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Chapter 5: Oliver
There was such pandemonium and excitement swirling about Oliver Wood’s head that he really didn’t know quite where to look first. He clutched his father’s hand tightly, eyes nearly popping from his head, as people passed back and forth under the supports holding up the Quidditch pitch, calling to friends and laughing about jokes that passed far above his six-year-old head. And as far as the eye could see, the patrons were clothed in gold and navy – robes, hats, painted faces – in honor of Puddlemere United. It was Oliver’s very first Quidditch game, and he was having a hard time comprehending it all.
“Dad?” The small boy tugged at his father’s hand, his eyes trained on a man standing a few yards away. The stranger was clutching a bottle of butterbeer and glancing in a pocket mirror; the little golden bulrushes, painted on his face in such a way so that they waggled whenever he took a gulp of his drink, were starting to rub off.
Ewan Wood, who had been studying the tickets clutched in his left fist with a furrowed brow, looked down at his small son, but said nothing. “Can we go and find our seats now?” Oliver asked impatiently, finally looking away from the painted man and hopping from foot to foot eagerly. “I don’t want to miss the game!”
His father smiled gently, ruffling Oliver’s thatch of brown hair affectionately. “Just as soon as I find out where we’re going, boyo,” he said jovially, squinting at the tickets again. Oliver suspected he had forgotten his reading glasses at home, and wished that he could make better sense of the wiggling arrows pointing spectators to their seats. He absolutely could not miss the release of the Quaffle. He just could not.
Ewan had been eager to let his son come to today’s game, despite the fact that he was, in fact, six years old (although, if Oliver did say so himself, he was practically a grown-up). Oliver had been begging for some time, but his mother had maintained for a long time that he was too young for such a rough sport.
“It’s not like he’ll be out there on the field,” Oliver’s father had pointed out to this latest argument, which had occurred only the night before. Oliver was supposed to be upstairs, brushing his teeth, but hadn’t been able to risk sneaking downstairs to overhear what his parents were saying.
“Not yet,” Margaret Wood had snapped, clattering pans about so loudly that the small boy had instinctively covered his ears. “But just you wait – he’ll get all infected with that sports rubbish, and next thing we know he’ll be jumping off buildings on brooms after pebbles and what have you –“
“You can’t jump off a building on a broom,” Ewan had said patiently, and there was a pause while he puffed on his customary after-dinner pipe. “The broom’ll just carry you away, you see,” he continued, the little cloud of smoke he’d released shuffling its way over to Oliver on the stairs. He’d tried very hard not to sneeze.
“Enough of that funny business,” his mother had retorted, but the biting edge to her tone was lost; she knew defeat when she saw it. “Take him, then, but you’ll be the one putting him to bed if he’s too excited to sleep tonight.”
And of course, forgetting that he was supposed to be in bed, Oliver had let out a rather large cheer.
He still couldn’t quite believe where he was now, following close behind his father as the latter finally began moving in a definitive direction, still checking the tickets anxiously. Oliver hung onto the tattered brown hem of his father’s overcoat and tried not to get lost in the crush of Puddlemere fans milling about, looking for their own seats.
“Dad, is Puddlemere United a good team?” he asked, as father and son began to mount a set of rickety steps leading up near the top of the oval-shaped pitch. Ewan glanced at his son over his shoulder and, in doing so, nearly lost his balance.
“A good team?” he thundered, grasping for the banister to steady himself. “Lad, they’re the best, and don’t you forget it!” He leaned forward to tweak Oliver’s nose, and the boy rubbed it bashfully. “Oldest team in the league, and Dumbledore’s favorite, if you believe the Monthly Quidditch Enthusiast.”
“Dumbledore?” Oliver repeated wonderingly, not one to doubt the Enthusiast. He’d heard some fantastic things about the old wizard from his father, who admired him greatly, and he knew that when he went to Hogwarts Dumbledore would be his headmaster. If this team was his favorite, then they must be good.
“Ah. Here we are.” Ewan consulted the tickets for a final moment, and then began an awkward sort of sidelong shuffle down the row, already thick with people. Oliver followed as best he could, picking up his robes so he wouldn’t trail it through spilled drink or over people’s shoes, until they finally found their seats about halfway down the row.
