CI of amazing-ness made by Elenia @TDA :)
I stood in front of the old, ramshackled stadium that served as the Puddlemere United headquarters. Needless to say it was a far cry from when I was keeper. Back then the paint wasn’t gray and peeling. And all the windows were still intact. I entered through a side door that looked and felt like it was about to come off its hinges and walked down the familiar hallway towards the locker room. The stench of sweat got worse and worse the closer I got, and a haze of smoke drifted towards me. Obviously this endeavour was going to end well. But really, I had no choice. Believe me; I wouldn’t be doing this if I had one.
I groped through the toxic cloud in an attempt to find the door handle, but all my fingers met was a little hole where it had obviously fallen off.
“Just give it a good shove,” a Scottish accent roared at me from the other side of the offending lump of wood. I pressed my shoulder up against it, and tumbled through the doorframe, almost landing flat on my face in the process. I straightened my jacket and looked up to see six faces staring straight at me. They were obviously quite shocked.
“What are you doing’ here,” the Scottish accent, which turned out to be emitting from a black-haired girl, who seemed to be on the wrong side of twenty five, and very short. She was mid-way through lacing up the most battered pair of Quidditch boots I had ever seen and was sitting on a bench that looked as if it hadn’t been sanded since 2002. The thing gave me splinters just looking at it. I cleared my throat.
“Hello, my name is Oliver Wood, I am your new manager,” I finished with flair, deciding to strike the pose that Dumbledore had favoured when welcoming students to Hogwarts, arms spread wide as if about to hug someone, big smile plastered on my face. They all just gawped at me, not blinking. I dropped my hands, but left the smile intact.
“Is this some kind of joke,” I peered down the long, narrow room to where a big, burly man was waving a beaters bat at me. In my experience, when big burly men are waving a bat at you, especially if they have a buzz-cut, you run. But unfortunately, that plan wasn’t going to work because, as mentioned earlier, I have no choice.
“It’s not a joke,” I said in what I think was a calm and soothing voice. Anything to get him to put down the big stick. He didn’t look convinced. “Honestly,” I added.
“I know why he’s here,” an American voice drawled. I looked to my right, to finally find the source of all the smoke. A male of undetermined, just about everything seeing as I couldn’t see his face with the toxic cloud swirling around it, was leaning back in an uncomfortable-looking wooden chair, feet propped up on the giant splinter death trap, with a lit cigarette in his hand.
This is where sweat began to break out on my forehead; I had been counting on them all being oblivious to my ‘little’ problem.
“He’s bankrupt,” the American dropped the two remaining legs of the chair back onto the ground and leaned forward so I got a look at his face. I immediately didn’t like him. He had a smug face, the kind you immediately just wanted to punch. His words hung in the air, like the stale smoke, until the black-haired girl spoke.
“Like we’d be dumb enough to believe that Brody! The man owns half of Diagon Alley,” she scoffed.
“I read it in the Beetle just this morning!” he insisted. Luckily for me, the argument over whether I was bankrupt or not was interrupted by the sound of the door crashing open.
“Your late again Pip! This is the third time this week!” I turned around to see a girl that could not be more than nineteen picking herself, and her gear bag up off the floor.
“I know! I’m sorry guys, it’s just-,” she was cut short by the others.
“We had a late one last night,” they chorused.
“Pip’s parents own The Leg of The Duck pub on Spinners Lane,” a weedy youth who looked in need of a good haircut and a wash informed me.
“I’m sorry, okay? They couldn’t do without me!” she said, pulling a Puddlemere jersey out of her dirty gear bag at the same time. She had an Irish lilt to her accent, and had evidently yet to notice me “Has Ritchie found a new manager yet? I swear to God if he suggests Damon Thiemann one more time I’ll scream, sure wasn’t he the cause of the Arrows doing so badly a couple of years ago!”
“I don’t think you have to worry about finding a new manager Pip,” B.B.M (Big Burly Man) said, pointing towards me.
