The Sugar Quill
Author: Purple Eyed Weasley  Story: Presents  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.

Neville woke up feeling content

 

Author’s note:  YEA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I am finally posted on Sugarquill! Okay, I’d just like to say thank you to my friends, for not punching me whenever I said I would finish it and then totally forgot; thanx to my sister, who gave me the idea of Neville’s present; and thanx to J.K. Rowling, for giving us a world in which we can temporarily borrow. Please review!

 

Presents

 

Neville woke up feeling content. It was Christmas. He had no homework. He was home, where no one teased him.  And he was about as far away from Snape as he could get. Neville sat snuggled in his bed, nice and warm under the covers, until a sudden realization came to him- there were presents downstairs!

            Neville entered the drawing room to set his eyes on a magnificent tree. Its tall branches glittered with magical snow, and under it lay a mountain of presents. Fairies danced in the sweet smelling boughs, while the angel on top of the tree sang her pretty tune. Neville felt a wave of happiness wash over him, and he ran over to his gran and kissed her on the cheek. After wishing some of his other relatives a merry Christmas, he sat down and started in on his pile.

            Half an hour later the whole pile was gone. Neville had gotten many presents, and was feeling even happier than he had been before. He wrapped his neck in his new scarf, ready to go outside. He was going to plant the snapdragon that he had gotten from Uncle Algae, which was trying to find something to chew. He was halfway out the door when his gran called, “Neville! Come back. You have one more present.”

            Neville lit up with excitement and ran into the room. He grabbed the present, read the tag… and his heart stopped.

            He just stared in complete shock for a few seconds, but then a thought appeared in his stunned brain: How could she do this to me!? Neville’s eyes roved over the tag once more, and he read:

To our Darling Neville,

          We give to you this present not only because we love you, but also because we are proud of  you. We know you will become a great wizard, and hopefully this trinket of mine will help.

Love,

Your Dad and Mum

            Neville could not believe Gran would do this. Ever since he could remember Neville had gotten presents from his parents for Christmas. He had been a second year when he had figured out that the presents, those presents that showed that his parents did love him, were really from his grandmother. He had cried for hours, but finally he had come to grips with reality. Now he was fifteen years old. He was no child, living in a dream world full of imaginary love. He could deal with the fact that his parents, no matter how much it hurt, would never come back.

            But obviously Gran didn’t think so. It hurt him more than he could ever say that she didn’t think him mature enough to understand.          His thoughts were interrupted by someone saying, “Go on, Nev. Open it.”

Slowly Neville unwrapped the long rectangular box. It was vaguely familiar, but Neville couldn’t put his finger on where he’d seen it before. He opened the box to reveal a dusty and extremely old wand.

            Huh? Neville thought. He already had a wand. But then he remembered what the note had said: this trinket of mine. It suddenly clicked. Neville picked up the wand, fingering it lovingly. He was holding his father’s wand! Ever since he was little he had wanted to hold something of his father’s. But he had never dreamed of having his wand.

            “Thank you Gran,” Neville murmured. “Tell them ‘thank you’ the next time you see them.”

            He picked up the snapdragon, pulled his scarf out of its mouth, and was once again stepping out into the snow when his grandmother said, “Actually, Neville, you can say it yourself. We’re going to see your parents over lunch.”

            Neville’s heart sank to his feet with a thud that Neville thought his gran could hear. For the second time that day he had the unpleasant feeling of his good mood dissipating into dust.  He could not see his parents, not today. He could not stand seeing them on a day that should have been full of happiness. It tore him apart, seeing his parents act like two year olds, or worse, screaming and cowering in fear of a horror only they could see.           “Do I have to?” Neville asked, although he knew what was coming next.

            “ Neville!” his grandmother said in a shocked voice. “ Your parents gave their sanity for you. They sacrificed themselves so you would be safe, and you don’t even want to see them on Christmas! I’m ashamed at how selfish you are.  Now go up to your room and make yourself presentable. We’re leaving in an hour.”

