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Chapter 1: Love Me
So here is a little story for the "One Week for a One-shot Challenge"
It was a cool evening for late May. The early summer sun was slowly sinking behind the line of trees on the opposite bank of the pier. A man was seated on the edge of the water, silhouetted in the evening light. His shoulders sagged under the weight of an older man’s problems. He appeared oblivious to the waning light.
Upon closer inspection, he wore a disheveled black robe and his thinning hair was ruffled. His calloused and typically dirty hands were scrubbed clean and his is knuckles were white from gripping the wooden edge of the pier. The soft call of a barn owl awaiting nightfall broke the heavy silence of the evening.
The man flicked his puffy red eyes up towards the tree line momentarily. Not finding the source of the noise, he returned his attention to the still black surface of the water. The kindly round face he saw reflected back at him did nothing to comfort his grief.
For as long as he could remember, people had looked upon his face with empathetic pity and would often comment how alike his face was to hers. In pictures from her youth, her face was brave, intelligent, and kind. Her face as he knew it donned a blank look of contentment and serenity. He usually had trouble locating her face in his own profile. However, this evening looking into the still water, he could only see her face reflected back at him.
A silent tear escaped from his already swollen eyes and ran down his rounded cheek. Despite her state, she had still been his mother whom he had always loved. He knew that she had loved him as a baby and hoped that she had continued to as he grew. The child in him had maintained, hidden in the back of his mind, a naïve dream that someday she would awaken and recognize him – a dream that someday, they could create the memories that a mother and child were supposed to have.
The sound of her soft voice humming, the smell of tea and honey, the feel of her hair in his fingers – these were the few things that he associated with the whole her, mere intangible sensations. Beyond these associations, everything else was merely fog. He had been very young, not quite two, when these few things were taken from him. Now that she had passed on, he knew that he had to let go of his naïve dream and accept that his only tangible memories of her would be the smell of antiseptic, stark hospital rooms, and a meager collection of bubblegum wrappers.
He ran his hands through his thin hair. A stream of tears rushed from his eyes unabated, and his shoulders gently shook as the quiet sobs racked his body. He was surprised when he felt a warm hand come to rest lovingly on his left shoulder.
“Neville,” the familiar voice said softly and hesitantly. “Neville, do you know that it’s dark outside?” Neville took a shaky breath in and out and turned around to face the woman standing behind him. “Come on Neville. Your Gran is inside. She’s worried about you. You know she can’t come out, what with the way her hip has been acting up.”
“Thank you. I suppose I didn’t know that it was getting late,” Neville forced himself to offer the woman a warm smile. “Come here, Hannah, sit with me.” He slid over along the edge of the pier and patted the area he had just vacated. Hannah sighed and sat down next to her husband of ten years.
“Neville, are you alright? I don’t want to leave your Gran alone in the house.” As she spoke, Hannah slid her arms around his waste and nestled her head into his shoulder.
“ Eh – Gran’s resilient. She’ll be alright. She was up de-gnoming the garden the day after my Dad died,” Neville’s voice cracked despite his smile. Hannah looked concernedly at him and smiled reassuringly back.
“And what about you, Neville Longbottom – will you be alright? You’ve been outside since the wake ended. That was nearly six hours ago. Why don’t you come on inside. I’ll fix up something for dinner,” Hannah’s voice dipped and revealed a hint of pity.
“Hannah, I’m not sure if I’m alright. I, it’s just that, well – do I even have the right to mourn her? Sure, she’s my mum, but everyone knows that she’s better off now. She hasn’t really been alive in thirty-two years. Besides, I barely ever knew her.” Neville’s face betrayed him and revealed the heart of his grief. “And now – now, I’ll never know her. I’m so selfish. She’s with my Dad, how can I begrudge her that?”
Hannah did not answer him right away. Instead, she sat in silence and gently rubbed his back. Finally, after a long pause, she stretched her face upwards and chastely kissed Neville on the lips. Night had now completely fallen over the water.
“Neville, she was your mother. Of course you have a right to mourn her. Just because she’s better off now doesn’t mean that you can’t miss her. And you’re not selfish, you’re just human,” Hannah’s voice was warm and smooth. It soothed Neville, and he brought his hands up to her face and stroked her cheek.
Hannah nuzzled his hand and continued, “Besides, she loved you. Even if she could never tell you in the traditional sense, she made it clear that she loved you in her own way.”
A stream of tears escaped Neville’s eyes. Hannah looked up and wiped them gently away. Neville offered her a sincere smile and squeezed her gently.
“I’d like to think that. I really would,” Neville paused and drew in a rattling breath. “You know, Hannah, I don’t have a single memory of my mother telling me she loves me. I don’t think that I remember anything tangible. I know she used to hum to me; I wish I knew what song. And when I think of her, I think of the smell of honey and tea. My Gran tells me that my Dad always took his tea with honey. My mom probably steeped it for him. I think I remember how her hair felt; I used to silk it between my fingers when I was tired.”
Hannah felt her eyes well up as Neville’s hand slid up to her head and began to gently silk her hair between his fingers. He looked so worn. She sniffed back her tears and waited for her husband to continue.
“Other than that, all I know is visiting the ward with Gran. She never even acknowledged me until we would start to leave. Sometimes she would slip me a bubble gum wrapper.” At these words, Neville’s hand slid into his robe pocket and pulled out a very crumpled and worn wrapper.
Hannah didn’t say anything and simply watched Neville for a few moments. Finally, she found her voice. “You know, I think those bubble gum wrappers meant something, and you do too or else you wouldn’t have kept them. Your mother may not have remembered you as her son, but she knew that she cared for you.”
Neville considered her words carefully. Within his heart, Neville knew that she was right. Even after ten years of marriage, Hannah still managed to surprise and amaze him. He had never told her this, but she often reminded him of how he imagined his mother.
Hannah was a strong woman who had lived through the murder of her mother when she was only sixteen. She was fiercely loyal and brave. On sunny Saturday afternoons, Neville often came home to the Leaky Cauldron to find her humming to herself as she bustled around the kitchen. Every evening, Hannah crawled into bed smelling of the tea and honey she drank as she tidied up the bar. Neville often found himself silking her thick blond hair when he was nervous or agitated.
Neville smiled as he realized that Hannah was an integral part of each of his notions about his mother. He leaned down and caught her lips between his own. After a few blissful moments, Neville pulled away and said, “Come on Hannah, its dark. Let’s go inside and find Gran.”
As Neville made to stand up, Hannah gripped his hand firmly and looked into his eyes. “Neville, I am always here for you. Is there anything you need me to do?”
The right side of Neville’s mouth turned upwards in a somber grin, “Hannah, all you ever have to do is love me.”
Hannah’s face broke into a wide and earnest smile. She could no longer hold in the secret she had been keeping from Neville all week. Despite the solemn circumstances, she timidly took his hand.
“Neville, I will always love you,” her hand gently guided his towards herself and brought it to lie on her stomach. “Both of us will always love you.”
A/N: So I hope that you enjoyed this little story. I have recently grown rather fond of Neville/Hannah. I’ve found that there are far too few stories about them. Please leave a review.