- Discussion-Child Abuse
When Neville opened his eyes, he found himself in a blue jungle. He knew he was asleep, as he remembered going to bed after a long diner with his grandmother, Harry and Sirius and after he had shown Harry the room next to his own. It was not the first time he had this dream, he had spent many nights in this jungle before he had come to Hogwarts.
He turned to find Harry standing a few feet away, confusion written all over his face.
“Where are we? The last thing I remember is going to sleep!”
Neville smiled reassuringly. “We are asleep. But I think this isn’t exactly a dream, either. I’ve been here before.”
“I remember dreaming about this place before, too.” Harry nodded and frowned. “I thought I was … imagining it, so I had something nice, something to escape the Dursleys for a while. How are we sharing a dream?”
“It’s no dream”, Neville repeated. “I think this is the spirit plane. And it’s probably my fault that we are here, even so I have no idea how I did it. – We have met here before, haven’t we? The boy I used to meet here, that was you all along!”
“I thought I had created an imaginary friend, because it was the only way I could have a friend.” Harry began smiling, even though his words broke Neville’s heart. “But when it wasn’t imaginary … then Ron wasn’t my first friend, because you were.”
Neville grinned. “And I don’t want to sound arrogant, but I really think I’m the better first friend!”
“It’s not arrogance, it’s the truth”, Harry replied softly. “You are the only person who has never turned their back on me.”
“But I have lied to you.” Neville swallowed hard. “I have kept this huge secret from you.”
“And you think I’m mad about it.”
“Aren’t you?”, Neville asked sceptically.
“No. Not even a little bit.” Harry shook his head smiling. “I’ve not even for a moment thought that I should be mad about it. I’ve seen Fudge arrest Hagrid out of a whim. For thirteen years I had no idea that I had a godfather because he was kept in prison without a trial. I don’t doubt for a moment that the danger you described is real.”
Harry sat down in the blue grass and patted the place beside him with his hand, so Neville followed his friend’s action. “And you haven’t manipulated me in a friendship, you were a real friend for the whole time. That may be influenced by some instinctive acknowledgement of what ever it is we are to one another, but that’s at least something I can trust in. I know I can trust my instincts, because they have saved my life over and over again.”
Neville averted his eyes. “I feel as if I have manipulated you.”
“You haven’t!”, Harry insisted. “Ron has done it repeatedly to get something from me and I have ignored it, because I valued his friendship more than I should have. But I have seen through his manipulations every single time. Hermione has manipulated me a few times, to get me to sit down for my homework mostly and it may be with good intentions, but it felt wrong none the less. But you have never asked me to do anything for you, you have never looked down on me for something or made fun of me, or made me explain something I didn’t want to talk about.”
Harry smiled warmly. “You were just there. Like this last week. You sat down by my side and just let me be without letting me be alone and miserable or pressure me to interact with you. You only talked to me when I wanted to talk. And you protected me as good as you could. Do you know how long it’s been since anyone has protected me?”
Neville sighed. “That’s not a very high standard you are setting there.”
“It’s the only standard I know.” Harry shrugged.
Neville frowned, but kept his opinion to himself. He would make it one of his goals to change that for Harry, to give him a more stable environment. The current plan was to find a place where they both could be trained in all of their abilities, including the magic that came with being a parselmouth for Harry. Hopefully there would be other teenagers there, people who wouldn’t see the boy-who-lived in Harry, but just another normal teenaged boy trying to learn to control his magic and suffering through puberty and cheering for their favourite sports club.
“I was surprised how few questions you had about Sentinels and Guides”, Neville said instead. He had wondered about it the whole time he had prepared for bed. It was not even the first time that he had noticed how little Harry questioned the things happening around him and to him.
Harry looked down and started to play with the blue grass in front of him. “I … One of the first lessons my uncle taught me, was to not ask any questions.”
“Your uncle isn’t here”, Neville said, barely able to contain his anger. He had not missed the strange emphasis Harry had put behind the word ‘lesson’.
Harry shrugged. “That’s true. But … the teachers in elementary weren’t very welcoming to my questions either. I just … learned to get the answers on my own or accept not getting them.”
Neville sighed and shook his head. “That’s not how it should work. I’ll never dismiss a question you have, and I’m sure the same is true for grandma and Sirius.” He paused frowning. “Have I ever brushed of a question from you?”
Harry smiled, shaking his head. “No, that’s another thing you are fairly unique in.”
“So, do you have questions?”
“A ton!” Harry laughed. “Let’s start with this place. You said something about a spirit plane.”
“It’s another plane of existence.” Neville cocked his head thoughtfully. “It’s a place Sentinels and Guides are connected to, but only Guides have the ability to go here, and sometimes they can bring their Sentinel if there is a need. Outside of our dreams I have never been here before, because the Guides who talked to me about it said, that I was to young, that my magic hadn’t settled enough to reach for this place.”
“Obviously they were wrong”, Harry stated.
