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.
Neville said goodbye to his grandmother one last time before loading his trunk on the Hogwarts Express. She had never really been one for displays of affection, but they'd come to an understanding, of sorts, since their talk.
"Bye, Gran. I...I love you."
She smiled gently at him and said, "Goodbye, Neville. Have a good term, and study hard. And Neville, be careful."
"I will. I promise." In his haste to board the train, he didn't hear her say, "I love you, too, Neville."
Once on board the train, Neville started looking for a compartment. Last year, he'd despaired at ever finding a place to sit; he was too shy to barge in on someone, even if that someone was "Loony" Luna Lovegood. If it hadn't been for Ginny, he would've probably ended up standing in the corridor the entire trip. This year, however, he had no problem asking Luna if he could sit with her. They had, after all, been through a lot together last year.
"Hullo, Luna. Mind if I sit here?" he asked as he poked his head through the door. He noticed that she hadn't changed much at all over the summer. She still had that rather dreamy expression on her face, and her wand was tucked behind her ear.
"Oh, hello, Neville," she said vaguely. "Come in." If it had been anyone else, Neville would've thought she was being standoffish, but it was Luna, and you never could tell with her.
"How was your holiday?" he asked. "Didn't you go somewhere...Sweden, wasn't it?"
"Oh, no, after the incident at the Ministry, Daddy was kept horrendously busy at The Quibbler, so we spent our holiday here. I did help him look for Calygreyhounds in France, though."
Luckily, Neville was saved from having to reply by the lurching of the train as it started down the track. He was almost thrown into her lap but caught himself just in time and lowered himself to the seat next to her. He gingerly placed his Mimbulus mimbletonia on the seat between them.
"How was your holiday, Neville?" she asked.
"Oh, all right, I suppose. I planted a garden out behind Gran's house and studied some defence spells a bit. Pretty boring, actually."
Before she could respond, the door to the compartment opened, and Harry, Ginny, Ron, and Hermione came in and took seats. Hermione and Ron were going on about having to go up to the prefect carriage later, and Ginny was laughing and shaking her head at their bickering.
"Hello, Neville. Hi, Luna!" Ginny said brightly. "Did you have a good holiday?"
Neville replied, "Oh, it was okay. I worked with my plants a bit. Did some homework. The usual."
Neville looked at Ron and Hermione to ask them how their holidays had been. He noticed that they were sitting a bit closer together than was really called for but didn't comment because he had just got a good look at Harry's face.
"All right there, Harry?" he asked worriedly.
"All right, Neville."
But Neville thought that Harry wasn't being entirely truthful. He looks terrible. I hope he'll be okay, Neville thought, as he absently stroked his Mimbulus mimbletonia until it started crooning.
"Neville, what the bl--" Ron broke off and shot a quick glance at Hermione.
"Don't swear, Ron."
"I didn't, Hermione."
"No, but you were going to. It's not right for a prefect to--"
"Neville, can't you stop that thing from making that noise?" Ron interrupted.
Neville jerked his hand away from the plant and started apologising. "Oh...sorry, I just...."
Harry turned his head from the window and said, "Ron, leave him alone. It's not bothering anyone."
"Ron, it's okay. I don't mind. It's a bit relaxing."
"Are you certain, Harry?" Neville asked. "I'll stop if you want me to. Its singing just...calms me sometimes."
Harry rolled his eyes and said, "Neville, I wouldn't have said it was all right if I didn't mean it. You should grow a backbone and stand up for yourself once in a while." He shook his head and went back to staring out the window.
"Don't mind him, Neville. He's been that way since...well, you know," Hermione whispered.
The group spent their time talking about their summer, playing games, and eating sweets from the food cart. Neville showed everyone his new wand and told them about his talk with Gran. Eventually, even Harry began to lighten up a bit. They'd just begun a game of Exploding Snap when the door banged open to reveal Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle.
Draco sneered. "My, my. How cosy. The Weasel--wait--two Weasels, a Mudblood, little Miss Loony, and the poor, pathetic, parentless prats, Longbottom and Potter. Really, Potty, you would think you'd have learned by now. People judge you by the company you keep."
"Shut it, Malfoy," Ron growled. "At least our parents aren't in Azkaban."
