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chalk this one up as a win

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His soulmate writes in block capitals, heavy and forceful, stamped around his left wrist like a bracelet. Oliver spends his twenty-four hour observation day in the Hospital Wing examining his wrist and trying to remember his first ever Quidditch game.

A Bludger to the head two minutes in and he’s missed a week of his life and the rest of the game.

Frankly, he’s more upset about the second one.

He vaguely remembers mounting his broom, the wind crisp and cold, the excitement twisting his stomach with anxious anticipation. The whistle and the roars of the students echo in his memory and in his mind he’s flying high, hovering in front of the goalposts while the game crashes forward with all the grace of a scrambling elephant.

There’s a shout and he barely has time to look around, just registering something black hurtling towards him at a billion kilometers per hour before there’s an explosion of pain and next thing Oliver knows is the Hospital Wing and these letters around his wrist.

He’s got to twist his wrist to see them all properly, contorting his arm, but there they are, plain as day.

His soulmate’s thoughts.

He’s got a soulmate.

Sure, it’s exciting – some people go through life without ever meeting their soulmate, without ever feeling that spark at midnight the night after the first encounter, the spark that is someone else’s thoughts scribbling themselves onto their skin forever after – but right now Oliver only feels a little regretful that he’s missed the first real Quidditch game of his life.

He doesn’t even know if they won. He’ll worry about his soulmate later, ok, this is important. If they lost, they’ll have to beat Hufflepuff in the next game by at least one hundred points or Gryffindor will be playing catch-up all the way until the finals!

Oliver is hunched forward, writing furiously on a bit of parchment he’s scrounged up from the side table next to his bed, and he’s so focused as he calculates scores and what-ifs that he doesn’t notice the team come in until they’re all gathered around his bedside.

Charlie Weasley ruffles his hair, minding his bandages, and informs him they won, thanks to a last-second Snitch catch and Oliver breathes a sigh of relief. A small part of him had been petrified that his captain would inform him instead that unfortunately he’d failed the final test, passing out two minutes into a game is grounds for immediate disqualification, sorry there, mate – but he’s still on the team, so he just grins and demands details from the crowd around his bed and lets that secret fear fade away.

He forgets all about his new thought bracelet until Brenda, a round-faced Chaser with huge, bouncing curls and beautiful dark skin points at it and says, “Oliver, what’s that?”

Oliver looks down at his wrist and blinks. The words are shimmering, and as he watches, line themselves up carefully, one at a time with a new thought.

stupid fucking gryffindor

The entire team looks up as one, then looks down at Oliver.

“Uh…” Brenda begins, but Charlie cuts her off.

“Looks like you found your soulmate, Oliver!” he says, apparently ignoring the bitter thoughts as they pulse on Oliver’s wrist, as though screaming for them to look, look at me, read me, read me.

“Guess so.”

There’s a murmur of congratulations, although it sounds more confused and uncertain than actually congratulatory, and Oliver doesn’t blame them. Whoever he’s destined to be with clearly isn’t a huge fan of his House.

A thought wiggles its way into the back of his mind that maybe it’s a Slytherin. That would make sense, considering the Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs didn’t particularly have a vendetta against them as far as Oliver knows.

He shrugs and pointedly pulls his sleeve down over his scrawl and the discussion quickly and obviously turns to the upcoming match against Hufflepuff – if they beat Hufflepuff they’ll have a very comfortable lead – and Oliver gets wrapped up in Quidditch talk all over again.

-

Oliver gets released a few days later with strict instructions from Madame Pomfrey to take it easy on the Quidditch pitch.

“Magic or no, a Bludger to the head is still not good for your brain,” she’d said, shooing him from the room with a little push.

Double transfiguration with the Ravenclaws is his first block of the day. Oliver heads for the ground floor, mind on his missed schoolwork, and so doesn’t notice that the person walking in front of him has stopped until he’s crashed into him, squawking in surprise and leaping backwards.

The guy turns around and Oliver recognizes him – Marcus Flint, Chaser for the Slytherins. He’d played in that first game, snarling as the captains shook hands before the whistle, clearly anxious to be playing.

