Chapter 1 : Part One
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Until I saw her fly.
She wasn’t the best of all those we’d seen so far, but she whipped through the air with such a fierce determination, twisting and turning so violently, I was afraid she’d fall off the broom. It was like a deeply profound work of art with a smudge of paint deemed an accident by collectors, but when looked at from another angle became the most beautiful painting you’ve ever seen in your life.
I had to let her on the team.
The thought of a relationship with Katie didn’t cross my mind until I met her unexpectedly at a Puddlemere United Game the summer after her fifth year. No longer lanky and quite a bit less freckly, she was still all the wild child. With bigger breasts and nicer teeth, maybe.
I can’t say I fell in love with her at that moment either, though.
“Wood, stop staring and show me the pitch,” she giggled, breezing through the crowd.
“Tsk, tsk, no respect for the old captain?” I asked, offering my arm.
“Not when I don’t get free tickets,” she challenged playfully, taking it.
I took her around the pitch. Neither of us knew that a year after that, our whole world would change, that you couldn’t walk outside of your house safely. Katie would be the one to know that the best of all after the war. But for now, we had fun. We flew in criss-crossed patterns, making a painting of our own.
And then she kissed me.
Exhilarated and sweaty, she kissed me. It wasn’t much of a first kiss, soft and barely there, with a quaffle between us, but she kissed me. And I couldn’t say I was surprised. Katie was passionate and borderline crazy, and Jesus, when did this girl who I thought of as my little sister grow up?
And there we came to a stand, dozens of feet above the ground, a perfect smudge in our painting.
But that was it, and I was adamant about that. Katie was too young, still in school. She wrote me letters, I wrote back. We saw other people. I didn’t feel hurt, I didn’t I didn’t feel hurt, I didn’t yearn for her, or any of that girly shite. My life went on, I didn’t wake up every morning with Katie on my mind, I wasn’t consumed by memories of our fateful kiss, and I could shag whomever I pleased without those few kisses with Katie crossing my mind. I missed her, but I figured if I had to, I could live without her.
That was, until Minerva McGonagall came to my door one snowy day. Of course, I didn’t expect it to be McGonagall, perhaps someone under the age of 60, so there I was, in my highly suggestive broomstick boxer shorts.
“Do you always answer the door in your underpants, Mr. Wood?” she said sharply, looking highly affronted.
“Only for you Minnie,” I said with a charming wink, opening the door.
“Put some clothes on and have a seat Wood. I’m here with bad news,” she said, sighing, and I heard the slightest hint of defeat in her voice. A few minutes later, with a cup of tea in front of her, she finally spoke again.
“Katie’s been cursed, Oliver. She’s currently in a Dark Magic coma at St. Mungo’s. It’s my responsibility to take care of all proceedings, and I was packing her trunk personally when I found these,” she said, pulling a stack of parchment paper, “You’ve been corresponding, yes?”
I winced at the knowledge that my old Professor had probably read my almost love letters (rather, my heavily flirtatious ones) but nodded weakly. McGonagall stirred her tea.
“Do you know anything? Anything at all?” she asked, the previous tone of defeat gone.
“Katie… she’s been cursed?” I said thickly. She nodded. “I don’t know anything, Professor.”
She sighed again, rising. Halfway out the door, she paused and turned to me. A glint of knowingness glittered in her eyes. “If you ever want to visit, she’s on the fourth floor.”
She let herself out while I sat, unpleasantly shocked.
I saw red that night, but when I finally went to sleep, the memory of that kiss was playing behind my eyelids, burned into my brain. I could remember the moment exactly, her lips coming onto mine, tasting of an intoxicating nectar of sweat and honey and leather, a beautiful equation of lips and tongue. A sensory overload.
A month later, I decided to visit Katie. Fred had owled me, saying that she’d awoken a few evenings prior. It had drove me mental. Katie lying in a long-term care unit in St. Mungo’s had made the war realer to me than any bloody pastel colored Ministry pamphlet.
That very afternoon, I apparated to St. Mungo’s Hospital, and purposefully marched up to the fourth floor, sliding uneasily through the door to her room, 118. I closed it behind me gently. How was this going to work? I hadn’t seen Katie in months.
“Oliver,” she finally breathed, and suddenly, Katie was back. She beamed at me, and grabbed my hand, “I missed you.”
“I… Katie, I’m sorry,” I managed to stammer. I wasn’t good with words, feelings. I didn’t do condolences well, nor death.
She nodded, eyes closed, looking entirely at peace. “Don’t apologize. Just talk to me.”
I squeezed her hand and talked for hours while her eyelids fluttered weakly, occasionally interjecting. As the night grew long, I made to stand up and leave. Her eyes opened swiftly, shocking blue irises framed by thick lashes.
“Goodbye Oliver,” she said.
“I’ll come back tomorrow,” I said, kissing her forehead. Blue eyes looked up at me, the old hint of mischief back. She simply took my head into her hands and kissed me full on the lips.
Any remaining words died on my lips. I knew Katie didn’t want the words, she didn’t need them. She pretended she didn’t need or want a lot of things, like someone holding her hand, someone to take care of her like her parents never did, someone to treat her as more than a young girl.
And I would. Because at that moment, I did, in fact fall in love with Katie Bell – strong, vivacious but more vulnerable and more beautiful than I had ever seen her before. Like a delicate flower.