My heart was torn when the two young men appeared in the lounge. It was a wonderful, overwhelming feeling to see them all grown up and so beautiful and yet, it was heartbreaking because if the charm activated itself, it meant our worst fears had became their realities.
We had been talking for over an hour now; learning about the boys’ dreams and plans for the future; about their friends and the lovely ladies that had captured their hearts. I found it hilarious that my Hairy-Harry had fallen for a Weasley, there wasn’t a family around with hair redder than them. Was he looking for his mother that much or was there a curse on the Potter men, I wondered aloud? The curse to seek only red-headed ladies? Lily and Harry frowned identically at my question and Nevy shared a laugh with me. I can’t say why this moment warmed my heart, but I knew I would keep it with me for ever. A laugh, hapiness shared with my little man.
Throughout our conversation, I found it was highly noticable how much the boys avoided to talk about their family lives and skipped over periods of their adolescences. They were clearly trying to hide something from us but there was one thing they didn’t count on; one does not hide stuff from Alice Longbottom.
“Who raised you?” I bluntly asked, trying to surprise them into answering.
“Can’t tell you,” Harry shook his head, “it would lead to too much questionning.”
“So what?” Lily jumped in, clearly sharing my curiosity, “we’ll Obliviate it later.”
“I think you’ll want to keep this particular information in order to do something to try and change it,” Harry gave his mother a knowing smile which only served to raise our interest.
“I think they’re right Harry,” Neville softly told his disbelieving friend. “I’m sure you have reasons for not wanting to change your past but if you explain them, they can understand too.”
“Of course we can,” Lily said, giving Harry an encouraging smile. My godson returned it, grudgingly nodding his approval while my son smiled widly at this little victory. I was impressed with the calm and serene way my son had convinced Harry; he was definitely more like Frank than me on that side! Where I was blunt and highly expressive, Neville seemed to be a much more measured; a more mature boy.
“I was raised by Gran Longbottom,” Neville went first. “From the time I was 18 months old.”
“18 months old?” I gasped, completly flored by this revelation. This was much closer than I had anticipated. If I was to die in less than six months, that meant my son didn’t even have a single memory of his parents. It certaintly explained his reaction when he arrived here a couple hours ago but it was a hard truth to swallow none the less.
“I was raised by the Dursleys – your sister, Petunia and her husband, from the time I was 15 months old,” Harry went on quickly, an apologetic look on his face as he looked at Lily’s shocked face.
“But that, that’s in less than 3 months!” Lily shrieked in panic.
“We aren’t going to see you grow up at all?” I murmured but my son shook his head sadly.
“You and Dad are still alive simply, er, not fit to take care of me anymore,” he began, his voice heavy with emotion. Harry put a comforting hand on Nevy’s arm, trying to console him in an ackward way. “You and Dad live at St-Mungo’s, in the long-time residents’ ward.” The room went silent when he finished. Hearing about my not-so far away fate was rather horrible but thinking of my poor boy; that I would leave him behind in a couple month’s time. That he was to grow up without parents…
“Well,” Lily cleared her throath after a moment, “it’s a good thing we came up with this charm then, otherwise, you boys really wouldn’t have known us.”
“Especially considering you are both going to live with people who are, er, less than fond of us.” I muttered, thinking of how little both Lily’s sister and my mother-in-law must have told the boys about us; primarely because of how little they really do know about us.
“It wasn’t as bad as you might imagined,” Neville said, trying to calm my imagination down. “I only heard great things about you, mum; of how much of a wonderful woman you were and how brave and fierce you were in battle and to protect me. Or course, I never knew you had a sense of humor,” he trailed with a cheeky smile.
“Yeah, well, I reckon your Gran could never have realized I have one. One needs a sense of humor to recognize it on another,” I shook my head, a bit relieved to hear this. I would never have imagined Augusta Longbottom being especially mean when talking about me to my son. I thought she simply wouldn’t talk about me at all. It came as a happy surprise to hear that at least, Neville had a good opinion of me.
“Bloody scary woman she is,” Lily seethed next to me, causing Neville to laugh openly.
“Yeah about that,” he began, curious, “you mentionned in the letter that you knew her; how’s that?”
“Well,” Lily began cautiously, giving me a sideway look.
