Title: Memory is a Complicated Thing 2/2
Pairing: Neville/Ginny, Frank/Alice
Summary: You have to know the past, to understand the present.
Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter in any way shape or form. The characters are not my intellectual property. And since the plot comes from the universe Rowling created, it's technically not mine either.
Author's Notes: mosaic, writing these pairings forced me outside of my normal 'comfort zone', but I tried to oblige in everything you wanted. And, hopefully, you like more than porn, because you got horcruxes…and an explanation for the bubble gum wrappers…and lots of writing. Hope I fulfilled your request satisfactorily, enjoy the fic!
It was many hours later when Ginny found herself on Neville's doorstep. It hadn't been an easy feat, getting to the door of his large and sprawling ancestral home, considering they had the place warded to no end, full of repelling jinxes as well for any intruders. Someone inside would have had to have disabled a few spells for her to get this far, and since she doubted that someone was Augusta Longbottom, it meant Neville was inside, knowing she was coming from the moment she appeared at the front gate.
This was the first time she had been to his home. He himself didn't entertain much, considering who he lived with, and he'd only been to her flat once or twice before, and usually only to pick her up and go for afternoon tea or something similar. But, today she felt the urge to come check up on him – she couldn't not after that afternoon. She herself had pulled out of the penseive after Neville's parents had started to, well – have sex, but Neville despite having been averting his eyes and grimacing painfully when the act occurred, had been in the penseive's memories for longer, trying to know whatever he could about his parents. She knew she hadn't missed much, considering more of the other memories had been less well formed – but to him she was sure they meant everything.
She herself had felt uncomfortable watching those private moments in the Longbottom's lives, and not just the sex that had resulted – and she was studiously not thinking about members of the Order watching that like some bloody voyeurs. No, everything they'd been able to recall was so bloody intimate, at the time she'd no idea what Moody and the rest expected to gain from it.
When she'd stopped by Grimmauld Place after, and demanded to know more that she could pass onto Neville, to try and let him know this wasn't just all in vain, she'd been gratified to know it had helped them make progress. They'd been able to analyze the scenes dispassionately and pick up on details she hadn't been able to.
Neville opened the door when she knocked, dressed in sweats and a raggedy old top that said "Herbologists do it dirty" - a good indication his grandmother was from home. "Hey Ginny," he said softly, giving her a smile that his heart wasn't obviously in, "I wasn't expecting to see you tonight."
He motioned her in, and she could see an ornate sitting room off the main hall, although part of the floor was covered in photo albums, and random paraphernalia. Hanging above the fireplace, as she could tell after the penseive experience that afternoon, was a portrait of Neville's dad, preening in his auror's robes after being promoted to head field auror. Since she had a rough idea of their timeline, she knew that was A.A. (after Alice), and she could just imagine the other woman off to the side, rolling her eyes in exasperation at his demeanor and the fact he'd got promoted ahead of her.
"I've been to Grimmauld Place," she said by way of explanation, not sure how to express as well that she had simply been worried about him, "they used the things mentioned in your parents memories to piece together at least one thing so far – that portrait in that woman's Janice's study, that your mum had been suspicious about, apparently it's something important to Voldemort, that needs to be destroyed….well, they were bloody ambiguous in what that means, but you could feel the excitement since they'd claimed it and arrested her, and her little old mother."
"Your parents have helped immeasurably," she finished, wanting to reassure him, but Neville seemed distracted, only nodding at her statement.
Awkwardly, she motioned towards the mess in the sitting room, "Yours?"
Again, he nodded, but walked into the other room with the expectation she would follow – which she did, out of curiosity if nothing else. "I'm trying to take more of a trip down memory lane," he said quietly, indicating the spread around him, "I got them out of the family vault while Gran was out. She doted on my dad, still does really, but she won't let reminders of them outside of official and important ones be strewn about the house. I've never quite figured out the why of it for her, but I think it's simply too painful. She doesn't even go to visit them anymore, you know."