“Watch it,” Marcus snaps, and Oliver frowns.

“Sorry, wasn’t watching.”

He goes to step around him, but Marcus steps with him, blocking his way.

Oliver huffs. The boy is bigger than him, as well as a year above him. He’s constantly scowling, and while they’ve never really had a conversation, Oliver’s been to every school Quidditch game since his first year and seen firsthand how Marcus treats Quidditch.

He’s not there to have fun – he’s there to win. Sure, Oliver likes winning – ok, he loves it, he’ll do just about anything to win a game, fine – but Flint takes it to a whole other level with his attitude on the pitch.

Oliver doesn’t like him.

“Out of the way, Flint, I’ve got transfiguration.”

“Took a bit of a hit last week, huh?” And Flint doesn’t exactly sound concerned – he’s grinning, showing off a mouth full of teeth crooked from fighting or bad dentistry, Oliver doesn’t really care which.

“Shut up, Flint.” Oliver tries to shove past him but it’s like convincing a wall that it would rather be a door.

“Maybe Gryffindor shouldn’t trust its goal with a stupid third year who don’t even know enough to dodge Bludgers,” Flint prods him in the forehead, smirking, and Oliver bats his hand away, suddenly furious.

“Oh yeah, well, maybe Slytherin should make sure that all its Chasers know enough to pass all their classes!” he snaps back, and Marcus’s face colors instantly, sharpening in anger.

Apparently, the rumors about Flint failing charms are true.

“Piss off, you little shit,” he snarls, shoving Oliver, who stumbles backwards, hitting the wall and dropping his bag onto the floor. It bursts open, and his books and pens and parchment spill out onto the floor.

Flint storms away without another word, neck ruddy red, and Oliver glowers at his retreating back.

Ok, so maybe he doesn’t dislike Marcus Flint.

He hates him.

-

The next game is against Hufflepuff and Oliver is determined to do well this match. He’s not going to spend this game in the Hospital Wing. He’s not.

He doesn’t notice Flint until ten minutes in, when he makes a particularly close save, and the chunk of green in the stands boos him.

Oliver looks automatically towards the Slytherin group standing at the edges of the Hufflepuff side – because obviously any opponent of Gryffindor is a friend of the Slytherins, at least for the length of the game – and spies Flint, booing in the front row. Anger ripples in the pit of Oliver’s stomach and it’s only a shout from Brenda that causes him to look around, lunging for the Quaffle and just barely batting it away from the goalpost.

He scrambles back onto his broom as the Hufflepuff chaser catches the rebound, darting up and through the defense and sending the Quaffle through the rightmost goal with a ring and an explosion of cheers.

Oliver says a word that he’s sure made his mother shiver, despite her being miles away, and looks down at the stands. For some reason his eyes find Marcus Flint again, and he’s startled to find the Slytherin looking right back at him, smirking. Pointedly, Flint leans over to the girl next to him and says something into her ear.

Both look at him and laugh, cruel, and Oliver feels his ears heat. He sets his jaw and looks away, back to the game.

It’s close, and they lose by this much, the Hufflepuff Seeker able to stretch just bare millimeters ahead of Charlie.

-

Weeks stretch into months. Oliver makes a few really spectacular saves and misses a few really spectacular shots but here’s the thing – he’s good. He’s actually a really good Keeper and this lights something inside him. The day Charlie Weasley (by far one of the best Quidditch players Oliver has ever seen get on a broom) pulls him aside and tells him seriously that he’s “really quite good”, Oliver vows to get great.

So he practices. And practices and practices the game he loves, and between classes and sleeping and eating and Quidditch, the months slip past and two years go by.

He plays on the team. He’s made captain the year Charlie Weasley graduates and it’s one of the proudest days of his life.

Gryffindor doesn’t win the Cup that year. Or the year after that. But Oliver focuses and rallies the team and they try again and again and always play their absolute hardest.

And really, it’s all he can ask for.

(Well, that and a win once in a while would be nice. Or all the time. Winning all the time would also be nice.)

