I am at Harry's Millennium Eve party, but I am not really at Harry's Millennium Eve party; Instead, I am alone in the kitchen at Grimmauld Place.
When I left, Luna was busy explaining to everyone that this is not actually the dawn of the new millennium. The first year of this particular calendar was year one, not year zero – so there is one year left before the second millennium becomes the third. She's right of course. She usually is.
Nevertheless, this is the time everyone has chosen to celebrate. The change from 1999 to 2000 appears to most of us to be much more significant than the change from 2000 to 2001. Despite being told this, Luna still cannot understand why this party is going ahead. She has told us that next New Years Eve she will host a "Real Millennium" party. I'm looking forward to it, we all are.
Luna … I'm thinking about Luna to stop myself thinking about the girl I came here to ask out.
Luna kissed me on my birthday, five months ago, and since then it seems that everyone expects that I will ask her to go out with me. I don't want to. She's my friend, but her wonderful, wondering, wandering mind sometimes scares me. More fundamentally, I don't fancy her.
I have lots of friends who are girls. How did that happen? Girls don't make me nervous any more. I was stupidly nervous around girls when I was at school. I was even frightened of Lavender! Lavender is upstairs too. She demanded kisses from everyone when she arrived, and she got them. Seamus pushed his pale, wheelchair-bound girl around the room in her chair and everyone, except Ron, kissed her.
I came to the party with a plan. I intended to begin the new millennium with a new girl. Only two girls make me nervous these days: one is my ex-girlfriend, the other is the girl I came here intending to ask out. I will need to summon every ounce of my courage to speak to iher/i. I suspect that, by fleeing, I've blown it already.
I was worried that I might find a kissing couple down here in the kitchen. Thankfully there is no one. I came down here with the thought that I might make myself a cup of tea, but there was no need; the tea was made for me. Teapot, milk, and the mug I usually use when I visit Harry were waiting on the kitchen table for me. Thanks, Kreacher, I think.
Luna and Ginny tell me that I'm brave. Harry has said so, too. But I'm not. My master plan, I admit to myself while drinking tea alone on Millenium Eve, was a sham. My resolve to ask "the other blonde" out was strengthened by the fact that I was certain she would not actually be here, that she'd be working. All of the pubs are really busy tonight. I wonder how, and why, she managed to get the time off work. Perhaps there's someone here that she fancies. I don't know who, as I've fled the party.
I wanted to leave the party moment Michael arrived with my ex-girlfriend, Romilda. But Romilda seemed happy to act as if I was invisible, so I stayed. I was talking to a young Australian woman, the Harpies new Seeker and Ginny's newest friend when Michael stood under the mistletoe in the sitting room, and Romilda didn't notice.
Luna did, she walked up to Michael and kissed him. All hell broke loose. I hate loud, public scenes, especially those involving Romilda. Ginny and her Harpies teammates entered the fray, so I left. Upstairs the girl I came here intending to chat up is probably still standing quietly in the corner, watching the debacle. Ginny never liked Romilda she made that very clear to me last year.
I look around the bright, clean and empty kitchen. A sprig of mistletoe hangs from the ceiling at the bottom of the stairs up to the hall – it is ideally located to catch anyone entering or leaving the room. I wonder how many times Harry has kissed Ginny under that sprig.
My mind wanders back to Christmas, five years ago. That's more than a quarter of my life ago. That was my first kiss under the mistletoe. That was my only kiss under the mistletoe. One date, one wonderful night, and my first love ended. But it never really ends. At least we're still friends, good friends. She knows that I'd do anything for her. I know that she'd do anything for me. Even now, only one other person knows about that kiss.
My mind drifts back to February 1994.
It was just after midnight. I was sitting alone on the stairs leading up to the boys' dormitory. I had been crying; I had been an idiot. I could have got someone killed. Harry or Ron might be dead, and it would have been my fault. I heard the door from the common room open, and I heard the hubbub of voices rise and fall again as the door closed so I quickly dried my face. Feet skipped towards me so rapidly that I don't have time to stand, turn and flee to my dorm. Malfoy was right, I am slow and stupid.
Ron's little sister scampered up the stairs towards me.
'Hello,' she said. She looked pale and tired. We all did, it was very late and everyone was scared; all of Gryffindor House was waiting to be told whether escaped murderer Sirius Black is still in the school.
