A/N: This story is based on a prompt by onoM. It can be found on onoM's profile as the story "Plot Bunny." Italicized portions are onoM's original text (with permission). All other is mine, except that JK Rowling owns the characters and universe.

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Neville Longbottom waved his wand. A few spells later, he was protected from all forms of eavesdropping, magical or Muggle. He sighed and looked over at the one he had come to meet.

"I can't remember the day I lost my innocence.

"Innocence, what a strange word, but to me it was important: it was a secret, quiet joy that filled my waking minutes and waited impatiently beside me while I slept, blissfully unaware of the cruel vicissitudes of fate. I was so full of life...

"Now, I only know that whatever happened to me, I'd rather die than allow it to happen to another child. It is this drive alone, this fierce determination to protect the world from what I have become, that allows me to face the dread of waking up again.

"And so, Fate, a toast to you. To the loss of innocence.

"It shall not go unpunished."

Neville Longbottom lifted the privacy spell and walked away from the coffin containing the corpse of Bellatrix Lestrange. He had briefly considered cursing her corpse, but that wouldn't do. All must appear normal.

Many years later...

Neville Longbottom waved his wand. A few spells later, he was protected from all forms of eavesdropping, magical or Muggle. He sighed and looked over at the one he had come to meet.

"You probably knew - some of it at least. I really couldn't keep secrets from you. You never let on one way or the other. I wish I could have told you before. I don't have long left and I wanted to get it out before I die.

"I guess it all started before I was born. You remember that nutter Sibyl Trelawney. Turns out she actually made a prophecy. A child would be born with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord. Various qualifications were given which means two babies qualified: Harry Potter and Neville Longbottom. Lucky us.

"Naturally, James and Lily Potter took Harry and hid under a fidelius charm. Mum and Dad did the same with me, except we also had Dad's parents with us. We were lucky, Dumbledore was our Secret Keeper. He was trustworthy. The Potters thought they had a foolproof plan. Peter Pettigrew would be their secret keeper while Sirius Black would pretend to be. Too bad Pettigrew was a Death Eater. James and Lily died, Harry went to live with relatives who hated him, Sirius went to Azkaban without a trial, and Pettigrew went into hiding.

"Meanwhile, people were celebrating. Harry's parents were dead and they didn't care because Voldemort had been temporarily vanquished.

"Dumbledore was ready to remove the fidelius, but my parents refused. 'No, not until all the Death Eaters have surrendered or died,' they said. How right they were. Mum and Dad were Aurors, the best. No Auror worth his galleons would pass up a fidelius on his home. So my parents went out to work catching Dark Wizards and my grandparents and I stayed hidden safely behind the fidelius charm.

"As I said, Mum and Dad went chasing Death Eaters. Unfortunately, they found four of them: Barty Crouch, Jr., Bellatrix Lestrange, Rodolphus Lestrange, and Rastaban Lestrange. Those four names have been seared into my memory my whole life. Those scum thought my parents might know what happened to their precious Dark Lord that had been misplaced. My parents were tortured for information that they didn't have. Tortured so long that their minds broke. That did it for Gran. That fidelius charm was staying.

"For as long as I can remember, I visited my parents there in the Permanent Spell Damage Ward at St. Mungo's. I didn't understand it, but I never knew any different. I lived with my grandparents and my parents were... what they were. Every time, you know, every time I visited them they gave me candy wrappers. Gran said to throw them away. I kept them all. It was all I had of my parents. When my grandfather died, I... it didn't really bother me. Seeing his body there in the coffin, I knew he was better off than Mum and Dad were. They were prisoners in their bodies. He was free.

"Naturally, the first time encountered a thestral, I actually saw it. It's a good thing firsties at Hogwarts take the boats. I'm not sure a first year student could take seeing a thestral. Nevertheless, there they were my second year, in all their glory.

"Even though he saw his mother die, Harry couldn't see them then. He didn't understand death when he saw that. He was too young. He was still innocent. Of course that didn't last. Years of abuse and neglect at the hands of the Dursleys saw to that. Even then, he still had more innocence than I did. I understood death. When I saw my grandfather die, I knew. Years of visiting Mum and Dad there at St. Mungo's taught me that. Seeing them there, in that state of living death, only slightly better off than a Dementor's victim. No, Harry couldn't see thestrals until after he saw Cedric die.

"I never displayed any accidental magic, not the kind most kids do anyway... not until Uncle Algie dropped me out a window and I bounced. How could I, I was halfway dead inside. Then when I went to Hogwarts, I got my father's old wand. We could afford a new one, but I think Gran was slightly crazy by that point, anyway. With my emotional state preventing me from accessing my magic properly, and a wand that didn't choose me, It's no wonder people said I was barely a squib. All the taunting from Malfoy didn't help, either.

"Anyway, you know the part at Hogwarts, you were there for that. Eventually, with Harry's help and with a new wand after the Department of Mysteries, I was able to make Gran proud for the first time I could remember.

