A.N. As usual, I do not own the characters. Oh and just a little mention that this chapter won second place in the Neville Longbottom Challenge!
It was early on Saturday morning. I had spent the night at Hogwarts in order to spend the evening with Hannah and planned on spending the coming day with Gran.
I was alone in the dormitory that night; my roommates had gone home for the weekend after an exhausting first week of reconstruction. I figured Harry went home with the Weasleys and was, therefore, very surprised to find him asleep on a table in the common room. I recognized, abandoned in front of him, a red velvet box that instantly shattered my day’s plans.
Harry had gone to the vault.
I remembered how hard it had been for me to do it the year before and, thank Merlin, Gran had been there to support me afterwards. Harry had no one to do the same. The fact that he stayed here instead of going with Ron and Ginny to get their support lead me to believe Harry might have wanted my support and not theirs.
I sat down in the vacant seat on the other side of the table. The box was calling me; my fingers tingling with the need to open it and check if it contained the same as mine had. Harry moved in his sleep and put his right hand on the table. Right in front of me was his hand, wrapped around his godmother’s letter. A letter written by my mum. The pressure to snatch it from his hand was too much to handle. I dashed out of the common room, up to the dormitories, searched the secret pocket in my trunk, and took out my own godmother’s letter before going back downstairs and roughly waking Harry up.
“Who’s there?” Harry mumbled sleepily
“Harry, wake up, it’s Neville,” I pressed him. He blinked a couple times at me before frowning at his surroundings.
“What am I doing done here?”
“I found you here this morning. I thought you’d gone home with Ron.”
“No, no I wanted to stay here and think some stuff through,” he said in a clearer voice, his face becoming suddenly more awake as if the memories of the night’s events had come crashing in suddenly. He looked up at me and, very unnecessarily, he said, “I went to the vault yesterday.”
“I know,” I answered uncomfortably, pointing at the table. “I saw the box when I came down here. Everything went alright?”
“Yeah, better than I expected,” he shrugged, looking at the letter in his hand. He didn’t elaborate on what his expectations had been but I didn’t press him either. It was up to him to choose if he wanted to talk about it.
“Look,” I said, choosing to be honest with him, “I was supposed to spend the day with my Gran but I’ll go and tell her I’m sorry. You just go take a shower and I’ll go inform her that I’ll be staying here for the day; we can have breakfast after that?”
“No, I mean thanks but no, you had plans, don’t change them for me,” Harry stuttered, blushing slightly.
“Don’t worry, it’s not just for you,” I said, matter-of-factly. And it was true; I could learn a lot about my mother in this too. “Seriously, I know I wanted to talk about my experience last year, if you’re the same as me, you’ll want someone to talk too as well.”
“Nev, did anyone ever tell you you’re a very perceptive guy?”
“You calling me a girl, Potter?”
“Maybe I am,” he nodded, putting on an extra mysterious expression, “or maybe I’m just calling you a great friend.”
“I’ll accept that,” I smiled at him. We parted to do our personal things and planned to meet up in the Great Hall in half an hour’s time. My Gran was very understanding when I explained the reason keeping me up at school for the day. Like me, she recognized the need for Harry to have someone near him. Someone that has been through those same moments of upmost sadness and anger at being left behind with only material things to hold on to.
It took me days to identify the anger I felt after going to my parents’ vault. It wasn’t a ‘I-want-to-destroy-everything’ kind of anger. It was more subtle; more of a ‘you-guys-abandoned-me-and-only-left-me-loads-of-meaningless-things’ kind of way. Gran helped me voice it all and it was the most helpful thing to do. It’s what gave me the courage to face my seventh year, lead Dumbledore’s Army and more recently, ask out Hannah. It helped me move on from this feeling I had been holding on to for my entire life. That’s what I planned on helping Harry do.
We were the only ones left in the Gryffindor house. Considering it was summer, that wasn’t a very surprising thing, though. Still, with the reconstruction under way during the last week, many students over the 6th year had spent nights in the castle. For Gryffindor, that represented a total of 13 students as well as 10 Hogwarts’ graduates, which is still a lot less than on any school day. But today, everyone had gone home to their families and friends before coming back on Monday morning. Harry and I could take the best seats in the common room and talk openly about anything; we wouldn’t be overheard.