Neville shook his head. “I don’t think I would be able to control it, really. It’s only ever happened in my sleep and when I went to sleep today I did wish that I could have spent more time with you. And apparently this is a place were Guides have sought guidance and council for a very long time.”
“We are all alone here, how could there be found guidance or council?”
“Only because we can’t see anyone or anything, doesn’t mean it’s not there”, Neville replied. “I know that our spirit animals live here. They are one source of guidance. But we could meet other Guides here, too. If I knew how to summon anyone. Which I don’t because everyone thought I couldn’t yet come here.”
“And what are spirit animals?”
Neville shrugged. “Every Sentinel and Guide is connected to a spirit animal. Some say every human is connected to one, but only we are able to see and interact with them. They are another form of guidance. They can visit us in our plane of existence, but their home is here. Have you ever seen an animal that no one else could see?”
“I don’t know.” Harry shook his head. “Before I came to Hogwarts, there were a lot of things I could see, that others didn’t. Have you?”
“He is a little bit shy.” Neville could feel him near them, but he had not spotted him yet between the trees. “It’s a Eurasian lynx and the first time I saw him was actually shortly before I awoke. He was just a kitten back then and he is still not fully grown. I think he is growing with me.”
“Does he have a name?”
Neville felt himself blush. “Yeah. That’s … when I first met him, it felt like the greatest thing ever, so … I named him Merlin.”
Harry smiled. “That’s cute.”
Neville huffed. “Grandma is perpetually teasing me with my choice of name!”
“Can she see him, when he visits you?”, Harry asked.
Neville nodded. “If he wants her to. But as I said, he is shy. I have seen the spirit animals of other Guides and Sentinels, but Grandma could only ever see them if they made themselves visible to her.”
“Where did you meet other Guide and Sentinels?”
“All over the world!”, Neville answered. “Grandma and I travelled a lot before Hogwarts. She searched for places where I could be taught the control I would need for school. In the first one or two years after I had awoken, I was projecting my emotions all over the place. Everyone would have instantly known what I am. She took me mainly to Asia and Africa and South America, because there Sentinel and Guides are still a very honoured and integral part of the magical communities.”
Harry sighed wistfully. “That sounds fantastic.”
“You’ll get to see all those places, too!”, Neville promised.
Harry locked at him sceptically. “We are fleeing and not going an a holiday!”
“And no one here will even get the idea that you left the country, so we’ll be able to travel all we want.” Neville shook his head laughing. “Really, the isolationism of this country will work against them so much in this. For most of them it is absolutely unimaginable to leave England even for a holiday!”
As Harry still looked very sceptically, Neville continued: “Didn’t you notice that Ron was kind of embarrassed about the weeks in Egypt, despite his proud and very loud tales about it? Such a thing is a once in a lifetime occurrence for most of the magical families here and not because of the money. That his older brothers both left England to build their life is something of a never ending embarrassment for the whole family. Percy is especially unhappy about it. Most here are of the opinion that England is the cradle of magic, so why should they ever want to leave this great country?”
Harry snorted. “How pretentious! Especially as they seem to want to forget most of the magical history of this land!” He took a deep breath. “I wanted to leave England since that disaster of a duelling club in second year. But I have never even thought about were I would want to go, I just knew that I would get out of here as soon as possible.”
“So, you would have left before seventh year?”, Neville asked.
Harry shrugged. “Probably right after. I mean, to have full wand rights we need to finish school, right? Speaking of, how will that work for us now?”
“I don’t even have a wand of my own”, Neville confessed. “That’s one reason why I used Dad’s. For most Sentinels and Guides, it’s hard if not outright impossible to use a wand. There are other more traditional foci which we could use, but for a lot of things we won’t need anything of the sort.”
“It took really long for Ollivander to find a wand for me”, Harry remember wide eyed. “I tried nearly every wand in his shop. Was that the reason?”
Neville nodded. “Probably. It’s a wonder that he even did find one for you.”
Harry grimaced. “And I never really … I hate the fact that it’s the brother wand to the one that killed my parents. But I didn’t dare to ask for another one, because I thought they wouldn’t let me come to Hogwarts if I had no wand and it had already taken so long to even find that one.”
Neville frowned confused. “What’s a brother wand?”
“The core of my wand is a phoenix feather”, Harry explained. “And the same phoenix gave another feather at the same time. And that other feather is the core of Voldemorts wand. Ollivander made them on the same day. – And it seems that it is not a good idea to use the brother wand of your opponent in a duel. Although, it did safe my life.”
Neville had heard snippets of the events during the hour in which Harry and Cedric had been gone, but in most cases he had interrupted Harry and whomever he had spoken to. For him it had been obvious that all the other students wanted was to find the cracks in Harry’s story that would unravel the lie and Neville had not been willing to let his friend suffer through those memories for that. But he had never heard anything about the wands.
He was horrified to hear of the forced duel, but curious about the wands connecting in the way they had. It had to have been horrible for Harry, to see the ghost of those people Voldemort had killed, especially his parents.
“I’m sorry you had to go through that alone”, Neville said, after Harry had stopped talking. “I wish I had been there every time you got in these situations in the last four years!”
