Chapter 2 : Chapter 2.
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The day of the match arrived despite my desperate hopes that there would be some unexplained time lapse, and that we would just jump magically from Friday to Sunday. However I had no such luck. So, it was with great regret that I found myself standing and watching seven people who for some unknowable reason called themselves a Quidditch team as they readied themselves for the game. All their gear looked second-hand, and not even the good ‘I-got-a-great-deal-on-this’ second-hand, but the ‘It’s-on-its-last-leg-but-I’ll-wear-it-anyway’ second-hand. I felt the need to say something to give them a fighting spirit, so I cleared my throat and got up on the beautifully sanded bench, that didn’t make me fear for my buttocks’ well-being; The Wasps’ stadium was a vast improvement on Puddlemere’s.
“Okay everyone, so we all know that the Wasps are a very strong team, but don’t let that scare you! I’m sure we can manage a win. . . . somehow,” I finished lamely.
“Get down from there Wood; we don’t need some pointless pep-talk. Puddlemere’s been on a three year losing streak, I think it’s fair to say we all know how this is going to end.” Sakiya looked at me with raised eyebrows.
“Yeah, and the last time we won, it was only because half of the other team had the flu, and were more concerned about remaining airborne than actually winning the match,” Kathy added in.
“Don’t be so pessimistic you lot,” Pippa chided cheerfully from where she was busy digging through her bag, clothes flying in every direction around the room.
I had never really noticed it before, but the changing rooms at Puddlemere’s headquarters were rather grim, even back in its glory days… compared to the Wasps’ ones anyway.
We were currently standing in a light, airy spacious room with doors that had, wait for it, doorknobs. Back in Cokeworth, the walls were an awful, sickly yellow colour, and were constantly dripping with condensation. The splinter-death trap ran nearly the length of the room, bolted to the ground exactly in the middle, leaving only just enough space for one person to pass down either side of it. Each team member had their own locker, but since most of the doors were missing, they looked more like shelves and no one could really distinguish one locker from another. It was constantly lit by two bare bulbs, seeing as the skylight was so dirty it would be a miracle if a ray of sunshine could filter through and therefore the light was constantly garish and blinding.
“You’re new here, so I’ll excuse your last comment as a rookie’s mistake,” Brody said from behind yet another cloud of smoke.
“Why are you tearing the place apart anyway?” Sakiya said as she picked up an armful of Pippa’s belongings, and dumped them back on to the sanded bench next to her.
“I can’t find my gum shield,” Pippa answered in a muffled voice from in under the bench.
“Gum shield?” I said confusedly, “You’re a seeker, why do you need a gum shield?”
“Because, if the referee can’t understand what I’m saying, he can’t send me off for arguing with him,” she replied, extracting herself from underneath the bench, waving a piece of dirty, green plastic triumphantly over her head “I found it!”
“Oh God!” Sakiya pulled a face at the offending fluff-covered object “Please say you’re going to wash that before you put it anywhere near you mouth.”
“Obviously,” Pippa muttered, making her way into the showers.
“You okay Norman? You’re looking a bit pale,” I clapped Norman on the back, he jolted forward; I’d clearly hit him a little too hard.
“I’m f-fine, just a little n-nervous,” he stammered back.
“He always gets really bad pre-match nerves,” Evan informed me wisely.
“Well there’s nothing to be worried about,” I said kindly, smiling as best I could, but in hindsight, I imagine it probably came out more like a grimace. Norman just looked at me as if I was crazy or something. I didn’t blame him.
“Hello folks! Ten minutes until game time,” Ritchie said. No one had heard him enter; we were so accustomed to the door crashing and falling over when anyone wanted to get into the changing room. I glanced up to see that he was rubbing his hands together feverishly in anticipation. “So, is everyone here?” he did a quick headcount, and his face fell as he saw that we were one short of a full team.” Where’s Pip? I specifically told you all to get here on time!” he growled, face turning rapidly from pale pink, to beetroot red. Ritchie was one of those men who had a constant flush.
“Cool your brew Ritch, she’s in the bathroom,” Henry said, his tone exasperated as he pointed towards the swing door through which we could hear to sound of water running.
“Good! That’s good . . . .,” Ritchie ran his hand through his thinning hair. I had begun to have a sneaky suspicion that his growing baldness was being caused by stress. I patted the crown of my head to make sure my hair was still intact. I had clung on to it for this long, and I was not letting it go without a fight! Especially not to this bloody calls-itself-a-Quidditch-club.
“What’s good Ritchie?” Pippa asked, drying her gum shield hastily on the corner of her t-shirt as she exited the bathroom.
“Never mind, just talking to myself,” he said hastily. “I have the jerseys in here,” he waved a battered looking kit bag around, almost hitting Norman in the face. He plunged his hand into the bag, and began flinging team jerseys at everyone. “Put that out Brody, it’s almost match time!” he said as he waved away the cloud impatiently. Brody shot him a dirty look, but stubbed out the cigarette with the tip of his boot regardless, and flung the butt in the bin.
“You’d better go out to the stands now Mr Wood,” Pippa said thickly through the green gum shield. I nodded at her in recognition, and she shot me a wide smile, so I got a slightly less than wonderful view of the brightly coloured plastic.
