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2012 Writer's Duel: Changing Impressions by HPFF United
Chapter 8 : The Soul of a Soldier by Snapdragons
 
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Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says ‘I'll try again tomorrow’. -Mary Anne Radmacher

i.

The first child’s name was Robert.

“Go to sleep,” she said, her voice a low whisper.

“I can’t,” he said back, looking at her with wide eyes.

“Yes, you can,” she said. “Just close your eyes.”

“I can’t,” he said again, looking at her beseechingly. “I can’t close my eyes.”

“Of course you can.”

“What if they don’t open again?” It was merely a low breathing in her ears, a fearful confession of the worries that he had been carrying around all day.

“They will.”

“Theirs didn’t.”

It was barely audible, but the words cut through her, an almost silent attack. The accusation rung true: her parents’ eyes didn't.

"Yours will," she said, and she bent over him and kissed his head once lightly. “I promise. Yours always will.”

"Do you promise?" he wanted to know.

"I promise," she said again, and she prayed it would always be true.

He reached for her hand, and they fell asleep like that, her and Robert, hands entwined.

The absence of their parents’ breathing was unnoticed in the sound of dreams.

She was fourteen, and she became his mother as they were shuffled from relative to relative. It was a burden she willingly took up; she understood that it was her duty.

But more than that, it was something that she wanted to do.

It was her, not her aunt, who took Robert to Diagon Alley to buy his books. It was her who let him sit in her compartment on September 1st, even though he was a first year and she a fourth. It was her who consoled him that it didn’t matter what House he was in, as she would love him anyways.

She watched him grow up, a proud Hufflepuff, and she, in turn, was proud of him. She was his sister and there was no one in the world that she loved more than Robert, her little brother.

But the frightened young boy she had once known grew into a brave young man, a young man loyal to his country. And it was with clenched fists and a bitten lip that she bravely smiled as he left to serve and protect England as the war raged on around them.

And it was with clenched fists and a bitten lip that she sat through his funeral.

It was only when she was safely in her home that she allowed herself to break down and to cry for the boy that she had once sworn to protect. She had failed. She had lost him.

She knew that it had been by choice, that he had wanted to do this, that he had been willing to die, but that made it no easier.

She sat there in her small flat, lights off as she silently sobbed until she fell asleep, exhausted.

She was young, but her soul felt old.

ii.

The second child’s name was Frank.

She learned, eventually, to continue on with her daily life. It was something necessary, something that simply had to be done.

Happiness came to her again slowly, in the form of Conrad Longbottom.

They were married, but not until Augusta felt good and ready to settle down - she was a woman with her own mind, after all. Conrad was good to her and made her laugh, and he didn’t force her to quiet down and be more ladylike. She could be her, Augusta, loud and fearsome and opinionated.

She inherited family once more, now that she had Conrad. There was Conrad’s brother, Algie, and his wife, Enid, and once more, there was noise and laughter and joy in her life.

And then happiness came to her once more, in the form of her child. Frank.

She held him in her arms, just a tiny little thing, really, and as she stared at him, she remembered holding Robert in her arms when she had been just a young girl. Frank looked like him, as much as any young child can look like anyone.

She vowed that she would not let a war touch him; she would keep Frank safe. She could not lose him, too.

But she would not have a coward for a son: he must learn what was important in life and that he must stand up for what he believed in.

So she raised him as a brave Gryffindor, and she could not have been more proud of him. Despite her hopes and wishes that he would be saved from war, she could sense that war was looming on the horizon.

And she knew, without having Frank have to tell her, that he would fight, as Robert did. They were both that type of man. Good, brave, loyal souls, who would not stand for injustice.

And if she was being truthful, it terrified her, deep down.

But she could not show emotion like that; she could not crack.

He made it past eighteen, at least, and she could watch him with that Alice of his and take some comfort in the fact that he had found love.

Frank was a noble son. But she saw less and less of him as the war worsened, and all she could do was to breathe deeply and attempt to continue on the best that she could.

She thought she had made it out safely, that they had made it out safely, that first of November. All Souls’ Day, the day to remember all those that had left this world and ventured into the unknown.

She had made the mistake of letting go of the breath that she had been holding, relaxing, rejoicing. The Dark Lord had left, they were safe, they were safe! Frank had made it past the war. He had survived. They had survived. Everything could be all right.

