Boy Who Lived on the move to Nimbus Arena, sort of
By Mike Thalia
PUDDLEMERE, England -- What's the value of a good name? In the case of Harry Potter, the answer is apparently 100,000 galleons.
In a move that left all of British Quidditch stunned, Puddlemere United bought the rights to the Boy Who Lived from Chudley for that huge sum Monday. The question now is whether the national hero will ever be more than a name on a contract at Nimbus Arena.
United manager Glenn Watson seems to think so.
"Our sources lead us to believe Mr. Potter is going to be suiting up," the coach said in a news conference here announcing the transfer. "By that, we mean soon. We hope and expect to see him in a Puddlemere uniform this season or next."
Such confidence might justify a big-money gamble on any other star, but it seems to fly in the face of Potter's professional Quidditch history. After signing his first contract with Chudley shortly after leaving Hogwarts two years ago, the Seeker abandoned the game to continue his famous and leading role in the struggle against the Dark Arts. He has never taken part in a match or training session at the professional level and never publicly stated an intention to do so.
Said Watson, "We know we are taking something of a risk. But it's one we think will pay off nicely over time."
Owls sent to Potter seeking comment on the transfer and his plans were not returned. However, Kingsley Shacklebolt, the Boy Who Lived's immediate superior within the Ministry of Magic's Auror Division, seemed to cast doubt on Puddlemere's optimism.
"I don't know anything about Harry wanting to play Quidditch. You had better ask him about that," Britain's chief Auror said. "But he hasn't given any indication he intends to leave his job here. No one is more committed than Harry Potter to capturing the last of the Death Eaters, and there are still a few of them out there."
As long as he stays in the Ministry's employment, Potter's future on the pitch will remain in limbo. That was enough to make the higher-ups in Chudley delighted with Monday's move.
"From our perspective, this was a deal that was impossible to refuse," Cannons owner David Thomas said. "As great as it has been having Harry under contract, his actual value to us has been nil so far. To receive the transfer fee we did for a total unknown is a huge boost for the Chudley Cannons."
Though the official terms were not announced, if the 100,000-Galleon figure reported to the Daily Prophet by sources close to the negotiations is accurate, the transfer fee will shatter the Quidditch League of Great Britain and Ireland's record for an untested player. In the just-completed season the last-place Cannons' entire first seven earned a total of 92,000 galleons.
But the mountain of gold ventured wasn't the only thing that had top league officials from Wimbourne to the Isle of Skye scratching their heads.
"It strikes me as a bizarre move," said manger Edmund Worthington, whose league-champion Montrose Magpies finished two games ahead of Puddlemere over the winter. "Even if (Potter) decides to play, United has no place for him. They already have one of the world's finest Seekers."
Worthington is referring to Samuel Diop, the Senegalese International who reached superstar status by almost single-handedly guiding his country to the quarterfinals of the 1998 World Cup. He has been nearly as successful at the club level, with a league-best 19 captures last season as Puddlemere posted its best record (18-6) and league finish (third) in a decade.
"Obviously we're really pleased with the way he's played," Watson said of Diop, who is under contract at Nimbus Arena for two more seasons. "We just think that Harry can also make a contribution to this club."
United Keeper Oliver Wood, who captained Potter for three years on the Gryffindor House team at Hogwarts, agreed. "No offence to Sam, but Harry is the most naturally gifted Seeker I've ever seen. If he decides to play at this level, he will excel or die trying."
The Boy Who Lived did enjoy exceptional success in schoolboy play. Though he won only two Hogwarts Quidditch Cups, he caught the Snitch in 11 of his 12 matches and was the school's first first-year player in well over a hundred years. Nevertheless, some experts looking at the young man's two years away from his broom, the difficulty in the transition from the amateur to the professional game and Potter's celebrity were quick to label the move a publicity stunt.
"That's the only logical explanation I can come up with," Worthington said. "If Puddlemere sells a heap more tickets because it has Harry Potter, then this transfer makes sense even if it doesn't help at all on the pitch."
If ticket higher gate receipts were Puddlemere's goal, the early returns should please owner Meredith Mason. Employees at the Nimbus Arena ticket office reported the sale of nearly 200 season passes between the announcement of Potter's acquisition and the close of business Monday. That's more than 20 times a typical day's sales.
"I want to see Harry Potter!" exclaimed United fan Lisa Turpin as she purchased her seats. "It is just so cool that he's going to be on our team!"
The same excitement wasn't to be found in Chudley, where a handful of protesters gathered outside Cannon Coliseum after news of the transfer became public. Leading the ragtag band of orange-clad rooters was 20-year-old Ron Weasley, a lifelong Cannons supporter whose levitated "Keep H.P." sign flashed for all to see.
"Harry Potter is a brilliant player. He could have raised the Cannons to a level they haven't achieved in over a century," Weasley said morosely. "It's a shame the ownership doesn't appreciate what a good thing it had."
With just over 100 days left until the new season and Potter's status uncertain, fans of both clubs might have very different opinions of the transaction by opening day.
Mike Thalia covers Puddlemere United for the Daily Prophet. Owl him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
<A/N For those of you who asked, yes, I am an actual journalist Ö of sorts. My thanks to everyone who has reviewed and to my betas, Emmyjean, Lady Chi, Nancy Goldstein and Promethean Alchemist. That you put up with me is proof that you all rock!>