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Fic: Firewhiskey With Great Uncle Algie

Title: Firewhiskey with Great Uncle Algie
Author: Vegablack62
Characters: Neville Longbottom, Great Uncle Algie
Rating PG-13 for under age drinking
Word Count: 2,113
Summary:  The summer after fourth year Neville has a talk with his great uncle.
Author's Note: Thanks to Sunzu for her Britpick.  You were a huge help.
I wrote this for the hp_misfitfics family challenge.
Author's Note: The opinions of the characters do not represent those of the management of the story.


“Boy, come here and sit with your old uncle.” Algie motioned for Neville to join him at the kitchen table.


Neville obeyed a little nervously. He liked his great uncle, but the man had pushed him into the sea and dropped him out of a window, while Neville understood that those pushes and drops had been necessary, he found them a bit  hard to forget. Besides his uncle still had a habit of springing things on him, much like the way he used to jump at him in the old days when he was trying to frighten magic out of him and Neville hated having things sprung on him.  

Algie leaned forward so close that Neville could smell the old man smell of firewhiskey and cigars. “That bastard, Crouch tricked you, didn't he,” Algie said. “You thought he was an Auror friend of your father’s who wanted to talk a bit with his old friend's son. But he was just playing with you wasn’t he? Like a damned cat.” 


Algie had done it again; he'd hit him with a bludger when he was unprepared.  Neville should have seen it coming. His great uncle was the only one of the relatives who hadn’t had a chance to go spare because Barty Crouch Jr. had taught the only son of Frank and Alice Longbottom. Now he was taking his turn.


Neville had not talked about Crouch with anyone yet, not really. His grandmother's rants and furious questions, and the angry outbursts of the Longbottom relatives didn't count. They raged around him, exploding like  thunderstorms, expecting no reply and not interested in any he might give. He ignored them and when he couldn’t he endured them. His great uncle was different. His questions required answers beyond yes, no and I’m sorry and Neville didn’t want to give any.


“Your grandmother’s upset,” said Algie. “She’s horrified that Crouch was anywhere near you. It scared her I think.”


Neville couldn't give an answer, not even a nod. He knew his gran was angry, not upset but angry. Why shouldn’t she be? Neville had visited with the man, listened to him tell stories about his dad and his time as an Auror. Neville shuddered. He hoped Crouch had made the stories up, because any story he’d heard from Crouch’s mouth was permanently ruined for him. Even Sprout’s compliment (did she really make it?) felt muddied and contaminated by Crouch.


His gran knew he had met with Crouch, because Neville, like an idiot, had owled her about it. He’d written her that his dad’s old friend Moody had asked him to his office for tea that he’d talked about his dad’s old life. (He hadn’t told her about the spiders and the Cruciatus curse of course. He wouldn’t hurt her, not intentionally and it wasn’t something Neville could talk about anyway.) Neville had even bragged that Sprout had called him her best Herbology student. He couldn’t help doing it; he rarely had anything good to write her about school.   


“He tricked you,” Algie continued. “But why should you be any different from anyone else? Crouch fooled Dumbledore didn't he? Dumbledore thought he was Moody the whole school year. Greatest living wizard and he’d been tricked.” 


Neville didn't care about Dumbledore's mistakes. The greatest living wizard's parents hadn't been destroyed by Crouch. Neville had met one of his family’s worst enemies and had lapped up his compliments like a dog. 


What had Neville said to Crouch? He hadn’t been able to hide how much the spider torture had shaken him. Did he cry in front of him or ask about his dad?  Neville backed away from a memory too painful and humiliating to think about. Neville stared down at the table; he could feel his eyes getting wet with tears. His throat burned.


“That worm knew how to control people. He Imperiused Moody and Moody was a brilliant Auror, nearly as good as your father,” Algie continued. 


At that Neville almost cracked a smile. He still kept his head down.


“Crouch fooled your father you know,” Algie said sadly.   “That's how they got him.”


Neville's head came up. He remembered something about this. 


Algie nodded. “That lickspittle was the son of the Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement,” Algie said, speaking the last words in as pretentious a voice as he could muster. “Crouch Jr.  hung around the ministry and the Auror office. People trusted him. Your father trusted him.” 


