Chapter 9 : The Insanity of Frank and Alice Longbottom.
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“Let myself what, James?” Lily demanded, her cheeks flushed red with heat and anger – the most colour she’d had since her death – something which caused James Potter’s irritation to flare up again. It was safe to say that his plan hadn’t worked out the way he intended: in the past few weeks the only change that had occurred was that his parents floated around the house more often and Lily was more likely to be at her childhood house, curled up on the sofa or hiding away in her bedroom. If anything, the introduction of their parents had made things more strained.
“Let yourself get so caught up in being unhappy!” James said, slamming his fist down on their kitchen table and glaring at her. Lily sucked in her cheeks angrily.
“We’re dead, James.”
“Yes Lily, I know that – we’re dead, and I thought that maybe something like that would you see the bigger picture.”
“There isn’t a bloody bigger picture anymore, James! This is it!”
“How can you just not care that we’ve lost our son?” Lily half shrieked, “How can you just stand there?”
“Because he’s safe! Why are you being so ruddy selfish?”
“Well, God James, if I’m being that difficult why don’t you just leave?”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” James said distractedly, running a hand through his hair and sucking in a deep breath – anyway, he half wanted to add, where the hell would he go?
“No, I’m not being ridiculous! Till death do we part, James – and guess what! We’re dead!” Her last words seemed to have hit their mark. She couldn’t quite bring herself to regret it. James blinked twice and thought, for a second, that he might be completely speechless.
“You don’t mean that.” the words came dredged up from somewhere deep within the pit of his gut, which was twisting uncomfortably.
“Don’t I?” Lily asked, she was breathing heavily. Her heart thudding faster than usual. She’d just woken up. Did she mean that? She didn’t mean that.
The door was suddenly thrown open and a very uncomfortable looking Gideon Prewett was framed by the immaculate white doorway. “Erm,” he said, clearly giving away the fact that he’d heard more of their yelling than he’d ever care to admit, “look, you’ve got to come to the observation room – now.”
“What’s happening?” James demanded, pushing past Lily to get out the doorway.
“We don’t know... it’s – we’ve got no idea what’s happening... this has never...” Gideon said, they were both walking very fast down the street. Lily brought up the rear her head still buzzing with the horrific thing she’d just said.
“Who?” Lily demanded, catching up and falling into the almost-run next to Gideon.
“The Longbottoms.” Gideon said grimly.
“No, really,” Alice told Remus – clutching Neville to her chest – “no really, come back soon – it’s a pleasure to have you.”
Remus muttered some pleasantries about not wanting to be a bother and suggesting the next time they visit him instead, but it was all unnecessary. They both knew that Remus would be round again soon enough, sipping tea at their kitchen table and staring at Neville for hours on end as they all tried to push away the grief.
Alice had found that Remus understood. Remus found that, with so few people left in the world; he couldn’t care less if he was imposing in on their perfect lives. He’d stripped himself of most comforts and had declined most invites to the other Order member’s houses, preferring instead to sit and wallow in his flat. He’d started off doing a tour of their houses – sampling everyone’s different taste in tea bags until one particularly awkward coffee date with Moody, which had resulted in him coming home and needing several days of solitude to recover. Still, the Longbottom’s invitations were near impossible to decline.
“Neville, say goodbye to Uncle Remus.” Alice said, watching her little boy lift up his hand and waved. Remus seemed enchanted by the boy, his substitute for Harry Alice supposed, and he forced a smile onto his features and waved in return.
“Be careful, mate.” Frank nodded – a farewell that was nearly redundant now that you know who was gone and everyone was safe. Not quite though, because Frank was not so much worried about Remus getting hurt but allowing himself to become hurt. Poor man.
Remus nodded at them both before turning on the spot and apperating away. Some days Frank thought he rather missed the Order: he was now able to exchange greetings when he saw them around the ministry rather than feigning being complete strangers. Still, there was something in the depth of those glances they used to share and now Order meetings were no longer necessary he felt cut off from the few people left who remained his friends.
Were they all still friends, now the war was over? He wanted to talk to Dedalus Diggle, and yet again see that ridiculous hat perched upon Elphias Dodge’s head. Alice pressed Neville into Frank’s arms and smiled at him. He returned the smile and stared at the wisps of hair that curled on the top of his son’s head. He loved him, god he loved him, and maybe it was worth all that loss to keep their son safe.
They were alive and they were well. They were happy and they had their whole lives ahead of them, and that was the future that they could live for all those whom they’d loved and lost. They could live and have all the happiness in the world to prove the worth of life, the worth of happiness and joy and family.
That was enough.
“Alice,” Frank said warmly, “thank you.”
“Thank God,” Alice contradicted, “thank God.”
