Neville was bored. He had been at home now for 4 days, and he was out of his mind with restlessness. Say what you like about the Carrows, and Neville had said many choice things about them, they did at least make life exciting. It wasn’t as if life at home was any different to before, in fact that was the very problem.
His Gran began the holidays in her usual fashion by interrogating him about his classes. This time, however, she didn’t seem interested in his marks. “Oh, forget that,” she had said dismissively, before questioning him on every aspect of life at Hogwarts. She had seemed surprised at Neville’s involvement in the DA, saying, “Really?” before muttering under her breath, “didn’t think he’d have it in him.” She questioned him particularly hard on this point, and Neville rather got the impression that she didn’t believe him.
He had heard absolutely nothing about Luna. He and Ginny were in almost daily contact. Pigwidgeon had become a regular fixture in the Longbottom household. He would tap on Neville’s window at 9 am every morning and deliver his burden, at which point Neville would read the note, and whilst he replied, his Gran would give the owl some bread and water, before Neville completed his note, and then Pig would fly off again.
The letters were pretty much empty of real content as they had very little actual news on Luna. The Prophet had totally ignored the incident and there seemed that there was very little that Neville and Ginny could do. Ginny had told Neville that her father had made discreet enquiries at the Ministry but had found nothing. He couldn’t dig too deep for fear of drawing too much attention to himself, but apparently lots of people had been disappearing here and there: Daily Prophet journalists, members of the Ministry even the chaser from the Montrose Magpies although that probably had more to do with his ex-wife pursuing him for custody of his Nimbus 2004.
Ginny had been round to the Lovegood’s every day. She had apparently banged on every window and door but there had been no answer. Neville was convinced that Luna’s Dad had been taken as well, but Ginny was convinced old Xeno was in there. Neville thought she was clutching at straws, but he understood why. Luna had been the glue that had held the DA together. When Ginny had lost her temper, Luna had calmed her down. When Neville had been nervous or felt down-trodden, Luna had cheered him up. They needed her back, but there was nothing that any of them could do. For all their talk of rebellion, they now understood that what they were doing was only a drop in the Lake.
He turned around to see a winged creature on a collision course with his bedroom window. Normally he would be concerned by this, but he was too used to Pigwidgeon’s unorthodox landing technique. He quickly opened his window and moved aside just in time to dodge the feathery ball that flew past him at incredible speed at crashed into his door. This did not seem to perturb the owl, however, as he rearranged his feathers, picked up the letter that he’d dropped and hopped over to Neville who relieved him of it and slid the envelope open.
I hope you are well; you seemed very bored in your last letter. I feel the same way; this life just isn’t the same as at Hogwarts.
Anyway, to Luna. I went to her house again yesterday. No sign of life as usual, it was just the same as always. I was beginning to think that maybe old Xeno was definitely not in, but when I sat down to write this at about 8 I happened to look over in the direction of the house and I definitely saw smoke coming up. I ran out to see and it was there. I banged on the door, there was no answer. I kept on knocking, and then I heard someone coming to the door. I called out his name, asking if I could come in. He seemed scared and then said that I couldn’t, that he’d rather be left alone. It might just be my imagination, but I could swear I heard other voices in there. I hope the Death Eaters haven’t got to him.
In other business, you are officially invited to Christmas at my house as is your Grandmother. I miss talking to you, plus Fred and George say that they have something to show you so watch out! Mum says you can come whenever you want but please come soon because my brothers are driving me mad!
Hope to see you soon.
The following day Neville was on the Knight Bus racing at break-neck speed across southern England towards Ottery St-Catchpole. His Gran had decided not to come. Although initially disappointed that he would not be spending Christmas with his family, she had relented seeing how much it meant to them. She did, however, insist on going to Diagon Alley to buy the Weasleys a quite expensive present. “We need to uphold the family name. No one will say that the Longbottoms are ungrateful. The present, now wrapped with paper with the Longbottom Crest emblazoned upon it, was very heavy and Neville knew enough about the Weasleys to be worried about it. He didn’t want to make them feel embarrassed. It was fragile and so he whenever a tight bend was coming up he grabbed on extra tight and therefore nearly fell out of his armchair several times. He just didn’t trust himself to use a Repairing Charm.
