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Chapter 4: An Introduction
I’m usually not one to complain too much, but the last couple of days have been fantastically shitty. While tryouts are over and my headaches should have lessened, Rosalia manages to drop a nice little bomb on my head. Turns out that my father had another letter for me, and after I finished reading I felt as if I had swallowed something incredibly bitter.
Look, I don’t hate my step-siblings. I don’t even think it’s humanly possible to truly dislike someone you haven’t spent any time with. But, I despise their mother with a passion. To know that I am now in charge of making sure that the kids have everything they need until they can legally have access to their inheritance, is just the cherry on my milk cake of misery. I’d be much more content to never have to interact with the wench, but the only way I’ll be able to communicate with the twins, is if I go through the cow. I have no doubt that she’d intercept any letter I try to send.
So here I am, standing outside the gates of the house Dad shared with her and waiting to be let through. Technically, she shouldn’t even be here, and even though she refuses to leave, I don’t want them to try and vacate her. I have no want to live here, and I want the twins to have stability. It’s the only home they’ve ever known.
The minutes tick by, and I find myself growing annoyed. I can just barge in, but I don’t want to start off on the wrong foot, especially since I’m going to have to be dealing with her on a regular basis. She’s doing this to piss me off, and I refuse to let her get to me.
When it probably becomes apparent that I’m not going anywhere, she has the gates unlocked. The butler lets me in, and I take a look around as I do. There are plenty of pictures of Ophelia about; really loves herself, that one.
The butler leads me toward the living room, where I find Ophelia seated upon the couch. She’s using her index finger, the nail of which is painted red, to trace the rim of a wine glass filled with what appears to be white wine.
“To what do I owe the pleasure?” she asks upon looking up, voice honey sweet.
Pleasure my arse. I’m sure she’d like to gouge my eyes out.
“I’m here to see Chester and Helena.”
She sets the glass atop the table and lifts a small, silver case from near the wine bottle. The edge of her fingernail flicks the lid open, the inside laden with slim cigarettes.
My gaze follows the first trail of smoke that leaves ruby lips. Dad had a fondness for expensive, imported cigars, I recall. The Muggle ones, because the wizard-made brands, in his words, have ‘too much unnecessary fluff’. I watch as the smoke briefly glows blue before fading away, and think that he may have been right about wizard brands.
“I’ve been instructed to provide them with whatever they need. I--”
“Have been instructed?” she interrupts, a carefully plucked eyebrow springing upwards.
“Yes,” I say curtly. “Did you think that he’d have left them uncared for?”
She laughs, and goose pimples bloom on my arms. I wonder if she’s half-dementor, because she can sure suck the warmth out of a room.
“He left me uncared for, did he not?”
“You’re grown,” I say tersely.
She laughs again. “Rich, coming from the little woman swimming in riches Daddy accumulated.”
I shift my weight to my other leg, and purse my lips. “In case you haven’t noticed, I’ve been hard at work running the day to day operations of a professional team.”
“Irrelevant.” She waves an airy hand, uses the other to tap ash onto a tray. “I have an eleven o'clock appointment, so let’s make this quick. Hand it over.”
“Actually, I’d rather take Helena and Chester shopping. That way, I know the money actually goes to what they need.”
Her lip curls. Good; she understands my implication.
I stand there for a moment, surprised. Is she honestly not about to put up a fight? This isn’t like her, and I therefore have every right to be taken aback. This is the exact same woman that tried everything within her power to invalidate the will, so getting past her so easily leaves me a bit queasy.
“So, I can see them?”
“Yes.” Her gaze flickers to me once more, and there’s an unreadable expression in those blue eyes. Before I can scuttle out of the room so as to find my half-siblings before she changes her mind, she adds, “But not today. I’ll let you know when they’re available.”
I sigh. Obviously it was too good to be true. I just hope she doesn’t end up spiting them just because we don’t like each other. They’ll need school supplies and such, and since she doesn’t have a steady income (unless leeching off rich men is considered an occupation), they may end up going to school empty-handed unless she allows me to assist.
“Fine. It was nice seeing you again,” I say, feigning politeness.
“Likewise.” Her voice is back to being honey sweet, and her smile doesn’t reach her eyes.
I turn and leave, glad to be out of her presence. I honestly hope that when I do get to be with them, that they are nothing like her, otherwise this will be even more difficult than it needs to be.
When the transfer window opens later that week, I spend a great deal of time in talks with other owners and officials. I feel like a fish out of water, but with the help of Paul Harden (someone I’m glad that I hired earlier in the offseason since he’s familiar with these sort of things), I am able to hold my ground. The other owners feel like they can run me over and get over what a player’s actually worth just because I’m a woman. That is, I’m dumber than a bag of pet rocks and almost as useless as a flobberworm, so what the hell can I possibly know about these things. I, and I’m sure the few other female owners outside of Europe, aim to prove them wrong.
