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Beginning to Understand

Here is a little Susan Bones/Neville fic that I wrote sometime ago. I was planning on adding some more, but for the time being it really feels finished. Sorry for all those who might be wanting updates! Drama, Romance and a wee bit angsty.

Rating: T for Teen-ish

Beginning to Understand


Noticing Neville:

Susan Bones might have been in Hufflepuff, but she wasn’t stupid, far from it. She knew a good thing when she saw it. There was something different about Neville Longbottom in his sixth year, and while Susan wasn’t the first girl to notice it, she was the first girl who did something about it.

Neville had returned from the summer with an added quality, an air that was hard to define. Susan noticed that there was something different. She wasn’t sure exactly what it was until a warm afternoon in mid-September. She had been walking up out of the dungeons having just finished her NEWT level potions class. Draco Malfoy, whose robes were not quite as nice as they had been in years previous, was walking ahead of her. As the group of sixth years came to the top of the stairs, Neville came into view.

He must have been out at the green houses, because Susan noticed that he still had some dirt on the front of his robes. Draco had started in on some kind of taunt, braver being flanked by Crabbe and Goyle as he usually was. Neville’s response was what was different. Neville did not launch himself at Malfoy in anger; he did not try to get away from the little snot and his henchmen. Neville had simply turned and in one quick motion drawn his wand. In what barely seemed to be enough time to say the incantations, Malfoy, Crabbe and Goyle were on the floor in Full Body Binds. Neville just turned and walked to the Great Hall for lunch as if he had done nothing more than sneeze.

Susan was smitten in that moment. It was the quiet confidence and indifference. The less than slight change of expression on Neville’s face, as if he had just walked over some stink sap on the floor, nothing more. This was not the Neville Longbottom that had come to Hogwarts several years ago. He was tall and lean and his face had lost the soft childish edges and taken on the strong lines of a man. He had grown into his large feet and out of his clumsiness. Neville moved with confidence, Susan would have said grace even; if the word wouldn’t have denied the manly quality that he projected in her mind.

Susan knew what had happened to Neville’s parents during the first war. Her own cousins had died at the hands of Death Eaters and there was an unspoken knowledge among the families of the victims of Voldemort’s rise to power. She had heard her mother, father and aunt speaking of Alice and Frank and what gifted Aurors they had been before. Susan wondered if Frank had moved with that same command and power that Neville now showed. She wondered if that was what Alice saw in him that made her love him and stand beside him in battle until the end.

Susan had noticed the fact that Neville was getting more and more confident in her fifth year when they were in the DA together. She had seen that spark of vengeance stir in him even then, though at the time she hadn’t known exactly what it was. Looking back she could see that his inner strength, the one that he had been born with as a Longbottom, was starting to shine through his self consciousness. This was the Neville who should have been, she realized, who might have been all along had his parents not been cursed into madness.

Susan had started slowly, really just trying to know more about this young man who could curse Malfoy without even thinking and then just walk away; this wizard who was just now becoming comfortable with his own strength. She would move over to share trays with him in the greenhouse during Herbology. Susan was always amazed with Neville’s skill there and how he could care so tenderly for small fragile plants, this boy who had battled with Death Eaters. They would talk about the course work and their other classes, often DADA which they both were excelling in as well. She often complimented Neville’s spell work as well as his natural ability with the thriving plants that he nurtured, trying not to meet his eye when she did so; knowing that her face would blush with attraction.

He began walking her back to the castle from the greenhouses a month or so into the first term. They would chat pleasantly walking side by side. It was safer that way, Susan thought, she didn’t have to worry so much about catching his eye. It was thrilling for her knowing that his arm was mere inches from her shoulder, and noticing that he slowed his long strides so she would be able to keep pace with him. They rarely talked about the war that was threatening outside the safety of the castle and its grounds. Instead, they spoke of plants, defense, and sometimes even divination. It was easy conversation and it flowed freely between them.

