"Wood, you gonna be up for Chaser trials?" Charlie Weasley asked his Keeper, not looking away from the Beater trials that were going on overhead. "There's a lot of 'em this year, and I could take a turn or two."
Oliver Wood, who at fourteen was already as tall as his Captain, merely laughed. "Oh, yes, lets encourage the young 'uns to throw things at their new Head Boy. Sounds like a brilliant idea." Charlie rolled his eyes, but smiled when Wood added, "I'll take the lot. Can't imagine anyone but Harris causing much trouble."
They stood in silence, watching the players flying above them, batting Bludgers back and forth, before Charlie asked, "You think I'd seem biased if I took my brothers?"
"Not when they're the best ones," Oliver said easily. "And twins, working together? Does it get better than that?"
Charlie shrugged, and took a moment to look over at the potential Chasers. His gaze wandered vaguely, before stopping on a head of shiny blonde hair.
Tapping Oliver on the shoulder, he pointed her out. "See that one?" he asked, and Oliver nodded. "Katie Bell. Don't know where she got a broom from, but it doesn't matter. Can you go tell her we don't take first years?"
"While you give out the good news?" Oliver snorted, but walked off towards the girl anyway. As he approached, he saw her laughing with another girl, a second year by the look of her, eyes sparkling in the morning sun.
He had to take a breath, to steady himself, before interrupting them. "Miss Bell, is it?" he asked the younger girl, who nodded. "And Johnson, yeah?" The other girl gave a grunt in response, crossing her arms over her chest.
"Sorry, but...should I know you?" Katie Bell was looking up at him with the brightest, most inquisitive blue eyes he'd seen at Hogwarts. "I mean, not many people know my name, but I don't recall ever meeting you..."
Oliver shook his head, before extending a hand. "Oliver Wood. I play Keeper," he said, smiling back at her when she shook his hand. "And not to be rude or anything, but you do know we don't let first years on the team, right?"
"Oh I know," she said, her smile not fading a bit. "Angelina was just telling me the same thing. I just want to fly a trial. So I know what to expect next year, you know?"
Looking down at her skeptically, trying to hide the fact that he was bit impressed by the request, he asked, "You've been here what, two weeks? I doubt you've ever seen a match. Do you even know how to fly that thing?"
"She wouldn't be here if she didn't," the Johnson girl said from his left. "Come on, Wood, what's the harm? It's not like she'll trouble you any."
Katie waved a friendly but dismissive hand at her friend, then said, "I can fly, and I'd like to see how I can do against a real Keeper. I'll go last, if you want, and the Captain doesn't even have to watch, but I'd like a go. If you'll let me, that is."
"Guess it couldn't hurt," Oliver said, more to himself than the girls. He looked back across the pitch to see three redheads, Charlie and his twin brothers, huddled together. "I'll run it by Charlie, but even if he says no, I'm sure no one's booked the pitch afterwards. You could still stay and take a few shots if you wanted."
He might have expected thanks, but when Katie jumped up and thew her arms around his neck, all he could do was stand there awkwardly, quite shocked, as she hugged him. "Thank you!" she crowed into his shoulder, "Thank you so much!"
"Not a problem," he said in a slightly strangled voice, trying and half succeeding in ducking away. He pulled her arms off him a second later, and added, "You better be worth it though, Miss Bell. I don't want to get in trouble for this."
Katie just nodded eagerly, her smile still bright as the sun. She waved as he walked back to Charlie and their new Beaters, and he waved back with much less enthusiasm.
"Got an admirer, there?" Charlie asked him once he'd joined the trio of redheads. "She's a cutie, I'll give you that. Why's she still here?"
The twins looked over curiously, then back to Oliver, while Charlie wiggled his eyebrows mockingly. Oliver told himself he wasn't blushing, and turned around to look back at Katie, who'd found a seat on the bleachers with the Johnson girl.
"Shove off," he muttered, before raising his voice. "She knows first years aren't allowed. She wants a trial for the experience. Never played against a good Keeper before." Charlie was nodding, clearly interested. "She said she'd go last, and I'll stay by myself if you don't want to stick around, but I think we should give her a chance."
Charlie made an emphatically indifferent gesture, then pointed to the goalposts. "Oddly enough, we haven't got any other Keeper tryouts. So Chasers are next." Oliver caught his smile before the Captain turned around and bellowed, "CHASERS UP! OLDEST FIRST, IF YOU PLEASE! EACH OF YOU GETS FIVE SHOTS, Y'HEAR?"
Knowing this to be his cue, Oliver mounted his broomstick and shot up to the goalposts that he'd be protecting. Harris, one of the two Chasers from last year, wasn't far behind him. He'd been the lead scorer even over Grady, who'd been a seventh year, and was known for hard and fast-and therefore painful-shots.
However, he was cocky, didn't try as hard as he could have, and missed his first two. The third pushed a slightly unprepared Oliver through the goal with the Quaffle buried in his chest. Oliver saved the fourth, though his hand was numb for a few moments afterwards, and the fifth he had to duck to avoid being knocked clean off his broom. Charlie called him down as he was flying in for a sixth shot, and Harris reluctantly passed the Quaffle off to his teammate and fellow seventh year, Morgan. She made two of her five, then passed it on to the next.
Katie was last, obviously, but she took to the air with every bit as much grace as those before her, Quaffle under her arm. "Go on," Oliver called when she hesitated in front of him, waving her forward. "Show me what you got!"
Her first shot missed, and he saved the second almost too easily. He smiled encouragingly, until the third shot bounced off the top of his head and just barely missed the center hoop.
"Oh, that's it, missy," he said, meeting her eyes. She just grinned, then dove to retrieve the Quaffle, as he'd forgotten to get it back. Her expression was nothing short of gleeful when he was so surprised that he forgot to block her fourth shot.
Oliver saved the fifth shot rather more spectacularly than was strictly necessary, so he could feel justified in throwing her smug little smile right back at her. "Not bad," he said as they flew back to the few who had stayed to see the little first year. "You know, for a first year."
Charlie voiced his own praise and suggestions, giving her a clap on the shoulder for hitting Oliver in the head. While the seventh year seemed to make her nervous, she accepted his critique with a smile and a quiet thanks.
It wasn't until after she was walking off with the two second years, who had made Chaser and reserve, that Charlie leaned over and said, "You better take her next year, Wood."
"What do you mean?" Oliver asked, but Charlie just shook his head.
"You work with her a little this year, and she'll be spectacular for try-outs next year," he said, his gaze lost up near the goalposts. "If you don't take her on your team, I will come back and knock sense into you myself."
Oliver shrugged, then grabbed one end of the equipment trunk, letting Charlie get the other. "She threw a Quaffle at my head! And she's the hugging sort."
"And in two years, you will be remarkably alright with that."
"What's that supposed to mean?"