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Neville Longbottom in the Garden of the Hesperides, Chapter 2 - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
Neville Longbottom in the Garden of the Hesperides, Chapter 2
Well, I took a couple of days off, but I'm getting back to work. I'm starting chapter 6 soon.

Since these were written at a breakneck pace, followed by a breather, then another breakneck pace without checking back, I'd appreciate anyone saying, "Um... you're contradicting your own story there..." or "Really, it's not spelled that way." :p

Anyway, shall we check in with the fully parented Harry?


Chapter 2
The Most Helpful Tree


In the ten years since the war ended, the remaining members of the Longbottom family had had cause to be glad that they lived in the countryside.

The celebrations had begun almost immediately, before Frank and Alice were even properly in the ground. The Death Eaters were in disarray, and the Aurors were able to tell that Lord Voldemort had been blasted out of existence when he turned his wand on baby Neville. The country was ecstatic (except for the Death Eaters and their supporters, of course), and they didn't care a bit that one old woman had lost everything except for a small child, who was too young to remember the people he lost.

Augusta had been glad to be far removed from the celebrating towns that day. Lily Potter had created a protective barrier around the grounds, and had patrolled it herself to keep the revelers off of Augusta and Neville. The remnants of that protection remained even now, deterring most uninvited wizarding visitors.

There were quite a few.

Neville was, after all, The Boy Who Lived. Augusta had put her foot down on merchandising. They'd wanted to make dolls and write biographies. How they imagined they would write a biography of a one year old child was a bit of a mystery.

This didn't stop the adulation. Every time Augusta was forced to take Neville out, people pointed and stared and gaped at him. He was asked for his autograph before he knew how to write. People wanted him to do magic, even though he was underage, out of school, and wandless.

The lightning shaped scar on his forehead made him instantly recognizable, and he hated it for that reason. Here, in his garden, he could push his hair back out of his face, but if he went out into the world, he did his best to hide it… which often led to disapproving tuts from Gran, since she told him that he oughtn't be ashamed of who he was, that it was somehow disrespectful to his parents to hide the scar from his infancy.

So their isolation was something of a blessing.

Neville, like his grandfather, preferred puttering in the garden to nearly any other activity -- certainly to being adored by complete strangers -- and his garden was the best one he knew, bursting with healthy plants and buzzing with bees. Frogs croaked in the little pond he'd dredged up, and trees and flowers reached exuberantly to the sky.

This was his great pride, but no one seemed impressed by it. It wasn't what they wanted from the hero of the wizarding world.

They wanted to know how powerful he was, what magic he'd accessed even as a baby that was able to defeat the most terrifying Dark wizard that any of them had ever heard of.

If they could see more of Neville than they did, they would be very disappointed. They'd see the lightning scar on his forehead, and then they'd want him to dazzle them.

He had not, as far as he knew, ever performed even the most rudimentary accidental magic. He knew other children, and he knew that most of them had magical mishaps. His best friend, Harry Potter, used to burst into feathers when they were very small. The Patil girls, who were in Neville's Little Magicians troop, had once actually bound their hands together when they got frightened and ran off holding hands. Even Hannah Abbott, a quiet girl whose father owned a gardening supply shop in Diagon Alley, had made birds appear.

Neville -- the Boy Who Lived, the Boy Who Defeated Voldemort Singlehandedly -- had not so much as made a cup of tea stay hot. He wasn't supposed to hear it, but he knew that the adults sometimes talked after he went to bed. Gran had asked Professor Dumbledore if it was possible that the attack on him had left him a Squib. Dumbledore had said he didn't think so, but had also taken the time to counsel her on what her options were, if it were the case. Neville had listened to this conversation through a heating vent in the floor when he was seven. Gran had never said anything to him directly, but she'd obtained a large number of books on the subject of Squibs, and often assured him that she valued him regardless of his ability to do magic.

It didn't take much deductive skill from there.