“Good luck everyone,” I called loudly after them, as they trooped out of the room down the long tunnel towards the pitch, glancing back longingly towards the safety of the changing room. “You’re going to need it,” I muttered quietly as I watched them go.
“Come on Oliver, we’d better get going! Two minutes until show time,” Ritchie tapped his wristwatch. I followed him silently out of the room.
“And yet another dropped Quaffle for Puddlemere United, quickly picked up by the Wasps.”
I watched through my fingers, sinking lower in my chair with every second which passed.
“Thurman really speeding up the pitch, and puts it past Loverton no problem, and the Wasps lead 150-0,” the commentator, Frank Jennings concluded “It’s a wash-out folks!”
The Wasps’ chasers did a lap of victory around the pitch, while Kathy, Evan and Sakiya watched on sullenly.
“Work together! Get into formation! Put some pressure on!” I roared. I had leapt off my chair in a bout of ashamed fury, and began leaning over the barrier, waving my hands above my head frantically.
“It seems Puddlemere’s coach Oliver Wood isn’t too happy! Recently appointed, this display must really be hurting Wood, who was once the toast of the Quidditch world!” Jennings added gleefully.
I shot a furious glance towards the commentator’s box muttering a string of unthinkable expletives, but quickly resumed shouting at the chasers. The referee noticed my little meltdown and flew over to me.
“Sir, you’d better calm down or I’m afraid going to have to ask you to leave,” The ref warned me sternly.
“Come on Oliver, sit back down,” Ritchie placed a cautionary hand on my shoulder. I turned around roughly and slammed myself back into my seat in time to see Evan drop yet another pass.
“Is he drunk or something?” I asked Ritchie, exasperated and exhausted.
“Hung over probably, Pip told me he was in the pub last night,” Ritchie shook his head slowly.
I looked at him in shock, dumbstruck once again by my God awful team, but my attention was quickly drawn back to the game by Jennings’ exclamation.
“Sweet Mother, what on earth are the seekers up to?”
The entire crowd’s eyes snapped upwards to where two blurry figures were speeding around the pitch.
“I think they’ve spotted the snitch!” he said excitedly. The whole crowd immediately went perfectly still, as did the other players on the pitch. I wrestled a pair of binoculars out of a spectator’s hand without moving my gaze from the two circling players and quickly zoned in on them. Pippa was on the inside, flat on her broom, desperately trying to keep up with the other seeker, who looked to be outstripping her by a noticeable margin. I saw a look of white hot fury pass over Pippa’s face, and before anyone knew what was going on, the referee was blowing his whistle furiously, and both seekers were sent to the ground.
“You’d better get out there Oliver, see what’s going on,” Ritchie pointed towards the stairs, half shoving me towards them. I charged down the steps, taking two at a time, and sprinted out to the middle of the pitch where Pippa was shouting unintelligibly at the referee, thanks to the gum shield. The other seeker had blood streaming down his face at an alarming rate, and the field healers were busily trying to staunch the flow.
“It’s no use, he’s going to have to be taken off, we can’t stop in manually, we’ll have to use magic,” A young healer told the irate Wasps manager.
“That animal shouldn’t be allowed in society, never mind on a Quidditch pitch!” he roared in my face, spraying me with a lovely shower of spit.
Pippa was ranting furiously at the manager, waving her hands above her head like a deranged bird. The crowd roared for Pippa to be sent off, which only served to rile her up even more, so she began shouting and advancing towards them, until I grabbed her around the waist, and pinned her arms to her side.
“Will you calm down?” I muttered furiously into her ear. She didn’t answer me, but struggled angrily all the same. The referee blew his whistle, signalling for quiet. A hush fell over the crowd. He extracted his wand from the holder on his arm, and pressed it against his neck.
“West to be withdrawn from the game for medical attention, substitute to be brought on,” his voice boomed around the stadium “Finnigan to be sent off, substitute to be brought on,” the crowd roared in agreement.
I released the irate Pippa, and advanced towards the referee. “You can’t do that,” I said.
“I’m the judge of what I can and cannot do, Wood. Now I’m going to ask you nicely to go back up into the stands, or I will be obliged to forcibly remove you from the pitch,” he answered calmly.
“You can’t send off Finnigan,” I repeated insistently.
“And why is that, Wood?” he said.
“Because we don’t have a reserve,” I hissed.
“Well that’s not my problem,” he said simply, “So I suppose Puddlemere will just have to play one player down.” he mounted his broom again, and flew off.
“Well now, isn’t that a pity Wood,” the other manager, a tall, weedy, mean looking man said smugly, taking a couple of strides towards me. “Although, it’s not as if you were going to win anyway,” he laughed. Pippa advanced at him, fists raised, but I stopped her just in time.
“Come on,” I said, and grabbing her roughly by the upper arm, I dragged her back up to the stands.
“I have just now been informed that Puddlemere have no replacement for Finnigan,” Jennings said disbelievingly from the commentator’s box. The crowd below jeered loudly. “Tiberdeem will be coming on to replace West,” Jennings added, as if tormenting us for our lack of reserves, before proceeded to rattle off some pointless information. Beside me, Pippa groaned.
