Chapter 2 : Neville : 25 years old
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It was a beautiful Saturday morning; one that indicated this day would most certainly be a good one. The two occupants of the Longbottom family house silently ate, both thinking of the event that would take place the next day and change their well oiled routine forever. Augusta felt herself sad and lonelier than ever. Of course she was happy for her grandson; he had found himself a wonderful girl after all, but she couldn’t help but be a bit jealous that this Hannah girl was taking her grandson away from her.
Neville, on the other hand, was overly excited and nervous. Tomorrow, his life would change dramatically. Tomorrow, he would be a married man. Unless Hannah ran away that is...
“Aren’t you even a bit excited, Neville? I remember your father was driving me crazy before his wedding day.”
“Oh don’t worry Gran,” he smiled at her, “I don’t remember ever being so nervous in my life! Even my first day teaching at Hogwarts was less nerve-wracking then this.”
“You always look so calm,” she shook her head lightly, “so in control. You know everything will be all right tomorrow don’t you? Hannah’s a good girl and you will have a wonderful life together.”
“Thanks Gran, I appreciate this.” Neville drank his last drop of tea and got up. He took his bowl and cup and gathered his Gran’s plate as well, taking the time to drop a light kiss on her soft head.
“You probably don’t remember this Neville but, I have something I need to give back to you today,” his Gran said with a mysterious tone of voice as Neville left the dishes on the kitchen counter. He looked up at her, frowning as he tried to understand what she meant.
“You don’t owe me anything Gran,” he said although her mysterious grin had managed to arouse his curiosity.
“Help me up will you,” she simply said. Neville rushed to his Gran’s side and took her arm to help pull her up from her chair. As she slowly made her way to her bedroom, she heard the floobell and smiled when she noticed Neville rushing to answer.
Time had caught up with Augusta in the past couple years and her old bones were aching more and more every day. She had missed her grandson’s presence in the past year since he began teaching at Hogwarts but he had come back to live with her this summer, no matter how serious his relationship with Hannah had gotten. They had decided to follow the tradition and wait until they were married before they began living together but Augusta could tell that they both couldn’t wait until that day finally arrived. Hannah had come over pretty much every day this summer and tomorrow, they would leave for their honeymoon before the school year began.
“Hello handsome,” Hannah kissed him lightly, before whispering, “is she around?”
“No beautiful; she’s in her room,” he smiled before giving her a much more appropriate welcoming kiss.
“I thought you said you’d be occupied all day?” Neville asked her when they separated although he kept her small hands in his.
“I am, I just couldn’t resist seeing you one last time before you became a married man.”
“Well I’m glad then; single ladies are so much more interesting as well, it’s a shame you’re giving yourself away tomorrow,” he shook his head in mock disappointment. Hannah chuckled, smiling at him lovingly and Neville still couldn’t believe his luck.
“What about you, what are you going to do on your last day of freedom?” Hannah asked as she followed him to the living room.
“I’ll go see my parents later this afternoon and tonight, I’ll have a drink with the guys.”
“Nothing too dramatic I hope, I want to see you standing straight tomorrow morning,” she scowled him playfully.
“Don’t worry, we’ll be good,” he smiled, “it’s a simple drink between newly wedded lads.”
“Harry and Ron then?”
“Justin too; him and Lucy just got engaged so, we’re taking him in our group,” Neville nodded, “oh and we’re inviting the old married one as well, Ernie.” His Gran entered the living room at this moment and his eyes fell on the small envelope she held tightly in her left hand. He suddenly understood what his Gran had meant earlier; he remembered that letter!
“Sorry to disturbed you children, but here, I thought maybe you wanted to share this with Hannah; I remember your father shared it with your mother,” his Gran smiled, holding out the letter for him to take. Neville grabbed the envelope with a shaky hand, a bit worried of what he would find in there.
“What is this?” Hannah asked when he turned to her as his Gran left the room.