Thank God they were alive, where so many weren’t. Thank god that they weren’t train wrecks like Remus Lupin – having lost everything he’d ever had and being left with doubt about everything he’d ever believed in. They’d all taken Sirius Black’s case hard, but no one as hard as Remus Lupin.
Frank pulled Alice closer to him and she rested her head on his shoulder, Neville sandwiched between them.
They hadn’t been redundant. Dumbledore had contacted them and given them a few hints about where Voldemort might be. He’d delivered the blow that, despite everything, it wasn’t over yet. Voldemort wasn’t completely gone. That was hard.
“Augusta can look after Neville on Monday,” Alice said, stepping back after a long heavy moment that hung over them for a long time, “I don’t want to leave him with any strangers.”
“Well, my mother isn’t known for being the best with children,” Frank said, following Alice into the kitchen and watching as she made up a juice bottle and two cups of tea, “but I see your point. What about Remus?”
Alice turned around to face him, considering the fact. “Maybe looking after a kid would give him something to cling onto,” She said slowly, “just while we’re at work – he could come here, I know he hates staying in that little flat of his. Frank, we could pay him! We could pay him to look after Neville while we’re both working... no, Frank, that’s brilliant!”
“When’s the next full moon?”
“Now don’t you be getting all prejudice on me,” Alice said sternly, “and I don’t know anymore... he’s looking terrible, but I don’t know if that’s just... but we could give him a couple of days off around full moon!”
“Alice, are you sure?”
“Positive!” Alice beamed, “Will you write to him now, Frank, and tell him we want him to look after Neville.”
“He’ll think we’re pitying him,” Frank said, hovering in the doorway and taking his tea cautiously, “he’ll think we’re only asking because he won’t be able to get another job.”
“Well he won’t!” Alice said, plucking Neville out of Frank’s arm and placing him in his high chair, kissing his forehead and giving him his juice cup, “he won’t, and we need somebody. Frank, he won’t reject that.”
“Dumbledore offered him a job,” Frank said quietly, “and he wouldn’t take it.”
Alice was silent for a long few minutes as she began drinking her own cup of tea. “Will you just write to him, Frank? Please.”
“Remus,” Lily whimpered, ringing her hands as she blinked up at the screen. It was only now she watched the entirety of her life crumble that she began to realise exactly how much she’d had – never before had the scope of how many people she loved really hit her, and before finding the streets of Everland filled she hadn’t quite realised how many people she’d loved and lost.
And through it all, she’d barely had a thought to spare for Remus.
“He’s all alone, James.” Lily whispered, “he’s all alone.”
“Yeah,” James said gruffly.
The chairs, once again, were uncomfortable; there was nothing relaxed about this situation and gone was the easy air and the vague talk of being reunited once again. Today, no one would join them in Everland. But something was going to happen.
They had thought that they were finished with the unknown.
“He’s got the Longbottoms,” Marlene McKinnon said softly, her tear filled eyes turned up towards the screen, “Alice and Frank are so good – they won’t let him be alone. I’ve been watching, and... He’s got Alice and Frank.”
“Maybe not for long,” Dorcas said, her harsh voice splitting the air in the Observation room.
“No one is going to die today.” Benjy Fenwick said sternly.
“Then what’s going to happen?” Dorcas demanded, “something worse? What if it’s something worse?”
“Worse than death?” Lily questioned softly.
“There are a lot of things worse than death,” Dorcas said, “and you used to believe that too. I should think Remus would take death.”
“Stop,” Caradoc said softly, “stop it Dorcas.”
“Something is going to happen to the Longbottoms.” She said stiffly, her hands curling into sharp fists, “the war isn’t over yet. It’s not over at all.”
“Shush, Neville.” Alice whispered softly, unwilling to put her son down despite his wriggling. She knew that it was absurd, but she still couldn’t stop her over protective habits – particularly those she associated with her son – because, despite it all, she didn’t feel safe.
It was difficult for her to feel safe with the knowledge that Sirius Black had betrayed them burnt across her memory.
She knew that he was in prison. She knew that he was locked up.
But, she had trusted him so whole heartedly, and she had been wrong. That made her feel vulnerable.
“I’ve written the letter,” Frank said, stepping into Neville’s room and holding a piece of parchment in his left hand, “do you want to read over it to make sure I don’t sound prejudiced?”
“No,” Alice smiled, “I know you’re not.”
“So you’ll trust me this time?”
“Of course.” Alice smiled, standing up and stepping closer towards her husband, “then I can come back to work soon, and help you with all the fun stuff.”
“You’ll be writing to Remus every twenty minutes.” Frank smiled, wrapping an arm around his wife’s waist “terrified that Neville will develop abandonment issues.”
“No,” Alice said finally, holding Neville close to her chest, “it’s time – if that lead really is, well, as important as you think it is..?”
There was a sound. Voices.
Alice and Frank Longbottom froze in their son’s tiny bedroom. They were used to being on edge, to wincing at the slightest unusual noise, being ready to fight. They were not expecting it now.
