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It was strange how a lot of the most significant moments of Neville’s adult life happened in the kitchen.

He’d received the letter that offered him the Auror job while he was chopping onions.

He’d told his grandmother of his decision to move out when he turned eighteen while washing the dishes.

He’d finally grown a rare water rose in his sink next to the dirty dishes.

And Hannah.

Practically every significant moment in his relationship with Hannah had involved a kitchen. They’d met in a kitchen. Their friendship had grown in a kitchen. He’d asked her out in a kitchen. Hell, he’d even told her that he loved her for the first time in a kitchen, although he sometimes wished that he hadn’t just blurted it out whilst he flipped omelettes one morning. He liked to think of himself as a romantic, and somehow, eggs just didn’t qualify.

The object of his musings currently stood on the other side of the kitchen sobbing quietly.

“I still don’t understand why you just didn’t use magic to chop those onions,” Neville said, keeping to his side of the kitchen. His eyes still watered, but he’d be bawling if he got any closer.

“I said I wanted to do this without magic, and so help me Merlin, I will do this without magic,” Hannah snapped. The list of things that made Hannah irritable was short, but it included chopping onions.

“You hate chopping onions – I think using magic to do just one thing wouldn’t have been terrible.”

She gasped. “That’s cheating!”

Neville grinned. “Careful Hannah. Your Hufflepuff is showing.”

She looked over her shoulder at him and glared, although the effect was somewhat lost because of the appearance of her dimple. His own grin widened.

I could’ve chopped the onions,” Neville said mildly. “I even offered. Your no-magic rule doesn’t extend to me if I’m the one wielding the knife.”

“But I’m the one cooking!”

Neville rolled his eyes.

“I saw that!” she said, her back still turned to him. By the little sigh she gave, Neville assumed that she’d finished with the onions. He walked up behind her, and wrapped her in a tight hug.

“Oof! Merlin, Neville! My poor ribs!” she half-laughed, half-gasped.

Neville smiled, and spun her around in his arms to face him. He leant down and kissed her thin nose.

“You smell like onions,” he murmured.

It was her turn to roll her eyes. “You don’t say.” Turning back around to face her chopping board, she got started on slicing the tomatoes.

As usual, Neville had very little idea about what she was making, but she’d seemed excited when she’d come home earlier that evening. Neville hadn’t seen her quite like this since he’d returned home after his second year teaching at Hogwarts for the summer holidays. Hannah had become the new landlady of the Leaky Cauldron only six months before – there were still a few boxes left to unpack in their new place on the top floor of the pub. When Old Tom had finally moved on – to retirement, not death – Hannah had taken out a loan from Gringotts, and made a bid for the old place. Kitchen renovations on top of running the establishment kept her busy and exhausted most of the time.

“Could you go check on the chickpeas, please?” Hannah asked.

Neville frowned. “Won’t the pressure cooker blow up if I touch it?”

Shaking her head, she smiled. “Enough time’s passed that the steam would’ve escaped. Nothing is going to blow up.”

He sighed. He knew that was probably the case. He just didn’t want to admit to her that he still hadn’t figured out how to get the lid off. His grandmother used a pressure cooker, he thought, and there were now countless times he’d seen both Hannah and her family use one. They shouldn’t be that difficult; you just unlatched the lid from the handle, twisted and lifted. But he swore there was some sort of conspiracy amongst pressure cookers to make a fool of him; he never quite got the twist-and-lift right. But no. He wouldn’t be defeated this time. Setting his shoulders, he went over to the stove to do battle.

By the time he successfully wrestled the blasted thing open, Hannah had finished with the tomatoes, and was vigorously stirring some natural yoghurt in a white tub with a spoon.

“Um, do you want me to do that?” Neville offered. He needed to do something successfully to feel manly again, and stirring yoghurt seemed like a good option.

“No, it’s done,” Hannah said, the smile in her eyes letting him know that she knew why he’d offered.

Neville made a face and ran his hands through his hair. “I have no idea why you keep me around.”

Hannah’s mouth tilted mischievously. “You’re pretty good at making sandwiches. And you’re easy on the eyes, so sales increase when you’re bartending. And you know, I like kissing you.”

“You keep me around because I’m good for business?”

“Don’t forget the sandwiches and the kissing.”  Hannah stood beside him, bumping her hip with his. She opened a cupboard and stood on tiptoes to look for something.

