Post War.

So, I don’t have anything planned for today. I had a lot of ideas, but nothing that I have the time or strength to write now before midnight. And, yes, I do have the intense desire to publish something on Tuesdays, and to keep that up because yes everything will fall to shit if I don’t. Anyway, this is a story I wrote some years ago, after the seventh book. I got a bit excited about thinking about what happened to characters after the war. This was a short one-off story about Hannah and Neville Longbottom. It’s not good, but it’s something to post. Next week will be better, I promise.

wednesday

I sat down. I couldn’t physically stand anymore. I didn’t care where I was or who I was sitting by. I slumped hard against some type of stone and stared at my shoes. I wore trainers, mum’s old converses that were ratted out at the heel. I could feel the mud that had sludged through caking my sock. The feeling of it made me want to punch a hole in the wall or scream really, really hard until my throat was bloody. I tried to think of pleasant things to calm my racing heart. Harry Potter defeated Voldemort. My dad and grandparents were safe at home. I was alive.

So many were not. I saw them bringing in the dead during the brief reprieve. Colin Creevey was there. Professor Lupin and his wife. After the fighting started again, I was certain that I saw Lavender Brown get mauled by some sort of wolf man hybrid. It was like he was a werewolf without it even being the full moon. I couldn’t quite understand it. I’d stopped in the middle of fighting. People had been shouting curses at each other around me, but all I could see was the pink bow in her hair spattered with blood. I think it was Fleur Weasley that had charged the beast man, with Bill Weasley not far behind her. I should see if Lavender survived. I should see if all of my housemates survived.

I remained where I sat.

“S’okay to cry,” a voice said beside me. I turned to see Neville Longbottom looking at me. His head rested on his hand, supported by the elbow on his knee. He was covered in blood and dirt and scars. I blushed from hairline to chest. I’d known him since we were elven. It was silly of me to be overwhelmed by being so close to him. He had been transformed though, not through magic but sheer power of will. Everyone had seen him stand up to Voldemort. Everyone had heard what he’d said. He was a hero, maybe more so than even Harry Potter. Yet, he sat there like an incredibly tired boy, both magnificent and average at the same time.

“Oh god,” I whispered, incapable of stopping the fountain of tears that began to pour down my cheeks. The magnitude of what had just happened to us, everything that had changed; all of the emotions from fear to elation could not be properly described. Tomorrow there would be news articles. Awful people like Rita Skeeter who weren’t even here would reduce this to a thousand words or less and slap a picture of Harry Potter next to it. Someday children would learn about this battle in three to five classes, then move on to the next big event in history. Tonight, to me, this felt infinite and incapable of confinement.

Neville pulled me in for a hug. He probably didn’t remember who I was. I left during our sixth year, and had been in Hufflepuff. We didn’t talk much. He’d always been too close to the craziness of the Golden Trio. At the time, I’d been scared, for sure, about Voldemort, but my biggest concern was who’d take care of my dad and I after my mum passed away. Now, I’d struggled so hard to fight for a life worth living, even with the loss of my mum, and I didn’t even know if it was worth the effort. I wish that I’d been a sacrifice along the way rather than a survivor being comforted by one of the saviors of the wizarding world.

“Hushhh, Hannah,” Neville coo-ed awkwardly, much like her father had when he’d told her that her mother had lost her battle with the illness. His pitiful attempts at comfort only caused her to sob harder. She clung to his jumper, bearing her face in his neck. Through the sweat and dirt, a small scent of clean laundry reached my nose. I’d seen his grandma, in all of her fierceness, on Platform 9 ¾ every start of term and every end of term. I imagined her grabbing his ear and yelling, “I don’t care if you’ve fought He-Who-Must-Not-Be Named! You’ll put on clean underwear just the same!” A burble of laughter escaped my lips, and more followed until I had to pull away and laugh with a small amount of embarrassment into my hands.

“I’m so sorry,” I gasped between giggles.

“S’Alright,” Neville yawned. “I don’t quite know how to feel either. I’m damn happy we won and that deserves a few rounds at the pub, but so many people. So many good people won’t be there to celebrate, you know?” He was grinning, but his brows were furrowed, but he also had tears in his eyes. His face was contorted with all of the warring emotions. Maybe he was tired, but also maybe he was afraid to make too much movement because he wasn’t certain he’d be able to breathe under the onslaught of any one of the emotions he was feeling. Or maybe that’s just what I felt, and needed someone to feel that with me.

“I imagine they are the last in our generation,” I sighed. The thought wasn’t exactly comforting, but I needed to say it anyway. “No one else will be murdered by Voldemort ever again. Not ever.”

“Now that’s a beautiful thought,” Neville smiled, and it reached his eyes. I saw that for him everything was worth it if no one had to suffer like they had. Ernie MacMillan had told me Neville’s parents were tortured until insanity by Death Eaters when he was just a baby. I didn’t know if it was better or worse to have a parent die or be crazy past the point of recognizing their child. A part of me was glad my mom died rather than having to see her and know she didn’t know who I was. Either way, neither one of us had won the parent lottery.

I looked around us because I didn’t really know what else to say at the moment. We were on the third step up on the second floor near the Charms classrooms. I’d killed a Death Eater roughly twenty feet away from where we sat. I hadn’t meant to. I’d only wanted to restrain him, but he was trying so hard to kill me. He genuinely wanted to kill me. No one had ever tried to end my life before. I tucked the memory away in my brain, unsure of when I’d be able to talk about that, if ever. I looked back at Neville. I wondered if he’d killed anyone tonight as well. How odd that even the victors were murderers. I mean, the man might have been a father to someone I went to school with. I couldn’t tell from his grotesque mask. Still.

“Thank you, Neville,” I said, pushing hard at the memory of what I did to make it disappear into the background. “What you did wasn’t just brave. It was hard, and I don’t know how many people would have been able to do what you did. You’ll probably get a bunch of thank yous, but I just wanted you to know that I’m one of them.”

“Thank you,” Neville nodded. “For your, um, thank you.” He grinned at his clumsiness. His grin led to a laugh, which grew until his head was thrown back. “Imagine that. I’m being thanked for fighting Voldemort head on. I you told me this would happen when I was thirteen I’d send you to share the ward with my parents and Gilderoy Lockhart.”

“Oo, I do remember third year,” I snickered. “You were the one that left the passwords out for Sirius Black to find.”

“It’s that daft knight’s fault for always changing the password!” Neville argued passionately. I imagined that he had this argument with himself a lot.

“And, as it turns out, Sirius Black wasn’t even trying to kill Harry Potter,” I supplied.

“Exactly!” Neville agreed, like finally some had taken his side, even when he hadn’t. He looked at me, one of those moments where one person really looks at another person. He made me feel like I was the source of all magic and he was in wonder of that. I really wanted him to lean in and kiss me. It would be the perfect end to a movie or a play. It would also feel very disrespectful to what had just happened.

I slipped my hand over his and squeezed. He reciprocated, which was possibly better than any kiss could have been. Amidst the rubble, death, and all the gray area we’d trudged through to win a battle, we were two people connected to each other, not alone to deal with the aftermath. I didn’t let go of his hand. Neither one of us was capable of breaking the connection. Eventually, people came to find us, searching out survivors and bodies to claim. We were swept up in separate directions, but as I was led away I caught Neville’s eye, and I knew. This was the beginning, not just for a world without Voldemort, but my world with Neville apart of it.

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