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.
Harry led a shell-shocked Neville through the portrait hole and into the Gryffindor common room, where he steered him over to a seat in front of the fire. "Neville, sit down, mate. I'm going to get you something to drink."
Ron and Ginny walked over from their chess game, and Hermione looked up from her Arithmancy text as Neville sat down.
"Neville, what's wrong?" Hermione asked.
Neville shook his head at her and stared at the fire, eyes wide. He could feel his eyes burning with tears, and he blinked rapidly to try to get rid of them.
"Here, Neville. I brought you some water." When he didn't take the glass, Harry set it down on the floor beside him and patted him awkwardly on the shoulder. "I...I'm sure she's okay, Neville. Dumbledore will find her."
Neville only nodded and continued to stare at the fire.
"Harry," Hermione whispered, "what's the matter?"
Harry looked grim as he asked softly, "Neville, is it all right if I tell them?"
Neville nodded hesitantly, and Harry replied, "We were almost done with our detention. Snape had us scrubbing the Potions classroom—cleaning up after some sort of cauldron explosion. Without magic, of course, the slimy git. There was this green and pink...goo...everywhere. Except where the green and—"
"What does all this have to do with Neville looking like death warmed over?" Ron asked bluntly.
"Ron!" Ginny chided.
"Hang on, Ron, I'm getting there," Harry said. "You just need to be a little patient."
"Get on with it, then."
"Ron! Harry, I'm so sorry," Ginny said. "You know how impatient we Weasleys can be."
"Sorry," Ron muttered. "Go ahead, Harry."
Harry glanced at Neville before continuing, "We had got to the middle of the room, where it was the worst. I think it was where the explosion happened. We had just started on the blue...whatever it was. We were trying to figure out how to go about cleaning it up, when Snape came out of his office and told us to get back to work. Then Dumbledore came in and said he needed to talk to Neville." Harry glanced at Neville again before saying quietly, "There's been another attack."
"What?" Ron asked loudly. "Another attack? Where? Was it You-Know-Who?"
"Ron, keep it down!" Harry whispered harshly.
"It wasn't St. Mungo's, was it?" Hermione asked. "Are Neville's parents all right?"
"Yeah, his parents are okay."
"Then why's he so upset?" Ron asked.
"Ron!" Hermione scolded.
"Ron, you great git, it was his grandmother's house!" Harry said angrily.
"Oh, no," Hermione said. "Is she...."
"We don't know. Dumbledore came in and said that the house was destroyed and there's no sign of his grandmother."
"Oh, Neville, I'm so sorry," Ginny said. "Is there anything we can do?"
Neville spoke for the first time since arriving in the common room. "I—I don't know."
"Well, Professor Dumbledore is working on it. He'll find her, Neville," Hermione said reassuringly.
Ginny reached over and squeezed his shoulder. "We'll do whatever we can to help, Neville. Just let us know."
Neville smiled weakly. "Thanks, Ginny. I...I think I'm going to go to bed now."
"Are you certain you don't need anything?" Hermione asked worriedly.
"I'll be okay. Thanks."
"If you think of anything we can do...."
"Hermione, let him go," Ron said. "I think he needs to be alone."
"I just want to help," she said quietly.
"We know, Hermione. We all do," Ginny said.
Neville got up and trudged toward the dormitory. As he started up the stairs, he heard Hermione say, "I think we need to try to keep people away from him tomorrow. He doesn't need anyone asking him questions he doesn't have the answers to."
"Especially that git, Malfoy," Ron said.
"I hope they find his grandmother," Ginny said. "He's lost enough people close to him."
"You‘re right, Ginny. I hope they find her, too," Harry answered seriously.
The next morning, Neville walked down to the Great Hall for breakfast surrounded by his housemates. Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Ginny had told them what had happened while getting ready for bed the night before. Neville didn't realise it, but he was well liked, and his friends all volunteered to do whatever they could to keep others, especially Draco, away from him.
Neville was still in shock as he mechanically ate the breakfast his friends put in front of him. He stared at the table so he wouldn't have to look at anyone. He wasn't prepared to deal with the looks he would receive. The looks of sympathy from his friends were bad enough, without having to deal with the looks of malice from the Slytherins. He really didn't want to have to deal with Malfoy again.
The flapping of owl wings signalled the arrival of the morning post. Neville watched as a large tawny owl stopped in front of Hermione. She took a copy of the Daily Prophet from the owl and gave it a Knut before sending it on its way. Hermione started to read the front page, but quickly put the paper away when she saw Neville looking at her.
