-We'll Never Have Paris-
He didn't visit Paris for the reasons everyone else did. He wasn't there for history, the buildings, or the art. He hadn't been lured in by the promise of exquisite cuisine and plentiful shopping boutiques. It wasn't the lights, the aura of romance, or the feeling of wonder the city had to offer.
No, Oliver Wood came to Paris to win, and it was because he'd failed to do so that he was walking along the Seine at dusk with his hands in his pockets and a cigarette between his teeth.
He'd contemplated returning to England like a couple of his teammates already had, but he wouldn't have felt right doing that. Oliver was strict about loyalty; even if it meant spending a couple of days in France after elimination, he'd stick with his team through thick and thin. Of course, if that were entirely true he'd have been at the stadium just outside the city watching the final of the European Cup with the rest of the guys, but on this particular night, he really felt like he needed to be alone.
He still blamed himself for their loss even though he knew it wasn't entirely his fault. Oliver was known for performing well under pressure, for stepping up his game when the Snitch was out and the score was close, but he choked. The Quaffle slid right by him during a rare moment when his mind drifted off for a reason he couldn't even remember. The opposing seeker caught the Snitch a minute later, and instead of a tie game, Puddlemere lost by a mere ten points while the other team secured their place in the final match.
That hadn't happened to him since Hogwarts. Since...
Stop, Oliver thought. Don't do this to yourself.
He wound up on the Pont des Arts, one of the handful of pedestrian bridges crossing the Seine. He didn't dare use his wand, instead pulling a standard lighter from his pocket to ignite the tip of his cigarette. Oliver had been going back and forth on whether to light the damn thing, but he'd lost, he was angry, and he knew he was close to letting mind run wild, so perhaps a smoke would do him some good. He'd quit several years ago, but every once in a while he allowed himself one. It was a rare treat, and Oliver had forgotten how the smooth smoke wafting through his lungs could quell even the most jittery of nerves.
Oliver leaned the front of his torso against the metal railing, inhaling deeply and flicking ash into the river below as he looked out before him. The lights appeared even brighter now as night drew closer. They didn't burn or flash, but instead gently twinkled silver and gold, making it difficult to tell where the city skyline ended and the starry sky began. Even the river itself seemed to be shining; the glow of illuminated landmarks and traffic lights reflected upon the rippling water as it danced its way beside the streets and beneath the bridges, straight through the heart of the city.
It was a strikingly beautiful place and had rightfully earned it's title as romantic capital of the world. There was something about it that whisked people away into an indescribable feeling of invincibility. The history, the paintings, the sculptures, the restaurants, the architecture... no matter where people turned in Paris, they were surrounded by some sort of greatness. It was no wonder millions of couples flocked there seeking adventure and enchantment. Who wouldn't want to be in a place that made them feel as if anything was possible? Wasn't that what love was all about?
The only other time Oliver visited Paris, he'd agreed with the masses. He'd been completely captivated by the mystique, elegance, and charm radiating throughout the city. Danielle was with him during that trip. They'd done the usual things tourists do while in Paris: visited museums, had lunch at darling little cafes, went to the top of the Eiffel Tower, and strolled along the riverbank hand-in-hand in the late evening hours. They even went to see an old French film at an art house cinema in the Latin Quarter. It wasn't very good, and Oliver hated reading the subtitles, but he didn't care. He was in Paris and in love, and that was all that mattered.
But he was alone this time. Danielle was gone and she wasn't coming back. He'd lost the match. He was bitter. There was nothing special to Oliver about Paris; it was just another city.
From where he stood, he could see couples in the distance sitting by the river, snuggling and admiring the views. He could see lovers gazing at one another across petite cafe tables as they shared desserts and coffee. He even witnessed what appeared to be a marriage proposal at the end of the bridge. However, all he could think of was the match. The Hogwarts one.
Enough. It was years ago. Forget about it.
But Oliver couldn't forget about it. The previous day, he'd been distracted by heaven-knows-what and allowed a score that never should have gotten by him. It had been yesterday, and he couldn't remember what he'd been thinking about. But the Hogwarts match? It was a more than decade ago, and he could vividly remember how the thought of a pair of blue eyes and accompanying smile wandered into his mind at the most crucial point in the match.
He'd found those blue eyes and accompanying smile after Hufflepuff claimed their victory. He'd kissed the person they belonged to. He'd felt his own heart soar, forgetting about the loss for a while.
As Oliver looked at the couples surrounding him, he wanted that feeling back. He missed it.
He'd loved Danielle. Truly, he had. He wouldn't have traded the time he shared with her for anything, and he missed her every day. His lingering devotion to her was what made him feel so guilty for not thinking of her after Puddlemere lost the day before. It hadn't been her arms he thought of. Instead, for a split second, he'd longed for the arms of the one with the blue eyes and accompanying smile.
And since that split second, he couldn't stop thinking about it.
With a final exhale of grey smoke, Oliver tossed the remainder of his cigarette over the railing and watched it sink into the Seine. It had been quite some time since he thought about Percy Weasley. Well, that wasn't completely true, as they were still good friends and met at the Leaky Cauldron for lunch every now and then, but it had certainly been a long time since he'd thought about him in that way.
The feelings he harbored for his school friend all those years ago were something he'd tried so hard to ignore. Oliver was the one all the girls fancied; he was supposed to fancy them back. He did occasionally, and even went out with a few of them. The girls were pretty and fun to talk to (and, admittedly, fun to snog,) but during his time at Hogwarts, the only who truly made Oliver's heart flutter was Percy. With him, it was more than a crush.
