His roommates have never understood what Oliver sees in quidditch. They go to the matches and cheer for him and boo their rivals as everyone else does, yeah. They have fun and they don't think more of it once it has ended.
To them, it is only a hobby. But to Oliver, it is his passion.
Percy usually said something along the lines that if he looked away from quidditch, even for a day, his grades would be more than decent, because contrary to popular belief, he thought Oliver had a brain. But Percy also said athlete the same way one would say "I can't go to the party because I have homework to do", except that Percy would actually be happy to stay back to do his homework. He was devoted to his studies like that and he didn't want to believe nor understand that, sometimes, studying wasn't the most important thing in someone's life. The others mocked him and affectionately joked that his only true love was his broom while patting him on the shoulder. He always laughed it off and replied that quidditch took up all of his time, that he was too focused on his dream to be chasing girls. Or boys. (He had had a Realization in summer of his Fifth Year after a whole month spent thinking about his neighbour's very nice abs in a not really platonic way, so he was pretty sure he was attracted to guys, yeah. So what).
Alicia didn't have to endure such comments, he knew. She was the perfect student and the perfect player. The type of person that was simply good at everything they did. She trained as hard as everyone else and she still had time to hand in voluntary assignments. McGonagall'svoluntary assignments. She liked quidditch and she liked to study, and in Hogwarts, she could do both.
Things for Angelina were a bit different. Her mother had been a professional quidditch player. A Holyhead Harpies, to be more precise. During the first month she had been on the team, Oliver had dreamed of her and her amazing, incredible flying (a part of him couldn't believe that someone could have that much control at freaking twelve ). He had thought it unfair — she was a legacy, she had connections, she had the full support of her family and, on top of that, she was one of the best students in her class, or so he had heard from Alice. And, okay, yeah, he did have his family's support too, but his Ministry worker parents could only do so much for his career. They only understoodso much. Years later, he had reflected on how jealous he had been because he didn't wish the pressure that Angelina was under on anyone. (And she was scary, too, whenever she snapped at the poor soul who had pushed her a bit too far).
The twins were, well. The twins. Life was a huge joke to them, and quidditch was a little joke within that bigger joke. It makes things interesting, they had said on their try-outs. They were the damn best beaters Gryffindor had ever seen — and their weird twin sixth sense also made them the best jokesters he had ever met. Their role within the team, as it seemed, was also that of being a pain in the ass; more specifically, a pain in his ass, because they lovedtormenting him. They had this dynamic where one of them would fail all the easy hits while the other swung his bat's as if he were chasing butterflies for the sole purpose of driving Oliver crazy. And when he got this all-I-think-about-is-quidditch glint in his eyes (in Katie's words), Fred and George only had to share a look and then they would tackle him to the ground before he could even blink. They would rough him up a bit —until their captain lost all authority— and stop only when their uniforms were muddy and he looked on the verge of snapping. Fortunately for him and the rest of the team, they didn't do that a lot, because they knew he would then proceed to spend the next thirty minutes telling them off for pulling such a stunt, and they considered it to be an absolute waste of time.
Katie was, perhaps, the most similar to him. She loved quidditch with a passion, and she worked as hard as Oliver, if not harder, to make opportunities for herself; she was the one who stayed behind to discuss tactics, the one who analyzed the games with him and the one who drilled the plays that would take them to victory into her brain. She showed interest, and she was young, and she absorbed everything he told her like a sponge. Some kid in her year called McLaggen had said she trailed behind Wood like a puppy, and then he had shut up after holding Oliver's hard stare for about 0.2 seconds. Katie had become, after two years in the team, a confidant. True, they didn't spend time in each other's company outside the pitch, but considering that they spent as many hours as possible on the pitch, they didn't need to. He ranted about his parents, his roommates and Marcus Flint (it unnerved him that he was a good player yet still resorted to foul play to win, dammit). In turn, she told him about her dreams, the places she wanted to go, the fear of her dad deciding that quidditch was not, in fact, a proper hobby for a lady to have. At this, he would indignantly offer to confront her father if he ever said as much, and she would sweetly wave him off; she didn't want him to fight her battles, she replied every time it happened.
