Too tired to deal with Ron and Wood complaining about his broom together, Harry claimed he needed an early night and meandered up to his dorm. He wasn’t remotely tired yet. When Harry finally stepped inside, he saw that he wasn’t the only one who didn’t want to deal with the crowded, noisy common room. “How was your Christmas, Neville?” he asked.
The blond boy looked up from his book, The Herbology Journal of Emily Frann, and smiled at Harry in the doorway. “Pretty good. I’ve got to remember to thank Hermione for this book; it’s excellent.”
Harry shook his head in amusement. “I don’t know how she does it,” he admitted. “She even finds books that I think are interesting.” Neville laughed.
“Actually, Harry, I wanted to ask you about something.”
Harry shrugged and sat down beside Neville. “Sure.”
“Have you ever ridden on the Knight Bus?” said Neville with a shrewd look.
The question took Harry off guard. He took a moment to process Neville’s question before he gulped and felt his cheeks begin to turn red. The previous summer he had run away from the Dursley’s after blowing up his awful Aunt Marge, who had been insulting his parents relentlessly all week. He had then accidentally summoned the Knight Bus, and when the conductor, Stan Shunpike, asked his name, Harry had told him he was Neville Longbottom. Stan had later discovered the truth, but Harry had no doubt that if Neville had ridden the bus, then Stan had probably mentioned it.
“I think I’ll take that very guilty expression as a confession…” Neville grinned. “Did you really tell them you were me?”
“Yes,” Harry groaned. “I’m really sorry, Neville, it just sort of slipped out! I thought the Ministry was going to be after me for accidentally blowing up my aunt.”
Neville snorted. “I have a few relatives I wish I could blow up too. What did she do?”
“Oh, she was going on about how my parents were drunken wastrels who saddled my good, generous relatives with the burden of their son,” said Harry. “I think she might’ve implied that there was something wrong with my Mum that got passed on to me, but I was too mad to pay much attention at that point.”
“That’s terrible!” cried Neville indignantly. Then his expression turned very strange. “Harry… you know that’s not true, don’t you?”
Harry shrugged. “Well yeah, I guess. People here are always telling me how great they were, and I have pictures now, but I don’t really know much about them.”
There was a short pause while Neville seemed to contemplate something. Then he turned back to Harry determinedly. “Your Mum was always laughing,” he said, to Harry’s surprise. “Her favorite color was green, and her favorite robes were yellow, even though they looked awful with her hair. She hated flying, and her favorite subject was Charms, I think.”
“How d’you know all that?” asked Harry, shocked.
Neville blushed. “Our Mums were best friends in Hogwarts,” he said. “Whenever I asked Gran about mine, your Mum was always part of the story. I have a few pictures of them together.” He shuddered. “Those yellow robes were rather… unforgettable.”
It was just occurring to Harry that, if Neville lived with his Gran, something had obviously happened to his parents too. He was about to question Neville further about it when Dean and Seamus came bouncing into the dorm.
“Hey Harry, Neville!” Dean waved.
“Yeah, hi,” said Seamus, who was laughing at a drawing Dean had made. “Good Christmas?”
“Yes,” said Harry and Neville. The two best friends seemed satisfied and hurried over to Seamus’ bed. It sounded as though Dean were making another funny picture, because Seamus kept saying things like, “Perfect!” and “Add another one here.”
It didn’t seem like a good idea to ask Neville about his parents when Dean and Seamus were right there, so Harry made a mental note to ask him later and instead sent Neville a joking grin.
“So, do I have permission to use your name whenever I feel the need to hide from the Ministry?”
Neville laughed. “Only on the Knight Bus,” he said. “Otherwise use your cousin’s name or something.”
“Deal,” said Harry.
“Plus, I won’t even tell my Gran on you,” Neville added as they shook on it. “I don’t know whether she’d try to take you down several pegs, or brag to everyone she knows how Harry Potter impersonated her grandson.”
“Please, neither of those things!” Harry pretended to beg. “Save me from the clutches of your Gran, Neville!”
Neville rolled his eyes and shoved him off the bed.
Just then, Ron entered the room as well. “Hey Neville,” he said, before turning to Harry. “Harry--what are you doing on the floor?”
“Oh, you know, just begging Neville here not to sic his Gran on me,” said Harry, standing up. Neville snorted quietly. “Did you and Wood get tired of insulting McGonagall?”
Ron glanced mutinously out the door and shook his head. “Wood’s gone to see her about the Firebolt,” he explained. “Hermione better watch out if he can’t get it back!” Harry nodded in agreement.
That night, after everyone else had gone to sleep, Harry shuffled out of bed to look through the window. The grounds were covered in snow, with lots of footprints going who knew where trailing across it, but Harry was still thinking about what Neville had said. He didn’t have many pictures of his Mum in his album. She only began to appear around what he guessed was his parents’ sixth year. Harry hadn’t seen any hint of ugly yellow robes, or known that she laughed all the time. He was a little annoyed that Neville knew more about his mother than he did, but Harry reasoned that it wasn’t his friend’s fault. Maybe Neville would show Harry his pictures sometime; it would be cool to learn more about Lily Potter. Plus, Harry wanted a chance to ask Neville about his own parents privately.
Harry sighed a little and crawled back under his covers. Maybe someday, he would work up the courage to actually ask, instead of just thinking about it.
Over the next weeks, long Dementor lessons with Lupin, Quidditch, and homework would drive the photo album and Neville’s parents completely out of Harry’s mind. He never did remember his resolve to ask Neville about his parents; at least, not that year.