Only occasionally, when he’s run his brain through Quidditch plays for the thousandth time does Oliver let his mind drift to the scrawl on his wrist.

He’s taken to wearing a band around his left wrist in public to cover up the words. They’re grumpy and hateful, more often than not, and Oliver doesn’t particularly like the look he gets when people notice them, a look of pity mingled with distaste that whoever his soul is reaching out for can be quite so angry.

But at night, lying on his back in his four poster, Oliver slides his sleeve down his wrist and examines the block capitals by the light filtering in from the window.

how the blinking fuck does this spell work

hungry hungry hungry hungry

fuck this fucking essay fuck

wish i could take my broom out

The last Oliver agrees with wholeheartedly – there’s not really a time that he doesn’t want to be on his broom, to be perfectly honest.

He’s interested in finding his soulmate, of course. It’s just… well, with Quidditch practices to focus on (because they are winning this year, damn it) and the end of his schooling approaching rapidly with that horrid career choice looming in the not-so-distant future, he doesn’t exactly have time to track her down. Or him, if the people drawing Oliver’s eyes recently is any evidence of his evolving preferences.

The idea that his soulmate might love Quidditch too perks him up a bit, and he starts glancing at people’s wrists instinctively, even though he has absolutely no way of knowing where the matching scrawl is on his soulmate.

But at the same time, it’s his OWL year and he’s still got no Seeker and their first game is only weeks away and it’s against Slytherin. It’s like the perfect storm and Oliver can feel himself getting more stressed by the passing minute.

He’s sitting in Defense Against the Dark Arts, thinking about the team and picturing their first game of the season without the perfect Seeker and feeling sick, when his wrist suddenly twinges. He sucks in a surprised breath, glancing around at the other fifth years. No one moves and Quirrell is still droning on, so Oliver chances it, slipping his band down to peek at his scrawl.

fucking calm down who gets this worked up about quidditch

Oliver gapes at his wrist. Is… is his soulmate communicating through the scrawl!?

The sentence quickly fades and for a sickeningly terrifying moment, his wrist is blank.

Come back, Oliver thinks fiercely and is relieved when the words come back, careful and slow.

class is boring wanna go outside fly

Maybe it hadn’t been a communication. Just a coincidence. Oliver frowns at his wrist and wonders.

There’s a sharp knock on the door and Quirrell falters and stops. McGonagall is standing in the doorway, flush high on her cheeks and an almost wild half-smile threatening her face and she asks, “Professor Quirrell, may I borrow Wood for a moment, please?”

Oliver blinks and when Quirrell gives permission, stands and follows McGonagall into the hall.

There’s a boy there, with scruffy black hair, thin and hunched, like he expects to get yelled at.

Then Oliver looks again because it’s Harry fucking Potter standing in front of him and McGonagall is grinning full out now, like she can hardly contain herself, and the next words out of her mouth are “Wood, I’ve found you a Seeker!” and, well, he forgets about the scrawl for a little bit.

-

Turns out, Harry Potter is a fucking amazing flier. Oliver is ecstatic.

-

They open against Slytherin in November. Potter looks like he’s going to be sick, standing there in his new robes with his broom. His face is drawn and pale and Oliver feels for him, then, remembering his first game and the sick twisting in his stomach.

He tells Potter about the game, lost in a memory and Potter blanches, looking mildly horrified, but it’s too late because they’re walking out and it’s time.

This is Oliver’s favorite moment, walking out onto the pitch moments before a game, into the lights and the roars and stomps and cheers of the crowd. There’s grass beneath his feet and open sky over his head and the thrill of competition pulsing through his blood.

He steps forward and Marcus Flint steps up to meet him. The Slytherin flashes him a quick, mean grin and Oliver smirks back. It’s an interesting rivalry that’s grown between them in the last few years, and there’s absolutely no one in the world that Oliver would rather slaughter in a game than Marcus Flint, now captain in his own right of the Slytherin team.

He knows Flint feels the same way and it’s almost comforting, a feeling that all is right with the world pulsing in his ribs.