On a sunny bright Saturday, before the first Quidditch match of the season (Gryffindor versus Ravenclaw) Susan had run down to the greenhouse after breakfast and before the start of the match to check on the Venomous Tentacula seedlings that she was raising. Neville was already there when she arrived, carefully tending the cuttings from his mimbulus Mimbletonia. He looked up when she came in and smiled. Susan had felt the blush rise to her cheeks as she returned his smile and said hello. She had just finished feeding her seedlings and was turning to clean her hands when he came up behind her.

“Here,” he said softly, “let me.” Neville took her hands in his, each in turn and Scougified them clean. Susan could barely stand. Neville’s hands on hers sent sparks rushing through her body. She was a pureblood witch, raised totally in the wizarding world; so it wasn’t electricity. It was magic.

“Thank you,” She whispered, still looking down at her now clean hand resting in his; not trusting herself to look up into his eyes.

“Are you going to the match?” Neville asked as he slowly lowered his hand from beneath hers.

“Yes,” Susan did her best to level her voice and recover from the absence of his touch, “I just needed to check on the little ones.” She smiled and gestured over to her seedlings.

“Well they look well fed and happy now,” Neville chuckled looking at the seedlings two of which were already lying in the dirt snoring and the third that was wavering sleepily. “Shall we?” Neville held the door to the green house and followed Susan as she stepped out into the bright sunny afternoon.

They walked in silence towards the Quidditch pitch, a few inches closer than they usually did. Susan felt the back of her hand brush against Neville’s fingers as their arms swung with their strides. Her blood was heating with each slight touch and she could feel warmth on her cheeks that she knew was not the sun. She was slowly altering the rate of her strides and the movements of her arms to generate more contact with his. To her delight Neville seemed to be doing the same thing. It was maddening and Susan stared straight ahead afraid that if she even looked at Neville she would not be able to stop herself from kissing him. As that thought filled her mind, she felt the warmth of Neville taking her hand and gently lacing his fingers through hers.

Susan couldn’t look at him, it would be too much. Instead she concentrated on the feeling of his larger fingers spreading hers making her hand feel so small. They walked up into the Gryffindor stands. No one had seemed to notice that they were holding hands, as the match had already started. Only Hermione Granger had given Susan a quick and knowing smile, which Susan had returned while wondering just how much deeper she could blush and if this smile would ever leave her face. She had her Neville and it felt wonderful. To this day Susan could remember nothing of that Quidditch game other than Gryffindor had won and Neville had not let go of her hand until he had said goodbye to her at the entrance to the Hufflepuff common room.

********************

After that first Quidditch match, Neville would wait for Susan at the doors of the castle and walk with her to Herbology as well as walk her back to the castle. She would protest and he would end up carrying her rucksack anyway. During class they often worked silently side by side occasionally sharing a quick smile. Their projects were growing bigger and demanding more attention. At meals they still sat with their respective houses, but as the Great Hall would empty it was common for the members of the DA to join each other usually at the Gryffindor table as Harry was still their leader and that was where he was. Susan would settle onto the long wooden bench next to Neville, Hermione or Ginny usually sliding over to make a place for her. Susan was grateful for Neville’s housemates’ wordless approval of her closeness with him. Most evenings Neville would silently take her hand under the table and Susan would thrill at the warmth of his thigh pressed against hers as they sat. Those were discussions of the war that was pressing in on them.

In these discussions, Susan was an integral part. Her aunt’s position in the Ministry of Magic meant that her letters from home often contained information that was not readily accessible in the [i]Daily Prophet[/i]. Neville would pass on what information he had gotten from his Gran and his Uncle Algie through their connections in Wizard society. Harry would pass on the warnings and information that Dumbledore had asked him to share with those trusted students that comprised the DA. Hermione analyzed and Luna speculated. Even though it was just talk, it still felt as if they were doing something. And as the reports of Death Eater attacks started filtering in, Susan often thought of the aunt and uncle and cousins that she never knew; her cousin Anna, who would have been in her year at Hogwarts, if she had not been killed in her crib by a Death Eater. She would feel Neville grip her hand tightly at the mention of torture or Bellatrix LeStrange. Her heart ached for him in those moments, as well in the quiet times she was alone in bed thinking of the impending war and its inevitable losses. She had never brought up the subject of his parents, hoping that he would tell her when he was ready. But she wanted him to tell her, she wanted to him to let her take some of his pain; to carry it for him and lessen the load on his heart.

