Author’s Note: Hi everyone! It’s been a LONG time since I’ve written fanfiction… Since this summer, maybe? Anyways, this was my attempt at KatieRoo’s Love Quote Challenge on the forums. The lovely quote (which appears in italics and bold in the story) that I received is from Jodi Picoult’s novel, My Sister’s Keeper. I’m not quite sure what to think of this story, as it was my first-ever foray into the Hannah/Neville ship, and I don’t know if I did the quote (or the romance!) justice. Maybe, if you’d be so kind, you could tell me your thoughts and constructive comments in a review? :)
Hannah Abbott was no longer a romantic. She used to think that there was a perfect prince somewhere for every girl, who would sweep onto the scene and magick all of life’s problems away. But five years of grief and pain and loneliness had taught her otherwise. Five years ago, she had fought in a war, witnessing the destruction of her school and the deaths of her friends and her mother. There were no fairy tales any more. Her handsome prince, if he even existed, was a long time in coming, and she had given up waiting for him. The marriages of the great war heroes were all over the papers and it seemed like love was being waved in her face, as if to say, “See what you could’ve had if you’d been someone great!”
Because Hannah Abbott, Hufflepuff extraordinaire (or rather, not-so-extraordinary), was not someone great. She was present for the Battle of Hogwarts, one of the ones who stayed out of loyalty to Harry Potter rather than some internal sense of bravery. She played but a small part, and though her name was listed in the papers and some of the memoirs that came out after the war, it was just that—a name. The Battle of Hogwarts was long over, and all that it had given her was some scars on her hands and face and nightmares that would never go away.
As she wiped the tables at closing time, she sighed, letting out the breath that she had been holding in all day. Every day, she woke up with regrets, only the least of which was that she hadn’t gone back to Hogwarts to sit her N.E.W.T.s with her classmates. People like Hermione Granger could do it, she thought, but it was not for her. Too many memories, most of them painful. Although her nightmares were less frequent than they had been immediately after the war, they still haunted her in her every waking moment. So instead of doing as her father wished and going back to Hogwarts for a proper education, she took a job at the Leaky Cauldron.
A barmaid. She straightened up, pushing loose strands of her long blonde hair away from her face and scoffing at her reflection on the shiny wood countertop. Was this everything she was meant to be? Was she never meant to be anything more?
At times, she thought that her House had determined her destiny. As a Hufflepuff, she was loyal, loving, and a little shy. If she had been a Gryffindor, like the plant-loving Neville Longbottom, perhaps she would’ve had more tenacity, more drive to squeeze every drop of adventure out of life.
The rusty bell above the door to Diagon Alley tinkled, and she glanced over to see who had entered the empty pub. Speak of the devil. It was the exalted hero himself.
While they were at Hogwarts, Neville Longbottom was hardly a blip on her radar. She always saw him as a shy, awkward kid, and on the rare occasion that he crossed her mind, it was usually because she was wondering (yet again) why such a clumsy, bumbling person had been Sorted into Gryffindor, of all places. They had been chummy in Herbology (which he was surprisingly good at), but she had never really known him. All she knew were the facts: It was true that he had consoled her upon her return to school after the death of her mother. It was true that, in the absence of Harry Potter, he had taken on the leadership of Dumbledore’s Army, the last man standing against the cruel and unusual punishments of the Carrows. It was true that he fought valiantly in the Battle, killing Voldemort’s prized pet in defiance. And it was true that he had grown into his features, she noticed, leaving behind the round innocence of childhood in favor of broad shoulders and kind eyes hardened by war.
As a result of heroism and many attempts to avoid reporters, he received tons of attention from the media, though perhaps not nearly as much as Harry, Ron, and Hermione did. It was still enough to attract the attention of many women, mostly single and looking for love, the poor sod. Hannah observed him as she slid behind the bar, continuing to mop up spills from careless patrons of the pub.
Seemingly unsure of himself as he looked around the almost-empty room, Neville Longbottom approached the bar, stumbling over a chair in his wake. Well, his klutziness hadn’t changed, that was for sure. After he had righted himself and straightened the chair, he climbed onto the stool in front of her.
“Good evening, miss. A pint of butterbeer, if you please,” he said politely, a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth.
It was a small demand, but after such a long day, Hannah was less than eager to cater to yet another customer, regardless of his connections or degree of fame. She put her rag down behind the counter and stepped back, her hands on her hips, regarding him with a look of disbelief.
Finally, she spoke. “We close early on Sundays.”
Neville’s face fell. “Forgive me, miss. I wasn’t aware—”
“—that you were… What?” His brow furrowed as he tried to work out what she said.
