He looked around for the culprit, ready to give someone a piece of his mind.
“Hello?” He called.
He heard a creak of material and springs as a head popped u over a nearby chair. He felt his heart let out a loud thud as Pansy smiled at him. The smile took him off guard. It seemed to be missing its usual playful edge.
“Girl trouble, Longbottom?” she asked as she rested her chin on her arms.
“Something like that.” He admitted as he tried to fight the blush in his cheeks. “Sorry if we disturbed you,” he muttered as the fight went out of him.
Pansy smiled softly and looked at him
“Don’t worry about it.” She replied carefully before sinking back behind the chair.
He stood up and grabbed his things before moving towards her seat.
“What are you doing?” He asked again as he eyed the books on the table in front of her. Movement caught his eyes, and he noticed that she wasn’t alone. Theo looked up from a weathers book and nodded to him. Neville nodded back awkwardly, his eyes darting between Pansy and Theo.
Pansy sat down, folding the muted violet summer dress beneath her legs before getting comfortable.
“Nothing, don’t worry about it,” Pansy smirked as she turned back to her books.
“She was trying not to laugh at Abbott’s comment about Granger being a bad influence,” Theo replied quietly as his attention turned back to his book. Pansy pouted as she shot him a glare.
“Traitor!” Theo glanced up and smirked before returning to his work. “But, yes, Ms Abbott should have been put into Slytherin! Her emotional manipulation is on point!” Pansy nodded thoughtfully before looking at her own books again.
Neville continued to stand, looking between Theo and Pansy as they looked at their books, scribbling notes occasionally.
“Are you waiting for the knight bus or something?” Theo asked as he glanced up again. Neville shook his head, confused.
“What do you mean?”
“He means ‘sit down’, you Pigmypuff!” Pansy chuckled as she shot him a glance.
“You don’t mind?” Neville asked as he started to lower his things to the floor.
“Salazar! Longbottom. Just sit down, Merlin knows we could do with your help on our Herbology assignment.” Theo said with a roll of his eyes. Neville paused for a moment more before sitting down on the chair next to them.
“Now you’re hanging around with some real trouble makers,” Pansy winked as she pushed some hair out of her face.
Neville felt a blush warm his throat as he caught Pansy’s eyes. She smiled warmly as she rubbed her neck, a delicate silver chain glinting in the light. He stopped his eyes travelling lower as he started to pull his books out of his bag.
“Have you eaten lunch yet?” He asked suddenly, remembering the food he’d brought up.
Pansy and Theo looked at him before sharing a long glance. The familiar gesture made Neville wonder whether he was intruding.
“We haven’t, why?” Theo answered cautiously.
“I brought some sandwiches up, intending to share them with Hannah, but she probably won’t talk to me again until tomorrow now.”
He pulled the food out of his bag and laid it out on the table as he avoided their books. Both Slytherin’s leant forward and grabbed a sandwich before thanking Neville.
There was a moment of silence as Neville chewed on some grapes. Pansy tilted her head thoughtfully before opening her mouth.
“Does Abbott often ignore you?”
“Only when I’ve done something to annoy her.”
“And that’s how often?” Theo asked.
Neville felt the blush return as he ran his fingers through his hair. He wasn’t sure why he was talking to candidly to them. It’s not like they were friends.
“Not that often, although she wouldn’t talk to me at all last week.”
“What had you done?”
“I went to watch Ginny audition their new quidditch team.” He said with a shrug.
Theo and Pansy looked at each other.
“What?” Neville asked.
“Nothing, Longbottom,” Theo added with a sympathetic smile.
“Come on,” Neville complained.
Pansy sighed as she closed her book and looked at him, Her eyes looked steely and purposeful as she crossed her legs. Something about the dress made her look soft and pretty instead of the harsher clothes she wore. He liked the new facet to her, it seemed far more approachable.
“I’ve got questions first,” She said first as she looked at him.
“Okay?” he agreed curiously.
“Today, did she sprain her ankle before or after you fought?”
“We didn’t fight” Neville responded.
“Ok, did you agree with her when she asked you to not see your friends any more?”
“No.” He shook his head as he waited for Pansy to respond.
“So were you in agreement when she tripped?”
“Interesting,” she added. “So you disagreed with her and then she fell over?” She asked calmly resting her hands in her lap. He nodded.
“Did you stop fighting afterwards?” Theo asked, temporarily shutting his own books.
“Yeah, I guess so, we were busy trying to get back to the hospital wing,”
“Slytherin through and through,” Theo offered before looking at Pansy.
“Please explain.” He begged as he could feel a headache build
“Theo and I think that she used the trip as a distraction, so then when she decided to come back to the point, you may have forgotten what you agreed to or not.” Pansy offered
“But I know I didn’t agree to it.”
“But knowing that she’s hurt, does that make you hold back from arguing again?”
“I guess, a little,”
“There! You’ll want to be careful of that one, I underestimated her.”
“She wants to control you. If you let her get away with it, she’ll to be a tough one to get rid of.”
“No, she isn’t like that,” Neville argued.
“Ok, step one – get together, step two – get him away from his friends,” she paused before glancing to Theo, counting with her fingers as she went.
Theo jumped in “Three – hog all of his time and attention.” Pansy smiled and nodded like a proud parent,
“Four – stop him from arguing back by interrupting. And then finally there’s five,”
“Five?” Neville asked
“Threats” Theo added in as he finished his sentence with a small flourish of his quill.
