On a dreary Tuesday morning, Harry Potter was woken up by something other than the insistent press of cat paws into his face by a feline alarm clock. This, in and of itself, would be odd enough, since the lilac kitten was about all that ensured Harry was out of bed before noon. Nonetheless, before the sun had even made an attempt to properly break over the horizon, there was a knock at Harry’s door.
Harry would confess to being a light sleeper these days, and admittedly he doesn’t get many visitors that aren’t the same people he’s been seeing for the past 15 years. And there’s only a handful of people (if you consider the entire surviving Weasley family only part of a handful) that know the actual location of his flat in muggle London. It was probably just Hermione wanting to have breakfast with him before she headed to work, or Ron wanting to take him down to Holyhead to watch Ginny practice. There wasn’t any danger lurking on the other side of his front door. Just a friend looking to get him out of the house.
There wasn’t any reason to be afraid.
Despite those entirely rational thoughts that rolled through Harry’s head, he couldn’t seem to loosen his grip on the edge of his bedsheets as he frantically tried to grab for his wand and his glasses, stashed in two separate locations, with the same hand. He ended up knocking his actual alarm clock onto the hardwood floor, and the noise startled him enough that he froze and tried to hear past the silence of his bedroom and over the blood that rushed through his ears.
The knock continued, haltingly and at an awkward tempo. It paused, then resumed again almost timidly, as if apologetic for its former frantic tone.
Harry swallowed past the toad-sized lump in his throat, and attempted the ‘Take a deep breath, Harry, steady your hands, Harry, you’ll be alright, Harry, you’re not alone, Harry’ that Hermione had impressed upon him. Except he was alone, besides whoever had just woken him up at the ass-end of dawn.
Harry’s inner diatribe was cut short as the knocking continued and gold eyes squinted at him accusingly from the catbed pressed up against the wall underneath his bedroom window. Ron said it was weird that Harry and his cat liked to stare at each other from their respective beds. Hermione said it was sweet that they’d become such great companions, and formed such a comfortable bond so quickly. Harry just liked knowing that there was another living being with him in the dark.
The kitten chirped questioningly. ‘Well? Are you going to answer that or not?’, the look seemed to say. It should be noted that Harry could not actually speak cat. It should also be noted that Harry wasn’t aware, before he owned a kitten of his own, that cats were capable of having different looks. He is now very aware of this feline ability, especially since it was being presented at that very moment.
“Yes, yes, I’m going,” Harry responded, voice still rough from sleep. Mostly to the cat, but also to somewhat to himself because even Harry thought it was just a tad bit barmy to hold full conversations with a small ball of sentient fluff. He grabbed his wand from under his pillow, this time with no alarm clock casualties, and finally put on his glasses. In his peripheral, Harry saw the kitten’s glare become even more disdainful, and she stood with a huff (could cats even huff?). She had apparently deemed that he was taking too long, even though the knocking had only begun maybe one, possibly two minutes ago.
She walked to the doorway of his room, and looked back at him as if to say ‘I’m up now, and I say we’re going to answer this door. Stop your dallying, and let’s get a move on.’ She trotted through the living room, head as high and haughty as a cat’s could be (which is, of course, very). Harry followed obediently.
She plopped, or perhaps an attempt at something more elegantly than a plop, down in front of the door. Her fuzzy tail swished slowly, and she looked up at him expectantly. ‘I’m just here for moral support’
Wand gripped tight in hand, Harry called out “Who is it?” through the door, and received an approving ‘Mraow’ from somewhere near his right foot when his voice only shook marginally.
“It’s Neville, Harry. May I come in?”
Harry slid the chain out, turned the deadbolt, unlocked the knob, and opened the door.
“Neville, is something wrong?” Harry said, stepping to the side so Neville could come in. Harry frowned, taking in Neville’s harried appearance in the dim lighting - his hair was standing in approximately 4 different directions, and his clothes were horribly rumpled. Neville wasn’t known for looking necessarily well put together, but he also wasn’t known for showing up on Harry’s doorstep before dawn.
“Yes, I mean, no, I mean -” Neville sidestepped Harry, and Harry figured the the only reason Neville wasn’t wringing his hands, or ripping out large quantities of his hair, was that his hands were occupied by an inconspicuous wooden box, about the size of a large textbook.
