Oliver's decided to get away from it all...and that means something pretty specific for a wizard.
Chapter 3: Basic Thuganomics
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Not For Profit work. Harry Potter and related materials © J.K. Rowling.
Oliver didn't really feel settled in yet.
It was probably because he wasn't even done unpacking, but mostly, he figured it was due to the fact he'd moved out of his parents' house for the first time, and was more than a little frightened. To top it off, he had moved into a Muggle community, and if that didn't bring with it its own sense of dread and problems...
It was worth it, though. He wanted to get away from everything. Everything except Quidditch. He couldn't wait for practice to start, even if it only meant that he was practicing to sit on the bench while the team went out and kicked up a storm.
The flat was fairly plain and drab, but well-sized for having only one bedroom. He certainly planned on putting enough stuff up on the walls (mostly Quidditch-related,) but the walls weren't exactly in pristine condition.
Setting down his last box, freshly brought in via apparition from his parents' house, Oliver pulled his wand. There was a hole in the wall near the window where a nail had been carelessly extracted by the previous occupant. "Repairo." Other patches of the soft beige wall had been run over with something thick and white that Oliver didn't know the name of, covering other small holes. It took him a few tries to get the color-changing charm just right.
He looked back at his boxes, all neatly piled into the corner near the door. He wanted to unpack them by hand, both for the satisfaction of it and because he didn't really trust himself with magic that required a maintained, steady wand motion. One-shot spells and charms were more his forte.
At the same time, he didn't want to do it right now. There was a certain urge to procrastinate after actually getting them here, even by apparating. Sparing one last glance at his belongings, making sure he had both his key and his shiny new cell phone tucked away into a pocket, Oliver walked through the door.
After he locked it, he glanced up and down the short hallway, as well as up the small set of stairs leading outside. He knew he was being paranoid, but sometimes, the mundane way Muggles did things left him that way. His stuff, meager and un-plentiful as it was, seemed oddly more vulnerable in its current state. He found himself shrewdly pulling his wand from his pocket, getting a slight rush out of being sneaky, even if there was no one around he had to hide from at the moment.
"Colloportus," he pointed his wand at the door knob. Upon hearing the very un-door-like sound the spell gave off, Oliver tucked his wand away and allowed himself a smile while he walked outside.
He still carried Katie's wand in one pocket, though what had been his inside-robe pocket was now the rather deep, left pocket of his baggy jeans, his own wand finding a home on the other side. He hadn't felt right just packing her wand away with everything else, though once he had the place set up, he planned on setting it out somewhere.
Pulling the hood of his sweatshirt over his head, Oliver wondered where Summer had gone. It wasn't even September yet and the cool air was definitely unseasonable. Not really having a direction in mind, Oliver ambled down to the end of Woodland; it was a dead end in the other direction anyway.
Figuring that it wouldn't be very exciting to just walk around the residential district, he took a right at the end of his street, crossed traffic and headed down Station Road. He had not moved into a very populated area; indeed, he wasn't sure he could've handled central London, but he knew a good portion of anything going on in this town was probably going on at Station Road. The Wizard's Guide to Muggle Living had said that about this town, but very little else. That was one of the reasons he'd chosen it, since there clearly wasn't much going on here. It was peaceful.
Immediately upon seeing the first restaurant, Oliver realized he hadn't eaten in awhile. He fought back the urge to gorge, though...primarily because, after he'd finally wrapped his head around Muggle money, he knew he didn't have much to go on until the season started and he was being paid again.
Still, he could afford to splurge once or twice; he just didn't want it to be on food.
Continuing down the street, Oliver thought it resembled Diagon Alley, if he ignored the paved blacktop with cars driving by. There weren't many people, but they still filled the sidewalk, bustling about with their everyday business. A particularly shiny, expensive looking car parked in front of a pub reminded Oliver that he was definitely going to pass a driving test, even if he ended up never buying one.
That could wait for later, though. When he had the faintest idea of where one went to learn how to drive, and probably when he had a better idea of why random people every so often gave him weird looks. Sometimes downright rude looks; he wondered if he was making some sort of fashion faux-pas.
About halfway down the left side of the street, Oliver stopped on a dime when something in a store's window caught his eye. It was a comfy-looking jacket, not too thick, probably good for everything but the coldest months of winter. There was an empty nametag on the right side, and he found the pattern of colors very strange, with seemingly random splotches of Navy Blue everywhere over off-white. What grabbed Oliver's attention most of all was the blue; it was a dead ringer for Puddlemere United's blue, as if it was lifted from his team robes.
A goofy grin came over Oliver's face. I have to have it. The idea of brazenly wearing his team colors in full view of Muggles was nearly intoxicating. Glancing up at the store's sign that read "King's Guard Surplus," he went inside.
Most of the clothes for sale, he was surprised to discover, shared similar patterns to the jacket he wanted, in all kinds of varying colors. The boots displayed on one wall were downright scary, too. The knives in the display case near the register looked more harmful than the one once thrown at him. Seeing that moment in his head again, he was glad that Death Eaters tended to discard anything Muggle-related as worthless.
"Can I help you with anything?"
"Huh?" Oliver snapped out of his flashback. "Oh...oh, uh, I saw a jacket in the window, the blue one..."
The clerk behind the register, an honestly helpful young man about Oliver's age but much skinnier, put down the magazine he'd been reading. He leaned over the counter enough to eye the object Oliver had been referring too. "Right-o. Funny, never thought anyone would want those colors...anyway, if you're interested I'll go find one you can try on. What's your size?"
