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Chapter 5 : Neville: All Things Blonde
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This time, I went alone. Summer with my gran was becoming unbearable and, at this point, I usually went to St Mungo’s for a break from her. Mum was laying on her bed looking out of the window, but it was Dad who I had come to speak to. I needed his help and his guidance on something only he could assist me with.
Sitting beside him, I said, “Hey, Dad.”
He didn’t move, just stayed with his back to me.
“There’s this girl. A girl that I like.” Dad coughed. “Her name’s Hannah Abbott and this is the first time that I’ve admitted it to anyone, or even myself. It’s actually quite scary.” I looked down at my lap, knowing that my face was slowly turning red. “I keep trying to convince myself that she likes me too, but … Am I being delusional? Honestly, tell me the truth.”
I had seen Hannah before we all got on the Hogwarts Express last month and she looked breathtaking. She was in a blue dress and heeled shoes. She just looked phenomenal. Blushing, but phenomenal.
I gazed at him hopefully but it was Mum who looked at me. Well, not at me, sort of past me and towards the door.
“You’re right,” I muttered. “I should give up. Anyway, I have other things to think about. Gran probably told you what happened weeks ago … I just hope you’re proud of me …”
Later that day, I returned back home to the aging walls, old-fashioned decorations and the smell of vegetable soup. I found Gran bent over the stove with her wand in hand.
“You’re back early,” she said.
“I guess I couldn’t wait to eat this amazing food.” The table was spread with all sorts of hot foods, so I assumed we were having guests.
“Who else is coming to dinner?” I asked.
“You’re cousins Jill and Peter were going to but something came up. We have this all to ourselves. It should last us a few days.”
Pulling my jacket off, I sat at the dining table opposite her. She began to eat quietly.
Since going to the Ministry, my Gran had been annoyingly nice to me, telling everyone how proud she was, how happy and surprised she was, inviting family around for dinner, completely forgetting that I just wanted time alone - especially after all of the hassle I got at the castle afterwards. I had often wondered what my parents would say to me if they knew I had nearly died with my friends at the Ministry of Magic. I wondered whether they would be proud or disappointed that I had put myself in danger, but that was something I would never know. Just like I would never know what advice they would give when it came to the girl I was falling for.
“Neville, what’s wrong? You’re not eating.”
I lifted my spoon as if to eat some soup but put it down again a moment later. “I just have … erm, things on my mind.”
“Oh, I know what that means. I was your age once before.”
“Someone on your mind?”
“N-no, I -”
“Neville, your face is glowing like the sun. You can’t hide it from me. A girl has caught your attention. Is it one of those girls who followed you to London?”
“No,” I said quickly, “absolutely not.” I did not like Hermione, Ginny or Luna.
She stared at me harshly. “Tell me who she is then.”
Scratching my head, I decided that I may as well tell her seeing as there was no one else to talk to right now. “Her name is Hannah,” was all I could force out of my mouth.
“Lovely name,” she replied. “And?”
“What is she like?”
“She’s really nice … and she smiles a lot. Her hair is blonde and her eyes are brown. We don’t talk much, but whenever we do, I can’t imagine us not being friends. And when we’re too busy to see each other, all I can think about … is her. But I know there’s no use in me pursuing this, Gran. She’d just laugh or say we’d be better off as friends. Beautiful girls always do. She’d never …”
“Do you think she likes you too?”
“I try to convince myself that she does, but I can’t quite figure out whether it’s my imagination or not.”
“Have you kissed her?”
“NO!” I yelled. “I couldn’t even -”
“Well what have you done to show her you like her?”
“Erm, we spent Christmas together, I’ve hugged her …”
“Is that all?”
“Twice,” I clarified as if it made a difference. “And I told her about Mum and Dad.”
Gran sighed. “Oh. And how did she take it?”
“She was understanding. And told me how brave I was, being in London.”
“Well, she sounds like a good girl to me. And she’s the first I’ve heard you talk about this way. I had begun to wonder whether -”
“Thanks, Gran,” I muttered sarcastically under my breath.
“When are you going to take her on a date?”
“A date, Neville. No grandson of mine is going to let a girl he likes get away. Or worse, get taken away by some other wizard.”
