Disclaimer: As always I own nothing but the original characters and the situations I put all the characters in. Everything else belongs to someone else and I hope you won't sic their lawyers on me. Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoy and review so I know what people think of this idea!
Note: This was a bizarre as hell idea I had when I thought about Ginny asking James to give Neville their love in the epilogue of the seventh book. It made me wonder what would happen if he ever actually did develop feelings of love for his parents' friend. If the idea totally sucks PLEASE tell me!
Let It Begin
Standing on the platform while he waited for his turn to board the Hogwarts Express, James Sirius Potter was nervous as hell. Not about the coming term, he wasn't too worried about that just yet. Even though he was in his seventh year at Hogwarts, and set to fact the dreaded NEWTS at the end of the school year, James had never been the type to worry about his schoolwork. Blessed with above average intelligence he generally coasted through his classes without exerting himself too much. No, it wasn't the thought of returning to classes and studying that had him jittery. It was the thought of what he planned to do when he got back to school that had him unable to keep still.
He'd spent most of the first term preparing for this coming one, mapping everything out with the skill and knowledge of a seasoned general. The ironic thing was that he knew that total failure awaited him. He'd started this whole thing knowing he had an iceberg's chance in hell of getting what he wanted. But he was still going to do it; it was the Weasley in him. He had to at least try.
"What is wrong with you?" Thirteen year old Albus asked his older brother, thinking that James looked more wired than their little sister on sugar.
Raising an eyebrow at the shortness of his brother's answer Albus figured it was best to just let it go. James had been acting weird all during Christmas vacation and even before that. His brother would tell him eventually. Hopefully. He'd hate to have to try and beat it out of him, mostly because James would likely win.
"Now you two are sure you have everything?" Ginny asked her boys for the fifth time. They were always forgetting something, she thought fondly, resisting the urge to try and brush down their raven black hair, which stuck up at the back like their father's.
"Yes, Mum." The two chimed back in tandem, though they both had probably left something behind they'd meant to bring back to school with them.
"Right." Rolling her eyes Ginny crossed her arms in front of her as she gave them both her best 'mum' look. "Now I want you both to remember that I WILL kill you if I have to come speak to the Headmaster on your behalves this year. I have enough grey hairs as it is, you adding to them will not bode well for your futures, capice?"
Amused by all three of them Harry was wise enough not to point out to his wife that they all knew she wouldn't really harm a hair on either boy's head. Lecture them to death, maybe. "You boys have a good term and try and stay out of trouble." He said instead.
"And if nothing else remember to give Neville our love, okay?" And now she was dead serious. "This holiday season was probably really hard for him. It wouldn't hurt for you boys to try and go out of your way to let him know we're all thinking about him."
Rolling his eyes Albus nodded his head in agreement.
"I will, Mum." James replied, his tone oddly solemn.
Noticing the change Ginny gave her son a questioning look, but didn't press when he didn't elaborate or explain. Instead she watched them board the train, having the strangest feeling that something big was in the making.
It was almost time to head to the Great Hall for dinner, but Professor Neville Longbottom was dragging his feet. He had zero appetite and would have skipped it altogether if it weren't for the fact that his absence would be noticed and reported back to Ginny and Harry posthaste. And while they were two of his closest friends Neville really didn't want to deal with their sympathy or advice. That they were still happily married to each other didn't help.
He was now officially a single man. His divorce had gone through the second of the new year. 'Till death do us part' had turned out to be only nineteen years, the last four spent trying to save a marriage his wife hadn't been interested in saving. Not even to save herself.
Rubbing his hands over his eyes Neville tried not to think about Hannah. Not to remember how she'd been before the past had successfully consumed her life. They'd had no children to fight over because Hannah had refused to bring a child into the world. The loss of her mother at sixteen, and all that she'd seen and done at the Battle of Hogwarts had scarred her in ways he'd never been able to heal. And so she lived in the darkness, divorcing him because she didn't want him to be dragged down with her.
