Welcome Home, Mara Longbottom
I had never been much of a crier before I became pregnant with Jack. In fact, it was because of my sporadic crying that I figured I’d better head over to the Healing facility located on site and get myself checked out. When the Healer told me Congratulations, you’re pregnant, I started crying. When I phoned my parents to tell them that I was pregnant, I started crying. When I begged them not to tell James, I started crying - but that was partially because Granny Gus was threatening James’s life and I, being in a completely irrational state of mind, thought that she meant it.
That being said, the moment I saw my parents at the gate, I erupted into pitiful sobs. My entire body shook as I ran toward them, surprisingly agile considering the extra weight I was packing around my abdomen and the twenty plus pound baby in my arms.
As you can imagine, the scene that followed was pretty stereotypical. Well, almost. Mum and Dad hurried toward Jack and I, meeting us somewhere in the middle. If I had been expecting a bone crushing hug from my mother, I didn’t get it. She’d approached me with her arms open wide, oh yes, but her hands zoomed toward Jack, plucking him out of my arms before I even knew what was happening and hugging him greedily. I glared at the top of my son’s head jealously, which I realized only seconds later was completely ridiculous. Of course my mum wanted to see her grandson; she’d only seen him once and that was the day he’d been born. Everything else she’d seen second-hand through moving pictures.
Mum had been moving so quickly that she’d left Dad in the dust. He was slowly picking his way toward us when my mum had snatched my baby out of my hands, and now he was standing a few feet in front of me, a welcoming smile on his face.
I didn’t say anything as I launched myself at my father. Just before impact, he opened his arms to me and braced himself by planting his feet a shoulder‘s width apart, knowing that my hugs were always exuberant. As soon as my father’s arms closed around me, I felt like I was four years old again and I’d just seen my father for the first time in an entire school semester. (Of course, he was the one at Hogwarts, not me.) My excitement, my sheer joy, to see my father again after such a prolonged amount of time was indescribable. Then, it’d been only four months since I’d seen my father. This time around? It’d been nearly a year since I’d last seen him as he’d been unable to attend Jack’s birth due to his obligation to teach. He’d felt horrible and had attempted to come to Panama anyway, but I’d been adamant and insisted that he stayed in England.
Anyway, what I was trying to say was that seeing my father again, being in his comforting embrace, was exactly what I needed to calm my beyond hectic mind.
“Hullo, Mara,” he said, his voice as gentle and kind as I’d remembered it. Except the note of almost undetectable sadness behind his words. I frowned, knowing that he was still lamenting Granny Gus’s terminal illness, and hugged him tighter.
“Hi, Dad,” I whispered against his chest before pulling back to look up at him.
“You look wonderful,” he said, smoothing damp strands of orangey-red hair away from my forehead.
I snorted. “And Merlin’s mother was a goat,” I quipped, subconsciously pulling on the hem of my tee shirt.
“You know, I’ve heard some rumours about that. . .”
“Oh right!” I laughed, backing out of the embrace to smack him lightly on the arm. “I’m sure you did, Dad. Just like you swore to me when I was five that you and Aunt Luna found a real-life Crumpled Horn Snorlack.“
“We did, Mara!” Dad exclaimed, a trained expression of earnestness on his face.
By some miracle, Mum managed to stop her constant cooing at Jack to cluck her tongue at him. “Don’t go telling fibs now, Neville. You wouldn’t want your precious grandson to pick up on the habit, would you?” she joked, winking at us ostentatiously as she pressed yet another kiss to each of Jack‘s chubby cheeks. She’d coated his cheeks with so many kisses that the lipstick stain left by Miss Tahiti was nearly gone.
“Don’t waste your breath, Mum,” I muttered to myself as Dad approached his grandson for the first time. He seemed timid, almost like a father taking their newborn child from the arms of its mother to hold for the first time. Jack’s eyes grew wide as his grandfather approached, but a smile quickly spread over his small, plump lips. Mum passed Jack over to Dad, who held his grandson somewhat awkwardly, but then again, everything that Neville Longbottom ever did was awkward. As you might’ve gathered, he’d passed the trait onto me.
Merlin, I hoped to Circe that Jack had gotten the fortunate end of the gene pool, which is to say James’s end of the gene pool.