"At least my parents are functioning human beings and don't need someone there to wipe their--" Draco broke off at the sight of Neville, who had his wand out and pointed at a rather...personal...area of Draco's body.
"I wouldn't finish that thought if I were you, Malfoy," Neville said unsteadily, rising to his feet.
"Who's going to stop me? You?"
Malfoy burst into laughter, and Crabbe and Goyle joined in. "You and what army?" Malfoy asked.
"Funny you should mention that, Malfoy," Harry said. Draco looked up to see the other occupants of the car standing behind Neville, with their wands out.
Draco's eyes narrowed. "You may think you've won, Longbottom. Just wait. I'll bet you're not so brave without all of your little friends around."
Draco turned on his heel to leave, and Neville sat shakily on the seat. He could feel everyone staring at him, and he shifted uncomfortably.
"What?" he asked defensively.
"Blimey, Neville, that was brilliant!" Ron said. "Where did that come from?"
"What're you going on about, Ron?"
"Don't be daft, Neville," Ginny said. "You just stood up to Malfoy."
"And did a bloody good job of it, too," said Harry. "You know, when I told you to grow a backbone, I didn't mean for you to do it right here in front of us."
Neville blushed. "I just didn't want to listen to him anymore."
"But, Neville--" Hermione began.
"Please, can't we just drop it?"
"All right, Neville, if that's what you want," Ron said. "But, you--"
"It is what I want," he said. He turned toward the window, missing the sharp look Luna gave him.
Neville took a deep breath and tried to calm himself as he stared out the window. What was I thinking? he asked himself. I can't believe I just did that.
Really, though, he knew exactly why he had stood up to Malfoy. Draco's insult about his parents had hit too close to home, especially after yesterday. He and Gran had gone to St. Mungo's to see his parents before he left for school. It's not that they were any worse; they just weren't any better. They had been like this for as long as he could remember. He'd been so young when the attack on his family had happened that the only memories he had of his parents were of them at St. Mungo's. He didn't have any memories of simple things like hugs or birthday gifts. What he wanted most of all was to hear them tell him that they loved him. And just once, he wanted to hear them say they were proud of him.
When Draco started insulting his parents like that, he couldn't take it anymore. Add the fact that Draco's father, Lucius, and Bellatrix Lestrange, the woman who left his parents in their current condition, were two of the Death Eaters involved in the incident at the Department of Mysteries, and it just made the taunting by Draco that much worse.
Neville sat there staring out the window, lost in his thoughts for a long time. He was jolted from his reverie when Luna asked him in her typical singsong fashion what he thought the Sorting Hat was going to say this year, and he was forced to respond.
The train arrived at the station, and the students disembarked to the sound of Hagrid's familiar call to the first-year students. Ron and Hermione went toward him, and the rest waved as they went to board the carriages that would take them up to Hogwarts. Neville listened as the others talked about the coming year but didn't say much during the trip to the castle. He was still shaken up about his confrontation with Malfoy, and he was afraid that his voice might betray him.
When they got to the castle, they headed toward the Great Hall but stopped when they heard Professor McGonagall call, "Mr. Potter, Mr. Longbottom. A word, please."
Neville and Harry looked at each other curiously and shrugged before walking over to where she stood. "Yes, Professor?" Harry said.
"The Headmaster would like to see the both of you in his office immediately following the feast. Mr. Potter, may I assume that you remember the way?"
"Very well. The password is ‘caramel apples.'"
The boys turned and resumed their walk toward the Great Hall. "What do you reckon that's all about, Harry?" Neville asked. "You don't think it's because of what happened on the train, do you? Gran'll kill me if I've got into trouble already."
"I have no idea, but I doubt it's about that. We didn't even hex the git. Must be something else."
Neville and Harry entered the Great Hall and made their way to the Gryffindor table, waving at friends as they went. Neville sat across from Harry, who had taken a seat next to Ginny.
"What did McGonagall want, Harry?" she asked.
"Neville and I need to go see Dumbledore after the feast," he replied.
Harry started to answer her, but she interrupted him, saying, "Neville, what is wrong with you?"
"Malfoy," he whispered.
"What about him?" Harry asked.
"I.... He's staring at me. I think he hates me."
"He's always hated you, Neville. You're a Gryffindor," Harry said dryly.
