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Chapter 1 : The Party
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“Hannah, you are going to this Christmas party if it is the last thing you do!” Susan shouted at me as she threw a green dress at me.
I let out a sigh. I got off the bed where I was hosting my pity party for one and shrugged off my t-shirt and jeans to get into the dress.
The dress was not the problem. In fact, it was the only thing I had to look forward too. It was a deep emerald green, one shouldered, and stopped two inches above my knee.
I stood in front of the mirror in the beautiful dress and look at the less than beautiful girl that stood in it. I grabbed at my hips and wished (for the millionth time) that they were gone. Susan called them curves, I called them fat.
My hair was less than stellar. Yes, it was blond, but a dull blonde. It was nothing like the silvery blonde hair that perched on the top of a veela’s head. I tugged at it in its boring straightness. I frowned and my reflection mirrored my action.
Why, you ask, am I so focused on my appearance tonight?
Well, it is because I am being forced to go to a party filled with my old classmates from back at Hogwarts tonight. It has been five years since our last year and some idiot thought it would be a good idea to get us all together again. The only problem is that I haven’t really talked to anyone except Susan since we left. Most got sucked up into their own lives after school ended; off to exciting new jobs and adventures, getting married and starting families, moving away only to send postcards to a select few. You get the picture.
Well, as everyone went on with their lives, I decided it was a great time to have a breakdown. I didn’t handle the war all that well, I guess.
The nightmares had started a couple days after the war itself had ended. Either I would face a death eater and die or I would have to watch someone I loved die as I stood by helplessly. It got so bad that I started to get paranoid in real life too. I stopped going out of my apartment and spent my days huddled in a ball on my couch, tears streaming down my face.
That’s how Susan found me a couple weeks later. I hadn’t bathed in days, the garbage can was overflowing and pizza boxes littered the floor. I was in my little ball, rocking my self to sleep.
When she saw me she cried.
She took me to St. Mungo’s where specialized healers came to talk to me every day about how I was feeling. I was there for a year.
After I got out, I got a job in a bookstore and everyone except Susan had forgotten me.
So now I stand in my room, teetering in a pare of gold heels that Susan forced on me to go with my dress, seriously thinking about making a break for it.
She wouldn’t notice if I escaped out the window, would she?
“Hurry up!” Susan called from the living room.
Yeah, she probably would. I answered my own questions before dragging my feet on the way out of my room, my safe haven, taking as long as possible.
“Thank Merlin! You took forever!” Susan exclaimed. “Let’s go, “she added, holding out her hand to side along apparate.
I stood still, looking at the ground.
“What is it now?” Susan asked, exasperated.
I paused for a second, gathering the words that have plagued my mind ever since the invitation to the party had arrived via owl. “What if they don’t remember me?” I whisper.
I hear footsteps and look up to see Susan come and give me a hug. After a moment’s hesitation I wrap my arms around her. I rest my head on her shoulder and take a shaky breath.
“Honey,” comes Susan’s voice over my shoulder, “How on earth could they forget you? You think you made a smaller impact on people’s lives then you really did.”
I rolled my eyes highly doubting it. Then, another thought came to my mind and I pulled away.
“Susan, everyone has made a name for themselves except for me. Harry is the freaking Head of the Auror Department, Ernie is currently a big shot curse breaker, and Neville, after being an Auror, became the best Herbology teacher Hogwarts has ever seen! Even you are a major writer for the Daily Prophet! I am a nobody! I am just a stinking bookstore clerk! I am a let down to all of these amazing people!” I buried my head in my hands.
“Honey, if you think for one second that that is the only thing you are, you are dead wrong.”
I slowly lift my head from my hands to see my best friend, with her hands on her hips, looking more than slightly angry. I throw my arms around her and she hesitantly puts her arms around me.
“I love you, Susan. You know that, right?” I mumble into her shoulder.
“Yeah, yeah.” She smiles as she pulls away. “Now don’t get all emotional on me, we don’t want you mascara to run.”
I smile and hold out my hand. I soon as she takes it we are whisked away to the party.