Ginny was wearing an old dressing gown which almost reached the ground. I recognised it as the one Ron wore in his first year. It was too short for him even then.
'Where are you going?' I asked. I sounded rude, because I was trying to cover the fact that I had been crying. 'These stairs lead to the boys' dorms.'
'I came to see you,' she said. 'You're very brave, you know.'
She's crazy! I thought.
'I nearly got your brother killed.' I reminded her.
'We all do stupid things, sometimes,' she told me sadly. 'You owned up. You did what was right. You weren't the only one, you know, if you hadn't put your hand up McGonagall would never have found out. Two of the girls and one of the boys in my year wrote down all of the passwords, too. But you're a real Gryffindor, aren't you? You were being brave, noble and honest.'
I was lost for words. I looked at the freckle-faced little girl who had managed to see light in my darkness. She smiled shyly.
'Thanks,' I managed to mumble.
'You're welcome,' she grinned and a mischievous look lit up her face. 'This is the first time I've been on the boy's stairs,' she grins. 'Is it true that Hermione has been into your dorm?'
She scampered past me.
'Which one is it?' she shouted over her shoulder. Then a terrifying thought hit me. What if Black was still there, hiding? What if Professor McGonagall somehow missed him?
'You can't!' I shouted at her back.
I gave chase, but Ginny was too fast.
By the time I caught her she was standing in the doorway of our dorm, looking silently at the torn hangings of her brother's bed.
'Oh,' she said. The rips and tears in her brothers curtains worried her. They worried me, too. She looked around the room. Her face changed, she was curious and excited.
'Which is your bed?' she asked. I pointed it out.
'And that one is Harry's.' She pointed correctly.
'Good guess,' I told her.
iBut it wasn't a guess. In fact I discovered later that nothing about that entire exchange was real or true. Sirius Black was not an escaped murderer and Ginny had been in the boys' dormitory the previous year, looking for a diary.
She admitted that to me last year after Harry, Hermione and Ron had told me what they'd been doing during my seventh year. They told me everything; they told me the terrible truth about Tom Riddle. Hermione said that because I had killed the snake, I deserved to know. Harry said that I was one of the bravest people he knew and that I had to know everything. Ron and Ginny told me that they knew that I could keep a secret and that I would never tell anyone else. I haven't, not even Romilda.
'Did Ron squeal?' Ginny asked as she continued to gaze around the room.
I nodded, but immediately wished that I hadn't. Ron probably wouldn't want his sister to know.
'Was it his new, deeper scream, or the old high pitched girly one?' Looking into her shining face I knew that if I told her that truth, she'll tease him mercilessly.
'I'm not telling, you,' I said.
'You just did,' she laughed.
'We should go.' I told her, suddenly worried about what Ron would think. I was alone in the boy's dorm with his sister. She was very pretty and full of life and fun, and she was a girl. I looked down at my feet, unable to look at her.
'I don't know why you're worried, it wouldn't do your reputation any harm to be caught alone in the dorm with a girl,' she teased, her face bright. That was the moment I fell in love with Ginny Weasley.
I remember December of the same year. It was late on a busy Saturday afternoon. Ginny was my friend. She and Hermione were the only girls whose eyes I could meet. I have other friends, but I was the odd one out in our dorm. I was, I hoped, friends with all of them. But I was best friend of no one.
Harry and Ron seemed to be tied together most of the time (and usually with Hermione). Seamus and Dean were always together, too, always laughing and joking. No one was horrible to me (except the Slytherins of course), but I was the "spare" in my dorm. I was the one who hangs around with, and is accepted by the others, but I didn't have a best friend. I still don't.
Ginny was the same. She had been shy and withdrawn during her first year (now, of course, I know why), and her first year was when the relationships formed. She sat alone, sometimes writing in an old diary, while friendships formed around her. There were five girls in her dorm. Sarah and Amanda were best friends. Tabitha and Jacqueline were best friends, and then there was Ginny. In that way, she was like me. But that was the only way she was like me. By her third year she was popular, she even had friends in other houses.
Ginny was funny and quick witted. She still is; she still does the best impression of Professor McGonagall I've ever heard. I had been watching her since March, since her trip up to our dorm. Ginny was easy to watch, easy on the eye, and so focussed on Harry that she never seemed to notice me staring. I noticed lots of other girls watching Harry, too. There was a dark-haired second year girl who seemed obsessed with him, too. He ignored her like he ignored them all.
