Stitch Me Up
It was over. And yet it wasn't, she thought to herself, carefully fixing the jagged wounds of a Ravenclaw Fourth Year who had snuck back into the castle. Lucky he's still here really. She added when the boy hissed in pain. "No more sneaking into battle, alright Corner?" she told him, sternly but with a touch of humour in her eyes. The boy smiled sheepishly, though his eyes were still stormy.
"Sure." He mumbled and she decided to cut him some slack. She knew his brother Michael after all who wasn't such a bad guy. Corner Junior would be fine. With a deep breath she continued on, fixing bandages here and scolding patients for picking their newly healed skin there. In front of her, the grimy, blood stained uniform of the Hogwarts medical matron flitted back and forth between critical patients.
When Madame Pomfrey beckoned her with a flick of the fingers, Hannah Abbott fixed her hair back in a sadly grimy tail and ploughed ahead, barely keeping up with the matron. The short woman's steps might not have been particularly long but they were quick on a usual day.
Today was most certainly not a usual day.
Hogwarts Castle lay in ruins about their feet- crumbling piles of bricks that used to be walls, the sick stench of blood and sweat and tears, the portraits lying empty in piles of cracked frames beside the walls. All of it was like it had been created just for some sort of Muggle horror film but Hannah had seen the pre-battle Castle and this was a heartbreaking sight for anyone who had seen the wonder of Hogwarts before Voldemort ruined it.
Ruins everything, she added, her own chest aching. The Hogwarts foyer had been transformed into a makeshift emergency room and it was here that Hannah fed, soothed, bandaged, spelled and healed the broken and dying. She couldn't find it within herself to take part in the celebrations occurring in the Great Hall- the sounds were enough to convince her that she didn't belong among the joy of a final victory. No, her place was here, among the grieving and the injured.
She hastened her step, keeping one eye on the Madam and another on the floating medical supplies that were charmed to levitate along behind her as she moved. Hannah recalled a time when simple Levitating Charms had been considered so impossible but now she barely had to keep a thought to the spell she kept going while she walked.
"Abbott," Madame Pomfrey said suddenly, pausing alongside an unconscious woman with badly cut eyes. "Go check on Aisle C and start stitches and healing where they're needed. Merlin knows I won't be there for a while."
They were still waiting on support staff from St Mungo's, though they were meant to arrive within the hour. Swallowing down a paralysing fear of accidentally messing up the healing process, Hannah nodded and flicked her wand, sending the supplies zooming over to Aisle C, which was nothing more than a crudely transformed set of cots with bleeding and dying victims all over them.
Hannah had never considered herself to be brave. She'd been sorted into Hufflepuff in her First Year and the House fit her like a glove. She wasn't cut out to be a hero and it was something she'd always known and accepted, until her Sixth Year.
In April, Hannah received a Ministry owl consoling her on the death of both her mother and unborn brother at the hands of Death Eaters, not to mention the subsequent insanity of her father, who had been admitted to the Psychiatric Ward at St Mungo's. Suddenly her life, which had seemed so solid, had crumbled away and there was nothing to be done.
Hannah had always known she wasn't cut out to be a hero but at that moment, she knew she had to do something.
It was then that she started taking an interest in healing and patching up those that had been hurt; those that had been brave and with her help, could be brave again. She played the passive part of support in the War but she found the role fulfilling nonetheless.
Upon finding herself in Aisle C, Hannah found her whole body trembling as she took in the gory sight of lost limbs and blood stained clothes, though her own robes were red as well. Steadying herself, she took a step forward and found herself lost in her work once more.
"It's okay, she's alright," she soothed one particularly terrified Second Year who was watching her stitch up his sister's nine-inch-long neck wound. "She's very brave." The boy whimpered. "What's her name?" She wasn't anywhere near to being done and he already looked fit to burst into tears. The tie around both the siblings necks marked them as Gryffindors, which didn't surprise her.
"M-Melissa." The boy stuttered.