I was worried and didn’t think I could do it. “What if she says no?”
“That’s hardly the worst thing that could happen.”
“What’s worse than that?!”
“She could sever your friendship, tell other people about your parents - and I have the feeling that you like to keep that quiet.” It was true. Harry was the only other person who knew about them after I saw him visiting Mr Weasley in St Mungo’s months ago and he swore he would never tell anyone, not even Ron or Hermione.
“I suppose …”
“Well, there’s nothing else for it. You’re going to have a haircut, I’ll buy you some new clothes and you’re going to get yourself a girlfriend.”
I had always thought that getting relationship advice from my grandmother would be strange, but it turned out that it was just what I needed.
Platform Nine and Three Quarters was bustling once more that September 1st with students, parents and other family members, but I could only focus on finding one person. After my trunk was safely on the train, I gazed out of the window, holding Trevor, trying to spot her familiar blonde head.
“Hey, Neville,” Terry Boot called from behind me.
I turned around. “Hey.”
“Look at you,” he said laughing. “You look half-decent.”
I nodded. “Thanks.”
“I’ll see you later.” He walked down the corridor to find somewhere to sit.
I had almost forgotten the little ‘makeover’ Gran had given me. My hair was trimmed neatly, I got tonnes of new clothes and somehow I felt like a better person. Time would only tell whether or not Hannah would think so.
Once the clock struck eleven, I headed to the compartment I saw Harry and Ginny go into, but was suddenly distracted by her. Hannah. She was in the next compartment down. How had I not noticed her? She was sitting between Susan and Ernie, opposite other Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws, all of them (except Susan) laughing about something. Should I go in? Surely not. I simply stood outside like the idiot that I was, watching her with wonder.
Hannah looked at me, still smiling, no one else noticing. That was, until she lifted her hand and beckoned me inside.
Every person in the compartment looked at me.
Head low and probably a blazing red, I shuffled along and fell into the next compartment beside Harry.
“Hey, Neville,” he said.
“Hi,” Luna said, opposite me.
“Are - are you alright?” Ginny asked.
I nodded, not entirely sure, breathing hard. Trevor jumped onto Harry’s lap.
“Where’s Ron and Hermione?” I asked.
“Prefects, remember? Just like last year,” Harry told me. He then started to discuss N.E.W.Ts and the O.W.L results he received. I did not join in. Instead, I found myself thinking about Hannah again (as usual) gazing into Luna’s luminescent blonde hair. It wasn’t quite the same as Hannah’s honey-coloured hair, but it would do. It almost helped me to forget how embarrassed I was about what happened earlier.
After going to see Professor Slughorn on the train with Harry, we arrived at Hogwarts that evening to the news that Snape was going to be teaching Defence Against the Dark Arts and so things were pretty grim in the Gryffindor Common Room after dinner.
I was sitting in the corner of the room by the bookcases writing a letter to my gran when Ginny approached me, skipping over, sitting down and smiling at me.
“Hi, Neville.” She grinned sweetly.
“Yes, Ginny?” There was something deeply unsettling about the way she was looking at me. It made me nervous.
“I know about her,” she stated simply.
“I’m sorry, who?” I said, heart palpitating slightly.
“I know you like her.”
Great, she knew. Was it that obvious? It must have been. Whenever Hannah was around, I’d fumble my words, fall over or go bright red; this did not bode well for the future.
“How long have you known?”
“Not very long,” she said, crossing her legs in the chair.
“Was it obvious?”
She shrugged. “I don’t think many people know. I doubt she does. I’m very inquisitive.”
“Oh …” I put down my quill and sighed.
“I really like her, Ginny, but I know she doesn’t like me so what’s the point?”
“There’s every point in feeling, Neville. You’re only human. Look at me, for example. Dean liked me for a while and I didn’t know until he told me. And now we’re together and I’m happy.”
“But I’m just Neville Longbottom. I’m nobody.”
Ginny leaned closer to me as I avoided looking into her eyes. “Of course, you’re not a nobody,” she whispered softly. “You’re somebody. You’re one of the bravest, strongest people I know. Honestly, Neville, she’d be lucky to have you in her life.”