I had considered asking Ginny to the Yule Ball, but I'd decided not to.
She was my friend. I loved her, but she couldn't possibly love me, no one could. I didn't want to lose her as a friend, so I made the decision to ask the only other girl I could talk to. Hermione had always been nice to me, ever since we first met on the train as first years. She wasn't the prettiest girl in our year, her hair was … big and so were her teeth (until recently). She wasn't very girly, either, not like Lavender. Lavender could make me blush by simply looking at me.
Ginny and I were in the library together; I was helping her with her Herbology homework. It was the one subject I could help her with, so I did. I saw Hermione enter. As usual she was weighed down under a ton of books. Neither Harry nor Ron had asked her to go to the ball with them, I'd checked, so I could ask her myself. I made an excuse and left Ginny for a minute.
'Hi, Hermione, I was wondering, would you like to go to the Yule Ball with me?' I asked. The words slipped easily from my tongue. Harry and Ron treated her like a boy. To a great extent she was one of the boys, she was so easy to talk to.
Hermione blushed. That was the first time I'd made a girl blush and I could feel my face colouring in sympathy.
'Sorry, Neville,' she apologised, 'someone else has already asked me, and I've said yes.'
'Oh,' I said, 'I didn't think either Harry or Ron had…'
'They haven't,' she snapped. 'It's … someone else ... I don't want to say who, sorry Neville. Thank you for asking me.' Hermione looked at me curiously and looked past me, to where I've left my books. 'Why did you ask me?'
'You've always been nice to me,' I told her. She smiled and I suddenly realised that she was actually quite pretty.
'Why don't you ask Ginny?' She nodded over my shoulder.
I look at Ginny and wondered if she'd overheard this conversation. What could I do? I could not ask Ginny, I dared not ask Ginny; she might say no.
Hermione said no, and that was fine because I didn't fancy her, but if Ginny turned me down, then I'd know that she didn't fancy me and that would be a disaster. I'd rather not know than be rejected. But….
Ginny thinks that I'm brave. Not asking her is cowardly. Gran says that "fortune favours the bold," and if I don't ask Ginny, perhaps someone else will. If she goes with someone else, that would be an even bigger disaster. Hermione has been watching me think, and gives me a smile of encouragement, I made my decision. I iwould/i ask Ginny.
The library was a good place to do it, I told myself; she couldn't shout at me or laugh at me if I asked her here. If she did, Madam Pince would throw her out, and I could stay and hide until I'm thrown out when the library closes.
I planned my words as I walked across to her. I'd asked Hermione, that was easy, why should this be any more difficult?
In my mind I suavely said, 'We've been friends for ages, Ginny, so now I want to take you to the Yule Ball. Will you go out with me?'
In my mind she said, 'I'd love to go to the ball! Neville, you're the boy of my dreams.'
What happened was different.
'Er, Ginny,' I stammered, 'Yule Ball, we're supposed to … would … you … me … us … go … together.'
She looked at me in amazement. I watched in embarrassment as she unscrambled my stutterings.
'You want to take me to the Yule Ball?' she asked. I didn't trust myself to speak, so I nodded. She sat in silence for some time. I could not read her face so I began to panic. I was certain that she was going to say no. I had to speak.
'You don't have to decide now,' I offered. 'If you want to wait, to see if someone else asks … someone better…' I looked at my feet. Her hand reached out and two fingers touched my chin, gently lifting my head. She smiled at me.
'Neville,' she says. 'Yes, I will come to the Yule Ball with you.'
I'm the one who gets thrown out of the library; my joyous shout is too much for Madam Pince. Ginny is silently laughing, and that's fine by me.
On Christmas Day of 1994 and I was standing in the Gryffindor Common Room, waiting to take the prettiest girl in the school to the Yule Ball. Alongside me stood Dean and Seamus, they too were waiting for their dates. Ginny arrived – she looked stunning. She waved to me.
'Bloody hell, Neville,' Dean told me, 'you've nabbed a good 'un there.' His own date, Ginny's dorm mate Tabitha heard this and frowned. I suspected that the chances of him getting the grand snogging session he'd been boasting about while we were changing into our dress robes had vanished.
'You look … great,' I stammered. Ginny grinned.
'Thanks, Neville.' She linked her arm through mine and we left for the Ball.
