- Discussion-Child Abuse
Five days went by in which they prepared and waited, mainly to cover their tracks. Harry’s disappearance would hopefully not be discovered until sometime after his birthday when he should have gone to the Weasleys. But as soon as anyone asked the Dursleys, they would discover that he had vanished on the same day that he had come back from Hogwarts. Augusta and Neville would officially leave the country for the holidays on the seventh day of the summer break and just not come back, while Sirius’ disappearance would probably be noticed a few days later, when he didn’t come back from the mission Dumbledore had sent him on and which he had never even started. Thus they would hopefully not be connected by anyone who would search for any of them.
Neville and Harry were only partly involved in the planning of their journey. Harry could give a little bit insight in ways that muggles travelled and Neville expressed his thoughts about the places he had previously visited with his grandmother and where they could maybe settle down. Most of the time, the boys spent roaming the property, often accompanied by Merlin, or browsing the library and making a list of the things they both wanted to explore and to learn. And every night they would meet in the spirit plane, exploring the blue jungle and all of Harry’s questions, most of which he did not seem able to articulate during the day.
On the sixth day after he had come home from Hogwarts, Neville and his grandmother went to Diagon Alley to finalize their official travel plans, which would put them in France and which they would of course not follow. Most of the things they would do on this day would be a subterfuge to throw anyone off their trail who would try to find them after the summer.
But first, the day started with a small adventure for Neville. As much as he had travelled with his grandmother, they had never spent a lot of time in the muggle world, just enough that he could get by without standing out from the crowd. When Harry had asked about sending Hermione a letter via muggle post, Neville had learned for the first time how muggle post actually worked. It did seem very complex for him, with bringing the letter to a post office, from which it would be sent to Hermione’s home address and not the place she was actually staying at the moment while she was travelling with her parents. But it was a good thing that the letter would stay hidden until Hermione came back from her holidays three weeks from now.
Augusta had apparated with him to Cardiff to bring Harry’s letter to a post office, which was another deception, because apparently some stamp on the letter could reveal to Hermione from where it had been sent. And while Harry had insisted on not leaving without giving Hermione a warning and some kind of explanation, no one wanted to leave behind a hint of where they had gone, so his plan to send a letter from somewhere outside of Great Britain had been vetoed by the adults.
From Cardiff they went directly to London. Diagon Alley was busy, but not as busy as it would be later in the summer. Augusta kept Neville close by, something she hadn’t done outside of England for years. He knew it was her fear of him being exposed, but for everyone else it seemed as if she was not trusting her nearly fifteen year old grandson on his own which played nicely into their little charade.
Neville stopped abruptly in his track when they passed a newspaper stand and stared open mouthed at the front page of the Daily Prophet. They had not gotten the paper for four days now, because Augusta had already cancelled her subscription for the whole summer as usual, as it was not delivered outside of England and even without the recent events they would have spent most of the summer travelling.
Neville plugged an exemplar of the paper from the stand and held it up for his grandmother. ‘Potter’s strive for unwarranted glory – Investigation in Cedric Diggory’s murder ongoing’ was the headline and beneath it was a picture printed, that showed how Cedric and Harry appeared in a heap on the stage beside the maze.
“Is that the reason you didn’t let me see the paper for the last couple days?” It was second nature to play up their strained relationship in public whenever possible.
Augusta looked at the headline with an unmoving face. “You are way to excitable, as you are just demonstrating. There really is no reason for such theatrics!”
“They are implying that Harry killed Cedric!”, Neville said agitated.
That was nothing new, but he would bet all he had, that it was no coincidence that this information had only been released after Harry would officially be out of contact from the wizarding world for several weeks. If he would spent his holidays like he normally did, then he would not learn of these very public accusations for five or six weeks and the ministry would have all that time to further their smear campaign.
“There is nothing to imply there, boy!” A woman he had never seen before had stopped beside them, sneering down her nose at him. “From the moment this imposter tricked his way into the tournament it was clear that it wouldn’t take a good end!”
Neville snorted. “Right, because it is so easy to believe, that someone with only three years of magical education could circumvent the age line of the headmaster and trick an ancient magical artefact into choosing a fourth champion for a tournament with only three participants!”