Unlike Hannah Neville knew he had the strength to rise above this, to keep living even when he couldn't see a damn reason why he'd want to. His grandmother had passed away three years ago and without Hannah he was without family. The closest thing he had to that now was Harry, Ginny, Luna and their families. And thinking of them had him straightening his shoulders and heading for the door. Those kids were going to be arriving soon and he wouldn't disappoint them or himself. He was a thirty eight year old man and he was going to act like it.
And so he went to dinner, putting on a smile and returning the waves from the various Potters and Weasleys. He sat through the whole meal, forcing himself to put food in his mouth and act like nothing was wrong as he chatted with Hagrid and the Transfiguration teacher.
Since he was in no hurry to return to the room he now called home Neville stuck around until most everyone was gone, finally making his excuses as the last of the students toddled out to head for bed.
Heading straight back to his rooms Neville's only thought was to go to bed too. He didn't have anything left and mental exhaustion was eminent. Letting himself in Neville surveyed the barren bedroom with derision, remembering the messy hominess of his former abode above the Leaky Caldron. The stuff that was his was mostly in storage right now, he hadn't had the energy or inclination to bring any of it with him in the fall, after the separation. That would make it all seem too real, and he still wasn't up for that yet.
Walking over to the mirrored bureau Neville's eyes happened to land on the unfamiliar cream colored envelope resting on its tabletop. Picking it up Neville saw that it was addressed to him, but there was no return address to give him a clue as to the sender. Strange, he thought as he slit the letter open. A letter from the Headmaster perhaps? Pulling out and unfolding the single sheet of paper Neville didn't recognize the handwriting as he wandered over to sit on the edge of his bed, turning on the bedside lamp for better light as he began to read.
Happy belated Christmas and New Year, though I know neither holiday was pleasant for you. Unless you were too tired out from the feast, you're reading this after dinner. I'm sure you would have rather skipped it, but it was good that you went.
At this point you're probably wondering who I am and why I'm writing to you.
The simple answer is because I love you.
I've been in love with you for a while, but always knew I didn't have a chance. You were married, and it would have been wrong of me to burden you with my feelings, even knowing that your marriage was ending. I also know that now is probably not the greatest time to confess my feelings to you either. But I had to tell you sometime…and I thought that perhaps it might make you feel a little less empty and alone, to know that there is someone in this world who would do anything to make you happy. And that's really my main goal with this letter and the others I plan to send you. To make you aware of my feelings for you and to get you used to the idea that there is perhaps someone still out there for you. You'll notice this letter isn't signed, I'm going to remain anonymous for now. We'll see what you make of me before you have a name or face to put with my words.
Jaw practically on the ground Neville wondered that his brains didn't just leak out his ears. What the hell? Reading the letter over for the second, third and forth time Neville couldn't believe or comprehend how it could keep saying the same thing. The idea that he had a secret admirer, someone who actually claimed to love him, made zero sense to him. Gaze turning to the mirror Neville blinked at his reflection.
The same face he'd had earlier stared back at him, though it was looking more than a little pale and shell shocked at the moment. He was not the type of person who received love letters, at least not since the early days after the Battle of Hogwarts. Then he'd been cast in Harry's spillover glory, especially since his friend had been eager to shoulder as little credit as possible. But that was twenty one years ago. Now he was just a regular guy, a teacher for Merlin's sake. It wasn't like he was handsome, definitely not someone the girls went crazy for. Who was this girl that she would write something like this to him of all people?
Could it all be a prank? Would someone be so cruel? Try as he might Neville couldn't think of anyone who bore him a big enough grudge to justify doing something like this to him. He had students who didn't like him, but this was incredibly low, even for a Slytherin.
And it didn't feel faked.
Reading the letter one last time Neville tried desperately to think of anyone here at Hogwarts who had ever seemed to express any interest in him romantically. That was one big zero, he thought with dark humor as he ran a shaky hand through his tousled dark hair. He honestly couldn't think of a single person who had done anything or said anything that remotely indicated an interest in him. Of course he hadn't been at his best lately, could he have missed something? He was too old for any of the students, any children he might have had would be their classmates. A fellow teacher perhaps? That was rather depressing, since only one of them wasn't a great deal older than him. Was a cougar after him? Shuddering at the thought Neville could only hope not. The teacher close to his own age was the Transfigurations teacher, but he doubted very much he was her type. All the male students were gaga over her and Neville couldn't really blame them, since she was gorgeous, but she could intimidate the hell out of him and she knew it. The only other possibility was that someone from the outside had sent their house elf or owl to deliver this, only guessing that he would attend dinner. That at least made a little more sense.