“What do you need?” Neville asked after watching Hannah struggle for a moment. It was amusing to see her efforts – was she going to jump up on the counter?

“I ground up some jeera powder the other day. I must have pushed it too far back. Can you see it?”

“Err… what’s it labelled?” He’d spent an entire afternoon last year going through their kitchen and putting labels on the various jars and bottles. It would’ve probably been more helpful if he’d labelled things in Hindi…

“Cumin powder. Sorry.” Hannah was still trying to see into the depths of the cupboard.

Neville easily reached behind the little jars of cinnamon and cloves and cardamom and garam masala to get the jar of cumin powder.

“That’s another reason you keep me around, isn’t it?” he sighed. “You don’t need a ladder.”

Hannah laughed, leaning up to peck him on his lips. She took the tiny jar from his hands. “You know it,” she winked.

Neville turned back around to face the pressure cooker again. “What do you want me to do with these?” he called over his shoulder.

“They need to be drained,” Hannah replied.

Neville successfully hunted down a colander without resorting to using magic, and placed it in the sink. He took the cooker over and tipped its contents out over it. The chickpeas tumbled like a waterfall, the white balls toppling over one another in a rush to be the first down.

His one job done, he turned back around to watch Hannah work. Crossing his arms over his chest, he watched as she ground some pepper into the yoghurt tub, and then began stirring it vigorously again. He could spend the rest of his life looking at Hannah and he wouldn’t get bored. There was art hidden in the efficiency of her actions, science in the critical eye she used to measure the ingredients, magic in bringing people together with her food.

“Taste this and see if it’s okay,” she said, coming over to stand before him, the tub of yoghurt cradled between her palms.

Neville peered cautiously at the yoghurt. He could smell the spices she’d put in it. “I see red things in there. That’s not going to burn off my tongue, again, is it?”

She shook her head. “I used Kashmiri chilli powder. More colour than heat.” She dipped a spoon in the yoghurt and held it up to his lips to taste. Neville cautiously opened his mouth. It was spicy, but not hot. The subtle sweetness of the yoghurt was balanced by the salt and cutting spiciness of the ground black pepper. And yes, there was the cumin, and ah – the chilli powder. But Hannah was right; it was more colour than heat, although compared to the chillies in her mother’s vindaloo, almost anything was more colour than heat.

“It’s good,” he said.

“Do you think it needs anything? More salt? More cumin powder? More –”

“No,” Neville cut in before Hannah ended up listing the entire contents of her spice cupboard.

“Oh, okay.”

She turned back to her bench, setting aside the tub for the moment. Neville brought over the drained chickpeas. “What now?” he asked.

“Now, we assemble.”

Neville had a strange vision of that one time he’d tried to put together a bookshelf without magic. Never again.

“Does it involve any instructions in Swedish?” he asked.

Hannah shot him a strange look.

“I’ll take that as a no.”

He watched as she grabbed a large handful of some small flat discs and dropped them on a plate. They were thin and light gold in colour.

“What are those?” he asked.

“They’re called paapri – that’s the singular. You fry tiny circles of dough. Here, taste one.” She shoved a paapri in his mouth before turning back to put another handful of the things onto another plate. He bit down and heard the circle snap in half. Its savoury taste flooded his mouth. They tasted nice.

“Neville, your plant attacked me again this morning,” Hannah said conversationally. She didn’t look up from where she was now spooning the chickpeas over the paapris.

“They like the humidity,” he replied. He’d been asleep when Hannah had gone downstairs that morning. That was one of the many perks of being a teacher – regular holidays, which meant regular sleep-ins.

“They also liked my hair,” she grumbled. She was sprinkling the tomatoes and onions over the chickpeas now. It sort of looked like she was building a mountain or a pyramid. A pyramid made of paapris and chickpeas. Indian cuisine at its finest.

“I’ll try talking to them again,” he consoled.

“They’re plants, Neville! I don’t think they quite understand!” she laughed.

“Hey!” he feigned being hurt. “Stop badmouthing my plants!”

“I’ll stop badmouthing them when they stop attacking me in my bathroom!”

He paused for a moment. “Would it be better if they attacked you in the laundry, then?”

Hannah shoved him in the arm. “I think they’re jealous.”

“Hannah, they’re plants. They’re incapable of jealousy. Or most other emotions.”

