"May you live in interesting times."- Agatean proverb
There is a tradition in wizarding circles that the night before a climatic fight, you have wild hot sex with whoever you can find. It's supposed to tire you out, to allow you to sleep better, and give you better control over your magic.
Harry carefully neglected to mention that he'd been told this by Draco Malfoy. Neville didn't react well to mention of Death Eaters, and Harry was fairly desperate for sex.
They'd been dating for six months, technically. In that time they'd had sex four times—it would have been more, but the first time the Death Eaters had attacked just as Neville finally got Harry's fly button undone, the second time they were too drunk for it to really work, and the third attempt had been a flop. Literally. The bed-legs had woodworm in them, and Neville had standards. The floor was not good enough; neither was the sofa.
So it was that their fifth time, the eve of the climatic battle with Voldemort, was a little surprising—everything worked. The wine was nice but not too strong; the attack didn't come early; and neither did they.
Everything was quite traditional, really. The sex. The burnt-out shell of the once majestic Great Hall. The attack, just before dawn.
"Ha! Potter!" some nameless and faceless Death Eater jeered, as a prelude to Voldemort's entrance. "You'll never defeat the Dark Lord!"
"Don't be too sure of that," Harry said. Neville was just behind him, Ron on the other side, and Hermione hidden—with Lupin and Snape—behind the door, in case they needed backup.
Neville was never a hundred percent sure about what happened next. He knew Voldemort entered the room; knew Harry fought him; saw Voldemort closing with Harry; knew he cast a spell intended to knock Voldemort backwards and give Harry some breathing room; and knew that it didn't work. And that wherever he ended up, it wasn't Hogsmeade.
He found himself in a street. A dirty street. It was loud, considerably behind the times, probably Muggle, and a danger to life and limb.
Utilising his carefully honed battle skills, he threw himself to the ground and moaned, "Oh God I'm going to die oh God oh God I'm going to die."
"Quite likely, if you stay there," a warm voice said, hauling him out of the middle of the road and into an alleyway. "Who are you, and why did you suddenly appear in the middle of the road?"
"Um…" said Neville, who'd never quite got the hang of talking to girls. Which this person certainly was.
Her dress revealed slightly more of her bosom than anyone of Neville's previous acquaintance thought was quite proper. It was rather short, and it was possible to confirm visually that her legs went all the way from her shoes to very close to her rounded derriere.
"Name?" she prompted.
"Err… Neville, Neville Longbottom," he stuttered. "I… where's Harry?"
"Who?" she said.
"Never heard of him." Ah, a Muggle, Neville thought. He'd never really had to deal with one before. "Can you tell me the way to Diagon Alley?"
"Diagon Alley?" she repeated, slowly, turning the name over in her mind. "No, I don't think I know of any place by that name. Maybe the Morpork side, but not round here."
Neville frowned. He'd been so busy panicking that he hadn't really thought about how strange this situation really was. "What is this place?" he asked.
"Ankh-Morpork," she told him.
For a moment, he just stared at her—into her eyes, which surprised her a little—and then said, "Where's that, near Russia?"
She shook her head, and he gave in to the urge to shut his eyes, lie back, and ignore all of it.
* * *
When Neville woke up, he was lying on a bed.
"You've found an interesting one, Rosie," someone said. "I may have trained in Klatch, but I've never seen this before."
"What it is?" the warm female voice asked. Rosie. Huh. Neville didn't think his grandmother would approve of women called Rosie.
"He's a man, but he's pregnant," the other voice—male—replied.
"Are you sure about that, Mossy?"
"Positive. Male genitalia—male chest—but there's definitely something off about him. I've seen a lot of pregnancies, and I know them when I see them. The slightly raised heart beat, the beginnings of a bump… he's heading for the end of his first trimester."
Neville started to say, "Impossible," but was overcome by a sudden urge to throw up. He rolled onto his side, intending to dash for a loo, but found himself vomiting before he could open his eyes.
"Plus morning sickness," the man observed, resting a calming hand on the back of Neville's neck as he spat into the bowl which had appeared from somewhere.
Rosie made a sound that could have been a stifled laugh, and Neville found the strength to say, "Can't be."
"That's what I thought," the man who seemed to be a doctor replied. "But it seems it is. Look—do you live over by UU, by any chance?"
"I don't even know what UU is," Neville said plaintively, and threw up again.
"Shame," the doctor said, moving his feet out of range of the projectile vomit splashing out of the bowl. "I'm sure some of the mutations we see in this city are due to the magical waste they shove over the wall."
"Magic?" Neville asked, when his mouth was free again. "UU, no. Magic, yes. You think some sort of spell did this to me?"
"Could be," the doctor said. "Doesn't really matter. My name's Doctor Mossy Lawn, and Rosie tells me you call yourself Neville."
Neville nodded. "Does matter. I'm a wizard."
Doctor Mossy Lawn raised his eyebrows, and Neville suddenly realised that he didn't have his wand.
"Or I was," he added. He thought about the last spell he'd tried to cast, and retched again, but he hadn't eaten enough breakfast to actually have anything to bring up.
He spat anyway.
