Entering the stark white room alone, Neville Longbottom walked timidly over to the windowsill and quietly laid down a vase with Amaranth cuttings in it. He focused on staring at the plant- trying hard not to see the still forms of his parents in his peripheral vision, yet always aware of them- its spiky red petals which normally looked so bright were muted against the grey overcast.
The longer he stood staring at the plant, the more he really saw the beds in the corner of his eye. He shifted in place; he didn't know what was making him so reluctant to greet his parents. Yes, St Mungo's had always made him uncomfortable, despite the great number of years Neville had been visiting it, but he had always felt at least a bit of happiness at seeing the supposedly brave souls whom were his parents.
Today was different.
His gaze stayed upon the slim, clear vase and the flowers it contained. A flower that never faded, the Amaranth plant was supposed to offer healing and protection.
Unbidden, his eyes flickered over to his parents; both were still sound asleep.
Their beds were surrounded with little knick knacks… no pictures since that seemed to just confuse them. He had tried giving them updated photos every year, but after awhile of explaining who they were of, Neville just couldn't take it anymore. The last time his mother had asked him who the photo was of, he couldn't speak past the lump in his throat and had just shook his head. She took that as a perfectly acceptable answer.
The most out of the ordinary décor was first-year Herbology textbook. It sat there, unread seeing as how neither of the patients read, but it still had the look of being read several times. It's pages bumped as if there many dog eared pages, yet Neville, having been scolded one too many times by his grandmother, would never have dog eared a book.
With a heavy sigh, he brought a hand up to lightly touch the petals of the flower. It was the herbologist in him, and perhaps his wishful thinking, that insisted on bringing them flowers.
He put his hands on the windowsill on either side of the plant and leaned in to smell the flower, but his nostrils were assailed only with the scent of Patchouli. So unlike the goodness of Amaranth, Patchouli, Neville knew, represented lust, money, and hex-breaking.
His knuckles whitened as he gripped the sill.
He closed his eyes, and all he could hear was her mocking baby voice as she screeched at him and his friends. As they ran through the halls and were chased by death eaters that night, one thing Neville had noticed amidst all the chaos was the overpowering smell of patchouli. When the bright lights of hexes rushed by and he could feel adrenaline pumping in his veins, and there was screams all around him, he could still smell that damned smell, and he knew it was coming from that awful woman.
It wasn't until his nose had been broken and smell became impossible that he got relief from that scent, yet the source hadn't disappeared. He remembered the fury that had coursed through his body when that- that thing dared speak of his parents; he winced at the memory of Bellatrix's cruciatus.
The pain from the curse was more than he had ever imagined it- and he had spent more time than would be considered healthy imagining torture by cruciatus. Yet, it was made so much worse by the mocking laughter of Bellatrix, ringing in and out of the background while his mind fuzzed dangerously.
And even though he shouldn't have been able to smell a thing, even though the smell had stopped harassing him soon as the blood started flowing out of his nose, those few moments while Bellatrix toyed with him, he was surrounded by that smell.
With a start, he pushed himself away from the window. He didn't know how long he had been leaning over the flower, but he was sure it was too long.
He heard a rustling sound and looked over to the beds that his parents napped in, to see his mother roll over in her sleep. Her face when she slept looked much more like the photographs he had seen of her before… just before. Her hair had used to be black, now a grey, so unlike his own blonde hair, but everyone still commented on how much he looked like her.
When he was younger those comments used to disturb him. As a child, he used to almost be afraid of his parents- they were odd, not right, in their vacant and unfocused manner. Yet, he had always shared his candy, as any good boy should, and this habit turned out to be one of the few that made a connection between him and his parents.
He didn't know them, not really, but he hadn't been lying when he had told Harry that he was proud to be their son. Now, after feeling what the pain curse was really like, Neville could only marvel at what his parent's strength must have truly been.
He was proud. So proud. But as he thought to how much of a failure he had been in the Department of Mysteries… how he had shattered the prophecy, how Harry had to drag him up the stairs, how his wand had been snapped… he didn't think his parents would be proud of him. He hadn't done anything but get in the way, blunder about, and then he had been at the mercy of Bellatrix while she goaded Harry.
Her laughter was scorched into his mind. It reminded him of how he would sometimes faintly hear his alarm clock go off in the middle of the day, when he was nowhere near it. Echoes of things that have been imprinted on his brain.
The annoyance of the alarm clock echo seemed much preferable to the rage that the laughter made him feel.
It just served to be a constant reminder of his failures. He could have avenged his parents- but he wasn't strong enough, not capable enough.
His stare was piercing at the flower. Protection.
He gripped his hand into a fist as he thought about that flower. Amaranths never faded, even when dried they kept their beautiful colour. His love for his parents would not fade, and he would not let them fade. He wasn't going to screw up like he had last time.
Harry had said that they would do his parents proud. Neville now silently agreed. His time was coming when he would offer protection, where he would have the moment that would have made his parents cheer.
His mother stirred again, and Neville sat down with a sigh in his customary chair between the two beds. They would wake soon enough, and he would talk to them and give him the sweets he had brought. His mother, not having anything else to give back to him, would inevitably return the wrapper to him.
It would join all the others in a box he kept at home.
Just like when the Amaranth in the vase eventually dried, it would join all the others pressed into the Herbology text book on his mother's nightstand.
A/N: So, I've always had a bit of a soft spot for Neville, and I really think he's understated in the first few books of the series. For me, it seemed the sixth novel was when Neville started to really come into his own, and I wondered what might have gone through his head during this transformation.
Anything I got wrong about the properties of Amaranth… so sue me. Artistic license. :P
I hope you enjoyed! Reviews are love, remember!