The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.
Authorís Notes: Feedback would be greatly appreciated, especially as this is written in a very different style than my norm.
His Fatherís Wand
Neville watches as Harry, Ron, and Hermione drag their trunks through the barrier between platforms nine and ten.
Neville follows behind, unnoticed, dragging his trunk with one hand and gripping his Mimbulus mimbletonia with the other. He watches as Harry shuffles off with his Muggle relatives, as Hermione leaves with her parents, as Ron and Ginny and the other Weasleys walk away, and seeing the Weasley family subdued is almost more frightening than being faced with Deatheaters and wands and screams.
Neville waits in a corner, sitting on his trunk, the Mimbulus mimbletonia beside him. His wand hand feels empty. Gran has never before allowed him to remain on his own, even for just a few minutes; she has always been waiting for him, ready to take charge the moment he steps through the barrier. Slowly, relentlessly, fear begins to send out its grasping tendrils, and Neville shivers. The station is slowly emptying of wizards, and Neville has no way to defend himself.
The Mimbulus mimbletonia croons, and Neville strokes it, and hopes that no one will notice him, here in the shadows of the station. Even Gran has a hard time finding him when he hopes he won't be found, and Neville sinks into his anonymity and wraps it around himself like Harry's invisibility cloak, the one that Neville has always longed to try on but has never had the courage to ask about.
Neville dimly remembers a day long ago when he was out shopping with Gran in a noisy, confusing mass of shops and people, and somehow Gran lost her grip on his hand, and he was swallowed up in the crowd of legs and tables. It was dark before Gran found him again, and somehow, in all the hours that passed before the bright light shone on him and Gran snatched him up in a grip so tight it hurt, in all those hours, none of the adults passing by had noticed the small boy, sitting all alone on the ground, shrinking back against the cold, hard stones of a storefront.
Once, when Uncle Algie and the others still suspected he might be a Squib, Neville overheard a whispered conversation between Gran and Madam Marchbanks. They didn't know he was anywhere nearby - he was sitting under the table, but even though Gran checked, as she always did, she didnít notice him - and as Gran poured the tea, she whispered her suspicions about Neville to one of the few people she was willing to confide in.
"Can a child's magic manifest itself in invisibility?" Gran asked, anxiously, and Madam Marchbanks pondered the question for a good few minutes before responding, in a whisper even softer than Gran's, one that even Neville couldn't hear. He caught only snatches of the rest of the conversation: "...Deatheaters..." "...never noticed him..." "...right there all the while...."
Granís conversations were often about Neville, and generally left him feeling even smaller and more worthless than usual; Neville learned early on to let Granís words blur around him, and how to forget. But this time was different. Granís anxious tone and hushed voice brought the words into focus, carved them into his memory, and later, as he grew older and learned more about his parents and Deatheaters and curses, he finally understood what Gran had suspected about his ability to remain unnoticed.
But now, just days after his own encounter with Deatheaters and the Cruciatus, Neville tries not to think of that. Instead, he looks down at his Mimbulus mimbletonia and strokes it, and feels a surge of pride in its health and size. It is still gray, but it no longer looks stunted, and Neville has great hopes for it.
"Neville! There you are!" Gran says, and Neville looks up to find her hurrying towards him, her wand gripped tightly in her hand.
What took so long? Neville wants to ask, but doesn't quite dare, and he hopes that Gran will explain on her own.
"Portkey delays," Gran says shortly as she grips Nevilleís shoulder tightly and glances around to make sure that he has not dropped anything. "Now that Fudge - the fool - has finally decided that He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is indeed back, every Portkey is being closely monitored, and the authorization process is insufferably slow."
The Portkey activates, and with a tug and swirling and dizzyness, Gran and Neville and his trunk are delivered to the shadowed, high-ceilinged entryway of their house. Neville nearly falls flat on his face, and his trunk spills open. Gran sighs, and draws her wand. With a quick wave, she restores the contents of Nevilleís trunk, then levitates it upstairs to deposit it in his room.
Neville follows behind, still clutching his Mimbulus mimbletonia. He wishes he could show it to Gran, show her how much itís grown, but he knows she will only pat him on the head and say ďHow nice, Neville,Ē with no more than a hurried glance at the plant itself. Sometimes Neville wonders if Gran has realized that he is no longer five years old.
Gran lowers the trunk onto the worn wooden floor of his room with a thump. She looks at Neville critically. ďTidy up, Neville,Ē she says. ďAs soon as youíve finished, come downstairs. Dumbledore wrote to me, but he explained very little." Gran gives him a sharp look, and leaves the room.
Neville hurries to unpack, small flutterings of dread forming in his stomach. He knows, of course, exactly what she is referring to. But he does not know how he can possibly find the words to explain the past months and weeks.
Buried at the bottom of his trunk is his old wand, broken now beyond repair. It was Dumbledore who returned it to him, the day after the battle, with a tired smile and words of thanks, and Neville wonders who found it Ė and half-wishes they had not.
As Neville creaks his way down the wide, circling staircase, he clutches the fragments and wishes he could bring the Mimbulus mimbletonia downstairs with him instead.
Gran is waiting at the head of the long dining room table, sipping her tea, her face hidden in the dim lighting. Neville sits gingerly at his place at the other end of the table, swallowed up in the shadows. "Tell me about it," Gran commands.
Neville clasps his hands together to keep his fingers still, and tells, fumbling through the story. Umbridge, Dumbledore's Army, the Inquisitorial Squad, the Thestrals.
Gran sits silent and still, eyes focused only on Neville. She asks no questions, and he gains courage as he tells more. The Ministry of Magic, the Department of Mysteries. Deatheaters. Bellatrix Lestrange. When he finishes, Neville holds up the broken pieces of his dad's old wand. "I'm sorry, Gran," he whispers. "I tried to keep it safe, but keeping Harry safe was more important."
Gran stands up, and the light shines on her face, and her eyes have tears in them. She comes around the table towards Neville, and he stares at her, dumbfounded. He has never seen Gran cry.
"We'll get you a new wand," she says, her voice unsteady, and enfolds him in a tight, smothering hug.