Ginny nodded, for indeed she did know, but Neville was continuing, sinking to his knees on the floor surrounded by everything. Most of it was easily recognizable – photos of their wedding – the two of them smiling radiantly and Alice nudging Frank in more than one, the Order of Merlins that were awarded posthumously. Baby photos of Neville, and more than one of him with his parents – being bounced on their lap, flying around on a broom with his father in a little baby carrier, sitting with his mum at her desk at auror headquarters. There were photos two of just them, out for drinks with other aurors, some of whom even Ginny could recognize in their younger age.
"They were so happy," he said abruptly, but it was in a strangely dispassionate tone, "we were so happy – at least we all could have been. Even when they were fighting, even when my mum couldn't stand Gran, even when they had a horrific day at work, even when they had to use an unforgivable in the line of duty – they were happy."
"Well, except for once," Neville added wryly, looking at a picture of him cradled in his mum's arms after birth – where she was using her own hand to move his to wave to the camera, "surprisingly enough when she found she was pregnant with me – I saw that after you stepped out of the penseive. I was a bit of an accident, and mum was worried about her career. I mean, she got past it, I know she loved me, but….still, not something I wish had been in there."
Ginny made a motion to rest her hand on his shoulder, but he pulled out his wand suddenly and vanished them all away to Merlin knew where, violently waving his wand around, and knocking the remainder of the contents of the room askew. "We could have been so bloody happy," his voice was angry, but she could see the sheen of tears in his eyes, "and they took them away from me. Those amazing, courageous, and loving people – they took them away from me."
Her arms encircled him tentatively, for she really had no idea what to say that would offer appropriate comfort – and it took only a moment for Neville too turn, bending down to rest his head against hers and hug her back. It was platonic, and she was happy to offer what little comfort she could, but it didn't feel like enough. She wanted to banish his demons for him, but like with Harry before him, she couldn't.
"I'm not coming tomorrow," he said finally, his voice muffled by her hair, and she didn't move but continued to hold him.
"You don't have to," she responded, quietly, rubbing a hand gently along his side, "you never did."
"I wanted to see it all," Neville seemed to find it easier to speak when she wasn't looking at him, for his tone was much more forceful, "understand my parents, know them in a way pictures don't let me, and be there for them in some way. But now that I've done that, seen them happy, seen them accomplished, seen them with me – seen them as full people, I don't think I can see the rest. I don't think I can see them lose it all, and me lose them. It's going to be hard enough. . . .seeing them after."
"You saw me today - I couldn't stay after exiting the penseive. For the first time I couldn't look at my parents. I didn't want to reconcile the. . . .vegetables in front of me with the people in those memories." His tone was accusatory, and there was nothing she could say, she knew, that could convince him that was a normal reaction coming right out.
Ginny didn't speak, simply held him close, and he kept silent as well for a moment, before quietly sighing and stepping back.
"Thanks for listening Ginny," he said. His hands rubbed slowly up and down her arms before he realized what he was doing, and blushed before letting them drop. "I. . . .don't talk about this a lot with anyone, my parents. Gran, she doesn't want to. And the rest. . . .well, they don't understand."
Her voice was quiet, though she didn't let him step away, and kept a hand on his arm, "You're entitled to more than a momentary rant, Neville. You're. . . .just know I'm here for you, whenever, okay? This, anything else, I'm here."
She leaned up to place an affectionate peck on his cheek, but whether it was consciously or not, her lips slid over from their intended target, grazing his mouth. For his part, Neville looked flabbergasted, and she felt somewhat similar, although less embarrassed then he seemed to be.
"Sorry," she said with a half smile and a shrug, wanting to give him an out if he so desired.
"Was that on purpose?" he asked quietly, and not a little bit hesitantly.
Giving a half laugh Ginny shrugged, "Yes. . . .no. . . .I don't know. I mean I wanted to at some point, but I didn't mean to here, but it wasn't entirely. . . .yes, I realize, there is a time and a place for these things. And this isn't it."
Neville's only response was to lean down and kiss her – for someone of his age it was relatively hesitant and chaste, but she responded all the same, lips parting under his as he moved his mouth gently over hers, his one hand cupping the skin of her cheek.
"Well, shite," she said in bemusement, eyes closed still as he pulled back, "that was unexpected, wasn't it?"