************

Neville was walking down to the greenhouses with her before class when he asked her to come with him to the first Hogsmeade weekend. She had accepted and he had grasped her hand and not even let go when Professor Sprout met them on the path. Professor Sprout did not seem surprised when she looked down at the joined hands of her two students; in fact she smiled sweetly at them and didn’t say a word. It was another small happiness for Susan that her Head of House seemed to approve as well. It was as if everyone they knew was stepping aside to give this new relationship the room it needed to grow.

She waited patiently for Neville in the Entrance Hall on that bright and blustery Saturday. He came bounding down the stairs from the tower smiling broadly.

“Are you ready?” he smiled down at her and offered her his hand. Susan nodded and smiled as she slipped her hand into his.

“Yes, let’s go,” Susan answered brightly pulling Neville toward the door playfully. “It is a perfect day for a butterbeer.”

“It is,” Neville laughed as the wind hit them outside the door whipping his Gryffindor scarf around behind him and tossing Susan’s hair in and out of her face. “Lunch at the Three Broomsticks then?”

“Sounds wonderful,” Susan answered, “Of course we could always go get a dusty butterbeer at the Hog’s Head…” She joked reminded of their first meeting of the DA last year.

“I think once in the Hog’s Head is enough for me,” Neville tossed back playfully, then laughing added, “My Gran would have killed me if she knew we had been there. Of course after breaking into the Department of Mysteries, I suppose the Hog’s Head is pretty tame.” Susan just nodded; Neville had not talked to her directly about what had happened at the end of last year.

“I suppose not.” Susan finally replied quietly, tightening her grip on Neville’s hand. Suddenly she was afraid of what might have happened then, sad that if things had been worse she would have never had the chance to know the young man that now walked beside her. She felt a slight and distant realization that she tried to put out of her mind, not wanting to think now on the realities of war. Neville seemed to sense the change of her mood.

“Susan,” he spoke her name quietly and stopped in the middle of the path, turning to her, “is something wrong?” There was a nervous concern in his voice. Susan looked up into Neville’s eyes and was met with a mixture of fear and caring. She quickly looked back down and watched his thumb circling the back of her hand in a reassuring caress.

“It’s just, I’m, I…” Susan stumbled over her words not sure how to say what she was feeling; not knowing how to say she now had something else to fear, someone else to lose. “I am just really glad that we’ve… that we’ve gotten this chance.” She looked up into his eyes, willing him to understand what she meant. Neville dropped her hand and wrapped his arms around her, pulling her close, her head resting on his chest.

“I am too,” he murmured into her windblown hair, as she heard his heart beating in her ear. She slid her arms around his waist, and held him tightly; and for that moment they were safe, they were together, and it was real.


It was as if that simple profession had opened a new realm of conversation. Maybe all Neville had needed was that reassurance that she really was happy about being with him, maybe in that moment he realized that she was scared of what the war could do to them. Susan wasn’t sure exactly what it was that shifted for Neville, but over lunch he began to let her in. Harry, Hermione, Ron and his little sister were sitting at a table not far from Susan and Neville. They four other Gryffindors had smiled and said hello as they passed. Susan saw a faint blush on Neville’s cheeks and wondered if it was for her. Neville pulled out her chair for her and then turned to get their butterbeers from Madame Rosmerta behind the bar. Hermione looked over at Susan and gave her another encouraging smile and Ginny tossed her a knowing wink that made Susan blush slightly.

Neville sat back down, placing her butterbeer in front of her and grasping her empty hand with his. He glanced over at the table of his other friends before he spoke. Susan followed his gaze and saw Ron holding Hermione’s hand under the table, and then saw him glance up at Harry who smiled and nodded back.

“I wonder sometimes,” Neville began quietly and Susan leaned in and gave his hand a gentle squeeze as he continued; “if they were just like us, my parents and Harry’s.” Neville paused and looked up at Susan again and she saw a shadow of sadness in his eyes. “They came here and had butterbeers on Hogsmeade weekends, too.” Susan sat in silence comforting his hand as he had hers. “But we are different, we know what happened to them, we know it could happen to us.” At that Neville looked down and laced his fingers through Susan’s.

