Oliver Wood was not only Harry’s Quidditch coach and captain, but he was his friend. In Harry’s first year, the tall and burly fifth year had taken Harry into the world of Quidditch, and for that he was forever grateful. He had lost a bit of the bulk Harry remembered him having, looking more lean and trim. But that victory smile was plastered on his face and Harry wondered what he was up to…and what he was doing at Hogwarts when he should have been preparing for his next year at the University.
“Hi.” His smile remained plastered on his face.
“Are you our coach?” Harry heard a small voice say. It was Dennis Creevy. Colin Creevy’s little brother.
“You bet I am. I’m here to see how well you ladies and gents can play. Well, really to weed out the bad players, but coach Quidditch nonetheless.”
Ginny discretely nudged Hermione. “D’ you suppose he’ll let us take a go on his broomstick?”
“I’d be the first in line.” She answered.
Ron heard this and turned around, glaring at the two of them. They just grinned.
“Don’t you have school?” Harry asked.
“Let’s just say…I took a sabbatical. This was too good an opportunity to pass up. Though, if this year goes well, I might be signed to the Magpies with no schooling at all.”
“Wicked!” Ron exclaimed. “They’re the most successful team in history!”
Wood gave a modest grin. “Yeah, well, I’m coaching this season and hopefully by next season I’ll be on the team.”
“Well, we’re glad you’re here.” Hermione replied, implying a little too much for Harry and Ron’s liking.
“Me too.” He answered, winking at her.
“How’d you get the job?” Seamus Finnegan asked.
“Dumbledore hired professional Quidditch players this year in hopes to develop better teams. All except, me, of coarse. I’m not exactly professional yet, but when I heard he was in search of a coach for Gryffindor, I all but begged for the job. He didn’t want me to, of coarse, because of my schooling, but I, uh, persuaded him to let me come.” His gaze traveled to the Ravenclaw side for a moment, too quick for anyone but Hermione to see. She grinned in acknowledgement. “Anyway he wanted players old enough for the experience, but young enough to relate to the students. All except for one attended Hogwarts.”
“Then, erm, who’s that?” Colin asked, in semi-amazement, gesturing to the Ravenclaw side.
Wood’s face fell. “That’s erm, Azura Julius.”
The Gryffindor boy’s eyes moved to where a tall brunette speaking to the Ravenclaws.
“I know her.” Ron began, in a dreamy state. “She plays for the Appleby Arrows.” He wiped away some imaginary drool he swore he had on his chin.
Ginny folded her arms and pouted. “What’s so special about her anyway?” she asked, developing a ting of jealousy.
“He-llo, Earth to Ginny, are you blind?!” Ron asked.
“I’m a girl, Ronald.”
“She’s a very good Quidditch player, Ginny.” Wood replied, not taking his gaze off of Azura. She turned then, smiled and waved at him, then returned to her speech to the Ravenclaws. Wood felt all the moisture in his throat go dry. Hermione was still the only one who saw the little hearts floating above his head.
“She’s pretty.” She stated, looking directly at him. Startled, his head whipped around. Before he could utter a reply, Ron interrupted him.
“She’s flippin’ gorgeous!”
“All right, Ron, we get it. Go take a cold shower, and calm yourself down.” Ginny replied, dryly.
He paid no attention to her comment.
“She has a sister.” Wood continued.
“OOO! I know! Season Julius, her twin! Fraternal twin, but twin all the same. She plays for the Ballycastle Bats!” Hermione was now perfectly aware of how she sounded during pop quizzes and questionnaires.
Wood pointed to the Slytherin side. “She’s over there.”
While the team ogled at the auburn-haired Season, Wood still snuck a few glances in Azura’s direction. Hermione walked over to him.
“Friend of yours?”
He shook his head. “Not in the way I would have liked.” Hermione actually felt sorry for him. She knew what it was like to be ignored.
“You say they went to Hogwarts?” Dean asked.
Wood’s face brightened at the change of subject. “You don’t remember them? Azura was a Ravenclaw and Season was a Slytherin. They’re in my year.”
Hermione furrowed her brows together in concentration. “I think I remember them. They were the only ones who passed their N.E.W.T.S with full marks-a year early!”
Wood nodded. “To play Quidditch. They were very smart…and very deviant. Did you know they passed on being prefects?”
“Whatever on earth for?” Hermione gasped, as if he had cursed at her.
“Positions and ranks didn’t matter to them. They only did well because they had to in order to play Quidditch, not because they wanted something to prove. They supported each other through everything. Those sisters were like two peas in a pod; they did everything together regardless of house sortment.”
Harry’s eyes darted back and forth between Azura and Season. The Ravenclaw men seemed to hang on to every word Azura was saying. And he noticed that even Draco Malfoy had stars in his eyes as Season spoke.
Before he could say anything, Wood broke his concentration. “Well, that’s enough about the Julius sisters. You’ll meet them, and the Hufflepuff coach, Ethan Knox later. Let’s play some Quidditch!”
“Explain to me something,” Ron began, as he mounted his broom. “Why were we not sorted into Ravenclaw?” Though he knew perfectly well why not. To his surprise, Harry wouldn’t have minded the Slytherin house, either. In fact, he came close to it his first year. He just shrugged.
“I dunno, mate.”
All eyes were on Azura Julius. She made sure that she was the center of attention and everyone was focused on nothing but her. She made it clear from the beginning she was not to be dealing with children.
“Good afternoon. My name is Azura Julius and I am going to be your Quidditch coach for the season.
