Summary: At school while Harry, Ron, and Hermoine are out finding Horcruxes, Neville deals with his own insecurities and doubts about the looming war,
Disclaimer: None of these characters are my own
Neville’s placement in Gryffindor had often seemed slightly out of place given his character. He was a bit awkward, clumsy, and often too afraid to stand up for himself. He joined Dumbledore’s Army with Harry in his later years in school and helped to fight in some serious battles, but he was always following along behind. It seemed that his fellow friends in Gryffindor were always the ones that took the initiative. Ever since their first year at Hogwarts, Harry, Ron and Hermione had been the ones daring to do what they thought they had to, epitomizing the bravery that those in Gryffindor were supposed to show. And so when Harry, Ron, and Hermione decided to go after the horcruxes of Lord Voldemort rather than going back to school for the seventh year, it seemed as though once again he would be in their shadow.
In their absence, however, Neville had gotten the chance to really show that he could be t as brave as the rest of his peers. With Dumbledore dead and Professor Snape now in place as the headmaster of Hogwarts, things had gotten bad. Most students had thought that Dolores Umbridge was an unfair and cruel headmistress, but Snape put her to shame. He allowed Death Eaters to patrol and enforce whatever rules they felt the students should follow, led by the brutal Carrow siblings, who enjoyed punishment all too much. Most of the Slytherin house was all too eager to jump on board with these new rules and become pets of the Death Eaters, but the other three houses were not as lucky. Many silently followed along, but Neville refused to stand by idly. In Harry’s absence, he took control of Dumbledore’s Army with the help of Luna and Ginny, which had gone from a way of learning to defend oneself to a full blown rebellion movement at the school. Many members of the Order of the Phoenix were out fighting the darkness in the world, but someone had to keep fighting it within the school, and Neville rose to lead those people.
“What they’re doing is outrageous!” Neville yelled, as Ginny tried to clean off a fresh wound he had just received. “They can’t just go around torturing innocent students for the fun of it. Poor Collin hadn’t done anything wrong except walk down the wrong hallway and BOOM he’s at the wrong end of Lestrange’s wand!”
“I know Neville, but you can’t keep trying to save every person in this school, you’re bound to get yourself killed” Ginny replied, trying to calm him down. It had been a rough year so far, and Neville has taken more than his fair share of beatings from the Death Eaters. Ginny looked up and realized how much it had changed him. He had grown up quickly, acting as though he alone were responsible for all the younger students at the school and it showed in his face. His face looked worn and tired, with constant bags under his eyes. He often skipped meals to try and work on DA things, and so he had lost a substantial amount of weight. What was left was a tall, strong man that had quickly been carved out of the boy he had so recently been.
The year at school was getting closer and closer to Christmas break and Ginny wondered what would happen to Neville next year if this war wasn’t over yet. Surely he would go and join the Order of the Phoenix in fighting. She already had enough friends and family out there to worry about, and she didn’t know how many more of them out there she could take. Luna, Dean, Neville, Seamus; all of them had been fighting so hard this year, surely to prepare themselves for the world they were about to enter. What worried her more, however, was something she was too afraid to say out loud. What if the war had ended before the graduated, but Lord Voldemort won. What that meant for all them, especially Harry, was too much for her to handle.
“I wonder how they’re doing” Ginny thought out loud.
“I wish we knew. But you know as well as I do that communication would be suicide for them. I’m sure silence means they’re still out there fighting” Neville responded, trying to stay calm. He could see the fear in Ginny’s eyes. He often forgot that she was a year younger than the rest of them; she was just as brave and strong as everyone else. The fact was that he was worried that he had not heard anything from of about Harry, Ron, and Hermione. He had been keeping things going here at Hogwarts in the hopes that if it came to a war, they would be prepared. With no news, he had no idea what to expect. People relied on him to reassure them and prepare them, and he really had no idea what to prepare them for.
“It’s late Ginny, you should go to bed.” Neville said absentmindedly, caught up in thoughts of more DA business.
“Alright, and you should too, Neville. You took a beating today and you have to keep up your strength”
“What? Oh yeah, I will in a minute”
“OK,” she said, knowing that in reality he would not go to bed for quite a while. She slowly walked up the stairs to the girl’s dorm, leaving Neville alone in the Gryffindor common room.
As soon as Neville was certain that Ginny was gone, he headed for the portal. He knew that she would worry if he went out at night alone, but he was not at all ready to go to bed. It was times like this he really wished that he had Harry’s invisibility cloak. He silently stepped out of the portal, wand at the ready. The school was never safe, but it was even more dangerous at night. The Carrow siblings loved to find reason’s to punish people, especially Neville. They often liked to remind him of what they did to his parents, but that no longer scared him and instead only fueled his anger. He knew that the time would come when he would be able to fight back, and he tried to channel this anger into his training.
