Chapter 3 : The Tryouts
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With the eventual signing of Oliver Wood, I notice a change in the quidditch articles. The shift sent my head spinning, because just in the prior week I was being called a nutjob. Now all of a sudden I apparently know what I’m doing, and some are calling me a genius.
I can’t wait for next week when they’re back to pointing out faults. If it’s one thing I’m learning it’s that the writers are terribly fickle. At this point I just have a good laugh at some of the things that get printed, whereas Antonin gets himself worked up on my behalf.
I’m recalling the latest issue we skimmed the night before as I emerge onto the training pitch for today’s scheduled event. As his signature dried, Oliver had requested a few days for tryouts. I happily obliged, because it’s something that obviously had to happen. I wanted to wait until we had a manager before doing so though. While everything will boil down to me, I want a cohesive unit put together, and no better person to see if people will work well together than the person who is going to be leading the practices.
To my immense surprise, there’s already a fair number of people waiting for the tryout. I guess the thought of working with Oliver trumps working for the team that finished bottom of the League.
“Great turn out.”
I turn to see Max Evans approaching. She’s the new coach for the Chasers, a woman that Oliver brought over from North America. A package deal for me, so to speak, because Oliver says that she can work wonders. She also assists with drawing up the plays.
“Yeah. I wasn’t expecting so many people on the first day,” I say, once she comes to a stop right next to me.
“It’s usually the case. There’s always plenty of people looking for a team.” Her grey eyes skim over those present. “It makes things more difficult, because most of them are a bunch of weeds.”
What she’s saying makes sense. Some of these hopefuls are most likely rejects from other teams, or those who were just good enough to play on their school’s team but aren’t good enough to play professionally. I just hope for all of our sakes that there are at least a few gems hidden in the bunch.
“But I like having to work from scratch.”
With a tanned hand, Max shifts a few chocolate curls behind her left ear. It’s an entirely fruitless action, because the locks spring free almost immediately.
“Then I suppose it’s a good thing that I’ve pretty much dismantled the team.”
“You did leave us someone really good though.”
She’s talking about Barry Cotton. The youngest player on the Arrows at thirty, he’s ranked as the seventh best Chaser in the League. Unfortunately for him, he was stuck on a crap team, so he hasn’t really gotten the opportunity to shine. I believe it’s sheer loyalty that has kept him with us for so long, for his family has a long history with the team. His uncle, Gregory Cotton, happened to be one of our past Seekers. Funnily enough, he’s best remembered for having his head transformed into a cabbage at the end of a match.
“Couldn’t part with him. He’s dedicated, and from the conversations I’ve had with him, he seems willing to get better. What more can I ask for, really?”
“Not much. All we need now is to find more like him,” Max says, and I can do no more than agree with her.
She departs shortly after so as to join Oliver as he speaks to those present. I, on the other hand, wander off to the side where my assistant is waiting. Wes suggested that I hire her, because there’s only so much that I can do by myself. I held off for as long as possible, since I previously thought that assistants were for lazy people. Was I ever wrong. Keeping track of so many meetings, important dates, and sorting through countless owls is not a one woman job, no matter how much I would have wanted it to be.
“It’s really hot today.”
It sure is. While afternoon is still a couple of hours away, it’s really warm out. I can already feel my shirt sticking to my back. Sweeping brown hair up, I sloppily pile it atop my head.
“I don’t envy anyone who has to be up there,” I tell her.
We head up into the stands, where I pull out my trusty omnioculars so as to better see the action. Oliver’s already split everyone up, and the first set are now in the air. I can’t help but to cross my fingers once the whistle is blown. While not a game and not something that we should be judged by, I still want it to go well. As the first official tryouts, a good one will do a lot in terms of confidence.
Despite my wish, things don’t start out well. As I fiddle with the dials, I cringe when the quaffle collides with a player’s face. The blood flow is immediate, and the whistle sounds as he’s taken off the pitch for the mediwizard to tend to.
It all pretty much goes downhill from there. I don’t know if it’s nerves, lack of proper talent, or a combination of both, but no one is impressing. It’s pretty disheartening because I thought there’d be some good people interested, especially after I’ve already begun to prove that I’m not content with just picking up where Dad left off.
I’m close to giving up on the whole thing when the final group of the day, the Seekers, take to the air. This shouldn’t take much longer, so I might as well stay and see the end of it. It can’t get much worse, I figure.
