Chapter 9 : Neville: An Impulse Shared
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Observing the unimportant countryside as it slid by, I sat alone on the Hogwarts Express as it made its way back to London that December. My mind kept running through a different reality, one where Hannah and I stayed at Hogwarts together this Christmas, just like last year. I imagined that we would spend the day walking and talking, eat together, exchange gifts and end the day snuggled beside a fireplace somewhere where no one would find us. But all of those dreams were dashed as soon as Susan told me that Hannah was leaving the castle and leaving me.
Why was I being like this? Why was I acting as though I could not function without her, as though there weren’t other important things going on right now? Katie Bell had been cursed and nobody knew how severe it was. I should be thinking of her while her life hangs in the balance, not about some stupid crush. But every so often I would be reminded of Hannah. Even as I observed Ron and Hermione argue, I thought of her. Ron and Hermione were so right for each other, so much so that they somehow let Lavender get in the mix. But I supposed you needed an untimely interruption to awaken you to your true feelings. I didn’t think I needed that. Hannah already knew what I felt. Short of telling her that I loved her, there was nothing else that I could do except await her owl.
And so I waited. And waited. And waited.
My gran noticed how depressed I seemed and asked me what was wrong.
“Hannah left school,” I told her as we sat in the living room. “I thought that we … I don’t know …”
“Did you ask her out?” Gran asked, although I didn’t see why that mattered.
“We went to Hogsmeade together. Then we went to the library and for a walk outside the castle. Why does that matter?”
“It matters because at least she knows how you feel.”
“I didn’t tell her everything, Gran.”
She frowned a little and then asked, “Why did she leave?”
“Her mother was killed by Death Eaters. Before she left, I tried to tell her how I felt but how could I when she was so upset?”
“It may have been the perfect moment,” Gran speculated.
“A girl needs to feel wanted and loved - especially at the lowest time. Yes, her mother is gone, but maybe you telling her you loved her would help her heal.”
I did not dispute the fact that I loved Hannah. If Gran knew then she must have.
I received her letter the second day into the holiday and read it over and over. She seemed so lost, not at all like I remembered her. Hannah was usually happy - either that or nervous. But this letter was neither happy nor nervous; it was just strange.
I decided not to write back until Christmas Day, not only because I wanted to send her a gift but because I had rewritten my reply over ten times.
School has changed much since you left. The Patil twins left and so many others for their own reasons and Katie Bell was cursed in Hogsmeade. Everyone’s a little on edge. Sometimes I forget that I have no one to talk to in Herbology without you there. Susan’s still nice to me but it’s not the same.
There’s no need to apologise to me. What happened the last time we spoke was just one of those things. It’s something we can’t change whether we want to or not. I think I know what was about to happen but I’m not sure whether you were ready for it so soon after your mother’s death. People say that when you’re grieving you don’t make smart decisions and I’d rather wait until you’re in a better frame of mind. So, therefore, I apologise if you feel that I am making a bad choice.
I hope you and your dad make up soon, Hannah. And while I don’t agree with his behaviour you, I do think I understand him - slightly. He probably just deals with things differently. He chooses to be distant rather than giving you the security you need. I’m sorry for that too. If you were with me, I would help you any way I could.
I’m not going to say that I hoped the funeral went well, because funerals don’t. I just hope that you are feeling better after it is over. I am concerned about you. You have all of these questions about life and I’m afraid I can’t give you the answers. But my opinion is that you should live life the best you can because tomorrow could be your last day. No one knows.
I hope I can see you again if and when you return to Hogwarts, but I’ll understand if you don’t want to.
P.S. I hope you like the gift.
I attached another bag of fudge to cheer her up and a small Herbology handbook. It was mine but I didn’t need it any more. It would have been easy to tell her I loved her in a letter, too easy. I thought she deserved that truth face to face, whenever that time came.
And so I waited. And waited. And waited.
It was kind of hard to believe that my scholastic life had been all about Hannah. Only now when I returned to the castle after Christmas did I realise that I spent a lot of my time in her company. Even trips to the library were lonely these days.
It was getting on to the month of February when I sat in there alone, reading over the reply letter Hannah had sent me at home. My gran had to forward it to the castle for me.
I’m glad you’re alright and that’s really terrible news about Katie. Please let me know if she is okay.
There is every need to apologise to you. For what, I am not really sure, but I am positive that things did not work out the way we wanted them to. But you may be right. Maybe my feelings are all down to my loss, maybe I do not know what I am doing these days.
My dad still doesn’t speak much but we get along as long as I don’t talk about Hogwarts or my friends. I’m pretty sure he’s going to let me come in soon. I’m working on it.
I miss you.
P.S. Thanks for the presents. Sorry I couldn’t get you anything.
When I put down the letter and tried to continue with my work, I found myself daydreaming, wondering what she was doing in this moment while I thought of her. She was so closed and I didn’t know if I would be able to open her up again.
My eye caught onto a speeding figure approaching me, carrying about six books in its arms. It was Hermione. She sat opposite me, which rarely happened, and scattered her books about on the table.
“Hi, Neville,” she said.