Susan wanted to say no, she wanted to say that they would not end up dead or mad; but she couldn’t. Susan knew as well as Neville did that the threat was real and that there were going to be losses. There would be people that would be gone forever, just like Neville’s parents, Harry’s parents, her aunt and uncle, and her cousin Anna. Deep down she knew that Neville could be one of those people; she knew that she could be one of those people. She knew it every time that she stepped into her DADA class. She knew that they were being trained as soldiers for this war. Susan did not contradict what Neville had said. It was the truth. As much as it hurt for her to admit it out loud, she did.

“I know,” Susan answered in a whisper gripping his hand tightly. Neville drank his butterbeer in silence, for several minutes and Susan simply held his hand. After a few minutes of silence she spoke.

“I had a cousin, her name was Anna. She would have been in the same year as me.” Susan looked down at her hand joined with Neville’s. She had never spoken about Anna to anyone, “I never even got to know her. I mean we might have hated each other,” Susan attempted a smile, “or we might have been best friends. There are pictures of us together as babies. Mum has them in an album with a bunch of pictures of Uncle Edgar and the rest of his family. I didn’t get to know any of them. She was only a year old, and they killed her. I don’t know, I’ve just been thinking about her a lot lately…” Susan trailed off. She had stopped because it occurred to her that this was nothing like what Neville or Harry had gone through. “I know it’s not the same,” she finished quietly. But Neville reached out and slid a finger along her cheek and under her chin, lifting her eyes to his.

“It’s okay. We’ve all lost something to Voldemort,” Maybe it was because his finger was still under her chin, but Susan for the first time in her life, didn’t flinch when she heard the name. “She was just as important as my mum and dad and Harry’s parents”

Neville then stood up and pulled Susan from her chair. They walked in silence out into the bustling street of Hogsmeade. Neville slipped his arm around her waist and Susan thrilled at the warmth of his body next to hers. They passed Harry and Ginny who were doing their best to walk away from an arguing Ron and Hermione without being noticed. Susan giggled and Neville just sighed and rolled his eyes.

“Are they always like that?” Susan asked as they got safely out of hearing distance.

“That was mild,” Neville chuckled, “They are in public. Unfortunately, they don’t consider the Gryffindor common room public.” Susan laughed out loud.

It suddenly amazed her that they could slip so easily between talk of the dead and the living; but she was thankful that they could.



Chapter Two: Understanding
They walked up to the end of the main road and sat staring at the Shrieking Shack. Still quiet, always quiet, Susan had never heard it utter a peep.

“It’s not haunted,” Neville said softly, “well, it didn’t used to be.”

“How do you know?” Susan looked up at him with a quizzical look.

“Professor Lupin told me,” Neville replied. “He used it for his transformations when he was in school. Hardly anyone knows.”

“Oh,” comprehension dawned on Susan; everyone knew why their third year DADA teacher had left school. “I won’t tell.” She smiled up at him.

“He was friends with Sirius Black,” Susan gasped at this revelation, but Neville continued, “Sirius Black was innocent, but he died in the Department of Mysteries last year. Bellatrix LeStrange killed him.” Susan’s eyes were wide. She knew who Bellatrix LeStrange was, she knew why Bellatrix LeStrange had been given a life sentence in Azkaban; she knew that Bellatrix LeStrange was one of the Death Eaters who had tortured Neville’s parents.

“You…you…,” Susan swallowed hard, “you saw her?”

“Yeah, you could say that,” Neville pulled away from her, kicked a stone and sent it sailing through the air. “Told me she had had the pleasure of meeting my parents,” a harsh grunt of strangled fury came from Neville as he looked away; “right before she decided to see how much torture I could take before I cracked like them.” Susan saw Neville’s hands clenched at his sides, knuckles turning white from the force of his own grip.

“Oh, Neville, no…” Susan cried softly. She was rooted to the ground, held at bay by his obvious fury. At the same moment though, she wanted to run to him. She wanted to wrap her arms around him and comfort him like a child. She wanted to pull him to her and never let him go. Neville sank down onto a nearby fallen tree, his head in his hands.

