A/N: Here I am making an overdue return to writing - thank God for Christmas break! I'm hoping to have a few more stories out before school starts again, but until then, enjoy this piece, which I'm very proud of.
A light snowfall has begun outdoors, and Hannah watches pensively, clutching her full coffee mug to warm her hands. Tiny blurs of people straggle down the streets below, toting with them packages or small children. Everyone has a place to go tonight. Everyone has a home.
Except her, that is. She's not exactly sure where she should go. Since Mama died, she's afraid to go to their old cottage and inspect any damage. She doubts that the house is even still standing. There's no other family to go to. Her father drifted in and out of her childhood haphazardly, often unannounced. She hasn't seen him since Mama's funeral. She doesn't know where he disappeared to. But it's really no loss – he was never there for her. Even after her mother was robbed of her life, he was distant and stiff, a seemingly heartless man. Hannah feels nothing towards him.
A clatter of pots and pans sounds out loudly from the kitchen; she turns around, a small smile on her face. Neville appears in the doorway for a split second, murmuring, "Don't worry, it's nothing", before ducking out of her sight again. Hannah chuckles – same old Neville. Deep down, he's just as uncoordinated as he was as an apprehensive little first-year. She likes that about him though. She likes him. But Hannah remains coy about how much she feels; it's too soon to predict anything.
Neville helped her so much after the profuse traumas. In her sixth year, she'd returned to school for the final five weeks, to take her exams and collect the belongings she had left behind. He reached out to her during that numb time – they had always been friends, but she never knew that he cared so much. Of course others spoke to her too; they just made the mistake of talking about her mum in hushed, respectful tones. Neville was different – he chose not to speak of Hannah's mother at all.
She didn't go back to school for her seventh year; she stayed with a very distant cousin in Scotland for the majority of the period, attempting to self-teach herself the material that she'd be learning at school. At the time, all Hannah wanted was to be away from Hogwarts. But somehow, she came back for the Battle, pouring her heart and soul into the destruction of the breed that murdered Mama. And she remembers how she wept when it was all over, her tears both joyous and despondent and her heart heavy with emotions.
And Hannah remembers how Neville came for her when everyone else was in the Great Hall, how he hugged her and just let her cry into his shirt. They had walked back to the Hall hand in hand, saying nothing.
She's not sure how to describe their relationship now. They're more than friends, but definitely not dating. Maybe the new year would bring something more. Maybe she'd become more wise, more attractive, or more hardcore. But as of now, she knew nothing.
Neville comes up next to her then, clicking his own mug against hers as they admire the snow together.
"Happy New Year, Hannah."
"Back in your beds, now, all of you. You can certainly celebrate the New Year from your dormitories."
The three fourth-years shoot her sullen looks, but obey Minerva's command, shuffling down the hall into the darkness. Minerva sniffs and rearranges the shawl on her shoulders. Some of the students seem to have no self-control this year – perhaps because the school was reopened at the very last minute in September, that the children believed there'd be no more Hogwarts for quite some time? She doesn't blame them for thinking that; she was sure that the school would be closed as well. She prides herself with making the decision to open it, though, for all those who were ready to move on from the War. It is what Albus would've wanted her to do.
Although, some students didn't return, while several of last term's seventh-years came to properly take their NEWTs – Hermione Granger is often seen studying ardently in the library, as if nothing has changed. But there's a sort of sadness in her eyes now, and she's no longer the naïve, occasionally overbearing girl she once was. Neville Longbottom is taking private lessons from Pomona in Herbology, only coming on the weekends and generally avoiding the castle itself. He is a man now, the epitome of intrepid Frank. Minerva remembers how the two were seven years ago, as little first-years already getting into mischief. How they've grown…
She pauses on the walk back to her quarters to look up at the long glass windows by the exit to the courtyard. She can see the moon, full and white, glowing as it has never ceased to do. Minerva has learned that only the elements stay the same over the years – earth, fire, wind, water…nature. People change. That is inevitable. They grow old. They die.
She remembers being young and fearless, thinking that the entire world was in her hands. She was always quite sensible, but in her early twenties, she was definitely more lenient than she currently is. Minerva recalls that top-of-the-world feeling she had after graduating school, feeling so free and like she had all the time in the world to pursue her dreams. Being a Transfiguration teacher was never her first goal, but life just takes you places you don't expect to go.
Time passes too quickly for her. Wasn't it only yesterday when she'd catch James Potter tugging on Lily Evans' hair during class or Draco Malfoy leading the Slytherins in carving inappropriate words into the desktops? Now she must see the youngest students here, all once famous for being happily innocent and naïve, suffer endlessly on account of what they've seen or heard. It isn't fair for them. It isn't fair for her to see them this way. It reminds her how much things have changed and how much stronger she has to be.
