smug look Malfoy flashes his friends and the way he saunters across the common room like he owns it.

"I've changed my mind, we don't need another reserve Chaser," he says when Malfoy, looking pleased with himself, stops in front of him. "You'll be Seeker next game."

"Really?" Malfoy's face lights up and it makes him look even younger than Marcus knows he is.

"Yeah," He says, nodding and biting against the urge to take it back. "You ought to owl your father, I'm sure he'd like to know."

Malfoy blinks and his eyebrows furrow with confusion for a second but he nods slowly. "I'll owl him straight away."

Marcus looks over to Malfoy's little friends who aren't even pretending like they aren't straining to hear every word and has no idea what else to say. So he doesn't bother, just nods again as he turns away and starts toward the corridor that leads to the boys' rooms. He tries not to flinch when Malfoy adds loudly, "See you, then, Flint. At practise."

The door to the seventh year boys' room is open, light spilling out into the always dim corridor, and his chest twists in panic for a moment because Higgs has always had that thing about leaving doors open -- something about privacy and people walking in whenever they like. He drags the back of his hand over the ancient stone wall as he walks and thinks that he doesn't want to have to go find Higgs but he will if he has to because he just wants to get this over with.

Higgs is there though, by the grace of whomever, lying on his bed on his stomach, his arms crossed under his chest. From the doorway it looks like he's not even breathing, like he's died, and for a second Marcus can't help thinking that that's what a corpse would look like if people were buried face down.

He takes a breath and crosses the space, his feet not making a sound across the thick, dark rug, and nudges Higgs' foot with his knee. "We need to talk."

Higgs doesn't move, doesn't open his eyes, but Marcus knows he's not asleep because his breathing had faltered when Marcus' knee connected. Marcus nudges again, harder this time, and Higgs finally gives in and opens his eyes, big and brown and clear like he sees everything and understands it all too, then licks at his bottom lip and says, "About what?"

His mouth goes dry at the words and it feels like his stomach's tied itself up into a million knots all at once but he ignores it, soldiers on. "You know Malfoy on the reserve team? His father offered to give the team a full set of brand new Nimbuses and I took him up on it."

It's quiet for a moment and then Higgs is pushing himself up. The sides of his mouth twisting up into this grin, full of awe and utter joy, like they hardly ever do. "You're fucking kidding me? I... You're fucking kidding me That's... that's unbelievable. I mean, there's no way we can lose with--"

"Wait, all right? There's... that's not..." Marcus says, cutting Higgs off before it gets worse, if it even can, and rubs at his forehead for a moment. "He'll only give them to us if his brat plays Seeker."

He stares at the wall through the silence but he can't avoid looking when Higgs stands up right in the middle of his line of vision.

"What, all the time?" Higgs says, making a face that would probably be fucking hilarious any other time but right then mostly just makes him feel ill.

"Yeah. All the time."

Higgs stands there for a moment and then laughs, shaking his head like he doesn't believe it, like he's sure it's some sort of joke or something, like he's waiting for Marcus to join him for a good guffaw, what a great trick. "You can't give away my spot for brooms."

And Marcus has to make him understand -- has to make it clear -- that, no, it's not a joke and, yes, he can. Has, in fact, already done it.

"I have to. Nobody can compete with Potter without a decent broom. You know what he's like." He shifts his stance, looking over at his own bed as he scrubs his fingers over his hair, swallows hard. "It's just the reserve, you know? I wouldn't move you if there was any way that I could help it, but the team--"

"Oh, fuck, shut up." Higgs snaps, cutting him off and forcing him to look over. "Do I look like a fucking idiot to you? I know you, you fucking arsehole. This isn't about the fucking team, this is about you. You're fucking me over for a set of brooms so that you can win."

His heart beats double in his chest as he shakes his head. He tries his best to make a sound like it's the stupidest thing he's ever heard even though the number of stupid things Higgs has actually said in his life amounts to roughly about as many fingers as he's got on one foot and the odds of this being one are slim to none at all. "No. Now, come on, what are you even saying? It's nothing to do with me, I--"

"Nothing to do with you? Really?" Higgs' laugh is strangled sounding, forced and sharp like it's been cut with a razor. "Who's it got to do with, then, Flint? Me? That little sod, Malfoy? Or perhaps Oliver Wood?" Higgs' eyes narrow as he spits out the name, his top lip curling up to show off his white, white teeth -- like a smile but darker. "Oh, but he's too busy fucking that Weasley of his to ever bother with the likes of you, isn't he?"

