Chapter 1: Prologue
I really hope this is a different take on the Boy-Who-Lived Neville Longbottom tag. I've kind of been wanting to write something like this for a while, but my studies and life in general got in the way.
I hope you enjoy it!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Privet Drive is as normal as they come; a straight street of identical houses with the same square garden in front and a driveway. It was a quiet street in a well-to-do area of Surrey so no one would suspect the disturbance that would happen that very same night.
A tabby cat had been watching a particular house all day, observing the coming and goings of the family inside. They consisted of a large man, who had left early in the morning for work and hadn't returned until the evening. A woman, tall and thin, who stayed at home; a mere simple housewife, and a squalling baby, larger than the average, who threw tantrums like nobody's business. No, the tabby was not impressed with this family at all. It sat vigil on their wall, ears twitching in annoyance every time the baby let loose a cry, which was more often than not.
And when darkness fell, it continued still, though now listening for sounds out of the ordinary. At the stroke of midnight it languidly stood, stretching, before jumping from the wall and morphing into a strange woman with a very severe look. She wore a sort of long cloak, velvet green, with a pointed hat to match, and small square glasses akin to the markings of the tabby cat's eyes. Her keen ears had picked up a disturbance in the natural sounds of night, and she turned just in time to watch an old man with a long white beard in similar attire slowly make his way towards her. With every passing of a street light, darkness followed; some sort of device he was using allowed him to put out the lights at every interval. Not a word was said until he had reached her.
"Professor McGonagall," he said kindly, bowing his head in acknowledgement.
"Professor Dumbledore," she replied in kind.
Nothing more was said between them as they both turned to watch the night sky. A few minutes more, and the quiet was broken by the sound of a low rumbling. Soon, the two strange figures were able to make out a point of light in the sky growing bigger and bigger until a black motorbike landed, carrying the largest man anyone would come to know. They waited until he clambered off the sleek bike, delicately holding onto a swathe of fabric. Only then did the woman deem it necessary to speak.
"Surely you don't mean for him to grow up here? They are the worst sort of Muggles possible! I have been watching them all day."
The old man, who usually carried a twinkle in his blue eyes, suddenly looked as if he had aged a decade. "I am afraid he must go to his last living relatives."
"So it's true? What they're saying about the Longbottoms and the Potters, and You-Know-Who? Is he really dead?"
"Come now, Minerva. You know my opinion on that name."
"Very well. V-Voldemort. Is it all true?"
The old man regarded the woman clad in green, taking in her devastated yet hopeful expression and the way she had stumbled over a man's name in fear when nothing else had ever shaken her.
"I'm afraid tonight is a tragic night indeed."
A hand flew to cover her mouth in shock, tears almost filling his eyes to the brim. She furiously blinked them back as the giant of a man approached them with the bundle of blankets, cradling them close to his chest. That was all the confirmation she needed.
"Any trouble, Hagrid?"
"No, Professor Dumbledore sir. Not a peep out of him all night."
"And the bike?"
"Got it from young Sirius Black. Tol' me to keep 'im safe and took off into the night."
The large man, Hagrid, carefully handed the bundle to Dumbledore, who peered into its depths. A baby slept peacefully in its folds, a chubby little fist clenching onto the fabric. A wisp of dark hair could just be made out in the shadow of the blankets, but the feature that drew Dumbledore's attention was the lightning bolt shaped scar on his forehead; an inflamed red, it had just been newly made. A shadow flitted over Dumbledore's eyes and was gone before McGonagall or Hagrid would notice. Bowing his head over the baby, he walked up the footpath to Number Four of Privet Drive and cautiously laid him down on the doorstep. With him, Dumbledore tucked in a letter in a heavy envelope, addressed to one Petunia Dursley in green cursive.
"Are you sure this is the right course of action, Albus?" McGonagall tried again after he had made his way back to them. "What of the Longbottoms?"
