Neville gathered up his trunk, his Mimbulus Mimbletonia, gingerly pulled his luggage away from the disfigured, gasping remains of Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle, and followed Harry and Ron out off the Hogwarts Express. He spotted Gran's tall vulture hat bustling through the crowd as she rushed to greet him. She reached him excitedly--well, excitedly for Gran.
"Oh my boy, I'm so glad to see you! Imagine my astonishment to hear you were mixed up in that business at the Ministry! What were you thinking? Well, never mind that now. I've a cab waiting." All this rushed out of her mouth as she enveloped him in a properly grandmotherly hug.
"I'm glad to see you too, Gran. Wait just a minute," he asked, as she ushered him forward, "I want to watch this." Surprised, Neville's Gran stopped and followed Neville's eyes to the crowd of Weasleys and assorted Wizards and Witches who were speaking to Harry's Muggle family. They watched as Harry's uncle turned an angry shade of violet, then chalky white after Mad Eye Moody removed his bowler hat. "I hope this means Harry will have a better summer this year," Neville softly told Gran.
They walked towards the cab. "Well, yes, Merlin knows that child deserves it. I'm glad you're his friend, Neville. Standing by him like that is just the thing your father would have done." Neville began to smile, but her next sentence changed his look to one of resigned dejection. "We do need to discuss your recklessness though, Neville. While I appreciate the loyalty and bravery you showed, you don't have the skills or talent to face those horrors. There is no point in wasting your life foolishly, boy. Now, here's our cab."
Neville straightened his shoulders a bit as he took a long breath. "Gran, Harry needed me. I was useful in there. May I please wait to tell you about it later? I'm not up to it right now," said Neville, not wanting to let his disappointment show and unwilling to argue with this woman who had been both parents to him.
Neville escorted his gran to the taxi, holding the door for her and carefully setting his plant on the seat next to her. He stowed his trunk in the back before he got into the other side and sat opposite her. She had just begun to give the magical cabby directions to the Longbottom Estate when Neville interrupted with, "The Leaky Cauldron, please, Diagon Alley."
Gran turned to him, astonishment evident on her face. "Nonsense! Whatever for?"
"We can spend the night there, then go to Ollivander's in the morning to buy me a new wand. Then I want to visit Mum and Dad before we go home."
"Goodness gracious!" Gran gasped. "You need to get home and rest up. We can get you a new wand for your birthday. It's not like you're allowed to use it outside of school anyway. And your parents can wait until next weekend for our usual holiday visits. It won't make a difference to them anyway. You're not behaving sensibly, boy."
Neville again turned to the cabdriver, his deep voice calm and soft, but firm. "Diagon Alley. The Leaky Cauldron." Then he turned back to his grandmother. The taxi driver suppressed a grin and headed for Diagon Alley with an erratic jolt of speed.
As the cab darted between Muggle traffic, Neville turned to his grandmother. "Gran, if I learned one thing this year, it's that I need to be prepared at all times to use defensive magic to save myself, my friends, and you, Gran. We're in the middle of a war now. I'd only use the wand defensively. I won't go to Azkaban for saving your life. I need a wand now." Neville swallowed before continuing.
"And I have my own reasons for needing to see my parents. And while it may not mean anything to them—and I don't believe that—it's important to me."
"Neville, I don't know what's got into you. You've always been so respectful and obedient. Where is my good little boy?" Gran's head shook with frustration.
"I still love and respect you, Gran," Neville replied softly, taking her blue veined hand in his, "but I've got to grow up too. I am growing up, and I'll legally be an adult wizard next year."
Gran just shook her head woefully and turned to look out the window. The cab soon jerked to a stop. Gran handed the cabby his fare while Neville unloaded his trunk and his plant.
The exasperation was still evident by Gran's sighing voice as they entered the Leaky Cauldron. "I don't know why we're doing this. I have nothing for overnight save my handbag. I just don't understand what's got into you."
