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 “Neville!” Harry cried, “Have you lost your mind?”



BANG!

Neville’s reason for sending Tom to the ground became clear, and Harry, Ron, Dean, and Seamus followed suit, ducking under the counter as fast as they could.

The bar was ablaze. A catastrophic fist of flame had punched directly into the store of drink behind the counter, spilling out galleons of beers, wines, and spirits. The flames rushed along Alcohol Rivers, merging in multi-coloured sparks then spreading hungrily, engulfing anything in their path.

The rest of the pub collapsed into panic. People were practically falling out of their chairs as they attempted to leave the destruction. Everyone, witches and wizards, were stumbling, intoxicated, partly from their previous drinking and partly from the smoky fumes created by the fire. All of them united in their mad, self- preserving rush for the door.

Neville waited for the last of the red-hot debris to rain down in front of him, and watched the commotion unfold through the grey haze before darting out from under the bar.

Neville pushed through the heat, feeling his skin flush and boil. He tripped on a broken chair leg and lunged forward, grabbing a table piled high with bottles that Tom had set out for the next day’s business. The table toppled over and the bottles smashed into a nearby flame that immediately quadrupled in size thanks to the added fuel. Fire-whiskey was not called Fire-whiskey for nothing.

Breathing heavily, Neville suddenly realised that he had wand. He grabbed it from where it was tucked into his sock and hectically shouted any water related spell he knew in a bid to subdue the flame.

The others did the same and it started to rain, the fires died down a little, slowly shrinking, allowing Neville and everyone else to hurdle any that stood between them and the door.

While this was going on, Tom had crawled out from under the bar, shaken. He had been given no time to comprehend what had happened. In the space of seconds, Neville had saved his life, and his pub, everything he had ever worked for, was in ruins, and that hurt more than anything that was yet to come.

He stood up as quickly as a man of his age could, and stepped out into what used to be a scene of tipsy joy. His ears rang with the shouts and screams of his customers, disorientating him. He tried to move forward, navigating a maze of fire, tables, and chairs. But this proved impossible. Every broken piece brought back a memory. His first customer since he became the landlord, Albus Dumbledore, of all people, had sat on that chair, or three consecutive Ministers of Magic had chosen to sit at that table. That chair was then sent crashing into a wall as someone shoved it out of his or her way, and that table was morphing into a pile of white ash.

Aware that he had not seen the barman pass him, Neville turned back to check where Tom was and found him crouched on the ground, surrounded by ever increasing flames, clutching a painting that had once hung on the wall.

“TOM!” Neville yelled through the panic-stricken noise, but Tom took no notice. He was wallowing in grief, sobbing out apologies to the woman in the painting. The woman herself was not listening, she was too busy running from one side of the frame to the other, unable to escape, for Tom was holding the only painting that existed of her, the first landlady of the Leaky Cauldron, Daisy Dodderidge.

A pair of hands dragged him out of his sorrow and he only felt an overpowering sense of burning before collapsing in Neville’s arms.

Neville used all his strength to pull Tom out of the flames, careful not to touch the parts of Tom’s skin that were blackened and charred. Tom seemed to barely be breathing, but Neville put the thought of losing the man who had become a second father out of his mind.

Neville grunted, and tried in vain to take in a clean breath that didn’t taste of burnt alcohol. He pushed his hair off his sticky forehead, smearing his face with smoky dirt as he did so. Then, as if someone up there had heard his prayers, he and Tom were doused in in water that Seamus had conjured to put out an overhead flame. Tom’s body jerked a little, the painting still in its arms, as the water touched his burns.

Seamus then left the extinguishing of flames to Dean, Ron, and Harry, and picked up Toms feet, lifting him off the ground.

“Do you think he’ll make it?” Seamus shouted.

“I-” Neville’s voice broke “I don’t know.”

Seamus blinked, and though he tried not to, thought the worst. He kept this to himself, however, because he had learnt that voicing that kind of opinion helped no-one.

Harry rushed by, soaked through but with flames licking at his heels. “That is everyone out, I think- Dean? Ron?”

“All clear” they shouted back, and in a fiery whirlwind, they broke out into the open air of Diagon Alley.

“Merlin.” Ron gasped “Holy mother of Merlin.”

They all stood dazed, taking a few moments to fully register what they were seeing.

Smoke. Fire. Rubble. Panic. Fear. Bodies. Death Eaters.

Death Eaters. This became the only understandable thought in Neville’s mind amongst the rush of noise. People were screaming, another, then another, shouting, wailing, smashes, crashes, the pounding of footsteps stampeding away from those wearing cloaks and masks.

