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Too Loud

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Hannah looked up from her Potions essay with a small sigh. How did people write so quickly, and all in one sitting? If she didn’t break things up every half hour, her head started to hurt…

Susan was still scribbling away, her glasses slipping down her nose as she wrote. She’d be done with her second foot any minute now...Hannah envied her speed. 

She envied more than a few things about Susan...her height, how nice the plaits in her hair always looked...how grown-up she sounded when she answered questions in class. Even her freckles were evenly placed across the bridge of her nose...not like Hannah’s blotchy cheeks. 

She liked Susan quite a lot...but Susan also made her nervous. 

And when Hannah got nervous, she talked too much. 

“Guess what I did today?” Hannah caught Susan midway through dipping her quill in ink, and Susan looked up slowly, her glasses still halfway down her nose. Hannah didn’t wait for her to say anything before rifling through her bookbag, pulling out an assortment of rainbow hair ribbons and setting them lovingly onto the Common Room table

Susan leaned forward, her brow knit. “Where did you get those?”

“I made them!” Hannah ran a red one through her fingers with pride. “Well, I didn’t make them...they’re my old Hufflepuff ribbons I usually wear to matches...I just enchanted them, is all.”

“They’re pretty…” Susan was frowning. “But why?”

“I thought I could wear them to show support for Ernie and Justin!” Hannah said. “Like how Muggles do.” 

Only a few people knew about Ernie and Justin’s relationship, and most were fellow Hufflepuffs. However, ever since a particularly infuriating lesson on current events in Muggle Studies, Ernie had been fired up over the plight of gay wizards and Muggles alike. 

“I’m going straight to Professor Sprout and asking her how we can go about instituting some much needed diversity programs,” he’d said impressively. “And I don’t care if it costs me the Prefect badge next year.” 

He’d been restless days now, and Hannah knew she had to do something to help. Ernie was her best friend--except for Justin. She couldn’t fix all the problems that made Ernie so upset, but she could let him know that they mattered to her. 

But under Susan’s critical gaze, the ribbons looked inconsequential, even embarrassing. Hannah very nearly snatched them up and shoved them back in her bag. 

“Most people here won’t know what you’re doing,” Susan finally said, pushing up her glasses with her thumb and forefinger.

“But I know what it means,” Hannah insisted. “And Ernie and Justin know what it means.”

Susan looked as disinterested in the idea as ever. “But they already know you support them, so…”

It’s just how Susan is, Hannah tried to tell herself. She’s not easily impressed.

There was something unfamiliar, though, in Susan’s eyes. Something that looked like frustration, maybe even contempt. Whatever it was, it made Hannah’s cheeks hot. 

“Have you ever tried not stepping on everything the minute you get a chance, Susan?” she snapped. 

Susan had the audacity to look almost amused at her anger. “I’m just asking how you wearing colorful hair ribbons is going to change anything.” 

“I didn’t say it would change anything! I said I was being supportive!” Hannah’s voice shook. “Not everyone has to go to the Ministry and change the world to help people!”

“I didn’t say they did, but I just think it’s an easy way for you to act like you’re doing something, when really all your doing is wearing something pretty,” Susan said, her own voice now sharp and heated. 

Hannah sat back at Susan’s words, her lower lip trembling. She liked Susan so much--better than any other girl in their year, probably. 

Why was she being so mean

She wiped away the first wave of tears from her cheeks before glaring at Susan, whose freckles now appeared harsh on her pale face. 

“For your information, Susan,” Hannah hissed. “I also went with Ernie to talk to Professor Sprout about having some informational pamphlets put in the Common Room. They’ll be in tomorrow’s owl post, and they cover all kinds of topics: relationships and terminology and--and how to figure out who you are...all of it. Not just easy things to do so you can look pretty.”

Susan pushed up her glasses, though they hadn’t moved. Her hands were shaking;  if Hannah hadn’t been so angry, she might have felt sorry for Susan.  

“I know it’s not as important as impressing you ,” she continued. “But Professor Sprout said she told Professor Dumbledore, and he helped her order them up himself...apparently, he thought it was a wonderful idea. Ernie thinks--” 

But Hannah stopped herself, remembering that she was too furious with Susan to tell her what Ernie thought about Professor Dumbledore. 

“Okay,” Susan whispered, looking down at her parchment. 

Hannah stood from the table, stuffing her things back in her bag. “I’ll let you finish your Potions essay alone, then. I wouldn’t want to bore you with my stupid ideas about how to help our school…”

Susan didn’t say anything as Hannah stormed off. 

“But surely she didn’t mean anything by it,” Ernie said a half an hour later, after Hannah had tearfully told him the entire story over a package of Chocolate Frogs. “Susan is sharp sometimes, that’s all…”

“That’s all!” Hannah lay back on Ernie’s bed in frustration. “She’s horrid!” 

“I thought you were friends?”

“We are!” Hannah said, sitting back up on her elbows. “Or I thought we were…but I don’t think she likes me as much as I like her, if she can talk to me like--oh.”

Susan had poked her head in the door. 

“Can I talk to you?” she said, looking straight at Hannah. She looked younger than usual...not so mature. 

“I suppose,” Hannah sighed. She rolled her eyes as Susan’s eyes drifted to Ernie. “Anything you have to say to me, you can say in front of Ernie.”

Susan shuffled a little further into the dormitory, her eyes downcast. 

“I’m sorry for the way I was downstairs,” she said. “I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings like that, I just wasn’t...I was just scared...”

“Of what?”

Susan opened her mouth three times before finally speaking. 

“Well, sometimes...sometimes girls are nice about boys being gay, and not other girls. And I thought maybe…I was just scared, it’s stupid…”

Susan trailed off, looking miserable, and something in Hannah’s stomach twisted. She hadn’t known, Susan had never said…

But Hannah could understand that. After all, she was still trying to find out why almost no boys were fanciable...and all the girls in her year were pretty as anything. 

Susan had always been the prettiest, of course...and the sweetest and the most interesting...the bravest, probably, too. 

“Do you want to sit?” Hannh asked, patting the spot on the bed next to her. Susan’s eyes widened, but she sat down anyway. 

Ernie cleared his throat. “Well, I should, uh...I should probably head down…” he mumbled, standing up. “I told Justin I’d meet him after Gobstones…”

Hannah watched him disappear before turning to Susan. 

“It’s not stupid...I understand why you were scared,” she said. “I get scared like that too.”

Susan blinked. “You do?”

“Yeah.” Hannah could feel her face flushing again, but it was nice this time. “All the time.”

“Oh!” Susan’s eyebrows raised. “I must have sounded awful, I’m sorry, I didn’t--”

“--that’s okay!” Hannah smiled. Her cheeks were hot again, but it felt nice, this time. “It’s confusing, that’s all.”

Susan scanned Hannah’s face, her teeth back to worrying her bottom lip. 

“So we’re neither of us cross with the other, are we?”

“No, I don’t think so,” Hannah didn’t know why her smile kept getting wider and cheeks kept getting hotter...or why it all felt so nice...but she couldn’t do a thing to stop any of it. 

Susan grinned. She looked at the floor, twirling the end of her plait on her finger. 

“Do you want to help me practice for Charms tomorrow?” she asked, rather more loudly than necessary. 

She could have asked anything, and Hannah would have said yes.