He sticks out his hand and Flint grabs it, gripping it tightly. Oliver squeezes back and they stare at each other. Flint isn’t breaking eye contact so neither does Oliver and his only hint that maybe the handshake has gone on a bit too long is Madame Hooch clearing her throat.

On impulse, Oliver squeezes Flint’s hand once more before letting go and has the satisfaction of seeing Marcus’s eyes narrow before he turns away to mount his broom.

Hooch lectures them about a clean game but Oliver is barely listening above the pulse of blood beating tattoos against his eardrums – adrenaline is making his palms sweat and his blood sing in his veins and this is life, this is living, this is what being alive is all about—

His wrist stings.

Oliver looks away from Madame Hooch and down at his wrist in surprise, looking back up instinctively as the whistle blows and makes eye contact with Marcus Flint for the barest hint of an instant.

He’d been watching him from across the circle, Oliver is sure of it.

But the game’s begun and Oliver needs to focus.

He takes his position in front of the goalposts and the game goes rapid-fire, Quaffle flashing from player to player in a blur of red.

Minutes into the game and Flint has broken from the pack, Quaffle under one arm, because despite Oliver’s personal feelings on the matter, Marcus Flint is actually a pretty good Chaser.

Flint charges him and Oliver crouches over his broom, watching carefully. Flint feints to the right before aiming left but he’s too slow. Oliver sees it clearly and catches the Quaffle with the tips of his fingers, launching it back over Flint’s head to Katie’s waiting hands almost immediately.

Flint scowls at him and Oliver grins, wide and unabashed, and is rewarded with a furrowed brow. Flint spins his broom and takes off after Katie and Angelina, who are dancing circles around the rest of Slytherin’s Chasers.

Something blooms in Oliver’s chest, because his Chasers are amazing and he’s just so damn proud of them.

Angelina has the Quaffle now, and she ducks past Adrian Pucey, blocked by a well-placed Bludger, rears back, and—

“GRYFFINDOR SCORES!” Lee Jordan shrieks and the stands explode.

Oliver punches the air and out of the corner of his eye, he catches Potter doing loop-de-loops on his broom.

This is going to be brilliant – he can feel it.

-

He’s right – Potter practically swallows the Snitch, they win, and it’s brilliant.

-

Oliver is the last one in the changing rooms after the game, because he’s still the captain and it’s part of his job to make sure the Gryffindors don’t leave the rooms completely destroyed after every match.

He’s just finished straightening up, pocketing his wand with a pleased smile. The win still tastes as sweet as it did when Potter lifted his head on the pitch, eyes huge and round and the golden Snitch clenched tightly in his fist.

Flint had looked furious, howling in outrage. Oliver can hear the words as clear as if Marcus was standing next to him, shouting them into his ear – “He didn’t catch it! He nearly swallowed it!

Who cared how Potter caught it? He still caught it.

Oliver casts one last look around the room and, deciding it spotless, heads back out the door towards the castle.

He turns the corner, sweaty and dragging his bag of practice gear behind him. He’s starting to feel the familiar ache of a long Quidditch game settling into his muscles and a shower sounds like heaven.

“Oi, Wood!”

Oliver grinds to a halt, sighing deeply, eyes closed as he tips his head towards the ceiling. He knows that voice as well as he knows the space in front of the goalposts.

He turns, slowly.

“Flint,” Oliver says pleasantly, neutrally, and Marcus Flint scowls at him. His hair is damp, Oliver notices, flopping down over his forehead and he smells like soap.

“That catch was bullshit, Wood, and you know it,” Flint prods Oliver in the chest, but Oliver doesn’t move, doesn’t flinch.

He’s not scared of Marcus. Why would he be? The Slytherin is all talk – Wood figured that out a long time ago. Flint’s got a razor sharp tongue that he wields with all the finesse of a troll swinging a club.

“A catch is a catch is a win is a win, Flint,” Oliver grins and Marcus huffs under his breath, crossing his arms like a petulant child. The sight is almost funny and Oliver smothers a snort.

“What’re you laughing at?” demands Flint and Oliver shakes his head.

