The moving van pulled up in front of number 7 Cherry Road in Godric’s Hollow, on August 19, 1984, while four-year-old Harry Potter and Neville Longbottom played out on the front lawn of number 5. Lily watched them from the porch, barely paying attention to the movement of her enchanted knitting needles. Still, the sight of the van pulling up was enough to distract her from her child minding.
The house’s previous owner, an elderly Muggleborn witch, had passed away a month earlier and the place was inherited by the woman’s Muggle grandniece. Lily couldn’t help thinking it was going to be difficult having Muggles next door. Well, perhaps not difficult, since the Muggle-Repelling Charms would keep them from getting too close or paying too much attention to the strange happenings of Godric’s Hollow, but it would definitely be different.Although all their neighbours were Muggles, given the Muggleborn in number 7 and the elderly couple in number 3 that kept to themselves and rarely left the house, they’d grown accustomed to not having to hide from their next-door neighbours –the only people close enough to catch a glimpse of the weird happenings at number 5.How would they manage to live in such close quarters with Muggles without being deemed eccentric or strange? She could only hope the new neighbours would be tolerant of the Potters’ eccentricities.
Her thoughts drifted back to her parents and her own childhood, the fond memories and the foul. Some of her girlhood friends, those who she still corresponded with, knew about her being a witch and accepted it. In other cases she'd had to make judicious use of memory charms and sever ties. It had hurt, of course, but it was her own sister that had caused her the most pain. Petunia, her own flesh and blood, who’d declared her a freak at their parent’s funeral and to whom she hadn’t spoken since. In a way she understood Petunia’s bitterness over their death at the hands of Death Eaters but that didn’t change the pain…
Lily was jerked from her thoughts by the sound of a young voice a few meters a way. "Hi, I’m Colin." A small boy, who could not have been much older than three was talking to Harry. Since he had clearly gotten past the anti-Muggle wards, common sense told her he had to be a wizard. But who was he? There weren’t any other wizarding families with young children for several kilometres that she knew of. Her gaze drifted back to the house next door. Could he…? "We’re going to be neighbours."
"Really? I’ve never met another wizard my age before..." At the use of the word ‘wizard’ a look of confusion crossed the boy’s face, causing Lily to reconsider her assessment that he was magical and Harry’s voice to trail off. But there was a big difference between Lily’s thoughts and those of her four-year-old son. While Lily considered the fact that his parents being Muggles as an excuse for his ignorance and his passage through to barrier as proof he was magical, Harry immediately corrected himself, "You’re not a wizard… are you…? I’ve never met a Muggle before."
Harry’s amended statement only seemed to make the boy more confused so he chose to fill the moment of confused silence with an introduction, "I’m Harry and this is my friend, Neville. He doesn’t talk very much." He gestured to Neville whose face had adopted a look an apprehensive shyness.
Colin looked at the spot where Harry was pointing. "But there’s no one there. Is he an imaginary friend? I have an imaginary friend too. His name is Peter."
Neville looked like he was about to start crying, "But I’m right here! Why can’t you see me? Why can’t he see me? Why… doesn’t… anyone… ever… see me?" He was blubbering uncontrollably by the time he forced the last question out. He threw himself at the younger boy, pounding at his chest with his fists but his actions garnered no more reaction from him than the sobbing, which only served to increase it.
Harry was trying to comfort him but failing miserably, "It’s okay, don’t cry. We’ll ask Mum. She’ll know what to do. Please don’t cry?"
Colin stared at him perplexed, "What’s wrong? Who you talking to?" It was probably time to intervene before things got too out of hand. She banished her knitting.
"Harry, Neville, it’s time to come in." Then turning to Colin she added, "I think your mum is calling you, but do come by again. We’d love to have you." Still looking confused but not frightened, Colin ran off to where his mum was in fact calling quite frantically, unable to notice him through the anti-Muggle charms protecting number 5.
Neville ran up to Lily and hugged her leg. Looking up at her though tear-streaked eyes he said, "Lily?" his voice practically a whisper
"Yes dear, here come sit on my lap," she beckoned him and he climbed up. Harry came and sat down at her feet. He would have normally got up onto her other knee but despite his young age he seemed to know that Neville needed his mum’s comfort more than he did at the moment.
They sat like that for a while until Neville’s blubbering had slowed enough for him to speak properly, "Lily, why can’t he see me? He can see Harry."
It was a question she had been expecting for quite some time. It was impossible for him not to have noticed the fact that, except for a select few, dinner guests never noticed or acknowledged him but that didn’t make the question any easier to answer. "Your grandmother loves you very much," she began pulling him closer, "and she worries about you a great deal… So she cast a spell to protect you. The spell makes it so people don’t know you’re here unless she tells them you are. They can’t see or hear you. Do you understand?"
Neville appeared to be deep in thought for a moment. At least as deep in thought as his four-year-old brain could go. Finally he asked, "But then how can I make new friends if they can’t see me?" He looked as if he were about to start crying again but then suddenly his face brightened. "Maybe grandma will introduce us, then he’ll be able to see me, right?"
"I suppose there’s no harm in trying..." He looked so happy. She didn’t want to bring his hopes down, "We’ll ask her when she comes over tonight."
Unfortunately, Augusta Longbottom didn’t agree. When the subject was broached that evening, the suggestion alone seemed to infuriate her, "Absolutely not! We don’t even know these people."
"But Augusta, he’s just a boy. Besides, his parents are Muggles. They aren’t working for You-Know-Who," Lily objected.
"I dropped by to welcome them to the neighbourhood. They’re really nice folks; Even though they are just Muggles," James piped in.
"Sorry, no offence to Muggles."
"It doesn’t matter. We don’t know these people. How can we trust them?"
"Please, Augusta, he doesn’t know a single child his age except Harry. He needs to make friends. What happens when the boy comes over to play with Harry? Is he supposed to sit in a corner by himself and wait till he leaves?"
"You’re going to invite the child over?"
"Of course, Neville isn’t the only one who needs to make new friends. Harry does too. I’m not about to deny him that opportunity."
"Fine, I’ll talk to the Muggles and their son. But just this once…"
A/N. I know that in canon Harry doesn’t get along too well with Colin but the different circumstances of this meeting lend to a better relationship. Sorry if every chapter seems to consist of a confrontation between the Potters and Mrs. Longbottom. She’s very protective of Neville. I promise no confrontation in the next chapter though there will be more to come.
I would like to take this moment to thank my wonderful beta aggiebell her somehow found the time to correct this despite her hectic schedule. I’d also like to thank The Sorting Hat who pre-betaed this chapter for me, and Enero who pointed out an inconsistency in this chapter.