Hannah smiled, warmly which was hard to do when you're in the process of sewing up bleeding flesh so the bone won't keep poking out. "Melissa? Melissa Weiss?"
"Y-yeah. She's a Fifth Year." The boy straightened and Hannah began to see some of the fear edge away as he began to talk about her. The girl beneath her moaned a little and the boy paused, terrified.
"No, no," Hannah told him, snipping away the final thread. The thread was Spell-Stitch-Me, so it would probably need to be in for another day or two but it would make the process much easier and quicker in the long run. "Keep talking to her. She's probably rather scared right now, I'm sure she'd like to hear you."
The boy glared at her indignantly. "Mel doesn't get scared." He told her, matter-of-factly.
Hannah held in a sigh. "I'm sure she doesn't. Why don't you keeping chatting and I'll be back to check on you later, okay?" The boy nodded his head and Hannah picked up her things and shuffled onto the next patients who were a thirty-five year old Auror who insisted on being treated by St Mungo's officers, a pair of burnt Seventh Years and an eleven year old Muggleborn who had been in the Carrow's dungeon when the battle broke out.
The girl broke Hannah's heart and she made sure that she was comfortable and clean and managed to get a smile out of her before she moved on. "Thank you Hannah!" the girl croaked, cheerfully. Her voice had been screaming for days. Hannah smiled back and moved on, feeling as though the world couldn't be a more awful place than it was now.
For a second, she felt an exhaustion try to settle on her but Hannah was an Abbotts and Abbotts were Hufflepuffs and Hufflepuffs worked hard and didn't give up.
So she shook it off and moved on, distracted by the First Year as she got to her next patient. Who incidentally wasn't alone.
Oh Merlin, she thought, her eyes widening and her breath beginning to pick up pace. He's here, he's actually here.
She couldn't do this. Holy Helga, she couldn't. She'd never get through it! She was about to pass out, her face felt pale and-
"Oh get a move on girl, I haven't got all day!" her next patient snapped, harshly.
Because who should be laying on the next cot, struggling to sit up but Augusta Longbottom and her grandson. Neville.
Now it is a little known fact that Hannah had had a crush on Neville Longbottom since he'd burst into her compartment asking if she'd seen a toad named Trevor hopping about the place. She'd nourished this crush for years in silence, not even confiding in her Hufflepuff sisters, refusing to allow even one word to slip into an ear or a diary or a spare bit of parchments. Slytherins might have a reputation for being crafty but it was the badger that knew how to stay hidden best.
So Hannah Abbott had harboured her feelings, watching him from afar, far too shy to actually say anything. Of course, the moment she did decide to talk to him, she found out he was taking Ginny Weasley to the Yule Ball and suddenly her stupid ideas of asking him seemed even more ridiculous.
Because how can one even begin to compare the lovely, fiery-haired Weasley girl to plain, blushing, boring Hannah Abbott?
They weren't even on the same planet.
But now he was here and Ginny (who, though a nice girl, had been on the receiving end of some very nasty looks over the years) was nowhere in sight and there was Hannah who was about to-
"Well? Are you going to do something or just stand there gaping?" demanded Mrs Longbottom.
To treat his grandmother apparently.
"Gran, please, just lay down for a second." Neville pleaded, gently pushing her back into her bed. The old woman growled at his fussing though from the way her body was trembling, Hannah doubted it was unwarranted.
She tried to regain a little of her professional composure but Merlin was it hard. Hannah was hyper aware that just inches away from her was the long-time star of her daydreams and she was about to treat the most important family relative he had left.
No pressure she thought dryly as she took a spot beside Augusta. "Hello there Mrs Longbottom," she said, warmly. She studiously ignored Neville beside her.
"Have we met?" the old woman snapped.
Hannah flushed pink as she took her vitals and temperature. "No Mrs Longbottom," she replied politely. "But I've met your grandson here. He's in my year at Hogwarts."
"Really?" Augusta seemed far more interested now. "So if you know him, can you please tell him to stop his bloody fussing? It's driving me mad."