While Dad acquainted himself with my son, Mum wandered over to me. Almost immediately, I knew there was going to be trouble. For once, she had the Look on her face, the one that screamed ’Let’s have a mother-daughter heart-to-freaking-heart’. I hated that look, always had and probably always would. Like my father, I’d never been much for talking about personal matters, preferring to skip over them instead of chatting about them relentlessly to someone else; I hated feeling dependent and moody. I may have loved my mum to pieces, but she became increasingly annoying when she was trying to figure out what was bothering me. Which was exactly what she was doing.
She hugged me, squeezing me three times and whispering between each squeeze how much she’d missed me, and how she was surprised that I hadn’t owled her all that much, considering that I was a new mother and probably had dozens of questions. When her probing eyes turned to me, I simply said that I’d wanted to handle it all by myself and had been getting along just fine. Only that wasn’t the truth, and we both knew it. I’d gone to Lorraine nearly every night that first month, begging for her most trusted guidance. Most of the time, I ended up breaking down into tears and tough Lorraine caved. Besides, who could resist an infant?
However, both my mother and I decided to ignore my blatant lie. Unfortunately for me, instead of moving onto something like how the flight had been (horrible wasn’t quite the word I was looking for, but it was the only one I could think of at the moment) or if I was happy to be home (which I was), Mum flashed me another Look.
I blanched, giving another firm tug on the end of my tee shirt.
“So,” she drawled, making a show of picking at her cuticles. I hated it when she drew out her words, it always meant that she was going to ask a seriously uncomfortable question. Like the night she’d snuck into my room, sat on the edge of my bed, and asked if I’d gone all the way with my boyfriend. I had, but I told her that I wasn’t that sort of girl, and you know what she did? She laughed at me, patted me on the leg, said that I was one of the worst liars in existence, second only to my father, and then proceeded to tell me in excruciating detail what her first time had been like.
If you think it’s bad hearing it second-hand, imagine experiencing it. Yeah. It haunts me nearly every day. Or just every time she draws out her words. Like she was doing now.
“Have you heard from -”
“No, Mum,” I grounded out, my jaw having automatically clenched and my arms folding themselves over my chest. “I haven’t.”
“Oh,” she said, clearly taken by surprise. But like a dropped cat, Mum found her footing quickly. “So, you haven’t heard from Gringotts yet?” My mother was a master at feigning innocence. Perhaps that’s where I got it from.
A heavy sigh of relief passed through my lips. Initially, I’d been fearing the worst, that she was going to bring up the Unmentionable Topic - James. Ever since I discovered that I was pregnant with his child, I made my parents swear up, down, left, right, inside, and out that they would not under any circumstances tell James that he was a father. A father to my child no less. Things were complicated between us as they were, the knowledge that he’d fathered my baby would only make it worse. Not that it could possibly get any worse than it currently was, but that was irrelevant. Kinda.
“Oh, well,” I tucked a strand of hair behind my ear out of habit. “I have, actually. They sent their reply last Saturday in the post.”
“And?” she asked, positively bouncing with eagerness. I heaved another sigh of relief, though this one was mental. Thank Merlin she was genuinely distracted. For now, anyway. “What’d they say?”
I couldn‘t retain my grin of pleasure. “They approved my request to take a desk job.”
“That’s wonderful, darling!” She lurched toward me, flinging her arms around my neck and choking the air from my lungs. “Neville, dear, did you hear Mara’s exciting news?”
“What news?” My father’s voice sounded oddly nasally, like someone was pinching his nose shut.
When I peered around my mother’s shoulder, I found that his nose actually was being pinched shut and that my infant son was the culprit. I stifled a laugh, hurrying over to them when I saw Jack’s chubby hand clench tighter and Dad‘s face scrunched up in pain.
“No, no, honey,” I said as I gently pried Jack’s hand away from his grandfather’s nose. “You don’t want to hurt Grampa, do you?”
Jack stuffed his fist into his mouth in response, blinking twice.
Mum laughed loudly, making Jack smile. He was only four months out of the womb, and he was already starving for attention. Merlin, he really is exactly like his father. “Oh, he’s just so cute,” she said, patting his cheek gently. “Here, love, give him to me.”
