Chapter 2 : Pride In The Snake
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He wiped the blood from her brow, using his own hands, not minding the way it stained his pale skin. He looked at her cut, wondering if it was going to scar. But no one cared about scars now. They were the treasured things people wanted to have on their faces, wanted to let people knew that they weren’t going to give up. The girl flinched as he swept his fingers over her cut, red paint still seeping.
“Be strong,” he tells her – softly, calmly. As if the scars on his face didn’t make him flinch. As if the way his muscles tightened uncomfortably in his left leg when he walked. As if his tongue wasn’t chewed up from gnawing it, resisting screaming out in pain.
“We can’t all be strong,” Luna replies softly, cradling her hand in her lap.
He sighs and looks away, rubbing the scar on his hand. “No, but we can pretend. And after everything, after the scars heal and our skin is new – then we’ll know that we’re strong – strong enough.” He looks back down at her, tilting her chin up to examine the cut again. Blood has stopped flowing and there’s a line of dusty red on her cheek.
“Pretend to be a character in book? Pretend that we’re the knight in shining armor, out to rescue a damsel in distress?” She smiles now, looking up at him with wide eyes, innocent and naive.
“Yes, Luna. We’ll be the knights, rescuing ourselves from the tower,” he replies, nodding his head softly. Luna reaches out for him, as if to reassure him that he’s not alone – to show him that she’ll be there to rescue him. But he turns away, wordless, and looks around him.
He was different now. His face held scars, blood, and a story to tell. He walked with a slight limp and his body always ached. He didn’t mind the pain, however. He never minded pain. His whole life was based around pain…
“We’ll have to leave soon, Luna. And when you do, be careful. Protect who you can, but make sure to protect yourself. All we have now is the person next to us, bleeding the same red blood. We have to unite with those who need a knight in shining armor, Luna. Because if we don’t, the tower will just crumble to pieces – all over us.”
Luna nodded her head idly, biting the corner of her lip. When had times changed? When did he become the motivator, the one who took the pain, the hits, for everyone else – anybody else? Just last week, a snobby Hufflepuff said the wrong thing and he took the blame, an Unforgiveable whisked upon him with a swish of a wand. Was it easy for him – to jump in front of the curse and take it…like a man?
“There are no more houses or divisions. We’re all one – stuck inside a war that’ll forever go on…”
Luna closes her eyes at the sound of his voice, knowing exactly where he was quoting it from.
“Have you heard from her? Is she okay?”
He closed his eyes and a small smile appeared on his face. “She’s at home still, holding up of course. Sending letters every day…silly Gran…” He chuckles softly, running his hand through his hair. “Come on, Luna. We’ll need to get you to the Ravenclaw Common Room before the Carrows find us wandering in the middle of the night.” He helps her up and keeps a hand on her shoulder, walking behind her as they make their way down the hall.
When Luna suddenly stops, he stops along with her.
“What if I’m not strong enough to pretend to be strong?” she asks in a small voice, her eyebrows knitting together.
“Then I’ll pretend enough for the both of us, Luna,” he replies, almost as if he was used to the tinge of madness and insecurity that touched everyone’s minds. He pushes her shoulders softly, urging her forward. She doesn’t protest but leans into his hands as if they are her only support.
Neville watches as she disappears into her common room, only leaving him with her airy presence of fear. He rubs his face with a tired hand, sighing loudly. His breath echoes about the hall around him, alerting him of his chilling loneliness.
“Well, Longbottom, still roaming the halls at night, I see.” Her voice is chilly, laced with deadly venom. He turns to look at her, waiting to see what she does.
Her face is hidden in the shadows; only half her face illuminated by her wand. Her eyes are dark – entrancing. He licks his lips and nods.
“I see you are too,” he replies slowly. There’s small, throaty chuckle erupting from her, filling the melancholy silence.
“But I’m the safe. You, however…” she trails off, lifting her shin to reveal her long, slender neck. Her smirk was evident on her lips, ruby with sin and cruelty. He doesn’t respond. He simply takes a step towards her, her face as emotionless as always.
Her eyes burned, and her jaw clenched. There was no fun in trying to anger him. He was as unresponsive as ever. She dropped her head, her hand tightening on her wand.
“I’m safe for now,” he says in a leveled voice.
She rolls her eyes in annoyance, lifting her wand to shed light on his face. Scars line his skin like hair, pink and angry. Her eyes travel over his cool brown eyes, almost hidden under unruly eyebrows. Cuts line his face, exaggerating his hard edge mouth, a straight disappointed line. She licks her lips, lifting a hand to swipe away a dark lock that fell into her eyes.
