The Sugar Quill
Author: Beshter  Story: Everything Happens to Harry  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.

            “Oh look, Enid, have you read the Prophet today?”

            Neville Longbottom looked up from his plate of eggs, sausage, and toast to glance at his Gran, who was holding the paper out to her sister, Enid.  It wasn’t unusual for the two of them to share and discuss the morning paper over coffee in the morning, and supposing they were discussing some new sale in Diagon Alley, Neville returned to his eggs, which were much more interesting to him at the moment than listening to his Gran and Aunt quibble about the price of pewter cauldrons.  Gran always had to keep a steady supply.

            “Well, I never…they went and did that?  Can you believe it?”

            Must be some sale then, Neville thought bemusedly as he considered letting his thoughts wander to what he planned on doing in the garden that morning.  He knew Gran wanted something done with those snapping-roses, and he was sure that they would perk up if…

            He could hear his great-uncles voice boom from upstairs.  Enid, read the paper!  Can you believe it?”

            His great-aunt smiled in exasperation at her sister, then called back, “Yes, Algie, we are reading it down here ourselves, I just said that.  Come down and discuss it, I’ll get you some coffee.”

            Thundering down the stairs, Algie’s footsteps made Neville cringe.  He glanced up warily at his wild haired, breathless great-uncle who stood in the doorway brandishing his own copy of the Daily Prophet.

            “They gone and sacked Dumbledore off the Wizengamot!  This country is going to the dogs for sure,” He bellowed, nodding his head at his sister-in-law and his wife, who was standing at the stove, coffee mug in hand.

            “This is a grave, grave time, that’s for sure.” Gran intoned in a deep, sad voice.  “To think of what Frank would say if he could see this.”

            Neville frowned into his eggs then.  He hated it when Gran brought up his father like that.  His great, good, heroic father, why he wouldn’t stand for this, he would have said something.  Well, chances were he probably would.  Truth be told, Neville felt like saying something too.  Dumbledore was a great wizard, and he was always sure to speak up to see justice was done on the Wizengamot.  Gran often spoke of how fair minded he was.  He wondered what it was that caused them to kick him off.

            “It’s because he’s telling the truth, you know,” Algie sputtered as he sat at the table across from Neville, causing Neville to inch away just a slight bit.  “Because he has been saying what he has about….You-Know-Who.”

            “Course it is.  That idiot Fudge wouldn’t know a Death Eater if he walked up and introduced himself.  You see how he’s friendly like with that Lucius Malfoy.” Gran shook her head and glared.  “Why, I think of what Frank said about that man, and it appalls me that our own Minister would be seen with him.  No proof, mind you, those Malfoy’s were always a slippery group.  The stories you would hear…”

            Neville decided now would be a good time to finish his eggs and head out to the garden.  Not that he disliked politics, on occasion he did find it fascinating, but Gran had a tendency to carry on about the things her dear husband did, or her dear son, and Neville would grow weary of the tirade soon.  He had heard it all before, how his family had given so much for the wizarding world, and how unappreciated they were, and look at all they had sacrificed and everyone seemed to be ignoring that and allowing the same things to happen yet again.  It wasn’t that he didn’t care, it was…well what could HE do about it?

            He had just stood up to gather his things to the sink and wash up his plate when Algie, who had been peppering Gran’s tirade with, “right there, gel”, and “precisely, I couldn’t agree more”, turned to Neville with wide, vehement eyes and stated, “Why, if there were anything wrong with the boy’s mental health, Neville would have noticed, wouldn’t you, my boy?”

            Blindsided, Neville blinked in confusion at his great-uncle.  “Huh?”

            Gran shook her head.  “Oh, Algie, leave the boy alone, he doesn’t keep up with all these stories.”  Neville felt his face burn then.  Gran never did think much of his ability to keep up with the issues of the day.

            “No, he’s been with the boy for four years now; he surely would have noticed something.  You haven’t seen anything…funny out of Harry Potter have you?”

            “Out of Harry?” Neville asked in bemusement.  Funny things always happened to Harry.  Neville lived in the same room with him and nothing ever happened to him, but with Harry it was a new event every week.  “Nothing more than usual…why?”

            “Oh, it’s nothing, Neville, why don’t you clean up then.” His Gran tried to shoo him away, but Algie persisted.

            “Now no, he’s got a right to hear it, ‘cause sure there will be those idiots when he returns spouting it all up and down the halls.  Paper’s saying that Harry Potter’s off his nut.”

            Neville stared at his great-uncle.  “Oh…” was all that he could manage.