“No!” I exclaimed, a bit too forcefully. Both of my parents blinked at me in surprise. I, too, was surprised at my interjection. I hadn’t expected the sudden way of jealousy to course through me, but it had, and for some reason, I didn’t want my mother holding him. I wanted to hold Jack, wanted him nestled safely in my arms. Besides, Mum had already had her turn. I cleared my throat, blushing furiously as I attempted to recover from my very obvious fumble. “I mean, um, no, Mum, I’ll take him.” I snatched him out of my father’s grasp, holding him close. The familiar feel of Jack’s weight in my arms was wonderful.
A beat of awkward silence passed between us in which Jack continued gumming on his drool covered fingers.
“Right,” Dad began, fidgeting anxiously. “Why don’t we go down to the baggage claim and retrieve the luggage? Granny Gus is awfully eager to see the pair of you.”
Translation: He was awfully eager to get back to Granny Gus. I couldn’t say that I blamed him. I was awfully eager to see her, too, especially since this was probably one of the last days that she would be alive. The thought sent an icy stab through my heart, one that I tried to shake.
“That sounds like a novel idea, Dad,” I said, smiling softly at him when his eyes met mine. Inwardly, I was thankful for the distraction, knowing that the sudden shift in topic had not only diverted Mum’s attention away from my peculiar reaction, but from her real reason for asking about Gringotts. “Lead the way.”
When we pulled up to the house, my heart fluttered with joy. It’d been much too long since I’d seen the quaint house on the outskirts of the village of Ottery St. Catchpole. It’d been much too long since I’d roamed the high, grassy fields surrounding the house. It’d been much too long since. . .well, since I’d felt so at ease. Suddenly, I was a carefree teenager again. I had a near-perfect life: I was thin, I was graduating soon, and I had a best mate I’d know since birth and I most certainly did not have a baby whose father was said best friend. When I stepped out of the car, I very nearly sprinted into the backyard to see if the begonias had bloomed yet when I realized, quite suddenly, that I couldn’t just run off because I did have a baby whose father was my best friend (or former best friend) and I had already graduated and, with a disappointed glance down at the waistband of my jeans, I was not thin.
My smile immediately turned into a frown as I hoisted my duffel bag out of the trunk.
“Are you a witch or not?” Dad asked. At my confused look, he pulled his wand out of his pocket and gestured toward the bags in the trunk. With an over exaggerated flick, the bags sailed out of the back of the car and zoomed toward the house. “Ringing any bells?” His smile was lopsided.
“Oh,” I muttered, blushing once again. “I’m sorry, Dad. I’m just -”
“Distracted. I know, dear,” he said soothingly. “You have been ever since we picked you up. But not to worry - you’ve got more than your fair share to be distracted by.” He patted my hand, and I smiled at him. “Go on, love. Go on into the house. I’ll get the rest.”
“Are you sure?”
“D’you want your son to fall prey to his grandmother’s hands?”
With that terrible thought in mind, I sprinted toward the front door, yelling, “Mum, no! I mean - er - wait for me, Mum!”
Halfway up the gravel path, she stopped and turned, sending me a very quizzical look. “Where’s the fire, love?” she chuckled, shifting Jack in her arms.
I flinched instinctively when she shifted him. My hands itched to reach out for him, to snatch him out of her arms and cling to him for dear life. It wasn’t like Mum was a senior citizen. Hell, she was only forty-five, if I remembered correctly, but still. Older women didn’t ingest nearly as much calcium as they should in one day, so her bones were probably starting to become brittle, and if she shifted his weight incorrectly, her hip would pop out of socket and they would fall to the ground. Which meant that my baby would get injured. I couldn’t have that.
I said the words before I could stop myself. “Mum, don’t!”
“Don’t what?” Her eyes drilled holes into mine.
I swallowed, my tongue suddenly incredibly thick. “Um.” I chewed on my bottom lip nervously, trying to conjure something to say.
Something must’ve flashed across my face or in my eyes, because suddenly my mother had a knowing look on her face. She laughed. “Mara, honey, I know that you’re anxious and all, but really, there’s no need for you to worry. I’ve handled babies before, and I promise that I’ll be extra special with him.” She pressed a kiss to his temple as proof.
“Anxious? Worried?” I snorted, flinging my hair over my shoulder in an attempt to seem casual. “Who said anything about being anxious or worried? I was just going to say that - er - Jack probably needed his nappy changed. I hadn’t been able to change it for a while.”