“Nothing.” He reaches up to adjust the strap on his practice bag – the thing is heavy, and it’s cutting into his shoulder. “Not a thing, Flint, I’m just basking in the glory that is the Gryffindor Quidditch team this year is all.”

“Glory, ha,” Marcus looks like he’s about to say something else, reaching up to scrub his thick fingers through his damp hair but the words are failing him.

Oliver waits, but nothing else seems to be forthcoming.

There’s an awkward silence.

“So, uh—”

“Your team’s a total—”

Both fall silent, suddenly, and the awkwardness of the situation suddenly compounds. Flint looks about ready to grind his teeth into powder and Oliver stares at him, completely confused. He’s tired, he stinks, and he wants a shower and his pajamas and his well-worn copy of Quidditch Through the Ages, not this strange stand-off.

“What?” he demands and Flint clenches both fists at his sides.

“Alright, look, your team may be total shit but…”

Flint’s words trail off into a garbled mumble and Oliver scowls, caught on the part where Marcus told him his team – his team! – was total shit.

“What the bloody hell are you going on about?” he snaps and Marcus curses, explosively.

“Fucking shit, you stupid— I’m trying to—” Flint turns on his heel and stalks a few steps away before skidding to a halt. “Some of your saves weren’t completely fucking terrible today, ok?”

Oliver gaped at the back of Flint’s head as the Chaser storms away, down the corridor and around the corner.

What??

His practice bag slips from nerveless fingers and hits the floor, but Oliver can’t quite wrap his mind around what the blinking fuck just happened.

He doesn’t notice he’s fiddling with his wristband until he’s pulled it almost completely off, blunt nails scratching at his scrawl as he stares down the corridor, lost in thought.

Oliver looks down at his wrist, watching the words fly across his skin, almost frantic in their speed.

shit

bad idea

stupid

why would I think

Oliver frowns slightly. Looks like his soulmate is having some kind of crisis tonight as well. He bends down and picks up his bag.

“Ow,” he hisses, shaking his hand. The more worked up his soulmate gets, the more his wrist is stinging.

Calm down, he thinks furiously, wishing that he could shake some serenity into his angry panicking soulmate, you’re not the only one having a crisis.

His wrist goes startlingly blank and Oliver stops in the center of the Entrance Hall, holding his breath.

The words come slowly, cautiously, like each letter is being carefully placed on his wrist like a child organizing Scrabble tiles.

dont tell me to calm down

every other thought you have is about fucking quidditch

Oliver chokes on his air because this is actual communication, there’s no doubt about it this time. But no one can communicate through the scrawl! The magic is random thoughts, sliding across skin as they pass through the mind in pieces! Not a way to talk back and forth.

But then, Oliver supposes that it is magic and when has magic ever been completely predictable?

I like Quidditch, he thinks cautiously and is enormously gratified to see a response almost immediately.

well thats fucking obvious

He rolls his eyes and continues up the steps, heading for the Gryffindor common room. It’s nice to know that some things in this world never change – like his soulmate being a sarcastic asshole.

rude

Oliver lets out a surprised bark of laughter. He waits a few beats but nothing else seems forthcoming. Whatever twist of magic had allowed that brief conversation seems to have faded because the next thought that winds its way around his wrist is some garbled nonsense about charms, as if his soulmate is reading a textbook.

Still. Between Flint’s random, rather angry half-compliment and his soulmate’s snarky communication on his skin, on top of their rather spectacular Quidditch win, Oliver feels like he could walk on air.

Why, Oliver would bet right now that even their next Quidditch practice will go perfectly! Nothing could ruin the streak they’re on!

-

The Gryffindor Quidditch team’s next practice is an unmitigated disaster.

Oliver’s covered in mud and exhausted, grumpy and scraped up and soaked through to his underthings. The light rain had been chilly and just persistent enough to be annoying, driving his team into a frenzy of grumbling and absolutely terrible Quidditch playing.

Oliver had lost his temper a few times, been hit in the back twice by misplaced bludgers, and finally called the practice short after Angelina had crashed headlong into Alicia and the girls had gone crashing to the ground.