'You're quieter than usual,' she observed as we walked through the corridors.
'I don't know what to say to you,' I admitted.
'You don't usually have a problem,' she told me. 'Just talk about Herbology, you could bore me for hours.'
My face fell.
'Sorry, Nev,' she apologised. 'That was mean. I don't know what's wrong with me.'
'You wanted to go with Harry, not me,' I told her, my heart sinking.
'Who told you that?' she demanded. 'Was it that creep Malfoy?' She lowered her voice uncertainly. 'It wasn't—Hermione—was it?' she asked in a whisper.
'Nobody, honestly,' I assured her. 'It's obvious from the way you look at him. I expect that you'd have chucked me if he'd asked you.'
'Wrong,' she told me viciously, revealing a glimpse of her fiery temper, the temper Ron warned everyone about. 'He did ask, but I turned him down.'
'You did?' I asked excitedly, and she caught the joy and hope in my voice.
'Oh, damn,' she said. Expressions of sorrow, horror and regret flashed across her face and she fell silent. For the first time in my life I thought that I understood what a girl was thinking, but I desperately hoped that I was wrong.
She "liked" me. I was certain of it. She didn't fancy me, but she "liked" me, as a friend. I'd been living in a ridiculous dream, I realised; she's clever and pretty, what would she want with me? Who would want helpless, hopeless, useless Neville?
She opened her mouth to speak and I knew that I must stop her from talking. I didn't want to hear what I was sure that she was about to say. I didn't want her to tell me that I'm "her friend," that I'm "a really nice boy but …" Those words always come with a "but", and the "but" is always—but I don't fancy you.
Dean told me that. He was really unhappy when Mandy Brocklehurst turned him down. She told him that he was "nice, but….
"Why is "nice" a bad word? I hope that I am a nice boy, I try to be. What's wrong with nice? Is Dean right, do all girls prefer nasty? Malfoy, Crabbe and Goyle are all nasty, but only Malfoy seems to be popular with the girls.
Why? None of them are handsome, Malfoy is arrogant, rude and a bully. He's rich, does that make a difference? What should I do, what should I say? If I was Malfoy I'd be snarling and sarcastic, but Gran says I should always treat girls with respect. It doesn't matter anyway; I couldn't be nasty and sarcastic even if I wanted to. I'm not good at that, either.
'Why did you turn Harry down?' I asked quickly. That was enough to interrupt her.
'Because…' she paused. 'Because I wasn't his first choice,' she snapped angrily. 'Because it was Ron's idea that he ask me, and because I like you and you're my friend and I didn't want to let you down.' She looked, unhappy, close to tears.
She said "like," she said "friend," I knew it. But she was sad and so was I, and suddenly I was hugging her. I was hugging a girl, comforting her.
'You still fancy him, though, don't you?' I asked. She nodded hopelessly.
'And you fancy me, don't you?' she said. 'That's why you were so nervous when you asked.'
I nodded silently.
'Neville…' she began.
'Don't tell me that I'm nice,' I interrupted. 'Never tell any boy that he's nice, even Harry.'
'Harry's an idiot,' she told me.
'He certainly is, he doesn't know what he's missing,' I replied, tightening my hug.
'Wow,' Ginny laughed, 'smooth talking Neville, we'll make a lady's man of you yet, mate.'
That sentence was going so well, until the very last word. I frowned and released her; she stepped back.
'Sorry, Nev,' Ginny apologised, 'but I want you as a friend, just a friend. Do you think that we can do that?'
I was faced with the hardest choice of my life up to then, did I lie, and say yes, or did I tell her the truth and lose a friendship?
'Yes,' I lied.
So we went to the ball together and we laughed and joked and danced the way friends do. And we watched Harry and Ron sitting unhappily together and Ginny laughed at them. Other boys asked Ginny to dance and, with regret, I let them; because I can't dance very well and I was exhausted by her energy. But she always came back to me. She told Michael Corner that she came here with me, and she was leaving with me, and that's what we did. But as we walked back to Gryffindor Tower after the ball she told me that Michael had asked her to go to Hogsmeade with him, and that she'd said yes.
She had ripped my heart from my chest, but I'm the nice boy, I'm reliable, and I know that she will rely on me. I could not rage and shout and be angry. I could not even tell her that Michael was horrible, because he's not. We arrived back in the Common Room in silence.