The bus crashed to a halt outside the Weasley’s house and Neville’s chair shot towards the driver. Recovering his balance and collecting his bags, he disembarked and walked through the front yard towards The Burrow. As he approached the house he marvelled, as he always had, that the house hadn’t collapsed years ago. He could still make out the original farmhouse behind the crooked stories and jutting-out room extensions and it seemed to be straining under the weight. He considered throwing away the gift that was hitched under his arm, but any present was better than none. ‘In for a knut, in for a galleon,’ he thought as he rang the doorbell. There was a sound of feet running towards the door and a thud accompanied with a shout.
“Boys! Why is your merchandise cluttering up MY hallway?”
The door opened to reveal a rather haggard Molly Weasley. “Hello there Neville,” she said, a smile breaking out across her face. “Come in, come in. Ginny has been waiting for you.”
Neville smiled. Although Hogwarts may be under the thumb of Snape and the Carrows, and the Ministry in disarray, it was nice to know that some things never changed. Guests were welcome at The Burrow and always would be.
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The strangest thing about the Burrow, Neville thought after a few days spent there, was not the weird layout of the house, nor was it the strange ornaments and furniture that were dotted about the place but was how different living there was from living in his house in Tadworth. Home nearly always felt empty, with just his grandmother and himself in residence at the old family manor house. They occasionally had visitors, but it was mostly just the two of them. The Burrow was much smaller, but was always a throng of people about, not just Weasleys but other witches and wizards from the Order some of whom Neville had met in the fight at the Ministry. There was also the noise which came from Ron’s room. Ginny had told him that in order to explain Ron’s absence from Hogwarts, they had dressed up the ghoul in the attic as Ron and put it in his room, saying that he had spattergroit and that no one was to go near him. The flip-side of that was that there was an almost constant banging from the room. The Weasley’s claimed that they had got used to it, but it meant that Neville was getting almost no sleep at all.
Neville had gone with Ginny to visit the Lovegood house. As always, Neville was reminded of the rook that he had always used when playing chess against his Great Uncle Algie. The rook was the most critical of all his pieces and had on one occasion actually jumped off the board and charged at Neville, forcing him to flee from the room. The house looked completely deserted as Ginny had described. The front gate was shut, guarding a sharply zigzagging path leading to a rather imposing front door with a knocker in the shape of an eagle. Neville was quite content to head back to The Burrow, but Ginny insisted on heading up to the house and rapping the eagle knocker so loudly that Neville had to cover his ears. They waited for a couple of minutes but then having had no response, they headed back.
Christmas morning dawned cloudy and snowless. Fred and George though, brought some Ready-To-Go-Snow which covered the garden in a white carpet and gave everyone a Christmassy lift, which they sorely needed. Although everyone seemed determined to go on as normal, the absence of Ron was clear. At dinner on Christmas Eve, Mrs Weasley had laid one too many places, and had broken down and left the table in floods of tears. She had returned a little later accompanied by her husband, her eyes red and swollen, but conversation had been rather forced that evening. Percy, for the second year running, had not appeared for the run-up to Christmas, and was unlikely to be turning up for dinner again after last year’s events.
After breakfast, the family along with Neville retreated into the living room to distribute presents. The tree that the Weasleys had got was huge. It seemed almost taller than the room itself and was decorated with stars and candles with pictures of the family placed in between baubles and tinsel. Compared to the Longbottom tree, which rarely was taller than Neville’s knee, it was absolutely magnificent, and this was before your eyes got to the gifts. The twins had been complaining about the poor haul this year due to the number of shops that had closed up during the course of the year. To Neville’s eyes though, it was a blaze of red, gold and violet paper, beautifully complimented by blue and green ribbons. His present, which he had given to a slightly blushing Mrs Weasley after arriving, had pride of place in by the trunk of the tree, dominating the smaller presents around it.
This pristine arrangement, however, didn’t really last long, and soon there was little floor in the room that was not covered in ripped wrapping paper or presents. Neville had tried to get his present opened early on, but Mr and Mrs Weasley had insisted on waiting until the very end. It was not until after they had handed Neville his first ever Weasley jumper (red and gold with a NL emblazed on the back) that they accepted the gift. Neville was almost biting his fingernails off hoping that they would like it. Mr Weasley, after admiring the paper, gently prised it apart and gave a little gasp. He showed it to his wife who shook her head gently. The Weasley children all gathered around, and most of them sniggered. Neville, hardly able to bare the shame, joined them. Mr Weasley’s present was three very neatly folded muggle newspapers and magazines.