All of Neville’s training had come down to this. For 5 years they had searched for the Death Eaters that managed to escape after the battle of Hogwarts, and so far they had only captured two (Avery Sr and Amycus Carrow). Now they had a chance to capture the rest of them.

Easier said than done.

“We need to get Tom out of this!” Seamus yelled.

Neville snapped into focus and they snaked through the crowds with Ron for protection, as Dean and Harry ran after the Death Eaters in the distance. They managed to get Tom under a balcony and behind a wall of barrels. They laid him down. Neville tried to remember what Hannah had told him about checking for a pulse- there was a spell, apparently, but Hannah had never bothered to learn it. The muggle way was better, she said, because you knew for sure.

“He’s breathing, he’s,-he’s ok- I think” Neville said, relieved but still worried. Seamus nodded and chased after Harry and Dean, feeling he would be more use as a fighter rather than a healer.

“Good” said Ron, slightly distracted, “Good- great” he breathed, but then he had his breath taken away.

He had been searching down the street, staring at his brother’s shop, Weasley Wizard Wheezes, to try to see if it had been left unscathed. One second ago, it had been, but then…

From out of nowhere, a huge ball of fire (twice the size of the one that hit the Leaky Cauldron) exploded right in the middle of the joke shop, encasing the building in smoke.

A torrent of ash and dust billowed down the Alley at gale fore pace, bombarding Ron, Neville, and anything that stood in its way, as if they had walked into a brick wall.

“HERMIONE! GEORGE! HERMIONE!” Ron screamed hysterically into the rush, furiously sprinting down the road.

Neville ran after him, sending out any he spell he knew that would clear the air. He reached the smoke curtain seconds after Ron sank into it, and braced himself for what he might experience inside. Neville pushed through the grey and was surprised to see that the shop was still standing, just. It had been reduced to its bare skeleton; the windows had been ripped out, the stores insides turned to burnt rubble and the walls scarred.

He found Ron in front of the doorway (which had caved in), desperately scrambling over the rubble, trying to find a way through. Ron clawed at a part of the wooden frame and pulled it away, then flung it over his shoulder and carried on. Neville dodged the flying plank of wood and joined Ron, pushing away rocks and occasionally coming across a mangled part of a product.

They were at it for what seemed like hours of no release, completely oblivious to the duelling behind them,  blissfully unaware that Harry was locked in battle with three Eaters at once, that Dean was in headlock in an attempt to capture another, or that no-one had seen Seamus for nearly half an hour.

There was a clatter and scraping sound, and Ron slid to the ground. Instead of getting up, he stayed on his knees and began to sob.

“Her-her-Hermione…please… George-g-George…”

Neville didn’t know what to do. To be frank, he wanted to do the same as Ron. But there was something that made him keep searching, an instinct of hope that was built in. Anyone that had spent a good amount of time with Hannah seemed to have it.

Then, slowly, a shadow came into view. A silhouette, then a figure. A person-no- two people. One carrying the other. One tall, with messy ginger hair, and a face covered in soot. The other in his arms, her face covered by wild brown locks, dainty and broken.

“Ron!” Neville cried, shaking him back to reality so he would look.

“George! Thank Merlin you’re- No. Hermione-Merlin-please, no! George? She’s not? George, tell me she’s not-?”

“She’s alive, Ron. We were round the back; we didn’t get the worst of it.” George managed to say. He bent down to Ron’s level and carefully lowered Hermione into the loving arms of her husband-to-be.

Ron held her as he would hold a child, and stroked her bruised cheek. Surveying her body, he saw that one of her legs was broken, and she had pink blotchy burns all up the other, amongst spreading bruises. Her arms were the same. In a mad thought, Ron kissed her lips, hoping she would wake up, like the princess always did in those fairy tales she had told him about. But none of that sort of magic came.

“Neville.” Ron snapped, his voice clear and sharp. “Get Hannah. She’s a healer, isn’t she.” Neville nodded. “Hermione needs a healer. Get Hannah.” Ron repeated calmly, but Neville could see from his eyes that he was begging.

Neville hesitated. The fighting, the destruction, and the Death Eaters added up to the sort of situation he didn’t want Hannah to be in. Nevertheless, Hermione, Tom, and whoever else, needed her.

George was looking at Neville, understanding completely. “I can do it for you, mate. If it’s hard-”

“No.” Neville cut him off. “It’s fine, I’ll do it.” With that, he raised his wand.

“Expecto Patronum!”

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