The little golden ball takes flight, and two minutes in, it’s making a pretty unsuccessful attempt at escaping the fingers of a grinning, sandy-haired teen. With my brows shooting upward, I switch from her to Oliver, and note that he’s looking as if Christmas has come early.
He calls for the snitch to be released repeatedly, possibly to test if it was a fluke or not. Each time, the same girl retrieves it, much to the displeasure of the other Seekers. Though the times vary, and none were as quick as the first, it’s pretty apparent that she’s a lock for the position. Sure the result probably won’t be the same when faced with someone just as skilled, and when there are actually bludgers in play, but I still have that feeling that she’s one of those gems I was hoping for. I doubt that there’ll be anyone near as good in the upcoming tryouts.
Once Oliver calls an end to the day, I join Max and him on the pitch. He’s talking to the Seeker, who is using the back of her hand to wipe moisture from her forehead.
“Genevieve Finnigan,” Max informs, an answer to my unspoken question.
I view Finnigan as she wraps up the conversation with Oliver. She looks young, and I’ll take a guess that she only just graduated. At about an inch taller than me, she’s still smaller than I am. Her size is actually perfect for the position, but I wonder if it may become a disadvantage when she’s up against bigger, stronger opponents. She’d be easily jostled out of the way.
“You were amazing out there,” I tell her honestly.
If it’s one thing that should be known about me, is that I don’t give out praise lightly. I don’t believe in sprinkling sugar on everything that comes from my mouth, because a person can only learn from the truth.
Her cheeks tint at my words, and she tucks chin-length hair behind her ear.
We go over a few things, during which my assistant gathers her information. Once we’re through, she shoulders her broom and exits. Oliver and Max follow almost immediately, but I remain behind, hands buried in my pockets.
While we’ve found someone good in Genevieve, I really hope there’s an improvement in the level of talent as the days go on. I’m not deluded enough to think that we’ll come upon the next Krum or Jones, but I also don’t want to settle. There’s only so much that even a person like Oliver can do with a subpar team.
“I’ve been in contact with some teams over in South America and Canada.”
I’m sitting in Oliver’s office, feet propped up and arm draped over my eyes. A headache is on the horizon following yet another disastrous tryout. We’ve spent about thirteen days so far trying to find above decent players, and have only managed to find a Beater. The mediwizard has tended to at least one injury a day, and at this rate, I’ll have to increase his pay.
The press has been having a field day in the articles about tryouts. Max says that it must be a slow-arse week if even this is making it into the paper, but I know the real reason. This team and my “blunders” will always be news until we do something amazing. But, at least things are back to normal. It was a little weird being referred to as a genius.
“Oh?” I finally manage.
“Yeah,” he says. “The talent pool over here is really thin at the moment. We’re going to have to look into getting some international players once the window opens in a few days.”
I nod. At this point, we only have three players, and that’s not even taking into account that we’re going to need some reserves. Otherwise, we’ll be royally screwed if someone gets injured or needs a break. I really wanted to keep things as simple as possible by finding players on this soil though. The last thing I need is to enter into negotiations, something that’s even more foreign to me than actually owning a team.
Why did Dad think that I’d be qualified to properly do this job? The most authority I had prior was when I was the president of the gobstones club; even then, there were only two other members. Unsurprisingly, the club dissolved before the end of the year.
“There’s also someone I’ve been corresponding with since I signed on.”
I shift my arm a bit, peer at him through one bleary eye. He’s staring at the ceiling as he twirls a quill, and his fingers are quickly becoming speckled with ink. He either doesn’t notice, or doesn’t care, but the action is making me dizzy. So I slide my arm back into position without answering, since I know that he’ll continue eventually.
“He hasn’t played professionally, but he has played some games for charity. I managed a few of them.”
“And he’s good?”
“Very. A couple teams were after him when he graduated, but he chose to become a curse breaker instead. Always thought it was a waste of talent.”
“So what makes you think that he’ll give up his job just to play for us?”
If the guy chose curse breaking over quidditch, then I don’t see why this team would be enticing to him. I’m failing to see why he’s even worth mentioning.
“Because he’s taken a year-long break, and I think he should be out here on the pitch instead of being idle.”
“How do you even know all of this?”
