Harry Potter/Neville Longbottom
Neville Longbottom Remus Lupin Severus Snape Nymphadora Tonks Harry and Hermione and Ron
Mystery Adventure
The Harry Potter at Hogwarts Years
Published: 01/16/2006
Updated: 06/19/2006
Words: 134,451
Chapters: 37
Hits: 105,190

Becoming Neville

Jedi Rita

Story Summary:
Neville's Gran breaks her hip just after his fifth year at Hogwarts, and he must spend the summer with Harry and Remus at No. 12 Grimmauld Place. He and Harry discover a hidden message in the candy wrappers Neville's mother has been giving him over the years, and they begin to uncover secrets about the past, even as they must confront dangers in the present. Along the way, Neville learns just how much he has in common with The Boy Who Lived, and how to be his own kind of hero.

Chapter 04 - Chapter Four

Chapter Summary:
In which Harry tags along as Neville visits his parents at St. Mungo's, and discoveries are made.

Since he was in London, Neville planned to visit his Gran at St. Mungo's on Mondays and Thursdays. He'd seen her, of course, when they'd brought her to the hospital, but today would be his first visit since he'd come to Grimmauld Place.

At breakfast, he pulled a crumpled piece of paper out of his pocket and placed it on the table before Lupin. "Professor? I wrote down a list of supplies I need for the greenhouse. I was wondering if after we go to visit my Gran, we could go shopping?"

"That would be fine," Lupin replied, glancing at the list.

Harry looked up from his toast. "You're visiting your Gran today? Would it be all right if I come, too?"

Neville frowned slightly. He hadn't been expecting that, but he wasn't sure how to refuse. "If you want," he said. He tried to make it sound like visiting Gran was a chore. Which was true.

"It's only--," Harry's mouth twisted. "I'd like to get out of the house, is all."

"All right."

When they had finished eating breakfast and all the dishes had been washed and put away, they flooed on over to St. Mungo's. Harry had wanted them to go by "tube" instead. Apparently it was some kind of Muggle equivalent of the floo network, but it didn't sound very safe to Neville. What if someone really fat got stuck in this "tube" and blocked it up? He thought flooing sounded much safer, and Lupin agreed, despite Harry's protestations.

When they arrived at St. Mungo's, they stopped in the gift shop so Neville could buy some flowers and a box of candy, then headed down to Gran's room. They found her sitting up in her bed, reading through a paperback novel titled, "Detective Dumphrey and the Case of the Burglaring Banshee." A three-foot-high tower of similar paperbacks teetered precariously over her on the nightstand next to her bed, and she was surrounded by vases full of flowers.

As soon as she saw Neville, she scowled. "Honestly, boy, not more flowers! I would expect you to have more sense than that. I feel like I'm deep in the heart of the Amazon jungle as it is."

"S-sorry, Gran. I brought some candy, too. Do you want that?" He cautiously held up the box.

"Oh, that's splendid!" she said, happily taking the box. "The food here is ghastly. You'd think they were trying to kill me rather than make me better. What I wouldn't give for some decent clotted cream! You'll bring some next time, won't you, Neville? And a bag of my favorite pipe tobacco, too. Millicent Macawber brought the wrong brand, and I refuse to touch the stuff."

"I don't think you're supposed to smoke in hospital," Neville ventured to point out.

"Oh, pish-posh! They'll let me smoke if they know what's good for them. Now," she squinted at Neville's two companions, "who is this you've brought with you?"

"This is Professor Lupin, one of my teachers at school. I mean, he used to teach at school. He doesn't anymore."

Lupin extended his hand. "It's a pleasure to meet you, Mrs. Longbottom. I wish you a very speedy recovery."

"You and me both, young man," Gran answered, giving Lupin's hand a vigorous shake.

"And this is Harry, one of my classmates," Neville introduced. He didn't want to use Harry's full name, hoping that Gran wouldn't remember him. He got mighty sick of hearing how he ought to live up to the same standard as his famous classmate.

But he was out of luck. Gran's eyes narrowed as she studied Harry. "Potter, isn't it? Yes. We've met before."

"Yes, ma'am," Harry politely replied, shaking her hand.