“Come,” he answered with a small smile, pulling her up and leading her in the backyard. They sat under the old willow tree and for a moment, Hannah watched in silence as Neville twisted the small envelope in his hand.
“So, what is this?” She finally asked. He looked up at her and she saw how far and sad he looked for a moment before he gave her a small smile.
“Hannah, do you remember me, back in our first couple of years at Hogwarts?”
“I remember you and I partnered in Herbology in third year and up but before that, honestly, I don’t. Why?”
“I had a hard time at Hogwarts,” he said after a short moment, “the first couple of years were hard and quite lonely for me. I got along well with everybody but I didn’t have any real friends, you know?”
“I never noticed,” Hannah whispered, feeling very sad for her lover.
“When you and I really became friends, in fifth year, things had gotten much better for me. Fifth year with the original DA and everything, it helped me gain confidence and I made real friends that year, you included,” he smiled lovingly. With a deep breath, he held the letter out for Hannah to take. “My Gran made me write this the day before I left for Hogwarts. A letter she said she would hold on to until the day I got married; like she had done with my Dad. Read this and you will get a better idea of what I was like before we were friends.”
“Are you sure? It seems very personal.”
“I’m sure, I want you to know the real insecure me; I’ve got nothing to hide from you,” he smiled.
Hannah opened the letter and began reading the short letter; Neville reading over her shoulder. By the end, Hannah had tears in her eyes, and Neville, although he was laughing at his past-self, felt heaviness on his shoulder like he hadn’t felt in years.
“Neville,” she whispered, caressing his cheek, “I love you so much, you know that, right?”
“I do Hannah, I do,” he whispered, kissing the inside of her hand, “even if little Neville didn’t believe it would ever be possible!”
“Your Gran, she really said those things?” There was sadness and a slight touch of anger in her voice; Hannah wasn’t a big fan of Augusta Longbottom but she’d never imagined the older woman could be that mean toward her grandson. If anything, she loved him a bit too much for Hannah’s liking.
“She had loved her son more than anything in the world,” Neville explained, frowning a little, “and she lost him in a horrible incident before she got landed with me. I think she expected me to be an exact replica of my father; to be just as good and well-rounded as he had been. It must have hurt her a lot to realize that I wasn’t like her Frank and she made me feel it; made me feel like I wasn’t good enough. It wasn’t voluntary of her to act like that and I don’t think she even noticed the little things that made me feel so unworthy.”
“What do you mean? How can she not realize saying things like that might hurt a child’s self-esteem?”
“She didn’t say that to my face,” Neville shook his head, a bit surprised by Hannah’s anger, “in front of me, it was more subtle, like the disappointed sighs she gave when I dropped something or forgot things; the constant comparison to my father whenever I did something he had done as well, although he’d been much better at it, in her opinion.”
“You must have been happy to be a Gryffindor then, showed you were a bit more like him then both you and her thought,” Hannah sighed, acknowledging that Neville didn’t share her feelings on the treatment he had received from his Gran.
“You would think so,” Neville nodded with a sad smile, “but no, it wasn’t better. Being a Gryffindor was a lot of pressure for me. I didn’t feel brave at all and honestly, for the first four years or so, I was convinced the Sorting hat had made a mistake! My Gran reminded me that my father had been the perfect Gryffindor; one of the same sort as Harry Potter, according to her.”
“Come on, no one could ever be as ridiculously Gryffindor-like as Harry! He took it to the extreme and there is no way your father, as great as he was, could compare to that.”
“I know, I know. Of course I didn’t know when I was younger,” Neville acknowledged, “the feelings in this letter, they stayed with me for the first four years of school. Then, I made some real friends and began really controlling my magic and I gained some confidence. After our little trip in the Ministry, my Gran was proud of me, told me I was beginning to act like my father had. That helped my confidence as well. Things got better and I finally understood why I was a Gryffindor and that I had strength, even if they were different then everyone else’s.”
“And it’s what made you so interesting in my eyes, even before fifth year,” Hannah told him, taking his hand in hers, “you were different and weren’t ashamed of it. I know some boys laughed at you for liking flowers and plants but you brushed it off and I remember thinking that you must have been a very strong guy, very secure, if it didn’t affect you.”