"What does it say?" Neville asked softly.
"I need to know, Hermione. You can't keep it from me forever."
She sighed. "I know you do, Neville. We just.... Oh, never mind. Here, you read it," she said and handed the paper to Neville.
Dark Mark Seen Over Lancashire Home
By Mark Matthews
The Dark Mark was seen over the remains of the Lancashire house belonging to Margaret Longbottom, 67, yesterday evening. The house and grounds were destroyed, and no sign of Longbottom could be found.
Longbottom's son and daughter-in-law, Frank and Alice Longbottom, were tortured to the point of insanity fifteen years ago and now reside in the Janus Thickey Ward at St. Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries. Mr. and Mrs. Longbottom were heavily involved in the first fight against He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named before their torture and subsequent hospitalisation.
Their son and Longbottom's grandson, Neville, 16, is a sixth-year student at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The younger Longbottom was involved in the June 1996 battle in the Department of Mysteries in the Ministry of Magic building, in which several known Death Eaters were captured and the return of You-Know-Who was verified. Longbottom is a classmate of The Boy Who Lived, who, along with Hogwarts Headmaster Albus Dumbledore, insisted on the reality of the return of You-Know-Who last year.
Sources within the Department of Magical Law Enforcement say that the elder Mrs. Longbottom has been officially listed as missing and a search for her has commenced.
Neville folded the paper and handed it back to Hermione. "There it is, then. I wish they hadn't put that bit about my parents in there." He sighed morosely. "Y'know, it's not that I'm ashamed of my parents, no matter what Gran said, it's just...."
"Nobody thinks you're ashamed of them, Neville," Ginny said quickly.
Neville smiled thinly. "Well, you lot don't. There are others who do, though. Reckon I can't blame them. Nobody except for Dumbledore knew about them until last Christmas, when you saw me at St. Mungo's."
"I knew," Harry said quietly. "I've known for a while." He turned to Neville and said apologetically, "Dumbledore told me."
"It's all right, Harry. I appreciate your keeping the secret." Neville rubbed his eyes tiredly. "I hope they find Gran soon. She's tough, but she's old. She's all I've got, besides Mum and Dad. I just wish I knew why they keep going after my family." He looked up as Dean and Seamus approached them.
"Er...sorry to interrupt, but we need to get going if we're going to be on time for Transfiguration," Dean said.
Neville began gathering up his things. "Well, let's get going, then. Maybe McGonagall has some information for me." He led the way out of the Great Hall, trying to ignore the stares and whispers that followed him.
Surprisingly, Transfiguration wasn't as bad as Neville had feared it would be. Professor McGonagall was easy on him. Well, not easy, exactly, but not as tough as she could have been. They started by reviewing some of what they had learned for last year's O.W.L. examinations. Neville was amazed at how easy some of the things with which he had previously struggled had become. He still didn't perform perfectly, of course. The rabbit he'd been trying to transfigure into a teacup hadn't changed completely—the thing still had a cottontail—but there was significant improvement, especially considering the circumstances. He wondered briefly if his new wand had something to do with it.
"All right, class. That's enough for today," Professor McGonagall said. "I would like two feet of parchment on the transfiguration of animate beings to inanimate objects. You should include a comparison of the pros and cons of transfiguring at least three different species and a discussion of common problems encountered by novices. You may go."
Amidst a flurry of movement, one person sat motionless at his desk.
Neville looked up in surprise when Professor McGonagall called his name. "Yes, Professor?"
She looked at him kindly. "How are you doing?"
"Have...have you heard anything...any news...about my grandmother?"
She shook her head and walked over to stand next to him. "No, Neville, I'm sorry. I'm certain that the Headmaster will let you know as soon as he has any information."
"Yes, Professor," he sighed in response.
"Neville, I want you to be sure to let me know if there's anything you need."
"I need to know Gran is safe."
"I know, Neville," she said, placing her hand on his shoulder. "Unfortunately, you've asked for something we're unable to grant you at this time. However, if there's something that we can do for you, if your workload gets to be too much, for example, then please don't hesitate to come to me. We'll do whatever we can to help you. Now," she said briskly, "I believe your friends are waiting for you."
"All right, Professor. Thank you."
"You're welcome, Neville. Go on, now. Make sure you eat something at lunch today. You didn't eat very much at breakfast."
Neville was relieved that he didn't have any other lessons that morning—the next thing on his schedule was Defence Against the Dark Arts, and it didn't meet until after lunch. He wasn't entirely certain he would be able to sit through another class right now. Walking back to Gryffindor Tower with Harry, Ron, and Hermione, Neville valiantly tried to ignore the whispers and stares. He felt a sudden kinship with Harry, who had to deal with whispers and stares every day.