"The Longbottoms have also been taken care of. Tonight we grieve, but we should also join in on the celebrations, for it is also a night for rejoicing. After all, Voldemort has been defeated by none other than a babe."
"And that babe will grow up famous in our world. Both of them will grow up famous in our world. They are already calling Neville the Boy-Who-Lived."
"All the more reason for this path."
Dumbledore turned to Hagrid, who had broken out into sobs, and patted his arm comfortingly.
"There, there, Hagrid. This is not the end."
All three turned back to look at the sleeping baby on the doorstep one last time, Hagrid still leaking tears into his wild mane of a beard, before they took off into the dark.
Comments & constructive criticism are welcomed, as I don't have a beta. :)
Chapter 2: Hogwarts
I'd like to say that I do not own anything within the rights of JK Rowling, and am simply only borrowing them for a short while.
I also am planning to go through all seven books.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Neville stared around him in wonder. The platform was bustling with people, children and parents alike. He knew he’d be attending Hogwarts eventually, but nothing prepared him for the absolute excitement when the time came. The platform was filled with laughter, parents calling their children’s names, and the sound of owl hoots, and cats hissing and toads croaking. Neville grinned at the hustle and bustle, far different from the quiet of the Longbottom estate. The only thing that discomforted him was the sudden hush that would fall whenever people spotted him, conversations turning into whispers as they stared and, occasionally, pointed. He almost jumped when a hand fell on his shoulder, tightly gripping but not hurting. It took all of his training to keep his pleasant smile on his face and a relaxed posture as he looked up at his grandmother.
Augusta was an imposing figure; tall, and proud, and severe. With her vulture hat and vibrant green coat, nobody would dare approach her on a normal day never mind on a day she was with the celebrated Boy-Who-Lived, her grandson. He followed as she steered him through the crowd to a carriage, checking if it was empty before silently sending his trunk up to the above railings with a wave of her wand, ignoring the hushed whispers. It was then she turned to him.
“I hope I don’t need to remind you about what we discussed about your behaviour at Hogwarts.” She warned sternly.
“You just did, Gran.”
There was a tense pause in which they both looked at each other, not backing down, before a smile, a small one but a smile nevertheless, curved the shape of Augusta’s lips. Her pride in him shined through for a moment before it was dampened, aware that people were watching. She gave Neville an imperceptible nod, and he wrapped his arms around her in a hug. For all the people knew, they had just said their affectionate goodbyes to each other before parting.
Augusta watched as her grandson climbed into the carriage only to reappear at the window. She reached into her pocket and brought out a toad, handing it to him as she said, “Don’t lose him, now.” A spark of amusement danced in both their eyes as Neville pocketed the toad. A sudden shrill sounded all across the platform, ushering kids onto the train and parents and relatives saying their last goodbyes. Augusta stepped back from the train and gave a last wave to Neville before the train started moving, slowly then picking up speed. A pang of anxiety rippled through her before she squashed it down. Neville will be fine. As the train disappeared, Augusta Apparated away.
Neville knew it wouldn’t take long before someone would come looking for the boy who had defeated You-Know-Who, and true enough, not ten minutes into the train journey, his carriage door opened. He looked up to see a bushy haired girl, already in the Hogwarts uniform, standing in the doorway.
“Hello,” she started uncertainly, “Can I have a seat? Everywhere else is full.”
“Oh, uh… Y-Yes, of course!” Neville stammered out, putting on a timid smile.
The bushy haired girl closed the door behind her and chose the seat across from Neville.
“I’m Hermione Granger.”
“Nev… Neville Longbottom.”
He watched in interest as Hermione’s eyes widened and she sat up straighter, leaning forward a little in her seat as if to get a better look. He slouched back a little, not meeting her eyes, as if he was embarrassed. He didn’t need to put much effort into that.
“Are you really? I’ve read all about you, of course. I’m a Muggleborn, so I thought I would get a head start on the ins and outs of the wizarding world. Even now, I still can’t believe it! Isn’t it exciting?”