“It was just published yesterday that Potter used the name of a faked fourth school to be chosen as a champion”, the woman said condescending. “And that headmaster of yours probably helped him cross the age line.”
Neville could not hold back his laugh. “That’s utter bullshit!” He knew it was exactly what Crouch Jr. had said to Harry he had done, and that there was no way Fudge could disclose the involvement of that Death Eater after he had killed him. This would become an utter disaster, and it was good that they would not be here for the fall out.
“Language, young man!”, his grandmother admonished. “Even so I have to agree with your sentiment. There are several big holes in this fairytale the ministry is spinning. Bagman has still not disclosed what this last task should have been that he talked about, after those two boys vanished out of the maze. They probably have no idea where they were for this hour, otherwise they would have disclosed their location already.”
The woman huffed. “Who knows were Potter brought them, when he was confronted with having to share the victory!”
Neville looked around them, where several other people had gathered and all were nodding. “How would Harry have accomplished it to change the destination of the portkey? We just finished our fourth year, we don’t even know how to create one! And everyone was watching! And it was Harry’s idea to share in the first place! Cedric wanted him to take the cup on his own because Harry had saved him two times in the maze! If Harry had just wanted to win, than he had every chance to get that without killing anyone! And everyone who was there at the last task has witnessed this conversation!”
“Who knows if what you saw was actually happening!”, a man in the crowd muttered.
Neville frowned. “What’s that supposed to mean? You think hundreds of people hallucinated that?”
“Potter could have manipulated the recording charms”, another woman said. “Surely, he is powerful enough! He managed to survive the killing curse somehow as an infant. And I heart a rumour he is a parselmouth. That sort of people is not to be trusted!”
“And he is seer, too, to know he needed such, yes?”, Neville snapped. “You are insane!”
“Come along, Neville”, Augusta interrupted before anyone could say any more. “You have wasted enough time with this nonsense. You can’t force others to think for themselves if they don’t want to.”
Neville huffed. “Can I take one?”, he asked holding up the paper.
August gave a long suffering sigh. “If you must. But I don’t want to hear any more theatrics today!”
“Yes, Gran”, Neville muttered while paying.
“It’s a good thing we’ll spend the rest of the summer abroad.” Augusta sneered at the crowed. “You really don’t need this kind of excitement all the time.”
They were regarded with mistrustful looks all the way to Gringotts. Neville was sure they would be the main topic of the gossip in the alley for at least two days, for his defence of Harry as well as for Augusta declaration to spend the summer abroad. All their other travels had been done in secret, but this time it would cover for their disappearance. Most people would just shrug of their not coming back and mutter something about it being a bad idea to leave England in any way.
As soon as they stepped into the office of their account manager, they dropped their act. There was no need to agitate the goblins with any kind of subterfuge and to undermine Nevilles future position as the heir of his father with them. The goblins could not care less for the political and social games of humans and they did not tend to talk with humans outside of the business they had to conduct with them. Neville suspected that the main reason for that was that humans in general were never very polite to the goblins.
It was long and tedious business that kept them inside the bank for hours. Beside their own affairs of closing down their properties in Great Britain, making sure his great-uncle would not be able to get his hands on anything of the Longbottom fortune he had no right to in their absence, and preparing the access to their gold from anywhere on the world, they had delivered a sealed letter each from Harry and Sirius with similar instructions for their accounts and had brought the backpack with Harry’s trunk in it, so the goblins could check everything in it for monitoring magic in a secure room.
Harry had been agitated, when Neville had asked him to let his trunk in the backpack, because it nullified any kind of such magic. Neville knew his friend had not even thought about the possibility that Dumbledore or someone else would use the few things he could call his own to monitor him. He would be furious later in the day, when Augusta and Neville would have to show him the list of charms which the goblins had to purify off his possessions.
It was nearly past lunchtime when Neville and his grandmother finally left the bank. They made their way to a high-end restaurant on the edge of the ally, where they were shown into a private room and where no one even wondered about a customer placing security and anti-listening wards over the room, after they had given their orders.
“Tell me how Harry is fairing”, Augusta asked as soon as they were sure to be not be overheard. “He is very quiet. I had expected a lot more questions from him, not that he would just go with the flow, so to speak.”
Neville sighed. “He is … Remember how I suspected that his relatives were neglecting him? I think it was a lot more than that. Harry told me recently, that the first thing his uncle taught him was to not ask questions. And I think it’s hard for him to overcome that.”