When he was finally inside, and Harry’s front door was closed and re-locked, Neville thrusted the box forward, and Harry was able to read the top which read “DEAR HARRY & NEVILLE” in large block letters. Harry took a step back, unconsciously placing more space between himself and whatever it was about the box that had Neville so… extra Neville-looking.
“I found this,” Neville said, in an approximation of level voice.
“You...found it? Where did you find it, Neville?” Out of the corner of his eye, Harry just barely saw a tiny gray tail leave the room, obviously uninterested with the grungy looking newcomer.
“I was going through some of my parents old things, and I found this,” he thrusted the box forward again, his eyes went a bit frantic. This time Harry reached out to grab Neville’s hands, which he found trembled slightly from holding the box so tightly. “I found this, Harry, and it has our names on it, and I wanted to open it with you, and Merlin, I don’t even know what time it is but I found this box - “
Harry felt several steps behind wherever Neville’s thoughts were, and led his friend over to the brown leather couch Ginny had picked out for his flat, while Neville continued a stream of consciousness speech about The Box. Harry was frankly surprised he hadn’t run out air yet. He guided (pushed) Neville into sitting, and interrupted him before he could actually talk until he was blue in the face.
“Neville,” Harry said firmly, placing his hands on Neville’s shoulders. He forced the taller man to look up from The Box, and into Harry’s eyes. “You found a box.”
Neville nodded slowly, and his eyes widened again. Harry felt Neville’s shoulders tense as he, improbably, gripped the box even tighter.
“Our names are on it, Harry. And it was with my parents’ things. Harry, I’m…” Neville’s sentence trailed off, and his head hung limply between his shoulders as he stared at the box. Harry let go of his shoulders, and thought about what Neville was trying to say.
He’d found a box. With his parents’ things. And it had their names on it. Harry’s mind roiled over the three sentences Neville had practically been chanting since he’d walked in the door.
“Neville, do you think that box belonged to our parents? That it’s for us?” Harry placed a hand over one of Neville’s which were once again shaking.
The room was still too dark for Harry to properly see Neville’s face. His entire body seemed to be shrouded in shadows from every direction. Harry reached over the arm of the couch and flicked on the lap, and for a second wished he hadn’t - it was like trading one set of shadows for another.
Neville’s skin was sallow and pale, and his bloodshot eyes were watery with unshed tears. The hunch in his shoulders and his deep slouch gave off the immediate impression that Neville was a man on his last legs.
“Neville, are you alright?” Harry watched Neville’s face fall even more, if that was at all possible. His bottom lip trembled, and the soft glow of the lamp played on the shadows of his face. Harry himself certainly did not feel okay.
“I couldn’t sleep,” he said quietly. Neville brushed his fingertips lightly over the cover of the box, and as he traced the letters of their names almost reverently, it started to truly sink in for Harry what Neville had just brought through his front door.
“I couldn’t sleep, so I was going through my parents’ old things. Gran never went through it all; I just figured it was too tough for her all these years, rummaging through all their stuff like they’re not here anymore.” Neville paused, as if he was waiting for Harry to interrupt him again; Harry didn’t. When he started up again, his voice was soft and sad. “Most of it was just old documents, papers. Gran already had most of the important stuff. But then I found this box, Harry, and I just had to come right over.”
Harry had the strangest thought that perhaps Trevor had taken up residence in his vocal cords, because he was once again swallowing past a lump in his throat. Harry imagined this was exactly what Neville had been looking for - some hidden gem under a pile of old papers that would completely change everything. But what was one supposed to do when they actually found it?
“Well I suppose we should open it, don’t you think?” Harry didn’t actually know at all what to do in this situation, but sometimes his life required that he pretend.
“But what if…,” Neville’s sentence trailed off, and when he looked up, Harry thought that he hadn’t seen him look so lost since they were taking classes at Hogwarts together. “What if just makes everything worse? How could it possibly make anything better, Harry? My parents are never going to leave St. Mungo’s, and your parents are never coming back. How could whatever’s in this box make that feel any easier?”