“What is he doing here?” she said incredulously.
“I keep telling you, he’s bankrupt,” Brody said in a sing-song voice. I seriously contemplated pushing his chair over at that stage. He had resumed his swinging, and I wanted nothing more than to see him sprawled out on the floor.
“Like we’re going to believe something you read in the Beetle! Everyone knows Rita Skeeter is a two-faced liar!” the Scot half-shouted.
The locker room erupted into chaos. It seemed everyone had an opinion as to whether I was bankrupt or not, and no one thought to ask me. So I just stood there. As you can plainly see, this endeavour was going swimmingly.
The locker room door burst open for the third time that morning. I turned around, and came face to face, well face to chest with a portly man, who must have been a head shorter than me. His hair was thinning, and I could see the sheen of sweat on the crown of his head.
“Ah! I found you Oliver! I was a bit worried there that you weren’t going to show up!” he said in a relieved tone. “I see you’ve met the team,” he leaned around me a shook his head slowly “Best to leave them at it, they’ll sort it out on their own eventually. Come with me, we’ll go talk somewhere quieter,” he bellowed as the noise level increased. He lead me back out into the narrow hallway, and up a rickety flight of stairs towards a door that said MANAGER in peeling paint.
“Now, in you come,” he shut the door behind him. I was glad to note that this door at least had a door knob. The room was damp and musty, and had the feel of a seldom used classroom. The desk closest to the window was littered with papers and sweet wrappers, while the other lay vacant. I assumed this was to be my desk.
“I’d better introduce myself. Richard Coot, call me Ritchie, publicist and accountant of Puddlemere United,” he extended a rough, calloused hand. The first sign of an ex-beater.
“Oliver Wood,” I answered. We shook hands quickly, and Ritchie leaned back against his desk, hands clasped.
“I can’t tell you how grateful I am! We’ve been without a manager since the end of last season. Ivor decided he couldn’t take it anymore and switched to the Falcons,” Ritchie shuffled his feet “Look Oliver, I know they’re a bit rough around the edges, but I do honestly believe they could go far with the right management!” He looked at me with wide, hopeful eyes.
I said I agreed wholeheartedly. I didn’t.
“We’d better get going, practice is about to start and I’m sure you want to get a good look at you new team in action!”
I wanted to tell him I’d rather watch paint dry, but decided against it. The whole no choice thing was seriously coming into play today.
I had brought a notebook to note down things the team needed to improve on, but stopped after the first ten minutes of practice, because at the rate I was going, I would have wrote a book by the time the hours training was up. There was no formation, no flair, the Chasers passes were sloppy, the Keeper would have better luck catching a cold than the Quaffle, the Beaters were more interested in pelting each other with the bludgers than anything else, and the Seeker just sat there on her broom, hovering a few feet off the ground, staring up at the clear blue sky. Ritchie was sitting next to me, looking nervously at my face. Evidently I wasn’t good at hiding my emotions.
“Have you gotten to know everyone yet?” he said in an overly happy tone, obviously worried I was going to storm off the pitch and refuse to re-enter.
“No,” I answered through gritted teeth, while I watched in horror as the Keeper failed to catch yet another goal “What’s the Keepers name?” I said in a pained voice.
“Norman Loverton, he’s been playing for us for the last four years. He didn’t play Quidditch at Hogwarts, but he’s usually better than he is today,” he assured me “Then the two beaters are Brody Atkinson,” he pointed towards Mr Smug “He transferred from the Sweetwater All-Stars two seasons ago. And then the other one is Henry West. He is a beast! Knocked out three people last season,” he said happily, as if that was an achievement and gestured towards B.B.M. “Pippa Finnigan is a recent find, she only joined last month straight out of Hogwarts to replace Liam Ring. She was the reserve seeker for the Hufflepuff team. To be honest, she really should have been the permanent seeker, but she is a bit of a dangerous bet. Ferocious on the pitch, and broke the Hogwarts record for the fastest capture of a snitch, but also committed thirteen fouls during the one game she played last year,”
“Seriously?” I said sceptically. The notion that the girl who was currently ‘cloud watching’ could commit thirteen fouls in one match was preposterous to me “Anyway, shouldn’t she be on the reserve team if she’s only just out of Hogwarts?”
