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Firewhiskey (A Love Story) by Wonk

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Story Notes:

This is a two-parter. No bad language or adult content, but does contain some darker themes that are unlikely to be suitable for under 13s.

This is also my Neville/Hannah head-canon.


Neville was on the lash again.

Hannah thought that that habit had been kicked into the fire, along with Rita Skeeter’s column on their supposed Firewhisky-dependency and carelessness around Neville’s students. “I’ve a-never been drunk around them,” Neville said forcefully that night, more than a little sloshed, whilst Hannah tore the crumpled copy of The Daily Prophet to bits and prodded it through the grate with the tip of her wand. “Never.”

“I know, darling,” Hannah told her husband, knowing this was all her fault.

She wasn’t sure if he meant to sit down in front the bar of the Leaky Cauldron one day after his work at the Ministry, or if he only meant to pass through to Diagon Alley and couldn’t make it through the throngs. She had seen him often enough, his head bobbing amongst the crowds at her busiest time as she rushed to get out drinks to thirsty workers whilst Tom, three months away from a much-needed retirement, slept on the floor beneath the bar. It was a busy evening, the last muggy night before the Quidditch World Cup, and wagers were flying about the pub, little paper aeroplanes zooming past heads, careening into ears and backing out again, shaking out creases and bits of wax.

“Hello,” Neville had said to her as he took the only empty spot at the far end of the bar, smiling wanly and flicking away a paper plane with the deftness of someone used to it at the Ministry.

“Hello,” Hannah replied, not sure why she was blushing.

“Firewhisky, please?” Neville asked.

Hannah smiled. “Long day?” she asked. She wished it weren’t so loud she had to shout.

Neville let out an uneasy sigh.

“Coming up,” Hannah said. She poured him a fifth, then stole another glance at his lacklustre expression and topped it up to a dram. “On the house,” she said, voice low as she slid his glass across the bar. He pulled coins from his pocket, sending sweet wrappers scattering, but she shook her head. “Free drink for war heroes,” she added with false cheer, pouring a splash into a spare empty glass for herself.

“Oof,” Neville grunted, and Hannah added, with a painfully false German accent, “Don’ mention ze war!”

Neville’s expression turned from hangdog to puzzled.

“Muggle thing,” Hannah added, blushing again, then downed her mouthful of Firewhisky and rushed to serve her other customers.

She was surprised to find him still there, his drink drained, a half hour later when orders started to slow.

“I’ve been ignoring you!” she said. “I’m so sorry! Can I pour you another?”

She thought perhaps it was the drink, or maybe the demands of the long workday, but his expression reminded her strikingly of the days several years before, of long evenings and stolen study periods in the Room of Requirement, trading charms for counter-jinxes. Also, the first anniversary of her mother’s death, when, feeling rather tear-stained, she’d settled into her favourite seat in the library only to find she’d sat on a bouquet of forget-me-nots. Across the room, half-hidden in the Herbology section, Neville waved at her shyly.

“I’d like some water, I think. Please,” Neville replied, sucking in his cheeks and stifling a burp. He’d grown up well, Hannah thought (despite the burp). He’d never be a Cedric Diggory, but no one would ever call him not-handsome.

“Best to alternate,” she agreed.

The night grew old, and gradually the pub also grew empty as patrons went home to their children, husbands, wives. Yet Neville remained, nursing his second Firewhisky, his fourth glass of water.

Eventually they were the only two people left, Tom having finally gone up to bed. It was closing time. The gramophone had worn outs its welcome on the fifth go of the Weird Sisters’ Greatest Hits and Hannah wasn’t sorry when Neville lifted the needle. She did protest, however, when he started putting chairs on top of tables (not least because he kept dropping them, and she had perfected the set of tidying, cleaning, and polishing charms needed for bar work in the past nine years) and she set him back down in her favourite chair by the dying fire while she finished locking up the front and back doors.

“I wasn’ at work,” Neville said suddenly.

Hannah nudged the broom cupboard closed with her hip and looked up at him, surprised.

