25 May 1998
"I think it may be time for us to go, Neville dear," said Gran, placing a hand on his wrist.
Neville sighed and nodded, gazing at his mother and father, who were sitting in their armchairs, side by side, smiling vaguely at him and Gran. He got up. His sudden movement startled Mum, and Neville felt guilty, but he walked over to them.
"Bye, Dad," he said, putting an arm around his father's frail shoulders. Dad patted his arm, seemingly surprised by the contact, but he nodded earnestly at Neville. "Bye, Mum. We'll see you both soon. I love you."
Mum closed her eyes and nodded her head as Neville gently kissed her wispy white hair. Gran was standing just behind Neville when he had said his goodbyes, watching him with the strangest expression on her face.
"Gran?" he asked slowly. "Are we—are we going?"
"Just a moment, dear. Would you wait for me in the corridor?" she replied, and Neville was surprised to hear a very heavy note of emotion in her voice.
"Sure," Neville told her. He gave Gran a faint smile. "I'll be out there."
"Good boy," Gran said briskly, patting his arm as he passed.
Neville paused at the ward door, curious. Then, he heard Gran's voice from behind the curtains.
"Oh, Frankie," she said quietly. "Darling, I hope you know what he's done—you should be so proud—"
Neville couldn't hear another word. He ran from the ward, hurrying blindly down the corridor. He couldn't listen to Gran try to talk to his parents, least of all about him, he couldn't. They didn't know what he'd done, they weren't proud of him, because they couldn't be, and that knowledge was like a knife in his heart. Merlin's beard, how he hated the hospital, how he hated the idea of his parents being stuck here—he couldn't stand it—
"I—I'm sorry," Neville stammered frantically to the person he had just slammed into as she left a hospital room.
"Oof—that's all right, I'm—Neville!" cried the girl, looking very pleased to see him.
"Hannah?" asked Neville, shocked.
"How are you?" Hannah asked, putting her arms on his shoulders and smiling at him. She was looking lovely as ever in soft green robes, her blond hair loose around her shoulders.
"I—uh—I'm fine, Han, thanks," Neville told her, trying to grin faintly at her. "How're you? What are you doing here? You—you weren't injured, were you, you're not a patient?"
"No, no," Hannah said quickly. "Nothing serious, anyway. I was…visiting someone," she said, her smile flickering only momentarily. "You?"
"Me too," Neville answered. Then he cursed inwardly. "I mean, I was just visiting—friends," he added quickly.
Hannah's pretty gray eyes met his, and she nodded. "Well—er—are you waiting here? Do you want to go to the Cauldron or something?"
"I can't," Neville answered, too quickly. Hannah blinked. "I mean…I'm, er, waiting for my Gran—she's still visiting." Against his will, Neville's eyes flickered to the clearly labeled doors of the long-term care ward. Hannah followed his gaze and frowned, opening her mouth, but Neville cut her off. "Who've you been seeing?" he asked conversationally.
Hannah's expression darkened slightly. "Just a friend," she said, and Neville could feel her guard going up.
"Yeah," he answered. "Me too." Nice one, he thought.
A very awkward silence fell. Neville watched Hannah beat her fist against her leg, chewing her lip, and he glanced over his shoulder, waiting for Gran to reappear.
"Well, uh, it was great to see you, Neville," Hannah said after a few minutes. She stepped forward and wrapped her arms around him tightly. "Maybe we can get a drink soon, hm?"
"Absolutely," Neville replied automatically, smiling as she pulled away.
"Bye," Hannah called, and Neville waved as she walked down the hall. Then, suddenly, no more than a few paces away, she stopped. Her head dropped, and her hands went up to cover her face.
"H-Hannah?" Neville asked, coming closer, and Hannah spun around, throwing her arms around his neck again.
"Professor Sprout," she sobbed into his shoulder. "I was seeing Professor Sprout."