Sometimes even he could admit it was better to cut losses.

Oliver tramps down the corridor, feeling the mud flake and dry beneath his fingernails, mind already spinning with plans and ideas for new training regimens he could run the team through next practice, when something growled from behind the door just to his left.

Oliver stops, startled. Not that he thinks the professors would keep wild animals chained up inside Hogwarts, but you really never can be too careful at this school.

Tentatively, he steps forward, towards the door.

He leans over, bringing his ear close to the wood. Something’s mumbling inside the room, a low dull murmur of angry words.

Oliver straightens up. Color him crazy, but he thinks he recognizes that voice.

Carefully, Oliver pushes the door open, poking his head inside the room.

Marcus Flint jerks away from the desk, startled. “You! What the bloody hell are you doing here?”

Oliver shrugs. “Thought I heard a noise in here. What are you doing?”

“Piss off, Wood, it’s none-a your business.” Flint scowls, a dull red flush coloring the bridge of his nose. There’s an open textbook on the table and a variety of small-ish objects scattered around the desktops.

Oliver frowns. “Were you practicing?”

Flint turns an angry shade of puce. It’s impressive – Oliver can’t remember ever seeing another person turning puce before. “I said piss off, Wood!”

“What spell?”

Flint looks for a moment like he’s going to throw something at Oliver, or maybe hex him with something nasty, but then he does something strange – he deflates, looking almost defeated, and waves his hand at the objects on the table. A feather, a wad of string, an inkpot.

“Can’t get the hang of the damn levitating charm,” he grits out, like Oliver is torturing him for information.

Windgardium Leviosa?” Oliver asks, surprised, and Flint glowers. “That one’s not too bad, though.”

“Rub it in, asshole,” Flint grouches, turning away from him and despite himself, Oliver feels a pang of pity.

“Want a bit of help?”

The words are out before he can even consider the implications, before he can reconsider, before he can even think the thought all the way through. Flint freezes like Oliver’s struck him clean across the face, eyes bulging in surprise, and well, he has every right to look like a goldfish struck by stupefy.

“I don’t need your help,” spits Flint, but in all their years staring each other down on the Quidditch pitch, Oliver’s gotten pretty good at reading the other boy’s face. He’s seen Flint’s features screwed up in rage, in pure unbridled fury, and this isn’t that. This is something smaller – like a wounded animal lashing out at the first thing that comes near it.

Apparently, the rumors that Flint is dead useless at charms really aren’t just rumors. Oliver flashes back to his third year and a confrontation in the corridor and something settles in the pit of his stomach.

“Show me,” Oliver orders, dropping his bag near the door and closing it behind him. Flint gapes at him.

“Are you out of your bloody fucking mind?”

“Show me the damn spell, Flint, or I’ll hex your ears off.”

Flint makes a strangled noise that could have either been a snarl or a laugh and turns away, abruptly. There’s color on the back of his neck, a ruddy embarrassed blush that disappears beneath his hairline into the forest of thick, black hair.

Marcus raises his wand. “Windgardium Leviosa.”

Nothing happens and Oliver steps forward. “You’re holding the wand wrong.”

“No, it’s a stupid fucking spell that doesn’t do anyth—”

Oliver’s fingers close around Marcus’s wrist and Flint cuts off abruptly, shocked into silence. This close, he’s not as intimidating, Oliver realizes. He’s… well, he’s rather warm. And a lot softer than he looks from far away or splattered with mud.

“It’s not a jab,” Oliver explains. Something is humming in his chest, something hot and excited, and he’s confused. It feels like a thousand tiny sparks are melting liquid into his blood, skittering through his veins into his heart and back down through his arms and to his fingertips. “It’s uh, more of a swish. A swish and a flick.”

He demonstrates, moving Flint’s hand with his own, and Flint chokes. Actually gurgles, like he’d been about to say something that had caught in his throat and staunchly refused to come out.

“Go on, then,” Oliver says, finally, when he realizes that he’s been standing far too close far too long, fingers loose around Flint’s wrist, and he steps back a full stride and nearly falls over a chair.