He looked like he was thinking 'shite', although for a slightly different reasons that were less pleasant and astonished. He was looking at her like she was some first year Hufflepuff he had defiled on the floor of the greenhouse and been caught be Professor Sprout doing. "Oh bloody hell," he swore, the phrase sounding a little ridiculous coming out of Neville's mouth. "I didn't mean to do that. I mean I shouldn't have. It was presumptuous. And first off, you're Harry's girl. . . ."
"No, I'm not," she interjected quickly, and firmly, but he was continuing.
"At the very least you used to be Dean's, so I shouldn't. . . ."
Ginny cut him off, "Neville, I was never anyone's property, and I'm not anyone's girlfriend now. There is you. Just you, ok? And Hogwarts relationships that never lasted a year, even if they were with Harry freaking Potter, don't count – got it?" Although, Harry was a bit of a touchy subject with her. But someone who left you behind to go traipsing off saving the world with your brother, and didn't say so much as a bloody word to you before going – except to emphasize repeatedly how over you were – didn't deserve to be 'waited for'. Especially when you liked someone else better.
He still looked hesitant, and she sighed, taking his hand, "Despite those rumours going around about me in fifth year, I'm not going to be shagging you right now. If – and yes I'm making an assumption that you are - if you are interested, we'll take it slow. Give you time to assuage your misplaced guilt." And, give her time to make it feel like she wasn't taking advantage of him in a vulnerable state.
Neville didn't say anything, only nodded – but his lips did curve up, and he didn't release her hand. She supposed it was a start at least. It wasn't like this was the first time this had happened. Somehow everyone seemed to think she had 'Property of Harry Potter' tattooed across her forehead.
"How about for tonight," she glanced at the clock, "I apparrate to Diagon Alley and get us some takeaway, and we just sit here and talk? We can talk about your parents, or dutifully avoid the subject. I'll just be here to distract you, and we won't think about tomorrow at all. Sound like a plan?"
Looking a little relieved, he nodded. She really did suspect the subject of Frank and Alice would stay closed for the evening, but she would be there for him if he wanted to talk.
Ginny herself was feeling lightheaded and shaky when she exited the Longbottoms room the next morning. Pye had done the so called heavy lifting again, but she'd had to sit there and watch – and listen - while Frank and Alice relived the memories of the night they were attacked by the Lestranges, which was torture in itself. They had screamed so loud she thought the windows of the hospital would shatter at times, or at least cut through the muffliato she'd had the foresight to cast after the first piercing cry, and mimed writhing in pain – although at least in their minds they were in agony, it wasn't exactly acting.
She'd resolved not to tell Neville about that part, even if she had to blatantly lie to do it.
After Pye had extracted the memories he had pulled out, and had promptly gone to the nearest toilet to wretch out his breakfast, Ginny had hesitated, but had forced herself to live through the memories, wanting to have something to tell Neville should he ask. He hadn't come with her that morning, despite the fact he'd woken up when she left for the hospital, the two of them having fallen asleep on the couch somewhere around two in the morning. More than once she'd had to shield her eyes once watching their memories, and more than once she'd wanted desperately to just not have to live through watching them in agony, but every time the inclination came, she made herself stay there – always watching, and listening.
When she made her way to the waiting area again, she was hardly surprised to see Moody and Remus, but the forlorn figure sitting a few chairs away from them did surprise her.
Neville had come after all. She was hoping against hope he'd not heard a thing.
"Is it ready?" Remus asked, getting to his feet – and when she nodded he and Moody were already halfway towards the room before she could say exasperatedly, "Wait!" Her words had no effect on Moody, but Remus's hand on his arm did.
"Neville gets to have a look first," she said forcefully, wand ready to hex Mad-Eye if he took another step close towards the room.
Remus cast a glance towards Neville, who shook his head. "I told them Ginny, I don't want to see today. I came here. . . .I don't know, some kind of support, I couldn't not. But I don't want to see it. They can just take it and go."
She looked towards the older men. Ginny knew they were chomping at the bit, but this was almost just as important as them trying to get a look at the penseive within the hour. "Give me some time with him alone," she said firmly. Moody was the one who glowered at her, but her tacked on, "please," was far from polite and brooked no argument. She was rather pleased with herself when he nodded, following Remus to stand by the mediwitches station, and leaving her and Neville to talk alone. If only that had worked that well when she tried to convince them to let her work for the Order.