            “See, now you’ve got him upset, Algie.  You should have listened.” Aunt Enid sat back down to her coffee then, shaking her head at her husband.  “He’s not, dear, at least I don’t think he is.  Mind you, I think that whole Tri-Wizard incident was quite the shock to the system, seeing that poor Diggory boy die.  But I don’t think…he’s lost his mind.”

She glanced coldly at her husband, who merely shrugged and took a large gulp from his own coffee mug.

            “Should have asked for tea.” He wrinkled his nose, as Enid then frowning, picked up the paper again and held it in front of her face in order to better ignore her husband.

            “Now Neville, I’m sure you can’t believe your friend is insane, and I don’t believe he is either.  Lord knows I don’t believe that Dumbledore would keep a deranged student in school if he thought he was truly a danger.  Besides, remember all he’s been through Neville.  If you had to live what he has lived with, perhaps you would be a bit more sympathetic.” Gran smiled at him, an all too rare privilege, and Neville felt his cheeks burn at this.  All that HARRY had been though!

            With a jerk of her head, Gran indicated that he should go place his things in the sink.  After a quick rinse he mumbled something about going out to the garden, and didn’t even acknowledge his Gran’s, “fine dear, do try to keep your head covered”, as he trudged out the back door.

            The Longbottom’s garden was a beautiful place; it had been first created by his Grandfather as a place for his Gran to plant a few of her favorite rare and magical plants.  His mother had rather liked it as well, and his Gran had faithfully managed the many additions Alice Longbottom had added on to the garden over the years since his mother was in the hospital, occasionally gathering flowers to take to St. Mungo’s on visits.  Now it was Neville’s responsibility mostly, and under his hands it had rather flourished and thrived.  Gran was rather proud of it, to be honest, one of the few works of his that she was ever proud enough to brag about.  He filled a watering can and walked over to the flower bed, quietly sprinkling each plant with water, lapsing into quiet thought as he did so.

            Neville realized he wasn’t the world’s greatest student, nor was he ever going to grow into a fine wizard…at least not like his father.  His father, Frank, had been a hero of the last war.  Well liked and admired, he and his wife had both fought against the forces of Lord Voldemort.  Neville couldn’t even remember them as they used to be.  Everyone was outraged by the tragedy of course, when they were tortured by Death Eaters, and on occasions they would still bring it up in sad whispers.  Most had forgotten about it though, the Longbottoms and what had happened, and no one had remembered the boy who was left behind.

            The ‘other Boy-Who-Lived’ he sometimes called himself.

            Sure, he wasn’t like Harry, who had gone up against He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named as a baby and lived.  Neville doubted that he could have survived, if it had been him.  After all, he didn’t show any magic ability till Uncle Algie dropped him out of the window and into the garden.  Harry probably was doing all sorts of things straight from the cradle.  But still, everyone loved Harry because of the fact that while everyone else in that conflict died, he had lived after his attack.  Everyone REMEMBERED Harry’s name, no one remembered Neville’s.

            Of course, they all now thought Harry was out of his mind.  Neville couldn’t help but feel a sort of small sense of satisfaction with that.  He immediately felt guilty for it, and mentally kicked himself.  Harry had been nothing but nice to him, and here Neville was feeling happy about what had happened.

            But he couldn’t help it sometimes…that was just how he felt.  Everything ALWAYS happened to HarryTheir first year Harry would sneak out and break the rules, and while he may have gotten into trouble once or twice, he always ended up the hero.  Neville had felt like an idiot because he had tried to do the right thing and stop them, but instead had embarrassed himself and been left on the common room floor for an hour.  Their second year hadn’t been much better.  Everyone thought that Harry was doing those horrible things, just because HE was a parseltongue.  Not that Neville wanted to be a parseltongue, and he was sure Harry didn’t appreciate everyone thinking he was Slytherin’s heir.  But really, it just showed what a powerful wizard Harry was, much more so than Neville.  Neville’s most notable feet at Hogwarts had been to melt more pewter cauldrons in Potions than anyone else in the school’s history.  How embarrassing was that?

            And as if that wasn’t enough, Neville had heard Ginny whispering to one of her friends once that Harry had been the one to save her life down in the Chamber of Secrets that year, not Gilderoy Lockhart as many people believed, (though Neville had spoken to his old professor while visiting St. Mungo’s, and the man couldn’t have told you whether he did or didn’t if you had given him road map and directions.)  Harry, just a 12-year-old wizard taking on a dark monster in the bowls of the school, just to save the life of his best friend’s sister.  Neville would never have considered that.  His first instinct had been to run to Gryffindor Tower like he was told to and wait it out.  He could never rush into danger like that.

