Oliver turned towards the entrance to the Great Hall: his attention was caught as Alexandria walked over to the Hufflepuff table and took her seat beside Cedric, smiling brightly. The graceful way she walked was like a princess, and her smile was so kind and honest that no one could resist it. People naturally gravitated towards the girl, and Oliver Wood was no exception.
Though she was two years younger than him, they had been best friends since her first year. Oliver couldn't help the proud feeling in his heart that she had chosen him for a best friend, seeing as the number of her friends was countless. Though he didn't think he deserved it, Oliver treasured the friendship and it was as dear to him as Quidditch.
Right, Quidditch, Oliver reminded himself. Drawing his attention away from Alexandria, Oliver looked back at his plate of food. Somehow, he didn't feel very hungry. With a mental shrug, Oliver pushed the plate away and he began to get up.
Sudden pressure was applied to both of his shoulders and he was forced back into his seat. Pursing his lips, Oliver saw the two grinning Weasley twins plop down beside him.
"You've got to eat Oliver," scolded Fred jokingly.
"That's right!" agreed George. "If any of us skipped breakfast before a game, you'd whip us!" Knowing that the twins were right, Oliver reluctantly took his plate back and began to eat.
"You two had better be on your best game today," he instructed. "We'll have to play hard if we're going to beat Hufflepuff. I hear Cedric is a very good seeker."
"Well then you ought to be schooling Harry!" exclaimed Fred.
"What?" asked a new voice, as Harry peeked his head around George at the mention of his name.
"Oh nothin' Harry," said George lightly. "Oliver here was just saying that he doesn't think you can beat the Hufflepuff seeker. We told him that he was wrong..."
"...but he just won't listen," finished Fred. Harry looked puzzled but Oliver merely shook his head and looked Harry in the eyes.
"I completely believe in you Harry. These two fools just don't know when to be serious."
"Hey Oliver!" interrupted a sweet voice. Oliver jolted and turned around on the bench to face Alexandria smiling down at him.
"Oh, hey Alexandria," he said kindly. "What are you doing over here?"
"I just wanted to wish you all good luck!" she replied. "I know you'll do great."
"You know Alex, I'm pretty sure that as a Hufflepuff, you're not supposed to be wishing your opponents good luck," teased Fred. Alexandria merely laughed a bit.
"Well you're my friends too!" she said forcefully. "So I'll say it anyway."
"Well, thank you," said Oliver sincerely. Standing up, he gave his friend a quick hug. If they'd been alone Oliver would have gladly held her longer, but he was absolutely not going to give the twins any ammunition to tease him with.
Because Alexandria was so petite- standing at an impressive 4'10"- her head rested against his chest every time they hugged. As always Oliver wondered whether she could feel his quick heartbeat. Did she truly not notice that it sped up at her touch?
"Well, I guess I'll see you after the game," she said, just to Oliver. "I'm going to go walk with Cedric down to the pitch. He's getting all jittery. I'm going to try and boost his confidence a bit. But I know you'll do great too!"
Oliver smiled and nodded, watching as she left. Little did he want to admit to the heavy, hurting feeling in his heart. As he saw her reunite with Cedric, Oliver felt the familiar jealousy coming on. Though they were not official, Alexandria and Cedric always seemed very close, and the way they laughed and played with each other certainly seemed as though their feelings went further than friendship.
Oliver wondered sometimes if Alexandria might notice him if Cedric weren't around. Oliver's feelings had begun the very first year that she had come to Hogwarts, and they had never faded. Indeed, they had only grown stronger over time. Her smile was infectious, and she was always willing to help anyone at all. His blunt honesty never fazed her, and she always supported his ambitious dreams for the future. When Oliver would spend hours flying around the pitch for extra practice, Alexandria would always be waiting for him with that bright smile on her rosy cheeks, offering him refreshments.
Despite all that, Alexandria never seemed to see Oliver as anything more than a best friend. Why was that? What did Cedric have that he didn't?
When the horrifying ordeal of the Chamber of Secrets had happened a year ago, Oliver had been the one to comfort her, to hold her in his arms, not Cedric. Oliver was the one that she went to for advice or for help on her schoolwork. Oliver was the one that she told all of her deepest secrets too. Oliver could make her laugh, and she enjoyed breaking Oliver out of his serious shell. Oliver always complimented her honestly if her wavy blonde hair was done particularly nicely, or if her clothes were particularly becoming to her.
What was he missing?
Oliver forced these thoughts from his mind as he stood with his team, preparing to fly out onto the pitch to begin the match.
Once he was in the air at his post by the Gryffindor goal, Oliver became completely focused. Nothing would distract him now.
Though both teams played fiercely, the conditions were awful. A storm raged around them, rain making it hard to see and thunder ringing in Oliver's head. Regardless, he did his job as keeper, not allowing the storm to affect his performance.
Then, a worse evil arrived, and the match ended with a Hufflepuff victory. Oliver was mad enough to spit fire, but as soon as he landed back on the ground, Oliver put on a smooth expression, congratulating his team on their playing, and assuring them that he was sure that Harry was fine.