“It would have just served to get you hurt, too, like it happened to Ron and Hermione all the time.” Harry shook his head. “I’m glad you weren’t there. I’m not sure…” He blinked in confusion. “Just to think about you getting hurt makes me furious.”
Neville took a deep breath. “Sentinels are the protectors of the Tribe. But the person whom they would do anything for to protect, is their Guide. Sentinels and Guides can live alone, without their partner, but apparently that is a really hard life. We provide balance for each other, magically as well as in our other abilities. Therefore we are both driven to protect each other.”
“You said we come in pairs”, Harry said. “What does that mean? How is it determined which Guide belongs to which Sentinel? What if there is one but not the other?”
“I don’t really know how it works”, Neville had to confess. “But they are born together, inside of six month. So it’s probably determined by Magic, before either of them is born, because both already exist at that time, right? The only case in which there is only one of them is if the other is killed.”
“So, when we were born it had already been settled that we would be…” Harry blushed. “What does pair even mean in that case?”
Neville smiled reassuringly. “It will mean whatever we want it to mean. Generally we will be able to use our abilities better if we work together. We’ll be able to perform more powerful magic together, you’ll be able to use your senses more precise with my help, and the same it true for my empathic abilities. But we’ll also train to use all that on our own, so we’ll be able to function without each other. But aside from that, what we make out of our relationship will be our decision.”
He had wished for his Sentinel to be his best friend ever since he had known there was a Sentinel for him somewhere. In the last month his wishes and dreams had changed in that regard, and he had found himself thinking about the possibilities of Harry becoming more than just a friend, but he had tried not to think to much about it.
“Even … I mean… Is there…” Harry closed his eyes and took a deep breath. “I would’ve loved to go to the Yule ball with you instead of a girl!” The words were so rushed, that Harry nearly stumbled more than once over the syllables.
Neville blinked dumbfounded. “Really?”
Harry shrugged, his eyes still closed and biting his lip.
“I thought you had a crush on Cho! Or Ginny, or both.”
Harry snorted and crossed his arms in front of his chest. “No, I just … I really don’t like any girls. Is this a bad thing, too, in the magical world?” Finally he opened his eyes, but he looked to the side, his eyes searching for something between the trees. “It’s not really a good thing in the muggle world. There has changed a lot in the last ten years or so, but my uncle is really angry about that. … He would kill me, if he knew…”
“You will never see this man again!”, Neville interrupted darkly. “And no, it’s not a bad thing to like other boys, or for a girl to like other girls.”
“Wow.” Harry huffed. “There actually is a thing the magical world is not discriminating against?”
Neville could not help but laugh. “I guess. It would probably be to exhausting to put another thing on the list that the general public hates, don’t you think?”
Harry snickered. “That has to be the reason!”
“I would have loved that, too, you know”, Neville said softy. “But you were chasing Cho and I tried to keep a low profile. And then you were jealous of me, because I had gone with Ginny to the ball.”
Harry shook his head. “I wasn’t jealous of you. I … just didn’t correct Ron in his assumption, because … I thought it was better if everyone thought I liked girls. I was … really jealous of her, not you.”
“I only asked Ginny because she wouldn’t have been able to go otherwise”, Neville explained. “And I try … She is not well, you know? There is something wrong with her, since what happened in second year. I feel that I have the abilities to help her, just not the right training. And even if I had, I couldn’t risk it, but … I tried to help in any way I could, but I don’t think it was very successful. But that was the only reason I asked her. Otherwise I would have gone alone. … And maybe pined after you, and been jealous of Pavarti more than I already was.”
Harry finally looked at him again, smiling shyly. “So, maybe we could be more than friends?”
“I would like that.” Neville returned the smile, feeling warm and content. “I would like to see what the future holds for us. But let’s just be … patient. I don’t think I’m ready for anything…” He shrugged and felt himself blush.
“Yeah, me neither.” Harry chuckled nervously. But then he fell silent, staring at a point slightly beside Neville. “Oh!”
Neville turned and saw Merlin sitting on a fallen tree trunk, eyeing them with a cocked head. “Have you finished hiding, then?”
Merlin yawned, before he stood up and walked to them. He rubbed his head against Neville’s knee for a moment, and then turned to Harry regarding him with a long look and sniffing at the stretched out hand. At the end he accepted to be crawled, slumping down between the two boys, rolling onto his back purring.
“So, this is Merlin”, Neville introduced belatedly.
“He his beautiful!”
Merlin stretched his whole body and Neville got the feeling that the lynx was preening. “When I have seen him on our plane of existence, he has never been so solid.”
“Maybe it’s because we are in his home now”, Harry suggested. “Tell me more about what we are. There is so much I sill don’t know, I have no idea where to even start with my questions.”
Neville did. In the end they spent the whole night on the spirit plane, talking about everything and nothing, petting Merlin and relishing in their time alone. When his grandmother woke him up in the morning, Neville felt more relaxed and refreshed than he had in many, many years.