The Sugar Quill
Author: Steppenwolf  Story: Correspondence  Chapter: Default
The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

Disclaimer: Naturally we all know I didn't creat any of the characters in this small piece of writing

Disclaimer: Naturally we all know I didn't creat any of the characters in this small piece of writing. I have no right to use them, but the wise and all powerful JK Rowling doesn't mind us borrowing so that we can pretend we're her. Aah, if only...

 

Dedication: Thank you Ara Kane for going easy on this first timer! And for not leaving me hanging! You are my beta-heroin! And to Fianna, you cheeky thing! Just wanted you to know I think you're special.

 

 

 

Neville Longbottom was hiding in the attic for precisely one reason - his great-uncle Algie had come to visit. Visions of near-death experiences brought about by Uncle Algie plagued Neville even now, long after he had proven that he wasn't a Squib and could in fact hold his own with the best witches and wizards at Hogwarts: Ron and Ginny Weasley, Hermione Granger, and Harry Potter.

 But this summer the attention Uncle Algie was showing him was perhaps even more frightening than tossing him out of windows or attempting to drown him in the bathtub. This summer Uncle Algie was trying to persuade Neville to be an Auror.

 Neville listened intently at the door for any sounds of Gran or Uncle Algie looking for him. There was nothing. He didn't think they'd look for him here, after all. He was known to dislike dark, dusty places infested with all sorts of nasty creatures. But after venturing into the Department of Mysteries in June - and confronted with his great-uncle's zeal - the prospect of spiders, Boggarts and Doxies was highly preferable. Finally, he allowed himself to breath a small sigh of relief and turned to inspect his surroundings.

 Just as he'd expected, the attic was blanketed in a thick layer of dust. Grime clung to the boxes and old pieces of furniture Gran stored here, and the only light filtered weakly through a small stained-glass window. The ceiling was low up here, slanting down on either side of him to meet with the floor without bothering about walls.

 Neville squinted worriedly at an open box of material that might have been old robes or blankets. The contents of the box were quivering dangerously. He took a tentative step closer, his wand raised. Doxies, as he'd thought. Well, they'd leave him alone if he left them alone... hopefully. Avoiding the churning box, he went to the window and rubbed way some of the dirt to let more light in.

 It wasn't so bad in here, really, Neville mused. The attic didn't have much, Gran being the meticulous person that she was. There was a wooden cot that must have been his when he was a baby. By the looks of it, it could have been his dad's before him as well. A small pile of boxes next to the cot had labels written on them in faded ink; Frank's School Things; Toys and More Toys; Baby Things; Old Clothes; Books...

 And there at the bottom of the pile were two small boxes who's labels were obscured by the dust and cobwebs clinging to them, but which made Neville's heart thump when he knelt to get a better look. Photographs - Frank and Alice one read, and Alice's Things.

 Dad's old school things weren't a surprise. He and Gran had gone through that box to see if there was anything Neville could use for school when he got his much-anticipated letter from Hogwarts almost five years ago. The two boxes filled with toys were his from when he was young, just as the Baby Things were most likely his as well. But the last two... These were his parents' boxes, things Gran had packed away after they went to St. Mungo's. Neville carefully extracted the boxes from the pile, trying not to disturb the boxes of clothes and books. They were probably infested with Doxies and Book Worms and worse.

 With hands that trembled ever so slightly, Neville opened the box of photographs.

 He lost track of time as he sorted through the pictures. Gran had several photos downstairs of his father as a teenager, his parents on their wedding day, Neville as a baby in his mother and father's arms. But these pictures were different. There were a couple of Dad at Platform Nine and Three-Quarters, waving animatedly at whomever was behind the camera, but most of them featured Dad and Mum together; grinning over pumpkin pie at the Gryffindor House table, the Hall obviously decked out for Halloween; Mum and Dad with another girl who had long red hair jumping and cheering silently at a Gryffindor Quidditch match; Dad standing next to Mum, who was proudly sporting a Prefect badge. There were pictures of them eating ice cream in Diagon Alley, drinking butterbeer in the Three Broomsticks, swimming at a lake with the red-haired girl again and several young men whom Neville thought he should recognize for some reason.