“Was it big?” I asked him suddenly when we decided to set up a chessboard.
“The vault? It was huge. And full of pretty useless trinkets too,” he answered after a moment’s thought.
“Ha! So was my parents’ vault! I remember telling my Gran that if I bought a house right now, I could furnish it with all the stuff it contains!”
“I’d need to check mine a bit more,” Harry answered, laughing openly, “but I’m pretty sure I could do the same; I even saw a king-sized bed in there!”
“Whoa, I think your vault might be bigger than mine.”
“I wouldn’t know,” he shrugged before motioning for me to start the game. “Honestly, I’m not sure I remember much about the place. I was just so numb; both my body and my mind.”
“I remember the feeling,” I nodded, understandingly. “It took me a couple visits before I felt I could really look around the vault and take notice of the details and stuff. Before that, it was all a blur of, of- overwhelmingness.”
“Thanks Nev,” he blurted out suddenly, “for-for telling me about the vault and, you know, for being here today.”
“Anytime Harry,” I shrugged matter-of-factly. I firmly believed it was my responsibility, as a friend, to help a friend go through something I had gone through myself. For a while, we kept our concentration on the game; Harry was doing rather poorly considering I was winning this game and had never won one before. I could tell his mind was just as preoccupied as mine. And chess wasn’t the main subject.
“Did your parents leave you a lot of things? I mean, personal things?”
“Not much,” I sighed, “not enough anyway. They each wrote me a letter a couple of days before the attack happened; I think they knew it was coming. And my mum kept a diary from when I was born to, you know, the attack. There are a bunch of family pictures in the diary too.”
“Well that’s pretty good!” Harry smiled, looking surprised. “I didn’t even know what my parents looked like before I came to Hogwarts. Hagrid made me a photo album from pictures friends of my parents gave him.”
“But you lived with your aunt; didn’t she have any pictures of your parents? Or her sister, at least?” I asked in disbelief. I could understand his reaction though; the little things I had from my parents and felt I didn’t have enough of, were still a whole lot more than what he had from his parents.
“Nah, she wasn’t a big fan of her sister,” Harry answered dismissively. “We never talked about my parents at home so it was a real shock to come here and have people told me about them all of the sudden. And then to actually see them in pictures and all, that was a dream come true.”
“I can imagine,” I shook my head although I wasn’t so sure I really could understand what he had gone through. My parents, no matter their condition, were always present in my life. Everything I did was compared to what they had done and how I should make them proud. It never mattered that they couldn’t talk to me or guide me, they were a part of my everyday life and I liked to think that I knew them pretty well too.
“So, I read the letter your mum left me,” he cleared his throat before smiling softly at the memory, “she sounded like an incredible woman.”
“She did?” I asked, eagerly expecting more details. I tried not to push him but it was hard; even if I did have some material memories of her, it seemed like it was never enough.
“Yeah, she suggested we’d all get pissed together on our coming of age party.”
“No way, she wrote that?” I laughed out loud. In the letters she left me, she always sounded very sweet and didn’t give any inkling that she might be on the wild side.
“I really wished I had known her; that you’d known her too,” he gave me a side smile that I returned.
“Your mum sounded amazing too. She wrote me about my parents and made a long, hilarious tirade against my Gran; I don’t think it was in the plans for me to go live there!”
“Really? Was it representative of your Gran, though?” he asked me with a mischievous look on his face.
“Spot on,” I laughed, “with the vulture on top and the shriek of a voice too. I wonder in what occasion they met.”
“Probably at your parents’ wedding,” Harry guessed.
“Would make sense, although why she would wear her horrible vulture hat at a wedding is beyond me,” I only shook my head, happy to see how easily this conversation was going. I had been afraid of it being heavy and emotional but talking to Harry about it all was much easier than talking about it to my Gran.
“So you’ve had more time than me to ponder about the pendant, did you come up with anything about what this means?” he asked me as he pulled out a bright blue crystal pendant from his pocket. I took of my neck an identical pendant but could only shake my head in negation.
“No, I’ve had it on all year and it never changed. In my letter, my godmother suggested it would only work if I had known the worst; maybe I haven’t, maybe it was only supposed to work if my parents were dead and, technically, they aren’t.”