"He's probably not too happy with you after you chased him out of our compartment earlier," Ginny said.
"Did I just hear that Neville chased Malfoy off?" Dean asked incredulously.
"Yes, you did," Ginny said. "He had his wand pointed at Malfoy's privates before anyone knew what was happening."
"Good show, Neville," Seamus broke in with a grin. "You've needed to show that git you can't be pushed around for a long time."
"Wish I had been there to see it," Dean said.
Neville started blushing. "It was nothing. Really. Besides, everyone else helped."
Harry shook his head and replied, "Neville, you have got to be more confident. It was not nothing. You were standing up with your wand out before any of the rest of us. He backed off because you had your wand pointed at him."
"If you say so, Harry." But anyone who looked at Neville could tell that he didn't believe a word.
Ron and Hermione joined the group at the table as the first years were brought in for the Sorting. This was usually one of Neville's favourite parts of the start-of-term feast, but this year he couldn't pay attention. His mind was racing with everything that had gone on that day and the fact that he and Harry had to see Dumbledore after the feast was over.
He completely missed the Sorting Hat's song and was only broken out of his reverie by the applause around him when the first new Gryffindor (Lucas Apleton) was announced. He tried to pay attention to the rest of the Sorting, but he just couldn't keep his mind on it. Every time he'd look up, he'd see Draco glaring at him. Finally, he forced himself to look somewhere else and found his eyes drifting to the Ravenclaw table. He stiffened when he noticed Luna watching him carefully, as if she knew something about him that he didn't. It was an odd feeling. Giving himself a mental shake, he turned his attention back to the front of the Hall, where the Sorting had just finished, and forced himself to pay attention when Dumbledore stood up to speak.
"Welcome to another year at Hogwarts. Before we eat, I'd like to introduce our new Defence Against the Dark Arts professor." He gestured to the man sitting beside Hagrid. "This is Professor Andrews. He is fully aware of the...unusual...circumstances you dealt with in this class last term. He has asked me to assure you that there will be practical lessons included in the classes this year."
After the applause died down, Dumbledore continued, "And now, let's eat," and clapped his hands before sitting down. Food instantaneously appeared on the tables, and the students began filling their plates.
Ginny looked toward the staff table and said, "I wonder what he's like. I hope he's better than Umbridge was."
Neville swallowed a bite of food before answering, "He has to be better than that old cow! No way to be any worse, is there?"
Hermione said, "I wonder what his homework will be like. I've already read the book, and it looks really useful. We'll have to practice a lot to learn everything that's in there."
Ron shook his head and said, "Hermione, we haven't even been at school for a whole day yet. Can't you give it a rest?"
Hermione said something back, but Neville had already blocked them out. He'd learned early on that those two were always fighting about something. He let his gaze wander around the Hall, avoiding the Slytherins, before coming to rest on Luna again. She's a bit odd, that one. But nice. And she did stand up for me on the train. She seems so...loopy...sometimes, and then all of a sudden, she's looking at you like she knows everything you're thinking. He looked away quickly before she would notice him staring.
After everyone had finished eating, Dumbledore stood up and spoke again. "Mr. Filch has asked me to remind you that no magic is allowed in the corridors. He has also added some items to his list of forbidden objects." His eyes twinkled as he looked at the Gryffindor table. "Many of the new items can be found at Weasleys' Wizarding Wheezes. The list is located on the wall outside his office." He looked at the Gryffindor table again. "The Forbidden Forest is, as always, forbidden. Students should not, under any circumstances, find themselves there.
"I have one last announcement." Dumbledore's eyes narrowed. "Many of you may have heard or read that Voldemort is back. I am here to tell you that what you have heard is true. He is back. I firmly believe that Hogwarts is safe; however, we must all use caution as we go about our business. We must remain united. We cannot fight him as individuals, but together we are a powerful force. I urge you to use due diligence in your studies. Remember that it is your choices that make you who you are.
"Now," he said briskly, "I urge you all to go back to your dormitories and get a good night's sleep. Tomorrow will be a long day."
After dinner, Neville and Harry made their way up to Dumbledore's office. They paused at the gargoyle guarding the entrance long enough to give the password, before stepping onto the stairs and being carried upwards. Professor Dumbledore and Professor Snape were waiting for them when they arrived. Neville cringed at the sneer that appeared on Snape's face when they walked into the room.
