Posted: 10 May, 2012
Disclaimer: I do not own anything in this story that is recognisable from the Harry Potter books, movies, etc. Everything else however (eg. story plot, original characters, etc.) stems from my own imagination and belongs to me. No copyright infringement is intended and I am not profiting financially from this story in any way.
Summary: Odds and ends, and bits and bobs. False starts and story ideas that fizzled out. Mostly Harry Potter, some other fandoms too.
06: Neville Redo
It seemed ridiculous to Neville that he should be among the last. If someone has suggested to him, years ago, that the majority of wizarding Britain would one day be wiped out, his first thought would have been to name himself among the dead. Well no, that wasn't entirely accurate. His first thoughts would have been of horror and denial, but after that they would have turned to predicting his own demise. Of course, all those years ago he'd been a bit pathetic all things considered, and low expectations for his self were understandable. Since then however, he'd grown more confident, powerful and capable. All the same, if he'd have had to guess who of his friends and close comrades would survive the Decimation, as it had come to be known, he'd not have put himself at the top of the list. Rather, Harry would have taken that spot, for a certainty. Hermione and Ron would have been up there with him too. And yet here Neville stood, the last Gryffindor of their year; the last of the DA too, for that matter; heck, he was the last of the Order of the Phoenix.
"Are you ready?"
He turned towards the grey-cloaked figure which had spoken and nodded, extending his hand towards him. Or perhaps it was a 'her', as Unspeakables tended to make their gender purposefully ambiguous. Hands clasped in a firm grip and a second figure, similarly attired in grey, but lacking the black stripe that edged the first's robes, stepped forward drawing a wand. Neville tensed instinctively but allowed the weapon to rest atop their hands.
"Let's do this," he said with as much confidence as he could muster.
The black-trimmed Unspeakable spoke again, asking him "Will you, Neville Longbottom, cooperate fully with our attempt to send you to the past?"
"I will," he said, and bright flame burst from the second figure's wand, winding about the joined hands.
"And in exchange, if the attempt succeeds, will you work to prevent the Decimation that has befallen our world?"
"I will," he said with determination. A second tongue of flame emerged and coiled about the first.
"And will you abide by the stricture of secrecy that we demand of you, telling no one you have travelled back from the future?"
"I will," he promised gravely, and a third burst of fire wrapped itself around the first two, and they all pulsed before fading.
Neville sighed and released his grip, all three of them stepping back. He absentmindedly rubbed at his tingling hand as he watched the figure whose robes were trimmed in black, the Head Unspeakable he assumed, begin issuing quiet directions. The second figure, who had been bonder of their Unbreakable Vow, joined with the two other anonymous witches or wizards in grey who had been lingering in the shadows at the edges of the room. These were the only other Unspeakables that were left, a seemingly small number, but in reality a high survival rate in post-Decimation, the highest of any Ministry Department.
The three lesser Unspeakables all descended the giant steps to the middle of the room. They approached and ascended the dais there. On it stood the centrepiece of the room: the Death Veil. Wands appeared, prodding and trailing over different parts of the stone archway. Incantations were heard in a dozen languages, some human and some not, some harsh and some musical, some whispered and some bellowed. At certain points they would cut a finger and swipe blood across the stone, and at others small jars containing water or salt or other element would be used instead. And, as the Unspeakables worked, various arcane runes and symbols on the archway lit up.
Eventually, after perhaps a half hour, they all stepped back and allowed their leader to inspect their work. The Head Unspeakable scrutinised the veil with almost obsessive thoroughness for another quarter hour before stepping back and nodding, apparently satisfied. He then turned and waved at Neville, who stood from the stair he'd sat down on during his wait, and stepped forward. He climbed atop the dais and approached the figure waiting before the Veil.
"You're sure?" he asked, though the question was more rhetorical than anything, asked for the purpose of having something to say.
"As sure as we're going to get. Just step through when you're ready. You have another two hours before our window of opportunity closes, so don't think to wait longer than that."
Then the figure stepped off the platform, leaving him alone. Only, not entirely alone, because he could feel them all there still, back in the shadows, watching and waiting to see their plan enacted. Neville took a deep breath and considered once more the risk he was taking, and everything that could go horribly wrong, ways that this could fail and do nothing more but send him to his death. It didn't matter though, he decided, not really. He'd made his decision, anything was better than the world he was leaving. The slightest hope was worth taking the chance. And besides, he'd already agreed under Vow, so his course was set. He was too committed to turn back now. Which meant there was no point dallying, really.
Neville stepped through the Veil.