“Hey,” I muttered back, not really in the mood for light conversation.
She opened a book, but then she stared at me. I had the feeling that she wasn’t in here talking to me because she wanted to discuss schoolwork.
“How are you?” Hermione asked, looking concerned.
“Neville, don’t lie to me, you’ve been looking down for weeks. It may just be my instincts but I think you’re missing someone.”
I looked at her and she smiled at me.
“I know you like her,” was all she said.
“Yeah, Ginny thought so too, but then she tried to set me up with Luna.”
Hermione laughed and shook her head. “Not Luna. Hannah.”
She was very good at reading people, it seemed. “How did you know?”
“Neville,” she said truthfully, “everybody knows. Well, everyone that pays attention.”
“And who would that be?”
“Me. Oh, and Harry mentioned something briefly.” I nodded, not sure whether something good was going to come of this. “It was semi-amusing seeing Ginny trying to force you with Luna, I must admit, but it has been bugging me because I’ve known for months about Hannah. Ever since she left, you’ve been so quiet. And I also noticed before that. The way you talked about her and how nervous you would get in her presence. It was lovely to see.”
“Nothing to see now, though. She’s gone.”
“She is,” Hermione said slowly.
I looked across the table at her and sighed. “Her mum died, Hermione.”
“I heard. I can’t imagine how she’s feeling. Have you spoken to her?”
Holding up the letter, I said, “She’s written to me, but she never tells me how she is. I don’t know what to do.”
“When is she coming back?” I said nothing. “She’s not coming back?!”
“She said she doesn’t know. For exams, I guess. Her dad doesn’t want her back here so she’s studying from home.”
Hermione folded her arms and moved closer to me in order to whisper, “Have you told her how you feel? I assume she isn’t your girlfriend yet.”
“How could I embarrass myself and tell her? I need to know how she feels first and she doesn’t know yet.”
“No, Neville, you’re reading this all wrong. Of course she doesn’t know and certainly not now that she’s lost her mother. Whatever she thought she felt may have changed and what she feels now might be a lie because of all of the mixed emotions. You tell her and it will help her to figure out where she stands.”
“It all sounds great when you say it like that, Hermione, but I refuse to tell her through a letter.”
“Yes, I thought that too.” She frowned. “Well, in that case, I say, bide your time. Let her know in the letter that you miss her and want to see her. That should do for now.”
Frowning, I asked, “Why are you helping me, Hermione?”
She looked away from me and then at her books, fingering the edges of the pages.
“I just believe in giving everyone a chance.”
“Or is it because you need to focus on someone else’s relationship rather than the one you have with Ron?”
“I don’t -”
“Everybody knows, Hermione,” I copied. “Well, everyone that pays attention.”
“I really have no idea what you’re talking about. Ron and I are just friends.”
I smiled at her. “Alright, Hermione.” I moved onto talking about our last Defence Against the Dark Arts class rather than trying to advise Hermione on something she cared so much about. I felt sorry for her, in a way. She helped everyone but herself even though I knew she needed to speak to someone else about Ron and Lavender. But, I chose not to push it because I wouldn’t have a clue what to say anyway.
I spent a lot more time with Hermione in the library after that. She knew what my life was all about these days and it certainly beat spending time with Luna. Not to be horrible to her but, whenever I did, Ginny would get the inclination that her and I were an item. One time, I went to the library with her because she asked me to help her find a Herbology book. One time. And then Ginny started to congratulate me and all sorts. It made me feel so guilty, being with Luna when all I wanted was Hannah.
Valentine’s Day, April Fool’s Day and the rest of March came and went, with that, Ron’s accident and recuperation. Thanks to him being poisoned, he and Hermione had made up and he was no longer with Lavender. Hermione was much happier these days and, for that, I was happy for her. She and Ron weren’t dating yet, but it was a step in the right direction. Ron and I did talk briefly about girls in our dorm, but he did seem out of his depth. Kept going on about taking things as they come because girls are very temperamental. Sounded to me like he just coasted things out until the time was right or until things fell into place for him.
A few weeks later, I caught Ginny after her Care of Magical Creatures lesson by Hagrid’s hut. I had been walking by the lake - as I usually did - and called her over before she went back up to the castle.
“Hey, Neville.” She fell into step with me as I followed the path around the back of the castle. “How are things with -?”
“Please, I didn’t want to talk to you about that. Or maybe I do.”
“So?” she asked smiling.
“I don’t like, Luna, Ginny. Don’t you get it? I never have.”
Ginny frowned. “What? I thought -”
“You thought wrong.”
“So you let me make a fool of myself?”
“Seemed like a good punishment to me, considering what I’ve been through.”
“So who is it then?”
“You don’t know? I thought you were inquisitive!” She shrugged and waited for me to answer. “Hannah Abbott.”
She squinted, thinking. “The blonde Hufflepuff?”
I nodded. “Since we formed the DA last year. Now she’s gone and you shoving Luna in my face does not help me when I -”
“You know, Michael did mention something to me about her.”
“Justin Finch-Fletchley told Zacharias Smith who told Michael that Ernie really misses Hannah.”
