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25 July 2013 @ 01:27 pm
Thin Red Lines — For Jess  
Title: Thin Red Lines
Characters/Pairings: Oliver/Katie
Rating: Professors
Warnings: Strong Profanity, Sexual Situations, Self Harm
Author’s Note: BIG TRIGGER WARNING FOR SELF HARM!  If you are easily triggered, please do not read.

Inspired by If You Only Knew by Shinedown.  Lyrics from the same song.
Huge thanks to Lily for the beta and a huge thanks to an anonymous friend who helped me with a lot of things with this story.
Lastly, a note for Jess.  I was going to call this "If You Only Knew", but upon searching after writing this, I discovered that someone had already called a story this...and had used this song. :o ;)



August 20, 2000

"Fuck off, Oliver," she said, talking to him through the door that was open only as far as the chain would let it.

"Katie, if you would just let me explain..." Oliver started, but Katie put up her hand to stop him.  He couldn't help but notice she was wearing long sleeves, even though it was the middle of summer.

"Save it, Oliver.  There is nothing you could say to make it better.  Nothing."

"Katie, I'm scared for you.  You need to talk to someone."  Oliver leaned his face towards the opening.  "You need help."

"I'm fine!  The only problem I have is that you won't leave me the fuck alone!" Katie yelled, slamming the door as best as she could.  Oliver turned, leaned against the wall, slid to the floor, and put his face in his hands.  He had never felt so helpless in his life.  He'd messed up a lot of things in his life, but none of them seemed as important anymore, not when he was losing the one fight he needed to win.

Not when he didn't have the power to help.

***

June 27, 1999

"All right, team, we are going to be trying out potential players for Seeker and Chaser, as well as alternates for both positions and an alternate Beater.  I won't lie to you, this team has taken a beating, especially considering how many players we've lost over the last two years, and we really need a strong team to pull us back to the top. Treat all of the try out players as you would opponents on the pitch.  If they can't take the heat, we don't want them.  Murphy and I will be taking notes, but if there is anyone you feel strongly about, either good or bad, please let us know.  Any questions?"  Coach Anderson glanced around the room.  "No?  Great.  We are going to start them with basic conditioning drills.  Get dressed, I want to see you all on the pitch in ten."

Oliver grabbed his Keeper gloves from his locker.

"I can't believe we have to try out so many positions this year," the player next to Oliver said.  He was rather tall with blond hair and was strongly built, perfect for his position as Beater and team captain.

"I don't know why you're complaining, Tom.  Wallace retiring meant you got the captain's job."

Tom shrugged.  "I just think that it could affect the team chemistry."

"Oh, I'm sure it will," Oliver replied, strapping his gloves into place.  "You never know, though, the next Krum could be out there.  If he can play well, the chemistry doesn't matter so much, I think."

The two walked out onto the pitch and looked towards the stands, where about fifty people were seated.  Oliver and Tom took their places behind Anderson and Murphy, who were facing the hopefuls.

"Good morning, everyone.  I am Coach Anderson, and this is my assistant coach, Murphy.  We are going to start you off like we would any practise - with conditioning.  Quidditch isn't all brooms and balls, people.  From this day forward, expect to be sore and say goodbye to pumpkin pasties.  We'll start you off by running the perimeter of the pitch.  Afterwards, our players will be putting you through their favourite drills."

The group of potential players got up and started to run.  Oliver watched as they came out of the bleachers.  His stomach flipped as he watched a girl with a blond ponytail enter the pitch.

The last time he had seen Katie, she was at home recovering from several wounds on her face and a curse wound running down her arm - souvenirs from the final battle.  Oliver was surprised to see her, not because she had recently been injured, but because she had always sworn that she would never play Quidditch professionally.  It had always just been for fun for her, and she had always hinted at going into Healing.

He noticed that she managed to finish among the first.  Oliver was impressed.  If he hadn’t known better, he'd have thought she had been training for years without interruption instead of being stuck on five potions for almost a year.

Every drill that was thrown at her, Katie appeared to manage without any difficulty.  It wasn't until Oliver led the potential players in stretching and had them stretching out their arms that he noticed any real sort of reaction from Katie, who winced as she stretched out her right arm.  As a friend, Oliver hoped that the coaches wouldn't see.  As a player, he knew that having someone on the team with a weak dominant arm would hurt the team.

Through the flying drills, Katie shone.  She had always been a strong flyer, there was no denying it, and there was no way that the coaches could miss her. 

"All right, everyone, we are going to divide you up to work with players in the positions you are trying out for.  Beaters, you will be working with Tom and his partner, Cody.  Chasers, you will be working with our Keepers and Chasers.  Seekers, you will be working with Murphy while I take notes."