“For now, Longbottom, always for now.” She stands there, her wand still pointed at him and light spilling over his face. They sit there, quiet for a moment, each wondering and thinking.
She closes her eyes for a second, lost. When she found her voice, it was a harsh whisper, low and soft. “I don’t like it, Longbottom. I really don’t…it’s fun at first, getting away with things and being on top…but after a while, I can’t stand to see you people walking around, scars on your face, having to help someone walk because their leg is swollen…it sickens me – it really does.” She drops her wand so that they are both swallowed in the darkness, letting the silence coax them to think and wonder.
“It’s the price you pay,” Neville replies softly. “…the price you must pay.” She flinches, turning her head as if she were slapped. Her eyes are still closed, her face scrunched as if she were trying to forget everything.
“I don’t want to have to pay anymore.”
“Neither do we.”
A dry sob escapes from her lips and her wand drops from her hand. Light spills over her and reveals her tear stained face. Bags shadow her eyes and her skin is pale. Her hair falls limply around her shoulders, dead and lifeless. She felt the pain too, just in a different way.
Neville placed a warm hand on her shoulder, pulling her into a soft hug. She doesn’t respond, but simply buries her head into his chest and cries. Her body shakes along with her sobs, echoing the pain he wouldn’t show.
Neville rubs her back, smoothes down her hair, and whispers small words into her ear, trying to soothe her pain, hoping that his will dissolve with it.
She clutches the back of his shirt now, as if it’s her only lifeline. Taking a deep breath, she whispers, “I can’t stand to sit there, watching…seeing someone writhe in pain, cry out when…it’s just terrible. I wish I could help, sometimes. Wish that I were strong enough to fight too. But I’m not.”
Neville licks his lips, trying to find something to say. But she’s right…she could never be strong enough to go against the tide, against the Slytherins, the Carrows, and her true blood. Instead, he pulls away from her, holding her away but her shoulders.
“One day, you’ll just have to grow up and be strong for yourself. And then, you’ll realize that you were strong enough – the whole time. Until that day, you’ll simply grow.”
She bites her lips and nods, looking up at him with her wide eyes and sighs. “One day, Longbottom, I’ll be just like you.”
He can’t look away from the intensity, the purity and sureness that spill from her gaze. “And I’ll be proud of you,” he whispers softly.
She drops her head as if those words meant the world to her, meant everything. In a quick motion, she has his hand in hers and brushes her lips over each finger and his palm. “Thank you, Longbottom.”
With those words, she picks up her wand and disappears into the darkness, allowing Neville to close his eyes and finger the scar that she herself had given, remembering the way her lips felt as she kissed away the pain.
Her cloak billowed out behind her, and curses flew by her head. Her wand felt heavy in her hand as she raced across the grounds, jumping and diving to avoid death. Her eyes searched. He couldn’t be dead…he just couldn’t.
Death Eaters shot curses at anyone, not caring whether they were on the same side. She tripped over something and fell harshly to the ground, her leg aching. Looking up, she watched as a Death Eater advanced on a fourth year Gryffindor, his wand raised and a curse on his lips.
“Avada Kedavra!” she shrieks, watching with dark eyes as the towering man falls to the ground. She doesn’t dare look at his face. The small boy looks at her and gives her a sad smile, and walks toward her. He offers a hand and she takes it but shakes her head.
“Get out of here,” she says in a soft but demanding voice. She squeezes his hand, craving the warmth. He runs off, his hair bouncing. She pulls herself up, and cries out in pain as her leg shoots up in flaming throbbing. On her feet, she limps, her eyes still searching for him.
Then she sees him. His hair is disheveled, blowing in the harsh wind. His eyes are dark and new cuts and scars are already forming. She watches as he limps across the battlefield, a determined look on his face. She follows his gaze and cries out when she sees Bellatrix, a smug smirk upon her face.
Ignoring the fleeting pain that shot up through her leg, she ran.
She ran past the masked men, falling students, dueling sparks; past everything that should have mattered but didn’t – not at that moment. And she hears it, the faint whisper: Avada Kedavra.
He doesn’t see it yet, the beautiful emerald spark that’s flying toward him, but she does.
She feels it as it’s about to pass her, pass by her and kill him. And so, she jumps.
As the world fades away, she sees his face – utter shock and sadness – and wonders if he’s proud of her.
Her name on his lips were the last thing she heard, his horrified scream as the bright green light engulfed her and threw her down hard: Pansy.
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