And now, he was almost eleven, almost Hogwarts age, and if he turned out not to have magic, what was he going to do? It wasn't like he could handle the classes at Hogwarts if he couldn't use a wand. He was useless. He'd end up in Muggle school for sure.

He sighed, and spooned fertilizer -- just a little -- onto a patch of daffodils by the pond. A frog blinked at him calmly from a rock.

Then he felt a rush of air, and a shadow zipped by overhead.

"Neville!" Harry Potter cried from the broomstick. His little gold-rimmed glasses flashed in the sun. "Come on! It's time to go!"

Neville got to his feet. "Go?" He blinked. "What? And is that…?"

"It's mine," Harry said. He flew around the garden in a circle, then did a twisting sort of loop in the air and came down beside Neville, dismounting with a fancy, flourishy step that he must have picked up from his father. "Dad got the new Nimbus, and he said I could have the old one."

"First years can't have broomsticks," Neville said cautiously.

Harry shrugged. "I'm going to try for Quidditch. If you're on the team, you can have a broomstick. Are you going to try?"

Neville laughed. "Me? Harry, come on. I probably won't even go to Hogwarts."

"Don't be stupid," Harry said, frowning. He threw an arm over Neville's shoulders, and led him up the path toward the house. "Dad's in the kitchen," he said. "He left Vi and Pete with Moony. We're going to Diagon Alley to get things for The Birthday."

Harry's and Neville's birthdays were a day apart, and they always celebrated together, alternating whose actual day to use each year. This year, it would be Harry's birthday on the thirty-first. The celebration was never referred to as either Harry's or Neville's birthday, though. It was just The Birthday, a proper noun that referred to both of them or neither.

Neville wasn't sure he was going to be very celebratory this year. Harry and the rest of their friends would all be talking Hogwarts and Quidditch. Neville would figuring out Muggle buses, he supposed, and learning to play kickball. Or toeball. Some sort of foot-related ball, anyway.

"You're not still on about being a Squib, are you?" Harry asked. "That's not what all of this is about!"

"Well, if I am, then -- "

"You're not!" Harry stopped and shook his head, frustrated. "Look at your garden!"

"That's not magic, it's just growing things."

"I can't grow things. I'll probably fail Herbology. I think you have magic, and all of it goes into the daffodils. That's what Moony says, anyway." He grinned. "Are you coming to London or not?"

"Wait, London's on the table?"

"Didn't I say?"

"You said you and your dad were going."

"Right, to get things for The Birthday. Shouldn't we be part of it? It's our birthday, after all."

He didn't really pause for an answer. He just assumed Neville would be a part of things, because Neville was always a part of things. He'd been Harry's constant companion years longer than Harry's sister and brother (and Harry claimed to prefer him greatly to either of them.)

Neville didn't put up an argument.

They went into the kitchen, where Gran had managed to get Harry's dad, James, to sit down for tea. Getting James to sit down was often as difficult as getting Harry to. This wasn't surprising to anyone. The two of them were a lot alike. James just looked like a taller Harry who needed a shave and had different color eyes. Neville had always been a little in awe of him. He ran the Potter household and could do every repair spell and every cleaning spell. And he was a great flyer. Neville had once asked what his job was and he said, "Well, Neville, I am a Gentleman of Leisure." He had pronounced this like it was the greatest job ever. He also coached the Hollow Men, the Godric's Hollow youth Quidditch club. (This annoyed Harry to no end, because James was really careful not to always put Harry "up front," which meant that he often didn't get to be in games even when he really was the best person on the team.) Now that Harry was big enough to look after himself and the littler ones during the days, he'd taken a position as assistant coach for Tutshill, which made him even more amazing, though once Harry was in school, Neville supposed he'd have to give that up.

You have your own father to idolize, Gran said in his head. He did something more important than flying a broomstick.

Gran made Neville and Harry sit down for biscuits and tea as well, mostly to make them practice their manners, and James seemed to take perverse delight in making extremely dull conversation while he watched Harry squirm, but eventually, it was over. James told Gran how delightful it was, then led the boys to the fireplace. A moment later, they were all spilling out of the public floo in the middle of Diagon Alley.

