This is a response oneshot written for Megsy42's First Kiss Challenge over at HPFC. It's obviously the story of Neville and Hannah's first kiss, because anyone who has read my work knows that I'm a diehard fan of the Longbottoms. It takes place on May 2nd, 1999 - the first-year anniversary of the Final Battle, and a year before Victoire Weasley's birth - just thought that I'd include that, because Bill and Fleur wanting a child is mentioned in this. Thank you!
The first words out of Arthur Weasley's mouth after the one-year Battle anniversary service at Hogwarts were the following, "Let's all stop by the Hog's Head for a drink."
Neville stared at the old man perplexedly. For the past two hours, he had been in the presence of the numerous Weasleys, sitting with them as they all listened to the plebeians of their pasts talk of the lost ones – Fred Weasley, Professor Lupin, Tonks, Colin Creevey, and even more. Neville had witnessed Lee Jordan stifle back tears as he fondly spoke of the antics and pranks of one of his best friends, Fred. He had given Harry an encouraging look as the Boy Who Lived stood at the podium to share memories of Lupin with the crowd. He ached with sorrow when Andromeda Tonks broke out into heavy tears in the middle of her pre-written speech based around her beloved daughter, Nymphadora.
"Really, Arthur," Molly's nurturing voice broke Neville's string to his thoughts. "Do you think that now is a suiting time?"
Poor Molly. Her pupils were still that light maroon color that mysteriously appeared shortly after her son's death. Neville never knew Mrs. Weasley that well – he wasn't the one who resided at the Burrow nearly every summer since he was twelve. That was Harry's department. Neville was fully aware that his friend was nearly a birth child to Molly and Arthur. The times Harry had saved a Weasley – Ginny, Arthur, and then Ron! The Longbottom orphan – the one who never had the kind of family support that Harry, Ron, or Hermione received – was still clueless over the reason of Molly's invitation to join she and her family at the memorial ceremony. When was Neville ever entitled to belong with the Weasleys?
"Right then," Molly said exasperatedly, "the Hog's Head it is."
And they all filed out of the school and off grounds, to the tiny, familiar village of Hogsmeade. Molly and George led the crowd, George's arm wrapped comfortingly around his mother – they were the two most torn apart by Fred's death. Arthur followed them, staring at the dirt road blankly as he walked. The Golden Trio and Ginny huddled together, murmuring quietly to each other. Neville kept his jealousy for them hidden. The gift of true love had been bestowed upon each of the four – ironically, each with another member of their quartet. Neville deeply envied them. Harry, Hermione, Ron, and Ginny were thrown this beloved gift all of a sudden, as it seemed to Neville. He could no longer feel comfortable around his old friends without noticing Harry stroking Ginny's cheek randomly, and Ron and Hermione sharing a smiling, embarrassed look.
Now that he had recalled the couplings of his chums, Neville appearing to currently be suffocating in the presence of numerous couples. Bill and Fleur strolled nearby him, each holding one of Teddy Lupin's hands and swinging him forward concurrently, much to year-old Teddy's delight. Neville wanted to let out a desperate wail when the two adults looking after Teddy laughed at the baby's wholesome and pleasing actions, glancing at their spouse affectionately. Neville was aware that Bill and Fleur were attempting to conceive a child. They'll make good parents, he thought. Unlike me, who'll most likely never become a father.
Even stick-to-the-rules Percy had found a girl! Audrey Morton was a Muggle and was stiffly new to her boyfriend's world. The two had met shortly after the war, only about three months following, on the Muggle streets of London. Audrey was a bespectacled, preserved librarian, and Percy lived up to the accurate description of a bespectacled bookworm hunting down a new job. Neville watched with brief amusement as Audrey excitedly pointed out the Hogsmeade shops with eager eyes as if she were a child, and knew nothing of the world in front of her. He felt a ping of envy inside as he observed Percy's work-toughened hand secured on Audrey's back, guiding her around puddles and potholes in the road.
Audrey had not seen Hogwarts upon arrival. Nonetheless, she had become speechless, yet astonished, when she entered the castle. Neville strongly recalled that new sense of a strange feeling when he first stepped past the school's doors seven years ago. He missed those days before love, Voldemort, and death came into play…
The party of fifteen entered the dank atmosphere of the Hog's Head, the establishment not even coming to live when they entered. Neville had a strange feeling that if they were in the presence of Fred or Tonks, the place would be in an uproar.
