FIC: "A Toast to Lord Voldemort" for woldy Recipient:woldy Author/Artist:magnetic_pole Title: A Toast to Lord Voldemort Rating: PG Pairings: Minerva McGonagall/Augusta Longbottom Word Count: 4500 Summary: Neville joins an unexpected celebration.
If there was one thing Neville had learned in twenty-three years of acquaintance with his grandmother—twenty-four, if you assume, like Neville did, that she had begun bossing him around in the womb—it was that Augusta Longbottom would not take no for answer. After a brief period of painful and rather unsuccessful rebellion in his late teens, Neville was gradually coming to the conclusion that his childish self had had the right idea, after all: best to acquiesce quickly and get the task over with.
Hermione always said he needed to be more firm with her, but then again, Hermione had never received 17 owls in a single afternoon. That was what ended the teenage rebellion, really. There was firm, and then there was foolhardy.
All of which is to say that there was really only one course of action open to Neville on that sunny July afternoon, when a terse summons to the Department of Interminable Fine Print arrived. Favor requested, minor but urgent, Gran had written. Despite the fact that he had been enjoying a leisurely late-afternoon cup of tea with the Mandrakes in Greenhouse Four, Neville Apparated immediately, leaving a half cup of tea and two biscuits on his workbench.
Best see what she needed, before the next owl arrived.
"At last!" Gran exclaimed, as Neville appeared in the Ministry office his grandmother had specified. The Department of Interminable Fine Print was housed in a tiny, dusty room in the bowels of the Ministry, filled with empty desks and towering file cabinets. Gran dominated the room, as always—an imperious, green-robed figure with an enormous sheaf of official-looking parchments held in one hand.
She wasn't looking at her pocket watch, but she certainly radiated an aura of toe-tapping impatience.
"Hi, Gran," Neville said. "What's going on here? How can I help?"
"Just a bit of paperwork, Neville, dear," Gran said, shuffling through a stack of parchments, laying several out on an empty desk. "Legal issues, nothing to worry about. We're following Ministry instructions to the letter, and Madam Fussy--" she nodded toward a morose, elderly witch who sat at a desk near the door--"says that we need a witness for these documents."
Madam Fussy had a spider nesting in her hair and a Quibbler spread out on the table in front of her. Neville smiled at her apologetically.
"Sign here," Gran said, thrusting a quill towards him. "Don't smudge, now. It's a charmed contract; your signature needs to be legible."
Neville leaned over the edge of the desk and signed as instructed, first one parchment, then a second, then a third. It took him a moment to notice a figure in plain black robes hovering behind Gran. "Hullo, er, Professor McGonagall," he said. "I almost missed you there."
"Hello, Neville," Professor McGonagall said. She was all severe angles next to his voluptuous grandmother, but her mouth looked a little less pinched than he remembered it. Retirement seemed to be treating her well. "Are you enjoying Hogswarts in the summertime?" she asked. "I've always thought the students missed the best time of year."
"It's lovely, thanks," Neville said. "Relaxing, without the students."
"Too relaxing, I'd say," Gran asked, looking critically at his midriff. "Have you put on weight, Neville? If you were an Auror, you'd have to keep an eye on that sort of thing. Here, two more signatures, and we're done."
"No, Gran, I don't think so," Neville said. It was like talking with the Mandrakes, Neville thought; the key was not to let anything sink in. "You're missed, Professor McGonagall," he added. "I really wish you'd stayed on to be Headmaster. Hogwarts won't be the same without you." Something wasn't right with that; he could see just the hint of a frown gathering in her eyebrows. "Headmistress," he corrected himself. "Sorry."
"Focus, Neville," Gran said. "That's the last one, there you go, all done, excellent—"
Gran seemed to be in a hurry to finish, but just as Neville signed his name for the last time, just as Gran began to pull the parchment away from him, Neville caught a glimpse of an unexpected phrase in the midst of the tiny, dense bureaucratic print:
declaration of matrimonial intent
Matrimonial intent? He pulled the parchment back from Gran, almost forcefully, and scanned it. July 15...of sound mind and full magical capabilities...let our families and fortunes join...There, just above his signature, were his grandmother's and Professor McGonagall's.