"I do like your Gran," James said. "She's got a lot of spunk."

Neville smiled, and started coming his fringe forward with his fingers. "Thanks."

James raised his wand. "I'll get that," he offered, then Neville felt his fringe suddenly get thicker and longer.

"Thanks," he said. "Gran doesn't like it when --"

"We won't tell her," James said. "I don't think she remembers what it's like to be nearly eleven."

"Can we head to Gambol and Japes?" Harry asked.

"Well, I need to pick up food. I was going to Jiggles bakery. The cake?"

"Could we go alone?" Harry asked.

Neville expected a quick refusal, but James just shrugged. "All right. Hands up. Both of you."

Harry raised his hands, putting them palm up. Neville, confused, followed suit.

"Dad's new spell," Harry said. "Longer leash."

James tapped their upraised hands. "That'll start to tingle in forty minutes. That will be your cue to head for the Leaky Cauldron. If you're not there in ten minutes, you'll find yourself late to a very important date."

"In other words," Harry said, "we'll become rabbits, like in Alice in Wonderland."

"And it's very easy to find giant talking rabbits in Diagon Alley," James said. "Go on, now. I'll see you for lunch. I'll see if Mum can join us."

He turned his back without giving them a second look.

"I can't believe he's letting us go alone," Neville said. "Gran would never let me…"

"He was going to ask her inside," Harry told him. "Dad thinks it's good practice for being at school." He led the way down toward Gambol and Japes joke shop. The streets were crowded. Some kids were already shopping at Madam Malkin's, and there was a group oohing and ahhing at Quality Quidditch Supplies. ("The new Nimbus," Harry said. "I'll show you Dad's at the party.") By the time they approached the door, they'd settled into a pleasant conversation about what sorts of things they wanted to have for The Birthday. There were spells and charms you could rent, and Neville was keen to rent one of the enchanted tents, with a circus inside of it.

"I don't know," Harry said. "All the animals are fake. Maybe Moony could bring real animals. He's friends with Professor Kettleburn at the school, and they have unicorns there. A unicorn would be good."

"Nah," Neville said as they passed under the old plane tree. "They don't like to be paraded around. I wanted one for the garden, and Gran gave me the whole song and dance about not treating animals like decorations."

"You have frogs and all the toads!"

"I gave them a place to live, and they came to live in it."

"Oh." Harry shrugged. "Maybe we could do knights again."

"Maybe. But how about --"

"Well, well," a voice said from behind the tree. "Look who it is."

Neville pushed his bangs further down against his scar, hoping against hope that the boy whose voice had appeared would have forgotten him. It worked sometimes. That was why he liked to cover the thing in public -- he looked like a million other boys in England, and sometimes, if he didn't mention his name or show his scar, people never made the connection at all.

No such luck.

Draco Malfoy came around into view. He had white blond hair and pale blue eyes. "It's the chosen one, and his little half-Mudblood servant." He directed this last at Harry with great disdain, then looked at Neville. "Can Mudbloods even make good servants?"

"Harry's my friend," Neville said. "And so is his mother."

"Of course she is." He wrinkled his nose. "You blood traitors are disgusting."

"There are two of us here, Malfoy," Harry said. "And only one of you."

"I see one blood traitor and one nobody who imagines himself to be important."

"Which stacks up pretty well against a fart in the wind like you!" Harry drew back his arm.

That was when the other two boys jumped down from the branches of the tree.

They were both bigger than Draco Malfoy, and considerably bigger than Harry and Neville.

"These are Crabbe and Goyle," Malfoy said. He pointed at Neville. "And this is the Boy Who Lived. Show him proper respect, boys."

"Leave him alone," Harry said.

"Or what?"

Harry didn't answer in words. He ran at the bigger of the two newcomers. This was standard Harry Potter strategy. He always ran in.