Walking over, she sat down beside Neville, resting a hand on his knee. "It worked you know," she said first, her tone conversational, "in the best possible way. These objects, well things of Voldemort's – whatever they are. This likely pinpoints another one – Harry in fact, which does seem a bit odd, him being important to Voldemort in some way, but there you go. They can know that now, because of your parents."
He smiled, half heartedly. "I'm glad," he was sincere in the sentiment, but he wasn't happy. "But I still don't want to see the memory you know. It's. . . .thank you for looking, but I don't think I can."
She turned to him then, taking his hands in hers. "Yes Neville, you can," she said quietly, in the same firm tone she had used with Moody, "and, you have to. You're going to regret it later if you don't."
Taking a deep breath, she continued, "You were talking about knowing your parents – this is your chance. It's not easy to watch, their memories, and I can say that not even being their son. But this is your chance to really see them, you know – them, not just their happy times. You see people's true characters under pressure, and your parents are bloody amazing."
"And if you ever doubted your mum's sincerity in her love for you, that she ever regretted for a second postponing her career for you – you won't doubt it after." She squeezed his hands, trying to give him the one lure she thought he might not be able to resist, even if he didn't buy into the rest. "Do you want to know what item it took to prompt your mum's memories of that night? Not the picture of Bellatrix Lestrange, not the outfit she was wearing that night, not the sound of the word cruciatus, not even pictures of the scene of destruction the aurors found after – it was a little bubble gum wrapper, the kind she always keeps trying to give you."
She paused only momentarily, before adding, "And don't you want to know why that is?"
"You could tell me," Neville didn't even sound like he believe she'd do that – but he was clinging to anything that would make him not have see his parents being tormented into insanity.
"But I won't," she said quietly, "I don't want to cause you pain Neville, but I don't think you should be shielded from this."
It was one of the things that had struck her throughout, how bloody amazing his parents had been. It perhaps wasn't the most appropriate response, considering the circumstances – but they had never broke, telling the death eaters anything. And they had never begged and pleaded for their lives – only for that of each respective spouse, and for their son. Neville had been with his Gran that evening when they had gone back to their new flat at the end of the day, trying to get it ready for moving the next day – she knew that from what he told her – and they seemed terrified he'd be brought over at any moment.
"You'll come back in with me?" he asked, keeping his hand in hers as he stood, bringing her with him, and she nodded without hesitation, despite still being weak in the knees from her first encounter with the penseive.
She didn't even spare a glance for Moody and Remus as they entered the room again.
Alice had the insane thought that she would curse herself if only Bellatrix Lestrange hadn’t done such a good job of it for her before locking her in the study while they dealt with Frank. An hour since she and Frank had been stupid enough to believe they were safe in their own flat. One measly hour since they'd only started to put up anti-apparrition wards and jinxes for intruders around their new flat in preparation for the move the next day – only to realize that despite not thinking they were needed yet, they had still been too late when Bellatrix and Rodolphus, and a bunch of their cronies, had popped into their flat by apparition – and they'd been unable to disarm them before being relieved of their own wands
Now, she could only think hysterically about how disappointed her trainer Auror Robins would have been in her, being overpowered like that.
It never would have happened in the months preceding, but they had been lulled into a false sense of security as it seemed Voldemort was gone for good. And in the end it wasn't even someone as powerful as him that had come, it was his minions looking for him. Why they thought she and Frank would know was anyone's guess, she was just quite sure Bella was taking pleasure in torturing them.
It was hard to ignore the screams of Frank from the living room. Since they'd locked her in here, without her wand, and casting spells around the room to stop her from using wandless magic, she'd progressed from beating against the door trying to plead with them to let Frank go, to trying to kick it down by force, to realizing that any effort now was futile. She didn't care if they heard it, she'd screamed out her love for him so that he could hear it, because she didn't have any illusions that he wouldn't be dead or insane when they were done with him.
Despite her hysteria, she knew that it was too late to even try and save herself. There was no way out, this place was too well fortified – why they had chosen it. For once she just wished - something that she'd never thought that she would do – that they had never planned on moving from his mum's house, despite what a controlling nightmare Augusta was. Right now she'd give anything to have the stern older woman criticizing her technique of burping Neville, if only to be inside that well warded house again.
