Hannah did not come back to Herbology. We had been in the middle of discussing other wizarding schools, both girls telling me all about Beauxbatons Academy as though I cared. Then Sprout called her out of class, telling her to bring her things and they left together. It had been over twenty minutes. Ignoring the task we had been set, I turned to Susan and shared my concerns.
“What do you think is taking her so long?”
“I was thinking the same thing,” she said. “It can’t be good.”
A moment later, Sprout returned, looking forlorn.
“Professor, where’s Hannah?” Susan asked her.
“I will talk to you after class, Miss Bones.” She commenced with instructing us on our work, Susan I glancing at each other, nervous about what we may hear.
Class ended quickly and I had wanted to find out Susan had been told by Professor Sprout right after but we did not share any other classes that day and I did not see her at lunch. I was so worried.
“What’s wrong, Neville?” Hermione asked at dinner while putting salad on her plate.
“Nothing,” I told her.
She looked wonderingly at me and continued to eat and chat with Harry and Ron as I pushed aside my plate.
“Hey, did you find Hannah?” Seamus asked as he sat down beside me.
“No, I haven’t,” I said a little too strongly.
“Sorry,” he muttered.
“No, I’m sorry,” I apologised. “Just ignore me.”
“Well, Susan just left so …” Seamus said pointing behind him.
“Susan was in here?” I said, startled, looking around.
“For, like, two minutes. She grabbed food and left.”
I dashed from the Gryffindor Table and almost ran down the hall, where none of Hannah’s friends were located. As soon as I was out, I ran down the corridor, following Susan to the Hufflepuff Common Room, yelling out to her before she went in.
She turned around and, upon recognising me, sighed sadly.
“What is it? What’s wrong? Where is she?” I was getting more and more nervous the more time passed. And the look on her face did not help. I tried to catch my breath.
“Neville … Hannah’s not staying at Hogwarts anymore.” She grasped the food in her arms and looked at them as a distraction.
She’s not staying? What did that mean?
“What do you mean?”
“She’s packing her bags right now. She’s leaving.”
I felt ill. She couldn’t leave. “Why?”
Susan looked right at me this time. “Her mother was killed by Death Eaters this morning. I - I don’t know the details but -”
Oh no …
“Is she leaving now?”
“In about an hour.”
“An hour?” I suddenly felt lost, in need of direction. “Can I see her?”
“Neville, she’s really torn up, I don’t think that -”
“Please, Susan. At least ask her. If she’s leaving, I have to say goodbye.”
Looking solemn, she agreed. “Alright.”
She disappeared inside the common room while I paced, pacing, thinking of what I would say if she decided to see me. What do you say to a girl who just lost her mother? I couldn’t think and decided to just say what came to me upon seeing her. I hoped that she did want to see me, at least giving me some hope that she valued our relationship, whatever it was.
Someone answered my prayers; Hannah emerged from her common room looking nothing like I had ever seen her. She was in her black cloak, still in her uniform. Her eyes were red and swollen, her face wet with tears and I almost wished that she had stayed in her dorm so that I didn’t have to see her this way.
Instantly, she fell into my arms, bawling like a child, her face pressed into my chest. Around us, students entered the common room after dinner, most looking over at her, at us, looking sympathetic even though they did not know what was going on.
Even when the corridor was silent and empty, Hannah was still crying in my arms, causing me to let a tear fall for her. Her fingers gripped my arms as I leant against the cold stone wall, her body leaning against my warm body.
“Hannah …” She shook her head, her chest still heaving painfully, my entire front getting soaked with her tears. “Hannah, it’ll be alright,” I tried. “It will …”
“H-how?” she whispered quietly. “How?”
She said nothing more as she cried, eventually focusing more on breathing, still holding onto me. Her wet brown eyes reached mine and I glanced away, embarrassed that she saw me cry.
“Why are you crying?” she asked me quietly, sniffing and rubbing her eyes.
I thought of what to say but only one thing came to mind.
I held her close. “Will you be coming back?”
“I - I don’t know.” She inhaled deeply.
“That means no,” I told her, upset.
“Not entirely, N-Neville. Not entirely. I don’t want to be kept back a year so I may c-come back to hand in assignments and exams … Of course, I won’t be able to use magic, but …” She paused. “And don’t you be m-mad at me.”
“I-I’m not. I … just, I don’t want you to go,” I told her honestly.
Her gaze fell and I knew that I was losing her. What I had worked so hard to achieve, this thing we had, was diminishing because of this blow.
“I m-miss her so much, Neville,” she said, shaking her head. “And I’m forgetting her. I’m forgetting. I’m scared. I think I remember, but whenever I think too much I get so upset.”
“You’re allowed to be upset.”
“I just want to kill whoever did this to her!”
“Don’t think like that.”
“Because, just months ago, you were telling me I was right not to overreact when I was face to face with Bellatrix Lestrange.”
“You’re parents are not dead, Neville! Y-you have no idea what I’m going through!”