If she was pink before, Hannah was practically a Muggle fire engine now. "I'm afraid we don't know each other quite that well Mrs Longbottom," she amended, shyly. "But I'm here now so I'll be doing the fussing I suppose."
"Wonderful," the witch rolled her eyes.
"Oi!" Neville suddenly snapped, angrily, making Hannah jump. "As lovely as it is to be talked about as though I'm not here, I am so maybe you could tell me what's wrong with her?"
Hannah shrunk away at the same time Augusta made a well-aimed swipe at the back of his head. "Apologise," she demanded. Hannah got the impression that if she wasn't ordering someone, Mrs Longbottom became very unsatisfied.
"Sorry Hannah." Neville grumbled under his breath but she could hardly stop to focus on the sincerity of his apology. What she was really hung up on was the fact that he knew her name.
"You…know my name?" she whispered, blinking in complete disbelief. They'd never said more than two words to each other and they'd certainly never introduced themselves. Hannah would've remembered that.
Neville looked embarrassed. "'Course I do," he mumbled, scratching his ear. But he didn't elaborate so Hannah forced herself to snap out of it, despite the giddiness running through her.
"Well it seems you've got a bit of a temperature but I don't think it's anything to worry about," Hannah said, still rather flustered. "St Mungo's might want you to go for a bit of a check-up."
Augusta glared at Neville. "Satisfied, silly boy? Now go bring me a glass of water, I'm sure you can find something." She dismissed him and Hannah watched as Neville rolled his eyes and wandered off to find something to make a goblet out of.
Once he was out of earshot, Augusta leaned upwards, her eyes somewhat worried and glazed. "I don't want him to worry but would you look at my arm?" she asked, her teeth gritted. Though she was at least seventy, Augusta had the same round face and hazel brown eyes of her grandson and Hannah couldn't deny her anything so she pulled up the woman's robe sleeve.
The witch's veins were bulgy as came with age but they were wrong; they seemed darker and instantly, Hannah knew the curse and the wizard who uttered it. Evan Rosier and his own designed poison curse. She knew because it was the same one that had killed her mother. It poisoned from the inside out and it was agonisingly painful; a long, slow death. Rosier had a sick sense of humour because he named it the Black Ink Curse.
Hannah took a deep breath and pulled out her wand. "Mrs Longbottom, you're going to have to stay very still," she warned. "Or I'm not going to be able to do this right."
Augusta looked sceptical. "Shouldn't I wait for someone more…experienced?"
Hannah shook her head resolutely. "I can honestly say no one in this castle knows more about this curse than me," she replied, dryly. At first, it had been a way of finding the truth but Hannah's pursuit into research about this particular curse ended up becoming a way of letting her stay close to her mother, sickening as it was to attach herself to Debra Abbott's killer.
Augusta seemed ready to argue but Hannah took one more deep breath and slowly began to cast the very obscure counter-curse she'd memorised since she was fifteen.
Slowly, a shimmer appeared in the air between Hannah's wand and Augusta's arm and eventually, the slow crawling black began to seep away from her veins, moving backwards toward her hand and eventually, once Hannah had it confined to just one fingertip, she squeezed it abruptly and a single drop of black ink rolled out, falling to the floor with a faint hiss.
Augusta let out a huge breath, relieved. "Thank you." She said quietly as Neville began to make his way back. "I had no idea how bad the pain was until was gone."
"What pain Gran?" Neville asked as he appeared carrying a water goblet.
Augusta shrugged delicately. "Of having you badger me. Honestly Neville, when will you learn, I am far more capable than you give me credit."
"I worry Gran-" Neville tried to explain but sensing a fight, Hannah cut in.
The two Longbottom froze and immediately all eyes were on Neville, who's forehead was beginning to swell and bleed. "The gash is hidden in your hair," Hannah explained, too distracted by her work to realise the enormity of what she was about to do. "It's just started to break the skin. Did you fall over or something?"