Later that evening, the Gryffindor team all stood around Harry's bed in the hospital wing, though he had not woken yet.
"Oliver," whispered a soft voice. Oliver turned to find Alexandria standing shyly behind him. Gesturing with his hand, Oliver led Alexandria away so that they were standing by the entrance door together.
"I just wanted to say how sorry I am," said Alexandria sincerely, her sympathetic pain clear in her face. "That dementor attack was awful. I'm glad that Harry will be ok at least, but it never should have happened. The match was completely unfair."
"Cedric offered a rematch," Oliver told her. Alexandria smiled and nodded.
"That doesn't surprise me. Cedric's a great guy, really honorable. When's the rematch going to take place?" Alexandria's words were like adding salt to a wound. She truly did seem to care for Cedric. Though he knew that he shouldn't, Oliver always harbored a slight amount of hope that perhaps she fancied him, which is why her words were hurting him now.
"It's not," he replied, maintaining smooth composure. "I turned him down. The circumstances were less than desirable, but he won, fair and square."
Alexandria seemed struck by this for a moment, but then she gave a small smile.
"You're really honorable too," said Alexandria softly. Oliver smiled at her praise, and he opened his mouth to respond.
"Well hello pretty lady!" interrupted a familiar, red-haired jokester. Oliver took a deep breath, steeling himself as Fred and George joined him and Alexandria.
"Hey you two," said Alexandria kindly. "I'm sorry about the game." George waved away her apologies.
"One match doesn't matter too much love," he said carelessly. Oliver shot him a disapproving glance but George merely winked at his captain.
"Can't you two take anything seriously?" asked Oliver with a sigh. Fred and George looked at each other, seeming to ponder this.
"Nope!" they exclaimed at the same time. Alexandria laughed brightly, and even Oliver cracked a smile, due to her charming laugh.
"The real question is..." began George.
"...why don't you two just get together already?" Fred completed teasingly. Oliver's heart seemed to stop and he was very glad that he didn't blush easily. Though he very sorely wanted to knock Fred about the head, Oliver managed to contain himself, and he found that he was very nervously curious at how Alexandria would respond.
As he predicted, a deep blush spread across Alexandria's cheeks at the question. Simultaneously her big blue eyes opened wide in surprise and she looked quickly over at Oliver. Oliver met her eyes, showing no expression on his face, though on the inside his nerves were screaming.
Alexandria gave a brief laugh and she turned back to the twins.
"Me and Oliver? I don't think so," she said honestly. "We're just good friends. Right Oliver?" Every word was a dagger to his heart. Her warm smile was poison in his veins. But Oliver forced himself to give a small smile.
"Of course. You guys really are ridiculous sometimes."
The twins looked surprised but they merely shrugged, and with a wink to Alexandria they both turned away and went back to Harry's bedside. Now alone with Alexandria once more, Oliver felt extremely uneasy, and it was like his insides were twisting. He knew he wouldn't cry, but the sadness was welling up in him and he knew that he wouldn't be able to maintain a happy façade. Alexandria on the other hand looked like she was completely unaffected by the answer she had given the twins.
"Listen, Alexandria," said Oliver, "I erm... I need to get rid of some of the tension from the match. I'm going to go fly around for a bit." Without waiting for a response, Oliver turned to go.
"Sounds like fun!" exclaimed Alexandria as she followed him, her intent clear. Oliver looked at her in surprise.
"You're not coming with me," he said definitively. "The rain's stopped, but the wind's still blowing pretty strong: it could be dangerous!"
"You don't need to protect me Oliver," she said teasingly. "It sounds like an adventure! I want to come."
Oliver continued his protests all the way down to the pitch, but Alexandria was as stubborn as he and she wouldn't yield. Grabbing brooms, Oliver and Alexandria lifted off into the air, flying smoothly through the wind (which had luckily calmed down since earlier).
The wind was still loud enough that talking would have been difficult, so Oliver and Alexandria merely flew side by side in silence. This allowed Oliver a good deal of time to think. Why had she been so quick in rejecting the mere thought of being with him? Was she truly that interested in Cedric or was it that she found him entirely unappealing?
The more he thought about it, the more aggravated he became. He wanted answers, and yet he didn't want to ask the questions to get them. Landing abruptly, Oliver tried to compose himself. Alexandria landed beside him, looking concerned.
"Are you alright?" she asked worriedly.
The thoughts were still whirling about in Oliver's mind. Finally, he concluded that it must be due to Cedric. Well, if that was the case, then as a friend it was Oliver's job to support Alexandria.
"You should go for it," he said simply.
"What?" she asked in confusion.
"I mean to say... if your heart desires, well if you want something, you should go for it. If people try to... well if you think that it won't work for some reason, just ignore that. You can do whatever you put your mind to." Oliver struggled awkwardly, searching for the right words. Still confused, Alexandria just chuckled and shook her head with a smile.
"I don't know what you're trying to say Oliver, but you're pretty horrible with motivational speeches," she told him. Oliver laughed abruptly but it wasn't long-lived. Forcing his raging thoughts and emotions to settle down, Oliver chose his words carefully and simply.
