Evan looked at the ward, which seemed to be a permanent home to its residents.
They had many more personal items around their beds than in Ron's ward; the wall around Gilderoy's headboard, for instance, was papered with pictures of himself, in all of which he was beaming toothily and waving at his fans.
He had autographed many of them to himself in disjointed, childish writing. The moment he had been deposited in his chair by the Healer, Gilderoy pulled a fresh stack of photographs toward him, seized a quill, and started signing them all feverishly.
"You can put them in envelopes," he said to Hermione, throwing the signed pictures into her lap one by one as he finished them, just like he used to do at school. "I am not forgotten, you know, no, I still receive a great deal of fan mail… Gladys Gudgeon writes weekly… I just wish I knew why…"
He paused, looking faintly puzzled, then beamed again and returned to his signing with renewed vigor. "I suspect it is simply my good looks…"
Evan looked into the distance, and there were two patients in the ward besides Lockhart, a man and a woman, lying in the corner of the room, staring at the ceiling. They were mumbling to themselves and seemed quite unaware of anything around them.
“That’s the Longbottom couple!” Noticing Evan's gaze, the Healer explained, “They have been here for a long, long time, for more than a decade. They were here before I came to work.”
Evan was stunned. They turned out to be Neville's parents!
They used to be Aurors and were also members of the original Order of the Phoenix. During the first wizarding war, they fought bravely against Voldemort and the Death Eaters.
After Voldemort’s defeat and escape, and just when people thought the war was over, they were captured by Bellatrix Lestrange, Barty Crouch Jr. and other Death Eaters. The Death Eaters tormented both of them madly with the Cruciatus Curse, hoping to get information about Voldemort and where he might have escaped.
Eventually, they were tortured into insanity, did not recognize their family, or even know who they were, and were sent for treatment at St Mungo’s Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries.
Undoubtedly, both of them were heroes, but unfortunately their ending was very tragic.
“You just said the Longbottoms?” Hermione said in surprise, as if she had noticed something.
“Yes, they are Mr. Frank and Mrs. Alice Longbottom,” said the Healer. “The old mothers of both of them, Mrs. Longbottom, came to visit them every day, and there was a round-faced boy. I remember his name…”
“Neville!” Hermione exclaimed.
At the same time, the ward door was opened again.
Evan saw Neville, who was unhappy, coming in, followed by a formidable-looking old witch wearing a long green dress, a moth-eaten fox fur, and a pointed hat decorated with what was unmistakably a stuffed vulture.
“Evan, Hermione, you, you…” Neville jumped and cowered, as though a bullet had narrowly missed him.
He looked extremely surprised, and then became horrified. Neville looked at Evan and Hermione, and looked at his parents lying in the back beds. He obviously didn’t want his classmates to know about his parents.
The atmosphere was so embarrassing that Evan wished that he had not come to this ward.
"Friends of yours, Neville, dear?" said Neville's grandmother graciously, and came over to Evan and Hermione.
Neville looked as though he would rather be anywhere in the world but here. A dull purple flush was creeping up his plump face and he was not making eye contact with any of them.
“Are you Evan Mason?!” said his grandmother, looking closely at Evan and sticking out a shriveled, clawlike hand for him to shake.”Yes, I know you. I saw your photos and read your stories in the newspaper the other day. They said you and Harry Potter saved the Blacks' kid. You did a great job!”
Mrs. Longbottom patted Evan's shoulder and turned her eyes to Hermione next to him.
“As for you, you must be Hermione Granger.” She shook hands with Hermione and continued, “Neville's told me all about you. Helped him out of a few sticky spots, haven't you? He speaks most highly of both of you."
Neville did not look at them, but stared at his own feet, the color deepening in his face all the while.
“Neville is a good boy!” Mrs. Longbottom said, casting a sternly appraising look down her rather bony nose at Neville, "but he hasn't got his father's talent, I'm afraid to say…"
She jerked her head in the direction of the two beds at the end of the ward, so that the stuffed vulture on her hat trembled alarmingly.
Evan and Hermione were silent, and looked back at the two people lying on the side of the bed, not knowing what to say.
"Haven't you told your friends about your parents, Neville?" Mrs. Longbottom asked sharply, and she noticed the anomaly in the atmosphere.
Neville took a deep breath, looked up at the ceiling and shook his head.
Unconsciously, Hermione gently held Evan' hand. She looked very sad. She was worried about Neville, but did not know what to do.
"Well, it's nothing to be ashamed of!" said Mrs. Longbottom angrily. "You should be proud, Neville, proud! They didn't give their health and their sanity so that their only son would be ashamed of them, you know!"
"I'm not ashamed," said Neville very faintly, still looking anywhere but at Evan and Hermione.
“The way you're behaving is very strange!” Mrs. Longbottom looked at him, then turned to Evan and Hermione proudly and said, “My son and his wife were tortured into insanity by You-Know-Who's followers. They were Aurors, you know, and very well respected within the Wizarding community.”
Hermione covered her mouth with her little hand, and she looked back at Neville’s parents.
Hearing the noise, Neville's mother sat up from the bed. Her face was thin and worn, her eyes seemed overlarge, and her head was white, wispy and dead-looking. She didn’t seem to want to speak, or perhaps she was not able to, just sitting on the bed and motioning at Neville.
Seeing her movements, the Healer hurried up to greet her.
“Alas!” Mrs. Longbottom sighed, looked at Neville again, and staggered up to her son and daughter-in-law.
In her old back, there was a lonely desolation.
Neville didn’t move. He took a deep breath, raised his head violently and looked at Evan and Hermione, his expression defiant, as though daring them to laugh.
Evan thought he could never find anything less funny in his life. His eyes moved to other places, and he did not look at Neville.
Beside him, Hermione's tears swirled in her eyes, watching Neville worriedly.
The two of them didn’t know how they left the ward at last. In the corridor, Hermione, who looked tearful said, “I never knew…”
Evan didn’t speak, and his heart was equally heavy.
Neville’s life was similar to that of Harry. In a sense, he was even more pitiful than Harry. Although he could often see his parents, they couldn't recognize him. He didn't even dare mention them to his friends.
For Neville, this was an endless pain.
Evan sighed and once again realized the cruelty of the Death Eaters and the cruelty of war.
Facing a dangerous future, enhancing their strength as much as possible was the only hope they had.
T/N: Hey there, this is Translating_Wizard. I hope you like the story so far and are happy with the releases, I just posted chapter 353 in Patreon! If you’re interested in supporting me and reading more chapters, hit the button below ^^Liked it? Take a second to support TranslatinOtaku on Patreon!