Flint just stares at him, something furious and helpless in his face. “You fucking idiot,” he growls, and Oliver blinks.

“What?”

“Are you just—” Flint loses his words and snarls, a wordless sound of frustration. “You’re just— you—!”

Oliver folds his arms. “It’s not a big deal, Flint, lots of people have trouble with charms.”

“That’s not what I’m fucking talking about!” yells Flint and Oliver flinches away from him.

For a moment, there’s nothing but silence in the empty classroom.

“Get out.” Flint’s eyes are hooded, mouth downturned. His wand hangs at his side uselessly, dangling in limp fingers. Something peeks out from beneath the edge of his sleeve, something that doesn’t look right against the rest of his clothing.

Oliver barely notices, feeling more hurt by Flint’s words than he’s been since he was a first year. “What the hell is wrong with you?” he asks, and is gratified to see Flint flinch like Oliver’s hit him. He feels instantly guilty, though, even more so when Flint’s eyes fill with rage, fingers tightening on his wand.

“I said get out!” Flint snarls and sweeps his wand. Oliver goes stumbling backwards, shoulder hitting the doorframe and he goes for his own wand instinctively before remembering himself. Unclenching his hand from his wand takes an extraordinary amount of self-control and Oliver straightens his spine, jaw tight, and grabs his bag.

Flint watches him from wooden features as Oliver turns away and strides through the door and into the corridor without a word.

What an absolute pompous jackass.

Pulsing with anger and something that feels sneakily like hurt, Oliver stomps up the stairs, nearly putting his foot through the vanishing stair with how little he’s paying attention, reveling in his bad mood all the way to the common room.

He ignores the few Gryffindors lazing about the common room, reading or playing Exploding Snap, for favor of his dormitory and his pajamas.

He’s standing at the sink, scrubbing his hands and turning the encounter with Flint over in his mind, when his wrist twinges. Oliver jerks, hissing under his breath. Did other people have this much trouble with their scrawls? Or was it just him?

Oliver peels the band away from his wrist to examine the pulsing letters.

holy shit it worked

i did it I fucking did it

Well, good for his soulmate, whatever he did—

wood’s a bloody genius

In that moment, Oliver swears time stands still. The water keeps running in the sink but he barely pays it any attention, staring at his wrist. Something heavy and obvious is clicking into place in his head – an awkward angry compliment and sparks like liquid fire at the touch of a hand.

His wrist wipes blank for a moment, followed by those achingly familiar block capitals, one after the other, like his soulmate is focusing really hard on this particular thought.

T-H-A-N-K-Y-O-U

Oliver bolts out of the bathroom, barefoot and wild-haired, pajamas slung low on his hips and his shirt only half-buttoned.

He skids to a stop on the stairs, realizing that he has no way of knowing if Marcus is even still in the classroom.

Then it really hits him – Marcus Flint is his soulmate.

Marcus Flint is his other half.

Oliver feels his knees go weak and he wobbles, sinking to the stair and trying to breathe. He puts his head down between his knees, taking a deep steadying breath and stares at his wrist.

 The thank you is still there, pulsing at him and he remembers the look on Flint’s face, the horrified panic as Oliver closed his fingers around his wrist—

His wrist.

The cloth wound around Flint’s wrist.

Their scrawls match.

Oh, that is just disgusting.

Oliver takes a deep breath and stands.

Maybe Flint is still in the classroom.

-

He’s running down the corridor, bare feet slapping on the stones, and he must look ridiculous and he’s definitely out of bed after hours, but Oliver doesn’t care.

He rounds the corner and Flint is just closing the door to the classroom.

“Flint,” Oliver rasps, hoarse from running, and Flint freezes.

The silence is heavy in the air, making it thick and hard to breathe, but Oliver straightens his spine and tips his chin defiantly, not taking his eyes off of Flint.

Marcus slowly turns to face him and Oliver knows in the pit of his stomach that he’s right because there’s trepidation and resignation and a fierce set to Flint’s jaw that almost looks like he expects Oliver to smack him.

Oliver takes a breath and steps forward.