~*~

            Fifty minutes later Neville was saying goodbye to his relatives, most of whom were giving him pitying looks. Soon they were gone, and it was just him and Gran. She pulled out a medallion, and told him to grab on to it. The ministry, which felt sorry for the Longbottoms, had given them permission to have Portkeys for access to the hospital for whenever they needed.

            “Three,” his gran mumbled to herself, “two, one.” And with that Neville felt the familiar jerk as he was pulled forward. Spinning, spinning, faster and faster, and then… suddenly they were in the lobby of St. Mungo's.

            Neville fell down onto the familiar carpeting, remembering the many times this same scene had been blurred with tears. He sighed, picked himself up, and started up the stairs behind his gran. On his way up he said ‘hi’ to some portraits, but mostly he didn’t say anything at all. They reached the ‘Spell Damage’ floor, and turned onto the ward that held Neville’s parents. They were admitted at once, and although Neville would rather have been anywhere else, he marched quickly up to his parents’ beds. Their curtain was open, and he could see them happily playing a Muggle game called Candy Land. He didn’t want to ruin their good mood, so he pulled up a chair and watched them play.

While he watched, he took the time to notice how their health had been recently. Neville thought they looked… okay. His mum’s hair, aged like the rest of her by the
Cruciatus curse, was whiter and stringier than it had been last summer. Both of his parents had dark blue circles under their eyes, signs of the nightmares Neville knew haunted them after the sun went down. His father’s skin was ashen, and his brown hair was mixed with gray. At the moment there was joy in both sets of blue and brown eyes, but there was also still a haunted look that lurked in the shadows, threatening to overcome them.

            It took ten minutes before the Longbottoms noticed anyone was there. His mum gave a startled gasp, and moved to hide behind her husband. His dad was able to let out a quiet and very shy, “Hi,” before averting his eyes.

            While most children would be upset over this reaction from their parents, Neville was relieved. Last time he had been here, the sight of an unfamiliar person had sent his parents screaming, and they soon had been in one of their daymares. His parents couldn’t remember anything unless they were reminded of it every day. It used to bring him to tears, but now he was able to swallow them down. His parents would soon get used to him. It would just take a while.        

“Hi Mum! Hi Dad!” Neville said in a falsely cheery voice. “Merry Christmas!”

His mum stared at him, trying to place him, and she finally managed a “Who…” Sometimes Neville couldn’t believe it. They still couldn’t manage whole sentences, and they had been recovering for fourteen years. At the same time though, it was what he had been waiting to see. He had been waiting, deep in his heart, for a sign that his parents were not recovering. That way, he could smother his hope, keeping it far away so it couldn’t break his heart.

            “It’s me, Mum. Neville. Can I play with you guys?” Just when they were about to answer, Healer Strout came in, carrying a bundle of presents. Most of them went to Lockhart, but two of them went to his mum and dad.

            They looked at the presents in a confused sort of way for a minute, then looked up at Neville in complete bewilderment. He knew he would have to help them.

            “See Dad, Mum. You tear it. Like this.” And with that he ripped open a present, revealing the potted lilies Neville had worked for months on. They were the special ones, grown under certain constellations, so that they glowed when it was dark. He had grown them as a sort of protection against their nightmares, thinking maybe a light would penetrate the darkness of their fears. 

            “They’re from me. I grew them myself. Do you like them?”

            Neville could barely stand to see their response. He turned to see if they would answer, and was rewarded for his bravery with no response at all. They didn’t seem to understand. They simply stared.

            For the first time since they got there his gran intervened, saying, “Neville gave this to you. He loves you. Don’t you appreciate that? Come on, Frank. I know you love flowers. And lilies used to be your favorite kind. Remember, you made Alice carry them at your wedding?”

            Apparently, some of this had just clicked. But instead of this making them feel grateful, it looked to Neville as if they were  starting to immerse themselves in memories, and he could tell none of them were good. He knew what was going to happen in a few minutes, and he couldn’t stand to watch them when it did. He was just about to run out of the room when there was an ear splitting, heart-wrenching scream that split through the silence normally found in a hospital. Neville saw, out of the corner of his eye, his mother, who was curled up into a ball with her eyes rolled up into her head. She convulsed, screaming and trying to cover herself as if she was being tortured.. Seconds later, his dad joined in, screaming in a voice just as high pitched and terrorized as his mother’s. On him the effects seemed to be worse, as he was crying. He couldn’t even pull himself into a ball through the pain.        