I step into a gorgeous ballroom filled with people. I see more faces than I can count and most of them I haven’t seen for years. I start to panic.
I can’t do this. Dear Merlin, I can’t do this.
A waiter passes and I grab a flute of champagne and toss it back. I put it back on his try and grab another before he is even out of reach.
I got mad skills and the speed of a ninja. You jellin’ bra?
Dear Merlin, I need to stop watch the muggle TV.
With my liquid courage in hand I bravely step into the sea people. With this much bravery, I should have been sorted into Gryffindor.
I snorted at my own joke. However, it just so happened to alert the person I was passing at the time.
A tall man turned around from the group he was talking with. “Hannah!”
I turned around to the see the tall, handsome man who, if not for his voice, I wouldn’t have recognized. “Neville?” I breathed.
Wow, didn’t someone become a hottie after Hogwarts, I thought as I quickly eyed him up and down… Sorry, creeper moment.
“It is you!” Neville exclaimed, a smile breaking onto his face as he walked toward me to pull me into a hug. As I wrapped my arms around him I couldn’t help but notice that he had grown muscles.
The hug was a little awkward I have to confess. I don’t know if it was the fact that I hadn’t really talked to him since he practically saved the wizarding world by chopping Nagni’s head off or if it was the fact that I was hugging the guy who I used to harbor the biggest crush for and now is super hot, making some of my past feeling come back up from where I had buried them years ago.
He pulled away, a little to soon for my taste, and smiled at me.
“How are you?” He asks. “I haven’t seen you in forever.”
“Oh, you know, good. How about you?” I twiddled with the bottom of my dress nervously.
“Good, good.” He replied giving me a smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes. “Well I have to get back to this conversation, but we’ll catch up later, right?”
“Yeah, sure.” I tried smiling back although I am pretty sure it turned out to be more of a grimace. Even though I hadn’t seen him in years, a small part of my heart died as he quickly tried to escape from conversing with me.
I turned back around, once again making my way through people, looking at the ceiling every once and a while to stop the tears from leaking. Tonight was a horrible as I expected it to be.
I let out a shaky breath when I got to the bar. I ordered a firewhiskey.
I tossed back my shot before I turned around.
“Hey Michael!” The fake grin was once again plastered to my face. “How are you?”
“Great! I haven’t seen you since what, Hogwarts?”
“Ha ha, yeah.” My grin faded off slightly as I prayed to Merlin that he didn’t ask me the question I have been dreading all night.
“So what have you been doing to stop you from visiting?”
Well thanks for listening to my prayer, Merlin.
“Oh a little bit of this, a little bit of that.” I laughed nervously as I turned around for another glass of whatever. It turned out to be more champagne.
“Oh didn’t you hear.” I turned around to see Su Li, a Ravenclaw who for some reason always hated me back in school. “As soon as the war ended she ended up in Mungo’s because she had a nervous breakdown.”
My ‘grin’ fell off my face and Michael looked down at his glass, his watch, Su, anywhere but me.
“Well I’ll see you guys later!” I turned around before they could see the tear falling down my face. I walked out into the hallway outside of the ballroom, out my back against the wall, and slid down. I wiped the tear away and steadied my breathing.
I threw back the rest of my champagne and started playing with it absentmindedly as my mind was occupied miles away.
I didn’t hear the footstep and I definitely didn’t notice that someone slid down the very wall I was against a few feet away. However, I did notice when that person let out a huge sigh.
I looked up quickly, startled to see Neville with his head leaned up against the wall, eyes closed, running his hands through his hair.
“Not really liking the party either?”
He looks up surprised. I guess he hadn’t seen me sitting here. Wouldn’t be the first time I was overlooked.
His surprise turned into a sheepish smile. “Not really my scene.”
I nodded and went back to staring intently at my empty glass.
“So why aren’t you out there with all your friends.”
I snorted. “Come on Neville, you know that no one is friends with me. At least not anymore. Well, I guess I can understand why you wouldn’t know that. You being a war hero and all. I guess you have been so busy with all your new friends that you didn’t even notice that I wasn’t around anymore.” As much as I tried to keep it down, my words grew to sound very contemptuous.