“I mean, I was,” he clarified. His face was a brassy red in the firelight as he played with one of the discarded aeroplanes, flapping its paper wings. “Earlier. But ‘fore I came here, I was at…S’Mungo’s.”

“Ah,” Hannah said.

“Yeah,” Neville replied. He scooted backwards in the chair. Hannah wondered if he was steeling himself, waiting for her to kick him out, to make him go home to the tiny flat that he shared with Seamus Finnigan so he could sleep off the drink and the sadness in his own bed.

“Stay here tonight,” she found herself saying, then blushing furiously again. “You can take my bed. I have a Transfiguring sofa.”

“Nooo,” Neville replied thickly.

“You must,” Hannah told him.

Neville obeyed.

The Firewhisky became a habit after that, though they would both insist that it was a friend, not a crutch. The kindly intermediary that moderated their visiting across the bar on busy nights, slow nights, work nights, weekends. It loosened their tongues as they talked about their parents--Neville relating the bad days, the good ones, how he had only one memory of them with their minds intact but he wasn’t even sure it was real. Hannah telling him after a full lowball that her Half-blood father had started online dating and she was already hating every woman he hadn’t yet brought home. He laughed at that, the sad expression lightening, the Gryffindor bravery hardening his face for a moment…before dissipating entirely as he reached for another sip of his Firewhisky.

One night Neville only had water. That was the night he kissed her for the very first time.

Their life followed the natural progression quite quickly after that, rushing to keep up with their friends who were already married and sprogging like their lives depended on it. It was three weeks from First Kiss to Engagement. Another month to the wedding. Neville moved in with her to Tom’s old flat on the top floor of the Leaky Cauldron and filled the balcony with lady’s mantle, lavender, and sickly pots of Dittany. He never complained but Hannah sighed to see her husband, otherwise so happy, standing out on the balcony, poking at the plants with his wand and obviously wishing for a greenhouse, or perhaps that the planet would tilt on its axis so they’d finally get sun shining in from the north of Diagon Alley.

Then one day an owl came, and she recognised the handwriting on the envelope. There was no charm that kept her from opening it herself, and she and Neville weren’t in the habit of keeping secrets, so she curiously tore the flap and plucked out the heavy paper, Minerva McGonnagall’s emerald words filling only a quarter of the page.

Hannah smiled.

Neville came home early that night; it was like he could read her mind from a distance, though he assured her it had been yet another quiet day in the Auror Department. “Work’s drying up,” he’d told her happily in their first weeks of conversation over the bar. “Soon there won’t be any dark wizards left, and I’ll be out of the job.”

Hannah greeted him in the doorway, the letter held aloft in one hand, the other held behind her back.

“What is it?” he asked, already shouldering off his robes, eyes glimmering with the hope and expectation that a year of marriage had still failed to quash.

“I shouldn’t have read your post,” she admitted. “Spoiled the surprise.”

Neville plucked the paper from her fingers and clutched it hard as he read the few scant lines.

“They’re not even going to interview me,” he murmured.

“They must know you’re the best person for the job,” Hannah replied.

Neville leaned hard against the wall, which was already leaning at quite a steep angle itself.

“They’re just giving it to me,” Neville said, dazed.

“Professor Longbottom,” Hannah said, sliding one hand behind his neck, a cool bottle of Firewhisky emerging from behind her back, clutched in the other, “I think you finally have your greenhouse.”


Hannah Longbottom’s selling the Leaky Cauldron was lamented but not unexpected--young girl, so happily married, was bound to want to knock off eventually, head to Scotland with the husband and start a family. She had been adamant in pointing out that Hermione Granger, undoubtedly future Minister of Magic, was deftly juggling a momentous career with raising two polite and well-adjusted children. It was none other than Rita Skeeter herself who said it, her poison green quill poised on the bar: “Yes, but you know full well she has an army of house elves doing all the raising for her.”

“Do you think there’s something to it?” Hannah asked Neville their last night in the flat, surrounded by trunks and moving boxes. “Do you think we should try?”

Neville made a curious face, as though he’d never thought about it before. “I don’t know,” he said. “Maybe.”

His disinterest was understandable. He had other things on his mind.

