Disclaimer: I’m only JK Rowling in my dreams.
Thanks to my beta Zsenya, and to my friends for not
killing for what I did to Harry.
you saying, Hermione? That I can’t
listen! When all the Horcruxes are
gone, you’ll have to fight Voldemort.
Except then he’ll just be a normal man, maybe even less than normal. Anyone can defeat him. He’ll be Tom Riddle again, Harry, not the
Dark Lord. The prophesy only said you
could defeat the Dark Lord.”
“So you are
not! I just think you should have a
second, and let Voldemort have one as well.
He’ll think you’re scared that you’ll die. He probably won’t realize how weak he is.”
want me to choose a second when I duel Voldemort?”
like to call for a second.”
laughter…cackle of the cloaked Death Eaters…
Harry Potter? How very…Gryffindor of
you. But of course, I must allow it…”
choose one, too.”
laughter…the Death Eaters were highly amused…
“I do not
need a second, Harry Potter. I am Lord
Voldemort…But who shall you choose?”
shouts as green light flew from his wand and hit Harry in the chest before
anyone could move to protect him…shocked silence as Harry Potter, the Boy Who
Was Supposed To Live, fell to the ground, dead…Neville, rooted to the ground,
stared up at the Dark Lord, terrified…
“Neville! Neville, wake up! You were screaming again!”
Longbottom’s eyes flew open as his grandmother shook his body.
and clammy. I’ll get you something to
drink, you stay right there…” She bustled out of the room, muttering worries to
Neville sat up in his bed. Another day
of his grandmother’s tut-tutting and constant praise; another day of the owl
posts full of thanks; another day of silent mourning for the friends lost. Another day living the life that was not
his, that should not be his.
water, dear.” Grandmother hurried into
the room and handed him a glass of water.
accepted the glass silently. Ever since
it had happened, Grandmother’s opinion of him had changed. Instead of accusing him of being a failure,
she praised him for his success and treated him like a celebrity. Any time an article about him was printed,
no matter if it was in the Prophet or the Quibbler, she clipped
it out and pasted it on the wall in the parlor.
it. The articles, the letters. Hated all of it. It shouldn’t be his, it wouldn’t have been his. If
up in Neville’s eyes as he thought of those who had died. He brushed them away with the back of his
hand, not wanting his grandmother to see them.
“Oh, you have
an owl, dear,” Grandmother said, smiling and placing it on his lap. “It’s from one of your friends, Susan
Bones? The one who took you back to St.
Mungo’s after the battle. She’s a sweet
girl, to write to you.”
silently and picked up the letter.
Grandmother hesitated for a moment, then hurried out of the room.
Thankful to be
alone at last, Neville opened the envelope and pulled out a sheet of parchment
paper covered in tiny, exact writing.
His eyes scanned over the letter, reading.
Dear Neville, December
terribly sorry I didn’t write before, but I’ve been busy lately. I nearly forgot that I’d meant to write to you,
but I saw Hermione at St. Mungo’s yesterday, and she mentioned you.
heard about my new job? I’ve been hired
as a Healer in Training at St. Mungo’s!
I work in the same ward as Parvati Patil, do you remember her? She’s well, all things considered. I did find her in the loo, crying the other
day, but I imagine it’d be hard losing a twin sister.
good as well. She and Ron are finally
engaged, though I imagine you’ve heard.
They’re to be married on July 31, Harry’s birthday. They did that for him, I think.
I do hope
you’re alright. It’s been nearly six
months since anyone has seen you except those damn reporters, and we’re getting
a bit worried. I know you’re probably
sad and still in shock – I know I am – but you can’t just stay at your
grandmother’s. You’ll have to come and
face the public soon.
hates you for what you did. None of us
do. We miss Harry, but you can’t let
his death get to you. Voldemort is
gone, and you defeated him. You! We’re very proud of you.
says hi, and wants me to invite you to the Christmas Ball at St. Mungo’s. It’s on Christmas Eve, and it would
be wonderful if you came.
Owl me soon!
A ball. Neville shook his head as he folded up the
letter and put it back in the envelope.
She was right, though. He
needed to get out of his Grandmother’s house.
some people…he wasn’t ready to face.
And her. How could he
face her; the one who had given all she had, and had lost everything
“Are you sure
you want to go to this, Neville? Maybe
it’s not time, maybe you’re not well…you had a nightmare again last night-”
and straightened his robes. “I need to
do this, Grandmother,” he said quietly.
“I’ll be back tonight.”
quickly, not wanting to hear any more of her pleadings, knowing that he was
weak enough to give into them if he listened long enough.
came!” Someone flung her arms around
his neck as he Apparated into St. Mungo’s.
He blinked and looked at the young woman who was hugging him. She was around his age, and wore her long
brown hair in an elegant bun with net of tiny pearls draped across it. Her robes were pale lavender and had a sort
of shimmering quality to them. She
looked familiar, but he couldn’t quite-
me! Susan!” The young woman smiled, and suddenly Neville recognized her. She had changed so much!
Susan grabbed his hand. “Come on,
everyone wants to see you! She tugged
and began leading him through the crowds of well-dressed witches and
wizards. Many pointed at him,
whispering, their words not completely audible.
trembled, but ignored their whisperings.
They didn’t know what had happened, how it had happened. Not really.
here, and Ron,” Susan was saying. “And
Parvati should be here soon with Seamus…did you hear about them? They got married in October and she’s
already expecting…. They’re very excited.