He walked down the hallways, carefully avoiding the areas he knew would be being patrolled. He took the long walk around past Ravenclaw, subconsciously hoping he might run into Luna. She was most likely up in her room, reading some odd book or another, ready to answer the most obscure of questions that someone needed to know. He then turned the corner and carefully looked around. He knew that going to the Room of Requirements was an incredibly dangerous plan, but he really needed somewhere to just be alone. He quickly walked by it a few times with this thought in mind. The door appeared and he silently rushed to the door and stepped in. He had gotten much better at sneaking around this year, no longer the bumbling boy he had been upon entering Hogwarts.
Once he was inside, he saw the room that he had been in so many times. It was first conjured during their fifth year by Harry when he started to teach them in Dumbledore’s Army. Ever since the battle that year in Ministry of Magic, the DA’s objective had become all the more imperative and real. Harry had started teaching them powerful defense spells, but they had to continue on in his absence. Neville had felt so lost in that battle and he did not want to feel like that again, when the next battle came around, which he had the feeling would be the last. He positioned himself, prepared and yelled out:
“Expecto patronum!” The end of his wand produced a cone of bright white light, floating like fog in the air, and then faded back towards his wand. “God damnit!” he yelled. Ever since Harry taught them the spell, he had not been able to make his patronus appear. Without the ability to do such a spell, he feared he might not have the strength needed to fight.
“You’re never going to be able to get the spell if you’re so angry” a calm, light voice said from behind him, one he immediately recognized as Luna. He turned around in surprise, the frustration written all over his beaten face. She continued, “Remember what Harry said. You have to think of your happiest memory, a place of peace in your mind.”
“I try, but with everything that’s going on…” he trailed off and sighed. “How do you do it? What do you think of?”
“What I do isn’t going to help you Neville. This is one of the most personal spells; you have to figure out for yourself.”
“Thanks for your encouragement”
“You can do it if you just stop thinking about all that’s troubling you and remember a happy moment in your life. You must have one memory of pure joy”
“Ever since I was little, my life has been wracked by setbacks and letdowns. I want to prove I’m more than everyone thinks, but maybe they’re right”
“You’ve never let it get to you before, why start now?” she asked, genuinely curious of the answer.
“Because now is when it matters” He put his head in his hands and sighed. Luna crossed over to him and sat down.
“Well it might not count for much, but I believe in you” she said as softly and optimistically as she always sounded. Despite everything, Luna was still invariably herself. She still had such a strong faith in the good in the world, and Neville could not help but feel calmer when she was around. She leaned in and gave him a gently kiss on the cheek. He turned to face her. “Go on, try again.” He looked at her a moment longer and then stood up.
Neville closed his eyes and tried to think of a moment of pure happiness in his life. Nothing from before Hogwarts would do, with his parents being tortured to insanity and his grandmother assuming he would never amount to anything. Being sorted into Gryffindor, despite his demeanor was a proud moment in his life, surely, but not necessarily happy. Most of his classes, particularly potions, caused him quite a deal of trouble. All except one, however. He had always a fondness for Herbology and was in fact quite good at it. He thought of all the times he talked with Professor Sprout about every kind of plant he could imagine. But that wasn’t specific enough. Then he thought of the moment in the Department of Mystery when he finally got to stand up to Bellatrix Lestrange after she ruined his life all those years ago. Seeing that shock and mild fear on her face, even for a moment, it was one of the most satisfying moments of his life. He did not know if it would be enough, but he had to give it a try. He stood at the ready focused on that moment and prepared.
“EXPECTO PATRONUM!” he yelled focusing on nothing else. Out of the tip of wand came the fog like silver trail. It floated forward, trying to form something. Neville closed his eyes and focused on that one moment. Suddenly, he heard a squeal of delight from Luna and opened his eyes. Out of the trail of fog a butterfly appeared, fluttering around the room and leaving a trail of silvery mist in its wake.
“Oh Neville, it’s beautiful” Luna cried out in excitement. Neville looked at it with awe as it slowly faded back into his wand. Neville turned to look at Luna as she ran at him to give him a big hug. “I knew you could do it” she said simply. He smiled and snorted a small laugh.
“You always say that.” Having her by his side through all of this, co-leading Dumbledore’s army, he had not realized how much he had relied on her optimism and self-assurance until this moment. Riding on the confidence of his recently conjured patronum, he leaned down and kissed her. At first she seemed surprised, but slowly she melted into his large figure and kissed him back eagerly. As they stood there, wrapped up in each other, Neville had never felt surer of himself in his life. He finally felt ready for whatever life through at him. No longer was he the boy who entered Hogwarts, baffled at being put into Gryffindor. The Sorting Hat had clearly known something about him that he had not. He slowly pulled away and looked down at Luna. The world out there might be wrapped up in darkness, but was ready to fight.