"I just mean to tell you that if you like Cedric, you should go for it. I'll support you the whole way too, if that's the push you need."
Finally comprehending what he was saying, Alexandria was stunned into silence before she smiled in incredulous amusement.
"Where did that come from?" she asked. "I don't have any feelings for Cedric. But thank you for your support."
Now was Oliver's turn to be confused. He had been so sure that she liked Cedric... But if she didn't like Cedric, why was she opposed to the idea of being with Oliver? That made it hurt even more. Unable to control himself, Oliver's voice became a bit tight as he asked,
"Then why did you respond so forcefully to the twins earlier? You laughed at the idea of being with me." Alexandria looked surprised and she smiled gently.
"Well I wasn't going to mention it in front of them. I wouldn't want to tell them anything you didn't want them to know."
"What are you talking about?" asked Oliver, deeply confused.
"I know we've never talked about it; I just didn't want to bring it up because I thought it might be a sensitive subject. But it's ok Oliver, I know that you're gay."
Alexandria's honest statement stopped Oliver dead. Gay? What on earth...?
She thinks I'm gay? he thought, sinking into the deeps of despair.
"Why... why do you think I'm gay?" he managed to ask through the hurt.
"Well it wasn't hard to figure out!" she said kindly with a teasing smile, seemingly unaware of his pain. "You're always so easy to talk to, you comment on my clothes, you've given me ribbons for my hair as gifts, and you're more affectionate than any straight man I've met. Besides, I've known you for five years and not once have I seen you interested in a girl."
Oliver was dumbstruck by her reasoning. How could she make such a conclusion? How could she not understand?
"I mean, it's possible that it's simply because you love Quidditch so much," she continued, "but I doubt it. So it wasn't hard to figure out. But really Oliver, you don't need to worry about it! It's not like I'll judge you or anything. You're my best friend and I love you very much. You know that, don't you?"
The despairing amazement that Oliver still felt rendered him unable to speak. He shook his head a bit and opened his mouth as if to speak, but then he closed it again just as quickly, no words coming to him.
It was too much. Without responding in any way, Oliver began to walk off the Quidditch pitch. Behind him Alexandria was feeling very confused and worried. Why did Oliver look like that?
"Oliver wait!" she cried, rushing after him. Oliver stopped in his tracks, but he did not turn around towards her. A heavy, nervous feeling filled Alexandria's heart. Why was he acting this way?
"What's wrong?" There was silence for a moment, before Oliver spoke.
"It's because I loved you."
"What?" responded Alexandria instinctively, but her cheeks flamed with color as she began to process his words as he turned back to face her. The sad but loving expression on his face almost made her heart break.
"It's because I loved you," he repeated passionately. "I love the way you smile, I love those little green flecks in your eyes that seem to dance when you're excited. I love the way that you talk to me about anything, and I love the way that it feels to hold you in my arms. I love everything about you Alexandria."
Alexandria was silent and she couldn't meet Oliver's eyes. How could she have been so blind? Her very best friend, and she hadn't known. He wasn't gay, he was in love. With her.
"All this time I've been in love with you," he said softly, looking away and smiling in sad disbelief, "and you thought I was gay."
Oliver turned to leave, but he felt her small hand gently grab his robes.
"Please don't go," she pleaded. Drawing a deep breath, Oliver turned back around to face his best friend, and found with some surprise that she had stepped closer to him. Staring directly into his soft brown eyes, Alexandria's heart pounded furiously.
"Oliver..." she whispered. "I love you." Oliver clenched his teeth together to control the pain.
"No you don't. Don't lie to me, please Alexandria," he said gently.
"I'm not," she said, becoming steadier, as a smile slowly spread across her face. "I always thought... I never thought that..."
Suddenly an incredibly bright smile flashed onto her face, and tears of relief welled in the bottom of her eyes.
"I've been fighting my feelings because I thought they were unwanted!" she told him happily. "Oliver, I love you."
Struck by her words, Oliver searched her face quickly with his eyes, and the honesty in her eyes and smile were undeniable. Slowly, a smile stretched also across his face, growing as the truth of what she said dawned on him.
With a bright laugh, and a smile to match her own, Oliver reached out and spun Alexandria around excitedly. She laughed gaily as he set her back down. Pulling her into a tight hug, Oliver stroked her hair gently as he squeezed his eyes tightly shut in breathless relief. Alexandria's small, delicate figure seemed to fit so perfectly in his embrace.
Finally drawing back, Oliver became more serious as he stared at the beautiful girl. Leaning down slowly, Oliver brought his lips to hers in a gentle kiss. When he pulled back, his lips were tingling and a warm feeling filled his heart. Oliver smiled to see that a blush had spread across her cheeks.
"I suppose you're not gay then," she said lightly. Oliver laughed and kissed her forehead softly.
"No, I can assure you madam, I am most certainly not gay." Linking their fingers together, Oliver and Alexandria strolled out of the Quidditch pitch together, sure to never be parted again.