She eyed me curiously before shrugging to herself. “Why don’t you help your father with the luggage? He probably needs some -”
“He’s got it under control, Mum,” I said somewhat impatiently. I took a step toward her, my arms outstretched toward my son.
She backed away from me, smirking widely. “Then why don’t you go lie down? I’ll make sure that Jack gets changed and settled. He’ll probably need a bottle too, won’t he?” Something sparkled in her eyes, but the fear gripping my insides was too intense for me to care.
“Yeah, he does. And I’ll do it.”
“No, no. It’d be stupid for you to do it. You’re probably exhausted, sweetheart. Besides, you’ll want a hot shower before supper, won’t you?”
I frowned at this. What she implying that I smelled? “Yes, but -”
“But what, honey?” A teasing note had taken residence in her voice, and I knew that she was taunting me, waiting for me to crack. Which, of course, I did.
“But I don’t want you to do it!”
“And why not?” She shifted Jack to her other hip and laughed loudly when I jumped.
“Because you’ll do it wrong!”
“Believe it or not, but I actually know how to care for babies, Mara. You were a baby once, you know. Still are sometimes,” she added as an afterthought, smiling sweetly when I grimaced at her.
I sighed heavily, pushing a hand through my limp hair. “But what if you do it wrong?” I asked, my voice a mixture of genuine concern and pathetic whining.
“Well, didn’t you do it wrong at first, Mara?”
I blinked at her, considering her words. After letting their weight settle, I shrugged. “Maybe,” I answered uneasily.
“Then just like you, I’ll learn from my mistakes.” She turned her back to me and walked inside the house, cooing to Jack.
As she disappeared into the recesses of the house, I couldn’t help but snort in derisive laughter. Me, learning from my mistakes? Ha! That was funny. I think Jack was proof enough that I didn’t learn from my mistakes; James and I had slept together more than once that week he’d come to visit me in Panama.
It was eerie how easily we settled in. For once, Mum didn’t linger in my room. She didn’t situated herself on the foot of my bed, her penetrating gaze following me as I removed my clothes from my suitcase and put them in their rightful place. She didn’t lean in the doorway, her arms folded across her chest, and ask me uncomfortable questions. And thankfully, she didn’t lay a hand on Jack aside from laying him down on the mattress.
As soon as she left, the paranoia that he was going to roll off the bed and somehow shatter his skull into a thousand pieces nagged at my mind. As I unpacked, I kept glancing over my shoulder at him. He hardly moved as he was much too fascinated with the drool on his balled fist. Every noise that I didn’t make caused me to jump and/or yelp and hurry over to Jack, saying something along the lines of, “are you okay, sweetheart?” and I proceeded to check over every inch of him to make sure that he wasn’t damaged.
He wasn’t, of course, but I still had to check. Besides, it was a long drop to the floor and I didn’t want his brain to become addled.
By the time I finished unpacking all of our clothes and rearranged furniture and the like in order to accommodate the new addition in my room - Jack, of course -, Mum had already laid out dinner. I gathered Jack up in my arms and carried him down the stairs, careful to take one at a time instead of my usual two. I wasn’t expecting to see what I saw when I set foot in the living room.
“Oh, you guys, you shouldn’t have.”
Really, they shouldn’t have. My parents had gone through the trouble of spreading blankets across the living room floor and bringing down all of my old toys from the attic. Don’t get me wrong, it was a wonderful gesture, but Jack was nearly asleep, the flight having exhausted the both of us. Unlike him, I didn’t have the luxury of passing out whenever the mood struck me.
“It was the least we could do for him, Mara,” Mum said as she eased Jack from my arms and laid him out on the blankets. “He might be sleepy now, but he’ll wake up eventually and want something to do.”
“I dunno about that - he seems pretty entertained in his fists at the moment,” I commented.
My parents exchanged a confused look, but instead of making an inquisition, Dad simply said, “Dinner’s ready.”
It almost felt like old times save for the fact that one very unmistakable person was missing from the scene - Granny Gus. My heart skipped a beat when I glanced across the table at her empty seat, knowing that if she was sitting at the table, she would’ve been giving me hell about marrying James.