            It was little wonder then when rumors started circulating the next year in the Gryffindor Common Room that Sirius Black, the escaped convict, was out to get Harry.  Of course, it had made sense to Neville.  If you had to have one person you’d break out of prison to kill, it would have to be brave, noble, adventurous Harry.  Why would you bother with anyone else?  At thirteen, he had faced more than many grown wizards that Neville knew, and certainly more than Neville could imagine himself managing.  Really, he hadn’t wanted Harry to be hurt, that was silly, and had been truly upset and scared the night that Black broke into their room and nearly killed Ron.  But for the tiniest, perhaps most imperceptible moment, Neville sort of wished…that he could be the object of someone’s goals like that.  He hadn’t admitted it of course, after all, he was sure it wasn’t pleasant, but still…what was it like to know that had to brave those sorts of things.  Neville got weak in the knees thinking of how best to face Professor Snape’s class.

            As if to prove how brave and clever he was though, the last and final insult was cast in the previous year, with the Tri-Wizards Tournament.   Neville, like so many other underage wizards, had wished fervently that he too could enter.  He had wanted so to please Gran, to prove to her that yes, he too could live up to the family name of Longbottom.  But he hadn’t thought or even given credence to the idea that HE might be able to actually get into the tournament.  Surely he would be punished even if he was successful in getting his name into the Goblet.  So Neville hadn’t even tried, no one he knew had.  Then on the night of Halloween, Harry’s name was drawn out.  Neville remembered the shock that he had felt, and the tightening in his stomach as Harry silently stood and went into the room with the other champions.  One thought had risen unbidden to his mind in the silent moment in the Great Hall.

            Everything always happened to Harry.

            That night, as the Gryffindors celebrated, Neville thought about how the Hufflepuffs must be feeling.  He was rather fond of the Hufflepuffs, was rather close to several thanks to his work in the Herbology greenhouses.  They were nice folk, and Cedric was a nice boy, even though he was extremely handsome, according to every female around him.  Neville had thought it was extremely unfair that the Gryffindors were eagerly anticipating Harry’s participation, after all, did they LIKE hogging all the fame and glory?  And there was Harry, wrapped up in a Gryffindor flag, always the hero.  It wasn’t as if he didn’t go through this last year with the Quidditch cup, or even his first year, when the Quidditch team had beat Slytherin for the first time in years.  Harry was always getting this sort of reception; he was after all Harry, the best Seeker in Hogwarts history, the only First Year to get a spot on a house team, the youngest in a century.  And there was Neville, not even able to mount a broom without falling off and breaking his wrist.

Perhaps he could  But Neville wondered if Harry rather liked being in the seat of glory.  Perhaps he was rather used to it now, and couldn’t help himself.  Oh, Neville never said anything, he was too embarrassed to, and truth be known, a little afraid to admit it.  The other Gyffindors wouldn’t take too kindly to him speaking out of house.  But…well even Ron wasn’t speaking to Harry then, and he was Harry’s best friend.  Perhaps there was something to what Neville thought, but he’d never say anything out loud of course.

            But Neville had to admit that he was rather frightened for Harry when it came down to it.  He was glad he didn’t have to go through that tournament after all.  The dragons were down right terrifying, and Neville had spent much of the time with his eyes closed hoping Harry wouldn’t be burned.  And then at the lake, he was sure Harry wasn’t returning, even the Slytherins jokingly discussed the odds of the Giant Squid having eaten him.  To be honest, Neville really did like Harry despite all this fame and everything, he was always nice to Neville, and he surely didn’t want anything to happen to him.

            By the third challenge, Neville was indeed rooting for Harry to win, perhaps along with Cedric.  His resentment had been put aside in the hopes that maybe one of them would bring the trophy home for Hogwarts.  He had waited breathlessly in the stands, hoping that the two would come out, and when they did, he was rather confused.  Why was there such a large crowd around them?  Why was Cedric on the ground?  When word finally got around to Neville that Cedric was dead, he was shocked, and dismayed.  He had thought, rather irrationally of course, that perhaps Harry had done it in order to claim the prize for his own.  But no, Harry wasn’t like that…was he?

            In the confusion of the days that followed, Neville hadn’t seen or even spoken to Harry.  They had all been told to leave him alone.  Neville had respected Dumbledore and Professor McGonagall’s request, but he saw Harry in his room.  He knew that whatever it was that Harry saw, whatever it was that killed Cedric, it wasn’t good.  It never occurred to Neville that what Harry saw, the thing that killed Cedric, was the very wizard who was supposed to be dead all these years.  It was utterly unbelievable, laughable.  why in the world would Harry Potter of all people see this thing, why wouldn’t anyone else know about it, why would someone so evil try so hard to reach one little boy, especially just to come back and rule the world?