Mrs Weasley then lifted up a little cloth covering underneath the muggle press to reveal several more neatly wrapped items, which, when relieved of their paper coats, revealed themselves to be mugs with pictures of each Weasley (minus Percy of course). There was even Ron with one arm around Ginny, the other around his mother smiling up at them all. Neville was so surprised at his Gran’s newly found sentimental side, that he barely had time to react to the air being squeezed out of his lungs thanks to an enormous hug on the part of Mrs Weasley. There were tears in her eyes and she clung to Neville tightly. Neville saw out of the corner of his eye Mr Weasley sniff and wipe his glasses. For the first time in his life, he felt like he was part of a proper family.
After the jollity of the present opening, the household settled down in the living room, filled to bursting with cold turkey sandwiches and leftover Christmas pudding. Mrs Weasley was talking to Mr Weasley about where to put her new mugs whilst Mr Weasley nodded distractedly, deeply engrossed in his copy of Cars Unlimited. Ginny and Neville were playing a game of Exploding Snap on the floor. The twins had been out of the room for some time but they suddenly hurried into the room carrying the wireless and looking very excited.
“We found it, we found it,” George exclaimed excitedly. “The password was Godric, bit more partisan than usual but we got there in the end.”
The Weasley family all gathered round, Ginny and Neville looked confused. “What...”
“Shhhh,” admonished Mrs Weasley as she turned up the volume dial.
“Yes, thank you Royal and a very Happy Christmas to all our brave listeners out there.” The room was totally silent; everyone’s attention was entirely fixated on the wireless. “It’s been a quiet Yule so far on the Potter front with all our lovely Death Eater friends appearing to be taking a break to spend some time with their families. Just goes to show, even the evil can celebrate Christmas.”
“Shhhh Neville!” It was probably the first time anyone had snapped at Neville in the Weasley house and he was quite taken aback, but he took the hint and focussed his attention back on the wireless
“And now for the worst part of the show, where we remember the brave witches, wizards and muggles who have lost their lives in the past month. This doesn’t get any easier each time we do this and please remember that we never find out about everyone who gets killed, indeed we may never know.”
There followed a long list of names, some familiar to Neville, mostly not. He noticed that wizards and muggles were mixed indiscriminately together, mixed in death despite the separation between their worlds. After what seemed like an eternity, the voice who had been reading the names finished.
“Thank you Royal, River here,” came a new voice that Neville suddenly recognised as being that of Lee Jordan, a boy he remembered from Hogwarts as being best friends with the twins. He looked up at the two boys and he was sure he could perceive a massive look of pride on their faces. “Well this show is called Potterwatch, and so we pass on to you, our loyal listeners, the latest news on our young hero’s whereabouts.”
Neville looked up and he saw that at every Weasley, particularly Ginny was now leaning towards the wireless; the machine was now totally obscured by a ginger haze.
“Sadly we have no new news on his whereabouts. We do however, have further information on his last sighting.”
“He’s been seen!” Neville exclaimed, but he soon cowered under the collective stares of all the Weasley family.
“In our last broadcast we told you of a leaked Ministry memo which stated that the very public breakout of Muggle-borns from the Muggleborn Registration Committee, which included some pupils of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, indeed some that had not even started their first year yet, was instigated by none of the than by Harry Potter along with a number of accomplices. We can confirm now exclusively that the Ministry are totally certain that Harry Potter was involved although they are trying even now to find out who his companions were now that Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger are out of action due to illness and fleeing the country respectively.”
Neville wanted to cry out at this too, but thought better of it, deciding to ask about it afterwards.
“Potterwatch would like to extend its gratitude to Harry’s helpers, as they have now been designated and, if they are listening, are welcome to have a drink on us at any time once this is all over. Anyway, that is enough for today’s broadcast, the next password will be ‘Constant Vigilance’, not only a good password, but an important piece of advice. Take care Potter enthusiasts, and good luck!”
A/N - I am aware that it's been nearly a year since I last updated and I do apologise for that. My life has been really busy and I had a huge bout of writers block on this and future chapters. Fear not though cos I am halfway through the next one and it is a cracker