Oliver Wood dropped his bag onto a bench, ran a hand through his
thick brown hair still mussed from sleep, and breathed a sigh of
relief. This was his first day back after several days of forced rest,
mandated by the team's Healer. Uncle Will had been right. The team
Healer had examined Oliver later on that day of his first match, and
had noted memory problems and mildly decreased coordination of his left
hand. And the dizziness had lingered for a few days as well. He had not
been allowed to play until his symptoms resolved completely, something
about even a mild second head injury turning deadly so soon after the
first. He still had some headaches, but no one had to know about that.
He was back now, and he would not let anyone take this away from him
This last week had been torture. And he wasn't thinking
only of the sickeningly ticklish anti-concussive Brain Buffer eardrops
he was forced to use twice daily. Those had been awful. But the entire thing
had been torture. He had felt like a caged animal, watching his
teammates out on the pitch. And he had worked on his left hand almost
constantly that week, forcing it to do exercises that were difficult
even for his dominant hand. Gradually, over the course of those days,
his symptoms had improved, and today was his first day back at
practice. He took a long look around the team's training area and
couldn't help but smile. This whole sorry episode was behind him. He
was back on track. This was his life now - nothing else to interrupt
what he really enjoyed. It was all Quidditch and he would work even
harder now, to prove himself after the injury.
The dark sky
waited for the sunrise. An occasional high-pitched squeak of a bat
broke the silence. The air hung heavy with the morning fog and smelled
of damp grass. He could feel the grass squish under his trainers as he
walked out onto the Quidditch practice field. The pitch had no real
grandstands, just some old wooden benches on each side. The wind would
blow in easily later, but for now he could enjoy the stillness of the
break of day. To the east he could see the faintest glimmer of dawn,
the bright twinkling of the stars just beginning to dim as the black of
the sky gave way to blue. He was home.
He whispered to himself as he stood there shaking his head, "Bloody wonderful."
rest of the team wouldn't be here for another hour. And so he started.
First some stretches, then laps around the field. He had an easy stride
considering his solid build, and it wasn't long before he had finished
a mile run. Slowing to a stop, his tee shirt damp with sweat, he
grabbed a flask of cool water from his duffel bag. He took a gulp,
sighing with pleasure at the pure, cool taste of the liquid sliding
down his throat, and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, still
breathing hard. Time for strengthening. He did it the old fashioned way
- sit ups and push ups and even pull ups, done on his broom which he
magically suspended in mid air, each until his muscles ached with
exhaustion. Finally, with a small groan, he finished his last pull up.
Off to his duffel bag where a heavily strapped leather box held a
Golden Snitch. The sky was light enough now for the final part -
He wasn't a Seeker, but chasing the Snitch was an
effective way to work on his speed, control and reflexes. Sliding onto
his broom with obvious ease, he felt the familiar rush he always did
when taking off. It was as if he were one with it - the slightest
touch, lean, even turn of his head changing its course and speed.
Nothing else in the world felt like this.
The thick fog gave
him difficulty this morning, though, and after repeated vain attempts
to catch the Snitch he finally flew down to the ground and landed.
There would be just enough time to cool down a bit, drink some more and
rest a little before the tough conditioning would begin with the rest
of the team.
He looked towards the sky, his hazel eyes
squinting in the sunlight now forcing its way through what was left of
the morning mist.
"Accio Snitch. And hurry it up, would you?" He caught it easily as it sailed towards him.
* * * *
two people heard his deep voice cut through the air; Hayden, the team's
equipment manager who simply smiled in admiration, and Coach Winston
who, unbeknownst to Oliver, had been watching.
continued arranging the towels, cups and a large flask of Hydratorade
for the team, setting it all up at the sidelines. He had been doing
this work for the team for fifteen years, and by this point he could
easily do it with his eyes closed. The tasks waiting for him each day
weren't difficult. They didn't require much in the way of brains or
brawn. But they kept him near the game he loved, yet had never had the
gift of playing. He had been quite sickly as a child, and never very
coordinated with a broom. Ah, but he loved the sport. And he never
tired of watching the new batch of recruits each year. Over the years
he had become quite proficient at picking out the special ones...those
with a spark of something that told him that their stay on the reserve
would be brief. Oliver Wood was one of those lucky ones.