“Yeah, all my new friends.” Now his voice had contempt in it. “The ones who wouldn’t give me the time of day while we were at Hogwarts and now want to be close to me only because of the one thing I did that one night.” He turned to face me completely. “Those friends, as you like to call them, don’t actually care about me, they only care about the fame that now is carried with my name. It absolutely sucks that I have no idea whether someone is being nice to me because they actually like me or because they want a picture with me in the newspaper the next day.”
I must have had a scared look on my face because the next thing I knew, Neville face changed from anger to regret and he said, “I’m so sorry Hannah.”
My eyes were still wide before they slowly found their way back to their natural state. “It’s alright.”
He nodded then turned back to facing the opposite wall.
“You should forget about them.” He turned to me in confusion. “I mean, if they can’t see how the real you is so great than it’s their fault. You deserve so much better. And for those who wouldn’t give you the time of day at Hogwarts were just so caught up in their own little lives that they didn’t notice an amazing person standing right next to them.” He started to smile at me. “You know, I noticed you at Hogwarts.”
“Yeah, I even had a huge crush on you back then.” Those words slipped out of my mouth before I even realized what I was saying. I had just let the biggest secret that I had only told Susan, in complete confidence, out.
In my utter shock at my own words, I could only nod. He looked back at his hands and was silent.
Oh dear Merlin, could it get any worse? Why did I have to go and ruin a perfectly good moment with a great guy by practically saying that I stalked him for six years? Now he is never going to talk to me again.
I had to do something. He still wasn’t responding and I couldn’t take it any more. I hopped up, reached out my hand and said, “You ready to head back to the party now?” My voice only showed a quarter of how nervous and awkward I was feeling at this moment. Score one for Hannah.
He stared at my hand for a moment before letting out a barely audible, “Yeah,” and standing up.
As I turned to leave I felt a hand enclose on my upper arm, holding my back. I turned back around to a very confused Neville Longbottom.
“You liked me?”
“Well, yeah. Honestly I always thought I was pretty obvious about it. I mean I was always looking at you in class, never really able to form complete sentences whenever you talked to me, blushing whenever-“ He cut off my rambling by saying, “I didn’t think anyone ever really noticed me.” He looked at the ground and shuffled his feet.
“Of course I did. I mean how could I not. You were one of the nicest, bravest people in our year.”
“You thought I was brave?”
“Duh! I mean, remember that time in second year when those seventh years were making fun of my pigtails and you went up to them saying that if they didn’t stop you were going to go tell McGonagall.”
“But I didn’t do anything. It was going to be the teachers, if anyone, who was going to do something.”
“But Neville, that took so much courage to just say that to those seventh years. No one else was going to save me, but you did. Ever since that day you were my hero.”
“Your hero?” He repeated quietly.
I nodded and then turned to leave.
“Wait!” He called after me. I turned back around.
“I did. I did notice you were gone. I just thought that you didn’t really care if you ever saw us again. And of course I would try to say something to those bullies, I always thought you pigtails were cute.” He smiled sheepishly at me.
“Cute?” Now it was my turn to repeat quietly.
“Of course. I always thought you were beautiful, just as you are now.”
I looked up from the floor I had been staring at to see a man who cared more than I thought he ever did. He closed the distance between us with two long strides and tucked a piece of my hair behind my ear.
My breath hitched.
We stared at each other for what seemed like an eternity before we heard a rustling above our heads. We looked up to see mistletoe growing out of the celling right above ups.
Neville looked back down at me, once again sporting that adorable sheepish smile of his.
My hands seemed to move on their own accord as I placed one on his shoulder and one on the nape of his neck. Both of his hands found their way to my checks. He held my face delicately, like it was made of china and he feared it would break. He bowed his head down. I stood on my tiptoes. Our lips met in the middle.
It wasn’t a quick peck nor was it a heated snog filled with passion and lust. Instead it was a kiss that knew that there were many more to come.
He pulled back beaming and I am pretty sure I was beaming in return. His hand found mine and we turned to head back into the party.
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