A/N: This is your opportunity to stop. Take the last chapter as your end and be satisfied that they kiss and get together and make it through the battle. But I have more, and it's not going to be simple...
I don’t know what I was expecting to happen the next morning, but if I were to chance a wild guess, I probably wouldn’t have assumed that I would wake up alone, a pillow wedged under my head where Neville should have been.
I rolled over and instantly felt all my muscles groan in pain. There was a clatter of something nearby and the blurred shape of Neville came into my vision. But he didn’t glance into me, seeming too busy with something. I rubbed my eyes, arm aching as I moved it, but got distracted; my hand was bandaged.
“Did you do this?” I tried to ask, although it came out ad more of a croak.
Neville jumped and turned around. Pushing a hand through his hair, he flashed me a brief smile and hurried toward me. “Morning,” he said quietly. “A book appeared earlier with a box of ingredients. It says your cuts could use some, uh… solution of strained and pickled Murtlap tentacles? Um, but unfortunately it doesn’t cater to my complete lack of skill in Potions…”
I grinned weakly, “It’s alright,” I lied. “Any water, though?”
Neville nodded and handed me a goblet, then turned to continue going about something. I shuffled up into a seated position to drink, watching him over the goblet with a frown. Was I being paranoid, or was something slightly off?
“How are you feeling?” he asked, glancing over his shoulder at me. Of course I was being paranoid; he was just busy with something.
“Like an invalid,” I replied, deadpan. “Pity me.”
Neville glanced back at me with a small grin but swiftly carried on with whatever he was doing. No, he should have laughed. Something definitely wasn’t right. Right?
It was a weekday, and I had to see Amycus that day. But we’d both woken up very early, so there was plenty of time to sneak back to our dormitories before anybody appeared. Neville walked me back to mine, and although I ached with every step and it was a great effort to even stand up, I determinedly avoided leaning my full weight on him.
We couldn’t talk much on the way anyway, unwilling to attract any attention, but when we got to the basements, our parting was weirdly polite.
“You can make it inside, right?” Neville checked.
“I’m sure I’ll be fine,” I assured him. “Sorry again for all the trouble I’ve put you through.”
“Not at all, don’t be silly,” Neville shrugged, glancing up and down the corridor. “I should go. I’ll see you in Herbology.”
“I… uh, yeah, I guess-“ But he was gone. Just like that. No mention of any kiss, relationship-changing or mistaken. Brilliant. Now what was I supposed to do?
Remembering after a second that what I was supposed to be doing was going into my common room, I gave the password to the portrait and wobbled inside.
“Hannah, I can’t hear you properly-”
I pushed him away, gasping breath, “That’s because you were suffocating me! I was telling you to let me go!”
“Sorry,” Ernie grinned. “I’m just glad you’re okay.”
“I’m glad too,” I grinned back at him reluctantly. “But are you sure you’re okay?”
“Absolutely flawless,” Ernie answered brightly, giving his own blonde shaggy curls a little ruffle to cover up the great big gash on his forehead. I laughed and re-ruffled for him.
“Even so,” I mused. “I still think you should stay in bed today.”
“As much as I appreciate waking up to a girl in my room,” came a voice across the room, and I twisted around to cast an appraising look at Wayne Hopkins. “Either jump off Ernie’s bed and head over here, or turn the noise down.”
“Actually, Hannah,” piped up Ernie’s other remaining roommate Liam, gazing owlishly at me over his covers. “I’m not really dressed for a female guest…”
“Sorry guys, just one second,” I said apologetically, looking back at Ernie as Wayne groaned and rolled over. “You got it worse than me, and you still look really pale. Please just take one day to rest.”
“Are you taking a day?” Ernie asked pointedly.
I bit my lip, “No, but…”
“I can’t let them think that they’ve beat me,” Ernie declared importantly, in the tone that I was very aware made quite a few people dislike him. “Besides, if you can do it after-“ his tone changed and quietened, “after what you found out last night… then I’m pretty sure I can stand it for an hour and a half. I’ll be fine.”
I could understand exactly how he was feeling, so I flashed him a weak smile and told him I’d meet him at breakfast. But when I got to the Great Hall, after a quick wash and change, I found that I had company waiting. Susan was tapping her finger on the wood and bouncing her leg beneath the desk, and there was about 10 seconds of tight silence as I settled down beside her before she turned, face taut, to glare at me.
“What on earth has gotten into you, Hannah Abbott?” she hissed sharply in my ear. “Who do you think you are, getting yourself into trouble like that? How could you be so selfish
I choked slightly on a piece of toast, “Selfish?!”
“Yes, selfish,” Susan snapped through gritted teeth, fighting not to raise her voice. “I had to go and get help when you didn’t come out of that classroom for so long. And Ernie comes back, barely conscious, nose pouring with blood, saying that you were hurt too, but you were nowhere to be seen!”
“Yes, yes, Neville sent us a message saying that you were in the r- the you-know-where
,” Susan continued. “But you didn’t think that maybe your friends might want to see you, make sure you’re not dying
“I- we couldn’t-“
“But no!” Susan was scolding in such an insistently sharp whisper that a girl a few seats down appeared to be looking for the source of a hissing leak. “Because you wanted to stay in there with lover boy and play damsel in distress and I bet you didn’t spare me a single thought, did you?”