“Yeah, mine said the same thing,” Harry said before taking out the letter from his pocket. He read silently for a moment before reading out loud, “if you have known the worst, the charm it holds will be activated upon meeting Neville’s pendant.”
“What does that mean? They have to be put together? They don’t look like they would fit together,” I said, looking at the two smooth rocks.
“My question is, what exactly the reaction will be,” Harry said, folding the letter back nicely. I didn’t answer but an idea was forming in my mind. I knew it was only my imagination working and truthfully, I was afraid Harry would laugh at me for voicing it out but I couldn’t stop myself from thinking it. What if this charm was meant to send us back to our parents? Back to before our families were ripped apart? I looked up at Harry and was surprised to see in his eyes a brand new fire, like he was having the same idea I was.
“Do you think,” I began, licking my lips in anticipation, “it could take us to them?”
“Or them to us!” Harry jumped in excitedly. “This could be a way to get to know them for real and not just by letters and photos.”
“Do we really want to do this though, I mean we don’t know what could happen or how things might turn out.” I tried to sound convincing in stating my doubts but I couldn’t. This was too exciting and I was ready to leave everything behind just to meet my mother for real. This life had been hard and horrible at times; nothing could be worst.
“I’ve got nothing to lose really,” Harry thought for a moment, “nothing I can’t get back; I mean, sure there are my friends and Ginny but, this has got to be reversible right?”
“Let’s hope so,” I shrugged, thinking of my Gran and of Hannah, whom I was only just beginning to really loosen up with. Harry had to be right, there would certainly be a way to reverse this charm if they wanted to.
“We don’t have to do it now,” Harry mumbled, playing with a chessman; the game forgotten by now.
“Well, ok, we can think about it a bit longer,” I said, a bit disappointed although relieved. We had to think it through right? Had to weigh the pros and con of such a decision and all.
Things didn’t go as planned though, of course. We both reached for our individual pendant at the same time. When my hand closed around the crystal, it suddenly grew hot and I felt a pull through my navel. I only had time to look at Harry and the fear I saw in his eyes told me he was feeling the same things as me. I suddenly felt like the warmth of the crystal spread through my body and I’m pretty sure I was surrounded by a bright blue aura, just like Harry was. Mere seconds later, it was over and my body temperature had dropped back to a more normal degree, Harry was still in front of me and the blue aura was fading fast. We weren’t in the common room anymore either.
The room we were now in was filled with sunlight, reflecting on the light cream painted walls where dozens of pictures in brilliant black frames hung to decorate the place. Everywhere I looked, I could see my infant self smiling at me, shaking an angry fist or being kissed and tickled. My eyes finally settled on the most beautiful picture in the room. This was my mother, the mother I should have known; the woman she should have been allowed to be. It hurt to see her like that, to see what I had missed because she was beautiful and alive and radiant.
“Boys,” she softly said when her teary eyes settled on me.
“Mum,” I whispered before falling into her open arms. In this instant, it didn’t matter that Harry was next to me. All that mattered was to smell her hair, to hold her and finally, finally feel her holding back. After minutes of silence filled with whispered words of love and sniffling, we separated. I felt my eyes were still red and wet but it wasn’t important; I had to look at her some more.
“You’ve grown beautifully, Nevy,” she said, caressing my cheek as well as my soul.
“Thanks mum; you’re a pretty lovely youth yourself,” I said, making her burst into laughter.
“I take it life wasn’t easy on you two boys,” the other woman who could be no one else but my godmother, Lily stated, finally taking me out of this crazy haze I felt in. Looking at my side, I found Harry was in the same state as me; holding hands with his mother, wet eyes locked into hers. He didn’t want to let go of her, I could see it because I felt the same; there was no way I would ever want to wake up from this moment.
“No,” Harry softly answered, not bothering to wipe the stray tear that rolled down his cheek.
“I’m sorry,” Lily whispered, just as emotionally as her son. Holding out a hand over to me she smiled before addressing me, “come here Nevy.” She pulled me into the second most loving hug I had gotten in my entire life, all in the same day. Mum had taken hold of Harry; she cupped his face in her hands, a sad smile playing on her lips.
“What horrors do your eyes hold Hairy-Harry,” she shook her head before taking my friend into a strong hug seemingly meant to take away the pain Harry has known.