They were only together for a short while during their time at school, and it was a secret affair. There was too much at stake to let anyone know, what with him being the Gryffindor Quidditch Captain and Percy being a prefect on the fast track to becoming Head Boy. If that wasn't enough, they were dorm mates; what would people have said? The small handful of students at Hogwarts who were anything other than straight weren't outwardly ridiculed, but there were whispers and gossip when they weren't around. No, Oliver and Percy had images to uphold, social expectations to fulfill. No one could ever know.
As far as Oliver was aware, no one ever did find out about Percy and himself. They did a decent job of keeping it hidden, sneaking kisses when no one was looking and brushing hands beneath the desks while in class. There were even a handful of times when Oliver joined Percy in his bed. They held each other all night, neither talking, sometimes neither even sleeping, and always separated before sunrise, just in case.
They never technically broke-up, probably because they never officially declared themselves a couple even in secret, but things between them just... stopped. They didn't actually discuss why, but they both knew it was because keeping things hushed was too much of a burden. Sneaking around was fun at first, but it lost its appeal after a while, becoming more of a chore than leisure. They remained friends for the rest of their schooling, and things were never awkward. It was like it had never happened.
Perhaps they could have been exclusive after leaving Hogwarts, but Oliver knew it never would have happened even if one of them had proposed the idea. He joined Puddlemere right away while Percy took on his internship with the Ministry. Eventually, Oliver met Danielle and Percy met Audrey, and while Oliver had never really hoped he could ever be with Percy, any opportunity there could have been was closed.
They attended one another's respective weddings. Percy and Audrey visited him and Danielle at St. Mungo's when their son was born, and they did the same when the former couple welcomed their daughter. Percy was there for Oliver when he got the news, and three months later, he kept up a comforting hand on his shoulder as he cried on the day he laid his wife to rest.
Oliver looked to his left to see the Louvre glowing bronze, and he smiled at the memory of the time he and Danielle were there. They'd gotten kicked out for ad-libing some of the paintings in the middle of a guided tour. They were never refunded their payment for admission, but they laughed all the way out of the prestigious museum and for quite some time after. Why would they have cared about getting ejected from what was probably the most famous art museum in the world? Being with each other in the City of Love made them more carefree and jovial than ever before. If the world ended right then and there, it wouldn't have mattered because they were together.
He wasn't sure if it was because he'd lost Danielle or because he'd lost the match (or maybe it was a mix of both,) but Oliver couldn't help but wonder if he and Percy ever could have had that. With Danielle, it wasn't just when they were in Paris that they felt as if anything were possible, but it was always, simply because she was her and he was him and they were perfect. But unlike with Percy, he'd been able to share his love for Danielle with everyone. He could have climbed to the tallest tower in sight and screamed it at the top of his lungs if he'd wanted to.
He pondered what would have happened if he and Percy had been open about their feelings all those years ago. Would it have made a difference? If after a Quidditch loss, or even a victory, Oliver could have kissed Percy the second he saw him instead of waiting until they were out of everyone's view, would their feelings have ever grown stronger? What if they'd been able to hold hands while in the corridors or in Hogsmeade, not just under the desks in Professor McGonagall's classroom?
Could he and Percy have ever had what all these couples around him in Paris did?
Oliver knew it was moot to think about such things. Percy had found someone to have Paris with, and so had he. Just because his was gone was no reason to start dwelling in the past. There wasn't even that much of a past to begin with; they'd shared a few months of secret affection, and Oliver wasn't even sure if it had been love or merely a temporary infatuation.
On top of that, he was nothing but thrilled for Percy. Oliver knew his friend had always wanted a family, and feared never being able to because of his commitment to his work. And Oliver adored Audrey; he really did. She and Percy were lovely together. She'd helped his friend learn how to live, how to enjoy the little things, and he'd needed that. Oliver would have never in a million years wished Percy's destiny had been him rather than Audrey.
But that didn't stop him from wondering...
And that's the way it would always remain. Oliver wholeheartedly accepted that. So he reached into the pocket his cigarette lighter resided in and pulled out a standard lock and key. It was painted gold and aside from a few chips here and there, it appeared almost new.
He smiled slightly as he looked at it. He'd done this once before. Once he began walking on the Pont des Arts earlier, he'd considered looking for the lock he and Danielle had left on that very bridge during their trip. But there were far too many, and there was a possibility it wasn't even there anymore; the people who worked for the city regularly took down older ones to make room for new tourists to attach their love locks to the now infamous bridge. Perhaps the lock he and Danielle had closed together before throwing the key into the river as a symbol of their eternal love was now in a landfill somewhere. Maybe it had even been melted down and recycled.
Or maybe by some chance it was still there, another promise in the endless wall of little metal promises on the Pont des Arts.
Oliver found an opening between a two silver locks. While he hooked his gold one over the railing, he thought not of Danielle, but of Percy. Unlike the other locks left by tourists, this one wasn't a symbol of eternal love. As he clicked it closed, securing it to the bridge until it was likely taken down by city officials, he shut away his secret longing to discover the answer to what if.
He fiddled with the key for a bit before chucking it into the Seine. Oliver watched it plop into the water, making a tiny splash before beginning its descent to the bottom. There was no way of telling where it would end up. Maybe it would one day flow into the Channel, then make its way to the Atlantic. Either way, it was gone.
"Enough," Oliver whispered to himself. "Enough now."
Hands back in his pockets, he walked along the bridge back to the street, the lights of Paris guiding his way. Paris - a city of wonder, of laughter, of bliss. A place where legacy is around every corner, where traditional and contemporary collide in the most magnificent of ways. The City of Light and the City of Love. The place where anything is possible.
He wanted to feel that once more, even if just for a day. Throwing that damn key in the river didn't change a thing. But maybe, just maybe, he'd find love again one day. Until then, despite how much he loathed it, the one with the blue eyes and accompanying smile would be drifting through the back of Oliver's mind.
And Paris would remain just another insignificant speck on the map.