Algie pointed at him speaking forcefully. “You and your father were both fooled by the same lickspittle. That’s what I call him the lickspittle.”


Neville still couldn't speak. He stared at Algie unblinking. He knew his eyes were wet and red.


Algie stared back at him with a worried expression.   He  reached down and pulled a bottle out of his bag, conjured two glasses and filled them. “You’re going to be fifteen years old in a month. It's time your tried some firewhiskey.” He passed Neville a glass. “Don't sip it. Gulp it, like this,” he said as he demonstrated. He refilled his own glass when he finished.


Neville drank. Tears ran down his cheeks and a choking burning rose in his throat, but he swallowed.


“Brought tears to your eyes. Didn't it?” Algie said nodding.


Neville smiled in warm gratitude at Algie. He realised that his great-uncle was covering for him. The firewhiskey had given him a reason for having tears. He finished his glass and felt calmer and strangely buoyant. The feeling felt familiar, but he couldn’t remember why.


Algie leaned toward Neville, a crafty expression on his face. “The lickspittle knew how to manipulate people. I watched him at the trial,” he said. “He had everyone convinced that he was a victim of bad company. He played on their sympathy and they pitied him. I saw through him, but that was because I knew already. I could see how good he was, how he could've fooled Frank. I know how he fooled you.”


He smiled a toothy smile at Neville. “The Dementors got him. He's worse off than your parents. You're alive and free and he isn't. That's the best revenge. You remember that.”


Neville thought that he would prefer a real revenge.


His great-uncle Algie finished another firewhisky. “Crouch is gone, but “You-Know-Who” is back, and everyone is beside themselves. But in this family we always knew that would happen,” Algie said.


“Yes,” Neville replied finally able to talk. “We always knew.” He sighed. 


“I have something for you,” Algie said. He got up from the table and steadied himself a moment before walking off in search of his item. He returned carrying a box that Neville recognized as one used for transporting plants. 


“When I heard the news about Crouch, I knew you would need cheering up. So I got you a special present for your birthday,” Algie said as he handed Neville the box. “I decided to give it to you ahead of time. I would probably kill the thing, if I waited for the real day.”


Neville lifted the plant out of the box. When he recognized it, he was amazed. “Mimbulus mimbletonia,” Neville said. “How did you find it?”


“When I was in Assyria, I met one of their Herbology professors and I asked him what would be a prize plant, something really rare. He mentioned this. He said it was very, very hard to grow, that most people would kill it. But I told him you could grow anything.”


For the first time that day, Neville really smiled at his great-uncle.  


“It was very hard to find, even in Assyria,” said Algie. “But I finally found a dealer who knew someone who could get their hands on one.”


“It's a fascinating plant,” Neville said excitedly. “When it's full grown, it sings. If it's disturbed it shoots stinksap at its attacker.”


“Well, don't disturb it. I don't want any stinksap sprayed on me and I don’t want any in your grandmother's kitchen,” said Algie, eying the plant dubiously. He looked less happy with his gift.


“Oh, I won't,” Neville said. He actually grinned. “I really like it. -- Thank you.”


“I knew you would,” Algie said with a nod. “I know what you like -- I gave you your toad didn’t I? The same as I had when I was in school.” He picked up the firewhiskey and gestured toward Neville with it.   “Haven't I always understood what you needed? I knew how to get you your magic. Some in the family didn’t approve, but I was right. My ways worked and in the end didn’t hurt you at all.”


Neville remembered the shock of cold water and the despair as his wet clothes dragged him under. He’d blacked out and woken up vomiting water surround by a circle of faces staring down at him. Sometimes the memory came back when he didn’t want it. He had nightmares about it, panicked dreams of falling, unable to breathe. Even now when he looked at Algie he could feel the frenzied terror of hanging over emptiness. He reminded himself of bouncing down the road, thrilled to have magic like everyone else did, and happy really happy to be free of the fear of being a squib. His gran had even cried with relief for him.  


“No,” Neville said. “I wasn’t hurt at all.”


