9.

Neville followed his grandmother through the false shop window. Even though the hospital was full of the chatter of injured witches and wizards, the cries of children, Neville's footsteps seemed to echo, their sound filling up the room and his head. He was going to see mum and dad again. He didn't know if he could stand it. He couldn't stand not to see them. Seeing them in the flesh was a reminder of what he could've had. He knew he had been robbed of so much. He mentally kicked himself. He had been robbed of so much? He had been robbed? What he had lost was nothing to what his parents had lost. He, Neville, was still very much in full possession of all his faculties, limited though they might be. He still had a shot at having some sort of a life. Not that he was doing much with it. He shook his head so hard his neck hurt. He was doing something; he was in the DA, he was fighting. He was going to fight, anyway. He wasn't going to let everything be over like he always had before. He wanted to do something, not have things done to him because he was there. Because he was defenseless, shaky as a colt. He hated lying on the ground like a puddle, waiting for people to splash in him just so something would happen for once. Couldn't something just happen for once?

They had reached the door of his parents' ward. Gran was already pushing it open, maintaining an iron grip on his forearm.

"Come now, Neville, dear, it's Christmas day. You shouldn't look so glum."

Neville tried to smile. He caught sight of his reflection in the door's window. He looked as though he had just swallowed lemonade with no sugar in. He frowned at himself and went inside. Professor Lockhart greeted him jovially, like always. Neville wasn't entirely sure why Lockhart was there. He had never in three years asked the Healer, fearing Gran's reaction to such inquisitiveness. Neville tore his eyes off Lockhart. They came to rest on his mother. The Healer had already helped her out of bed. Her eyes were as sunken in as always. Always so blank. He sometimes wondered what she saw. Did she see him? Did she recognize him? He knew the answer was no, had to be no, but he couldn't help hoping. Hoping that somewhere in there she saw her son. Somewhere in there she loved him.

Neville reached out to take her hand. He had been warned by both the Healer and Gran not to hug her, as the feeling of constriction might alarm her. And then she would be back to how she was for the first few years. When he had turned thirteen, Gran had sat him down and told him everything. It was more everything than he needed. So much more than he needed. He remembered her drinking a gin and tonic. She would smack her lips in a satisfied way after she could see that something in particular had shocked him. Sometimes he wondered if she was proud that his parents had been important enough to warrant such a fate. He shuddered slightly. She wasn't a monster. Not evil, not horrible. Just… he didn't know what she was sometimes. He hadn't realized until a year or two later that the gin was probably helping her through it, and she was doing what she would have wanted.

Gran had said that the first few years were the worst. She wasn't allowed to bring a child into their ward, for fear that the experience would be too scarring. The recent damage had made them so unstable. What little magic they had left created chaos around them. Their agony was being turned outward because they had spent their last sane moments resisting the urge to give information. They couldn't hold things within them anymore. So everything around them broke. Shattered like they had. Eventually they calmed down. They must have realized on some level that they were in a safe environment. But they became less responsive. They were a little more gone every year.

Someone called his name. He turned around to see Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Ginny. And then Gran started the introductions. There was no stopping her after that point. He would have to tell them. And he did. He hated them as he did it. He hated Harry and his friends. He wished they would laugh at him. He needed a reason to feel aggressive. For the second time since joining the D.A. he realized how much he wanted- needed- revenge. He needed this never-ending parade of grief to end.

Neville took the gum wrapper his mother held out to him. He put in his pocket, silently vowing to save it, like he had with all the others.


Luna felt like flame. She always did when she came back from seeing Daddy at Christmas. He would sit in front of the fire and fill the room with tales of his youth. Searching for the elusive Snorkack. She liked the stories because her mother was in most of them. She learned a little more about her every time she heard them. The room would expand to fit all these figures as they danced across the walls. The way he spoke, she could see them. They were shadows that pirouetted gracefully in behind her eyes. She watched them like film. She stored them for when she needed some comfort. When she needed the warmth of her father's voice around her like a quilt- but it wasn't the same without him there. But she was always glad to be back at Hogwarts. Daddy was magnificent, but sometimes she needed solid ground underneath her feet. Her mother was the earth, if she remembered correctly. Her mother was the earth, Daddy was the air, and Luna was water. She was the intermediary, she was the link. They both needed her and she needed them. They had floated along together in complete peace.

Now her father's need was more desperate. He clung to her like a vine seeking water, like she was the only thing keeping him alive. A vine is not meant to live without earth. Earth gives rise to all things that grow. Too much water can kill. Luna brushed a curl out of her face. The winter sun shone unforgivingly down on the courtyard. She must look pale and unhealthy in this light. She remembered what her mother would have said- "freckles are kisses from the sun." Luna twirled on her toes, deciding to enjoy the sudden warmth.

She opened her eyes to find someone staring at her curiously. It was Neville. A smile was tugging at the left corner of his mouth ever so slightly. He had dimples. They were nice. Luna smiled at him.

"Have you had a good holiday?" he said, tentatively, as though afraid that she would take offense. She nodded, wondering why he would be scared. "Oh good," he said, a little more brightly. He apparently needed time to gain confidence. But he was sad, she knew. She took a step closer to him, examining him. He blinked.

"How are you?" she said.

He stammered a little. "I'm fine."

Luna frowned slightly. She knew he was lying for the sake of manners. Mum called that inverted courage.

"I don't think so," she said. "But you will be."


Neville raised his eyebrows, a little taken aback. However, this was Loony(Luna, he corrected himself) Lovegood, and he was used to this sort of thing from her. He admitted to himself that she no longer creeped him out- she just made him curious.

He took a deep breath.

"Can we talk again sometime?" he asked.

Luna positively beamed.