She talked a mile a minute, but Neville liked her. There was something about her that he couldn’t quite put his finger on. Slowly, as if he was approaching a wild animal, Neville sent out a small tendril of his magic, undetectable even to those trained in feeling out others’ magic. Her magic reacted to his unconsciously, strong and bright. This one was powerful in mind and, apparently, in magic. He stifled a smile so Hermione wouldn’t question him.
They talked for the better part of the journey, and Neville was grateful that Hermione was more interested in school and books than his status as the Boy-Who-Lived. She didn’t even ask him about his scar. And as she mentioned briefly meeting other people also going into first year, he decided it was time to put his plan into action. He made a show of checking his pockets, and the railings that held their trunks before looking under their seats, waiting for Hermione to comment, which of course she did, asking what he was looking for.
“My toad… Trevor…” Neville let out a groan as he straightened from his position on the floor. “Gran’ll kill me!”
“Come on, he can’t have gone far. I’ll help you look.”
Neville ducked his head, as if in shame and embarrassment, to hide his triumphant smile. They made their way out of their carriage and started asking all the way down the train. As people started realising who Neville was and wanting to talk to him, he sent Hermione on ahead to keep up the charade. He could see she was getting impatient. They had already agreed to rendezvous back at their carriage if they couldn’t find Trevor; Hermione had already smartly predicted the mass’s reaction to Neville and had insisted on meeting back at their carriage if they had to separate. Neville had agreed - it would allow him to scope out the students without Hermione behind his back.
When the train eventually stopped at Hogsmeade, Neville and Hermione were comfortable with each other, and decided to share a boat across the lake. Everyone, Pureblood or otherwise, let out gasps at the sight of the majestic castle with all its windows lit against the night. It truly was a sight to behold. Hermione and Neville shared a grin as their boat pulled into the cave and were led to the Entrance Hall. Everyone’s excitement could be felt, even after their encounter with the ghosts and the stern warning from Professor McGonagall.
Neville pretended to listen to Hermione even as he ignored her spouting facts about the Great Hall; he only wanted to take in the sight of the enchanted ceiling, and the floating candles, and the Head Table where the professors sat. He ignored the hundreds of pairs of eyes that were watching them make their walk down the Hall until they came to a stop in front of a stool, on which McGonagall placed an old and ripped hat. The Sorting Hat, Neville knew, that would Sort them into their Houses.
They listened to the Hat’s song, and Neville couldn’t help but frown. It sounded as if the Hat could look into your mind to judge what traits you possessed. Carefully constructing the mental shields he had been tutored to do, Neville waited for his turn as McGonagall began reading out names from a list; he wanted no dispute about where he should be placed, Gran was clear about that. Hermione went first of course, and she was placed in Gryffindor. Neville had thought she would be placed in Ravenclaw if anywhere, so it came as a surprise that she was Sorted into the House of the brave. It made Neville wonder if the Hat could somehow look into the future and see what you would become. Maybe that’s what the Hat truly judged you on. There were several more names, and then he was called out.
He glanced around at the students whispering his name and trying to get a better look as he went up the few steps and sat on the stool. Darkness covered his eyes as the Hat was dropped onto his head and he took a couple of deep breaths to centre himself.
“Ah, yes… Difficult indeed. I can sense a cunning in you, but also loyalty. You would do well in either Slytherin or Hufflepuff. But not for the plan you are cooking up, no? Well then. Better be… GRYFFINDOR!”
The House erupted into cheers as Neville offered a shy smile to his new Housemates as he sat down next to Hermione. She discreetly squeezed his hand under the table, and he could imagine that she was relieved he had been Sorted into the same House as her. He gave her a quick, reassuring smile before turning his attention back to the rest of the Sorting in mild interest. But the name called out several minutes after him was what gained the most of his interest.
