A/N: This is an overdue response to the Longbottom Love Challenge at the HPFC Forum. I love the Longbottoms, particulary Neville, as anyone who has read my other stories knows. This is a new approach to the family for me, for this is the first time I've written about Alice (Neville's mother - I don't mean to confuse people who read my stories about Alice, Neville's daughter). I'm really proud of this oneshot and I hope that you enjoy it. Thanks!
It was all a fog. Blurs of faces and smudged memories. Unfamiliarity and no peaceful sleeps. Whenever she dreamed, she screamed in her sleep at the dark, horrible images. When she woke, she couldn't even recall what was so scary. But it was then when only nightmares came to her – dreams no longer existed. Beauty was crushed.
She comes to recognize the man in the bed next to hers and is relieved that there's one person in this hollow place that calms her. The man is young, with a haggard face but a head of beautiful, rich, chestnut hair. They don't speak to each other, but he'll turn to smile at her sometimes, and her heart flutters at the sparkle in his terracotta eyes. He is a good friend. He exudes a sort of sense to her, but she can't put her finger on what.
"Alice, I'm no good at this romantic stuff, so I'll just come out and say it. W-will you marry me?"
"What? Of – of course, Frank! Of course I'll marry you!"
The first time that the old lady comes, she is alone, and when the man in the wand-and-bone robes leaves (there's too many of them here, they make her nervous), the woman breaks down in sobs. She's sitting between her bed and her friend's, a whopping bag resting at her feet. The woman's crying halts long enough for her to study the man's face. He is sleeping, completely unaware of this visitor. She strokes his cheek and kisses his forehead, looking down with a tender spark in her eyes.
Then the stranger turns to look at her, and she sinks back against her pillow, unsure of what this woman wants. The woman holds out her hand, at which she stares cautiously.
The woman has opened her mouth. Hushed words float out. "…all right…you…Augusta…"
She comprehends only some of her monologue. It's the woman's smile that convinces her that everything's okay, so she clutches the frail, veined hand with her own.
She has seen that smile before. But…where?
"That was a disaster, Frank. I was so nervous and now your mum hates me."
"No, trust me, she doesn't. She just believes that no one's good enough for me. She would've acted that way if I brought home Lily, for Merlin's sake. You know how much adults like her."
"Are you sure? I just want her to accept me…"
"She'll warm up to you eventually. She loves me too much to hate what I love."
"Well, now, someone sounds like a mama's boy."
The elderly woman comes to visit regularly. She often points to herself, announcing, "Augusta." But who, or what, is Augusta? Whenever the lady comes, she can't remember why she likes her. But she still feels safe when she's there, so she doesn't bother to recall anymore.
On one of her earlier visits, the Lady brings a book full of pictures in which the figures move. She sits between the two beds as always, with the book opened on her lap. She points at many of the grinning faces, reciting off names and stories. The Lady seems to know these people rather well, so she just sits there and nods as the Lady prattles on.
"…Uncle Algie…Cousin Clara…Grandma Victoria…"
The names fly over her like air. She doesn't understand why the Lady is telling them this. She knows all of these people; shouldn't she be with them instead of her?
"Over there are cousins from my dad's side. Don't really get to see them much – Mum invited them. And behind them are Auntie Diana and Uncle Edmund…"
"Seriously, Frank, how many relatives do you have?"
"Definitely enough. Come on; introduce me to some of your family. I think they should all meet the man you just got married to."
"I already know your parents and sisters. Oh, and your grandfather and uncle."
"What's the matter?"
The Lady isn't alone today. She bustles into the room holding an array of blankets in her arms. As the Lady comes closer, she realizes that the coverlets are keeping a sleeping baby warm.
She knows what babies are. Sometimes a woman wearing a wand-and-bone robe will help her into a chair with wheels and she'll take her to the wing where all of the newborn babies are kept. She likes to look at them from behind the glass wall, watching ladies in matching robes dress and rock them. But she has never seen one up close until today.
The Lady is guiding her arms into a position and before she knows it, the baby is plopped into her grip. She stares down at the infant as the Lady strikes up a one-sided conversation with the man in the other bed.
The baby is a piece of art, its face flawless. It's like a little angel. Its chest rises up and down metrically. It is like a system, knowing exactly what to do. She loves it instantly.