“It was just one curse, it couldn’t have lasted more than a few seconds.” It was as if something inside Neville had snapped and she heard his sobs muffled by his hands. “They didn’t even know anything, and she tortured them for hours.” He looked up at her, tears streaming down his face as choked out the words.

Susan was in front of him in an instant, standing between his legs as he sat and pulling his face into her chest. He threw his arms around her waist and pulled her to him. Tears began to stream silently down her face as Susan ran her fingers through his hair. Neville began to shake as he cried into the front of her robes and Susan held onto him wanting desperately to pull him through his pain.

Susan continued to hold him as his tears subsided and his breathing slowed. She swayed gently in the same comforting rhythm she had used with baby cousins and her nieces. She finally slowed and heard him mumble into her robes.

“I’m sorry,” She could hear embarrassment in his voice and it steeled her resolve. Susan sank to her knees facing him and took his face in her hands.

“No, Neville. Don’t be sorry.” She pulled his face back to hers making him meet her eyes. “I want this. I want to know this. I want to be the one who is here for you. I need to know you, all of you. I want to be the one who holds you…” She blushed at her forwardness, slid her hands down off of his tear stained cheeks and looked down, “even when you cry.” It was several seconds before Susan could bring herself to raise her eyes and meet his gaze again, but when she did he was staring at her with a soft intensity. She blushed and looked away again, not sure of what the look in his eyes meant.

“I used to wonder how they could have fallen in love,” Neville spoke softly as he turned her face back to his with a gentle hand, “married, and had children, all with a war going on around them. They knew that any day might have been the end of it for them, that they would have a better chance of dying young than growing old together.” Susan could barely fathom the depth that stared back at her and it made her catch her breath as he continued. “But I think I am beginning to understand.” Neville drew closer, as Susan instinctively closed her eyes. The weight of what he had just said began to sink in as she felt his lips press into hers and then move softly once, twice, three times. He separated his lips from hers and pulled her close; Susan slipped her hands around his shoulders and clung to him. She knew then in that moment that she loved Neville Longbottom, and he loved her.


*********************


Susan was waiting at the door of the Room of Requirement. Harry and Dumbledore had used the evening to go over “basics” as this was the last meeting before the Christmas holidays. Neville was discussing something with Harry and Ron, but he had asked her to wait for him. She sighed as she watched him talking animatedly with his housemates and had to chuckle to herself. She found it rather funny to think about what her reaction would have been her first or second year if someone had referred to Neville Longbottom as her boyfriend. She probably would have tossed her [i]Beginners Guide to Transfiguration[/i] at them. Now she just gave her fellow students a proud and slightly possessive smile. Harry and Ron passed her with friendly smiles as they left her alone in the room with Neville.

Neville summoned two of the Stunning cushions and motioned for her to sit with him. She did so, looking a bit confused at the nervous look on his face. He took her hands in his, facing her but he didn’t seem to be able to look her in the eye.

“Susan, I wanted to ask if you would do something for me…” Her mind was reeling. “I mean, I will understand if you don’t want to, I mean if you don’t think that you are ready to…” She thought she knew where this was going and she took a deep breath. “No body else, well I’ve never asked…” Susan was ready to say yes. She was ready to do anything for Neville, [i]with[/i] Neville, she loved him passionately. “Can I… uh… can I introduce you to my parents?” Susan would have had to sit down if she wasn’t already on the floor. “I’ll understand if you don’t want to meet them.” Neville continued rapidly still not meeting her eyes. “I mean the Closed Ward at St. Mungo’s isn’t really the greatest place to be on Christmas. I mean, they might not even understand who you are, sometimes they don’t even recognize me. But it would really mean a lot to me if you would come.” Neville’s rambling had given Susan time to recover and understand what exactly he was asking her. When she answered it was with the most sincere honesty that she could muster.

“Neville, I would be honored to meet your parents.” He finally raised his eyes to meet hers as she spoke, and he let out an audible sigh of relief.