“I could have easily caught the snitch against Tiberdeem, he’s totally useless!” she said miserably.
“Well maybe you should have thought of that before you elbowed someone in the face,” I replied, my tone sharp and snarky. She slumped back in her chair, muttering angrily under her breath.
“And we are off again, to yet another dropped pass by Puddlemere,”
I put my head in my hands, and just gave up.
“It’s still not as bad as that time against the Wanderers,” reasoned Pippa.
“That was in 1998, when half of the Wanderers were friends with the ref, and the ref was a Death Eater,” Henry said.
“Still! No one ended up in hospital this time,” she replied.
“Don’t speak too soon! You broke West’s nose, and now the Wasps are taking us to court, meaning we’re going to end up having to pay them a ton of cash! Which we don’t have! So guess who’s not getting paid for the next three months?” Ritchie shouted from above the team.
“I probably won’t get paid for the next four, because let’s face it, we don’t get paid an awful lot,” Pippa said reasonably. Sakiya nodded in agreement, but quickly stopped when she saw Ritchie’s face.
“Not to mention all the bad publicity! I’ve only just managed to get people to stop referring to us as ‘Thugs United’, and now thanks to you, it’s going to start up all over again!” Ritchie ran his hands over his head frantically. “I don’t think I can do this much longer, I can’t take the pressure,” he sat down wearily on the bench,
“Ah don’t say that Ritchie, you know you love us,” Kathy elbowed him, trying to sound jovial.
“Well I don’t, and you know what else I don’t love? Losing that spectacularly,” I said my tone unchanging.” So you are all going to have to either shape up, or ship out! I’m being serious! I can see you all have the raw talent but the drive is just not there and that cannot just be left; we have to fix it, but if we-.”
“Hi Dad!” Pippa cut across me, waving towards the door. I turned around, annoyed at the abrupt dismissal of my motivational speech, to see a stocky man standing in the doorframe. He was at least a head shorter than I was, and had a mop of sandy brown hair.
“How are yis? Tough game lads, but drinks’ll be on the house, you’se need a bit of a pick-me-up I reckon,” he said, grinning toothily.
And just like that, without giving me so much as a second glance, my audience picked up their gear, and tumbled out of the door.
“Are you coming Mr Wood?” Pippa asked brightly, giving me a cheery smile, “you look like you need a bit of cheering up!”
That girl obviously had split-personality issues.
The Leg of The Duck was what you would call a seedy establishment. It was dimly lit by old fashioned brass lamps, and the air felt thick with long-accumulated dust. A crackly radio played something that sounded like Celestina Warbeck, but I wasn’t entirely sure.
“What can I get you Mr Wood? A pint? Or something stronger?” Pippa wrapped an apron around her waist, hopped up on the bar, and swung her legs around.
“What this man needs is a shot of firewhiskey,” her father boomed. “Go on girl, get the man a glass,” he clapped her on the back.
“Just some butterbeer will be fine,” I muttered.
“Nonsense!” A woman in an extremely low-cut top sashayed towards me “Firewhiskey will make all the difference,” she leaned across the bar in what she probably thought was a seductive manner, but just made me highly uncomfortable
“Right you are woman! Listen to me wife here now Wood, she’s a smart one,” Seamus winked towards the barmaid, who made a simpering face back, that just made me want to slam my head onto the bar.
“Get a room,” Pippa rolled her eyes, and sat down a shot glass in front of me. “Here you are Mr Wood,”
I picked up the shot glass gingerly, but knocked it back despite myself. I burned my throat and I spluttered profusely.
“Oh my God!” I pulled a face “What was that?” I said weakly.
“Firewhiskey,” Pippa said innocently.
“That was not a firewhiskey,” I coughed, wiping the back of my mouth with my hand.
“It was. . . . . mostly” she conceded.
“Please do not tell me you gave him a ‘Bloodthirsty Tequila’ Pip,” Kathy said, dropping her purse on the bar and sitting down in the bar stool beside me.
“What’s a ‘Bloodthirsty Tequila’?” I asked, half afraid of what the answer would be.
“One of Pips concoctions, no one knows what’s in it except her,” Kathy answered me.
“Hey! It’s not as bad as the ‘Full Moon’ is it?” Pippa said defensively.
“Only Evan can stomach that one,” Kathy giggled “Listen, get us two proper firewhiskeys this time Pip, no funny business.”
I watched her carefully as she poured the amber liquid into the shot glasses and slammed them down on the bar, muttering about ‘over reactions’. She then stalked off to serve more compliant customers.
“To Puddlemere,” Kathy raised her glass “May we never suffer such an embarrassment ever again,”
“I’ll second that,” I tipped my glass against hers, and downed the drink.
“Your in for one hell of a night Wood, your about to witness how ‘Thugs United’ party’s,” Kathy informed me, a knowing smirk on her face.
I should have run at that point, but I didn’t. Rookie’s mistake.
Chapterino Two! Woo! :D
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Once again, beta’d by the wonderful Livi_777!
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