"Oh," Neville said, as his heart gave a sudden pang. He patted Hannah's back. "It's all right, Hannah, it's okay…"
"No, it's not," Hannah moaned miserably. "She's ill, really ill!" And she burst into further tears, leaving Neville feeling very confused as he patted her back reassuringly.
"Hannah," he said in surprised. "She—they'll make her better, don't worry…"
"You don't understand," Hannah insisted, stepping back. Her tearstained cheeks were bright pink as she continued to sob. "It's my fault! It's my fault she's here, it should've been me!"
"Don't say that," Neville said sharply, and Hannah hiccupped. "Don't ever say that, Hannah, don't."
"I'm sorry," Hannah told him quickly, wiping her cheeks and clearly trying to regain control of herself. "You're right, th-that was stupid of me."
Neville sighed, rubbing his face. "No," he said. "I understand. It's okay."
Another silence fell, this one punctuated by the occasional hiccup from Hannah. Even when she was crying, Neville thought, she was very pretty. Very tall and thin, she had once been awkward, pink-faced and giggly with uneven blond pigtails. Now—well, it was how they all looked, after this past year—she had matured. She carried herself cautiously, but well, and moved quickly and precisely.
With a pang, Neville recalled the night before the war, when one of the Carrows had jinxed Hannah and she had stumbled into the Room of Requirement, pouring blood from her side, barely conscious. And then, the very next day, she'd leapt into the battle, ready to fight. There was so much about her that Neville had never appreciated, for their friendship was casual, and in the face of all that had happened, there hadn't been much spare time to spend with anyone, much less people who, like Neville himself, were fighting to stay alive.
But Hannah, well…she was amazing. The Gryffindor with the overwhelming heart of a Hufflepuff.
After a moment, Neville smiled at her. She was calming down, and smiled faintly back at him with a few tears still sparkling in her eyes.
"I'm sorry," she said again. "I didn't mean to cry all over you. It's just—it's been a really strange couple of weeks."
Neville gave a hollow laugh. "Try a strange couple of years." Hannah smiled slightly.
"Ernie and I ended it," she said quietly.
"Oh," Neville said. "Er—I'm sorry," he said honestly. Why was she telling him?
Hannah shrugged. "We felt like it was time. We're friends, that's all."
"Right," Neville answered, feeling a little confused. Yet another silence fell, and it was his turn to feel uncomfortable. He did not fully understand what she was telling him all of this for…certainly, they were friends, especially after this year, but he was not involved in her personal life.
"So," he said after a few minutes. "How's Professor Sprout feeling?"
Hannah sighed, wrapping her arms around herself. "I think she's in more pain than she's willing to say. Whatever that curse was, it nearly f-finished her." Her voice broke, and she looked away from Neville, her eyes darting all over the corridor. "She saved me, you know," she added in a tone of forced calm. "The Death Eater was aiming for me, and she got me out of the way…"
"Wow," Neville said softly, feeling his heart ache a bit for his professor. "And she—she's—"
"She's getting better," Hannah shrugged, blinking and looking away. "Slowly. I hate hospitals, but…I more than owed it to her to visit. She's given me a lot, ever since—since…erm…"
"Your mum," Neville said softly, and Hannah met his eyes.
"You remember that?" she asked faintly.
Neville nodded. "I remember," he told her. "None of us saw you for weeks. I—er, well—it's a little late, but, I'm sorry about that, Hannah."
Hannah gave a miserable little laugh, her tears spilling over, and she stared at the floor. "Thank you," she murmured. "Almost two years now," she said, shrugging her shoulder.
Neville reached out and touched her arm. "It's okay," he said, rather lamely in his own opinion, but Hannah looked up at him as though he'd just handed her the world. She gave a watery smile, and suddenly, everything seemed to screech to a halt inside Neville's brain. He was trying to process many different feelings and thoughts all at once, and he thought he might not regain motor function for some time.
"Neville?" Hannah asked, laying a hand on his shoulder. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah," Neville said hoarsely, his eyes wide and his mouth open. "I—My parents are here," he blurted out.