But now here they were, two years into his post at which he was excelling, him tipped to become the next head of Gryffindor House and with a wife eager to become the next Matron after Madam Pomfrey’s imminent retirement. Each night he would come home and encircle his wife’s shoulders as she huddled over her desk, her Healer coursework filling every inch of space and lapping over the sides. They had used up the last of their leaving presents by then, drained the remains of the Firewhisky a year before, so why did he still stink of it?

“Going to bed,” he often said those evenings, even though it was often well before nine o’clock. “Good night.”

They were never going to have children if this kept up.

Especially if he kept lying to her.

“I’m not drinking,” he told her the night she finally confronted him--it was February, long after he’d first started coming home with the empty bottles clanking in his school bag.

“Explain, then,” Hannah pleaded with him. She had worked at the Leaky Cauldron for years--she knew this, knew that once they stopped admitting it, that’s when it became a problem.

“I’m not,” he told her, and stomped off with uncharacteristic anger up to bed, once more to fall to sleep before she could finish her homework and join him.

She blamed herself. She couldn’t help it. Maybe she wasn’t doing enough around the house--she had hired a house elf to come in once a week to tidy and prepare a few meals, but Neville always told her that her cooking was better. Or maybe she was pressuring him too much for children. Or they weren’t seeing his parents enough, having rationed their visits to St Mungo’s to once a fortnight rather than twice a week due to both their demanding work schedules.

“Maybe I should have stayed on as landlady,” Hannah said one Saturday morning over a breakfast of sausages and fried toast. She tried to smile at him as she poured him more orange juice, tried to lighten the mood, “Your students would probably like me a lot better as the one serving Butterbeer than the one with the Skele-Gro.”

“They’ll love you,” Neville said absently to that, then threw his freshly washed gardening gloves in his bag and left without finishing his juice.

In April, halfway through the Easter holidays when Neville was running out of excuses to go into work, he came home at midday completely despondent, his dirty face running with tears.

“What is it?” she asked him, holding him tight as he sobbed into her shoulder.

“My-my,” he tried to say, while she remained at a loss, unsure what to do. “Bloodbramble,” he eventually choked out

“Your what?” she asked.

“Bloodbramble,” he sniffed. “Got a bad case of firespot…and I’ve been trying to get it to come ‘round but it’s just not, not”“

“Ssh,” Hannah soothed, stroking circles into his back. “I’m here, darling, I’m here,” she said, wondering why on earth something with the name Bloodbramble was worth this display, and why once again she tasted the bitter tang of Firewhisky when she pressed her lips to his forehead and told him that everything was going to be okay.



She wasn’t proud of her actions, the day she decided to follow him to work. It was the last day of the Easter holidays and he had bounced back quickly from his tearful display, woken up the following morning whistling and cheerful like nothing had happened. When she asked him why the grin (the grin that used to give her jelly-legs, back when he wasn’t keeping secrets), he had said nothing other than, “Just figured something out. Don’t worry about it.”

When Hannah could do nothing but worry about it. She had spent the last two weeks in a minor state that he had completely failed to notice, while he did nothing but bumble to the school greenhouses as soon as day broke and spend his evenings by the window, saying at every sunset, “The days are getting longer. I can tell.”

“Such is the way of living with a gardener,” Poppy Pomfrey sighed when Hannah had her over for tea. “You know, one year, I didn’t see Mr Pomfrey for the entire month of June.”

At least Neville was eating again. He’d gone pale over the winter but now his colour was coming back, his cheeks going ruddy and face once more filling up the hollows. He remembered to kiss her when he left for work, though apparently their reacquaintance in the bedroom would have to wait, as he was more often than not asleep when she managed to go up to bed, or would start snoring as soon as she lifted a Herbology text from his chest and slid it onto the bedside table.

It was a cold day, the day she followed him, and she wore her wool coat over her robes, her old Hufflepuff house scarf wound about her neck. She greeted each passer-by as she walked the short distance from their cottage to the school gate--there was no one in Hogsmeade they didn’t know by now--and the wrought iron bars swung open as she approached, and clattered shut behind her as she entered the Hogwarts grounds.

