The Perfect Match
"I don't know why you're so worried, Oliver, Hufflepuff are a pushover. Last time we played them, Harry caught the Snitch in about five minutes, remember?"
"We were playing in completely different conditions!" Wood shouted, his eyes bulging slightly. "Diggory's put a very strong side together! He's an excellent Seeker! I was afraid you'd take it like this! We mustn't relax! We must keep our focus! Slytherin are trying to wrong-foot us! We must win!"
The storm raged on outside the castle, and Oliver could hear the distant thunder rolling its way closer as he sat in the library, hunched over a stack of the latest Quidditch magazines. It was almost eleven, and he stifled a yawn as he mentally cursed the Slytherin team's seeker for the hundredth time that night. Ever since Flint, Slytherin's team captain, smugly informed him earlier that week that Gryffindor would be facing Hufflepuff the upcoming Saturday instead, Oliver had been working like a madman, forgoing meals and sleep in favor of changing game strategies and reviewing positions.
Oliver believed Harry when he told him that Slytherin's seeker was faking his injury, which only served to make him more fanatical about winning tomorrow's game. A real injury he could understand, but to Oliver, cheating and lying to manipulate the game seemed sacrilegious. Growling, he flipped through last month's edition of Quaffle with frustration.
'Players like Ireland's reserve Chaser William Yeardley display well the preferred response to a Reverse Wronski Feint. Pullback Turns are rarely used in any other circumstances, but when paired against a Reverse Wronski Feint, this move efficiently allows the defender to change direction without sacrificing speed…'
With a snort, Oliver flipped the magazine shut and shoved it towards an 'already read' pile. Privately, Oliver thought that no Quidditch player in their right mind should respond to a proper Wronski Feint with a Pullback Turn; Yeardley had just been lucky that Hungary's chaser was having an off-day. The defender may not have to sacrifice speed, but the Pullback took a convoluted path that certainly increased distance enough to rule out whatever advantage keeping a constant speed might give. Oliver chewed on his quill thoughtfully. 'Although…' he thought, 'If the player isn't too bothered about remaining upright on his broom the entire time, I can modify the pathway…' Grabbing the magazine again, Oliver carefully marked his page and started jotting down notes.
He was still working when the library's lights flickered gently; Madame Pince's warning that the library would be closing in five minutes. Sighing, Oliver gathered up his things and took his magazines to be checked out; he would have to finish working in the common room. His nose still in the magazine as he left the library, he did not notice the Stinging Hex whispered his way as he made his way down the long spiral staircase. With a shout, Oliver dropped what he was carrying and rubbed his wrist harshly where an angry red blotch was starting to appear. He narrowed his eyes as Marcus Flint sniggered loudly, standing at the foot of the stairs.
"Alright there, Wood?" he called cheerfully, taking the stairs two at a time. He nodded out one of the narrow windows being pelted with rain. "Lovely weather for your match tomorrow, eh?"
Oliver paused in mid-Accio to scowl at Flint. "Scared of a little rain, were you Flint?"
Flint shrugged jauntily. "What can I do? My seeker's hurt. But it should be no problem for you, right? I mean, you'll surely win against Hufflepuff."
Oliver growled, thinking about the lecture he had given his team at their last training session. "Shove off, Flint." He ground out, as Flint laughed nastily.
If Oliver had been less angry, he might have paid a little bit more attention to where he was walking. If he had paid a little bit more attention to where he was walking, he might have seen a forgotten glossy magazine laying a mere two steps in front of him and stopped to pick it up. But alas, Oliver was not less angry and did not pay attention to where he was walking, so he stepped and slipped on the magazine; hurtling very quickly towards a very caught-off-guard Marcus Flint.
Flailing for balance, one of Oliver's elbows knocked into the side of Flint's head as his left foot buried itself into the front of Flint's knee. Oliver winced at the sickening cracking noises they made as they tumbled down the staircase, using every bit of reflex they had to keep from serious injury. Finally he felt himself yanked to a sudden stop and blinked his eyes open. Feeling slight pressure on his right leg, he pulled himself upright to see it caught in—
"A trick stair?" Flint growled, rubbing his head. Oliver looked down to see Flint lying down on the staircase, one foot also caught in the same stair. Flint groaned as he fruitlessly tugged on his foot, the groaning becoming louder when the torches lining the hallways and staircase dimmed.