Harry cleared his throat, damned Trevor and his apparating, and tried once again to look like had had any idea what he was doing. The war had taken too much from all of them, but it had also helped Neville grow into the person he needed to be. In the very end, when they had almost nothing left to fight with, Neville had hope. It had filled him when Voldemort had expected them all to be empty, and in turn it inspired those around him to keep fighting.
And now Neville had come to him with this box with their names on it, except he was truly empty this time. There wasn’t any of the hope left. Just the afterimages of everything that had been lost to the war, and the hollow space where their parents should have been. He looked as if the entire weight of the world was balanced precariously on his shoulders, and Harry so desperately wanted to lighten his burden.
“I don’t sleep much anymore either,” Harry said. There was no preamble, and Neville looked startled at the confession. “I go on a lot of walks. It’s how I found my cat.” Harry pointed off to Neville’s side, where the kitten was sitting across from them, staring curiously. “Her name’s Winston.”
“Hi, Winston.” Neville waved slowly at the kitten, who gave a small ‘mraow’ in response.
“Most nights I used to just lay in bed and stare at the wall. But ever since I found her, she stays up with me, and I feel a little better. Sometimes.” Neville had remained silent while Harry was speaking, but had moved closer to him on the couch until their knees were touching. “Other times I feel like I’ll just collapse into nothing in the dark, and then I have to do like you, I guess. Get up and do something.”
As if sensing the mood shift, Winston came over and tapped harry on the ankle chirping out a request to be picked up. Harry obliged, and she situated herself comfortably in the small dip where Harry and Neville’s knees met, curled a ball.
“It wasn't fair, what happened to us.” Neville ran a fingertip down Winston’s back while he talked, the box balanced in his lap. He gained a rumbling purr for his attentions. “It wasn't fair what happened to anyone during the war. If anyone understands that it's you and I, Harry. But…”
“Neville - “ Harry began, but he was cut off before he could offer any words of comfort.
“Sometimes I wish I could they could have been selfish.” Neville looked up now, as color blotted back into his face. His cheeks flamed a ruddy blush, and his lips were pursed before he went on. “I wish they could have just run away from it all, and let someone else handle it. I wish we could have done that too. Why couldn’t someone else have saved the bloody world, Harry? Why did it have be us?”
Neville’s voice was high and panicky as his eyes searched Harry’s for answers. Harry thought he hadn’t felt this helpless since he’d had to watch friends and those he loved die around him, without anything he could do to save them. It was definitely a familiar feeling to him, watching a horrible thing happen in front of you, and having no idea how to stop it, fix it, or make it better.
“You don’t wish that, Neville. Not really.” Harry shook his head, partly in disbelief and partly in distress. He reached for Neville’s shoulder, but stopped his hand halfway and pulled it back.
“But I want to mean it, Harry. Wouldn’t it have been easier? I know you, Harry. I know you never wanted to be The Chosen One or The Boy Who Lived,” Neville said, leaning forward while he spoke until their shoulders almost touched. Winston voiced her displeasure at being jostled, and batted at the box still in Neville’s lap with a paw as its contents slid around inside. Neville’s breath was coming fast, and his cheeks darkened even more. “Maybe I wish I wasn’t a hero too.”
“Neville.” Harry’s voice was imploring, trying to get Neville to see a light at the end of the tunnel that Harry couldn’t even see for himself most days. Neville shook his head in reply, as if he was attempting to actually shake off Harry’s words.
“No, no, you don’t understand, - “ he began, but he was interrupted by his own tears, and, dear Merlin, Harry was really going to die of grief for Neville bloody Longbottom in his own damned livingroom. “I wish, I wish -”
“Oh, Neville,” Harry whispered, and grabbed the man’s ruddy cheeks in his hands. They were slippery with tears, and Harry thought it was a good analogy, since at that particular moment it felt like the entire world was slipping through his fingers, one survivor at a time. “You’re a hero because you’re you, Neville. Not the other way around.”
Harry’s throat felt like he was choking on glass, but he kept forcing the words out. This felt like the most important Hero’s Speech he’d ever made, and he’d be damned if he let Neville leave his flat still feeling this way.
