It never ceased to amaze Neville how immediately the heat and clamor of a battle could be swallowed up in icy silence. It never startled him how suddenly that cold void could be filled again. This time, this sound did. Only a minute or so before, you and he had been racing together to get a better angle to attack the giants sieging the castle. Now...
Now you were splayed across your brother’s chest, wailing at such a pitch that the hairs on the back of Neville’s neck stood at attention.
“Fred—Fred. N-No, Fred. No! How? Why?” you sobbed as Neville looked on, feeling numb and helpless. His feet remained rooted to the floor among the rubble and other bodies that had fallen there. As badly as he wanted to comfort you, it was though you were suddenly a million kilometers away. Struggle as he might, he could not reach you.
“Fred! Wake up! Please wake up!”
Neville ought to have cried, too. A sob stuck heatedly in his lungs. Fred had always been decent to him—never cruel on purpose, never had a problem with Neville asking you out. He had liked Fred. Neville ought to have cried, too. Nothing came out of his mouth.
An unfamiliar adult voice broke him from the spell of your crying. He lurched forward, got his hand on the torn shoulder of your robe, tugged on it.
“No!” you screeched, and threw yourself back onto the ground. You had eyes only for Fred, but the sound of gaining Death Eaters drew nearer. Neville again tried to pull you up. It was like trying to lift a boulder without magic, and he never been strong physically or magically. Your sobbing continued. He doubted you even remembered he was there.
“Oi, hear that?” said the same male voice from before.
“Some crying kiddies,” a woman cackled in reply.
“We have to go,” Neville said urgently, pulling you backward with all his might. His task was made all the more difficult by your constant struggle to return to Fred’s side.
“No,” you said. “We have to help him. Let me go! I need to stay with him!”
“There’s nothing more we can do for him,” Neville said over your heightened shrieks. The noise of spells exploding against the wall beyond you joined in the tumult.
“Fred! Fred! Get up, Fred!”
“[Name], please!” With a final burst of effort, Neville tore you away and threw you out of the path of those racing to you. Your crying stopped at once, but he did not think it was because he had surprised you with the force of his actions. Rather, it was because he was crying now, not over Fred, but over you. The tears running down his cheeks stung where they touched the cuts he’d accumulated throughout the night. “I can’t lose you tonight. We’ll come back for him. I prom—”
Before he could react, he’d been nearly killed and promptly rescued. He did not so much as pause to look at his attacker. You stared at Neville over your extended wand, face glossy with your own tears. Slowly, your eyes drifted back to where Fred’s body lay. Neville shuddered. You stepped back toward him. Unable to watch, he closed his eyes…
…only to feel your shaking hand wrap around his own and pull him after you down the hall.
“Come on,” you said. “I don’t want anyone else I love to die tonight.”
He nodded. You let him go. Side by side, you both sprinted up the hall, slinging your own curses at anyone who dared get in your way. It wasn’t fair, but Fred had to be forgotten for the time being. But Neville promised, deep inside his heart, that he’d get you through this battle. Then you’d go back for your brother. That time, Neville would be prepared to comfort you in any way you might need.