Fear of Flying
By: Chaos and Raven
"What are you going to do when the Dark Lord comes for you, Potter? Brain him with your bookbag?"
"Fuck off, Malfoy. I'm studying." In the distance Harry can see the Gryffindor quidditch team wrapping up their practice. He loves to sit and watch them fly. They look so free and careless; as if the rules of mere mortals don't apply up there. Harry supposes they don't.
"Because it would be such a horror if perfect Harry Potter scored less than--"
"Shove off, Malfoy."
It's a new voice and Harry turns to see Oliver Wood with the Weasley twins flanking him. Malfoy sneers and stalks away. Harry knows it's only a momentary reprieve.
"Ah, thanks, you guys."
Fred grins rakishly. "Think nothing of it. Malfoy's such a twat. What I wouldn't give to break his nose...."
"Amen to that," George adds enthusiastically.
Harry fiddles with his quill nervously. It's not that he doesn't like the twins but he doesn't know them well. They've always seemed a bit dangerous to Harry. He'd rather be in the library with Hermione than plotting pranks.
The twins look at him rather intently, identical grins on their faces. He's not sure what to think about that.
"See you later, Ollie. Don't worry about the broom shed," George says.
"We'll lock it up," Fred finishes.
Wood nods his thanks and watches his two beaters stroll back to the school. He turns a tentative smile on Harry.
"They're not so bad, you know. When they're being serious."
"Oh, they do that?" And he didn't mean for that to come out sarcastic or funny but it did and Oliver -- Wood -- is startled into laughter.
"You wouldn't think so, but they have their moments." He flops down onto the grass next to Harry. "Say, you don't mind me hanging around, do you?"
Harry taps his fingers nervously on the spine of his textbook. "Of course not," he says finally.
Wood grins at him and lays all the way back onto the grass. "Just so long as I'm not interrupting something important."
"No, I..." Harry stalls. He wants to ask what on earth Oliver is doing, spending time with him. They don't talk, they're not in the same year, they don't have any of the same interests. Why then, Harry wonders, would he want to stay?
"Honestly, Potter. I don't think the entire Ravenclaw house spends as much time as you and that Granger girl do studying."
Harry blushes. "I guess so."
"Sometimes, I wish things had been different." Wood sighs.
Harry cocks his head to the side. "Which things?"
"Just, you know, if you hadn't been afraid of heights," Wood says. He laughs a little. "Hooch was so impressed that it was your first time on a broom. Until you did a header into the grass anyway."
"I suppose, well, it's a bit different when I'm too angry to worry about being afraid," Harry replies. "Fred was right, Malfoy is such a twat."
Wood laughs softly. "I'd have liked to watch you fly."
Harry bites his lip and glances over to where Wood is lying. The older boy has his eyes shut and his head propped on folded arms. He looks like he's absorbing the sunshine. Harry turns quickly back to his book.
"I imagine it sometimes," Harry says timidly. "You all look so free up there. Weightless."
Not like me, is the implication. Not like the boy who has far too much responsibility for someone so young, the weight of the world on his shoulders. It's a responsibility that Harry recognizes as self-imposed -- mostly -- but it drives him to be smarter because size doesn't matter in a physical sense, not against curses and hexes. The only thing that matters is knowledge and an ability to act from that knowledge when the time comes.
There is an awkward silence.
"Are you doing anything this weekend, P -- Harry?"
"Just revising my History paper," he says.
Wood sits up. "Meet me on the pitch after lunch on Saturday."
Harry shrugs acquiescence and makes a note in the margin of his book. Not that he could forget a meeting with Oliver Wood. Wood stands and dusts the grass off his behind. He waves jauntily and heads back to the school. Harry turns back to his Potions text. Professor Snape harasses him enough when he has prepared, it's best not to see what things would be like if he hasn't.
The weekend comes faster than Harry thought it would. Anticipation always drags out the most mundane things, like the last fifteen minutes of class before lunch. When it's something more like Christmas morning, the wait can be intolerable. Instead, the time flies by.
Harry's week goes something like this:
Snape is a bastard as usual but Gryffindor doesn't lose any points because of Harry's usual incompetence, as Snape calls it. He is the only student to successfully transfigure his cotton ball into a rabbit but the rabbit escapes and they spend twenty minutes chasing it around the classroom. McGonagall manages to look pleased and appalled at the same time. Flitwick assigns more homework and offers extra credit for the students that want it. Harry does.
He plays chess with Ron daily and studies for Arithmancy with Hermione. Wood waves to him every morning at breakfast. Harry watches quidditch practice from his usual grassy knoll every day except Thursday because the weather is awful. And everything is so completely normal that it isn't until he finishes his sandwich that he realizes today he's going to meet with Wood.