“Thank you,” he whispered quietly before leaning over and kissing both her cheeks and then her mouth. “I love you.” It was whispered against her still moist lips and she caught her breath as if to inhale his words.

“I love you, too.” She whispered back before meeting his lips again. Their lips parted almost at the same time and suddenly Neville’s hands were in her hair and his tongue was in her mouth. She pulled him towards her at the same time he leaned closer and they tumbled off the cushion and onto the floor. The weight of his body over hers was delicious, but he quickly sat up mumbling apologies. Susan started to giggle.

“Sorry,” Neville blushed as he smiled down at her, “I guess I got a little carried away.” Susan laughed out right at how sweet he was. “What?” he asked still grinning.

“Well,” Susan replied grinning up at him from the floor, “it’s just that earlier, um, I … I thought you were going to ask me something else.”

“Oh?” Neville stopped a second and then his eyes grew wide as the realization dawned on him, “OH!” Susan laughed again and pulled him back to her and began kissing him again. Neville sighed and pulled away, his face just inches above her. He began kissing her all over her face, soft kisses, “I…don’t…know… if…we …are… quite… ready… for… that…question.” He stopped and kissed her neck and then whispered roughly in her ear. “But when we are, what’s your answer?” He nibbled her ear making goose bumps rise up and down her body. He lifted his head and looked in her eyes playfully.

“The same,” Susan kissed him soundly, “I’d be honored.”




***************

Susan flooed to the reception area of St. Mungo’s. It was Christmas Day and her mother had agreed to let her leave the family gathering for a few hours to accompany Neville and his grandmother to meet his parents. Susan was nervous. She wasn’t sure what to expect and her worst fear was that she would say or do something wrong. She was afraid that there would be something frightening or grotesque about Neville’s mum and dad and she would not be able to hide the horror on her face when she saw them. She was also very afraid of doing something wrong in front of Neville’s grandmother. Mrs. Longbottom was a highly respected member of the Wizarding community, so much so that when her mother received the owl formally asking Susan to join Neville and Mrs. Longbottom at St. Mungo’s on Christmas her mother had gasped and replied immediately giving her permission. Susan fidgeted nervously watching the floo.

“Hello, love.” Neville had come up behind her while she stared at the fireplace. He circled her waist with his arms and kissed her neck from behind her, “Gran is up in the tea shop. She is looking forward to meeting you.” Neville smiled reassuringly. “Don’t worry she really is nice in her own severe kind of way.” Susan smiled nervously and took Neville’s hand as he led her toward the lift.

Mrs. Longbottom sat at a small table sipping her tea in what Susan felt was an austere manner. She was afraid of this woman. Susan desperately wanted to make a good impression. The older woman turned as Susan and Neville approached the table, and Susan took a deep breath as Mrs. Longbottom looked at Neville expectantly.

“Gran, this is Susan Bones.” The older woman’s face broke into an unexpected smile.

“Ah, Miss Bones,” She extended her hand to Susan who shook it trying her best to be brave. “Neville has told me so much about you. I am well acquainted with your Aunt Amelia, a fine sensible woman.” Susan smiled and nodded as Mrs. Longbottom continued. “Neville, why don’t you go get Susan some tea?” This was more of an order than a request, Susan realized, as Neville quickly stepped away to the counter. “Sit down, dear.” Susan smiled as she sat down, still in silence, as Neville’s grandmother leaned over the table and lowered her voice. “I am happy that Neville has taken up with such a lovely girl as yourself,” the older woman seemed to be holding back some emotion that Susan could not read. “You must be very special to him if he has asked you to come here with him.” Susan found her voice, taking strength from the compliment that this usually stoic woman had given her.

“He is very special to me, as well,” Susan looked down at the table afraid to meet the older witch’s eyes.

“I knew, you wouldn’t have accepted this invitation if he wasn’t,” Mrs. Longbottom reached out and patted her hand. “I am glad that you have found each other, in these difficult times.” There was a far away look in the elder witch’s eyes, when Susan looked up. Susan realized that Mrs. Longbottom may have said that same phrase to her son so many years ago. Neville returned with her tea before Susan could think of an appropriate reply.