Fortunately, Oliver had grown up in a family that found Muggle clothes useful as casual-wear, and he didn't need to stumble over this one. "Large," he said, still grinning. That grin faded, however, when he realized he needed to know the price. He couldn't splurge too much. "Uh...how much is it?"
"Got me," the clerk hopped out from behind the desk, "Old Man Duke doesn't put price tags on the window stuff. Says it makes it look more upscale, getting daft in his old age, I think...we'll certainly find out, anyway."
Waiting patiently, Oliver shuffled his feet a little. Can't be that much, can it?
Soon enough, the clerk (Conner, Oliver read on his nametag) came back from the storeroom, carrying two coats. "Here we go...I brought an Ex-El, too, I think your arms might be a little too much for the large. Seventeen-thirty-six, by the way."
"Oh, thanks," Oliver took the large one first. His fears were assuaged; that was less money than he had in his wallet, certainly affordable. He eagerly pulled his hoodie off, a bit clumsily since he was already trying to hold onto the jacket with one hand as well, though Conner's level of customer service was again demonstrated when he held out his own free hand, offering to hold it. Unfortunately, Oliver noticed immediately what he'd been talking about; he could feel the seams at the top of the arms strain against his skin. "I think you're right."
The extra-large, however, had no such problem. The bottom hung an inch or two below Oliver's waist, the arms were a perfect fit, not baggy but not strained at all. He crossed his arms over his chest as far as he could, testing the back. "Perfect...it's perfect, I'll take it."
Again hopping over the desk, Conner set the extra jacket aside and punched the requisite numbers into the register. Oliver fished a twenty from his wallet, quickly closing it when an image of himself standing with Percy Weasley waved back at him from the middle. Maybe carrying around a wizard's photograph in the thing wasn't the best idea after all. I should probably fix that, or get them to stop waving in public...
"That good?" Oliver said, handing over his payment. He knew the amount was fine, but he wasn't sure if Muggles had weird issues over exact change or not. He figured he was just being paranoid and jumpy again, the same way moving here away from his parents made him feel.
"Yeah, I have plenty of change," Conner said, counting it out as he did so. "Nice day then, eh?"
"Thank you," Oliver dropped the coins into his pants pocket, where they jiggled at the tip of his wand. He shoved the one-pound notes in there too, not wanting to open his wallet again.
His hoodie folded and tucked under one arm, Oliver left the store and continued his stroll down the street, now feeling like he owned the world. It was amazing, absolutely amazing, what a nice new thing to wear could do, and Oliver was pretty sure he even looked good in it. Touching the end of Katie's wand, he felt like she'd have approved. Or rather, he felt like she would laugh, hug him and then say he was an incorrigible jock.
For a brief second, Oliver could swear he felt her arms around him.
The second passed. He stopped walking, realizing that he'd completely forgotten where he was, and needed to get his bearings. A man walking a little too close behind him bumped as he passed, leaving with a curt "Pardon," though Oliver barely noticed.
It was a happy memory. Thinking of Katie made him sad and happy at the same time, because he tried to only remember the happy things. Of course, the bad naturally came along with it. Sometimes it came even more clearly: the huge fight they'd had when she'd thought she might've been pregnant, the look in her eyes when he'd said he wanted to run away from the "revamped" Ministry instead of fight.
Still, the good far outweighed it, as Oliver also remembered when he'd first asked her out and stumbled over his words while they stood in the Hogwarts Quidditch pitch, or when he'd dropped to his knees and held up the ring. It scarcely mattered that the Death Eaters had interrupted them soon after.
Realizing he was standing in front of a diner, Oliver decided it was worth spending the extra money to make himself feel better. It wasn't like he'd gone grocery shopping and had food waiting for him at home anyway. Besides, he thought it might've been a good idea to go back to that handy copy of Wizard's Guide to Muggle Living and make sure there wouldn't be any surprises there.
It wasn't a busy diner, at least not at the moment. Oliver took a seat at the counter and fidgeted, somewhat nervous that he was somehow giving himself away. He remembered taking the prep lecture at the Ministry required for all wizards with plans to live in a Muggle community...it should've been a whole detailed course, Oliver thought. Still, one useful thing he'd learned was how natural it could be to feel like one was giving himself away just by standing around.
Or in Oliver's case, sitting around. Thus, he was a little startled when one of the waitresses came from out of nowhere, saying, "What can I get you, hon?"
"Uh," Oliver blinked. Her nametag read 'Jessica.' "I, uh...I've never been here before..."
"Oh, well, that's okay," she said, grabbing a menu from in-between a pair of napkin holders not two feet from Oliver's hands. "Everything you'd expect from a place like this, really. Want something to drink first?"
Feeling rather foolish, Oliver said, "Well...just water."
"Sure thing, coming right up."
While she ran off, Oliver fumbled through the menu. Looking down at his arms, he was reminded of the jacket he'd bought not ten minutes ago, so easily forgotten while he'd been thinking about the past. Yeah, it does look good.
He didn't stutter anymore when she came back with his water, but instead of saying anything, she fixed him with a long, pointed stare. Before it grew to higher levels of awkwardness, he said, "Is something wrong?"
"You just look familiar," she answered. "Have we met?"
"Oh, doubt it," said Oliver. "I just moved here...over on Woodland Road. Haven't even unpacked yet."
"Oh!" She actually snapped her fingers. "I remember now. We live in the same building, I saw you there last week, you must've been checking out the flat."
"That'll do it, I guess," Oliver smiled, sipping his water.
It was nice to have a normal conversation with people again.