"Gran!" Neville exclaimed. "Do you realize this means you're married?" He paused as the situation sank in. "To Professor McGonagall?" he added, just in case either was befuddled as he was. "Gran?"
To his great surprise, neither Gran nor Professor McGonagall spoke to correct him; in fact, a strange blush began to creep across Gran's cheeks. Professor McGonagall peered at Gran over the tops of her eyeglasses. "Augusta," she prompted. "He is your grandson, after all."
"Right," Gran said, nodding at Neville. "I suppose it does mean Minnie and I are married. To each other. In a manner of speaking."
Neville's head was spinning. "What do you mean, in a manner of speaking?" His voice squeaked a bit. "That's a magically binding contract! You could go to Azkaban if it's broken!"
Gran and Professor McGonagall exchanged a glance. "Not ‘in a manner of speaking,' Neville," Professor McGonagall said firmly. "Married."
"Oh," Neville said, glancing from Gran to McGonagall to the morose, white-haired witch and back again, feeling totally confused. "Is this even legal? Two witches?"
"Another of Kingsley Shacklebolt's newfangled Muggle ideas," Gran said dismissively. "A bit silly, I say, but my solicitor says that it's best, seeing as we're going to share Minnie's house."
"Professor McGonagall's house? Pardon?" Neville said helplessly.
"Right," Professor McGonagall said. With an assuredness Neville recognized from his school days, she plucked the last parchment from Neville's hand and the stack of signed documents from Gran's and passed them all over to the white-haired witch, who swiveled in her chair and deposited the entire stack into the bottom drawer of a file cabinet, which belched loudly as it closed.
"There, now," Professor McGonagall said to the white-haired witch. "All signed, with young Neville Longbottom as witness. As the Ministry requested, all requirements satisfied, to the letter. We should be done, unless you need anything further from us?"
The ancient witch heaved a sigh. "You should get a certificate in the mail within a fortnight, unless the Minister comes to his senses before then." She and Gran glared at each other. Professor McGonagall grasped Gran's elbow and steered her toward the door.
Not certain what else to do, Neville followed.
"An early dinner, Augusta, in celebration?" Professor McGonagall asked as soon as the door closed behind them. "Neville, would you like to join us?"
It was, Neville thought, the most surreal night of his life, even more surreal than the night he'd begun taking his OWLs in the Astronomy Tower and ended in Department of Mysteries, battling Death Eaters. Gran, married again? Grandfather had died when Neville was very young, so even by wizarding standards Gran had had a decent period of mourning. And as far as Neville knew, Professor McGonagall had never been married. It wasn't as if they weren't adults, and fully entitled to do what they wanted and be with whomever they wanted. It just all seemed so...unlikely.
After a brief discussion of the merits of several Diagon Alley restaurants that Professor McGonagall deemed too posh for the occasion, they wound up at a small, wobbly table at the back of the Leaky Cauldron, sharing two large shepherd's pies between the three of them. Professor McGonagall regaled him with questions about Hogswarts, and Neville told them about the Mandrakes in Greenhouse Four and the beginnings of the reconstruction of the Great Hall and about Herminone's ill-fated efforts to have a portrait of Professor Snape painted for the Headmaster's office.
No one spoke of love or marriage; in fact, they laughed and gossiped about mutual friends and enemies as if it were any other night--and, odd as it sounded, it felt quite a bit like having like having drinks at the pub with Harry and the others: comfortable, familiar, intimate. Gran and Professor McGonagall certainly didn't look like a newly married couple; they didn't hug or kiss or hold hands or stare into one another's eyes. It was hard to imagine they were in love--though they must be, Neville thought, or they never would have risked marriage. Witches and wizards sometimes made marriages of convenience, but same-sex couples were still a scandalous rarity in the wizarding world, Minister Shacklebolt's pleas for tolerance aside.
He was suddenly, keenly aware that he knew very little about the personal lives of either of these two women. He'd had no idea that his grandmother fancied witches, for instance. Not that Neville thought that there was anything wrong with fancying witches, of course. It was just rather unexpected--like discovering that she liked to exercise, or that she secretly owned a computer. And Professor McGonagall! Who would want to spend the rest of her life with Gran? Much as he loved his grandmother--and he did love her, dearly--Neville certainly wouldn't have volunteered for the task; Sunday afternoons were quite enough, thank you. How long had they known each other? When had they fallen in love? Did they hold hands, the way Mum and Dad did in all the old photographs?