“That’s not news, Ginny. They’re friends.”
“Seems like he thought they were more.”
I stopped walking. Now that made sense. Finally something made sense. No wonder Ernie hated me.
“Anyway,” Ginny continued, “You can’t trust everything Michael says. I can’t.”
“We used to date each other. He left me and ran straight into the arms of Cho Chang last year.”
“So why is it that you are still on speaking terms with your ex-boyfriend?”
“He’s not my current ex.” She grimaced. “Dean is.”
“You broke up?” I asked, appalled. “I thought you were happy with him!”
“Did I say that?”
“Yes,” I spluttered. “Are all girls this … indecisive?”
“Listen, I am not indecisive. I just have high expectations from a relationship. That’s not a crime. More people should.”
I thought over something in my mind. “But … I thought Ernie liked Susan Bones.”
“No, Neville, Susan is with Zacharias.”
“Oh, I forgot. Do you girls tell each other everything?”
“Do boys not use their eyes? They’re always snogging each other’s faces off.” She sighed reminiscently. “I miss that.”
I watched her curiously. “Got your eye on somebody?”
“No.” Her cheeks went pink.
Over a month later, Ginny and Harry were kissing in the middle of the Gryffindor Common Room in front of everybody. Ron looked like he could kill and Hermione smiled, satisfied. The whole thing was so unexpected but I somehow found myself imagining that it was Hannah and I later that evening in my dormitory.
I saw us spot each other on the other side of the room. I saw us walk towards each other, pushing our way through the crowds. And then that was it; she would kiss me, in my mind, my arms pulling her closer to me, her scent all around me.
Gulping nervously, I opened my eyes and looked around the room. I was getting a bit hot.
Harry was sitting on his bed looking through a pile of his clothes. He briefly glanced over at me, something I think he had been doing for the past few minutes.
“Are you alright, Neville?” I nodded but Harry looked amused. “You don’t look it.”
I sat on the edge of my bed and looked at him. “How did you do it?”
“Do what? Oh …” Harry sat down and scratched his head. “That.”
“How did you find the courage?”
“It wasn’t courage,” he said, laughing. “It was probably stupidity, a gut impulse maybe. And it did help that Ginny was as determined as I was.” He paused. “Is this about -?”
“Goodnight, Harry.” I rolled over and closed my eyes.
It was strange how fast the end of the school year was approaching. At one point, it felt like years were passing while Hannah was absent, but I realised that I was just being silly, because we were all preparing to hand in all of our final assignments and do our end of year exams and soon we would all be boarding the Hogwarts Express back to London.
Hermione and I were finishing up on some essays in the library. I borrowed some of her notes while she asked me a question or two about Herbology - not that she needed to; I think she was trying to make me feel useful.
“Has she replied yet?” Hermione asked while she looked down at her Potions textbook.
“Nope.” I said. There was nothing more to say. Hannah had not replied to me since February.
“I’m sure she just needs time to - Ron!”
“Do you mind if I join you two?” Ron asked as he approached with some parchment under his arm. “I haven’t started my Transfiguration essay and it’s due in -”
“Tomorrow,” Hermione finished, outraged. “Sure. Sit down.”
He sat beside her and went through her notes. “You alright, Neville?” he asked me.
Ron nodded. “Hermione, could you be so kind as to explain what the hell this says?”
She took a piece of parchment with her handwriting on it from his hand, smiling. She looked so happy with him.
“It’s basically stating that when you use this spell, it -” I stood up. “Where are you going?”
“Erm, dinner will be starting soon. Hungry,” I muttered.
I gave her one last look as I left the library and went up to my dormitory to put away my things. After finding out that Seamus and Dean were in the Great Hall, I made my way down.
“Hey,” I said as I sat beside them.
“Finally speaking to us?” Dean asked.
“You’ve been miserable since she -” Seamus began.
“Alright maybe I have,” I said quickly to get him to shut up. Ginny and Harry smiled opposite me as they sat together eating.
Dean and Seamus looked at each other, laughing.
“We’re happy for you,” Seamus said.
“Why? Has something happened that I don’t know about?” I chewed sadly on some carrots.
“Actually … yes,” I heard Dean mutter.
I looked up at him and saw that he was leaning over me, looking down the hall and out of the doors.
“Oh my God …” I muttered audibly.
She was back.
Just as I noticed her, wearing a green shirt and black skirt, her hair falling down her back, Susan and her other friends sprinted out of the hall, ambushing her into one of the most colossal hugs I had ever seen. Hannah laughed as the four people caused her to fall down onto the ground. I watched as it played out in slow motion. They scrambled up and then all tried to speak at once and took the opportunity to hug her one more time.
I stood up and Dean had to give me a little push to get me going down the hall. I knew they were all watching me but I went anyway - not because I wanted to but because I needed to.
I saw that dimple in her cheek appear. Ernie hugged her and kept his arm around her.
She saw me and our eyes connected, my heart fluttering, my stomach flipping.
She did not move, but her smile fell. It was like she was just about as shocked to see me as I was to see her.
But it didn’t matter for one reason only: Hannah was back.
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