Harry sauntered out towards the Quidditch field, intending to find only his fellow team members, but was greeted again by the three recruiters who would be choosing candidates at tomorrow’s game.
“Well, hello again, Mr. Potter,” beamed a much more amiable Mr. Versval. Apparently, watching the teams practice was bringing back a little of the old excitement for the three wizards. “We’re most anxious to see your team in action… Nice broom! A Firebolt 2004; nice model. May I see it?”
Harry shrugged. “Sure, of course.”
Oliver Wood, Harry’s former Quidditch captain eyed him from the top of the Gryffindor sides tower as he peered down, scanning the field.
Harry heard the voice from above him and squinted up to see Wood leaning out of the tower.
“You’re late!” continued Wood, “C’mon, we only have the field for an hour before Slytherin gets it!”
Harry sighed. “I’ll be up in a minute,” he called out. He wasn’t late… Wood was always early.
Wood had come back to Hogwarts after he graduated to take Madame Hootches’ place as overseer of the game, but also took it upon himself, with the encouragement of McGonnagol, to continue to be the coach for Gryffindor. Not that Harry minded; Wood was the best keeper Harry had seen in his six years, and he knew the game well. But Oliver could be a bit demanding. He breathed, slept, and ate Quidditch, and as a result, it made him a bit overbearing.
Harry turned back to see that Cornbluth was now fingering his broom lovingly.
“Ah, Harry, how I envy you. I used to be quite the Quidditch player myself… A beater, I was… From Ravenclaw. We were the best team back then.”
Harry took in his gray, slightly balding head and wrinkles and secretly marveled that Hogwarts had been around for that long. In reality, Hogwarts had been around for a thousand years or more, which he might’ve known, had he read Hogwarts, a History as thoroughly as Hermione had.
Gingerly, Harry took his broom back. “Well, I’d better get up there before Wood wets himself,” he grinned. He turned and straddled his broom.
Starven had been unusually quiet, having been eyeing the playing field and surrounding grounds for a while. He snapped his gaze back to Harry right before he kicked off, startled as he’d been lost in thought.
“Well good luck Harry!” he grinned, flashing the gap in his teeth and slapping Harry’s back amiably, “We’re all looking forward to seeing what kind of seeker you are.”
Harry kicked off from the ground. “Yeah, me too,” he joked half-heartedly.
Up in the tower, Wood gave Harry a stern look as he glided in the doorway and tossed himself lightly from his broom. Oliver immediately began addressing the whole team.
Fred and George Weasley, being in their last year at Hogwarts, were eager to go out with a bang and beat the pants off of Slytherin in the process, but as usual, lacked the discipline to stand still for long to hear Wood’s speech. They were supposed to have graduated the year before, but much to their parents shame, hadn’t had the O.W.L.s to do so. Harry remembered well the reaming Molly Weasley had given them for paying more attention to their plans for the joke shop than to their studies, and inwardly winced. He hoped for their sakes that there wouldn’t be a repeat of that this year, much as he was glad to still have them on Gryffindor’s Quidditch team.
As the team listened to Wood eagerly explaining his latest strategies, Harry took a moment to thoughtfully survey his fellow players.
Not many of the original team players from his first year were left, save George and Fred, the beaters. Most of the others had graduated, and some had opted to devote more time to studies. There was the keeper, Michelle Keys, the only girl on the team this year. She was tall and strongly built, with reddish brown hair, and a smattering of freckles on her cheeks. Harry thought she was close to becoming as good a keeper as Oliver had been, probably due to the fact that Wood took time specifically with her to make sure she was. Fred and George teased Wood mercilessly about this, but Harry knew better. Wood had been dating Alicia Spinnet, a former chaser on the team, ever since he graduated.
There was also Marcus Wallaby, Peter Gallor and Darren Millhouse, all chasers. Marcus and Peter were both fifth years, and very good at capturing the quaffle and hanging on to it. They were best friends, and had been thrilled at both getting picked for the team back in their third year.
Darren, a fourth year, was a fast learner. He had been told to watch Gallor and Wallaby in action, and had learned accordingly.
And of course there was himself, finally. Harry had been seeker since his first year at Hogwarts. Back then, the youngest seeker in the school in a century; Ron had informed him.
Harry snapped his attention back to Wood, and in the process saw George and Fred quietly trying to offer Marcus a piece of ton-tongue toffee.
Wallaby, having been pre-warned about the twins, and their intention to open “Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes” joke shop after graduation, immediately suspected them and waved his hand at them, stepping back at the same time.
The twins looked a little peeved that their plan hadn’t worked. Lately one of their favorite pastimes was not only tricking fellow students, but hacking off Wood. Having one of his team players flying with two feet of engorged tongue flapping in the breeze behind him would’ve done it.
Not missing a beat, Oliver snatched the toffee and tossed it out of the exit way, causing an outburst from Fred and George.
“What’d you go and do that for!?” Fred began angrily, “we only have a few of those left!”
“Honestly Wood, you’re no fun anymore,” said George.
“Did you hear anything I said!?” began Wood rather hotly. He tried to calm himself down. “Look, you guys and Potter more than anyone else here should be thinking about this game! Sixth and seventh years are the ones the recruiters are looking at and you’re on about that stupid thousand pound caramel!”