Neville watched as a thin boy slowly stepped up to the stool and sat, clenching the sides of the wood but otherwise showing no signs of anxiety or nervousness. He frowned; the boy was smaller than he should be, but perhaps he was just a late bloomer. Gran had, of course, told him about the other baby that Voldemort had gone after, only born a day after Neville. They are both orphans of the war, but in the end, Voldemort had chosen him. Had chosen Neville to kill.
He watched as the Hat took a minute, and then two, and then three, to Sort Harry Potter. Was it supposed to take this long? Neville couldn’t have taken more than a minute, and Hermione had taken two. The most had been about three. But Harry was nearing five minutes, and the students were getting restless. He searched the Head Table, and his gaze landed on the Headmaster, Albus Dumbledore. He noted that Albus seemed particularly interested, but perhaps he was only interested in students who took longer to Sort than three minutes. Even McGonagall was beginning to get a curious look in her eyes. His eyes were then drawn to a figure towards the far end of the Head Table, all clad in black – Severus Snape, their Potions professor. He was looking at Potter intensely, with a mix of anger and hate and curiosity. Neville knew he was one to be watched. After all, he had been a Death Eater.
Finally, after what felt like an age, the Hat shouted out, “GRYFFINDOR!” and there was scattered applause as people were still getting over their confusion. Only Neville was clapping steadily, and Hermione took his lead. Potter took a seat across from them, but didn’t look at either of them as he immediately turned back to the rest of the Sorting, in which the House also gained a Thomas, Dean and another Weasley, who took the seat next to Potter. Neville offered Ron a smile – after all, their families were friends and they had often shared playdates. Ron’s abilities as a strategist was simply a bonus.
The following notices from Dumbledore and the feast itself was intriguing. Neville took a mental note about the third floor corridor before focusing entirely on the food laid out in front of them. He noticed Potter only filling his plate with a very meagre amount before beginning to eat, quick and nimble with his left arm curled protectively around his plate, as if it would be snatched away from him if he didn’t watch over it or ate quick enough. Neville frowned at that but dismissed it for a later time, with more privacy. Perhaps it was just a quirk of Potter’s, but he wasn’t going to take any chances.
After they had all been suitably fed, they were led up to Gryffindor Tower by Ron’s older brother Percy, who was a Prefect. They were directed into their dormitories, where they found their trunks and pet cages already set out for them. Neville took the bed closest to the door, with Potter in the one next to him and Ron in the one after that. Dean Thomas and Seamus Finnigan took the last remaining beds, but they didn’t appear to mind. It seemed that they had already made friends on the train.
Once Neville had changed into his pyjamas, he turned to Potter, who was only wearing a faded grey top and some old jammie bottoms that were both clearly too big for the small eleven year old. He was climbing into bed when Neville spoke, introducing himself.
“Hi. I’m Neville.”
Potter paused in his motion of lying down before sitting back up, pushing his glasses back onto his nose.
“Harry,” was all he said, his green eyes bright even in the shadowed darkness of their dorm. His name was but a whisper, no louder than leaves stirring in the wind. Neville smiled even as Harry burrowed under his duvet, his black messy hair only visible at the top. He looked to Ron, who had clearly somehow made friends with the quiet boy, but he only shrugged and got into bed himself. Seamus and Dean was already in bed, sleeping. Giving a light shake of his head, amused, Neville also got into his own warm bed, pulling the curtains around him and smiled up at the canopy above.
It seemed Hogwarts was going to be even more interesting than he first thought.
Comments & constructive feedback are welcome :)
Chapter 3: Potions
I forgot to say this before so I'm going to say it now; I do not own anything from the Potter verse - all rights go to Rowling and Warner Bros.
Also, apologise that this is very late. I actually struggled writing this one for some reason.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
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.
As always, constructive criticism are welcomed :)
Chapter 4: Flying Lessons
I realise this is late (for me, anyway), but I got busy working and moving back home from university. It's not an excuse, just an explanation :)
I wrote the majority of this chapter while listening to the Potterless podcast, and if you have never heard of it, I recommend you check it out. It's the story of a man's journey reading the HP series for the first time ever; it is hilarious, thought-provoking, and just a joy to listen to.