            Everything always happens to Harry.

            Neville hadn’t wanted to believe it, not really, not even when he dutifully explained it all to Gran the next day after arriving home, not when he had heard his aunt and grandmother discuss it over breakfast and the paper, not when Uncle Algie had stood fast to belief that ‘the boy hasn’t lied yet, why would he lie about something like this?”  Neville hadn’t wanted to believe it because it was too horrible, too unreal, just like everything else that happened to Harry.  To Neville Longbottom nothing fantastic, uncertain, or frightening ever seemed to happen.  Why, for once, couldn’t Harry just be like normal boys, not ‘The Boy Who Lived

            Why couldn’t Neville for once live a life less than ordinary?

            When it came down to it, in a twisted sort of way he wished he was Harry.  Oh, he knew he was a coward, why the Sorting Hat ever chose him for Gryffindor was beyond Neville.  He tried to tell himself it was because of some inner strength he had, some core of courage he had yet to tap, but in the face of Harry with all his bravado, his courage, his willingness to throw himself into the fray…well Neville couldn’t live up to that.  It was small wonder that people remembered Harry; because he was always doing things that people would remember him for.  Neville was always forgettable.

            The back door to Gran’s house slammed, but Neville didn’t notice.  He was too lost in thought to really pay much attention.  He didn’t hear the huffing and shuffling behind him, not till his uncle’s loud voice boom in the vicinity of his left shoulder.

            “Plan on watering that daisy all day, Nev?” he guffawed, slapping his great-nephew on the back.  Neville jumped so high, water sloshed out of the can he was using to absentmindedly water the plants, and was soon soaked through his robes.

            “Aurgh, no, what?” He turned in fright to face his uncle, who only laughed.

            “I tell your Gran you aren’t skittish cause you are frightened, you are just a deep thinker.  Like all the Longbottoms, you Grandfather would mull over an issue for days, drive your Gran mad it would.  Never acted before he thought it out, weighed all the sides.  Your Gran, she’s fiery, she likes to just act, drove her nutty how your Grandfather would carry on.  And she would wail to Enid about how her husband was a coward.”

            Neville stared at Uncle Algie then.  “Grandfather…a coward?  She always carries on about how brave and noble he was.” Grandfather had been a Gryffindor, just like all the Longbottoms,  and the idea of him being called coward was unthinkable to Neville.

            “Oh yes, now she does, but when she was younger, oh she would frown at him and berate him as being afraid.  Frank too, they were all the same.  Always carefully chose what they would do, but when they chose, they stuck to it with ferocity.  Couldn’t turn them back from it either.  Ffortitude was what they had, and you had to have it with your Gran around.  Don’t be fooled, the Longbottom men were brave, massively so, but they didn’t just recklessly throw themselves into everything that happened along their path.”

            Neville sighed, looking down at his soaked robes.  “Unlike me, who can’t seem to stick up for anything?”

            Algie frowned at his nephew.  “That’s not true, Nev.  I look at you and that’s not true.  What, do you think because you aren’t living some life of danger somewhere as some Auror, that it means you aren’t brave?”

            Neville wanted to howl.  “Well, I’m definitely not brave like Harry Potter,” he mumbled.

            Algie chuckled and shook his head.  “Course you’re not, Nev, ‘cause you’re not Harry Potter.”

            Neville stared at his uncle as if this fact should be obvious, but Algie continued.  “Look, Nev, when you were small, there was a lot of things going on.  It just so happens that your parents and the Potters were all mixed up in it.  Many good people died or were forever changed, and I imagine if you spoke to many of your classmates, they could tell you stories of their parents, aunts, and uncles that would rival anything you or Harry have to tell about your parents.”

            Neville had never considered that.  Yes, he couldn’t be the only wizarding child whose family was ruined by the troubles, and neither was Harry.

            “So you and Harry aren’t that special, nor are you so similar because of what happened.  You are still you, and Harry is still Harry, and that’s just the way it is.”

            Neville shrugged.  “But Harry…he’s always off doing...stuff, and he is good at it.  Even when he’s breaking the rules, he still manages.”

            Algie shrugged.  “So…I bet he still has plenty of problems because of it too.  Look at this whole hullabaloo over the Tri-Wizard Tournament, people think he’s raving!  Do you think he’s insane?”

            Neville only hesitated for the briefest of moments before mumbling, “No.”

            “Well then, I don’t either.  But I will guarantee that many folk around these parts will think that he is though, and will think that Dumbledore is senile as well.”