For his youngest player, quidditch was a way out. Harry Potter was the Boy Who Lived, Hogwarts' centre of gossip (because problems kept finding the boy), the only First Year who had ever made it to the team. He was the golden boy, to some, and an overrated kid that had been given everything handed to him on a silver plate to others. He saw how Harry's eyes shone when he was up there, flying, chasing a tiny ball, and how his confidence grew every time he caught it. It was something satisfying to watch and incredibly sad altogether. On his broom, he was a normal kid. (Or as normal as a prodigy could be, anyway). The captain never failed to shower him with praise and the way he preened and glowed under it made his heart clench. Never let it be said that he didn't care about his players; quidditch was his life, yes, and so he took great care of what —thosewho— made it so enjoyable.
And that was his team. These people that had been brought together by the love they shared for the sport, yes, but Oliver was well aware that it was the teamwork that made them the dream team. All those hours spent together were what made them click... but also they were what made them tick. And when they did, it wasn't always pretty.
Fred and George would get into physical fights when they crashed into each other because they were too tired to use the twin sense that made them aware of the location of each other. They would roll on the grass and dirty themselves, throw some insults for good measure and end up on their backs, breathless and laughing. Then, Katie would call for team bonding, and all of them —minus Oliver, of course— would jump on the Weasleys and on top of each other. Alice was especially ticklish, so she would always have tears on her eyes from laughing too much. And when Oliver finally ordered them back to their posts, sometimes they obeyed and sometimes Katie would turn on himand pile on him.
But the twins weren't the only ones who got into fights. The girls would sometimes argue during the training sessions. If a pass that should have been easy wasn't easy, Angelina would call whoever it had been out. When it was her who made a mistake, she was harder on herself than anyone else, so there was no need to say anything. When it was Alicia or Katie, though...
"You were in an ideal position, how can you have missed that?"
"Oh, as if you would have done much better, Ms Perfect"
"Well, if you had passed it to me earlier, we would have known"
Alicia was the calmer of the three, but Katie never backed off. Although they adored each other most of the time, the rest of them knew better than to come between the girls when they argued like that.
However, those were the only downsides to being on the team. Oliver, Fred and George shadowed the chasers and seeker whenever a particularly important match approached. Or whenever they played against Slytherin. The rivalry between the two Houses was well-known and it went beyond being fair or sportive. It was no secret that Flint would try to catch Harry alone to break his arm (how he got away with even trying when the whole school knew of his plans was beyond Oliver's comprehension). Montague and the other snakes didn't go that far, but they weren't above pushing, tripping or throwing hexes their way when the professors weren't looking. Hewould never stoop that low —although that didn't mean that the twins didn't take the opportunity to give back as good as they got—, least take matters into his own hands. Most of the time, he didn't. Yet...
The team would never forget —and would never let him forget— the day he had decked Flint in his stupid jaw after he had tried to get Katie into Moaning Myrtle's bathroom and charm the door so that she wouldn't be able to make it to the match that they were playing in a few hours. Fred and George had enacted the scene quite dramatically every time a student wearing green robes was in the vicinity for a whole month. Everyone laughed at their antics, and Oliver had to hide his smile more than once because no way he was condoning violence.
Yes, "team" was a very special word. It meant being part of something bigger. It meant having the same goals and knowing that the only way to reach them was counting on the others. It meant being supportive and at each other's beck and call no matter what. In the ups and the downs. That was what made them a team. A family.
When the Chamber of Secrets had been open, all of them had defended Harry from the rumours that had accused him of doing it. When McGonagall had sent the twins to serve detention with her for two weeks for having blown up a toilet —they had said that it had been their mother's idea or something like that—, Angelina and Alicia had taken it upon themselves to take notes for them since they were in the same year. Oliver and Katie had helped in copying Alicia's homework for them so that they could train and keep up with their classes at the same time (although neither of the two seemed too worried about it).
After Roger Davies had dumped Alicia and had made fun of her flying, the whole team had made sure to clear her path to score as many goals as possible in their match against the house of the eagles, and had sworn eternal hatred for the snobby Ravenclaw. Fred and George, taking Harry with him, had even sprinkled itching powder into his uniform. It lasted for weeks. Oliver hadn't even felt guilty for not feeling sorry for him.