It never worked.

The boy caught him mid-stride, laughing, and used his momentum to throw him to the ground. His glasses went flying, then came down to crash on the cobblestones. Harry himself skidded into them, and even from several feet away, Neville heard something crack.

Harry, who was utterly blind without his specs, got up, aiming his fists clumsily at the mountainous boys.

Neville didn't have any choice. He jumped in. He leapt onto Malfoy's back, figuring that, first, he was big enough to take Malfoy, and second, Malfoy was apparently the one giving the orders. "Tell them to back off!" Neville said.

"I don't think so." Malfoy slammed himself backward, shoving Neville into the tree and shaking him free. He took a few steps forward without looking back.

Then the extraordinary thing happened.

From the wide-spaced branches of the plane tree, long green vines dropped down, writhing like snakes. One grabbed Malfoy and yanked him up off his feet. Two more grabbed the others, Crabbe and Goyle, bringing them up until they were hanging by their ankles from the high branches.

Neville stared at the scene, jaw hanging down.

"How did you do that?" Malfoy demanded. "How did you do that, Potter?"

Harry felt around on the street until he found his glasses, then got up and shrugged. "Not me," he said. "That's what happens when you tickle the sleeping dragon." He grinned at Neville, who had no idea what he was talking about. "Serves you right. He beat Voldemort. Did you think he was going to have trouble with you?"

The door of Gambol and Japes opened, and the wiry little man who ran the place came out.

"What's the matter with you boys?" Mr. Gambol asked. "No one fights by my shop! This is a place for fun, not…" He looked at the boys in the tree. "Not whatever that is." He made a quick slicing motion with his wand, and all three boys fell down onto cushions he quickly Conjured. "All of you get out of here. You can't come in today."

Malfoy and his friends darted off toward Knockturn Alley.

"Thanks," Harry said. "We thought they'd never go."

"I mean you, too, Mr. Potter," Gambol said. "I swear, you can make anything into trouble."

Harry squinted at him. "We didn't start this!"

"I don't care." Gambol stormed back into his shop.

"Well, that's hardly fair," Harry said.

"He doesn’t like fighting," Neville said. "Come on. We can do something else until it's time to meet your dad."

Harry sighed and looked down at his glasses. "No. We better find him now. Or, you know, you'd better. I can't see him." He shook his head. "First thing at Hogwarts, I'm going to learn how to fix my own glasses." He put his hand on Neville's shoulder. "Onward, Guide! You'll need to be my eyes now."
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Comments
From: (Anonymous) Date: November 12th, 2016 01:14 am (UTC) (Link)
Would I be correct in assuming that by Teddy's time, being a Squib and going to Muggle school isn't perceived as much of a death sentence as it is during Harry's time?

It's astounding the difference a different upbringing gives Harry. Be it his assertive-from-the-start attitude to the little things like the material of his glasses.

"... we'll become rabbits, like in Alice in Wonderland."
Okay that makes me wonder a bit. In the books, works of literature aren't mentioned. Do you think it's just a case of it not being brought up to preserve narrative tightness, or does Harry have the benefit of having parents who care about Muggle literature? I recall you raising the subject of the Wizarding world potentially being a creativity wasteland; of course, it could just be Andromeda having a chip on her shoulder.

-- FFR
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 12th, 2016 02:45 am (UTC) (Link)
going to Muggle school isn't perceived as much of a death sentence as it is during Harry's time?
I doubt it would ever be a happy thing for a family to know that their child wasn't able to follow the family's traditions. I don't think for Neville it's a question of shame or whatnot. I think of being a Squib as something like being blind or deaf, in wizarding terms. It's not a death sentence. It's nothing to be ashamed of. It might even have some pride movements attached. But the parents would likely see it as their child having been deprived of some essential sense.

