Progress Notes: 23 June 2007: No, this hasn't been abandoned. I've gone back and re-read, and I think I know what I need to do next--go AU. I may not get anything new posted before DH comes out, but I am planning on continuing this story.
Morning arrived all too soon for Neville. After his conversation with Harry the night before, he'd lain awake for what seemed like hours before finally drifting off to sleep. The same questions kept spinning around in his mind: What is it Harry and I have to learn? What could Potions have to do with it? Can I really learn enough to hold my own against Bellatrix Lestrange? WHY ME? The last question was the thing that was really keeping him awake. There's got to be some reason. But what could it be?
Neville sluggishly got out of bed and got dressed. He'd been awake for only fifteen minutes, and he was knackered already. He hoped that his class schedule for the day was going to be easy. Knowing his luck, however, he was probably going to have Potions—or worse, double Potions—on his schedule for the day. He stumbled down the stairs to the common room and was greeted by Ron and Harry, who were on their way to breakfast.
"'Morning," he mumbled.
"Been walking long, Neville?" Ron asked.
"Wha...huh?" he replied, blinking slowly.
"Never mind," Ron replied. "What's with you this morning? You look like you're not quite all there."
Neville glanced at Harry before answering, "Oh, I just didn't sleep well last night. I'll be okay."
"We're heading down to breakfast. Coming?"
"Reckon I need to, if I'm going to get my timetable. Yeah, I'll come."
They walked slowly to the Great Hall, marvelling at the size of the first-year students.
"We were never that small, were we?" Harry asked.
"Well, I was never that small. You, on the other hand—" Ron smirked.
"Hey!" Harry protested.
"What? It's true!"
"No, it's not!"
"You're trying to tell me that you weren't a scrawny ickle firstie?"
"Oh, good. There's Hermione and Ginny," Neville interrupted. He brushed past Ron to lead the way to the Gryffindor table.
The boys sat down, filled their plates, and started eating. Neville wasn't terribly hungry after his long night but forced himself to eat a bit of toast and a few bites of eggs.
Hermione excused herself to go talk to Professor McGonagall. When she came back, she was carrying a sheaf of papers that she started distributing to the Gryffindor students. "Timetables," she said brightly, handing Neville his.
Neville looked at his timetable, and his eyes widened slightly just before his head hit the table with a loud thunk.
"Ow," he muttered, rubbing the bump that was already forming on his forehead.
"Neville, you're really acting odd this morning. Do you need to go see Madam Pomfrey?" Ron asked.
"No, I'm fine."
"Well, you don't look fine. What's the problem?"
Neville wordlessly handed his timetable over to Ron, who said, "Oh. Double Potions today. Bad luck, mate. At least it's not 'til after lunch. Besides, it could be worse."
Harry looked at Ron incredulously and asked, "Whatcould be worse than double Potions?"
"Double Divination. I thought I was done with it, but noooo...."
"I was going to ask you about that, Ron," Harry said. "Why're you taking Divination again? I thought you'd quit."
"Yeah, well, I was going to quit, until Mum saw the marks I made on my O.W.L.s. How I got an ‘E' in Divination, I'll never know. She decided that if I did that well, then I must have ‘natural talent,' and I ‘should do everything possible to foster that talent,' or some such nonsense. I tried to get out of it, but you know my mum."
Ron handed the timetable back to Neville, who looked at it again and brightened. "Well, it's not all bad. I have double Herbology first thing."
Harry looked at him curiously before double-checking his timetable and saying, "Hang on. That can't be right. We don't have Herbology 'til tomorrow afternoon. I'm off this morning."
"And I've got Divination."
"Oh, that." Neville blushed and continued, "Professor Sprout asked me to assist her with one of her fifth-year classes. Sort of an apprenticeship. This was the only time it would fit into my schedule. Speaking of which, I need to get going. Professor Sprout wants me there early. See you later."
Neville walked outside into the crisp morning air and headed toward the greenhouses. It was a beautiful morning, clear and sunny, with a gentle breeze that ruffled his hair as he walked. On his way, he made a mental list of things he had to do today. He winced as he remembered that he had double Potions that afternoon. He was certain that Snape would be in fine form after being forced to accept Harry and him into Advanced Potions.