It was a peculiar feeling, seeing the children just back from holiday run, shout, dash across the school grounds in their strange mix of Muggle clothes and wizard robes--all skimpy, as though they didn’t feel the cold. It made a very particular part of Hannah’s chest hurt, but she pushed those thoughts away for now.

She could map Hogwarts with her eyes closed. She’d even started to understand the pattern to the changes in the staircases by the end, understood that most of the time, they were there to help, there to guide the students where they wanted to go if they paused long enough to think about it. She didn’t go inside, however; today, she headed straight for the greenhouses.

The doors were shut, condensation running trails down the window panes. She knocked at the door and the glass vibrated beneath her knuckles. No answer there, and not at the several that followed, either, her hand starting to crack as soon as she reached Greenhouse Six. He wasn’t in his office either, his door left unlocked, his chair empty but still warm.

She was going mad. She knew it, following him like this. What was she expecting of him? Just drinking? That’s wasn’t the entirety of it, surely. Having an affair? Unlikely. He loved her, she knew it…even though he was having a difficult time showing it as of late. He was Neville. Nevilles didn’t cheat.

No, it was the drinking. And the lying. And the…something else. She didn’t even entirely know.

“Oh!” a small, high voice said from the corner of the room. Hannah startled, no longer used to the surprise of disembodied voices erupting into previous silence--they had no art in their house but still life and photographs. She spun in Neville’s chair, steadying her breathing, to find her own face looking back at her, the rough likeness wide-eyed, golden hair gleaming in the yellow of bright summer sunlight by the Hogwarts lake. She couldn’t even remember who had painted it--she hadn’t modelled for it, at least not in person--but she remembered it being framed; she had gone foraging in the woods with Neville to find the sandy beech to complement her hair.

“Hello,” Hannah said, shy at confronting her strange likeness. “Have you seen Neville?”

“He was here a few minutes ago,” the portrait-Hannah said. Then, suspicious, “Why?”

Hannah felt suddenly shy. “Has he been acting…strange, lately?”

“Not any more than usual,” portrait-Hannah said, more cheerful now. Her eyes alighted on Hannah’s midsection, and she wondered what Neville had been telling the flat half-version of herself. She wasn’t sure if she wanted to know, and she wasn’t sure if the portrait would tell her.

“Hang on,” the other Hannah said, “let me go see if I can find him.”

Hannah waited while her small, watercolour self disappeared into the frame. It was a full ten minutes before she returned, pink-faced, out of breath, and draped in streamers.

“Couldn’t find him,” portrait-Hannah said, picking confetti from her hair. “Most of the other portraits are gone up to the Astronomy Tower for the holiday-end party, but Sir Cadogan said he spotted him near McGonnagall’s office a few minutes ago.”

“Thank you,” Hannah said, and rushed off to the third floor. She arrived a bit pink-faced, a bit out of breath, just like her likeness. She rung the bell--a recent installation, only fair considering there was no door on which to knock--and when there was no answer, tried desperately to remember the password Neville had told her several months ago (only for emergencies, most likely changed by now).

“Artemis,” Hannah guessed, and when the gargoyle still refused to move, began listing off all the Greek and Roman gods she could think of. It still sat stubbornly still until she blurted out, her face red, “Eros!” and the gargoyle chuckled (of course it would) and jumped aside.

She rushed up the stairs, not knowing why she was in such a hurry, not knowing what she would say to the Headmistress if she indeed were there, only to find this office empty as well. It was not so different from when Dumbledore had been in residence, only slightly more worn-in, dustier, cozier, giving the impression that McGonnagal perhaps spent more time trying to fix the world than understand it. The strange, shining instruments that had jingled and chimed and smoked were gone, replaced by a functional low table and comfortable chairs for upset students. There was also a set of chains fixed in the corner, which would have shocked her if Neville hadn’t already told her that they were one: a leaving present for Filch upon his retirement; and two: a joke intended to mildly frighten children, and nothing more.

“He’s not here.”

Hannah jumped again, the deep, familiar voice sending a shiver through her bones.

