Dead people could easily overshadow the living. Neville had known that for years. He had seen his grandparents die in front of him. His parents wasted away while he could only helplessly watch. Old friends and mentors murdered. Voldemort and Bellatrix were dead, but they still haunted his dreams. Of all the specters, it was Gran's that was the worst.

"Neville, promise me to marry someone who can support you"

"But gran, I want to marry someone I love"

"I've already arranged something with the Abbots"

"But I don't love her"

"You can and you will, like anything else. You must"

"I'll do it, then…"

"Of course you will"

And then she was gone

If he hadn't spent the past ten years crying, he would have cried at the memory. Poor Hannah had enough to deal with. She had her own problems. He knew what she was going through. He had spent much of his life loving someone who could never return it, and he knew the kind of agony Hannah suffered after her first joy. He wished he could annul it, he wished he could make Hannah happy, he wished he had never made that promise, but there was nothing he could do.

He put down his quill, unable to continue writing the letter to Hogwarts. It was pretty loud, anyway, the Leaky Cauldron's patrons having a raucous party in contrast with his somber mood. While he had inherited his grandmother's estate, he felt compelled to set up with his wife. Neville know she'd come home at the end of the night, crying and exhausted. Seamus and Dean had offered to take over the bar, but Hannah had spent too much time before she had realized she had made a mistake.

He didn't spend much time with his mates anymore. Too much work to do, most of it self-imposed in order to make him forget about everything. Normally, the sheer amount would have frightened him, but it was the best alternative to trying in vain to make his wife happy. He could only focus what he could do, and it was impossible to salvage his marriage

He had banished his fear of Snape after the wretched man's death, but his grandmother haunted his dreams. He couldn't hold it against her. She wanted a grandson to be proud of. She wanted someone who was loyal and true and brave and willing to make a sacrifice. He hoped he had done enough to make that mold, but the regret tore at him the way it did every night. He should've pointed out to her that his father married for love, but he didn't want to confront a dying woman. He should've gone to his friends for help, but he already knew they had their own problems. He should've told Hannah he was not the man she wished him to be, but he didn't want to break her heart.

Neville broke it anyway, simply by existing. Sometimes he would hear her scream in the bar, see tears in her eyes whenever he looked upon her face. This night it seemed calm, and he was desperately praying that she would find peace. Sometimes he thought he should try to save his friends from their disastrous marriages, but he remembered he couldn't even save himself or his wife.

He tried to help their children. He and Hannah never could make them. They had made love once many years before, but their hearts were not in it, and they never tried again. Harry's and Ron's kids were the only children he had in his life, and he did all he could at the school to make their lives a little easier. He couldn't save them from their parents.

Growing up without the love of their parents can ruin anyone. He saw Harry fall to it, and then Hermione after the war. The Weasleys had an unhappy marriage themselves. Harry told him that even the likes of Snape and Voldemort had become monsters because of their miserable childhoods. He didn't want the same thing to happen for him, and Hannah knew it as good as he did.

All he could do is try to hold her when the night ended, tell her lies about how things would get better and they were happy. She knew he was a terrible liar, but she accepted it simply to stop hurting.

He dreaded the moment she would come to him, begging for love he could never give. But he dreaded her suffering even more. All he could do is lie, and all she could do is believe it. Hermione had told him once about her struggle whether to lie for the sake of others, or to keep her integrity but hurt her friends. Lying just didn't seem natural.

Now, it was his only pastime. True, he was a herbologist. True, he was a promising young professor at Hogwarts. Yet, despite all this, he felt had had lost more than he had gained. He sighed and got out of his chair. Seamus had turned to drink after his marriage, but Neville couldn't drink without being reminded of his wife. It brought more pain than it relieve. Gran would have encouraged him to eat, but he just could never work up the appetite. Hermione told him to work, but he knew it wasn't helping her out in her relationship, and it wasn't helping him in his.

Longbottom walked over the window overlooking Diagon Alley. He saw happy wizards and witches talking, embracing, haggling like friends and loved ones should do. He had missed that part of life. He had but two vows left to keep. The first was not to tell the truth to Hannah until she asked for a divorce. The second was not to become Snape; not to give in to his bitterness and hatred but to genuinely care for his students. He was no one's husband, but becoming a father could yet be done. The thought comforted him as he simply watched the children playing in the street. God bless them.