He saw Coach Winston turn to him suddenly. "Wood's been out here early, practicing."
Hayden nodded. "Yup. That's Wood, for ya. Before that knock to his head, he was out here every morning."
The coach folded his arms. "The kid's got heart. And ability. He won't be in the reserve for long."
Hayden smiled to himself. He had known that for weeks.
Just then Mary, the coach's daughter, strolled up to them and spoke to her father. "Who are you talking about?"
Coach Winston smiled with surprise. "Mary, what are you doing here?"
girl gave him a hug. "Good morning, Daddy. Couldn't sleep." She held up
a leather bound notebook. "And the cool morning air clears my head for
writing." She placed her hands on her hips, her eyebrows settling into
a gentle frown. "Since we moved from Penzance, I don't have the ocean,
lighthouses or weathered old fisherman anymore for muses. I'm looking
for inspiration. So who were you talking about?"
shook his head. "Eighteen years old and you think your bestseller is
right around the corner. I still say you should be teaching. It's a
respectable profession. And it puts food on the table."
writing is not respectable? I've told you, Daddy, if I taught, I'd have
no energy for writing, what with working in the classroom all day and
grading my students' assignments into the night. And I do work. Waiting
tables allows me to write during the day, when my mind is fresh.
Now...who were you talking about?"
"One of the new recruits. Over there. Oliver Wood." Coach gave a slight jerk of his head towards the grass.
eyes immediately scanned the field for him. A smile broke out on her
face when she found him. He was stripping off his own wet t-shirt and
putting on the team practice jersey.
"Ahh." She appeared lost in thought for a moment, then whispered, "The boy from the pub."
Hayden raised an eyebrow. Leave Wood alone, girl. He's on his way.
"Didn't take you long to find a new muse, I see." The amusement in her father's voice was obvious.
Her head tilted, her blue eyes still trained on Wood. "I am thinking my next story will be a romance."
The coach laughed. "You'd better watch yourself. My boys need to keep their heads in the game."
was still watching Oliver. Her smile softened into a barely there curve
of her pink lips. "Well Daddy, I've always said I'm going to marry a
professional Quidditch star."
"Mary - take your old father's
advice. Concentrate on your work. And you don't need a romance to
inspire the telling of a good story." Coach Winston turned his way.
"Hayden, I'll be heading to the team room. I've got some plays to
diagram before the rest of 'em arrive."
He no sooner turned the corner than Mary softly called out, "Hayden. I need a favor from you."
Hayden looked up from his work. Uh oh.
She took a breath and gave him her innocent smile. "Introduce me to Wood."
He shook his head. "Want me fired? You heard Coach."
"Oh for heaven's sake, it's just an introduction!"
"Uh uh. Not me. I like my job."
She looked up to see Wood grab his bag and begin walking towards them.
She hissed, "All right then. Who needs you?"
was now only halfway across the pitch. Mary grabbed her wand from her
pocket and muttered the words to a spell. A sheet of paper from her
book immediately detached itself and began blowing through the air as
if picked up by a gust of wind. She grabbed at it unsuccessfully and
somewhat theatrically and assumed a look of distress calling, "Oh no!
Hayden rolled his eyes. She blithely ignored him. The paper continued to blow erratically away from her and towards Wood.
She called out again, breathlessly this time, "Please. I need that paper!"
Wood dropped his bag. It took him several quick steps and a jump - the boy can move - before he reached up and plucked it from the air above him. He took a few long strides towards her and held out the sheet.
"Here you go, miss."
was quite a bit taller than Mary. Her eyes moved up to Wood's
shoulders, assessing their breadth, and then to his forearm where they
lingered as he handed her the paper. Hayden couldn't help but compare
his own skinny arms to Wood's. Wood's had the taut cords of muscle
usually seen in the Beaters. That hadn't gone unnoticed by the girl.
"Um...thank you. You saved me. Again." She flashed him a smile.
Hayden held his breath. Stay strong, Wood.
"You're the girl from the pub." Wood shrugged his shoulders. "The wind can be a bit tricky at times."