Neville’s head rang with the sound of their awful screams; his heart beat doubly as fast at the terror he knew they felt. He couldn’t stand to sit by and watch them relive the horror they had gone through just to protect him. He had to get out, had to escape the horrible, all-consuming guilt he felt that was made worse and worse each time he witnessed one of his parents’ “attacks”. He had to escape the sound of their screams, which went on taunting him, teasing him to do something to save them. He needed to leave the sight of the people who were supposed to protect him, support him, and love him bawling and screaming their guts out. He couldn’t deal with it; it was just too much. Suddenly he started doing something he hadn’t done since Moody’s unforgettable Unforgivable lesson: he started to cry.

            Big salty tears streamed down his face, and a wail that didn’t belong to his parents joined into the symphony of misery. He tried to stop them, tried to be brave, but they seemed to have to get out, and it was almost a relief to be crying. He felt stupid standing there, and was embarrassed to be crying in front of the rest of the ward, who were all looking at the three of them in combined sympathy and concern. While it worried everybody else in the room that there was another person in pain, his parents seemed to be brought back to reality by the sound of another’s screams. His dad had stopped crying, and his mom’s eyes went back to staring straight forward. Both had lowered the volume of the shrieks, and the convulsions seemed to be lessening.

            Slowly, as his parents were calmed down, Neville’s tears stopped. He felt better now that they had been let out, as if he had been cleansed. His parents, on the other hand, looked completely dreadful. They looked even grayer than before, were still shaking slightly, and seemed absolutely exhausted. His gran decided that they needed to be put to bed, and as they were moving over to his parents’ beds, he saw Lockhart escape out the door. He pointed it out to Healer Strout, and then hurried over to help Gran put his parents to bed.

            Neville pulled the curtains over the beds, activating the silencing charm. He went to his dad’s bed, where the lilies still lay, and put them up on their shelves that were attached to the wall. On the shelves were other possessions, such as books, letters, and pictures. Neville looked at the pictures, and noticed that most of them were of him. Almost  all of the letters were written by him, also. He knew that the nurses had put them up, but it still made him feel good.

            Neville felt terrible that he had caused yet more of their pain, and so he started apologizing. He didn’t really know what he said exactly. All he knew was that he loved them, he wanted them to have a good Christmas, and he hoped they’d get better soon. When Gran said they would have to go in a few minutes, Neville murmured a quiet,” I love you, Mum.” When he said this, she got tears in her eyes, and looked around wildly, as if looking for someone. Setting her eyes on Neville, she pulled him in close and gave him a hug. That was all Neville needed. He sat there, warm and wanted in his mother’s arms, feeling as if he was someone who mattered. All his life he had wanted a real Christmas present from his parents. This was the best thing he could have gotten.

            And still he was not happy. It was not good enough. She was hugging him because she needed as much comfort as he did, and not because she really loved him. She would never really love him, because she would never really know him.

            After five minutes, his dad fell asleep, and his mum looked almost there. So he and Gran left, with only a simple goodbye.

            Neville barely heard Healer Strout’s remark to his grandmother, and he was startled out of his wits when he heard his own name being called across the room.

            Neville!” He jumped, scared that such a volume meant more screaming, and more horrific daymares. But it turned out to be almost worse.

            “It’s us, Neville!” And Neville finally recognized whom the voice belonged to, and as he did he wanted to run away. He could not see them. Not here. Not now.

            Ron did not seem to be aware of Neville’s discomfort, however, and kept on talking. “Have you seen? Lockhart’s here! Who’ve you been visiting?”

            Neville would never tell them. He couldn’t stand to be pitied. But of course, Gran did not seem to understand.

