No Better Distraction
There was an odd silence at the Leaky Cauldron. In all his recent visits to the pub, he'd never seen another soul, save the ageing barkeeper, Tom. This evening, however, there was another visitor at the bar. She sat down beside him, not offering a single word. She raised her hand, gave the man behind the counter a subtle gesture, and sighed a heavy sigh. As if reading her mind, he stepped over, poured her a cocktail of various juices and went back to his business. She took a swig and swallowed thickly.
"Fancy seeing you here," Harry said in a low voice. She didn't turn to look at him, but merely nodded. There were dark bags under her eyes, as if she hadn't slept in weeks. The messy state of her hair suggested the same. She wore no smile, just a lifeless expression devoid of the life he was so accustomed to seeing emanate from her. She was but a shell of her Hufflepuff self, locked in a state of utter depression.
He didn't dare ask her if she were okay, everything about her told him otherwise, but the Gryffindor within him couldn't let her be. Instead of opening his lips, he simply placed her hand on hers. She turned, finally reacting to his presence. At first, he couldn't tell if he was helping or hurting the situation. Several tears raced down her cheeks, landing softly on the back of his hand.
"It's been four years," Hannah sniffed, wiping away the now free-flowing tears with her free hand. Harry suddenly understood her emotion. Though he was typically miserable when it came to the understanding of women's feelings in general, he could share some small part of her misery. His mother too had been killed, though his had been a witch and, unlike her mother, had had the means to defend herself, but chose to defend him instead. "And every year it's the same." She chugged the last of the liquid in her glass and motioned for another.
"Easy on the alcohol," Harry said in concern. To his surprise, instead of glaring at him, she grinned a half-grin and watched as the barkeep poured her next glass - reds and oranges mixed with blues and purples to form a dark violet drink that smelled heavily of blueberries. She took another large swig and swallowed before she turned, elbow rested against the counter-top, to face him.
"If there's one thing you don't need to worry about, it's me and alcohol," she said proudly, rubbing her finger around the edge of her cup. The charms on her bracelet clinked against the glass several times as she did so. "I haven't had any in a couple years now. I've been keeping away from it. It's all virgin for me." Despite her candour, she was still very obviously hurting on the inside.
Harry hadn't intended to originally come to the pub that evening, but he found that he was rather glad that he had. Though he knew that he was no expert at providing consolation to anyone, he found himself able to be some small comfort for an old friend; to help her think about something else on the anniversary of her mother's murder. There was an awkward silence between them for what seemed like an eternity.
"Have you been seeing anyone?" Harry asked, before letting his brain do any thinking. At once he slammed his eyes shut and mentally chastised himself for asking. Now was not the time for such a question, yet for some reason he had found himself curious.
"I'm looking at you right now." Hannah must have picked-up on the clumsiness of his words. She chuckled softly when Harry relaxed a little and stroked the back of her hand absentmindedly, as if it were only natural to do so. "Yes, yes, I know what you mean and the answer is no. I've not been on a date since..." She paused for a moment, and Harry could almost see the gears turning in her head when gasped. "I've not been a date since I last saw Ernie." She cast her eyes into his, looking intently as if to search for an answer she knew was there. "And you?"
"Not in some time, no," Harry admitted, sighing at the thought. "That's not to say there hasn't been any interest." There had been, too. Every day since his defeat of Tom Riddle had him showered in fan letters and letters from girls ages six to sixty who wanted nothing more than a deep and lasting relationship with the Boy Who Lived - and their fifteen minutes of fame. Ron had taken it upon himself to personally taste every Chocolate Cauldron that came to him in the post, just to be safe.
"The whole bit with Ginny was well publicised," she acknowledged. He grumbled a little. His ordeal with and subsequent break-up from Ginny was headline news for the better part of a month. Every issue of the Daily Prophet was covered in photos of them and of their relationship's disastrous conclusion, but Harry tried his best not to let it bother him.
"Such is the story of my life," he breathed, ushering over Tom and ordering something Hannah couldn't quite make out, despite her efforts to hear Harry's whisperings more clearly. The momentary distraction, however, proved to be fleeting; Harry could see her visibly slipping emotionally away once more.