He feels his stomach drop to his feet at the words, dripping in hate and undeniable truth, and it's like the entire world has been covered in a layer of cotton wool, muffled and stifling. He watches as Higgs stumbles back, banging against the bedside table and grabbing at his face, and in disconnected sort of way, he realises that his hand is clenched into a fist and he most probably just punched him in the face.

Higgs clutches at his face for a long time, for what feels like hours, swaying forward slightly before finally pulling his hand away and staring down at it, his palm glistening, red and shiny. He looks over at Marcus, then -- disbelief in his eyes and blood on his teeth.

And just like that the cover is pulled back and time is moving normally again, pressing against him and pushing him forward, urging him on. His hand hurts and he can feel something dangerous and ugly boiling in his chest, like anger and shame and disgust all mixed together. A great slimy mess of rot slipping around inside him and filling up all the cracked and empty spaces left where Higgs just stabbed him in the fucking heart. His voice is low when he speaks and he can barely hear it over the pounding in his ears but he can see Higgs' eyes widen well enough. "You think you know so fucking much about me but you don't know anything. You're off the team because I want you off. Because you're not fucking good enough, you've never been, and you never will be."

He watches for a moment as Higgs' face shifts through emotion so quickly Marcus can't even guess what he might be thinking. He watches as the blood oozes out of Higgs' nose, drips down over his busted lips, his chin, and disappears against the black of his robes. He watches and he feels nothing and then he turns away.

He gets all the way to the door before Higgs yells, I never wanted to be on the fucking team anyway so loudly that the entire castle probably heard it but he doesn't bother turning around. He doesn't turn around then and he doesn't flinch when something shatters against the wall and doesn't care when the door to their room slams shut but isn't enough to keep Higgs' unintelligible screaming from carrying down the corridor and out into the common room. He doesn't care because it doesn't matter; he's getting his brooms and he's going to win. Because not winning has never been an option and that's not ever going to change. Not even if everything else does.

how to get what i want

When he was five years old, his not-at-all-athletically-inclined journalist father had taken him to see The Wanderers play Puddlemere on a lark. He's fairly sure that though his dad will always be proud of him, he'd probably not make the same mistake twice if he could go back and do it all over again.

From the second the whistle blew and the players shot up into the air, he'd just known that playing Quidditch was all he ever wanted to do. He'd known from that very first game that Quidditch was what he was made for, he could feel it in his bones. Every time one of the Seekers whizzed passed the stands in their search for the Snitch. Every time one of the Chasers swooped through the air to catch a dropped Quaffle. Every time one of the Beaters sent a Bludger zooming through the air. Every time the Quaffle almost made it through a hoop but was saved at the very last second by a fantastic bit of keeping. Every single moment of it, he just knew.

He was obsessed from that moment on, truly obsessed. He went through four toy brooms before he was eight, running round their small garden, making swoosh noises and trying to imagine exactly what the wind in his face would feel like up in the air. Before he was ten he'd busted countless poor, defenceless Quidditch figures trying to get them to re-enact every game he'd ever seen, read about, or imagined. And by the time he left for his first year at Hogwarts his bedroom walls were papered entirely with drawings of broomsticks, sketches of players, and Quidditch posters from every team in the League. Because no matter how much he had, he just couldn't get enough of Quidditch, couldn't even stop thinking about it for a moment to try.

He spent the entire first week at school in a tizzy of anticipation for the first flying lesson, more than ready to get up in the air and finally be where he belonged. Because that was where he belonged, he was absolutely positive of that fact and completely confident that flying would be like breathing to him -- just something he did without even having to think.

The day of the first lesson came, he spent the first half practically vibrating with joy, unable to think about anything but how fantastic it was going to be. And then the second half, sitting in the hospital wing, in complete and utter shock after losing control of his broom two minutes into the lesson, slipping off the front and breaking his collarbone.