Mum and Dad hadn't held hands in a long time--in fact, Neville wasn't quite sure they still recognized each other. As odd as it seemed to think of Gran as married again, it made him happy, to think that one of the Longbottoms might be in love.
To Neville's dismay, conversation grew increasingly indiscreet as the evening progressed. First it was the persistent rumor that Professor Snape was still alive, perhaps because, unbeknownst even to his closest colleagues, he was a vampire for whom a lethal snake bite posed no real threat. ("Gran!" Neville said, vaguely scandalized. "It would certainly explain why the little Malfoy chit always looked so pale," Gran said.) Then Professor McGonagall confided that Dumbledore had been the primary beneficiary of Grindelwald's will. ("Old news," Gran said. "Though I have to say, Albus must have been one hell of a shag, to make that kind of impression.") When they began speculating about the mechanics of Professor Trelawney's new relationship with Professor Firenze, a blushing Neville discreetly cast a Muffliato around their table.
"It seems as if we ought to have a toast," Neville blurted in an effort to steer the conversation back to what really ought to have been its proper subject. "In celebration? Oughtn't we?"
Both Gran and Professor McGonagall looked vaguely amused. "I suppose we all should, in honor of the occasion," Professor McGonagall said. "Would you like to begin, Neville?"
"To Gran," Neville said, raising his glass; that was easy enough. "Who has always taken good care of me and pushed me to do my best, and who's always thought I could be just as good as my father." Both Gran and Professor McGonagall nodded at him approvingly.
"To Professor McGonagall," he continued. "Who, well, who's also pushed me to do my best." Professor McGonagall nodded, pleased, as if Neville had given the right answer on an exam. He frowned. That wasn't what he'd intended.
"I wish I'd known, you know?" he blurted, feeling the blush rise in his face. He could have planned something; he could have invited other guests. At the very least, he would have worn a nicer set of robes. "It's just so—unexpected."
Gran's smile faded, and she looked at her drink.
"Sorry," Neville said, looking into his own.
"Right," Professor McGonagall said slowly. "Now that we're thinking about toasts, I had one of my own."
"Yes?" Neville asked.
Professor McGonagall smiled. "I thought we might toast you, Neville. For your role in this event."
"It was nothing," Neville said, feeling a bit uncomfortable. "Just a few signatures, I mean--"
"No," Professor McGonagall said, with a wave of her hand. "Not that; who knows if the bloody Ministry will come through in the end. You heard that file cabinet. No, it was you who brought us together again, Neville."
"Really?" Neville asked. He frowned. "Again?"
Gran was smiling now, too. "He did, didn't he?"
"I did?" Neville asked. "I don't see how, really."
Gran reached over and patted his hand in a comforting way. "Do you remember that bit of confusion over your taking NEWT-level Transfiguration, Neville?"
Neville nodded, though that wasn't the way he would have put it. Sixth year, Gran had been desperate for Neville to take NEWT-level Transfiguration, which was necessary for the Auror's exams, but Professor McGonagall had refused him, saying his OWL results weren't strong enough. Stuck between two Floos, so to speak, a Neville had enrolled in Charms and neglected to tell Gran of his new plans. The only confusion involved had been his own, when he'd received a lengthy letter from Gran describing his father's aptitude for Charms.
"I wrote to your grandmother after talking to you," Professor McGonagall said. "For the first time in, oh, fifty years or so."
"Fifty years!" Neville said.
"We were great friends in school," Professor McGonagall said.
"You know we were in Gryffindor together, of course," Gran added. For all Gran had talked about Neville's Dad and his time in Gryffindor, she'd never said anything about herself, Neville realized. He'd never thought to ask. It made a certain sense, though; no one did stubborn or reckless or loyal like Gran.
Professor McGonagall and Gran exchanged a long look.
"We wanted to be Aurors," Gran said. "Minnie and I."
"We did," Professor McGonagall said softly. "We wanted to be Aurors. A foolish dream, for a witch, in those days."
"But there have been Aurors who were witches," Neville protested. "We've been ahead of the Muggles, that way. Hermione told me."
"Only recently," Gran said, shrugging. "And not that many, even now."
