Neville Longbottom was seriously depressed.
In the nine months since Voldemort had fallen, Neville had become something of a hero. When Harry Potter's entire story had gotten out, people suddenly realized what Neville had accomplished by getting the Sword of Gryffindor and using it on Nagini, the snake and final horcrux. Neville became famous, his name now forever linked with Hermione Granger's and Ron Weasley's as the people from whom Potter received help in his vanquishing of Voldemort; as someone who would never have gone to the dark side, even under threat of torture.
And Neville, suddenly and without warning, found himself with more fame than he had ever dreamed. He had fan letters, interview requests, job offers, book deals. You name it, Neville could have it.
But Neville didn't want any of it. Those things came at a cost of countless lives and accepting any of those would have been taking advantage of a horrible situation.
So what did he want? Neville didn't know. He wanted to stay locked up in his room at his Gran's house until the fervor died down, refusing to see anyone. His Gran didn't know how to treat him these days. She skulked around his bedroom every morning, trying to get him to get out of bed, at least take a nice walk down the street. Trying to get him to agree to the interview The Prophet kept asking for. At one point, Gran had tried to trick Neville into drinking a cheering potion. When Neville, who was never as bad in Potions as Snape had thought, realized what it was, he knocked it out of Gran's hand and yelled at her to go away. Neville had never been a boy who yelled at people. But that is the type of man he was turning in to.
Neville was obviously suffering from guilt. All survivors of a war are likely to end up with some form of survivor's guilt, of course. And Neville did feel guilty, tremendously so, at having survived such a harrowing ordeal. But Neville's guilt was two-fold. He felt guilty about surviving and knowing his family had survived intact. Well, unless you count his parents, still stuck in the mental unit at St. Mungo's. His elderly Gran fought in the war and survived. His uncles lived. His closest friends were still here. He felt guilty at the lack of loss he had to endure, when little Teddy Lupin lost his muggle-born Grandfather for whom he was named and both of his parents, when the Creevy parents were going to have to deal with life without their brave son, Colin.
The other part of Neville's guilt is knowing about all that loss, and knowing that somehow, the war had made his life better. If you think fame is something better. If you think having respect from the wizarding world is better. That was the reason Neville didn't want to have anything to do with the offers and letters and deals coming his way. Because he couldn't bear to live a good happy life at the cost of other human lives.
And so he spent his days locked away in his bedroom. Trying to write in a journal, but being unable to put his feelings into words. He stared at the ceiling. He refused to see Harry, Ron, Hermione and Luna when they came calling, which happened a lot at the beginning, but was becoming less frequent. He refused to use magic, even a simple summoning charm to get a dropped quill. Sometimes, late at night, when the insomnia would get unbearable, he'd take a walk. Breathing the fresh air, and hating himself for enjoying it, for needing it when Tonks and Lupin and all the others couldn't enjoy it.
One day, Neville had no choice but to get out of the house, during the daytime. It was nearing his Uncle's birthday and Neville knew there was only one place to get his joke-loving Uncle a gift- Weasley's Wizard Wheezes. It would have been much easier if the joke-shop had still been an owl-order business. But they were beyond that now.
They. Well, it isn't 'they' anymore, is it? Neville realized with a lurch that he was going to have to see George Weasley for the first time since the war. He was going to have to see George without his identical twin and partner in crime, Fred, by his side: a sight that Neville had never seen.
Neville dressed slowly that morning, dreading what he had to do. He slowly descended the stairs into the kitchen where Gran was cooking breakfast.
"Neville!" she exclaimed, surprised to see him up and about, particularly at this hour.
"I need to go to Diagon Alley, Gran. Do we have floo powder?" Neville said, ignoring the huge smile on Gran's face.
"Have some breakfast first, Neville." She waved her wand at the cabinet and a plate came flying out, landing softly on the table in front of Neville. Gran then waved her wand at the food on the stove and a fried egg flew out of the pan onto the plate. The toaster popped, Gran waved her wand and the toast landed next to the egg. Neville watched with mild interest. Gran had been bringing him his food on a tray in his bedroom, and Neville had started to forget what it looked like when food was being prepared.
"Where are you off to?" Gran asked, as she cracked another egg for herself. Neville could tell that Gran was trying not to seem too eager, too happy, that he was up and about.
"The Weasley twins' shop. Or George Weasley's shop that it. For a gift."
"Ah," Gran said with a smile. "Do you need some money?"
"No," Neville answered, "I'm good." He patted his pocket, jingling the galleons and sickles so Gran could hear.
Neville began wolfing down the eggs and toast. He went to the refrigerator and got out a bottle of pumpkin juice, grabbed a glass from the cabinet and began to pour.
Gran frowned. "You can't use your wand to do that?"
"Is there a problem with doing things the muggle way?" Neville asked. His voice was mild, but there was a hint of warning in it. A hint of something that suggested that he could run right back up to his bedroom and hide under the covers for another six months. He leaned on the counter and drained the juice in one large gulp.
"Of course not." Gran answered quickly. She held up her wand. "Accio Floo Powder!" The small sack of powder came in from the front room into Gran's hand. She held the sack out to Neville. "Do you want any company?" Her voice sounded both sad and hopeful.
"No. I can manage." Neville shoved the last bit of egg into his mouth, wiped his face, and kissed his Gran goodbye.
He took the powder from Gran and walked to the fireplace. He took a pinch of the powder out of the sack and threw it on the flames. Once they turned green, he stepped in and said, "Diagon Alley!"
A few seconds later, he was in Diagon Alley. He walked down the street, surprised at how different Diagon Alley looked since the last time he was here, when Voldemort's reign of terror was at its zenith and the alley was grey and dreary with more shops closed than opened. But now, stores were open again. People were bustling up and down the street, calling cheerful hellos to each other. The sun was shining and Diagon Alley had never looked more beautiful. And Neville just wanted to turn around and go back home.
Neville stuck his hands into his pocket and wandered down the street, noticing with a start that Ollivander's wand shop was open for business. As he walked by, the door opened and a blond streak ran toward him, grabbing him around the waist and hugging him hard.
"Neville!" cried Luna Lovegood as she looked up at Neville with her wide happy eyes. "You're out!"
Neville gave Luna a small smile. "What are you doing here?"
"I'm apprenticing with Mr. Ollivander." She smiled. "He says I have the mind of a great wand-maker. So I've been spending every other weekend working in his shop and I'll be taking over the shop after I graduate Hogwarts this year."
"That's great Luna. Really. How is Mr. Ollivander doing?"
"Oh, not well. He's very ill, you know. He's never quite recovered from his time as Voldemort's prisoner. That's why he asked me to apprentice. Daddy's a bit disappointed because we were supposed to go on a trek after I graduated to search for the crumple-horned snorkack. But he understands. He'll be very proud to have a wand-maker in the family."
Neville had to smile internally at Luna's ability to hop from topic to topic in just a few short sentences.
Neville leaned down and kissed Luna on the cheek. She turned bright red. "I've got to go now, Luna. I have an errand to run. But let's get together soon, OK?"
"Yes, definitely," Luna smiled at him. "It's great to see you out, Neville. People have been asking after you. I never knew what to tell them."
Neville smiled sadly, wondering if he should say anything to Luna about what he'd been feeling. Instead, he held up his hand and gave her a small wave. Luna waved back. Neville turned and started toward Weasley's Wizard Wheezes, which he could easily see from blocks away.
When he got there, Neville stood in front of the building looking at it. The window displays were just as colorful and dazzling as ever. Neville was transfixed for a few minutes. Then he took a deep breath.
He opened the door and walked in the shop.