Neville scowled and too late, Hannah realised how insensitive her comment was. "Well? Answer the healer, Neville!" Augusta ordered, with a slight glint in her eye.
The raven-haired boy grunted in the positive, not meeting either witches' gaze. "Yeah, a bit."
"I can stitch it up if you like," Hannah offered, gesturing to the bed across from Augusta's. Neville immediately shook his head but another blow from Augusta and he reluctantly moved from her side to the empty cot across Aisle C.
Seeing her grandson's reluctant look, Augusta rolled her eyes and sighed gustily. "Oh I'm napping silly boy, get yourself patch up." And with that, Mrs Longbottom's eyes closed and Neville and Hannah were left looking at a deeply snoring woman.
"Can sleep anywhere, that old bat." Neville murmured. Hannah smiled slightly and cleared her throat.
"So, shall we?" she brandished the needle and Spell-Stitch-Me and Neville seemed wary of both. Rather than waiting for an answer, Hannah reached over and brushed his hair back from his forehead. The move shocked her, literally.
It felt as though little jolts of electricity were racing through her veins, leaving live-wire-trails behind them. She'd never felt anything like it and when she glanced at Neville, she realised, with an embarrassed blush that he'd felt it too. She coughed a little and mumbled something stupid like "static electricity", all the while hoping it wasn't her magic acting haywire because of her proximity to the boy she'd been pining over for seven years.
Slowly, Hannah began the process, her body incapable of ignoring the little sparks jumping across her skin as she started to stitch the long gash right above his hairline. The air was tense and quiet; enough to drive Hannah insane enough to try to actually speak. Because obviously, she'd lost her mind. "So…how did you get this?" she asked, quietly.
Neville jolted a little, as though he'd forgotten she was even there which made her heart ache just a little. She was invisible to him; even pushing a needle through his skin, she was still invisible.
"Oh, well, I-er- fell over some of the rocks in the courtyard." Neville mumbled. Hannah shuddered, just remembering how the castle had shaken when the giants began to throw boulders as if they were pebbles.
"Well that opened it up," she agreed, her hand shaking ever so slightly. "But what caused it?"
She wasn't usually so prying but honestly, it was the first time she'd spoken more than three words to the boy she thought she was sort of in love with. She wanted to know everything. Neville fell silent for a moment though and she thought maybe she'd gone a bit too far.
But then he answered. "It was when they set the Sorting Hat on fire." He said shortly. Hannah paused and drew back, taking a proper look at the mark she was busily stitching. Yes, it was a gash but if she looked closely, there were slight welts raised around it where the flames had met his skin.
"Merlin," she breathed and immediately flicked her wand for the Burn Applicator she carried with her everywhere. When your housemate is Ernie Macmillan, you learn quickly to take it with you. She carefully rubbed in just a bit, frowning at the way the welts stayed persistently raised. "This should take the edge off but I would be careful, they'll become inflamed if you fidget with them."
"Th-thanks." Neville muttered, surprised. "I was going to put some Arcadian Dew on it tomorrow."
Hannah smiled and held up the cream pot. "It's a main ingredient. But I didn't know Hogwarts grew Arcadian Dew anymore." She added, conversationally. I can do this, she thought gleefully. I can get through this.
"They don't. I've been trying to come up with an alternate strain to get rid of some of the nastier properties." Neville explained, seeming a little calmer.
Hannah smiled. "You mean the whole 'wait-until-you're-sleeping-before-trying-to-strangle-you' thing?"
Neville looked almost offensively surprised. "You take Herbology?"
Hannah felt every inch of happiness she had shrink into her toes. "Every year. We're in the same class." She added, morosely. He hadn't even noticed her.
Of course he didn't notice you idiot! She yelled at herself. You're a bloody wallflower!
Neville suddenly seemed uncomfortable again and Hannah finished her stitches in silence before turning to the cuts on his wrists and hands. Surprisingly, he didn't protest as she rubbed Aloe Oil into the wounds and dabbed away the excess curse-magic that would keep the wounds from healing properly.