"And we, well, we didn’t fully realize it at the time, but we fell in love," Professor McGonagall said. "We were going to live together, after school. We were going to be Aurors together."
"Neither of us wanted to get married," Gran said.
"And we had so much fun!" Professor McGonagall said. "I still remember how much I loved being with you."
"And then we took a bite of the apple," Gran said.
Professor McGonagall choked on her drink. "I don't think we need to tell that part of the story, Gussie."
Professor McGonagall cocked her head at Neville.
Gran waved a hand dismissively. "Whatever else you can say about Neville," she said, "He's a Gryffindor the core. Our secrets will pass on to the afterlife with him. We rolled around in the sheets, Neville, and it wasn't what I'd expected, and I wondered if I'd been mistaken."
"I will not hush, Minnie," Gran said. "I'm past the age of hushing. Besides, I saw Neville casting that spell. No one can hear us old ladies."
"Please forget this by the morning, Neville," Professor McGonagall said, cheeks pink, but Gran was just warming up.
"So I thought, well, I've slept with her, and there was no spine-tingling magic, the way everyone said there was supposed to be, with a wizard, and I thought perhaps this wasn't love, after all. No one else seemed to think it was."
Neville squirmed. It felt odd, to imagine Gran having sex.
"Don't Gussie me, Minnie," Gran said. "This is my story. I didn't like sex, and I'd failed my Charms OWL, and my Auror application was sure to be rejected, and I thought, bloody hell, I'll marry your granddad, Neville. The least I could do was have a family."
"So you got married?" Neville asked. "Just, I mean, because…well?"
Gran shrugged. "It was my parents, too; they wanted me to marry. But I wanted to marry and have children, myself—we have to, or we'll die out. It's our responsibility, as witches and wizards."
Professor McGonagall rolled her eyes.
"It is," Gran insisted. "And how was I to know that there would be no magic with your granddad, either, Neville? That I would hate marriage and regret leaving Minnie and nearly miss the chance to see her again? But now I have raised a fine son who battled Voldemort, a wonderful, wonderful grandson who battled Voldemort—"
Neville squirmed again. "You didn't do so badly yourself, Gran," he said.
"Exactly!" Gran said, beaming. "I could have been an Auror, myself, like you and your father!"
"Augusta," Professor McGonagall said gently, reaching out across the table and placing her hand on Gran's arm. Gran calmed, visibly.
"Right," Gran said. "Well, now I've done my duty, and I'm determined to enjoy the rest of my life," she said.
"Come hell or high water," Neville said to his drink.
"Pardon?" Gran asked.
"Nothing, Gran," Neville said, but Professor McGonagall smiled. "To Neville," she said, raising her glass.
"To Neville," Gran said.
They toasted, and Gran tipped back her head to drain her glass. "Another round, Minnie?"
"Absolutely," Professor McGonagall said.
When Neville was nine years old, he got tired of visiting his parents at St Mungo's. You had to be quiet in their ward. You had to tell them about your life, even though you'd already told Gran everything that was interesting. You had to pretend that they could hear you and care about what you said, even though Dad always looked over your shoulder, at something you couldn't see, and Mum sang to herself. Then you had to wait for hours and hours and hours while Gran talked to all of the other old witches who raised money for St Mungo's. It took all day, and it was especially tedious in summer, when everyone else was home from school and playing outside.
He never would have risked refusing to go outright, but one warm, sunny Sunday afternoon he had a sniffle and a bit of a fever, and he climbed into bed, hoping he would be judged too ill for a visit.
"Up, Neville," Gran said, when she discovered him, sheets pulled over his head. "Mum and Dad are waiting for us."
"I'b sick, Gran," Neville said, making his nose sound stuffy. He wished he'd thought to put his pajamas on; more convincing.
Gran pulled the sheets down, so she could see his face, and Neville hid behind his elbow. "Now, Neville."
"Neville," Gran said.
"I hate Mum and Dad!" Neville said. He hadn't meant to say that; it just came out. He buried his head in the pillow, so he didn't have to look at Gran if she was angry.
Gran sat down on the side of the bed heavily, so the springs squeaked, and when she spoke, she sounded very, very tired. "That doesn't matter, Neville," she said. "Come, now. Put your shoes on."
