I looked sadly over at Seamus, sitting at the Gryffindor table, talking and laughing with his friends. My friends told me that I was better off without him; that I was too good for him anyways, but I couldn't help but to like his hearty laugh, and adore the way his ears turned red when he made a mistake. Yeah, sometimes he could be a bit mean and immature, but I figured he'd grow out of that. And I liked him despite his flaws.
Normally I wouldn't have been gloomy about Seamus, especially since it was the holidays! But this morning I had awakened to my radio singing-
Last Christmas, I gave you my heart. And the very next day, you gave it away. This year, to save me from tears, I'll give it to someone special.
I hurriedly shut off my radio/alarm as a sad, sinking feeling filled my heart. Seamus and I were together only a few weeks last year before he met someone over Christmas break and broke it off with me upon our return to Hogwarts after the holidays. That song always reminded me of that heartbreak; the song fit so well with my life, only, I wasn't even lucky enough to have 'someone special' this year.
As I stared distantly at Seamus, I let myself take a quick glance at the people sitting near him before my eyes turned back to Seamus. But I did a double-take as I realized: someone had been returning my look.
Neville and I locked eyes. Simultaneously we flushed and looked away.
I chanced another glance at Neville a few moments later, and although he was now engaged in conversation with Ginny, his face was still flaming red. My eyes crinkled in humor. He was kinda cute, all red like that. It was sweet.
Now I was wondering... did Neville like me? Or was he simply embarrassed at being caught in a position that could appear that way? I'd never particularly thought of Neville that way, maybe because I was so used to him being a constant force in my life. I was in my 5th year -Neville's 6th year- and he'd been a part of my Hogwarts life ever since first year. Luna Lovegood, of Ravenclaw, was one of my best friends and so I spent a lot of time with them both. I definitely considered Neville and I to be rather good friends, so why was he acting this way? Why, instead of his normal friendly smile and wave, was he blushing? For that matter, why was I blushing? Was it at having been caught staring at Seamus, or was it in response to the bright look in Neville's eyes and the tender connection between us?
I blushed all over again just thinking that. I forced myself to relax and returned to my musings. Well, nothing will be solved just by asking myself all these questions, I concluded. But now I couldn't stop myself from thinking about this quirky boy. He was quiet, kind, certainly had a love of nature, and he was brave, although he rarely showed that side. I had noticed however, that since the events at the Ministry the last year, Neville seemed to have gained confidence in himself. I guess the qualities that I felt were missing were that spark of humor and that hint of romance. But Neville was definitely a great guy... and I liked him a lot...
The rest of the day passed uneventfully, and I regretfully wasn't able to spend time with Neville at all.
December 24th. Christmas Eve. Ah what a magical night. I, like many others, had decided to stay at Hogwarts over the holidays. My dad understood that I wanted to spend the time with my friends, seeing as I'd returned home for every Christmas break preceding this one.
I was heading back to the Hufflepuff common room after dinner when I was intercepted by Luna.
"Hello Luna," I greeted warmly.
"Hello Marissa. That's quite a lovely outfit you're wearing." I was wearing a silky white halter top, and well-fitting black pants. I had in a pair of silver earrings shaped as stars, and around my neck hung an amber pendant grasped from above by black claws- it was my good-luck charm. My shoes were dainty gray slippers that I rarely wore. I liked to dress particularly nicely over the holidays since we were required to wear our dress robes and school uniforms all of the time besides that.
"Why thank you Luna," I said with a hint of pride in myself.
"Neville's asked me to come and fetch you. He wants you to meet him in the Room of Requirements. I believe he wants to- oh but no, I'm not supposed to say anything," she told me.
"The... Room of Requirements?" I asked, bewildered.
"Come on, Marissa. Just follow me," Luna directed in her usual friendly, airy tone. I trusted Luna and so followed her without hesitation. I tried to quiet my beating heart as I let my mind wander to what Neville could want with me.
"Here we are," announced Luna. I stopped in confusion and looked around. Nothing but a blank wall.
"Are you sure Luna?" I asked as she paced back in forth several times nonchalantly, still smiling. Suddenly, a door appeared where none had been before. With a tilt of the head, Luna gave me a wide-eyed look saying 'See?' in a very positive and friendly way (of course), the edges of her mouth curling into a slight smile.
"Well go ahead," and with that she disappeared around the corner, skipping. I cautiously entered the room and the door shut behind me. Everything was dark and I was frightened. Out of nowhere, a bright light appeared high above me and slowly floated down until it was in front of me. Once it was before my eyes, I saw that the light was emanating from the petals of a rose. Hesitantly, I reached out and closed my hand around the stem of the rose. As if touch activated, dim lights slowly came on in the room, growing brighter until it was like a normal lit room. I smiled and felt the magic on the flower release. Pulling the rose in to me, I breathed in the fragrant scent.
Lifting my eyes I saw that the room was relatively small, but the ceiling was high up. The area was luminous and the atmosphere light. The walls of the room were off-white, and a small chandelier dangled from the ceiling. Blood red silk draperies (like to cover a large window) hung on the far side of the room, and indeed a soft light shone through, as if the sun was just outside, although I knew it couldn't be.
At the opposite end of the room Neville stood with his hands in his pockets, straggly hair flopping in his face, and a gentle expression. He withdrew his hands from his pockets and calmly made his way over to me. As usual, my face was growing pink, I could tell.
"This- this was lovely," I said, glancing and gesturing slightly at the rose and around the room. Neville grinned.
"Yeah, I've always been a fair hand at Charms. Much better than Transfiguration, that's for sure." I chuckled at the way I perceived his words.