"Well, well," Neville's Gran said, settling back against her pillows. "Potter. And a Professor Lupin. I hope Neville isn't causing you too much trouble."

"Not at all, Mrs. Longbottom," Lupin said. "On the contrary, he's already been a great help to us."

Gran's surprise couldn't have been greater than if he'd just told her Neville had been awarded the Order of Merlin. "He has?"

"Oh, yes. The place where we're staying needs a lot of fixing up, and he's doing an excellent job. And it's a pleasure having him around. He was one of my favorite students when I taught at Hogwarts."

The expression of shock on his Gran's face surely matched Neville's own, and he felt his cheeks flame in embarrassment.

Gran was actually knocked speechless for several seconds. "Surely you must be referring to Potter, there, Professor. Our Neville's not much of a scholar."

"No, I meant Neville," Lupin said, placing his hand on the boy's shoulder. "Though I enjoyed teaching both him and Harry. I'm very proud of the two of them. They are fine students."

Once again, several seconds passed before Gran could find her voice. "I see. Well, that's very kind of you to say, Professor." Struggling to regain her composure, she turned to Neville. "Let's see that you give the professor no reason to change his opinion of you, boy."

"Yes, Gran," said Neville. Now that his initial shock had worn off, he had to fight to keep an enormous grin from swallowing his face.

Picking up her book again, Gran said, "You're going to see your parents, aren't you, Neville?"

His smile faltered. "Yes, Gran."

"Well, then, get along with you. And don't forget the tobacco next time. And the clotted cream." She turned her cheek to him, and he gave her a quick kiss.

They left the room, and as soon as the door closed behind them, Neville said, looking at the floor, "You two don't have to go with me, you know. There's a tearoom on the fifth floor. I can meet you there later."

"Actually," Harry said, "I'd like to go with you if you don't mind." When Neville gave him an inquiring look, Harry blushed and murmured, "I don't have any parents to visit."

Neville felt a bit of sympathy for him, and nodded his assent. It was odd, to feel sorry for Harry Potter.

They headed upstairs to the fourth floor in silence. When they reached the residents' ward, Lupin said, "I'll just wait out here for you boys."

Neville smiled gratefully up at Lupin before pushing the door open. Harry followed close behind him, and they walked down the short row of beds. In the very last bed, a man lay flat on his back, staring unblinkingly at the ceiling. In a chair next to him sat a woman with frazzled hair, methodically shredding a tissue.

Trying not to think about Harry seeing his parents like this, Neville timidly approached the woman. "Hi, Mum. It's me, Neville." She ignored him, focused on pulling small pieces from the tissue. "What's that you're working on?"

"Must be destroyed," she muttered, and he noticed the remains of several tissues scattered around her feet like snowdrifts. "All of it gone, gone, gone. Not here, no."

"You're looking very pretty today, Mum. Would you like me to brush your hair for you?" He reached for the brush on the bedstand, but his mother grabbed for it instead, shrieking, "Mine!"

Neville winced. "Yes, Mum."

But at least she was looking at him now. Her eyes studied him frantically, as if trying to read a message carved into his face. He knew she recognized him, but he didn't know if she knew who he was, other than a boy who came to visit her every so often. Her scrutiny was intense, but he liked it. It made him feel like he was important to her somehow. He was aware of Harry standing at the foot of his father's bed, watching silently.

She reached out a skinny hand and tugged on his shoulder. With a sigh of relief, he knelt down on the floor before her so she could brush his hair. She pressed heavily on the brush with such fierce strokes his scalp would ache for hours afterward, but he relished these moments of strange intimacy. He didn't care how silly he must look to Harry. Let him say something about it. Neville would punch his lights out, even if he *was* the Boy Who Lived. He refused to look at Harry, not wanting whatever expression might be on his face to interrupt this moment.

"Remember when I came here earlier, Mum?" he asked, grunting slightly as she tugged on his hair. "Gran fell and broke her hip. She's here in hospital, too. Has she come to visit you?" He didn't expect her to answer, but he liked to talk to her anyway. "There's a greenhouse at the place where I'm staying. I'm going to fix it up, and I'll grow some flowers to bring you. Not store-bought flowers. Ones I'll grow myself. I hope you'll like that."

