Author's Note: Holy crap! It's been ages since I've updated this story! Okay, so I'm sorry! I had that horrid little disease called Writer's Block. I think I may have overcome it, but I'm so sorry for the lag! Please forgive me? And review?
Harry and Neville walked down to breakfast together in the same state that the left the dorm in: Silence.
Neville was thinking about how close to cracking everyone seemed to be. There were people in the halls who were laughing, crying, arguing, and they even passed one full on fight (Peeves was floating over the two scuffling boys, who looked like Hufflepuffs, dropping scrambled eggs on them and cackling). How people were holding it together, he had no idea, but no one seemed to be too keen on the topic of death.
How could Dean and Seamus let themselves be fighting now, of all times? What, exactly, had happened? Neville was of the firm belief that they needed to talk to each other and sort their rubbish out.
But if Dean didn't fancy Romilda Vane, who did he? Was he still in love with Ginny? Or was it Lavender Brown? Perhaps he fancied Cho Chang, even though she was (last he had heard) still with Michael Conner… But then, Dean wouldn't know that – he hadn't been at Hogwarts all year. Maybe he liked smart girls.
Maybe he liked Luna.
Suddenly Neville became aware of the fact that Harry was no longer by his side, but had stopped a few meters back to let Ginny catch up. Deciding he didn't want to intrude on the happy couple, he kept walking.
He refused to return to pondering about Dean's love life, and instead took the time to appreciate how quiet and empty the hallways were. In fact, the more he looked, the less he saw. The entire castle seemed to be subdued, muted – numb, even. The few brave souls who had taken it upon themselves to smile in the face of their grief were more like flickering matches than the roaring fires they sought in vain to imitate. How could he have missed this? Death still hung over the demolished doors of Hogwarts, seeping the life out of everyone like a dementor. There had been fifty bodies here; who knew how many were in the outside world, just waiting to be discovered. Was his gran still alive? The man she was seeing on and off – did he make it? What of the grocer? The librarian? The Healers?
An uncomfortable thought stopped Neville in his tracks as his throat constricted painfully around a lump that had risen there without warning. His stomach felt too empty, as if it were about to implode. How could he have forgotten about them?
His own parents?
Waves of guilt crashed onto him, and the need to vomit was overwhelming. Were they alright? Did they even survive? His shallow life here at Hogwarts had driven the things that really mattered from his mind, and he had let it without even putting up a fight. Dean and Seamus's row was petty compared to his mum and dad. How could I have forgotten?
"Neville, are you alright?" A voice penetrated his guilty musings, and Neville looked around to find Hermione staring at him with concern.
"Yeah, 'm fine… Just remembered something…" he said, distractedly. Hadn't Bellatrix Lestrange mentioned his parents during the battle? What had she said, what had she said?
Hermione was talking, but Neville wasn't listening. His thoughts were miles and miles away, in a room in St. Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries. Had anyone told them what had happened? Was his mum worried about him? He could almost see them, lying in beds that just about touched, reaching out shaking hands to comfort one another as the walls crumbled around them…
"Hermione," Neville said, cutting her off mid-sentence, "has there been any news about St. Mungo's in The Prophet?
She looked slightly taken aback, but she didn't ask questions, bless her. "No, none that I've seen… But I haven't gotten today's yet, either," she hastened to add once she saw his expression tighten. "Come on, the post should be arriving soon," she said, tugging at his sleeve. He followed her, hardly thinking about it. If something had happened to them…
The food he found before him had no smell whatsoever and he ate it mechanically, only for something to do. His mind was spiraling out of control as visions of Lestrange bursting into the long-term ward and finishing what she had started plagued his thoughts. He had the faint impression of people talking to him, but he didn't try to comprehend their words. He needed some sort of assurance that the hospital was still standing, and even then he would have to see his parents in the flesh before his worries were completely abated. All of his life Neville had felt responsible for his mum and dad, and now it was as if he had finally let them down – right when it mattered most.
When the flurry of wings finally alerted him to the arrival of the morning post, Neville dropped his fork and watched Hermione, who was looking up towards the owls. A large tawny landed in front of her clutching a copy of The Prophet. She paid it, and it flew off.
Hermione was an excellent reader, Neville knew this, but every page she turned seemed to take longer and longer. "Hold on," she said, "I'm scanning it." He held his breath.
"Oh! Of course," she exclaimed, tearing through the pages to the back. Neville had no idea what she was doing, but he was in no state to try to puzzle it out. Hermione's eyes darted back and forth, giving no clue as to what she was reading or thinking. Guilt and fear were wrenching at his gut, but Neville sat and tried to be patient.
"Oh thank Merlin," she shouted at long last, slamming the paper down onto the table. It was open to the obituaries.
"What? Thank Merlin for what?"
"They aren't in there," she said with a satisfied smile.
"Your parents, of course! They aren't in there. They're still alive."
"Wait, what?" Neville was confused. How had she known? He was sure he hadn't mentioned them at any point, but he couldn't be completely positive. "How'd you know?"
"Well it was obvious, wasn't it?" When he only blinked at her, she pushed the paper his way. "There, see for yourself. There is no Alice or Frank Longbottom listed.
He did, and there wasn't. Neville scanned the pages twice, and the only Alice he saw was Sasha Alice Goldbrook, who died of a heart attack. There wasn't a Frank at all, and certainly no Longbottoms. Relief surged through him.
"Hullo, there everyone," a familiar dreamy voice said behind him. Neville stood and spun around to face it, completely giddy.
"Luna, guess what! My parents aren't in the paper!"
"Oh, I'm sorry to hear that. Did they do something?"
Neville took her hands, barely noticing when she didn't pull away. "No, it's good! Excellent, really. It means they aren't dead!"
"Well that is grand! Does The Prophet only write about dead people now?"
He laughed and pulled her in for a tight hug. She didn't squirm or give any sign of being uncomfortable; in fact, Neville could even feel her hugging him back. He released her, but couldn't stop grinning. "They're alright," he said, loving the feel of the words on his tongue. "They're alright!"
The returning smile Luna gave him made his heart swell, and the tiny knot of worry that had still been nestled in his stomach disappear completely.
Author's Note: Wow, okay, so this chapter was completely short and filled with nothing except for a worried Neville… Sorry, but that's all I got right now. Hey, you'd better be pleased I managed anything at all! I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I should've updated sooner, I know! But it's here, and you've read it. Now please review? If you're really lucky, you'll get another chapter before I go on vacation on the 19th, but I wouldn't bet on it. Thank you, lovelies!