Disclaimer: HP isn't mine.
"Look at this," Harry said, waving his hand towards the parchment on the bar. Unfortunately, said hand held a glass of firewhiskey, some of which slopped over the rim and onto Neville's lap--but Neville, like Harry, was rather too drunk at the moment to care. "I mean, look. At this. The commas."
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Hannah roll her eyes at them as she bustled by, but she was used to their semi-regular get-togethers and went about serving her real customers fairly cheerfully. Neville would probably get an earful in the morning, but he'd long ago confided to Harry that Hannah didn't actually mind their escapades at all--apparently two war heroes getting drunk together brought in business, and Hannah was surprisingly ruthless and shameless when it came to making money.
Besides, wifely scolding was, in Harry's opinion, an indispensable part of the tradition. He'd made Ginny swear to give him a hard time after her initial rather disappointing lack of reproach--it'd been far too long since he got to feel at all like a rebel, after all; being a respectable father of three and Ministry department Head did that.
Ginny went about it unenthusiastically but dutifully, given that in all honesty she liked having a few nights a month on her own with the kids, and Harry was considerate about being quiet when he got back.
"Oooh," Neville murmured, eyes wide. "That's bad, that is. S'like Ron just...tossed 'em on there. Let 'em fall where they will," he added melodramatically, clasping a hand to his heart.
"I think I get why McGonagall always left tear stains on his essays, now," Harry said sadly. "An'--an' look at this one, Nev, just look." He pulled another parchment out of his best-of-the-worst-must-show-to-Neville folder. "I shoulda never let--never let Shacklebolt talk me into hiring the bastard," he said. "'S'been three weeks an' I can't take it, Nev, I really can't."
"V-vvv-verily," Neville read slowly, having some difficulty focusing, "on the fourth of May, there came an end to the long and difficult flight of the Dread Wizard Bartemus from the frim--frim--firm but gentle grip of justice--oh, Merlin, really?"
"Every time," Harry said gloomily. "Seamus writes 'em like that every time. And there's always a limerick somewhere, too. I tell you, Nev, I thought it'd be all, all ord'ring people around and saving the world. But no. It's, it's all paperwork, and making Ron and Baddock stop punching each other, and scheduling, and everyone complains to me about everything--and my Aurors, they write limericks. In their reports. Limericks."
"That's horrible," Neville said sympathetically. "But, but--the third year essays, Harry, I gotta show you--I know Victoire's your niece and all, but--"
"But she's a, a, great bloody bird thing--"
"Ravencraw. Craw. Claw," Neville supplied helpfully.
"Yeah, right, one of them. Good writers. I love Racenvaws. Ravencraws. Craws. Claws." He thought fondly of Su Li, who could punctuate like a champion, and employed bulletpoints. Harry had a deep appreciation for bulletpoints these days.
"She gets bored," Neville said. "Too smirt. Smart. Bloody smart." He pulled out a scroll from his own best-of-the-worst portfolio, one rather more battered and dirt-covered than Harry's.
The report was complete gibberish. "I don't get it," Harry said helplessly, eyes crossing when he tried a little too hard to concentrate. Oooh, his nose had ink on it. He wondered vaguely how that happened.
"She wrote it backwards. Re-revershed. Vershed. Versh--backwards. And her next one--"
He handed Harry the assignment; this one was not only written backwards, but spiralling out from the middle of the parchment. There were also, he noted with a feeling of great foreboding, a few doodles that looked suspiciously like Teddy Lupin, and little hearts with VW+TL scrawled in them.
"Turn it over," Neville suggested wearily. Harry did, and winced. The entire back of the parchment was filled with--well--
"Victoire Lupin. Teddy Weasley. Teddy Delacour-Weasley. Victoire Delacour-Lupin. ...Mr. and Mrs. Teddy and Victoire Lupin-Tonks-Weasley-Delacour? Oh dear."
"'N I gotta, gotta Slyth'rin. Member of PETA. I think. PETA. Writes all these beau—beyoo—lovely essays. But there'sh footnoteses, Harry, always footnoteseses...es. About the evils of hurting innoce—innocent animals." Neville sniffled mournfully. "She calls me snake-killer, sometimes."
Harry winced and patted him comfortingly on the shoulder. "I killed a snake too," he said in anti-PETA solidarity. "Big one. Bit me."
"And then," Neville said ominously, lowering his voice so his wife couldn't hear, "there's the Hufflebuffs. Guffs. Hupplefupps."
Harry cringed in complete understanding of Neville's pain. Susan Bones, while one of the finest witches in his department, with an arrest record nearly equalling his own, was not what anyone would consider a good writer. What that girl could do to a participle...it hardly bore thinking about.
And the Metaphor-Simile Thing. Shacklebolt still refused to pass a law forbidding Hufflepuffs from using either, but Harry could feel his resolve weakening with every new Smith or Bones or Whitby report passed on to him.
And Harry made sure that he passed all of them on to the Minister. Vital information in 'em. Very vital. 'Bout how dark wizards had robes of darkest midnight and, and souls like rotting apples, full of worms, that was another good one.
"I think," Neville confided, "that we're finally drunk enough for this one. Jenny Zeller, first year. Hupplefluff, 'course." He presented the parchment with a flourish; Harry braced himself for the pain.
"'Plants are nice,'" he read aloud. "'They are often green. In conclusion, plants.'"
The letters were each about two inches tall, with huge spaces between words, to cover the requisite nine inches of parchment.
Harry and Neville exchanged a long, despairing glance. "Bet you anything she becomes an Auror," Harry said fatalistically. "I can see it now. 'Dark Wizards are bad. They are often criminals. In concrusion, con…crusion, an arrest.' And there'll be a meta, metaphor. With maggots."
"'Nother shot, loves?" Hannah asked as she came up behind Neville. She didn't even try to hide her amusement.
"Oh, please," Neville agreed, clasping his wife's hand rather desperately.
"You're the perfect woman," Harry added as she tugged away from her husband and moved around to the other side of the bar.
"You say that to everyone when you're drunk, Harry," Hannah said with a tolerant smile as she poured two more shots.
"And Nev," Harry said mistily. "Nev, you're the perfect woman, too."
Neville's eyes welled up. "You really think so, Harry? Really?" Harry nodded solemnly, and Neville sniffled. "You're--you're a damn fine one yourself," the Herbology professor asserted proudly.
"Oh dear God," Hannah sighed.
I, uh, refuse to apologize. In my own personal canon, Neville and Harry totally do this after the war, and at the end of the evening they teepee Malfoy Manor.