 Towards the bottom of the box there were several photos of his parents with their friends. Neville watched as Mad-Eye Moody presented them both with rolls of parchment tied with black ribbons. They danced and waved and raised their bottles of butterbeer in celebration, the banner bearing the words Congratulations, New Aurors 1978 hanging across the room behind them. Mum and Dad clapped as the red haired woman and a man that could have been Harry Potter - Harry's parents, Neville realized with surprise - turned from the minister that had just married them. Neville stared at this photo for a long time. He hadn't known his mum and dad had been friends with Harry's parents.

 The last picture in the box was a group photograph of many witches and wizards, all of them smiling and waving at the camera. Neville's parents stood near the front, along with Mad-Eye Moody looking much younger but no less frightening, Professor Dumbledore winking mischievously at him, and off to one side, Harry's parents again, with the men from the lake that looked familiar. With a shock of recognition, Neville blinked down at Professor Lupin and the criminal Sirius Black. Not a criminal anymore, he reminded himself, a hero.

 Was this a photo of his parents with the other Aurors? Had the Potters, Professor Lupin and Sirius Black been Aurors back then? No, maybe not. Dumbledore was there, after all, and he had been the Headmaster at Hogwarts since before Neville's parents went there. So if the Potters were there, and Dad and Mum, Moody, Lupin, Black and Dumbledore...

 He was holding a photo of the Order of the Phoenix. The original Order; before Harry's parents had died... and his had been attacked.

 With very deliberate motions, Neville placed the photos back in the box and replaced the lid. He set it aside to take with him back to his room. There was a space on the wall next to his bed where the pictures of his parents would go very well with his framed Hogwarts letter and Gryffindor banner.

~*~

Neville had pins and needles in his feet from sitting crossed legged for so long. He stretched, pushing himself up and shaking his cramped limbs until feeling returned. His stomach rumbled loudly and Neville put his hands on it in an attempt to quiet it. A glance at his watch told him it was definitely lunch time, but the idea of venturing down to the kitchen where Gran and Uncle Algie would be waiting for him to appear made Neville gulp back his hunger. They weren't getting a hold of him just yet. Instead he sat back down, his back against the bars of the cot, and pulled the other box toward him. Alice's Things.

 Another picture greeted Neville as he opened the box, a framed black and white photograph of a white-haired witch, a bearded wizard, and a very young girl with a smiling round face. His mum and grandparents. Beneath this was a worn velvet drawstring bag. He lifted it out, feeling tentatively at the odd shapes inside. Neville opened it, tipping the contents out onto his hand. There was long silver necklace which he carefully untangled, lifting it up to watch the glass and gilt-edged pendant hanging from it swinging back and forth, a tiny flower caught inside. A pair of matching silver earrings glittered in his palm, as well as a string of colourful glass beads with a crystal prism on the end. And three rings, one large and plain gold, obviously a man's, one small and silver with a row of diamonds across the top, and a matching silver ring with an oval sapphire in the middle of  a row of diamonds. Their wedding rings, Neville was sure. He carefully tipped the jewelry back into the bag and set it down on the framed photo of his grandparents.

 There were several other items in the box. A pair of reading glasses in a black case, a pocket mirror and comb, and a gold pill box engraved with the letters A.R.L. At the bottom were several papers tied together with a black ribbon. Neville untied it slowly. He unrolled the first piece of parchment, a knot of anticipation thumping in his chest.

 The first one was a diploma.

 ~Certificate of Completion~

British Auror Training Academy, London

Awarded to:

Alice Rebecca Manning

19th June, 1978

 

Neville had seen a diploma just like this one, with his dad's name on it, hanging framed in the hall downstairs. His hands trembled again as he re-rolled the parchment and turned to the next. It was his mum's Hogwarts letter. Neville sighed at the familiar words. And the next piece of parchment was his dad's letter.

 It gave Neville's heart a leap to think of his parents valuing their acceptance letters as much as he did his. Had they waited in fearful anticipation for their letters to arrive? Had they worried that there wouldn't be a letter for them, they wouldn't be going to Hogwarts?

 Had they felt the utter relief and joy when the owl had finally arrived?

 Now, there was nothing left but an envelope. Neville read the bright blue ink that addressed the envelope to his mum. The handwriting was smooth and looping and pleasant. It reminded him of the way Hermione wrote. He removed the letter and began to read.

 

Sept. 13th 1981

Dear Alice,

                     James has allowed me this one letter to you. He is terribly frightened that the sight of owls would attract attention to us, and I must agree with him. But I miss you and am lonely for a woman's company. I love James, but he is a man after all. He suffers from all the faults that that sex is prone too. He misses Sirius and Remus and Peter. And he is driving me quite mad.