“My name. It’s Hannah. And I’ve had a long day, and we. Are. Closed.”
A look of recognition crossed Neville’s face. “Hannah… Abbott? Is it really you?”
“Yes, that’s me. Though I’m surprised that you remembered, seeing how you’re famous now, Neville Longbottom.” Her words came out tasting slightly bitter on her tongue, something that was incredibly unlike her. She told herself that she had worked too hard today and had earned herself a break. No witch or wizard, no matter how famous, was going to deprive her of that.
Neville was either too polite or too clueless (Probably clueless, she thought) to notice the acerbity of her reply. He stood up again, thrusting his hand under her nose. “Hannah! I could never forget you! How have you been?”
When she didn’t take his proffered hand, he blushed and sat down again. For a moment, she took pity on him, and this time, her words were gentler. “I’ve been… Fine. But it’s been a very long day, and I need to close up shop.” A fleeting expression of sadness crossed his face—so quick that she might have dreamed it.
“Hannah, it’s been years,” he said quietly. “Could you spare a minute, for me? I’ll… I’ll buy you a butterbeer, my treat. I just want to catch up with you.”
His words gave her pause. Here was the great Neville Longbottom, exalted perhaps beyond what he should have been, offering to buy her a drink. She didn’t have much experience with these things, shying away from relationships and neglecting most of her friendships after the war. Now, five years later, their lives had moved on, leaving her behind in a dusty old pub. Neville was supposed to be part of the fancy jet set, the sort that went to parties in their honor and arrived drunk to charity functions because, despite their victory, they were still getting over the horror of watching their friends die in front of them. He shouldn’t be talking to her, or drinking butterbeer, for that matter. He should be getting drunk on firewhiskey and cigarette fumes in one of the pubs that stayed open into the small hours of the night.
Something in her stubborn heart gave way when she saw his kind eyes. Neville had always been different from his friends, she remembered, and memories of him in his round-faced boyhood set her into motion. With a quickness of hand that she had acquired in the four years of her employment at the Leaky, she grabbed two glasses from beneath the counter and whirled around to retrieve the alcohol. She granted Neville’s wish for a butterbeer—rather boring, unadventurous drink that it was—but for herself, she poured a measured serving of amber-colored firewhiskey. Setting the drinks on the counter, she pulled up a stool on her side of the bar and sat facing him, waiting for him to speak.
He chuckled when he saw her choice of drink. “I never pegged you as the hard liquor type.”
Taking a large gulp of firewhiskey, she raised her eyebrow at him. “I never pegged you as the judgmental type.”
“I’m really not,” he answered. “Forgive me.”
“You are forgiven. For now.”
“You’re very different from what I remember.”
Her sudden bout of sardonic laughter startled him. “Oh yes, and I’m not allowed to change, am I? Little pigtailed Hannah Abbott, still just as gullible and guileless as she was as a student! Really, isn’t the whole world different from what it used to be? Hannah Abbott changed, too. But the world didn’t stop to notice.”
Shooting her a confused look that was not unlike the permanent expression of his adolescent years, he took a sip of butterbeer. She looked away, already regretting her decision to pour him the drink. It was not often that her old schoolmates wanted to play catch up with her, and only now did she remember why. It was awkward and uncomfortable to reconnect with the past.
Neville’s voice broke her out of her thoughts. “We all changed, some of us more than others,” he said. “I used to be the clumsy, plant-loving kid that got picked last for everything. Now when people see me, they want my opinions, my autograph, my picture. But what they don’t realize is that inside, I’m still just the same.”
She snorted. “You’re definitely still clumsy, I noticed.” He ducked his head in embarrassment. “Thanks for putting the chair right.”
“Thanks for staying open to talk to me,” he replied. “I like to stumble across people that I haven’t seen in a while. It’s like finding a rare plant that you’ve seen somewhere else before.”
“Very poetic,” she commented, making him blush again. Yes, he was still the hopeless boy that he’d always been—his sudden celebrity status couldn’t change that. “What brings you here, to the Leaky? I read in the papers that you were in the depths of South America with Luna Lovegood, finding… rare plants…?”
“Oh, is that what they’ve been saying? It’s all rubbish,” he chuckled. “I don’t keep up with the papers anymore. Work keeps me busy. I just popped over to Diagon Alley to check on a shipment of mandrakes for the second years. They’re being shipped into Hogsmeade tomorrow, so I wanted to make sure that they looked alright before they came in. Then I got caught up by all of the new shops, so I spent my day looking around.”
