Chapter 1 : Who needs magic?
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Neville Longbottom and Hannah Abbott had been dating for two years when the idea for a trip began to grow. Neville had never set foot outside of the United Kingdom but Hannah had gone to France a couple times with her parents in her youth. The place that interested them the most though, was China. Even though they didn’t know anyone there, Neville and Hannah prepared their trip carefully; they would backpack though the small southern province of Yunnan for two weeks, just the two of them and in the most muggle way possible. That meant they would leave their wands back in the UK and take a plane, book Inns by phone and visit the muggle parts of China only. Everything was ready and after 6 months of preparation, they finally left for a trip they would remember their entire life.
They’d just got off the plane after a long and rather uncomfortable flight. Setting foot in the airport should have been a wakeup call but they were too tired to notice anything out of the ordinary and so they walked out and searched for the right bus that would drive them to their Inn located at 117, Shuiyung road. After 24 hours of flight and waiting in different airports, they only thought of the beds that awaited them. It was already 10 o’clock, Lijiang time and that was a problem in itself.
“Where is that bus?” Hannah asked, pushing her backpack higher on her shoulder. “It should have arrived 10 minutes ago. Muggles, how do they even get anywhere? Airplanes are scary, dangerous and uncomfortable and buses aren’t on schedule.”
“I don’t know,” Neville shook his head. “The traveller’s book said that it came every half hour but that might have been the day schedule.”
“Look, maybe it’s specified here,” Hannah stopped herself when she reached the sheet. She couldn’t understand anything that was written there. “Er, Nev? Care to take a look at this?”
“Why, what’s wrong?”
“Can you read Chinese?” Hannah slowly asked him.
“I can not,” he answered on the same tone, looking at the small characters that didn’t make any sense to him. “How are we going to get to our Inn? I’m not even sure if this is the correct bus; we could be going to the other side of the town for all we know!”
“I checked and it’s the only bus stop so this has to be the one,” Hannah shook her head before pointing in the darkness. “Look, it’s coming. Should we get in?”
“It’s either that or spending another night in an airport,” Neville shrugged. “How can Muggles deal with so much stress; if I had my wand, I could just Apparate to the Inn. End of story.”
“Yeah well, we made a choice; Muggle all the way.”
For half an hour, they rolled through the town, impressed to see how many people were up at so late when suddenly, the bus stopped in a dark parking lot and the driver got out, leaving Neville and Hannah alone in the bus.
“Do you think this is the final stop?” Hannah asked Neville after a moment of silence.
“He would have told us to get out, wouldn’t he?”
“Probably,” she nodded. They waited silently for another 10 minutes before Hannah said what they were both thinking. “I don’t think he’s coming back.”
“And I don’t really like where we are, I feel trapped and defenceless. Come on, let’s go look around at where we are. For all we know, our Inn could be right around the corner. Why don’t we have our wands? We could just have them point us in the right direction at least,” he muttered as he grabbed his bag.
“Alright,” Hannah grabbed her bag, not really believing what her boyfriend had just said. Quickly, they reached an intersection and Hannah took a map of the city out of her bag in order to identify their location. “Okay,” she said. “What street are we on?”
“Er, little house, little man and squiggly thing street?” Neville answered in a slightly panicked voice. “Isn’t the English writing international?”
“I thought it was,” Hannah whispered as she felt panic grow inside her as well. “Look, there’s something open there, looks kind of like a store of some kind. Maybe someone can help us find our way.”
“Yeah, that’s if the English language really is international,” Neville said as they walked toward the store. “Hannah, did you, you know, bring your wand with you?”
“We said we wouldn’t Nev, remember?” Hannah sighed, patiently answering her boyfriend’s question for what felt like the tenth time tonight. “We wanted the true Muggle experience.”
“Yeah I know and that’s why I didn’t bring my own but I thought you might have.”
“Because we could have performed some translation spell or something, I’m starting to panic here,” he shrugged.
“No I mean, why would you think that I could have brought my wand and not you?”
“Because you’re smarter than me and much more cautious,” Neville answered matter-of-factly. “You could have foreseen this mess; foreseen that English isn’t international like I stupidly thought.”