“Close with the family,” he says vaguely.
My mind stirs with curiosity, which isn’t a good thing with the impending headache. I’ll have to leave soon or risk getting snippy with him.
“So, you going to tell me who he is?”
“Didn’t I say? Fred Weasley.”
Since I haven’t been living under a rock, I know the Weasley name, but I don’t know anything about this Fred. All I know is that he must be good if Oliver’s trying this hard to get him.
“I suppose you’re telling me this because you want me to have a go?”
He grins. “Was waiting for you to catch on.”
I roll my eyes. “Maybe next time you should just come out with it.”
“Had to sell the guy first,” he says simply, then shrugs.
When he sets down his quill, we discuss details. I don’t know how I feel about approaching someone I know little about, but I suppose I can give it a go. Shouldn’t hurt any, especially if the end result is a good one.
After a few owls, I discover that Weasley is a man of few words. At least, he is in his letters. I don’t know what to make of him yet, but it’s a little frustrating that I even have to try so hard when I don’t even know if the guy is that great. Oliver vouched for him, and I trust his opinion, but there’s only so much that I’m willing to go out of my way for only one person.
This is where the wizarding world is so impossibly antiquated. There’s no old footage to view like in the Muggle world, and so I’m stuck with word of mouth and newspaper clippings.
It’s not just Weasley that has my patience wearing thin though. Everything has been piling up as of late, and the grim state of the team has me haggard. The area beneath my eyes has never been darker, and if I wasn’t so adept at covering it all up, I’d look like an inferius.
I don’t know how Dad did it. His attention was split in many different directions, and yet he managed to find the time for his mistresses as well. I can’t even open up much space for socialising, and even then it’s only with Antonin. Furthermore, we mostly discuss quidditch, so it doesn’t even count.
Luckily for my state of mind, Weasley agrees to try out. While I don't know what to expect from him, I do know what he looks like. There are plenty of feature articles about the charity games, and a few pictures with the entire team. They were all in black and white, and the last was dated a few years back, but he can’t have changed much since then.
He hasn’t, I note once he enters the pitch. What the photographs didn’t do justice, however, is his height. My gaze comes right up to his chest, and I’m not short by any means. His build is just right for a beater too, but having the look doesn’t exactly mean that you have the talent.
I stand off to the side as he shakes Oliver’s hand. They make small talk before Oliver remembers my presence and does a quick introduction.
“I’ve heard great things about you,” I tell him, and extend a hand his way.
“Wood likes to exaggerate.”
“I’m hoping he hasn’t. We can use a good Beater.”
“Personally, I don’t even need you to try out. But I want Norah to see what you can do.”
Weasley nods and mounts his broom. Wood has set up a bunch of targets, most of them moving; it’s pretty much like the real thing.
Once he’s up in the air, the bludger’s released. I fiddle with my Omnioculars so as to see what’s going on up there, while Oliver hovers atop his broom somewhere near the edge of the pitch.
It quickly becomes apparent that Weasley downplays his own talent. As he tracks the path of the bludger and takes his whacks at it, I wonder if he’s even trying. He’s really good, and I think it’s a travesty that he didn’t choose Quidditch as a career. Barring injuries and the like, he can have easily been a household name. Though, my judgment may be premature. Like with Genevieve, who knows what he’ll be like once in an actual game. I hold Oliver’s opinion in high regard, but I’m still the type of person who needs to see what something’s like for myself. Words don’t always paint a full picture.
Weasley lands across from me once Oliver blows the whistle. I slip one hand into my pocket, and dangle the omnioculars from the other.
“Wood was right about you,” I tell him.
He shoulders his broom and uses the hem of his shirt to dry his face.
“I suppose. I haven’t played more than one game a year since Hogwarts though.”
I presume that he’s trying to warn me that he may not be able to handle a full season. Him possibly burning out midway through the season could be a problem, but it’s what having extra players is for. As long as he doesn’t quit on us it’ll be fine.
But I’m getting a bit ahead of myself. We don’t even know if he’ll fit in well with the rest of the team, and that’s the first bridge we have to cross. The others will be navigated when we get to them.
A/N: Sorry this took a while. I pretty much rewrote the entire thing in these last couple of days. So, please let me know if there are any errors or if anything isn't clear. I'd be happy to fix.
Thanks for reading!
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