I think the choice not refer to other fiction was just a narrative choice; I doubt it's a world where no one reads or sees movies.
From: (Anonymous) Date: November 17th, 2016 09:52 am (UTC) (Link)
I doubt it's a world where no one reads or sees movies

Except that throughout the books Ron, representing an "authentic" wizard family and background, is completely ignorant of the most basic iconic Muggle folk literature, i.e. fairy tales.

Unless you suggest that it is specifically those that wizards are unaware of, except that so much of Muggle culture draws on those archetypes.

Sirius, OTOH, I totally see getting into Muggle culture, first as a rebellion, then as a point of principle, as you write him.

Shloz

PS Love this, btw. Love all your writing, even if PJ isn't my cup of ambrosia.
mk_tortie From: mk_tortie Date: November 12th, 2016 09:59 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh, I love that you are writing HP again! And this is wonderful. I'm very much enjoying it so far. I like that Neville is still 100% Neville, despite being the Boy Who Lived.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 13th, 2016 09:52 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm something of an essentialist, I guess -- I figure different boys with inherently different personalities aren't going to turn into one another because of circumstance.
From: (Anonymous) Date: November 12th, 2016 04:02 pm (UTC) (Link)
I've been reading your fiction for years but I've never commented before, and thought it was time to rectify that. I even read The Hunger Games in order to have the background for your fics!

I am delighted that you've returned to HP, and an AU, no less! Can't wait to see what you do with this.

One teeny, tiny nitpick. This is not my reason for commenting, but you did ask people to point stuff out. Your use of British words and idioms is usually spot on, and you have mostly correctly referred to Neville's fringe as a fringe. But when the boys bump into Malfoy you suddenly have Neville flattening his bangs.

Thanks again, and I'm excited to read more as iv comes.

Jo.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 13th, 2016 09:53 pm (UTC) (Link)
:facepalm: I kept catching myself doing that and I thought I'd gotten them all. One must have slipped by!

I haven't done a full-on AU for a while. A few little scenarios, including this one, but I haven't done a full-length one since I was writing Star Wars stuff.
beceh From: beceh Date: November 12th, 2016 10:47 pm (UTC) (Link)
Really enjoying this :)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 13th, 2016 09:53 pm (UTC) (Link)
Glad to hear it!
From: (Anonymous) Date: November 13th, 2016 04:17 am (UTC) (Link)
I love that Harry and Neville are still very much themselves in their different circumstances, and the parallelism you're keeping up with Neville's first sign of magic. I very much look forward to its aftermath! I'll be interested to meet Vi and Pete. (I wonder what's happened to Peter in this 'verse?) It was delightful to see James, though I wonder whether he'd be "Mr. Potter" to Neville, à la Weasleys? Also delighted and selfishly relieved that Moony's professorship remains imminent; it occurred to me to worry about whether he might have been Dora's schoolteacher, which would have compounded things for them. We can also look forward to seeing him start teaching in happier circumstances.
Can't wait to see where this goes!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 13th, 2016 09:56 pm (UTC) (Link)
I promise, we'll get to Peter, though the fact that James named one of his sons for him is a start on things being different.

I think the Weasley parents are more old-fashioned, in a way. James is more of the, "Oh, my name's James" sort. Considerably younger than the Weasleys, after all -- he and Lily were only 20 or 21 when Harry and Neville would have been born.

Ahem... Lupin's been at Hogwarts for four years. He's definitely been Dora's classroom teacher. Of course, it may take a while (if it happens) for him to see her any other way.
shiiki From: shiiki Date: November 13th, 2016 07:45 pm (UTC) (Link)
Ooh, I really like dad!James! You've got just the right hint of Marauder-ness mixed in with responsible parenting, and I find it so amusing that he's the stay-at-home dad while Lily goes off to work as an Auror, but it makes loads of sense.

I like that Neville is still his shy, awkward, afraid-that-he's-going-to-be-a-Squib self, and what a great way to show off his accidental magic, with the vines. Harry's right--Herbology skills are magic, even if they aren't quite as showy.

I'm loving all the glimpses of you brought all the characters into this AU. They are all still very recognisable even with the timeline change.