His mother had set down the brush and was now picking through his hair with her fingers, like a monkey grooming him for lice. He usually liked that, too, but it was a little too embarrassing with Harry watching. "Thanks, Mum," he said, standing up, "but I want to talk to Dad now." He sat on the edge of the bed, but his mother followed him, continuing to pick through his hair.

He took his father's hand between his own. His father rarely moved, and he never spoke. Neville didn't know what exactly had happened to his parents. No one ever told him. Nor did they tell him about his parents' current condition, what treatment they were given, or what their prognosis was. All anyone ever said was that it was pointless to hope for recovery.

It seemed like he ought to know something, as if someone had told him once, but he'd forgotten. The harder he thought about it, the more that elusive knowledge slipped from his grasp, but it always danced there, just on the edge of his memory. It was surely important. It seemed like if only he could remember what it was, maybe it would help his parents somehow.

He rubbed his father's hand, wishing just once he could hear his father's voice. "How have you been, Dad? I'm afraid I have some bad news for you." He had a confession to make, even though he doubted his father understood anything he said. But it seemed wrong not to tell him. "I broke your wand. I'm really sorry, it was an accident. I hope you're not too disappointed in me."

"It wasn't an accident!"

Startled, Neville looked up to see Harry standing at the side of the bed, looking at his father with an urgent, almost desperate expression on his face.

"It wasn't an accident, Mr. Longbottom!" Harry said. "It broke when Neville was fighting against the Death--"

"Harry!" Neville interrupted.

Harry shot him a glance, then looked back at Mr. Longbottom. "He was helping to protect people. He was saving people's lives. You should be proud of him, Mr. Longbottom. Your son's a hero!"

Neville didn't know what to make of this declaration, but his father had not even blinked an eye. He wished his father could hear and understand. He felt tears stinging his eyes, and fought to hold them back.


Neville looked up to see his mother staring at Harry. "James," she said again, as if she were noting something in passing. "James James James James James."

Neville twisted around to see the stricken look on Harry's face. He turned back to his mother. "That's not James, Mum, that's Harry."

But she continued to mutter "James" in a sing-song voice, and she beckoned Harry to come to her. Neville watched as Harry edged his way around the bed toward her, moving slowly like a sleepwalker. "James James James," she repeated. She dug into the pocket of her robe and then extended her hand toward Harry. He reached out, and she dropped a gum wrapper into his hand.

A flash of anger shot through Neville's gut. That wrapper was his! Harry had no right to it!

Harry stared in surprise at the wrapper in his hand as Neville's mother moved closer, still calling him James. She raised her hands and gently combed her bony fingers through his hair. Neville watched, seething at the tender display. She was *his* mother. Those caresses belonged to *him.*

Harry stood mutely before her, like a small animal not sure whether to stay still or to bolt. A strange longing burned in his eyes, one Neville recognized well: the longing of an orphan boy for a mother's love. Neville didn't know whether to shove him away or feel sorry for him.

His mother continued to stroke Harry's hair and call him James. She brushed the hair back from his forehead, uncovering his scar. At the sight of it, all three of them froze.

Then her eyes widened, and she began to scream.

Her high-pitched, full-lunged screams split the quiet of the room as she stared at the scar, pointing with a rigid arm. The shrieks rose in volume as the other patients in the room screeched, too, alarmed by the racket. Harry stumbled backward, bumping against the bed, but Neville's father didn't move a muscle.

"Mum!" Neville cried out, seizing his mother's arm and trying to calm her down. "Mum, it's all right!" But she kept screaming, and the sound echoed terribly in Neville's skull, as if he'd heard screams like this before. Tears streamed down his cheeks. "Mummy!" he sobbed. "Mummy, please!"

He felt hands on his shoulders, pulling him away, but he refused to let go of his mother. Someone pried his fingers off her arm, and he was dragged out of the room, his own desperate cries all but drowned out by the screams of the patients around him, his mother's shrieks the loudest of all.


