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26 December 2012 @ 01:55 am
Hanging by a Thread — For Jess, Part 1 of 3  

Characters/Pairings: Katie/Oliver, past Katie/Leanne, some vague Lisa Turpin/Colin Creevey if you squint, Dennis, Fred Weasley
Rating: Professors
Warnings:  Sexual Situations, Slash, Strong Profanity, Substance Abuse, Violence
Author’s Note: Jess, you are amazing, and you deserve far, far better than this. The slash warning is for a past relationship, by the way, and I'm hoping you won't mind since I *think* you're partial to the pairing a little in your own Katie/Oliver head canon.

I would like to thank mah smiling nodders for helping me plot hash, getting my through my many writing slumps, answering my dodgy questions and basically just being there for me during dire situations. And, of course, my betas were just pretty damn amazing. Thank you all for putting up with me babbling about this story for ages — I shall name each of you when it is appropriate to do so, but for the time being, know that you're all fabulous!

The title is taken from If You Only Knew by Shinedown. I also wrote this with Save Me (also by Shinedown) in mind :) I don’t own either song, although they sound pretty good (If You Only Knew has pretty much became my smut song for some reason). Please note that the themes in this story are strong, and also, apologies for making this a lot longer than I expected it to be :/ It was only meant to be, at most, 10k, but somehow, it spiralled and became close to 18k. Anyway, happy holidays, everyone, and I hope you enjoy!

Chapter One

Katie Bell was drunk.

Well, she realised as her legs suddenly gave way beneath her and she only just managed to stay upright by grabbing hold of a nearby lamppost, “drunk” was a bit of an understatement. “Pissed out of her brains” was probably closer to the truth. Her mind was so foggy with alcohol that she could barely see straight, let alone walk in a straight line, and it was a wonder that she hadn’t fallen face-first into the pavement already, because she was certainly heading that way.

And yet she was glad because then she didn't have to think about her. That, at least, made things better, even if the relief Katie felt was only temporary. She knew, as soon as she was sober, that she would swim into her mind again, but at least she had the comfort of knowing she would have a few hours of blissful oblivion before the truth stabbed her in the heart once more.

It was getting dark already, but it was impossible to tell what time it was. She didn't know exactly what time of year it was, either, only that judging by the bitterly cold wind whipping her cheeks and the snow dampening her hair and thin cloak, it was probably around Christmas. Not that Hogsmeade looked particularly festive. Even more shops were boarded up than she could remember, and The Three Broomsticks had been much quieter than usual. There were people there, yes, but there was no drunken laughter, no clever banter between whoever was brave enough to flirt with Madam Rosmerta, no warmth.

The air had been so cold, so tense in The Three Broomsticks that Katie had left soon after she felt she was being watched by several hooded people who had been sitting in the corner of the bar. Somehow, even though she was very, very drunk, the tiny, sober part of her mind had sensed that there was something wrong.

So she had gone. The streets were quiet, just as quiet as the pub: a few people going about their business, but no one speaking to each other, and she wondered once again what on earth she was even doing there. She hadn’t been to Hogsmeade in a long time, not after she had been cursed the year before. Certainly, she didn't know where she was going now, only that she would have to keep walking, at least until she was sure she wasn’t being followed and, preferably, had reached another pub so she could get another drink. Checking behind her to see if anyone was following, she continued unsteadily up the path, lightly dusted with snow, and to her relief, she finally caught sight of a square of bright yellow light, gleaming in the darkness a few metres ahead.

It was busier in the Hog’s Head than Oliver expected it to be. He wasn’t exactly happy about it, not when some of the patrons didn't even bother to pay for their drinks and every single person looked like they were hiding something. Oliver was darkly suspicious of practically everyone, especially given the rumours he was hearing about the Snatchers and the number of people continuously disappearing. But, as his employer told him, customers were customers. And even in a war, you need money, Aberforth Dumbledore had added.

It wasn’t the best pay in the world, but it was all Oliver could manage after leaving Puddlemere. He refused to accept money from his mother, who was struggling enough as it was on her own, and he had been estranged from his uncles and aunts for years anyway, so he needed this job, dodgy punters be damned.

Even so, despite the fact that he was usually prepared for the unpredictable, the last person he expected to walk through the door was Katie Bell.