Hannah blinked, frowning. "Your parents?" she asked, plainly trying to be kind, but very confused.
Oh, no what had he done? Neville tried desperately to think of a way to play this off—wasn't it bad enough when Harry, Ron, Ginny, and Hermione had found out? They were the only people in the world who knew about his mum and dad, apart from Luna. Why was he trying to tell Hannah? No, this was all wrong—
"Yeah," he said again. "My mum and dad—they—er—they live here," he said, pointing to the long-term care ward. Hannah's eyes widened, and she clapped her hands over her mouth.
"W-what?" she asked in a muffled voice. She lowered her hands. "Your parents live here? They—they're—but, wh—" Hannah covered her mouth again, looking appalled with herself.
Neville stared at her. "No, it—I mean, yes, they do, but…" he sighed. "D'you want to go and get that drink?" he asked. Hannah looked even more confused. "I'll explain everything," Neville told her.
"Neville," Hannah said, touching his arm. "You don't need to explain—"
"No," Neville said quickly. He was suddenly full of a sense of purpose. He wanted to be with Hannah right now, and he wanted to talk to her. Just talk to her. She would know how he felt, what he needed, and he would be there for her, just as she needed. "I want to. I—if you'll let me?"
Hannah stared at him for a long moment, and for a heart-stopping second, Neville thought she might say no. Then her face broke into a happy smile, like this was the answer to all her wishes.
"Of course, Neville. Of course," she said, and she took hold of his hand. Neville smiled slightly, squeezing her fingers.
"Neville, dear?" Neville looked around. Gran was standing just behind him, looking politely curious. "Who is this?"
"Oh," Neville said, and he was very aware that his face was steadily turning bright red. "Er—Gran, this is Hannah Abbott. She was in my year at Hogwarts…Hannah, this is my grandmother—"
"Augusta Longbottom," said Gran, extending one gloved hand and nodding imperiously as Hannah shook it. "A pleasure. I knew an aunt of yours, I believe, Carolyn was her name."
Hannah smiled. "That sounds right," she said. "It's nice to meet you, Mrs. Longbottom."
To Neville's shock, Gran smiled back at her before turning to him. "Neville, I don't believe I'll need your assistance in Hogsmeade today after all," she said. Neville's mouth fell open. Was Gran lying so that he might have an excuse to go with Hannah? They'd made no plans to go to Hogsmeade, as far as he'd known.
"Perhaps you would like to catch up with your friend," Gran offered.
"Uh—uh—but—" Neville stammered.
"Don't leave your mouth hanging like that, dear, it looks dreadfully ill-mannered," said Gran, patting his shoulder. She nodded to Hannah. "I must be going. I'll be late this evening, Neville, can you take care of dinner on your own?"
"Sure," Neville said faintly. Gran smiled again, nodded to them both, and left the corridor.
"Neville?" Hannah asked when she'd gone. "Are you all right?"
Slowly, Neville nodded. He looked at Hannah and gave her a grin. "Yeah, I'm great," he said. Hannah looked surprised. "Come on, Hannah, I'll buy you dinner."
"Okay," Hannah smiled. She took his hand again, interlacing their fingers. Her gray eyes met Neville's again, and Neville sighed happily, leading her out of the hospital ward.
A gift for Analie Janes! She's patient and awesome and a super cool reader/reviewer, and she wanted to know how Neville and Hannah kind of sort of started seeing each other. Or at least toying with the idea. Thanks for everything, Analie!
God, Alice and Frank make me so sad, I swear...just, no. Can't handle how horrible it is. I wish killing Bellatrix would have somehow made them better...but...*sniffle* I know it doesn't work like that...
Thanks for reading and everything, guys! (Also...keep your eyes peeled for something obscenely epic and gigantic coming your way very soon...it's almost done...sadly it's not the battle fic yet, but I'm working on it!...this is something different...)