I'm touching his hands. He's holding my hands…she thought, dazed. She couldn't really understand precisely what made Neville Longbottom seem so very appealing but holy Helga was he appealing.
He was definitely cute with his dark hair and bright eyes; he'd filled out in the past few months and he was good looking, not in the regular way like that Cormac McLaggen boy but in a way that made her just melt whenever he walked past.
And he was just so sweet and awkward and adorable and so excellent at Herbology that she knew he wasn't the dunce everyone else made him out to be. The way he worked with plants made it seem like he could speak with them and she knew he was Professor Sprout's favourite student. Many times, Hannah would wonder why he wasn't put in Hufflepuff with her but it soon became apparent upon entering Seventh Year that Neville would have made a horrible Hufflepuff- he was far too much of Gryffindor.
That was what got Hannah the most: the way he looked after the rest of the students, the way he stood up to their tormentors, the way he did everything he could to help and took all problems in his stride. He made his courage seem so effortless, so mesmerizingly simple. Without the Golden Trio, Hogwarts had thought the Carrows would taint it all but Neville had supported them, even when they were about to crumble.
The moment she saw him mouthing off to the Dark Lord himself was by far the most terrifying of her existence.
Snap out of it Hannah! She suddenly growled. You are not doing this, not again!
He winced a little when she touched one of the deeper cuts at his wrist and Hannah instantly ceased the pressure. "What's wrong?" she asked in her best Healer voice.
Neville shrugged. "It's just sore from the sword."
As though that was a totally reasonable explanation.
"Sword?" Hannah frowned, her brow furrowed. Neville smiled a little and jerked his head toward the gap between Augusta's cot and the ground and for the first time, Hannah spotted the wink of silver and ruby that peeked out from beneath. "Godric Gryffindor's sword?" she whispered, awed.
Neville nodded, still smiling. "It's heavier than it looks though," he reasoned, rubbing his wrist. "A bugger to swing."
"You seemed to manage fine," Hannah muttered, quickly checking the wrist for any sprains. Technically, she probably should be moving on since Neville had no more life-threatening injuries but she could bring herself to leave just yet.
Neville's face darkened a little. "Yeah well, that was pretty stupid in the first place."
"Not stupid," Hannah corrected absently as she frowned at one of the long bleeding lines on his inner left forearm.
Suddenly realising she'd been thinking out loud, Hannah glanced away, flushed. "N-not stupid," she whispered, seeing that he still wasn't looking away. "Brave. I could never have done that. I'd have passed out."
Then Neville did something she hadn't predicted; he blushed. As though her comment was wildly exaggerating and complimentary, he turned a very bright shade of pink she felt she hadn't seen in years. Although she'd definitely never seen him turn pink because of her. She made Neville Longbottom blush.
A slow smile spread across her face, a warm, bright, inviting smile that hadn't been seen in months, maybe even years. Neville blinked. "You should smile more often," he told her, frankly.
Realising just what he'd said but unable to take it back, Neville repeated himself, somewhat awkwardly but sincerely.
Hannah sat back and watched him, happily. "Maybe I have a reason to now." It seemed perfect; a tiny little moment of peace among all this pain and dying.
"Neville! Oh Merlin, we were worried for a moment there, we thought- well, it doesn't matter what we thought, why are you in here?"
And then reality broke it.
Hannah stood up, immediately as Ginny Weasley and Luna Lovegood appeared beside Neville, flinging their arms around him happily, babbling on about the Great Hall's celebrations and how he was missing out and how Harry wanted to thank him and there were so many people who wanted to speak with him and-
"Well, you're cleared Mr Longbottom," Hannah said, keeping her face completely blank. "You can go to the Great Hall now, though your Grandmother might have stay a little while longer."
And with that, Hannah Abbott turned around and walked away from her perfect moment because it wasn't perfect and there were better things for a hero like Neville to be doing than talking and flattering such a plain little nurse-healer like her.