He was in the middle of polishing a glass when she stumbled in, and he was so taken by surprise that he almost dropped it. After placing it carefully on the counter, he took a deep breath, and he couldn’t help but watch her from a distance as she took a seat at the end of the bar, resting her elbows on the surface and burying her face into her hands.

She was no longer the vibrant, colourful Katie that Oliver remembered from his school days; there was something inexplicably blurred about her features. Still, he would have recognised those eyes anywhere. Her cheeks were pink, not from the cold, Oliver suspected, but from drink. Judging from by the way she had bumped into several people before managing to reach the bar, she certainly was far from sober.

At that moment, he was jolted out of his reverie by a man waving his hand in front of Oliver’s face. “Oi, can I get some service ‘ere?”

“Yes, sir, sorry. What can I get you?” Oliver asked automatically.

“One large Firewhisky. Make it quick.”

Once he had poured the drink and accepted the money, Oliver looked around. The pub had quieted a little, so, tentatively, he made his way towards Katie. He was surprised that she hadn’t noticed him yet. But maybe she had, only she didn't want to say anything. Or, perhaps, she was too drunk to care either way.

“Katie?” he said when he was close enough to catch her attention.

She immediately sat up. “Oliver?”

“Yeah,” he said, feeling stupid and insignificant for a moment.

“What are... what are you doing here?”

Sense kicking in, he grabbed a glass and filled it with water from the sink underneath the bar. “I could ask you the same question. Drink up.”

But she just started laughing a horrible, humourless laugh that made his toes curl. “Please. I’m drunk.”  She stabbed his chest with her finger to punctuate her speech. “And I fully intend on getting drunker, so don't you fucking dare give me fucking water.”

He leaned forward, trying to remain calm even though his heart had dropped to his stomach. Aware of the eyes on them both, he said as quietly as possible, “You should be more careful.”

“Psh!” she said loudly, and he groaned inwardly; several more people turned to stare. “You don't need to... to give me a lecture, Ollie. I’m a big girl. Don't be so fucking pato — pat — patro — patronisey.”

“It isn’t safe to be wandering around on your own,” he hissed back, trying his utmost to keep his voice down.

“Why?” she demanded. “Not like I’m a Muggleborn or anything—”

“It doesn’t matter,” he told her, still in hushed tones. “No one’s safe right now. Not unless you have the fucking Dark Mark on your arm. And even then — look, where do you live? Do you have anyone who can pick you up?”

“Do I have anyone?” she repeated, laughing, but again, there was nothing humorous about her situation. Even her inebriated smile looked painted on. It certainly didn't meet her eyes. “I’ve never had—”

“Wait ten minutes and I’ll Apparate you home, then,” he whispered urgently. “Look, Katie, you can’t be alone.”

“Aren't you even going to give me a drink?”

“I’ve given you one,” he said shortly, pointing at the water. “You need to sober up. Please. Curfew is in—” he checked his watch “—fifteen minutes. If you’re not out by then, you’re stuck here for the night, unless you want to set off the Caterwauling Charm, and fuck knows what will happen then.”

“There’s always the Knight Bus,” she pointed out.

He shook his head. “Not a fucking chance. Don’t be stupid, Katie. The Snatchers will mug you — or worse. You must know that.”

She pouted, looking for a moment like she wanted to argue with him, but to his surprise, she finally nodded in acquiescence. “Fine.”

Letting out a deep breath of relief, he moved to the next customer, and then the next, and then the next, before going upstairs to let Aberforth know he was leaving. Then, after grabbing his cloak, he went back to where Katie was sitting, downing a Gillywater.

“Hey, give me that!” he said angrily, snatching the bottle from her.

“Tastes like shit anyway,” Katie slurred. “Should’ve got a Firewhisky instead.”

“I thought I told you to sober up.”

“Yeah, because you really can tell me what to do,” Katie retorted. “Who the fuck are you, anyway, ordering me around — I haven’t seen you in years, damn it, and I—” She broke off, trying to get to her feet, but it was proving impossible, because when she stood up, she wobbled so badly that she had to grab her stool to stop herself from falling. He rushed over to her, placing his arm around her shoulders and holding her upright. Thankfully, everyone was leaving now, and he hoped they could leave the pub unnoticed.