“And with ‘taught’ you mean that Harry was hit by his uncle?”, Augusta asked concerned.
Neville shrugged. “He hasn’t admitted that outright, but when … We talked about the Yule ball and that he only went with a girl, because he thought it was better if everyone believed that he actually liked girls, which he doesn’t. He said his uncle would kill him if he knew and I don’t think that was meant hyperbolic in any way.”
“It’s a good thing Harry will never go back to those people again!”
“Yes”, Neville muttered darkly. “If I ever should meet this man, I can assure you I won’t stay civilised.”
“I would help you cover your tracks”, Augusta promised.
“When we are sleeping, we are meeting in Merlin’s place”, Neville related. “It’s happened every night since he is staying with us. I think it’s easier there for him to let go. We have covered a lot of questions in the nights.”
Augusta frowned. “You both need your sleep!”
“I think it’s still working as sleep”, Neville replied. “I don’t feel tiered, in fact I feel much more recovered in the morning than in a long time.”
“That’s something we’ll have to ask others about”, Augusta decided.
“We can’t control it anyway.” Neville shrugged. “I have no idea how we end up there every night, really!”
“And is Harry stable? Or does he still have problems?”, Augusta asked.
“He’s alright”, Neville assured, as careful as is grandmother not to talk about senses or to use the words Guide or Sentinel or spirit plane. Even in a place like this, where privacy was guaranteed, they were not sure if those words would not trigger any alarms. “I think it helps that we spent so much time together.”
Their meals appeared before them and for a few minutes they fell silent. It was good food and Neville savoured the time alone with his grandmother. As much as he loved that Harry and even Sirius were with them now, he missed the time alone with her.
“I think I have to fully agree with Harry”, Neville said eventually. “It’s not worth it to come back here. The ministry is spreading utter rubbish and everyone is just believing it.”
Augusta sighed. “There seems to be a prophecy in play. I can’t promise you that you’ll never have to come back here.”
“Did you see the part where they interviewed Cedric’s parents?”, Neville asked outraged.
“No.” Augusta shook her head.
Neville drew the paper out of his bag and searched for the right paragraph, to read it aloud.
After a week long retreat from the public to morn their son and prepare his funeral, Mr. and Mrs. Diggory were able to give a short statement to our esteemed newspaper. When asked about the Boy-Who-Lived, Mr. Diggory told us:
“He came to us to apologize on the same evening [of the third task, editor’s note]. He wanted to give us the winning as some kind of compensation. At first it seemed like a nice gesture, you know? But I was not able to register anything else that happened on this evening. I just … Later I thought about it, about the things he said, and it was so ugly! How can he think that a thousand gallons would in any way make up for loosing my son? My only child?”
We all know that Potter grew up without his parents, inheriting a small fortune before he was even able to walk. We have to ask ourself how damaged such a childhood left this young man, if he thinks a handful of gold can spend any kind of comfort for loosing a loved one. And we have to ask – every parent of a child in Hogwarts should demand an answer to the question – how we can protect the other students from his apparent callousness!
“Can you believe this?”, Neville raged. “That’s not what happened! Yes, he wanted to give them the gold, but because he thought it was Cedric’s anyway!”
“I already see how this will end.” Augusta sighed. “This investigation they are supposedly conducting, will come to the conclusion that Harry killed young Cedric. And his disappearance will be seen as a confession.”
“Is there nothing we can do?”, Neville asked.
Augusta shook her head. “Not here, not at the moment, not without drawing to much attention to Harry or us. But if you don’t plan to come back here, why should we do anything?”
“And if we really have to come back some day?”, Neville asked. “How can he ever step foot back in this country with such an accusation hanging over his head?”
“Let that be the problem of us adults”, Augusta asked him softly. “You have both a lot on your plate already. Those problems won’t follow us immediately and we’ll find time to make plans for it later. These accusations against Harry are not the only juridical mishap we need to clear up.”
Neville snorted. “Mishap is a very nice euphemism!”
“Concentrate on yourself and on your relationship to Harry for the moment. You both need a lot of training and have a lot to learn, still. For everything else our other guest and I will be responsible, at least for the next two years and even a little bit longer if you’ll let us!”