Neville arrived at greenhouse three, where the fifth years would have class today. He opened the door and stepped in, blinking rapidly in the sudden glare. For some reason, it was always impossibly bright in the greenhouses—brighter even than it was outside. He guessed all the glass magnified the sunlight. Of course, the charms used to keep the light at the proper level for the plants probably added to the brightness. It was impressive, really. Each individual plant received exactly the right amount of light, for exactly the right amount of time. He looked around for Professor Sprout as he shrugged out of his cloak. In addition to being bright, it was also very warm; another charm kept the temperature constant.
Greenhouse three contained many of the more...interesting...plants that the fifth years would study during the upcoming year. He saw a flat of Fanged Geraniums against the west wall, next to the Venomous Tentacula. Both of those plants were known to attack humans, if you got close enough. There were pots of aconite and belladonna, both extremely toxic; students were warned to make sure they washed their hands after handling them, to avoid poisoning themselves. Blackthorn, nightshade, liverwort, hellebore. In his mind, he checked the plants against their properties—one was bad luck, and the other three were poisonous. He also recognised some Bubotubers from his fourth year and scowled as he remembered the Bubotuber pus-containing letter Hermione had received that year. Nasty plant, that. He reminded himself to be extra careful while he was working in this particular greenhouse. He really didn't need to be bitten, poisoned, covered with boils, or cursed with bad luck. Especially that last one. He already had enough bad luck to spare; that was plainly shown by the fact that Advanced Potions was on his schedule this year.
Luckily, greenhouse three also contained some less harmful plants. He saw some pots labelled "Honking Daffodils." Those won't bloom until spring, he remembered. He didn't understand why Professor Sprout enjoyed them so much—they were so noisy when they were in bloom. There were large boxes of herbs against the east wall—enough to make a Muggle gardener proud. Basil, coriander, rosemary, sage, and thyme, Neville noticed. A healer's garden.
Neville turned as Professor Sprout bustled in. "Ah, there you are, Neville. Good, good. You'll be helping with the fifth-year Gryffindors and Ravenclaws. We're studying plants with healing properties today."
"All right, Professor. What do you need me to do?"
"First, you need to move those flats over here to the tables," she said, pointing at the long boxes of herbs he'd been looking at earlier. She pointed to the far wall. "You'll also need to get those smaller pots, the soil, and the fertiliser and bring them over. They'll be splitting and repotting the plants, and starting small healing gardens for themselves. We'll need the toadflax, too. Oh, and Neville, you need to put some work robes on. They're over against the far wall. You can change in the storage room."
Neville walked over to where Professor Sprout had pointed and changed out of his school robes and into a set of grey work robes. Then he moved the plants and pots over to the tables and lugged the large buckets of soil and fertiliser over to the floor beside the tables. He grinned when he saw the brand name of the fertiliser. He knew Professor Sprout preferred DragonDung™.
Neville worked on organising the plants on the tables, making sure that there were samples of each plant on every table. Then he divided the pots, counting to make sure that there were enough for everybody in the class. Finally, he made sure that each student would have the tools necessary to complete the job. Garden spades, gloves, and measuring cups for the fertiliser were all placed so the students could get to them. He leaned against the table and wiped the sweat off his brow as he finished.
Neville stood up as the door banged open and the students began to enter in groups of two and three. He waved at Ginny and Luna as they made their way over to where he was standing.
"Hi, Neville! What are you doing here?" Ginny asked.
"I'm doing an apprenticeship with Professor Sprout," he replied. "I'll be assisting with this class all term."
Luna looked owlishly at him and said, "Of course you are."
Neville looked curiously at Ginny, who just grinned and shrugged.
Professor Sprout moved to the front of the greenhouse and announced, "All right, you lot. Find spaces at the tables, please. Spread out, spread out. Does everyone have their work robes on?" She looked around at the class to make sure everyone was ready before continuing. "Excellent. Before we begin, I would like to introduce you to Mr. Longbottom. He'll be assisting me with this class for the term. He's already done this work, and he received an ‘O' on his Herbology O.W.L., so he should be able to answer any question you might come up with. Today, you'll be starting your own healer's garden. Can anyone tell me what any of these plants are used for? Mr. Creevey?"