Neville spent the break between Transfiguration and lunch in the common room, staring blindly out the window, alone with his thoughts. Harry and Ron were playing a game of wizard chess and talking about Gryffindor's chances at winning the Quidditch Cup this year; Hermione had gone to her Ancient Runes lesson. She was to meet them in the Great Hall for lunch later.
Neville sighed and stood reluctantly when Harry and Ron asked him if he was ready for lunch. He wasn't really hungry, but after his conversation with McGonagall earlier, he knew he had to at least make a show of eating.
"Neville, mate, are you all right?" Dean asked as he sat at the Gryffindor table.
He was getting mightily tired of that question. "I'm fine, Dean. Thanks for asking." He began spooning food onto his plate, hoping against hope that people would get the hint and leave him alone. He was grateful that he managed to get through lunch without any major incidents. He'd only had to deal with the concerned glances of his housemates.
Until they were leaving the Great Hall, that is. As they were leaving, they were surrounded by students asking if he'd heard anything about his grandmother or if they had really seen You-Know-Who last summer.
Through the crowd, Neville saw Malfoy lean over to whisper something to Crabbe and Goyle, then look up and smile at him maliciously. Malfoy's eyes narrowed spitefully as Neville and the other Gryffindors passed by. "Too bad about your grandmother, Longbottom. Last I heard, she was begging for mercy."
At that, the roar of the crowd grew to deafening proportions as Neville's friends howled in outrage.
"Shut it, Malfoy!" Harry shouted, drawing his wand.
"Who's going to make me, Potty? You?" Draco sneered. "I don't think so."
"What is the meaning of this?" Professor Snape demanded. The crowd parted to let him through. "Mr. Malfoy?"
"Potter threatened me, Professor."
"I did not!" Harry shouted. "Malfoy was picking on Neville, saying horrible things about his grandm—"
"Enough!" Snape thundered. "Twenty points from Gryffindor for fighting in the Great Hall. And detention, I think, Mr. Potter." His eyes narrowed as he looked at Neville. "You, too, Longbottom. For causing a disturbance."
"What? Neville didn't do anything wrong!" Ron said heatedly.
"Would you care to join them, Mr. Weasley?" Snape paused for a moment as Ron opened his mouth, and then snapped it shut. "I thought not. Tomorrow night, gentlemen, eight o'clock. You'll find me in the dungeons. Break up this crowd, and get to your lessons. Now!" Snape turned on his heel and strode away, robes billowing out behind him.
Neville and the other sixth-year Gryffindors finally broke free from the crowd, and they hurried to the Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom. They were all curious to learn more about Professor Andrews. No one knew anything about him, other than what the Headmaster had said on the night of the start-of-term feast. Neville couldn't believe that the feast had occurred only two nights ago—it seemed to him that weeks or months had gone by. He was worried about Gran, and the fact that he hadn't heard anything about the search for her didn't help things one bit.
Talking quietly among themselves, the students settled into their seats, and once again, Neville found himself partnered with Harry. He forced himself to look around the room. Thankfully, all signs that Dolores Umbridge ever existed had been banished from the room. Instead, Neville saw shelves filled with an array of practical defensive items, ranging from Foe-Glasses and Sneakoscopes to items he didn't recognise—he thought they might be Muggle in origin.
The door opened, and all heads turned as Professor Andrews entered the room with a genial smile on his face. He looked to be about forty-five, Neville thought, although he was terrible at guessing ages. He had dark brown hair that was greying slightly at the temples and kind, brown eyes. He seemed to be a man who enjoyed laughing and smiling, as evidenced by the laugh lines that were prominent around his eyes and mouth.
"Good afternoon, class," he said smoothly as he perched on the corner of his desk.
"Good afternoon, Professor Andrews," the class responded in unison.
Professor Andrews' eyebrows shot up. "Okay, that's enough of that. No need to answer in unison. Yes, Miss..." he said, looking at Hermione, who had her hand up.
"Granger," she answered promptly. "Hermione Granger. Professor, we only answered together because that's what Professor Umbridge—"
"Cow," Ron muttered under his breath.
"Yes, yes, Miss Granger, I've heard all about Professor Umbridge and her teaching...methods. Let me begin by saying that I am not Professor Umbridge, nor am I like Professor Umbridge in any way, shape, or form. While you do have a textbook for this class—you do all have a copy of the textbook, I assume?"