“Oh go on, there’s no place for shame; the boys aren’t going to hear this story otherwise,” I answered her silent demand.
“First time I met her was when she came to the castle for Frank’s graduation,” Lily began, an almost gleeful smile on her face and the two young man listening intently. “See, Frank was a year before us so we were present to see him graduate and considering him and Alice were an item and she didn’t want to spend the entire ceremony with only Mrs. Longbottom to sit with, I went along with her to the ceremony.”
“Frank had gotten us sitting places next to his mother; we were in the first row and your Gran wore an horribly massive, dark green velvet hat with large dark bows and dried flowers, blocking the view of everyone behing her.”
“Alice was mortified,” Lily laughed at the memory, “she kept making not very subtle hints about the hat but Mrs Longbottom stayed completely still, looking at the ceremony before her, and acted as though she didn’t hear Alice at all.”
“Not just me! Everyone that sat in a 50 feet radius of that hat was complaining loudly as well.”
“We were given about ten or eleven good comments from Alice, like : ‘If Frank dances on the scene, I’ll eat my hat, do you think he will Mrs Longbottom?’ or ‘I take my hat off to Frank for getting in the Auror’s Academy, how about you Mrs Longbottom?’ ” Lily continued under Neville and Harry’s loud laughter.
“And you just kept quietly chuckling on the other side,” I shook my head in mock deceiveness, “you call yourself a friend? A Gryffindor?”
“There was nothing else I could do! I don’t know as many expressions containing the word ‘hat’ as you do!” Lily laughed before going on with the story. “So this had been going on for a while when suddently, Mrs Longbottom turns to face Alice and says: ‘If you’ve got something to say to me and my hat, why don’t you just say it. And, might I add, if you have got the right to go out wearing this disgraceful, prostitute-like piece of cloth you call a skirt, I have every right to wear whatever I like.’ Then she turned around to face the scene and went silent again for the whole ceremony while Alice went crimson and seethed on her seat, trying to resist jumping to the lady’s face and eating the hat straight of her head!”
“It was the single most humiliating moment in my life, and I went to school with James and Sirius!” I added while Lily and the boys wiped tears of their eyes and their laughter died down a bit.
“After that, I met her a couple times, mostly because of Alice and Frank’s wedding.”
“Augusta was the one to initiate the first real meeting with Lily actually. Can you imagine? When Frank and I announced our engagement, she went and met with all my closest friends to make sure I was good enough for her son.”
“You should have heard the questions,” Lily laughed as she shook her head. She put on a superior look and went on, “ ‘Tell me my dear, Alice, is she a “pure” girl?’ ‘Do you expect she will keep her husband in a filthy house or can she deal with the pressure of holding a house?’ ”
“Ah!” Harry gave a heartly laugh, looking at Neville’s wide eyes. “I can’t wait until you make it official with Hannah!”
“It won’t be that bad, I mean, the pressure for a suitable wife isn’t as high for me; I’m far from perfect when compared to my dad in Gran’s mind.”
“That might have been the case a couple years ago Nev but now, you’re a war hero; the woman you chose has got to be up to the standards!”
“That’s easy for you to say,” Neville pointed out, his face blushing, “Ginny’s family has practically adopted you!”
“So has Hannah’s; I’m just messing with you Nev, your Gran will learn to accept her eventually.”
“Why would she not like her?” I asked, a bit confused. From the way they talked about Hannah earlier, I got the idea she was a very nice and good young lady.
“Well, the first straw was that she’s a Hufflepuff.”
“Oh right,” I nodded understandingly; Augusta would have difficulties accepting a girl from such a ‘low standard house’ like she called it.
“Second, she’s a Abbott.”
“Abbott?” Lily frowned, looking at me for understanding. And understand, I did.
“So, she comes from a great family of entrepreneurs,” I nodded. The smile that lit Neville’s face was so warm that I could tell I had given the right answer. Damn straight Augusta Longbottom; I could be a good mother too!
“They own the Leaky Cauldron,” Harry whispered to Lily who nodded in understanding. Of course the mother-in-law woud see this as a bad way to live; probably imagining that if they own a pub, they must be alcoolics or something of the sort.