"My mum cooks with basil. She makes this great—"
"Thank you, Mr. Creevey. That's enough. Obviously, I need to be more specific. You'll notice that most of the plants we're working with today are also used for cooking. I'm interested in their healing properties. Anyone else? Miss Fawcett?"
The Ravenclaw student answered promptly, "Basil reduces fever and is an anti-inflammatory. Toadflax cures skin irritation, and thyme is an antiseptic."
"Very good, Miss Fawcett. Ten points to Ravenclaw. Anyone else? Miss Weasley?"
"Um...rosemary promotes healing. It's an antiseptic and an anti-inflammatory, and I think it helps with digestion."
"Exactly right. Five points for Gryffindor. What about the sage and coriander? Does anyone have an idea?"
She paused to look at the students. "Anyone? No? Very well. Mr. Longbottom, could you help us with this question, please?"
Flustered, Neville answered, "Y-Yes. Of course, Professor. Sage can be used to restore memory, but it's also a good antiseptic and can help treat colds. Coriander aids digestion. I think it can also be used to cure mental disorders."
"Correct. Excellent work. All right, then, class. Everything you need is within your reach. Get to work."
Neville was kept busy for the entire class period. He answered what felt like a hundred questions and helped wherever necessary. He was generally shy in front of a crowd, but since this was mostly one-on-one or small group interaction, he did very well. Of course, the fact that he actually knew what he was talking about helped immensely.
He became a bit of a hero that class, too. Colin Creevey caused a slight commotion when he accidentally wandered too close to the Fanged Geraniums. Luckily, Neville had seen what was about to happen and was able to pull Colin away before the plant had really sunk its teeth into Colin's hand. Colin left the class with a few extra scratches...and a healthy respect for Fanged Geraniums.
By the time the bell rang, everyone had placed their gardens by the east wall of the greenhouse and cleaned up. Neville quickly finished cleaning up after the fifth years and hurried over to the door, where Ginny and Luna were waiting for him.
"Sorry for taking so long. Thanks for waiting!" he said.
"It's all right, Neville. We're not in a big hurry," Ginny replied.
The trio started walking toward the castle, chatting about the class they had just finished.
"That was brilliant, the way you saved Colin from that geranium, Neville," Ginny said excitedly. "I didn't know you could move so fast."
"Thanks, Ginny." He blushed. "I had a head start, though. I saw him getting too close. Those things can be wicked if you go near them."
"He was lucky you were meant to be there," Luna said. Her gaze rested on him briefly before she looked away.
She looked at him again. "You know I'm right. There's a reason you were there. There's a reason for everything."
"Er...I...." He looked pleadingly at Ginny for help.
She grinned and rescued him, saying, "I'm starving. We've been in that greenhouse for hours. Let's go eat."
Neville said, "Me, too. Wonder what we're having."
"I hope it's not shepherd's pie," Luna said. "I hate shepherd's pie."
Behind Luna's back, Neville shot Ginny a grateful look and mouthed, "Thanks!"
Lunch went by all too quickly for Neville and Harry, and before they could say "Veritaserum," it was time for them to leave for the dungeons. Hermione did her best to hurry them along; they did their best to drag their feet as much as possible. In the end, Hermione won; she could be very persistent when she wanted to be. They arrived at the classroom with seven minutes to spare, much to Neville and Harry's dismay.
"Let's go in and find our seats," Hermione said anxiously. "We don't want to be late."
"Hermione, we still have seven minutes. Don't make us go in there any earlier than we have to. Neville and I are already going to be spending more time with Snape than anyone in his right mind would want. Just two more minutes. Please?"
Hermione looked at Harry and then at Neville, who was nodding his agreement, and huffed in disgust. "Oh, all right. You two can stay out here. I'm going in. Don't blame me if you're late." Turning, she walked into the room, muttering under her breath, "Honestly, those two, you'd think...."
Neville grinned at Harry. "Is she always like that?"