“Come out, come out wherever you are!” A voice called, a horrible twisted mock-baby voice that made Alice shiver.
“Bellatrix.” Frank said, frozen.
“Neville,” Alice said, blinking quickly, “Neville, Frank, what about Neville?”
“I haven’t got my wand.” Frank said slowly. More voices downstairs, footsteps, a door being blasted apart.
“Shush, Neville,” Alice said desperately, “shush... we... we’ll lock him in, we’ll silence him – I’ve got my wand I...”
“You need time,” Frank said, his eyes wide.
“We haven’t got time.” Alice said, her heart beating furiously in her chest. Neville, Neville, Neville.
“I’ll go,” Frank said, quietly opening the door of the nursery and stepping onto the corridor. Alice listened as her husband walked down the stairs. She hastily placed Neville back into his crib, covered him over with a blanket and cast a silencing charm over his crib. You’ll be okay, you’ll be okay, you’ve got to be okay.
Frank’s first scream ripped through the air.
Alice shut the door, locked it, and walked down the stairs.
Frank did not have his wand, but they were outnumbered anyway. It didn’t matter.
You’ll be okay, Neville, you’ll be okay.
Lily Potter had never seen anything quite so horrific as the cruciatus curse. She had seen it before during battles and she had experienced it, but never had she watched someone be destroyed by it.
Marlene was sobbing silently, but no one would have heard her over the screams. Many pairs of white knuckles were clenched into fists. Docras had looked away and was kneading her forehead desperately. Lily could not look away, her bright green eyes fixed on the pure horror and the gore of the world.
She watched as the lines of agony on Alice’s face became permanent, as her beautiful resilient defiance turned slack and her eyes lost their normal shine.
“No,” Someone whispered, “no, no, no.” It might have been Marlene, but it might have Dorcas or Lily or Caradoc or anyone. Lily stared. “Alice.”
The Dark Mark was left over their house. They did not bother to clean up the mess they had left. They didn’t even bother to search the house or look for Neville, locked and silenced in his bedroom until Remus came round to visit again and found them there.
“We all need a drink.” Fabian said lightly in the pub that evening, “I don’t think I’ve ever needed a drink more in my life.”
It was the first time that the Potter’s had joined the community of older Order members in the pub, and Lily felt exposed sat on one of the little bar stools next to James and blinking at the wood of the desk.
“Here, here,” Gideon agreed, “I’ll have a double of the usual.” He added.
“Righto,” Fabian said, wandering over to the bar and returning with the few drinks that had appeared there. A tense silence had settled over the group since they had watched the Death Eaters walk straight into the Longbottoms house, but it eased slightly now that they were in the familiar environment of the pub.
“We should celebrate,” Dorcas said, once she had curled her fingers round the edge of her glass.
“What are we celebrating?” Marlene asked gently.
“Death,” Dorcas said, “that we’re at peace. Nothing can hurt us anymore.”
“We should celebrate life,” Edgar Bone’s wife said with a smile.
“Life was good, wasn’t it?” Gideon said with a grin, “and death, well, that’s not bad either.”
“It’s a lot more like life than previously expected,” James added, and it startled Lily that he could talk at a time like this. She felt like death had drained away all of her colour. It didn’t feel like life to her, more like purgatory – waiting until she could hold her son again. She blinked. Alice and Frank.
“Yeah,” Fabian said, returning to the table with another armful of drinks, “nicer houses.”
“Nicer food.” Benjy Fenwick volunteered, “easier to cook.”
“True!” Fabian declared, “and let’s not forget, we can live without the constant fear of being blown to smithereens.”
“I was blown to smithereens,” Benjy said with a small smile, taking up his pint glass and smiling.
“Very true.” Gideon said, “Your death was definitely the most dramatic, but... we did go down as a pair.”
“Mine wasn’t fair,” Dorcas said, looking up from her drink with her eyes shining against slightly.
“Not this again,” Caradoc sighed, “we know, Dorcas – you should have ducked.”
“He tied me up!” She spat.
“Hey,” Marlene said, “at least you got to face your killer. I didn’t even get a good hit in.” Lily was starkly reminded that Marlene McKinnon was much more than the motherly influenced she had become accustomed too – she was a fighter too.
“You’d have knocked him dead,” Dorcas said. “You’d still be in Shropshire if they hadn’t been such bloody cowards.”
“They haven’t found my body yet.” Caradoc said.
“At least you had a body by the end of it.” Benjy interjected.
The Prewett brothers smiled at each other, “what’s this? My death was worse than your death?”
“No, better.” Dorcas said, “Voldemort himself,” She said impressively, shrugging her shoulders and taking a sip of her drink.
“Bits,” Benjy said, “there were only bits left.”