His tone softened somewhat as he said, “We’ll go through the back door, yeah?” She nodded, her eyes closed, and she wound her arm tightly around his waist for support. “That’s it... come on...”

Slowly, they made their way outside. Snow was falling in earnest now, and he shivered, even with his cloak on.

“Where do you live?” he asked.

She told him an address. He had never been to that part of London before, but he hoped he would be able to get them there safely nonetheless. Taking her arm, he screwed his eyes shut and turned on the spot.

They landed with a thump, and before Oliver could so much as take in his surroundings, Katie pushed him away, bent over and threw up on the pavement. He recoiled a little, but then he stepped forward and held her hair back, though it was useless, really, because he could already see the vomit in her thick black tangle.

“It’s okay,” he said, speaking up a little to make himself heard above the howling wind. He rubbed her back in what he hoped was a calming motion, not stopping until she finally stood up, wiping her mouth with the back of her hand.

“Fucking hell,” she muttered. “Fuck, fuck, fuck.”

“Let’s get you home,” he repeated.

“I can make my own way,” Katie started, but he shook his head firmly.

“There is no way I’m letting you go anywhere in this state. Where’s your key?”

She impatiently brushed away the tears on her cheeks, rummaging in her pocket, and it was only then that he properly looked around. They were standing in front of what he assumed was a council estate, and he winced, because it was far from pleasant. It looked like the kind of flat where people would piss in the lifts and spray graffiti on people’s doors.

“Found it,” she said finally. He nodded encouragingly, and she stepped forward, pressing the key against the reader.

The door opened, and Oliver murmured, “After you.”

Once she was inside, he discreetly pointed his wand at the puddle of sick on the pavement and thought “Evanesco” before following her. She was already waiting in the lift, and when Oliver entered, she moved as far from him as possible, ensuring her back was to him. Ignoring this but slightly exasperated nevertheless, he asked, “Which floor?”


The journey upwards seemed to go on forever, and when they finally got out, Katie led the way, opening her door and immediately kicking a pizza box out of the threshold before she could get in.

“Sorry about the mess,” she mumbled as he entered the living room and took a seat on the sofa.

He shook his head. “Have you eaten anything? Can I make something for you, maybe?”

For the first time, as she collapsed on the armrest, something close to a real smile flickered on her lips. “You can cook? When did that miracle happen and how come I wasn’t invited?”

“Not particularly well,” he admitted. “Toast and pot noodle and stuff.”

“That doesn’t count,” she told him, still with that indulgent smile on her face, but it dissipated ever so slightly as she muttered, “I’m sorry.”

“For what?” he asked, struggling to keep his voice level as she reached out and touched his cheek. He tried, ever so gently, to remove her hand, but he was finding it difficult to think as it was. “Don’t worry. You’ll be fine. I’ll...” He hesitated before continuing, “I’ll take care of you.”

“Will you?” The uncertainty in her eyes was unbearable to see, and he stopped trying to prise her off for a moment, wanting, more than anything, for her to understand that he was there for her and that everything would be all right.

“Yeah,” he told her. “I will. You’ll be fine, Katie,” he repeated.

The smile that had warmed up her whole face suddenly disappeared, and up close, he could see her eyes glaze over.  “Ollie,” she murmured, her other hand on his chest, against his now swiftly beating heart, “when did you become...” She paused; her palm had slid downwards to his belly, leaving a trail of fire in its wake, and he closed his eyes, cursing inwardly. “When did you become... so... hot?”

“Katie—” he began, but an involuntary groan left his lips as she reached up and kissed him, and though he winced a little at the vomit he could taste on her breath, he could not bring himself to stop her from parting his lips with her tongue. It was only when she slid off the armrest and into his lap, however, that he finally pushed her away.

“No, Katie, stop,” he told her. “This isn’t right. You’re drunk—”

“Doesn’t matter,” Katie mumbled. “Not when... not when you want me.”

“I don’t,” he lied.

“Yes you do,” she insisted, her hand moving down, and he almost lost control; her lips were far too close to his for comfort, and after a moment of struggling, he extricated himself, his cheeks reddening, and turned his back on her.