The next day dawned bright and early. Neville hoped today will be better than the day before. At least they didn’t have Potions today; Neville wasn’t sure Harry could take another class with Snape so soon after yesterday. He had been really shaken up by Snape’s treatment and Neville could hear him having nightmares last night, muffled by Harry’s closed curtains. Though he was sympathetic, he didn’t think Harry would appreciate any help. Not just yet anyway. Neville was going to have to tread carefully about helping Harry. Hopefully, he had somehow convinced Snape that something was wrong, and even if Snape doesn’t outwardly show it, Neville hoped that Snape would keep an eye on Harry.
As they did yesterday, the first year boys went down to breakfast together, talking animatedly between themselves. Harry was a bit more subdued this morning, but Neville couldn’t blame him. He and Ron carried most of the conversation anyway, Ron supposedly because he had noticed his best friend was quiet. Well, quieter than usual, anyway.
They were all excited for today’s big lesson – flying. Though Hermione was the most nervous, Harry was a close second. Neville was confident in his abilities, but he put on an air of uneasiness to make them feel better. If the Boy-Who-Lived was nervous about flying despite growing up in a magical household, then it was valid for everyone else, particularly Muggleborns and people who had grown up in a Muggle household, to be nervous as well. It was just unfortunate that the Gryffindors will also be sharing this class with the Slytherins.
As they waited for Madam Hooch to make an appearance, Malfoy decided it was a good time to start up another bullying session.
“Hey, Potter! Did you open a book about flying before coming to this class?” He taunted, a smirk spreading across his pointed face.
Harry’s face flushed as he stared at the ground, avoiding everyone’s eyes. His hands clenched in the pockets of his robes and he blinked rapidly, but other than that, he didn’t respond to Malfoy.
“No answer, eh, Potter? Why don’t we try again?” He said mockingly, hearkening back to Potions yesterday. “Have you ever been on a broom before? Oh wait. You grew up with Muggles because your parents died.”
The Slytherins laughed as Harry attempted to make himself smaller in the hopes that they will ignore him. Before Neville could say anything, Hermione spoke up, frown on her face.
“People dying is not a joke, Malfoy. At least he didn’t grow up with pompous parents like yours.”
Neville noted how Malfoy grew an interesting shade of red, and he had to choke back his laughter.
“Nobody asked your opinion, you filthy little Mudblood.” Malfoy spat.
The reactions were immediate; Neville’s laugh immediately died in his throat, Hermione’s eyes shone with unshed tears, and Ron lunged at Malfoy as he swung back a fist. Before he could make contact, there was a loud bang and Ron was thrown back. Everyone froze. Madam Hooch was striding down the path with her wand raised, fury etched onto her face.
“Ronald Weasley! You come with me right now!” Before she turned her back to march Ron back to the castle, she eyed the group of students severely. “Fighting, of any kind, will not be tolerated on my field. If I catch any of you at it again, you will get detention for a month. And if I so much as catch wind of any of you flying without me being present, you’ll be out of Hogwarts before you can say ‘Quidditch’.”
The students watched in silence as Ron was marched away, the tips of his ears red. Nobody dared move until Harry slowly lowered the arm he had extended in the attempt to hold Ron back. Malfoy stooped to pick something off the ground before exclaiming in glee, bringing attention to himself.
“What’s this, Potter? Why have a watch that doesn’t even work?”
He shook the object dangling from his fingers, and only then could Neville see that Malfoy was indeed holding a watch with a faded black leather strap. Harry made an aborted move to step forward, his lips parting slightly before he caught himself and snapped them shut.
“Give that here, Malfoy.” Neville said quietly, noticing that this item clearly meant a lot to Harry somehow.
“Pardon, what was that? I couldn’t quite hear you,” Malfoy smirked.
“I said, ‘give it here’.”