That wasn't the answer he'd expected, but at least she wasn't angry with him. He slid out of bed and looked for a pair of socks, and he didn't think about Gran's answer again for fourteen years, until he sat with Gran and her wife in at a small table in the back of the Leaky Cauldron.
"I have a toast," Gran said when their drinks arrived. "I get a toast, don't I? Since you got to make a toast, Neville, and you did, too, Minnie?"
"Go ahead, Gussie," Professor McGonagall said.
Gran lifted her drink triumphantly. "To Lord Voldemort!"
"Voldemort!" Neville exclaimed, but Gran smiled serenely, lowered her glass, and swirled her drink. "What do you think, Minnie?" she asked.
"I think you may have a point, Gussie," Professor McGonagall said thoughtfully, as if she were giving this insane idea proper consideration.
"I always do," Gran said tartly, but they exchanged a smile, as if they had shared a secret.
"You wouldn't remember, Neville, but it was a year-long celebration after Voldemort fell the first time," Professor McGonagall said.
"A thaw after a long winter," Gran said.
"We'd been avoiding things for so long," Professor McGonagall said. "Not just the things that had been banned, but the things we'd been afraid to own or look at or talk about."
"Telly," Gran said. "Magazines. Those biscuits with the chocolate on top. Unmarried witches, giving birth."
"Debate in the newspapers," Professor McGonagall said. "Women wearing trousers. Public displays of affection."
"Those are Muggle things?" Neville asked, puzzled. The last few years before Voldemort's defeat had been horrible, but he didn't remember anyone being afraid to snog or wear trousers.
"Muggle this, Muggle that," Gran said, frowning a bit. "We couldn't get enough. Not all improvements, either: rock music, divorce."
Professor McGonagall nodded. "And then in happened all over again these past few years, you've seen. Kingsley appointed Minister. Squibs admitted to Hogswarts. Wizards talking about freeing their house-elves."
"Albus had given up on that years ago," Gran said. "I didn't think I'd live to see the day."
"And I couldn't help but think it had something to do with the war," Professor McGonagall said. "We had to suffer in order to know what we wanted."
"Or perhaps we were strong enough to make these decisions, at last," Gran said. "My point being this: we had defeated Voldemort a second time--my son Frank, the Auror, wasn't there, but my grandson Neville, the Auror--"
"Gran," Neville said.
"Gussie," Professor McGongall said.
"--my grandson Neville, the hero, helped defeat the evil snake, and suddenly the Malfoy heir is mincing about in public, kissing other wizards--which never would have happened in my day, mind you, that was the kind of thing that put you in danger of Azkaban--and all the young people are going on and on about poofs and how we should all be able to marry," she said.
Professor McGonagall leaned toward Neville and lowered her voice to a whisper. "Have you heard this word before, Neville?" she asked. "Poofs? It sounds like Muggles pretending to do magic." She mimed a bit of wandwork. "Poof!"
Neville giggled a bit, despite himself. "Yes, Professor McGonagall, I have."
"Oh." Professor McGonagall sounded rather disappointed. "Well, Gussie and I just learned it. Poof! Apparently it's just for wizards, though. There are never any good words for witches. Wizards take them all." She stared into her drink morosely.
"You could take them back," Neville said.
Gran and Professor McGonagall smiled at each other. "Yes, we could," Gran said. "If we set our minds to it."
They all drank a Sobering Draft before taking the Floo home--even a tipsy McGonagall was practical--but it wasn't clear how effective the draft had been, and so Neville accompanied them back to Gran's flat, just to be certain there were no untoward incidents involving loose-lipped former professors in strange houses.
He would miss the flat, he thought as they arrived back at home and brushed the soot off their clothes. Gran fussed about, straightening the pillows on the couch, as if Neville had forgotten his first two decades living there and might get the wrong idea and mistake her for an untidy housekeeper. He hadn't had the happiest of childhoods here, but it felt like home. He had never been to Professor McGonagall's cottage.
"A cup of tea, before you go, Neville?" Professor McGonagall asked.
"No, thanks," he said. "Time to get back, I think." But he sat down on the couch instead, and Gran and Professor McGonagall sat down, as well. They were both a bit stiffer than they'd been earlier that evening, a little more subdued.
"You're not having a ceremony?" Neville asked. "To celebrate?"
