Disclaimer: I own only what you do not recognize as J.K. Rowling's. It isn't much.
Author's note: Sadly, I only got two reviews for my last Harry Potter story--I love you two, though. Truly, I told everyone I know that you reviewed "So." Several times. So (ha ha, no pun intended) here's the deal to all you people reading my fanfiction and not reviewing it: review! I suppose that isn't very threatening, is it? My self-esteem is fragile, though, and when no one bothers to leave me feedback, good or bad, it plunges me into a depression and I contemplate suicide...okay, not really. But still, it's the principle of the thing, you know?
Oliver Wood was insane. At least, all his friends thought so. He looked normal enough to most people—brown eyes, short, usually tousled brown hair, and an easy smile—but his friends knew. He was totally nutters. It wasn't just because he spent practically every waking moment on a broomstick or that Quidditch occupied his thoughts day and night, it was…no, actually, that was it.
He was seventeen years old and a seventh year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. His last year. His last chance to win the Quidditch Cup for Gryffindor House. That would have been a poignant story, had everyone that associated with him not heard it about a hundred million times since arriving at Hogwarts a month ago. He was never seen without a notebook full of Quidditch tactics. Professor McGonagall, the head of Gryffindor House, had confiscated it one day in Transfiguration, and Professor Snape had taken points from Gryffindor on many occasions when he noticed Oliver poring over it. He had a tendency to stay up late, long after the Common Room was empty, to study moves and tactics, and had long since checked out everything about Quidditch from the library.
Fred and George Weasley were going to have him committed. That, in fact, was the first thing that Oliver heard on Thursday morning. He groggily opened his eyes and looked up at two identically exasperated boys. "Wood," one of them said, "If you want to win the cup this year, I suggest you live long enough to do it."
"Yeah, how late did you stay up last night? You probably just fell asleep, actually."
Oliver blinked slowly and rubbed his face. "I thought I went upstairs last night."
The Weasley twins shook their heads and hauled Oliver to his feet. "Nope," George replied. "You were mumbling crazily to yourself about the Wronski Feint when I went to bed."
Fred grinned. "Yeah, and that was about two."
George smirked at his brother. "Oh, I'm surprised you noticed. You and Angelina were still snogging at that point."
"Angelina and I have never snogged, you prat! What are you talking about?"
"Well, you nearly were."
Fred swung his fist playfully at George. "We were doing our homework. Angelina's too busy with homework for a boyfriend, remember?"
Oliver finally tuned in to the world around him at this point and looked at Fred. "Weasley, I think Angelina is just too busy for you."
"You know, Oliver, every day I wake up, and I long heart and soul for her. Every minute without her is like an eternity, and I feel as though my heart is being torn out every time I see her." He sighed dramatically. "And then you go and say something like that. How could you?"
George nodded sadly. "He's fragile, Oliver. I wouldn't be surprised if he throws himself from the Astronomy Tower later today. 'Course, that could just be to escape Divination."
Oliver stared at the two of them and burst out laughing. The twins exchanged a satisfied glance as Wood began, "Here's a suggestion, Fred. If you feel that strongly—and I really had no idea what life was like for you—then you should probably mention something to her. That is, if she hasn't noticed already."
"Nah, Angie would laugh. She'd think I was joking."
"Joking about what?"
The three boys turned around and saw a tall, slim black girl descending from the girls' dormitories. Her hair was messy, but she was dressed and was carrying all her books.
"Nothing," Fred answered, giving her a wide grin. "Want to go to breakfast?"
Angelina Johnson yawned. "I can't, I have to get to class."
"What? And miss breakfast? You're passing up the chance to eat?"
She rolled her eyes. "I'm looking a little big in the thighs, you know, Weasley."
"Your thighs are perfect," Fred told her fervently, grinning and ducking as she swatted at him.
Oliver and George looked at each other, and the latter snorted, "Cute, isn't it?"