Max turns out to be tremendous help. Not only is she a great coach, but she’s also fluent in five different languages. Well, apparently she knows Gobbledegook too, but since I have no idea what the hell she’s saying, I don’t know whether she really can speak it, or whether she’s taking me for a fool. In any event, she’s been acting as a translator even though it isn’t in her job description, and I just can’t help but feel pleased with the team of people I have around me. I wouldn’t be this far if even one of them wasn’t present; that much I’m sure of.
While we don’t land Oliver’s first choices, we still manage to purchase three very good players.
Melina Rossi, a Chaser, comes to us from Club Atlético Rosario in Argentina. Upset with the fact that she’s been riding the bench despite being a really good scorer, she’s been asking to be transferred for a while now. The problem here is that she speaks little English, but having someone like Max around helps in these situations.
Rounding off the Chasers is Colton Levesque, a Canadian. Winnipeg United has been steadily dumping players, and we managed to work out a deal for him. I don’t understand Winn U. What’s the purpose of building up players only to discard of them when they’re at the point in their careers when they can win you a bunch of Championships? I guess for some it’s more about the money though; it’s the only reason I can come up with.
The steal though, is for Finn Crosby. A Keeper, he actually played under Oliver when he managed QC Portland. That means he’s familiar, and will probably be the easiest to adapt.
Aside from them though, we do fill up our reserves. They’re not all outright purchases, and the majority I get on loan, but I’m pleased with our effort. Mostly because we’ve done the most of it before the deadline approaches. While most owners are content with waiting for the final day frenzy, I don’t have the time for that. There’s so many plays to be learned, and the players need to become accustomed with each other. I’m already at a disadvantage, since nearly all the organisations still have their First Team, whereas I’m throwing a bunch of people together that have no prior history.
Maybe I’ve struck gold anyway. Maybe I’m setting the organisation up for colossal failure. Who knows? I can only work with the cards I’ve been dealt, and Merlin knows I’ve been trying to make the best of it.
Since it’ll take a bit for everything to be finalised, and for everyone to arrive, I take a bit of a break. I’ve been working nonstop for quite a while, and have barely managed to get in a full night’s sleep. Who would have known that so much work went into owning a team? I didn’t think it would be a walk in the park, but I also didn’t believe that it would suck up so much of my time.
After sleeping in for an entire day, I find myself feeling particularly restless when night rolls around. I call up Antonin, only to discover that he’s preparing for a date. The information leads me to tease him relentlessly before I hang up so as to leave him to get ready.
His being unavailable leaves me frowning. I don’t have many friends here in England. The ones I did have were also friends with my ex-husband, and they stood by Dwight when we got divorced. My best friend, who also happens to be my cousin, is off in Sweden studying dragons. So, there’s not many people I can call on.
Not a big deal though. I’m capable of enjoying a night out on my own.
I step out into the cover of the backyard and Apparate to Wizarding London. With the press in full effect outside of my house almost fifteen hours a day at this point even though I’m mostly at the office, the only way I can get away is to sneak out. I’m tired of answering questions or shielding myself from flashbulbs. I don’t mind it when I’m on the pitch, or when it’s an official conference, because that’s actually part of the job. Other times it’s just annoyingly intrusive.
I stroll through the streets for a while before stopping in front of a shop with various trinkets on display in the window. I can’t have been there for a few seconds before someone exits, and I find my gaze slipping that way.
Straightening, I tilt my head upward and stare into the face of Fred Weasley. Lips curve into a smile as I return his greeting.
“Didn’t realise you knew anywhere existed outside of the office.”
I hitch a brow, only to notice the twitching at the corners of his mouth. He’s teasing, but my tired mind takes a while to process it.
“I was beginning to forget there was a world outside of it myself.”
He looks about to say something more when he’s suddenly joined by one of the most beautiful women I’ve ever seen in my life. And trust me, I’ve seen my fair share. She’s almost as tall as him, and has a head of tight dark curls that brushes against bare shoulders.
Fits that he’d have an attractive partner.
“You always try to duck out when I take you shopping with me,” the woman’s saying, brows dipped and lips pursed.
“I couldn’t stay in there. Some old lady was trying to buy me.”
“Oh, she had a knut to spare, did she?”
“Hey!” Fred says, looking highly affronted. “I’m worth at least a galleon.”
“Only if you plan on buying yourself.” She suddenly notices me standing here, an amused smile on my face, and her eyes light up. “Freddie here seems to have forgotten his manners. I’m Roxanne.”
“Norah,” I return, and extend a hand.
“Here, Freddie. Be a gentleman, won’t you?” She shoves her bags at him, and he obliges by taking them, all the while muttering that she shouldn’t buy so much if she has no plans of carrying any of it. With an eyeroll, she tells me, “Don’t listen to him. Carrying my bags makes him feel manly.”
I wonder if they’re married. They sure bicker like an old couple.
“If I blow out a shoulder before the season starts, you’ll know who to blame,” he says.
“Oh. You’re the one who hired this loser?” she asks, and casts a sidelong glance at Fred. “I’ll pray for your sanity.”
“Isn’t there a shop around here somewhere that you have yet to raid?”
“Can’t get rid of me so easily, Freddie,” she says simply, gaze zeroing in on me. “Besides, I’m hungry. Would you like to join us, Norah?”