 Harry is healthy and beautiful. I'm sure he's the only thing keeping James and I sane as we sit cooped up here with nothing to do but play with him. He took a few steps the other day, and James swears his babbling is taking form into words. I think perhaps it's just that James has so much of a child still in himself that he can communicate in some way with Harry. Is Frank like that with little Neville?

 I'm afraid I haven't written to you simply because of my growing cabin fever. I'm frightened. No, I'm terrified. I wake up in the night trying not to scream and wake Harry. James always wakes up when I do, no matter how I try not to bother him. He wakes at the slightest sound, and he always knows when I've had a nightmare. And I dream every night of that foul prophecy.  You understand, don't you? We're both in the same boat.

 James worries constantly about security and protection. He checks the locks and charms every night before we go to bed and mutters to himself about being watchful; "constant vigilance". I wonder sometimes if I'm not married to Alastor instead. James thinks about Him attacking and Death Eaters coming in the night. But I worry about that damned prophecy Albus told us. I worry about what it means. James can't see past the right now. What He'll do if he learns about it, about us. But if he doesn't find us? If we stay hidden... It could be years. We're certainly prepared to saty here a long time. And if we do? If the war goes on and on and James and Harry and I stay here and they never find us, what then? If it is Harry that the prophecy is about. Will this all only finish when my precious, sweet Harry faces that evil... I can't bear to think about it.

 

Neville gulped convulsively, blinking quickly to dry the unshed tears in his eyes. The writing had turned messy and frantic as it went on. Neville could imagine the red haired woman - Harry's mum - writing to his mum with a shaking hand. A large inkblot began the next sentence.

 

Please forgive me if I'm upsetting you. I don't mean to. I've upset myself - well, I was already upset, but writing down how I feel and what I'm thinking has gotten me all worked up. I'm afraid James will tell me off when he sees me all ink stained and tearful. But you have Neville to think about too. You must have the same worries as I do. We've been friends since Hogwarts, so I know how you think. I needed to share it with you because I know you understand. We're mothers.

 Know that I'm thinking of you and Frank and little Neville. I think of you all every morning that I wake up and still have James and Harry safe and alive. I pray that you've woken to find Frank and Neville safe with you. I pray that nothing happens to you. I pray that nothing happens to us. I pray that nothing happens at all and Sybil Trelawney turns out to be a big fraud. Lets both hold onto that hope.

 Finally, Alice, I love you. Give my cuddles and kisses to your beautiful boy. Hug Frank for me and tell him I miss him as well. If James were about he'd send his love as well, but he's doing his Mad-Eye act, so his mind's elsewhere.

 Stay safe. Stay well.

Your friend always,

Lily

 

P.S: Keep Herbert there with you. We won't send any mail again for a while I think. James has ways of getting messages out anyway.

 

Neville scrubbed roughly at his blurry eyes. There were spots on the letter, he noticed, where the ink was paler that the rest. Just as clearly as he had had the vision of Lily Potter writing the letter, Neville saw in his mind is mum reading it and crying onto the parchment.

 He felt suddenly very bad for Harry. At least he, Neville, still had his parents. He could see them when he wanted, talk to them and hope that they might get better one day. They still lived. But Harry didn't have his mum and dad. He had never known them. Neville had Gran, and even Uncle Algie who worried about him and cared for him. Who did Harry have? No one at all, now that Sirius Black was gone.

 Neville was filled with sympathy for Harry. He must feel so bad. He must feel so alone.

 With numb hands he gathered the papers together and re-tied the ribbon. He placed them and his mum's other things back in the box and closed the lid. Neville stood stiffly and picked up the boxes to take with him. His hunger was forgotten now, as was the fear of Uncle Algie and what dangerous things he might want to try to do to Neville. He left the musty attic quickly and headed for his room.

 Somewhere below Gran heard his footsteps and called up to him to come and have lunch. Where had he been all morning? What sort of manners did he have, to sneak off when they had family visiting?

 He called back without really thinking. He'd been reading. He'd have lunch in a bit.

 In his room Neville sat determinedly at his desk, a clean sheet of parchment in front of him and his newest quill in hand. Before he could let Uncle Algie try to kill him and Gran stuff him with food, he had to write this letter. Still seeing the vivid blue, alive words of Lily Potter's letter to his mum, Neville began to write to Harry.

 And in the back of his mind, a vague suspicion about the prophesy smashed in the Department of Mysteries was forming.

 

 

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