Oliver took the group of Chasers to one side of the pitch.

"Hello, everyone, I'm Oliver.  Here's what's going to happen.  Dan, one of the Chasers, is going to divide you into teams and we are going to have a scrimmage.  This will show us how well you can put basic drills into action under stress, because let's face it, anyone can do drills.  It's how you apply them that counts."

Oliver watched the players.  They were all quite good in their own way, with some clearly outplaying the others.  As he watched Katie, he noticed that she'd switch to throwing with her left arm from time to time.  While she was for the most part accurate, he could tell that it was not as strong as her right, but he could see it on her face that throwing with her right arm was getting painful.  To the coaches, however, it might look like she could play either side.  By the end of the tryouts, he was convinced that if Katie made the team now, it would only result in a short career.

Once the tryouts were over, Oliver ran to try and catch up with Katie, who was walking towards the locker room.

"Katie!" She turned around and smiled.

"Oliver!"  She ran up to him and gave him a hug.  "How are you doing?  I haven’t seen you in like, forever, before this practice I mean."

"I'm great, how are you?"

"I'm good, actually," Katie said excitedly.  "I..."

"What the hell are you doing Katie?" Oliver interrupted.

"What do you mean, 'what the hell am I doing here'?  I'm trying to get on a Quidditch team."

"Yes, I see that, but it's clear that you're not ready.   You're just going to hurt yourself if you don't give your arm more time to heal!"

Katie glanced over her shoulder where the coaches were comparing notes.  "Not here," she said.  "Meet me at the pub at eight, we'll talk there."  She turned and left.

Oliver walked up to the coaches. 

"Hey, Oliver, I saw you talking to Miss Bell, there.  She really has potential, don't you think?"

"Honestly, Coach Anderson, I think if you put her on the team, you'll be looking for a new Chaser in a year.  I think she's injured.  Did you notice her favouring her right arm?"

"I'll make a note of that," Anderson replied.  "Thanks, Oliver."

***

Oliver sat down across from Katie, who was sipping a gillywater, with his oak matured mead.

"I'm just going to skip the pleasantries," Oliver said.  "What the hell are you doing?  You're only going to hurt yourself."

"Why?  Because a year ago I was bedridden taking about a million potions for the second time in my life?  That's done, Oliver, I won that fight a long time ago."

"Really, Katie? Because it still hurts you.  I can see it in the way you are flexing your fingers right now, or the way you switch hands when playing."

Katie stopped flexing her hands immediately.  "I switch hands because I can."

Oliver grabbed her right wrist, causing her to gasp. "Right.  Katie, all you're going to do is give yourself a short career and injure yourself so badly that you'll never be able to play.  It's not worth it. Why don't you just wait?"

"You don't get it, Oliver.  Of everyone, I thought you would, but you don't.  I can't just wait."

"Last time I checked, you didn't even want to play Quidditch professionally," Oliver said.

Katie put her left hand on the table.  "That was a year ago, Oliver, which, by the way, was the last time you talked to me."

Oliver gripped his drink.  "You don't think I tried?  Because I did.  I tried a lot, it's just I could never find a way to get you the message because you disappeared and even your parents kept quiet about it."

"I went to France.  I couldn't take being in Britain anymore, after I was allowed some freedom from the potions.  With everything that happened, being cursed twice and Leanne dying, I just...I had to leave.  I had to throw myself into something.  The only thing I could think of was Quidditch, so I went to France and studied under the best coaches in the country. I put so much into it that it's all I have.  That is why I can't quit, Oliver.  If I quit, I'm nothing."

Oliver laid his hand on hers.  "Katie, you are so much more than a Quidditch player.  You have a lot going for you.  If you never take the time to find it, you'll be worse off in a year when your arm is so badly screwed up that you can't play."

"I'm more than Quidditch?  Oliver, I can't be.  I can't even look at myself in the mirror without being disgusted.  I failed at saving Leanne, and I couldn't even defend myself."  Katie turned her head to the side so the scars from the Battle could be seen.  "Everyone who ever looks at me only sees these scars, and all I get is pity from them.  Being a Quidditch player means I'm strong.  Nobody will see me for these scars if I can only prove myself on the pitch."

"Katie, I know that's how you feel now, but you'll only regret it if you play now."

Katie shook her head.  "No, I think I'd regret not trying."

***

July 12, 1999

"Okay, team, we have spent the last two weeks trying out over fifty candidates for the various positions."  It was a bright, sunny morning, and Oliver was ready to find out who had made the cut for the team.  While he had enjoyed working with Katie, who was spunky and dedicated, he was ready to see her go if it meant that she could have some time for her arm.  Yesterday's practise had proven to him just how dangerous the game could be on her injuries.  By the end of practise, she could barely move her arm without flinching.