When Angelina and her mom had shouted at each other in the middle of the Common Room during one of her visits ("Your flying is too sloppy! Your aunts and I haven't spent all this time training you to be mediocre!"), they all had quickly ushered the bystanders away. Later, they had listened to the girl rant, and only when she had broken out in frustrated tears had the boys taken their leave (under Alicia's and Katie's pointed stares that said "we have this, we'll take it from here, go"). Fred had left after kneeling and asking her to marry him à la Rudolf Brad, the player who had proposed to the then Holyhead Harpies captain in the 50s after losing an epic match that had lasted seven days. Oliver had been relieved to hear Angelina's laugh.
When Katie needed help, when Katie asked questions, when Katie gushed about girls and glanced furtively at the Ravenclaw table to look at Cho Chang, they all had been there for her. When his dad had come and frowned at her daughter with a messy bun, sweaty face and dirty uniform, even Harry had caught up on the tension and had tried his best to distract her. When, years later, she reunited them to tell them some "very important news", no one had been more stunned than Katie herself, because his friends hadn't looked the least bit surprised after she had come out. Oliver would be the first to hug her. And then promptly ask her —while looking at the twins for the truth— if anyone had said anything out of line.
And he remembered too well how he had been taken to Hog's Head to get wasted after he had received the Appleby Arrows' answer. "Thank you for choosing us", the letter had said, "but we are sorry to announce that you have not been deemed fit for the position". George doubted he would be able to ever forget the image of his captain drinking his sorrows away. And then Oliver had been so angry the next day, his head pounding and him experiencing the worst hangover he had had to the date, the boy had forgotten all about the stupid Arrows. He had snapped at everyone for two days straight until Flint had grabbed his arm in an empty corridor and told him to stop being a fucking depressed loser. Surprisingly, he had softened his voice after that (as much as Flint's voice could be softened) and then he had said something, but Oliver had been too stunned to process. And whatever Flint had said had made him realize that being rejected by a team was notthe end of his professional career. After apologizing for getting on everyone's nerves, he had warned them against the Slytherin captain because he was acting strange, Katie had looked at him and sighed and proceeded to pat him on the head.
To Oliver, quidditch was everything and beyond. Hell, he had given quidditch everything he had, and didn't plan to stop giving until he was on his deathbed. He was sure of that. Thoughts about the sport never strayed too far from his mind. He was firm on the whole "understanding your enemy before hoping to beat it", and so he always went to the other teams' matches to observe and take notes. He analyzed their plays, their players and their flying, and spent hours working on how to be better than all of it. On top of that, he took his training very seriously. He was diligent, he worked hard and he took great care in training both his mind and his body so that he could always be the best version of himself. And he rewrote his speeches a hundred times and usually asked Percy to proofread them. Percy, his somewhat best friend, had looked highly offended the first time he'd been asked, but Oliver knew that the appeal of correcting and editing someone else's work was too strong for him to refuse. And he wanted his team to be in their very best form, too, and he took great lengths to assure that. In the back of his mind, he secretly thought of himself as a parent to all of them (when he nagged at Fred and George he never had to think about it: it came so natural to him, how could he notbe the dad friend?).
Quidditch was, to put it simply, not a dream but his entire life. He had chosen it to be so. He woke every day choosing to check on Harry over breakfast. He went to class choosing to try stoping the twins in the hallways when they looked extremely smug before they could carry on with whatever prank they had planned; And although Oliver would never be able to stop them from getting detention, he still chose to try . Walking Katie to class, talking to Angelina about her technique, caring about Alicia's health because no way in hell was he going to let her stay awake the whole night to work on her homework. They were his choices, all of them. That he had made as a friend, yes, but who had he to thank for being lucky enough to call them friends? So, in a sense, quidditch had given him his life. It was only fair that he gave it his all to it in return, too.
The team celebrated their wins and comforted each other when they lost. If someone had been injured —usually Harry—, they camped in the Hospital Wing next to their bed until Madame Pomfrey sent them away with threats of calling Professor McGonagall to confiscate their brooms. (And then the next day they would be back and the woman would have to send them away once more).
