It took Neville a couple of minutes to remember where he was when he blinked awake the next morning. He stared up at his canopy before deciding he should probably get up. Pulling the curtains of his bed back, he saw that Harry’s was already empty and made. Neville pondered the quiet boy as he pulled on his Gryffindor uniform; how he was too small for his age, the way he guarded his food, and the way some of the Professors regarded him at the Sorting. He was going to have to keep an eye on him.
Neville woke up the other boys before traipsing downstairs to find Harry sitting in front of the fireplace. He watches him for a moment before taking the seat next to him and turning to face the warm flames.
There was a slight pause before Harry’s head slanted towards Neville, looking at him out of the corner of his eye.
“Morning,” he replies quietly.
“I just woke the other boys up. I thought we could all go down to breakfast together. It might be faster trying to figure out how to navigate Hogwarts if there are more heads.”
Neville turned to look at Harry as he spoke, only for Harry to lower his eyes and nod in acquiescence. Neville frowned at the response. It wasn’t what he had hoped for, but for the time being, he couldn’t do much as just then, Ron stumbled down the stairs with Dean and Seamus following behind.
“Morning Neville, Harry!” Seamus says cheerfully, his thick Irish accent carrying over the empty common room.
Neville stood and made his way to them, feeling Harry’s magic following close behind. He was going to have to bring the other boy out of his shell somehow, maybe even get him to open up a bit if he could. He could feel Harry’s magic; wild, strong, but restrained, like there was a tight metal band around it all. He could also feel a tinge of darkness in his magic, a darkness that was reaching out to him. Neville snapped his magic back towards him; he hadn’t even noticed he had sent out tendrils. I need to keep better control.
They all made their way down to the Great Hall for breakfast, only getting lost once. Neville silently thanked Harry for his superb observational skills – he had memorised their walk up to the dormitory from the Hall last night, and had corrected Neville’s mistake that had gotten them lost. Though he didn’t make that correction easily, Neville could tell. Harry had struggled to speak up about the correct route until Ron guilt tripped him into telling them by complaining that he was hungry. After that, Harry had readily given them tips along the way so they would be able to find their way between the dorms and the Great Hall.
After breakfast, they had all received their timetables. Neville internally groaned at the first class of the day – Potions. With none other than Severus Snape. The boys trudged down to the dungeons, following the Slytherins; Harry had spotted them going down to the dungeons last night, and had rightly guessed that their dorms must be down there somewhere, so they would of course know the way to Snape’s class.
The classroom was dark when they went in. Harry had stopped in the doorway before taking a deep breath and stepping in, his shoulders tense. Neville made sure to keep close to him, to offer some sort of comfort if nothing else. He spotted Hermione sitting on her own at the front, and made to join her. He couldn’t quite well abandon her, not when he knew how others will most likely react to her quirks. And he was glad he had done so – Hermione gave him a quick, relieved smile when he took the seat next to her. Harry had followed, and with him, Ron. He could see the ginger was proverbially clinging to Harry, perhaps because he could also sense Harry’s reluctance to his surroundings, particularly the people. The way he had coaxed Harry to talk before breakfast was brilliant; he had somehow known just what to say to get Harry to talk, and it made Neville wonder if maybe Ron knew, or at least suspected, what went on behind closed doors. I will need to talk to him later. Perhaps we can both bring Harry out of his shell.
Just as they had all settled into their seats, the door banged open causing Harry to jump and bunch his fists into his school robes. Snape silently made his way to the front of the class, his black robes flapping in his wake, before stopping at the front and surveying them all. His eyes alighted on Neville for a moment, before flicking to Harry and narrowing minutely. Neville flicked his gaze to Harry, who was staring at Snape attentively with wide eyes, his quill held awkwardly over his piece of parchment.
As soon as Snape deemed them ready to listen he started his speech, and Harry began to furiously write down what he was telling them. Neville smiled somewhat fondly at the blots on Harry’s parchment – he was going to have to give him pointers on how to write with a quill. He was brought back to attention when Snape suddenly barked Potter’s name, making him fumble his quill.
“What would I get if I added powdered root of asphodel to an infusion of wormwood?”