"Nah. That was a pretty mild reaction, really. Bet she's worse after we get our first homework assignment."
After a few moments, Neville said, "Reckon our two minutes are up?"
"Probably so." Harry sighed loudly. "C'mon, Neville. Let's get this over with." With that, the two entered the class and found seats together. Hermione had already partnered with Dean; given the reason they were in the class, the boys guessed they would probably end up partnered together anyway.
"Oi! Neville! I didn't know you were taking Advanced Potions. How'd that happen?" Dean asked.
Neville and Harry looked at each other and said together, "Long story."
"Yeah, we.... Damn, there's Snape. Look, we'll tell you later, all right?" Harry asked quietly.
"All right," Dean whispered back as Professor Snape swept into the room, eyes flashing, black robes billowing out behind him.
Neville sank lower in his seat and found himself wishing he were somewhere—anywhere—else. This is going to be bad, he thought. Really, really bad. Then Professor Snape began to speak, and Neville's nightmare became a reality.
"Although this is Advanced Potions, I still don't expect many of you to understand the subtle beauty of potion-making," Snape said. "Some of you are here because you earned your way in—there may be hope for you." Neville rolled his eyes as Draco Malfoy sat up straighter, a smug look on his face. "Some...." He span suddenly and looked directly at Neville and Harry. Harry stared back defiantly; Neville tried to shrink lower in his seat. Snape sneered at them, his eyes narrowed. "Some of you are here for other reasons. Regardless of why you are here, you will do the work required of you. Or you will be removed from this class. Is that understood?" He strode toward the front of the room without waiting for an answer.
"Today you will begin making Polyjuice Potion. This potion takes nearly a month to make. A mistake made today will not only render the potion useless, but will make it dangerous as well. Be very certain you get it right, Mr. Longbottom."
Neville swallowed and nodded, and he saw Harry shoot a quick grin at Hermione.
"Mr. Potter. What is the single most important ingredient in Polyjuice Potion?" Snape asked acidly.
"Cat got your tongue, Potter? Miss Granger, put your hand down before I'm forced to take points from you for being a know-it-all. Well, Potter? We're waiting. You must know something about potions, in order to be in this class." Across the room, Malfoy grinned maliciously.
"Well, Professor, I know that Polyjuice Potion contains lacewings, leeches, powdered Bicorn horn, knotgrass, fluxweed, Boomslang skin, and a bit of who you want to turn into. I think the most important part of the potion would be the bit of the person you want to turn into. You need to be certain that you get a bit from the proper person, and not someone, or something, else."
Neville looked at Harry in disbelief. "How'd you know that?" he whispered quietly.
"Five points from Gryffindor for your cheek, Mr. Potter. And five more for whispering in class, Mr. Longbottom.
"Longbottom. You supposedly know about plants. Explain to the class the role of fluxweed in this potion."
"Come, come, Longbottom. Surely the person with the highest score on the Herbology O.W.L. in over twenty years should be able to answer this question without any problems."
"Y-Yes, Professor. Fluxweed is generally known as a healing herb. Both leaf and seed can be used to stay the flux and lax of the belly. It can also be used to consolidate bones that are broken or out of joint. A salve made from the herb quickly heals old sores."
"Longbottom, you did not answer my question. How does fluxweed apply to Polyjuice Potion?"
"Er...I know it needs to be picked at full moon in order for it to be effective."
"I'm disappointed, Longbottom." Snape turned to the board and began writing the steps for making the potion. "For homework, I want three feet of parchment describing the properties and functions of fluxweed in the Polyjuice Potion. I expect more than ‘it needs to be picked at full moon.'" Snape whirled to face the class and sneered at Neville. "I've given you the instructions for the potion. You will need to come to the dungeons and check on your potion at least once a day. Make sure you do so. Begin."
"Slimy git," Harry muttered under his breath.
Neville looked fearfully at Harry, whose face had flushed with anger. "Harry, don't..." he whispered.
The entire class jumped as Snape slammed his hands down on his desk. "Enough!" he hissed. "I will see both of you in detention this evening. Seven o'clock. Don't be late."