“For fuck’s sake!” he hissed. “Katie, please, you need to sleep it off.”

“Oh, yeah, send me to bed like I’m a fucking kid—”

“I don't think you're a kid at all,” he interrupted firmly. Slowly, he turned around, and he said as gently as he could, “I think — no, I know that you are very drunk, that you’re not in the right mind at the moment and that you have a hell of a lot of explaining to do when you’re sober. But right now, please, please go to bed.”

For a second, Katie felt like arguing with him, but then she remembered the stash of whisky in her bedroom. If she could get up there without him, she would at least be able to drink herself to sleep and hopefully not dream.

Not for the first time, she wished she could afford a Dreamless Sleeping Draught, but even on the black market, it was expensive. At least she could scrounge drinks off people for free — she could with Muggles, anyway. It was a mistake going to Hogsmeade tonight. She should’ve gone to a Muggle pub instead.

So she nodded wearily, not even bothering to stop Oliver from taking her to her room. After all, he wouldn’t go in with her, not after the fucking stunt she had just pulled. Godric, what the hell was she thinking? Or, rather, why wasn’t she thinking? He was a friend. A good friend, even though she hadn’t seen him in years and had no idea why he was working in The Hog’s Head, of all places, when last time she checked, he was with Puddlemere United.

And Oliver wasn’t some random Muggle in some trashy Muggle club in the back end of East London with bad music (but cheap drinks). No. He was... well, he was Oliver. And yet, somehow, he had just let her stick her tongue down his throat like that. He didn’t deserve that, not in the slightest — but then, he didn't need to take her home, either, and he still did. Surely he wouldn’t have done that if he hadn’t cared about her?

He probably thought her a lush, a fucking alcy — he didn't care for her. No. If he felt anything for her, it was pity. That was all.

They had reached her room, and the hallway started swimming, so she closed her eyes and tried her utmost to focus on what Oliver was saying.

“...you’ll be all right?”

“Yeah,” she squeaked. “Oliver, you don't have to...”

“I’m not going anywhere.”

“You don't have any plans? Even just to go home?”

He laughed quietly. Please. I live in a bedsit. The toilet is practically my pillow and I sleep with my feet in the fridge.”

“I see.”

“And my shift won't start until midday tomorrow. I'm fine staying here, keeping an eye on you. If you don't mind.”

“I don't mind. Thank you,” she added, and she hoped he knew she meant it. But when she took a step forward (she wasn’t sure why — to hug him?), she was sure he took a wary step back, and she felt the crushing weight of her own self-pity thud down onto her heart. She didn't say anything, though; instead, she turned away, slipping into her room.

It was a mess as usual, with clothes covering the floor so thoroughly that she could not see a square inch of carpet anywhere, but thankfully, her bed was free from clutter for once. She was momentarily tempted to just fall onto the covers, because it looked so inviting, and she was so tired, but she thought better of it, remembering the cold sweat, the tears, the terror, the last time she had done that.

Reaching down, Katie retrieved a bottle from under her bed. It felt heavy in her hands and she nearly dropped it; her fingers trembled so badly that she had to use her wand to finally open the bottle.

Alcohol was not an addiction for Katie. That was what she told herself, anyway. At any rate, she hated the taste of it, particularly whisky, but it helped her forget. It made her black out and created a welcome black hole in her mind, even if it was only a temporary escape from the ever-present walls of guilt that threatened to crush her at any second.

Grimacing, she took a long glug of it, trying her utmost not to gag as a mixture of vomit and alcohol swirled around in her mouth. But she gagged anyway, and some of the drink dribbled down her chin. Unable to fight back the tears, she gulped it down, taking several long, deep breaths, and then she drank some more, only stopping when she felt blissful dizziness threaten to overcome her. She just managed to place the bottle on the floor before she dropped off to sleep, forgetting about the war, about Oliver and most of all — albeit momentarily — about Leanne.

Chapter Two

“It’s going to be weird without you breathing down my neck, you know,” Katie remarked, raising her voice a little to be heard over the clamour of the commuters at King’s Cross station.

“Believe me, you'll forget I was even there,” Oliver replied, managing to muster a smile.

For some reason, her voice shook a little as she said, “Y-you’ll keep in touch, won’t you?”