The one nitpick I might have is the transition between these two paragraphs:

This didn't stop the adulation. Every time Augusta was forced to take Neville out, people pointed and stared and gaped at him. He was asked for his autograph before he knew how to write. People wanted him to do magic, even though he was underage, out of school, and wandless.

The lightning shaped scar on his forehead made him instantly recognizable, and he hated it for that reason. Here, in his garden, he could push his hair back out of his face, but if he went out into the world, he did his best to hide it… which often led to disapproving tuts from Gran, since she told him that he oughtn't be ashamed of who he was, that it was somehow disrespectful to his parents to hide the scar from his infancy.


It moves from 'Augusta' to 'Gran' in the next one, so it felt a bit odd moving from the third-person omniscient narrative into Neville-PoV. (Although to be fair, JKR sets us such a great example of it in PS/SS, doesn't she? :D)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 13th, 2016 09:58 pm (UTC) (Link)
I was deliberately mimicking JKR in PS/SS in that sort of "zoom-in" paragraph. Hello, POV character. :D

I figure Lily is a working class girl with an ingrained sense that she ought to be doing something for her salary, while James is from an old family where it wouldn't be unheard of to live on prior accumulated wealth and interest rather than going into a trade.
From: (Anonymous) Date: November 13th, 2016 08:25 pm (UTC) (Link)

Well that should...

Put paid to any of Neville's worries about being a Squib quite nicely. Extremely appropriate that when he finally managed some overt magic, it should involve plants going into "protector" mode. And it's sweet to see Harry with loads more self confidence, but still having the perceptiveness and sensitivity to understand the deep gift that Neville has with plants. Not everyone who attempts to garden is as spectacularly successful, especially when they're barely 11!

I'm so grateful for a new "Harry Potter" story from you just at this time, and I think this is a fantastic premise. I can't help wondering, though, why Bellatrix didn't go after Harry's parents in this universe the way that she went after Neville's parents in the canon universe.

Sara Libby
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 13th, 2016 10:00 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Well that should...

I toyed with the idea of Harry being a James-ish brat for a while, but I couldn't make it work. James himself would know what to look for, Lily wouldn't put up with it, and, most important, it's Harry. He's never going to be a great one for getting along with, say, Malfoy, but if someone is in his sphere, caretaking seems to be his instinctive response.
From: (Anonymous) Date: November 13th, 2016 10:10 pm (UTC) (Link)
Now I'm getting seriously intrigued. Like the commenter above I'm wondering what happened to the Lestranges and Barty Crouch jnr in this reality, and about what impact the changes might have had on Hogwarts - with Lily still alive is Snape his usual self?

Looking forward to more
Cate
mylla From: mylla Date: November 14th, 2016 04:59 am (UTC) (Link)
This story is so much fun! I am actually just re-reading PS at the moment, and so now I'm reading through the filter of "how would this change"? I'll be fascinated to see your take. I can't imagine much being the same for Harry, since he already has friends going in (whether he becomes best friends with Ron or Hermione is questionable), he already knows he can fly (may actually mean he doesn't end up playing Quidditch, perversely - since the way McGonagall "discovers" him may not happen)... so much to play with.
sueatducksfoot From: sueatducksfoot Date: November 15th, 2016 04:26 am (UTC) (Link)
I am really enjoying this. I listened to the chapter today and was really struck by Neville. I love that he thinks he's a squib and that his magic comes out in plants. I've always enjoyed Neville's love of plants and I can see his magic coming to him through the plants. I like seeing Harry as his friend in this. I can see Harry as jumping in with both feet and dang the consequences. I'm glad you are writing this and I have the next chapter loaded and ready to listen to tomorrow.
tec4 From: tec4 Date: January 18th, 2017 06:28 pm (UTC) (Link)

LOVE this!

In the words of Johnny Mathis: "Wonderful, wonderful!" I'm absolutely buying into this ...

I love that James is a "househusband". :)
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