“Don’t worry about it. And because you’re my friend, I’m going to offer to do you a favour. I’m going to talk to her for you.”
“No, Ginny. She won’t -”
“Come on, Neville, you’ll never know until you try, right?”
“Right …” I said. “But I don’t think -”
“Say no more,” Ginny said, standing up. “I’m on it. See you later.”
She left the Common Room swiftly as I decided to finish up my letter in my dorm - Gran always wants to know that I have arrived at school safely.
I entered our dormitory and looked over at Dean, who was laying on his bed reading.
“Since when were you going out with Ginny?”
The room fell silent, as Ron glared at Dean, Seamus glared at me, Dean at Ron and Harry at Seamus and then Dean.
“Erm … a couple of mon - weeks,” he said, strained while looking away from Ron.
“Oh.” Sitting down, I decided not to bring it up again otherwise our dormitory would turn into a war zone.
Defence Against the Dark Arts was officially my least favourite subject with Snape at the helm. Every lesson, he would pick on me and all the other Gryffindors, especially favouring Slytherins. I wished that he was Potions Master again so that he did not have to teach me, but I guessed that this was just another test for me to overcome.
We all filed out of the classroom after a vile session with him and I began to make my way to Herbology down in Greenhouse Six. With my heavy bag over my shoulder, I walked down the staircase, noticing Hannah and Ernie standing either side of Susan, who was still looking grim.
I approached them.
“Hi,” I told them all. No one said anything, just nods and smiles. “Are you okay, Susan?”
She sniffed as though she had been crying and Hannah gave her a bracing hug. “Ernie, could you take her downstairs?”
He nodded and let Susan link arms with him, walking away.
“Is she alright?” I asked again.
“No,” Hannah replied looking at the ground, “her aunt was murdered by Death Eaters, Neville.”
“Oh no …” It was starting already.
“She’s getting by but it’s hard. Most of her family had already died in the First Wizarding War. That was why I didn’t go to meet the other Prefects and the Head Boy and Girl straight away on the train. I told Professor McGonagall that I needed to make sure Susan was okay first. I try to cheer her up but …”
“A few smiles and jokes aren’t enough.”
“No, it’s not …” She moved her bag onto her other shoulder and, as she did so, I held my hand out, offering to take it. Hannah handed it over and I regained my balance while carrying both heavy bags. Her smile showed her gratitude.
“How was your summer?” I asked her.
“It was good. It was my birthday in August.”
“It was mine in July,” I told her. “Did you have a nice day?”
“Yeah. You?” I nodded. “And the O.W.L results. How were they for you?”
“Well, I passed Herbology, Defence Against the Dark Arts, Charms, History of Magic and Care of Magical Creatures.”
“You didn’t pass Transfiguration?” she asked, shocked.
“I passed it, but only an Acceptable. I can’t do it at N.E.W.T level.”
“But … that means you can’t do Auror training,” she said sadly. I had told her last year that that was my ambition and I didn’t think that she was really paying attention, until now …
“It’s not the end of the world,” I told her, trying to smile. “What about you? What subjects are you doing besides Defence?”
Please say Herbology.
“Herbology!” she said smiling. “And I got an E in Transfiguration. Also, Ancient Runes, Charms and History of Magic. I did get an E in Muggle Studies too. It was kind of a given, seeing as my Dad’s muggleborn but I’m not doing that this year.”
“So you’re not doing Potions either?”
“Afraid not. I failed that terribly.”
“But you’re doing six subjects!” I commended. “That’s fantastic. And Ancient Runes is supposed to be tough.”
“It certainly surprised me,” she admitted as we walked outside into the light breeze. “But I have a plan. If Ancient Runes is too difficult, I can drop it, Sprout says. And I was rather happy that Snape wouldn’t be teaching us Potions until we found out he switched to Defence.”
“Me too. I guess we’re just unlucky.”
“You can say that again,” she laughed.
“I really hate him,” I told her. “He always has something negative to say about me.”
“Well, for every insult he gives you, there’s about a hundred worse ones for him. Don’t let him get to you.”
Looking towards the Black Lake, she said, “Hopefully I’ll pass.”
“You thought you were going to fail last year and look what happened.”