“Any of this sounding familiar?” Pansy asked kindly, “If I were you, I’d call her bluff. You’re better off without her.”
Neville shook his head. “She’s not like that, and she doesn’t manipulate me,”
“Neville, I know what tricks bullies use, because I’ve used them myself.” Pansy placed her hand on his knee, and he felt the heat radiate through his trousers. She looked into his face but not into his eyes, and he saw regret there. “I wish I hadn’t, but what’s done is done.”
“She’s right, Longbottom. Cut ties, if anyone knows what it’s like to be in manipulative relationships, it’s the children of parents like ours.” Theo added as he pointed at Pansy and himself.
Neville shook his head again.
“Look, you don’t know Hannah like I do, so… let’s just do our homework” Neville said finally as Pansy reluctantly pulled back her hand.
They sat in awkward yet companionable silence as they worked, asking questions and answering when needed. It wasn’t until the door of the common room opened that Neville realised the time. The sky had started to darken outside the tower windows, the distant horizon turning an eerie purple and orange as the sun began its descent through the clouds.
Neville glanced at the door and noticed Hermione. He smiled and waved and watched as she approached. He watched as her eyes darted cautiously to the chairs either side but widened when she saw who he sat with.
“Do you mind if Hermione sits with us?” Neville asked after clearing his throat to get their attention.
Pansy and Theo glanced at Hermione before smirking to themselves.
“I’m sure three troubler makers are better than two,” Theo replied as he stood to allow Hermione to take his seat.
“Oh, right, Thank you,” Hermione muttered uncertainly as she frowned in confusion. He eyes turned to Neville, and he shrugged. She smiled slightly as she pulled the books out of her bag. “I thought you’d be with Hannah.” She said lightly, but Neville spotted the tightness around her lips.
“Hannah and Neville had a bit of a misunderstanding.” Pansy offered smoothly without looking up.
“Oh? Over what?” Hermione asked, her books now forgotten.
“Nothing,” Neville said as he avoided her gaze. “She’s just tired.”
He heard the snort from Theo and Pansy in stereo as he looked up.
“Abbott got her knickers in a twist and stormed off,” Pansy added. Neville looked at her and saw the disgust flash across her face before it returned to the smooth, attractive lines he was used to.
“Nev?” Hermione probed “What happened?”
“Nothing, I told you, she’s just tired from the draught that Pomfrey gave her.”
He wasn’t sure why he didn’t want to talk about it. It had certainly been playing on his mind constantly. He guessed it was because he didn’t want to either hurt Hermione or enrage her when she found out what Hannah had said. Pansy and Theo’s words spun around in his head as the words on his book faded into inconsequence. Was she really manipulating him?
He thought back to when they had first started seeing each other. The train had been quieter than usual as only half of the students had returned. The compartments were more jumbled too, the houses mingling more than before. The Slytherins still remained separated from the rest; regret, shame and fear radiating from them in equal measure. Their compartment was as silent as a library as haunted faces gazed emptily out of the window, or nose first into books.
The sound of footsteps drew his attention as his eyes raised to the stairway. The unsteady rhythm of it churned his stomach as his eyes darted between Hermione and Pansy. Hannah slowly limped down the stairs stopping for a moment as her eyes scanned the common room. As their eyes met, he saw the grim line of her lips as her eyes darted to the other women he was sitting with. His mind began to race as he tried to decide what was best to say as damage control. He felt sick with nerves as if he’d been caught cheating.
“Hi, Hannah.” Hermione offered and a tentative smile.
“Hello, Hermione,” she responded with coldly. She looked at Pansy and Theo who sat silently, the awkwardness of the situation blatant. Hannah didn’t even address the former Slytherins as her eyes returned to Neville.
“Having fun, are we?” She asked, and it felt like he had been slapped.
“Han, We were doing homework.”
“How long has it been?”
“What do you mean?” He asked as he stood up.
“How long has it been since we discussed this?” She limped closer, the fury in her eyes becoming more apparent, the closer she got.
“Since you went upstairs? About five hours.” He offered “Are you feeling better?” He asked, hoping to distract her.
“So, five hours after I specifically ask you not to hang around with trouble makers, you go and disobey me, and you start associating with death eaters?” Neville winced as her volume rose.
“Han, please, keep your voice down,” He pleaded as other students began to look over.
“You haven’t listened to a word I’ve said, have you? You never listen, your ears are too clogged up with bloody soil to hear a damn word. You’re about as useful and attentive as a dead snail. I don’t know why I bother, you don’t care about me, you never did, otherwise, you wouldn’t spend all your times with other girls” She screamed
“That was uncalled for.” Pansy cut in, Neville turned to find pansy’s scowl pointed at Hannah. Hannah blinked but didn’t acknowledge her.
“Han-” he started, but she cut him off.
“No, Longbottom. You obviously prefer the company of others, so please, continue.” She waved a hand sarcastically to the others before she limped off towards the stairs down to the lower levels.
The common room was shrouded in shocked silence for a few moments as Hannah left the room. Neville felt everyone’s eyes on him as he stood exposed and alone. He felt the heat rise up his neck as embarrassment stung his pride.
“Oh Neville,” Hermione said as she stepped behind him, placing a hand on his shoulder. Neville heard someone snigger, and it broke the spell. He shrugged off Hermione’s hand and turned to grab his books and bags. He avoided everyone’s gaze, not feeling ready to face any emotion that he might see there. He shrugged his bag onto his shoulder and retreated back to his dorm where he could be alone and could collect himself.