Summary: Flowers bloom, and children grow up.
Fandom: Harry Potter
Title, Author and URL of original story: Summer Roses by msmoocow
The summer he was eight years old, Neville found the book. It was a very good book, about a garden and children and a wonderful secret, and he fell in love with it. It wasn't a very easy book to read though, and he had to read slowly, sometimes aloud, to help himself make sense of the words. Another voice would have been even better. A woman's voice, warm, and kind, and patient like a mother.
"This is Anne Edward," his grandma said, "She'll be taking care of you while I visit your Great-Uncle Algernon for a while."
She was a tall woman, smiling kindly. Neville barely got a look at her face while shaking her hand before running away from the kitchen. In his wake, a flower pot crashed down on the floor, again. These things always happened to him.
He stammered an apology, but even as he walked away, he was able to hear the hushed words exchanged between his grandmother and the woman.
"We fear that he might be…"
It wasn't a word that he heard said, usually. It was always a word they whispered around him, but he knew what it meant. He ran up the stairs and laid down on his bed and closed his eyes. He imagined that he was in the secret garden, and it was blooming beautifully.
That evening he learned Anne Edward hadn't stayed home to take care of him, after all. The visit to Great-Uncle had been put off. He apologised to his grandmother, again. "No matter," she said. He knew it did, though.
She came back later, Anne Edward did. Except Anne Edward wasn't her name really. Her name was Antonia, it was only that everyone called her Anne. Only her mother, before she had died, and Neville called her by her true name. It was a secret name that nobody else but him knew.
They played in the garden. He was clumsy and shy at first, but eventually she won him over. She was always so patient and kind.
Neville could forget a little about it, there. He could stop worrying about not being magical and forget his fear of Great Uncle Algernon.
He told her about it and she said not to worry.
Let's read a book, she said.
They read the book in the garden, sun warm, the leaves whispering and the petals dancing around them. At least, that was how Neville remembered it.
Sometimes they'd walked outside the house to admire the wildflowers. They were beautiful, as well. Even when not cared for properly for, even unhelped, they were resilient and strong, Antonia said. They grew stubbornly, and blossomed by themselves. All in due time, she commented, like how the garden in the book had survived in its wilderness.
"But isn't it better when it's properly cared for?" Neville said.
Antonia sighted. "It's a different kind of beauty."
"I'd like to…" Neville said, and stopped himself, blushing.
"I'd like to take care of a garden."
Antonia took his hand and held it. "Yes."
"The garden has been beautiful, lately," Grandmother observed.
It was true. The flowers were more beautiful than they had ever been, the hydrangeas blooming like never before, and the summer roses growing to unprecedented size.
"It has, hasn't it?" Neville said, beaming, raising his head from where he was playing.
Grandmother arched an eyebrow at him.
"It's all thanks to Antonia."
"Ah," Grandmother said, in a tone that wasn't forthcoming to anymore discussion, so Neville bowed his head and said nothing else.
Later Antonia told him, "It's not thanks to me, you know."
Neville looked up, surprised. "What do you mean?"
"It's not thanks to me that the garden is so beautiful. I don't have that kind of magic."
"Yes, it is! It's never been this beautiful! It can't have happened all by itself."
She smiled. "Maybe someone helped it along."
Neville hesitated. "But not you?"
"No, that wasn't me."
"What do you think," she said, gently.
Neville bit his lips. "Maybe Grandmother hired someone…"
"Someone you didn't even ever see?"
Neville looked down. "You think it was me."
"You said you'd like to take of a garden." As if it was that simple.
"Does that mean I have magic?" He said very, very faintly.
She poked his chin up, so he'd look at her. "Neville, how do you think you can see and talk to me, when nobody else can?"
His eyes started stinging, and he swallowed. "Grandmother said you w-were just an im-imaginary f-friend."
"Do you think I'm not real ?"
"No," he whispered.
Antonia smiled. "You called me with your magic. Like you made the garden grow more beautiful."
Antonia left at the end of summer. She said he didn't need her anymore. Even though she wanted to, she couldn't stay, and she missed her little brothers, too.
Shortly after, Great Uncle Algernon came visiting, dropped him from a window, and Neville bounced up. He was finally magical, to the relief of his Grandmother and the rest of the family.
He continued taking care of the garden, which grew even more beautiful every year, and he kept the book, rereading it each summer.
It was many years later that he dared to look her up in the archives and finally found her: Antonia Edward, a grand aunt of Anne Edward, who had had two little brothers. They had been killed, the three of them, during Grindelwald's war.
He found the memorial where they were buried and planted wildflowers around it. He visited it every summer and watched them bloom.
After the war, he applied for a teaching position at Hogwarts. At the time he was only thinking of the need to rebuild, but he was surprised to find out how much he liked taking care of children. They were rough, shy, wild, sometimes violent, or petty, or kind, or bright. Always colourful. They grew nevertheless. They always did, given the chance. Only a little bit of patience and gentleness helped them growing straighter, taller, closer to the sun.