“Tell that to my hair,” she muttered. She was now spooning generous helpings of the yoghurt over the little mound. Not a mountain or pyramid, then. Damn. He was sort of looking forward to that, imagining it to be like the pyramids of sweets he’d seen at that Indian sweet shop – no, Hannah had called it something else in Hindi. Halwai – like the pyramids of sweets he’d seen at the halwai.

“This looks delicious, Hannah. What is it?” he asked.

“Almost done,” she replied. She reached for another jar of some sort of dark brown liquid.

“What’s that?” he asked, reaching a finger to dip inside and taste it. Hannah wasn’t quite fast enough to stop him. Hah! Those old reflexes hadn’t left him yet! He grinned wickedly at the annoyed expression on her face as he sucked the viscous sauce off his finger. Sweet and sour rolled over his tongue, and his eyes widened in appreciation. “That’s really nice!”

“It’s imli – tamarind – chutney,” Hannah replied, this time successfully swatting away his attempt at another swipe.

Neville tried the same puppy-dog expression that his godson Albus used on his parents. True, it was far more successful on Harry than Ginny, but it was successful none the less. Apparently, he had a lot to learn because it had absolutely no effect on Hannah – she just laughed at him.

“You’ll get some!” she smiled, turning back to their plates. “See? I’m putting extra on yours.” She drizzled the chutney over the plate on the left, and pushed it towards him, before doing the same with hers.

“I think you put more on yours than mine,” Neville sniffled.

Hannah rolled her eyes and swapped their plates. “Happy?”

Ignoring his food, he put his arms around her waist and pulled her close to his chest for a hug. “Very,” he replied softly.

He felt her smile against his collarbone. “I’ll make some chai,” she said, pulling away. “Start eating your chaat before it goes soggy.”

Neville obeyed, taking a spoonful of the deliciousness into his mouth. He watched as Hannah busied herself with the pot, measuring out the water and adding the tealeaves. Noticing that she hadn’t touched her plate yet, he took it over to her. When she turned her head to see what he wanted, he shoved the spoon of food into her mouth.

“Mevi!” she said around the spoon, but obediently chewed.

“You have to eat it before it gets soggy,” he said innocently, trying the puppy-dog eyes again. They seemed to work this time because he was able to feed her almost half the plate while they waited for the water to boil.

“Go eat yours now,” said, turning back to the stove. “I’ll bring over the tea once it’s done.”

Neville did as he was told, but only moved to the other side of their kitchen. He should do it now. Say what he wanted to say. And then he’d listen to what she wanted to say. And then…

“Here you go!” she said, putting his cup of tea beside him on the counter. Neither of them made to move to their perfectly functional dining table. That might have been partly his fault, since there was a large stack of Herbology textbooks, a bag of water crystals, and several pots of dirt in various stages of planting.

He watched her out of the corner of his eye, as she took a cautious sip of the tea, letting her eyes close for a moment to enjoy the steam’s bliss. He should say it now. The timing was perfect. And he wanted this. He wanted a lifetime of feeling slightly superfluous in the kitchen. He wanted a lifetime of teasing. He wanted a lifetime of chai. He wanted a lifetime of Hannah.

He opened his mouth.

No words came out.

He closed it, swallowed, and tried again. This time, “This chutney is amazing. Did you make it?” No, no, no! That wasn’t it! He didn’t want a lifetime of chutney, although it was pretty fantastic.

Hannah shook her head. “My mother made it. I stole it from her a few days ago. She won’t give me the recipe for it – says she’s saving it as a wedding gift.”

“That’s a pretty good reason to get married. We should do that,” Neville said casually, but it felt as if his insides were instigating a revolt.

Hannah spat out her sip of tea. “Wha –?” she sputtered.

“We should get married,” Neville mumbled.

Hannah took a few deep breaths, probably to clear her airways of any errant tea. “For a chutney recipe?”

“It’s really good chutney.” This wasn’t going well at all. He should’ve thought this through better, instead of just blurting it out. Was it too late to get down on one knee? Probably. That should’ve been his first move. How did people do this? This was the worst marriage proposal in the history of marriage proposals. But – curse his stupid mouth – he soldiered on.

“And there’s other reasons, of course,” he rushed to say. “I love you. You love me.” He stopped. He was certain there were more reasons – it had kept him up half the night three nights ago. He should’ve written this all down – rehearsed it a few times… Maybe asked for some advice from someone who’d actually successfully proposed. Not Ron – it was possible that Ron’s proposal may have rivalled his own tragedy. But perhaps Harry. Yeah, he should’ve probably asked Harry.