"I have an extra clean nightshirt in my trunk that you can wear." Gran rolled her eyes. Neville grinned sheepishly, "Thanks for doing this for me."
Neville and his gran took a room and had a supper of roast beef with Yorkshire pudding and gravy before settling in for the night.
The next morning they breakfasted on tinned tomatoes, black pudding, eggs, buttered toast, kidney beans, and strong tea while waiting for Ollivander's to open.
As they walked down Diagon Alley, Neville became suddenly aware that while the vulture on Gran's hat still towered over him, he stood fully six inches taller than Gran. He noticed how the depth of the worried lines around her eyes and mouth and the anxious way she pinched her lower lip both belied the fiery determination he'd always been cowered by in her eyes. This new awareness came with a realization of how vulnerable she was, and he took her arm gallantly. She smiled up at him, puzzled, but pleased.
Mr. Ollivander was delighted to welcome them. "Neville Longbottom? I knew your father, Frank. Good man. Very talented in Defense Against the Dark Arts. Tragic case. I sold him his wand. And your mother—Alice Marjoribanks—brilliant girl—what a tragedy. Well, why haven't you been in here to see me before?"
"I've been using my father's wand, sir."
"Your father's wand? No, no, no, that wouldn't have done for you at all. I can tell just by looking at you that you take after the Marjoribanks—your maternal family. I'll bet you have quite the green thumb, don't you?"
"Yes, sir," Neville mumbled quietly, embarrassed.
"Really, Augusta, his father's wand? He's probably struggled in most of his classes because of trying to use the wrong wand. Tsk. Tsk." Ollivander shook his head.
Neville tried not to laugh at the stunned look on Gran's face; there weren't many people prepared to tell his gran off; in fact Neville couldn't remember a time when anybody had; then he remembered his own new-found courage, "Gran did what she thought was best for me, Mr. Ollivander."
Gran gave Neville a grateful look, then excused herself from the shop, saying she'd get some fresh air and then go look at books while Neville chose his wand.
"As if the wand would allow itself to be chosen! Humpff!" muttered Ollivander after Gran left, "The wand chooses the wizard, of course!" Ollivander left the room, then returned with a series of measuring tools, which automatically measuring Neville while Ollivander began going through shelves and boxes. "Knowing you take after the Marjorbanks makes this so much simpler—you won't want black walnut like your father's wand."
"How did you remem--"
"Oh, I remember every wand I've ever made and sold. Your father's wand was black walnut with dragon heartstring core. Fourteen inches. You, however . . . hmmmn, try this. . . . Willow. Unicorn tail core. Thirteen and a half inches."
Neville waved the wand and felt prickles up his arm. Push pins flew out of the wand tip. He sniggered.
Ollivander snatched to wand out of Neville's hand only to press another into it. "Maybe not. No, I think not. Try this. Birch with Unicorn tail hair. Eleven inches, springy."
Neville waved, and it tickled as feathers and a bouncy ball fell out.
"Better, better, but no. Try this one. Japanese Maple. Phoenix tail feather core. Twelve inches. Nice and supple."
Neville waved it and felt a warm vibration as a cascade of blooming vines came out of the end.
"Very nice. Now this is your wand! That will be seven Galleons! Would you like a wand polishing kit for five Knuts to go with it? Gift box maybe?" Ollivander's silver eyes watched Neville approvingly.
Neville shook his head no, thanked and paid Mr. Ollivander, pocketed the wand, and went off to find Gran. He found her looking in the window of Quality Quidditch Supplies, whilst giving a lecture to Angelina Johnson about what kind of broom she flew on when she was on the Gryffindor Quidditch team in her day. Neville sighed, marking this as just another way he'd disappointed her. He waited another minute, then interrupted gently, "Hello Angelina. Gran, I'm finished; would you like to see my new wand?" Angelina gave Neville a quick relieved smile and hurried away.
An hour and a half later, Gran and Neville entered the long term spell damage ward at St. Mungo's. "I don't know why you brought that little plant with you. It's not like your parents even understand they're your parents, much less understand why you must have show and tell with them."