Oliver simply didn't have the words to explain all of this to his roommates. The bonds that had formed not only when they headed back to the castle together, sweaty and exhausted after a good training session, but also when they were lying around on the grass, the sun up in the sky and them pretending to be paying attention to what their captain was saying (Oliver just chose not to break the magical moment: he loved quidditch, but he wasn't dead and he enjoyed a good day when they had one). And he didn't have the words to explain the nerves he felt hours prior to a match nor the way his insides curled right before taking off after Hooch's whistle. The feeling of triumph and satisfaction after stopping the Chasers from scoring, the view of the stands, knowing that every single pair of eyes was on them. Only someone who played quidditch would understand the absolute, pure elation they all felt after a victory or the disappointment that showed in their faces after a loss. And since he hadn't known how to make them see it, they had never understood why Oliver had spent the whole night tossing and turning in his bed, the last match against Slytherin less than twelve hours away.
They had to win. They had to . And for it to be their only chance at the Cup, they had to win by a lot of points. He could only pray that Katie, Alicia and Angelina had managed to rest enough to be on their best form today.
That morning in the Great Hall he found his teammates already seated. No one dared to eat more than a few toasts, and Olived managed to order them to drink their pumpkin juice and to take a few bites of the sausages. People around them showed their support with little smiles, pats on the shoulders or encouraging words. Harry's friend (and the twins' younger brother), Ron, looked almost as nervous as they did. The other one, the girl with bushy hair, didn't look as green, but she had a quidditch book open and seemed to be studying Seeker drills (and it resembled Percy so much it was ridiculous).
When the time came, they all headed to the dressing rooms without uttering a word. Oliver opened and closed his mouth a few times as if he hadn't practised his speech a thousandth times. Angelina nodded at him and that helped him gather himself; he forgot what he was meaning to say and he managed to croak a "let's win" to them, the emotions overcoming him. This was his last match. Gryffindor's victory was on the line. This was his team, and he trusted them more than anyone. He must have looked completely desperate because Katie rushed to his side to hug him. Angelina and Alicia weren't too far behind and, in the next seconds, he saw Harry and the twins move towards them. At that moment, they all forgot their differences and their lives outside quidditch as they huddled together. They were a spot of bright red in the beige dressing rooms; they were a team.
Quidditch was a type of magic on itself, Oliver thought. Because when they all jumped on their brooms and took off, all his worries faded to the background and he easily fell into what he did best: Keeping. He did not doubt that Flint would put up a fight today and he focused on following the quaffle whenever it went; at the same time, his brain ran over plans and strategies and plays and he found himself shouting orders at his team. And when his heart stopped at the sight of Harry and Malfoy racing side to side, he knew that he wasn't the only one to hold his breath. The magic of quidditch, a part of him mused, was that it made everyone feel the same, player or not.
So when Oliver, Fred, George, Angelina, Alicia and Katie felt the familiar buzz of the snitch (even caught, they had trouble seeing it) in Harry's hand and they looked at each other, slowly coming out of their focus, disbelief painted in all of their faces, it took them a moment to realize they had just won. They had won, even though it felt like they had just started a few minutes ago. The students were slowly coming out of their daze as well, their throats sore from cheering, their minds still in the game they had been witnessing.
They were the winners. Because his team was the bestone, he knew that. It wasn't a matter of speed, technique nor power, no; the Cup was theirs because they had learnt how to fly together as if they were one. Because they knew each other, because they belonged with each other. It was as simple yet as complicated as that.
When Harry landed and the other six Gryffindor players ran to him, Oliver hugged him and started crying on his shoulder. He didn't care that the rest of the school was watching him bawl his eyes out; the only thing that gave him more joy than having won was that they had won together . They had won they had won they had won.
When Fred and George pushed Oliver aside after allowing him a few seconds to embarrass himself and took the Seeker on their shoulders, the whole House of Gryffindor roaring beside them, they were a team. When Angelina squeezed Wood's arm and shared a look with Katie and Alicia, her eyes suspiciously glassy, they were a team. When Harry raised his fist and let all the breath he didn't know he had been holding out and the twins knowingly threw him up once, twice, three times in the air, they were a team.
When Oliver looked back and saw Katie hugging her dad and Angelina smiling next to her mother, when he thought of the next months and the training practices he had scheduled with the Puddlemere United, he knew that they would alwaysbe a team, because they would always cheer for each other when it was needed; they would always be there for each other. Of that, he had no doubts.