Flint scowls at him. “Thought I told you to bugger off, Wood.”

Oliver doesn’t respond other than to lift his arm, holding it so his wrist is facing Marcus, and pulls down his sleeve. 

Flint goes completely still, eyes fixed on the letters etched into Oliver’s skin.

Carefully, Flint takes the tiniest of steps forward.

“Why the fuck’re you showing me that?” he asks, and Oliver takes another step.

“I think you know.”

“Tell me anyway,” Flint snaps, but his eyes are wide and his fingers are moving towards his own wrist, gripping it in almost a death grip, white-knuckled.

Oliver can’t help it – he looks at his own scrawl, at Flint’s thoughts.

shit he knows

fucking perfect

“You didn’t want me to figure it out?” Oliver can’t help it – it hurts a bit, thinking that Flint detested him so much that he didn’t want Oliver to figure out the whole soulmate thing.

Flint hunches in on himself. “’S not that, ok?” he mumbles.

“Then what?”

Flint grins then, wildly, gritting crooked teeth in a vicious snarl. An angry smile. Self-depracating. “Well, not like you like me much, is it, Wood?”

Oliver blinks. “Well, not like you like me much either, Flint.”

They examine each other for a moment, tense. Oliver’s wrist flares and he hisses, looking at it instinctively just as Flint jerks his own wrist up to his eyes.

that’s not true

Oliver clears his throat and Flint is still as stone, looking intently at his scrawl. It’s bizarre to see his own handwriting on another person’s skin.

“Well, it’s not true,” Oliver says finally. Enough is enough. “You’re…”

He’s what? He’s Marcus Flint – irritating, willful, and a dirty fucking good Quidditch player. He’s shitty at charms and he thinks about food all the time, but he’s also sarcastic and funny and Oliver’s grown rather attached to the snide bitching etched around his wrist.

“You’re good at Quidditch,” Oliver finishes, lamely, realizing that he’s been silent for far too long.

An incredulous silence greets these words and then something amazing happens.

Marcus Flint throws back his head and laughs, a wide smile spreading across his face and a hand going to his forehead, burying thick fingers in his hair as he laughs and laughs and laughs.

Oliver starts to chuckle, out of nervous peer pressure, and Flint points at him, leveling a finger inches from Oliver’s nose.

“You would,” he says, the laughter not quite gone from his voice, “you fucking obsessed bastard. You know you think about Quidditch more than anything else? I fucking tracked it, once, just to see.”

“I like Quidditch,” Oliver says defensively and Flint smirks.

“Really? I hadn’t noticed.” He gestures at his wrist sarcastically, and Oliver starts to grin.

“Well, ok, maybe I like it a lot.”

Flint rolls his eyes and steps a step closer. “Don’t think this’ll change anything on the pitch, either. Slytherin’s still gonna slaughter Gryffindor at the next match.”

Oliver snorts. “I’d be offended if you decided to take it easy on us now.”

They fall into step together down the hallway, bickering about Quidditch, and it’s easy, Oliver suddenly realizes, almost like it’s supposed to be like this.

His scrawl is pulsing happily, warm and content, and their fingers brush as they walk just a little too closely, Oliver in his rumpled pajamas and Marcus with his bag slung over one shoulder.

“So you did the charm?” Oliver asked, almost nervous, but Marcus grinned a fierce, proud little grin and it’s the easiest thing in the world to tangle their fingers together, wrist to wrist, so their scrawls blend into one smooth stream of text.

And yeah, tomorrow’s going to be awkward and strange, and their Houses and friends are going to be confused and it will be a tense, painful, and probably angry transition from antagonistic rivals to friends to whatever they’ll be next, but tonight?

Tonight is easy, and walking together like this in the dimly lit corridors after hours, Oliver can almost pretend that tomorrow is never coming at all.

(It doesn’t change the match next week a lick – Gryffindor fights with all they’ve got, and Oliver bats every shot of Marcus’s back at him without a hint of remorse, eyes bright with the fires of competition.

The snogging afterwards, though – Oliver’s got to admit that that’s a nice bonus.)