The Lady comes back and takes it away, giving it to the man now. He smiles at it too, also getting caught up in its simple splendor. His beautiful eyes sparkle down at it.
The Lady sits down upon her usual chair, placing her purse on the floor. She smiles before opening her mouth to speak.
"Neville. His name is Neville."
"Mum wants us to name it after Dad if it's a boy, but I told her that there's no way our kid will be named Mortimer…"
"Obviously. But this name pamphlet doesn't seem to have any better options – Edgar, Otis, Albert…"
"There has to be a good one somewhere."
"Wait, I have an idea. I'll use the Selection Spell to pick one until we find a name we like. All right?"
"Well, I guess we could try…"
"Ludolf? Ugh, Godric, no."
"Eligo! Nathaniel? Um…"
"You hate it, don't you?"
"Yeah, it's too prissy. Eli-"
"Wait! Look at this one underneath it – Neville. I kind of like it."
"Mark it and we can go to it later."
"No, wait. It has a ring to it, doesn't it?"
"Neville Longbottom…huh. I guess you're right. I like it."
The Lady always brings the Boy now. He seems bigger every time he comes. He always has something to show them – a finger painting he made, or maybe an oddly shaped rock he found in the garden. She doesn't know who the Boy is, just like how she doesn't know who the Lady is. But she knows that she likes them both. She especially likes the Boy. She likes him very much.
One day, the Boy comes in with his face shining pleasantly. He is chomping on a wad of pink substance as he sings to himself. The Lady scowls at him. "Rubbish…the Welcome Witch gave him gum because he was so adorable to her. That trash is no good for little boys, but I couldn't toss it away with her watching…"
But she notices the glee that the treat brings to the Boy. She has never seen him so happy before. So when visiting hours are over, she fishes the gum wrapper out of the wastebasket (the Lady finally made the Boy spit out his chewing gum, and its wrapper followed suit) and tucks it away underneath her pillow.
When their visitors return the next week, she takes out the wrapper and hands it to the Boy. He looks down at the loudly-colored scrap bewilderedly, but to her delight, he pockets it and then hurries over to the man's bed to show him his latest drawing.
She looks up and catches the Lady blinking away a tear.
"How can you not know how to blow a bubble, Frank?"
"I've told you, my mum never let me have this stuff. She thought it was unhealthy."
"It's only gum; you don't have to swallow it. Drooble's Best Blowing Gum practically dissolves in your mouth anyways."
"Right then, give me a piece. Now, how do you it?"
"Chew for awhile, and then press it against your front teeth. You should make a bubble."
"And if it pops?"
"Just try again."
The Boy is a Young Man now. He doesn't come as often as he once did. The Lady still visits though. She's different now. She is not as placid and soft-spoken as before. She acts almost sour. There is a long period of time when she doesn't come at all, and the wand-and-bone robed people speak together in hushed tones near her bed. When the Lady and Young Man don't come, she watches the man next to her.
His hair isn't as thick and luscious as it once was. His face has more wrinkles, but the sparkle in his eyes remains – the same sparkle that she has learned to especially like. He is familiar. He is beautiful. He is timeless.
When the Lady finally returns, she has a paper with her and proudly shows them the headline. She can't read, but the moving photograph underneath the words explains it all. There in the frame is a crowd of people, mostly unknown faces, but she easily picks out the Young Man towards the left of the outline.
"Your son is a hero, Alice. A hero!"
Son? What son? And a hero is…?
But somehow, she knows it means something good. Maybe it's the luminous smile on the Young Man's face that tells her this, or the other people dancing in the frame. She feels her heart soar for the Young Man. She wishes he'd come back now.
And he does, just a week after the Lady comes. It's his first time visiting them without her, but he's not alone. He has brought a yellow-haired woman whose eyes are startling shades of blue.
"Mum, Dad, this is Hannah. We go to school together."
"Dad, Mum, this is Frank. He's in my House at school."
The Lady hasn't come in ages. Now, just the Young Man and his friend visit. His friend is pleasant and smiles at her often. She's a nice girl. The Young Man looks at her in a special way.
His eyes sparkle.
"Hi. Is Neville asleep?"
"Yes. I'm exhausted. I'll probably go to bed soon too."