But if he was being honest, Oliver was going to be sad to see her go.  He had forgotten how smart and bubbly she could be, and how well she worked with a team.  Even Tom had noticed her, saying that she could do nothing but good for the team's chemistry.

"And so I present to you, the newest members of our team!  In the Seeker position, we have decided on Ethan Rose, with Levi Harris as alternate.  For Chaser, we have chosen Darcy Wilson, with Katie Bell as alternate.  Finally, for alternate Beater, we have chosen Chris Waters.  They will be joining us for their first practise today."

Oliver found Katie after practise.  "So I suppose a congratulations is in order," he said, leaning in to give her a sort of one armed hug.

Katie smiled.  "Thanks, Oliver, that means a lot, especially because I know you didn't really want me to play in the first place."

"Honestly, Katie?  I still don't, but if this is what you want to do, I would be a terrible friend to try and make you feel bad because of it."

***

September 21, 2000

If you only knew
I'm hanging by a thread
the web I spin for you

Oliver sat in his a kitchen, a month after the incident in the hallway of Katie's building.  When he looked back, he knew that it was in that moment that he really started to fall for Katie.  That moment of mutual understanding that, while neither agreed with each other, they were willing to accept it and move on. 

Their relationship started slowly, naturally, like the ones in novels.  They went for drinks, which turned into long talks about everything, anything, really. 

Oliver talked about his dad, who was the first person to ever show him how to ride a broom, while Katie, on the other hand, talked about how her mother didn't approve of her Quidditch career and how she wanted her to be a Healer instead.  She talked about how her scars made her insecure, about how she was scared no man could ever love a girl with them on her face.

Little by little, Katie started to trust Oliver while he fell for her at what felt like increasingly high speeds. 

***

August 28, 1999

Oliver and Katie were sitting at their table at the local pub after another practise.  It was the day before the next match, so both of them were sipping butterbeer.

"Did you see Tom's face when Cody managed to almost hit him in the face with a Bludger?  I almost died laughing!" Katie attempted to imitate Tom's face, but only managed to make Oliver spew his butterbeer.

"Katie, you kill me, you know that right?"  Katie smiled coyly at him.  "Seriously though, it's one of the biggest reasons I like you so much."

"Don't lie, Oliver, there are a thousand reasons you like me," Katie said, giggling.

"Well, maybe," he replied.  "Come on, let's go.  We should get a good night’s sleep before tomorrow's game."

Oliver dropped Katie off at her flat like he did every night, but this one was different.  This was the first night she ever kissed him goodnight.

***

September 24, 2000

It's 4:03 and I can't sleep
Without you next to me
I toss and turn like the sea

No matter how hard Oliver tried, he couldn't attribute the insomnia he was feeling to the game coming up.  He'd outgrown pregame jitters years before.  He missed Katie, he knew that was it, but it wasn't even just that he missed her, it was that he was genuinely worried about her.  The lack of her body against his only reminded him that she felt alone and scared, and there was nothing he could do to shake the feeling that there was nothing he could do to help.

***

February 15, 2000

She hadn't given herself to him easily.  It was months before she was ready.  To be honest, who could blame her?  There had been a guy in France, he knew that, and he knew that it had ended badly.

So when she was finally ready, Oliver did everything he could to make sure it was perfect.

He started slowly, with candles and gentle caresses on his couch.  A gentle kiss on her lips, not pushing, letting her urge him forward.  He moved to her jaw line, planting soft kisses down to her neck, into the space by her collarbone.  She wrapped her arms around his neck and pushed up against him.

Oliver pulled away and looked at her.  "Are you sure?"

Katie nodded, so Oliver picked her up and carried her to his room, put her on the bed, and kissed her firmly on the mouth.  She pulled at his shirt, slipping it over his head.  Oliver, in turn, unbuttoned hers, his mouth following the trail of skin left behind with each flick of the hand.  She arched her back as his scruff tickled her stomach.  Oliver used the moment to unsnap her bra and pull it off of her.

He rubbed his thumbs over her breasts, smiling at the small gasps that she emitted at the newfound pleasure.

He was surprised when she took control, unbuckling his belt and pushing his trousers off of him.  She softly rubbed him through the fabric of his pants, smiling when she managed to make him moan. 

When they finally joined, it was slow and natural, different from the rough sex he had had with other girls.  He felt Katie shudder below him.  When they finished, they fell apart, sweaty and sticky, but Oliver felt something he had not felt before.