“You sure you haven't drunk this before?” Algie asked. “I gave you a lot. I was worried you'd fall off the chair, but for a little guy you can handle your firewhiskey.”


Neville laughed. Algie poured him another glass. He swallowed it, screwing up his face as he did so. The firewhiskey burned peppery hot as it went down. He felt very good, better than he had in a long time. He was reminded again of feeling this way before, but he couldn’t quite grasp the memory of when.


“Your gran sent me an owl saying you took a girl to the Yule ball,” Algie said.


“Ginny Weasley, just as friends.”


“Weasley, I reckon she has red hair. I always liked red hair myself. Was she pretty?”


“Yeah, very pretty, with long hair,” Neville answered, gesturing as Algie poured him another firewhiskey.


“Well to pretty Ginny Weasley -- drink up!” the old man told him. 


The drink went down easier this time. The sense of something very familiar grew.


“I should have known you could handle your firewhiskey. All the Longbottoms can. Firewhiskey was your father’s favorite drink. He gave it up though, because of the war. He feared the Imperius curse. Said he heard being under it felt a lot like drinking a few glasses of firewhiskey.”


Neville was going to be sick. He stood up from his chair quickly to get to a toilet, but the ground moved under his feet and the room spun. He fell to his knees and vomited. He had realized what made the firewhiskey feeling so familiar. In class he’d been under the Imperius curse. He had felt the same floating sense of warm comfort when Crouch had been in his mind making him flip and cartwheel like an acrobat.


Neville let his head sag a little, tired from being sick. As he kneeled on the ground getting control of himself, he remembered the classroom: the feel of his own body jumping, because Crouch was putting the orders in his mind. The room spun again. Neville groped for the floor. A spider danced under Crouch’s command; the flips and cartwheels Crouch forced on it reminded Neville of his own. He watched them - no, it suffer under the Cruciatus curse. He saw his poor parents. He tried not to, but he did. Sick rose up in Neville’s throat again. Crouch had looked him in the eye, before he’d cursed that poor spider. He’d known who Neville was when he did it. Neville was sure of that now.


Neville vomited again, his throat and nose burning with the hot pepper of the firewhiskey. 


Great uncle Algie stood in front of him. Neville could just see the tops of his shoes. 


“Gave you too much -- didn’t I,” Algie said kindly as he spelled away the mess Neville made. “Well don’t try to stop it. Just let it out. That’s the best way to get rid it.” 






( 17 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 30th, 2009 09:02 pm (UTC)
This was an incredible slice of Neville's life.

As usual, I'm in awe of the way you can take something canon and hold it up to the light the way you do. Inspect it. Does that make sense?

And the images are so stark and really leave an impression. Neville seeing that Mimbulus mimbletonia. Neville on his knees...

I'm rambling so I'll stop. Just know that I love your stuff and I thank you for sharing!

Mar. 30th, 2009 11:14 pm (UTC)
Thank you for your wonderful review. You gave a wonderful description of what I like to do in fanfiction. I love the image of holding things up to the light. Neville's relationship with his great uncle Algie and his reaction to learning that Moody had really been Barty Crouch Jr. both facinated me. I wanted to examine them in a story.

I'm glad the way it was written worked for you. Thanks as always.
Mar. 30th, 2009 10:05 pm (UTC)
This is so powerful. When his Uncle Algie said that Frank feared the Imperius curse, I knew that's what Neville was feeling, and it gave me chills.

And the end when he says, "Just let it out. That's the best way to get rid it."
This was really good.
Mar. 30th, 2009 11:09 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much for your review. It was very encouraging. I really liked this piece but it hadn't been beta'd and I was running out of time to get it up before the month was out. (It was written for the March challenge Prompt: family.) So I keep thinking how it needed a beta and not seeing its good points.

I like writing about Neville's family because they are loving, but very harsh at the same time. I was always charmed by Great Uncle Algie giving him his plant for a present. And I thought the situation of Neville being in class with Barty Crouch JR. was frought with Drama.

I'm glad you liked the ending. I was worried it didn't really close the story as well as I thought.