“Oh it did, don’t go imagining things; you have no idea how many nights I cried myself to sleep or all the times I hid in empty classrooms just to be alone and invisible.”
“And then you became a leader, a hero,” Hannah smiled at him, laughing slightly when the usual uncomfortable blush crept on his face.
“Don’t say that, you know I’m no hero.”
“Little Neville would think you are one,” Hannah argued, showing him the letter.
“Alright, little Neville would think so, compared to what he expected I would become.”
“What did you imagine exactly?”
“Oh, that’s easy,” Neville says promptly, “I thought I’d be an old man, living with my Gran and taking care of her for the rest of our days. Living with a bunch of kneazles and gardening in our backyard all day long. Most definitely die alone as well, never loved by any woman, just kneazles and my Gran.”
“Wow, you really surpassed your expectations then,” Hannah smiled at him brightly. Neville couldn’t help but share her happiness. He didn’t have much in common with little Neville anymore; he had overcome his fears and shame; he had accepted himself and discovered his sense of self-worth.
“Little Neville would have loved to know that things would pick up some day,” Neville looked at the letter sadly. “Would have made it more bearable, knowing that it would not last forever, this sadness and loneliness.”
“Probably,” Hannah nodded, “but maybe you needed to go through all those uncertainties to become who you are now. Maybe the fact that you kept trying to make yourself a better life without knowing if it would ever work out, that’s what makes you a real hero. My hero.”
“You’re so corny, I love you,” he laughed at her before taking her into his arms.
“Well, I have to go now,” she sighed after a moment or two, “got to make myself look presentable for tomorrow; got to make sure the hottest bloke in the place only looks at me and no one else.”
“Even dressed in rags and rolled up in dirt, I’d still only look at you.”
“Who said I was talking about you?” She asked as she got up. Laughing like children, the two fiancés made their way back inside and reluctantly, Neville said goodbye to Hannah.
After she left, Neville looked down at his hand and saw he was still holding the letter. Thinking back on his first year at school, Neville shook his head with a slight smile; it had been a horrible year for him. So bad actually, that he wondered how he made it through the end. A sudden memory flashed in his mind. No, it couldn’t be real. Even back then, he had thought of it as a dream.
But maybe it wasn’t, he thought. Maybe I did send that letter somehow, and that gave me the courage to keep going. It was worth a try and so, Neville made his way to the bedroom of his childhood and took out a piece of parchment and black ink.
No, he thought as he put the bottle back into the drawer, it was written in blue ink. With a smile and now convinced that this would work, Neville went back outside and like he had done fourteen years ago, he sat down under the willow tree and dipped his quill into the blue ink. A large splatter dropped on the parchment and he swore under his breath.
“Whoa, there was a splatter on that piece of paper,” he murmured, imbued with this confirmation that the letter he read back in first year had indeed been real. Eyes closed, Neville tried to remember what was written on that letter. He had only read it a couple of times that night and the next morning, the letter had vanished so, he wasn’t very sure of what was in it. He remembered the general message though: don’t give up, things will get better eventually. Neville opened his eyes and smiled lightly; he just had to write a new one; for all he knew, it would turn out to be the exact same thing anyway.
Dear little Neville,
Today is a good day for me, for us. Today, Gran gave me the letter I wrote all those years ago because I am getting married. This letter isn’t about telling you what your future holds though; it is a simple reminder that you do, indeed, have a future. Life will not be easy and things will not magically fall into place for you but you will pull through and trust me, it’ll be worth it. Hold on to your passions little Neville; keep your sensitive heart open and trust yourself. The future is bright for you, even if you can’t see it now and even if it feels like you never will see it, don’t ever give up.
Oh, and don’t listen to Snape either, he’s wrong about you, us. You know, he’s wrong about Neville, the little and the older one.
Older Neville Longbottom (I'm not that old...)