"Then there was that seventh year. Leading the D.A. with Luna and Ginny. Facing torture, helping the little ones escape it. No one should have to watch a child put under the Cruciatus. I think that was when I first knew..."

Neville paused and breathed deeply for a moment.

"Then there was the Battle. The. Battle. When I killed Nagini, there was such a rush. Part of me could see why the Death Eaters loved killing. Mostly, though I was glad I was able to complete the last mission Harry had given me before he died. When Harry returned, I was elated! Now we stood a chance. Then when Mrs. Weasley killed Bellatrix Lestrange... a small part of me wished it had been me. Mostly, though, I was just glad that cow wouldn't be able to hurt anyone else again.

"I visited her corpse, you know. Lestrange's. Talked to her. That was when I knew. I knew what my mission in life was. No child would ever experience what I did, what Harry did. I would do anything and everything. No price would be too steep.

"Naturally, I started by becoming an Auror. That was the logical place to start. Harry and Ron did. So we worked together for a while, catching scum and sending them to Azkaban, but it wasn't enough. I'm glad for the skills I picked up there, though. It helped later.

"I made a big show of returning to my first love of Herbology. Professor Longbottom, Guardian of the Greenhouses. That's what they called me. I didn't care. Some students were impressed with my record. I didn't care. Sure I'd bring out my old D.A. coin and show it to them. My office had my Auror badge hanging on the wall. They loved to see that. None of it mattered to me. That wasn't why I was at Hogwarts.

"You see, I realized something when I was an Auror. Catching bad guys wasn't enough. Sure, they'd go to Azkaban, but the innocent had already been hurt. For a time, I had seriously considered tracking them down and just killing them. That thought didn't last long. Harry would catch me. He was that good. There was no way I could hide that from him.

"No, there was a better way. I needed to prevent Dark Wizards before they happened. There was only one place I could do that: Hogwarts.

"I knew Harry wouldn't understand. Even with the losses he suffered, even with the pain he saw, he would stop me if he knew. I was on my own.

"I know it's illegal to use legilimency on children. I know what they say about people who do. I couldn't let that stop me. I had to know if they were going Dark. Every now and then, I would find one. The proper evidence would always find its way into the hands of the Headmistress. Some way or another. Sometimes, she could intervene and stop it. Other times, the Authorities had to be involved. Either way, they wouldn't be learning the tricks of their evil trade at Hogwarts.

"Over time, the reputation of Slytherin began to improve. I'd like to think I played some part in that. With the way Dark Wizards-in-training kept being stopped before they could start, the House of Snakes took on a decidedly lighter tone.

"Of course, there were still Durmstrang alumni out there to keep the Aurors busy, but things improved around Wizarding Britain. Let the Aurors take the credit, I don't care. All I care about are the results.

"There were other benefits to what I did. Over the course of my career, I was able to ensure several students were rescued from abusive homes. That probably prevented even more Dark Wizards. Merlin knows that's why Snape got interested in the Dark Arts. There were even a couple of junior sexual predators in the student body that I caught.

"All in all, I think I did some good, even if my methods were less than noble. I preserved the innocence of countless children.

"I don't have long left. I can't make it without you, you know. When I was young, revenge kept me going. I was going to kill Bellatrix Lestrange. Then when Molly Weasley saved me the trouble, I was going to catch those like dear Bella. When I went to back to Hogwarts, I was preventing future Dark Wizards as a form of revenge. That's all it was, until you came into my life.

"You taught me how to love. I certainly didn't learn it from my fractured family. As a student, it was crushes and infatuation, but not love. No, you loved me. You taught me how to live.

"A cynic might have thought love would have interfered with my mission. No, it made it stronger. You gave me a reason to fight. You, and later, our children. They would not grow up the way I did, the way Harry did. I made sure, you know. I made sure he got counselling. I don't think he would have abused his kids, but he grew up that way. I couldn't take the chance that they might suffer the way their father did.

"History will never know what I did. That's good. They would paint me a monster, even with the good I did. They did it to Dumbledore. When the laws he broke and the liberties he took became known, the reaction after Rita Skeeter's hit piece would have looked like applause compared to what I did. No, I kept no records. I told no one until you.

"I'd never have made it without you. Not in my mission - I mean living. Sure I could have continued for a while, but I would have died of grief long ago without you. You gave me a reason to live that had nothing to do with vengeance. Vengeance can never provide what love can."

Neville bent over and kissed the forehead of his late wife, the woman who had taught a cynic how to love and given a bitter man a reason to live.

Harry Longbottom walked in to find his father collapsed on the floor next to his mother's coffin. A diagnostic charm revealed he had passed away a few minutes prior. Neither he, nor any other living soul, heard his father's dying confession.

Neville Longbottom was buried in the family plot next to his wife, Hannah.

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A/N: As soon as I read the prompt, I immediately thought of Neville. How his life would have been different with his parents. Then I got this wild idea of a Machiavellian Neville secretly plotting to destroy evil through less-than-ethical means.