(I'm sorry that I've missed commenting on your stories. Between real life, my springgen story and this I haven't had much time, but I will play catch up.)
Mar. 30th, 2009 11:14 pm (UTC)
I really liked the end. I thought that there was so much subtext there about getting it all out that had nothing to do with Neville being sick.

Don't worry about my stuff. It's hard to play catch-up when life takes over. If it's fics your looking for, just click on my master list (on the left side of my journal), then you can choose what you like. The RL and usual junk is probably best skipped.
Mar. 30th, 2009 11:24 pm (UTC)
Yeah I thought that line said a lot too. I'll be checking out yours and Thanfictions fic over the next few days.
(Deleted comment)
Mar. 31st, 2009 01:50 pm (UTC)
Thank you for this review. It helped me with a an idea of how to edit this. There is a line or two in the begining that I thought was clunky and after reading your reveiw I think I can cut it because the story shows it without me having to tell it too.

I find Neville's relationship with his family facinating because it is so complex. Unlike Harry he loves them and they love him, but they are so wrong at times in how they treat him. I found Algie paticularly interesting because he almost killed Neville yet Neville speaks of him with real wharmth. I was charmed of his gift of the Mimbulus Mibletonia. He appeared to accept Neville and encourage him in who he was unlike the rest of Neville's family.

I tried to get that across in the story. (I bet you regret commenting. I always send a novel in response.)
(Deleted comment)
Mar. 31st, 2009 01:57 pm (UTC)
I have that same problem with a lot of comments.

I have to know. Where did you get your icon? It's priceless.
(Deleted comment)
Mar. 31st, 2009 03:00 pm (UTC)
I knew it must have come from somewhere like that. I love badfic quotes.
Apr. 1st, 2009 08:48 am (UTC)
You're alive and free and he isn't. That's the best revenge. You remember that.”

Neville thought that he would prefer a real revenge.

I love this. I can't imagine how violated Neville must have felt after GoF, but you do a great job of depicting it here, making things perfectly clear without going over the top.

But I told him you could grow anything.

I really like this Algie, too, so very much rooting for Neville, even if he is rather blase about his methods (I liked the fact that Neville is still haunted by being thrown in the sea). The ending, with Neville's memories and then Algie's "get it all out", is very well done.
Apr. 1st, 2009 03:25 pm (UTC)
Thanks for your comments. I take them especially seriously because I like your work so much. I'm glad you thought I hit the right note between showing Neville's feelings without being excessive.

I worked hard to walk a line with Algie. On the one hand I believe his treatment of Neville was abusive and dangerous. I think it affected Neville's personality and helps explain why he was such an anxious kid. But in the books Neville always seems close to him and he gave Neville a gift that showed effort, concern and an interest in who he really was as an individual. I think he loved him. I tried to show both aspects.

I hope I did.
Apr. 1st, 2009 08:51 pm (UTC)
I think you hit that line perfectly with Algie. It's one thing I really liked about this piece.
Apr. 1st, 2009 08:55 pm (UTC)
Thanks. That is the best news.
Apr. 5th, 2009 12:45 pm (UTC)
I’m not certain how I missed this fic, but I did somehow. I loved the way you wrote Uncle Algie and his relationship with Neville. I also love the way you built up the unease that Neville felt as he continued to drink and wondered at the feeling as he did so. Definitely my favorite story you’ve done so far.
Apr. 5th, 2009 08:23 pm (UTC)
Thanks for commenting. I enjoyed writing Uncle Algie. I'm glad you liked his relationship with Neville. I think he's an interesting person in his varying ways of treating Neville. I'm glad you like this. It's one of my favorites too.
Apr. 9th, 2009 06:03 am (UTC)
Wow, I really enjoyed this. I've always thought poorly of Algie, but you've fleshed out his character a bit more. Good work!
Apr. 9th, 2009 06:21 am (UTC)
I'm glad you enjoyed this. I have very mixed feelings about Algie. I thought what he did to Neville when the boy was seven and eight was horrible, but Neville speaks of him with warmth and he did give him his rare plant which was a sensitive gift. This is how I reconciled the two.

I thought the relationship was interesting.

( 17 comments — Leave a comment )


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