"Very," Oliver agreed sarcastically. Then, clearing his throat, he said, "Listen, you three, I want to have a meeting tonight to discuss this Quidditch season. We really should get practicing if we want to win—"
Fred and George abruptly began jumping around Oliver excitedly and yelling, "Tactics! Tactics! We get to talk about tactics!"
"—so Angelina, if you could tell Katie and Alicia, I'd appreciate it."
"Sure." With a laugh at Fred and George's antics, she said, "See you guys later."
Meanwhile, Fred had picked up Oliver's tactics notebook and was riffling through it with a serious look on his face. "You know, Wood," he began, "I think this move here on page eight is very good. I think it would work well in minute thirty-two of our first game—"
"Give me that!" Oliver snatched it away. "You two are the most annoying people I know. I hope you realize that."
"Of course we do!" George replied enthusiastically.
"I'm glad you're so broken up about it."
Fred grabbed Oliver by the shoulder and pushed him towards the portrait hole. "C'mon, let's go down to breakfast. I'm starved. Tough work, sleeping."
"And you need your strength for your rabid pep talk tonight," George added.
Fred gave his brother a stern look. "Sh, don't talk about our captain that way!"
"It's okay, Weasley." Suddenly, Oliver realized he really wasn't hungry at all, and said so to the twins. "Just meet me in the Common Room later. Oh, and if you see Harry, then—"
"Yeah, yeah, we'll tell him," Fred said. "Go to class, then, Wood."
And so, exhausted, rumpled, and wearing the same clothes he had the day before, Oliver did.
Thursday was Double Potions day. Bright and early, and with the Slytherins, Oliver hated it. Not that most of the Slytherins were really that bad. In fact, there were several perfectly nice ones in his year. But as long as Slytherin House held Marcus Flint, class with them would always be torture. Flint, of course, was the captain of Slytherin's Quidditch team. He'd managed to fail his seventh year, and sometimes Oliver wondered if it was only so he'd have the chance to win the Quidditch Cup one more time. Ridiculous, of course. Flint was actually just an idiot. There wasn't a person on the planet that Oliver hated—except for that revolting troll. He could remember a time when Flint was merely an unpleasant presence in his life. Just a classmate who taunted him when presented with the opportunity. A rival. But since his fourth year, the two of them had been mortal enemies. In the three years since then, the boys had been in several scuffles, and, as a result, several detentions together. Quidditch matches against Slytherin were always a violent business. Flint usually managed to rack up several fouls for his team by beating on Oliver.
And every Thursday, they had to spend two hours together. It didn't help that Snape favored the Slytherins tremendously and would probably laugh if Flint poisoned Oliver. There was one redeeming quality about the class, and that also happened to be the reason for Oliver and Flint's enmity.
Oliver pushed open the dungeon door, glad he was early so he could have his choice of seats. As he walked into the empty classroom, Snape looked up from a potion he was brewing. "Wood," he greeted civilly.
"Hello, Professor." Snape was not the nicest man in the world, but he had never been too extremely unfair to Oliver. He figured it was best to stay on the Potion master's good side. "What's today's lesson?"
"I'm sure you'll find it almost as interesting as your Quidditch notes, Mr. Wood. Anti-venom potions. You'd best pay attention." Snape continued brewing the potion, then said, "Now that Quidditch season is beginning, I trust that you won't be mysteriously absent from my class."
Oliver smiled politely. "Of course not, sir." Snape watched him darkly for a moment, then devoted his full attention to the cauldron in front of him.
At that moment, a pile of books slammed down onto the table next to him and a girl sat down breathlessly. "Thought I was going to be late," she informed Oliver with a sheepish smile.
He raised his eyebrows at her. "Are you sure you just didn't want to get here early to spend some quality time with me?"
"Uh, yep, pretty sure."
The girl who had just so casually shot down Oliver's ego was named Sam North. Her hair was brown and never seen out of a ponytail, her eyes were the same color, her skin was pale and freckled, and her nose was long. She was also, on and off, Marcus Flint's girlfriend. Thus, their rivalry is explained. Flint had trouble dealing with the fact that talking to him wasn't the pinnacle of conversation. He also had trouble dealing with the fact that the captain of the Gryffindor Quidditch team fascinated his girlfriend.