“Yes, Neville, but N.E.W.Ts are apparently ten times harder, with five times the workload, twice as much homework and lots more determination and focus is needed, let alone all of the essays and projects and -”
“Now it’s your turn for some assertion. Calm down, Hannah. You’ll be fine.” I continued on, hoping she picked up my hints. “And, anyway, you can always come to me for help. I’m here for you whenever you need me.”
“Oh, thanks, Neville.” She said nothing more as we walked to our lesson, my heart sinking.
A few weeks later, a wizard named Wilkie Twycross came into school to teach us Apparition. It had been weeks since we started working on our N.E.W.Ts and so this was a break we all looked forward to. Everyone had put their names down to be taught and so that Saturday afternoon most of the students in sixth year piled into the Great Hall for another anticipated tutorial.
In the aforementioned lesson, Susan Splinched herself; her leg came right off. This is an important yet gruesome event due to what I had done the day after. News had been spreading around the common room, as it did, about the upcoming Hogsmeade trip and I kept having these weird images of my grandmother in my head saying things like ‘Go for it, Neville’ and ‘I’ll disown you if you turn cowardly on me’. It unnerved me as well as forced me into the seventh floor corridor and down the main staircase, mind going backwards and forward through actions and perceived events and futures and things I had wished to occur.
I found myself tracing the familiar path to the Hospital Wing, my subconscious knowing that Hannah might be there that Sunday, visiting Susan after her accident. And I was right.
All I saw was that beautiful blonde hair flowing down her back. Next, was her black jumper and jeans. She was holding Susan’s arm and I stood for a moment watching them from afar, talking quietly. Susan smiled and I guessed that she had not done that in a while since her Aunt was killed.
Susan nodded towards me and I blushed a moment before Hannah turned to me in an exhausted manner; she must have been up all night.
“Hello,” I muttered, stepping closer and trying to ignore the other patients in the room, especially the two Slytherins closest to the door.
“Hey,” Susan said.
“Hi,” Hannah said also.
“H-how are you feeling?” I asked Susan.
“Better,” she said. And I knew that counted for her bereavement too.
“Good,” I said. “Well, I hope you continue to feel better.”
Hannah looked at me. “What are you doing here?”
“I’m here to see Susan,” I said, telling a half-truth.
“Really?” Susan asked, suspicious.
“Really,” I said, my body heating up. “A-and I hoped to ask you something … Hannah.”
“Yes?” She turned to me, not looking particularly excited at the prospect.
“In private?” I tried.
“Erm … okay,” she agreed, uncertain.
After glancing at Susan, Hannah followed me out into the empty corridor where ghosts came and went through the walls, totally unconcerned with the terrifyingly simple matter I was trying to conquer, trying to get Hannah to fall in love with me. Well - that was the long term goal. The short term goal was to get her to go on a date and that seemed highly improbable given her mood today. I was so nervous.
“A-Are you feeling alright? You seem -”
“I’m fine Neville,” she said, agitated, “just a little tired.”
“Seems like more than that.”
“Well, the hoards of assignments don’t help much. And Susan Splinching herself. And Prefect duties. And -”
“If there was any way that I could help you, I would, Hannah,” I told her honestly. Her body shifted slightly as she leaned against the wall, her hand going to her hair.
Nodding, she muttered, “What was it you wanted?”
“Oh - erm, I was j-just thinking that, you know - if you wanted to - you could come to Hogsmeade, w-with me next weekend, to, you know, get y-your mind off things for a while. I mean, you don’t have to, I-I just thought it would be nice, you know …”
All the while, I was gazing at my hands as they fidgeted nervously. Gradually, I looked into her brown eyes and saw that she actually looked quite amused - not the expression I had hoped for.
“Of course I will,” she said. “Should be fun.”
My mouth fell open slightly, quite shocked at her affirmation. “Okay. Well, erm, I’ll meet you outside the castle at eleven.”
“Alright. See you then.” She began to walk back into the ward. “Are you coming?”
“No, erm, I’ve got to …”
Panicking, hyperventilating, exhilarated and satisfied, I walked away slowly thinking of all of the beautiful and wonderful things she and I could or will do together the following Saturday.
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