"Sit with me first. We really ought to get a swing for out here."
"Uh-huh. I've always liked porch swings."
"We'd just sit out here at night, like now, and look at all the stars…"
"Do you think that there's really endless space up there?"
"There has to be. Why else would everyone say that there is?"
"I'd like to find out someday…"
She falls asleep one night and she doesn't wake up with the man next to her. She wakes up and she sees everything that she needs to see.
She sees her childhood, her school days, her courtship, her wedding, her pregnancy, and her torture. Her name is Alice. His name is Frank. Their child is Neville.
She remembers. She has passed on, and the memories return.
She finds out what she missed when she was quietly fading away in her hospital bed. Neville married Hannah three years ago. They came to her and Frank several months ago to announce that Hannah was pregnant, although Alice was too weak at the time to grasp their words.
But her eyes grow misty when she realizes that two days after her death, her granddaughter arrived. And they named her Alice Pomona.
She watches as Neville and Hannah bring her to St. Mungo's to see Frank – poor Frank, he must be so lonely without her; she wants him to come here to her soon. The baby squeals as she is put into her grandfather's arms. A ghost of a smile slips across Frank's face as he observes the new bundle of life. He kisses the top of her head (she has wispy yellow hair, just like Hannah) and squeezes her hand before surrendering her to Neville.
Alice's heart breaks at this sight. Frank still doesn't know. He doesn't know that that man is his own flesh and blood, his own creation, or that the precious baby girl that was just in his arms is his granddaughter. She wishes for him to have the sweet relief of death soon – very soon – so he'll remember. The world is colorless without the ability to remember. She was in a bleak, confusing place for most of her life. Here is so much better. If only Frank was with her…
So she keeps watching him. Her son and his family visit Frank often, and Baby Alice begins to grow. She has learned to smile now and during one particular visit, she does nothing but fuss. Hannah takes her from Neville and excuses herself; as the two leave, Neville gives Frank a small smile. "Sorry about that, Dad, but she just started teething. It can be rather annoying sometimes when we're trying to sleep."
Alice swears that she spots Frank's head move in a miniscule, barely noticeable nod.
"Here, love, let me take him for awhile. You rest for a bit."
"Thanks. Merlin, this has got to be the hardest part."
"What, staying up till the wee hours because he fusses?"
"Yeah. It's even worse than the labor pains."
"That's certainly not what you thought when you were actually having the labor pains."
"Oh, hush up."
Frank isn't there today. His bed is completely empty. Alice stares at it for quite some time. The bed has been stripped of its sheets, but the framed photographs of little Alice still remain on the nightstand. She is almost seven months old now, her personality already forming. The older Alice knows that Frank loves that little girl, despite that he doesn't understand who she really is.
"Alice? Alice, where am I?"
She turns at the sound of the familiar voice. And there is Frank, his eyes wide in disbelief.
"…Well, now, if you don't tell us, we could always summon your precious baby boy and play with him for awhile…"
"NO! NOT NEVILLE! Please, anything but that!"
"Then tell us, you stupid little twit!"
"No, Alice, don't!"
"Would you like to share something, Longbottom?"
"I swear, Lestrange…"
"Keep on rambling, Longbottom; it'll get to you in the end. I don't think that you understand how relentless I can be…"
"We're stronger than you think, Bellatrix. It'll take a lot for us to crack."
"Look at yourselves! You're tied up like animals waiting to be slaughtered! Your wands have been taken away! There is no hope for you!"
"Unlike you, we-"
"No, Frank – it's not worth it!"
"Yes, it bloody is! Bellatrix, unlike you, we're not afraid to stay loyal to our friends!"
"How dare you~"
"…And see, there's Neville, our son, and his wife, Hannah. They've been married for about four years now. And the baby in that pram is their daughter-"
"Alice, right?" He is smiling consciously, the sparkle in his eyes undeniable. "I – I remember her. She's lovely…I wish that you got to meet her."
"I will someday."
"I guess you're right."
And they sit in silence, but the tranquility is different than the kind they've sat through for countless years. This silence is comfortable and shrewd. It is calm and composed. It isn't daunting or hesitant.
In this silence, they know.
A/N: Please leave a review! Thanks for reading!
Oh, and 'Eligo' isn't an actual spell - it's Latin for 'select'.