            “But Dumbledore isn’t!” Neville protested, and Algie held up a hand.

            “I know that, you know that, but others won’t.  They will only see what the Minister says.  And that’s not fun; it’s the down side of being a celebrity.  Imagine what it’s like for Harry, living all your life in anonymity only to be thrown into a spotlight you didn’t want.  All you wanted was to be a normal boy, with your parents, and friends, and be just like everyone else, and instead everyone is scrutinizing your every mistake.  I’d not envy Harry if I were you, Neville, I’d pity him in a way.  You may have lost your parents too, but at least you had your Gran, and your Aunt Enid, and I to make your life a little normal.  And heaven knows, I didn’t make it easy for you, but you had a good life.” Algie nodded.  “Better than I suspect Harry has had.”

            Neville hadn’t mentioned the stories he’d heard of Harry’s Muggle relations, Neville didn’t think Gran would approve.  But he knew his uncle was right, Neville had gotten something Harry had not, a normal, happy life.  He wondered if Harry ever looked at him and been envious of that, that because Neville seemed to jump at every shadow, at least he didn’t have eyes watching his every move.

            “I suppose you have a point, then,” Neville said.

            “Course I do.  And you should stop thinking you aren’t good enough because you aren’t your father or Harry Potter.  You are Neville Longbottom, that’s who you are, and brave in your own right.  Who is it that won Gryffindor the House Cup his first year?”

            Neville was startled to remember that, he had forgotten.  “Oh, yeah…that was me!”  He rarely ever remembered that it was his willingness to try to get his friends to do the right thing that caused Neville to win those precious points that topped them over the Slytherins.

            “Yeah, and who is it that despite all the cauldrons he burns and all the criticism he takes from a great, hook nosed git, still stays with his Potions rather than run off in fear from his professor.”

            “Well, I suppose I…” Neville began, and Algie interrupted.

            “And who was able to take on two of the biggest bullies in school even though he knew he was outnumbered, and who was able to ask the smartest girl in his year out to a dance?”

            “Well, Crabbe and Goyle did knock me cold, remember, and Hermione said no,” Neville reminded his uncle.

            “Well, those two great brutes had to put up a fight before they managed to knock you out, and that young lady turned you down not because of you, because she had someone else, and one of her friends came in and said she would like to attend with you, didn’t she?”

            “Yeah…I was surprised, I thought Ginny fancied Harry.”

            “Well, she might, but she thought well enough of you to not let you go alone, now didn’t she?”

            “Yeah, I suppose she did.” Neville smiled.

            “So there, you have your own bravery.  It’s just not as showy as some people’s.  Your father’s wasn’t either, nor was his father’s.  You are just you, Neville, and while madmen aren’t looking for you, it doesn’t make you any less brave.” His uncle nodded wisely to him.  “And I bet that if you spoke to Harry, he’d be more than pleased to have you on his side there.  I have a feeling in the next year he could use all the friends he could get.”

            Neville stared at his uncle in amazement.  Was he suggesting he take Harry’s side?

            Algie turned then, as if to make for the house, and then stopped to look thoughtfully at his nephew.  “You know, if all this is true, then there will be bad times ahead.  I know that you aren’t any great shake at Defense, and well, that’s to be expected with all that’s going on.  I hear Harry’s not bad at it, suppose with that Tri-Wizard business he had to learn a hex or two to get him through.  And you will all need it soon, I surmise.  So maybe you could ask him for some help on that.  You might surprise yourself; you might be good at it, better than you think.”  His uncle smiled broadly at him then, and stumped off to the house, cheerily singing a tune Neville was sure his Gran wouldn’t approve of.

            Neville stared at the garden thoughtfully.  He had wasted so much energy resenting Harry he never stopped to think what it was like to be in his shoes. To be always known and have no privacy, all because of a scar, to know that your future was always at the whim of people who wanted to kill you, to be uncertain whether you could even live a normal life, not that you’ve ever gotten to up to this point, must be horrible.  Suddenly being Harry didn’t sound like it was nearly as appealing as it once had.  Neville had so desperately wanted to be all the things that Harry was, and didn’t stop to consider what all those things also entailed.  How silly and foolish he had been.

            Everything did always happen to Harry, and not all of it was good.  Maybe Uncle Algie was right.  He should approach Harry about maybe preparing against this.  Who knows, maybe some of the Gryffindor pride would come shining through.  And maybe, just maybe, he could be the friend that Harry needed, rather than the detractor he was sure he didn’t.

            Neville hummed thoughtfully to himself as he continued to water his plants, mulling it over in his mind.

//
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