Malfoy crouched down to pick up a broom.
“No, I don’t think I will,” he replied as he settled onto the broom he had picked. Kicking off, Malfoy hovered in front of Neville. “I think I should put it where Potter can get it – how about – at the top of a tree?”
Neville snatched up a broom, ignoring Hermione’s protests about breaking rules, and flew up to meet Malfoy. He held back his grin on seeing Malfoy’s worried look, relaxed and familiar on a broom.
“Give Harry’s watch back then. There’s no Crabbe and Goyle up here to save your neck,” Neville called out, and smiled in triumph when he saw that Malfoy had come to the same conclusion.
“Catch it if you can, then!” Malfoy shouted, and threw Harry’s watch high into the air. Malfoy streaked back to the ground, but Neville’s attention was caught by the falling item.
There was no way Neville was going to allow an object Harry so clearly prized above all his other possessions fall and break. He streaked towards the rapidly falling watch, going into a steep dive. He caught it just before it hit the ground and he rolled off his broom onto the soft grass with the watch held up in the air.
The cheers of his fellow Gryffindors fell silent as Neville scrambled to his feet to face Professor McGonagall.
“Never – in all my time at Hogwarts –”
She was staring at Neville, and he wasn’t entirely sure if it was shock or fury taking precedence over her features, “– how dare you – might have broken your neck –”
The Gryffindors attempted to defend Neville but were shut down very quickly as McGonagall told Neville to follow her back to the castle, much like Madam Hooch with Ron. He ignored the Slytherins’ looks of delight as he made his way to Harry, who looked worried that he had gotten Neville expelled from Hogwarts despite how indirectly. Neville offered Harry a reassuring smile, took his hand and gently laid the watch in his outstretched palm. Before Harry could say anything, Neville followed McGonagall to the castle.
Of course, by the end of the day, it had become common knowledge that Neville had just been made the youngest Seeker of the century, supposedly possibly better than even Charlie Weasley. Ron congratulated him with a grin that almost stretched from ear to ear, not caring in the slightest that he had received a month’s worth of detentions for fighting, or that Neville had taken his older brother’s title of the best Seeker Gryffindor has ever had. Hermione was a bit put out that he had been rewarded for his rule breaking, but she immediately softened when later that night in the common room, Harry approached him and shyly thanked him for saving his watch while risking his education to do so when he didn’t have to. Neville had waved away his thanks, telling him that he didn’t need to thank him as anyone who wasn’t a Slytherin would have done the same.
“Yeah, but only you actually did it,” Harry had replied quietly as he met Neville’s eyes, making it one of the rare occasions he made eye contact with him, making Neville realise he was being serious.
Neville had just smiled gently and accepted his gratitude in response, biting back his curiosity about the watch. Hermione had stepped forward and carefully enveloped Harry in a hug before allowing him to escape to bed. She couldn’t complain much after that but she warned Neville not to take risks like that again, because the consequences of next time could be worse. Neville had agreed with her but made no promises, to which she had rolled her eyes and announced she was going to bed. She thanked Ron for defending her earlier about being called a Mudblood, making the ginger flush and shift uncomfortably in his seat, mumbling something along the lines of “you’re welcome,” prompting Hermione to smile as she went up to her dorm.
Neville and Ron opted to stay up for a bit longer playing wizard’s chess, and as Neville absently moved his pieces, he pondered his four friends; how he had just connected with Harry there, feeling like their tentative friendship had shifted into something more solid, and the coming together of Ron and Hermione. If he was to become friends with Harry, he didn’t want to isolate Ron as he was clearly Harry’s best friend. But Neville wasn’t going to isolate Hermione, because she was fast becoming Neville’s best friend too and he had been apprehensive of the possibility of having to step in between the two when things got too heated. He had noticed Ron hadn’t taken a shine to Hermione in the beginning, but perhaps Ron was coming around. After all, you wouldn’t defend someone from bullying without becoming friends.