'Goodnight,' I said.
'Neville,' Ginny said softly. 'Thank you, thank you for everything. You are a really good friend.'
'Thanks,' I mumbled.
She looked up and grinned, so I raised my head to see what was funny. We were standing under some mistletoe, and I didn't know what to do.
'I've…' she hesitated. 'I've never kissed a boy,' she admitted, 'except my brothers, and they don't count.'
She stepped closer and I bent forwards to kiss her.
'Friends,' she clarified firmly before….
'Friends,' I lied again, and we shared our first, last, and only kiss. Despite everything it was better than I imagined.
'I've never kissed a girl,' I admitted when we parted. 'Unless Gran counts.'
I heard Ginny laughing all the way up to her dormitory, and then I heard raised voices. Ron and Hermione were approaching at full volume. I turned and ran upstairs to my bed before they saw me. I lay awake for hours, reliving one hug and one kiss, fixing them firmly into my memory. The day of the Yule Ball was both wonderful and terrible.
I regret nothing of my first date and my first kiss. It was a long time ago and I now know that what I felt was a crush, or puppy love, or whatever you want to call it, but it was important to both of us, and Ginny is still my friend. We weren't meant to be a couple; I don't think that I could cope with her wildness. Harry can, Harry does. Even so, I remember my first kiss, Ginny's first kiss, with nothing but fondness.
Harry and Ginny are together. They are the perfect couple, each making the other happy. It is obvious to everyone how close they are. I am proud to be able to call both of them my friends.
I have never told anyone about the first girl I kissed. It was our secret for years, neither of us wanted to tell anyone. Ginny has at last told Harry – on his last birthday, five months ago. It was time, and he was ready. She let me know what she'd done the very next day. I was worried about Harry's reaction, but he's never mentioned it and now I don't think that he ever will. I won't say anything to him, either.
I never even considered telling Romilda. Looking back, I realise that I never really loved Romilda, not really. I don't think she ever loved me, either. We were glued together for over a year by my stupidity, an active sex life and her desire for fame, even by proxy.
Fame, I'm Auror Neville "Snakeslayer" Longbottom, and now I finally know why Harry hated being "The Boy Who Lived".
Luna did me a huge favour by kissing me on my nineteenth birthday; Romilda exploded with anger. She publicly dumped me on the spot. At the time I thought that my world had ended. I convinced myself that I was devastated, but I realise now that I was more relieved than upset, and I regret the time I wasted with her.
The kitchen door opens. It's Hannah. My mouth goes dry.
'Oh, hi, Neville,' she smiles. 'I've just come to get a glass of water for Ginny.'
I look up at her as she descends the stairs towards me. She's wearing an electric blue Muggle dress. Her golden hair is loose; it hangs down to her pale, bare shoulders.
The last time I saw her, in The Cauldron on Christmas Eve, she was busy behind the bar. I was going to talk to her—to ask her—then, but my nerve failed. Three wizards were watching Hannah and discussing her appearance. 'Hefty,' the first said. 'Curvy,' the second disagreed. 'Stacked,' the third clarified. I leaned between the second and third.
'Veteran of the Battle of Hogwarts and holder of the Order of Merlin, Third Class,' I told them. 'Don't mess with her.' They took one look at me, recognised me, and shut up.
As I watch her descend I regain my wits. Now is my chance.
I stand and stride rapidly towards the bottom of the stairs. I reach the foot of the stairs just as she steps down onto the stone flagged kitchen floor. She watches me with wide eyes. Is she startled by my determination, or does she think that I'm leaving because she's arrived?
Usually, Hannah is a couple of inches shorter than me. Today she's in heels. Her grey eyes are level with mine. I look into them, catch them, and look up. She follows my gaze and sees the mistletoe.
'Ah,' she murmurs. I seize the moment. I look at Hannah's lips.
Ginny's mouth is small but full lipped below her freckled nose.
Romilda's lips are thin, excellently suited for forming words as sharp as her chin.
Hannah's face is rounder, softer. The lips below her small, upturned nose are … voluptuous is a good word. I kiss them. She does not draw away, but instead throws her arms around my neck and responds passionately. This was not the way I'd planned to ask her out.
This is better.
to Annemarie, for asking: "Is Neville interested in Ginny? He did ask her to the Yule Ball…"
That got me thinking, and this is the result.