Neville watched as Snape’s eyes narrowed further, if that was even possible, at Harry’s stumble. He waited for a long moment, but Harry couldn’t seem to say anything more.
“Let’s try again. Potter, where would you look if I told you to find me a bezoar?”
Neville watched as Harry slowly turned red from all the attention, particularly the vindictive satisfaction from the Slytherins they shared the class with. Hermione had her hand up but Snape was studiously ignoring her, focussing all of his attention on the black haired boy instead. Neville could feel the other’s magic, roiling underneath as if it wanted to lash out at their Professor, and everyone else. He couldn’t blame it; he was feeling a slow burn of anger rising inside himself at the blatant show of hatefulness Snape was directing at just one student. Rumour had it that he disliked everyone except perhaps the Slytherins, but it was clear he absolutely hated Harry for some underlying reason. Harry appeared to shrink in on himself, and Snape took his unwillingness to reply as a signal for not knowing the answer.
“Thought you wouldn’t open a book before coming, eh, Potter?”
At this, Neville could see Ron clenching his fists in fury, his face turning almost the same shade as his hair. He sent him a sharp look – it wouldn’t do to interfere just yet when Snape was hell bent on singling out Harry. Harry who had seemed to go completely silent, sinking down into his chair.
“What is the difference, Potter, between monkshood and wolfsbane?”
Harry gave an almost imperceptible shake of his head, his shoulders hunching to meet his ears. Snape sneered at the boy, his magic reaching out hostilely that even Neville almost shrunk back. Harry must have felt it too somehow, because he bolted out of his seat and out of the door without a word, leaving behind all of his possessions. Neville slowly stood, drawing the attention of the whole class. He pinned Snape with a simmering glare as he packed both his and Harry’s bag before he felt he was under control enough to say something.
“If you can’t keep your personal feelings regarding another person to yourself, Professor, I suggest you do not teach, especially if those feelings involve an eleven year old student who is not partial to the reason why you hate him so much.”
Professor Snape went puce at the audacity of Neville, but before he could say anything, Neville cut across him.
“It was clear Harry knew the answers to your questions going by how he had tried to answer your first question, but you didn’t deem it fit to give him the time to say his piece. And if you cannot observe that something is wrong with a student under your protection as a teacher at this school, then you should not be in this profession at all. Professor.”
Neville took a glance around at his classmates, noting Ron’s look of triumph and Hermione’s look of horror that he would talk to someone of authority like that. Giving a nod to them both, Neville walked out to find Harry, leaving the class in stunned silence and a Professor usually so set in his ways questioning his role.
Neville found Harry tucked into an alcove two corridors away with his face buried into his arms, his magic leading him to the tightly restrained one of Harry’s. If Neville hadn’t had his magic looking for the other’s, he didn’t think he would have found him. He carefully put down both of their bags and then watched Harry as he rocked back and forth in his curled up position.
“Hi Harry, it’s just me,” he said softly.
There was no indication Harry had heard him, so Neville sat on the floor with his back to the wall.
“I told Snape off, y’know. Probably lost us a hundred points in the first twenty minutes of class. Must be a record,” he joked.
It was a bit strange talking to someone who was unresponsive, but Neville knew Harry was in no state to reply back. He didn’t fault him for it anyway; he shouldn’t have had to go through that in his very first class, in such a new environment where he didn’t know anyone. It was completely unfair, and if Snape carried on like that, he was going to kick up a fuss. What he told Snape was the truth – he shouldn’t be working with children if that was how he treated them. Especially someone who was as prominent in this world as Neville himself. Perhaps Harry doesn’t know that.
So Neville spent the rest of their morning talking to Harry, telling him about Voldemort, and the prophecy, and the two babies he had attempted to murder. Harry’s hands twitched when Neville had mentioned his parents and their deaths, but apart from that he gave no response whatsoever.
It took the better part of the day for Neville to finally coax Harry out of his cocoon, and by that point, there was no point in going to classes. He managed to get Harry back up to the dorms by telling him that Hermione and Ron will bring some dinner for them. Only then would Harry stop insisting that they should go to dinner, in which Neville would decline knowing how fast gossip can spread in Hogwarts due to ample warning from his grandmother.
