July 30th, 1985
Neville had been repeatedly told how much he’d grown. He’d opened presents, professed his thanks and kissed seven different old leathery cheeks. Everyone had eaten biscuits and cake and Neville had sipped his pumpkin juice while the adults had had tea.
Now Great-Aunt Enid was setting her cup down. The time, inevitably, had come. “So tell your Great-Aunt, Neville – have you had any excitement lately?”
There’d been a new flower at the edge of the garden last week, one even Gran hadn’t know, one she’d helped Neville find in the Great Book of British Flora after he’d asked the second time. The weekend before that, Hetty had agreed to go on a quest to find the missing crayons that Gran had refused to Accio for again. Yesterday all the nurses at St. Mungo’s had wished him an early happy birthday, and the head nurse had given him a chocolate frog. When the wrapping paper had dropped onto his Mum’s bed, his Mum had picked it up and held it in her hand and later, when the chocolate frog had long been eaten, she had given it back to him!
The time since he’d seen Great-Aunt Enid last had been plenty exciting.
Great-Aunt Enid nodded and smiled. Gran looked away when Neville recounted his visit to the hospital. Great-Uncle Algie fished a handkerchief out of his robe’s pocket and dabbed his eyes.
Neville’s heart was pounding as his speech came to an end. Maybe this time they wouldn’t –
“So... no magical accident, then?”
Neville looked down at the hand his Mum had so carefully put the wrapping paper in. The last time Gran had taken him to Diagon Alley, Old Madam Bones had excitedly told Gran and he all about her Susan turning all of her father’s clothes pink. Dad had been two years old when Great-Uncle Algie’s tobacco pouch had unexpectedly changed into a mitten.
It wasn’t so bad, the head nurse had said. ‘Don’t you worry, Mrs. Longbottom, he’s only turning five.’
Knowing there was no choice, really, Neville made himself look up into Great-Aunt Enid’s wrinkled face and confess, “Not yet.”
July 30th, 1995
It was getting dark, but Neville doubted his progress would be any more... progressful if he reached for his wand and lit a second candle. He’d been sitting at his desk for almost an hour. So far, Dear Harry was all he had written.
Hedwig’s appearance at his window this morning had surprised him. Harry had only penned him a short Happy birthday, mate! on a slip of Muggle paper, but it was still more than Neville had expected. He knew from Ginny that Harry was still at his Muggle relatives’, who didn’t look kindly on their nephew sending letters. And with the Prophet and the Ministry of Magic doing everything they could to deny You-Know-Who’s return... With everything that had to be on his house mate’s mind right now, Neville was caught between happiness and guilt that Harry had remembered Neville’s birthday at all.
If only he could find the words to return the favour. Harry didn’t want to hear about Neville’s futile attempts to practice with his wand every time Gran was out visiting with Ron’s Great-Aunt Muriel or Hannah Abbott’s grandmother or Old Madam Bones, or about the protective charms Great-Aunt Enid had heaped upon him earlier today in lieu of birthday presents. He didn’t need to hear how often Neville thought about Death Eaters using the Cruciatus on Harry, nor the nightmares Neville had had about Harry and Cedric returning to Hogwarts with Cedric still dead and Harry limp and mindless like Neville’s parents.
Gran would lend him Alis if he asked. The old owl might enjoy it if she got to spread her wings and maybe chat with Errol or Hedwig, but, staring down at the parchment that was still mostly empty, Neville wondered if it was worth getting Harry in trouble with the Dursleys if the best he could come up with was a recount of Gran cancelling her subscription to the Prophet in a fit of rage.
July 30th, 2005
“It’s not too late to change your mind, you know,” Draco murmured upon catching Neville’s wary look at the tea table.
“I know,” Neville said. Yet as tense as he was, he still felt so much more relaxed than when they'd first arrived at the French Riviera mid-June after his first year of teaching. There had been a reason for Draco's only half-joking ban on any school-related thoughts until August.
He sighed. His elderly relatives might have reluctantly accepted Draco’s inclusion in their family reunions, but that didn’t mean Great-Aunt Enid wouldn’t screech and blanch at the scandal of such a celebration being held at the Malfoy summer residence. It would matter little that Neville had only seen the elder Malfoys once at the beginning of the summer holidays, after which they’d spent Draco and Neville’s entire stay at Mrs. Zabini’s townhouse in Vienna.
“Winky can move all this to Augusta’s garden terrace. Say the word, and she’ll do it.”
Neville looked away from the house where they had spent the better part of a month in a bed even more luxurious than the one at Malfoy Manor, and out toward the beach that was part of the property, where they’d been going swimming every morning and afternoon. Regardless of whose residence it was – it had been a place for them to just spend time together. Even with Draco’s spousal access to Neville’s quarters at Hogwarts, adjusting to their lives now that Neville was teaching had not been the easiest thing.
Now, Draco had developed a hint of a tan for the first time in his life. Neville hadn’t thought of the time he’d almost drowned at Blackpool Pier after that first swim.
“Remus will be here,” he reassured both Draco and himself. The man was a calming influence unto his own. Gran’s mere presence would prevent any offended guests from leaving. If the worst happened and Great-Uncle Algie threatened to join Great-Aunt Enid in the screeching, Neville knew he could rely on seven-year-old Teddy for distraction.
Neville had enjoyed looking after Lucius’ tentative rose bushes, had relished going through the pile of books that Narcissa must have left especially for him.
“I’m not changing my mind,” he decided. A minute later, Winky popped away to deliver the port-key at Gran’s.