There's a light breeze and fluffy clouds dance their way across the sky. Harry feels poetic and composes a very poor haiku about them while walking to the pitch. Large clouds float gently, he thinks dreamily. Wind breaks and reshapes. It's all / peaceful, which is good. Of course, he's forced to laugh at himself. Poetry is a guilty pleasure but he has very little talent for it.
Wood is lying in the middle of the pitch on the grass when Harry arrives. His arms are tucked behind his head and he appears to be watching the clouds as they lazily drift along. He turns at the sound of Harry's soft footsteps and breaks into a huge grin.
"Hey there, Potter. How's it going?"
Harry smiles back, an automatic reaction, but he is happy to see Oliver. "Hullo, Wood."
Wood rolls to his feet with effortless grace. "Ready for my surprise?"
"Is that what we're here for?" Harry asks.
"Well, yes," Wood replies somewhat awkwardly.
"Sorry, I was being facetious."
Wood laughs a little. "I should have guessed." He holds out his broom and gestures for Harry to grasp the handle. "You'll have to trust me a bit, but I think this will be fun."
Harry touches the broom cautiously. It's a newer model Nimbus, not as good as the Nimbus 2000 but a good deal better than the school brooms. It's obviously in top condition. Harry smothers a smile, he's sure Wood has heard all manner of 'cleaning the broomstick' jokes.
"What should I do?"
"Close your eyes first," Wood says. "Now imagine yourself on the broom. You kick off from the ground, gently because you're nervous. It's the first time you've done this and you don't know if you can trust the broom just yet."
Harry lets himself get drawn into the smooth cadence of Wood's voice. With his eyes closed, he feels dreamy and disassociated from everything around him.
"Carefully, you begin to accelerate," Wood continues softly. "You're still close to the ground but you're beginning to move around, to get a feel for the air. It brushes the hair out of your eyes and flaps your robes around. The broom is dependable, you know that now. You just have to trust in your own ability to stay on."
Harry sighs softly. He can feel it, as though he truly is skimming the ground on Wood's broom.
"You angle up, into the sky and the ground falls away until you can't see the details any longer, just blurs of color. You're in the air now, wind rushing past your ears as you go faster, try more daring things. There's nothing to hold you back and you're free."
"Free," Harry echoes.
When he opens his eyes a moment later, Wood is smiling. Both their hands are clasped around the broomstick.
"What do you think, Harry? Willing to try it?"
Harry sucks in a sharp gasp of air. He expected that, really, but it still feels like a punch to the kidneys. Does he have the courage to face this, his most aggravating fear? His fingers tighten on the smooth wood.
"Just be ready to catch me," he says and then pulls the broom away.
He's trembling as he swings his leg over and stands poised, ready for take off. It seems like such a little thing although it fills him with terror he can't even describe. But how can he be expected to defeat Voldemort when he can't overcome this tiny fear? Strengthening his resolve, he kicks off the ground and urges the broom forward.
It's just the way Oliver described it, the wind, the rush, all of it. He lets that memory drive him. Slow, until he can be sure of his seat, can be sure that the broom won't suddenly desert him and then faster, higher. He is nearly unaware of his actions, only that he's flying and he does feel free. It's rapturous.
Harry has never felt such unadulterated glee. He goes faster and turns and loops and shouts out loud because he has no other way to convey that this is the most exhilarating feeling he's ever had. He's laughing when he lands next to Wood. He can't help it, the grin just won't die.
"That was fantastic," Harry says enthusiastically. "I knew it would be, I just... You, you did something."
Wood is smiling back, just as big. "That was all you, Potter. I just facilitated."
Harry sighs blissfully. "You can facilitate for me any time, Wood."
"I'm glad that it worked," he says with a laugh.
"I want to do something for you," Harry says suddenly, impulsively. He rarely indulges the side of himself that is prone to impulse. Wood is laughing at him. "I mean it. Meet me in the common room at 11:30."
"All right, Potter. If you insist, I'll be thanked."
Harry nods, deeply satisfied. "Can I have another go?" He asks wistfully.
Wood settles back down in the grass to watch Harry dart across the sky.
Dinner is consumed and homework completed all without Wood's company. They part ways at the entrance to the great hall. Harry feels strangely bereft when Wood walks away. The feeling doesn't come as a surprise, unwelcome as the odd lurch and twist of his stomach may be.
Harry finishes his Potions revision easily and begins on the extra credit that Flitwick is allowing. The common room bustles around him but he pays it very little attention. Ron and Hermione silently join him. He acknowledges them with a soft 'hello' but otherwise remains focused on his work. He listens with half an ear as Hermione explains things to Ron.
"Hey Harry, want too play some chess?" Ron asks later.
Harry shakes his head. "I'm going out with Wood in a bit."