"So," Sam began, "I was thinking we could work on the essay for Binns's class together."
"Could that be because someone wasn't listening?"
She gave him an innocent look. "I just figured that you'd need some help."
Oliver rolled his eyes at her, but smiled all the same. "Sure, we can do it together. I've got Quidditch stuff to take care of first, though," he warned.
"You've always got Quidditch stuff to do first."
"What's your point?"
People began to file into the dungeon, Marcus Flint among them. He was a huge boy, with bristly brown hair and crooked teeth. When he spotted Oliver and Sam, he shot Oliver a glare full of such loathing that the Gryffindor was mildly surprised Flint hadn't tried to kill him yet. Oliver returned the glare with a cheeky smile. He figured he was only confident enough to do that because Sam was sitting next to him, not Flint. The girl watched her boyfriend with a sour look on her face and said quietly, "Ignore him. He's mad because he wanted me to go down to the pitch with him tonight."
Oliver gave her a confused look, aware of the fact that she was only fond of Quidditch in passing. "To practice with him?"
"Oh." Oliver caught the innuendo in her voice and also caught himself flushing slightly, much to his embarrassment. Awkwardly, he asked, "But you're…not?"
"Romantic as it would have been, no. Aren't we doing our essay?"
"Yeah," Oliver said, relieved. There was something about the idea of Sam and Flint in any kind of intimate position that made him extremely uncomfortable. Whether that was because Flint was a repulsive human being or Sam had become completely un-feminine to him, he didn't know. But he was glad she'd changed the subject. And, he admitted to himself, he was glad she wasn't going.
In a few moments, class had started, and Oliver and Sam didn't have any opportunity to exchange words for most of the two hours, as Snape had prepared an extensive lecture. Finally, though, the eternity that was Double Potions came to a close, and the class spilled out into the hallway.
Sam stuck close to Oliver in the rush and asked (rather loudly over the other students' chatter), "Do you want to do the essay in my Common Room tonight?"
Oliver shot her a look that he hoped conveyed how insanely ludicrous that sounded. "Are you kidding? I'd be slaughtered. Those goons would kill me if I set foot anywhere near the Slytherin Common Room."
"You know, Oliver, there are some very nice people in Slytherin."
"I know, but the ones who don't like me are very large and very violent. And I am but one man, Sam."
"I didn't mean to."
"I know that." She stared at him for a moment. "The library, then? I already know you're not going to let me into Gryffindor."
Oliver shifted uncomfortably. "Do you have to say it like I'm such a jerk?"
He sighed. "The library sounds fine."
"Good. You can meet me down there when you're done with your 'Quidditch stuff'." She smirked. "Hopefully it won't take you all night."
She walked away and Oliver stifled a yawn, his exhaustion flooding back. For the rest of the day, he drifted through his classes, only waking up a bit when Fred and George pounced on him at lunch and regaled him with stories of the brilliant trick they'd played on Snape that morning. Other than that, however, Thursday was dull, and the only thing that kept him from falling asleep was the thought of gathering his team to talk about Quidditch.
That night, Oliver anxiously waited for his team to show up in the Common Room. Harry was already there, off in a corner with Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger. After awhile, he approached Oliver and greeted him.
Oliver realized then that he'd barely spoken to the boy since arriving at school, so he asked, "Been practicing over the summer, Harry?"
Harry looked surprised. "Quidditch? I've told you about the Dursleys, haven't I?"
"Oh. Well, no, I haven't been. My broomstick was locked in a closet all summer."
At that moment, Fred and George appeared, soon followed by the team's three Chasers, Angelina, Alicia Spinnet, and Katie Bell. The seven Gryffindors headed down to the locker rooms for their meeting. It took about an hour, and by the time Oliver had finished talking, he was thoroughly convinced that they'd win this year. Though, as George pointed out as they walked back up to the castle, the only other option for him would probably be suicide.