"I'm sure the two of you are wondering why I've called you here," Dumbledore said.
"Yes, sir," Harry answered. "Professor...why is Sna...er...Professor Snape here?"
Although it didn't seem possible, Snape's sneer grew more scornful before he answered, "The Headmaster has asked us all here to explain why I'm being forced to accept the two of you into my Advanced Potions class."
Neville and Harry looked at each other in surprise. "You have to take Advanced Potions, too, Harry?"
"Er...Professor..." Neville began. "I don't understand...."
"And why does that not surprise me? The two of you have never been--"
"Severus," Dumbledore interrupted gently, before turning to Neville and Harry. "Mr. Potter, Mr. Longbottom, it has come to my attention that Professor Snape has some knowledge which would benefit our cause. It is imperative that the two of you learn what he has to teach you. Unfortunately, we cannot afford to have...certain people...find out that he is giving you this information, so private lessons are out of the question. However, if you are in Professor Snape's Advanced Potions class, and you manage to land yourselves in detention...."
Snape's lip curled, and his eyes narrowed. "Not at all an unlikely situation, given the history of these two in my class."
"Professor Dumbledore, do you mean that we need to purposely get stuck with detention?" Neville asked fearfully.
"I am quite sure that won't be necessary," Snape said. "You manage to get into trouble without trying."
"Professor Dumbledore," said Harry. "What about Quidditch?"
"Professor Snape has already agreed that your ‘detentions' will not conflict with your Quidditch schedule in any way, Harry. Now, if there are no more questions, you may.... Yes, Neville?"
"Er...sorry, Professor, but...well, I was wondering...."
"Spit it out, Longbottom. We don't have all night," Snape said bitingly.
"Er...y-yes, sir. Well, I understand why Harry is here. We know he's the one You-Know-Who...."
"Voldemort, Neville," Dumbledore corrected gently. "Say his name."
"Yes, Professor. We know that Harry's the one that V-Voldemort wants. Why am I here? I don't have anything to do with his defeat."
"Mr. Longbottom, have you never considered why the Death Eaters chose to attack your family?"
"Well...I mean, yes, I have, but...they were Aurors, and so I thought...."
"Sometimes, Mr. Longbottom, things are more than they appear. I regret that I'm unable to go into this any further at this time. Now," Dumbledore said briskly, "you two need to get back to Gryffindor Tower. I'm sure that Miss Granger and the Weasleys are waiting for you. Make sure you get a good night's sleep. I have a feeling you'll need it tomorrow."
Neville and Harry headed down the spiral staircase and started to make their way toward Gryffindor Tower. "Harry," Neville began, "what do you reckon Snape has to teach us? I mean, how can a potion help defeat V-Voldemort?"
"Who knows? Maybe there is a potion that can help. Last year, Snape taught me...er...tried to teach me Occlumency. Maybe it's something like that."
"But why would I need that kind of training? It's not like I'm ever going to be the one to fight him."
Harry slowed and looked guiltily at the ground before answering. "Maybe Dumbledore knows something we don't," he said quietly.
"Neville, did you see how angry Snape was? Dumbledore obviously thinks that whatever it is, it's important for us to learn, or he wouldn't go to so much trouble." Harry grimaced. "Snape already hates me--just what I needed, to give him another reason. And now we're going to have these ‘detentions' with him."
"Well, it's not as if I'm his favourite. I'm just glad there's someone else in the class with me. Besides Hermione--she just doesn't understand how I can have so much trouble. Flight-of-fancy," Neville said to the Fat Lady, who swung open to allow them into the common room.
As they entered, Ron looked up from the game of Exploding Snap he was playing with Hermione and Ginny. "'Bout time you got here! What did Dumbledore want?"
"Honestly, Ron. It's Professor or Headmaster Dumbledore. We're prefects. We need to be good examples."
Ron rolled his eyes. "Yes, Hermione, I know we're prefects. Right now, I want to know what Professor Dumbledore said to Harry and Neville."
"Well. You don't have to be so snooty about it. I was just--"
Harry broke in quickly, clearly hoping to divert a row before it escalated out of control. "He was explaining why we have to take Advanced Potions."