Anything now was for those left behind. She could only pray Augusta didn't bring Neville by so she could have 'a look' like she had threatened, wanting to snoop around the place they were renting with only their aurors salary – which was more now with Frank's promotion, but the place still wasn't as nice as they would have got if they'd used some of the family money.
Scrambling for a piece of parchment, she knocked over ink and everything as she stumbled against the desk. She wanted to leave a note for the aurors who would get here eventually – but much too late for them to be saved. She wanted them to know who was involved, what they were doing to them, why - but the Lestranges, while being psychotic, weren't stupid enough to actually not notice a written on parchment sitting around.
Besides, the aurors were hardly what she really cared about. All her mind kept drifting back to was Neville, and the way he'd smiled up at her from his crib that morning. All she could keep focusing on was that he'd grow up – Merlin willing on that – without her, without Frank. And have no idea about anything real about his parents, because Augusta Longbottom certainly couldn't tell him.
She searched around for something less conspicuous to write on. She knew she didn't have much time left, as Frank's screams were drawing fainter, replaced by the unmistakably sound of whimpering. But still, she never heard what she feared most – him giving up all the aurors secrets. Not that they were really here for information – it was more a revenge kill than anything. Information was a side bonus, even if they were desperately looking for Voldemort. They'd been a thorn in the Lestrange's, and Voldemort's, side too many times – probably why they were targeted. She could hear them also demand to know where their son was, and she almost sobbed in relief when she heard a muttered "fuck off" in reply
Fumbling around in her pocket she drew out an empty gum wrapper. She always chewed the bloody stuff, as it calmed her nerves. Almost weeping in relief she had it, she spread it out on the desk, grabbing a quill to scrawl some notes down for her son, hoping she could hide it away and someone would find it and give it to him.
Dear Neville, she was writing as fast as she could, not even caring about how the greeting sounded, otherwise she would have changed it to 'dearest' or something similar. She didn't even think about what she wrote, the only important thing letting him have some physical proof that they loved him, that they'd been thinking about him until the end.
I hope you get this some day when you're old enough to understand. No matter what else darling know that your parents loved you. You were the center of my universe, and meant more to me than anything else. We wish we could be there to see you. . . .
Her writing was cut short by the sound of the door flying open, and a hastily uttered petrificus totalus pausing her hand – and every other part of her body.
Her eyes weren't directed towards the door, but Alice could easily recognize the tones of Bellatrix Lestrange clucking her tongue and muttering as she moved around the side of the rest. "What's this? Trying to leave a note for your auror friends? Not that it will matter much now will it? Frankie's gone to a better place now, and I think it's time you joined him. Nothing's going to stop that now, is it?"
The woman slid the gum wrapper out from Alice's still fingers, leaving it on the desk to look it over slowly. "Oh, it's too your son, how sweet." She didn't waste a moment before casting an incendio, and Alice felt a little part of her die inside right then.
She couldn't look up, but Bellatrix did when the junior Barty Crouch stuck his head in the doorway. "We've not got all night Bella," he told her, and she could recognize Frank's wand in his hand. "I don't think they've got a bloody clue where the dark lord is. And the aurors won't stay away forever." At that moment Alice would have given anything for another bubble gum wrapper to write on, if only to let his father know that he was involved in this insanity.
"Pity," Bellatrix said, dragging her nails lightly down Alice's face, "I would have enjoyed trying to get it out of her. But there's still time for a little fun, isn't there? Perhaps she'll last longer than her husband - she seems like a feisty one. Although there is always avada if that's the case. . . . but it's so much less fun." Alice could feel the woman's breath against her ear before she practically bit down on it, although her tone was caressing.
"How could he just disappear?" Barty seemed to have about as much interest in Alice as the a fly on the wall, even as she felt Bella's wand tracing the nape of her neck. "He made a horcrux out of that other boy during his parent's murders, at least he was planning on it, so even if all the nonsense about the killing curse rebounding is true. . . ."
Bella waved her hand at him, wandlessly casting a silencio so he would shut up, "Business later, fun now." Alice could practically hear the glee in her voice.
She was still petrified when the first crucio was cast.
She didn't cease to be Alice until long after the twelfth.