After minutes that felt like seconds, we finally were able to let go of each other and sat down in the lounge. Mum sat next to me and grabbed my hand at once before getting up again. “No, sorry, I want to look at you both. Come here Harry, next to Nevy.”
“Nevy,” Harry chuckled as he took place by my side. I punched him playfully on the arm but only for show; I had never heard this nickname and coming from my mum, it sounded like the most beautiful name.
“Is it the first time you hear it?” Mum asked Harry, a small frown forming on her face.
“Yeah, he’s usually just Nev to us.”
“Are you two good friends then?” Lily asked us, a tinge of hope clearly audible behind her question. I looked over at Harry who, I saw, was smiling happily at me. He looked so relax and calm; I had only seen him like this once in all the time I have known him, and there had been a lot of alcohol involved.
“Yes, very good friends,” I answered, smiling back at him. It felt strangely good to see Harry like this; to share this moment together and feel our friendship was mutual now and not just something I desperately wished for when we were younger.
“We’ve been through a lot together,” Harry added, “things like that, they make you more than friends; we’re almost brothers I’d say.”
“Cheers mate,” I blushed slightly, very surprised at how happy his comment made me. The members of Harry’s family were few and hand-picked; it was a privilege to be a part of it. And there were so few members left to my family that it was nice to think of him as the brother I had never had.
“Anytime mate, you know I mean it.”
“So,” I asked, looking back at the two beaming women, “when are we?”
“1981,” Lily answered. Harry and I instantly tightened up, knowing how dramatically decisive that year had been for the both of us; well the four of us really. Lily frowned at our reaction and added, “We’re in august; you boys turned one just last week.”
“Oh and I guess ‘Happy Birthdays’ are in order, right? You boys became of age not so long ago, didn’t you?”
“Err,” Harry began uncomfortably, “actually we’re closer to turning 18 at the moment.”
“We didn’t both get to our presents until a couple days ago,” I added.
“What do you mean; didn’t you know about it? You were supposed to be told,” mum frowned questioningly. Harry looked at me, pain clearly visible in his face. I could tell he didn’t want to talk about the last year of his life and, truth be told, neither did I.
“Why are we here?” Harry asked suddenly, changing the subject rather abruptly. Mum and Lily looked a bit startled by Harry’s change of attitude but Lily pulled herself together quickly.
“Well,” she started, looking over at mum who gave her the tinniest of nods. “The thing is, things are quite bad right now and we fear we might never get to be families. That we won’t get to know you and-and, and you won’t get to know us.”
“We wanted to give you an opportunity to know us; thought you might want to,” mum quietly added. The heaviness of this declaration held over us for a moment. Mum and Lily were realizing that our mere presence meant their early death or incapacitating ailment of some sort.
“Thank you,” Harry mumbled as he wiped a tear, “it’s the best present you could ever have given us.” I could only nod and smile at those wonderful women who thought of us and our happiness before thinking of their own sadness.
“So, how does it work?” I asked them. Mum’s face broke into a huge grin and she sat back straighter, looking proudly at Lily. A much more humble look played on Lily’s face although she was blushing slightly, a look I had seen many times on Harry’s face.
“Well,” mum started slowly, clearly trying to build up suspense, “it’s an adaptation of a Hinging charm. I was meant to bring you back to this precise moment and will last for 6 hours; it’s the longest we could make it hold without risking losing control over the charm. You know, risking you being stuck here forever and all.”
“Will you remember this moment after we leave?” Harry questioned. I don’t know if he was impressed with this charm like I was but I knew my face must have looked a lot more surprised than his.
“A simple Obliviate will do the trick,” Lily answered vaguely, “and a more complex one if we decide we want to keep some little things. You boys can decide whether you want to go back with the memory or without it.”
“And in about 5 hours, we will go back to when we came from,” I finished. They both nodded and I looked at Harry. He was pondering the next step too.
We could go back in 5 hours, changed forever by the experience we were living at the moment or change our destinies. Obliviating ourselves was out of the question for me; I could live with those memories and would cherish them for the rest of my days. I decided to just go along for the next 4 and a half hours; then take the last half hour to decide whether I really do want to change my life and if my mother and godmother can live, for the couple months they have left anyway, with the memory of our visit.
Edit : thanks to my most formidable Beta for the help!
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