"Yes, you're certainly a charmer Neville," I teased him. Neville gave a laugh as he realized I was teasing him about his ability in 'Charms' and grew bright red.
"Well..." said Neville simply, as if to say 'Well, I'm not sure if that's true.' I smiled and stared down at my rose, at a loss for what to say. My heart was beating rapidly and I was embarrassed, certain that he could both see my blush and hear my raging heartbeat. Luckily, if he did, he did not show it.
"Marissa," Neville addressed me quietly. I looked back up at him.
"Will you- that is would you-" Neville collected himself, briefly shutting his eyes and breathing in. When his eyes reopened, I would have sworn he'd completely changed. His confidence was boosted and the nerves were gone.
"That is... I really like you Marissa and I'd like to have you as my girlfriend." Neville's change of character took me by surprise and I decided I was rather fond of this Neville. I was never one to rush into things however. I stood there and pondered his proposal for a few moments, truly thinking. Neville seemed to understand and respect this, as he merely waited patiently. He didn't even appear nervous. Don't get me wrong- he wasn't cocky or anything! Just calm.
Did I love Neville? I asked myself. Honest answer- no. But I liked him a lot certainly. Perhaps... fancied him even?... Yes I believe so. I found myself looking back over the times we'd spent together. Neville was such a steady presence in my life: so dependable, sweet, and a wonderful listener. We shared a love of nature and solitude, and I loved the way he would seem to get mixed up when he was embarrassed or confused. I liked his sensitive shy nature, but also the bolder (and now romantic!) side of Neville that I saw in him. I knew my answer.
"I would be very happy to be your girlfriend Neville." A look of bright incredulity came over Neville's face as he swept me up into a hug. I laughed gaily as he swung me around and placed me gently back on my feet.
"I got really red when you teased me, didn't I?" inquired Neville joyfully. I immediately felt relaxed as I realized that all subjects were now open to discussion. There was no need to be embarrassed by silly things like that. And I also didn't have to worry about teasing him; it wouldn't make him uncomfortable.
"Mmm just a little bit," I confessed with a teasing grin. "But that's just the way I like it."
Neville flushed bright red again at this proclamation, to which I gave an appreciative laugh, and Neville joined me in my merriment.
We stayed for a while longer together in that room, simply sitting (on a couch that appeared magically- Neville explained the workings of the Room of Requirement to me) and talking. About anything and everything that crossed our minds. That night felt like a dream to me and I went to bed overjoyed with the realization that I wouldn't be alone this Christmas- and I'd been lucky enough to find a special someone who I truly did care about and who cared about me as well.
The holidays passed wonderfully as I spent the time with my new boyfriend and best friend. A few days later it was New Year's Eve. Luna, Neville and I sat together in one of the courtyards outside and watched the firework display (provided for by the Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes, much to Filch's displeasure). A whole group of other students stood there with us also, many with bottles of Butterbeer at the ready. As one entity we shouted out the countdown to the New Year.
"... Five! Four! THREE! TWO! ONE!" Everyone was shouting and cheering, popping open bottles, and kissing their boyfriends/girlfriends. Neville turned to me shyly smiling and leaned in. The kiss was short and sweet and sent a flutter through my stomach. The perfect first kiss. Neville withdrew and smiled sweetly down at me. The tender look in his eyes made me feel like I was melting under his gaze. Neville stepped behind me and pulled me into him, wrapping his arms around my front. I grasped his arms with my own and he rested his head gently on top of my own. We stood there together and watched the last of the fireworks shoot in into the sky in bright arrays of blue and green.
Someone told me once that you first realize that you love someone when they do something incredible. That instance happened for me a few weeks later.
Neville and I were walking through the halls hand in hand, chatting quietly, simply enjoying each other's company. Then I spotted Draco and two girls unfamiliar to me walking towards us from down the hall. When he got closer he stopped and gave a laugh.
"Well won't you look at that. I never thought anyone would go out with this lump. I guess you're no more than a stupid rat blood-traitor yourself eh?" Malfoy sneered at me. I felt my cheeks flaming. But then... that something incredible happened. Neville took his hand from me, turned, and punched Malfoy across the mouth.
"Don't you ever talk about her like that you pathetic snake," Neville said furiously. Shaking, I was led away by Neville, leaving Malfoy in a state of shock as blood dripped from his mouth.
"Neville I..." I was too stunned to even know how to complete my sentence.
"Thank you," I said finally. Neville turned to me with a smile and gave me a peck on the nose. I laughed.
"No one talks like that about my girl." It was then that I knew- I was in love with Neville Longbottom. No one else had been there to see it, but I now knew just how brave and heroic my boyfriend truly was.
Time passed, but the relationship between Neville and I remained strong and only grew over time. So many things happened during the rest of the year, and then the following year at Hogwarts, but I made it through, knowing that there was one thing I could always count on: Neville being there for me. Even though I had realized my love for Neville soon after we began dating, I never had the nerve to say it aloud. I'm not sure what held me back, but I kept it to myself for a long time.
At the end of the following year, a huge battle commenced. When Voldemort approached the castle with the 'dead' Harry, everyone was too frightened to do anything, when Neville shocked everyone by stepping forward and dealing Voldemort's snake a deathly blow with the Sword of Gryffindor. Everyone but me. I already knew that Neville had that strength residing in him.
"You were fantastic," I told him after the battle had reached its close.
"Thanks," he whispered tiredly.
"I love you." This was the first time I'd gathered the courage to speak those three simple words to him. Neville flushed the darkest of reds. How cute.
"I love you too," he said before hugging me tightly. We pulled apart and he gave a laugh.
"I'm all red again, aren't I?"
"Red as a cherry," I teased. "Just the way I like it."