The pain was overwhelming, but not at all in the way of a Cruciatus. That was all sharp and spiking and tearing and fierce, it made you scream and cry and want to die. This though, this pain was numb like cold and aching, spreading all throughout and seeping into bone, and also something like fatigue, and then wrenching like loss.
It seemed to go on forever and for no time at all, but slowly, so slowly, and yet abruptly and all of a sudden, the pain was gone. Then, instead of pain, he felt weightless, and his head was spinning like he could faint, and he couldn't really think because his thoughts would fade before they could form, and his mind would drift.
Again, time was strange and immeasurable. Eventually though, after long, and yet soon and suddenly, there was a tugging, which became a whirling, twirling, terrifying sensation of movement that was not quite physical. And then it was like Apparating and being squeezed through a tube, or maybe like being sucked down a drain, and just when he thought he could handle no more…
He blinked his eyes open.
Was that the ground approaching at rapid speed?
A collision. The sickening sound of snapping bones. Pain!
He passed out.
"—admit it Gussie, it's the only explanation!"
Neville awoke slowly, body aching, but through habit learned in long war, gave no indication that he wasn't still sleeping.
"That is entirely beside the point Algernon. You could have killed him. You nearly did kill him. And don't call me Gussie!"
"I'll call you Augusta when you call me Algie! Honestly, sometimes I wonder what my brother was thinking in marrying you, the daft idiot. It wasn't like he had no choice, there was no arranged contract."
"Don't you talk about my husband like he was a fool. Just because Willoughby chose me over your petty objections—"
"Bloody hell, he's long dead and still you insist on that name he couldn't stand. You know he preferred to be called Will."
"He's my husband. I will call him whatever I wish."
Neville resisted the urge to roll his eyes behind their closed lids. His gran and Great Uncle Algie had often been like oil and water. It used to make him very nervous, their spats. Now though, with the memory of a world where he'd lost them, he instead felt something like amused exasperation. It was all very nostalgic to hear again. Sort of wonderful really.
"Forget it, that's not important right now," Algie sighed. "What's important is the fact that we finally know! No child with a drop of magic would have nearly died from a little tumble like that. If the boy was a wizard he'd have floated, or bounced. Hades woman, even a weak wizard would have cushioned the impact a little. But the boy just ploughed right into the ground."
"Because you dropped him out a window!"
Ah, Neville thought, now he knew where he was, or rather when. The rapidly approaching ground he first opened his eyes to must have been the incident when he first showed magic. His Great-Uncle Algie had been hanging him out the window by the heel, trying to force some sort of magic out of him, when Great Aunt Enid had distracted him and he lost his grip. Neville remembered the panic of falling and then the shock as he bounced all the way down the garden. His family had been positively joyous and Neville had been giddy with relief, and understandably so considering he was ten and a half years old. Neville had never told anyone just how late his first accidental magic had been, that he and his family had feared, up until a mere few months before he was supposed to start Hogwarts, that he wouldn't get invited.
However, from what he was hearing, it sounded like the incident had gone differently this time around. His mind churned, theorising that there was a combination of three reasons. For one, he'd been quite taken by surprise, returning to awareness in his younger self in mid-fall. He hadn't had time to register what was happening. Secondly, he'd been warned to expect some magical exhaustion when he arrived, so he probably hadn't had the reserves to bounce like last time. Not that it would necessarily have made a difference, since thirdly, his magic was no longer the untamed thing of most children, his adult magic having been sent back too. It was the trade-off of training as a wanded wizard, that in exchange for order and control over one's magic, the ability for the power to act 'accidentally' and instinctively, such as in life-threatening circumstances, was all but lost.
"And a good thing I did too," Algie was heard to growl. "Now we know for sure, don't we, that the boy's nothing more than a Squib."
Neville's internal flinch at his great uncle's derisive tone was followed by an even sharper one as his grandmother then spoke up.
"Yes, yes, it's clear now the boy's nothing but a disappointment," she said briskly, angrily. "But we aren't one of those dark families Algernon, which holds with simply killing off disgraces to the line!"
"I wasn't trying to kill him. I was trying to get some magic outta the boy."
"And almost killed him in the process! Hanging him out windows, pushing him off the pier, stranding him on the roof, locking him out during a snow storm, closeting him in a room with a boggart … all these test I approved. They were perfectly acceptable ways of trying to instigate some magic because with our supervision, while frightening, they were still safe. Dropping a potential Squib out a second story window on the other hand, is not safe."