“Lily had the best death,” Marlene said, causing Lily to drag her gaze away from the wood of the table and look up at the group, “dying for someone you love. James, too.”
“But... I was begging,” Lily said, quietly.
“For Harry,” Marlene said, “not for yourself.”
“I thought you were great.” James said quietly.
“You saved Harry.” Edgar Bones added, his serious voice finally cutting thought Lily’s resistance to the idea that anything that separated her from Harry could have been good for him.
“Saved us all.” Caradoc said, “he defeated him.”
Lily had nothing to say to that. She wanted to voice the fact that Harry wasn’t a saviour, he was just her son. She didn’t care if he destroyed every Dark wizard in the universe – she just wanted him to be safe in her arms.
“Can I get you a drink, Lily?” Gideon asked.
“Okay,” Lily said, nodding slightly.
“What do you fancy?”
“Oh who cares,” Lily said lightly, “anything.”
“That’s the spirit,” Gideon grinned, leaning over to the bar and returning with a tall smoking glass of something or other. He presented it to Lily with a winning grin.
“Another for me,” Dorcas said, nodding to the Prewett brothers, “can you get hangovers here?”
“Let’s find out.” Fabian said, beaming.
“To Frank and Alice Longbottom.” Dorcas Meadows said simply, lifting her glass in the air and raising it to the ceiling.
“To Neville Longbottom.” Lily added quietly, aware of a couple of pairs of eyes that turned to her.
“To life.” Marlene added.
“To Harry Potter,” Caradoc said. Lily glanced at James and smiled. It seemed that the realisation that there were things that were much worse than death had settled over everyone, and especially Lily Potter. James’s arm hovered casually around her waist, like they used to sit when they were alive, and she smiled and drunk to her son.
“Sorry,” Lily whispered into her husband’s ear, leaning into his arm and smiling at the other Order members.
“It’s okay,” James said in a return whisper, kissing her cheek as he did so.
“The boy who lived.” Edgar Bones said seriously.
Lily brought her glass up to his and felt the familiar clunk of glass-on-glass. Harry was alive. Her son was alive. He was going to be okay. The world was safe, and he would be just fine. Harry.
“To the Potters!” Fabian said, drinking deeply from his glass and drinking.
“Till death do we part, indeed,” Docras laughed, “you daft bint!”
Lily flushed and pressed her forehead into James’s shoulder.
“We’ve been worried,” Edgar Bones’s wife said gently, “we’ve all been worried.”
“I’m fine,” Lily said, closing her hand around her husband’s as she smiled tipsily around the pub.
Alice had understood. Alice had sacrificed herself for her Son. Neville would be okay, and so would Harry. She was still, unbelievably, so lucky.
Lily loved how permanent James felt when she wrapped her arms around him: how solid and real he felt, compared to how temporary she thought herself. They were both eternal now – everlasting. James: the messy hair, his warm flesh and his smile. “Lily,” James said, “Lily I’ve missed you.”
“Sorry,” Lily muttered, leaning on her elbow and looking at him through her bright green eyes, “sorry.”
James reached out and pressed his lips against hers.
“I miss Harry so much,” Lily muttered between kisses.
“I know,” James said, pressing his forehead against hers for a moment, “me too, Lily.”
“I know he’s safe,” she said, kissing James again, “but it...”
“I understand, Lily,” James said, “I just... I can’t lose you too. I can’t lose everyone in the world and then lose you too.”
“I’m here.” Lily muttered, combing his messy hair away from his face and staring at him seriously, “you can’t get rid of me.”
“I wouldn’t,” James said, his hands curving around her hips as he pulled her closer.
“Remus,” Lily muttered into the dark.
“No Lily,” James said, grinning. “My name is James.”
“James,” Lily complained, giggling hopelessly as she rested her head on his chest and closed her eyes. “Oh you... you just can’t help yourself, can you?” She grinned, kissing him again, “I’ll try and remember your name, if you like.”
“Good,” James said, smiling into the bare flesh of her shoulder, “I think it might give my ego a boost.”
“Unnecessary, I think.” Lily smiled, feeling the warmth and familiarity of the old way settling upon her. She let James loop his arms around her and let herself sink into the pillows. She could still feel the eight of Harry’s absence, and now snatches of Remus and Sirius ran thought her memory, but it was biting rather than gnawing.
“Goodnight, James.” Lily whispered into the dark, feeling his breath on the back of her neck and his fingers splayed out over her waist.
“Night,” James returned, “I love you.”
Lily smiled and covered his hand with her own.
She was not alone.
What? What? Sorry... did... did you say chapter nine? Well, it only took me nine months. I have no words of appology really. I just... ah, I lost my muse for this story. I've started seriously revising it, but I only got around half way through. But, I'm working on it :)
I'll understand if you don't review, because it was a horribly long wait. But, if anyone is reading this - hi there! It's nice to have you here :P