“Now,” she continued, all eyes still glued to her face. “some of you might recognize me, and some of you don’t. I attended Hogwarts for six years and I currently play for the Appleby Arrows. My sister, Season, also attended Hogwarts and is going to coach the Slytherins.” She gestured with her hand to the Slytherin side where her sister was speaking. “I want to make something perfectly clear: I am not here for celebrity of any kind. Nor am I here to deal with foolishness and infantilism. If you’re not serious about this, I will not put you on my team.
“Dumbledore has trusted the four of us, the other two being Oliver Wood and Ethan Knox, to bring out the best Quidditch player in each of you. So what I am going to do for the next week is drill you the hardest to see who can take the pain and pressure.
“Things will be done differently, but the new techniques will not be discussed until term starts.”
Cho Chang raised her hand.
“Yes, Miss Chang?”
“Erm, I remember playing Quidditch with you…my third year…”
Azura smiled. “I remember you, too. You can be a little spitfire when you want to be. We’ll see if that comes in handy this year.”
“I do assure you all, though, that this year is going to be like no other. I have some new ideas that are going to crush Harry Potter and his Gryffindor team.”
Cho’s face turned into a twisted smile. “I’m listening.”
Nonchalance had never been one of Malfoy’s strong points. And, Season noted, with an annoyed grin, this was no exception.
“So, Season, are you single?” He grinned, flashing teeth that would rival Gilderoy Lockhart’s. The wind played with a stray strand of pale, blonde hair.
Season raised her eyebrow. “I think you’re a little confused as to which broomsticks we’ll be riding this week, Mr. Malfoy.”
Crabbe and Goyle, Malfoy’s henchmen, as well as the other members of the Slytherin try-outers tried their best to conceal laughter.
Malfoy’s suave grin turned into a frown and his pale complexion began to flush with color.
Season ignored him and continued the speech she was interrupted from. “It is my personal goal to beat the living crap out of the Hufflepuff team.” She bitterly explained, through gritted teeth.
“Why?” Pansy Parkinson asked.
“Yeah,” Malfoy added. “Ethan Knox plays for the Falcons…they’re my favorite team.”
“We still need to beat them. Ethan thinks he’s better than me and I know I’m better than he is.”
“What about Gryffindor?” Crabbe asked.
“Well, we need to beat everyone, but Hufflepuff is going down!”
“Just know this,” Season began. “this is going to be the greatest Quidditch season Hogwarts has ever seen. And let me tell you, Ravenclaw and Slytherin are two teams not to be reckoned with.”
“Alright,” Ethan started, as he fiddled with a quaffle. “It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that I’m an American; so you know I’ve played American Quidditch and I didn’t attend Hogwarts. But apparently, someone was needed to weed out all the pussies, so that’s what I’m here for.
“Now, I was told that Hufflepuff is the sissiest house out of the four. I’m sorry, but I don’t do sissy. I’m not a sissy guy, I don’t wear sissy clothes, and I sure as hell don’t play a sissy sport. So for the next week, I’m going to ride all of you like a grandma on a moped. And whoever makes the team and scores the most points against Slytherin will be exempt from running laps on the next particular practice.”
“But…we don’t do laps now.” Justin Flinch-Flechy replied.
“You don’t? No wonder you suck. You’re weak!”
Hannah Abbot put up her hand with some hesitation. “Wait, I’m still confused. What exactly is going on?”
Ethan gave an exasperated sigh. “Well, Goldilocks, let me break it down for you a little more. Dumbledore called this workshop to fill in some gaps. He hired me and the other coaches to train you to be better Quidditch players, and from what I heard, you need it. Every year for the past few years, the teams of choice have been Gryffindor and Slytherin. This year, he wants everyone to be supportive of every team. Y’all just need a little kick in the ass to help you.” He looked Hannah in the eye. “Get it, Goldilocks?”
She nodded. “Got it.”
“Good. Now get your gear and get your asses in the air. Oh, excuse me, bums.”
Harry’s bones ached. His muscles ached. His eyelashes ached.
Wood’s method of the workshop was taking each position at a time, one a day, so he could see where everyone’s strong points stood.
“Friday we’ll play a game with just the people who try out per house.” Wood explained to them after a practice round. “This is an opportunity for me to see if my hunches on who should play what are accurate. On Saturday, a big game, combining all the houses will be played-with one minor difference; it’s a boys versus girls game. Players will change throughout the game just so the coaches are one hundred percent positive of their decision. Then on Sunday, the rosters will be announced.”
Harry was trying his best to pay attention to Wood, but he felt one of his headaches coming on and couldn’t concentrate.
He closed his eyes and shook his head, hoping to release a bit of delirium. When he opened them, he…he wasn’t sure if his eyes were playing tricks on him or not. He could have sworn he saw his godfather, Sirius Black, standing right next to Wood! He was right there!
Harry’s jaw hung open as what seemed like Sirius stood, looking at him, grinning like the devil and waving.
He could see Wood’s lips moving, but no sound emerged. Sirius continued to look at him, almost as if he was about to say something.
“Harry…Harry…Harry!” It wasn’t Sirius at all, but Wood, snapping him back to reality.
“Harry, mate, are you all right?””
“Yeah, erm, fine. I’m fine.”
But Hermione stared at him in speculation, not believing a word he uttered.
“It’s been a long day. Why don’t you lot go hit the showers? The castle is open for Quidditch players, but you’ll have to ask the house elves for food. Madam Hooch has temporary passwords to get to your dorms. I’ll see you tomorrow morning.”
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