“Lots of new shops have appeared in the past few years. It’s a bit overwhelming sometimes,” Hannah agreed, swirling her drink in its glass. “Are you at Hogwarts, then?”
“Yeah,” he grinned. “I’ve been the assistant Herbology instructor for a few years, but next year, I’ll take over for Pomona. Being a Herbology professor is something I’ve always wanted to do.”
This revelation took Hannah by surprise. She had always assumed that the whole set of brave war heroes would have Ministry jobs in order to protect the Wizarding community against any Death Eater uprisings and to revamp the entire department, which was in serious need of reform in the aftermath of the war. “You didn’t accept Kingsley’s offer to be a full-time Auror, then?” she asked. “I thought those jobs would’ve come easily to you lot.”
Neville shook his head, his slightly shaggy blonde hair falling into his eyes. “I did it for a while, but it wasn’t for me. I’m not exactly Auror material. But what about you? ”
In his voice, she heard the unasked question: How badly did the war affect you? That was why she had run, had hidden herself behind the dusty bar of the Leaky, in hopes that the terrors of war could never reach her again. But the war was there, and it would always be there. She saw it in his eyes and his smile, and in her mind the dead faces flashed in a never-ending slideshow of grief and loss. She tried to run, but she could never escape them.
With another fortifying gulp of alcohol, she steeled herself before answering. “I’ve been here for about four years. I took a year off from magic, went back home, and got a bartending job in the Muggle pub there. When I was ready, I came back to London, got on here, and here I’ve been ever since. I couldn’t—didn’t—go back to sit my N.E.W.T.s. It was enough of a readjustment from the Muggle world back to Diagon Alley.”
His eyes told her that he understood. “Yeah, a year’s a long time. I took one off too, after I left the Ministry, just to see what the world was like. I saw plenty of magical plants in different places, but coming back home was a bit of a shock. Like you said, the whole world is different now. Even Diagon Alley seems to have changed since I was last here.”
Hannah held up her half-empty tumbler. “I’ll drink to that,” she said wryly. Neville clinked his glass against hers, but his hand shook and his glass tilted slightly, dripping butterbeer onto the polished wood surface of the bar.
His face went red. “I’m sorry about that. Just when I think I’ve gotten over the worst of my klutziness, something else happens to prove me wrong. Here, let me—”
Hannah shook her head and laughed as he stood to help clean up the spill. “No, it’s alright. I’ve got it. Happens all the time, and to people less polite than yourself.” As she mopped up the mess, she sent him a wink that only made him blush more. “I guess you don’t get out much, what with Hogwarts and all.”
“Nah,” Neville grinned. “The kids keep me busy, and I’m not one for the public eye, really…”
Her laugh cut him off. “I guess some things never change, do they? You’re still Neville, the boy who gets noticed when he wants to hide, and I’m still Hannah, the girl who never got noticed in the first place.”
“I noticed you,” Neville disagreed. Surprisingly enough, he did not blush at her questioning gaze. “You were always good at Herbology, and I remember when you came back to school… I thought it was really brave of you. You shine brighter than you know, Hannah.”
His words silenced the cynical comment on her tongue. Was this really happening? Someone actually thought that she, Hannah Abbott, was worth noticing? It was an odd thought, but not an unpleasant one.
At her silence, Neville drained the last of his butterbeer and placed ten Sickles on the counter. “You keep the change,” he said. “I’ve got to get back to Hogwarts, as it’s a bit late.” He chuckled as she glanced at the clock behind the bar and saw that it was nearing midnight. “Thanks for that, Hannah.”
“It was no problem,” she responded, answering his smile.
He turned towards the front entrance, towards the streets of Muggle London, but before he reached the door, he looked back to where she still stood. “And Hannah?” he asked.
“I’ll see you again soon.”
The statement was a promise, not just a token of courtesy. “See you too,” she grinned. He nodded to her and disappeared into the night.
Hannah wiped the counter again, mind reeling with the conversation she had just had. Neville Longbottom, of all people, with his blushing and tripping and clumsy fingers, was the one person who had taken time to speak to her, and best of all, he was sincerely interested in what she had to say. It was enough to make her believe in love again, or at least the distant possibility of it. The war still haunted her, her job was less-than-lucrative, and she had become cynical and removed from the world, but to Neville, that had not mattered. She was not perfect, and he was not her handsome prince, but she wanted to get to know him better. It was time that she opened her heart to someone and let them see her for who she truly was, imperfections included.
After all, she smiled to herself, you don’t love someone because they’re perfect, you love them in spite of the fact that they’re not.