“You’re a hero because despite all the hurt and pain, you didn’t run away. You chose to save the world instead. And so did they, Neville. And we are so bloody proud of them for it. They were heroes, and they’d be damned proud of us for being heroes too.”
Harry felt rather than saw the tension bleed out of Neville, and he heard a gentle ‘tap-tap’ as he closed his eyes and let his tears fall on the top of the box. Neville placed his hands on top of Harry’s where they still rested on his cheeks, and he huffed out a breath.
Harry leaned his body forward until his forehead touched Neville’s, and he rubbed the scruff of his hair against Neville’s. “You’re a good man, Neville,” he said, and he closed his own eyes when the combined heat of their breaths fogged up his glassed. “You’re a damned good man, and I’m damned proud of you, too”
He felt like he could have sat there forever, trying to send every big of positivity he struggled to find on a daily basis into Neville through this small bit of contact they had. But the moment was cut short when they were startled apart by the clatter of The Box sliding off Neville’s lap and crashing to the ground. Winston voiced her displeasure at being disturbed from her spot on their knees, and peered over the edge of the couch where the box laid on its’ side, and its contents splayed across the hardwood floor.
Neville released Harry’s hand, and Harry went to do the same to Neville, but not before wiping off the man’s cheeks with the sleeve of his jumper.
They stared at Harry’s floor, where a few photographs and a thick, plastic rectangle laid scattered. Neville bent down to pick them up, and Winston took this as her opportunity to jump down from the couch and climb into the overturned box.
Neville situated the photos in his hands until they were all rightside up, and facing the right way; there were three in total. Harry shifted down the couch so that he was no longer facing Neville, but that they were pressed together from shoulder to thigh. They peered down at the photographs together.
The first was a picture of Harry and Neville, predictably enough. They were facing each other, tiny toddler shoulders shaking with laughter, with Harry’s chubby baby hands smushing Neville’s full cheeks together until his face was almost unrecognizable. Neville’s hands pressed over Harry’s own, and distended his mouth further. It was an eerie, if not entirely innocent replica of the comfort they had just shared, even though the picture had to have been take over 20 years ago.
“What is your utter obsession with my cheeks, mate?” Neville chuckled, looking sidelong at Harry, who had the decency to look indignant.
“Well it’s not my fault they’re the focal point of your face,” Harry said. He grabbed the photo from Neville’s hand, and couldn’t stop the smile that spread over his face in response to Neville’s own. It was nice to see Neville smiling.
Harry’s smile grew even wider when he looked at the next photo Neville was holding.
It was all four of their parents, clothes mussed and hair a mess, standing in front of a banner that said “Happy 1st Birthday Harry & Neville”. They were grinning from ear to ear, and the photo captured James and Frank looking at each other conspiratorially before grabbing their respective wives and kissing them messily on the cheek. Harry and Neville saw their mothers screech in disgust and bat their husbands away, and then the photo reset and began all over again.
Harry didn’t feel the embarrassment that most young adults did at seeing their parents display affection. He feel like he was seeing some of the strongest people he knew (or if you wanted to get grief-stricken about it, didn’t know) share one of the last happy moments of their lives.
Neville sniffed precariously, and rubbed his eyes with one hand and handed the photo to Harry with the other. The final photo lay in his lap, and Harry let out a soft, “Oh, Neville,” for the second time that morning.
It was all six of them, Harry being held by his parents, and Neville by his, standing in front of the birthday banner. Harry and Neville were waving, and Alice and Lily were pressed shoulder to shoulder so they would all fit in the photograph. They were all smiling, and they looked as if no evil in the world could ever steal the happiness they’d found. For a brief moment, Harry felt cheated, because he knew the ending to the story, and it wasn’t a happy one.
He looked over at Neville, whose eyes were lit up as if they were filled with every star in the sky, staring in complete awe at the photograph. And he realized that this was actually exactly how his parents would have liked this story to end. He patted Neville on the shoulder lightly when he took in a watery series of breaths.
“They look so happy, Harry. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen them look this happy. It’s wonderful, isn’t it? Look how wonderful it is!” Neville’s voice had taken on a wistful tone, and he held the photograph up so it was just inches from Harry’s face. Harry couldn’t help but laugh, deep and down from his belly, and nod along with Neville’s enthusiasm.