They stood in the hallway, Harry huddled against the wall, and Lupin holding firmly to Neville's arm to keep him from escaping back into the room and returning to his mother. Around them, a stream of nurses and orderlies filed into the ward, and someone cast a silencing charm on the door so the screaming could not be heard in the hall. Neville desperately wanted to know what they were doing to her. In all his years visiting his parents, he had never seen her react like that. He couldn't bear to imagine what demons were locked in her head.

"I'm sorry, Neville!" Harry whispered, "I'm so sorry." Neville looked up to see Harry, his eyes wide and haunted, and he realized Harry was almost as distraught as he was. Any anger he still felt toward Harry for upsetting his mother melted away, and he just felt tired.

Lupin asked Harry, "What happened?"

Rubbing his arms as if he were cold, Harry said, "It's all my fault, Professor. She saw my scar and started screaming."

Lupin's eyes darted to Harry's forehead. "She must have recognized what it was."

"She kept calling me James."

Sadness crept over Lupin's features. "Yes. The Longbottoms knew your parents well. They were good friends." He glanced down at Neville, who stood slumped against the wall. "Are you all right?"

Neville nodded, though he didn't feel all right at all. "I'm just worried about my mum. Is she okay?"

"I'll check on her for you," Lupin offered, and he slid back into the room.

Harry looked at him, his expression pained. "I'm sorry, Neville."

"It's not your fault," Neville said, and he meant it. Harry hadn't put those demons in his mother's head.

They said nothing more until Lupin returned. "Your mother has calmed down now, but I think it's best we end your visit." Both boys nodded in weary agreement.

Lupin sighed and straightened up. "Let's be getting home, then." And he led them down the hall so they could floo home.


When they arrived at Grimmauld Place, the boys trudged wearily upstairs. Neville paused at the door to his room and turned to Harry, biting his lip. "Harry...could I have that wrapper?"

"Wh-what wrapper?" Harry asked. But his hand clutched in his pocket.

Anger burned in Neville's stomach at the lie, and he advanced on Harry. "You know, the one *my mother* gave you."

Alarmed, Harry took a half-step backward. "Why do you want it?"

"What do you care?" Neville snapped. "It's just a piece of rubbish."

"Then why should I give it to you?"

Neville couldn't believe Harry was actually fighting with him over it. "Because it's supposed to be mine."

"But she gave it to me."


But Harry stubbornly kept his hand in his pocket. Exasperated, Neville threw open his door and entered his room. "Look," he said as he stomped across the floor and fished a box out of his desk drawer. He flipped open the lid, revealing hundreds of wrappers stuffed inside. "It may look stupid to you, but they're the only things she gives me."

Harry remained silent for a long time, staring at the box full of wrappers as if mesmerized. Then he gave a loud sniff and looked away. "I don't have a mother to give me anything." His voice sounded hoarse.

At that, Neville felt a little ashamed of his selfishness. With a deep sigh, he said, "All right, you can keep it if you want."

Slowly Harry pulled the wrapper out of his pocket and stared at it. "No. It's yours. You should have it." He handed it over and watched as Neville carefully tucked it into the box. "How many do you have?"

"Counting this one, two hundred and eighty-three."

"Wow." Harry reached for the box, then stopped himself. "Can I take a look at them?"

"Sure." Neville picked the box up, and they settled on the floor where they would have room to spread them out. He pulled the wrappers out by groups. "They're sorted by the year she gave them to me, so don't mix them up."

"Right," Harry said, carefully leafing through one of the bundles.

Neville pulled a wrapper off the top of one bundle. He turned it over and handed it to Harry. "Look here. She wrote on this one." The back of the wrapper was covered with childish scribbles written in violet ink. "She only wrote on a few. And here's another one that still has some raspberry creme on it." He showed Harry the special wrappers, telling their stories.

"I don't see any chocolate frogs here," Harry commented as he browsed through the stacks.

"No, we don't give her chocolate frogs. She lets the frogs get away, and the hospital staff got tired of stepping on them. And she tears up the cards. I don't know why. She likes Droobles Blowing Gum and Zordo Zots best."

Harry studied the wrappers in his hand. "These look like they have letters scratched off."