Most of the portraits’ subjects were gone, Dumbledore undoubtedly toddled off to the party along with many of the other former Headmasters and mistresses. One remained, however, sitting very straight in his frame, hands folded, leaning toward her in the odd way only a two-dimensional person could.

“And neither is the Headmistress,” Severus Snape continued. “I do suggest you leave.”

“But…” Hannah began, at a complete loss. She didn’t even know what she was doing, now that she actually stopped. What she was intending to do when she found Neville? Yell at him? She was not one for shouting. Cry? That seemed much more likely. Steal the bottles. Pour them down the sink. Have him barred from the Three Broomsticks and make sure the elves served him nothing but pumpkin juice.

Ask him to simply talk to her.

Has he been here?” Hannah asked.

Snape glowered at her from his frame. Somehow he was even more terrifying in paint than he was in life, his blacks blacker, his expression even more immovable. Neville had told her that Harry had requested the painting be done, had even organised for the fusion of the portrait and the memories Snape had left behind to make up for him not having had the portrait done himself (yet more proof, Harry had argued, that Snape had only had the best intentions when he took on the post of Headmaster). But she’d never seen him in person; on her scant visits, organising her training and her application for matron, the former Potions Master had always been demonstrably absent. She rather had the impression that he spent most of his days holed up somewhere where he wouldn’t be disturbed.

“I’m worried about him,” Hannah admitted, shrinking back from the frame and putting a worn chair between them.

“As are many of his colleagues,” Snape said without feeling. “Though is it no concern of theirs.”

“I’m his wife,” Hannah said.

“Miss Abbot, wasn’t it?” Snape said, and she blanched, horrified that he would remember her. “You were sufficiently confident in Potions, were you not?” She had fought tooth and nail for the “E” in her O.W.L.s. “Hm,” Snape continued, a faint, sinister amusement flickering across his dark features, “I can’t imagine why he didn’t ask you.”

Then all Hannah could see was black robes, the heel of a boot as he stepped from the frame, into the other.

Then Severus Snape was gone.


It was Hannah’s turn to be distracted when Neville came home, and for once it wasn’t with her studies. She wasn’t very good at bottling things in; it made her prone to grumps, to outbursts, to accusations that took on more of a bite than she intended.

It was juvenile to align herself with her old school house, now that she was grown, but she still had to bite down the urge to suddenly shout, half-way through her roast potatoes, “I’m a Hufflepuff! We are loyal! And you are Gryffindor, you’re meant to be brave and tell me what’s bothering you!” while Neville ate his dinner and read the gardening Q&A in the evening paper, oblivious to the battle raging inside her head.

Hannah went to bed before Neville that night, stared up at the ceiling as he crawled in beside her, still slightly damp from his shower, smelling of dewberry.

The mattress dipped, groaned. He wished her an absent goodnight and turned his back on her, blowing out the candle. Hannah waited for the snores to begin.


Ten minutes later: “Is something wrong?”

Finally! she wanted to shout.

“No,” she said.

Fawkes the Phoenix, Sword of Gryffindor, she thought to herself--a ridiculous mantra, but it worked.

“You’ve been talking to Snape,” she spat out.

The sound of Neville’s breathing cut off.

“Snape’s dead,” he replied, his voice strained.

Hannah was rapidly losing courage, but she forced the words out anyway. “His portrait’s not.”

There was another long, silent stillness.

“I thought you were terrified of him,” Hannah said.

“I am,” Neville replied. She wished she could see his face; he was just a pair of wide shoulders, of seams pulling at the sleeves of his pyjamas. “I was,” he added. “But, you know, there’s only so much he can do from inside a frame.”

“What does he have to do with your drinking?”

Neville sighed, exasperated. “I am not drinking.”

Hannah wanted to cry. Roll into a ball and weep.

“Neville,” she said, her voice quickly vanishing, retreating back into herself to be stowed away along with the fragments of her shattered courage, “you can tell me anything. You know that.”

“I will,” he said. “I promise.”

“How much longer?” she asked.

“I don’t know,” he said.

“I don’t know how much longer I can take.”

“I know,” he replied.