Alicia Spinnet elbowed him and said, "Be quiet, don't get him thinking like that. We practically had to put bars on his windows last year, remember?"
"I'm still here," Oliver reminded them crossly.
Fred gave him a surprised look. "Oliver, when did you arrive?"
"I was not suicidal last June."
"Oh, you weren't?" Angelina asked, raising her eyebrows. "As I recall, you laid in bed for three or four days. Just couldn't get up, you said."
George grinned. "So we won't blame you, Harry, if you don't catch the Snitch at every game and we find Oliver floating limply in the bathtub."
Harry grimaced. "No pressure. Thanks."
"None at all," Fred assured him.
Inside, the rest of the team headed back to the Common Room, but Oliver veered off towards the library. Sam was sitting by herself at a table, bent studiously over a piece of parchment. He sat down across from her and asked, "Got a good start?"
She held up the roll, which depicted, in magnificent stick-figure art, several people on fire. Oliver attempted to identify them by their hair styles, but he was eventually forced to inquire. "Well," Sam explained, "this one here is Marcus, this little sniveling one next to him is Malfoy, and this one--" She pointed to a long-haired stick person who, in addition to the flames all over its body, seemed to have several knife wounds. "—is Bletchley."
"Bletchley?" Wood gave her a blank look. "Slytherin's Keeper from a couple years ago?"
Her lips curled into a sneer. "Yeah, and you know why she got on the team?"
"Um." The anger on her face disturbed him a little. "No…?"
"Because she's a whore!" Sam exploded. "A bloody tart! She's always flashing her cleavage all over the place and of course every guy in Slytherin loves it…"
"I don't really remember her having any cleavage," Oliver said doubtfully.
Sam gave him a livid glare and hissed furiously, "Is that supposed to make me feel better?"
He furrowed his brow at her. "Feel better about what?"
Burying her face in her hands, she exclaimed, "You're so dense!"
Oliver stared at her irritably. "If you want to talk, then don't insult me."
She looked back up at him and her lip quivered for a second, but then she pulled on her ponytail (a sure sign she was upset—not that Oliver and half the people in the library couldn't already tell) and sighed forcefully. "It's nothing. I can handle it. It's okay."
He gave her a piercing look. "It's obviously not."
"You can't help me with it."
"Well, don't you want to talk anyway?"
"No. You won't understand at all."
Oliver exhaled resignedly. "Okay. But if you're not going to talk to me about it, then try and stay away from calling me an idiot, all right?"
Sam smiled weakly at him. "Okay. Sorry."
"Do you want to do this essay?"
Four hours later, the essay was finished, and Oliver was in his darkened dormitory, attempting to fall asleep. Since he was still awake, it could be said that he was having very little success. Sam's outpouring of anger had bothered him, and he couldn't get it out of his mind. Of course he really wasn't as dense as she had assumed in her fury, but without knowing the whole story, he hadn't been about to say anything. Anyway, he knew he wasn't going to be able to offer any comfort. He was bad at it, and in any case, consoling a girl who'd just discovered her boyfriend's infidelity wasn't something that he had experience with. He doubted it would have helped telling Sam how much he himself hated Flint. For one thing, she already knew. It was a subject they avoided. Obviously, it didn't take any stretch of imagination to figure out that this newest escapade of Flint's only further convinced Oliver that the Slytherin was not actually a human being.
He had never understood what Sam saw in Flint. The boy must have had some kind of hugely redeeming quality, because they had been a couple for years. Either that or Sam was mentally unstable. Oliver was inclined to go with the latter explanation. If Oliver had been the violent, macho, vindictive type, he would have been in far more brawls with Flint over all the times he'd offended him with his general nastiness, this time included. However, he would content himself with the look on Flint's face when Gryffindor won the Quidditch Cup in the spring. That would be a beautiful moment.
Oliver fell asleep with the sound of cheering in his ears, doubly determined to win this year.