“Susan, I could hardly-“
“I was scared to death, Hannah! But you didn’t think about that, did you, because that’s how it always is – Hannah and Ernie, the dynamic duo! Susan was the last to join the little group, wasn’t she, so we don’t need to consider her feelings. Just because we don’t talk about it, Hannah, doesn’t mean that Justin’s not still missing! You left me alone last night, scared out of my wits, looking after Ernie, no idea what had happened in that classroom – you never think about me, neither of you do! I’m sick of it!”
With that, sparing not a second for me to defend myself, she got to her feet and stormed towards the door, barging past Ernie on her way. He stumbled and watched her go, then turned to look at me with his eyebrows raised.
“She just had a go at me for… for being inconsiderate
!” I told him, completely astounded.
“Oh, yeah,” Ernie replied vaguely, reaching for some bacon. “I think she gave me the same earful last night, but I wasn’t really, y’know, particularly conscious. Was it interesting?”
I rolled my eyes at him, but suddenly found it quite difficult to swallow the rest of my breakfast. She was right. I hadn’t thought of her at all the night before, and the first thing I’d done that morning was check on Ernie. But surely that was only fair? Both Ernie and I had been injured; I couldn’t exactly pause to check up in Susan’s wellbeing when I could barely stand. But then… I suppose I never really stopped to check she was okay. Not enough, anyway. After all, she’d suffered losses and she was worried about Justin too. But still! Surely this wasn’t the greatest of times to bring this up! And-
Hold on. Had she referred to Neville as ‘lover boy’?
“Why are you blushing?” Ernie suddenly asked.
“I’m not. I just feel a bit sick,” I replied truthfully enough. “Come on, eat and let’s go – we’re going to be a bit slow getting to classes today.”
Ernie nodded, and thankfully, we were both still feeling so weak that we didn’t talk too much before he went down to the dungeons for Potions and I headed for Transfigurations. Susan didn’t glance at me as I joined the queue already forming outside the classroom (I was right – walking was quite the struggle; I was going nowhere quickly) and McGonagall had given us assigned seats at the start of the year that meant we were a good few desks away from each other. But either way, I couldn’t concentrate at all that lesson.
She hadn’t even stopped to check that I was okay. Clearly Ernie hadn’t told her about my mum and the Carrows, but still, I’d been in that classroom getting tortured for however long, and Susan hadn’t even hesitated before having a go! Maybe she thought I was selfish for not thinking of her enough, but she sure was being hypocritical in her approach of pointing it out!
And then there was Neville. Even the occasional flashback to the kiss and, in fact, that entire night couldn’t blind me to the fact that his behaviour that morning had been nothing less that business-like. Yet without Susan, I had no-one to confide in about it.
Above all that, though – way above every petty, shallow, teenage worry – was the sickly feeling in my stomach that kept reminding me of what was coming next lesson. How was I going to face either Carrow now? I mean, Neville’s advice had been good, but I didn’t feel as strong as him, and especially not this soon. Yet I felt as Ernie had said earlier – I couldn’t let them think they’d beaten me.
Although I made it through that lesson without breaking down or breaking something (mainly because Amycus seemed quite oblivious to what his sister had been doing the evening previous – Terry told me that brother Carrow had been busy with a group of sixth year Ravenclaws that had suddenly decided to show allegiance to Luna in her absence) the next few days didn’t get any better for me.
Susan still wasn’t talking to me, and annoyed with her in turn, I’d vowed not to be the one to apologise first. What made it worse, though, was that she was talking to Ernie. Granted, it wasn’t much, and it was particularly frosty when I was near, but it still seemed unfair that she begrudge only me.
Neville, too, was very clearly avoiding me. I now only ever saw him in Herbology, and we hadn’t spoken a word since that morning. This suited me fine, since from his weirdness I could only deduce that he severely regretted the kiss, and it had left me feeling both painfully embarrassed and terribly irritated. What made this
situation worse, though, was when he turned up to Herbology on Monday morning with a freshly blackened eye.
I could only gather from Lavender Brown as class ended that he had inexplicably backsassed Amycus before she rather coldly told me to ask Neville myself. I remembered with an unpleasant in my stomach that Lavender was quite good friends with Susan.
you ask him yourself?” Ernie asked suspiciously as Lavender hurried to catch up with Parvati and Susan. “Have you two fallen out?”
“Not exactly,” I sighed. “I don’t really know.”
“He’s probably stressed,” Ernie decided. “I mean, look at him. Looks like he hasn’t slept in a while, doesn’t he? He’s always sorting out the DA and helping everyone out and I’ll bet he’s probably been fretting about Luna and I guess Dean and everyone too, and I heard that the Carrows are onto him about who’s leading the DA-“
“Who told you that?” I frowned.
“Susan,” Ernie answered slightly apologetically.
I didn’t say anything, trying very hard not to feel mad at Ernie for something that was completely out of his hands, but made a point of sitting away from Susan when lunch came, simultaneously banning myself from at all glancing over at the Gryffindor table. Had it not been for Ernie and the desire to prove to both myself and Alecto that I was stronger than they thought, I probably would have barely made it out of bed for those first few days.