"Right," Mossy said. "Rosie—do you know of anywhere he could stay? He's a stranger around here, and while there might be some sorts of work he could do—don't look at me like that—I think he'll have a hard time finding anyone to take him on. Explaining a pregnant man in the Shades is likely to bring him to the attention of the University or Snapcase or someone, and that's the sort of attention he could probably manage without."
"I'm not sure…" Rosie began, but another female voice interrupted her.
"I heard that Mrs Kissinger on Dumpy Lane has a spare room she was looking to hire out."
"Is that so, Sandra? Why didn't you tell me?"
Sandra, a short woman carrying a workbasket, shrugged. "I only heard half an hour ago. It's probably still available."
Rosie looked at Sandra, and then across at Neville, with an air of speculation which made him nervous.
"That sounds good," Mossy said. Neville looked at him, saw him go a little fuzzy, realised he was about to faint again, and was so embarrassed that he passed out.
* * *
Time passed, and if the History Monks interrupted its flow, Neville didn't notice. He was tired, he snapped at everyone who spoke to him (after about a week, this was only Doctor Lawn, who stopped by once a day to check on him—Neville suspected, but couldn't prove, pure curiosity), and he threw up on a regular basis.
His back ached. He got nosebleeds. His belly bulged. Eventually, the baby kicked him for the first time, and he swore at it.
When he could, he walked outside—but the streets were dangerous, and when Sandra got fed up with being yelled at, he didn't like to go out alone. Once or twice, Rosie accompanied him, but they got such odd looks that they quickly stopped.
More time passed. If he'd ever heard of the History Monks, Neville would have been convinced that they were stretching the time out to torture him.
One day, Mossy looked at him carefully, smiled, and said, "You're almost there. I… um… it's going to have to be a surgical delivery."
Neville didn't like the sound of that. He struck out at Mossy, but the doctor evaded his clumsy move neatly, and went on, "It's okay. I've done them before. Not on men, granted, but I have done them."
"Success rate?" Neville ground out, flopping down to sit on the bed.
"Two of the mothers survived."
Neville looked at him, brown eyes narrowed and dangerous. "Any cases where both made it?"
"One," Mossy said, nodding confidently. "Don't worry—there were only three cases. That's a pretty high chance, statistically speaking."
"I don't like Arithmancy," Neville growled.
"I'll come and see you again tomorrow," Mossy said quickly, and hurried out.
Neville started to hug his knees, a habit left over from the old days when he fretted about exams, but found it wasn't really practical. Instead, he sighed and lay down carefully on his side, fighting back the tears that seemed more common now than they'd ever been before.
* * *
Sandra was boiling water, while Rosie paced up and down. The room next door was producing a steady stream of swearing, and the occasional disturbing metal-and-flesh noise.
"What happens if one of them does survive?"
"Depends which one it is," Sandra said, practically. "If it's Neville, we'll start trying to find him a job—you can't keep on paying rent for him forever. If it's the baby—if it's a boy he can go to UU, being magic, and if it's a girl, I'll look after her until she's ready to go out to work."
Rosie looked sharply at Sandra, trying to work out if she'd really just suggested what she thought had just been suggested, and then put that to one side. "Would UU really take a boy in?"
"I think so," Sandra said. "One of the cleaners will, at any rate—there's a girl there, my age, wants a baby but… well, she's a touch on the plain side. Isn't managing to produce one by the normal method, lacking any assistance from the other gender."
"Ah," Rosie nodded, and was about to go on, but Mossy's voice from the other room stopped her.
"Come on, young 'un," he said, encouragingly. There was a brief pause, and then a high-pitched wail. "One of you ladies come and hold him!" Mossy yelled.
Sandra went for the door, but Rosie got there first. "It's fine, I'll go," she said, and the authority in her voice was apparently just enough.
She burst through the door. Mossy handed her the baby, and turned back to Neville, who—Rosie carefully didn't look anywhere except his face. In the time-honoured fashion, Mossy had got him drunk before attempting surgery, and he'd been unconscious for most of it, but the baby's wails had apparently woken him.
"Ugh," he said.
Rosie smiled. "It's a boy." Neville seemed to be trying to nod. "What's his name?" she asked gently.
"I… ugh, I'm drunk. Drunk as aaaaneeewt," Neville slurred. "Drunk… noot… huh… ditch wa'er. Mebbe pond wa'er. Pond. Ponder…"
Rosie grabbed the only part of that which seemed plausible. "Ponder? His name's Ponder?"
Neville didn't answer—he'd passed out again. Rosie stood there for a moment, but then Mossy elbowed her out of the way. "He's gone into shock. Come on, Neville, live, you bastard."
Neville didn't, and all Mossy's cursing didn't revive him.
* * *
"Blood loss," Mossy told his whiskey sadly that evening. "If I could only have…"
"Never mind that now," Rosie told him, slightly sharper than she'd intended. "Sandra's taken the boy—Ponder—over to UU, to the girl she knows there…"
"What's her name?"
"No, the girl."
"I'm not sure. Mary Stibbons, I think. Something dull Stibbons, anyway, or maybe Gibbons. Jane? Judith? Susan? One of those. Does it matter?"
Mossy looked up from his drink for the first time. "No. I just wondered."
"Ah." Rosie nodded, and couldn't think of anything else to say. "I'd better be going—work to do, you know. Sandra will be by later."
Mossy didn't reply. She took her leave.