“It’s wonderful, Neville,” he said, and covered Neville’s hands with his own, so that he could press Neville’s arms back to his sides and lower the photograph from his face. When he could see again, Harry saw him curl around behind himself and grab the black rectangle that had follow out with the photographs.
“And look! There’s this! It’s a…,” Neville turned the rectangle in his hands, inspecting its sides. “I have no idea what this is.”
Harry’s eyes caught on the logo branded on the front, and almost instantly recognized it.
“It’s a Walkman! Blimey, these things are ancient…” He held his hand out, and Neville handed it to him, eyes asking what the hell a Walkman was. Harry answered before he could get the question out. “It can play music, but also record stuff and then play it back.” He flipped it over and saw that there was indeed a cassette tape inside. He figured his mom, the only Muggleborn in the bunch, was probably the one who had originally owned it and modified it for magical use.
Harry pressed what looked to be the play button, and the tape crackled to life, sound pouring out of a speaker that had to have been magically created inside of the music player.
There was a soft “tap-tap-tap” against the microphone, and then:
“Testing, testing, this is James Potter, recording live from the Potter living room, where I am joined by my exhausted compatriots on the evening of August 1st, after a long day of wrangling 1 year olds.”
“Wrangling, James? You make our children sound like hippogriffs!”
“Well, Lily, I can’t help it if they act beastly.”
“Beastly?! The only thing beastly here is you, James, you absolute codger! ‘Oh, my back. Lily, grab Harry, he’s on the broomstick again, I need to catch my breath!’ Honestly if I wasn’t your wife, I’d laugh at you. Actually, I think I will anyway.”
“Do you hear how my wife talks to me, Frank? The injustice of it all, I tell you. Where is the respect? The dignity?!”
“Probably in the rubbish bin with all the diapers we’ve changed.”
“Now that you mention it, Frank, go check on them, would you? And Alice, it’s your turn to pull double duty. Damn my pride, I might literally faint if I have to change another of those boys’ nappies.”
“The absolute bloody hell it is! Besides being an absolute carbon copy of you, James, that boy takes man-sized shites.”
“Alice! The mouth on you since the boys were born! I thought you’d said you were going to try and stop?”
“Oh, bollocks to that, Lily. They’re sleeping, aren’t they? I try, honestly I do, but my mum raised me have a full and varied vocabulary like a good, worldly witch. And that includes a good swear every now and again. And it’s not like Frank is much help. Is’t that right, Frank?”
“I’m afraid I don’t know what you mean, darling, I am the pinnacle of virtuosity and sainthood. And speaking of saints, our little angels are resting comfortably after performing their best hellion routine all afternoon.”
“Oh, we should take a picture before they wake up! I bet they look so precious. If there’s one thing we did correctly, it’s make the most wonderful little babies. Even if mine looks nothing like me.”
“Now, now, Lily. He might have gotten my flowing ebony locks that blow gracefully in the autumn breeze -”
“Bugger me, here we go…”
“ - My golden copper skin that shines in the afternoon sun as if was was enchanted by Merlin himself -”
“This is the man you chose to marry, Lily darling. My dear mother could find you a replacement, just say the word.”
“ - And my dashing good looks, descended from the Indian courtesans of old, as well baring part of my name, strong and firm - but at least he has your eyes, my darling.”
“Oh, is that where you were going with that? Took you long enough.”
“You cannot begrudge a poet for the time it takes him to spin the web of his words.”
“Except you’re not a poet, and I can begrudge you until I’m blue in the face.”
“Aren’t they adorable, Frank? I think my teeth are rotting from how adorable they are.”
“Adorable would indeed be an apt word to describe them. And to think, just one year ago today, adorable James Potter was bawling, seeing his son for the first time.”
“Oi! I wasn’t bawling, it was more like a mild sob.”
“You were bawling, dear.”
“Well how couldn’t I! He came out, and screamed himself pink in the face and… It felt like my heart was breaking into a million damn pieces. And when he opened his eyes, and it was like I was looking into a mirror of yours…”
“James Potter: Teary Father. I never thought I’d see the day, Frank. Can you believe it? If someone had told me 5 years ago that James Potter would have tears in his eyes, talking about his newborn son, I’d’ve laughed in their face and told them they were taking the piss.”