“Yeah,” he told her without a moment’s hesitation. “’Course I will.”

“You’ll have to keep me posted when you get signed by Puddlemere—”

If I get signed,” Oliver corrected.

“You will. Just watch.” She paused, glanced over his shoulder and waved to someone behind him. “Listen, I’ve got to go. Mum’s waiting.”

“I’m going to miss you,” he blurted out before he could stop himself.

“Aw, me too,” she said, tilting her head to one side slightly, as if she were considering him. She held out her arms and he automatically stepped forward and hugged her, trying not to think of anything untoward as they embraced. She was only fifteen, after all… it wasn’t proper of him, not at all. He let her go and the station began to fade, the steam from the train obscuring Oliver’s vision and making it even harder for him to think…

When Oliver awoke, muttering and cursing, to a crick in his neck, he felt as bewildered as he had done last night. Questions upon questions seethed in his tired mind. Why was Katie Bell wandering around, on her own, in The Hog’s Head, of all places? And why had she been so off her face that she had kissed him?

He had thought those feelings — on his part, at least — were long since buried by now. It had never amounted to anything anyway, and he had always berated himself for thinking about Katie such a way. Oliver had always assumed that Katie regarded him as nothing more than her mad, gruelling Quidditch Captain as well as, perhaps, her friend. But nothing more.

Now, though, things had changed. Of course, Oliver told himself, it was only because she was drunk. The alcohol had been talking last night, nothing else, and her drunkenness was the sole reason for her literally falling into his lap, her lips glued to his and her hands everywhere — not because she wanted him. Of course not.

Yawning and trying to banish the thought from his mind, he managed to get up off the sofa and into the kitchen, still uncomfortable from where he had slept. An unpleasant smell lingered in the air, and after looking in the bin, he realised she probably hadn’t thrown it out for ages. The fridge, when he opened it, also had the same, slightly sweet, decaying smell to it. Oliver tried his best, holding his nose, opening the bin and Vanishing the contents before doing the same with the fridge. He had never been the best at cleaning spells, but even so, his clumsy “Scourgify” at least got rid of the grime that had formed on the shelves.

Knocking softly, he opened the door to Katie's room, trying to make as little noise as possible. To his relief, she seemed fast asleep: she was curled up in a tiny ball, her arms tightly around her knees. Her duvet was lying on the floor, so he picked it up and draped it over her, wincing at the still strong smell of alcohol in the room. It was then that he noticed an open bottle at his feet, and even before he sniffed it, he knew it was whisky. And again, he wondered what on earth had driven Katie to be the way she was. Even Oliver, who had been known by his former Quidditch team as the hardiest drinker of the lot, wouldn’t be able to deal with whisky, not after vomiting up the contents of his stomach onto a pavement in the middle of the night.

Unnerved, he took the bottle and left the room, and after putting the whisky in the kitchen, he then quickly went to his own flat and got cleaned up, grateful for the taste of toothpaste in his mouth and the feeling of warm water on his face. He grabbed some milk and hangover potion while he was there, too. When he returned to Katie's flat, he was surprised to see her coming down the stairs, looking even more haggard and tired than she had been the previous night, a thin dressing gown over yesterday’s creased robes.

“Hey,” he said. “How are you feeling?”

“Like shit,” she replied bluntly.

“I went to mine and got you some hangover potion—”

“I don’t want it. I could murder some wine, though.”

“No,” he told her firmly. “Tea. I’ll make you tea. Okay?” His tone brooked no arguments, and she sighed, looking too tired to argue with him.

Unseen by her, he added some hangover potion to her drink while in the kitchen before taking it to the living room, where she was sitting listlessly, listening to the wireless. She looked up when he came in, and he pulled up the armchair, bringing it closer to the sofa where she was.

“You had a lot to drink last night,” he said at last, after a long, long silence. “And I found whisky in your room, too.” Still, she didn’t say anything. “Look, Katie,” he said softly, reaching out as if to touch her shoulder, but his hand paused in midair, unsure, “please tell me what’s going on.”

She was not looking at him; instead, she was staring fixedly at the mug of tea sitting on the coffee table between them, her eyes narrowed as if trying to work out whether or not he had put something in it. Reaching forward, Oliver lifted the mug and handed it to her, saying, “I haven’t poisoned it, you know.”