He ate his chocolate, stared at the scuffed toes of his shoes, and listened to Madam Hooch tell Madam Pomfrey that he was the worst flyer she'd ever seen in her life -- "completely devoid of any sort natural talent, Poppy" -- and tried very hard not to start crying.

The next lesson was just as bad, and the lesson after that, and all the ones after that, but after months of broken arms and cracked skulls and fractured vertebrae and shattered heels, he finally got it. He was barrelling straight for the ground for what felt like the ten millionth time and he just took a deep breath, told himself that he was not going to hit the ground again, pulled up hard on the handle with both hands. And he was flying.

He crashed into a tree about half a minute later, of course, but he had flown, straight and under his own control, for that brilliant few seconds. And it had been exactly as fantastic as he'd always imagined it would be.

"Persistence is little Oliver's key to success, it would seem," Madam Pomfrey had whispered to Madam Hooch after patching him up and stepping to the other side of the screen where he wasn't supposed to be able to hear them. He nibbled on his chocolate -- the kind with the crunchy bits in it because he liked it best -- wiggled his toes in shoes happily, and decided that that he quite liked the sound of that.

And, five years later, he's captain for the Gryffindor team. He has to practise every chance he can get, he can't even for a second think that he can get by without it, because he really doesn't have any natural talent at all. But what he doesn't have naturally he makes up for it with pure bloody-mindedness and the absolute refusal to give up on anything he wants. Even if it drives people mad, even if it makes them think he's mad, it's all he knows how to do anymore. And all he's going to bother with.

So when Percy tells him that he's seeing some Ravenclaw girl, that it's over for the two of them, because he has to think about what's best for his career, Oliver can only look at him and say, "That's shit and you know it. This has nothing to do with that, you're just scared."

Percy makes an irritated noise and pushes his awful glasses up his nose. "And what exactly is it that I'm afraid of, Oliver?"

Oliver shrugs, putting his hand on Percy's cheek and rubs his thumb over his jaw for a second, just looking at him. He doesn't understand him, he thinks, has never understood him. Even when they were younger Percy was always this giant mystery to him, fascinating but almost impossible to unravel, layers upon layers, and just when he thought he'd finally figured him out, there'd be another layer to pull away. It had never really mattered though. Because Percy is like flying, like playing Quidditch -- Oliver knew from the moment that they met, that Percy was the one for him. Even if, at eleven years old, he had no idea what it would mean or how much work it would entail, he still knew that it was the truth, still knew that it was what he was made for. He could feel it in his bones.

And he knows that Percy feels it as well, he can tell by the way Percy looks at him when he doesn't know he's paying attention and by the way Percy touches him sometimes like he thinks Oliver's going to disappear any second. So he doesn't understand why Percy is trying to fight it. He takes the step that's keeping them apart and presses his forehead to Percy's, closes his eyes at the contact. "Dunno. Us? Giving in to something that you can't control? Something that hasn't been explained in any textbooks?"

Percy shakes his head, tries to step back. "Stop it. Just stop it. It's... it's over, Oliver, I can't--"

Oliver can feel him slipping but he can't give him up -- won't give him up. His fingers are digging into Percy's shoulders, shaking him, and he knows that he's shouting because Percy flinches away. "It's not, stop saying that! You don't get to decide! You don't get to control this!"

"Neither do you." He doesn't think that he's ever seen Percy really angry before. He didn't think that he'd ever see Percy resort to something as barbarian as physical violence but Percy just shoved him as hard as he could, pushed against him with all his weight and all the anger that he must constantly have simmering inside him. He imagined that he could feel every insult and slight, every fear and insecurity, rushing through Percy's body and coming out through his hands on Oliver's chest.

And then he's trying to walk away again and Oliver can't help but to grab his wrist. Percy tries to shake him off but he's not letting go and he watches as Percy just sighs and looks over at him, something desperate and pleading in his eyes. "Let me go. I've made up my mind."