“Gran only saw the fact that she grew up in the Pub, of course,” Neville shook his head sadly. His eyes lit up suddently and he added, “it’ll be hers someday too, you know? Her father asked her to study some management and economics for a while when she finishes Hogwarts, so she’ll be ready to step in when he will retire.”
“Her father must trust her a lot,” I said, “and Nevy, please remember that it doesn’t matter what your Gran thinks; if you like her, go for it. Your friends seem to approve too so I give my mother’s seal of approval on Hannah Abbott. Or any girl that you might chose in the future if Hannah doesn’t turn out to be The One.”
“Thanks mum,” he murmured, blushing slighly. I felt pretty good about myself upon hearing those words. I made my son happy; I managed to appease his troubles and hopefully give him the confidence to put all his heart on this girl, no matter what others might think of her.
“Harry,” Lily said after a short moment of silence. “Earlier you called Nevy a war hero. What did he do to earn that title?”
“It’s nothing,” Neville shrugged it off quickly, “just some stupid title the press gave me. I’m no hero, no more that anybody else.”
“This war you are speaking of,” I asked, trying a different angle to make him spill the beans, “is it the same war as the one we are in at the moment?” The boys looked at each other worriedly. I could practically hear their silent conversation; they did not know wether it was wise to tell us.
“No,” Harry finally declared in a sigh. “The first war is about to end, in your timeline. There will be a quiet periode of about 14 years before the Second war begins.”
“The same person? Voldemort?” Lily asked the boys, her face now much paler than it had been minutes ago.
“Yeah,” Harry simply answered.
Next to him, Nevy sighed, leaning forward before saying, “Harry here is known as the Chosen One now.”
“Neville!” Harry shouted.
“What? Come on Harry, we can’t keep beating around the bushes like that, otherwise we won’t be able to make the best use of the little time we have together.”
“Still, I would have appreciated a warning,” Harry mumbled. He looked so uncomfortable, it got me wondering; did he really hate the attention so much or was it all so raw that reminiscing his lifestory was still painful for him?
“Ok, now that Neville has thrown it all out,” Harry gave Nevy a dark look, to which my son responded with a wide, content smile, “I might as well go for it. When I was 15 months old, thanks to a rat's betrayal, Voldemort came to our house, killed both Dad and – and you Mum,” Harry said in an apologetic tone. “Then he went and tried to kill me too but it didn’t work; he only managed to mark me as his equal.”
“So it’s you,” Lily murmured, taking hold of her son’s hands, her eyes filled with tears, “the boy the Prophecy speaks of.”
“I am,” Harry nodded, his whole attitude showing how much his fate had been a heavy one. “That night, Voldemort’s power broke and he had to go into hiding, waiting for the moment he would be able to get back to his body; to his strenght. Oh and from that moment on, I was known as the Boy-Who-Lived. Only I didn’t know considering I went to live with the Dursleys.”
“But why? I mean, why would you not go with either of your godparents?” I asked, completely lost as to why I wasn’t granted Harry’s guardianship. Or at least why Sirius wasn’t.
“I don’t really know all the details,” Harry said uncomfortably. I thought it was quite clear that he did know all the details, he just didn’t want to share them with us. I found it very odd how bad a liar my Hairy-Harry was; after all, with a father like his, I would have expected the great lying ability of James Potter to be genetic. I guess he did take from his mother a bit in spite of looking so little like her; he got that same messed up innocent look as she did.
“I know Dumbledore made the decision; he activated wards around the Dursleys’ house so I was protected there. As long as I lived with Aunt Petunia – the last person whom I shared blood link with – I was protected.”
“So it wasn’t for your well-being necessarily, it was strictly to keep you alive,” I said, trying to tone down the sarcasm behind my comment. Sure it made sense, those wards, but did Dumbledore really think no one else could care for Harry?
“I know what you’re thinking Mum,” Nevy said, “remember that it wasn’t just Voldemort that was a threath but his Death Eaters too. They got to you 3 months later. The world wasn’t safe yet and it took a while before it was and the Death Eaters cooled down. Harry was the reason their master was gone, they wanted him gone too.”
“What happened to Sirius then?” Lily asked, “ I cannot imagine him not fighting for your guardianship.”
