Love Begins With Friendship

It was the morning of the 25th of December, and 6th year Rosie Dales was sitting in one of the comfy chairs in the Gryffindor common room, having just finished opening presents moments before. She did this every year. She would wake up, attend to the gifts lying at the foot of her bed, and then sit and chat with her friends in the common room, before going down to breakfast. On this particular Christmas Day she was waiting for a male friend of hers – Neville Longbottom – to join her downstairs, who was actually staying back for the Christmas break this year.

She and Neville had been best friends ever since their first day at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. They had both found comfort and friendship in each other fairly quickly as they shared very similar personality traits. Both were quiet, kind and unassuming, and they both enjoyed Herbology and hated Potions. The only real major difference between them was that Rosie had an excellent memory, was a very good flier and enjoyed socialising, quite the opposite of her shy, clumsy friend. But these differences were so minor that their understanding of each other was at its deepest level, even after all these years. In fact, Rosie had something of an affection for him that went way beyond platonic means. She was unsure how he felt about her, however, and was afraid say anything in case he didn't feel the same.

Most of the other Gryffindors staying over the holiday period had already come down from their dormitories by now, and were chatting and laughing with their friends, discussing about what they'd received this year. Harry Potter and Ron Weasley had come down ages ago with Hermione Granger, and they had left the common room almost immediately for the Great Hall. The other two boys in Neville's dorm, Dean Thomas and Seamus Finnigan, were now coming down the stairs and Rosie got up to greet them.

"Merry Christmas Dean, Seamus," she said, sending them a friendly smile.

"Hey Rosie, Merry Christmas!" Dean replied cheerfully. Seamus just grinned.

"Hey, you guys haven't seen Neville have you?" Rosie asked. Surely he hadn't left Gryffindor Tower without her.

"Aye, he's still upstairs…" Seamus confirmed in his Irish lilt, but the way he trailed off meant there was something he wasn't telling her.

"Okay, cheers! Catch you later."

She passed them and headed straight up the stairs towards the 6th year boys dormitory. Once there, she didn't bother knocking and opened the door. Neville was still in his stripy blue pyjamas and sitting on the edge of his bed, staring at a picture frame that he held in his hands. His expression was one of both sadness and longing, and it almost broke Rosie's heart, because she suspected what was inside the frame. Knowing he wouldn't mind her being there, she walked quietly up to his bed and sat right down next to him. Neville wasted no time in handing over the frame to her and she took it, and stared down at the picture inside it.

It was one of the most beautiful yet saddest pictures Rosie had ever seen in her life. It was of Frank and Alice Longbottom, at the height of their Auror years, their bright and cheerful faces staring straight back at her in interest. Cradled in Alice's arms was none other than a baby, probably no more than a few months old. It had to be baby Neville. Alice's rounded face, which her son had inherited, was a lovely shade of pink as she smiled and waved happily. Her hair was shorter here, very unlike its present state at St. Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries. She looked healthy and strong. Frank was looking just as handsome and proud as ever, and most importantly, he looked happy. They both did. Rosie looked at the date that floated in the bottom right-hand corner. She gasped silently. This photograph had been taken only just a few days before they were attacked. Tears threatened to engulf her eyelids but she blinked them away quickly.

Rosie was the only one that Neville had actually confided in about his parents. He had told her by choice, and for this Rosie was internally grateful that he trusted her enough to tell her. She handed back the picture, and didn't know what to say. There wasn't anything particular that she could say. So she chose to convey her feelings through actions, rather than words, by wrapping her arms around Neville's waist, and resting her head against his shoulder, in a warm and reassuring side-hug. He didn't pull away – on the contrary, he wrapped his left arm around her and pulled her closer, which gave Rosie butterflies. And then he spoke.

"Gran sent me this, you know." His voice was amazingly steady. Rosie admired his inner strength. She knew there was more coming, and so waited for him to continue. "I've never seen it before. I remember her telling me that one day she'd give me a family portrait, but not when. I guess she decided I was old enough to have it, now."

Despite the fact that Rosie thought Augusta Longbottom was a formidable old woman, she couldn't help but feel gratitude towards her. Rosie knew that this would mean a lot to Neville.

"It's… very thoughtful of her," Rosie said finally, her voice breaking slightly.

"Hey, don't you get all emotional on me, now!" Neville said, trying to lighten up the situation. "It's Christmas."

"It's okay to cry, though… isn't it?" Tears were running down her cheeks by now. "They look so… so happy."

Neville became sombre and placed the picture onto the bed behind them. He rubbed Rosie's shoulders and said honestly, "They would have loved you, Rosie, you know."

"I know," she whispered. She unwrapped herself from around his middle and they both stood up. She was crying silently, her cheeks flushed and eyes red and watery.

Neville couldn't stand to see her like this. He opened up his arms and said, "Come here." Rosie obliged, and they embraced, Rosie's arms around his back and her head against his chest. One of Neville's hands rested around her back, and the other was softly stroking her dark brown hair, soothing her. Rosie cried a little more openly now, feeling safe and comforted in his arms. It felt so very right to be there. After about a minute she calmed down and her crying subsided, and Neville said to her, "Aren't you supposed to be the one comforting me?" and it made her giggle a bit.

Feeling better, Rosie pulled herself out of his arms then, and he let her go - reluctantly, although they were still standing quite close to each other. "Thank you," she said sincerely, sniffing and wiping her eyes.

"It's no problem."

"Aw Nev, I'm so sorry. I've probably got snot all over your pyjamas!" She looked slightly horrified, but Neville laughed.

"It'll get washed! Don't worry about it." He then walked over to his side table drawer and opened the bottom one, and produced a box of tissues which he offered to her. Rosie took a whole heap of them gratefully and blew her nose, and then wiped her eyes. After disposing of them with her wand, she turned back to him.

"Do I look okay?" She trusted his opinion more than anybody else's.

"Beautiful," he said shyly, and Rosie blushed, her heart racing.

"Th-thanks," she mumbled, and then changed the subject completely. "Do you think we could go down to breakfast now?"

"Well, I probably should get dressed first!" Neville said, indicating the pyjamas he was still wearing.

Rosie grinned sheepishly. "Okay, I'll just wait outside for you then."

She turned to leave, but felt Neville's hand grab her arm and she turned back around to face him, curious.

"Rosie?"

"Yeah?" She felt strangely nervous all of a sudden.

"Merry Christmas," he said, before throwing all caution to the wind and leaning down, pressing his lips softly against her own.

It was all over too quickly, Rosie thought, as she hadn't even had a chance to kiss him back. Neville blushed crimson, as did she, and then he turned away from her and started retrieving his clothes for the day. Rosie took this as her cue to leave, but before she closed the door behind her, she looked up at the ceiling, above the spot where he had kissed her. She smiled happily.

There wasn't a sprig of mistletoe in sight.

END