Neville sat boldly next to Susan and took her hand. Others might not have considered this gesture bold, but Susan knew that Neville had been intimidated by his grandmother all of his life and that he had desperately tried to please her; tried to live up to the power and talent of his parents. The thought of Neville’s parents stopped Susan, and she looked up as Mrs. Longbottom cleared her throat.

“Has Neville informed you of his parent’s condition?” The elder witch looked across the table her gaze slowly shifting from Susan whom she had addressed to Neville.

“He has, Mrs. Longbottom. He warned me that his father rarely speaks and that they both look much older than they should.” The grip Neville had on her hand had steeled her resolve, given her the added courage that she needed to speak plainly. “I know that they may not be able to speak more than a word or two, if at all,” Susan looked over at Neville and then back to his grandmother, “but I am honored to be able to meet your son and his wife.”

Susan seemed to have said the right thing and she hoped that Mrs. Longbottom knew that she had been sincere when she said it. The elder witch smiled at her and rose from the table. Susan and Neville stood as well. Neville guided her with a hand on her back out of the tea shop in Mrs. Longbottom’s wake. As his grandmother turned to corner and started down the hall, Neville leaned down and whispered into Susan’s ear.

“Thank you, again for coming.” His breath on her ear sent goose bumps down her arm, and she turned her head quickly and placed a soft kiss on her boyfriend’s lips, Susan felt lighter. She knew that she could face this with Neville beside her, and it seemed that she had passed the first part of the test with Mrs. Longbottom.


Susan had never been in the Closed Ward before. She marveled at how each patient’s bed was decorated like home. It reminded her of the way that students put up pictures in their dormitories. They walked past several beds, including one where the walls were plastered with pictures of Professor Lockhart. The bed was empty. Susan looked at Neville with a question in her eyes.

“He tends to wander around a little; they catch him up.” Neville winked at her, as Susan gasped realizing that it was not the bed of a crazed fan, but that of the former professor himself. Susan had to suppress a giggle at the thought as they neared the end of the room and the two beds that were pushed next to each other there.

Susan saw Alice standing in front of a window, humming to herself. Susan knew that the woman was a few years younger than her own mother so it startled her to see the white wispy hair and the thin waiflike body wrapped tightly in a dressing gown. Her eyes moved and found Frank Longbottom sitting in a chair staring at nothing and covered in a homemade quilt. Mrs. Longbottom walked over and kissed her son on the forehead and the wizard moved his gaze slowly to her face. There was a fleeting glimmer of recognition in his eyes as his gaze moved from his mother to Neville’s face, before again resuming his far away gaze into nothingness. A healer pulled closed the flowered curtains behind them as Mrs. Longbottom addressed her son and daughter-in-law.

“Happy Christmas, I see you have gotten your gifts,” Mrs. Longbottom motioned to the quilt tucked around her son and the new dressing gown that Alice wore. Alice smiled in a childish way and shuffled over to Neville. The small frail woman hugged her son and then turned and looked at Susan and again smiled vacantly. Mrs. Longbottom gave her daughter-in-law a light kiss on the cheek and then turned to Neville. “I am going to talk to the Healers for a moment, Neville.”

Susan realized that the elder witch was giving Neville some time alone with his parents. As she stepped beyond the curtains, Neville slipped an arm around Susan and hugged her to his side. He pulled her over to the side of the bed closest to his father and Susan sat next to him and he clutched her hand again.

“Mum, Dad,” Neville began looking over at Alice, who was watching the two of them; “this is Susan Bones, my girlfriend.” Susan had no idea if either Frank or Alice understood what Neville was saying to them, but she knew that he wanted them to know. “We have been seeing each other since the beginning of the term. I… I love her and um… she loves me.” Susan saw the blush on Neville’s cheeks and also saw that his mother had a curious look on her face. “I wanted her to meet you; I wanted you to know how happy I am now. I wanted you to know that I am going to be okay. Susan has helped me, a lot.” Neville’s voice trailed off, and Susan felt that she could speak, that she should speak regardless of how much they understood.

“I am glad to meet you both,” Susan started. “And I do love Neville, with all my heart. He has helped me, too. I want you both to know that I care about him deeply and I would never hurt him. I want you to know that you can trust me with your son’s heart,” Susan paused and took a deep breath, “because I have trusted him with mine.” She finished and looked up at Alice.