The last thing I’d like to do is intrude on a couple’s alone time. I’ve heard that curse breakers don’t see their families much, and according to Oliver, Fred had been one ever since he completed the training program at twenty. When he’d agreed to try out, he had only been back in England for a month. With him joining the team, he’s going to be gone a lot once more, what with practices and travelling.
I’d never considered the players’ families before. Since Mum’s going to be joining the Beauxbatons staff fulltime come September, I won’t be seeing much of her either, so pouring too much into the team won’t be such a big deal. But for those with family about, it’s probably tough.
I must have zoned out, because Roxanne’s waving a hand in my face.
“Sorry,” I say, and banish the thoughts. “I don’t want to intrude.”
“Nonsense,” she says, and loops her arm with mine. I don’t think I’ve ever met someone as sociable as her before. She’s leading me around as if we’ve known each other for years.
“Well, if you’re sure,” I say helplessly.
We settle, or should I say Roxanne settles, on a pizza place. I haven’t sat in a booth in ages, but I slide in nonetheless. Fred and the bags sit across from us, and we order an extra large pie to share.
“So, you didn’t go to Hogwarts, did you?” she asks, brows furrowed.
“Ah. Do they have houses?”
“No. There’s one grand common area for each year, and we’re just alphabetically placed in dormitories.”
“Sounds a bit boring.” Doesn’t hold back on her opinions, this one, but she’s still likeable. “How do you play quidditch then?”
“Beauxbatons doesn’t have quidditch teams. The school’s more about academics.”
“Damn. The most fun I had at Hogwarts was when I was on the Gryffindor team.”
“Even though you kept losing to us?”
I almost forgot that Fred is present, because he tends to go silent a lot. Then again, Roxanne’s doing a pretty good job at talking, so he doesn’t have to do much of it.
“Shut it, Fred.” She turns to me. “My brother’s team beat us one time for the Cup and he never lets me forget it.”
My brows join in my confusion. Brother?
Roxanne’s looking at me funny. “What did you think we were?”
I can feel the heat creeping up my neck. Wow. Now that I take a look at their identical expressions, I can see the resemblance. I blame fatigue for not noticing sooner.
“Wait. Don’t tell me that you thought we were...?” I nod. “Heavens, no. Even if he wasn’t my brother, there’s no way in hell that I could be attracted to a git like him.”
“Is there a hole around somewhere that I can crawl into?”
Roxanne laughs. “It was an easy mistake to make, I suppose. Though, this one over here hasn’t ever been with a woman.”
“Just because you’ve never met one, and with good cause, does it mean that I've never had one.” Fred switches his attention to me. “Can I ask you a question?”
I shrug, and it’s also in an attempt to brush off the previous embarrassing moment. “Shoot.”
“If we were together, and I introduced you to this one, wouldn’t you catch the next thing moving and forget that I ever existed?”
Roxanne takes that moment to aim a well-placed punch at his arm. Though he rubs at it as if hurt, he still manages to grin, and for some reason, the sight has something stirring in my belly. Hunger. For food, that is. Definitely need to eat.
The two bicker a bit more while I sip at my drink. From beneath my lashes, my gaze creeps back to Fred. The first time I met him, I did notice his attractiveness. I’m not blind, after all. But I was far more interested in what he could do for the team, as opposed to how well he filled out his clothes. And I’m still not going to think about that. I have a team to run, and he’s a part of that, which means I’m always going to look past his appearance. All I care about is his performance on the pitch. And that’s the end of it.
We converse through the entire meal, and at the end of it, when we’re standing outside of the restaurant, Roxanne turns to me and gives me a hug.
“I hope to see you again.”
“Likewise,” I say, and mean that.
She wanders off a bit, stares into a shop while Fred lingers.
“Sorry about her.”
“It’s fine. I like her.”
It occurs to me that on this night, this is the most he’s ever spoken. I still remember the letters with the short answers, and wonder if when he’s alone with someone, if he’s more vocal. Roxanne appears to be the open one.
“We didn’t keep you from anything?”
I shake my head. “I think you two provided me with more fun than I’d have had all night.”
He raises a brow, but doesn’t ask. Instead, he starts to walk backward since Roxanne’s calling for him. “Good. I’ll see you bright and early next week.”
I nod, and watch them leave. I don’t think much on the fact that I was just socialising with a player, nor do I wonder if it’s appropriate. It’s not a big deal as far as I’m concerned, since I want to get to know the members of the team, but I may have made a faux pas.
Oh well, I think, as their figures fade away. I may have a potential friend in Roxanne, and at the end of the day, a friendship trumps social norms.
A/N: Hello. So, I'm going to be taking a lot of liberties when it comes to how a quidditch season is played, and so forth. I don't own any Quidditch-related material, so apart from what I've read online, this will be written in the way that I see it. That is, borrowing some bits from football. Just a quick note.
In the next chapter, we shall meet the new members of the team, and the first official practice shall take place.
Your reviews have been much appreciated. As always, please let me know if anything doesn't read right. I check over these chapters on my own, so I don't always catch these things.
Thanks for reading!