And it was not a moment too soon, for no sooner had Oliver sat down – after checking for splinters, of course, which he knew to be the prudent thing when sitting upon a wooden seat – than a sharp whistle blast ricocheted around the pitch, seeming to come from everywhere all at once. He winced, and then a booming voice followed the whistling.
“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the first bracket of the southwest division of the British and Irish Quidditch League Cup – Puddlemere United versus the Tutshill Tornadoes!” There were a lot of big words in that sentence, and frankly, Oliver didn’t understand most of them, but he did recognize the team’s name; and from the cheering that echoed it, he assumed it was a happy thing, so he clapped along. Ewan smiled down at his son fondly and patted his knee a few times.
The invisible voice kept right on talking – he was saying names now, and Oliver thought that they might be the names of the players – but he was too excited to pay a terrible amount of attention. Down on the pitch, tiny specks dressed in navy and carrying brooms had been spotted, and he was on his feet in order to see them better.
“Is that them, Dad? Is that them?” He was jostling his father’s arm without quite realizing it, and Ewan let out a deep chuckle, unspeakably amused at the excitement lighting up his son’s eyes. Some emotion that didn’t quite have a name was rocketing through him, and he felt like bouncing up and down. The little players – they really only looked like action figures from this height, nothing more – waved tiny arms, and Oliver fought the impulse to wave back.
The other team, the Tornadoes, was clustered on the other side of the pitch, and as Oliver watched, two of the players met in the very middle, shaking hands. And then they were returning to their teams – there were brief huddles – and then –
Fourteen players, clad in two different shades of blue, shot into the sky, melding with its own blueness, and the cheers from the crowd were deafening. Oliver realized that he had climbed into his father’s lap for a better vantage point and did not remember how he had gotten there at all. His hands were twisted about in the old brown overcoat, his eyes trained on the sky. In the background, but not really registering on Oliver’s mind at all, was the running commentary from that invisible voice.
“Griffiths of Puddlemere passes to Kenton – Kenton back to Griffiths – intercepted by Earls of Tutshill – back to Griffiths – up the field – near miss from a Bludger from Rowin – Griffiths up the field – she shoots – TEN POINTS FOR PUDDLEMERE!”
The navy-and-gold side of the pitch screamed and whistled, stamping their feet with such ferocity that Oliver could feel the whole pitch sway a bit. His heart was thrumming loudly in his ears, bright spots swarming at the edges of his vision, but he didn’t dare look away.
It was the most thrilling, the most exciting, and the flat-out best thing he had ever seen in the entirety of his six years.
“Son.” For a moment, Oliver couldn’t quite spot the source of the voice – was it the mysterious, faceless announcer, calling him out? – and then he recognized it as that of his father. But it sounded faintly squashed, as though coming from beneath a pillow.
“Son, please get your hands off my face.” And Oliver looked down to realize that he had entangled his fingers rather spectacularly in his father’s beard in the excitement, nearly poking one of his eyes out with his right thumb. He quickly removed the offending hands.
“Thank you,” Ewan said, readjusting his cap, which had been knocked askew in the exchange. But Oliver barely heard him – his eyes were already trained back on the sky.
The game did not end until night had fallen and the last traces of pink had disappeared over the opposite edge of the pitch. And somehow, throughout the entire game – through the dive that Ballard had nearly forgotten to pull out of, and the massive interception right before Williams thought he had seen the Snitch, and the actual chase once Williams had seen the Snitch – he had completely forgotten to be tired.
Now, of course, that the game was over and a firm victory had been chalked up for Puddlemere United, Oliver was starting to yawn a bit. But he couldn’t let his father see that he was struggling to keep his eyes open, because he didn’t want to look too babyish for such things, and not be allowed to go to any more Quidditch games.
“And what did you think?” said Ewan as they walked back down the steps towards the flat land stretching out in all directions from the stadium base. Oliver tried not to think of the long walk they still had to take to make it home.