Neville and Harry worked in silence for the rest of the class period. They left their potion to simmer and headed out of the classroom and toward Gryffindor Tower, Harry muttering under his breath the entire time.
"That was a brilliant bit of acting, you two," Hermione said breathlessly as she caught up to them. "It's a perfect cover. No one will ever suspect that you're doing extra work with Snape. They'll all just think you have detention. Professor Dumbledore was a genius to come up with the idea."
"Er...Hermione," Neville began.
"Neville..." she said impatiently.
"That wasn't an act."
"What? Of course it was," she said, waving her hand dismissively. "You commit some minor infraction, Professor Snape puts you in detention, and you show up as scheduled. It was perfect."
"Yeah, well, it would be perfect," Harry said, "if it weren't for the fact that our first scheduled detention isn't until the day after tomorrow."
Neville shuddered visibly. "I'm afraid that this is the real thing, Hermione."
"But...he can't do that, can he? Professor Dumbledore said you would have detentions whenever they were scheduled. And they'd be scheduled ahead of time. Right?"
"Unfortunately, it doesn't seem as if Snape got the same rulebook as the rest of us," Neville replied.
"But that's not fair."
"And when has Snape ever been fair to me? Or Neville?" Harry asked bitterly.
"Hermione, Snape was...how shall I put this...a little...upset when he learned that Harry and I would be in his N.E.W.T.-level class, and he would be forced to spend extra time tutoring us. You know how he feels about Harry."
"The whole school knows how he feels about Harry, Neville."
"True. He doesn't think favourably of me, either. Not that I blame him."
"Oh, Neville," Hermione said. "You're too hard on yourself."
"Hermione, when we were in first year, what was I known for in Snape's class?"
"Well, there was that time your cauldron melted. And the time your potion exploded and made you break out in boils so you had to go see Madam Pomfrey. Oh, and the time...."
"I get the point, Hermione," Neville said. "And in third year? Anything with Snape there?"
"Oh, Neville. The Boggart. You don't think he still holds that against you?"
"Of course he does, Hermione," Harry said. "He's holding stuff against me that my father did. I've said it before, and I'll say it again. He's a slimy git."
"You could just tell Professor Dumbledore—"
"And what would Dumbledore do about it?" Harry asked. "We were given detention. We'll serve detention. End of story."
"Hermione, you know Harry's right. Anyway, we've got to get used to serving detentions with Snape. Might as well start now. I wish we didn't have to, but...."
"Oh, all right. I still think you need to tell Professor Dumbledore, though."
"Hermione," Harry said warningly.
"Okay, okay. I'll stop."
Later that evening during dinner, Harry explained to Ron and Ginny about the detention they were to serve. Ron was somewhat sympathetic about their situation, but mostly he just gloated that he wasn't the one who had detention with Snape on the first day of classes. After they were done eating, Neville and Harry started the trek down to the dungeons.
They walked into the dungeons to find...well, it could only be described as a mess. A horrible mess. Ingredients from different potions were scattered haphazardly on the floor throughout the room. Obviously someone in one of the classes had had a bit of difficulty at some point. It looked as if at least one cauldron had exploded. It was particularly bad around one of the desks in the middle of the room. There was a large cauldron-shaped black spot burnt into the top of the desk. The desktop itself was a sickly pea-green colour. Hot pink spots dotted the floor. And the walls. And Snape's desk. Neville and Harry looked at each other in disbelief. They were in for a long night.
"Potter, Longbottom. So nice of you to deign to join me. You see the mess, I presume. I expect it to be completely clean before you leave. Without magic. You'll find the supplies you need over in the corner." Snape looked maliciously at them. "I'll be in my office. I can hear everything that goes on in here, so don't expect to get away with any foolishness. Well? What are you waiting for? Get to work!"
"Yes, sir," Neville muttered.
Harry glared at Snape's retreating back before walking over to the cleaning supplies. "What do you say we divide and conquer this mess, Neville? I'll start on this side, you can start on the other side, and we'll meet in the middle?"
"Sounds okay to me, Harry. I hope this stuff isn't too hard to get up."
"Me, too. Well...let's get started, then."