"Well?" Ron asked impatiently.
"He said there was something that Snape has to teach us." He gestured toward Neville. "Both of us. Something that we'd need to know so we can defeat Voldemort."
"Bloody hell," Ron swore quietly.
"But what could it be?" Ginny asked softly.
Neville finally spoke up. "We don't know. Dumbledore just said that we'd be taking Advanced Potions and that detentions would be arranged for extra lessons."
"They're arranging detentions? And you haven't done anything wrong yet?" asked Ron.
Hermione huffed. "Honestly, Ron. They need a way that Snape can teach Neville and Harry without seeming suspicious. Everybody already knows he hates them. It's perfectly logical for him to give them detentions. Nobody will ever guess the real reason."
"Bloody bad luck, mates. Not only do you have to take Advanced Potions, you've got to spend extra time with Snape." Ron looked up at Hermione. "Iknow, Hermione. ‘Don't swear.' Neville, are you okay?"
Neville, who was starting to feel ill at all the talk about Snape and Potions and defeating Voldemort, shook his head and said, "Um...yeah. I'm just...tired. Think I'll head off to bed. See you in the morning."
He walked toward the stairs to the boys' dormitory and started to climb the steps. He paused for a moment and heard Hermione say, "But it's excellent, really. We can all study together," before he continued up and into the sixth years' room. From the looks of things, Dean and Seamus were already asleep. He opened his trunk and got ready for bed, his mind reeling all the while. What is it that Snape has to teach us? Why Snape? More important, why me? He settled into bed, pulling the curtains closed, and drifted off to sleep.
Neville jerked awake at the feeling of strong hands shaking his shoulders and a voice harshly whispering, "Neville. Neville, wake up, mate. C'mon, wake up!"
"Wha--" He sat up and looked around in a panic, finally focusing on the pair of bright green eyes staring concernedly at him. His mind frantically raced around before he finally placed who it was. "Harry! What's wrong?"
"You were screaming."
Neville blushed and squirmed in embarrassment. "Oh. Sorry if I woke you."
Harry gave him a weary glance and said, "'Sall right. I was awake anyway. Nightmare."
"Oh. Me, too."
The boys looked awkwardly at each other for a moment before Harry turned to walk back to his bed. "Er...'night, then, Neville."
"I hate her," Neville said suddenly.
"What?" Harry turned back to face Neville.
"I said I hate her."
"Bellatrix Lestrange." Neville's chin started quivering, and he fought to hold back his tears. "Sh...she tortured my parents. G-Gran s-said that she had started in on me before someone g-got there to h-h-help." He took a shuddering breath and continued, "She left me without any parents, just like V-Voldemort did to you. She ruined my life, and my mum and dad...." He trailed off and started fiddling with the blankets.
"And Sirius," Harry said bitterly.
"And Sirius," Neville agreed. "Harry, I want to...."
"You want to what, Neville?"
"I want to be able to fight her...t-to beat her. I want to be ready if she ever comes near me again."
"Neville, she's a Death Eater! It's not your respons--"
"Yes, it is! Look what she did to my family! Look what she did to me."
"You can't just go off and fight her."
"Why not?" Neville interrupted angrily. "You did. You do! And Ron and Hermione!"
"Look, I know I'm not as good as them, but I have to do something. I can't just sit here anymore and do nothing."
"Neville, I never said you weren't as good as Ron and Hermione. But--"
"But what, Harry? You know I'm right. I want to do this. I have to do this. If I'm going to be involved in defeating V-Voldemort, then I need to be able to fight. And I need to be able to win."
For a moment, all they could hear was Ron's snores. Then Neville whispered pleadingly, "Harry, would you help me? Please?"
"Well, I was going to ask Professor Andrews about starting up the DA again. You're welcome to come to that."
"Thanks, Harry. But I was thinking about more help. Without so many people around. I'll still come to the DA meetings, of course, but...."
Harry sighed before answering, "All right, Neville. I'll see what I can work out. Now we'd better get some sleep."
"Good night, Harry."
"And, Harry.... Thanks."
A/N: Once again, copious thanks go to OHGinnyfan, Malfidus, and ChaoticK for their pre-beta assistance. Special thanks go to my beta, Lucyjekyll. She's amazing, even though she makes my chapters bleed pink. J