Chapter 18 : An Easter Surprise
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It had been a few weeks since I had finally told first Neville and then Harry, Hermione, Ron what had happened over the Christmas Holiday. And I quickly realized the mistake I had made in not telling them to begin with. I had held the information tightly to myself, thinking that they wouldn't understand. And even worse that they wouldn't want to be my friends anymore. I couldn't have been more wrong. And with their help, and the I still had bad days, sometimes very bad ones, and the slight relief I felt from not facing it alone I was slowly but surely getting better. I still had my horrible fears but with them they weren't as bad.
While my nightmares were still present, they had gotten better to the point that I could at least sleep. And I knew for a fact that I would never get away with going off the deep end again. Now that I was mostly back to my normal self I noticed just how close my friends and even a few of the professors were watching me. And while their constant watch could be a bit annoying at times, it was also so wonderful to know that they cared.
I did my best now not to block anyone out, and while it was hard and I was still terrified of losing or hurting them, I began to realize that just maybe it was worth it.
But slowly even I could see my improvement. I found myself blaming myself less, and the weight of my grief was slowly evaporating to the point where it was still there but more like a gentle reminder not a crushing boulder. That did not however mean that Neville let his watch duty on me falter in any way, shape, or form. He was so protective of me it was actually a bit funny, seeing as just a few months ago he had been so shy. The only way I could think to describe it was an extremely protective older brother, one that would murder anyone who would dare hurt his little sister. And that particular development is how I ended up with a serious Easter surprise.
About two weeks before the Easter holidays were to begin my depression started slinking up on me again. My friends of course noticed immediately, and it seemed Neville decided that I would not be spending the holiday at the castle, and I most certainly would not be doing it without him. He wasn't going to let me wallow in my loneliness, he had told me quite explicitly several times that he would never let that happen to me again. He was never going to let me feel like I was alone, like I had no where and no one to turn to.
So a few days later I got quite the shock at breakfast. An owl I recognized as belonging to Neville's grandmother swooped down towards the Gryffindor table, but instead of swooping down in front of Neville and then quickly hopping over to me for a bite of food, the owl landed gracefully on my shoulder and held out his leg which had a letter attached to it.
I looked at Neville curiously, but he was currently hiding behind Hermione's copy of the prophet, and so shrugging my shoulders I opened the parchment scroll that was addressed simply Ashley.
I scanned the letter quickly and was overcome with surprise and a feeling of warmth as I saw just who the short letter was from and just what it was in regards to.
This is Neville's grandmother and I wanted to invite you to spend the Easter holidays with us. Neville informed me that you were planning on staying at Hogwarts over the break, and I simply will not have it! One needs to spend time away from school at the holidays, so I do hope you will come and stay with us. I hope that I get to see you again, and do make sure Neville keeps up in his studies for me.
I smiled slightly as I read the note, which came just short of demanding that I come and spend Easter at the Longbottom household. I looked up to see that Neville was now watching me intently and realizing that my first holiday without my parents would definitely be worse without my best friend by my side I quickly decided what I was going to do. I shot Neville a quick smile and a nod, looking down just after a wide grin spread across his face and quickly penning a letter accepting the invite to Mrs. Longbottom; sending it off with the same owl that had brought it.
The two weeks passed quickly, and soon I was riding down to Hogsmeade station in the carriages with Neville. And as I peered out the window I was hit by a wave of nervousness. What if I couldn't handle this? What if I started celebrating and was suddenly hit with everything? What if?
But it seemed that I wasn't hiding it well, as Neville smiled genuinely at me and squeezed my shoulder comfortingly. And it was strange a minute ago I was feeling so nervous and depressed and now the moment Neville's hand found my shoulder I was filled with strength.
I had no time to ponder that just now though, as the two of us quickly stepped out of the carriage and hopped onto the train.
The two of us quickly found an empty compartment, and stowed our stuff. We sat chatting about nothing, and as the train pulled out it started to rain. We passed the long and dreary ride back to London with a combination of cards, conversations about all that had happened that year, and at my insistence a bit of work on our large pile of homework.
Several hours later we were pulling into King's Cross Station, the weather still dreary but the rain was holding up, at least for now. The two of us gathered our belongings and stepped into the cool London afternoon, both our eyes searching for a certain older lady.
We quickly found her and she tightly hugged Neville, and I smirked slightly at the embarrassed blush that crept up his cheeks. But then it was his turn to smirk as she turned and pulled me into a hug as well. After our greetings were exchanged Mrs. Longbottom led us over to the floo. And a bout of nerves took over again, I had absolutely no idea how to use a floo. I knew what is was,but no practical idea of how to use it.
Neville noticed and without any hesitation said, "Gram, Ashley's going to floo with me since this is the first time for her." I smiled warmly at him and held his arm as instructed as he tossed the powder down calling out, "Longbottom Place!"
Suddenly we were both spinning and without even realizing it I found myself clinging to Neville's arm and snapping my eyes shut. A few moments later the spinning stopped and started chuckling I opened my eyes and blushed as I stepped away from him. He just smiled as the two of us stepped out of the way so that his Gran could step through.
Later that day I had met several of Neville's great aunts and uncles who had come over to welcome him home and to meet me. It was truly hilarious, and I got my revenge on Neville for the floo fiasco when his great Uncle Algie asked if I was his girlfriend. I smirked and Neville turned tomato red. The day as a whole was a success and when I lay in bed in one of the guest bedrooms that night I came to realize that my heart still had scars, and it likely would for the rest of my life, but they were beginning to heal.
The pain didn't feel as raw anymore, and enjoying this no longer felt like rubbing salt into an open wound. I'm also pretty sure that being with Neville and the Longbottoms instead of moping around the castle was helping. With them life felt easy again, even normal.
The next few days were a rush of activity. Neville took me the small muggle town they lived near one day. And I found it fascinating, I had only been in the U.K. for several months but already I was falling in love with it. And I got my first taste of real fish and chips, that would definitely be something I would never stop liking.
The Easter holiday passed quickly and being with a family was helping me to move on. In an effort the come back to myself and function like a normal human being I had pretty much locked out my past. Because of that I was moving on now. I was sure I would probably have regrets in the future but for right now, it was what I needed to do.
The two of us boarded a scarlet steam engine and returned to Hogwarts. Everything was rushing at me now. Exams. End of term. And where the hell was I going to live this summer?
But I left those questions unanswered for the train ride, for right it was just time to revel in the simplicity.
A few months ago my life had taken a complete 180, and while it would never be completely the same again the pitching deck that had become my life was slowly evening out and the storm passing. My life would never be the same, but maybe that wasn't a horrible thing after all.
Hope you liked it, and pretty please review. :)
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