Neville and Harry grabbed their buckets and scrub brushes and started over to their respective sides of the room. Both began scrubbing vigorously at the walls and were relieved to find that the hot pink spots, at least, came off without too much effort. They worked in silence for a while, before Neville asked, "So, Harry. Did I hear right that you get to play Quidditch again this year?"
"Yeah, thank Merlin. Dumbledore lifted the ban as soon as Umbridge was out the door. I hope I do okay. I haven't flown since...well, since she banned me, I guess. Wait, that's not totally true. I did play a few pick-up games with the Weasleys this summer. I haven't played a real game since that one last year, though."
"You're not really worried about that, are you, Harry? I mean, you're the best flyer I've ever seen."
"Thanks, Neville. I am a little worried...it's just been so long. I can't wait until practice starts, so I can get back into it."
As they continued to scrub, they discovered, much to their dismay, that while the hot pink spots came up without too much effort, the same could not be said about the green stains. Those were much likeMuggle chewing gum—sticky and gooey and very difficult to clean. They worked for almost two hours before they finally managed to work their way into the middle of the room, where the worst of the mess was. The desk that was the epicentre of the disaster looked much like a miniature war zone. In addition to the cauldron-shaped burn in the centre of the desk, the pink and green potions had mixed, leaving large lumps of violent blue.
"What in the world?" Neville asked. Even he had never made a mess as big as this.
"I dunno, Neville. I've never seen anything like it. It's like the cauldron superheated, but...."
"How come it didn't melt? Mine always melt."
Harry shook his head in disbelief. "I'm glad I wasn't in here when this happened. You know how much trouble I would've been in? Even if I didn't have anything to do with it, Snape would still find a way to blame me for it."
Neville grinned at the truth in Harry's statement. "And if he didn't blame you, then he would've blamed me."
"Or both of us...just for being in here."
"Harry," Neville said hesitantly. "Can I ask you a question?"
"You just did," Harry said.
Neville looked blankly at Harry, trying to come up with a response.
"I'm just joking, Neville. Of course you can ask me a question."
"Do you have any idea of why I'm included in this special training? I just don't understand. I've been going over it again and again in my head, but...."
"Longbottom! Potter!" Snape shouted. "What are you doing? You are in detention. You're supposed to be cleaning, not running your mouths at a tea party. Get back to work!" he snapped.
"Yes, Professor," the boys muttered.
"And Longbottom? It's not your place to wonder why."
"Severus, do you mind if I interrupt for a moment? I need to speak to Mr. Longbottom. Harry, you may also stay, if Neville wishes." The boys whirled in surprise at the voice of the Headmaster.
"Er...I don't mind if Harry stays, Professor."
"Neville, this will be very difficult for you to hear, but I wanted to tell you before you read about it in the Daily Prophet."
"Is...is it my parents? Are they all right?"
"Neville, please sit down," Dumbledore said gently. "Your parents are fine. However...."
"Oh, no. It's not Gran, is it? Is she...is she dead?"
"Neville, I need you to be calm for a moment. There was an attack this evening on your grandmother's house. I'm afraid the house was destroyed."
"But what about Gran?" Neville's voice rose in panic. "Is she all right?"
"We've been unable to find your grandmother. We have every reason to believe that she was not in the house at the time of the attack. However, we haven't been able to discover her whereabouts. Let me assure you that we have our best people working to find her. We will do everything in our power to make sure she's safe. Harry, would you assist Neville up to Gryffindor Tower? I must insist that you remain there for the time being."
"Of course, Professor. C'mon, mate," Harry said gently. "Let's get you to the common room."
A/N: Information for the plants in the healer's garden can be found at and , and Neville's fluxweed info came from . According to the Lexicon (), S. Fawcett is a female Ravenclaw student who started sometime in the 1990s. There's no specific date given, so I decided that S. Fawcett would be in Ginny and Luna's year, just because I can.
Again, many thanks go to OHGinnyfan and ChaoticK for prebetaing. Special ultra thanks go to my fantabulous beta, Lucyjekyll, for dealing with my capitalization issues in this chapter. It's also her fault that Gran went missing. J