Chapter 9 : Hesitate
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The room erupted. A wave of people, led by Seamus and Michael, rushed towards the door. All wands were drawn.
“Well- this is it. Are you ready?” said Neville, looking down at Hannah. She took a deep breath, looked at her wand, then back up at Neville. She nodded.
They descended the stairs to the ground floor side by side the plunged into a sea of students. Most were still in pyjamas. In the commotion Hannah and Neville were separated; Hannah finding herself in a cete of Hufflepuffs; Neville getting lost in a pride of Gryffindors. It felt strange- for both of them- to be united with their fellow classmates again.
“Hey, look, its Hannah Abbott, you know the seventh year, the one that fixed my arm.”
“And my leg.”
“Over there, that’s Neville Longbottom- he stood up to the Carrows remember?”
“He’s so brave; I heard he got hurt pretty badly for it.”
Everywhere Hannah and Neville looked there were faces and voices of admiration. For Neville, it felt good to be known for his bravery rather than for being a bumbling “almost squib”. For Hannah it felt strange (but good) to be known for anything at all.
The crowds flowed through the doors of the great hall and filtered out to nothing as people went to their tables. The ceiling had turned an appropriate stormy grey and sparks of white lightning flashed across faces.
Professor MgGonagall stepped up to the podium at the head of the hall. Memories of Dumbledore flickered across Hannah’s eyes; the first feast, the Triwizard Tournament, the return of Lord Voldemort. On this, Ernie had believed Dumbledore in an instant, as had Susan and Justin, but Hannah had needed more persuasion. She told herself that she wasn’t preparing for an imminent war and that everything she learnt from the D.A in her fifth year was only “just in case” so she could help someone if need be. It wasn’t that Hannah didn’t believe Dumbledore, Harry and everyone else, she just didn’t want to.
But now, as Professor MgGonagall spoke, Hannah could avoid the truth no longer.
MgGonagall announced the evacuation of students but Hannah knew there was no chance of her leaving. She was going to fight: for Hogwarts, for Dumbledore and for her late mother, she was going to fight. Hannah was just about to say this aloud but Ernie beat her to it.
More questions were asked and news of professor Snape’s departure brought about a cheer only to be silenced by MgGonagall’s crisp instructions.
Then, by a voice that struck fear and hatred into everyone’s souls, MgGonagall herself was silenced.
A second year from beside Hannah screamed in terror. Hannah put an arm around her in reassurance, and at the same time wished someone would do the same for her. Voldemort’s speech was as sinister as death itself- taunting them with promises that Hannah knew, deep down, would not be kept.
“Give me Harry Potter” said Voldemort’s voice “and none shall be harmed. Give me Harry Potter and I shall leave the school untouched. Give me Harry Potter”
The icy voiced drained away, but the words still pounded in the silence, every mind in a battle with themselves. Would handing Harry over put an end to the terror?
The thought of all her troubles being over was suddenly addictive for Hannah. Images of being able to go home and see her father made her ache with longing.
For Pansy Parkinson, the answer to the question was yes. She stood up suddenly, almost in hysterics, and demanded that somebody should grab Harry.
Almost in unison, the entire Gryffindor table rose and, led by Neville, stood in front of Harry with their wands raised, acting as a shield.
It was in this moment, upon seeing the bravery and loyalty of Neville and the whole of Gryffindor, that Hannah found an answer.
The bench creaked slightly as she stood. Instantly, all eyes were on her. Neville’s were the most dominant, but he was also smiling, and because of this Hannah didn’t mind being the only “non-Gryffindor” standing. Then, from beside her, Ernie rose; then Susan, then Leanne, more and more students until it was only the Slytherins left seated.
Pansy Parkinson cowered backwards in shock as the crowd marched past her to join Harry’s defence. Every Slytherin had lost their arrogance; all of them had recoiled into themselves, nervous, afraid. On MgGonagall’s orders they went in single file out of the hall, relived. Not one of them dared to look back.
“Right- you four with Weasley”
“Fred- err- no- George? The one on the left.” Kingsley sectioned off the remaining troops that MgGonagall had permitted to fight with a natural authority.
Hannah, Lee, Romilda and Terry stepped over to their appointed leader, Fred Weasley, and waited for further instruction.
Neville volunteered to go with Professor Sprout. Herbology was the one thing he excelled at so fighting using the power of plants would be a perfect way for him to help.
Once everyone had been given a team, Fred turned to his group and gave them the plan.
“OK. We’re going to be on this floor, watching the passageway behind the statue of old Gregory the Smarmy. If any Death Eaters try and get through we’re going to blast them to pieces. Got it?”
“Brilliant.” Fred turned to Kingsley. “We’ll be off then.”
Kingsley gave them a nod “good luck.”
From behind Kingsley, George had looked round. Upon spotting his twin he rushed over and embraced him.
“We’ll get through it mate.”
The realisation of what was to happen had hit everyone. Terry and Anthony were wishing each other farewell and Romilda and Leanne were saying a teary goodbye. Hannah hugged everyone from the D.A. and wished them good luck.
Last but not least she came to Neville. He looked nervous. What Hannah didn’t know was that his nerves were not from fear of battle.
“Hi Neville” she said, slightly awkwardly.
“Well, good luck. I know you’ll be OK”
“Thanks, so will you.”
What do I do know? Neville asked himself. Do I hug her? She had hugged everyone else. But he’d never hugged her before, he had wanted to but…
Neville’s confliction was put to a rest. Hannah’s warm body was pressed against him, holding him close. Her head was on his chest, listening to his heartbeat.
Without knowing it, these few, golden moments Hannah had created made Neville determined to survive. He had to keep Hannah from harm.
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