Pulling himself completely up, Flint glared at Oliver. "If we get points off for breaking curfew, I'll bash your head in." He promised.
Irritated, tired, and hungry, Oliver picked grabbed one of the magazines scattered over the staircase and threw it at Flint. "You hit me with the stinging hex," he hissed, "so this is your fault. Just shut up so no one hears us until this stair opens up."
Leaning back against opposite walls, they stared at each other angrily.
Oliver ignored Flint's whisper.
Still ignoring him.
"Your mum's so ugly, a Blast-Ended Skrewt tried to mate with her."
Oliver pursed his lips.
"Your team's so pathetic, you're probably glad it's a shit-storm out there, at least now you'll have something to pin your loss on instead of Gryffindor's gigantic bloody lack of talent."
Oliver's eye began to twitch.
There was silence again for a little while, and a rustling, and Oliver hoped that Flint was going to quietly read one of the scattered Quidditch magazines to pass the time. He was sadly mistaken.
The barely contained amusement in Flint's voice made Oliver slowly open his eyes. Flint was holding his well-thumbed subscription of Puddlemere magazine.
"Puddlemere's the worst team in the league."
"You shut your damn mouth!"
Flint grinned at the angry scowl on Oliver's face, having finally gotten the response he wanted.
"They've got no-talent, lazy players who can't play defense to save their lives, their Seeker couldn't catch a blind Snidget, absolutely no sense of leadership…"
Losing all sense of self-restraint, Oliver lunged violently across the stair at Marcus Flint.
Still careful to keep his voice low, Oliver furiously kicked Flint in his side with his free leg repeatedly. "He was sick! There's no way he would have missed it otherwise!"
Flint was trying to shatter Oliver's exposed kneecap with his free leg, grunting back, "He had a slight cold, Wood, and he was on a Shooting Star, Donavon was still on a Tinderblast! There's a league of differences between the two brooms, enough to cancel out any disadvantage from a stuffy nose!"
"You can't – call that – fair play!" Flint quietly choked out, as Oliver continued trying to strangle him. "Callum would've been – right on point – if Price hadn't – rammed him into the ground – the first quarter!"
"Price only landed on him because he tried to flip her over before she pulled out of her dive!" Oliver gasped, blinking back tears as Flint tore even harder at his hair. "Callum couldn't aim a bludger straight for the rest of the game because he's an inconsistent player!"
"Inconsistent's – better than cheating!" Flint hissed, yanking his arm away as Oliver tore into it with his teeth.
"They watched that-mfff-play three times before they made the-oof-call, you dunderhead!" Oliver huffed, as Flint kicked his stomach.
"Bodomin Moore's much better", Flint sneered, as he blocked Oliver's punch.
"Yeah, it's so good that all the games take forever, because of their awful conditions," Oliver retorted, ducking Flint's swing.
"Exmoor's boring!" Flint said, gesticulating wildly, "Bodomin's got these gorgeous rolling hills, and the weather's extreme-"
"That's what I'm talking about!" Oliver hissed, agitated, "It's not right for a proper exhibition game, is it, because mostly the players are just trying to deal with the weather instead of concentrating on the game." As an afterthought, he tried to slap Flint.
Flint knocked it away impatiently. "Look, just because you've got your knickers in a twist about the likelihood of winning in tomorrow's weather doesn't mean you can deny it's exciting. Players should have to be able to deal with the weather; it's a natural element of Quidditch!"
"Fine, it's exciting, but how can you possibly accept winning because, 'oh, the raging wind blew the other Seeker off course so now I've caught the Snitch' when you know you didn't win because of skill?" Oliver demanded. "And anyway, I'm not worried about the weather tomorrow; I'm worried because we'll be playing a different team in conditions we haven't played them in before! Say what you like about Hufflepuff, but—"
"Diggory has put a very strong side together," Flint finished, shrugging. "For Hufflepuff, anyway. And he's quite an excellent Seeker." Flint paused. "For a Hufflepuff, anyway."