“Ton-tongue toffee,” corrected George, “Get it right.”
Wood sighed irritably. “Look do you care about the game or not!?”
“Sure…sure. Sorry Oliver. Go on…” said Fred, shifting to his other leg.
Wood threw his arms up in defeat. “Well I’m done anyway. You’re all great players and you know what to do… Ok. Let’s do it.”
The team members all mounted their brooms, and at a word from Wood they all shot out from the tower and soaring high, began to circle the field.
Wood climbed down from the tower and walked towards the Quidditch game chest he had left on the ground near the gate surrounding the field. He found it surrounded not only by the three recruiters, but by a throng of reporters from the Daily Prophet and the witches magazine Witch Weekly. He winced inwardly. He had talked with Dumbledore and McGonnagol just a few days ago about restricting the press until the day of the game. He knew that this particular game would be covered because of the importance the recruiters brought in possibly choosing their newest players from Hogwarts, but he had hoped that the coverage could wait. Dumbledore explained that the press had specifically asked to be there the day before the game to get before and after shots of the players, as well as interviews with them and the recruiters. All the same, Wood didn’t like it. He wanted his player’s minds on the game, and not on getting famous. He also didn’t want his own attention diverted.
As he wove his way towards the chest, he was immediately set upon by the reporters, their camera men, and enchanted floating microphones.
“Mr. Wood, how do you feel about the match tomorrow?”
Wood blinked furiously at the flashes half blinding him.
“Um, confidant… ‘scuse me…”
“Oliver, is your team ready for the Slytherin rematch? Word is that Slytherin has really been practicing hard to make up for last year…”
“We have too…I really have to get to the field.”
“One moment, Mr. Wood… Is it true that Harry Potter, the boy-who-lived, is still Gryffindor’s seeker?… Do you feel his extra-ordinary powers lend more support than normal for your team? Is there anyone on your team this year that stands out to you?”
“Do you or anyone you know ever fear an attack from You-Know-Who because of Potter?”
“How is he holding up owing to the recent disclosure that Vol… that HE is on the move again?”
This caught Wood’s attention and he halted so quickly that the two reporters ran into him.
“What’d you mean ‘on the move again’? I haven’t heard this! What the… Harry!”
Potter heard his name as he circled the field and began to dip lower to meet Wood on the ground.
The reporters, seeing they might get an opportunity to speak to Potter, scrambled to catch up to Wood as he carried the chest onto the field.
“Harry! No wait, I’ll come up there! Hang on!…No, no more questions. I’m done.” Wood directed the last comments to the reporters, and they stopped with a defeatist manner.
“Wait Mr. Wood, just a few more…”
“NO!” Wood dropped the chest with a thud and kicked it open, letting the bludgers and snitch dart up into the ring. He then picked up the quaffle and tossed it up.
Fred caught it and zoomed away with it. Marcus, being on the opposite team began giving chase, narrowly missing a bludger.
“Go ahead and start!” Wood yelled up to the team, “I only need Harry for a moment!” He mounted his broom and zoomed up high, just outside of the field where Harry hovered, waiting.
The reporters sighed. No more questions meant shorter news columns.
The wind whipped his and Harry’s robes as they hovered together.
“Um…Oliver, I don’t think I was that late,” said Harry rubbing behind his ear.
“..Not what this is about Harry,” began Oliver darkly, “Have you heard any reports about movement from Voldemort or any dark wizards lately?”
“What?” Harry was so surprised that he nearly fell off of his broom. “NO! Of course not! It’s been a long time since his last attack, Wood…”
“The reporters down there seem to think he’s on the move again,” said Oliver, as usual getting to the point. “I know this might not be the best time to talk to you about it, but I thought you’d want to know.”
Harry shook his head, trying to get his thoughts re-ordered. “Dumbledore would’ve told me if anything had been confirmed… And if Voldemort or anyone working for him were anywhere near, I’d probably know about it.” He rubbed his scar absently, knowing that Wood knew what he meant.
“…Could just be rumor,” began Oliver again, “You know there’s been a lot of that lately, since it’s been so long since he’s made a move. But usually the real press don’t mention it if it is. It’s not like that’s Astrology Monthly down there.”
Harry nodded, feeling more than a little perplexed. If it was rumor, then they had nothing to worry about. Then again if it was true, why hadn’t his scar hurt? It usually took the dark lord or one of his lackeys to be near in order for him to feel it, so at least he knew that there wasn’t anyone dark on school grounds. And most certainly Dumbledore would’ve notified him of anything, as it usually involved him.
Harry informed Oliver of such, and both decided not to worry until or if anything was confirmed.
“All right… but just keep an eye out,” finished Wood, “and you’d do well to keep an eye out for those close to you too.”
“I know…” Harry replied with a grave nod. He knew all too well.
Harry joined practice as Wood flew back to the Gryffindor tower to watch, and also to avoid the press down below. It was five forty-five, and dusk had begun to settle owing to the late fall season. So, as it was darker, and the crowd either watched the practice, or talked amongst themselves, no one noticed as one person slipped away, gathered a broom he had stolen from the Quidditch lockers, and walking far enough away from the crowd, mounted it, heading deep into the heart of the Forbidden Forest.