Neville had to struggle not to react and give himself away. Gran had approved of all the things Great Uncle Algie did to him? The tests hadn't been merely frightening to him as a child. Rather, he remembered his great uncle's presence in his childhood, until he finally displayed some accidental magic, as one that brought fear and terror and uncertainty. He never knew what new horror the man would spring on him, or when. It wasn't till after he bounced down the garden that the tests stopped. He remembered crying from sheer relief and joy when Great Uncle Algie gifted him with Trevor, and cherished the toad as physical proof of his great uncle's approval, and reassurance that the tests were over. To hear that his gran had actually approved of the tests that terrorised his childhood, rather than being aloof and disinterested as she portrayed, was a crushing blow.
"It was an accident, alright?" Algie grumbled. "I didn't mean to drop him. But what's done is done and now we have an answer. What're we going to do with the boy now?"
"Well, we're not going to drop him from heights for a start," Augusta said sternly. "We are not the likes of the Blacks, or Malfoys, or Mulcibers, or Lestranges." The last was said with particular disgust.
"Give it a rest! I've said I didn't mean to hurt the Squib."
She sniffed. "I think it would be best to find a reputable Muggle orphanage to send him to. The sooner he leaves the wizarding world behind, the sooner he can adjust to the Muggle one. It will be a kindness to him, in fact."
"And what of the Longbottom Estate? With Will gone and poor Frank as he is, its Neville's by right."
"I am aware of that Algernon," was the impatient reply. "I have served as the boy's regent for the last nine years. But he only inherits so long as he has magic. Once September first comes and no letter arrives, we'll be able to have him disinherited. Control of the estate will revert fully to me. Yes, that will be ideal. I'll have full access to the accounts once more, and be able to make sure the boy is properly financed and cared for by the Muggles."
Neville had to struggle not to react. He was shocked and dismayed at his family's reactions. His great uncle was speaking about him like he was a disgusting worm. No, not a worm, for his great uncle was a Herbologist and worms were good for the soil; rather, he spoke of him like an aphid, a despised garden pest. And gran, she was cold and dismissive and talking about sending him away to the Muggles! Oh certainly, she spoke of it being 'a kindness to him', and how she intended to make sure he was 'properly financed'. She wasn't going to just dump him out on the streets somewhere. And yet, that didn't make him feel much better.
These just were not the people he remembered! His great uncle had been a jolly, if rough and reckless man. His grandmother, while strict and formidable and often disapproving, had now and then shown true pride and belief in him. Only… that was after he'd proved to have magic, wasn't it, a traitorous voice whispered in his mind. And his gran's moments of greatest pride were when he reminded her of his father in magic and attitude. He wanted to deny it, but looking back at long ago memories proved it true.
He wondered how he'd forgotten it, but supposed that one did tend to idolise the dead and lost, forgetting faults and embellishing strengths. He'd seemingly done just that, because now that he really thought about it, the only one to really give him an ounce of affection before he showed accidental magic, apart from Pip their house-elf, had been Great Aunt Enid. And he wasn't sure how much that counted for, because his great aunt was a bit dim and perpetually cheerful to absolutely everyone. Sometimes Neville suspected that if Voldemort attacked her she'd stop to compliment the shade of his eyes and offer him tea.
The lethargy he'd been feeling, but been pressing back in favour of assessing the situation, grew greater. He flickered his eyes open just enough to see that he was in a white hospital room, but not enough for anyone to notice he was awake. Then, satisfied for now, he let himself drift off to sleep. He would consider the situation with his family when next he awoke.
"Do you understand Pip?"
"Yes Master," the house elf nodded solemnly. "If next time Pip sees you, Master does not cough three times, then Pip is to dispatch the letters."
"Good, good," Neville nodded, stomach turning. "Head back home and speak to no one of this without permission."
"Yes Master," Pip said, bowed, and popped way, leaving Neville alone in his hospital room.
Only long practice and hard-earned confidence kept Neville from fidgeting as the lift ascended.
A ding sounded. "Level two: Department of Magical Law Enforcement…" a smooth female voice sounded.
Not waiting to hear further, Neville stepped through the open doors and out into a hallway. A quick glance at the map on the wall opposite gave him directions, then he was striding left down the corridor. He eventually came to a stop outside an imposing oak door and hesitated. His hand reached into his pocket, fingering the Hogwarts letter that had arrived early that morning, before his gran returned to see him. He'd hidden it, that final necessary piece of his plans. Then he'd set Pip his mission, a backup just in case, before making plans to sneak out once his gran left. And now, here he was.
It was no small thing that he planned to do, he knew that. He was very, very afraid that his gran and great uncle would never forgive him, for as appalling as their attitude was upon mistakenly deciding he was a Squib, they were still family and he loved them. But his completing his mission, and having the freedom to act, were both of far more import than sentimentality. It was essential that he could act without restriction. Without things like having to fear being dumped off into a Muggle orphanage because he didn't meet expectations.