“Can we go to another one?” he said eagerly instead, stepping over a bit of dropped Cauldron Cake. Ewan laughed and squeezed Oliver’s shoulder, partly to make sure he wouldn’t fall flat on his face in the descent.
“As soon as we’re able, boyo.”
They came to the bottom of the staircase, and Oliver frowned – this didn’t look familiar at all. He glanced back at his father to see him wearing an expression of similar distress. “Did we go down the wrong set of stairs?” he asked, fighting off another sudden wave of sleepiness.
“I – well, I thought they were the right ones,” Ewan grumbled, fishing about in his pockets for the tickets. “Damn things… Misleading, these are.” He took his hand off his son’s shoulder to aid in the search.
At that precise moment, a figure stepped out from somewhere to the Woods’ right, dressed in rather sweaty robes of navy and gold, a broomstick slung over his shoulder. Oliver let out a very audible gasp and instinctively reached for his father, still searching fruitlessly for the tickets. It was Allmore, the Puddlemere Keeper, and he was here.
Allmore looked around at the tiny noise – it was easily overheard, as most of the rest of the crowd had dispersed for home – and grinned when he saw that it had come from the small six-year-old boy. “Well, hello,” he grinned, tipping a broad wink in Oliver’s direction. He smiled back as best as he could, eyes popping, completely star struck.
“Hello,” he managed, and then giggled out of nerves and stepped forward a bit from his father’s side. “Thank you for the game.” Was that what you were supposed to say to Quidditch players after a match? He wasn’t sure, but he thought it sounded rather grown-up and important, so he said it anyway.
Allmore grinned again and knelt down so as to talk to Oliver on a better eye level. “Thanks, sport,” he said, sticking out his hand for the boy to shake. Oliver did so. “What’s your name?”
“Good name.” Allmore stood up a bit and stretched his spine, the broom acting almost like an extension of his arm as he did so. “So, you liked the match, huh? And you’re a Puddlemere fan?” He pretended to look stern now, but there was a sort of jesting light in his eyes that made Oliver’s nerves dissipate just slightly. He nodded his head.
“Good for you,” Allmore laughed. “That’s the right answer. You going to play Quidditch someday?”
Oliver looked briefly at his father, who had by now realized who his son was talking to and had stopped patting his pockets for the missing parchment slips. Ewan’s smile was almost as large as Oliver’s as he raised an eyebrow, as if to ask, Well, are you?
“Yes,” said Oliver firmly. “I’m going to be a Keeper.”
“I like the sound of that!” Allmore winked again and started off in the direction he’d originally been walking in. Before he disappeared completely, he turned and said over his shoulder, “Don’t lose sight of that goal, sport.” And he disappeared into the thin trickles of the exiting masses, leaving Ewan and Oliver standing there, both duly impressed.
“Well, how about that,” Oliver’s father said with a low whistle, pushing his cap back on his forehead a bit to scratch around where the brim had sat. “I’m going to have a Keeper for a son, then?”
“Yep,” Oliver said happily, grinning with pride and excitement. He hadn’t given it a moment’s thought before Allmore had asked about it, but as soon as the words had passed his lips, he was almost certain that was what he wanted to be. “And I’m going to play for Puddlemere United.”
Ewan let out a booming laugh and swept Oliver up into his arms, tweaking his nose again. “That’s my boy!” He jerked his head in the opposite direction of the way where Allmore had disappeared to. “Now, come on – home’s that way. I seem to have misled us.”
And the pair set off contentedly for home, Oliver’s thoughts already in the sky, playing Quidditch forever and ever. It was a happy future indeed.
A/N: Well, this update was a bit slow in coming until I actually formulated a little idea and sat down to write the darn thing. And then I wrote it all in one sitting in the span of about two hours, so that's proof of what productivity can do when you're not lazy! I sort of forgot going into this how much I hate writing Quidditch -- it's quite hard for me to pretend I know anything about sports, imaginary or otherwise -- but that being said, I was quite pleased with how this turned out. And I couldn't just not write about Oliver!
Thanks so much for all the reviews and favorites so far. I really am just blown away -- you guys are incredible!