“I can hardly believe it myself, Alice.”
“You’re telling me! I never thought I’d be the settling down type. Domesticity seemed so bland. But Merlin, when that boy smiles at me, it’s like I’m being knocked off my damn feet.”
“It’s like nothing I’ve ever felt before, loving that boy… I get up in the morning, and I want to dedicate my every waking moment to him. The diapers, the late night feedings, the crying - none of it compares to the look in his eyes when he first wakes up in the morning.”
“I really thought I had it all figured out, Lily. I thought I knew the world as far as it could go. But our little Harry… I fall apart everytime I look at him.”
“Oh, Frank, they’re making me cry! Stop it, you two, I’m an auror! I’ll arrest you for this!”
“Alice, I seem to remember quite clearly just the other day when you waxed poetic about how ‘pride did not sufficiently describe the feelings that motherhood had awoken in you’ and how ‘Neville’s soul shined brighter than the sun’.”
“Frank! Whose side are you on, here?!”
“There are no sides, dear, only love. Sentimentality is an unfortunate byproduct of parenthood, I’m afraid. We must live and let live, darling.”
“Is that your ‘Dad Voice’, Frank? If anyone’s a codger here, it’s you. You sound like Dumbledore with all that ‘live and let live’ talk.”
“To be honest, I’m kind of making it up as I go along. It’s not like I know what a Dad sounds like behind closed doors.”
“No, Lily, it’s quite alright - my mother did better by me than that man ever could have. He wasn’t around, and it still burns like a damn Stinging Hex. But I can be there for Neville. Doesn’t matter how many mistakes I make, I’ll be around for that little boy.”
“Frank - “
“No, he’s right, Alice. We have to be around for them. There’s no other option in this. Our jobs are to make the wizarding world a safe place for them, so they can grow up and never have to bleed and fight the way we had to. That’s what we have to do, Lily!”
“I know, James, but - “
“If we can just win this war, if we can can set the foundation, something for them to build on, something to pass on - “
“I want nothing more in the world, James, but - “
“No buts, Lily! I can’t bear the thought of any world except the one where the four of us raise our sons, and get to see them grow up and change the world! He could be the Minister of Magic, one day! He could be anything he damn well pleases, and I’m gonna see it happen. No buts.”
“They’ll blow the whole bloody world away, is what they’ll do. There’s bugger all that could keep me from watching that.”
“...Yeah. Bugger all! Bugger all is gonna keep us from them. I’ll do whatever it takes…”
“Bugger all, she says! Blimey, I’m a mess. Get me a tissue, Frank, I’m sopping.”
“I love you, you utter git.”
“I love you too, my redheaded beauty.”
“Frank, my tissues! I’m leaking all over the gaff!”
The tape clicked, signalling the end of the recording. Winston poked her head out of her new playbox, and cocked her tiny head at the sight of the two wizards, staring blankly at the Walkman. Deeming it wholly uninteresting, she crawled back inside.
“Those were our parents,” Neville said quietly. “Those...those were our parents.”
Harry realized, suddenly, that Neville had never heard his parents converse with lucidity. And Harry had only only seen his parents as memories and apparitions in death. He was torn a little between sobbing uncontrollably, and framing the recorder so that he could pull it out and listen to it as many times as he wanted. For the time being, he just settled on saying:
“Your mum cursed like a barman.” Neville hooted in response, and Harry felt the somberness of his mood fade away.
“She did! She did, didn’t she? She did, she did, she did!” Neville jumped from his seat on the couch, and pumped both his fists above his head. He was a far cry from the broken man that had come through Harry’s front door some time ago. His arms dropped, forearms resting crossed on the top of his head, and the peace on his face made some warm, happy place in Harry’s chest bloom in fondness.
Neville’s rumpled jumper had slid up his stomach just the tiniest bit when he’d put his arms above his head, and there was a small stripe of pale skin visible where his shirt and pants no longer met. He looked like the carefree young man that they’d never had the chance to be, and Harry thought ‘Yes, of course, this is what a happy ending looks like. Why couldn’t I see it before?’