Squaring his shoulders, he took a deep breath and knocked on the door. A voice called for him to enter, so he grasped the handle and turned, pushed the door open, and stepped inside.
"Hello," said a grey haired wizard, sitting behind a large desk. "This is the Office of Lineage Affairs. Are you sure you have the right place, young wizard?"
"Yes," he said firmly, pushing away any doubt. He closed the door behind him. "I need to have my regent dismissed on grounds of heir endangerment, and claim control of the family estate."
The older wizard straightened in his seat. "That's a very serious request," he said gravely. "You do realise such an act, in combination with such charges, may well bring public shame and censure upon your regent?"
"I know," Neville said reluctantly. He sighed. "I hope it won't come to that though. I'd like you to act as an intermediary to negotiations, and see if this can be done peacefully and quietly first."
"That is certain within my job description," the wizard nodded, picking up a quill to take notes. "I'm Isaac Applegarth, by the way. Can I get the name of the estate in question, your full name, and the full name of your regent? And after that, I need the details of endangerment"
"The Longbottom estate, I'm Neville Frank Longbottom, and my regent is Augusta Elisabeth Longbottom née Prewett. As for the endangerment…"
"This is absolutely ridiculous," Augusta spat, glaring at Applegarth a long moment before turning her fury on her grandson. "Get up Neville. We're going, right this instant, you stupid boy. You shouldn't even be out of hospital until later this afternoon. Sneaking out like this, and for such a reason! Of all the ridiculous—"
"No," Neville said firmly, strongly, letting none of his pain and uncertainty show. His gran stopped and stared at him in surprise, doubtless unused to seeing him so confident. "Gran, just listen first, okay?" Then he looked away from her, almost dismissively. "Mr Applegarth, if you could continue?"
"Mrs Longbottom, as I said, your grandson approached me to have you dismissed from your post of regent, and take control of the Longbottom estate."
"On what grounds?" she demanded, still spitting mad.
"Heir endangerment," was the crisp reply. "That you did knowingly and wilfully approve of various hazardous…" He paused to consult his notes. "I believe the young sir called them 'tests'. You approved various tests to be performed upon him by your brother-in-law, one Algernon Longbottom. And that the most recent test, which involved…" Again he glanced at his notes, before looking up at Augusta with clear disapproval. "It involved suspending him out a second storey window, from which he was dropped—"
"It was an accident!" she cried assertively, though she looked less confident than before. "Algernon lost his grip."
"Be that as it may, he was nonetheless dropped from a great height, as a direct result of the hazardous circumstances you approved of. Consequently, the young sir was admitted to St Mungo's hospital."
"Honestly, such fuss," Augusta sniffed, trying to dismiss the claims. "He's perfectly well now, all healed up. No harm done."
"Madam, your grandson arrived at hospital in critical condition. I have Healer affidavits that for the first day it was believed he would not survive. He then spent two further days in a magically induced coma to heal his spine, only barely escaping permanent paralysis. Also, the coma allowed the swelling in his brain to subside and heal, so that no permanent brain damage was incurred."
Applegarth was blunt and relentless in explaining the injuries, and Neville was guiltily pleased to see his grandmother flinch and pale. He knew deep down that, of course she cared that he'd almost died. But the recent revelations of her behaviour, and how she'd been planning to send him away, had brought old insecurities to the fore.
"Yes it was terrible, and I do truly regret the harm that came to Neville," Augusta admitted with genuine remorse. "However, I swear that no harm was intended, ever."
"But harm was caused. And not just in this instance. Also, not just physical. Mr Longbottom here has described his time in your care as 'near-constant fear for his safety', 'a terrorised childhood', and 'severely lacking in affection'."
Finally, his grandmother faced him again. "Neville?"
"I'm sorry gran," he said, voice quiet but firm, "but it's all true. I spent years being terrified about what Great Uncle Algie would do to me next. I never felt safe. And you…" For the first time his voice was less than strong. Pain was heard in the words as he said, "You approved of it all."
"We just wanted the best for you. To see you realise your potential."
"My magical potential you mean," he said. "Because without magic, I'm all but useless to you."
"That's not it at all!" she objected loudly, offended.