"They say she didn't even try to defend herself," Hannah said somberly, fresh tears forming in her eyes. She sniffled a little, but mostly held her composure. "I suppose she knew she didn't stand a chance." Harry knew Hannah's mother was a Muggle; her father had been the one to extract her from Hogwarts shortly after she'd received the news of her mother's passing. That her father hadn't been there during the murder pained them both. He blamed himself for her death, but his absence had granted Hannah some small consolation: she hadn't lost both her parents to the Dark Lord that day.
As she made to continue, a large, fudge-covered pastry was sat before them with a handy pair of forks. Hannah looked at Harry, knowing she was expected to eat at least part of the dessert placed before them. She took her fork and, though reluctantly at first, began to eat with him, taking small bites of the thick chocolaty delight. It wasn't long, though, before she was enjoying it just as much as he was.
As Hannah set down her fork beside Harry's, he noticed the plate was still covered in a thick layer of messy brown fudge. He took his fork back in his hand and used its handle to write a simple message for the girl beside him. He thought about being sentimental or even romantic, but settled for something a little more fitting for the moment. Hannah looked down at the plate and smiled as she read: 'Bet I could beat you in a pillow fight'.
"Your handwriting is atrocious," Hannah mocked, taking her wand out from her pocket. Though neither of them noticed, Tom watched from his bar stool, bemused by what was transpiring before his very eyes. He'd only seen romance unfold but once in such a strange manner before in his days as the keeper of the pub, and rather enjoyed it all.
"Let's see you write in fudge, then."
"It's easy," she said proudly, curling back a strand of stray hair behind her ear. She whipped her wand in the air a few times and Harry watched as the fudge moved around on the plate. Slowly large, beautifully written letters became legible and the message 'you're on' could never have been so clear. "I did it all the time when I was little."
"Oh, really, now?" Harry said, freeing her hand as he took to his feet.
"Shall we be going, then?" She said quickly, throwing on her jacket and grabbing her purse in one fluid motion. Harry had succeeded and she didn't even really know it. He didn't really care who won the pillow fight, but that she would put away the thoughts of her mother's passing.
"Your place or mine?" Harry asked, and before she could blink he took her in his arms and whisked her away.
"I see you!" Hannah shouted, and Harry squealed like a little girl as he ran-up over the bed and into his closet. He hid behind his darkest suits and kept his breathing as quiet as he could, despite the fact that he was nigh out of breath. He could hear her tip-toeing steadily toward him, crouched over behind his bed to keep out of his eyesight.
"Come out of the closet, Mr Potter," Hannah teased. "I'm waiting," she said in a sing-song voice, giggling a little before darting around his bed and into the closet after him. Within seconds of stepping into the dim light of the closet, she found herself on her back, on the ground, flailing about with the pillow in her hand barely managing to move to further hit Harry. He had her pinned.
"I think I win," Harry said triumphantly, and for the first time that night he felt he had succeeded. As he slackened his grip on her wrists, she pushed against him as hard as she could, flipping him over; she used all of her weight and every bit of power in her small body to hold him in place.
"That," she said merrily, "is where you'd be wrong." As she looked into his eyes, she could see a sparkle there she hadn't seen in anyone's eyes in years. It was a reflection of the joy and happiness she was feeling; her heart begun to pound, she could feel his heart pounding, too. Her lips hovered above his, so close she could feel his breath on her lips. She was tempted to close the gap between them, to taste, if but for a moment, his breath.
Harry looked back at the girl who had him pinned against the shag carpet of his flat; he could resist, could easily overwhelm her, but chose to let her win, because, as he titled his head upward, he knew he was winning the larger game that neither knew they had been playing. His lips met hers and it became suddenly very apparent to both that nothing else mattered.
"Well," Hannah said airily, relaxing her weight against him. Her body fit against his, so perfectly that it was as though two pieces of a puzzle were coming together after years apart in their box. "I suppose this changes things."
Harry traced her lips with the tip of his finger. This had been a most unexpected evening, he decided, yet as he moved his lips toward hers once again, he decided that he wouldn't have had his evening go any other way. Today now marked a new, happy anniversary, for the woman whose fingers where now entwined with his.
"Yes," he agreed. "I suppose it does."
Author's Note: Please, if you've taken the time to read this little story, take the time to tell me what you think of it. Review!