“I do -”
“Death is supposed to apparently make someone’s name last forever. Professor Binns is always going on about the achievements of dead people and how their life’s work affects people more after they have passed. I don’t give a damn about that kind of thing! Yes, I think more about her now that she’s gone, but it hurts, Neville. Apparently people leave behind a legacy or whatever but all they really leave is raw biology, decaying. Everything they were is just a memory. T-they’re just a body …”
“I understand,” I assured her.
“I hate myself for saying horrible things about her.”
“My parents are permanently damaged, remember?”
“But they’re still here.” Her voice reeked of desperation. “They are still here …”
“But it still hurts. I have never known them. And now they’re just ghosts of what I want them to be, every day reminding me of what I don’t have. Which would you prefer, Hannah?”
“It’s not a matter of preference, Neville,” she muttered stiffly.
“You’re right. It’s no way to live. I hate myself for thinking it, but I wonder whether they would be better off …” I sniffed. “They have no freedom and only entrapment. I understand a part of what you’re dealing with and I’m so sorry that you have to go through this. You’re the only person that I wish this didn’t happen to.”
And I think I’m in love with you. You are so beautiful, even in tears, even when you look your worst. Somehow, in this moment, when you need me most, I find that I need you more. I only wish that I could tell you and then, maybe, our lives together would be as I imagine it everyday.
With a swipe of my thumb, I wiped away a pending tear before it fell down her cheek, wanting desperately to kiss it away instead. I wanted to embrace her so much that I could see it before it even occurred. Those small rounded lips pressing against my own and the sweetness it would bring plagued my every waking moment. I have wanted nothing more than her right now, even when I was the last thing on her mind. How selfish of me.
“I know,” she mumbled.
I turned her face to me. “It will get better. Not today, certainly not tomorrow or next week. But some day …”
I think I’m in love with you. I know I am. Nothing else is more certain or more true than that and I wonder whether you feel the same, whether you harbour these secret thoughts or whether I am alone in daydreaming of you and I.
“I know,” she repeated, nestling her head into my shoulder. I hoped she knew.
“I’d love for you to smile right now, Hannah.” Trying to cheer her up was one of my goals. She would never be fine, but I needed her to begin to heal.
“You know I can’t,” she said with eyes pressed together.
“Try. For me.”
“I can’t.” But she smiled anyway through her struggle, not even knowing it. “I don’t know why I did that.”
Her face was sombre once more as she looked into my eyes.
“I’d like to think it was something I said,” I replied.
Hannah slid down the wall and I sat down beside her, not once taking our eyes off each other.
I took her hands in mine.
“I’m really sorry about what happened to your mother, Hannah.”
She nodded. “Me too.”
“And I wished you could stay but I understand that you need time to yourself.”
“I want to stay but …” It was as though I could see her mind working through her eyes. “I don’t think I could even if I tried.”
It was now or never. She needed to know how I felt, even just a little bit. I could not let my fears of rejection or embarrassment get in the way of this. Moments like this are described as once in a lifetime, the ones you look back on when you’re old, wondering what you would change. I needed to get this right so that I would not have to live in regret.
“I’ll miss you …” I couldn’t look at her because the truth was indeed too much for me to take, even though it had to be shared. I looked at our hands. “ … so much … I-I don’t think you realise how much … the castle won’t be the same without you, Hannah, a-and I’ll think of you … every day … I hope you know -”
She placed a finger beneath my chin so I would face her.
Her watery brown eyes gazed at me. “I do.” The eyes looked deep into mine and the went down my face, over my nose. “You have freckles …” she noticed slowly.
“Yeah … yeah they fade with age … and, erm, come out in the sun - Why are you -?”
She gently placed her fingertips over my lips, halting my tongue. I shut my eyes instantly and, as I did so, every other sense of mine sharpened. Her fingertips on my lips felt softer, more right, my face tingling with happiness. I noticed that she was sitting very close to me, her leg pressed against mine. I could smell her skin and her breath as it cascaded across my face. I could hear that same breath leave her body faster as though she was excited; I hoped she was glad to be with me.
Her hands touched my cheeks and her body pressed closer; chest to chest we sat. Feeling her hair against my neck, my heart raced. She was so close now. I could have died.
Kiss me, I thought, before I kiss you.
Her mouth was less than an inch away, I could feel it. Eyes still pressed shut, scared yet ready, I waited impatiently.
“Neville …” she whispered, the word gliding straight over my lips.
I couldn’t reply. I couldn’t do anything.
I wanted her to do it so badly. Not only to spare me the humiliation of kissing her first, but as a way for me to know that she felt the same way as I did.
I’m falling in love with you. Why couldn't I say it?
Her hand was on my chest as she pressed down and leaned forward. But she did not kiss me. I felt that she would. It was the right moment, but clearly something was wrong. Maybe she remembered her grief, maybe I wasn’t right for her. Hannah wrapped her arms around me, putting her hands in my hair, her chin over my shoulder. Disappointed, I put my arms around her, reluctant to let her go when she eventually dragged herself away from me.
Crying, she was gone the next moment and I refused to open my eyes until I was sure that she was.
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