After a moment of hesitation, she reluctantly took it from him and sipped a little. “It’s lovely,” she said woodenly, her voice no more than a croak. “Thank you. Really. And — Oliver?”


“I’m sorry I… kissed you.”

“It’s fine,” he said, keeping his voice level but unable to control his cheeks from colouring.

“No, it’s not. You must think I’m a—”

“Katie, forget about it. I have,” Oliver lied. “Look, are you sure you’re okay? What’s happened?”

At this, she sat up a little straighter, but then, just as suddenly, her shoulders slumped again and she said helplessly, “I — I have no idea where to start.”

The questions tumbled out of his mouth before he could stop them. “Well, where are your family? Do you have a job? What’ve you been doing these past—”

“Oliver,” she said quietly, “one at a time. My head still hurts, okay?”


She took a deep breath and another gulp of tea. “My parents — they’re fine. Well. As fine as people can be at a time like this. They’re purebloods, so they don’t have to worry, really. But… they don’t know where I am.”


“They didn’t want me to go. They were completely against the idea of me running away, but I had to, for Leanne—”


“Leanne,” she repeated. “Leanne Starr.” The way Katie uttered the name was with the softest, utmost reverence, and he could tell something wasn’t being said. And then, to his surprise, the name clicked in his mind.

“Oh, I remember her. How is she?” Katie, however, did not reply, and the silence that followed was heavy with something Oliver didn't quite understand. “Wait. Isn’t she, you know, Muggleborn?” The moment after he blurted it out, he closed his eyes, realising how insensitive he sounded.

Was,” she corrected bitterly. “She... they...” Katie trailed off.

“Shit.” He frowned, trying to put the name to a face. He could vaguely remember a dark-haired girl who had practically been joined at the hip with Katie, at least in her first few years at Hogwarts. And then more details came back to him — of Leanne, a pretty, intelligent girl who often waited for Katie after Quidditch practice. And then, Oliver recalled, Leanne shocked everyone who was watching by kissing her.

It was only then that he registered that Katie had buried her face into her hands. “I’m sorry,” he said awkwardly.

“You’re not sorry; you just can’t get your head around the fact that we were...” She gestured vaguely with her hands.

Oliver shook his head. “Of course it’s not about that,” he told her sincerely. “I saw that coming years ago, probably before you did.”

The anger had disappeared from her eyes when she looked up. “What?”

“She had her eye on you for ages,” he said. “As far as I can remember, you two were best friends, but I'm sure she looked at you in a way that was — different. I remember thinking you must’ve been blind not to notice it.”

Katie flushed. “Yeah, well, I did eventually. Probably too late.”

“I’m sorry,” he repeated. “Do you… do you want to tell me what happened?”

He wondered if he had gone too far. Most likely, he had, but he wanted to help her. She was in a state, and he wanted — no, he needed to make sure she would get out of it.

At first, Katie didn’t say anything, instead sipping her tea, and it was only when she had drained the mug that she spoke.

“We… we were in hiding,” she began. “Me and Leanne. Leanne’s mum was missing. She went into work one day in the summer and never came back. Death Eaters came to Leanne’s place the next day, when I was at hers, and she only just managed to escape with me. I went to mine with her, grabbed my stuff and some money and was about to leave with her when Mum and Dad caught us. They… they took one look at us holding hands and kind of put two and two together.”

There was silence as she finished her tea, and he could tell the hangover potion had started its work, because her face looked fresher and her eyes no longer had the pale shell of drunkenness about them. He waited for her to speak; he could sense she wanted to say more, but at the same time, Oliver did not want to push her.

"They didn’t mind too much about me and Leanne. I managed to persuade them to let me go with her," she said finally. "At least until we could find Angela, Leanne’s mum. But we had no idea how the fuck we were meant to go about it. M-mum and Dad made us promise to contact them regularly and let them know we were okay. We were staying in a flat, and I didn’t realise how many problems we’d have, just the two of us living together. I — I felt like I was in Leanne’s face all the time, and it was like I… I couldn’t breathe. We had arguments. So many of them. I mean, we always made up in the end, but still, I didn’t think it would be like that — fuck, I was so stupid.” Katie paused, biting her lip to stop it quivering, and she squeezed her eyes shut, but a tear trickled down her cheek anyway.