            “Friends of yours, Neville, dear?” she asked in her overly polite tone, veering towards the opposite direction Neville wanted to go. He couldn’t stop her though, and he had to follow. He saw them Ron, Harry, Hermione and Ginny, all standing around Lockhart’s bed. He observed all of them without staring obviously. Ron, Hermione and Ginny were all looking at him with pleased, curious expressions, and he expected the same from Harry. He was surprised when what he saw on Harry’s face was concern, sympathy and anxiety. But how could that be? Neville wanted to know. There was no way Harry could know about his parents. Or could he?

            “Ah, yes. Yes, yes, I know who you are, of course.” Gran went on in a high and mighty tone. “Neville speaks most highly of you.” Now Neville was extremely embarrassed. Now it sounded like he… hero-worshipped Harry. Harry’s polite, “Er-thanks,” was lost on Neville, and the only thing he could focus on was to not make eye contact.

            “And you two are clearly Weasleys,” she continued on, shaking Ron and Ginny’s hands. “Yes, I know your parents- not well, of course- but fine people, fine people… and you must be Hermione Granger? Yes, Neville’s told me all about you. Helped him out of a few sticky spots, haven’t you?”

Great, Gran, Neville thought. Make me look like a complete idiot.

            He’s a good boy, but he hasn’t got his father’s talent, I’m afraid to say…” And Neville was horrified to see that she gestured over to his parents’ beds. Neville had wanted to tell his friends a different way, when he was ready. He was definitely not ready now.

            “What? Is that your dad down there, Neville?” Ron asked, in an amazed kind of voice.

            That was obviously not the response Gran had been expecting. She barked out, “What’s this? Haven’t you told your friends about your parents, Neville?” Neville could not look at anyone, or else he’d surely start crying again. He also didn’t think he could stand it if his gran lectured him in front of his few friends. He nodded slightly, and braced himself for the reaction this would have.

            “Well, it’s nothing to be ashamed of! You should be proud, Neville, proud! They didn’t give their health and sanity so their only son would be ashamed of them, you know!”

            Neville could not believe she thought he was ashamed. The only reason he didn’t tell people was because he did not want people to hate him because it was his fault that his parents were in that condition. He had never considered being ashamed.

            “I’m not ashamed,” he said, although very light, as he thought if he spoke any louder, he would probably start to cry again.

            His gran’s response was typical of Gran. “Well you’ve got a funny way of showing it!” Then, talking to Ron, Harry, Ginny, and Hermione, she said, “My son and his wife were tortured into insanity by You-Know-Who’s followers.”

            Neville waited, still not looking at them, but knowing that the drop of the bombshell normally caused the exact same reaction. There would be hands over mouth surprise, eyes full of sympathy… he had seen it all before.

            “They were Aurors, you know, and very well respected within the Wizarding community. Highly gifted, the pair of them. I- yes, Alice dear, what is it?”

            Neville turned around quickly at the sound of his mother’s name, and found her standing close by, eyes focused on him, in the sweet, protective two year-old phase she tended to get. Her arm was stretched towards him, and he knew she wanted to give him something. She always wanted to give him something at the end.

            “Again?” Gran asked impatiently. “Very well, Alice dear, very well- Neville, take it, whatever it is…”    

            Neville had already reached out his hand, willing it to be a note, a picture, a special token of love… But of course it wasn’t. It was a candy wrapper. It would always be a candy wrapper.

            He didn’t hear what his grandmother said to her daughter in law, but he knew what he should say. “Thanks, Mum”

            His mum seemed content with that response, and she turned back to her bed, much happier than she had been ten minutes ago. Neville needed to know if they were laughing. He may not be the strongest person around, but if anyone laughed at his parents, he would have to teach them a lesson. He wheeled around to face them… and was surprised to see no one was amused. Every single one of them seemed to be horrified, and he almost would have rather seen them laughing.

            “Well, we’d better get back. Very nice to have met you all. Neville, put that wrapper in the bin, she must have given you enough of them to paper your bedroom by now…”

            But of course, Neville didn’t throw it away. He kept it. After all, that was the only real present he would ever get from his parents.

//
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