Unlike my parents, she didn’t think that it was right for me to have a child out of wedlock and not be married to his father. I’d received one too many owls from her saying that when she was well enough she was going to hunt James down, wring his scrawny little neck for not giving a damn about his own child, and then demand that he make an honest woman of me. For some reason, instead of pissing me off, her letters made me laugh. I’d half-expected Dad to react the way Granny Gus had, but he’d been surprisingly cool about the entire thing. Most fathers would’ve exploded in rage and threatened death to the human being that dared to impregnate a woman and then leave her. Of course, it might’ve been because I’d told them that James had absolutely no idea that I was pregnant with his child and I wanted to keep it that way; that this was my choice, keeping it from him. As I’ve said once before, if James knew that Jack existed, it would only further complicate things between us.
Though dinner was delicious, I found that I was unable to fully appreciate the meal. And it seemed like I wasn’t the only one who felt that way. Both Mum and Dad kept glancing at her vacant seat, and there wasn’t much conversation between the three of us. We briefly discussed my new position at Gringotts, which made my entire trip to Panama pointless. I’d been sent to Latin America, particularly areas that were dense with ancient runes (admittedly, Panama was a pretty shitty location given that the majority of the Aztec and Mayan runes were elsewhere, but it was “centrally located” and supposedly lodging rates were much cheaper) by Gringotts for training - I was going to be a Curse Breaker for the wizarding bank, but then I got pregnant. And everything went from inescapably clear to impossibly cloudy in one fell swoop.
“How do you feel about it?” Dad asked between bites of potato.
I shrugged my shoulders, spooning a mouthful of peas into my mouth. “I guess it’s all right. I mean, it’s a desk job. How much fun can that be?”
“You never know, Mara,” Mum said. “You could end up meeting Mr. Right.”
I inhaled sharply, causing the half-chewed peas in my mouth to launch themselves down my throat, banging against my esophagus. Dad was the first to react, clearing my clogged throat with a quick flick of his wand. Coughing, I reached for my glass of water, chugging it down.
Mum was startled, her widened eyes clearly showing her alarm. “What did I say?” She turned to my dad, concerned. “Did I say something wrong?”
“I’ve told you to stop pestering her about that, Hannah.”
“Pestering her about what? I wasn’t pestering her, Neville.”
“About finding a husband. If she wants to get married, she’ll get married.”
“No,” I interrupted quickly, seeing as how Mum had wiped her mouth on her napkin and was leaning toward Dad, her index finger threatening to wag. “No, Mum, it wasn’t that. You - you just said something funny, is all.”
They blinked at me, obviously confused and looking for clarification. I took another swig of water, cleared my throat, and explained about my encounter with Tayler with an ‘E’. Of course, I left out the sexual harassment, knowing that Mum would’ve launched herself out of her seat and called the airline to complain. Not that they could do anything about a perverted customer.
Mum was asking why he spelt his name was an ‘E’ instead of an ‘O’ when a letter shot out of the fireplace and hit Dad in the back of the head. Dad toppled backward in his chair, Mum leapt up onto her chair, and I shrieked, which woke Jack from his peaceful slumber. Almost immediately, he started wailing, his cries practically shaking the house. I bolted out of my chair and dashed over to him, dropping onto my knees beside him. I picked him up and began to soothe him, kissing his head and whispering that everything was going to be okay, that Mummy was just frightened because Grampa and Gran were frightened.
“Neville? Darling, what’s wrong?”
Mum’s voice sounded oddly panicked. I rose to my feet as swiftly as I could with a still-crying baby in my arms. My eyes immediately focused on my father, who’d opened the letter. His face was devoid of all expression and his eyes were hollow as he looked up at the both of us. I knew what had happened before he even said it.
But my heart still sank nonetheless.
A/N: I know that JKR never confirmed if Neville had any children or not (at least as far as I'm aware), but I took the liberty to assume that he did, thus explaining Mara's existence. And yes, she's an only child.
Thanks to everyone who reviewed! I’m really starting to get into this story, particularly all of the characters, and I have you to thank for that. I know that I promised something interesting would happen in this chapter and though it probably wasn’t what you expected, I hope that I haven’t failed you too miserably. And I promise that next chapter, James will finally make his appearance! Along with a few other characters, some which you might recognize and others that you might not. If you have any questions, feel free to ask away and I’ll respond to the best of my ability!
Thanks for reading, everyone! It’s you that makes the difference!
Track This Story: Feed
Write a Review
JOIN HARRY POTTER FANFICTION
Get access to every new feature the moment it comes out.Register Today!