Hannah put down her mug on the counter and stepped in front of him. “Neville?” she asked cautiously, as if approaching a slightly deranged kneazle.

He ran a nervous hand through his hair. “Would it help matters at all if I got down on one knee right now?” he asked.

Hannah looked torn between laughing and crying. That wasn’t good. “Um… maybe – maybe not. I don’t know. I’m not in the habit of being proposed to.” She paused, and her expression changed. “Wait, this is a proposal… right?”

Neville nodded once. Merlin’s faded underpants, he was so bad at this that she couldn’t even tell what on earth he was doing!

They looked at each other for a long time. She was chewing her lip, a sure sign of inner turmoil, and he could feel the crinkles of his frown.

Hannah was the first to break the silence. “Neville,” she said. Then… nothing.

Then, again, “Neville.” She put her warm hands in his, and looked down at them.

“Before you say anything, Hannah,” he said when it seemed as if she wasn’t going to continue. “I just… I should ask. Properly.” And so, his hands still in hers, he got down on one knee.

Ah, that was better. He could actually see her face now. That made things a bit easier. He smiled. “You make me so happy, Hannah. I love you. Will you marry me?”

“Yes.”

The word was so quiet that for a moment Neville thought he’d dreamt it, his wanting it turning it into some sort of audio mirage.

“Yes?” he asked, just to make sure.

“Yes,” she replied, this time louder, a huge smile stretching across her face. She got down on her knees in front of him, and tugged him forward by the front of his shirt. Their lips collided, and she was still smiling, and he was smiling, and the little square box was touching the side of his leg –

Oh, no.

He pulled away from her, gasping a little. Hannah gave a breathless laugh, and leant her forehead on his shoulder. Neville stroked her smooth dark hair. “I forgot the ring,” he muttered, a little sheepish.

“I don’t need a ring,” Hannah replied. “I’m just so happy –

“No, no. I have the ring. I just forgot to give it to you.”

Hannah pulled away slightly and looked at him. “I see.”

“I should – I should probably do that now,” he mumbled, slipping his hand into his pocket and taking out the black velvet box. He opened it, and showed it to her. Hannah gasped.

“Do you like it?” he asked anxiously. “It was my grandmother’s – my mother’s mother. They weren’t married very long – my grandfather died – not because she killed him! Freak accident involving an apple, a tree root, and a wild boar. I don’t quite understand what happened, but –”

“It’s beautiful, Neville,” Hannah interrupted. He was glad that she was still smiling. His dork status was now carved in stone, but at least she still loved him despite that. “Thank you.”

“I’m glad you like it,” he murmured, taking the ring out of its box. The diamonds caught the warm glow of their kitchen light, and as he slipped the delicate gold filigree band onto Hannah’s ring finger, Neville felt a sense of peace and rightness wash over him. They were kneeling on the kitchen floor, their chaat was soggy, and their tea stone cold. This had to be the worst proposal ever.

“This has to be the worst proposal ever,” he muttered, helping Hannah up to her feet.

“It wasn’t that bad,” Hannah replied, that mischievous twinkle he loved so much in her dark brown eyes. “I said yes, didn’t I?”

Neville pretended to mull it over. “I suppose you’re right. I’m going to be the coolest professor at Hogwarts, now!”

“How’s that?” Hannah asked, admiring her ring from various angles.

“I’m going to be married to the landlady of the Leaky Cauldron! They already think it’s great that I live over it.”

Hannah laughed.

Neville wrapped her in his arms again and spun her around. “Who knew what I was signing myself up for when I wandered down to find you making samosas in the kitchen all that time ago?”

“You think it was the samosas?” Hannah asked, kissing him on the cheek.

“It was probably the chai,” he replied, before kissing her on her lips. “Or the wee hours of the morning.”

But Neville knew what it was. It was Hannah. All Hannah.

Hello, friends! Welcome to the fourth and final instalment in the Chai series! I’ve been waiting a long time to write this scene. And it’s finally here! Woohoo! I hope the fluff didn’t suffocate you. This was written for Ilia’s Closed Time, Closed Space Challenge.




A glossary of Hindi terms: jeera – cumin; garam masala – hot spice mix; paapri – small savoury flat fried crunchy discs of dough; halwai – sweet shop/café; imli – tamarind; chai – tea; chaat – type of spicy snack food. The one that I’ve described here is just but one if its many incarnations

Adios, amigos! :D

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