“Well,” Harry said, looking at his hands, “Sirius was in Azkaban at the time.”
“What?” Lily and I shouted together. It simply didn’t make sense. Sure Sirius Black was intense and didn’t always think before he acted but he didn’t have an once of darkness in him; not the kind that gets you locked up in Azkaban anyway.
“He was incarcerated under false accusation of killing 12 muggles and a – a wizard,” Harry spat in digust. “Even if it wasn’t him though, they didn’t give him a trial.”
“That is dispicable,” Lily shook her head. “Sirius might be a bit rash and a trouble maker at times but he would never steap that low; anyone that knows him would say so.”
“Yeah well, that’s what happened to Sirius and why he wasn’t there to fight for my guardianship,” Harry finished, sadness and grief evident in his voice. I didn’t press the matter even though I was extremely curious as to why Harry was even aware of this story and what happened of Sirus in the end. Because it was clear that there was an end to Sirius; one that had affected Harry greatly.
“What about you Nevy? How were the first 18 years of your life?” Lily asked him with an encouraging smile when it became evident that Harry couldn’t go on.
“My story is a lot less tragic than Harry’s that for sure,” Nevy began with a small, sad smile. “See when I was 18 months old, four Death Eaters came to the house and sequestrated us; they wanted informations on the wherabouts of their master and were under the impression that you or Dad had some. They tortured the both of you for hours. Used the Cruciatus curse with such force and... well, so hard that you were both left with irreversible damages.”
“Did they-, did they do anything to you?” Lily asked in a small scared voice.
“Not technically,” Nevy hesitated. He gave a heavy sigh and went on, “they made me watch everything but, I don’t really remember. It’s more like impressions and feelings.”
“I never knew that,” Harry said, his voice hoarse as he looked in concern at his friend. Nevy shrugged, giving Harry a silent apology.
“I’ve actually never talked about his before; only Gran knows about it. Anyways, after that, I went on to live with her and she made sure I received all the necessary help to move on from the event I witnessed and, lets be honest, I needed a lot of help.”
“What do you mean?” I asked, in complete shock over the story my son was telling; the actual, horrible story of his life.
“Well I was a very anxious child and I was terrifed of magic,” he explained, looking uncomfortable, almost ashamed by his admission. “Gran couldn’t use magic in front of me for the first couple of years or I would have panic attacks or throw tantrums. Then, when I began feeling my own magic, I couldn’t understand it, didn’t really accept it and that was also very distressing.”
“I can imagine,” Lily whispered, shaking her head sadly, “you had had such a traumatic experience; magic wasn’t a good or beautiful thing to you.”
“Yeah, that’s what the Healers helped me come to terms with. Magic wasn’t simply dark or a mean to cause pain, it could be used for good and to make things better too. It took a long time before I felt confident that I too could use magic freely and in a positive sense too. Didn’t happen before around fifth year, thanks to Harry.”
“Thanks to Hermione and Ron,” Harry rectified, “they’re the ones that came up with the D.A.”
“Whatever,” Nevy answered with a smile.
“What’s the D.A.?” I asked, trying to focus on the good times in my boy’s life instead of the painful ones.
“Dumbledore’s Army,” Nevy answered.
“An illegal group where we learned defensive spellwork.”
“Harry was our teacher actually; he’s really good,”
“And in seventh year, Neville took the lead.”
“Why did you even have to create an illegal Defence group?” I asked a bit confused although amused by the situation.
“Evil teachers,” both boys simply answered in one voice.
“Well,” Lily said with an amused smile, “seems like our time at Hogwarts was pretty quiet and nice when compared to yours.”
“It’s the after-Hogwarts years that are a bit more eventfull,” I added.
“How’s that?” Harry asked, curious to leard more about our lives.
“Well,” I began, “Voldemort is out in the open now and there are almost daily fights with his Death Eaters. We have joined a secret organization –“
“The Order of the Phoenix,” Harry and Nevy interrupted.
“Right, the Order,” I acknowledged, “but in the last few months, it feels like we are loosing more battles and more people everytime. It’s getting quite scary to be honest.”
“There were a few good years though,” Lily argued, “when we graduated and began Auror training, no matter if times were getting darker, we were still able to have a good time.”