At their nods, he smiled and continued, "While you do have a textbook for this class, you will be using it mainly as a reference. It is my opinion that the best learning is achieved by doing, and spending your time reading when you should be practising is counterproductive. There will be very little written work in this class."
Everyone grinned at this, except Hermione. She groaned quietly.
Andrews chuckled at their reactions. "However, there will be a large amount of practical work to be done, both in and out of class. I understand, Mr. Potter, that you led a defensive club last year?"
"Yes, sir," Harry answered quietly.
"Are you willing to continue with it?"
"Of course, Professor."
"Excellent. Any extra practise you all can get in will, of course, be of benefit to you. Mr. Potter, if you'll see me after class today, we can arrange a time to get together and discuss plans."
"Now, before we begin today, I want to tell you a bit about myself. My background is a bit...unorthodox."
Neville looked at Harry, who shrugged in confusion.
"My first job after leaving Hogwarts was in the military. The Muggle military," he clarified. "I was in the RAF—the Royal Air Force. No, I was not a pilot—nothing so glamorous as that."
Neville heard Ron whisper to Hermione, "What's a pliot?"
Andrews smiled again. "A pilot...Mr....Weasley, correct?" At Ron's confirming nod, he continued, "is someone who flies an aeroplane."
"Like you fly a broom?" Ron asked.
"No, more like you fly a Ford Anglia," Andrews responded, laughing with the other students as Ron and Harry blushed.
"I trained people in survival techniques. My speciality was in capture and torture survival, although we tried to teach people how to avoid capture in the first place." The class sobered instantly upon hearing this. "After I left the military, I worked for a bit with the Aurors, teaching essentially the same thing. Now I'm here."
He looked around the class, noting the students' expressions. Most of them looked a bit frightened. Four stood out, their body language expressing not only fear but determination as well: Hermione Granger, Ron Weasley, Harry Potter, and Neville Longbottom.
"All right. Enough about me," Professor Andrews said briskly, standing up. "I'd like to start today by reviewing some basic defensive manoeuvres. Who can name a defensive spell?"
Hermione's hand shot up.
"Yes, Miss Granger?"
"There's the Shield Charm. Its incantation is Protego."
"Very good, Miss Granger." Hermione looked pleased with herself. "Does anyone else have an example of a defensive spell? Mr. Weasley?"
"Well, my sister does a great Bat-Bogey Hex. She always used it to get us—her brothers, I mean—to leave her alone."
Andrews laughed. "That's not exactly what I was looking for, Mr. Weasley, but thank you. Anyone else?"
"Expelliarmus," Dean said hesitantly.
"Very good, Mr. Thomas. That's a basic defensive spell, and one that can be used to your advantage."
"Impedimenta," said Seamus.
"Stupefy?" asked Lavender at the same time.
"Yes, Miss Brown, Stupefy can certainly be used as a defensive spell. And Mr. Finnigan, Impedimenta is an excellent way to slow down an opponent. Now, it seems that you've all thought of the more obvious defensive spells. Are there any spells you could use to defend yourself that are not strictly defensive in nature?"
Harry joked, "I used Accio to defend myself from that Hungarian Horntail in fourth year!"
The class laughed, but Professor Andrews smiled and said, "That's exactly what I'm looking for. It's not, strictly speaking, a defensive spell, but you used it as one." His countenance became serious. "Sometimes, the thing that might save you is using something your opponent isn't expecting. So if you were in a duel, you could use Accio to summon something to help you—a rock or board to hit your opponent with, for example, or something you could use to distract him. You have to learn to look at things differently in battle, because sometimes the normal things don't work."
Neville squirmed uncomfortably at the mention of battle, and he noticed that Harry, Hermione, and Ron all tensed.
"What's something else you could use—something outside its normal application?"
"The Reductor Curse," Neville said suddenly.
"Excellent, Mr. Longbottom, and how could you use the Reductor Curse?"
"Relax, Mr. Longbottom. This isn't an exam."
"Er...right." Neville took a deep breath to calm himself. "I—I mean we," he said, looking at Harry, Ron, and Hermione, "used it last June in the Department of Mysteries. We knocked down shelves while we were fighting the Death Eaters, and we were able to get away, at least for a while."
Andrews looked pleased. "Excellent thinking! Five points to Gryffindor."
"Th-thank you, Professor, but Harry thought of it," Neville said, blushing slightly.
"No matter. You answered the question." He glanced at his watch. "All right, next time we'll practise some of these spells you just mentioned. You may go. Mr. Potter, if you wouldn't mind staying for a moment...."