For the first time, he felt like he had actually made love, and as he fell asleep with Katie in his arms, he felt like he could stay this way forever.

***

June 28, 2000

"Katie, what are you doing, you're supposed to be catching the ball, not dropping it!  What has gotten into you lately?  You've been like this for weeks!  I need you to focus!" Anderson yelled.

Oliver clenched his teeth as his coach's yells filled the stadium.  It was true that Katie had been off her game.  As he had predicted at the tryouts, her arm was starting to be problematic, and what Katie needed was about a month off to set everything back.  Unfortunately, he knew that it would never happen.

"Come on, Katie, quit being such a girl and play some real Quidditch!" Levi yelled.  "You're never going to actually make a team the way you're playing."

Oliver turned to Katie, who had her face set, but he could tell the words hurt.  How could they not, after three weeks of the same jibes.  That, combined with the pressure from her mum and the fact that her face was sunburned, causing her scars to really show, meant that Katie was under a lot of pressure, and he didn't want to have to see her crack.

***


July 3, 2000

It was a week later when he found her out.  Oliver was at the point of removing her trousers when he saw it - thin red lines, in rows down her inner thighs.  He wasn't sure, but he thought they were new.  He gently rubbed his hands down them and noticed that they were raised and slightly scabbed.

Katie flinched a little, and Oliver realised that he must have hurt her.  He gently kissed the area.

"No matter what, Katie, despite of the scars, you know you're beautiful."

He grabbed a pair of his flannel night trousers and gave them to her to put on.  He crawled into the bed beside her and held her as she cried herself to sleep.

***
If you only knew
How many times I counted
All the words that went wrong

Katie made her way to the kitchen the next morning, rubbing the sleep out of her eyes. 

"Good morning, love," Oliver said, as he set a cup of coffee in front of her.  She took a sip from the mug and smiled at Oliver.

"Thanks."

Oliver sat down across from her and sighed.  "Katie, we need to talk."

"About what?"  She was trying to act calm and in control, but he could see that her hands were shaking as she fiddled with her cup.

"You know exactly what."  Oliver leaned forward.  "Katie, how long has this been going on?"

"I don't want to talk about this, Oliver," she replied, lifting the mug, which shook in her hand.

"Well, we have to."

"No, we don't!" Katie said, setting her mug on the table.  "It's my body and I'll do what I want to."

"Katie, you are a Quidditch player, you can't afford to do this!"  Oliver took a deep breath, and lowered his voice.  "Just talk to me, Katie.  Tell me how I can help."

Katie stood up.  "Well, you can't." 

"Katie..." Oliver stood up as if to stop her.

"You're not going to drop this, are you?" Katie asked, gripping the table.

Oliver shook his head.  "No, I'm not, Katie, not until you get the help you need."
                                    
"Fine, then I guess I'm done."  Katie stormed out and slammed the door, leaving Oliver wondering where he had messed up, and why all the words he said just couldn't help her.

***

August 20, 2000

"Fuck off, Oliver," she said, talking to him through the door that was open only as far as the chain would let it.

"Katie, if you would just let me explain..." Oliver started, but Katie put up her hand to stop him.  He couldn't help but notice she was wearing long sleeves, even though it was the middle of summer.

"Save it, Oliver.  There is nothing you could say to make it better.  Nothing."

"Katie, I'm scared for you.  You need to talk to someone."  Oliver leaned his face towards the opening.  "You need help."

"I'm fine!  The only problem I have is that you won't leave me the fuck alone!" Katie yelled, slamming the door as best as she could.  Oliver turned, leaned against the wall, slid to the floor, and put his face in his hands.  He had never felt so helpless in his life.  He'd messed up a lot of things in his life, but none of them seemed as important anymore, not when he was losing the one fight he needed to win.

***

November 15, 2000

Oliver paced around his kitchen.  His owl had just returned yet another unread, unanswered letter.  He was done, so done, with just waiting to hear from Katie. 

If there was anyone who could beat whatever she was dealing with, it was Katie.  She was the strongest person he had ever known.  She had been cursed to the point of almost dying, but just got up and went on as if life was normal.  She played Quidditch for Gryffindor almost immediately after being released from the hospital, and went on to finish her NEWT year.

Katie fought through the war and then fought through injuries to play Quidditch.  When she put her mind to it, she had the self preservation to move mountains.

Oliver couldn't help think that, maybe, if he could just show her this, she could find it within her to quit. Maybe he could prove to her that she hadn't failed, that she hadn't disappointed him.

Maybe if he could show her he still cared and still had faith.