But what was he to do about all this? Without a name he couldn't speak to the person, couldn't respectfully inform them that he had no interest in getting involved with anyone. Did they truly love him, Neville wondered, the magnitude of that finally sinking in. This was maybe an actual confession of love, indicating someone out there had strong feelings for him. And the confession had been given only because this unknown person had wanted to make him feel better by letting him know he was loved.
And strangely enough, he did.
Wondering about the letter and its writer kept Neville up most of the night. He caught a few hours of sleep, waking up naturally at a little past seven. Unable to will himself back to sleep he reluctantly dragged himself out of bed and into the shower, deliberately choosing cold to finish waking himself up. That made the shower a quick one and soon enough Neville was dressed and heading out the door, thinking to perhaps make a pit stop at one of the green houses before heading to the hall for breakfast.
"You're up early."
A real smile crossing his face Neville turned to see James standing behind him, dressed in a lightweight long sleeve shirt and loose cotton pants. His running attire, Neville guessed, knowing that James often ran around or in the school most mornings to keep in shape.
"Good morning, James. Finishing up?" The shirt was obviously damp from sweat and James's hair was plastered to his head. Wasn't breathing hard though, Neville noticed in admiration, envying the stamina and youth.
"Just. Couldn't sleep?" There were shadows under his eyes, James noticed, doing his best not to show his concern. He wouldn't thank him for drawing attention to it and bothering him was the last thing James wanted to do.
Now there was an understatement, Neville thought ruefully. "Too excited about the coming term to get much sleep."
He had to be one of the worst liars in the history of bad liars, James thought, torn between worry and amusement over Neville's obvious white lie. But he'd let it go. For now.
Knowing a change in topic would be best Neville asked James about his Christmas, not really listening but doing his best to seem like he was, the letter still front and center in his mind. He still couldn't help but wonder if there was some other Neville in the school and he'd simply gotten it by mistake. That would make a hell of a lot more sense.
Now James was the sort of person who likely got a lot of love letters, Neville thought as he watched James gesture wildly with his hands as he described one of George's latest mad inventions. Harry's oldest was the type of boy all the girls were crazy for. James was very good looking with his father's hair and his mother's warm brown eyes. He was about the same height as himself, but a great deal more physically fit and active. James was one of the Gryffindor Chasers, and he was as athletic as he was intelligent. Not that people often realized just how incredibly smart James was, since the boy never seemed to apply himself. Neville had long ago stopped counting the number of times per term he'd caught James staring off into space during his class. He honestly didn't even know why James took his class in the first place. Not that he wouldn't put it past Ginny or Harry to ask the boy to take his class just so that he could report back to them on how he was doing, Neville thought with dark humor. James intended to be a professional Quidditch player like Ginny after all. You didn't need certain class credits for that.
"Are you even listening to me?" James asked, not surprised when his Herbology teacher continued to stare off into space. So instead he contented himself with staring into the older man's hazel eyes until they finally blinked and focused on his face.
"Sorry." Color coming to his cheeks Neville gave James a sheepish look.
"No problem. I don't mind being ignored."
Feeling horrible Neville reached out and brushed James' bangs out of the boy's eyes in an affectionate gesture. "I really am sorry, too much on my mind. I'll be more awake and aware come class time, promise."
Color rising in his cheeks James did his best to play it cool. "Well I'll stand by you so that I can save you if one of the plants tries to kill you while you're off in space."
"My knight in shining armor." Neville agreed with a wink. "Now go get showered and changed. It isn't good for you to be standing around like this, you'll get sick. And if you're sick, who's going to protect me from the evil plants of the greenhouses?"
"Good point, Sir."
Smiling Neville waved him off before heading off in his original direction, completely unaware that James stayed where he was, watching him leave until he was out of sight.