"Harry, mate, we'll wait for you outside so we can go to Herbology together, all right?" Ron asked.
"All right, Ron," Harry said.
"We'll just be a minute, Mr. Weasley," Professor Andrews added.
Neville, Ron, and Hermione walked out the door to wait for Harry.
"Well, that's a relief," Ron said.
"What's a relief, Ron?" Hermione asked.
"Professor Andrews. He actually seems like he knows what he's talking about. And we'll be practising the things we'll be learning, not just reading about them."
"There's nothing wrong with reading, Ron," Hermione said. "He seems like he doesn't ever want us to look at the book. Honestly, sometimes I think—"
"I like him," Neville interrupted.
"What?" Hermione asked. "Well, of course you do. I'm not implying he's not a good teacher. I just think that sometimes reading goes hand in hand with practising and that some people forget that."
"I didn't forget anything, Hermione, I just said that we wouldn't only be reading about defence this term. That it'll be good to be able to practise the spells without having to sneak around to do it," Ron said, his face beginning to flush with anger.
"But that's not what you said, Ron. You said—"
Harry walked up and asked, "At it again, huh?"
Neville turned and looked at him in relief. "Of course."
"What's it about this time?"
"Oh, the usual. Hermione believes Ron doesn't think reading is worthwhile; Ron believes Hermione doesn't think we should practice what we're learning."
"Hey, you two!" Harry said loudly. "We need to get moving if we're going to make it to Herbology on time."
"What did Professor Andrews say about the DA? " Hermione asked, turning away from Ron.
"We'll still be meeting in the Room of Requirement. It seems to be the best place. We're going to start next Monday at eight o'clock."
"That's good," Neville said in relief. "I really need practise, especially since Gran—"
The other three looked at Neville uncomfortably. "Right," Harry said finally. "We all need the practise. Professor Andrews suggested opening the class to anyone in third year and above. We may have some special sessions for the younger students, too. They need to be able to defend themselves just as much as the rest of us."
They walked in uneasy silence at the thought that first and second years might need to learn and use defensive spells, until Ron changed the subject. "So, Neville, what do you think Professor Sprout has for us today?"
"Er..." he answered, startled. "I don't know."
"Well, you have inside information, don't you, since you're assisting Sprout? Surely you have some idea," Ron said.
"I dunno. The fifth years started healing gardens yesterday. Maybe it'll be something like that. Although...." Neville trailed off.
"Although what, Neville? I don't like the sound of that," Harry said.
"Greenhouse three, where we worked with the fifth years, has some of the more dangerous plants. We might be in there today."
"Dangerous as in..." Ron prompted.
"As in Fanged Geraniums—one almost got Colin yesterday. There's all sorts of poisonous plants in there, and there's some Bubotubers." He looked at Hermione apologetically when she shuddered. "But Professor Sprout didn't tell me what the sixth years were doing, so I don't know."
"Well, we do have that dangerous plants book. But we could be doing Muggle plants, too," Hermione said.
"Wait...that's it!" Neville said suddenly.
"What's it?" Harry asked.
"Muggle plants. That's what we're going to be working on. I helped get stuff ready yesterday, before...."
"That's a relief," Ron said. "I don't want to be attacked by a geranium! And Hermione's dealt enough with Bubotubers. So if we're doing Muggle plants, where do we go, Neville?"
"Greenhouse six. It's the small one in the back," Neville answered, leading the way to the greenhouse.
Once inside, Neville was in his element. He'd planted Muggle flowers and herbs in the back garden at his Gran's house during the holiday, so he was familiar with many of the plants they discussed.
He felt a sharp pang of grief any time Professor Sprout mentioned something that he'd put in the garden. It was all gone now. He remembered the evenings when his grandmother would come out to sit and talk with him while he worked. They'd had some of their best talks out in that garden—talks of the past and his parents, and of the future. He remembered how she loved the smell of the roses and lavender, and he sighed as he looked at the plants on the table in front of him. He hoped she was all right, so they would have a chance to sit and talk in a garden again.
Neville was so absorbed in thoughts of his grandmother that the lesson ended before he knew it. Later, he ate dinner and revised with everyone else, but his heart wasn't in it. He ended up going to the dormitory early, where he fell into a troubled sleep, thinking about his grandmother.
To be continued...
A/N: Once again, copious thanks go to OHGinnyfan and Lucyjekyll for editing the heck out of this chapter. You ladies are awesome! And thanks to Majick, who helped this Yank make sense of the English school system. Because of him, I was able to draw up class schedules that actually make sense and don't have Neville in two different classes at the same time.