"It's a cutting from my large Mimbulus Mimbletonia back at the inn. And it's important to me, Gran. That's all." Neville heard his Gran take a deep breath and sigh down her nose; he could imagine her shaking her head as clearly as if he was watching.
"Very well, but I still think it's all a lot of silly nonsense."
Neville and Gran entered the room they'd entered so many times before. Lockheart called out, "More of my adoring fans! I have signed photos for you!" and began to waylay them, but the Healer-in-training took him out for a walk to the solarium.
"Son, Alice," Gran began. "We're here a few days early. This big boy of yours couldn't wait to see you and show you his new plant." Her smile seemed warm enough, but her tone was patronizing.
"Mum, Dad, it's me, Neville," he spoke softly in his clear, deep voice. Neville put the plant on the bedstead and picked up a brush. Gran told Frank about the unseasonable weather while Neville brushed Alice's long silver hair and pulled it into a ponytail.
"Gran, would you mind giving me a few minutes alone with my parents?"
Gran opened her mouth to protest, but then looked again at this tall, determined young man and for the first time saw a fleeting reflection of his father in him, so she said nothing. She nodded and slipped out of the room, muttering something about fancying a cup of tea anyway.
Fifteen minutes later, Gran re-entered the room quietly, but stopped behind the drawn curtains, unnoticed, listening to Neville's one-sided conversation with his parents.
"At first, when I joined the DA, I wasn't very good, but I practiced, I studied, I became better. Harry's a great teacher." Here Neville paused. " Mum, Dad, I fought HER. I fought Bellatrix Lestrange. She was horrible: sick, twisted, deranged, evil. She even hit me with the Cruciatus curse. Not for hours and hours like you suffered, but I KNOW. I know." Neville paused again, and slowly breathed out, then took a slow, deep breath before continuing. "Harry needed me. I stood by his side after all his, no our, other friends had fallen. I'm part of this war. I'm not doing it just for you two. It's for everybody. I don't want anyone else to go through what you two have, or die like Harry's parents and Godfather did, or grow up alone, or lonely because of these Death Eaters. So I helped. And I know I'll be called to do much, much more before this is over—even if it means giving up everything, like you did. Don't cry Mum. I love you." She could hear Neville pull a tissue from the box and hand it to Alice.
"See this plant? It's a Mimbulus Mimbletonia. I've been doing research all year with this. Well, with its mother. This is a cutting for the Healers here to work with. Professor Sprout is helping me. I can't promise anything yet; it's too soon, but I'm hopeful. It's showing properties that may restore memory damage and stabilize brain wave patterns. Someday, maybe this plant will let us be a real family . . . or at least real friends. I love you Mum, Dad . . ." Neville sniffled.
Gran stepped out from behind the curtain to see Alice giving Neville another Drooble's Best Blowing Gum Wrapper while Frank patted his hand innocently. "I owe you an apology, Neville," she said huskily, her own eyes clouded with tears.
Neville jumped back startled, pulling out his wand. "I-I-I didn't hear you come in," he stuttered, lowering his wand, but feeling angry at her eavesdropping.
"I came in a few minutes ago. When I heard what you were saying to your parents, I didn't want to interrupt. I'm glad I listened. I'm sorry for treating you like you're still a boy when you've become a fine wizard and a strong young man." Gran slipped her arm around Neville's waist. "I'm proud of you, and I'm proud to be your grandmother."
Neville's anger evaporated like dew in the sun at her words and he hugged his grandmother warmly. "Thank you. I love you, Gran."
A/N:This is written for my good friend Tante, who shares a birthday with Neville and is employer to my baby girl. Thanks to all my pre-betas: Calliopeia, Bart, BaF, Katie, Aggiebell, Sannali, and my beta: Antonia East.
A/N: Title borrowed from "Sunrise, Sunset" from Fiddler on the Roof.