Chapter 1 : A Magic Carpet Ride
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“What if we slide off the ends by accident?” Hannah’s eyebrows knit together as she watched a family of four babble French as they clambered onto a levitating oriental rug. “And imagine the dust mites, would you?” She looked up at Neville (Her boyfriend! Her boyfriend! Her boyfriend!) and twined her fingers through his. She had a firm suspicion that those friends of his—Harry Potter and the Weasley—had put him up to this sort of thing. Most of the time the pair was content to stay at home while Neville introduced new potted plants to the assortment already in their flat.
He would tell her all the names of the flowers, and how to care for them, and which ones to feed mice to and which ones to feed ice mice to. Hannah had a knack for pruning, and was particularly fond of the miniature Whispering Willow clipping Neville had brought home for her.
Why Neville would choose to take Hannah to the desert, where not much grew except scrubby little bushes, she had no idea. This, she decided, was probably his friends’ fault.
The queue moved upwards slowly, and after forty-seven minutes of light suggestions that they go find a place for ice cream (did they even have that here?) Hannah and Neville were finally at the front.
“Sir, Madame, this way, this way, one foot in front of the other.” A man wearing a colorful silk vest and a square cap reached for Hannah’s hand. “Just step lightly onto the tassel—there we go, use it as a foothold.” The man rapped the carpet with a stick. A cloud of fine sand and dust erupted around Hannah, though the carpet stiffened and became easier for her to walk on. Out of the corner of Hannah’s eye, she saw Neville slip the man a coin.
The carpet, patterned with blue diamonds in the center and bordered by yellow flowers, rose slowly into the air. Hannah had felt so much braver in the queue; as she watched the world fall away from her, it was all she could do to keep from letting out a frightened moan.
She was doing it for Neville, she reminded herself (for Neville!) who had been so adamant about them taking the ride today. Doing her very best not to think about the ground beneath them, Hannah traced her fingers along the rough surface of the flying carpet.
“So we’re here!” Her voice squeaked and Hannah felt like a wimp. Neville was a war hero (and wasn’t she one too?) after all. “Nice weather up here. Brilliant.” Actually, it was too hot and Hannah thought her sunscreen was wearing off. The breeze, at least, was decent.
“Yeah,” Neville replied shortly. Hannah felt him tense beside her. She looked at his face, pink and damp from the heat, and saw something a lot like fear there too.
“Neville?” Hannah asked softly, for the first time that day forgetting her own terror.
“Nothing, Hannah, nothing…” She watched as Neville peered over the side of the carpet. The witch felt his body shudder.
“Neville?” Hannah’s voice rose in pitch, her hand tightened around Neville’s in a death grip.
“We’re just so high up!” Neville replied finally, looking at Hannah with wide brown eyes. “Merlin, Hannah, I’m sorry! I was trying to be romantic and all, and Ron said—” Hannah couldn’t stop her own smugness at being right; this was all Neville’s friends’ fault, “I was being boring because I never took you anywhere different. And Hannah, I wanted today to be special. And what’s more special than a magic carpet ride?” Neville screwed his eyes shut. Hannah looked at him in shock.
“But Neville, I’ve been saying this entire time we shouldn’t go! Doesn’t ‘what if we slide off the end of the carpet?’ mean anything to you?!” Hannah exclaimed. She slapped her palm against her damp forehead. “Why are we even up here?! Neville, this is the desert!”
The man shifted uncomfortably on the carpet. “Well, I—Hannah, I wanted something special. Something romantic. Something…” Neville scrunched up his face, digging into his pocket. “I’ve got it in here somewhere…”
Hannah leaned back away from Neville as he fumbled in his pocket for a scrap of parchment and a little velvet box. Neville balanced the box on his knee as he unfolded the scrap of parchment.
“Hannah, you are as pretty as a flutterby bloom, as kind as—” Neville squinted in the bright sunlight as he tried to read from the parchment. “Hang on, got a bit smudged there.” The man held the paper upwards in an effort to shade the words from the light. The wind caught at it, gave a sharp tug, and pulled the words from Neville’s fingers, where they twirled once, twice, and spiraled into a tiny white speck against the cloudless sky.
Hannah and Neville watched the sheet fly away.
“Neville…?” Hannah’s eyes drifted back to the little velvet box. Her heart was on the verge of marching right out of her chest, and the distance between herself and the ground was forgotten.
Neville’s face (how much she loved that face, even when it looked this upset!) turned an even darker red than it had been before. “Hannah!” Neville scrunched up his face, shouting as if the louder words would give him courage. “Hannah, I love you and I want to spend the rest of my life with you, at home, watering the plants and not riding the flooring!” He thrust the box in Hannah’s direction. “Hannah Abbott, will you marry me?!”
(Yes! Yes! Yes!) Hannah gaped at the man and the box and the man again. “Yes! Neville yes!” She flung her arms around the wizard’s neck, kissed him furiously and then squeezed him into a bone breaking hug.
Maybe the magic carpets in Goblininstan weren’t so bad after all.
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