“They loved us so bloody much, Harry. And they would have given anything to have been here for us. But their sacrifices helped save the world, just like ours did, and - “ Neville tilted his head back, and uncrossed his arms until his hands were grabbing his hair, and his face was hidden in the crooks of his elbows. His voice was muffled when he continued, saying “It’s hard to see it sometimes, when I go visit them, and I always feel so damned guilty. But, Merlin, I love them so much I could just burst, Harry. I could burst!”
He thrusted his arms above his head again, as if he was on the most exciting part of a rollercoaster, and was enjoying every second of the ride. Harry knew exactly how he felt, just looking at the joy on Neville’s face. Suddenly compelled, he stood, and before he could regret it, he hugged Neville. His arms were around the taller man’s waist, and his face only came up to his chest, but he squeezed, and tried to say the words ‘I get it, I get it, it feels so goddamned good, and I get it’ through touch alone. Neville’s arms came up around his back, and returned the hug.
‘I know, isn’t it wonderful?’ his hug seemed to say.
Harry pulled back, after “inconspicuously” wiping under his glasses, and chuckled lightly. This was not how he expected his morning to go.
“Well that was something,” he said jokingly. When Neville smiled back at him, Harry’s heart felt a full in the places that had felt vacant before. “And I’ll tell you one thing, I am famished. What do you say to a proper muggle London breakfast, Neville?”
Before Neville could respond, his stomach answered for him, gurgling loudly and signalling its desire for any breakfast, proper or not. Neville rubbed the back of his head sheepishly, and patted his belly.
“I’ll take that as a yes.”
From inside the overturned box, Winston mewed, and decided she was ready to be apart of the conversation. Neville leaned down to pick her up, then cradled her to his chest. Harry had the strangest thought that she’d probably never been up that high before. Could cats get vertigo?
“Why don’t you spend some quality time with Winston and pack up our parents’ things while I go put on some pants suitable for outside?”
Neville was too busy cooing at a purring Winston to respond. Harry shook his head and retreated to his bedroom to get changed and look somewhat presentable. When he returned, the box was packed and on his coffee table, and Neville was waiting at the door. He’d commandeered a small, white cloth basket that Ginny had bought and called a ‘knick-knack basket’, and placed Winston inside. She seemed prepared to come along for their outing.
“All set?” Neville looked up from the kitten, and met Harry’s eyes.
“Yes, but you’re forgetting the box.” Harry pointed to the coffee table where it remained, sitting closed and full of some of the most beautiful memories Harry had ever seen or heard.
“Oh, I thought I’d just leave it here. And maybe I could visit when I want to give it a listen? If...if that’s okay?” Neville’s hands wrung around the hands of the basket, belaying his nervousness.
“That sounds perfect, Neville. I could use some more company of the human kind.” He walked over to join Neville at the front door, and grabbed his keys from the keyrack next to it. “Winston here is a delight, but kitten conversations only go so far.” She mewled, affronted at the disparagement comments toward her conversation skills. Harry appeased her by scratching the underside of her chin, just the way she liked it. Winston accepted his apology.
Neville laughed, a full body laugh that shook his shoulders, and lit up his face, and took years of weight off of his shoulders. He looked happy.
“Well then, let’s head out!” He stepped to the side so that Harry could unlock the door, and swooped one hand outward as if he were a knight making way for a fair maiden. Harry shook his head, snorting at Neville’s antics, and let them all outside.
As he turned to lock the door, he saw the sunrise peeking over the horizon from his bedroom window, bathing his entire flat in an orange hue. He closed the door, locked it, and turned around to Neville to comment on how the weather was actually allowing for sun today.
To his surprise, the soft smile on Neville’s face as he waggled a finger at Winston inside her basket felt just as rewarding as seeing the sun after spending what felt like months in the darkness.
Neville caught him staring, and raised an eyebrow in question.
“Nothing, nothing. Let’s get a move on, shall we?”
They headed down the hallway, and down the stairs, shoulders brushing. The silence between them was comfortable, and was broken only occasionally by Winston’s mewing.
‘Yes,’ Harry thought, ‘This is what a happy ending feels like.’