Oh, there she is!”
Neville past a group of gaping girls to a corner of the ballroom, where a young
woman with bushy brown hair and a young man with bright red hair stood talking
quietly. As Neville and Susan
approached, the young woman’s eyes moved from the young man to Neville. A bright smile appeared on her face.
cried. “Susan didn’t know if you were
coming!” She pushed past the young man
and hurried toward Neville, hugging him tighter than Susan had.
Hermione,” Neville said quietly. The
people around them were staring and pointing.
Ron walked up
behind Hermione, touching her shoulder with an affection Neville hadn’t seen
from him before. “Hey, mate,” he
said. “Where’ve you been? I haven’t seen you since…”
grandmother,” Neville muttered, embarrassed.
in all the papers,” Hermione informed him. “Did you really talk to all those reporters?
Neville nodded, his cheeks
red. “Grandmother told me it was my
duty,” he explained quietly. “Because
you,” Susan said, squeezing the hand she still held. Neville’s cheeks burned, and his heart began to beat quickly.
“Who else is
here?” Neville asked Susan, wanting to talk about something else. “It looks like all of London came.”
grinning. “It’s wonderful,” she told
him, excited. “WE ***We invited everyone we could think of, and
nearly all of them owled back saying they’d come! And the Weird Sisters are playing; they’re
setting up right now!”
with a Muggle girl he met last week,” Hermione said. “I saw Luna by the punch, trying to convince someone that
Snorkacks were running loose in Egypt…the twins are coming later with Alicia
and Angelina, Percy’s here with Penelope, and Ginny should be here soon.”
his lip and nodded. He wouldn’t stay
long, he decided. He couldn’t stand all
the staring people.
dance, the Weird Sisters are starting,” Susan said. She pulled on Neville’s hand.
“Hermione, Ron, we’ll be back.”
allowed himself to be pulled through the crowds once more, to the back of a mob
of excited young adults who stood in front of the stage. The Weird Sisters were finishing setting up.
“Isn’t it a
lovely ball?” Susan asked. “Just like
the Yule Ball. Remember that?”
Of course he
remembered. It was four years ago to
the day that he and Ginny Weasley had danced in the Great Hall at
Hogwarts. But that had been before
Ginny and Harry…when Ginny had still been a little girl. Now she was seventeen, and had experienced
more things women twice her age.
started, and Neville took Susan’s hand and began to step forward and back,
twirling her around and watching her smile…just as Ginny had smiled…
“Let’s get a
drink,” Susan suggested when the song ended.
“Maybe Parvati’s here with Seamus.”
The two pushed
through the dancers to the long table that was covered in food and drinks ranging
from two-layered chocolate cakes dripping in icing to bright lime green punch
that looked suspiciously like a Weasley product. Avoiding the punch, Neville grabbed two butterbeers and handed
one to Susan, who smiled and thanked him.
A second song
began, this one loud and pounding. The
dancers began to jump and twirl, becoming blurred in Neville’s eyes. Everyone looked so happy, as if no one had
died, as if they hadn’t been living in terror only a year before…how could they
recover so quickly? How could they just
forget? Forget the pain, forget the
fear, forget the losses?
A hand touched
Neville’s arm; Susan’s. “Are you okay?”
she asked. “You looked…sad.”
shrugged. “I’m fine,” he mumbled. “Just…I’m fine. I’ll go get another butterbeer for you.” Without waiting for her to respond, he walked
away, through the crowds of pointing people.
Someone bumped into him, and his half-empty butterbeer bottle fell to
the ground, spilling butterbeer on the front of his new robes.
“Oh! I’m so sorry!” a familiar voice said. Neville turned, ready to share shake his
head and mutter something back, but stopped, shocked.
stood in front of him, her red hair strewn across her shoulders. She paled when she saw Neville, and bit her
she whispered. “I – can we – we need to…talk.”
nodded. “There isn’t…we could…”
another word, Ginny turned, heading toward the staircase that led to the rest
of St. Mungo’s. Neville followed,
worried, wondering what she would say.
halfway up the stairs, the chatter and music from the ball distant. Neville waited for her to speak.
she began, her voice soft and pained.
“It wasn’t your fault. It…you
crying, Neville realized. She
still mourned him…she probably hated Neville for living.
“I don’t want
this,” Neville muttered, looking down at the carpet. “I…it wasn’t supposed to be me.
It was Harry, Harry was going to-”
The tears fell
heavily down her face now, and Neville’s stomach clenched. She was supposed to be happy, married to
Harry, and expecting the first of eighty-seven red-haired,
green-eyed children. Harry was supposed
to have lived, not Neville.
“But it did
happen,” Ginny whispered. “And it’s not
your fault. Neville. You didn’t kill Harry, Voldemort did. You were right to do what you did. Imagine if you hadn’t. We…you, me, everyone…we’d be dead. But Neville…you did it. You did what Harry couldn’t. You defeated Tom Riddle.”
Neville. It hurts, some nights, but
it’s been six months. Eventually it’ll
all be in the distant past, just a memory.
We have to move on, Neville.”
Her eyes gripped his, holding them.
They said what her mouth could not express: She forgave him.
Neville,” he whispered. “Almost a
Squib, couldn’t even pass Defense…just Neville.”
his shoulder gently. “You’ll never just
be Neville, just like he could never just be Harry. You’re the second. You’ll
always be the second. The one who
defeated Tom Riddle.”