Author's Note: This is an outtake of Myth and Legend's fabulous story, Cursed, and contains spoilers up to chapter 21. I'm using her setting with her permission (and encouragement). She wanted to know what Neville's been doing while the events in her story are occurring, and Neville was kind enough let me know so I could tell at least a part of his story. If you haven't yet taken the time to read Cursed, I highly suggest you do so--you won't be sorry.
"To repeat our latest headline: sources from within the Ministry of Magic itself have informed this station that an individual bearing striking resemblance to Harry James Potter has been seen on trial in court.
Harry Potter defeated Lord Voldemort six years ago. A body was never found and Harry Potter was proclaimed missing, presumed dead five years ago. Since that time several false claims have been made to the Potter estates, and all of them have been unearthed as a hoax.
At this time we can exclusively reveal that Cyrus Colson, Minister of Magic, has ordered for the true identity of the individual to be uncovered as soon as possible. The Ministry is unavailable for comment, but several sources have indicated that this does not seem to be a hoax.
Is it possible that the Boy Who Lived has finally returned?"
-Cursed, by Myth and Legend, chapter 21
Neville Longbottom sat heavily on the stool behind him, pruning shears held limply in his hand. His eyes were opened wide, staring at, but not seeing the plants on the bench in front of him. Could it be true? Could they have found Harry?
Neville turned a deaf ear to the wireless as the announcer continued to speculate on the identity of the man, re-hashing, once again, Harry's history. There was no need for him to listen. He'd heard it all before, every time someone came forward and claimed to be the famous "Boy Who Lived," looking for glory or notoriety or an easy way to get their hands on Harry's considerable fortune. The only difference was that this time, the Minister was involved. And that was enough to set Neville's mind racing with the possibilities.
How were Ron and Hermione taking this news? he wondered to himself. Or Ginny? He winced as he thought about the youngest Weasley. None of them--himself included--had taken Harry's disappearance and probable death well, but Ginny seemed to have the hardest time of all of them. And no wonder. She'd loved him half her life. She'd changed since then. They all had.
Grasping the shears more firmly in his hand, he turned back to the Grasping Gladiolus he'd been pruning when the announcement came on. He deftly clipped the dead leaves and flowers so new ones could grow, but his mind wasn't on the task before him. Luckily for him, it was something he could do without expending too much mental effort...although, when he thought about it, it was probably a good thing that he hadn't been working on a more dangerous plant like the Venomous Tentacula in the corner. Otherwise, he might have lost an appendage for his inattention.
As he worked, he let his mind drift over the past six years. The loss of his grandmother in a Death Eater attack three days after his seventeenth birthday was one of the most difficult things he'd had to live through, as was the loss of his parents, who had quietly slipped away one night, his father following his mother into death only moments after she'd succumbed. He'd been alone then, except for Harry and Hermione and the Weasleys…and what was left of the DA. He, Luna, and Ginny had become Harry's eyes and ears at Hogwarts while the trio had wandered about the country, destroying bits and pieces of Voldemort's soul.
It had always bothered him, a little, that he hadn't been able to help Harry more. He'd never been one to be in the middle of things if he could help it, but knowing Harry had changed that aspect of his personality forever. Oh, he still never went out of his way to be in the thick of the action, but he never shied away from it anymore, either. That's why he'd found himself fighting with the others in the Ministry in his fifth year, fighting with Luna in the halls of Hogwarts the day Dumbledore was killed...fighting in the fields and woods during the final battle.
He'd have done anything for Harry. He'd done things he'd never thought himself capable of. He'd paid for it, too. But the loss of mobility in his left arm and the scars on his face had been worth the cost to see Bellatrix LeStrange dead on the ground in front of him.
When he'd awoken in the ward at St Mungo's ten days after the battle, his first question had been if it was over. He'd known it was, deep inside; the cheerfulness that pervaded the hospital, even with all of its wounded (and they were everywhere), had told him that. But no matter who he asked, no one would tell him what had happened to Harry. It wasn't until Ron and Hermione had come to visit him, several days after he woke up, that he learnt that Harry was missing.
The guilt had nearly killed him.
How was it that he--shy, bumbling, unimportant Neville Longbottom, the boy who'd done nothing--had survived and Harry hadn't? How was it that Harry Potter--the bloody Boy Who Lived, for Merlin's sake--had gone so far as to save the world and kill Voldemort, only to die in the end? It should've been him that died, not Harry.
It wasn't right. It wasn't fair.
He'd lived with that guilt eating him up inside for years. If he were honest with himself, he probably still would be, if it hadn't been for Susan. He'd run into her at Diagon Alley one day. They'd gone for ice cream and talked for hours about Hogwarts and the DA and everything that had happened in the war. And now, two years later, they were together. More than together, he reminded himself. Married. Their nursery business had taken off--her head for business combined with his Herbology skills had made them very successful.
He still felt twinges of the guilt, of course. But they weren't taking over his life anymore.
Startled out of his reverie, he looked quickly at the door to the greenhouse, where Susan stood, breathless.
"Have you heard?" she asked, her voice excited. "What they're saying? On the wireless?"
He nodded slowly as she walked over to him and took his hands in hers.
"Neville...they think they've found Harry! They think they've really found him. And he's alive!"
Author's Note, part 2: I thought long and hard about the title of this piece, and I finally came back to a variation of one that Myth and Legend suggested. "Blossoming" is a reflection of what Neville has done--and is doing--by overcoming his insecurities and the rough parts of his life and forging a life of his own in spite (or perhaps because) of them.
I would be remiss if I didn't take the time to thank Myth and Legend for not only allowing me to write in her universe, but for suggesting it. My muse has been on a long and protracted holiday lately, and this was just the thing to get her back on track. And, as always, thanks go to OHGinnyfan, who, in addition to being a fantastic beta, is also a wonderful friend.