“So you’re blaming me for this?” Hannah said, her voice rising.
“No, not at all,” Neville explained. “I just –“
“Forget it,” she said dryly. “We’re both tired; anything you say will make this worst.”
“That’s reassuring,” Neville muttered as they reached the counter where a small lady smiled at them.
Nervously, Hannah and Neville looked at each other, silently pressing the other one to talk to the lady. In the end, Hannah won the silent battle and Neville took a deep breath.
“Hi, we’re lost and need to find the way to our Inn, could you help us?”
“Hun?” The lady said, frowning at Neville.
“Do you speak English?”
“Oh dear, we’re doomed. We’ll die here and never find our Inn.” Neville dramatically declared.
“Calm down Nev,” Hannah said, taking a small piece of paper out of her pocket. She showed it to the lady. “We need to get there, do you know how?”
“Hun?” The woman shook her head in incomprehension and showed Hannah a journal written in the same little characters.
“I think she’s trying to tell us that she doesn’t understand our alphabet.”
“Yeah, I think that’s it,” Hannah nodded, taking back her piece of paper but the woman grabbed it tightly. “Er, we need that.”
The woman pointed at the paper and at a phone a couple times before Hannah understood what she was trying to say.
“There’s a phone number we could call,” Hannah said excitedly but Neville brought her back to reality quickly.
“To say what? We can’t tell you where we are because we don’t know but it’s not like it matters because you can’t understand us anyway.”
“Sarcasm isn’t helping right now Nev,” Hannah glared at him angrily.
“Alright, I have an idea, do you promise not to laugh?” Neville finally said.
“Sure, go ahead.”
“Okay, here we go,” Neville walked to the lady and pointed her. “Could you,” he pointed at the phone, “call,” he pointed at the piece of paper, “our Inn?”
“Hun?” The lady shook her head while Hannah burst out laughing.
Growing red in the face, Neville repeated his demand and the lady’s face brightened up as she seemed to understand. She nodded frantically and took the piece of paper out of Neville’s hand to dial the number on her phone. For a couple minutes she talked to someone but what she told that person was a mystery to the young English couple. She then hung up and picked the phone up again, making a mysterious phone call. When she hung up a second time, she smiled brightly at Neville, took his hand and walked him to the street.
“What is going on? Is she kicking us out?” Neville asked Hannah in a fake happy tone of voice in order to not let the lady know how terrified he really was.
“I have no idea, this is mad,” Hannah answered in the same tone. They waited silently for the longest two minutes of their lives before a cab stopped in front of them. Neville let out a sigh; she’d called a cab for them! The lady bent down and talked to the driver for a moment before grabbing Neville’s hand.
She said some things he, of course, didn’t understand but when she pointed at the cab and then at the address on his piece of paper, Neville felt certain that this woman had just save their day. He shook her hand firmly and thanked her many, many times and so did Hannah, before stepping into the cab.
The driver nodded at them but didn’t say a word; he seemed to understand that this would be a waste of breath and so, it was in complete silence that they drove through the city for a good 15 minutes. Sure enough, panic was once again growing inside of the two passengers.
“Is it just me,” Hannah asked Neville in an undertone. “Or is it really scary suddenly?”
“It’s not you,” Neville answered quietly. “When you don’t know the town, can’t read the street names and can’t even ask the driver where you are going, you feel rather helpless.”
“That was very reassuring, thank you.”
“It was either that or admitting that I’m scared,” Neville smiled nervously. Before Hannah could answer though, the driver began to speak and pointed at a small house in front of them with the number 117 on it; the same as their Inn’s address.
“I think we made it,” Hannah declared, surprised. The little house’s door burst open and a young man with a bright smile came out and joined them, taking their bags and, with a wave of his hand, asking them to follow him. Hannah paid the driver and together with Neville they entered the Inn.
15 minutes later, they were in a small bed, too tired to undress but happy that they could finally relax.
“Welcome to China, Hannah,” Neville whispered.
“Can you believe we’ve only been here 5 hours? Feels like a week went by already.”
“Yeah, and who needs magic after all, right? We got through it just fine, except for the slight panic you went through...” Neville said with a smile before being hit in the face by Hannah’s pillow.