A sudden idea struck him.  If she wasn't accepting his owls, he'd find another way to tell her.  He grabbed a piece of parchment and a quill and jotted something down.  He quickly walked out the door, down the street, and to Katie's apartment, where he slipped the piece of parchment under the door.  He knocked, and walked away.

***

Katie walked to her door and looked out of the peephole.  There was no one there.  She turned to walk back to her room when she saw a piece of paper on the floor.  She bent down and picked it up.  She unfolded it and saw the familiar writing.

I still believe in you,
If you only knew.
 
 
 
Current Mood: giddygiddy
 
 
 
♠ Jessica ♠: Got Wood?avsno26rocks on August 1st, 2013 08:57 am (UTC)
Sorry I didn't comment sooner, but I was mostly flailing to finish my own story and just had time to read it quickly. This time, though, I got to enjoy it!

This is a stunning story, and so much different than your regular style. If I didn't know beforehand that you'd written it, I never would've figured it out by guessing. The pure tactile, physical nature of it, along with the sensuality, make it gritty, passionate, and so very much up my alley!

Oliver, to me, was a refreshing departure from the man-child we left off with in Prisoner of Azkaban. Yes, he's got the drive, the competitive nature, and the drive to not only succeed but to propel those around him, as well; however, he is also the kind of man who would come back, risking life and limb, to fight in the Battle of Hogwarts. There is a tempered sense of humanity about him that might've been lacking in the third book, where he was willing to let Harry ride the Firebolt without a full inspection.

I think this is a good change from his younger self because it shows that he recognises that Katie matters more than her ability to contribute to the team, that her state of mind isn't defined by her will or her refusal to acknowledge weakness in herself. But also, it allows him to see her for her, not as a cog in the team machine, but as someone he cares about and eventually falls in love with.

As for Katie, I think you built a really important set of variables in her attitude to set up the self-harm scenario. First off, she was defensive and refused help; second, she was abnormally driven and unwilling to consider her own health; finally, she cut out Oliver from her life — not, I suspect, because she was angry with him so much as his potential role in ending her cutting, which she used like a security blanket when she announced that it was her body to do with as she pleased.

Their romance was built gradually, which really emphasised Oliver's desire not to push her too far. But more than that, I think it allowed Oliver, as the narrator, to open up the door to the critical issues in the story by showing the signs to me as the reader that she was in trouble but make them subtle enough that it takes him some time to figure it out. Coupling that with the romantic tension that evolved into a more sexual relationship makes it feel like a train wreck waiting to happen between them.

One theme in this story that I felt was important was agency — free will. It was woven so tightly into the story that one cannot help but think about it. Did Oliver violate Katie's right to her own body by thwarting her spot on the team (which is what I assumed happened after he found out she was cutting, though it wasn't directly stated), since he probably never would've found out about it had they not been in an intimate relationship? It's a great question to pose in a story, and the answer could mean several things to several people.

With what I see, I think Oliver did the right thing, because when Katie invited him into her heart and her life, she did grant him a place of prominence in her life and her decision-making. Not noticing a stranger or casual acquaintance's self-harm issue is one thing; no moral onus is put on passers-by for not intervening. But when someone is entwined into a person's daily life and has a vested interest in the other's emotional/physical/spiritual health, one does whatever is necessary to preserve their loved one, as well as their own peace of mind. A man like Oliver, especially as portrayed in the story, doesn't seem the type to be able to sleep at night knowing he could help and didn't.

Your writing style is so clean and bare here, which allows the story to speak for itself. There are a lot of powerful aspects of the fic, ones that are raw and aching; allowing them to shine rather than utilising copious metaphor, simile, parallelism, or what have you really gives it a chance to connect to readers on all levels. Where I think it's particularly sharp is when Oliver first confronts Katie about her cutting. The narrative voice isn't romantic or condemning or tragic, but rather it steps aside to let me feel Oliver's aching for her along with him without couching it in hidden meaning. That honesty is one of the story's biggest strengths for that reason.

♠ Jessica ♠avsno26rocks on August 1st, 2013 08:57 am (UTC)
Overall, this is a stunning fic. The characterisation was rich, well-considered, and raw. Coupled with crisp storytelling and careful themes, it is by far my favourite story of yours I've ever read. I am not just saying this because it was a gift for me, but rather because I genuinely feel like you hit so many homeruns with this that it can't help but float to the top. Very, very well done, and thank you very much for this beautiful gift.

*hugs*

Jess
MapleMapffyPiemaplemapffypie on August 14th, 2013 12:48 am (UTC)
Oh my gosh Jess, I just saw this now! Thanks so much for all your lovely analysis - I'm so glad it worked for you, because I was so unsure of it.

Eep, smiles for days :)