Alice tottered over to the young couple from her post by the window and stood quietly in front of Neville where he sat. She reached out a prematurely aged hand and stroked a finger down the side of her son’s face. Susan felt the tears well up in her eyes. She felt the grip on her hand weaken, and she knew that Neville was torn by this simple gesture by his mother.

“Baby,” it was a raspy voice, thick and hushed with lack of use that issued from Alice’s lips. Neville blushed.

“No, Mum, we aren’t having a baby, we aren’t married yet.” Neville stuttered up at his mother. Susan was thrown, and if she wasn’t sitting down she would have had to or fallen. It was the effect of the last word that Neville had spoken. The spell was broken though, as Susan saw Alice smile and shake her head. Neville’s mother repeated the same gesture again and repeated the one word as she gazed down at her son.

“Baby.” As the word left Alice’s lips, it was as if a fire of understanding lit in Susan’s mind. She reached out and took the hand of her boyfriend’s mother in her own. Susan gently squeezed Alice’s hand, as Alice turned her gaze and looked sweetly into Susan’s eyes.

“I will take good care of your baby, I promise.” Alice smiled and nodded at Susan, before turning and resuming her place next to the window humming softly. Neville looked at Susan with wonder in his eyes. His hand moved quickly up from behind her on the bed and slipped beneath her hair. Before Susan could even think, Neville had crushed his lips to hers. It was a passionate knowing kiss and Susan understood what that kiss was saying. It was saying thank you and I love you all at the same time. It was communicating a sense of connection and belonging, and it was over too soon. Neville pulled away and sat up straight as a rod as his grandmother’s voice was heard from the other side of the curtain. Susan was startled into the same posture as she recognized the voice that was getting closer. Getting caught snogging Neville on his parent’s bed in the Closed Ward at Christmas by the severe and proper Mrs. Longbottom was not the way that Susan wanted her afternoon with Neville to end.

After Mrs. Longbottom returned, the conversation turned to how Neville was doing at school and the general state of the wizarding world. Neville’s grandmother dominated the conversation, with Neville dutifully elaborating when she requested. Susan smiled and nodded in the appropriate places, but realized that Alice and Frank seemed to be far away just occasionally looking at the older witch.

They rose to go and Mrs. Longbottom hugged her daughter-in-law and kissed her son again. Neville in turn kissed his mother and squeezed his father’s hand where it lay limp on the arm of his chair. Susan smiled at them and again took Alice’s hand gently, telling them goodbye. Mrs. Longbottom opened the curtains and they turned to go.

They had gotten half way down the aisle between the beds when Alice shuffled up behind Neville and grasped his hand in both of hers. Susan was touched by the gesture; it seemed Neville’s mother did not want him to go. Alice smiled sweetly and then crossed to Susan and gave her a quick kiss on the cheek, before turning and shuffling back to her bed humming the tune to some long forgotten song. Susan touched her cheek and smiled warmly at Neville, who was looking rather puzzled.

“Another gum wrapper, Neville?” Mrs. Longbottom sighed in an annoyed voice. Susan noticed that Neville had a stunned look on his face as he slowly shook his head.

“No,” it was barely a whisper as Susan watched Neville raise his hand and open it to his grandmother. The older woman gasped and clutched her handkerchief to her mouth. Susan saw tears spring to Mrs. Longbottom’s eyes. She couldn’t hold back any longer and leaned in to look at what was lying in Neville’s outstretched hand. Susan felt her own tears of inexplicable joy and sadness well up as she gazed at what Neville held.

There nestled in Neville’s palm was a diamond engagement ring; his mother’s diamond engagement ring.

Comments

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mrspadf00t1
Jun. 26th, 2005 06:51 am (UTC)
Hey hon,
would you mind either pinging me (mrspadf00t1) or sending me an email? mrspadf00t1@yahoo.com

One of our betas (at SU) has been trying to get in touch w/ you for a while now and I just want to make certain that we have your correct email.

Thanks so much!
Smooches,
T
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