Arthur Weasley motioned towards a long, rectangular table for his companions to sit at, and then approached the counter to place an order. "Fourteen butterbeers, please."
Fourteen – Teddy was considered too young to have one. But knowing that he was one of the fourteen struck up an odd feeling inside Neville. He was never truly included in a large group – there was the D.A in fifth year, but he rarely spoke to half of the people in that organization. He was used to being solitary, although he ached for companionship sometimes.
He refused a seat at the table and went up to Arthur, snatching a bottle of butterbeer off of the tray Ron's dad was about to carry back to the group. "I'm fine over here, thanks," Neville muttered, seating himself on one of the swivel bar stools.
He gulped down his drink in silence, returning to the thought that visited him constantly nowadays – there was nothing left to live for. Let's face it – he'd never find somebody to love, and the War had literally destroyed his tendency to always stay on the hopeful side of life. The Dark Times might have ended a year ago, but for those left over from the suffering stages, life was no picnic. They had to heal from both physical and emotional wounds, and clean up physical and emotion damage. It was all about recuperating from injuries, ones located both inside and out of the body.
"Neville?" a soft-spoken, melodious voice filled his ears. "Neville Longbottom, is that you?"
Neville lifted his head to find one of his old classmates, Hannah Abbott, standing on the other side of the counter, beaming at him. Her eyes – once pink from her own mother's death two years ago – had reverted to their silvery blue. Neville was never happier to see a familiar face that let him forget of his personal troubles.
"Hannah," Neville didn't mean for surprise to take over his voice. "Good to see you! H-how have things been?"
Hannah couldn't help but smile at Neville's minor stutter in his last sentence. That stutter caused her to flash back to the uneasy, bumbling Longbottom boy she knew from her early years of school. The one who she shared an embarrassed look with in the school halls, when he was being whisked away to the hospital wing after his first year broomstick incident. The one who was paired with her for part of the Mandrake project in second year Herbology. The first boy who was not Justin or Ernie who asked her to walk with him to Honeydukes one winter Hogsmeade visit. And most importantly, the boy – or was he a man then? – who asked her at the beginning of seventh year whether she was holding up all right after her mum's death.
"I've been doing well, thanks," Hannah felt a steady hotness rise in her cheeks, but she did her best to fight the blush back. "I was having some problems paying the rent on my flat, which got me here-" She raised her hands and motioned towards the entire setting of the pub. "-I've had this odd obsession with bartending since I was little, so Aberforth gave me a job here."
Neville beamed back at her. He never knew this deep secret of Hannah's. He'd admit – it was a little strange, but…fresh. "Your mum would be proud…I mean, I never knew her, but I have a feeling that she was proud of whatever you did."
Hannah's expression changed, and her eyes grew slightly watery. "She was…thank you."
Neville then remembered – the little slip of paper Hannah had given him shortly after graduation, the one with her contact information scrawled on it. "Oh! I…I didn't keep in touch…"
Hannah shook her head, blushing heavily now, while also fighting back tears. "I didn't expect you to. With you getting so much fame from helping out in the fighting…"
"I really do regret it," Neville assured her. He hesitated, and added slowly, "May I make up for lost contact time?"
Hannah tilted her head to one side curiously. "How so?"
Neville momentarily forgot about the eavesdropping Weasleys behind him, and quietly leaned toward her, pressing his cold, unsure lips against her sad and unexpected ones. The kiss lasted for several seconds before Hannah gently pulled away, her face pleasingly red while grinning at the young Weasley males' teasing hoots and whistles. "Yes," she proclaimed, a bit louder than before. "That definitely makes up for lost time!"
She and Neville broke into laughs, and all of Neville's problems melted away like an ice cream cone on a hot summer's day. There was something – or in this case, somebody – left to live for after the war. She was just one of the people he had left behind in the past, sure that he did not need her anymore.
War brings out the negativity in me, Neville told himself. I'll need to make a mental note to avoid it.
I personally didn't like the ending, but I'm happy with most of it. In the words of Cassandra's Cross, reviews are the only payment fanfic authors receive. Even if it's just a word or two, leaving a review lets me know you've passed this way and spent time reading my story. I am also interested in what your favorite story element was, so feel free to share!