Oliver blinked. "Er—yes. And anyway, we were practicing for Slytherin's style of playing, not Hufflepuff's."
Flint smirked. "Relax, we were just trying to wrong-foot you a bit. Besides, Hufflepuff didn't know they were playing you until a week earlier, either. It's not like you're at a disadvantage."
Oliver blinked again, indeed feeling quite wrong-footed. "D'you think Ireland should have beaten Hungary last month?" he was unable to stop from blurting out.
Flint drew quickly on the back of Oliver's half-finished Transfiguration essay, jabbing the paper with his quill as he was making his point.
"…see, because there is where Fuller should have been, but Yeardley was too busy watching Bhartov to get into his own position, so Fuller had to cover both zones, and it's frankly a bloody miracle Hungary only got through his defense five times."
Oliver nodded vehemently. "I hate Yeardley." He said with passion.
Flint snorted. "Don't even get me started on that Pullback Turn he did."
Oliver gaped at him.
"I mean alright, so he didn't have to give up any speed to pull the move, which I admit was a good thought," Flint said, jabbing at the diagram some more, "but-"
"-the path's so convoluted, it cancels out any speed just with the increased distance." Oliver finished for him, in a slightly dazed voice.
Flint looked impressed. "Yeah. Exactly. Although…" he chewed his bottom lip thoughtfully, as Oliver's eye began to twitch in earnest again, "although, I suppose, if you weren't too bothered about flying upside down, you could modify the path-"
Losing all sense of self-restraint, Oliver lunged violently across the stair at Marcus Flint.
Oliver had his hands around Flint's neck again, and Flint was definitely tugging on Oliver's hair.
"1932" Oliver whispered breathily, "Appleby keeps it up for sixteen days and-mfff-wins against the Vrasta Vultures."
"1875 – Gripping charms" Flint managed, as Oliver's tongue violated his mouth, "make the Quaffle easier – to handle ohhh…"
"Mmm yeah, keep talking dirty..."
Oliver gripped Flint's neck tighter to keep from making a noise as his lower lip was introduced to Flint's teeth. Moving his mouth to Flint's throat, Oliver started lightly sucking and—
"Flint! Wood! Explain yourselves!"
Oliver instantly detached his mouth from Flint's neck and Flint scrambled out from underneath him, both shoving away from each other under the horrified glare of Professor McGonagall.
Oliver's felt his face burn up and determinedly looked everywhere but at Flint.
"I – I was coming back from the library, before curfew I swear and I, erm-"
"Tripped," Flint supplied meekly, "and bumped me, and we got stuck in this – this trick stair, here…"
He trailed off as McGonagall's glare rested on him.
"Mr. Flint, Mr. Wood, you should both have been in your dormitories thirty-five minutes ago. Mr. Wood, you are Gryffindor's captain and you have a match tomorrow! Have you lost all sense of responsibility?"
"No!" Oliver said, horrified, "No, these are magazines on Quidditch maneuvers, see – and that's why I was in the library in the first place, and I was just going to take these back and read them before, erm, before I got stuck…" He finished lamely.
McGonagall's glare softened as she noticed the sheer volume of Quidditch reading material scattered over the staircase, and she leaned over to tap the stair with her wand. "Well," she said tightly, as she watched both boys scrambled around for their things, "Twenty points from Slytherin and Gryffindor for breaking curfew, and another five for," she blew out a breath through her nose, "being stuck in the middle of a staircase."
Flint and Oliver sprinted down the stairs towards the opposite sides of the castle.
Oliver did not stop running until he was in his common room and, dropping his things on the floor, screamed, "Team! Bed!" He immediately ran up to his own dormitory and threw himself onto his bed, screaming quietly into his pillow.
Back in the common room, Chaser Alicia Spinnet shook her head at their slightly unstable Quidditch captain as the bewildered players got up from their squishy armchairs. "Always a little nutters about Quidditch, that one." She muttered to fellow Chaser Angelina Johnson confidentially, as they headed up towards the girls' dormitory.