AN: This is part of a biography of Neville written by eight people. This is the first part; in chronological order (I think), the others are at
(One hasn't posted yet; I'll add hers in when she does.) Thanks especially to trollnexus, who wrote Validity, the first of these, some of whose dialogue I've shamelessly pilfered. May the record show that I don't particularly dislike Augusta Longbottom, but certain events and actions are hard to sympathise with.
… … …
Like most pure-blood families, the Longbottoms employed a private tutor for their children before they grew old enough for proper magical tuition, to teach them things like English and elementary arithmetic. In the summer of 1986, it was a Muggle-born teenager with lovely long blonde hair named Emily Rye, who was hunting for pocket money and references before her N.E.W.T.s. Lacking a conventional mother figure, Neville was quite besotted with her.
"Thirty-six," Neville said.
"Perfect!" she said, her entire face lighting up. "That's the entire row of twelve for one, two, and three. You're doing really well!" There came a knock at the door to the study. "Come in!"
The door opened silently, revealing Madam Longbottom, looking as severe as ever. Emily took a moment to picture her with Professor Snape, and very nearly giggled, which could have seen her fired immediately.
"I trust you're making progress, Miss Rye?" Longbottom asked.
"Yes, Madam," said Emily. "We've been doing multiplication, like you said."
"Very good," said Longbottom. "Would you please come with me. Neville, stay here and revise your studies."
She shut the door behind Emily and, without her noticing, locked it. They walked toward the kitchen.
"He's been doing well," said Emily, "it takes time, of course, but he always gets there in the end."
"Has he shown any signs of magic?" Longbottom asked abruptly.
Emily hesitated. Pure-bloods could be funny about this sort of thing. "Not … that I've noticed. Does it matter? Surely some people just don't do accidental magic. Maybe he just has good control."
"He hasn't done any controlled magic either," said Longbottom, in the same sort of tone Professor McGonagall used whenever someone asked a question whose answer they should already have known. "I gave him his father's wand for half an hour yesterday. He couldn't do a thing."
"Er," said Emily. "Don't children usually get their first wands after they turn eleven? Maybe he just hasn't developed yet."
"His father displayed signs of magic by the time he was six," Longbottom said archly.
Emily opened her mouth to reply and shut it again.
"But of course it hasn't worked. Accidental magic only shows when one is experiencing strong emotions. I'd hoped that pride of his parents would work, but they say that anger and fear work well too."
Emily's stomach twisted. "Ex – excuse me?" she said. "He's six."
"Which is quite old enough for the son of Frank Longbottom," said the matriarch.
"I should go back," said Emily nervously.
"I think you've done enough for today," said Longbottom. "Why don't you take the rest of the day off." It wasn't a suggestion.
"I don't mind – "
Emily opened her mouth and shut it, then opened it again. "Are you sure? I don't – "
"I insist," repeated Longbottom, speaking very slowly and clearly. "Why don't I show you to the Floo."
Neville sat on his too-large chair, his legs swinging. Emily was nice. Behind him, a large, brightly coloured, venomous-looking snake slithered in through the open window. He hummed, slightly off-key, waiting for her to return. The snake brushed against a stack of photo albums. He turned at the noise and caught its gaze for long moments, and screamed.
Madam Longbottom heard this less than a minute after Emily stepped through the Floo, smiled, and hurried back to the study. It was a perfectly harmless snake under Colour Change and Engorgement Charms, but it should work just fine. There were plenty of possible outlets for accidental magic: he could unlock the door, or teleport either himself or the snake away, or conjure a barrier, or tip something heavy over onto it, or …
She reached the study and found the door still locked, and Neville still screaming from inside. She tapped her wand against the lock and pushed the door open. He was curled up in a foetal ball under the table. The snake gave him a look of incredulous disgust and left through the window. Her heart fell.
"What are you doing, boy?" she snapped. Her own grandson, no magic at all … "Why didn't you get rid of it?"
Neville opened one eye. "Is it – gone?" he quavered. "Is Emily still here? I – I think I want a hug."
"It's gone. Why didn't you do anything?"
"I – it was just suddenly there, and I couldn't, it was too big, there wasn't anything I could – "
"What!" she cried. "You're the son of my son and Alice Longbottom, aren't you? Do you think they couldn't have dealt with a snake?"
He stared, still curled up, shaking. So what if I am? "I – I'm sorry."
… … …
Outside of summer, Emily had to leave Neville for Hogwarts. He dearly wished he could have gone with her, because his grandmother replaced her with a governess named Mrs Blanks. Mrs Blanks was, to the satisfaction of his mind, a less pretty Emily without any of her warmth. At the urging of her brother Algernon, Madam Longbottom had recruited Mrs Blanks to try to coax accidental magic out of him, along with a few other friends, willing to do what they could to prove Neville wasn't a mere Squib. Nothing worked.
