Chapter 1 : Reacquainted
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The bells over the door jingled to announce a new arrival. Hannah glanced up, out of habit. At this time of day, nearly everyone was just passing through to Diagon Alley, but it was her job to greet them with a smile anyway. She gasped quietly when she recognized the figure making his way towards her. She quickly ducked her head, and went back to wiping down the bar. As the figure approached, Hannah could feel her pulse quicken. It had been so long. How could he still have this effect on her?
"Firewhiskey, please," the man ordered in a flat voice, sliding onto a stool and placing a few sickles on the bar.
Hannah nodded mutely as she turned to get his drink. She was surprised by the dull quality in his voice. The last time she heard him speak, he was so passionate and full of life. She passed him the drink and watched as he downed it with a shudder. He grimaced and slid the glass back to her, motioning for a refill.
"I don't remember you being much of a drinker, Neville," Hannah remarked before she could stop herself.
Neville's head snapped up. Hannah could feel herself turning red under his gaze. She tucked a strand of her blonde hair behind her ear self-consciously and turned to refill his glass.
"Stop, you're right," Neville answered, getting to his feet and reaching out to place a hand on her arm. "I just thought I could use a bit of 'Dutch courage' as they say." He sat back down, a slight smile spreading across his face. "Not one of my better ideas. I think I'll just have a pint of butterbeer if it's not too much trouble."
Hannah nodded again and quickly turned her back to fetch the drink, mentally rebuking herself. What are you doing? He doesn't even recognize you and you're lecturing him like his Gran. He probably thinks you're some sort of nutcase. Pull it together, Hannah. He's just another customer. What kind of barmaid--
"It's lovely to see you again, Hannah."
Her heart leapt. He had remembered her.
"I forgot that you worked here. I almost didn't recognize you without the pigtails."
And sank. Is that how he thought of her? The silly little girl with pigtails who told everyone that Sirius Black could turn into a flowering shrub and fell apart during her O.W.L.s.
"Well, people change," she replied, not meeting his gaze.
"Not too much, I hope."
Unsure of what to make of this comment, she passed him his drink and attempted to fall back into the role of the nonchalant barmaid. "So, what brings you to Diagon Alley?"
He furrowed his brow and gazed into his butterbeer. "I'm meeting Professor Sprout at Cliodna's Cafe, actually. She's retiring after this year and I think she is going to try to convince me to apply for the position, but I don't know."
"Don't know what? You were always brilliant at Herbology!"
Neville gave her a slight smile. "You were rather good yourself, if I remember correctly." Hannah was annoyed to feel herself blushing at the compliment. Usually she was immune to the nice things that customers would say to her, but with him it was different. Suddenly she was a seventeen year old girl with a crush all over again. She tried to shake the feeling and focus on what Neville was saying.
"I'm not really worried about the Herbology part, honestly. It's just..." he sighed. "When we were at Hogwarts, all of the professors were so wise, and talented, and powerful. I'm none of those things. Sure, I know a lot about plants, but other than that I'm practically a squib. Why would Hogwarts ever hire someone like me?" He took a long swig of his butterbeer.
"You're kidding, right?" Hannah was dumbfounded.
He glanced up at her, surprised by her tone of voice, and shook his head.
"Neville, you're the bravest, most hard-working person I've ever met. Hogwarts would be lucky to have you!"
He made a noise of disbelief.
Hannah reached out and touched his arm. "I'm serious. No one worked as hard as you did in the D.A. Seventh year, when everything was falling apart, you were our leader. You held us together, you inspired us. And the way you stood up to...Voldemort and went after that snake..." she shuddered. "You were incredible."
She noticed that Neville seemed to be looking at her strangely, but this time, she wasn't blushing.
"You were so full of confidence that last year at Hogwarts. What happened?"
Neville leaned back and seemed to consider her question.
"Well," he began slowly. "Mostly it was out of necessity, I suppose. I just did what needed to be done. You were there. You know what it was like. Harry was gone, Dumbledore was dead, Voldemort and his Death Eaters were seizing control. We knew what they were capable of and we knew they were wrong. We had to fight in whatever way that we could. I had learned from Harry that when one person stands up, it makes it easier for other people to stand up as well." He stopped for a moment and Hannah noticed the tips of his ears turning red. "And I suppose part of me was trying to impress this girl I liked..."
"Oh yeah?" Hannah responded, with a laugh. "And whatever happened to this girl?"
"Well, she apparently became a barmaid at the Leaky Cauldron."
Hannah felt her jaw drop slightly with surprise as his words hung in the air.
"I'm sorry. That was dumb. I shouldn't have said that."
Hannah's heart raced. She wished she was the kind of girl who would reach across the bar and kiss him, but she didn't have that kind of courage. Instead she smiled softly.
"No, it's all right Neville. I-I kind of fancied you as well. You had all the loyalty and kindness of a Hufflepuff with the added bravery of a Gryffindor. I admired you for that. But what did you ever see in me? I'm nothing special."
"Always so modest," he smiled and shook his head. "When you came back seventh year, after what had happened to your mother, you were full of a determination and a tenacity to do what was right. It was...um...highly attractive." His ears were turning red again. "And you really worked miracles when we were all in the room of requirement. There were so many of us - boys, girls, Gryffindors, Hufflepuffs, Ravenclaws, and you were really the one who kept us from fighting amongst ourselves. You were always so kind and so skilled as a peacemaker. I admired you for that."
"Silly, huh? You liking me, me liking you, but neither of us doing anything about it."
An awkward silence hovered between them. Hannah searched her mind for something, anything to say that would relieve the tension. She had become quite skilled over the years at smoothing away awkward situations and deescalating tension. All part of the job. But it was a little more difficult right now as her mind, full of the praise she had just received, kept screaming, Kiss him! Kiss him!
"I suppose I should make my way to the cafe now. Professor Sprout will be waiting." Was it her imagination or did he look a little disappointed? "It really was good seeing you, Hannah." He held out his hand to shake hers, an adorable half smile on his face, and a trace of sadness in his eyes.
Oh, what the hell?
Hannah leaned across the bar, and wrapping an arm around Neville's neck, pulled him into a kiss. He froze and she feared she had made a terrible mistake. She started to pull away, but Neville reached up and pulled her back toward him, tangling his hand in her hair as their lips met. When they broke apart, he had a dazed smile upon his face.
"Wow...Hannah...I...bollocks! Look at the time! I really am late! I have to run, but...er..." he looked at Hannah wildly.
She grinned at him, slightly flushed. "I'll be here if you want to come back afterwards. You know, to let me know how it goes."
Neville smiled in response. "Absolutely." He hesitated for a moment, then leaned across the bar and kissed her lightly before turning and racing out of the pub. Hannah watched as he tore out the door, causing the bells to clang loudly. A small smile spread across her face as she watched him tapping bricks in the courtyard and hurrying into the alley. She picked up her rag and continued cleaning the sticky mess.
No, this wasn't how she envisioned her life, but it definitely had its perks.