"What would we do, wear those white Muggle dresses and parade around in front of our friends?" Gran sniffed. "Gauche."
"You could do it the wizarding way," Neville said.
"The feast would be a fortune, I'm sure," McGonagall said darkly. "Kingsley alone would drink away my retirement savings. I know him. The man saves your life once or twice, and he thinks he's entitled to everything in your liquor cupboard."
"We're going to try retirement first," Gran said. "Minnie's cottage, a garden, some time to ourselves."
"Your grandmother is going to get the garden into tip-top shape," Professor McGonagall said. "Terrorize the tulips—"
"Well, we'll see what happens. I fully intend to appreciate the fact that I never have to mark another student essay," Professor McGonagall said. "The overwhelming joy of not-marking may occupy the first decade of retirement or so."
"I hope you have better ideas than that, Minnie," Gran said. "I'm not giving up my flat for ten years of not-marking."
"What about you, Professor McGonagall?" Neville asked. "What did you do, after Gran was married?"
"I always knew I never wanted to get married," Professor McGonagall said. "I wanted to be an Auror. No time for romance, that's what I always said. I had to work hard."
Gran smiled. "You had twelve NEWTs. No one in our year could touch you."
"I traveled after leaving school, spent time in America, and when I came back and applied for a position with Magical Law Enforcement, I thought they couldn't refuse me."
"Did they?" Neville asked anxiously.
"A few weeks after I submitted my application, Albus approached me about a job teaching at Hogwarts. I had to make a decision immediately, he said."
"Oh, no!" Neville said. "What terrible timing!"
Professor McGonagall looked him over the tops of her glasses, an odd expression on her face.
"Did you accept?" Neville asked. "Oh! Well, I suppose you did." He laughed, feeling a bit self-conscious. "Right, of course you did."
"Albus said that I was better suited to teaching," Professor McGonagall said. "And I thought that perhaps I was."
"That man was a Slytherin if I ever saw one," Gran said.
Professor McGonagall sat quietly, as if she were thinking about Gran's comment. "Aurors didn't bring down Lord Voldemort," she said at last.
"The Order of the Phoenix did!" Neville said.
"Not just the Order," Gran said, nodding at Neville. "You were the hero. You and Harry."
"We all helped," Professor McGonagall said. "Aurors or no."
"It was the right thing to do," Gran said. "I don't need a qualification to act as I see fit."
"Voldemort was no match for the Longbottoms," Professor McGonagall said.
Professor McGonagall stood when the clock struck two. "Good night, Neville," she said. "It's been nice to see you, but it is our wedding night, you know."
Neville bit back a laugh despite himself. "Congratulations," he said shyly. "On your marriage. I don't think I said so, properly."
"Yes," Gran said, shrugging. "Right. Well. Paperwork."
"Thank you," McGonagall, slipping one arm around Gran's waist. It was the first time that night that they had touched, Neville realized. They looked surprisingly comfortable with each other, Professor McGonagall's angles fitting in all of Gran's curves.
"We're glad you were here to celebrate with us," Professor McGonagall said. "Aren't we, Gussie?"
"I suppose we are," Gran said. "Thank you, Neville. Same time this Sunday?"
"You can tell Frank and Alice the good news, Gussie," Professor McGonagall said. "I think they'll be happy for you."
"They were always more open-minded than was really good for them," Gran said. Her disapproval was almost palpable, but Professor McGonagall squeezed her, and Gran smiled.
It was possible to marry someone you didn't love, Neville realized, to watch your world fall apart, to see your son injured beyond recovery, to start over with a baby grandson, and eventually find a soulmate.
He wasn't looking forward to his weekly visits with Gran any more than he usually did, but he felt a little better about the world.
"Till Sunday, then?" Neville asked. "All three of us, this week?"
"Till Sunday." Gran said. "All five of us, this week."
Neville stepped into the Floo. Best to get some sleep, before Gran's next owl arrived.
Note: A final toast to N, whose coming out story served as a starting point for this fic and who is now living the life she wants to lead, setting an example for us all. Woldy, I was delighted to write for someone who requested politics and femslash! Thank you to S, who read and commented on an early version of this fic. And thanks to all involved in the wonderful fest, especially our fearless and hardworking mod.