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Chapter 10 : Happening
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Neville snapped the pink balls of fluff to his ears and delved into the nearest trough. Immediately the screaming started; horrifying, banshee like yells that would have knocked them all dead if it weren’t for their wintry headwear.
Neville grabbed the plant by the shoots on its wrinkled, toddler like head and pulled. He lifted it up wriggling and writhing then shoved it into a pot that Ernie held out for him. Ernie put the pot to the side and held out a second one for Susan and Leanne who were wrestling with another mandrake, this one in adolescence.
This whole ordeal reminded Neville of Herbology lessons, the only time he ever excelled at anything. Professor Sprout had called him a “star pupil” almost every lesson, making him blush like a ripe tomato.
He yanked out a second mandrake and plated it in another pot. Then he went to give Anthony a hand with a rather temperamental infant.
But, Neville thought to himself, he wasn’t the only one who was good at Herbology. Professor Sprout frequently praised members of her own house for their work; Susan, Ernie, Justin, Hannah- especially Hannah. Neville wondered why Hannah hadn’t volunteered to go with him and Professor Sprout that evening. Then he realised. The last time Hannah had set foot in a greenhouse was in her sixth year, when she first received news of her mother’s death.
After the infant mandrake was successfully in its new home, Neville lifted a significantly larger plant pot onto the work bench. He held it still so that the elderly mandrake that Alicia Spinnet and Katie Bell were carrying could be planted.
Neville remembered that particular lesson like it was yesterday. He and Hannah had been paired up that day and were working on collecting Snargaluff pods. Neville thought they were disgusting with their gnarled rotting trunks and violent temperament. Hannah just laughed, explaining that there was a particularly grumpy Snargaluff in her garden back at home so she knew how to handle them. As it turned out, she was extremely effective when it came to immobilising the plant’s leafy tentacles.
It was the most fun he’d had in ages; you couldn’t help but smile when Hannah was around. Her good nature was infectious and, despite the tragic news, a year later nothing had changed.
They were on their third pod when Professor MgGonagall arrived at the door.
“Excuse me Pomona, but I have a message for Hannah.” Her voice was noticeably grave.
Hannah stood nervously.
“I’m sure it’s nothing serious.” Neville had said.
Famous last words.
If it were any other day, Neville would have been embarrassed to be running around Hogwarts wearing pink ear muffs and carrying potted plants. But, as Neville stormed along the corridor to the grand staircase, the thought couldn’t have been further from his mind.
He was moving so fast that he nearly ran full pelt into an already scarred statue of Gregory the Smarmy; only skirting around it with seconds to spare. In the exit of his near disaster, he caught sight of Hannah, crouched down in the alcove that hid the passageway out of Hogwarts. His mood lifted. She was safe. For now.
After passing Hannah, Harry, various other students and Order members, Neville and the rest of Sprouts “battalion” bounded up the spiral staircase to the astronomy tower. After a whirlwind of about 200 steps they reached the top and met the open sky. Instantly all of Neville’s excitement and adrenalin diffused into the air.
A blanket of deep, velvety blue covered the castle and swirls of white, purple and green were mixed amongst the stars. The sight was mesmerising. Dreamlike.
Then, in one earth shattering rumble, dream turned to nightmare. The whole sky fell away like broken glass. Behind Hogwarts’ final shield was the true sky; murky black and grey with fear. Bullets of ink shot across the horizon, soared into the clouds then dived in freefall to the ground. The inky smoke morphed into cloaked figures one by one, in arrowhead formation.
Slowly the mist dispersed. Left behind was an army of death eaters that seemed to never end.
“So, Fred, how’s the joke shop business going?” asked Hannah in an attempt to make conversation.
“A bit quiet actually, we’ve had to close temporarily.” Fred replied, with regret in his voice. “The death eaters Knew we were in the Order so Kingsley though it better for me and George to keep a low profile until all this was over”
“Yeah,” said Lee “and I suppose the giant statue things of you and George outside the shop were hardly what I would call inconspicuous.”
The laughter that followed felt completely out of place and silence soon absorbed them once again. Hannah shifted her weight awkwardly and stared at the wooden panel they were guarding; wishing she could see through it, wishing that she could somehow eliminate the advancing Death Eaters before they arrived.
“I always liked your shop you know, Fred.” Hannah was surprised to hear Romilda’s voice. Up until now she had kept to herself. “I Bought a love potion from you once,” Romilda paused for effect, hoping for someone to ask “for whom?”. When no one did, she carried on regardless. “It was for Harry”.
Hannah had a feeling she was supposed to be impressed, or surprised. But she wasn’t. Hufflepuff had had their fair share of Harry admirers too.
In the corner of Hannah’s eye, Terry tensed up.
“Really?” he asked, in a disguise of innocent interest.
“Yes. Last year. Needless to say it didn’t work.” Romilda sighed. Terry responded with a cough/ grunt that sounded remarkably like “good”.
But before anyone could register the information, the wooden panel they were watching exploded.
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