"Yes. Always the same ones, too. P-H-L-E-M. Phlegm. I don't know what that's supposed to mean."

Harry's brows furrowed. "Isn't there a G in 'phlegm'?"

"Is there?"

Harry spread the wrappers out on the floor. "Maybe she's trying to spell something else."

"I don't know," Neville said. "What would it spell? Melph? Lemph?"


Neville froze. "But what about the M?"

Harry studied the wrapper again. "Hang on. There are two E's scratched off." He looked up at Neville. "'*Help me*'."

A chill spread through Neville, and his heart pounded loudly in his chest. "That's not funny, Harry."

"I'm not trying to be funny." Harry sorted through the wrappers. "Look: it doesn't matter what kind of candy it is, all the same letters are scratched off. H, E, L, P, M, and another E. That can't be coincidence."

Scarcely able to breathe, Neville stared at the wrapper in his hand. DROOBLES BEST BLOWING GUM - THE BUBBLES THAT WON'T POP. He whimpered, "Mummy." How could he have been so stupid?"

"Did she ever scratch off any other letters?"

Harry had to ask the question twice before Neville heard him. "Yes. But only once," he answered slowly. As if moving in a dream, he picked up a stack that was five years old and carefully pulled out one wrapper. DRAGONFLY MINTS - WHEN YOU NEED A BOOST.


They pored over the letters, arranging them over and over again, but could come up with nothing that made sense using all the proper letters.

At last Harry said, "I still think it's a message about the food. WIRD FOOD. That makes sense. Hospital food is always pretty weird."

"But weird has an E in it: W-I-E-R-D," Neville spelled. "And you didn't use the T."

"It makes more sense than your FOR TWO DID. For two what did what?"

"Well, at least I spelled it correctly."

Harry pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose. "Maybe she made a mistake, left out a letter, or scratched off the wrong one?"

"Or maybe it doesn't mean anything," Neville said bitterly. "Maybe it just means she's a nutter."

Harry stared up at him in shock.

"Well, she is, you know. No point in pretending otherwise. They say my parents will never get better."

"It can't just be chance, though. These others - I'm sure they say 'help me'."

"But no one *can* help her, can they? If the doctors at St. Mungo's can't help her, who can?"

Harry fell silent, lowering his eyes to stare at the wrappers. Neville fumed, wanting to snatch the wrappers away from him, as if Harry were committing an act of blasphemy by looking at them. What did Harry know, anyway? His parents were dead and gone. They didn't linger on in a travesty of life that robbed them of all the heroism and nobility they had once possessed. Neville knew his parents had been heroes, every bit as much as the renowned Potters. But he had only ever known them as a silent, unblinking man and a manic, compulsive woman.

Tears stung at his eyes, but he was damned if he would cry in front of Harry. Angrily, he began to gather up the wrappers, replacing the bundles in the box. Harry lay on his stomach on the floor watching Neville in silence, but Neville refused to meet his gaze.

When the last of the wrappers was packed away, Harry said, "I'm really sorry about your parents, Neville."

Neville turned his face away to stare at the wall. He didn't want Harry's sympathy, wanted to throw it right back in his face, but he couldn't. Not when Harry was even more of an orphan than Neville was.

"Maybe," Harry ventured, picking at a worn spot on the carpet, "maybe we should show Lupin the wrappers."

"No." He didn't want Lupin to see either the lunacy of his mother, or the lunacy of their theory.

"Well, we definitely ought to show Hermione when we visit the Burrow tomorrow. She's as smart as any professor. If there's any meaning in it at all, she'll figure it out."

Neville considered this. After all, Hermione had seen his parents at St. Mungo's before, and she had never, ever made fun of him. Maybe it would be all right to tell her. He shrugged. "Okay."

"Right then." Harry pushed himself up and got to his feet. "I think I'm going to go read for a while. I'll see you later, all right?"

Neville nodded, without enthusiasm. He stared at Harry's shoes. Harry just stood there for a while, then the shoes finally turned and walked out of the room, leaving Neville to sit on the floor and think about as little as possible.


A/N: Updates Mondays and Tuesdays.