Neville walked down the corridor of St. Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and pushed his way into ward 49. His gran was dragging him down to his parents' beds. She was in quite the state today-had been all summer. He had come home, fully expecting all of Augusta Longbottom's wrath for leaving school, breaking into a secure Ministry of Magic area and breaking his father's wand. They were serious offenses and he could have been killed.
Instead the moment he saw her after stepping off of the train she'd grabbed him in a tight hug and had begun to sob. He'd tried to calm her but he heard broken words like "your father" and "so proud." Over the course of the past month he had heard just how proud his grandmother was and how proud his parents would have been, how like his father he was shaping up to be, even if he did not have Frank's dashing good looks.
In reality, Neville felt like something of a fraud. He'd tried his hardest but he just hadn't been able to do what he should have done, not like Harry had. He had remained standing until the end, which he was proud of, but he had been without a good wand to practice magic with after his fathers had snapped, not that he had been much good before that. Not to mention it had been his fault the prophecy had shattered and no one had heard it. If You-Know-Who was trying to get his hands on it, well, it must have been extremely important.
They reached the beds at the end of the ward and happened upon his parents. His father was, as Neville had always seen him, laying in his bed, pale and emotionless. His mother was having a good day, sitting up with a slight smile on her face. He wished, really wished, that they would turn to him, recognize him, wish him a happy birthday on this, his sixteenth, but there was no such luck.
Neville pulled up chairs for himself and Gran and they sat. Gran instantly launched into the story of the Department of Mysteries. Neville was only half listening as she told the story, he was watching his parents.
"He was fighting a good fight Frank, you'd have been so proud. He did break your wand though. I figure if it had to go though that was the way you would have wanted it destroyed. I'm just glad that the boy never broke it in one of his many accidents. He has a new one now, just bought it off of Ollivander. It's a good wand."
What had they been thinking, feeling, that day sixteen years ago today? These people he had never known save visits every summer and Christmas hols, who were now no more than shells of the people they once were, all Neville wanted was what they could not give: their love, their pride, their respect.
Would they find him like his father or was he more his mother's son? Would they really be proud of him? Would they have been angry with him for putting himself in such danger?
"He faced them down, the ones who did this to you, never even flinched."
When this had happened, had they thought of anything beyond the pain? Had they thought of him? Maybe it was selfish to hope that they had.
"Natural talent must be why he's alive, all of those instincts you both had. Six children against so many Death Eaters."
What would they, these impressive Aurors who had lost their minds to Death Eaters, have thought of his lack of magical ability as a child? What would they have really thought of the Department of Mysteries? He would have preferred an audience that would have responded, rather than have his gran explain what they were thinking and feeling. Bitter now, Neville was pretty sure they weren't feeling or thinking anything regarding the Department of Mysteries, not these people here.
"Neville, aren't you going to say anything," he heard Gran ask finally.
The urge to tell her he hadn't had much of a chance welled up in him but he quickly shut it down. Instead he turned to his parents again. "I didn't do much, I just…I did what I thought you would have done, followed the lead of Harry-Harry Potter. He was the one that was really impressive."
"Oh, now Neville, don't put yourself down so," Gran blustered over him. Neville sighed and sat back in his chair while she continued on. "He and Harry Potter were the only ones left standing, you know?"
She went on again and he failed to correct her about the standing-as Harry had practically had to carry him out of the Death Room-about how terrified he had been, about how he wanted to run and hide. Instead he let her carry on until she was done.
He stood and said good bye to both of his parents, gave his mother a kiss on the cheek and began to follow his gran out of the ward. But within a few moments, there was a tell tale shuffling behind him. He heard his gran stop and sigh, but Neville turned around and held out his hand. She pressed the Drubble's gum wrapper into his hand and he closed a fist around it. "Thanks Mum, for the present."
"That's very nice Alice," Gran said with a polite smile. Once his mother had turned to shuffle off, she rounded on him. "Oh Neville, really, toss it and let's get on out of here."
Neville slipped it into his pocket and followed his grandmother out of the ward. Maybe he would never get the answers that he needed but he was going to hold out hope that his mother gave him bubblegum wrappers because she cared and had nothing else to give. That, Neville figured, was the best present he was going to get this year.