"I heard you both at the hospital," he cut in before she could say any more. "You decided I was a Squib. And what else did you call it? Oh yes, a 'disgrace to the line'. You're planning to have me disinherited and shipped off to the Muggles. If I don't have magic, I'm not even worthy of being considered your family anymore." He wanted her to deny it, say he'd misheard, or that she'd misspoken. But she sat silently, head bowed in uncharacteristic humility, and his heart ached. "It's always been about dad really, hasn't it?" he said quietly. "All my childhood all I ever heard was tales about how wonderful he was, and how I never measured up. If I couldn't do something he could at my age, I was a disappointment. If my accomplishments weren't ones he'd accomplished, they weren't worth noticing. But I'm not Frank, grandmother, I'm Neville. I shouldn't need to be him to be worthy." He sighed. "Do you know, I don't think I have ever, in the last twelve and a half years, heard the words 'I'm proud of you' pass your lips. Not even an 'I love you'. That's no way for a child to grow up."
Silence followed. He stared at his grandmother until she looked up, met his eyes, and then looked quickly away. She swallowed before speaking.
"I regret that my actions have caused you to feel this way Neville," she said with dignity, but quietly, so unlike her normally forward manner. Then she drew her form up, as if bracing herself, and directed her next words at Applegarth who had sat silent while they spoke. "But that as may be, it doesn't change the fact Neville is not yet even elven years old. He is far too young to take up the estate. He's nowhere near his age of majority yet."
"There are provisions in place, allowing an underage wizard in his situation to gain a limited declaration of majority, with certain conditions," Applegarth countered. He explained, "They must be a confirmed witch or wizard, either attending a magical school or receiving comprehensive magical tutoring. At least four OWLS must be taken and passed before they reach their traditional majority, or else run the risk of adult status being withdrawn and withheld till twenty-one. They must also have the financial means to support themselves, and hire a financial manager to help oversee their estate until properly of age. Then there are the minimum of three personal advisors they must appoint, again till of traditional majority, to provide magical and cultural guidance, and act as a voting board for medical proxy in case of emergency."
"I see. But there still remains the fact that…" She trailed of, hesitating, before raising her chin and boldly continuing. "It doesn't change the fact Neville is a Squib, and thus cannot meet the magical requirements."
"Actually," Neville cut in, frowning at her as he withdrew an envelope from his pocket and tapped it pointedly on the desk, "the magic requirement isn't a problem." He held the envelope up so the address could be seen, then flipped it over to show the recognisable crest in the wax seal. "This arrived this morning. My letter from—"
"Hogwarts," Augusta whispered. "But we thought it wouldn't come."
Neville watched as his gran gave a sobbing, relieved laugh. Her eyes were bright and there was pride in them. The sort of pride that had become more common as he grew older and bolder, facing down Death Eaters and being appropriately Gryffindor, living up to his father's reputation. The sort of pride that in his earlier years he never saw, because being just Neville wasn't enough apparently. And just like that, that warm and happy feeling he used to get every time his gran showed she was proud of him, spluttered out and died away. He swallowed and glanced away from her, feeling a bit like something precious had died. He looked towards Mr Applegarth beseechingly and the man obliged his silent plea, reviving the discussion.
"If lack magic was your only point of contention Madam Longbottom, then perhaps we can get this agreement signed quickly."
Of course, that wasn't the only point of contention Neville's gran had, not that he was surprised. Augusta Longbottom was nothing if not stubborn. It took hours of argument and urgings and making of points, not to mention the subtle threat of the scandal a public charge of heir endangerment would bring upon her, if she refused to handle the matter privately, before the matter was settled. Eventually though she did sign the contract after reading it over carefully, seeing no other choice. Neville did the same and then Mr Applegarth signed as witness.
As Augusta got up to leave the room, Neville thought that he'd never seen her look so defeated. Even the day she died she'd gone out looking defiant. Now though, she seemed somehow so old and tired. In a surge of compassion he called to her as she reached the door.
"Gran?" She looked back at him over her shoulder, expression proud and dignified, but eyes sad. Neville attempted a smile as he asked, "Will you consent to be one of my advisors?"
"Me?" she asked, sounding surprised, which was perhaps understandable given the circumstances.
"Yes, you. I know this was an unpleasant business, but I do love you gran," he said quietly and watched her press her lips together and look up at the ceiling blinking rather rapidly. "I think I could benefit a great deal, having you as an advisor."
"I see." She nodded. "Yes. Very well, I accept."
"I'll forward the paperwork to you by tomorrow," Mr Applegarth promised.
She nodded again, and left.
ABOUT THIS BUNNY: Because who doesn't love Neville, the wimpy character who became all awesome? Mix awesome-Nev with time travel and voila, a story idea. Oh, and some mild bashing of Nev's family too because, seriously? They so have it coming.
Reviews make me happy (hint, hint).