And she was a grandmother now - a grandmother! Even the sternest demeanor of hers could not conceal her joy at seeing her son with his own son in his arms and a wife by his side.

She should have held her tongue. She should not have spoken so soon, she should not have rejoiced so, she should have been wary, ever vigilant.

Frank had survived the war, but not the aftermath.

It was a day that she would never be able to forget, one that would forever be ingrained in her mind. It had started with a knock, just a simple knock on the door, and she had walked out of the kitchen, wand in hand, and she had opened the door and-

She would never forget the sight that had been waiting for her. Albus Dumbledore, standing with a bundle in his arms that was squirming. Instantly, she had known what the man was about to tell her.

Reaching her arms out, she took her grandson from the man’s arms and clutched him tightly to her chest, arms shaking only slightly, as she called for Conrad to come, and quick.

She had been able to remain calm as she sat on her couch, grandson still tucked in her arms like some sort of talisman, listening to Albus Dumbledore explain how her son, her son, her Frank had been tortured to the point of insanity along with his wife, Alice, sweet, sweet Alice.

“The child,” he said after a pause, “was found hidden in the closet with a Silencing charm placed over it. It was Miss Vance who thought to check there.”

“Yes, it would be,” Augusta murmured quietly. She knew the name Vance - the woman had been friends with Alice and Frank, and it would not surprise her if the two of them had not had some sort of plan in place to protect their son. In fact, she might be disappointed if they had not.

But they could not save themselves.

Albus Dumbledore quietly dismissed himself, and she stayed there on the couch next to Conrad for what felt like centuries, not moving from the spot. The child in her arms felt so heavy, and yet she could not let go.

She was older now, and her soul felt ancient.

iii.

The third child’s name was Neville.

Holding the third generation of children in her arms, she felt despair creep into her heart. She was not so young anymore, and the thought of raising another child made her feel like collapsing.

Every time she looked at Neville, she saw Frank, and in Frank, she saw Robert.

She was not ashamed of Frank - hardly. Frank had died for a cause that he had believed in.

She was not ashamed of Neville, but the boy certainly didn’t seem to show the same sort of bravery as his father. Sometimes she wondered if she was too old to be doing this once more; her grandson seemed to be timid, nervous. Perhaps, if he had his father, he would have grown up differently, she couldn’t help but think.

And then Conrad died shortly after, when Neville was still young, and she felt even more alone than ever. It made her bitter, she supposed, but did she not have the right to a bit of bitterness now and then?

Algie came over now and then - he seemed to make it a personal cause of his to prove Neville a wizard. She could not deny being relieved when he received his Hogwarts letter: Neville came from the Longbottoms. One day, he would grow into his name; she knew it.

He was a Gryffindor, and she was prouder than she thought that she could be. He would be a great man one day, when he was older. She could feel it in her bones.

She pushed him to be great; she would not accept anything less. And while he struggled now, she knew that one day, he would be glad.

She wanted him to be happy.

Slowly, he started to grow into his legacy. She could see it, even if he could not. At the beginning, he might be simply a little boy in pyjamas standing up to his friends, but he would grow up to do great things.

And she watched with a secret smile, her old, so-called stone cold heart filled with pride as she watched her grandson, her third child, grow into a man, as he fought in the Ministry, and then against the Ministry, and then against Voldemort. She listened with quiet pride at his letters of being in Dumbledore’s Army, of learning to fight back.

And then, as his seventh year came, he fought the battle of a true man, as he lead the revolution. He did not back down; Neville fought for what he believed in, and did so without question.

They came for her, the Death Eaters. They tried to capture him for what he was doing. Come with us and your grandson won’t be hurt, they had growled at her.

She had merely stood tall, all five feet of her and laughed in their faces. “I’d like to see you try,” she said, chin held high as she whipped out her wand and managed to bind them all before they had a chance to speak, as she ran out the door, elated, feeling the years rush behind her as she ran, ran, ran away.

She marched into that final battle in May with her head still held high, and she fought alongside her grandson, her third son, her Neville, and she had never been prouder.

He was a Longbottom, through and through, the very best parts of everyone she had ever known in one. He was Robert and Conrad and Frank and Alice and maybe even just a tiny bit of her, and he was continuing on the legacy.

She was old, but her soul was young again.

***

There have been three generations of boys that Augusta Longbottom has raised.

Every single one of them have been brave, and she has been proud of every single one.



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