The amount of comfort the other voice gives her is surprising. Pomona appears at the other end of the hall in her nightgown, with her wiry hair up in rollers. Minerva allows her colleague to take her by the hand and lead her to the staffroom, where Pomona sits her down in a chair and begins making a pot of tea. Pomona's used to her new habit of insomnia. She often wonders what she'd do without her and Filius, her closest friends on the staff since Albus's death. Sometimes, if Minerva's with them here in the staffroom, it's like nothing has changed. Times are still good, and they're all young again. But then she'll remember the truth – she can't stop time, and life will continue to roll on and on.
The grandfather clock in the corner begins to chime reverberatingly. Pomona hands her a plate of biscuits.
"Happy New Year, Minerva."
"Some food, Dennis?"
Her fifteen-year-old son glances over at her from the window seat, shakes his head, and turns back around. Helen Creevey feels her shoulders slump adversely as she places the tray of rare treats back on the table. Behind her, in his armchair, her husband uncomfortably shuffles his newspaper, disappearing behind it once more. Helen silently leaves the room and enters the kitchen, falling back into a chair there.
She had done her best to make this the greatest Christmas for Dennis, but why did she even bother in the first place? The boy missed his brother too much, and Helen had to admit that there was no one else that could radiate the same youthful energy that Colin had.
Perhaps she had always underestimated her sons' closeness with each other. She supposes that two brothers being away at school together would have a good bond and maybe an even more exquisite bond if that school happened to be one for wizards. But Colin was gone now – Dennis had to at least speak with his parents.
She remembers how he opened his presents on Christmas Day – in a mediocre fashion, with no excitement on his face. She recalls how she adopted a pleasant, yet aggravating tone to try to make him smile. She treated him like a little child that day; she was desperate for the old Dennis. But he had had no reaction to her occasional squeals and giggles.
"Oh, look, Dennis, look what Daddy got me!"
"Dennis, don't you love your new bicycle?"
Sam often tells her to let him grieve. Helen retorts with the statement that he had all of first term to mourn. Sam's voice will then raise and he'll exclaim that they never should have allowed him to go back to school. Sam's rarely angry. Seeing him that way always makes Helen cry, and through her tears, she'll insist that Dennis would be worse if he hadn't gone back. This year at Hogwarts, he has distractions – he's a fifth-year now and exams are fast approaching. Helen hopes all of the studying will take his mind off Colin. So far, her wish hasn't been granted.
But Dennis acts as if he's the only one suffering. How can he be so dense? Of course Helen misses Colin! How could she not? He was her first child, the baby she nursed faithfully, and the toddler she'd watch sleep almost every night. She cried unremittingly for three hours after receiving the news of his death. She cried again when seeing the body, and then wept heavily at his funeral. But now she has to be brave for Dennis. She can't be weak anymore.
She hears footsteps and looks up to find Sam there, holding out his hand to her. Helen takes it and clutches it as if her life depended on it. Since Colin, they've argued more than they ever have in the course of their twenty-two-year-old marriage. But even despite the arguments, Helen can't do this without him. They need each other to bring Dennis back.
Maybe in the new year, they can regain some strength, as well as the aptitude required to help their son. Besides each other, Dennis is all they have now. They need to capture him before it's too late.
Helen stands to hug Sam, and as she looks over his shoulder, she sees Dennis still sprawled out on the window seat, staring pointlessly at the house across the street. He looks like he's ready to break. She opens her mouth and lets a whisper escape.
"Happy New Year, Dennis."
Half an hour until midnight, and he takes another swig of firewhiskey, relishing in the burn that the liquid applies to his throat. But he still remains unsatisfied. Drinking alone is far too depressing. What's the fun of being drunk if you don't have friends there to get tipsy with? He remembers last year, how he, Fred, and Lee just drank incessantly after their Potterwatch broadcast, welcoming in 1998 while singing Weird Sisters songs off-key. But all has changed now.
This year will be the hardest; as the months go by, numerous anniversaries will occur – two years since Bill and Fleur's wedding, two since Dumbledore's death, a year since he and Fred purchased the second store out in Hogsmeade. And then in May, it'll be one year since the battle, since the loss.
It'll be the hardest year, everyone has admitted it. He wants the new millennium to come; those new digits will help heal him, help him start fresh. Maybe the memories' intensity will soften when 2000 comes – doesn't time cure all wounds? He just has to get through 1999…
Fifteen minutes left now. His mind's turning into an intoxicated haze now, the image of the starry sky outside his window slightly blurry. He wonders what Mum and Dad are doing without everyone at home – this is the first New Year's Eve that not one of them spent at the Burrow. He never thought his parents would ever be alone on the last day of the year; there was always a chance that one of them was home. But he supposes times do change, even when there are people in your life that promise some things will always be the same…
Eight minutes and counting. Loneliness is a drug. He didn't want it at first, but now that it seems like that's all he has, he craves for it. It's better than pretending to be happy and carefree at his parents' house, insisting that nothing's wrong. In a way, he can be with Fred this way, with his recollections of his brother sustaining him. Nighttime for him is when his life pauses. He must reflect before it starts back up again in the morning.
George closes his eyes and lets the quietude sink in. It won't be long now…
Ten seconds…five, four, three, two…
"Happy New Year, Fred."
A/N: Please review!