“Then, a couple of weeks ago, we had another row,” Katie went on. “It was over something really stupid. I was going to get some food from the shops, but she didn’t want me to go by myself, just in case something happened. She’s never got angry with me before, but that day, I don’t even know what had got into both of us, because she was screaming at me, and the whole fucking flat could hear her going on about You-Know-Who—”

“The Taboo,” he said immediately.

“The what?”

“The Taboo. She must have mentioned You-Know-Who’s name.” She nodded, and he went on, “There’s a — a curse, so anyone who says You-Know-Who’s name is traced. It breaks protective charms. You must have heard of it.” But Katie shook her head. “Go on,” he prompted. “What happened next?”

“And then I just stormed out. And when… when I came back a while later, I — I found her. D-dead.” This time, she lapsed completely, burying her face into the sofa so he couldn’t see her crying, and it was only after several minutes that she spoke again. “They were waiting for me. The Snatchers. The moment I got into the room, they pounced on me. How the fuck I managed to get away, I don’t even know — I can just remember firing curses at them and then Disapparating.”

“She could still be alive,” Oliver suggested.

But Katie shook her head. “She’s dead, Oliver. I saw her. She wasn’t moving. They killed her, damn it, and it’s—”

“It’s not your fault,” he said firmly. “Don’t even think for a second that you caused any of this, because you didn’t.”

“Easy for you to say,” she mumbled.

“You should eat something, have a shower,” he said in an attempt to change the subject and brighten her mood. “My shift starts soon, though, so I'm going to have to get going.”

He got to his feet, wanting to reach forward and comfort her, somehow, but not knowing quite how. So he stayed where he was, waiting awkwardly for her to speak.

“Okay.” Arms folded, she did not meet his eyes, instead trying to wipe the tears from her cheeks with her sleeves. Though she felt better having told someone at long last, she also finally felt the pain that she had fought so hard to suppress for the last fortnight, and the gaping hole in her heart ached all the more as a result.

The chink of coins brought her out of her reverie, and she looked up, frowning. “Listen, Katie,” he said, “your fridge is practically empty. Here’s some—”

“I don’t need your money,” she hissed back, suddenly and irrationally angry. “I’m not a charity case.”

“I never said you were.”

“You didn’t have to,” she snapped, unable to stop the poisonous words from leaving her mouth. “Your fucking face says it all.” And then she couldn’t stand it any longer: how guilty he was making her feel, and the horrible sensation of her grief, which had been frozen, in one place, slowly becoming boiling hot liquid running through her veins — no, she couldn’t take it anymore. “Go,” she said, far, far more quietly. “Leave. I want you to leave. I’m going back to sleep.”

He didn’t say anything, and his calm exterior made him seem so unperturbed, so detached, that Katie was in half a mind to scream at him. Because, more than anything, she wanted him to argue with her, to set her straight, to put her in her place and tell her how fucking stupid she was being, because this was Oliver, and that was what he had always done. But he did nothing. He simply nodded wearily, letting out a deep breath.

“Fine,” he said, his voice so faint that she could barely hear him. “Fine. But… Katie, look. Let your parents know you’re all right. They need to know. And if you ever need anything, anything at all, you know where I am, yeah? I know it’s probably not what you want to hear right now, so if I never hear from you again, I understand. And I realise I'm most likely going too far, but please, please, just… look after yourself, okay? Don’t do anything stupid.”

With that, he made his way out of the front door, shutting it carefully behind him. Katie watched him go, regret already gnawing at her. She tasted salty tears on her lips, burying her face into her knees again, half-wanting to go after him and tell him to come back. But she was not going to. No. That would make her look even more pathetic; he would feel even sorrier for her than he had to begin with, and Katie did not want that.

And then she did the far more pathetic thing: she heaved herself up, went to the kitchen and gulped down a large measure of whisky, swallowing the feeling of nausea that came with it. As always, it tasted disgusting first thing in the morning, but she suspected whisky was her only companion right now — after kicking out the closest person on earth she had to a friend, there wasn’t really much choice for her, now.

Go to Part 2...