Oliver just stares at him. He can't help thinking that he doesn't know what that has to do with anything and that he doesn't understand why Percy doesn't see that, and then he's kissing him. Percy's hands are pushing against him, trying to get him off but he's not letting go. Not until Percy stops being an idiot, stops fighting.

He counts the seconds, panic clawing at his stomach like he hasn't felt since he was a first year because it's not working and he's going to crash. He's going to crash and Madam Pomfrey's potions and chocolates aren't going to be enough to mend him. If this doesn't work he has no idea what else to do. He's never been able to convince Percy of anything with words because Percy is just as stubborn as he is but ten times more brilliant and even if Oliver could cite ten sources for his side, Percy would have twenty for his.

And then he feels the shift and hears Percy make a low, broken sound in the back of his throat as his fingers twist up in the front of Oliver's robes, pulling him in and kissing him back just as hard. Percy's lips part under his and Oliver can't stop himself from moaning. He licks into Percy's mouth, tasting those sugary, strawberry-flavoured sweets that he loves so much, and pushes him backward until he's trapped between the wall of the castle at his back and Oliver against his chest. He slides his thigh between Percy's legs, pushing their hips together until Percy wrenches his mouth away, gasping and arching against him.

Percy reaches up, clumsily pulling his glasses off and sliding his hand over Oliver's shoulder to the back of his neck. Oliver presses kisses across Percy's jaw, down his neck, and to that spot right above his collar. He licks and sucks at the soft skin just exactly like he knows Percy likes it until he makes that sound that makes Oliver's stomach twist. And he feels every emotion that he's been feeling since Percy told him about Miss Penelope's perfect penmanship less than half an hour ago all at the same time. He can't seem to keep himself from muttering against Percy's ear, rough and desperate. "Tell me that you don't want me now. Tell me that you don't need this. If you really believe she's going to be enough for you, tell me now."

He doesn't say it because he doesn't already know the answer, he says it because Percy needs to know, to admit it aloud and give it weight that just silent knowledge in the back of your mind can never have. He needs to know that no matter what he thinks he can get from this girl, it'll never be anything like enough. It'll never even compare to what Oliver can give him. He needs to know that Percy knows that they were meant for each other, that they belong together, that they wouldn't fit so perfectly or compliment each other so well if it wasn't destiny or fate or something like that but even more powerful.

"Tell me that it's over now." He grinds out as he leans into him with all his weight, rubbing their bodies together hard.

Percy groans and clutches at his back, rubbing down against his thigh and choking out brokenly, "I can't, I can't."

Hearing it makes him feel like he's ripping apart at the seams and has to kiss him then, kiss him and hope that Percy understands what he's saying. Hope that Percy hears I know and I've always known and do what you have to do but don't think I'll just let you give up. It's messy and wet and feels like the best thing in the world and Oliver can't even imagine not spending the rest of his life kissing Percy. Because they've done this a thousand times but Oliver has never felt like he was this out of control before.

It's hard and frantic; brutal, fucking merciless. The cut on the inside of his lip from the fight with Flint three days before has opened and Oliver can taste blood, strawberries, and desperation. Percy's fingers dig into his side and the back of his neck and Oliver hopes that they leave bruises because he wants something to remember this by. He wants some mark on the outside just as real as the ones on the inside. He wants the truth written out over his skin, crystal clear and undeniable, so that every time Percy looks at him, he'll remember as well.

He tears his mouth away, gasping against Percy's cheek and urging him on wordlessly. Oliver knows the exact second Percy lets go just by the sounds he makes, sounds like he's being killed in the best possible way imaginable, sounds like everything he has is in him is being ripped out and broken open and left out to dry in the sun. He groans, pushing against Percy hard as he gasps and shakes, and he thinks that he understands completely. And then he doesn't think anything at all because the hot, twisting feeling at the base of his spine is letting loose and he's gasping himself and coming in his pants in the middle of the day in a place where anyone could just come along and see them.

A while later, still breathing hard and not even bothering to pretend like he's going to move any time soon, Percy shifts against him and exhales heavily. "You always get what you want, don't you?"

He can only think yeah, but so do you and press his lips to Percy's neck, to the mark that he knows Percy will charm away before he does anything else, and remind him, "I'm very persistent."