Summer rolled around again, bringing Neville's seventh birthday, and Emily back for one last time. One day, Algernon came around for tea with Madam Longbottom.
"Still no luck?" he asked. She sighed in despair and shook her head. "You know … maybe we've been going about this the wrong way. He seems so on edge."
"Maybe I'm partly," Madam Longbottom almost apologised, "but what am I to do? He's the last of the Longbottom line. A great and proud family, reduced to one Squib …"
"Don't give up, Augie," he said. "Being stressed makes magic harder, doesn't it? Maybe if you tried to relax him first, and then surprise him with something dangerous, that would work better."
So, to Neville's and Emily's delight, they announced that they would go on a day trip to Blackpool.
Emily took his hand as he ran ahead, looking for ice cream parlours and sweet shops, while Madam Longbottom and Algernon walked behind with great dignity. They walked around the harbour for an hour or so before going out to the pier and staring out to sea.
Algernon nodded to Madam Longbottom behind Emily's and Neville's backs, and she drew her wand and cast a few silent Muggle-Repelling Charms. In a moment, they were invisible to the world.
"They say the sea goes on forever," Algernon said seriously. "And once you go far enough, it's just sharks. Sharks as far as the eye can see."
"Wow," said Neville.
Algernon gave him a sharp shove in the small of the back. Neville barely had time to shriek before he splashed into Irish Sea.
He kicked furiously to the surface and gulped air and salt water. "Help!" he shouted. "Save me!"
"I guess that's it," Algernon said sadly.
Emily stared. "What do you think you're doing?" she asked. "He's just a child!" She made to move forward, but Algernon blocked her.
"I am aware," Madam Longbottom said frostily, "but" and here she called down to the struggling boy in the water "but you're a pure-blood, aren't you? Go on, save yourself! You're a pure-blood, aren't you?"
"Ack!" Neville cried, snorting water. "Help!" A passing wave dunked him under.
Emily kicked off her sandals, dodged around Algernon, and jumped off the pier after Neville. The water was cool and sweet against the day's heat, but the waves were strong and the undertow viciously sucked at her ankles. She wasn't a very good swimmer, and could only manage an ungainly cross between breaststroke and dog paddle toward Neville. She pulled him up and onto her back, then kicked back to the pier and grabbed one of the pier's heavy wooden supports for a breather. She banged one ankle against something underwater.
"Miss Rye!" Madam Longbottom shouted down at her. "Get back here this instant, do you hear me!"
Emily ignored her. "Neville, are you okay?"
"Glub," he told her.
She pulled his arms around her neck. Favouring her sore ankle, she kicked toward the next beam and held on for a moment's rest, and so made her way laboriously back to shore. Neville flopped off her back onto the sand. Madam Longbottom and Algernon were waiting, her angry, him despondent.
"Miss Rye!" hissed Madam Longbottom. "How dare you ignore my direct instructions!"
Emily couldn't believe it. "He was drowning!" she exclaimed, pointing at Neville, who was now coughing up water.
"He was fine," Madam Longbottom replied, "but these sorts of hazards are vital for a young wizard's magical development."
"Dying is not vital for anything!" Emily cried, her voice rising. A passing Muggle couple spared her a brief glance, then went back to their conversation.
"I hope," Madam Longbottom said coldly, "that you do not presume to tell me you know more about raising children than I do."
"Well, it's not like it'd be difficult," Emily shot back, and immediately regretted it. She needed the reference.
Madam Longbottom gave her a long look. "I think," she said, "that we shall have no more to say to one another. Good-bye, Miss Rye."
… … …
I'm sorry I had to leave. Your grandmother and I never really got along, I'm sorry to say, and Blackpool was one time too many.
I'm not sure this letter will reach you; I've never been quite clear on whether owls deliver to the post box or the person marked. I'm sorry again if it doesn't.
I know you say you don't like your other governesses. I suppose Mrs Blanks is back again. I never much liked her either, to be honest. She rather reminds me of Professor Binns, from Hogwarts, who teaches History. I've never been very good at that class.
I know you must be sad right now – I know I am! – but I want you to be brave, for me. As long as you stay strong, you'll be okay, I promise. You'll get your magic, and you'll get to come to Hogwarts and have all sorts of adventures. Who knows, if my grades are good enough, I might even be a teacher by the time you get there!
Remember to be yourself. I'll bet your grandmother tells you, when you get to Hogwarts, to try to be Sorted into Gryffindor. Don't. There are four Houses, and you'll go to wherever you'll fit in best. I was a Gryffindor and I wouldn't trade that for the world, but it's not for everyone. I have great friends in all of the other Houses too.
Be yourself, and be proud of yourself.
Never be afraid to be who you are.
All my love,