True to his word, Hermione and Ron had shown up with whatever food they could sneak out of the Great Hall in their pockets. They all sat in front of the fire, and talked about all their classes except for Potions that morning (turns out Snape was too shocked to even remember to dock points from Gryffindor, as Ron later told him when Harry was asleep).
In the Headmaster’s office, Severus Snape was pacing in front of Dumbledore’s desk as they waited for McGonagall to arrive. As soon as she was present, Dumbledore turned to Snape as he had been the one to call the meeting.
“Severus, my boy, what is the meaning of this?”
Dumbledore could see that the man who was usually so stoic was agitated, if his pacing was anything to go by. He waited patiently, as did McGonagall, with his fingers steepled together while Snape gathered his thoughts into some semblance of order. Finally, Snape stopped pacing and sat down on the only free chair left that Dumbledore had conjured earlier.
“Minerva, what do you know about the Potter boy?”
Minerva looked taken aback at the mention of Harry Potter and hesitated, glancing at Dumbledore before answering.
“Not much just yet. I know he hasn’t shown up to his classes today, along with Neville Longbottom. I was going to take a visit to their dorm later to ask of their whereabouts.”
At this, Snape took a deep breath, and launched into the events of his class that morning. He admitted he had perhaps been unable to control his emotions at the sight of the boy, to which McGonagall almost exclaimed in outrage. At a sharp look from Dumbledore, she fell silent though her glare directed at Snape never cooled. When Snape was finished, there was a profound silence. Eventually Dumbledore shifted in his seat, the twinkle in his eye dimmed ever so slightly.
“What are you saying, Severus?”
Snape faltered at the calmness of his old mentor.
“I think… I think there might be something wrong. With Harry Potter.”
“How do you mean? You will need to clarify exactly what you are saying.” McGonagall’s voice was a bit frosty; she couldn’t quite overlook Snape’s treatment of one of her Lions.
“In retrospect, I have noticed Potter is small – far too small – for his age. He is quiet, and as Longbottom had pointed out, he did know the answers to my questions but was reluctant to say them. And when he did attempt to answer, he stumbled over his words.”
“Perhaps you were just too intimidating towards him.” McGonagall said waspishly.
Snape dipped his head in acknowledgement. “Perhaps, but I know what I am seeing now with a clear head.”
“And what is that, Severus?” Dumbledore spoke up.
There was a pause before Snape took a deep breath. He knew what he said next would have repercussions, and not all of them entirely pleasant.
“I think Potter is being abused at home in some way.”
McGonagall drew in a sharp breath at his accusation. If Harry was… But no, he couldn’t be. Dumbledore had assured her there was someone watching out for him at Privet Drive all those years ago. Surely if Harry was being mistreated at home, an alarm would have been sent out? But looking at Dumbledore told her all she needed to know – it was entirely too possible that it was true.
“We need to investigate!”
“Minerva – ”
“No! I will not sit back and do nothing when there is a possibility one of our students, who is our duties to protect, is being mistreated at home!”
“I agree, Headmaster. As someone who had been in the same position once before, it is far better we actually use the laws in place to our advantage.”
With both Snape and McGonagall agreeing, Dumbledore knew they absolutely had to do something about it. As soon as Snape had voiced his concerns, he knew in his heart that it was true, and he had had no intention of saying no to either of them in the first place.
“I was going to put forward a plan. Severus, you will keep an eye on Mr. Potter, and keep notes of his behaviour. Alert us to any major changes in his demeanour. Minerva, if you would, pay a visit to the Dursleys as inconspicuously as you can. We do not want this getting out. I have a feeling Mr. Potter will not appreciate that.”
They both nodded in agreement before McGonagall strode out of his office without a backward glance. Snape hesitatingly lingered.
“Was there anything else, Severus?”
Another moment, and Snape too left with a flap of his robes. Dumbledore sat back in his chair and sighed.
“Oh dear, oh dear… Fawkes, what are we going to do?”
Fawkes, a majestic phoenix perched in his corner next to Dumbledore’s desk, gave a soft coo.
“Of course we will do what is necessary to keep him safe. To keep them both safe.”
Dumbledore sat in his chair for another few hours, pondering his future moves in front of the fire, before he retired to his chambers feeling older than he had ever felt before.