“That we did,” I grinned at the memories of those weekends with friends. Friends that had almost all lost their lives now; friends whose laughter and presence I missed more and more everyday.
“We joined the Order straight out of school,” Lily continued, pulling me out of my memories. “The eight Gryffindors of our graduating year. I’m not sure if you got to know any of them though,” she added in a hollow voice, clearly afraid of the answer she would get.
“We – well, I knew Sirius,” Harry said, his voice heavy with longing.
“And Remus was our DADA teacher in third year; the best teacher we ever got, hands down,” Nevy added with a sad smile, the answer of Remus’ fate clearly etched on his face.
“Really? Remus went on the be a teacher? That’s amazing,” Lily said, happy for her friend.
“I’m godfather to his son too,” Harry proudly added although his eyes were clouded. “He died though, Remus, during the final battle, along with his wife. If you can change something, change that please; for Teddy.”
“Of course,” Lily and I nodded, understanding how important saving yet another orphan boy was.
“Peter? Did you guys get to know him? And Marlene?”
“I met Peter; he’s dead too,” Harry stated although this time, there was no sadness but an unmistakable disdain behind his words. “But Marlene, no, I’m sorry.”
“That’s too bad, Mckinnon is something else!” Lily laughed a litlle too heartily. Learning of the death of all our friends was hard for us and I had to admit that Lily was doing a gerat job at holding her strong facade. Lily had been my best friend since first year and her sensibility was legendary; today though, she wasn’t letting it affect her and I couldn’t have been prouder of her attitude. Or course, I knew that she would break down completly when the boys would leave but we would deal with it after.
“Marlene Mckinnon?” Nevy asked suddently, “I heard of her; she must have been great considering the way Gran talks about her.”
“Ah! I’m surprised your Gran even wants to remember Marlene; Merlin she hated her guts,” I smiled. “She made a toast at our wedding that was a tad too crude for your Gran’s liking!”
“Shall we also not forget what happened mere weeks ago at the boys’early first birthday,” Lily grinned.
“We had a dinner party the week before your birthday because it was one of the rare moments where most people were available,” Lily explained, “and Marlene went out of her way to annoy your Gran. ‘It’s a brithday party old coot, we’ve got to have a drink and, now that I think about it, Nevy’s got to have some champagne too!’ “
“Augusta went purple,” I joined the laughter, “said we should be ashamed to let such a woman near our children. Marlene responded by turning you boys’ hair bright red – to your absolute delight I must add - and when Augusta went to hold you, Nevy, Marlene enlarged the teddy bear you were holding in order to keep you out of arms’ reach of your Gran.”
“Well, now I understand why Gran keeps saying that this was the kind of woman that should have been locked up,” Nevy laughed heartily.
“I remember Moody mentionning her in passing,” Harry said when the laughter died down a little, “she didn’t make it either, sorry.”
“Yeah, it’s hard to explain how hard it is for us to learn that none of us will actually live through and get to be old and wrinkly and happy,” I sighed sadly but I chose to not let this get to me. They were alive and free now and I would make the most of our time together, no matter how short this time might be.
“You know something else Harry, I’m sure of it,” Lily pressed her son. The young man squirmed on his chair and, passing a hand through his hair like his father did whenever he was anxious, Harry sighed.
“Fine. I read a letter not so long ago where Mum said they were having a birthday tea with Bathilda Bagshot; that hasn’t happened yet, right?”
“No, it’s in two days actually. Why, is something going to happen then?”
“No it’s just, in that letter, you mentionned the death of the Mckinnons that had just happened; could be before the tea party, could be after, I don’t know.”
“So Marls’ days are kind of counted,” Lily whispered, unable to hide her anguish at the news. She wiped a tear that escaped her and gave the boys a smile. “We will make some changes to your lives boys. I know what to keep and to modify.”
Lily gave me a confident smile that I couldn’t return. At that moment, I could understand her desire to change things, to take some of the information we had gotten from the boys and plan a different future for them but how we were going to change that and what choice we were going to make, that was still a mystery to me. Lily, however, seemed to have found the way we were going to do things; I couldn’t wait to hear her ideas.
Edit : Thanks for the great help Super-Beta!
How do you like it so far? I'd really appreciate it if you let me know!!