That earns him raised eyebrows from both his friends.
"Not like that, you filthy minded wretches!" Harry exclaims, blushing. "It's... I've no way to say it that won't sound awfully dirty."
Hermione laughs. "Go on then, we'll try to keep ourselves contained."
"It's to thank him for, um, teaching me to fly."
"That's," Ron pauses.
"Remarkably sweet," Hermione finishes for him. "What are you going to do?"
Harry shrugs and fiddles with his quill. "I dunno yet. Something nice."
He's had an idea for a while now, a good idea, but it's so silly to say out loud. Fortunately, his friends are satisfied and drop the subject.
At precisely 11:30, Wood arrives in the common room. He is laughing with Alicia Spinnet, one of the girls from the quidditch team. Harry allows himself a moment worry that perhaps he's making a mistake before brushing it off. He doesn't have time to second guess himself. They're probably just talking about practice, anyway, he figures.
"Hey there, Potter."
Wood drops down on the arm of Harry's chair and looks over his shoulder at the homework he's been doing. Harry is about to ask Wood what he's doing but it occurs to him that he did ask Wood to be here. He blushes. He hates being absent minded.
"Um, I guess we can go now," Harry says as he collects his books.
Wood looks at him with an odd smile on his face as Harry puts his bookbag together and leads them back to the boys' dorm. He left his cloak there because it just wouldn't do for them to disappear where people might see.
"You have to keep quiet about this," Harry warns. "I need you to promise."
"Promise," Wood replies, looking bemused.
Harry pulls the silvery fabric of his cloak out from his trunk and gestures for Wood to stand next to him. Harry vanishes underneath and hears Wood swearing softly, surprised probably.
"Come on then," Harry says impatiently.
He pulls open the edges of the invisibility cloak and waits for Wood to settle in next to him. They slowly pass through the dormitory, then the common room, and finally out into the hall. Wood expels a great gust of air, to Harry's amusement. He leads them outside to the quidditch pitch.
It's dead silent out, or as close as you can get. There is the faint chirping of crickets and the lake beating against the shore. The air is crisp and clear. Only a sliver of moon hangs in the sky.
"I do this sometimes when I need to clear my head," Harry explains. "It's not quite as good as flying but it's as close as I can get, most times."
He spreads the cloak on the ground and lies down in the middle of it. Wood follows after a moment's hesitation. Their arms touch and Harry scoots even closer, wrapping the cloak up around them. The chill of the air lessens significantly after that.
Harry keeps his attention on the sky and the billions of stars scattered above them. If he looks over at Wood he knows he'll do something stupid, like kiss him. That's how it works, right? Stargazing has always been code for snogging in the astronomy tower. Of course, Wood didn't know they were coming out to look at the stars. Harry was particularly careful about that.
"My parents almost named me Orion, after the constellation," Wood says.
Harry is relieved that he didn't have to break the silence. "That's one of my favorites," he replies. "I also like the Pleiades."
"Which one is that?"
Harry points up in an utterly futile attempt to point out the star cluster. "It's above Orion. There are seven stars all close together. They're pretty bright."
"Oh. Oh! I think I see." Wood turns his head, grinning brightly. "They're, um..."
Their faces are inches apart and Wood's grin falters a bit. Harry does everything he can to not move. Whether he wants to move forward or back is anyone's guess. He lets his arm drop from its useless pointing. Wood's fingers find his between their bodies and squeeze.
"They're not as pretty as you, though," Wood says.
It's the worst line in the history of bad lines but Harry feels what can only be described as 'swoony.' His stomach flutters and when Wood leans over and presses their mouths together, all sensation rushes to Harry's groin. He tingles in places that aren't even being touched. Electric currents dart up his legs and it's all he can do not to shiver.
Wood kisses very well. He opens his mouth just a little and holds Harry's head just enough that Harry feels completely overwhelmed. It's never enough. He threads his hands into Wood's hair and pulls them as close as he can. Wood just kisses him carefully, open mouthed and hot. Harry forgets to breathe every time Wood pulls away, instead taking what little air he can from their kisses.
When they stop, for real and not just because Wood gives a thousand smaller kisses into one long never ending kiss, he pets Harry's face and whispers sweet things. Harry's fingers are knotted in Wood's jumper and it's chilly again. Despite having moved very little, the invisibility cloak slipped aside.
"You..." Harry starts to say. He doesn't finish the thought though because he didn't really have one.
Wood kisses him once more, on the temple. "Tell me about the stars, Harry. But inside. It's cold."
Later, Wood charms the curtains surrounding his bed to show the sky. Between soft kisses and whispered laughter, Harry points out constellations. As he falls asleep explaining the story of Cassiopeia, Harry thinks that not even flying makes him feel this free. Perhaps he'll tell Wood that in the morning.