“Then the three chasers are Evan Clark,” he said hastily, avoiding my question. He pointed to the weedy youth “He’s a solid enough player, but a bit too fond of the drink for my liking. Then over there’s Sakiya Amin,” he pointed to an Asian girl who had way too much make-up on “And then there’s Kathy Owens,” he pointed to the black-haired girl from before.
“She looks a bit old to be playing Quidditch professionally,” I commented.
“She’s twenty eight,” he answered truthfully. That, in Quidditch terms was ancient; the average retiring age was twenty six. “But she’s also the best player we have. To be honest, she shouldn’t be even here; she should be playing for the best team in the league! She was for a while at the beginning of her career, but then she got pregnant and had to quit. When she tried to get back into the game, none of the other teams would even consider her. Everyone knows female players with kids are more trouble than they’re worth, but honestly Oliver, she’s amazing,”
“I’ll take your word for it,” I said untruthfully. The first opportunity I got, I was benching her and putting in someone from the reserve team. I looked over to the seating area especially set aside so the reserve team could watch the team in action, and was amazed to find it empty “Ritchie, where’s the reserve team?” I asked carefully.
“Ah. . . . about that. . . . we don’t really have one,” he mumbled.
“You don’t have a reserve team?” I shrieked.
“We haven’t had one for the last four years. Lets be honest Oliver, we can’t afford a new door for the changing rooms so what makes you think we can afford a reserve team?” he asked, one eyebrow raised.
I slumped back in my seat. So, my team was entirely made up of cast-offs or brutes and I had no reserve team to get rid of any of them.
Yep, just going swimmingly.
“Remember lads! Be here on time on Saturday or else!” Ritchie bellowed as the door swung shut behind the team after the disastrous practice.
A chorus of “Alright Ritchie,” came back.
“I’ll have to owl them all to remind them anyway, but it’s nice to pretend I can trust them,” Ritchie muttered “I’ll see you on Saturday then Oliver,” Ritchie clapped me on the back, and began to make his way up the steps to the small office.
“Hang on!” I stumbled after him “Ritchie! What’s going on here? This isn’t a team! Not a professional one anyway.” I said incredulously.
“Look Oliver, I’m just going to be straight with you. You are our last hope. The Associations been breathing down our neck for who knows how long over the state of the grounds, and the team,” Ritchie added on. “If this doesn’t work Oliver, Puddlemere’s going to be shut down,” he said bluntly.
“I’m not a miracle worker, Ritchie, and to be honest after today I’m pretty sure its going to take more than a miracle to save that lot,” I indicated towards the door, where we could hear the team flaring up again.
“I’m not asking for a miracle Oliver, I’m just asking for two wins! That’s all! Just two!” Ritchie pleaded with him. My heart softened at the sight of him. He looked a bit like a small four year old trapped in a middle-aged mans body, except instead of pleading for sweets, he was pleading with me not to quit.
“When’s the first match?” I snapped.
“Saturday,” Ritchie answered reluctantly.
“Saturday?” I repeated a slight hysterical edge to my voice. I breathed deeply in “Who’s it against?”
“The Wasps,” he said quietly.
“So, you’re telling me that our first match is on Saturday, against one of the best teams in the league?” I said, attempting to remain calm, but failing miserably.
“See you then Oliver,” Ritchie said quickly over his shoulder, scampering up the stairs.
Wonderful. Just blooming fantastic.
Disclaimer: I own nothing! (sadly!)
So! New story! And its not a one-shot! Achievement!